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A REQUIEM FOR THOSE WHO SHALL LIVE FOR EVER

December 14, 2009

Contributed by Brigadier Raashid Wali Janjua

Gallant men who are cut off by the sword
Move rather our veneration than our pity
(Richard Steele)

In blossom today than scattered, life is so like a delicate flower. After all how can you expect the fragrance to last for ever. The above couplet sums up most succinctly the ephemeral nature of life. Everybody here travels diurnally towards our ultimate abode. Some go early some go late but go one must. And what better way to go defending your national ideals against a menace that spares neither a mosque nor a school. The following lines are a humble tribute to few gallant souls who faced the evil stoically leaving a shining example for all who follow in their noble foot steps in this war against madness and extremism. Poetry indeed is the highest sublimation of our noblest instincts. The verses below conjure up the image of an intrepid warrior who revels in self immolation for defending his noble ideals.

Then out spake brave Horatius,

The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods.”

In my mind’s eye I could envision the tall muscular visage of Major General Bilal rushing pell mell into the inferno that the inner compound of parade lane mosque had become and accosting the heavily armed terrorist with his characteristic courage. I could clearly imagine a faint curl of smile playing on his lips, as it always did, even as his brow knotted in justified indignation at the sacrilege being committed in the holiest of the places, as he grappled with the armed brute. While others fell around him he faced the fearsome fusillade with disdain lunging at one of the attackers knowing fully well that the terrorist was wearing a suicide jacket. He managed to overpower him in a fair fight, an act he had repeated with aplomb throughout his life, whether playing a game of tennis, squash and polo or tank maneuvers. His last act of life was emblematic of a charger spirit imbibed as debonair armoured corps officer.

His gallant act served as a foil for other victims of the grisly attack who scurried for safety while he wrestled with the armed attacker. The terrorist who found himself vanquished shot him by stealth before blowing himself up in desperation. The general died as he had lived, altruistically, fairly and gallantly. All this came to the fore after the event but I knew the way it ought to have happened without anyone telling me. The eyewitness accounts bore an uncanny similarity to his last act. Why must that be? The logical query can be answered by taking a look at his personality traits.

I go back to those heady days as a young Captain in Lahore. During one of the army tennis championships in late eighties I came across tall strapping Major Bilal Omar. We initially belonged to opposite teams and played a closely contested match. He being a squash player had tremendous stamina but lacked tennis match practice. I had expected a cake walk. He instead proved a tough customer making up for his lack of match practice through aggressive volleying and pugnacious net game. On one of the match points the chair umpire gave my service out. I shook my head in visible exasperation. The umpire remained unfazed. I slowly started walking towards the ad court side for another serve. To my utter surprise I saw major Bilal moving towards the net instead of moving back towards the service line to receive the serve. He motioned to the umpire that the serve was right and came up to the net for a customary hand shake with the winner. This was quintessentially Bilal, fair, aggressive and scrupulously honest. We came across each other on several fora in professional as well as non professional capacities and on every instance his above traits shone forth.

As a General Officer Commanding Lahore I heard several tales of his leadership style where he led the young officers in physical training, sports and tactical manoeuvres. He was a stickler for discipline, loved traditions, led a spartan life, and commanded respect through personal example and charisma. His last act of intrepidity reminds me of a couplet by Byron, “I see before me the Gladiator lie: He leans upon his hand – his manly brow consents to death, but conquers agony.

The mosaic of memories features a tall major of wiry frame who as a platoon commander in PMA lay on a grassy patch during a break in the training manoeuvres of the cadets regaling the younger lot of instructors about the lighter aspects of life in Army. His free spirited insouciance was peppered with nuggets of wisdom for us who listened intently to his useful tips for clearing Staff Course entrance examination. To the accompaniment of musical soughing of cool AbbotAbad pines his parting advice sounded almost surrealistic;” And remember, at the end of the day it is God’s will and you will be better served if you learn to take a failure in its stride.” He quickly mitigated the fatalistic tenor of his advice by a humorous wisecrack, “And remember palls, all of my tips stand canceled till the time I receive my own Staff Course exam results.” This frank admission brought peals of laughter from all around as he had not yet cleared the exam himself.

We never came across each other till that fateful Friday night when after the gruesome attacks on the mosque I went to see the injured in intensive care unit of CMH. I found him lying in the right most corner of the ward almost in an existential pose staring at the ceiling. I walked up to his bed and he looked at me with a knowing glint in his eyes that contrasted strangely with the poignant moment of our reunion. I had known by then about his son Waleed’s demise, a brilliant student of first year, in the dastardly mosque attack. For a moment I was at a loss for the words. He recognized me clearly and remarked with his usual humour after greeting me by my full name that I should accept his apology if he had not recognized me properly after such a long time. I muttered the perfunctory condolence sentences. He just said he was satisfied in the God’s will. After some quiet moments his eyes shone with a glint of wistfulness and he remarked,” My only regret at that moment is that my son has gone so quickly. It would have been great to enjoy his company for some more time.” Before I could say anything he looked heavenwards and said, ”O God please do not consider this statement as defiance. I bow to your will.

The superhuman equipoise and faith displayed by Brigadier Mumtaz was simply out of this world. The Abbottabad advice and the post trauma resolve all seemed to coalesce as an epiphany of faith mitigating the somberness of the moment. He true to his advice eighteen years ago was taking a worst trauma in its stride.

As I headed off towards my next port of condolence call I was reminded of a world about which famous explorer and writer John Keay had said, “There is something profane about organized war fighting at these heights”. I was on my first visit to an operational area across the famed Burzil Pass in Astor Valley as a battalion commander in March 2000. I met Brigadier Masood Aslam who put me through my paces as an engineer battalion commander giving an in depth analysis of the weather, terrain and enemy. I was struck by his simple demeanour and forthcoming nature. He was already a war hero with a Sitara-e-Jurat in the Kargil operations whose wartime leadership had earned him the respect of seniors and juniors alike. During that tenure we came across each other frequently, sometimes under tense conditions but on every occasion I saw him offering advice and solutions with a serene smile. With that smile imprinted on my mind I made my way towards his residence expecting a distraught visage. He had lost his only son the nineteen years Hashim Masood, a NUST student of electrical engineering, in the grisly carnage during the Friday prayers at the parade lane mosque. Threading my way through a throng of mourners I approached him gingerly groping for the right words. As I embraced him I viewed the self same composure and serene smile that I had found in the mountain fastnesses nine years ago. Neither the smile nor his composure had deserted him in that hour of ultimate grief. He inquired after my welfare politely and appeared as solicitous of my presence he had been nearly a decade ago.

The above examples of grit, gumption and super human composure got me thinking about the inward source of strength that enabled those officers to display a rare integrity of character in the face of adversity. The source of strength was surely a lifelong fidelity to those ennobling ideals of altruism and courage that had made them join the challenging profession of arms in the first place. The designs of providence are indeed too inscrutable to let a peep into this cycle of life and death. After each untimely death what lingers on in the air is an emptiness and a painful sense of loss for the affected families. Nothing perhaps can assuage the anguish of their bereavement better than the knowledge that their grief is shared as a common loss by the entire nation that stands together in this hour of trial as one big family ready to make a meaning out of this madness for a cause that transcends us all. The courage of Major General Bilal, the composure of Lt General Masood and the faith of Brig Mumtaz embody a national spirit that refuses to yield to the menace of terrorism.

rwjanj@hotmail.com

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9 comments

  1. Pakistan Zindabaad!

    Ishallah, we will defeat all of the internal and external enemies.


  2. excellent!


  3. Bravo


  4. It is not will of Allah that our dearest ones should be murdered by coward terrorists like this. The families, who have suffered the loss of a dear one, should fight until Pakistan is completely free from the menace of our enemies.


  5. A muslmaan, hai muzmir raaz muslmaan hone ka fikr-e-muslmaan mein
    de dil quwwet itni tere jiger ko, k wo kere peda khoon-e-La ila ha ilAllah.


  6. Some time i wonder that what a remarkable thing Allah Almighty has created in a form of humans…that on one side it purely reflects the attributes of creator in itself, and with broken heart i may say that there are too many among human who opted to be monster.

    May Allah Almighty bless the souls of those innocents and brave who have been slained in this monsterous attack.

    I can only say that Allah Almighty give me a strength to die like a lion instead of living a life of coward, undecided and shameless creature (amen). But at the same time i also pray…in the words of Allama Iqbal

    Hoo Sadaqaat Kai Leeyai Jiss Dil Mai Marnai Ke Tarap
    Phelai Woh Apnai Pekar E Khaki Mai Jaan Paida Karai

    Long Live Pakistan With Pride & Honor…God Bless Pakistan.


  7. Some time i wonder that what a remarkable thing Allah Almighty has created in a form of humans…that on one side it purely reflects the attributes of creator in itself, and with broken heart i may say that there are too many among human who opted to be monster.

    May Allah Almighty bless the souls of those innocents and brave who have been slained in this monsterous attack.

    I can only say that Allah Almighty give me a strength to die like a lion instead of living a life of coward, undecided and shameless creature (amen). But at the same time i also pray…in the words of Allama Iqbal

    Hoo Sadaqaat Kai Leeyai Jiss Dil Mai Marnai Ke Tarap
    Phelai Woh Apnai Pekar E Khaki Mai Jaan Paida Karai

    Long Live Pakistan With Pride & Honor…God Bless Pakistan.


  8. Keep repeating the same propaganda rubbish that pakistan was involved in Mumabai atatcks when we all know that the reality is your own intelligence agencies. I wonder if those rats in ur own ranks felt the pain and
    anguish of their OWN people when they massacred their fellow Indians.


  9. i too really hope full to change the dark phase with light insha Allah SOON.



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