By: | Fahad Nabeel |
Since the independence of Pakistan, non-Muslim Pakistanis with their Muslim countrymen, have shouldered responsibilities in the building of the country. Like Muslim Pakistanis, the non-Muslim countrymen also excelled in the fields of education, arts and literature, social services etc.
According to the figures available on the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ website, non-Muslim Pakistanis constitute nearly 4% of the country’s nearly 208 million population. The dominant non-Muslim religious groups include Hindus and Christians. The other religious groups include Baha’is, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists etc.
Non-Muslims in the country have been part and parcel of the process of nation building. From being part of the freedom movement in the past, to the present time, the non-Muslims in Pakistan have equally contributed in the success of Pakistan. In past seven decades, non-Muslim Pakistanis have rose to assume key posts in government, judiciary, parliament and the military. Two non-Muslims were a part of the Federal Cabinet – Kamran Michael (Minister for Statistics) and Darshan Punshi (Minister of State for Inter Provincial Coordination). Two non-Muslims had also been appointed as Chief Justices – A.R. Cornelius and Rana Bhagwandas.
Another important field where the non-Muslim Pakistanis have contributed greatly is the field of national defense. Since 1947, 58 non-Muslim security personnel have laid down their lives for the country.
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Following the independence of Pakistan, the non-Muslim officers had more representation in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Navy as compared to Pakistan Army. Several non-Muslim officers contributed significantly in the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Air Vice Marshal Eric Gordan Hall, who served as Group Captain during the war, came with an innovative idea of using carriage airplane C-130 as a bomber plane at the Indian land of Rann Katch. Amidst several technical issues and short range of fighter jets, Eric Hall volunteered to lead the first bombing mission over the Kathua Bridge. The success of his mission prompted the high command to authorize 13 more bombing missions with C-130s, including the bombing of Indian heavy guns at Atari on the banks of BRB Canal. In recognition of his services, Hall was awarded “Hilal-e Jurrat”, “Hilal-e Imtiaz (military)” and “Sitara-e Jurrat”.
Other prominent officers who valiantly offered their services include Major General Julian Peter. He was the first Christian General of the Army and also served as Director General Logistics. Air Vice Marshal Michael John O’Brien was awarded “Tamgha e Jurrat”, “Sitara e Bisalat” and “Nishan e Imtiaz” for his leading warfare techniques and services. Air Commodore Nazir Latif was awarded “Sitara e Jurrat” (twice) for his services in 1965 and 1971 wars.
Squadron Leader Peter Christy, known as The “Master Fighter” of PAF, was a daring navigator of the 7th bomber Squadron. He was awarded “Tamgha e Jurrat” and “Sitara e Jurrat”. Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat – Awarded “Sitara-e Jurrat” and “Sitara e Bisalat” for combating Indian fighter jets in 1965 and 1971 wars. He also combated Israeli pilots during the 1967 Six-Day War on behalf of Jordan. Upon his death in 1971, the then Jordanian King Hussein I wrote a letter to the deceased’s wife in which he expressed the death of the Wing Commander as a personal loss and wished that Jordanian flag should also be put under Leslie’s head.
Cecil Chaudhary is famously known for his astonishing combat against enemy jets in 1965. For his services, he was awarded “Sitara e Jurrat” and “Tamgha e Jurrat”. Squadron Leader William Desmond Harney voluntarilyundertook 14 bombing missions during the 1965 war. Amidst all odds, he accurately achieved his targets and was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat for his extreme courage. Kaizad Soparivala was the first Parsi General of the Army. He has received “Nishan-e Imtiaz (military)” for his services.
During the 1971 war, Rear-Admiral Leslie Norman Mungavin opted out from his posting in London as Defense Attaché to participate in the war. He became a prisoner of war following his capture in Chittagong. Later, he went on to become the Deputy Naval Chief and Chairman of National Shipping Corporation. He commanded various war ships in his 33 years of service. In recognition of his services, Leslie Norman was awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan.
In 2006, Captain Danish became the first Hindu officer of Pakistan Army. Major Hercharn Singh made history by becoming the first Sikh officer to be commissioned in the Army in October 2007. In the current war against terrorism, 22 non-Muslims lost their lives while fighting terrorists in various military operations.
Despite significant contributions of non-Muslims for national defense, certain quarters have tried to malign the contribution of minorities for the defense of the country. Likewise, doubts have been created about the presence of non-Muslims in the armed forces based on their religion.
In order to curtail such efforts of extremist elements, the government should remind the nation about the contributions of non-Muslim Pakistanis for national defense. The younger generations should be taught about the valor and bravery of the non-Muslim countrymen. With these steps, the atmosphere of hatred against minorities will be curtailed. Similarly, promotion of pluralistic values is the long term anti-dote against extremism and radicalism.
Fahad Nabeel is currently pursuing M.Phil in International Relations from National Defence University. He has graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Virtual University of Pakistan. Fahad has considerably researched on regional geo-political issues and militancy trends. Currently, he is working as a Senior Research Associate at CSCR.