By: Muhammad Tabish Sarfaraz (Masters in International Relations)
The day of 6th September had always been a memorable day for me growing up. Special programs were telecast on the state televisions, commemorating the historic war that was fight with arch rival India in 1965.
Over time, it came to include all stories about defence of the motherland. There were dramas telecast showing the lives of our brave warriors who had received the highest gallantry award (Nishan i Haider). I grew up not only in awe but with immense respect for those who were ready to lay down their lives to safeguard this land we call Pakistan.
Fast forward twenty years later, the cynicism of modern day populace regarding this day is sickening. It is just not this day; rather it is the very discourse regarding Pakistan’s military structure. I will not be so far leaning to say that all is sunshine and daisies. It hardly is anywhere in the world.
But there is a bigger problem associated with this discourse; one that lies on us, as a nation, becoming cynical to the point where even the most blatant truth is met with skepticism. We begin question history and with it, our heroes. Not only those who wear the uniform and fight actively but even those who were fighting the battles in other fronts.
In the context of today, when we begin challenging the notion of our defence of the motherland, we not only downplay the sacrifice of the soldiers but of the civilians as well.
The throngs of people who reached the border armed with knives, batons, axes and whatever they could muster, we disregard their spirit. When we question this day, we crush the sacrifices of the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives, who readily sacrificed sons, brothers, fathers and husbands for Pakistan. When we question the historical veracity of the actions of our heroes, we are not only questioning history, we are erasing our memories as a nation. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once said,
“History is to the nation as memory is to the individual. As a person’s deprived of memory becomes disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been and where they are going, so a nation denied conception of the past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future.”
So when we begin to question our history and by extension its heroes, we are really just putting an axe on our own foot as a nation. I was a final year student at University of Karachi when a renowned historian and economist came for a lecture on Defence Day and dispelled the “victory myth” and said that there can be no bigger lie as Pakistan had lost terribly (For reference see DAILY DAWN, September 6 2016).
Now, let us put that statement into context. Pakistan achieved 6:1 air dominance over an air force that outnumbered us 5:1. Don’t trust me but Chuck E. Yeager has the same opinion. One can easily find his quotes on this scenario online. Yeager is regarded as one of the finest aviators of the 20th century.
The tank battle at Chawinda also resulted in Pakistani victory. The Australian reported in front page. Pakistan lost not an inch of its soil to the enemy. I repeat, not an inch. If ever there was a noble cause to die for, it is defence of the motherland. And lastly, it is not victors who rush for ceasefire and table talks. I will let that sink in.
However, my problem does exceed beyond the military. It goes well into the territory of all notions of Pakistani heroes. Jinnah is questioned and so is Iqbal. I once heard a ridiculous theory that Pakistan won the 1992 Cricket World Cup because Imran Khan is secretly a Zionist.
The trend is not only disrespectful but shows how gullible we are to believe the bad. We judge people not by their whole action but by one iota of bad they have. And this iota is present in everyone,everywhere. No human is perfect and by extension no human institution or endeavor is. But those who fight to remain good and do good should be appreciated, most of all by their own people. Our heroes struggled for us, sacrificed for us and in the end died for us. The least of our thankfulness should be in the form of silence. But to deny them their heroism is not only a mistake but a repulsive act; one that does not do us any good but harms us as a nation.
Yes history should be read objectively and I agree that our textbooks over compensate in their narrative but that does not provide the context to question willy nilly every aspect of our history, particularly those that make us proud. It is high time we pay homage and respect to those who deserve and shun those who make instill in us a defeatist or apologist attitude. Defence of one’s country is nothing to be ashamed of nor should it be made out as such.
In a final note, I present my most sincere respects to those who have given their lives, in battle and otherwise, for this nation and this country, in defending its ideals and people and have become immortalized for all the right reasons. May these brave souls find eternal peace in the high heavens and may their heroism live long in the memory of people of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The writer tweets at: @theee_tabish