War & Heroes

Putting Lives on the Line: Three Generations of Military Service

A story of a proud father, second among three generations, who gave their valiant services and sacrificed for Pakistan. A father, whose two sons have served in the Army; one embraced martyrdom during a counter-terrorism operation while the other got severely wounded fighting for the motherland. 



I was sitting in my office looking at the rain outside which had come as a respite from the simmering heat of June and thinking about this Pashtun family which had sacrificed so much for this country. I had made up my mind to visit this house which had taken upon itself to serve this country with blood, over three generations. Belonging to District Buner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lieutenant Colonel Aziz-ur-Rashid is the proud father of three courageous sons, the eldest of whom, Major Khalid Aziz embraced martyrdom, while the second one was severely wounded fighting the enemies of this sacred motherland.
I entered their house to be greeted by four large portraits of the father and his sons, adorning military uniforms. An instant surge of patriotism gripped me at the thought of an entire family putting their lives in the line of duty to protect my Pakistan. I stepped down into the basement where I saw a corner commemorating their martyred son. I could not help but feel the pain of the father who wanted to eternalize his son’s memories. I met Lieutenant Colonel Aziz-ur-Rashid (retired) waiting for me in the drawing room. A tall handsome man with a very happy face. A compliment of “Sir, you look too young for your age” drew out a laughter from him that filled up the entire room, followed by a sudden silence. It was as if something abruptly put a halt to this outburst of laughter. He went on to explain, “Never once, after Khalid, have I laughed my heart out and not been hit by his memories. I have been blessed with a very happy family. My father was in the Army and so was I. All of my sons voluntarily chose to join Pakistan Army too. Life was so perfect that sometimes it would be difficult for me to comprehend when friends would talk about the mundane troubles they had. But I guess life was giving me my share of perfect joy before the storm that was to hit me. I am a proud father every single moment, but it is hard not to miss a son like Khalid.”


Belonging to District Buner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lieutenant Colonel Aziz-ur-Rashid is the proud father of three courageous sons, the eldest of whom, Major Khalid Aziz embraced martyrdom while the second one was severely wounded fighting the enemies of this sacred motherland.


He continued, “Khalid was different. He was a person who made his presence felt wherever he went. He made an impact on other people’s life with his love, kindness and positivity. He somehow managed to share himself with everyone around him and yet all of them felt equally loved. If the rest of the world got so much of his affection, you can well imagine what he would be for his parents. I would always see him trying to make me and his mother happy. He would be constantly trying to do one thing or another to draw out a heartfelt prayer from us; whether it was arranging pictures on a wall with his mom or buying me an alarm clock to my exact liking. These are small gestures, but his attention to detail for our comfort is what really counts.”
A moment’s silence followed, as if everything Khalid had ever done to make him happy crossed his mind all at once. “It’s innumerable... It’s impossible to recount and explain how he brought joy to our lives. It has been thirteen years and yet we can’t sit at the dining table without him being a part of our conversation. It is not a deliberate effort, rather it comes naturally. We still use the dinner plates he got from Gilgit, on his way back from an arduous tour in Siachen. We think of him when we cut onions for salad in the particular way he liked. It is as if we are living an entire lifetime all over again, but with an essential part missing.”
During the course of our conversation, I came to know that Khalid was very motivated and patriotic as a kid. He would remain physically fit and pursued bodybuilding in school years. He studied at Lawrence College, Ghora Gali for a short duration as well. An interesting incident, which I found rather funny, was that during the matriculation examination, while he was expected to study in his room, he would secretly keep Rommel: The Desert Fox written by Desmond Young in his coursebooks and read it instead of his curriculum books. This passion paved the way for his entry into Junior Cadets Battalion followed by Pakistan Military Academy from where he landed in 35 Azad Kashmir Regiment in Peshawar on commission. His unit was besides Para Training School and he had already decided to join Special Services Group (SSG). His desire to join the ranks of Man Janbazam and the Few, the Proud could not be materialized and he went with his unit to Chhamb to be deployed along the Line of Control. He volunteered for SSG from there and qualified Officer’s Advance Commando Course with flying colors. His life in SSG was full of adventure and action; it would require a separate article for me to cover that portion of his life. His father told me an interesting incident of that time, “During the course, Khalid would get leave after 3-4 months. Due to extensive physical activity, his entire body would be bruised and there would be wounds all over it. But as soon as he would enter the house, his youngest brother would ask him to take him out for ice-cream. Khalid, despite the fact that he could hardly sit or lie on his back, would take him out immediately. Thus, he became a role model for his brothers through the display of grit, perseverance and patience,” he continued.
“I always knew it. I knew that if ever the time came, he would not shy away from giving the ultimate sacrifice for his country. That is just how he was… patriotic to the core.”
“In August 2006, Khalid got selected for the prestigious course at Command and Staff College, Quetta. This course was his shot at getting promoted to the higher ranks of the army. It was a big celebration for us and he too was ecstatic. Being in Quetta, he even took his wife to have a look at the new house they were likely to live in for the next one year”. His eyes welled up with tears. I did not ask any further but I knew it was the pain of his son having missed out on the wonderful years ahead with his family, that he must have dreamt of when he showed the house to his wife. Little did he know that a few weeks’ time would change so many lives forever.


The time had finally come when years of hard work and training would be put to test. He had been waiting and preparing for this moment his whole life. He went with a dash and destroyed terrorist hideouts and training camps, but unavoidable turn of events resulted in the shahadat of Khalid in the operation. With that, the whole world turned upside down for his family and everyone around him. 


A few weeks later, his motherland called him in despair to save her from the clutches of terrorists and traitors playing in the hands of enemy for petty amounts of wealth. The time had finally come when years of hard work and training would be put to test. He had been waiting and preparing for this moment his whole life. He went with a dash and destroyed terrorist hideouts and training camps, but unavoidable turn of events resulted in the shahadat of Khalid in the operation. With that, the whole world turned upside down for his family and everyone around him. For his gallantry in combat and services beyond the call of duty, Major Khalid Aziz was posthumously awarded Sitara-e-Basalat, the highest non-operational gallantry award in Pakistan Army.
Khalid’s shahadat was a big blow for the whole family but instead of buckling under pressure, his younger brother (then Captain) Shahid Aziz volunteered to join SSG. He took an oath in blood to continue the pledge taken by his elder brother. He got promoted and fought terrorists in Khyber and North Waziristan. However, fate had more in store for the family when Lieutenant Colonel Shahid Aziz got hit by multiple bullets to rid Shawal Valley of terrorists in North Waziristan, during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. The pain that the family bore for the sovereignty and security of this country is unimaginable. Allah gave Shahid recovery and he was later awarded Tamgha-e-Basalat for his act of gallantry during the operation. The youngest brother was also awarded a gallantry award while fighting terrorists in Bajaur Agency during Operation Sherdil. It’s a rare privilege for a family where three consecutive generations have come forward to put their lives on the line for the security of this country and all three brothers have been awarded gallantry awards while fighting for their country.


In love of the land, we confused/insane minds
Have paid loans that were not even obligatory!


It was an overwhelming evening for me. I felt privileged to have sat with a father who can boast of such sons and at the same time, I was dejected at the loss this Pashtun family had suffered. Having discussed the tales of his sons at length, I somehow felt compelled to ask Lieutenant Colonel Aziz-ur-Rashid (R), if he ever had any remorse at the turn of events in his life. He momentarily became pensive and then with confidence and conviction told me that he was proud to be a father whose sons had sacrificed in blood for this motherland. But, at times he felt so belittled by the woes and machinations of a certain group of individuals who blame Army for everything bad happening in this country. I could see a melancholy in his eyes when he told me, “My heart bleeds at the slogan,.

(Behind these acts of terrorism is the uniform).
I want to go out and shout at the top of my lungs that this uniform is the guarantor of this country’s sovereignty. Had it not been for this uniform, our enemies would have destroyed and removed our traces from the face of this earth. How can uniform be behind all this when my father, myself and my three sons are wearing it? Are they implying that I knew this and still allowed my sons to shed their blood and that I hurt my own children? How much more can they degrade the sacrifices of my sons by raising this slogan? I wish people could understand the malintent of these people and value the sacrifices of all individuals, both civil and military, who shed their blood for the cause of this country.” 
This sudden outburst of emotions made me realize for the first time how toxic this one small slogan is and how often do we use it like any other political slogan. It made me realize that we as a nation have not proven ourselves worthy enough of the sacrifices these people have made for us. I left their home afterwards but with a strong conviction that


There is uniform behind this beautiful land.



 

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