September Special

We Shan’t Forget You

Lest I be accused of self-praise or my ignorance on the subject attributed to an immature, I don’t consider myself qualified or competent enough to write about Shuhada. This being a very sensitive subject, I hesitated, however, remembering them is probably an acceptable notion. As I promised and conceived, we would remember them in an unorthodox spectrum. I don’t know their sect, belief, degree of piousness, however, each and every one of them shared a common of “a good human being”. Upon closing my eyes and remembering them laughing, sharing jokes and actively enjoying their lives, a pinch of sadness followed by an abrupt smile is often my natural reaction. Writing “was” with them is probably religiously incorrect. However, remembering them is a sacred obligation. I would reprint the memories in original, remembering how lovely and lively they were; no doubt in the statement. Imagination rests on the readers’ discretion.

Both the Shuhada were roommates during their cadetship in Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul a fact known to few. Captain Inam Ullah was 6 feet plus, with an above average fair complexion, broad barrel chested and a matching moustache. Tauseef, not tall as Inam (probably Inam superseded his good height), was a smart individual with natural fair complexion. We called them a “Sughar Pair” (a neat/orderly pair) due to their neat and clean habits. Conforming to his outlook, Inam a strong headed brat for opposition, sometimes enjoyed a smoke (I shared it, too). Whilst Tauseef, “tohfa” as we called him (due to simple and sweet nature), always nagged Inam to abstain him from indulging in ‘extracurricular activities’ like smoking etc. As I, a lazy one who never knew how to maintain my room or manage my belongings well would always visit the sughar pair for strategic guidance. Both could speak Pothwari, so we learnt a bit from them. The gentlemen were a pleasant company, never involved in any considerable negativity. Sometimes Tauseef was irritating (an immature notion I had at that age and time) for me as he would continuously advise me to mend my childish behavior. “Leave me Amma (mother)”, was my usual answer. We passed out in April 1994 and joined our respective units. Inam went to 28 Punjab Regiment and Tauseef joined 33 Baloch Regiment. I remember my last meeting with Inam in his Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQs). He was barefooted having mehndi (henna) under his feet. My curiosity led me to question the reason for this to which he answered, “Bhai I am part of Battalion Tug of War Team. To have firm foot grip, I am not allowed to wear shoes and have mehndi under my feet” (a common desi totka – hack – for the team). The statement was followed by a loud laughter from both of us, a pure regimental spirit oozing out. Months and years passed. Inam got posted to NLI Regiment, which was part of Formation in Northern Areas. The Kargil Conflict started off in 1999. The fateful day which was 29 May 1999, I was talking to my unit officer in General Headquarters. He regretfully broke the news that Captain Inam had embraced shahadat. He was “First officer casualty of the conflict”. I overheard the news and yet could not imagine that the mentioned Inam would be “our Inam”. The Indians took his body and returned his remains probably in the first week of June 1999. A day after or so, while cursorily looking through a Urdu newspaper, I saw a picture of Inam and his burial ceremony. I was stunned, panicked and sunk in grief. Later, the information poured in. Inam was on the front outpost. Injured and isolated, he ordered the remaining troops to occupy the next defensive position. Considering himself to be a drag beyond bearable limits, he decided to remain steadfast. One can only imagine the ending and beginning of two different journeys, indeed a brave and novel one. Inam was awarded Tamgha-e-Basalat.
After Inam’s Shahadat, Tuaseef and I kept in contact with each other. We avoided talking about Inam as there was a hollowness left behind by his absence. Years passed and so did we between the ranks. In 2013, Tauseef was commanding 33 Baloch Regiment in Upper Dir. To my luck, I received my marching orders to Division Headquarters in Swat. It was September 15, 2013, a thunderstorm ripped through Kharian Cantonment, where I was settling down my family. After a while, I received a frantic call from my relative, an Army officer, “Bhai, I hope you are OK”. “What happened?” I asked, to which he replied, “General Officer Commanding Swat Division and Commanding Officer 31 Baloch Regiment have embraced shahadat. Allah-o-Akbar.” I knew both the officers. Hurriedly, I made a call to 31 Baloch Regiment. The operator told me that Lieutenant Colonel Waseem Haider Shah, Commanding Officer 31 Baloch Regiment was fine. He further put me through to Waseem, who informed that Commanding Officer 33 Baloch Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef had embraced shahadat. There was a pause, too numb to say anything, we finished off the conversation. Later on, it was revealed that Tauseef was driving Major General Sana Ullah from forward Border Post to rear. An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) hit their vehicle, resulting in the shahadat of both. Before shahadat, Tauseef was maintaining a beard showing his inclination to faith. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat.
During Eid-ul-Fitr 2020 (in the COVID-19 environment), Major Afaq Ullah (R), a blessed coursemate, gave me the responsibility to deliver sweets and gifts at Tauseef’s residence on behalf of our course. I along with my spouse reached Tauseef’s house in Rawalpindi. Upon ringing the bell, two little angels came out. On asking about their father’s identity, the girl and the boy nodded their head in affirmative. One could clearly see Tauseef in them. It was a difficult moment to control emotions. I asked my spouse to go inside and deliver the gifts. Tauseef’s elder sons are Hafiz-e-Quran. I am sure the younger one would also follow the legacy. Tauseef’s deeds have definitely transmuted in his kin.
Inam and Tauseef left behind permanent imprints on us. We would not forget their deeds and sacrifice, never ever. May Allah bless their souls.
On moving in and out of Chaklala Cantonment, I always remember Ammar, thanks to the name of Chaklala Cantonment Chowk that is “Ammar Shaheed Chowk”. Little do people know that he was accompanying Captain Karnal Sher Khan, Nishan-e-Haider in their last moments during the Kargil Conflict. Both coursemates (90 PMA Long Course), embraced shahadat together. Little do people know that his remains were never found as Indians buried him in the vicinity of the incident. Brigadier M.P.S. Bajwa (R), Commander 192 Indian Mountain Brigade wrote a citation (impressed by the bravery of Captain Karnal Sher Khan) and put it in his pocket, whilst handing over the body. He mentioned Major Iqbal from SSG accompanying Captain Karnal Sher, who was buried along with the other shuhada by the Indian Army. The officer they mentioned as Major Iqbal was most probably Captain Ammar shaheed. I still remember the pride of his father (a retired Army officer) whilst receiving Sitara-e-Jurat on the behalf of his son. My feelings are mixed with honour and sorrow as a friend departed too early.
It was probably in 1996 that I met Ammar in Multan. He was in our neighboring unit sharing the same BOQs. In those golden days, BOQs used to be full of officers, rumbling with energy, decks and general shor sharaba (buzz). Ammar belonged to the unit, which was thriving with overactive bachelors, all common friends. He was different and unique in the crowd. We tried our bit to make him part of our unexplainable unending activities normally attributed to young officers. The man remained steadfast in his deeds. So silent and composed, despite all my concentration, I could not remember his voice. We never saw him missing prayers. One day, he told me that he was joining the SSG. I was shocked, “What? Are you joining SSG and leaving a Mechanized Infantry Battalion (MIB), a five-star life in Multan?” “Yes Sir” and there was no further explanation. As expected, Ammar qualified and joined the SSG with colors. During Kargil Conflict, he moved to Northern Areas (now GB). For launching a vital counter-attack, he volunteered and joined Captain Karnal Sher Khan, Nishan-e-Haider. Both embraced shahadat together at the same place. Ammar was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat. A soft smiling face was gone forever.

Mr. Qazi Ikraam, a resident of New Garden Town, Lahore never even thought in his dreams that he would become a father and father-in-law of shuhada. I knew Captain Qazi Jawad Ikraam from our school times. Jawad and I shared the same school and rode the same bus. Being a pure Lahori jampal, (born in Lahore with peculiar Lahori characteristics) Jawad was always found jumping around, cracking jokes and continuously smiling. Later on, I joined Pakistan Army in 1992 followed by Jawad in 1994. The last time I met Jawad was during Para Course. As usual, Jawad’s focus was on all of the activities as he enjoyed every bit of it, which were otherwise challenging for the majority. Despite being a witty individual, Jawad never crossed his limits and remained extremely respectful. During Kargil Conflict, Jawad was posted on the front. On July 26, 1999, I received a frantic call from my mother. She told me that Jawad had embraced shahadat. She also attended the janaza (funeral) as I couldn’t make it. Jawad embraced shahadat at Allah-o-Akbar Post. As expected, he volunteered to fight at the forward most post. Despite deteriorating health, he remained steadfast. During an engagement, he embraced shahadat due to enemy fire. Captain Qazi Jawad Ikraam was awarded Tamgha-e-Basalat. The main roundabout (Chowk) near Barkat Market, New Garden Town/Punjab University, Lahore is named after him.
Lieutenant Colonel Sajid Mushtaq was a coursemate. Again, a bubbly shining individual. We shared the same ISSB entrance test. I still remember that all candidates (including myself) felt jealous of his display of confidence and skills in front of the Testing Board. We both joined PMA in 1992. Sajid was extremely fit, a gymnast. His Novice Boxing opponent cursed his fate for being paired with Sajid Mushtaq. Sajid joined 50 Baloch Regiment and later changed the affiliation to 11 Northern Light Infantry. Our last meeting was in Kharian, probably in April 2013. He was commanding the unit; getting ready for induction in erstwhile FATA. There I came to know that he married the sister of Captain Qazi Jawad Ikraam Shaheed. A noble cause, indeed. As luck would have it, during one of the combing operations in Tirah Valley, on June 12, 2013, Lieutenant Colonel Sajid Mushtaq who was leading from the front, embraced shahadat due to an IED explosion. In minutes the news reached us. I still remember his janaza near the Walled City, Lahore. People poured in, fully charged with emotions. There were nonstop slogans of Pakistan and Pakistan Army Zindabad. Sajid’s brother, probably an army officer, was standing silently beside the coffin. We could feel his grief and loss. As fate had decided, Lieutenant Colonal Sajid Mushtaq Shaheed and Captain Qazi Jawad Ikraam Shaheed share the same courtyard in New Garden Town Graveyard, Lahore. Offering Fateha on their graves is indeed an emotional moment for any visitor. In the subsequent years, Mr. Qazi Ikraam, father of Captain Qazi Jawad and father-in-law of Lieutenant Colonel Sajid Mushtaq also passed away. A road inside the Walled City of Lahore is named after Lieutenant Colonel Sajid Mushtaq. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat.

I had a regular interaction with General Sana Ullah, when he was a Lieutenant Colonel serving in Command and Staff College Quetta. I was his staff officer. Everyone told me to be steadfast for the initial 5 minutes of interaction with him. However, I realized that Lieutenant Colonel Sana Ullah was actually not the type. He was a person who was “difficult to make angry, very easy to make happy”. Always fond of cars. Probably, in mid 2006, he was departing for War Course. During a conversation on the intercom, I overstepped. Later on, I went to his office and apologized. He nodded, accepting my apology. After almost 7 years, I saw him in a Corps Headquarters wearing ranks of a Major General. Remembering that my last meeting ended on a stupidity, I hesitated to meet him. On eye contact, I still remember him shouting my name loudly, showing affiliation, followed by a firm embrace. The small gesture explained everything about the gentleman. This was my last meeting with Major General Sana Ullah. In 2013, I got my marching orders to Malakand Army Division, which was commanded by General Sana Ullah. I was feeling comfortable and looking forward for a conducive tenure. Man proposes, God disposes, Major General Sana Ullah after spending a night with troops in Upper Dir, embraced shahadat whilst coming back. Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef Ahmed was accompanying him. Soldiers’ General, as he was commonly known, remains in the hearts of many due to his attributed qualities. One of the Colonies in Kharian Cantonment is named after him. He was awarded Sitara-e-Basalat.

How can one forget Captain Ali Magsi, son of Lieutenant Colonel Magsi? A blend of guts, wits and initiative. Today, if you mention his name in front of any of his coursemates, a loud laughter and words of appreciation would roll out for him. It was very difficult for Ali Magsi to remain static and silent for a moment. We were company mates. He was two courses junior. On visiting his room, I occasionally found his bulb broken. As we were, Ali Magsi was fond of sleeping. After hitting the bed, his roommate probably used to be reluctant to turn off the lights. Resultantly, Ali not moving from his bed often used his shoe to target the poor bulb. His opponents would always be on guard for not giving him any chance. However, his concept of shararats (mischief) would always aim at bursting laughter all around. After passing out, one day, I was roaming around in Fortress Stadium Lahore, full of commemorators. Suddenly, I heard screams and shouting. On turning back, the sky fell on me as I saw Ali Magsi doing frog jumps and front rolls on a footpath, in front of the whole crowd. “Bloody hell, what are you doing?!” “Sir, I saw you for the first time after passing out, so happy to see you, I couldn’t find any other suitable way to express my feelings.” Laughter burst out with tears in my eyes. I talked to his father Lieutenant Colonel Magsi, yet to see such a lively person. Magsi’s family aura is unexplainable. In 1997, Ali Magsi probably volunteered for Siachen and was posted to 12 Baloch Regiment. During his last leave, his mother expressed her last wish, “Ali, may you become a General Officer as your father couldn’t. I wish to sit in a flag bearing car”. Ali Magsi as he was, straightened up his collars, and addressed her mother, “Raise your imagination and wish, I would bestow the national flag in front of you”. On January 25, 1999, Captain Ali Magsi during his move for an operation became the victim of an avalanche. His remains along with that of four soldiers were found after four days. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend his janaza. However, I heard that all of his laughing friends cried uncontrollably. I could not as I didn’t have the courage to do so. As the information poured in, Ali Magsi sensed his fate. During his last leave, he indicated his probable shahadat to his parents and siblings. Ali Magsi wrote a letter before his demise, addressing his parents. The contents of his letter are available on the internet, emotional eternal words conforming to his belief and firm faith. Following his mother’s wish and Army traditions, the national flag was presented to her. 

“Ali Boy” as we called him. Amir Ali looked like a European due to his fair color and dark blond hair. We had  regular interactions due to sharing the same formation and doing Basic Course together. In his high-pitched voice, Amir Ali always mentioned two things: his affiliation for his native town Abbottabad and his Amma (mother). “Ali?” “Yes Sir”, “Try not to speak.” “Why Sir?” came the question, “People would be astonished to see a European speaking Hindko”. A burst of laughter echoed through the BOQs. During Kargil Conflict, Amir Ali was posted to 10 NLI deployed in Gilgit. On July 16, 1999, while confronting enemy on the front, he was targeted by Indians. Along with the doctor my coursemate Captain Hamayoun attended to him during his last moments. Amir Ali was in his senses, not realizing what had happened to him. All officers wept discretely at his courage and unexplainable unimaginable calm in his voice. After a while, our Amir Ali started his eternal journey. He was awarded Tamgha-e-Basalat. While talking to present Commanding Officer 20 Lancers, I could feel his keenness and urge to share something about him. A park is named after him in Hussain Shaheed Garrison, Bahawalpur.

Captain Haseeb Haider was our coursemate. A simple soul from Talagang, who would stand by his friends through thick and thin. Whilst confronting sheer winters during the cadetship, Haseeb’s (he was commonly known as) room was a resource of raw peanuts, murandas for his platoon mates. His lovely mother was the source. After passing out, Haseeb joined 9 Punjab Regiment, probably in Bahawalpur. As a routine posting, he joined 7 NLI in Muzzaffarabad. I was also posted in the vicinity. I remember my last meeting with him, probably in the last quarter of 1998. On June 9, 1999, Haseeb led a counter-attack on Indians with ten individuals. Only one soldier survived, who later on confirmed the shahadat of Captain Farhat Haseeb Haider. His remains could not be found. Malik Mushtaq Haider, father of Haseeb, still says that one day his son would return. Silence is the best answer to the old man’s hope. Haseeb was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat, the first 89 PMA Long Course. His relatives are looking for some road, chowk named after him, which I believe someone would look into.

I have never met or seen Major Wahab Shaheed. However, I had the honour to be an instructor of his son Major Salahuddin Wahab, so may comment upon the gentleman. Out of all the stories of valour, Major Wahab’s is prohbably the leading one. Picture of Major Abdul Wahab consolidates an impression of a pure martial warrior. Before the Kargil Conflict, he was posted in Wah. At the onset of the hostilities, Major Wahab volunteered to join the war. Little do people know he never left his posts and repulsed repeated Indian attacks. On June 29, 1999, he ordered the leftover troops to occupy an alternative position. The already injured braveheart decided to avoid becoming a drag and provided the opportunity for the remaining troops to survive. One can only imagine the end. Major Wahab’s remains are buried at the frontline. On calling his name during the Investiture Ceremony in Convention Centre, Islamabad, I still remember the deafening clapping of soldiers present in the arena. He was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat. His son, Major Salahuddin Wahab is a miniature of his father. Once I asked him, “Why did you join Military College Jhelum?” He answered, “My father was from Military College Jhelum.” I asked, “Why did you join 32 Baloch Regiment?” Again, he answered, “It’s my fathers’ unit.” I inquired, Salahuddin , why have you kept a beard?” “Sir, my grandfather told me to follow my father’s footsteps” came his reply. Like father like son. Salahuddin Wahab is also a recipient of Tamgha-e-Basalat during operations in the Tribal Districts.
On searching the memory lane, I could remember Captain Jawad Shaheed 91 PMA Long Course, Baloch Regiment, Brigadier Hussain Abbas Shaheed Punjab Regiment, Captain Javed Shaheed Arty (Kargil Conflict) 89 PMA L/C, Major Zia Shaheed, 7 AK 89 L/C, Captain Riffat Butt Shaheed 32 Cavalry 89 L/C, Captain Farhan Shaheed 1 FF 87 L/C, Lieutenant Colonel Haroon Shaheed SSG, Captain Azhar Shaheed (Aviation/38 FF), Brigadier Anwar Shaheed, Artillery, Brigadier Hussain and Hassan both from Punjab Regiment, both our coursemates, Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Shaheed, 84 L/C, 40 Baloch Regiment, Subedar Latif Aman and Subedar Umar Khan both from 9 NLI and the list goes on. It’s the thinking between certainty and uncertainty. For sure, we owe everything to all those who sacrificed for us by giving away their most precious self. A moment of silence, gratitude and respect for them and their families as our words or expression can’t ever fully thank them for their bravery and sacrifice. As rightly said by a colleague, we are not heroes but we had the honour to serve with a few of them. They were and they are the real heroes. We would and should never forget them. In Sha Allah.


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