Mrs Nusrat Zehra Recounts Memories of Her Braveheart Son,
Capt Syed Haider Abbas Shaheed
In February 2022, in order to curb the terrorist activities, local army command in Sibi, decided to give a decisive blow to the insurgents and planned an operation against them in Nagau, Bambhor Garh, Sibi. Being a highly motivated, selfless and dedicated officer Capt Haider Abbas Shaheed, volunteered himself for the operation. On February 19, 2022, Capt Haider Abbas Shaheed along with members of his combat team was moved to Sibi on civil buses, clandestinely. Commanding officer Lt Col Qamar Ejaz, Tbt, was to undertake the first wave from Quetta via helicopter whereas Capt Haider leading Combat Team-3 was to be heli-dropped during the third wave in the designated target area. The action was planned in a manner that the first two teams that had landed initially were assigned to block the terrorists from fleeing their hideout. The teams were at a distance of 500 to 700 meters from each other. Having been dropped at the location, Capt Haider reviewed the situation and split his team into two sections for action. Since the terrorists’ fire was reported in and around the area where Capt Haider had landed, he quickly took the decision to get into action without waiting for the arrival of next two teams to ensure that the fire did not cause damage to those already there.
Capt Haider took the first section and moved ahead to clear the hutments, while the other section under his second-in-command was to provide backup support and cover. During his action, Capt Haider cleared three compounds and found a large cache of arms and ammunition. At that point of time, he could have opted to wait there and plan a pursuit subsequent to the landing of reinforcements. However, he judged that the enemy, having advantage of cover and knowledge of terrain, could inflict heavy losses upon the team already in action. Being a dutiful and dauntless leader, he led his men from the front and went ahead by fire and move, reaching the terrorists’ den. During this exchange of fire, some of the terrorists received injuries despite being under the cover of thick vegetation and uneven terrain. As they responded by firing bursts while fleeing, Capt Haider jumped to the ground along with his team and took momentary cover. After a minute or so, he courageously took the initiative and stood up taking his team that he was going forward to locate the fleeing terrorists and eliminate them. Living up to the leadership tradition of Pakistan Army, he advised them to provide cover and went ahead himself, firing in the direction of the enemy. It was there that he met his finest hour and was hit by a single bullet on his left upper lip, which pierced through his skull. He attained shahadat soon afterwards.
On February 19, 2022, Capt Haider Abbas Shaheed of 6 Cdo Bn along with members of his combat team was moved to Sibi for an operation to curb terrorist activities. On the night of 20th/21st Feb 2022, while carrying out an IBO at Bembor Garh, Sibi, he embraced shahadat while protecting the motherland against the sinister designs of terrorists. On August 14, 2022, Capt Haider Abbas Shaheed was awarded Sitara-i-Basalat in recognition of his valor.
In December 2008, Karachi was shrouded in a blanket of subtle wintry chill, but not the debating hall of Habib Public School, which was resonating with the warm thoughts of a young boy neatly dressed up in his school uniform. Young Syed Haider Abbas, still in his early teens was standing tall and confident on the rostrum, looking into the eyes of his schoolmates, charging the audience with his patriotic speech. His every word was sinking deep into the hearts of the listeners, who were spell bound by the young boy’s gravity of thoughts, buoyancy of delivery and, above all, his conviction.
Amongst the audience, in the front row was sitting the proud mother, Mrs Nusrat Zehra, feeling the passion behind young Haider’s every sentence, something giving her the intuition that her son was destined for something larger than life. The young boy ended his speech with a lapidary adage of the founding father: “No power on earth can undo Pakistan” — something that he believed in from the depths of his heart and something which he fought for till his last breath.
In 2009, young Haider Abbas joined Cadet College Larkana, a stepping stone for his further patriotic endeavours. After a stint of five years there, his passion led him to take a further leap and he joined PMA in 2014 with 134 Long Course. For young Haider, it was indeed a dream come true. During his time at the Academy, he was known for his comradeship, literary penchants and wit. His course mates remember him as a smiling cadet who would always be there for them in the hour of need.
Finally, the day came that every cadet longs for, when the tough training was concludes with a prestigious passing out parade. This momentous event was attended by Haider’s parents and family members, for whom it was a moment of pride and joy, especially for his mother. She could see her son amongst the smartly dressed up cadets marching in the drill square, where many heroes had marched before him. The cadets marched on the drum beat, their feet moving in an incredibly synchronized fashion. This sight reminded Haider’s mother of his first walk holding her fingers in his baby palm, his first day at school, the first time when he was bruised playing hockey and all her motherly concerns. In the backdrop of the melodies of military pipers, just like the marching column, Haider’s stages of life from infancy to adolescence were passing in front her eyes like a film reel. Nusrat could see that the Military Academy had transformed her teenaged boy into a young man capable of embracing the challenges of testing and turbulent times.
In April 2016, 2nd Lt Syed Haider Abbas joined 13 Light Air Defence deployed at Kaala Chitta mountain range but destiny had reserved something bigger for him. After undergoing the requisite professional grooming at this prestigious outfit, Haider joined SSG in 2018. The days of rigorous training at Tarbela passed with every day bringing a new and daunting challenge, which would test the limits of endurance of young officers undergoing nine months’ SSG training — a training only few brave and bold could endure. Finally, the day of passing out in the month of March came that for Haider and his comrades was a day of fulfillment of their dreams as SSG officers.
While talking about Haider’s SSG passing out ceremony, Mrs Nusrat Zehra recollected: “Haider was very enthusiastic about his SSG passing out parade and stayed in constant touch with us on the night prior to the ceremony. The following morning too, he was tracking and urging us to come as soon as possible. “Amma be ready, you are going to see a loud explosion!” Haider told her on the phone while they were preparing for the final parade.
The proud parents reached the venue. It was an impressive ceremony that concluded with a loud explosion, which shook the audience to their bones. “Thank God Haider had informed us beforehand, else I would have been screaming … Later, we got to know that the blast was a part of an act called SSG Ball,” said Nusrat taking a sip from her cup of coffee. While sitting in the serene ambiance of her lounge, I did not want to intrude on her thoughts as she continued: “Haider, as I saw him, for the first and last time in his SSG uniform, was looking very handsome, beaming with confidence. He couldn’t hide his excitement and pride.”
As an SSG officer, Capt Haider underwent various professional courses including Unarmed Combat and Snow Warfare Course. He also did Anti-Terrorist Course in which he got first position in the physical leg and overall secured second position. This was the course that was to play the pivotal role in his final pursuits.
After successful completion of SSG training, he joined 6 Cdo Bn (Al Samsaam). His sister recalls that Haider was very fond of guns. He learned all about using weapons at a very early age as his father used to take him for firing practice. With the variety of weaponry available to him being an Army and SSG officer, this fondness turned into an obsession. His colleagues in SSG used to say that the only expense that Haider would cause to the SSG was the consumption of ammunition. This luckily, was his duty too, to prepare himself for the time when his finesse in weaponry would be needed.
Later, his unit moved to Balochistan and During this time in the operation area, he used to keep his younger brother Asad informed about his whereabouts. One evening as he was talking to Asad and simultaneously advising his troops on preparation, he started talking to his JCO in a very pert manner asking him why he had kept his own vehicle in the lead during the previous movement. Haider emphatically said that his vehicle should have been leading the convoy. When inquired by Asad about the matter, he said that the JCO and others were married and fathers families for whom it would be an irreparable loss, if their vehicle was hit by an IED, while he was a bachelor from a well-off family.
Back at Haider's home, while he was deployed in Balochistan, his mother would constantly pray for his safety and success. However, she had had a queer feeling since December 2021. Whenever she would raise her hands for dua after prayer, she would eloquently pray for everyone but, once she would think of Haider, she would find herself short of words. She also had a dream in which Haider was sitting with his late grandparents and seemed to be in pain owing to a wound in his chest. This increased her concern and prayers for her son fighting in a distant corner of the country, fighting for its sovereignty and honor. Despite her earnest prayers, Divinity had something else planned for Haider, something superior and larger than life itself, which was communicated to his mother, perhaps to prepare her to take the loss.
On February 21, 2022, Capt Haider’s body was brought home for burial. After Haider’s shahadat, his family received the news through one of Haider’s course mates. The family, though highly aggrieved, took this loss with great courage and pride. A smartly turned out contingent of ceremonial guard fired a volley from their shining rifles and the bugler blared the tune of the ‘Last Post’, leaving the complete area in an eerie silence. Haider who had ascended beyond the earthly realm after embracing shahadat was finally laid to rest. At his funeral, his mother called him a lion: “The lion is going after eliminating the foes.” This was caught on camera and the footage went viral on social media demonstrating how the mothers of our shuhada take these grave losses with courage and honor!
His mother recalls that Haider was a very energetic boy since his school days. She proudly revealed that her son was counted amongst the best hockey players of his school and Cadet College. I could see motherly love in her eyes when she talked about how proud she was when she saw little Haider swimming across the pool for the first time. “He was the kind of kid who would always make us proud,” said the mother with a smile locked behind her intact lips. Haider’s sister who was sitting with us remembered his athletic nature: “Bhai was also very fond of squash, to an extent that whenever he would come on leave he would go to Pavilion End Club daily to play.” While Mrs Nusrat was unveiling motherly memories she said: “Haider was a very gifted child, who had a literary tinge and was an ardent reader with special inclination towards literature, history, warfare, ethics and lately philosophy. He was so addicted to reading that even during operations he would keep atleast a couple of books with his fighting gear. His belongings returned to them after his last operation contained three books that he was reading.”
I read somewhere, “Freedom is not free, it costs a son every day,” and this made me think that each son who sacrifices his life has a mother who embraces her great loss without a frown on her face — a strong mother who when presented with the national flag adorned with medals of her son, hides her pain, affliction and loss under her subtle smile. Her osculation to the flag is a gesture of gratitude that Allah had chosen her amongst so many mothers, and bestowed upon her the honor of being the mother of a shaheed. On August 14, 2022, Capt Haider Abbas was awarded with Sitara-i-Basalat in recognition of the services he has rendered to this nation. HH
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