An open letter to July 16, 2009
Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, H.I, (M)
Chief of Army Staff
I am a retired Captain of the Pakistan Army having taken off my uniform in 1982 when I felt that my further presence in the Army will not be mutually beneficial to either one of us.
I had a very short stay in the Army but it was very eventful, full of thrill, fun and experience, as I had the honour to serve with the troops in A.K and NORTHERN AREAS.
It was in the 70’s and 80’s that the Army was held in high esteem and people who served in the armed forces were proud of their sense of belonging to the Pakistan Armed Forces. Where ever and whenever an ordinary soldier like me went in the public we were given honor and were looked up to as symbol of envy and respect.
I also as a young Captain at that time used to ride high on the pinnacle of glory with haughtiness and an air of arrogance because of the uniform I wore and because of the espirit de corps.
Sir, I come from a martial background, my father, brother in laws, sister, wife and father in law all served in the Army because we were proud to be a part of the Pakistan Army. My father Brig ® MUHAMMED ALIMUDDIN was commissioned in the Royal Indian Army in 1941 and served in the Burma campaign in the Second World War. In 1947 at the time of independence he opted for Pakistan and came to Rawalpindi to lay the foundations of the Army Medical Corps from a nascent stage. My father having served in the Pak Army for about 34 years retired in 1974.
My father Brig ® Muhammad Alimuddin who retired from the Pakistan Army as an Eye Specialist played a long innings and met his Creator on 28th December 2001 and was buried with Military rituals in the Army graveyard along with my mother who preceded him in joining her creator on 13th October 2001.
Since the death of my parents it has been my regular and sacrosanct routine to visit the graves of my parents on Thursday morning every week along with my wife and children to clean the graves and to offer FATEHA.
With a passage of time my children got married and settled abroad, and now it has been left to the middle age decrepitude couple comprising of myself and my wife having been left alone to follow the family ritual of visiting and cleaning the ancestral graves.
This practice has been stereo typed and ingrained in our weekly routine which we are following regularly since 2002 and very seldom have we missed out on going to the graveyard because of illness or being out of station.
Many times my sons who are now settled in Canada and USA asked us to settle abroad, but since my roots are here, being the son of the soil and as the graves of my ancestors are in Rawalpindi, I have always preferred to be in Rawalpindi because of my emotional, poignant and sentimental attachment with this city and above all, I want to be buried in Rawalpindi where my parents are lying in eternal sleep.
On 16th July Thursday 2009, I went as per my routine at 10:40 hours to visit the graves of my parents and to offer FATEHA, but the irony of fate and to my utter consternation and misfortune that I was rudely prevented to enter the Army Racecourse graveyard because there was a VVIP burial in which the top brass of the Armed Forces were participating. I implored and beseeching requested the M.P present to allow me to enter just to offer FATEHA along with my wife who was carrying flowers, garlands and incense sticks to offer at the graves, but all my imploring and requests were in vain. It seems that people in authority have the propensity to carry their malfeasance and braggadocio to extreme limits in order to gain propitious mileage and largesse with their superiors.
I turned back from the Army graveyard with vitriolic thoughts and vituperative soliloquy and mutterings that what has become of Pakistan Army where a law abiding citizen is prevented and impeded from performing his sacrosanct rights and beliefs of visiting the graves of his parents.
The VVIP culture which has off late come into existence in Pakistan in the form of routes, closures and barricades in order to satisfy the egoistic proclivity of the ruling elite of the Armed Forces and the high Government Officials is causing great hardships, discomfort and heartburn for the common man of Pakistan who’s right of freedom of movement is protected and guaranteed by the constitution, but not available or given to him.
The VVIP culture should be restricted to CMH, DHA, GHQ and defence establishments like Park Lane (Murree Brewery), Secretariat no II and Chaklala Garrison but please spare the graveyards from such atrocious and dogmatic cultures which fail to distinguish between the Gods creation that every man is born equal.
A few days from now onwards down the memory lane sooner or later I will also perish and mingle in the dust like you and will be buried unlike you without any military honors or the volley of muskets but our resting places will be the same mother earth.
NOW MY QUESTION ARISES?
Have I the right to visit the graves of my parents / ancestors or not?
If I do not have the right than please turn the whole of the Army racecourse graveyard in to a red zone so that ordinary people like me have no right to enter the REDZONE (graveyard).
There are no ranks in the graveyard where we all have to go eventually and be buried one day.
Sir, please spare the graveyards and places of worships like Mosques etc from your VVIP culture lest tomorrow there maybe no VVIPs and no VVIP culture.
In the end please let me quote from Thomas Gray’s famous poem:
“An Elegy written in a country churchyard”
“THE PATH OF GLORY LEADS BUT TO THE GRAVE”
Dr. Babur Zahiruddin
123/A, Market Road Saddar