Our Unsung Heroes
By claiming responsibility for lashings, public beheadings and suicide bombings, the Taliban have declared themselves villains of the caliber that can not be found even in the goriest of movies. But like anywhere else, the emergence of these villains has also prompted the rise of heroes.
Take for instance the case of Liaqat Ali Khan, of the Dagai village of Matta in Swat. On October 17, 2008, Liaqat received an unexpected guest at his house; the guest was Zhang Guo a Chinese telecom engineer, who had escaped the captivity of the Taliban. They were holding him hostage to secure the release of their own fighters. With the Taliban searching frantically, Liaqat knew his options very well; he could hand the Engineer over and score a favor with the de facto rulers of Swat, or he could hand Zhang Guo over to the Army and face the consequences. But despite knowing well about the wrath of the Taliban, Liaqat chose the later option, he smuggled the Chinese engineer to a nearby army checkpoint and braced himself for the consequences. He didn’t have to wait for long, because on November 20th 2008, Liaqat Ali Khan was killed right in front of his house, as a punishment for interfering with the Taliban.
On October 20th 2009, a suicide bomber headed for the cafeteria of the International Islamic University. He had already killed a security guard, and was now aiming at the University cafeteria, which at that point had around 300 to 400 students. Pervaiz Masih, who worked as a janitor at the Univeristy, intercepted the bomber at the entrance of the cafeteria. There was an argument between the two, while there are no exact details of the argument, one thing is for sure, which is that the bomber would have warned Pervaiz of the consequences of standing in his way. But, the unarmed Janitor, didn’t budge and the bomber detonated his vest, but because of Pervaiz, the bomber could not achieve a higher death toll, which he could have, had he entered the crowded cafeteria.
On 15th November 2009, a police check point near the village of Pishtakhara at the outskirts of Peshawar was attacked by a car bomb. The vehicle had 50 to 60 KGs of explosives and was spiked with artillery rounds. The probable target could have been the crowded Saddar Bazar, where the explosives could have delivered a massive death toll. Similar to Pervaiz Masih, a policeman by the name of Fazl ur Rehman thwarted the car from passing the checkpoint. According to witnesses, an argument ensued between Fazl ur Rehman and the bomber, but this brave policeman also chose his own death to save probably scores of other lives.
There are more, many more such instances, where our fellow Pakistanis have sacrificed their own lives for the rest of us. In all three cases our heroes did not have to lose their own lives, neither were they aiming to save the lives of their family. They sacrificed themselves for a common good; call it Pakistaniyat, or insaniyaat, but that innate feeling ensured that these martyrs saved the live of strangers at the cost of their own.
So how do we, the faceless strangers, for whom these sacrifices were made, treat our selfless benefactors? To begin with, I myself only had a vague memory of these instances, and couldn’t recall any of the names when I started writing this article. The background searches revealed brief details of the instances in which these sacrifices were made. Liaqat is mentioned only in one news report. Fazl ur Rehman is mentioned by The Nation, as simply a “policeman”, while Dawn does mention his name, it too fails to mention his village or his rank. For Pervaiz’s family the Government announced Rs. 10 Lakh as a compensation for his sacrifice. But the payment had not been made till October 2010, i.e. even one year after his sacrifice. There was no news on awards of gallantry for these brave sons of the soil, neither on any schools or roads being named after them.
It is very easy to blame the politicians for being incompetent, or the Media for being insensitive, for not honoring these heroes, but the fact of the matter is that Politicians as well as the Media play to the demand of the people. The ungratefulness that is exhibited by both the politicians as well as the Media is in effect the ungratefulness that is felt on the street.
The sacrifice of these unsung heroes saved many lives, this noble behavior needs recognition as well as encouragement; our disregard for these contributions might result in many potential Liaqats, Pervaizs and Fazl ur Rehmans looking the other way. It is high time we Pakistanis proved ourselves worthy of such sacrifices.