Times in Pakistan are tough. Things were never great but they were never this bad either. There weren’t as many incidents of violence, so many hours of load shedding or such high prices of food and electricity. And in our fast paced downward spiral, we have lost our sense of being one nation. Its each man and woman for himself or herself. Its the only way to survive. And in the pursuit of survival we will lie, cheat, steal, trample on others, cut corners and take the low road as often as possible to get to destination mere survival.
And in this Darwinian quest for survival we have become jaded and sarcastic and trained to believe the worst about those around us. Idealism, morality, humanity – seem like hollow buzzwords – such noble sentiments having been beaten out of us by circumstance. On those rare occasions, when we are confronted with selfless displays of courage and nationalism; we tend to scoff at them and dismiss them as either political rhetoric or utterly naive insanity.
But this story about Captain Najam Riaz made me stop in my jaded tracks and led me to believe that maybe there is hope for the future.
In May 2009, Captain Najam Riaz, was captured and martyred by the Taliban. He was part of the elite SSG commandos – the best of the best who are trained by the Pakistani army to be even better (yes, i know this is a quote from Top Gun). He was only 24 years old when he died fighting against the Taliban in Swat.
Captain Najam was captured along with three other colleagues by the Taliban. For many days he and the others were kept captive while the Taliban tried to use them to buy freedom for their captured commrades. When it seemed like such a deal could not be struck, the Taliban murdered Captain Najam Shaheed and the three other soldiers. All four brave men, died fighting valiantly. Surrounded by the brutal enemy, they were unfazed at the prospect of death and killed 8 Talibans with their bare hands before they were gunned down and later beheaded.
While the courage and valor of these young men in the face of such grave adversity is truly inspirational, what was even more heartbreakingly inspirational was the courage and selflessness of his family in the face of this grave loss. He came from a small village near Kahuta. His father had retired as a Hawaldar from the army and Najam was his youngest son. His family is one of modest means. They don’t have any of the fancy upper class trappings that one associates with the rich, liberal, elite, who are anti Taliban. But their understanding of the true nature of the Taliban is far more astute than some of our leading media commentators. But this is not why they are inspirational.
They are inspirational because they raised a son, who was brilliant and brave enough to be admitted to the most elite faction within the Pakistan army. And they are inspirational because they taught him to put his country before even himself a lesson that most of us merely laugh at. And they are inspirational because even when they lost their son to the cause that they had raised him to believe in, they did not put themselves before the need of their community.
After the martyrdom of their son, the government followed up with the usual official visits for condolences. And asked what they could do to help them. When the government asked what could be done for the family, they could have asked for anything for themselves. Money, job, promotions. Instead, they asked for a school, a dispensary and a road to be built for their community. Even in the face of this great loss, they remained true selfless Pakistanis. And here I was thinking that none existed!
P.S. For the story of another SSG hero who was mutilated by the Taliban, read the story of Capt. Jonaid Khan.