1 November 2012

We Don’t Seek Benevolence, But Don’t Malign us Either – Part I

By Xeric

Also published @ defence.pk 

Frankly speaking there wasn’t any need for this piece if certain readers had not taken umbrage at my previous blogs. First, where I explained why military-men are not superior to their civilian counterparts, and second when I shared a soldier’s thoughts on Eid.

However, some queries were raised in response to my blogs which were not in good faith. I even went against the grain and commented on my own blog so that misconceptions could be cleared.

I was successful to a certain extent only, and so I have decided to take it up a step further – after all the Army I serve in runs on a ‘hefty’ amount of the readers’ hard earned money.

However, I must clarify that by writing this piece I am in no way trying to present the Army as an infallible institution, nor am I trying to justify the mistakes it might have made in the past.

But then I do reserve the right to speak up against misplaced notions, fabricated figure work and ‘critical criticism.’

I for one have been a staunch believer that no one is superior by virtue of the power he holds, badges he wear or authority he possesses, nor he should be above criticism – the phrase holy-cow doesn’t exist in my dictionary. Nevertheless, I am also quite wary about someone trying to take undue advantage of one’s reticence.

It is said that personal examples are bad, but in order to further quantify the above statement I must tell you that I have never revealed my identity as a Fauji to anybody for the sake of gaining respect, in expectation of favours or to pressurize the other party. Every now and then I travel either by train, air, my personal vehicle, even by public transport while I proceed on leave, and interact with civilians in routine – ofcourse, this experience include the days when Army was genuinely respected.

I have been stopped by traffic police, even fined by them, made to stand in queue while baray log went past, and was even unnecessarily bothered by police while I had an after-dinner walk. All this, but I never have used my rank to influence the situation, why should I? I show my driving license and / or ownership papers when asked for, open up my trunk to allow search and wait for my turn when I am queued. Seriously, I don’t want to belittle myself because of such petty signals – a thing that I feed my under commands on a constant basis.

Having said this, the above ofcourse will only befit if the readers understand that for an individual’s folly, an entire organization or institution cannot be asked to take the blame. What Ayub, Yahya or Musharraf did must not reflect on the loyalty and dedication of remainder of uniforms – one shouldn’t paint the entire Armed Forces with the same brush. If that be case, then every German was a Nazi, all Jews are Zionists, every American an invader, and most important of all, we as Pakistanis are equally responsible for poor governance, corrupt politicians and ever worsening law and order situation.

Another thing that I must highlight before I begin my endeavour is the fact that soldiers are not aliens. Infact they hail from the same villages and cities, were schooled in local institutions as most Pakistanis, and have been brought up in a similar environment.

Moreover, most of the men and officers come from a humble background and thus contrary to the popular belief they lack a default gardan mai sariya (God Complex) attitude, which is so common to South Asian elites. Indeed, they possess the same amount of intellect, patriotism and sense of responsibility as their civilian counterparts do.

Lastly, the military has no system/desire to replace this attitude either – a fact I as a solider can vouch for (just so that you don’t take the wrong idea, I have been a soldier longer than I have been a civilian).

With this premise I shall now try to explain the obvious:

Army-men Receive Housing Units / Plots

Yes they do, but hear me out. They pay every penny for it.

To elaborate further, these can be divided into two broad categories, namely housing units in Army Officers Housing Scheme, and plots through Defence Housing Authority. Today we shall discuss the former.

Army Officers Housing Scheme (AOHS)

Housing is a basic and fundamental human need. Today, there is a virtual housing crisis in the country. Rapid population growth, overcrowding, shortage of supply, aging housing stock, development of slums and Katchi Abadis, and lack of financial resources has further aggravated the situation.

According to 1998 census, the total number of housing units throughout the country was 19.3 million. 67.7% housing was in rural areas and 32.3% in urban areas. The housing backlog, as estimated according to the 1998 census, was 4.3 million units. The additional annual requirement is estimated around 300,000 units, thereby, resulting in a recurring shortfall of 270,000 housing units annually.*

The situation is further compounded as 60% of the Army officers retire before 45 years of age; therefore, besides re-employment their biggest worry is to find a suitable shelter for their families after retirement as throughout their service they have been residing in rented accommodation. Apropos, Armed Forces – like any other organization – developed AOHS to provide its personnel with modern community living at affordable cost for the middle and low income groups, to which most of its employees belong.

AOHS is thus no different than any other housing scheme being managed in Pakistan. AOHS, like Federal Government Employees Housing Scheme, Punjab Government Servants Housing Foundation, Police Foundation Housing Society, Pakistan Housing Authority, WAPDA City, State Life Insurance EmployeesCo-Operative Housing Society etc aims at providing their employees housing units on no-profit, no-loss basis.


The membership is voluntary. One can join in at any rank, though most memberships start early – the earlier you join, the less you have to pay in the end. A 2nd Lieutenant (2Lt) applies for the membership by depositing a down-payment, which increases for each next rank, amounting to anything between Rs 70,000 to 90,000. Ofcourse, at this stage of service one has to either take assistance from a bank or his/her parents to manage the down-payment. Once a member, the officer will pay monthly instalments until he retires or die during service as under (instalment rates and years of service have deliberately been altered for the obvious reasons):-

Years to Next Rank
Instalment Rate/Month (Rs)
Amount Deposited
(Yrs x Months x Rate)
Previous Balance
2Lt/Lt to Captain (Capt)
3 – 4
3 x 12 x 5000 = 1,80,000
Capt to Major (Maj)
6 – 8
6 x 12 x 8000 = 5,76,000
Maj to Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col)
7 – 9
7 x 12 x 15000 = 1,26,0000

Thus an officer retiring as a Lt Col had already deposited Rs 2.1 million. However, as the cost of house has yet not been recovered (you don’t get a house for 2.1 million these days), the remainder of the Rs 1.5 – 2.5 million is to be deposited in lump sum from pension benefits and Provident Fund to finally own the house.

Yes, the amount is still less as compared to its commercial value – construction on no-profit, no-loss basis, ‘vertical integration’, and the land was purchased atleast 10-15 years back. We call it good management, long-term planning and a stable market.

No, not a single penny is used from the defence budget.

Now let’s not get all gung-ho over it, as neither the concept nor the practice is alien to Pakistan.

Lastly, if a member embraces Shahadat, his remaining liabilities with respect to AOHS are waived off, which he damn well deserve!

Read the second part here.

28 October 2012

27 October 2012

A Soldier’s Eid

By Xeric
Also published @ Express Tribune Blogs and defence.pk

        I am Gunner Fazal Mehmood, currently serving in a Medium Regiment Artillery located at a peace-location. It is 0400 hours, the first day of Eid-ul-Azha and while lying on my charpoy I am thinking about the last night – it is the third consecutive Eid that I will be spending away from my family.

I don’t know why, but I am constantly reminded of a similar Chaand Raat (metonym) which I had spent along with my family back at Bhawalpur a few years back. All the luminosity, crowd and chanting at the Mina Bazar near our house constantly reminded me of my baby girl's face which was so cheerful because she was to wear her new dress on Eid which I had bought her. I also remember going to the bazar with my family to get my wife's palms henna-stained and fetch the last minute make-up items.

I have always been annoyed by these last minute touch ups our ladies have gotten so used to. Apparently, when they have bought everything they are to adorn on Eid day, I fail to understand why there still is a persistent moaning. They say things like:
"Mujhy tu Aisha ka hairband lana yaad he nahi raha"
          (Hey, I forgot to get a new hairband for Aisha.)
"Oho, mujhy tu abhi yaad aya hai, dupatay ki peeko tu karwaye he nahi."
(Oh, I just recalled, I had to get my dupatta stitched.)
"Sirf 10 minute lagay gain, bus matching chorian laini hain."
(Just ten more minutes, I need to get matching bangles.)
All I end up saying is:
“Okay, I’ll take you, but what exactly were you doing for last seven days when I have been taking you out on my motorcycle?”
Now I guess it probably had to something with the sheer joy of spending time together, rather than actually purchasing the items.

I think it is this feeling that haunts me right now.

Still, the Army had done a good job at letting our families to savor the same by arranging mina bazars and chand raat shows inside the cantonments.

I believe Fauji chand raats are better than the others. You get most of the edibles for free (though Officers have to pay for them), and bangles, henna and other related stuff is cheaper – thanks to the General Officer Commanding (GOC) and the Commanding Officer (CO) Sahib for subsidizing them. Just yesterday a retired Colonel of my unit donated Rs 50,000 as Eidi to my unit.

Most important of all, there are no oglers at loose.

But the fact is that I didn’t get to enjoy chaand raat this time since I was busy guarding the venue and other military installations. Anyways, as I yet have to shave, change, and reach the regiment fall-in due at 0500 hours, I must hurry.
At the fall-in, those - including myself - who were relieved from duty at 0200 hours, and thus according to Army’s calculations had received their night’s rest, replaced those who were on duty since 0400 hours (these guys will get to join the Eid prayers). Accordingly, I was ordered to the mosque-guard when Eid prayers were to be held. After a quick breakfast I reached my new place of duty, the outer cordon, and found myself with this Police chap whom, I know, also has a similar story to tell.

After we had discussed our area of responsibility and took our posts, we were left with a gap of approximately 10 meters between us. Which, ofcourse didn’t deter us from developing a conversation. He told me how he was patrolling alongwith his DSP till four in the morning, and yet he is here guarding the mosque. Upon this I had nothing to say but praise the military’s system of man-management.

Anyways, the Eid was up and running as soon as everybody greeted each other after the prayers. I too did the same to the Policeman with those 10 meters still between us, and then I was ordered straight to the ammunition bunkers.

At the ammunition storage, I was scanning the horizon with my binoculars when I saw a military vehicle speeding towards me.
“Aye tey CO saab da tota lagda aye..!” , the other sentry announced.
(“It looks like CO’s Toyota RMR”)
“Look sharp, look sharp!!” roared the NCO, as he sprung off his camp stool.
Before I could settle my beret, the Jeep was on me.

Out came my CO, carrying a colorful packet in his hands. Handing over the packet to the Non Commissioned Officer (NCO), he greeted Eid to all, gave us a small motivational lecture and passed some instructions to the NCO. While he was leaving for the next post, I was thinking about the sweets in the packet and feeling alive from the hug that I had just received from my commander. Though for a short while, I was no more ‘bothered’ by the thoughts of my family.
It was 1200 hours and I was finally back in my barrack preparing to attend the Bara Khana (special lunch for occasions like Eid). This time I was off-duty and those who attended the Eid prayers stood sentry. I had adorned the white shalwar kamiz my wife had sent me.

These days you don’t get to watch TV that often since Army’s employment has increased manifold. Consequentially, while sitting inside the ante-room we were arguing over the channel to be viewed when someone announced that the Brigade Commander would be joining us at lunch – our unit was the farthest from his command and thus he had decided to spend his Eid with us.

Man, this was my lucky day!

Back at home we were in conflict with this guy and his sons over a small piece of land that belonged to us. When his threats failed to have the desired effects, he did what Pakistani villagers do indicted my brother in a false FIR. The Police had been bothering us since then.

I had already posted my application to the Brigade Commander, but now I would be able to explain my case and hand him over the application in person. Rehearsing what I would be telling the Commander, I was forced to think how many other institutions allow such easy access to seniors when it comes to welfare?

At the Bara Khana most of the unit, including the Officers, was present. The food was good and the casual chit chat with the Officers reminded me once again that it was Eid. The Commander also gave eidi to the youngest soldier, which didn’t amuse me as I was still thinking about my family.
After the lunch, I was back in uniform and ready to move out for firing practice, when we were informed that it has been cancelled – after all it was Eid day! So I sank into my charpoy with my boots still on and was soon drifting on memories.

Staring at the wooden ceiling I was arguing with myself about this Eid being better than the one when I was deployed at the border. There, things were not much different than what I had done today, except that right after the morning fall-in, the Observer reported about tank movement in our sector and I had to spend the rest of the (Eid) day manning my gun and preparing ammunition.

It was not until the next morning that I was reminded that the day I had spent relaying my gun and cleaning grease off the rounds was Eid. Better still, atleast this time around I was inside a cantonment where I saw real people enjoying the colors of Eid. Right about then I was reminded of my days in Special Services Group (SSG). Life was tougher and more unpredictable back then. I remembered the day General Headquarters (GHQ) was attacked.

We were feasting on Soldier’s Mess made pakoras and nimak paras when we were told of the attack.
“You’ve got five minutes to get your gear and find me at the em-busing (the point were you get on the bus) point! Operation type will be room clearance (hostage rescue). Detailed orders en-route!” announced our squad leader, as he sputtered out the piece of pakora that was bothering him during the phone call that informed him of the attack.
Soon I was sitting behind that five-tonne Hino truck adjusting the sites of my modified SMG Chinese. I was aware that by the time this operation ends, some of us may not live to see the next day. Cognizant of the fact that the moment you kick that door and enter the terrorist stronghold, you will draw enemy fire. In a fight that will only last for a split second, the enemy will have a room to displace itself, I on the other hand will be standing inside a 3-feet-wide door frame.

It was then I felt a sudden impulse to call my family; I wanted to listen to my little angle’s voice one more time before I left her.


You know you can’t do that.

Instead, you think of your family and try to gather courage from the thought that you are doing it for them and many others like them.

Next, you totally forget them and simply reject every other thought expect those involving your entry into the stronghold, and the uncertainty and fog that shall follow it.

That day, when the operation ended two of my friends who were having pakaros with me a few hours ago, were resting in body bags; a few others were clinging to their lives at CMH Rawalpindi.

But hey, we did rescue the hostages!

Just about then came the rude awakening; I was to again stand guard once this short lull was over, and with this I snapped out of my reverie with clenched jaws and tightened fists. We succeeded on 10 October 2009, but will I prevail again if I stand guard engrossed in my thoughts feeling dejected because my family is away on this Eid?

What if I am yet again in a situation where I might not survive to see tomorrow?

What if these thoughts instead of giving me strength became my weakness?

Would I be able to play my part effectively before I breathe my last?

What if I couldn’t do what I was trained for; am I burdening this Nation so that I can whine over an Eid day?

These questions sent shivers down my spine.
“No!” screamed my brain as I stood up with a pounding heart.
This will never happen on my watch! I shall stand sentry with all the vigil I can gather with a unified aim in my sight that no chump can get past me without Gunner Fazal seriously interfering with his designs!

For every possibility and any contingency that the enemy may throw at me, I must remain steadfast and should give my undivided attention to the task at hand.

The thought that my family and yours enjoyed their Eid, is an Eid in itself for soldiers like me. This Eid and the others that soldiers like myself had spent away from their families is very small a price that we pay in return to the love and respect we receive from you people, and the comfort we get in the thought that as we stand guard, other Pakistanis can treasure moments with their families!

With this I picked up my G-3 as the dusk marked the end of 1432nd Eid-ul-Azha.

While I checked my magazine for bullets I think I heard someone asking;
"Who are you?
As I walked towards my post, I murmured:
"I am a proud son of the soil; I am a proud Soldier of Pakistan Army!"
Narrative based on actual experiences.
Names and places have been changed for the obvious reasons.

22 October 2012

Role of Pakistan Army in Educating the People of Baluchistan

Chamalang Coal Mines
Commandant Maiwind Rifles Kohlu, School Administration, and parents of students during the annual gathering of Jahangeer Shaheed FC Public School, Kohlu.
Have you ever thought about it that why those parts of 3rd world countries which are enriched with natural resources are target of militancy, lawlessness and poor writ of govt.? Why in spite of all the efforts the problems of these areas could not be solved? What are the forces behind this bloody game?

            Whether these are oil, natural gas or mineral resources, developing countries, or Muslim countries do not have enough resources and skill to explore them. Due to this, these countries are forced to remain as slaves of western imperialist forces. If any country dares to explore these resources on its own than through rebellion and regional disputes the region is turned into war zone, so the country forgets about the exploring of these natural resources and has to beg in front of western imperialists for its integrity and stability.

            Baluchistan is a clear and open example of this aggression, here the minerals like gold, copper, oil and coal are present in a large quantity. Obviously, the experts of western countries were aware of these resources and that is why from last 63 years Baluchistan has been target of lawlessness and terrorism.  However in 2002 when world’s 4th largest sea port was built at Gwadar with the help of China not (only in the name of fight for rights of deprived Baloch) the law and peace of the whole area was shattered but China’s access towards Gwadar was stopped as well by converting all the routes into warzones and terrorist camps. Those who cannot bear China and Pakistan being developed did all this i.e. India, USA, and Europeans.

            In 2003 when terrorist attacks were started over natural gas and other govt. installations, they (Indian & western media and so called Baloch Sardars) tried to veil these terrorist activities as a reaction to the deprivations of the Baloch people. Astonishingly those Sardar’s who were born with the golden spoon, had been educated at Saint Merry, Atchison College and costly universities of USA and Britain were fighting for the rights of deprived common Balochi people. In spite of highly educated they always kept their people (whom they consider as their slaves) deprived from education. These Sardars were always struggling to keep their people away from modern developments so that they remain chained into the centuries old traditions and never dare to challenge these feudals. Not only these Sardars, our leaders, politicians, feudals, landlords all are doing same to the whole country. Due to illiteracy, Sardar is everything for these people (even God), they have to look for the approval of Sardar for their small happiness’s.
Chamalang Coal Mines
The Sight of a classroom of Jahangeer Shaheed FC School, Kohlu.

            These so-called Sardars never thought that whenever big technical plants will be installed in Baluchistan, locals being illiterate would be forced to work as labor and miners. For educated and skilled labor, govt. will have to hire non-Baloch from other provinces. Keeping this situation in mind Army made a comprehensive plan to educate common people. Pakistan Army established FC PUBLIC SCHOOL, KOHLU on April 2001 for providing education to deprived people of these undeveloped areas. The initial stage of convincing these people to send their children was much hard, especially for girls as their parents were ignorant of the importance of the education. However at least after untiring efforts of officers and soldiers of MAIWIND RIFLES, KOHLU (FC), Baloch got ready to educate their children.

            The establishment of FC Public School Kohlu in 2001 was just like as 1st ray of light after a long dark night which is now changing into light. Now under FC (Frontier Core) Baluchistan, there are 12 Primary schools, 5 middle schools, 8 high schools and 3 colleges busy in spreading the light of the knowledge in different remote and undeveloped areas of Baluchistan. More than 9248 students (girls & boys) are being educated in these schools, 2717 out of them are not only provided with free books, uniform but also with monthly stipend. The parents of remaining students are capable to meet the expenses of education, however the fee of these Public schools is nominal as compared to govt. schools in other provinces. Moreover all these students and local people are given free medical facilities by FC Baluchistan. Every month, free medical camps provide free checkup and medicines. Most important fact is that govt. is not providing even a single penny for educational and medical expenses, but all of these are met from the fund of Southern Command of Pakistan Army and FC Baluchistan.

Chamalang Coal Mines
National Anthem over the wall of FC Public School Fazal Chel.
            If we take only Kohlu as an example, 4 schools are educating children here. Most noteworthy is FC Public School, Kohlu, which has been now renamed as Lt. JAHANGEER MARI SHAHEED FC PUBLIC SCHOOL, KOHLU, after the name of Lt. Jahangeer of Mari  tribe who was martyred in operation against terrorists in Bajore. 820 students are being educated in this school.

            CHAKAR KILI is a remote undeveloped village of MAIWIND tehsil, district Kohlu where there is no concept of basic facilities like other deprived areas of Baluchistan. In September 2007 FC Public School was established there. The number of students has increased to 61. Many students are getting admission in the school on the condition that school will provide pick and drop service. For better future of these young children, FC Baluchistan is providing these facilities free of charge to all of the FC Schools.

FAZAL CHEL another remote area of tehsil MAIWIND is also deprived of basic facilities. On the demand of people of this area FC Public School was established here in March 2010, so far 172 students have been admitted. All of their medical and educational expenses are borne by FC as well.

            In BAGHAR WADH village a school was established last year, so far 100 students have been given admission to the school.
            Like district Kohlu, in district BARKHAN, FC has established a middle school in 2006. 269 students have been admitted so far. This fact is very promising that the number of female students is increasing gradually.
Chamalang Coal Mines
Students listening to the recitation of Holy Quran during assembly in BAGHAR WADH
            If we say that illiteracy had played an important role in further worsening already poor situation of Baluchistan, it will not be wrong. Our old enemy India benefited from this poor situation and it started resistance against any mega project which could have changed the fate of Baloch, through exploiting illiterate local people. Take the example of CHAMALANG COALMINES PROJECT, these resources of coal are situated 70 km away in the Southeast of LORALAI spread over 60×7 km. According to the geological survey the quantity of coal is about 55 M tones and value is about 200 billion rupees. Due to the dispute between Marri and Luni tribes, these resources could not be utilized for at least 30 years.

            At last army brought both parties on the table, a just agreement to share the profit was made between both tribes. Now after SANDAK and CHAGHI MARBLE MINES this is the 3rd largest project in Baluchistan, benefiting Baloch people. Not only is this under CHAMALANG BENEFICIARIES EDUCATION PROGRAM (CBEP) this project provides financial support to 4183 students belonging to Marri and Luni tribes. Out of these 677 boys and 15 girls are studying in educational institutions of other provinces out of Baluchistan.

Considering the deprivations of Baloch people and their interest in education General Kayani declared Sui Cantonment as EDUCATION CITY on 3rd January 2011 (Baloch Sardar were against Sui cantonment while from Peshawar to Karachi cantonments have played pivotal role in the development of the areas). General Kayani also announced construction of a Military College in Sui. Before this English laid foundation of 1st Military College, Jehlum in 1926. In 2008 2nd Military College was established in Murree. Sui Military College will be the 3rd,  training officers for Pakistan army.
Chamalang Coal Mines
The sight of a classroom in Baghar Wadh, these students have been recently provided chairs and desks
            On 3rd January during the inauguration of Sui Military College, General Kayani declared that 60% of the seats will be reserved for Baloch. In his speech, he revealed that 22766 Baloch are being educated in institutions of Pakistan army and FC. Along with this, General Kayani declared that 10000 Baloch will be selected as officers for Pakistan army.

            On this our half century old enemy Hindu India could not adhere herself from showing her evil intentions, on 4th January 2011 THE HINDU published a fake report as part of Indian propaganda “HINDU FAMILIES FLEE BALUCHISTAN”. It was reported by the Hindu propagandists that 27 Hindu families from Baluchistan met Indian ambassador in Islamabad on 3rd January and requested for collective asylum. This is not only an evidence of armed Indian interference in Baluchistan but also dangerous propaganda of India against Pakistan. Taking support from Indian propaganda pro-Indian journalists, intellectuals, writers and columnists from Pakistan pose the terrorist activities of Hindu terrorists in Baluchistan in such a way that they push whole nation towards hopelessness about future of Pakistan. They never mention the facilities of Baloch Sardars which they have got through corruption and in the name of rights of deprived Baloch people and are still struggling to deprive their people from basic necessities of life. Only Allah can guide them to straight path or teach them a lesson…
Written by Khalid Baig,
Published in daily Nawa-i-Waqt,
Date: 16th April, 2011.

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