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Silent soldiers who stay awake while we sleep

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
Every day, we read and hear about the martyrdom of our heroic soldiers while combating terrorism, its remnants, and manifestations, and then we forget about it and go about our regular lives without giving it a second thought. While we sleep in our comfortable beds with our loved ones nearby in a safe and secure environment, our soldiers are busy fighting away from their families and loved ones, sometimes in the rocky mountains, vast deserted plains, and sometimes in the dry and unforgiving expanses of deserts where their officers become the head of the families and fellow soldiers become their family members. They spend Eid, birthdays of loved ones, and forego the joy and satisfaction of seeing siblings, children, and parents grow older. We cannot comprehend the intensity of their desire to spend important days with their family members and the agonizing waiting of their families who long every day and night for the return of their sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and one day they receive their bodies clad in national flag ending their wait and giving them lifelong pain and agony and pride of being related to a martyred.

It is also tragic that the perpetrators of terrorism and extremism around the world have either shunned their resolve or gone into hiding, while their target countries have made their borders and societies almost free of this scourge, leaving Pakistan alone to fight the demon of terrorism, which was manufactured, created, and nourished by forces outside Pakistan and imposed on us without our will or agreement. This global threat, which was previously confined to the borders with Afghanistan, has permeated into many parts of the country, necessitating the active deployment of brave, professional, and fully committed soldiers in difficult and deserted locations in Balochistan, North Waziristan, Swat, and borders with Afghanistan, Iran, and India, in addition to countering terrorism and extremism that threatens cities and towns through intelligence-based operations. None of these situations or operations are without danger, exposing soldiers to life threats, roadside bombings, mines, and ambush attacks, but nothing can deter them from the pious and patriotic goal of keeping the people of Pakistan safe and sound so that they can translate their dreams and ambitions without fear, intimidation, or harassment, and keeping our country out of the reach and ill attentions of our sworn enemies who leave no stone unturned to harm it.

The number of Pakistani soldiers killed in the fight against terrorism, extremism, and insurgency is difficult to estimate because there is no single source of information. Several sources and studies, however, place the figure between 5,000 and 10,000. According to a 2019 analysis by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 8,977 Pakistani security forces have been martyred in terrorist-related violence since 2001. Another study, published in 2021 by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), estimated that 6,724 Pakistani security forces were killed in terrorist-related violence between 2004 and 2020. While these estimates are based on different data sources and methodologies, they are still useful in providing a general sense of the large number of Pakistani soldiers who have been killed in the fight against terrorism and also give us the painful and agonizing realizing that at least over 40,000 family members are living without their sometime the only breadwinner, or the only son besides large numbers of widows and orphan which will never see their husbands and fathers again.

These brave and precious soldiers remain awake when we sleep, and at the cost of their dear lives, the ultimate and supreme sacrifices, they continue undeterred in their tireless and uphill fight, which has significantly reduced the frequency of terrorist attacks, saving the lives of both civilians and persons in uniform. They have brought protection and security to our cities, towns, and villages, allowing people to go about their daily lives in comfort and ease. According to a study conducted by South Asia Terrorism Portal, “the number of terrorist attacks has been reduced from 344 in 2013 to 59 in 2023, which is a significant achievement.” According to a separate study undertaken by the Institute for Strategic Studies in Islamabad, the Pakistan army has been effective in reducing the number of terrorist assaults, which has reduced by 70% since 2014.

The Pakistan Army’s effectiveness was amply demonstrated when the entire coalition forces led by the all-powerful United States failed to bring the scourge of terrorism in Afghanistan under control and fled the country, leaving the country at the mercy of Talibans from whom they were obligated to defend by spending billions of dollars and killing countless armed talibans and Afghan civilians. Whereas the Pakistani army successfully eradicated this threat in Swat Valley when the Talibans, high on their triumph in Afghanistan, marched toward Islamabad to take it and install their self-styled Islamic laws. Operation Rah-e-Raast, which lasted from October 2007 to December 2007, successfully drove the TTP out of the valley, and the second phase of the operation, Khyber-1, which began in May 2010, completely vanquished the Taliban and rid the valley of their filthy presence.

The Swat Valley army operation was a watershed moment in Pakistan’s war against terrorism. It demonstrated that the Pakistani military was capable of defeating terrorist groups. The operation was widely praised, and several prominent generals lauded Pakistan’s army’s prowess and skill. “I commend the Pakistani military for its success in Swat,” said General David Petraeus, then-commander of US Central Command. This is a significant achievement in the war on terrorism.” General Stanley McChrystal, then-commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said at the time, “The Pakistani military’s success in Swat is a sign of the progress that is being made in the fight against terrorism.” General James Mattis, then-commander of US Central Command, stated that “the Pakistani military’s success in Swat is a victory for the people of Pakistan and the security of the region.” Admiral Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the US Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, “The Pakistani military’s success in Swat is a testament to the courage and determination of the Pakistani people.” These declarations emphasize the significance of the Pakistani military’s role in combating terrorism and extremism, as well as the sacrifices made in carrying out these operations.

The Pakistan army did not have time to rest. The heinous and abhorent attack on Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014 shook the very foundation of the state of Pakistan. The martyrdom of hundreds of students, teachers and security personnel wounded the very soul of the nation. The National Action plan was drawn by the collective wisdom of the entire nation and the army was once again entrusted with the arduous task much bigger than the Swat operation to rid the country from the menace of terrorism. The Pakistan army once again emerged successful and surprised the world once again. The world leaders had no other option but to shower praise and appreciation on the Army. Former US President Barack Obama, in a speech to the Pakistani Parliament in 2015. Said “The Pakistani military has made enormous sacrifices in the fight against terrorism, and has shown great courage and determination in carrying out these operations.” Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement to the Security Council in 2014.- “I commend the Pakistani military for its ongoing operations against terrorist groups in the country. These operations are essential to the fight against terrorism and extremism.” British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2016 said “The Pakistani military is playing a vital role in the fight against terrorism. Their operations have made a real difference in the security situation in the country.” French President François Hollande, in a statement following a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2015 said- “I salute the courage and determination of the Pakistani military in its fight against terrorism. Their operations are essential to the security of Pakistan and the region.” “The Pakistani military is a key partner in the fight against terrorism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a statement following a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017.I commend their operations and express my solidarity with the Pakistani people.” –

This long-drawn fight is still raging in many regions of the country today, resulting in the sacrifice of our gallant soldiers virtually on a daily basis in their efforts to eradicate terrorists from our soil. They are battling on several fronts, including the western border with Afghanistan, the eastern border with India, the northern areas of Pakistan, the Baloch province, and in our cities, towns, and villages.

Pakistani soldiers are making history by successfully combating terrorists and extremists along our western border with Afghanistan: this is the main front in the war on terror, and Pakistani troops have been fighting Taliban and other militant groups along this border for many years. According to the SATP, around 4,236 Pakistani soldiers were killed in North Waziristan between 2004 and 2022. The year with the most deaths was 2014, when over 700 soldiers were martyred. Although the number of deaths has reduced in recent years, it remains significant.

Though there is a ceasefire in place, the eastern border with India is a traditional flashpoint between Pakistan and India, with incursions by Indian soldiers into Pakistan, exchanges of fire between Pakistani and Indian border guards, and attacks by Indian security forces on freedom fighters. According to the SATP, 1,172 Pakistani soldiers were killed in border confrontations with India and Kashmir between 2008 and 2022.

The northern regions of Pakistan are home to a variety of militant groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the army has been fighting terrorism there for several years. According to SATP, 1,217 Pakistani soldiers were killed in Swat and northern Pakistan between 2007 and 2022.

In the province of Balochistan, a number of Baloch nationalist groups are fighting for greater autonomy and have created an insurgency situation aided and largely funded by India, while when pursued by the Armed Forces, they seek refuge in Afghanistan and Iran, resulting in a security schism between them and Pakistan. Although there is no reliable information on Pakistani soldiers killed in counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan. However, the number of soldiers martyred in Balochistan since 2004 is estimated to be about 1,700, according to media estimates.

There is no official data on the number of Pakistani soldiers killed in intelligence-based operations (IBOs) in Pakistani cities and towns. However, the number of soldiers killed in IBOs since 2007 is thought to be approximately 1,000, according to media estimates.

Each and every soldier’s life is valuable. The contributions of martyred soldiers who gave their lives for the sake of the country are enormous and unforgettable. The family members left behind by their supreme sacrifice deserve the same respect and a life-long support system to help them overcome the anguish and separation caused by the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. Their hatred for the enemy, insurgents, and terrorists is palpable. Families may feel guilty for not being able to protect their loved one or for surviving when their loved one did not. A breadwinner’s death can have a substantial financial impact on a family. Some people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may experience flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression for the rest of their lives. The Pakistan army is acutely aware of their plight and offers them lifelong support to help them cope with their loss and move on with their lives. But it is the responsibility of the entire nation, not just the army, to come out and pay due respect, honor, and recognition to the martyrs and their families if we are to rise as a respectable and civilized nation.

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