Who else should you offer flowers to, if not the Security Forces? - Brigadier Mushtaq


Chopper we used

The Pakistani Media Development Foundation should be commended along with the Pakistani Army for taking us to Miranshah in North Waziristan, where the Army had destroyed terrorist groups in the area. It is no easy task to fight terrorists in tough terrain and the Pakistani Army had succeeded in doing it.

We flew in two Pakistani Army helicopters (A Pakistani Major told me that in Pakistan the Army has more helicopters than the Pakistani Air Force). On our helicopter ride to North Waziristan, We saw the beauty of Pakistan with hills, mountains and hard terrain where soldiers have fought ruthless terrorist groups. Ana Mischel, Malinda and I along with a few others flew in the helicopter with Brigadier Rehan Mushtaq.

We were warmly welcomed by Brigadier Javed, Brigade Commander of the Golden Arrow 7 Infantry Division in Miranshah. The area is nearly 17 km from the Afghanistan /Pakistan border. Much to the dislike of the Afghans, the Pakistani Army is constructing a fence on the Afghanistan -Pakistan border where 2,611 km will be fenced. Not an easy task, though 350 kms have already been completed. Brigadier Javed even showed us some of the materials used for the construction of the fence. I am always saddened when fences and walls are built. We need to build bridges of friendship, not walls to keep people away. Pakistani Army wanted to show the journalists from South Asia, how they had transformed an area, once terrorized by dreaded terror groups such as the Haqqani Network, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Tehreek -i-Taliban Pakistan. The area is known as FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area). The visit was very short, because the helicopter pilots warned us that they expected bad weather during the return to Islamabad. However, the Army tried their best to show us around. It was evident the Pakistani Army is trying hard to bring back life in the area by building schools, even taking over some schools under the Army. They had constructed a huge Sports Complex stadium with several facilities. It was named Younus Khan Sports Complex in honour of the Pakistani Cricketer. The Army had built orphanages, new markets and created other facilities for civilians in the area. However, it would take some time for civilian life to return to normal, since the area was quiet and it even looked like a ghost town, except where the hospital was situated.

However, it seemed to us that the Pakistani Army, together with the Government of Pakistan, was trying to give the people of the area a new life and a new beginning. People who have suffered due to war or terrorism cannot trot back to normal lives overnight. It takes time wherever it may be. Scars of an area once terrorised was visible. It would take a long time to erase them. One must not forget the sacrifices made by the Security Forces and the civilians. Pakistani had fought and won. However, the Army didn’t take any chances with the security of the visitors.

Security was very tight. Commanding Officer, Brigadier Javed said the Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt. General Mahes Senanayake visited the area recently and promised to send an Army cricket team to the area. Having gone through hell in Sri Lanka due to terrorism, I can understand what the Pakistani Army is trying to do. It isn't easy to rebuild lives. Many were lost.

There was an enactment of a terrorist hide out in an effort to preserve history for educational value and training, as mentioned on a plaque at the entrance. It read "The re-enactment of terrorists Markaz was made in an effort to preserve for history for educational value and training. North Waziristan Agency which became the hub of terrorists from all colour and creed had over 300 such Markaz. These varied in size as per requirement. The concept was to depict a normal way in a tribal house but, with all allied facilities, like tunnels to secure the terrorists from aerial view and drone strikes, strong, too, to escape heavy bombardment, media centers and motivational room etc. These Markaz were at times, found within the population fully enmeshed and sometimes in isolated places along with training areas. They were well sited with capability of early warning and could be sustained. Some had inbuilt ammunition/IED factories and special psychological room for suicide bombers. These Markaz had set standing operating procedures, worked round the clock like military barracks where proper duty rosters were organised. Even if compromised, had the potential to fight, escape or self detonation" It also said that these Markaz would explain the life of terrorists and they were all destroyed before the return of the population.

I overheard Brigadier Rehan Mushtaq say: "Think someone questioned as to why there were so many flowers at the hotel where Major General Asif Ghafoor (Director General Inter Services Public Relations ISPR) addressed you’ll. Who else should you offer flowers to, other than to the security forces?" There is no question Brigadier. Agreed.

Pakistani Army helicopter pilots brought us safely to Islamabad. They took good care of their South Asian colleagues. Memories are made of such visits. I also take this opportunity to thank the Pakistani Media Development Foundation for organising an event and for bringing South Asian colleagues together. I am also glad my Pakistani counterpart from New York days, Ambassador Amjad Sial, is the Secretary General of SAARC based in Kathmandu. Amjad who is a down to earth and sincere Pakistani diplomat is doing his best to bring South Asians together: More strength to him and the solidarity of South Asia.


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