Glacier tragedy: Eyes yearning for one last look at Siachen martyrs

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 10:30:14 by


Hameeda Bibi prays, like any mother who lost her son in a similar situation would, for the families of the 138 Siachen avalanche victims to see the bodies of their loved ones one last time.

“I know that will bring peace to them InshAllah – it is the most important thing now,” she says. Otherwise, she adds, peace for them will only be a miracle.

A huge wall of snow crashed into the Giari sector at Siachen Glacier on April 7, trapping troops and civilians from the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion.

In 2010, Hameeda Bibi, a resident of Jang Saidan in Islamabad, received the body of her son, Lance Naek Ikhtiyar Husain, a guide to other soldiers serving at Siachen, 11 days after he fell into a gorge, along with three others at Post Mustafa.

Drawing from her loss, she says: “If the bodies (of the Siachen victims) are not recovered, peace will only be a miracle for the families of Giari martyrs.”

Beyond the official statements and political rhetoric, members of military families like Hameeda Bibi continue to suffer and struggle to raise questions about the Siachen conflict.

A serving major in the Pakistan Army, who chose to stay anonymous, recalled his six months at Siachen in 2000 and said that even during the period when tension between Pakistan and India were at their highest, officers would think that the conflict was “illogical” because the area could be left alone.

“We used to sit and say to ourselves that all we’re doing is looking at rocks and ice. To us there was no logic in just sitting there.”

And the severe circumstances of surviving at Siachen sector posts did not help. “Lying down, turning over in bed was an effort. Every breath would feel like we had been running for miles,” he said.

Senior officers who served at Siachen are of the view that politicians need to campaign and mould public opinion against keeping troops at Siachen. Some fear that the concern of the masses will fade away once the tragedy goes out of headlines.

Having served from 1978-1979 in Lipa Valley, Kashmir, before the Siachen conflict began, Major (retd) Joseph Sharaf is of the view that both governments will keep losing men to the weather but political courage will remain an issue.

“It is criminal to deploy soldiers at Siachen. But no politician wants to be responsible for taking the decision to pull out first. They fear that the masses might not forgive them,” he said.

Brigadier (retd) Yasub Ali Dogar, who was the commander designate of the Siachen sector in 1988-1989, says that the “eyeball-to-eyeball position at Siachen is senseless.” But to him, the major concern is environmental degradation. He believes that the avalanches could be connected to the presence of human life. “Thousands of rounds of artillery have been fired in those mountains. Human excreta and garbage is thrown in the snow. Just imagine hundreds and thousands of cans lying around in those glaciers.”

As the rescue efforts for recovering bodies at the Giari sector continue, military families like those of Lance Naek Ikhtiyar Husain feel honoured of their loved ones’ sacrifice for the country but in hushed tones say that the high-ups have to make more of an effort for a resolution.

Husain’s father, Muhammad Riaz, says: “What can we say, it is the government who can resolve this matter. We are proud of our son’s martyrdom but the pain of separation from him is too much to bear.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.

Islamabad News Sources -2

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