Besieged soldiers

M Mahmood Khan

THE first formal snowfall of winter season on Saturday, 05 January 2019 disturbed the routine life/comforts of citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, some parts of KP and Murree hills. However, the people from Rawalpindi and other parts of the country enjoyed this by visiting Murree to see the snowfall. It was reported that over fifty thousand vehicle entered Murree on this day which resulted into heavy traffic jam. This reminded me of snow fall of January, 1982 while I was in service at Bedori Top, a peak of Pir Panjal Range at the height of 12,330 ft above the sea level, albeit the enjoyment style was different; no Cell phones or having near dear ones around or any kind of fast food arrangement. This area receives first snowfall in the month of September which continues till April next year with average snow fall of 20-30 feet per year. However, this snowfall (January 1982) was more severe as it continued for more than 3 days with continuity/full momentum and had temporarily changed the contours/shape of landscape to an unimaginable extent. The temperature had decreased to (-20) degree centigrade where the oranges kept in the room were frozen like a hard stone.
During this period, I remained room bound for the whole day because of heavy snow fall with high speed blizzards which almost put me live in the grave as my room got buried under tons of snow; accumulated by the snow storm, where I could only get the oxygen through the 20 feet long exhaust pipe of the fire place (chimney) . As no food could reach me in routine, I consumed emergency rations (dry fruits etc) during the hours of isolation. There was no communication with family members as all the communication means had surrendered to hostile weather. All the water sources had got buried under the snow and drinking water was arranged through snow melting. Crows used to be in abundance in the area but those had also migrated to safer places during this period , there was no route open in case of emergency at home as towards the east , there were enemy posts , whereas , all other directions were blocked due to heavy snow , so we were literally besieged . However, having exceptionally good working environments and esprit de corps prevailed and we enjoyed this season, even much better than the cantonment life. I remember, the Corps commander of those days used to extend special loving gestures for his sons; serving at such selective places of his area, by sending fruit / sweet baskets. Bedori Top is still there and with same landscape beauty and towering height . While serving here, we used to proudly claim: “we are serving at a height which kisses the sky”. I had desire to see this mountain once again before my retirement and Allah accepted my prayer and just three months before my retirement, I could see this feature while on board of a helicopter which hovered over the top on a training mission and I waived the peak with obvious nostalgic sentiments .
With all kind of hazardous life which our armed forces officers and soldiers are facing at Pir Panjal Range, Siachin Glacier, Neelum Valley , it would obviously hurt the feelings once the 5th Generation War activists victimize the army ; polluting the hearts and minds of the country-men through venomous propaganda that armed forces are enjoying at the cost of tax payers . After having read this article , they may also come out with counter opinion as this life is on other side of the LoC also , but they have to accept this fact that our soldiers are going through a very hard time of their life whether it is snow-clad mountain range or the rugged mountains of FATA where they are fighting against the faceless enemy . For Kashmir deployment, the critics should also see the moral and legal standing of Indian troops which they do not have, whereas, on this side, besides the favourable relevant clauses of Indian Independence Act 1947 or the UN resolutions on the issue , sentiments of the people of Kashmir and more so the families of martyred in occupied Kashmir provide us moral and legal strength once they chant slogans “ Pakistan Zindabad “ while burying their near and dear ones, wrapped in Pakistani flag . Here in Azad Kashmir, the civil-military relations have warmth of love and affection of its unique kind. The commander, Bagh Brigade Headquarters shares the joys and sorrows of the local public and look like a social worker also where at places he is pelted with flowers wherever he attends public functions, whereas, on other side of the LoC, the Indian Army Brigade commander at Uri Town cannot think of coming out in public, with fear of stone pelting by Kashmiri locals — what a contrast! This is in fact the war of hearts and minds also which Indians have lost before any traditional war, so the 5th Generation War will fail to rescue India from its ultimate withdrawal from the soil of Kashmir.
— The writer, a Major Retired, is freelance columnist based in AJK.

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