Fri. Apr 19th, 2019

Pakistan Army disowns and refuses to take back its dead soldiers

Representational Image.

Combatants of the Pakistan Army’s Border Action Team (BAT), who sneaked inside India on New Year Eve, were killed in retaliatory crossfire. The Pak Army now refuses to take back its dead soldiers.

The lines “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ appositely immortalises a soldier’s unconditional commitment while following orders even in face of certain death. So, when a Border Action Team (BAT) comprising Pakistan Army regulars and terrorists was ordered to stealthily cross the Line of Control (LoC) on New Year’s Eve, kill any unsuspecting Indian soldier and bring back their severed heads, none of the members of this BAT would have questioned this macabre order even though it flagrantly violated international law, military ethics and the soldier’s code of conduct.

It is also unlikely that Commando Naik Anwar of Pakistan Army’s elite Special Services Group (SSG) and a member of this BAT would have had any inhibition when he was tasked to behead Indian soldiers killed by BAT and bring back their severed heads. Au contraire, it appears that he took this task rather seriously because when his corpse was subsequently found, besides an AK rifle and other warlike stores, not one but two large carving knives were found on him. In fact one can picture Naik Anwar beaming with pride on being assigned the duty of beheading a ‘kafir’ (non believer)  and carrying back his severed head for all to see. Perhaps he may have also contemplated taking a ‘selfie’ to show his friends and relatives back in his village.

An improvised explosive device (IED) also found near Naik Anwar’s body suggests that the BAT intended to booby trap the dead bodies of Indian soldiers with this IED. This has been a standard drill adopted by BAT with the aim of causing more casualties on Indian troops when they are in the process of retrieving the bodies of their dead comrades. Crossing the LoC in Kashmir Valley is not very difficult as dense vegetation in the area interspersed with nallahs (drains) facilitates unobserved movement of small parties even during day. Intense ‘covering fire’ by Pakistani posts assisted the BAT in crossing the LoC but to its bad luck, this movement was detected by the vigilant Indian soldiers and the soon the hunters became the hunted.

On coming under effective fire from the Indian side, the BAT knew they stood no chance and so they hastily retreated back leaving behind the dead bodies of Naik Anwar and another Pakistan Army soldier whose identity hasn’t yet been ascertained. The Indian side has since asked Islamabad to take back these dead bodies but there is no news of any response from the other side.

However, going by past experience, the chances of Pakistan accepting these two bodies are extremely remote and readers would recall that the Pakistan Army had refused to take back the dead bodies of its soldiers during the Kargil War of 1999. Therefore, as there is a precedence of the Pakistan Army disowning its dead, Naik Anwar and his buddy will, in all probability, end- up being buried on Indian soil without the fanfare and flourish due to soldiers killed in action.

Had the BAT attack succeeded, Naik Anwar would have been the one to commit the gory crime of beheading and mutilating a soldier’s dead body. But back home he would proudly exhibit the severed head and would have been felicitated as a hero for giving the Indian Army a New Year ‘gift’ that it ‘deserved’ for inflicting heavy losses on Pakistani soldiers in retaliatory actions to ceasefire violations. But Naik Anwar and his associate weren’t destined to return home, either on their own feet or draped in the crescent and star. Despite the fact that he would have caused irreversible mental trauma to the near and dear ones of the decapitated soldier, the thought of soldiers (even though they may belong to Pakistan Army) who lay down their life for their country but end up as unclaimed corpses does evoke pity.

This incident also reminds one of the closing lines “And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together.  So help me God,” with which commanding officer 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry Lt Col Hal Moore ends the address to his troops before they are airlifted to fight in Vietnam as depicted in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” Lt Col Moore may not have exactly spoken these words but they appropriately epitomise the sacred duty and onerous responsibility that army officers have towards the soldiers they command, especially when they are sent to their death. But saying anything more on this issue would be unwarranted because whether to accept or disown bodies of its dead soldiers is the sole prerogative of the Generals of the Pakistan Army and none of my business!

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