Defence Day: Beating the War Drum Does Not Honour Our Soldiers

Defence Day

Another Defence Day has been celebrated with the expected ceremony and appreciation of our armed forces and the sacrifices made especially by the martyrs who gave everything for the protection of their country. I have always enjoyed Defence Day and the pride that it builds in one’s chest. How can one not see the unity and patriotism that is on display and not feel proud to be Pakistani? This, year, though, that feeling was mixed with an uneasiness due to the commonality of messages that were not about showing appreciation for our armed forces but beating the drum of war.

This was especially noticeable from the way that 1965 war was being used to whip up not only nationalist sentiments but a very aggressive pro-war sentimentality also. In response, many people would claim that this was just showing pride in how well our armed forces defeated a much larger enemy who attacked the country unprovoked. Such messages were even projected by the Army itself, stirring up the masses.

I found such messages to be unprofessional. This kind of hypernationalist war propaganda is expected from the likes of Zaid Hamid, not someone of Gen Bajwa’s rank. Worse though was how such messages were only part of a larger narrative that was not just looking back on past events through rose coloured lenses, but looking forward to new wars. This was made clear from the popular hashtag #PakWillRepeat1965 that was trending in the country. People were posting messages that were not appreciating our troops for defending the country but threatening new wars!

I am not going to join the debate about whether Pakistan “won” the war in 1965. Such claims are made out of emotion and not out of facts. And actually, it it beside the point. Whether or not Pakistan ‘won’ or ‘lost’ 1965 war, what kind of moron prays for more war?

Wishal Raheel explained this problem in her important piece “Celebrating war means rejoicing at deaths, murders and human rights violations“. I want to add one thing: Appreciating the sacrifice of our armed forces should mean not taking them lightly. They are not disposable lives that can be used and discarded to satisfy our ego. Putting them in the path of death and misery should be a last resort, and one that should be avoided if at all possible.

Our armed forces have been fighting an enemy that is difficult because it does not follow the rules of civilized warfare. Its primary weapons are lies and deceit. It operates from the shadows and uses brutality and fear, even targeting women and children. Our boys have fought proudly against this enemy which has even tested the greatest militaries of the world. I am talking of course about terrorists who have killed 60,000 of our fellow countrymen. This should have been theme of Defence Day, not a war fought with India fifty years ago. Instead of showing appreciation to our brave soldiers who are willing to die to protect us from terrorists, too many of us used Defence Day as a time to offer more to send more soldiers to die in a new war against India. That does not honour our brave soldiers, and it is nothing to be proud of.

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