Every year on this date the nation pays tribute to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives defending us during the 1965 war. This is usually accomplished with posters, parades, and chest thumping TV shows. We feel good for a day or two before things return to normal. Is this fleeting honour really any tribute? I am not saying that we should replace traditional celebrations, but I do believe we would better honour the memory of our historical martyrs and our current soldiers by expanding Defence Day activities to include reflection and evaluation of what we are defending and how we are defending it.
To begin we should have more honest discussions about our own history. We are fortunate that we can turn to some of those like Air Marshal (r) Nur Khan who saw first hand the events of 1965. We are unfortunate that we have mostly ignored them. In the words of Retired Air Commodore Sajjad Haider, ‘the first step in learning from your mistakes is to acknowledge those mistakes in the first place, and that is something we have not done’.
Celebrations and festivities that promote nationalistic pride are important, but they are not enough. Just as important is facing the reality of the past, even when it does not conform to the myths that we have created. As Air Commodore (r) Sajjad Haider explains, ‘We must not shy away from acknowledging the mistakes of the past. It is only by doing so that we can secure our future’.