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BLOODY CIVILIANS!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Engineer Qadeer Ahmed says he feels proud that 30 years back he chose not to join the PMA and remained a ‘bloody civilian’ (Sept 7). Over half a million men are serving in our armed forces and only two or three former military officers are washing their dirty linen in public. And what they are doing is sad, but black sheep do manage to disguise their true nature over a long period of time before they finally expose their true colour.

If Engineer Qadeer had chosen to join PMA, he would have walked into his barrack with some ingredients of a strong character because he would have been carefully selected, but he would still have required more drive, energy, determination, self-discipline, will-power and nerve. These would have been given to him by the military academy.

His first rank would have been GC, which stands for ‘gentleman cadet’, emphasising the imperative for him to always think, talk, move, dress and behave like a gentleman. He would have been told that in official parties, politics and women are not to be discussed. He would have acquired good internal locus of control which, unfortunately, is lacking in our civilian population because neither the parents, both literate and illiterate, nor the educational institutions they attend, bother to nurture these qualities.

Examples abound. Why do we have so many casualties when some calamity takes place? No civilian is trained for first aid. No civilian parents care to learn how to fight fires or even how to escape when a house or an office catches fire. The only thing they know is push the man in front of you and run like hell. After a bomb explosion or an accident half the police effort goes in yelling at people to get back. I would not be wrong in saying out of 170 million people, 169 million cannot swim. The list goes on and on.

Even after retirement, I feel as proud as ever for having been a military officer and the pride will remain with me for the rest of my life. I remain grateful to the military for teaching me clean habits. To those few indulging in senseless whistle-blowing on TV, I would suggest they should do something equally senseless but more practical, commensurate with their IQ. Find a herd of sheep, take a sword, mount a white horse and yell ‘charge’.

Incidentally, in the military, the world over, the phrase ‘bloody civilians’ is used as a figure of speech only, and no offence is intended.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal

Rawalpindi

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Bloody civilians

 
 
 
Friday, September 11, 2009
Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 9) must be truly a gentleman for admitting that the people in the military do use the phrase for those who are not one of them. I also appreciate the quality of their training and upbringing of their officers. But despite all the training and tall claims of character-building how come buccaneers of the likes of Yahya, Ziaul Haq, Aslam Beg and Musharraf all become four-star generals and take their turns in demolishing the vital institutions of the country?Second, who can deny that the half a million gentlemen own resources of the country much more than their due share? And third, under what law are lands leased to the armed forces by the provincial governments for specific purposes like defence converted into lucrative housing societies? This method of enrichment happens nowhere else in the world. To attain the respectability of being the most honoured institution of the country — something it enjoyed during the 1965 war — the serving gentlemen should take oath not to obey any unconstitutional and illegal order. That day onwards the nation will salute them.Another bloody civilianIslamabad

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This is with reference to letters by Engineer Qadeer Ahmed (Sept 7), Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 9) and Shahid Saeed (Sept 10). Around 30 years back I also preferred not to join the PMA because I had the ability to study further. I have a double master’s and this is what I wanted to obtain: intellectual ability, which is what makes me proud to be a civilian. I do not judge others on the basis of their ability to provide first aid, their fire-fighting and swimming abilities.

Anwar Ali Khan

Islamabad

*****

I found Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter (Sept 9) entertaining indeed. Retired commodores, air marshals and generals are always right as is Commodore (r) Iqbal about how many Pakistanis know how to swim. I, for instance, never joined the army and I never learned to swim. Commodore, how right you are about ‘bloody civilians’ who not only miss to learn swimming but more by remaining civilians.

Dr A P Sangdil

Oslo

*****

This is with reference to Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter “A ‘bloody civilian'” (Sept 9). I am afraid the very mindset of the much-esteemed officers of the armed forces is the reason they cannot roam around in their own country in their uniforms. The other day I saw a lieutenant abusing a traffic police constable just because the latter had asked for the driver’s licence. For doing his duty, the poor constable was slapped and humiliated by the lieutenant.

Nowhere in the world do servants of the nation have the audacity to stand up and abuse civilians and call them names. It is high time that we, a nation of 170 million ‘civilians’, including civilian family members of those serving the armed forces, began asking those in uniform of their contribution during the past 62 years? We can begin with Ayub Khan and go all the way to Pervez Musharraf.

Those who wear uniforms and think that they are superior to civilians should realise and understand that it is the taxes paid by civilians which pay for the military’s expenditures.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

Islamabad

*****

With reference to the letter “A bloody civilian” (Sept 9) by Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal, I would say that over the years our armed forces in general and the army in particular have emerged as an elite ruling class. In this process they have penetrated into every possible institution. A lot of talented and deserving professionals have had their careers ruined.

Moreover, the general attitude of the military towards ‘bloody civilians’ is full of contempt. The question now arising in the minds of the public is: what is the difference between our military and the British colonial army which had the same scornful attitude towards the natives? They too considered us inferior and destined to be ruled upon by them.

I hope that they start teaching our military officers how to take criticism gracefully and to treat civilian with respect.

Muhammad Salman

Rawalpindi

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To be or not to be a civilian?

Sunday, September 13, 2009
It is Engineer Qadeer Ahmed who in his letter (Sept 7) said that he felt proud that 30 years ago he did not join the PMA and chose to remain a ‘bloody civilian’. If he (Engineer Qadeer) is proud to remain a bloody civilian, why should others feel offended by the use of the term? Why blame Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal who simply tried to defend the army as an institution (Sept 9). After all, the term is used as a figure of speech and not to offend anyone.

Our worthy men of letters must show maturity and stop bashing the army as an institution. It is our most reliable institution and is able to deal with crises and internal and external challenges to our national security. It takes years of training to make a soldier, unit and formation fit as a trained, cohesive and motivated force to perform its operational role. Let us not make the job difficult for our men in uniform.

Brig (r) Saud Bashir

Lahore

*****

With reference to Ameer Rizwan’s letter of Sept 12, may I say that after reading what he has written it is clear who the bigger fool is. If retired army officers live in palatial mansions and drive around in expensive cars, it is because they have served their life for the defence of the nation. Also I know that most of these retired officers, if the need arises, will rush to the defence of the nation. I doubt it very much that civilians will do the same thing.

Hassan Abdullah Rasool

Peshawar

*****

It is very unfortunate to see a useless debate on the word ‘bloody’ which started from the letter of Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal (Sept 09). What the commodore has said are surely his personal views and not of the armed forces. The armed forces belong to all of us, our own brothers, sisters, sons, parents and relatives are members of this institution. So how can one abuse their own blood? May I suggest to the nation not to carry on this kind of futile and harmful discussion? We all belong to Pakistan and together we have to defend it from the enemies. Instead of creating hatred we must work for the unity and prosperity of Pakistan because together we stand and divided we fall.

Bilal Shahid

Islamabad

*****

I have been religiously following the animated debate over the above-cited caption. Among all the letters, for and against (mainly against) I enjoyed M S Hasan’s letter (Sept 12) in particular, not least because of his indescribably admirable wit.

Umar Hayat

Toronto

*****

With reference to Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter, may I ask how many out of the nearly half-a-million men of the armed forces know how to swim? I would say that our cadets are taught not how to be gentlemen but rather to see themselves as superior than civilians — and hence the use of the term ‘bloody civilian’. In fact, they are taught these things so well that it doesn’t end after their retirement as Commodore Iqbal’s letter has proved.

Dr Habib Usmani

Muzaffarabad

I stand by what I said

Monday, September 14, 2009
My letter of Sep 9 has caused a sharp reaction from many people apparently because it has not been read with the right spirit. Regardless of the comments appearing in these columns, I remain convinced that we have, in quality of personnel, one of the finest armed forces in the world. For a very small fraction of what the Americans and the NATO are spending in Afghanistan, our military is achieving the same purpose at a much faster pace. For me, it was an honour and pleasure being a part of such a superb professional force, and no amount of misplaced criticism will distract me from this affiliation.

As for our civilians, they can see for themselves where they stand as compared to their counterparts in other countries. Relieving themselves in public on the nearest wall they can find, scratching themselves profusely, driving as if the Devil was on their tails, using the most colourful expletives and profanities in conversations and quarrels, spitting saliva by the gallons on the roadsides… I do not wish to elaborate more. Has anyone seen any member of our armed forces behaving like this?

One does not require resources or money to conduct ourselves in a human way. Only good sense and self discipline. I will not be apologetic for what I wrote in my letter.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal

Rawalpindi

At ease, Commodore!

Tuesday, 14th Sept, 2009

In reference to the letter “I stand by what I said” by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal, may I say that we are all aware of the high level of capability of the Pakistan army and we laud its services? Having said that, I disagree with the disfigured picture of a civilian that the retired commodore has spoken of. Those who relieve themselves in public and scratch themselves profusely are not literate civilians. As for colourful expletives and profanities, these can be used by civilians and non-civilians alike. The only impression that one gets of the letter really is that the gentleman in question has a sense of pride which is rather obdurate.

Shakil Ahmed

Pabbi

*****

I agree with each word of the retired commodore and believe that he belongs to a community of the ‘finest men in the world’. I believe the retired officer was in service in 1971 and afterwards. While they were ruling the nation very few things were made public. I wish if he could clarify that the 90,000 guns these ‘finest men in the world’ surrendered are still in India’s possession or were taken back and the nation doesn’t know about it? Arrogance, surrenders, disregard for laws and disillusion — this is what this nation has experienced at the hands of these ‘saviours’.

Ahmad Nadeem Gehla

Kedah, Malaysia

*****

What can I say about Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal’s letter of Sept 14 except to be reminded of the fact that sometimes it is pointless arguing with some people? The ‘enlightened’ commodore thinks that every civilian relieves himself by the wall and spits on the road and one can only wonder how he came to this conclusion. May I have the temerity to ask that how someone who shows such ignorance could be promoted to the rank of commodore? Nevertheless, the retired commodore is advised to enjoy his retired life though he is now a ‘bloody civilian’ himself.

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

Islamabad

*****

With reference to Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal’s comments, I would only remind the honourable commodore that not all land is even on earth. Not every civilian is alike and for the commodore to suggest that they are is downright absurd. I don’t want to be judgmental but the commodore’s view of civilians makes me think whether in his eye we are children of a lesser god perhaps.

I have had the honour of being in a military academy for a while (I left honourably due to personal reasons) and know a lot of respectable officers. However, the commodore would be heartbroken to know that these gentlemen have been seen doing all the ills of civilians as mentioned by him — and sometimes, worse.

I will be mature and show maturity and not pass any comments on the armed forces as a whole for the actions of a handful of people. I would ask the commodore if it is fair to place all Pakistanis in the category that he has.

Ali Iqtedar Shah

Islamabad

*****

I did my best to refrain from indulging in the ‘bloody civilian’ controversy but can no longer hold myself after the second letter on this issue by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal (Sept 14). Many civilians have reacted sharply on being referred to as ‘bloody civilians’ and this was to be expected. However, it is disturbing to note that no letter of — even discreet — disagreement has appeared so far from ex-service men. I am sure there must be quite a few former generals who would be most unlikely to be heard shouting ‘bloody civilians’ and one that comes to mind is Lt-Gen Talat Masood.

Humayun Bashir

Riyadh

*****

The fact of the matter is that the military slang or informal military terms are used commonly by military personnel in all armies of the world. And yes it is true that some of the terms have been considered derogatory to varying degrees and attempts have been made to eliminate them. For example, we have terms like ‘blighter’, ‘bloke’, ‘bloody hell’, ‘bloody-minded’ and so on and in most cases these words are used within the military. In my 28 years of service I have never come across any occasion where I heard someone using the term ‘bloody civilian’ against any civilian.

Our soldiers serve in frozen places like Siachen and they give up their lives so that the nation may stay peaceful and its citizens secure. We have suffered enough over the years on such petty issues — we all make mistakes and no one is an angel. And in that context it is good that retired senior officers are at least admitting their guilt for past actions — and this needs to be appreciated.

Lt-Col (r) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt

Karachi

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This refers to the Sept 14 letter “I stand by what I said” which was a sort of a rejoinder by Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal to all the civilians who have criticised and chided him for his use of the term ‘bloody civilians’. The retired commodore makes a valid point about the general lack of civic sense among our people. He is also probably correct in saying that personnel of the armed forces do not relieve themselves in public, do not scratch themselves profusely, do not drive like mad, and nor do they utter colourful expletives, profanities or spit gallons of saliva on the roadside.

Since we have not seen armed forces personnel in military uniform in public places for a long time we have to concede to the commodore on that count. How many personnel of the armed forces, while in civvies, have indulged in this boorish behaviour is not known, therefore the benefit of doubt on this score as well should be given to the retired commodore.

Having said that, I can state with a degree of confidence that as compared to the over half a million, impeccably groomed, clean-cut armed forces personnel who could not be seen indulging in the kind of uncivilised conduct in public, elucidated so eloquently by Commodore Iqbal, there are at least a couple of million ‘bloody civilians’ in each major city of Pakistan who would also refrain from the same uncivilised and uncouth public behaviour.

However, the issue is much larger in its scope and context vis-a-vis the armed forces as an institution and with regards to its involvement in national politics, military takeovers and misadventures, and running businesses such as the sale of mineral water to cereals, fertilisers and LPG, from owning a bank, a road freight service to being the largest real estate developer in the country. The fact also is that the progeny of many an air chief marshal, general and admiral are now some of the country’s riches people and owning businesses and choicest properties.

The commodore is entitled to public expression of his views. What is suggested here is that the commodore should ‘stand at ease’ — he should not single out the bloody civilians for their bad conduct. We have a serious problem as a nation and such boorish behaviour is exhibited by all people in general regardless of their professional affiliation. And this can only change through across-the-board quality education, good governance, and transparent and effective accountability.

M S Hasan

Karachi

*****

This is in reference to the various letters regarding the ‘bloody civilian’ issue printed in the past week. It is sad to see Pakistanis who can’t remember the sacrifices of our soldiers. If all these people had any idea how the children of the shaheeds shed tears for their fathers and how their families manage to live without them, they’d become silent in an instance. Also, if a few people of an institution do something wrong, does that mean that the whole institution has done that wrong thing? We are all first Pakistanis — and we all love our homeland.

Maira Shaukat

Kamra

*****

There our black sheep in every community and institution. When we think of the army why do we see only the generals in their staff cars? Why don’t we see the soldiers sitting on frozen glaciers or in scorching deserts fighting for us? The army that they say nurtured the likes of Ayub Khan, Ziaul haq and Musharraf has also given birth to heroes like Captain Junaid, Captain Najam, Captain Bilal and Captain Waqas. Even then if the people of Pakistan still do not salute their army then I wonder how many more wives will have to be widowed, how many children will have to grow up without their fathers, how many mothers will have to receive their sons in coffins and how many more officers and soldiers will have to die before their loyalties are proven? Pak fauj zindabad!

Fatima Riaz

Bahawalpur

*****

With regard to the civilians versus non-civilians debate, may I say that while people have the right to express their viewpoint, it should not be at the cost of national integration? Such a situation is more dangerous in the prevailing environment and will help none but the vested interests of our national enemies. Our families are a blend of members having different professions. How can we call our brothers ‘bloody civilians’ or ‘bloody soldiers’? Everybody has the right to choose his or her profession but there are umpteen examples where young men preferred joining the PMA instead of prestigious professional institutions — because they wanted to join a cause. Most of them were fully aware that less than 50 per cent will have the chance to rise above the major level that too after a very tough competition. Facing bullets and leading men to face the bullets is indeed a very difficult and challenging task.

We must ponder on the very important question that having buried their young sons with their own hands and seen the dead bodies of young men on the media, why are parents still voluntarily sending their sons to join the armed forces? I am afraid the kind of argument going on in the media will badly hurt the sentiments and feelings of these people. What will be the result and who will benefit? The issue of DHA plots will be a lengthy debate but for now I will say that how many of us would be ready to sacrifice our own lives or those of our sons for a DHA plot?

Parvez Malik

Talagang

*****

This is in reference to Commodore (r) Pervaiz Iqbal’s letter “I stand by what I said” (Sept 14). The letter only goes to show that he has no regard for the people of this country, who are the strength of Pakistan. One is bitterly sad to see that the commodore is talking about the people of Pakistan as if they are from an enemy country. If he has an iota of decent bone in him, he should apologise to the people of Pakistan.

Rahim Malik

Rawalpindi

*****

I want to comment on the ‘bloody civilians’ letters. As for such armed forces officers who are proud of their military training and discipline, I want to ask them a very simple question. At the PMA do they learn how to defy their superior commanders? And are they taught to distort and maul the constitution? Justifying their crime by blaming politicians for inviting them to power and civilians welcoming them cannot exonerate them (the armed forces) from their crime because a crime is a crime no matter what. A murderer cannot claim innocence on the plea that the victim’s family invited him to commit the said act.

As for Commodore (r) Pervez Iqbal, let me remind him and his kind that it is this lot of ‘bloody civilians’ who pay for their comfort and style. It is this pride of the armed forces officers which has brought our poor country to this sorry state in which it is now.

Rehana Rahman

Rawalpindi

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The Great Debate

Thursday, September 17, 2009
Commodore Parvez Iqbal has taken an exception to the bloody civilians relieving themselves on the nearest wall. Does he remember the exploits of our glorious commander-in-chief General Yahya Khan? As for civilians using profane words gratuitously one only needs to read the Hamoodur Rehman Commission to know of the colourful exploits of our generals. In India sometime back a general was court-martialled for embezzlement and in Pakistan we have yet to see that happen. Our poor citizens belong to a nation which is amongst the countries with the lowest per capita income and still has one of the seven largest armies in the world. From 1965 to Kargil we have had a long list of military failures but has anybody ever been held accountable?

Mohamamad Aamir

Lahore

*****

This is with reference to Pervez Iqbal’s letter. All I will say is that when you enter a cantonment area of any city life changes altogether. Carpeted roads, footpaths, fountains, good hospitals, schools and parks, clubs, sports facilities, subsidised living and what not, all at the expense of taxes paid by me, a bloody civilian. The armed forces were tested three times — in 1965, 1971 and 1999 — and failed all the three times.

Saleem Toor

Lahore

*****

The reason why some armed forces’ officers look at civilians with contempt is not because of good or bad manners but rather because the former have been in possession of power for a long period in the history of the country.

Dr Najeeb A Khan

Islamabad

*****

I was in the army for more than thirty years and to tell the truth I never ever heard the term ‘bloody civilian’ being used by any officer I knew or served with. As far as the issue of taxpayers is concerned, may I remind your readers that military officers are also taxpayers and that in their case, tax is deducted at source as well. Moreover, offering your life for the nation cannot be compared with paying taxes. In this regard we all must salute our shuhada and their families.

Iftikhar Ayub

Rawalpindi

*****

Engineer Qadeer Ahmad has succeeded in initiating an acrimonious debate on a point which is not there. Like Lt-Col Mukhtar Ahmad Butt, who in his twenty-eight service has never heard the term ‘bloody civilians’ being ever used, I myself, during thirty years of service, including being member and president of special military courts, have never heard this term being used. Ahmad Nadeem Gehla has referred to 90,000 men surrendering to Indians in the 1971 war. I would ask him to state the facts because the total number of troops was about 32,000 spread all over East Pakistan in December 1971, as I have explained in these columns recently.

Col (r) Nazir Ahmed

Islamabad

I am sorry…

Thursday, September 17, 2009
While remaining convinced that we need to reform ourselves, both at the personal as well as collective levels, if I have hurt any feelings, I want to end the debate in these columns from my side with these three immortal words… I am sorry.

On Dec 3, 1971, I was on short leave from my ship buying a few personal items in Saddar, Karachi, with Rs150 I had saved from my salary (I was the junior-most officer on my ship). Suddenly there was noise all around on the road, with people shouting about the war having broken out. My immediate thought was to get back to the ship, but I couldn’t find a taxi. An elderly gentleman dropped me at the dockyard in his vintage Volkswagen. Before I got down, he said “mein aap kay liye dua karoon ga, beta”, and drove away into the darkness. God bless him. A true, patriotic, thoroughbred Pakistani civilian.

The captain asked me to take over navigation officer duties and we left the harbour with only a handful of officers and sailors on board. A day later, we lost a ship, and with it several of my close friends and course mates. They were only 22 or 23 years old. They went down with the burning ship. I held back my tears as a compulsion. Yes, we lost the war because the odds were too overwhelming. We were fighting a regional power backed by a superpower. But every officer, soldier, sailor, airman and civilian fought hard. We recovered very rapidly. The enemy could not destroy us mentally. Let us put 1971 behind us. It will never happen again, rest assured. No hard feelings from my side. If you can’t swim, it’s OK. Let’s get on with life and move on. Pakistan Zindabad.

Commodore (r) Parvez Iqbal

Rawalpindi

 
 
 

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