I am taking a break from a most urgent task to attend to this. It may be important, and it is, but a family needs comforting. Urgency will have to wait.

If you are the mother, daughter, wife, or sister of a soldier, or if you are the father, son, or brother – for that is of no less significance – there is one thing you have known like few others: wait.

At the peak of activity, if a soldier is not under training, he is on exercise; if he is not watching out, he is breaking in; if he’s not travelling, he’s packing and will hit the road shortly: if danger won’t come looking for him, he’ll go looking for danger.

But all the while that he is climbing ropes, taking aim, sitting guard or busting hideouts, all the while that his life rushes through the commotion, his family sits in the hauntingly peaceful quiet of home, waiting away the uncertainty, awaiting news. For them, life is the time from one phone call to the next. It is like a book where the chapters carry accounts of wait in the body, and news in the conclusion. But the conclusion, though meaningful, is always brief. And so another chapter begins, the wait with it.

If danger won’t come looking for him, he’ll go looking for danger

All this, from a worm’s eye-view. Things change when you zoom out. And zooming out is essential – for all practical reasons, we need to have a fresh perspective on this.

Pakistan is in the heated midst of its war on terrorism. Pakistanis often forget but that means there is an active conflict playing out at the north-western front – the kind we see glamourized in movies. This is not to say they are apathetic – in fact, the whole object of the war is to make the Pakistanis forget that there ever existed such a thing as terrorism – it is to differentiate those who can afford to forget from those who cannot. God bless the former, and may He help the latter.

Our soldiers don’t go to the battlefield to die. They go there to fight

Our soldiers don’t go to the battlefield to die. They go there to fight. It is from this perspective that their families must look at it. Not because it supports the narrative of the State, but because it explains the motivation of the men. The men who don these uniforms are not machines programmed to serve the State to death. They are humans – flesh, blood, and soul – determined to do so as a matter of choice. They are our line of defence: God’s answer to our supplications, manifestations of His help.

Their way of looking at things is different from ours. We see the battlefield for the danger, they see it for the glory. They venture forth – chin up, chest out – thinking they are making us proud. We do them no service by making ourselves miserable.

So breathe out the misery and breathe in the pride. Your son, father, husband, or brother has been chosen for and entrusted with a sacred task. The reward will be commensurate.

Glory be to them – to them who live, and them who shall never die.


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