HEART-WRENCHING NOTE OF A SHAHEED’S WIFE!

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This writeup has been taken from the Facebook Wall of Samina Rizwan

It has been a long time since I’ve argued with anyone. I used to be opinionated and vocal, but life’s push and shove has taught me that neither am I all-knowing nor is it worth my time to entangle myself in confrontations. I have opinions, but I keep them to myself. In fact, mostly I wonder if I’m even right about anything.

This last week has tested my resolve to avoid confrontation. I’m not stooping to disrespect but I admit I’ve been uncharacteristically vocal. Exhausted, I am forced to question myself: Why? Why this intense need to express, defend, sometimes attack? Introspection has brought the understanding that I must not stay neutral, I cannot afford to exclude myself anymore, and that it is really about one tiny thing: how the events of a gut-wrenching week have made me FEEL.

I was speaking with my dear friend Ruby Saleem today. We are both PAF brats, brought up on “PAF ration” as my dad would proudly say. Ruby’s husband, also a PAF brat, used to quip “Hamarey baap ki Air Force hai!”, literally. Ruby’s father and mine served together for many years. Her mother who died young taught my mom, a new PAF bride, how to stitch and crochet. My father flew missions in 3 operations, was awarded Sitara e Jurat in 1965 and is a celebrated PAF hero. All their lives, our parents enjoyed a warm and loving relationship. Ruby’s generation and mine nurtures boundless love for the Pakistan Air Force. When we think family, we conjure up the “Blue”; PAF is family. 

Ruby’s husband Saleem Nawaz and my Razi attained shahadat together. She was left with four children as was I. Saleem Bhai and Razi were buried on the same day, next to each other, in Islamabad.  Common citizens lined the streets from Chaklala to Islamabad as their janaza passed, many crying openly. There were upwards of 75,000 people at the prayer, I was told; unknown people who had nothing to do with us. Someone said, “We buried our Chief, Mushaf Ali Mir, in Lahore and here we bury two future Chiefs – Saleem Nawaz and Rizwanullah Khan – together. What a loss, what a sad day for PAF”. 

Thus, Ruby and I have a bond beyond friendship, into shared history and indescribable tragedy, and I imagine we will find a way to happily die together.

Ruby is livid, and I’m pretty sad too. I asked her “Rubaji, I didn’t feel this helpless when Razi left me. Did you, when Saleem Bhai went?”. “No Seemi” she said confidently. “They were soldiers, shahadat were their desire and destiny. We married them knowing this, didn’t we? And we are shaheeds’ wives, not widows – wives. Why would we feel helpless? Allah has promised to look after our children, shaheed ke sadqey”. And look after them Allah has – all 8 of them happy, strong, good human beings living their lives not seeking pity or favor, holding their heads high because their fathers served with pride and died honorably. 

“A good death is its own reward” someone said. Ruby and I, and hundreds like us, have attained Sabr through this philosophy.  

So why this angst, this helplessness, this desperate feeling of being cheated, betrayed, being utterly and permanently humiliated, now when our Qayamat has passed and we have survived? We should be content and relieved that our Azmaish is nearly over, and whatever disgusting, miserable events are coming to pass, what does it matter to us? We are protected, physically and spiritually. 

I have tried to deconstruct the emotional upheaval I am experiencing and have arrived at the great #mayaangelou’s wise words.

Losing the most beloved beings in our lives, our children orphaned, our parents devastated and our lives uprooted had a direct bombing like impact upon us. We were destroyed and reconstruction seemed impossible. The air crash could have been due to any reason – pilot error, machine malfunction, inclement weather, a conspiracy to kill – it didn’t matter. We blamed neither God nor the PAF; we were content that theirs was a good death, and that they had tasked us to bring up their children. We were on a mission and focused on our true north – becoming worthy of the sacrifice they were honored with. We were Dukhi – permanently, but we felt cheated – NEVER. The FEELING prevailed, circumstances simply existed, inconsequential and unintimidating. We have lived our lives proudly as shaheeds’ families, have not considered our situation a favor to the nation, and we are better human beings for it.

Then, last week happened.

#PrimeMinisterImranKhan was not a perfect leader and is not a flawless man, even if Ruby and I (and crores of others) believe that he was the best we could be blessed with. Much can be debated about his achievements and missteps. But here’s the thing; never once did he make us feel that our loss was insignificant or forgotten. What he said didn’t matter, what he did didn’t matter – how he made us FEEL mattered. We felt we mattered, and that’s a powerful feeling for shaheeds’ families. 

We would’ve accepted his ouster in an election, through any lawful, transparent, non-conspiratorial process. Let us go a step further; we may have even accepted that such unethical, illegal crap happens. No matter; kick him out, call an election and let him contest fair and square. This would be frustrating, but not humiliating.

We are now left with murderers, money launderers, land grabbers, liars and thieves, rapists and pretenders, cowards who have no empathy with the nation. Ill-informed citizens like me stating the obvious may catch criticism, but records and evidence tell us the same and more. Criminals are sworn in to the highest offices of Pakistan on the day they were to be indicted. Absconding murderers are welcomed home with garlands and facilitated by government officials. The cowardly Nawaz hustles back to Pakistan while he ran scared earlier bearing false witness. The honorable courts throw their doors open for criminals in the middle of the night while they never wake up to people’s plight. What Armageddon is this? 

Then, the heartbreaking rumors that my beloved institution, the one that has fed me and protected me, that I have held dear all my life, the one that I entrusted my Razi to – the military – may have engineered this? I felt as if Abbi and Ammi had died all over again, leaving me desolate and vulnerable. I don’t believe it, it is beyond my wildest expectations, I would rather die than believe this. Is it so? Tell me it’s not!

Ruby cries profusely, and I admit I’ve been crying a lot too. We hold unwavering faith and trust in #ImranKhan; he is incorruptible and his heart beats for his people – us. He is a courageous man and doesn’t need our protection. Maybe his destiny too is shahadat; we give him in Allah’s protection. 

But the rest, we cannot forgive. We are cheated and humiliated, and more so if our own colluded to bring this upon us. Saleem Bhai and Razi, my hero father and my PoW father-in-law, Mushaf Ali Mir and Rashid Minhas, Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Mervyn Middlecoat, and so many other gracious souls wasted their lives in selfless service. They should have lived so that we could remain whole, so that my 3-year-old Bilal could remember his father and my 17-year-old Taimur not be burdened with responsibilities, so that my Andaleeb and Sabine could rush into their father’s strong, protective embrace every time the world tried to hurt them. 

So that Ruby and I would not have spent the best years of lives alone, in love with dead people. 

That odious, pretentious criminal called me a “beggar”. As a 16-year-old starting university in the US, I worked to make my semester fee and never asked my parents. As a PAF wife, I held down a demanding career while juggling my PAF duties. At the most daunting hour of my life, with a husband lost and four children to bring up, I took nothing from anyone other than the rightful pension due to me from the PAF which, too, was donated to RizScholars and never found its way into my household expenses. I went to work at 16 and, at 61, I am still working. My children imbibe their work ethic from me, the young people I work with look up to me, my learned colleagues across the world hold me in the highest regard. What have I to show for a life, lived with as much courage and grace as I could muster, but my self-respect which I have kept intact despite a shattered heart? 

I am not a beggar! How dare that bumbling, incompetent wretch makes me FEEL like one.

I imagine the same reason has riled up the nation to the unprecedented groundswell that we are witnessing. The evil, unholy alliance is shocked, caught by surprise and scurrying about for damage control. The spin doesn’t seem to be working. Why? 

Because It doesn’t matter who did what, when, and with whom; it matters how they have made us FEEL.

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