A little over 2 years ago I was running my own business, I was young and not as grown up as I’d like to think I am now. While dealing with a supplier from a race that is often associated with hospitality, bravery, and courage I was always gullible to his grandeur. I felt uncomfortable while negotiating prices and failed to control the discussion at several occasions. My partner on the other hand, whose street smartness was a thing of beauty noticed that pattern. He told me to not judge him (positively or negatively) from the prism of my own bias, that I should look at him like any supplier who wants to earn (as much as possible) from his work. He asked me ‘Why do you think he does what he does? If he really was giving you the material at cost then wouldn’t he be extremely dumb to be working hours to get this stuff to you and earn nothing? Toughen up!’ and I have always made sure I do that since then. Much like my supplier it seems like our army seems to play the card of sacrifice, bravery, and honesty in order to invoke an image of a noble warrior that makes it almost impossible to judge them through any standards.
We have grown up with the knowledge that anyone who sacrifices his life for his nation goes directly to heaven, no questions asked. It seems fitting, someone who lays his life to protect others performs a penultimate act of selflessness that should be rewarded in every manner possible but while there are people who join the armed forces in order to lay their lives for their nations, who live and breathe to be martyred in the line of duty, there is also another side to the story. When I was in a Cadet College more often than not I was told that the kids who wanted to join the armed forced wanted to do so because it gets them ‘respect’. I was confused, I always thought respect needs to be earned and joining any trade be it the education to become an aalim or the pursuit of becoming an officer shouldn’t earn respect automatically. The respect that my colleagues talked about wasn’t one that was given to them as individuals but one that came out of either the mantle on which we place our armed men, the power they yield, or the simple culture of the armed forces where a junior HAS TO ‘respect’ his seniors. It is understandable that my colleagues wanted to join the forces to earn ‘respect’ after all in our country any rich guy can buy a land rover and fill it up with 3-4 armed guards willing to take life at his whim. You never know when you can bump into a car and pay with your life just because the dude in the land rover thinks you are an insect; such is the insecurity we go through in our everyday lives. However, if our armed men are just as human and if they have the same fears as us then they need to answer to the same standards.
We need to do away with our propensity to think that everyone joins the forces to die in the battleground because it is at times a very considered and purely hedge based decision. The forces pay for one’s education, make sure you have a house in 10 years, and give you as safe a career as any. There is a reason why a majority of the officers retire at Lieutenant Commander (also known as ‘donkeys’ in the forces) as by that time they have a decent enough retirement and a house waiting for them to move in. While I don’t mean to question everyone who joins the armed forces, what I am trying to highlight is that the decision to join the forces doesn’t always come down to an Alpha Bravo Charlie-esque analysis and not every officer is Gulsher. Commissioned officers are just as human and take into consideration just as practical things as we do while choosing a career. We need to do away with these biases of supreme respect that cloud our judgment, just as my judgment was clouded with my supplier. Growing up watching Sunehray Din, listening to the ayat’s about martyrdom, and our constant desire to know that while we suck at everything else we can at least beat the Shit out of India has made us unable to hold our forces to the standards that all successful nation do.
We are so awe struck by these notions that we cannot understand the basic concept that armed forces exist to protect us and in effect are answerable to the people and barring that they need to be probed. Our country is in turmoil and we have certainly failed to guard ourselves up until now and in a time of dire need, we need to take inventory of what’s working and what isn’t. We need to analyze without giving too much or too little respect with only the nations interest at heart. There is no bigger standard than the protection of our nation and if we need to drill down in every officer that they are servers of the nation and the nation’s interest always comes first then so be it. Even if that means shaving off bringing them down a peg or two …. Just a peg or two!
This Article was written and submitted by Ali Abbas