Heroes Die Young–The Story of Extreme Valor

By Tahir Mehmood

“I am proud of my martyred son. He has shown us the way to love and serve Pakistan.” This is a solid rock declaration by a proud father who lost his youngest son Captain Bilal Zafar on 17 May 2009 while fighting against terrorists in Peochar Valley, Swat. His second son, Captain Zarar Zafar has just come back from graveyard after praying Fateha on the grave of his loving brother Captain Bilal. This proud father is Captain Zafar Abbasi, ex Pak Army officer who still cherishes the memories of 1971 War, where he fought like a hero against our traditional foe. Captain Zafar and his family belong to village Karore, Tehsil KotliSattian. This village is located at a high plateau, dominating area up to Attock and is mostly inhabited by old and traditional Abbasi tribe. This lofty mountainous top has nurtured many Ghazis and Shaheeds. It is a town where soldiery is taken as an ancestral inheritance and offering life in the line of duty is like a sacred custom. It is an eagle’s nest where only eagles are born, live, fight and die.

Captain Bilal Zafar Shaheed was born in 1983. He did his matriculation from St. Paul’s Cambridge School, Rawalpindi. Just after completing his graduation from Government College Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, he chose to follow his family traditions and joined the profession of arms. He joined 108 PMA Long Course. He passed out with a cross belt distinction of being a Battalion Junior Under Officer. Captain Bilal Shaheed descended from a genealogy where soldiery is the only profession for young lads. His Great Grandfather Subedar Lal Khan participated in World War 1 and was conferred with King George Cross for his gallantry. Subedar Lal Khan’s son and Captain Bilal Shaheed’s Grandfather, Colonel Tajamal Hussain wrote new chapters of bravery and commitment to the nation. He participated in World War II on Singapore front. Later his love for freedom compelled him to revolt against British Raj. After creation of Pakistan in 1947, Colonel Tajamal volunteered to fight for freedom of Kashmir against Indian aggression. He commanded a Mujahid Brigade on Bagh–Uri front and stalled Indian advance which was intended to reach Muzafarabad. For his meritorious services, he was later conferred with Fakhr-e-Kashmir award. Not only from the paternal side, Capt Bilal’s veins had martial blood from his maternal grandfather Major Majeed and uncle Major Haider as well. Captain Zafar, father of Bilal Shaheed also followed the traditions of the family and joined Army in 1969. After getting release, he fully devoted himself to his two sons and four daughters. Mrs. Zafar gave her full support to her husband in training his sons for great heroic deeds. Thelady is a living example of dedication, patriotism and fortitude. Of course, these words derive their meanings from these characters. Their both sons were Black Belts even before joining PMA Kakul. They were trained very hard to do the deeds which only heroes can dare to do.

Family pride and un-daunting soldierly spirit must be strong cause.Once Captain Bilal Shaheed told his best friend and his room mate, Captain Raheel, that Bilal would be a Shaheed and Raheel a Ghazi. He said so on the night of 15th May, 2009 while he was preparing for his most exigent task in high mountains of Peochar valley. Captain Raheel’s eyes often get filled with tears but still he maintains a soldierly composure and pride while narrating the proceedings of that night. Captain Bilal Shaheed, who was just back from a successful operation in Buner, got the message from his commanding officer that he had been earmarked for a difficult mission in Peochar valley (Operation Jahanbaz). It was important to open Swat-PeocharRoad for operational sustenance. It was crucial to capture GhuzanoSar Top (now Bilal Top) for the success of entire operation. Previous efforts to capture this Top could not succeed. Captain Bilal Shaheed very happily received this warning order and got busy in preparations alongwith his company commander Major Sardar and fellow officer Captain Zafeel; both were also picked for this operation. While preparing very minutely for the mission, he also kept talking with Captain Raheel. He told Raheel to personally go to his home and inform his mother in case he met Shahadat. He also told him to lead his Janaza prayer. Captain Bilal, while tying up his backpack, also told Raheel that his dead body should be shrouded in Pakistani flag. He should be buried with full military honour and ceremony. Later, he also packed his all belongings in the room. Surely Bilal knew about the golden tomorrow which would place him on high pedestal reserved for those who sacrifice their lives for the safety and security of their motherland. In the spell of those unique moments and out of his sheer love for Pakistan Army, Bilal sent a message to Captain Raheel from his cellular phone. He told him to read it once he had gone for the mission. The message which is now in circulation among all cellular phone holders in Pakistan is spreading like a fire reads, “In the roars of bullets, in the thunder of bombs, there are few who just do not stop… knowing that they are surrounded by death… knowing that they could leave their parents and family alone… But they just keep on moving… because in their Hearts… And flowing through their veins known as…, HONOUR, DEVOTION, LOVE WITH MOTHERLAND, DEATH BEFORE DISGRACE, PAKISTAN ARMY ZINDABAD”. How true, pure, dedicated and passionate was he in his love for Pakistan Army and the Nation. We all too are proud of you son.

On 16 May 2009, around 2 o’clock in the morning, Captain Bilal, who was a thorough practicing Muslim, offered his Tahajad prayer. He just had two hours sleep and then got ready to escort Captain Raheel to the mosque. Raheel still suffers from leg wounds which he received during a successful encounter with terrorists in North Waziristan Agency in 2005. Raheel was later awarded with ImtiaziSanad for his gallantry act in which he was able to capture over 20 terrorists. Captain Raheel also shared with pride that Bilal, who was very punctual about his prayers, always made effort to offer his prayers in the mosque. After that he went upstairs to say goodbye to his elder brother Captain Zarar Zafar. He knew where he was going and what lay ahead, so he advised his brother to look after the family once he was no more among them. Zarar could feel this unusual behaviour of his loving brother. Tears touched his eyelids but he never allowed them to roll down. He wanted to see off his brother with a happy face. What a trying moment for a brother to say goodbye to a brother who is proceeding on a mission impossible. Only soldiers share this unique pride. Later,he accompanied him to the air strip. Bilal was on his way to Shahadat. His steps were guided and he was seeing a different world. So very quietly he moved and was the first person to sit in the helicopter. He was received by his superiors who had already decided to leave their comfortable offices and be with these fearless troops in this time of test and tribulation. Major Asif Niazi, who volunteered for this operation is also a classic example of heroism. Day time was used for all necessary planning. The intended target was given a heavy doze from brave pilots of Pakistan Air Force. However, the enemy was well dug in at a very difficult but most dominating peak where he could also use terrain to his best of advantage. The creeping move forward to the target started late at night amidst prayers and patting. By 0500 hours on 17May, the brave sons of SSG reached very close to the target. The decisive moment had come. All went ready to assault and charge on the enemy. The time had come for which Captain Bilal Shaheed always longed for. He was leading his men. They opened the fire and rushed to the target. The battle had begun. The enemy responded heavily with accurate fire. But the SSG’sbrave soldiers were determined to move forward. Soon Bilal men were able to clear the first objective. They over-ran the enemy but remaining were still occupying yet another dominating nearby feature. Bilal kept leading his men with great courage, audacity and vigor. He moved further ahead. Major Sardar warned him of accurate and intense fire from the top but Bilal was on his way to glory and sacrifice. He was hit by a bullet on left arm but he did not stop. The enemy saw this brave soldier who could dislodge him from his position very soon. They could not allow him anymore. The enemy fixed his rocket launcher and fired. Captain Bilal received a direct hit. The Captain looked towards the top and to his soldier. He wanted them to capture it at all cost. The soldiers were busy in fighting but heavens smiled affectionately on this proud youth and gave him assurance of victory. He was soon dead medically but achieved the eternal life. He was successful in achieving his goal. His dream got fulfilled. He was another Shaheed of SSG and Pakistan Army. Bilal is dead but will be a living pride for his family and colleagues. Bilal’s death in front of his soldiers caused them great anger and revenge. They charged and killed the remaining enemy. They were successful in achieving Bilal’s mission. Captured GhuzanoSar Top must be proud to be now named as Bilal Top and with a fluttering Pakistani flag.

Captain Naveed, a smart young company officer of Captain Bilal remembers him with a lot of fondness and love. He was his mentor and his hero. Naveed told that soldiers adored Bilal and remember him with tears in their eyes but with inflated chests. Bilal, their brother, their commander, their comrade, who was always greatly concerned about their training and welfare, had shown them new meanings of devotion, valor, commitment and heroism. He is no more with them physically but his memories are a great treasure for these devoted sons of SSG.

On the same day, Bilal’s body arrives at his home. People witness a rare scene of a mother’s devotion to his son. She is stopping others from weeping as her son had requested her. Mothers can not stop the tears,when they lose their young sons. But all witnessed this with profound deference and admiration. A bereaved mother stopping others from weeping over the dead body of her loving jewel.
Once she was asked about her son, she replied with a firm voice, “Bilal was a chosen one. He is a Hero and Heroes die young.”

(The author is a short story writer)

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