It has recently been reported that war veteran Maqbool Hussain passed away yesterday at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Attock. His loss is being mourned as that of a true hero who sacrificed everything he had, and more, for Pakistan. Furthermore, as promised, the funeral was held with “full military honor” – at Corp Headquarters in Rawalpindi. According to some who attended, the turnout was admirable, with hundreds of soldiers and officers showing up to pay their respects.
The stories told about Maqbool Hussain are nothing short of legend; it isn’t difficult to see why he is being assigned the stature of a hero.
The things Maqbool Hussain is said to have gone through in his lifetime are not ones any ordinary person could have been expected to survive. He was taken as a prisoner by India during the 1965 war – declared missing during Operation Gibraltar in Srinagar, the largest city of Indian Jammu and Kashmir. It did not get better from there; it progressively got worse. Maqbool Hussain ended up spending 40 years of his life following his capture inside of Indian prisons.
When he reentered Pakistan 40 years later, he would be given a piece of paper to write on to state his identity. On it, he would write ‘No.335139’ – the identification number the army had given him so many years prior.
When he finally gained freedom in 2005 during prisoner exchanges at the Wagah Border, he was nowhere close to the man he once must have been. His story is a morbid reminder of how war actually affects people who come in direct contact with it. At the end of it, Maqbool Hussain was not, as one might hope after such a tough 40 years, reminiscing about the ‘glory days’, recounting war stories, or happily wiling the days away with his family.
He was unable to do any of these things.
When the Pakistan Army finally managed to identify him as a prisoner of war and not a civilian prisoner, he went back into their ranks not as a heroic patriot but as a broken man: tortured to the point of mental incapacitation and his tongue cut out as a cruel mockery because he had refused to reveal anything about his country to his captors. What’s more, all his family members had died well before his return.
He has been given the honorable title of Ghazi – what we call a Muslim warrior. Maqbool Hussain may have fought for the country, but he was never really given the chance to wage war against his own fate. Perhaps this is the face of true heroism – giving yourself up to fight the wars of others.