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A Tribute to my Father Lt Col Faizullah Khan Shaheed

Palwasha Faiz Khattak

'Shahadat' is not just what we call death; it's something more than that, higher than any rank, bigger than any achievement and more honourable than any medal. When a soldier embraces 'Shahadat', the eyes of his loved ones not only have tears and sorrows but they are also covered by aroma of pride, glory and honour.

How can his loved ones be so composed and calm? The answer to this arising question is simple, the left one is not an ordinary traveler to the valley of death. He is a martyr, a 'Shaheed' who has offered his blood, youth, dreams and life to his loving country, his sacred motherland and for a secure future of his fellow countrymen and the generations. He willingly welcomes 'Shahadat' with open arms and smiling face and with a contented heart, because he knows it is a pride with which only a few are blessed, and he is the chosen one.

Allah in Qur'aan says, "The people who get killed in Lord's way, they live, finding their provision from their Lord". (All-e-Imran 169-172)

This is story of a valiant soldier of Pakistan Army who embraced Shahadat during his tenure at United Nations (UN) Peace Keeping Mission in Sierra Leone on 29 June 2004.

My father Lt Col Faizullah Khan was born on 10 February 1962 in a far flung village Ali Khel of District Karak (near Kohat). He did his matriculation from Government High School Sabirabad (Karak) in 1978 and further did his FSc from Government College Karak in 1980. With his sheer hard work and dedication, he was selected for induction in Pak Army as an Officer and joined Pakistan Military Academy in 1982. Upon completion of training, he was commissioned in 29 Frontier Force Regiment (FF) in 1984 as a 2nd Lieutenant with 69 PMA Long Course.

The Officer had the basic instinct of extreme hard work, sincerity of cause, and dedication towards his duty. In his military career, he achieved all important milestones which included his stint as an instructor at Army High Altitude and Snow Warfare School - Rattu, Platoon Commander at Pakistan Military Academy, Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade, Commanding Officer 29 FF and General Staff Officer-I (Operations) at 41 Division. He also underwent Staff Course during 1994 with good grades.
Lt Col Faizullah was posted at Quetta after commanding his unit in Gujranwala in 2002. After serving one year at Quetta, he was selected to serve as Staff Officer in UN Mission in Sierra Leone which is considered as an honour for any military officer.
Lt Col Faizullah joined his UN batch in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone on 18 August 2003. Owing to his nature, he kept on working hard and performed his duties with utmost devotion.

It was a bright sunny Tuesday and 29 June 2004, Lt Col Faizullah was moving out for reconnaissance of the area with other officers and staff. His flight was rescheduled from 30 June to 29 June. 24 passengers including 16 Pakistan Army personnel and 3 Russian pilots boarded the helicopter (MI-8) at 0900 hours (Sierra Leone time). The take off was smooth and usual. It was around 1000 hours when the helicopter lost its contact with the control tower and reportedly crashed within next 15 minutes in the thick dense trees near the mountains of Yengema. Heavy fire broke out at the crash site due to the accident. As soon as the officials were informed, the rescue teams were sent to the site to look for any survivors and to recover the bodies. The teams reached the crash site at night as the route was difficult and the temperature was very low because of heavy rains. The bodies were recovered and Lt Col Faizullah's body was recognised by the artificial tooth he wore.

After seven days of long wait, body of my father was received by the family and relatives at PAF base Chaklala and was then taken to our native village for burial. He was laid to rest with full military honour on 6 July 2004.

He offered his life for the honour of his uniform while serving abroad, which truly indicates that we are a peaceful nation and do not hesitate to even sacrifice our lives to establish peace, anywhere in the world. Later he was awarded UN Peace Keeping medal along with other 15 'Shuhada' of Pakistan Army.

Today, while I write about my father, the words seem to be less or are founded. I miss him but, knowing that he is a Shaheed, consoles my soul. Yes I feel lost and my heart aches when people around me talk about their fathers but I look at them with pride in my eyes, a thing they might never understand. He has got a rank most people only dream of and I believe he was always special. He was made for it but maybe it was too early.

It has been nine years since he left but he remains alive in the hearts of his loved ones. He will be remembered for long in our prayers and our hearts for the years to come. I miss him in the sunlight, moonlight and the stars! May Allah Bless him and Grant us the courage to bear this loss. Ameen. I am a proud daughter of a great father!

The writer is a 1st year student of MBBS at Foundation University Medical College, Rawalpindi. [email protected]