I heard gunfires…an explosion…a blank screen… smoke everywhere…what was it ..what happened…. I feel red wetness…numbness in my limbs…as I hear distant voices ..someone shouting
” Colonel Hassan has been hit…he is alive…bleeding..bring stretcher…hurry”
” what kind of a dream is it?” I think “is it a dream or is it real?”...
It has to be a dream….when did I go to sleep….I could not recollect..
I try to wakeup and lift my body…but could not…then I feel hands lifting my body…
” rush him to the safe place and call ambulance” I hear someone shouting

“Take it easy my son …you have made me proud…you kept your promise” I feel baba’s hand holding mine. I hear his voice may be after 35 years
” Baba….where were you?…where am I?…where is Maan jee?”
My eyes shutting down….white screen….

Dec.29, 1971, I see Maan jee holding my hands…she always looks so nice in black…
I remember few days ago she cried a lot…everyone on our street did….it was Dec.16….
we walk through … to the open ground…well dressed army men all around…some wooden boxes draped in our green flag..
” Bhabbi jee…come with me please” Uncle Shahid looks so handsome in that dress with stars
” but why is he serious today?” I think as I keep going near the boxes with Maan Jee.
‘Major Khaled Hassan’ I see Baba’s name plate on one of the boxes.
” He fought valiantly, did not let it go, even Indian army officer acknowledged that” Uncle Shahid tells Maan jee.

I remember baba saying ” Azfar beta, a man is known by the words he keeps. I was 7 when we got Pakistan and when I first saw Quaid-e-Azam I promised him from a distance that wherever I live, whatever I do I will defend and serve my people and this land till my last breath.”
Baba was born and grew up in Calcutta before moving to Pakistan in 1947. He worked hard to make his way to the army. During 1965 war he was Captain and fought bravely at Chamb sector.He proved his mettle.

A month after the war he saw Maan Jee when he was posted in Quetta. She was a baluch from Khuzdar and he a ‘mohajir’ but that did not mean anything to them.Both the families objected but were enough open minded to accept the difference.
When I was only 4, I remember him talking to his friend. He would say ” for me people in Dhaka and Chittagong are no different than people in Pindi or Karachi. We have to watch the borders so people can live in peace…I have my promise to keep”
I realize Baba has fulfilled his promise.
I stand for prayers with Uncle Shahid.
Guns roar to honor the ones in the boxes and army band starts playing…
Maan jee has pride and honor on her face…tears in her eyes
I take a fistful of this land….and drop it on the box…” I promise wherever I live, whatever I do I will defend and serve my people and this land till my last breath.”

My body is shaken…I try to open my eyes…I am feeling pain somewhere….I don’t know where..I hear shouts…
” rush him to the operation theater, Call Major Ali “

” why is my bed moving…is it earthquake? or am I sleeping on a truck?” I feel being run on wheels.
” give him anesthesia” I hear someone
I want to wakeup…but I am going into sleep again…white screen….

I see myself going to school…it is March 31, the results day…teacher announces my name for I stood first in the class..
Maan jee comes, kisses my forehead…determination on her face….tears in her eyes.

Outside the school there are processions, people chanting slogans ‘roti kapra aur makaan’. I could only understand that for the first time our leader has given some rights to a common man. It is good to see them happy but why Maan Jee does not seem happy?… I could not understand. She thinks this will be over very soon.She is right.

Couple of years more and another General takes over. People are afraid to speak as he preaches the ‘real’ Islam. Maan jee says “people who use religion to suppress others can not be true follower of the religion”. I try to understand as I see changes all around. Pakistan loses its most dynamic politician .
I see some moulvis starting to force their thoughts. Afghanistan, Russia and General Zia are the only things that one sees on PTV.
I am reluctant to join the army. Maan jee gets annoyed ” you go to army to serve and defend Pakistan and people not a General. Generals come and go, Pakistan and its people will stay and will depend more on sons like you”.
Summers of 1982 I pass matric exams with flying colors.
Maan Jee kisses me…encouragement on her face…tears in her eyes.

I join Kakul Academy. Go through the rigorous training. Outside world is changing rapidly. The Leader uses religion and ethnic diversity to divide the very country he swore to defend. People are losing patience. Gunshots are becoming a norm.
Time passes quickly…I am preparing for my passing out parade. Maan jee has come from Karachi. Every one looks his best.My name is called. Ceremony ends. I run to Maan jee.
She kisses my forehead …admiration on her face….tears in her eyes..

I get posted in Sialkot. Days pass quickly.On the streets gunshots become a norm. Kalashnikov becomes earings of men.
I start hearing same slogans. One day in August, suddenly country loses its top brass. Chaos at the top.
Images passing quickly. People sticking to hope for a change, leaders sticking to their goal to accumulate more money in less time.

1996…I get posted in Peshawar..I meet Shahreena…I love the way she speaks Pushto…her father objects but then accepts our proposal. We get married in December same year.
A year later we are blessed with Shahroz and then Palwasha comes two years later. I see everything changes outside.
Another war between the neighbours. I get bullets in my leg, medal on my chest. Haji Miskeen of Gilgit thanks me ” sahib,you fought for our homes, our children, our people, we do not forget that”. I tell him ” you are part of me, your home is my home. From Landi Kotal to Karachi, it is my home..these are my people”.

On the streets, people are ready to kill without any reason. Leaders are busy filling their swiss accounts.
Maan jee says ” Leaders and Generals come and go…Pakistan is here to stay”…
She is right…another General takes power…twin towers in US are hit and Pakistan faces the ripple effect.
…situation outside deteriorates. I am a Lt. Colonel now. Shahroz and Palwasha go to school and love the land their grandpa sacrificed his life for. I get orders to reach the north…this is the same land I got bullets for…this is part of me, this is part of Major Nasir Baluch, this is heart of Colonel Faisal Jadoon, this is part of Major Raja Mohsin…the people here are same people…same Haji Miskeens…my people who can not hurt me….

I hear noises….voices…I see blurred images of people in white dress…
” his condition is very serious…next 24 hours are very critical”
I try to open my eyes…I try to breath more air…I feel a mask on my nose….
” Look at his eye lashes….he is coming to senses”...I hear a female voice…
” Azfar beta…open your eyes my son “ I hear Maan jee..
“Azfar”…I hear Shahreena’s voice coming from distance…
” Papa…Papa “ I try to respond to Shahroz and Palwasha calls…
I try to open my eyes…I see Maan jee praying…tears flowing from her eyes..

I try to move my right hand….I feel small fingers…warmth of four small hands…I hear their fingers murmur…
Now I can clearly listen to them saying…” I promise wherever I live, whatever I do I will defend and serve my people and this land till my last breath”
I try to look…
I see Shahreena’s face….pride and honor on her face…tears in her eyes….

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