Maria Rashid ends her own significant and detailed study of militarism in Pakistan with an expectation to steer a new debate among academia. In her Book titled “Dying to Serve: Militarism, Affect, and the Politics of Sacrifice in the Pakistan Army” she is fearless to tell us where she stands on the issue of the military and its relations with Pakistani society. She struggled to explain and question the way the state handles the tragedy of casualties in the war on terror. As a psychologist, her work reflects the human element of wrenching loss of lives as well as the socio-economic effects on the state and most importantly families of deceased soldiers.
Rashid’s work is filled with dense prose about the framework of research and the deep analysis of fieldwork. She lays stress on the idea of sacrifices born out of the country’s war against terror and their personification by the Pakistan Armed Forces. By deeply engaging in fieldwork and collecting data, she makes her work more potential and opaquer. This is what makes her efforts successful to attract good readers especially those interested in the Pakistan military.
Pakistan lost more than 70,000 lives in the war against terror in the country’s western region. The arithmetic of war has come out in favor of the state but its longer human costs in callous conflicts have not been a part of rigorous examination amongst the country’s academic practitioners. Maria Rashid tries to fill that gap brilliantly, defining the path for other scholars to bring a new perspective in the country’s war against terror.
Meanwhile, it is common phenomena that a certain decision taken during any period seems a rightful path to be taken. However, after few years, its unexpected results bring new facets, casting a shadow over the health of that decision. This is what happened with Pakistan’s decision to enter in US global war against terror. The facets casting a shadow on this decision is the price it paid in the form of human and economic loss with unimagined psychological harms to a basic thread of its society.
However, the narrative which brings much satisfaction amongst countrymen is the personification of those deceased officers and soldiers of its law enforcement institutions. Rashid examines this narrative and goes back to the root cause of underlying realities. She has focused on the traditional recruiting ground, a rural Chakwal district in Punjab province where she spent time with the families of deceased soldiers.
Rashid explains vigorously, the heavily orchestrated ceremony at the annual Martyr Day (Youm-e-Shuhada) and the way families of deceased soldiers are accepted and trained underwritten script. Her study spans the period of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Her vivid observation of the theatrical production of Inter-Services Public Relations Directorate (ISPR) on Martyr day is quite interesting. She explains “The figure of the mother on the magnificent stage…offering yet another son as cannon fodder and the overflowing mass of people in the NoK (Next of Kin) enclosure [that] hint at the tragedy of death in war as well as the casualness of life, the apparent ease with it is offered to the military”
She considers the complicity of families of the deceased in messaging and the narrative making of the Pakistan Armed Forces. However, it is quite odd to consider such a thing when a family is aggrieving its dead young sons. It is right that away from the glare of lights and cameras, the widows and mothers express their pain openly but that does not mean they are against the decisions of their loved ones to sacrifice themselves for the motherland.
Rashid also considers the compensation payment made to families of martyred as a means of putting a price on the dead body of martyrs. However, she neglected the actual aspect of financial help made to families. She politely blames the military’s financial help as a compensation system to keep “dead and their families as conduits for extraction of the nation’s support”
She also raises the issue of militancy and extremism in the country which is not only her subject but also a major piece of the state’s policy to control such extremists’ elements. Putting every blame on ourselves sometimes confuse us to differentiate between the right options. Maria’s concerns are right in her perspective but her way of approaching such issues is quite odd.
There are complex issues in the country of Pakistan, but it should not be reduced to the level of such debates which are old in new packages. Every nation honors the fallen heroes, those who sacrificed their today for other’s tomorrow must be remembered in a way they deserve. Rashid’s approach is a theory that can only be lightened in books but not in a practical way.
Author: Syed Ali Abbas
About Author: Syed Ali Abbas has graduated in International Relations from NUML, Islamabad, and studies Chinese Politics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Previously, Syed worked with Global Village Space magazine and as research internee at Center for Global and Strategic Studies, Islamabad.
Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Pakistan Strategic Forum.