Aleena Imran has an MBA from NUST and has worked as an HR professional at companies like MPCL, Coke, Jazz, and LMKT. In her spare time, she runs her home-based baking business. Apart from being an avid reader, she enjoys writing, photography, and art.
For His Comrades
Hailing from Narian in Tarar Khel, Azad Kashmir, Sepoy Maqbool Hussain was born in 1940. He joined the Pakistan Army in 1960 and was part of the 1965 war. Serving as part of 4 Azad Kashmir regiment, during Operation Gibraltar in the Srinagar area, Sepoy Maqbool Hussain got injured and requested his comrades to leave him behind to fight the enemy that was fast approaching.
He wanted to buy his comrades time so that they could escape to safety. They did not relent and kept insisting that they would carry him. However, to save the lives of his comrades, he threw himself in a ditch, leaving them no choice but to keep moving forward.
Some reports say that he sustained even more injuries when the enemy opened fire, was rendered unconscious – and subsequently captured by the Indian army. The Indian Army concealed his capture and did not declare his name on the list of prisoners of war (POW). The Pakistan Army continued their search, but eventually, Sepoy Maqbool was declared missing in action and presumed dead, on August 20, 1965.
For His Country
Meanwhile, Sepoy Maqbool was being tortured beyond comprehension. The Indian Army did not register his legal status as a POW, stripping him of certain rights that he would otherwise have been entitled to by international law. The Indians tried their best to force him to divulge the Pakistan Army’s secrets, but Sepoy Maqbool did not utter a single word that would betray his country.
Amidst the insults and the threats, the Indian soldiers would force him to say “Pakistan Murdabad” which translates to “Death to Pakistan”, to which he would bravely reply with a loud “Pakistan Zindabad” which translates to “Long Live Pakistan”. His captors would beat him inhumanely and even went as far as pulling out his fingernails.
They called him ‘crazy’, and he would reply with a ‘yes, I am crazy for my country’. It is a miracle that he did not relent to their demands, despite the kind of torture that brings tears to one’s eyes just hearing about it. He was forced to live in a dark 4’ by 4’ room, that would not allow him to comfortably sit or stand.
On one occasion, when he responded to his captors’ threats and insults with “Pakistan Zindabad”, they cut out his tongue to stop him from chanting the slogan. He was left in the same 4’ by 4’ cell – and whenever he would sustain injuries from his interrogation sessions, he would write “Pakistan Zindabad” on the walls with his own blood.
After 40 long years, on September 17th 2005, there was a prisoner exchange between Pakistan and India at the Wagha Border. Among the prisoners who were released from the Indian side, there was a bright-eyed old man who was unable to speak. It was assumed he was one of the fishermen that were released alongside him.
Due to the mental torture he experienced constantly throughout the four decades, he had limited mental capabilities and was unable to express himself properly. When asked about his home and family, he repeatedly wrote the number ‘335139’ on a piece of paper. Some officials realized the significance of the number and handed him over to the military.
He was eventually able to make his way to a Pakistan Army garrison in Azad Kashmir. He was taken to the Regiment Commander, and Sepoy Maqbool Hussain, with an unexpected burst of energy, saluted him as a young officer would. He then wrote his name and army service number ‘335139’, writing that he was available for duty.
The Brave Sepoy
When the Pakistan Army officials looked up his number in the old files, they realized he was the same Sepoy Maqbool Hussain that had been presumed dead in 1965. All officials saluted him and admired his bravery – while not even knowing the full story. Since his close family had all passed away, he was taken in by the Pakistan Army and was given meticulous medical and psychiatric care.
Officers and doctors that were tending to him realized that he was scribbling his own stories on paper, and the story of his four-decade-long ordeal finally started coming to light. To share his story with the world, ISPR and Interflow Communications Limited co-produced a drama series named ‘Sipahi Maqbool Hussain’ that aired during the month of April 2008.
He was awarded the ‘Sitara-e-Juraat’ on 23rd March 2009. Sepoy Maqbool Hussain passed away peacefully on the 28th of August 2018 at CMH Attock. His funeral prayers were offered at Chaklala Garrison, where the COAS and senior army officials were in attendance, and he was buried on the 29th of August with full military honor at his native village Narian.
Sources report that Sepoy Maqbool Hussain’s mother was buried at the entrance of the village at her request so that she could ‘meet’ her son when he returned.
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