Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lack of recognition for National Heroes.

I haven't gone back to Pakistan in the nearly 14 years it has been since my family emigrated first to Canada and then to the United States. I was just 10 years old at the time. It is odd at times to feel a slight disconnect with the surroundings you grew up with but one thing that hasn't changed and will never change is that I am and always will be a Pakistani first. There are few things that bother me more as a Pakistani then the fact that we just don't recognize our national heroes the way we should.

The country has faced so much darkness and gloom in its short history that one would assume that the country would embrace its heroes even more. Granted it hasn't been easy to find heroes for most of our history due to the political regimes that have been around but it really is shameful that we haven't done more as a people to preserve the legacies of those who have been a beacon of hope for Pakistan.

Last night out of the blue I just happened to take the time to research the story of Rashid Minhas. It is a story that always fascinated me growing up as I just happened to grow up right off of Rashid Minhas Road in Karachi. So it was a name I did hear a lot as a young kid. Rashid Minhas was only 20 years old and a rookie pilot in the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) in 1971 just before the Civil War intensified when him and a flight instructor by the name of Matiur Rahman died when their plane crashed close to Pakistan/India border. Apparently Matiur Rahman was attempting to take advantage of the rookie pilot, hijacking the plane in an attempt to defect to India and eventually fight against what was at the West Pakistan. The story as it is told says that the young pilot, Rashid Minhas in a struggle with the flight instructor seated in the seat behind him forced the plane to go down rather then it crossing the border into enemy territory. Both men died instantly. While Rashid Minhas did get an Air Force base named after and was awarded the "Nishan-e-Haider", the highest military award in Pakistan(to this date only 10 have been awarded and he is the only member of the PAF to have received the honor) the memory is pretty much all but forgotten except for a couple of times a year. I just happened to Google some stuff on him last night and discovered that we are right at the anniversary of this incident that occurred on August 20th 1971.

Rashid Minhas by no means is the only one that hasn't received proper recognition. The problem isn't just limited to our military heroes either. Our heroes in other fields haven't been recognized either.

Dr. Abdus Salam, to this date the country's only Nobel Prize winner was forced to leave the country back in the 70s because the government chose to question his religion. Who are these people to judge?

A.Q Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program was left to rot under arrest and made a "sacrificial lamb" to please the U.S. Really? Just look across the border into India and take a look at how their father of the Nuclear program is treated.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, without a question was the greatest leader Pakistan ever produced. I think it is safe to assume no Muslim country in the 20th century produced a leader like that. One who united not just Pakistanis or Muslims but other so called "third world countries." Unfortunately he was overthrown and hung. Who knows how the course of history changes if that military coup didn't happen.

The same goes for the our sporting legends too. Squash players like Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan were never truly appreciated for the legends they were in their sports. Our hockey legends of the past are a distant memory now as the National team continues to fall into oblivion. Cricket legends like Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad have never been fully utilized. While young bowlers from around the world continue to reach out to Wasim and Waqar the Pakistan board fails to utilize them. Waqar who they had under contract as a coach was treated like garbage and eventually left. Who wouldn't have?

This problem by no means is restricted to Pakistan alone. It just hurts a lot more as Pakistani when we should be reaching out and touching the beacons of hope that can hopefully guide to a better tomorrow.

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