Monday, April 17, 2006

siachen story

I heard this story a long time ago from my uncle who served as an SSG (Special Services Group) officer at Siachen Glacier in the '80s and '90s. The SSG is the equivalent of US's Navy Seals or Britan's SAS, commonly called Commandos. Siachen Glacier is the highest (~5400m high) and most inhospitable fighting ground in the world, located in North Pakistan & India. More soldiers have died there from frostbite than conflict since the battle for the Glacier erupted between Pakistan and India in 1984.

I was reminded today again by another ex-SSG soldier who had served in Siachen immediately after the incident occured in 1986. The story is of one of the greatest soldiers to fight and die in Siachen, remembered and honored by both sides, Lance Subedar Ata Mohammed, Shaheed. "Shaheed" means "martyred" and is commonly suffixed to the name of any man or woman who has died in the line of duty, usually while fighting. (The facts of the story may be slightly incorrect, if any reader spots any mistakes, please let me know)

In 1986, India launched an offensive to occupy a strategic post called controlled by Pakistan called Quaid post, named after the founder of the latter country. The massive offensive managed to dislodge all soldiers, leaving only Ata Mohammed and two other soldiers under his command to fight it out. Ata Mohammed managed to convey to the local commander, a General reportedly, the need for ammunation. The General declined, citing logistical problems. Ata Mohammed ordered the other two soldiers to leave. They refused initially but he ordered them to obey. Ata Mohammed was left to fend for himself and with a broken arm and leg, and inspite of an offer of surrender, decided to fight it to the last.

The Indian Army took his body and alongwith his few belongings, including rings etc. transported his body in a coffin to the Wagah border in South-East Pakistan. When handing over the body only, they insisted that Ata Mohammed be awarded the Nihsan-e-Haider, Pakistan's highest military gallantry award, in recognition of his tremendous bravery.

The Pakistan government, however, gave him a lower award, probably preferring not to politicize the defeat in Siachen.

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