Most people identify historical events, not through the intricate details of how they unfolded but by the people who played a central role in those events.
So for instance, if you were to pick five well-educated people randomly from a crowd and ask them to comment on the 3 laws of motion, the only constant in their answers as they jog their memories would be Isaac Newton and not the 3 laws themselves!
Similarly, people (save the die-hard cricket fanatics) might not necessarily remember the struggle that went into winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup but anyone who sat through the final match would have the names of the 11 Pakistani players on their finger tips.
This phenomenon of associating individuals with historical events exists simply because each historical event is brought to life through the toil of the people who made it happen. Without those individuals, those heroes, there would have been no victory and hence no glory to celebrate.
It is for this reason that wars are “commemorated” but war heroes are “celebrated.” Historical accounts, books, pros and poems all glorify the valor and commitment of the humans who rose above themselves in extraordinary circumstances and made impossible feats a reality.
However, how would you feel if one were to tell you that even while celebrating human sacrifice – sacrifice that was made for the collective protection of all of us – the historians might shy away from mentioning a few names simply because they did not belong to a particular faith?
For over a decade now, the names of some of our most revered war heroes have been quietly taken out from our history books simply because the idea of a Hindu or Christian war hero did not agree with the shallow minds of the individuals who have never had to physically be in a battlefield.
This Defense Day, let’s take a moment to remember our forgotten heroes and celebrate their role in our sovereignty.
Maj. Gen. Julian Peter
The first Christian general who served in the Pakistan Army, Major General Julian Peter has the distinction of participating in both the 1965 and 1971 wars.
Maj. Gen Iftikhar Janjua
Major General Iftikhar Janjua, an Ahmadi by faith is also known as the “Hero of Ran Katch” owing to his heroics during the 1965 war. He also holds the distinction of leading the first armed attack of Pakistan Army in Bayar Bait confrontation as Brigade Commander. Maj. Gen. Janjua is the first General of the Pakistan Army to have laid his life for the country (1971). While his name might not appear in your average textbook, Maj. Gen. Iftikhar Janjua is the recipient of the second highest military award for bravery “Hilal-e Jurrat” (which he won twice), Sitara-e Pakistan and Sitara-e Quaid e Azam.
Air Vice Marshal Eric Gordan Hall
During the 1965 war, the Pakistan Air Force was straggling with a number of technical difficulties and a short range of fighter jets, when Eric Gordon Hall, a Christian by faith came up with the game-altering idea of using C-130 (carriage airplane) as a bomber plane at Ran-Kach. He himself piloted the C-130 into battle astonishing the jet pilots. “Hilal-e Jurrat”, “Hilal-e Imtiaz (military)”, and “Sitara-e Jurrat” are among the honors that the Pakistan government has given to Air Vice Marshal Hall in recognition of his services to the country.
Squadron Leader Peter Christy
Sq. Ldr. Peter Christy or “Master Fighter” as he was fondly called by his colleagues at the Pakistan Air Force was a courageous navigator of 7th bomber Squadron. He was awarded “Tamgha e Jurrat” for flying a mission of B-57 in 1965 war. He embraced martyrdom in the 1971 war (though his martyrdom has not been announced officially) and was awarded “Sitara e Jurrat”.
Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat
Among the many Christian officers who have served Pakistan through the armed forces, the name of Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat holds special significance. He has received “Sitara-e Jurrat” for his contribution to the 1965 war and “Sitara e Bisalat” for 1971.
Owing to his contribution against Israeli pilots during the 1968 Arab War, Jordon awarded him with their highest title. Upon his martyrdom in 1971, the then King of Jordan Shah Hussain, wrote a personal letter to his wife that read:
“Sister! The death of Commander Leslie is my personal loss. It’s my wish that when the body of Leslie will be wrapped in Flag of Pakistan, for funeral, please put the Flag of Jordan under his head.”
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhary
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhary is famed for the demonstration of unprecedented air combat skills against Indian Fighter Jets in 1965. For his services he has received, “Sitara e Jurrat” and “Tamgha e Jurrat” and President’s Pride of Pride of Performance Award (posthumously in 2013).