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Losing Lives for Aimless War

Published: 17/04/2012 12:18:25 PM GMT
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ISLAMABAD - Holding a portrait of their young son, Hakeemullah Jan is still hopeful for a miracle to bring back his son, who was buried beneath a massive avalanche in Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield between a (more)

ISLAMABAD - Holding a portrait of their young son, Hakeemullah Jan is still hopeful for a miracle to bring back his son, who was buried beneath a massive avalanche in Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield between arch rivals Pakistan and India.

“I am not hopeless yet,” the bereaved father of Captain Haleemullah told in a chocked tone.

“Inshaullah my son will return safe and sound.”

His son was one of 139 Pakistani soldiers who were buried beneath a massive avalanche in Giari, sector of Siachen glacier last week.

Rescue workers continued to dig through thick layers of snow to find out the buried soldiers.

However so far they have not been able to find out even a single body.

“Hope is the best weapon of a Muslim, which he never surrenders,” Hakeemullah, sitting in a small drawing room of his house in Nosehra town, 35km west of Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa province.

His son joined the medical corps of Pakistan's army in 2004 and was posted at Siachen in February 2012.

“I am hopeful for his safety, but even if he has embraced Shahadat (martyrdom), I will be more than happy,” Hakeemullah said fighting back tears in her eyes.

Military officials and rescue workers believe there are dim chances of the soldiers' survival.

“Only a miracle can keep them alive as they have been under heavy snow without food and water for last six days,” a military official told, wishing not to be named.

“The entire nation is praying for our beloved and brave soldiers, and Inshaullah by the grace of Allah, there would be a miracle.”

Siachen measures approximately 75km in length and 4.8 km in width, and rises to about 4,800m.

The glacier originates near the Indra Koli Pass on the Pakistan-China border, about 70km southeast of K-2 (Chogori), the second highest peak in the world.

The glacier turned out to the world's highest battlefield between Pakistan and India in the summer of 1984, when Indian troops advanced and established their positions in Bilafondla and Changhla Passes of the glacier.

The Pakistani army, which got the news of Indian advancement after various weeks, had moved its troops to forestall the Indian advancement, and established its camps on Giangla and Darmilla passes.

Since then, the two armies have been at eyeball-to-eyeball at different sectors of Siachen glacier, spending billions of rupees yearly.

The ongoing conflict is part of the unresolved Kashmir dispute between the two nuclear neighbors, which have fought three full-fledged wars.

Aimless War

Analysts opine that the conflict between the two arch rivals was aimless.

“This is an aimless war the two countries have been fighting,” Hamid Mir, an Islamabad-based security analyst, told

“It's like that two bald persons are fighting for a comb.

Siachen is probably the only battlefield where the two armies do not fight each other but struggle against the nature.

Some 8000 soldiers have lost their lives since 1984.

The high human cost was not caused by fighting between the two armies but by avalanches, frostbites, and temperatures that fall up to -50 degrees in winters.

Thousands others have lost their body parts and eyesight due to frostbites.

In winters, the hostile environment is further accentuated by the wind chill factor, frequent and harsh blizzards that blow away or bury tents, stores and shelters causing heavy casualties.

Winter conditions present a whole series of challenges beyond reduced visibility.

Temperatures drop to as low as -40°C in non-glaciated areas and -60°C in glaciated areas.

Beyond 5,400m, temperatures as low as -70°C to -80°C have been experienced.

The wind in the valleys can blow at 70-80 knots, accentuating the wind chill factor.

At heights, these winds take the form of blizzards that bury tents, shelters and weapons emplacements under heaps of snow. Blizzards lasting for over two-three days and burying shelters less than 2.5-3m of snow is not an uncommon phenomenon.

“The two countries should realize that they are not fighting each other there, but fighting a war against nature, which they could never win,” Mir said.

Estimates say that India and Pakistan have been spending 5 billion dollars and 300 million dollars yearly on this pointless war for last 28 years.

The two rivals maintain 150 manned posts each with 10 battalions each for a total of some 6,000 troops.

Pakistan has deployed up to half a dozen helicopters to transport food supplies as well as ammunition. The cost of being airborne per helicopter per hour is Rs55,000 (620 dollars).

Snow taxis cost around Rs400,000 (450 dollars) each. Each bread by the time it reaches our troops costs Rs100 (1.10 dollars).

“Whatever happened in past cannot be returned,” Mir said.

“But this is high time for both nations to sit together and find out ways to get rid of this coldest war that has been earning the two armies nothing except death and injuries- not by the enemy fire but by avalanches and frostbites.”

Shamim-ur-Rehman, a Karachi-based political and security analyst, agrees.

“This (Giari incident) is yet another eye-opener for both countries. Sooner the two sides get rid of this war, would be better in their interest,” Shamim told

He opines that the two countries get rid of their bloated egos, the issue could be resolved.

“There is nothing there (at Siachen) except snow and death. You do not have to fight your enemy there, but you just throw your soldiers to test their endurance.

“At the end, both sides would not achieve anything out of this war. Therefore, they should steer themselves out of it, and spend these huge amounts against poverty, and illiteracy.”

According to World Bank report, millions of children do not go to school in both countries besides over 30 percent of their respective populations reside below poverty line.

“It is a matter of shame for both nations that are nuclear states but have no money to feed and educate their children,” Shamim said.

Lt General rtd Ayaz Khan thinks that if any country withdraws its troops unilaterally from Siachen, the other side will have to follow that too.

“I believe if Pakistan withdraws its troops from Siachen unilaterally, India will do the same within next two weeks, otherwise it will have to face a revolt within the army,” he said in an interview with a local TV.

“Wasting of heavy resources by both countries for nothing (at Siachen) is sheer madness.“It's high time for both countries to blow away this madness for the better future of their respective people.”

Reproduced with permission from