For the jingoistic Pakistani nation, the death (martyrdom) of an army person is all about watching his ceremonial funeral, a short media documentary directed or produced by army’s media wing and listening to speeches of various government and army officials on 23 March of every year.
One of my uncles died in an army operation in Balochistan. My widow aunt preferred to live with her parents instead of her inn-laws due to reasons I will discuss later.
For the family of an army’s martyr, things are not easy to manage. The stress and grief after the death is grave. The Pakistan army has a systematic approach towards dealing with the families of martyrs. The system is so convenient and smooth that the widow or her children do not have to go to any office and stand in queues to get pension and other benefits.
It has been a couple of years since my uncle died. My aunt can recollect the events after his death with a relative composed state of mind. The funeral was ceremonial and it was organized by the army in Rawalpindi’s race course graveyard, where my uncle was later buried along with other army officials who also died in the same incident.
After we returned to my uncle’s ancestral house, someone from the army called my aunt’s cell phone. Knowing that she won’t be able to understand the matter in issue, they asked her to give the telephone to a trusted relative. The person on the other side of the telephone asked for her bank account number. Soon PKR 200,000 were transferred in my aunt’s account for post funeral expenses. This amount was not deducted from pension or benevolent fund. No one from the army came to get my aunt’s signatures on any receipt nor she asked the army for that amount.
The army is equally well aware of the social turmoil the family of a martyr has to undergo. There are so many pressures on the widow such as:- she marry the brother of her deceased husband or transfer the pension amount in the accounts of parents or brothers of her deceased husband. Army’s pension rules are favoured towards the widow instead of deceased’s parents.
During the third week of my uncle’s death, there was another call from the army. At that time, my aunt was living with us as it was impossible for her to live in the house of her in-laws. This time, the gentleman on the phone line, wanted to know about her account number wherein the army can transfer benevolent fund, gratuity and monthly pension. My aunt gave her account number and the money was transferred in her account immediately. The whole process involved not a single visit to any office or meeting with any official. After a few days some papers arrived in post, which my aunt was required to read, sign and send them back, which she did accordingly.
My deceased uncle had applied for a house which he was to get after his retirement and that too after paying a huge chunk from his gratuity and benevolent fund. But in case of martyrs all remaining installments are waived off. My aunt’s in-laws wanted her to get the house in Rawalpindi where they live and they had informed officials about the choice of the city without my aunt’s consent. My aunt was composed enough to think logically. She had sensed that her in-laws may deprive her of the benefits that the house would yield in future. She telephoned the relevant department once and the city was changed. She was requested to visit an army housing society in Lahore and get the possession of her house. The first house among 2,200 under-construction houses was constructed on priority and delivered to her.
We thought that the post-martyrdom benefits have ended and thanked the army for its support. For the army, things didn’t stop there. The army invites my aunt and her son on various functions. My aunt rarely attends official functions but happily goes to meet other army wives in private functions.
My cousin passed his matriculation exam with good marks and his father’s unit gifted him an expensive gadget which a loving father would give to his son. The only thing my aunt and her son misses is my uncle’s presence to see how well they are being looked after by the institution for which he gave his life for.