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Opinion News
July 19,2017

The rights of martyrs

Dr Ehtasham Anwar

On the fateful morning of June 10, Sajid Khan Mohmand, DPO Qilla Abdullah, embraced martyrdom at the hands of a suicide bomber in Chaman. Sajid was not the first to have met such a fate. Men in uniform continue to fall, one after another, in one of the most complicated and protracted war Pakistan has ever faced.

Though civilian casualties have been no less in numbers, yet those who are targeted mostly belong to law-enforcement agencies. From soldiers to general, from constables to DIGs, from junior ranking civil officers to deputy commissioners – all have laid their lives in this gory war. The response of the central and provincial governments towards those who die in the line of duty – the martyrs – is not certain or uniform, to say the least.

When some high-ranking official is killed, or the incident as a whole gets more media attention, compensation packages are readily announced. On the other hand, low-ranking men get killed almost regularly, but given the frequency and at times remoteness of such killings, they fail to make it to the headlines. Take for example the case of the recent killing of the DPO. While rightly deserved monetary and other awards are being announced for the DPO, one is not really sure the other policeman, who was killed during the same incident, got adequate recognition and compensation as well.

And whether or not the martyrs get compensation, one thing is certain: with the complicated processes and multiple government offices involved, there is no smooth road for their families to actually get the compensation. The situation is somewhat better in the case of certain well-organised institutions (read: armed forces), but hopeless when it comes to others.

The martyrdom of DPO Qilla Abdullah has given us yet another moment to rethink and ponder the situation. People are giving their lives, in the line of duty, for us to live in peace. Should we not take care of their families, if and when they embrace martyrdom, in all earnest? By doing this, we will not be extending them any favour; we will merely be acknowledging the greatest sacrifice one can make for one’s people, by taking care of the martyr’s near and dear ones. We should rather do it as a matter of their rights: the rights of the martyrs. For how long will we keep on adopting human rights from the Western world and implementing them as such in ours? Let’s start something original for ourselves, in view of our peculiar circumstances, and set a precedent for others to follow.

Martyrs never die, and this is something our Prophet (pbuh) told us too. Their post-martyrdom treatment shall therefore be based on this notion. Their salaries as well as other perks and privileges should continue, rather grow, as if they are physically there. All other benefits which generally accrue at the time of retirement such as pension, gratuity etc should also be given at the due time. Their children should be provided free education. The leading institutions from all over the world should also be listed, and if the children of the martyrs get admission in certain approved Masters’ and professional programmes of those institutions on merit, they should be given scholarships.

Similarly, wholesome healthcare facilities should also be extended to the families of the martyrs. Finally, a special needs fund should be created for such families to meet exigencies like marriages of their children and other unforeseen expenses. The idea is to do our best to take financial worries away from the personnel of law enforcement agencies, as they fight, and from their families, if they embrace martyrdom.

Furthermore, it should be ensured that the afore-mentioned rights are bestowed on the families without any hassle and, more importantly, without making them compromise on their dignity and self-respect. Special legislation should be enacted at the federal level, acknowledging the rights of martyrs and devising a mechanism to realize those rights, and the provinces should follow suit.

An office of commissioner of martyrs should, for instance, be created in each province to deal with the issues of martyrs and carry out necessary coordination with all departments, as and when required. Separate accounts should be opened and ample funds be made available for the purpose in the annual budgets. Data should be duly maintained and audit be carried out at regular intervals, with full public access to all such information.

In a nutshell, a ‘Total Institution’ approach needs to be followed in the matter. The good thing is that the Pakistan Army already acts as a ‘Total Institution’ and looks after its soldiers during their service as well as after retirement. It also has a complete scheme of things in place in case any of its soldiers dies in uniform. The alarming fact though is that the terrorist organisations too have lately adopted such an approach. In such a backdrop, there is no room for complacency for the state. Given the resources it has on its disposal, the state should go a step ahead of its foes to ensure the wellbeing of its representatives in such sensitive matters.

Since the issue of terrorism is going to live with us, or vice versa, at least for the foreseeable future, it is time for us to act as a whole. Seeing the agony of the families of martyrs is one thing; undergoing the same is altogether different. We cannot redress the actual damage done but, at least, we should empathise with them and strive to alleviate their sufferings. Similarly, such rights should also be extended to those who become permanently disabled in the line of duty.

One would also like to mention here that, in addition to taking care of the material needs of the families of the martyrs, the formal recognition of such rights would have psychological benefits too. It would raise the morale, and level of courage, of those who are in the frontline in our war on terror.

The writer is a barrister-at-law and a rights activist.

Email: anwarehtashamgmail.com


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