By Michelle Azam
While researching for my father’s series of books which he has written to address the alienation of the Christian youth I realized that about 50% of the information in the series of six books is about the role of Christians in defence of Pakistan. The research work led me to read about the history of Pakistan Armed forces and I came to know that the first era of military history of Pakistan is highly influenced by the British Christian officers of Pakistan Armed forces and it has always been shocking for me that whenever the role of Christians in the defence of Pakistan is discussed the role of British Christians in defence of Pakistan is never discussed. Even my father never talks about the role of British Christians and I can understand because his main aim is to inspire the Christian youth with the stories of local Pakistani Christian heroes. But in this article, I would like to present a brief sequence of the role of Christians in defence of Pakistan but the main focus of this article would be the local Pakistani Christian heroes.
In the first 10 years after the creation of Pakistan, the major positions in the Armed Forces of Pakistan were held by the British Christians. And like the history of the armies of Pakistan and India started from the British rule so similarly each army unit’s history also was in some way started by the British rule. Even though the role of British Christians in the defence of Pakistan is not my topic but still the role of British Christians in the history of Pakistan’s Armed forces cannot be denied. It should be realized that the local Christians meaning the Pakistani Christians in no way think that they need to be proud or own the role of British Christians and nor do they tell their children that they are in any way associated with the British Christians. But still, it is noteworthy that at the time of the creation of Pakistan not only all the Chiefs of the armed forces but also most of the key posts were held by the British Christian officers. And these British Christians had been given the responsibilities by the founders of Pakistan because at the time of the creation of Pakistan the number of locals or Muslim officers was less and most of these officers were on junior posts. Therefore, Pakistan’s armed forces needed officers who had the experience of running and managing professional armed forces of a sovereign and independent country and who could also build military educational institutes for a newborn nation. This decision of the founders of Pakistan was proved right when the British Christians played a significant part in building the institutes for the Armed forces of Pakistan. These services are highly appreciated in Armed forces circles but generally, in the Pakistani society this role of British Christians is not discussed and this may have many political and social reasons. The biggest example of this was Brigadier Francis Ingall who was appointed by Liaquat Ali Khan to establish military academy for Pakistan Army and he accomplished this task with sheer dedication. Because of his services, Pakistan army’s high command named PM Kakul’s main hall as “Ingall Hall” and Pakistan government made him an honorary counsel general in America after he retired and migrated to America in 1951.
Likewise, during about the first ten years after the creation of Pakistan British Christians were the chiefs of the Armed forces. For example, the first Army Chief was General Sir Frank Messervy during 15 August 1947 to 10 February 1948. And after him, General Douglas Gracey served as the Army Chief from 11 February 1948 to 16 January 1951. Furthermore, Pakistan navy’s first commander in chief was Admiral James Wilfred Jefford who served from 15 August 1947 till 30 January 1953. Similarly, Pakistan’s first 4 chiefs of Air staff were British Christians. Air Vice Marshall Allan Perry Keene was the Chief of Air Staff from 15 August 1947 to 17 February 1949 and Air Vice Marshall Richard Atcherley was the Chief of Air Staff from 18 February 1949 to 6 May 1951. And from 7 May 1951 to 19 June 1955 Air Vice Marshall Leslie William Cannon was the Chief of Air Staff and from 20 June 1955 to 22 July 1957 Air vice Marshall Arthur McDonald was the Chief of Air Staff. Therefore, about 10 years after the creation of Pakistan, British Christians were posted on different posts in the armed forces of Pakistan and played a significant role in establishing and strengthening our institutes. The contributions of these British Christians in defence of Pakistan should be highlighted and through this, we can create a positive impact on our youth by showing them that the whole world is not against us. And this research should be done by a Muslim officer (as I have observed that Christian officers are usually hesitant in giving their profiles). It should also be remembered that the contributions of British Christians in the history of the nation and history should be recorded whether it is a golden era or a dark age.
The role of British Christians in Pakistan Air Force can be measured by this is that the senior most Muslim officer who opted for Pakistan Air Force was squadron leader Muhammad Khan Janjua. The scenario was the same in Pakistan Army and likewise the 200 officers who opted for Pakistan Navy in that the senior most Muslim officer was Commodore H M S Chaudary.
The discussion of the role of British Christians in the defence of Pakistan is just for reference and the main objective of this article is to highlight the role of local Christians in defence of Pakistan. The detail of this role is pleasantly surprising. For example, Flight Lieutenant Alfred Jagjivan was probably the first man in blue to shed his blood for his homeland in the battle of 1948. When Flight Lieutenant Alfred Jagjivan and Air Commodore M A Dogar(then squadron leader) were coming back from a supply dropping mission Indian fighters wanted to air arrest them but he shouted to Dogar, “Do not give in, we will live for Pakistan and die for Pakistan,’ The Indians then fired and Jagjivan received six shrapnels and fell unconscious.
The first Christian martyr was Younus Qaiser Shaheed of 16th Punjab who sacrificed his life for his homeland on 3rd July 1948 on Kashmir border.
On 6th January 1949 a Christian cadet, Novan Theodore Fazal Elahi, died in an air crash few days before his passing out and he was probably the first martyr of Pakistan Air Force.
In the 1965 war Mervyn Leslie Middlecoat became known as the “defender of Karachi” and in 1965 was awarded sitara-e-jurat in that war. In 1971 war he sacrificed his life for his homeland and was awarded sitara-e-jurat posthumously. He has the unique honor of being the only Shaheed of Pakistan Air Force who has been awarded sitara-e-jurat twice.
Squadron Leader shaheed Peter Christy was also martyred in 1971 war and was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat posthumously. He was also awarded Tamgha-i-Jurat in 1965 war.
In 1995 flying officer Edvin Felix Shaheed sacrificed his life during an air crash in Quetta.
Major Sarmus Rauf Shaheed Tamagha-e-Basalat, a patriotic officer of Pakistan Army, spent most of his service in the border area and he was also a ghazi of Kargil. He sacrificed his life on 13 September 2007 at Nawazkot in operation Al Mezan.
Second Lt Daniel Utarid Shaheed led his men to the war front in the war of 1971 and was fatally injured. An army doctor who tried to save Utarid’s life by removing the bullets from his chest chronicled this young soldier’s last moments in his notebook. As his life bled out from his many wounds, his last words were a request:
“Give this bullet to my mother as a souvenir and tell her that I took it in my chest while defending my homeland.”
His commanding officer, Lt Col Riaz Javed, recommended him for the third highest award of gallantry, the Sitara-e-Jurat.
Since the creation of Pakistan, four Pakistani Christian Pakistan Air Force officers have sacrificed their lives for the homeland. In Pakistan army, 58 Pakistani Christian army personnel have sacrificed their lives and these include officers, NCOs, Jawans and NCEs. All these men have written heart-wrenching stories of love for their country with their blood.
8 Naval personnel have sacrificed their lives for their homeland and till now 70 Pakistani Christians have been martyred in the armed forces of Pakistan. The Pakistani Christians also have a unique honor that four Christian officers have served with the five Nishan-e-Haiders in which 2 have been awarded Nishan-e-Haider while fighting under the command of Christian officers. Base commander of Nishan-e-Haider Rashid Minhas Shaheed was the legendary Air Commodore Nazir Latif, SJ and TBt while Nishan-e-Haider Muhammad Mahfuz Shaheed’s commanding officer was Col. Cyril Lee Anan. And Major Sarmus Rauf Shaheed was fighting along with Nishan-e-Haider Lalak Jan Shaheed and Nishan-e-Haider Capt Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed. Major General retired Julian Peter was with Nishan-e-Haider Major Muhammed Akram Shaheed and he was commanding the C company of the 4 FF unit while Major General retired Julian Peter was commanding the D company of the same unit.
In all three Pakistan’s Armed forces one cadet has been awarded sword of honor and one has had the honor to be selected to attend Sandhurst.
The remarkable services of the Pakistani Christians in the armed forces of Pakistan can be seen from the fact that they have been awarded 7 Sitara-e-Jurat, 3 Tamagh-e-Jurat, 9 Sitara-e-Basalat and 9 Tamagh-e-Basalat and many have been awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz military and letter of commendation. Furthermore, Air Vice Marshall Michael John O’Brien retired, Air Vice Marshall Eric G Hall retired, Rear-Admiral Leslie Norman Mungavin retired, Major General Julian Peter retired and Major General Noel Israel Khokhar retired have risen up to the rank of one-star general in Armed forces of Pakistan. And two of them have served as Deputy Naval Chief and Deputy Air Chief.
A recently retired officer with a brilliant career, Noel Israel Khokhar, if had been promoted as Lieutenant General in 2014 it would have not only been a milestone for the Christian community of Pakistan but he could also have been in the race for being the chief of Army staff or joint chief of staff on 26 November 2016 (my father strongly believes this would have been the case or there is a strong possibility it can happen in the future as many excellent career officers Christians are serving in the Armed forces. Because of the strong narrative build by the misery sellers, most Christians of Pakistan do not agree with my father.). The constitution of Pakistan only restricts that Prime Minister and President cannot be non-Muslim and so we can encourage our Christian youth that any Pakistani can hold any office other than these two.
So far 22 Christian officers have risen up to the rank of brigadier or equivalent and even though official lists are not available according to our research so far about 250 Pakistan Christian officers have got commission in the armed forces of Pakistan.
The honorable role of Pakistani Christians should be highlighted in print and electronic media as this can be a source of interfaith and communal harmony in our society which is the need of time. Similarly, Christian religious and political leaders and social workers should use this information positively especially Christian missionary schools should make this kind of information based books a part of the syllabus for Christian students instead of blaming the government for their plight. This will help to eradicate the alienation of the Christian youth of Pakistan and can open a revolutionary avenue for future generations to come which would help them to grow in the Pakistani society ideologically, educationally, economically and culturally.
Read more about Pakistani Christian defenders and martyrs in the “Shan-e-Sabz O Safaid”.