Until 1987 the military award Sitara-i-Jur'at was second only to the Nishan-e-Haider ‘for acts of gallantry in the face of the enemy’. As Nishan-e-Haider is traditionally awarded to those fallen in battle, one can logically say that it was the highest award for bravery among those that survived their acts of valour in the wars of 1965 and 1971.
Among the bravest in the annals of Pakistan military history is one Brigadier Muhammad Taj (now retired) who was first awarded the Sitara-i-Jur'at as a Major in the 1965 war for showing valour beyond the call of duty when he, along with just 16 men in his command, routed two Indian rifle companies and destroyed two enemy tanks thereby forcing them to withdraw.
Then once again in 1971 Muhammad Taj, then Lt Colonel, was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat for showing exceptional courage and ability in countering enemy forces in Dacca and Rajshahi.
The twice-decorated officer (in military parlance “Sitara-e-Jurat and Bar”), now an 80 year-old, was living peacefully in at his house in Islamabad until the night of 1 July 2006. That night, the frail old Brigadier’s house was stormed by a rowdy group of gun-totting army men.
This is how the victim, Brigadier Muhammad Taj, described it :
“Last night, an ISI Major in plainclothes, who called himself Tipu, with at least 10 men in plainclothes armed with automatic weapons entered my house and beat me, my daughter-in-law and two grandsons.
“They kidnapped us and took us away to a deserted location where they threatened us with death if my grandson did not cooperate with them in identifying the children, who had been involved in a playground incident with the relatives of a senior ISI official.
“I told them that I was not aware of the incident but could ask the people in the neighbourhood to identify the children involved. We were brought to Faizabad in a convoy of at least five vehicles where the Major proceeded to threaten the residents, and beat up and kidnapped another two boys. My daughter-in-law and grandsons were sent away to an undisclosed location by the Major. In the meantime, a crowd of local residents gathered, freed me and took the Major into custody. The Islamabad Police, who had been called by the residents, arrived and took the Major away.“
I proceeded to the I-9 Police Station, Islamabad, and met the DSP and SHO and informed them of the situation. Another ISI officer appeared at the police station in plainclothes and identified himself as Col Nisar. He was accompanied by several other officers in plain clothes.
“I explained the situation to him and he ordered the release of my daughter-in-law and grandsons aged 18 and 16. They were dropped at a deserted location near my house in I-8/4 about an hour later. My daughter-in-law’s clothes had been torn, and the boys also had their clothes torn and had been severely beaten.
“I have lodged an FIR at the I-9 police station, Islamabad, but I find the police powerless to take any action in this situation. In fact the police staff are fearful for their own safety.”
Yesterday Ardeshir Cowasjee wrote in his Sunday column:
There were many witnesses to the incident that took place on the night of July 1. Three houses on Street 86, I-8/4 were targeted by armed men in two separate cavalcades of double-cabined vehicles. From one house, an ailing teenager awaiting heart surgery was dragged out of his house, thrown on to the street, beaten and then thrown into one of the vehicles. His mother tried to come to his aid but she was pushed aside, her clothes torn, and she also was loaded into a vehicle. Brigadier Taj was slapped, pushed, roughed up, and pushed into one of the double cabins, and the cavalcades sped away._______________________________________________
The mother and her sons were taken to the G-9 office of the ISI while Brigadier Taj was taken to Faizabad to identify the other teenagers involved. Two other boys were picked up and sent to an agency ‘safe house.’
And why did this obscene abuse of power take place?
According to The News: Some boys ‘had beaten [a] General’s son in a playground fight’.
The general according to a subsequent The News report was revealed to be a senior ‘official of an intelligence agency’.
If this is the kind of treatment dished out to one of its own true heroes under our current military regime, spare a thought for the rest of us - 170 million uniformless civilians. What sort of justice can we expect under this current misrule of law?
I can’t help but ask who the real 21st century feudals of this country are? Obviously, they must be the ones who happen to be completely above the law and answerable to no one.