The Nation’s Call Me column is an anonymous piece of writing, where writers can  relate deeply personal stories.

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300-600 words.

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Call Me:

It was spring two years ago. Somewhere in Lahore, there were festivals, I knew. I dreamt of the canal, the bazaars, the street flowers of April, my wife and our son. In the Kurram agency, the operation was a tough one. The whole valley was a target with the militants at a vantage point, watching us, waiting for us to emerge. We got our mission; a rescue operation for a group of captives. The orders came and we began our hike to the top of those mountains, hiking for a week, travelling by night and hiding by day. Finally, we reached and raided them close to midnight one night. For five hours we fired and killed, fired and killed, yelling the name of God where we could to give us strength. We lost men on our side but the mission was successful. We saved the captives; a group of women and children. In the encounter, I suffered multiple bullet wounds in my hands, and lost both my legs.

Going into the army, one is prepared for these things. One is prepared for martyrdom and violence and injury. We accept these things as a given; as a choice we have made. I suppose those who have never been enrolled in the military cannot understand this. Sometimes they call it discipline, sometimes they call it madness, sometimes they call it subjugation, and some times, bravery. The civilian cannot understand fully what it means to be willing to die for a cause we believe is bigger than us. All of us in the army are in it together. That motivates us every moment. I have seen my buddies being blown to pieces in front of me. I have looked the enemy in the eye and fired at him. I have witnessed horror the civilian has only read about. And still, I can find the dignity in war. I can see the poetry of my sacrifice. All our lives we talk about the value of one human life. Imagine a state of living, a state of mind where one succeeds in devaluing one’s own existence. All over the world this is the ideology which keeps militaries running. It is hard to understand but it is a kind of freedom. It liberates us from ourselves.

When I returned home to Lahore four months later, it was in the thick of summer. The heat made the wounds fester longer, and hindered the healing process. Still, every morning I would strap on my prosthetic legs vowing to walk again. The army helped in motivating me physically and emotionally. I was the first man in my family to have joined the armed forces, so my parents found it hard to cope with the extent of my injuries. But friends from the army, some with greater injuries than mine, would often come in to give them peace of mind, to tell them their son could still lead a productive life. And we laughed, all of us. We still took the time to laugh together, to speak of the missions we had survived. Because we had witnessed the violence on the ground and because we had lived through it, we could speak of it without fear. A civilian cannot grasp this idea, and that is just the difference between us. We search for glory in different things, we look for peace in different kinds of nights, we understand and are inspired by the same poetry differently.  Our fears, most of all, are different.  In the army, when we are given orders, we follow them. We know for certain, that the road ahead is paved with death, with IEDs, with other roadside bombs and hidden dangers, but we function as one unit. The goal is the success of the mission, no matter what the cost. That is not up to us to decide; like I said we only follow orders. And in that discipline we find our freedom, and our dignity. It has been an honour serving the Pakistan Army, the brave hearts, the jawaans, the ghazis and the shaheeds. In the circles of politics, analysts and leaders continue to evaluate the costs of this war. But as a soldier, I am deaf to that discourse. Thank God, I think, for that small mercy.