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Friday, 10 April 2009

A tale of two Paks

The Sovereign's Parade at Sandhurst this week was a very special occasion for Jhelum Military College. Jhelum nestles between two rivers in north-eastern Pakistan, close to the Kashmir. George V founded a military college here in 1922, originally for the sons of Muslim soldiers serving in the Indian Army, but imbued with an ethos of such English public school regularity that it soon started turning out officers who became the backbone of Pak's post-independence army.

Like the lists of incumbent vicars that decorate our ancient parish churches and in which the rapid change of office at the time of the Reformation goes now almost unnoticed, the list of Commandants at JMC segues seamlessly from Lt. Col. T.H.M. Stebbing to Maj. Aurangzeb Khan in 1947. And if the college song lacks something in poetic subtlety, it expresses perfectly the uncomplicated approach of its commanders and cadets:

Long live our Military College Jhelum!
May you shine for an eternity!
Every cadet has lit torches of knowledge in his way.
Bright minds, smiling eyes and tough muscles.
We get what we want,
We are the Alamgirians!
We are the Alamgirians!

Last year the college prided itself that 118 l/c Cadet Umair Imran Qazi, of Iqbal House ('rah Iqbal!), had been sent to Sandhurst. This week JMC was bursting with pride as Qazi won the Overseas Sword from John Hutton at the RMA's Sovereign's Parade on Tuesday. The Pak 'Daily Times' also reports proudly that "In addition to being judged the best overseas cadet, Umair who will join an armoured corps regiment on his return, also won a clutch of other awards. He won Prince Saud Abdullah prize for obtaining the best aggregate marks in academic subjects, the Pakistan Defence and International Affairs prizes for the best performance in defence and international affairs."

Within a couple of hours drive from Sandhurst, in the cheap and scruffy side-streets of Bradford, Luton or Slough, anonymous ground-floor doors bearing the legend ' .... School of English' in stick-on gold letters, often applied a little crookedly, lead to sets of sparsely furnished rooms above the ground-floor shops. Here semi-literate Pak imams and radical jihadists who have entered the country on student visas pay over their fees and are handed a learning-pack convincing enough to fool an immigration officer. No English is taught. A slight dusty, throat-irritating cardamon-flavoured dryness hangs in the room. In one corner a bearded young man in a jalabah rocks quietly on his haunches as he reads the Koran. Soon, perhaps, he will return to Pak, with some electronic circuit boards to make timing devices for IEDs, which may be deployed in Helmand across the theoretical frontier.

Or perhaps this young jihadist will join the ongoing battle of attrition with the Pak army in the tribal areas. Perhaps he will squint down the sights of an RPG launcher at a Pak army armoured vehicle commanded by 21 year-old 2nd Lt. Umair Imran Qazi. Bright minds, smiling eyes and tough muscles are little defence against jagged steel splinters driven by an RDX packed rocket head.


Sabretache said...

I come from a military family too. Father Royal Signals (BEF; 8th Army North Africa and Italy). Paternal Grandfather RN (WW1 and II). Maternal Grandfather blinded at Paschendale age 24 with 4 year old daughter (my mother). I served briefly in the RN. Best Man killed flying a Harrier in the Falklands conflict etc etc. - So - I need no lessons in the meanings (glory or its opposite) of military service.

I mention all that because, whilst the distinctions and contrasts in this post are real - even educational, there is no room for doubt about who the goodies are and frankly, I'm getting thoroughly pissed off with your faux sentimental military inspired jingoism.

The Pakistani government have just published the following statistics: Jan 2006 - April 2009, 60 US Drone attacks; 14 known 'Al Qaeda' leaders killed; 687 innocent civilians killed. Casualties from orthodox and SF actions in Afghanistan vastly greater but with a similar ball park civilian/baddies ratio; not to mention the millions of dead and/or displaced in Iraq. Do you not think that there is just the smidgeon of a possibility that OUR behaviour in THEIR countries might be connected in some fashion with THEIR behaviour in OURS. Try a bit of role reversal. What I wonder would YOU do? - Don a smart uniform and salute the British no doubt.

I have every sympathy with the predicament of 'our boys' in overseas conflicts. I have ZERO sympathy or support for the reality of those conflicts - let alone their real aims, hidden as they are by that carefully constructed fa├žade of calculated deception that is the phony 'war on terror' - with a dash of self-righteous 'helping the poor backward bloody natives' thrown in to keep those of a more liberal persuasion on board.

You are clearly proud to be British. I am not; I am deeply ashamed.

idle said...

I enjoyed your thoughtful post, raedwald. I did not detect any "faux sentimental military inspired jingoism", but then again, I am not a follower of John Pilger.

Shame suits you, sabretache.

Raedwald said...

Yes, S - I am proud to be British. Or rather, I believe that to have been born an Englishman was to win the lottery of life. It's only with mild irony that I sing along with Flanders & Swan as I shave in the morning

"The English the English the English are best
I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest"

As for Iraq and A'Stan .... well, I was one of the million who marched in London on 15th February 2003; I wrote more than a hundred real letters, I lobbied, cajoled, pleaded and made myself a nuisance by email. The Iraq invasion, you see, was utterly un-English. Founded on lies and deception, dishonourable, and definitely not playing the game.

Alright, I'm teasing a little there. But it's reminding ourselves of what we should take pride in - our deeper values and way of life - that will make blunders such as Iraq less likely in future.

For that I'm quite unapologetic.

The Remittance Man said...

A scrimmage in a Border Station--
A canter down some dark defile--
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail--
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

Looks like things ain't changed that much since Kipling's day.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where the evil jingoism is. I certainly haven't seen any and I'm a regular reader of this blog.

What I read in this post, Sabretache, was a comment on the fact that the government has opened the flood gates to upwards of 40,000 Pakistani students over the past five years and that the overwhelming majority of them are attending fake "Schools of English". At best, most of these "students" are here to claim benefits and steal; at worst, some of them are here to train for or to commit acts of terrorism - you may have noticed a story about this in the news over the past few days (assuming you weren't too busy being earnest and writhing in self-loathing).

I am afraid I know what is going on. You, Sabretache (quite a nickname you have for a man who's so ashamed of all things military), have been looking for an opportunity to vent your spleen and you thought you found one in this post. You were so busy blasting us away with your bluster and your hand-wringing and your declamations of your military pedigree that you completely.missed.the.point.

This post is not about military glory or British pride, you fucking mongoloid. It is about the difference between legal Pakistani students who come here to study legitimately and illegal Pakistani students who come here as a criminal act. You can kind of see this from the title of the post "A tale of two Paks". Get it now, brainiac?