“Call not those who have given their lives in the way of Allah as dead. They are living but ye perceive it not.”
Paying a touching and well deserved tribute to one of Pakistan’s highest decorated officers, Major Shabbir Sharif (NH& SI), a soldier who believed in the philosophy ‘the real fun lies in going away from the beaten path to something original, risky and more adventurous,’ Colonel ® Azam Qadri has written the story of his life and courageous deeds titled, “What More can a Soldier Desire?” The book, the title of which has been taken from the authors own poem on the same subject, was launched in a special ceremony held at the GHQ auditorium and was attended by a number of officers, both serving and retired; members of his unit and close members of the authors family. COAS Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani was the guest of honour.
The lobby of the auditorium had a display of some of the letters written to the author by the hero of the book and gave an indication of how close they were as friends and colleagues, as well as giving a glimpse into his personality. Major Shabir embraced martyrdom on December 6, 1971 at the young age of 28 while firing and engaging the Indian tanks in the Sulemanki sector, his prophetic words, “I will not be a witness to another ceasefire” being the benchmark by which he went in to battle.
True to tradition, the function went smoothly and to time – the army being the only institution that maps out a schedule and sticks to it! Hosting the event were Awais Malik (ISPR) and Omar Khan, (authors son) with(authors daughter) and Sikander Azam (authors son) reading out a few excerpts from the book to give the audience a preview of its content. The programme began with a relevant recitation from the Holy Quran by Col.Younas; quotes from the hero’s diaries and letters to the author and tributes paid to him by his friends and colleagues - including Lt Gen Shahid Aziz; Rhodes scholar Irshadullah Khan; Brigadier Farooq Afzal; Lt.Col Talaat Omar (SJ) Platoon Hawaldar Imam Hanif and Taimur, (his son who lost his father at a young age but grew up knowing him well because everyone spoke so highly of him) - all of whom talked about his courage, patriotism and above all, his love for his country. Their memories of Major Shabbirs bravery and his love for Pakistan added an inspirational touch to the ceremony and surely made those in the auditorium feel humbled, yet very proud of this remarkable son of the soil.
In his brief remarks, the author said it took three years of his life to finish his work on his dear friend and what a glorious day it was, looking down at the audience and seeing the many faces that have shared time and space with him. “The Shabbir I knew was, chirpy, jovial and full of life,” he said “He was a friend an elder brother and my mentor.” He then went on to explain that the purpose of writing the book was to not only to glorify the heroics of Maj. Shabbir but to introduce him and his acts of bravery to the nation – something which we should do to honour all our national heroes. “My book covers his stature as a human being; his day to day feelings with his friends; his unwavering ‘Espirit de Corps’ and glimpses of his bravery that not only earned him medals of valour but established him as the greatest and finest officer that the Pakistan army is proud of’”
With many more accolades for his comrade in arms, Col Azam concluded by thanking the COAS for taking keen interest in the book and expressing a desire to expand its scope; all the officers soldiers and major Shabbir’s comrades for their help, especially Brig. Baber Barlas and Taimur and to his own family for being patient and understanding. The guest of honour praised the author for his effort in recording the courage and character of Major Shabbir so that others could be inspired and spoke about the many other gallant officers and soldiers who had lost their lives in recent times and the fact that the ratio of shaheed officers to soldiers was about one in ten - the highest in the world - demonstrating their patriotism and dedication to duty. Reiterating the firm resolve to rid the plague of terrorism from the country, he concluded with ‘Pakistan Army Zindabad. Pakistan Paindadbad,’ after which a copy of the book was presented to him by the author, dedicated to Brig Azmat Hayat who thought of Shabbir as a son.
The launch ended with the very relevant words of Frank Sinatra’s popular song, ‘I did it my way’ flashed on the screen along with a likeness of the heroic officer.