Another great soldier fades away

By: Col. Shahbaz(R)

Gen MacArthur while addressing the joint session of the houses of the USA, made a historical remark that , “Old Soldiers never die they just fade away.”
Major General N.K Baber, breathed his last in early hours of January 10 in Peshawar. He was a great leader of men, who infused confidence in his subordinates through his personal conduct. I first met him in 1970 as a captain, while Gen Baber was posted at Army Aviation Base Dhamial serving in the cpacity of Lt-Col. Once due to bad weather, he himself flew to air lift a seriously injured soldier and shifted him to the hospital. Gen Baber went to East Pakistan during the 1970 cyclones/elections, to organize the aviation effort. His mere presence there brought a very good name for the Army Aviation flying dangerous missions. During 1971 war Gen Baber was posted as commander artillery 23 Division in Chamb sector. Just a few days before the war, Army Aviation Flight was attached with HQ 23 division, and was placed directly under command of Brig Baber. This gave us an opportunity to observe him more closely. He went out of the way to expose himself to danger. 
He would always ask me to accompany him whenever he was going to Jhelum from the operational area. On our way from Padhar, he would give lift to any walking soldier/civilian, whom we met en route. Once an old lady insisted that she would also carry the firewood in the car. Gen Baber asked the old lady’s fire wood to be carried in the following jeep and her clothing in the trunk of the staff car. All this delayed us by half an hour but Gen Baber sat quietly in the car all this time. This is how Gen Baber was, a caring senior officer and a great individual. Few months later Gen Baber was posted as IGFC, NWFP. This was a critical time, he was asked to reoccupy the western border in view of Daud’s takeover in Afghanistan. He very ably, personally led the operation to reoccupy Razmak and other frontier posts with scouts. He was soon promoted as Major General and posted to newly raised infantry division. 
PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto seeing his potential wanted him back in NWFP told him to resign in order to be appointed as Governor to contain the aggressive designs of the new government in Afghanistan. He stayed as Governor from 1975 to July 1977. While as Governor NWFP, he got an ASI of police in Kohat, who committed a murder on Eid day arrested, tried and punished within three months of the murder. While he resigned and joined the Peoples Party, having refused to stay on as Governor on the desire of Zia-ul Haq, his old buddy Gen Fazal Haq now DMLA Peshawar let loose a reign of terror on him. He put him on trial for treason in a military court. But to the good luck of Gen Baber, the President of the Summary Military Court, a Lt Col was an old aviator, who did justice and released him. 

(The writer is a political commentator and based in Lahore.This was published in The Nation).

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Comments

  • mian saleem  On January 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    If i am not mistaken Gen Baber was awarded Sitar-i- Jurat for his gallantry in 1965 war. A great soldier but unfortunately MQM hates him

  • SHW  On January 29, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Very touching. Yes,He was a great talented person. No one else could handle the Karachi Operation like him. Getting an ASI convicted in three months is also commendable through I have heard that many officers do often protect uniformed criminals from law.

    While ZAB should be praised to select a good person like NB as a friend, he made a dire mistake in patronising Allama Ziaul Haq and paid the price with his life.
    Rgds

  • Syed Masud Hasan  On January 30, 2011 at 1:48 am

    He got second SJ in 1971

    Masud

  • Irshad Piracha  On January 30, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Why has the writer NOT dwelled upon the Late General’s handling of the Karachi insurgency in the mid 90s. Nevertheless, General Naseer Ullah Babar was indeed a great General who had not faded out of the memory of all those who knew him.

    When a Minister, he used to live in a sparsely furnished no-frill 1-bed cum a sitting room apartment in the MNA Hostel in Islamabad. And as the writer has pointed out lived a very very simple life. His doors were hardly ever closed to even the very the very ordinary people.

    • Iqbaluddin Ahmad  On January 31, 2011 at 1:18 am

      May Allah bless his soul – and guide the rest to follow his example of living with such simplicity.

      May be the following excerpt from a book will be of interest : “India has greater justification fo take interest in the plight of Muhajirs who share blood relationship with millions of families in this country than Pakistan has in respect of the population of Kashmir valley, who ethnically, culturally, linguistically, and in terms of historical memories have no relationship with the constituent population in Pakistan”( Article by K. Subramanyam in INDIA & PAKISTAN). Every time there is uprising in occupied Kashmir, we are in problem in Karachi

  • I M Mohsin  On January 31, 2011 at 1:15 am

    YAA
    here is my tribute to the late hero carried by the Nation of 25th Jan:
    mohsin

    Death of a gentleman officer
    The subject is inspired by the term Gentleman Officer as used by the
    British Colonial Govt. The title was primarily meant for the white
    officers till the officers of Indian origin were recognized as “gentleman
    cadets”, The governance in the Colonial era was headed invariably by the
    British elite with, generally, high-standards of personal integrity.
    However, the challenges produced a class of army officers etc who had
    enviable traits of character, courage and honesty despite their odious
    mission of running a colony as a one-sided business-venture. It now
    appears that the challenges brought in by independence cannot be easily
    met and we have proved it in what is left of Pakistan today out of what
    was created by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was a man of
    impeccable integrity, character and courage.

    Late General Naseerullah Khan Babar was a typical gentleman officer. I
    personally interacted with him regularly when he was the Inspector General
    of Frontier Corp in Peshawar . He was an every inch a gentleman and
    thereby a very honourable officer. I was then serving as Assistant
    Inspector General Police traffic in the-then Frontier province in early
    1970s. Heading the Frontier Corp, he was uniquely cognizant of the
    problems faced by the people of FATA whom he was supposed to provide
    security keeping in mind the hoary traditions of the past. He was equally
    concerned about the mechanism which should be in place, as soon as
    possible, by the Government of Pakistan to extend full benefits of the
    constitutional awards of rights and privileges as Pakistanis to the people
    living in the tribal areas. I used to feel greatly impressed by his
    thoughtfulness despite being a warrior who made a name wherever he served
    due to his courage and honourable conduct. His conduct during 1965 / 1971
    wars with India was exemplary whereby he won Medals of Honours but it also
    cost him the end of his uniformed career as he got injured in 1971 war. I
    can never forget that a dinner in honour of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali
    Bhutto by the incumbent Governor on FC premises, I was perhaps the junior
    most officer who attended that august occasion.

    General Babar kept his own style of working / interaction even then he
    became the Governor of NWFP. In that capacity, he had the privilege of
    dealing with the tribal areas as a representative of Federal Government.
    Accordingly, his wish to help the people concerned became almost his
    dominant mission. The development was duly supported by ZAB as he saw
    eye-to-eye with his Governor on this issue, thanks to his genius for
    strategic thinking. Most of the infrastructure which we still have is a
    tribute to the memory of General Babar and his boss which also have been
    inspired by Quaid’ concern in this matter.
    On the return from Germany, where I was posted during the Afghan war, I
    landed in Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission as a member. Soon General
    Babar took over as the Chairman of PMIC which was revitalized as he took
    it over. I served with him for about an year. Later, he became the
    Interior Minister in Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s 2nd
    Government. I was then the Chairman of the Pakistan Narcotics Control
    Board. The then Prime Minister, due to exigencies of the prevailing
    situation took a decision, after long deliberations to handover the fight
    against drugs to the army control. I advocated for the maintenance of the
    status quo in the deliberations held in this regard. The Prime Minister
    while appreciating my services indicated that she would like to try the
    alternative on an experimental basis. General Babar asked her to post me
    as Additional Secretary with him in the Ministry of Interior wherein I had
    the privilege of sharing very sensitive working done under his
    supervision/ One could always talk frankly to him on official matters.
    Later, he made sure that I moved up and took over as Secretary. In that
    capacity, I served under him for about 2 years. On many an occasions, he
    supported me whenever a controversial matter came up wherein my
    recommendation / decision was based on good faith. On such occasions, he
    would respectfully argue even with the then Prime Minister. Once she was
    convinced of the genuineness of the recommendation, she would perhaps, in
    regard to General Babar’s input, support the Minister and myself.
    Generally, He, generally, liked people with integrity and character as he
    himself always avoided compromising his own name.
    I can never forget how bravely he handled the Karachi-crisis of those
    days. He used to refuse to accept any security cover for himself as wanted
    to at pat with any Pakistani in that big city, Similarly sincerity for the
    ousted PM on Nov6, when Farooq Leghari managed to dismiss her Govt, would
    remain a great memory. On being disallowed to enter PM House, he drove to
    R-Block. Two of my colleagues came to me and told me to slip away from my
    office as meeting Gen Babar could endanger my service/career. Having
    respected the gentleman-Minister for long years I could never even imagine
    to act this way. I went to receive him at the lift which I had never done
    when he was the Minister. He was accompanied by Mr.Hamid Nasir Chatta. The
    latter complimented me for my conduct despite the dangers writ-large. He
    started calling the COAS etc. While we were having tea, I got a call from
    Presidency calling me over for a meeting.He was trying to trace Mr.Asif
    Zardari who had been seized by the agencies from Lahore as the zero-hour
    of the coup struck. I also helped the late warrior and finally he
    Along-with late Mohtarma were able to meet Mr.Zaedari in Sihala where the
    latter was being held.

    On his burial the large number of people, who made it to grave after
    “Janaza Prayer”, and their expressions were an object lesson that
    integrity and character are still honoured in our mishmash society where
    such values appear to be dying. Unfortunately, this is equally true of our
    province, now Khyber Pukhtoonkhawa and people like the late Gentleman are
    fast becoming the threatened species despite our pretensions of running an
    ‘Islamic Republic’.
    IMMohsin

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