“Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think,” says Dr Robert Lanza, America’s Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology.
Lanza says while our bodies disintegrate, the “alive feeling — the ‘Who am I?’— is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain … this energy doesn’t go away at death.” It is an irrefutable fact of science that “energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed”.
If Lanza is to be believed that energy transcends from one world to the other, then the ‘20-watt fountain of energy’ that Major Munawar Khan possessed throughout his living moments is not dead. Eerie it may sound, but as his son, Brigadier (r) Waqar Ahmad Malik re-lives the story of his late father, the distinction between past, present and future suddenly departs from the room where we are sitting one late evening in Islamabad.
Born in Chakwal, as a child, Munawar Khan had just one wish burning in his heart — to serve in the army. One day he came upon a throng of people gathered to witness the British subcontinental race in the area. When the starter’s gun was fired, the runners took off. Reflexively, Munawar jumped in. He won the race. “Who is he?” asked everyone, stunned by the boy’s performance. “I want to join the army,” said the class eight student, when the head of the regiment approached him.
There and then, the boy’s wish was granted. The British saw the potential in the boy as a great athlete. They ‘adopted’ him; educated him and at turning 18, they enlisted him in the army.
When the Second World War broke out, Munawar Khan was sent off to fight the Japanese who had advanced into Burma and were set to capture its capital Rangoon. After the fall of Rangoon, Munawar along with his fellow soldiers was taken a prisoner of war by the Japanese.
While incarcerated, Munawar mastered the Japanese language by befriending the prison guards. ‘You teach me Japanese and I’ll teach you English,’ was the done deal. It paid rich dividends. When a Japanese senior officer came visiting the prison, he was struck by Munawar’s fluency in Japanese language.
Lady Luck smiled yet once more. Just as the British saw a potential in the young lad in a remote village of undivided India when he won the race hands down, the Japanese singled him out as a great asset, worthy of their notice. From the tiny mosquito ridden cell, Munawar was shifted to a fancy bungalow with all the frills available in wartime. Joining the Imperial Japanese Army, Munawar underwent rigorous military training, the kind Navy Seals in America go through.
In this theatre of war another event spawned. Led by Subhas Chandra Bose, The Indian National Army (INA) was born in 1942 to fight for independence from the British in India. Major Munawar was a perfect fit and joined this army.
The INA already had leading lights like Maj Gen M.Z. Kiani, Col Shahnawaz Khan, Major Habib ur Rehman and Col. A.I. Dara. When the Allies won, Munawar along with other INA officers was taken a prisoner and sent to India for a “treason” trial.
While narrating his father’s heroics mixed with harrowing incidents, tears often well up in Brigadier Waqar’s eyes. But there is comic relief too during the tale. A Hindu billionaire’s daughter fell in love with Munawar Khan and would visit him in jail daily carrying along a bouquet of flowers. “Marry me,” she said to him one day. “I can’t”, he replied. “Why?”, she asked. “Because you’re a Hindu and I am a Muslim”, he said. “I will convert”, she replied. “You’re a billionaire’s daughter and I am the son of a poor father”, he said. “Never mind, I’ll serve you and your family happily”.
The young beautiful woman dared Munawar to escape from jail and come for dinner at her father’s home to prove his bravado. “My father took up the challenge. Each evening, the jail superintendent made a final round. My father grabbed him and knocked him out when he reached his cell. He quickly changed into his uniform and confidently walked out of the prison to sit in the superintendent’s waiting car. It was dark and my father’s cap covered his face. He ordered the driver to take him to the billionaire’s home where the young woman and her family were speechless. Of course on his return to the prison, my father was given the third degree and thrown into a solitary cell to be court martialled.”
Lady Luck once again came to Munawar’s rescue. Partition had occurred and Munawar with other INA prisoners were free to cross over to a brand new homeland called Pakistan. “At the border, they received a heroes’ welcome. Pakistanis carried them on their shoulders.”
Munawar settled down with a job in the private sector near Lawrencepur, Attock. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who had heard of his brave exploits, immediately wrote Munawar a personal letter inviting him to join the Pakistan Army.
From the British to the Japanese to the Pakistan army, by now Munawar was war hardy and raring to go to the frontlines against India in Kashmir. An opportunity provided itself when he joined the Azad Kashmir Regiment that later became the Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (AKRF). The AKRF had its own intake and training structure separate from the Pakistan Army.
In 1964, just as Munawar was to become Lt. Col, he suffered a mild heart attack that sealed his chances for promotion. Still, the army needed him and sent him to fight yet again.
In July 1965 ‘Operation Gibraltar,’ a code name given by the Pakistan Army to infiltrate Jammu & Kashmir was set in motion. Major Munawar distinguished himself yet again. Commanding his troops, he infiltrated into India through a pass over the town of Rajouri. This pass witnessed very heavy fighting. According to Wikipedia, the pass was named after him and called ‘Munawar Pass’ by locals who welcomed the Pakistani major as their saviour.
Major Munawar occupied the 500 square miles area for full three months. For his acts of gallantry, he was given the title of ‘Ghazi-i-Kashmir.’ While citing Lt. Col Waqi, Lt. Gen (r) Mahmud Ahmed in a 640-paged tome titled History of Indo-Pak War—1965 writes:
“He [Maj. Munawar] was administering the area, he had his own police officials, Tehsildar and government. The local population fully supported him, providing whatever assistance they could. He was operating in the entire Rajouri valley …”
Suddenly orders arrived that Munawar and his men vacate the area and report back to GHQ in Rawalpindi. Sad, dejected and disappointed, he bid farewell to the populace who were loath to let him go. They cried for him.
Later Major Munawar was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat for gallantry and the title of ‘King of Rajouri’ by President Ayub Khan. A few years later, he passed away.
“Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether,” reinforces the scientist Lanza. A person’s energy never dies. Major Munawar’s ‘20-watt fountain of energy’ lives on as a legacy of valour and bravado.