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Turkish engineers died saving Pakistanis

July 10, 2006

ISLAMABAD, July 9: The two Turkish engineers — Genk Yakin and Ufuk Arsalan – have left indelible imprint on the minds and hearts of Pakistanis and survivors of last October’s devastating earthquake when they died in the line of duty in Balakot with their boots on.

Geological engineers by profession, they had come to Pakistan on a Turkish project to search and rescue quake survivors and erect shelters for them.

In November, their tent caught fire while they were asleep and the two suffered fatal burn injuries, making the supreme sacrifice for the calamity-hit Pakistani brethren.

They came for the sake of humanity, leaving their families and friends behind, and to help the people who had lost everything in the earthquake.

They had one goal to achieve and that was to help their brethren in distress. They knew the harsh Himalayan winter would be tough and surviving in tents, especially when they were not winterised, in itself would be an uphill task. But their passion to alleviate human misery and their devotion to the daunting task were too strong to be affected by the vagaries of weather.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah remarked about their sacrifice that it had won hearts of the Pakistani nation.

“This sacrifice has strengthened and solidified our centuries-old friendship,” he said.

The deep-rooted ties between the two countries can be gauged from the fact that Turkey was the first country to send aid to Pakistan immediately after the killer trembler struck on Oct 8, 2005. Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan also visited the affected areas to personally console the survivors.

But what a seven-year old Turkish girl Erva Yalcin felt and did for Pakistani children like her, who either died or became orphans, is enough to bring tears to the eyes of many. Her gesture could ever be measured in cash or kind.

She could not give millions or even a few hundred dollars, as she came from a humble background. All Yalcin could think of helping the quake victims, was to donate her gold bangles which every father in Turkey gives his new-born girl as the most-loved treasure throughout her life. Innocent Yalcin held those bangles very close to heart.

As a small token of saying thank you from the people of Pakistan to their Turkish brethren, President General Pervez Musharraf on June 30 announced Sitara-e-Eisaar for the two engineers.

Little Yalcin was conferred on the Sitara-e-Eisaar and also given a token amount of 5,000 dollars in recognition of her soul-stirring gesture towards Pakistan.

The government has decided to build a memorial in Islamabad for the two Turkish heroes who conquered the hearts of everyone.—APP