Defenders of Pakistan

Reviewed by Haris Masood Zuberi

FighterPilotPersonifiedF16PilotSqnLdrKaiserTufailIn Pakistan’s primitive days prior to advent of the internet or even satellite television, coffee-table books still reigned supreme for those with a taste for visual adventure right in the living room. Late Mohamed Amin, the world renowned photo-journalist from Kenya recognized for his adventure photography and books including several on Pakistan and the Islamic World such as Mecca’ and ‘Journey through Pakistan’ struck with a phenomenal project on the Armed Forces of Pakistan.

In a 12”x10” hardbound volume titled ‘Defenders of Pakistan’, Pakistanis saw for the first time the splendour of their Army, Navy and Air Force, as literally up, close and personal as possible in everyday action. The book contained 206 high-definition colour photographs by Amin and his eminent team including Masud Quraishy and Duncan Willetts, from training routines, on glaciers, at sea, in flight, during battle mock-ups and live firing, and accompanied narration by renowned author Brian Tetley.

Divided into five chapters the book opens up with Pakistan Today introducing readers to the country. The nextchapter Men of War traces the origins of the Pakistani military and carries insightful details on the legacy of the British Raj. The main focus is on soldiers of Pakistan who have a rich history of exemplary service and dedication to cause. Overwhelming portraits of Nishan-i-Haider recipients spread over a centerfold reaffirm the glory of those men who lay their lives in defence of the motherland. The following chapters Courage is their WeaponGuardians of the Seas and Vigil in the Sky are dedicated to the Army, Navy and Air Force respectively. Each section contains introduction to the particular service, its then current weapons systems, training, aspirations and ingenuity as well as achievements in battle. While the narration symbolizes an undeniably well-researched saga of challenges and accomplishment, the reader is bound to overlook the write-up and focus almost entirely on the brilliant photography.

Some of the larger than life photographs still remain the main source of the nation’s perception of its defenders and also continue to appear in publications, documentaries and patriotic music videos and are also how the world has known Pakistan’s military through the internet. Several of these images have since become classics in modern Pakistani photo-literature. Such as that of a snow patrol near K2; a Cobra Gunship pilot with hands raised in prayer; a thickly whiskered Sind Regiment soldier bayonet-charging with jaw in fearsome battle cry; a sailor aboard PNS Babur signaling Morse-code; while most impressive remains the close up of a PAF F-16 fighter pilot in the olive coveralls and G-Suit gazing into the lens over his right shoulder. This photograph captured the essence of the Pakistani soldier embodied. The vigilant gaze and the intrepid soldierly expression remind one rather impulsively of a falcon; the ferocious ‘Who Dares!?’ glance combined with a sophisticated and noble stance conveyed almost entirely the nation’s anticipation of its defenders.

This compilation forever altered the way Pakistanis knew their defenders and also rather unwittingly turned out to be the biggest publicity and recruitment campaign designed for Pakistan’s armed forces. Generations of Pakistan’s warriors in the air, on land and at sea duly credit it with their choice of a military career. Although the equipment, technology and even uniforms now in use by the three forces have undergone tremendous advancements over the years, the impact this book had hasn’t quite subsided. About two decades after first hitting the stands, it still boasts status of the ultimate authority and an unquestionable classic on the veryDefenders of Pakistan.

This Review was published in Dawn ‘Books & Authors’ on 6 September 2009.

Defenders of Pakistan
By Mohamed Amin, Masud Quraishy,
Duncan Willetts & Brian Tetley
Ferozsons (Pvt) Ltd 1988
200 Pages
ISBN: 969-0-010026
Current Price: Not Listed [Approximate Rs. 750]