Visit to any museum is like a journey into the history, culture, heritage and other interesting, informative and knowledgeable aspects of one’s own country, as well as the region and beyond that. As such it serves in a befitting manner as a source of continuation of the process of learning, education and information.
The Army Museum, located a little short of the way to the new Lahore Airport over quite spacious area, is the second of its kind in the country after pretty old one at Rawalpindi and has celebrated its first anniversary couple of months back. It was inaugurated by Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on August 13, 2017 and it was opened to the general public after a month. The Army Museum is a good and much desired addition to limited museums which are already located in the provincial metropolis.
Museums take decades and even centuries to develop and the vast area around the presently covered area of the newly-established Army Museum will provide enough space for its expansion and further development to the management in the coming years.
As one passes through the reception counter, the first thing to see is four Indian captured tanks. Out of these, three were captured in one of the greatest tanks battle fought in Chowinda near Sialkot in September 1965 and the fourth one was captured during 1971 War with India. Brief history of the encounters in which these Indian tanks were captured is also provided for the information of the visitors. Stairs have also been provided to enable the visitors particularly the young ones and children to climb over each of these tanks.
There are s number of huge slabs on both sides immediately after entering the museum on which names of large number of Shuhda-e-Pakistan are engraved starting from 1047 when Pakistan came into existence till 2016 of the officers and jawans of the Pakistan Army who had sacrificed their lives in the defence of the mother in the Wars with India and in the on-going war against terrorists, extremists and militants in all their manifestations. A number of slabs are vacant for updating the ever-growing list of Shuhda-e-Pakistan from time to time. Quite obviously, engraving the names of our brave and courageous sons of the soil is time consuming.
Before moving on to various galleries, on the left side one sees a map showing Army Structure thus providing information what are the main wings of the Pakistan Army etc.
On the right side just opposite to the Army Structure, there are busts of the Commander-in-Chiefs and the Chiefs of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army from 1947 till now. It is a well-known fact that two British Generals in Sir Frank Masservy and Sir Douglas David Gracy had headed the Pakistan Army till early 1951 when General Muhammad Ayub Khan was entrusted with the army command as the first Pakistan Muslim Commander-in-Chief. Onwards, there were busts of General Muhammad Musa, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, Lt General Gul Hassan, General Tikka Khan,General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, General Mirza Aslam Beg, General Asif Nawaz Janjua, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, General Jahangir Karamat,General Pervez Musharraf, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General Raheel Sharif and the present COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa. There is some open space between General Raheel Sharif and General Qamar Javed Bajwa busts to put on busts of the Army Chiefs who will be retiring on completion of their tenures and their successors taking over the Army Command accordingly.
Before entering the different galleries on the left or right, one sees in the lounge life-sized statues of war elephants and war horses in action along with their riders and brief history provides information as to when these were used.
On the right side, the gallery Rebirth of a Nation, one sees life size portraits of the Quaid-i-Azam while addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in August 1947 while Lord Mountbatten was seated next to him. Left to them in the visitors’ gallery, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Lady Mountbatten are seen seated. There were photographs, names and brief information of the leaders of the Pakistan Movement who had played quite significant and important roles in the creation of Pakistan under inspiring leadership of Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Juinnah.
Next gallery provides pictorial informational about Indian interferences and skirmish which had resulted in the cessation of East Pakistan and becoming Bangladesh in December 1971. A huge map shows location of number of Mukti Bahini Training Centres in India alongwith who headed these camps where about one lakh armed personnel were provided training by the Indian Army before these were inducted into East Pakistan in the garb of Mukti Bahini as if they were locals to carry on massacre of Pakistanis who were committed patriots and not ready to say or hear even a single word against Pakistan. A burning train of Muslims migrating to their newly created motherland being attacked by armed Hindus and Sikhs and rescued by Baluch Regiment jawans whose mere arrival was enough to force the attackers runway.
Besides galleries displaying centuries old all sorts of weapons like pistols and guns etc and photographs of brave and courageous non-Muslims officers and jawans of Pakistan Army have also been displayed duly as a tribute to the white part of the national flag which signifies that minorities also live in Pakistan.
And a very interesting aspect of the Army Museum is the display of different aspects of the years long war on terror and the visitors have to pass through a pretty long gallery in a zig zag manner and information provided all along about various operations which have already been carried out by Pakistan Army in Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is in process of being merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa , and other terrorists hit areas all over the country along with achievements achieved so far and objectives for which on-going Operation Raddul Fassad has been launched to eliminate terrorists, militants and extremists in all their manifestations whatsoever. Photographs of large number of young students and their teachers martyred in the terrorists attacks on the Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014 which had resulted in the unanimous formation of the National Action Plan are a source of inspiration and remembrance for the visitors that this our war for survival as well as for ensuring and safeguarding solidarity and security of Pakistan and Officers and jawans of Pakistan Armed Forces, Law Enforcement Agencies, Rangers and Police are continuing to lay down their lives for achieving these cherished objectives. They will be successful with determination and commitment in the war on terror with the continued blessings of Almighty Allah, Inshallah, in due course of time.
This is not all. There is lot more to see in the Army Museum Lahore which is being visited by growing number of families including the young ones every day. Seeing is believing as well as knowing and traversing through the annals of history.
The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.