Sipahi Maqbool Hussain – A Saga of endless courage & selfless dedication
68-year-old former Pakistani soldier, Maqbool Hussain, shuffled onto the stage, almost unaware of the admiring crowd that quickly got to its feet as he entered. Standing up in the front row was Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, head bowed, clapping respectfully. The occasion was the launching of a tele-serial about the capture of Hussain during the 1965 war between hostile neighbours India and Pakistan, and the ordeals that he suffered until he was released forty years later in 2005. Sipahi Maqbool Hussain, NO. 335139 from Azad Kashmir Regiment, severely injured, was reported missing in action, presumed dead.
Forty years later, the shuffling, disoriented old man who crossed the Wagah border in exchange for civilian prisoners was a far cry from the tall, well-built soldier he once was, and was presumed to be a fisherman like the rest of the group who returned with him. But, in his saner moments, he kept writing “No.335139” whenever he was questioned about his identity. Weeks later, officials, realizing the significance of the number, handed him over to the military, under whose care he has been for the past two years. But even after months of tender and meticulous medical and psychiatric care, Maqbool Hussain still prefers to sleep on the floor, shies away from bright lights and inhabits only a small dark corner of the large VIP suite that President Musharraf has allotted to him inside a military facility.
Over the months, officers and doctors assigned to him realised that he was scribbling about his 40-year ordeal in fits and starts, and decided that it was the stuff that movies were made about. Director Haider Imam Rizvi, who has dozens of popular television plays and serials to his credit, told the gathering he and his team had been reduced to tears several times during the filming of the poignant scenes in the drama serial. “In my opinion, the production of ‘Sipahi Maqbool Hussain’ is more significant than all the 40 serials that I have produced in my entire career,” Rizvi said. The 6-episode mini serial, co-produced by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) goes on air on Pakistan Television on April 20.