‘Siphai Maqbool Hussain’, a play that narrates the true story of a Pakistani soldier, Maqbool Hussain, premiered on Tuesday at the Army Auditorium.
The premiere of the play was attended by a large number of people from all walks of life. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Kayani, the chief guest of the event, applauded Hussain’s story for its portrayal of his valour. Co-produced by the Inter-Services Public Relations and Interflow Communications Limited, ‘Siphai Maqbool Hussain’ touched the hearts of the spectators, as the play delineated the suffering and inhumane treatment of Hussain and the cruelty of his captors, who brutally cut his tongue.
40 years: Hussain, who was injured and taken prisoner by the Indian Army in the 1965 war, spent 40 years in Indian jails.
He was released as a civilian prisoner in 2005. During his imprisonment, Hussain was subjected to terrible human rights abuses.
Hailing from Azad Kashmir, and engaged to Naseeran before joining army, Hussain’s aging mother kept waiting for his return. When she died, Hussain’s mother was buried at the entrance of the village at her request, so that she could ‘meet’ her son when he returned.
Haider Imam Rizvi directed the play, while the cast included Raja Haider, Batin Farooqi, Riaz Mastana, Hassan Niazi, Reeja and Ghazala Butt. Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan sung the play’s theme song. ‘Siphai Maqbool Hussain’ will also be telecast on Pakistan Television as a weekly serial.
As the story unfolds, Hussain, bearing army No 335139, is shown being hit by enemy fire on the Line of Control at the start of the 1965 war. Subsequently, he is taken prisoner by the Indian army, who deny him Prisoner of War status. Trained in the traditions of the Pakistan Army, Hussain faces all the suffering and refuses to share any information about his country with his captors — so much so that when they cut out his tongue, he writes ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ (long live Pakistan) in his own blood. Hussain also becomes mentally ill during his four decades of incarceration.
When the real Hussain was brought on stage at the end of the performance, he had a blank look on his face and was unable to recognise the army chief, who went on stage and shook hands with him.
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 respecfully. 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 Pak 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.