Pakistan Air Force uses Shaheen (hawk) as its symbol. Appropriately so, notes this author.
Posted: 8 Ramadan 1422, 24 November 2001
Some time ago, for few days, we were at the Mazar Shareef airport, waiting for return flight. There were other passengers as well wearing distinguished outfits. They were staying in the basement of the airport, carrying Shaheen (hawks) on their hands whenever they came out. When we became little acquainted, I asked them "Where did you find these birds and where are you taking them?"
A Shaheen is faithful to whichever hand it is sold to.
The man said: "These Shaheens are for sale, we caught them from the open skies of deserts, trained them and now they are ready to hunt rabbits, quails and busters. They catch their prey alive and return to masters without taking any bite. Thus, they are very high-priced and we are taking them to Dubai in a hope to sell to Arab sheikhs.
How much do you expect, I asked? He mentioned a figure in hundreds of thousand.
We were amazed by the price and exclaimed, "What is the difference between a shaheen and a kite (another predatory bird of the hawk family); same beak, same eyes same claws and they look alike as well."
The hunter said, there is a big difference in flight and attack capabilities and these shaheens are trained; they hunt but do not benefit from the hunt. Instead, they bring the prey to their master; that is why they are valuable for their fans.
Why don't they eat the hunt? We asked.
These shaheens are taught like that.
You mean they are servants and slaves of their masters.
Something like that, he sniggered. He added that for the satisfaction of shaheen's animal desires, we cling a piece of meat on their feet while hunting.
But why are their eyes covered?
If their eyes are open then a Shaheen uses its beak on our skin and can take out a chunk of meat. That is why gloves are needed as well.
Now you have a string attached to its foot and it cannot escape but when you let it go for hunt, why does it agree to come back to the same incarceration.
It's habitual sir; a Shaheen is faithful to whichever hand it is sold to.
Then we departed.
With the American bombardment on Kabul and Mazar Shareef, today, we remember the whole conversation one by one.
For centuries, international hunters chained shaheens and covered their eyes with blinds. The high fliers who hunted on their need and will are now forced to be slaves of their masters. Neither can they hunt nor can they eat on their will. Pieces of meat, clung to their claws, keep them satisfied. They see, only when a bigger buyer, after paying a big amount, opens up their eyes. Yet, he opens their eyes only when he wants to play with some hunts. Now the flight and attack of shaheen is confined to the master's will and string. It can catch with its iron claws but cannot use its sharp beak, which can snatch a chunk of meat through skin.
There was a big hue and cry that flight and attack range of our Shaheen is about 2000 km. Now it turns out that it is merely a trained Shaheen. There were big, big auctions. The insiders even say that the sellers were in a hurry to sell them.
In 1965 and 1971, there was a huge number of Shaheens but it is learnt that their eyes are now covered and their feet are tied up with strings.
Descendants of M. M. Alam and Captain Younis (two legendary pilots of Pakistan Air Force) are in training to serve their masters.
In pictures, Iqbal's shaheen is sitting on his hand and now Pakistan's Shaheens are sitting on the hands of General Pervez.
On roads, lingering is the "Shaheen Force" whose flight extends to asking for nikah naamas (marriage certificates) from married couples and commissions from ramblers.
La ilaha IllAllah