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An immersive facility

The Army Museum showcases Pakistan’s history through a fetching interplay between design and tech

An immersive facility

The Army Museum, inaugurated in September 2017, is quite unlike the only museum I knew growing up: the creaky Lahore Museum whose dull displays led many a Lahori child to forever equate the word museum with boredom.

The Army Museum, unlike its colonial predecessor, is an immersive facility that showcases Pakistan’s history through a fetching interplay between design and tech. Its most exciting aspect is that much like the institution it represents, it doesn’t just stick to its own mandate, but goes much beyond it. This isn’t just a lifeless space displaying defunct helicopters and tanks, but a cutting-edge facility, ambitious and wide in its design and scope, taking in the grand sweep from partition to wars, from terrorism to culture; comfortably claiming all of Pakistan’s history and progress as its own.

As a citizen of Pakistan, if there is one thing I can vouch for, it is that the best land and infrastructure in the country belongs to the army. This museum is no exception. The money spent on it speaks for itself; in the clean, majestic lines of the building’s façade, in its sprawling lawns and polished floors, the awe-inspiring sculptures of warring horses and elephants, Quaid-e-Azam, Fatima Jinnah and Army Generals — the incontestable grandeur cannot be missed any way you turn.

The awe-inspiring sculptures of warring horses and elephants, Quaid-e-Azam, Fatima Jinnah, and Army Generals — the incontestable grandeur cannot be missed any way you turn. — Photos by the author

The awe-inspiring sculptures of warring horses and elephants, Quaid-e-Azam, Fatima Jinnah, and Army Generals — the incontestable grandeur cannot be missed any way you turn. — Photos by the author

The museum exhibits are divided into sections representing different aspects of the Pakistan Army. The first section is a series of wall panels inscribed with an exhaustive list of army men who have died fighting battles for the country since its inception. Coming face to face with wall upon wall carved with the names of thousands of young men who died prematurely is a sombre experience. In chronological order you can read these names, starting from 1947. Men died on the border every year, some years more so than others. 1965 has 16 panels; 1971, 39. The dead of Kargil fit on five panels, but there were some years, 2005 (6 panels) and 2009 (another 6 panels), whose body count left me baffled. What did all these sepoys and lance naiks die for? I wasn’t sure. All that stared at me were their names, one on top of the other; foot soldiers lost in battles I couldn’t recall.

An instrumental version of ‘Ae Rah-e-Haq ke Shaheedo’ played soulfully in the background. I sang the lyrics in my head…‘Watan ki beityaan maaen salaam kehti hayn,’ hoping they find some solace from the comforting rhetoric of shahadat (martyrdom), and entered the next section comprising bronze busts of Pakistan’s chiefs of army staff, most of whom are fortunately alive and healthy. The inscriptions next to their names detailed their professional achievements, but General Ayub, General Zia and General Musharraf’s inscriptions failed to mention their contributions to Pakistan’s politics. Odd oversight.

Coming face to face with wall upon wall carved with the names of thousands of young men who died prematurely is a sombre experience. In chronological order you can read these names, starting from 1947. Men died on the border every year, some years more so than others.

Another section focused on Pakistan’s history. It was fun to read about the Assyrrian Queen Semiramis’s “invasion of Pakistan” in 800 BC and Alexander’s “invasion of Pakistan” in 327 BC. This section also had remarkably realistic sculptures of Quaid-e-Azam, Fatima Jinnah, and Lady and Lord Mountbatten, which formed the centre of attention of most children visiting the museum. These sculptures, many of them so striking you could mistake them for actual people, made me want to know who had shaped them with such deft realism, but I couldn’t find artists’ names anywhere.

Even the paintings of ancient sites of the subcontinent (nay Pakistan), like Mehergarh and Harappa, were credited to a generic “musavvir ki aankh se.” I guess the curators felt there wasn’t much need for artists’ names in a military museum.


There were sections detailing the history of the 1965 and 1971 wars, teaching the younger generation about the Pakistan army’s complete annihilation of its easterly neighbour’s army in both these wars. It also spoke of how its nefarious designs have always been well-foiled by the army of Islam.

But the museum doesn’t just celebrate the mainstream; it also goes on to celebrate the military’s diversity. There is a wall with pictures of Pakistan army’s female staff, although these portraits aren’t accompanied by names. I guess it is enough for women to have found space in the Pakistan army. What’s in a name?

Pakistan army martyrs belonging to religious minorities have a dedicated wall of portraits too. By virtue of being men, they also find themselves named.

There is a documentary area with a large fitted screen that was playing morale-boosting songs sponsored by the ISPR. Next to it is the section on “War Against Terror,” an artfully done area with a metal detector gate that leads to a gallery of mirrors; a plaque above it reads “The Enemy Within” as you stare at yourself in the mirror. This area exits into the Rehabilitation section that details the army’s efforts in rejuvenating Pakistan from the aftermath of the war on terror. It gives them credit for not just their security endeavours but also the cultural and economic revitalization of the country. It ends with a huge portrait of Pakistan’s cricket team celebrating its T20 Champions Trophy win in London, indeed a milestone the Pakistan army can take credit for.

The Army Museum will surely be visited by an unprecedented number of Lahoris and visitors to the city, and they will go back hearts rekindled with the love of home and country.

Sabahat Zakariya

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-18 at 16.45.18
The author is a staff member.


  • This is one of the most obnoxious anti-army article I have ever read in recent times. I have seen the Army Museum Lahore and it is not only the best museum in Pakistan, it is also one of the best museums I have been to in many European countries. Satire or no satire, I fail to understand why the author have used a very good museum to hit at the Pakistan Army. Highly inappropriate to say the least.

  • The article sparked my interest to visit the museum. Having heard all the good things about the museum and it’s nationalistic theme , I’m curious to see the place. The above article have a negative undertone about it filled with sarcastic remarks. I wonder if the writer have some hidden grievances with the army or have some extreme leftist views. I can only wonder.!

    • After going through this rubbish, am sure the writer was awe inspired by what she saw & in her heart appreciate the efforts behind. Yet, spat the venom because she had to … the sole purpose of her going there .. even though her going there was not required to spew what she spat ..

  • Umar Zia Hashmi

    A cheap way to get fame.

  • It is one of the miracles of God that somebody has only managed to carry all the wrongest lessons while writing this article.
    No wonder human beings are the oddest of all creations.

  • Flip side of the story would be that it depicts that the Pakistan Army and its employees are atleast not putting these funds in their own pockets and are rather inclined to spend them in order to provide a better portrayal of our country. But I don’t know why we always opt to see the dark side of things.

  • One of the pathetic articles as expected. The article is an example of one stooping so low for a few bucks. Please find sometime and read these lines, if possible.
    Due to indifferent attitude and low IQ, one tends to forget battles in which country lost its sons; our soldiers and officers laid their lives to give opportunity to people like u to improve your attitude if not the IQ. One can feel proud that our officer to soldier shahadat ratio is the highest by any standard in the world. Coming to good standards maintained by Army Museum, this speaks of sincerity to the cause and disregard to commission/kick backs tendancy. Instead of asking civ administration to come up to such standards, u r trying to be sarcastic why Army Museum is so good. Shame. The amount of commissions and kick backs, if spent really on public projects, the outcome would be much different. U may find Lahore Museum even better than any in the US. One needs to be sincere and honest.

  • Lahore Army Museum shows nothing but the sacrifices of the sons of Pakistani Nation who laid their lives for nothing but their own motherland. The author of this article has targetted those who are not even among us today. She did so only to satisfy the inner beast called ‘hatred’ that people like her so often do now-a-days. She also did so to earn a few bucks by mocking the supreme sacrifice of sons of this Nation. But great are these Shuhada who laid their lives for people like this author so that they could earn a few more bucks. Her ‘we’ and ‘they’ narrative will not work, Insha Allah. We can only pray for intellectual terrorists like her that may Allah show them the right path, amin.

  • The writer surely has a negative undertone and sarcastic approach. Having visited the museum in detail I can dare to correct what has been written here. If she removed the negativity lens, would have found the names of artists credited for their art and sculptures right on a prominent wall just after the Shuhada gallery. Nowhere it is written that Champions trophy was won by “Army”. If the writer was unbiased, would have noted that it is ‘a Nation’s struggle ‘ that is depicted throughout war on terror gallery. By the way, no “results “ of any wars are written anywhere. But if it is desired that Indian heroes be scripted here, well; the writer might have to travel to Indian museums to soothe that desire. Ancient wars on this piece of land that we live in today, are taken as wars on Pakistani soil as the museum claims us to be a nation of thousands of years of history; only “re-born” in 1947. Nothing wrong with it!

  • Really disappointed to read the biased opinion of the writer . It actually portrays her own smallness of mind and character. It has become a fashion to try and find negativity in every aspect of army. Totally ridiculous write up and I think writer should feel ashamed of herself but only if she had an iota of shame she would have NEVER come up with something like this. Army is doing a tremendous job and whole nation baring few idiots are strongly standing behind the army.

  • Sarcasm notwithstanding, it was appalling to see the application of such a low intellectual morality with regard to writing about a very good museum. And then, using the museum as an intellectual human shield, express vitriol against the army is indeed unworthy. If the writer wanted to write against the army, she should have had the moral courage to write a piece directly instead of expressing her greviences by undermining the Shuhada mentioned in the museum who laid down their lives for the country. Moral courage is all that is needed which unfortunately is lacking in this piece of writing.

  • I have been to the Army Museum, it is undoubtedly the best not in Pakistan only but one of the best in many of the European countries I have been to. The matter of the fact is this type of pathetic article of black painting and defaming Pakistan Army published in The News newspaper is no surprise to me. This newspaper and its channel are considered to be an Indian channel. It is banned in many areas of Pakistan, in particular, Cantonement areas. It is not the author’s fault. She is just an employee and she is bound to write what the policy demands. The owner of this whole NEWS set up has hidden agendas against Pak Army and Pakistan. Such type of abnoxious articles will make no difference to the common masses of our beloved homeland, as they are fully aware of and acknowledge the sacrifices of Great Pakistan Army. Pakistan Army Zindabad!

  • Wow, I am amazed at the audacity of people commenting above. The one sided vitriol pouring in huge numbers shows there is something right about this write-up. There is tax payers money used on a PR exercise for an institution that does not really need any more coverage and yet we don’t allow any criticism of the facility. In a country where children are not encouraged to engage in activities related to arts and literature, this is what we prefer to show them and then worry how they grow up to be such war-mongerers. Why do we need a specific museum when the entire country is one.

    • Criticising the museum is okay but criticising those who laid down their lives for this country is uncalled for and highly demeaning. It is shameful and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. I am suprsed that naming the shuhada is identified by you as a PR exercise. WOW… Such low and cheap thinking.

    • Normally when large number of people speak against something like this totally biased article, it surely means that there is something wrong with this article rather than something that may be right. It is a funny logic to justify what is unjustifiable. I will go and see this museum for sure.

    • How much tax have you paid? Will you mind telling please? Every Tom, Dick, and Harry has become tax payer. Do you know Madam Nadia pain of a dead one in family? Did ever anyone from your family laid his life from country? It’s very easy to be a pseudo-libral and pseudo-intellectual. These writers are just on pay role of few political groups. Shameless and dishonest jounalists.

    • Instead of criticising a facility for common men and trying to be rep of FBR, you should ask Sabahat Zikaraya that how much money was paid to her by Maryam Safdar (Nawaz)?

  • I visited the Army Museum Lahore because someone told me that they have a gallery in the museum named Shuhada Gallery where names of thousands of army Shuhada are engraved in black stone. I wanted to see the names of my grand father, my father and my uncle who laid their lives for this country. It was such an emotional moment for me when I saw their names. I just stood there and cried for a long time. After almost 70 years someone thought to acknowledge their sacrifice with a lifetime mention. I do not even know where my grand father is buried after he embraced Shahadat in 1971, in erstwhile East Pakistan. For me, this one place is a monument, as it would be for all others who lost their loved ones in service of this nation.

    I request the authorities to name this gallery as a National Shuhada Monument, as this is the only place in Pakistan where all army Shuhada have been named from 1947 till to-date.

    May I also request the writer and the newspaper not to insult our Shaheeds.

  • Yesterday I read the article once, twice, and thrice. Today again read it and the only thing came to my mind was, “professional honesty”. Every line of article clearly tells the story of motives of writer. The impact of a famous media cell of a political party is clearly visible. Can we call the article a true specimen of “Lafafa Journalism”?

  • Sabahat learn to appreciate in life and stop being cynical. It will do you good for, it helps overcome the fortfalls in your psychological make up.

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