A former Pakistani general who served with the Turkish military during the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation said he was glad he got an opportunity to help out his Turkish brothers and sisters.
Retired Lt. Gen. Karamat Ahmed Karamat, former surgeon general of the Pakistani army, was a member of a medical team who was sent to Turkey during the operation to help Turkish military personnel and civilians who got injured.
“I was a major when I got ordered to immediately prepare to join the medical team leaving for Turkey to help the Turkish military,” Karamat told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
The operation took place in 1974, when Turkish soldiers interceded under Ankara’s guarantor status to protect the Turkish community on Cyprus.
They were responding to violence amid a Greek Cypriot attempt to forcibly unite Cyprus with Greece, then ruled by a military junta. Turkey sent 40,000 troops to the island’s north to protect its Turkish population from the ethnic violence.
It was July 17, 1974, when our team, consisting of 30 doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, left for Turkey aboard a special Pakistani military C-130 aircraft that arrived at Adana airport in Turkey in the evening.
Soon after our arrival we were moved to military camps in Mersin and Tarsus areas, he said.
Personally, it was a difficult time for the former Pakistani officer since his own wife was pregnant and in her last term at the time.
“My wife told me that I am pregnant and doctor has advised me for a Caesarian while you are going abroad; I replied ‘God will help you’ but my brothers and sisters are fighting and they need my help, so, as a soldier I should go for their help,” Karamat said.
On Sept. 3, 1974, when Karamat was in Mersin and his team was busy helping injured Turkish colleagues, he got a telegram from his father-in-law about the birth of his daughter.
The retired general was born in 1943 in southeastern Pakistan’s Punjab province. He served the Pakistani army for 37 years in its medical corps and retired in 2003.
Karamat and his team served in Turkey till September 1974 and returned to Pakistan after completing their duty.
“Still I remember these days and the time I passed with Turkish colleagues, but I have lost all contact made with friends at that time… there were no facilities back then to remain in contact with them,” he said.
He remembered the hospitality and respect he and his team received from Turkish military personnel and local people of Mersin and Tarsus.
He visited Turkey for the second time in 2003, when he was the surgeon general of the Pakistani army.
Turkey and Pakistan are two countries but one nation, since both sides love each other, he said.
Karamat said he intends to visit Turkey along with his wife again someday.
The former general urged the Pakistani youth to learn the Turkish language and also urged the Turkish youth to learn Urdu in order to understand each other better.
Pakistan and Turkey enjoy close cultural, historical, and military ties which were now expanding into more deepening economic relations, he noted.
People of both countries have love and respect for each other and we should do more to extend it to people-to-people contacts, he said.
“Turkey and Pakistan, both countries have best the medical professionals and we should share knowledge with each other,” he added.