RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — Dozens of wounded Pakistani troops, many of them maimed during the fighting in the country's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, gathered Saturday for a sports competition designed to help them recover — in body and spirit.
The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks saw thousands of Taliban militants cross over the border into Pakistan, where they meshed with homegrown Taliban fighters and their allies.
Since 2009, Pakistan's army has launched numerous operations across the tribal areas against militants, who have responded with hundreds of attacks against security forces and civilians. At least 4,000 Pakistani forces have been killed, and thousands more wounded.
The most severely wounded are sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital, Islamabad. Despite being in wheelchairs or walking with crutches or on prosthetic limbs, dozens on Saturday competed in soccer, basketball, track races and archery contests.
Capt. Jamshaid Anwar Warraich, 28, lost his leg above the knee in September 2010 in a mine blast in South Waziristan. Now he wears a prosthetic on his leg and has returned to service with his unit based in Rawalpindi.
"If someone is participating in sports, he forgets about that injury, and he comes to know that he can do something — that he's not disabled," Warraich said.