Pakistan’s finest hour
Asif Haroon Raja
48 years ago, the Indian Army crossed Wagah border at 4 a.m. on 6th September and unleashed an undeclared war against Pakistan. It was an all out war both in territorial expanse and the mass of resources. Everything was committed to annihilate Pakistan once and for all but Pakistan armed forces frustrated their designs. Huge sacrifices were made by the brave hearts for the defence of motherland. In memory of their supreme sacrifices, Defence Day is celebrated with great fervor on every 6th September. Special functions are held and wreaths are laid on the graves of Shaheeds who were awarded Nishan-e-Haider and Hilal-e-Jurat and prayers are offered for all those who sacrificed their lives for the defence of motherland.
Conflict between India and Pakistan is rooted in the events and episodes preceding the creation of Pakistan in 1947. For sure, it has been a contest between two contending ideologies and opposing socio-religious creeds. Partition of the Subcontinent and consequent creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947 was yet another event that widened the gulf between the two nations and properly put India on the path to unending animosity and antagonism apropos Pakistan.
Not reconciling to the existence of Pakistan, breakup of Pakistan both through kinetic and non-kinetic means became an inalienable part of India’s national pursuits and purpose. Pakistan, thus, emerged as a major preoccupation for India’s foreign and defence policy. This had brought both nations to the battlefield of Kashmir immediately after partition, when Pakistan virtually had no armed forces worth the name and was not even an established polity.
Yet, people of Pakistan stood to their feet and were able to liberate significant chunks of occupied land in form of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan. This was the first section in the string of the struggle after the creation of Pakistan against the Indian ideology, which had transformed into a sort of expansionism.
Ever since, Kashmir has become the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. India claims that Kashmir is its Atoot Ang, Pakistan maintains that Kashmir is its jugular vein. Despite so many UNSC resolutions and so many proposals made by UN appointed mediators, India refused to honor its pledge of giving the right of self-determination to Kashmiris and holding a plebiscite under UN supervision.
It was owing to India’s uncompromising and stubborn attitude that Pakistan was forced to launch operation Gibraltar in August 1965, using Azad Kashmir Mujahideen with a view to creating conditions for a guerrilla war followed by mass uprising and thus forcing India to settle the dispute in accordance with UN resolutions. Although the 7000 strong force managed to infiltrate on a wide front undetected, it ran into grave difficulties since the operation had been launched in haste without adequate preparations and without preparing Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir to pick up arms against occupation forces. Once Indian Army started attacking positions across the ceasefire line, Operation Grand Slam was launched on 0I September through Chamb Valley.
After establishing bridgehead across River Tawi, Chamb was captured on 2 September. The force was well-geared to launch a deeper manoeuvre to capture Akhnur which in that point of time was defenseless, but at that critical stage, the change of command brought operational pause and gave time to Indian forces to regain balance for the defence of Akhnur. Maj Gen Akhtar Malik who had conceived the whole plan was replaced by Maj Gen Yahya Khan. The new commander preferred to capture Jaurian first. Jaurian was captured on 5 September. Had Akhnur been annexed by the evening of 5 September, it would have cut India from Kashmir and India may not have ventured to attack Pakistan the next morning.
Even while forces of the two countries were at brawl with each other in Kashmir, it was implicitly understood that the war would remain limited to Kashmir, the disputed territory, and would not transcend to established international border as had happened in 1948. Finding itself in a precarious situation in Kashmir, Indian military launched an all out offensive in early hours of 6 September without declaring war. Their first target was Lahore which was attacked with a Corps plus size force from three directions. Indian Army chief Gen JN Choudhri was so sure of victory that he bragged that he will have his breakfast in Lahore Gymkhana Club next morning.
Although taken by complete surprise, Pak forces sprang into action. Soul stirring address to the nation by Field Marshal Ayub Khan acted as a tonic and the whole nation stood behind Pak forces. Civil citizenry, at a number of places, tried to force its way to the borders to wrestle with the advancing Indian forces. Most of them were either bare-handed or at best equipped with their hunting shot-guns. The nation stood to the occasion to defend the state, which bound various ethnicities like beads of a cord together. Nonetheless, it was the weapon of spirit and character that they were equipped with, something that indeed overwhelmed the numerical superiority enjoyed by India due to its size and thus resources.
The two sides remained locked in mortal combat; India wanting to decimate Pak forces and the latter determined to throw out three-time superior aggressor. The offensive against Lahore was blunted by the extraordinary grit and determination displayed by all ranks particularly young officers, including the valor of Maj Aziz Bhatti Shaheed who was awarded Nishan-e-Haider.
Once the offensive was stalled, Pak Army launched a counter offensive with 1 Armoured Division and 7 Division and captured Khem Karan. When our forces were poised to advance towards Amritsar, at that stage Indian military sprung another surprise by launching its main offensive opposite Sialkot sector. Offensive in Khem Karan sector had to be called off and 1 Armoured Division rushed towards Sialkot to regain strategic balance.
Biggest tank battle after 2nd world war took place in the triangle formed by Badiana-Chawinda-Pasrur. Despite being heavily outnumbered and outgunned, the attack was halted inflicting astronomical casualties upon Indian tanks, soldiers and jets. 180 tanks were knocked down in that do-or-die battle of Chawinda. Their losses were so huge that it took the steam out of Indian offensive and India started pleading for ceasefire.
Pak Army had held its ground and repulsed multi-pronged offensives while the PAF crippled Indian air force. Dare devilry of Squadron Leader MM Alam who knocked down six Indian jets made headlines in world newspapers. Pak Navy didn’t lag behind and added a feather in her cap by successfully hitting Indian naval harbor at Dwarka.
Pakistan had a definite edge when the UN brokered a ceasefire on 23rd September. Its strategic reserve was in a position to destroy the enemy forces stranded in Ravi-Chenab corridor. The test was over in about seventeen days. The nation stood victorious. It was Pakistan’s ‘finest hour’.
The entire world was stunned over the success attained by Pakistan as a nation. Pakistan’s military victory over India in the war of 1965 was acknowledged from all pertinent quarters including independent international observers. Daily Times London reported, “India is being soundly beaten by a nation which is outnumbered by four and a half to one in population and three to one in size of armed forces”. Louis Karrar wrote in Times, “Who can defeat a nation which knows how to play hide and seek with death”?
A hard-nerve nation alone can win such a struggle, and Pakistani is undoubtedly hard in nerves and spirit. Newsweek Pakistan noted in its 16 September 2010 issue that despite crises Pakistan is the bravest nation in the world. In the words of Anatol Lieven, the author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’, Pakistan is “in many ways surprisingly tough and resilient as a state and a society” and that “Pakistan is quite simply far more important to the region, the West and the world than is Afghanistan: a statement which is a matter not of sentiment but of mathematics.”
Our armed forces which are among the best in the world are up against internal insurgencies and external threats. Despite their heavy involvement in war on terror, they continue to hone their weapons and remain ever vigilant to take on the external challenges squarely. We as a nation beset with myriad of problems must shun our differences and get united to make Pakistan strong and face the conspiracies of our adversaries scheming to undo Pakistan conjointly. We must never forget the age-old adage that ‘united we stand, divided we fall’. Unity and consolidated home front is the best defence. We just need to bring back the spirit of 1965, a déjà vu that the Pakistan of 21st century earnestly needs and constantly looks for.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist and author of books, firstname.lastname@example.org