Written By: Col Azam Qadri (R)
Captain Raja Muhammad Sarwar Shaheed (1910-July 27, 1948)
Captain Muhammad Sarwar was the first Nishan-e-Haider in the history of our great nation. He was born in village Singhori, Rawalpindi in 1910. His father, Raja Muhammad Hayat Khan served in the British Indian Army and rose to rank of Havildar. He served with distinction during WW-I and was awarded with a war medal. Along with the medal, the British Government also awarded him with three squares of agricultural land in Chak 229 Tehsil Samundri. After his retirement from the British Indian Army, Raja Muhammad Hayat Khan was also appointed as the “numberdar” of his village. He passed away on February 23, 1932.
Since his childhood, Raja Muhammad Sarwar was fond of reading and he acquired extensive religious knowledge. The people of his village named him “Sakhi (generous) Sarwar”. The chief characteristic of his nature was piety and devotion. His other hobbies were horse riding, hunting, and playing football.
He started his military career in the ranks as a Sepoy. He was a self-made man who finally rose to be a commissioned officer. He joined as a recruit in Baloch Regiment on April 15, 1929 and got his initial training from the old Baloch Centre at Karachi. He served there until April 30, 1941. On April 27, 1944, he passed out as a Commissioned Officer from Indian Military Academy Dehradun and took part in World War II, where he was awarded the Burma Star.
After independence, Captain Muhammad Sarwar joined the Punjab Regiment of Pakistan Army. Captain Muhammad Sarwar was serving as a Company Commander in the Uri Sector in Kashmir when he was tasked by his Battalion Commander to undertake a very important operation that involved a pre-emptive attack on a well defended Indian position that was to serve as a base for further operations by his battalion. Indian Army had landed in Srinagar on October 27, 1947 and since then advanced upto Uri. Indians had plans to capture the remaining Kashmir. There was a need to stop Indian advance and save innocent Kashmiris. Young Captain Sarwar decided to volunteer for noble cause of defending Kashmir.
The strength of the Indian Army was more than eight Brigades in Uri Sector and they were supported by tanks and engineers. What made the task more challenging was the fact that the Indian posts were located on an uphill position and had many LMG positions and tanks in this area.
The Commanding Officer asked for a volunteer who can silence enemy tanks and guns by ‘surprise attack’. Captain Muhammad Sarwar said, “Sir, I will perform this duty”. Capt Muhammad Sarwar thus planned his attack with diminutive details and the essence of his success depended upon the charge with an element of surprise. This called for highest level of leadership to lead his company by example, which he did by leading the charge himself.
By attacking a strongly fortified enemy position under heavy machine gun, grenade, and mortar fire, he not only led his Company bravely but inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy.
Having achieved this initial foothold, he held it against several repeated counter-attacks and finally secured it as a base of future operations. In order to provide a safe passage to his battalion, he volunteered to make way for the rest of his battalion.
On the night of July 27, 1948 at 0300 hours, he took along six men, crawled out of his bunker to cut the enemy's barbed wire barrier to make way for his battalion to move through this gap for further operations. He moved stealthily and bravely, closed up to the defensive position of the Indians and was able to cut the barbed wire for his battalion to pass through. While he was waiting to guide his comrades, he was picked up by the Indians, when he was still perched up near the gap in the barbed wire, he received a direct burst of enemy's heavy machine gun fire, and was wounded badly. He however, continued guiding his battalion despite being badly wounded and eventually embraced shahadat on the spot. By that time, the battalion was able to pass through, assemble and complete its task successfully.
In recognition for his courage, selflessness, and bravery that was beyond the call of duty, he was posthumously awarded with the first Nishan-e-Haider.
Naik Saif Ali Janjua Shaheed (April 25, 1922-October 26, 1948)
Naik Saif Ali Janjua was born in a Janjua Rajput family on April 25, 1922 in Khandbaz (Khandhar) Tehsil Nakial, Kotli (Azad Jammu and Kashmir).
Saif joined the Royal Corps of Engineers in British Indian Army as a “Sapper” (Sepoy in Engineers) on March 18, 1941, while he was only eighteen years old.
Later, he served overseas for 4 years during WW II. On termination of war, his unit sailed back to the subcontinent, and remained stationed at Jullundur and Lahore.
After completing his service in the British Indian Army in 1947, he came back to his native town to apply his knowledge to good use and started raising a volunteer Haidari Force. He also inspired and got support of Sardar Fateh Muhammad Karailvi. On January 1, 1948, Haidari Force was further raised to a battalion strength and named as “Sher-e-Riasti Battalion” under the command of Lt Col Muhammad Sher Khan. Later on during the re-organisation phase of Azad Kashmir Regular Forces (AKRF), “Sher-e-Riasti Battalion” was re-designated as 18 Azad Kashmir Battalion. Indian forces after landing in Srinagar on October 27, 1947, advanced with the intention to capture whole of Kashmir. “Sher-e-Riasti Battalion” (18AK) of Pakistan Army comprising Kashmiri Muslims could not stay silent and joined the Azad Forces against Indian occupation. Naik Saif, being part of the battalion, participated in these operations with full zeal and fervor.
Saif Ali Janjua showed exceptional leadership qualities, and was promoted as a Naik, well before his time and appointed as Platoon Commander; an appointment normally given to officers or Junior Commissioned Officers. While acting as a Platoon Commander, he set personal examples in gallantry and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy at Bhudha Khanna where his platoon was given the responsibility to defend Bhudha Khanna.
During this period of re-organisation of freedom fighters, a major Indian offensive supported by armour, artillery, and air force to establish link-up with Poonch was gaining momentum in Mendhar Sector. A platoon of “Sher-e-Riasti Battalion”, commanded by Naik Saif Ali Janjua, was deployed on the dominant Pir Kalewa feature (6640) along the Rajauri-Bhimber Gali route. The Indians attacked with 5 and 19 Brigade at Pir Kalewa on October 20, 1948; but these attempts were repulsed every time. However, Indian Army was successful towards the right of Pir Kalewa feature and captured Naili and Sarola. The defences at Pir Kalewa were untenable and situation had deteriorated further but Naik Saif and his platoon were determined to stop Indian advance. On night October 24/25, 1948, Naik Saif inducted few more volunteers from his own village to strengthen his post. On the night of October 25/26, 1948, Indian attack by 5 Brigade Group with armour in support and occasional air strikes commenced all along the front held by “Sher-e-Riasti Battalion”. Indian Army captured Bhudha Khanna, which was defended by a platoon of B Company and then managed to isolate defences at Pir Kalewa.
Indians successfully moved towards the rear of Pir Kalewa feature, developed pressure on Barot Gali by 0500 hours and then launched major attack against Pir Kalewa post.
The Indians were allowed to move forward up to about 100 yards and then Naik Saif ordered his platoon to engage the assaulting troops with all available firepower. He led his men gallantly and continued shouting slogans of encouragement while also passing instructions. Meanwhile, a complete section had suffered heavy casualties, but Naik Saif single-handedly held the position until the arrival of reinforcements. He himself took over the Bren gun and started effectively engaging hapless advancing enemy soldiers from an open place.
The devotion, highest standard of bravery and exemplary leadership of Naik Saif was instrumental in forcing the enemy to withdraw. The Indians reorganised with fresh troops at 0615 hours. After air strikes, Indian artillery, tanks and mortars continually engaged the position for two hours. Then Indians resumed their attack on the post with fresh troops. However, they again failed and were repulsed thrice.
Brave Naik Saif had meanwhile received severe splinter wounds in both his legs during enemy shelling but he continued firing his Bren gun. Despite his severe wounds, he also continued commanding his men effectively by encouraging and regrouping them to face renewed Indian attacks.
By 1500 hours, fourth Indian attempt against Pir Kalewa post had also been repulsed but enemy artillery was continuously and heavily engaging the position. The communication with Battalion Headquarters was restored during the respite in fighting and resultantly, the reinforcement was rushed towards Pir Kalewa.
In the meantime, gallant Saif hit and brought down an enemy aircraft with his Bren gun fire.
It was at this time when all the available ammunition at the post had been expended and the reinforcement had not reached yet. Naik Saif had suffered huge loss of blood from his wounds; however, he dragged himself around to collect ammunition from the dead and wounded, and distributed it personally to the surviving soldiers.
Naik Saif was reorganising and repositioning his surviving men to face another fresh wave of enemy assault, which was preceded by even heavier and intense artillery shelling, when an artillery shell hit him fatally.
The Indians could not succeed to capture the post despite heavy losses until brave Naik Saif Ali was alive. Due to the severe injuries, he embraced martyrdom on October 26, 1948.
The extreme selfless and most courageous conduct displayed by Naik Saif Ali Janjua under worst battle conditions is a unique example of chivalry.
On his unique selfless conduct and devotion to duty, he was awarded with Hilal-e-Kashmir (posthumous), the highest operational award of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, on March 14, 1949.
Government of Pakistan, on November 30, 1995 notified the equivalence of Hilal-e-Kashmir with Nishan-e Haider. Hence Naik Saif Ali Janjua became the 9th reciepient of Nishan-e Haider.
Major Muhammad Tufail Shaheed (1914-August 7, 1958)
Major Tufail Muhammad was born in 1914 at Hoshiarpur (now part of Indian Punjab). He got his commission in 1943 and joined the Punjab Regiment. At the time of partition, he opted to come to Pakistan, and thereafter he joined Pakistan Army, and got his first posting to 1/16 Punjab Regiment (later re-designated as 13 Punjab). During his professionally exceptional career, he served on several instructional and command appointments.
In 1958, Major Tufail Muhammed was posted to East Pakistan as a company commander in a border militia battalion of East Pakistan Rifles (EPR). During his tenure of duty, the Indian troops infiltrated into Pakistani territory through the Pathoria Forest and captured a village in the area of Lakshmipur on the Pakistani side of the border.
His battalion was tasked to evict the enemy and the Battalion Commander ordered Major Tufail to launch an attack to push out the Indian troops from the village. The attack was launched on August 7, 1958. Taking cover of the darkness, he attacked the Indians by dividing his attacking force into three groups. During the assault on enemy positions, Major Muhammad Tufail was hit by three bullets, that pierced his stomach. He did not lose his wits, and using sheer willpower when he was bleeding profusely, he kept advancing towards his objective.
During the attack, he spotted an Indian Light Machine Gun (LMG) that was making the task of attacking force difficult and even accounted for the shahadat of another officer. After locating this gun, he closed up and threw a grenade, silencing this LMG. With fatal injuries, he crawled further towards an enemy officer, who was aiming to kill a Pakistani soldier. In a hand-to-hand fight, Major Muhammad Tufail struck the Indian officer’s head with his own steel helmet. Despite being fatally wounded, he led the whole operation until all the area was cleared off the Indian troops.
By his sheer presence and leading troops from the front, this brave son of the soil kept boosting the morale of his men, who were now entangled in hand-to-hand fight, and finally Indians fled, leaving behind four dead and three prisoners.
By the time the operation was completed, he had lost a lot of blood and energy due to bullet injuries. At that juncture, he conveyed to his junior officer, “I have completed my duty; the enemy is on the run, you take over the command now”.
With the mission now completed, Major Tufail took a sigh of relief, thanked Almighty Allah, and embraced Shahadat smilingly, thus becoming immortal.
For his act of bravery, showing great resilience and perseverance while leading from the front, killing an Indian commander despite being wounded in a hand-to-hand fight, something rarely displayed in war, he was awarded with Nishan-e-Haider.
Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed (1928-September 11, 1965)
Originally named Aziz Ahmad, Major Aziz Bhatti was born in 1928. During the period he was in Hong Kong his name stayed as Aziz Ahmad. Even the initials on the golden ring he wore had engravings of “A.A.” “As a nick name,” said his mother, “We called him Raja”.
In 1946, Major Aziz Bhatti was enlisted as Airman with the RIAF and within a short period rose to rank of Corporal by 1947.
At the time of partition, he decided to join Pakistan Army and applied for selection as an officer. He was selected for the first course to be organised and run at the Pakistan Military Academy – The First PMA Long Course. The Course started in the last week of January 1948. Gentleman Cadet Aziz Bhatti excelled and performed well in all aspects of life at PMA.
On the passing out parade of 1st PMA Long Course, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, was the chief guest. For distinguishing himself as the best all-round cadet, and for being the most brilliant in academics, Liaquat Ali Khan presented the Sword of Honour and the Norman Gold Medal to Gentleman Cadet Raja Aziz Bhatti. Aziz Bhatti’s Khalid Company (being Champion Company) was also awarded with the Quaid- i-Azam’s Banner.
It was generally accepted that of all the parades held at PMA, this happened to be the finest. There was such alacrity and power in the ‘words of command’ of Raja Aziz Bhatti, that even the spectators came to 'attention' in their seats!
At the time of passing out, he joined the 4/16 Punjab Regiment (now 17 Punjab) as a commissioned officer. With only 11 months of service, he was appointed as Adjutant of the Battalion. He was later on posted to the School of Infantry & Tactics, Quetta, from where he appeared for the entrance examination for Command and Staff College. Humble as ever he asked all friends to pray for his success. As expected, his name appeared on top of the list of successful candidates. His selection for the foreign staff course at Kingston Staff College Canada was due recognition of his brilliance as officer. Leaving aside Pakistan, there was hardly any other country where an officer with such a short service was selected for that course. He was promoted to the rank of Major before he left for Canada. Very popular in the College he, as usual, distinguished himself in every test. Writing to Brig Niazi from there, he said, “My English seems to be better than that of the Britishers; my exercise books hardly have any red marks on the pages.”
During the Kingston Course, Major General Hayauddin (who was killed in the Cairo crash), came over from New York. When he saw results of the tests Major Bhatti had taken at the Staff College, he was immensely pleased and congratulated him. Major Aziz Bhatti passed his Canadian Staff Course with distinction. On return, the C-in-C of the Army, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, sent him a special message of felicitations.
When September 1965 war broke out, Major Aziz Bhatti’s Alpha Company was deployed forward of BRB Canal. On 6th September, once Indian advancing columns in their bid to surprise Pakistanis found Major Aziz Bhatti’s men ready to receive them with unwavering will to defend Lahore at all costs. As a Company Commander, Major Bhatti chose to locate himself with his forward platoon under constant firing from Indian tanks and artillery. He resisted for six days and nights defending a Pakistani outpost on the strategic BRB Canal. A day before his martyrdom, the commanding officer had sent him word that since he had been fighting untiringly for the last few days, he should take a little rest and that another officer was being sent to replace him. Major Aziz’s reply is a reflection of extreme patriotism saying, "Do not call me back. I will shed the last drop of my blood in the defence of my dear homeland". These words serve as an inspiration for future generations of Pakistan Army soldiers and officers.
On September 10, while constantly observing the enemy terrain, Major Bhatti noticed some trucks speeding up at intervals behind a cluster of trees, stopping at a point for a while and then dashing back. It was evident that the enemy was again dumping ammunition and armament at that place. In the meantime, he also saw a convoy of 13 vehicles moving up. He kept his eyes on it. As it got close to milestone 17/18, he ordered fire. The entire convoy was destroyed, engulfed in a huge cloud of smoke. It was evident from the gunpowder what these vehicles were carrying.
In the afternoon, IAF aircraft made their appearance felt again, had a circle or two over the border, and went back without any action. Things then appeared quiet; no transport was visible, nor was there any sign of troops movement.
He had hardly slept for 15 minutes when he stood up saying. “Is it actually the sound of moving tanks, or am I imagining it?,” he asked those around him. Captain Anwar replied, “You are very right. These definitely are tanks; I’m already trying to locate them.” Major Bhatti picked up the binoculars, and managed to get two enemy tanks in view. He ordered the fire and both were knocked down. He continued to scan the area but could not observe any further movement. Nevertheless, he remained alert all the time.
But sooner, the enemy launched the attack with an Infantry Brigade comprising 16 Punjab and 4 Sikh Regiments, with a tank regiment and heavy artillery in their support. By 10 o’clock in the night when shelling had stopped, Major Bhatti went upstairs and called all the others over the wireless set, and then threw a flare to have an overall view of the area. By then the light emanating from enemy’s truck captured during the day, that was set ablaze by the shelling enabled them to watch the Indians. At the same time, shouts of Jai Hind were also heard. Obviously, enemy tanks and infantry had come up close to Burki Police Station.
Major Bhatti now re-organised his troops on the home bank of the canal and directed the “jawans” to take position along the embankment. He climbed up, and started surveying enemy activity in the area.
At night, the Regiment Adjutant, Anwar Muniruddin, came over to meet him. He narrated to him the episodes of previous days, recounting the enemys attacks, how they were repulsed and how they managed to pull back safely after the ammunition had been exhausted. Then he handed over his gold ring to him. “Make sure to deliver it at my place in case I am martyred,” he urged.
Anwar put on the ring on his own finger. Major Bhatti had been wearing it all along since his Hong Kong days. He turned to Anwar again, “You are a young officer,” he said, “You’ll one day write the history of your Regiment. Bhatti may not be among you at that time, but one thing you must definitely keep in mind – don’t forget to mention the historic role of the artillery in this war.”
The last sun of Major Bhatti’s life had come up. Passing to the left of Havildar Nazir’s platoon holding position near Company Headquarters, he went up the canal bank, and started surveying the far side through his binoculars. Havildar Major Faiz Ali was lowered down the embankment due to enemy fire. He shouted, “Sir, there’s fire from that side – please come down.” “I cannot look around from that position,” said Major Aziz, “It is certainly dangerous standing here but then everything is from God! If ‘Shahadat’ is in store for me, I’ll welcome it.”
Soon some tanks were seen advancing towards the canal from the direction of Burki. Under their cover, infantry was also on the march. Indicating their positions, Major Bhatti ordered fire. Off went the guns but the shells did not land where desired. He quickly passed another message. This time the shells found the target. He was overjoyed. Two enemy tanks had been knocked down. Captain Anwar (Artillery) was directing the fire. Major Bhatti appreciated his precision. “Well done, Anwar,” he said loudly.
Just then, an enemy shell whizzed past Maj Bhatti, cut across a nearby shisham tree and landed on the heap of bricks, which had been dug out of the trenches and stocked there. That point was hardly a few feet away. A cloud of dust arose. His men around feared that the Major had been hit! They ran towards him but found him unscathed. “Go back to your positions immediately,” ordered Major Bhatti, “This shell was not for me; the one for me has yet to be manufactured in India’s ordnance factories!”
Destiny was smiling at what Major Bhatti had just uttered. He was about to raise his binoculars and scan the enemy area when an armoured piercing shot fired from an Indian tank hit him in the chest and passed through his right lung. He fell face down on the bank. Havildar Major Faiz Ali and Sepoy Aman Khan rushed to his aid but by then that highly dedicated, valorous, selfless human being, an exceptional and unique military hero had been relieved of his duty.
Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed (February 17, 1951-August 20, 1971)
Born in the metropolitan city of Karachi on February 17, 1951 Rashid belonged to the famous Minhas clan of Rajputs. At partition in 1947, Rashid’s father migrated from Gurdaspur (Indian Punjab) to Pakistan. Rashid had a great passion for aero-modelling and used to spend his entire pocket money buying the aircraft models especially those of fighter jets.
Since childhood, he wanted to join the Armed Forces of Pakistan. His school days diary records indicate the same. On August 7, 1965 he wrote in his diary, “Today I promise from my heart that out of three defence forces I will definitely join any one.” His parents on the other hand were ignorant of his hidden passion as his father always wanted him to become an engineer. However, after seeing the eagerness of his young boy, he had no other option but to surrender to his overwhelming passion.
Rashid completed his O and A levels with distinction at the age of 18 and joined PAF College Lower Topa for initial training. During his days at Lower Topa, he displayed extraordinary tallent in literary activities and emerged as a promising orator. After training at Lower Topa, he joined 51st GD(P) Course at PAF Academy Risalpur in August 1969. At the Academy, his passion for flying saw no limits. He did his primary and basic flying training on Harvard and T-37 aircraft respectively and showed great promise.
March 14, 1971 was the historic and proud day in the life of young Rashid Minhas. On this memorable day, he earned his 'wing' and became Pilot Officer. After spending a few days with his family, Rashid went for the conversion course on T-33 aircraft at Masroor Airbase. Unaware what the destiny had in store for him, Rashid started flying training with No. 2 Squadron.
On August 20, 1971, around 1100 hrs, Rashid got ready to take off for his second solo flight in a T-33 jet trainer. He started his engines and completed the checks, the ground crew gave ‘thumbs up’ (signal to taxi out) and saluted him (not knowing that this was his last salute to the young warrior). As Minhas was taxiing towards the runway, his Bengali instructor pilot, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman, came on the taxiway and signalled him to stop. Thinking that his instructor might want to give some last minute instructions, Minhas stopped the aircraft. Mati forced his way into the rear cockpit and seized controls of the aircraft; the jet took off and turned towards India.
Soon the radio at Mauripur (now Masroor) Control Tower became alive and Minhas informed that he was being hijacked. The air controller requested him to resend his message and confirm that it was hijacking. The events that followed later were the tale of great courage and patriotism. In the air, Minhas struggled physically to wrest control from Rahman; each man tried to overpower the other through the mechanically linked flight controls. The instructor wanted him to fly to India; however, the determined Rashid was not ready for it. The ferocious struggle continued for minutes and as the aircraft neared the Indian border, Rashid Minhas knew what he was supposed to do. He knew that the honour of his country was far greater than his precious life. Some 32 miles (51 km) from the Indian border, Rashid Minhas deliberately put the aircraft nose down and that made the jet to crash near Thatta.
Rashid Minhas rendered supreme sacrifice for the honour of the country and became a national hero. Later investigation showed that Rahman intended to defect along with the jet trainer to India to join his compatriots in Bangladesh. Minhas was posthumously awarded with Pakistan’s top military honour, the Nishan-e-Haider and became the youngest man and the only member of the PAF to win the prestigious gallantry award.
Citation of Gallantry Award (NH)
The citation of Rashid Minhas Shaheed gives account of his bravery as:
“On the morning of Friday, August 20, 1971, Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas, a pilot still under training, was in the front seat of a jet trainer, taxiing out for take-off. An instructor pilot from the same unit forced his way into the rear cockpit, seized control of the aircraft and having taken off, headed the aircraft towards India. With just some 40 miles of Pakistan territory remaining, Minhas had only one course open to him to prevent his aircraft from entering India. Without hesitation and living up to highest traditions of the PAF, Rashid Minhas tried to regain control of his aircraft but finding this to be impossible in the face of the superior skill and experience of his instructor, forced the aircraft to crash at a point 32 miles from the Indian border. In doing so, Pilot Officer Minhas deliberately made the supreme sacrifice for the honour of Pakistan and service to which he belonged. For this act of heroism beyond the call of duty, the President of Pakistan is pleased to award the NH to Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas”.
Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed (April 28, 1943-December 6, 1971)
Major Shabir Sharif Shaheed was born on April 28, 1943 at Kunjah, a small town of District Gujrat. His father, late Major Muhammad Sharif joined the British Indian Army in 1935 and retired from Pakistan Army in 1965. Major Shabir has four brothers and sisters. The eldest sister is Mrs. Khalida Saadat, brother Captain (Retd) Mumtaz Sharif, Sitara-e-Basalat, younger sister Mrs. Najmi Kamran and his youngest brother, General Raheel Sharif, the ex-Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan Army.
In 1950, Major Shabbir started his early education from Presentation Convent School, Rawalpindi. He was intellectually an exceptional student. While studying at Government College Lahore in 1961 he was selected for Pakistan Army and underwent training with 29th Long Course at PMA, Kakul.
Major Shabbir was an outstanding player of hockey, cricket, football, athletics and cycling. He was declared the best sportsman of hockey and cricket in Saint Anthony High School.
At the PMA, he passed out on top, winning the Sword of Honour.
In 1965 war, after the commencement and facing tough resistance, 6 FF operation was slowed down and suffered casualties. The Brigade Commander at that stage ordered 6 FF to send out a reconnaissance patrol to take a look at the deployment of Indians on and around ‘Troti’ feature. Shabbir who was originally tasked to carryout reconnaissance saw an opportunity where an artillery battery was in a state of rest and not fully alert. Seeing an opportunity, he changed his mind and instead of going back, he attacked the Gun Positions and got them into a panic, thus forcing them to either withdraw or surrender. He captured four Indian POWs and having destroyed two guns he brought along a field gun towed to a gun-tower (Shaktiman). He put his own wounded soldiers and Indian POWs in the same vehicle.
He returned with full information about the Indian deployments as well as captured soldiers. Operations of 10 Infantry Brigade were resumed with 6 FF again leading on the main axis with 13 Lancers in support and the other action being undertaken by 14 Punjab Regiment, which were to move on the right flank and manoeuvre, and get around Troti Feature and face towards Jaurian. These operations were a great success and the Indians panicked and ran. The Brigade took a large number of vehicles, ammunition dumps and POWs. It was perhaps the largest ever haul of men and materials in all our wars with India. Major Shabbir was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat during the War.
In 1971 war, at the outbreak of hostilities, a pre-emptive operation was launched to capture the Sabuna Bund in order to give greater depth and protection to the Sulaimanki Headworks. Major Shabbir not only captured that with lightning speed but held his positions against all odds.
During the war, a company commander from India, Major Narain Singh, had sworn before going on attack that he either would retake the bridge, or would never return. Narain Singh was also interested in defeating Shabbir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander with them. While the battle was going on, Narain Singh, with a few men, came very close to Shabbir’s position. "Where is Shabbir Sharif?," he called out, "If he has the courage, he should come out right now and face me like a man". Shabbir Sharif, being as hot-headed as the Singh, left his position and jumped in front of him upon the call. Perhaps, Narain Singh could not make out that it was Shabbir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction. The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabbir and his shirt caught fire. A hand-to-hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. After a short struggle, Shabbir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the Sten gun from his hand, he emptied it on Singh's chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was all right, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.
The ferocious non-stop battle of December 4, 5, and 6 was an amazing feat of valour and sacrifice led by the Company Commander, Major Shabbir. At around 1100 hours on December 6 the Indians launched yet another major counter attack with tanks, preceded by an air strike and heavy artillery fire. Major Shabbir started firing on the Indian tanks with 106 mm Recoilless Rifle. While he was engaged in targeting the enemy tanks, one of the enemy tanks fired with its main gun at him, which proved fatal. Major Shabbir gave his life leading from the front and fighting until the last minute. Here was a brave man whose mere presence was a guarantee of victory. He had said this before the war, “If war breaks out this time, I will not be a witness to ceasefire”.
It is worth mentioning that this operation by 6FF was so humiliating for the Indians that in 12 days, they changed their General Officer Commanding, and Brigade Commanders thrice in this Sector.
He was decorated with Nishan-e-Haider for his bravery and deeds of valour.
Major Muhammad Akram Shaheed (September 25, 1941-December 5, 1971)
Major Muhammad Akram Shaheed was born on September 25, 1941 in a small village named Dinga, very close to Kharian Cantonment. He got his initial education from Chakri Middle School, and then joined the Military College Jhelum. While at the Military College, he was known for his skills in playing hockey and excelled in it. He was also known for his boxing skills.
On July 3, 1953, he left the college and joined the Punjab Regimental Centre (then located at Jhelum) in the Boys Company of 14 Punjab Regiment. This Regimental Centre used to train boys aged 15 to 17 years for their future induction in Pakistan Army. After completing his recruit training, Akram joined 4/14 Punjab Regiment (later re-designated 8 Punjab Regiment). 8 Punjab therefore, is his parent battalion. After having served for about 8 years, Muhammad Akram applied for commission in Pakistan Army.
He was not selected in the first attempt; however, he made it in the second attempt and was selected in March 1961 for the 28th PMA Long Course. He passed out in October 1963. While at PMA, he led the PMA hockey team and won the inter-academy trophy beating PAF and Naval Academy teams. He was also awarded with the PMA Colour in hockey. He also excelled professionally by being the best firer in his course, thus winning the Best Firer’s Trophy.
On his commissioning, he joined the Frontier Force Regiment and joined a very well-known Infantry Battalion, the Fourth Frontier Force Regiment (4 FF) on October 13, 1963. All through his service, he had a good service record, and was promoted as a Major in September 1970 after attending the Military Intelligence Course.
In 1971, the situation in East Pakistan was getting worse because Indian troops were consistently penetrating inside East Pakistan borders, and were sponsoring an insurgency through the indigenous terrorist organisation “Mukti Bahini” to destabilise East Pakistan. It was not long after that an all-out war started in December 1971. The main objective of the Indian Army was to get control of Bogra, thereby cutting off Pakistani forces in the north from the rest of East Pakistan. The best way of getting to Bogra was through the town of Hilli. The frontal assault on the Pakistan fortifications took a huge toll on the Indian Army. In a renewed effort and further strengthening, the 20th Indian Mountain Division with strength of 20,000 men, led by Major General Lachhman Singh, comprising 66 Brigade, 165 Brigade, 202 Brigade, and 340 Brigade (all infantry units), 3 Armoured Brigade, 471 Engineer Brigade, and two artillery brigades augmented by 33 Corps Artillery attacked Hilli sector.
The ground troops were aided by aerial support provided by the Indian Air Force, which had already acquired total air superiority in the East and were armed with rockets, guns, and 1000 lbs bombs. On the Pakistan side, the Area of Responsibility was with 205 Brigade, led by Brigadier (later Major General) Tajammul Hussain Malik. 205 Brigade had deployed 4 FF, 13 FF, and 8 Baloch Regiments. Major Akram was commanding Charlie Company of the 4 FF Regiment in the forward most localities of the Hilli Sector. This Company position was very vital and had blocked enemy's route of advance. His Company came under continuous Indian Army attacks duly supported by Indian Air Force, heavy artillery, and armour. Charlie Company, commanded by Major Muhammad Akram, put up a heroic resistance that earned praises even from the Indians.
He with his brave Company stood like a rock between the Indian forces, and Pakistani positions for over two weeks, despite the Indians outnumbered them in manpower, firepower, and total air superiority, using even helicopters, and aircraft to the best use.
Major Muhammad Akram and his men repulsed every successive attack, inflicting heavy casualties on the Indians. This battle was unique as it had begun before the official declaration of the Indo-Pak war and continued even after the formal surrender of troops at Dacca. The Indians on several occasions, using megaphones and shoutings at his company, asked him to surrender but Major Akram refused. However, the sense of sacrifice, valour, and chivalry was at its apex for the men of this Company but their source of strength remained embodied in the personality of Major Muhammad Akram, whose confident voice and firm orders to deal with the ever-changing situation gave him a stature of a force that raged even fiercer than any battalion. His conduct and resolve incessantly generated high spirit for all his subordinates. Each attack of the enemy on that day was repulsed. By the evening of December 5 enemy was only engaging Charlie Company positions with tanks and artillery fire.
It was in such a deafening and shattering holocaust of fire and fury, which had been constantly raging for about three days and steadily weakening strength of the company was pulling on to the hastily prepared defensive positions. Major Akram was personally conducting the battle from the forward defended locality. The need to solve the nuisance of tank fire became the need of the hour. At this juncture, the moment arrived, which became a classic example of highest sense of leadership, commitment and heroism. Major Muhammad Akram acted beyond the known limits of sacrifice and rose up to create a history.
Carrying a 40 mm Chinese Rocket Launcher, he crawled along with his runner right up to the clump where enemy tanks were positioned and sited himself at the distance of almost 100 meters from them. From this position, he engaged these tanks. With incredible precision, he destroyed three tanks. It created an immense dread in the armour column of the enemy. While adjusting the aiming sight on the fourth tank the smoke got cleared. An enemy tank spotted him, and quickly opened fire with its .50 browning. He was shot through his neck. Akram’s last words were “Hold out until last”. The bravest son of the Paltan graced the ground as a paragon of gallantry and heroism. Even after the shahadat of their Company Commander, Charlie Company was able to hold on to its positions, and foiled the Indian attempts to gain a foothold nor were they allowed maintaining momentum in their attacks.
For his outstanding bravery, he was awarded with Nishan-e-Haider, posthumously.
Sowar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed (June 18, 1949-December 10, 1971)
Sowar Muhammad Hussain was born in Dhok Pir Bakhsh, near Jatli in Gujar Khan (Punjab) on June 18, 1949. He was the only son of his parents and had one sister. At the time of Indo-Pak war in 1965, Sowar Muhammad Hussain was in Devi High School in his village but the young Muhammad Hussain had been so inspired by the role of Armed Forces that he had made up his mind to join the Army.
As a child, and later on when he joined the army, Sowar Muhammad was fond of playing kabbadi and was good at it. He lived a simple life with clean habits.
He got enrolled in Pakistan Army and joined Armoured Corps as a recruit on September 3, 1966 at a young age of 17 years. On his passing out from the Armoured Corps Centre, Sowar Muhammad Hussain joined 20 Lancers. This Regiment was then stationed in Sialkot.
When the war broke out in 1971, Sowar Muhammad Hussain took active part in every battle which his unit was engaged in, unmindful of any danger no matter how grave was the situation. Despite his trade being a driver he always yearned to participate in active battle.
Sowar Muhammad Hussain was performing the duties as driver of a Dodge truck in a Squadron of 20 Lancers. On December 5, 1971, while braving intense shelling and direct fire from enemy tanks and infantry, he went from trench to trench, delivering ammunition to the 106 mm Recoilless Rifle crews, who were engaging the Indian tanks on the frontline. It was then that his vehicle got a direct hit by Indian artillery shelling.
Since his vehicle had been knocked out, he was assigned a new responsibility of spotting Indian tanks and then help engaging them by own 106 mm Recoilless Rifles. He carried out this duty most brilliantly and was able to locate even well camouflaged tanks of the Indian Army. In order to do so, at times he had to stay out in the open, changing his position to know the location of Indian tanks. Through his correct target indication, own Recoilless Rifles were able to hit Indian tanks to good effect. On the following day, he went out with four fighting patrols and undertook the most hazardous missions.
On December 10, 1971, he spotted the Indians digging in all along a minefield laid out by Pakistan Army near village Harrar Khurd. He immediately informed the second-in-command of his unit. While having reported about this development, he on his own initiative directed accurate fire at the enemy resulting in the destruction of enemy tanks.
In the process, he was hit in the chest by a burst of machine-gun fire, and embraced shahadat on December 10, 1971.
At the time of shahadat, he was just 22 years old. Sowar Muhammad Hussain had the distinction of being the first among soldier cadre of Pak Army to be awarded with award Nishan-e-Haider for his unmatchable courage and gallant war performance.
20 Lancers has since been given the honour of being called 20 Lancers (Haidari) due to brave Sowar Muhammad Hussain’s actions and making his regiment the only armour regiment that has been awarded with the Nishan-e-Haider.
Lance Naik Muhammad Mahfuz Shaheed (October 25, 1944-December 17, 1971)
Mahfuz Shaheed was born on October 25, 1944 in Pind Malikan (now Mahfuzabad), Rawalpindi district. He was enlisted in the Army on October 25, 1962. It is a coincidence that the date of birth and date of joining of Mahfuz Shaheed was October 25. After his recruit training from Punjab Regimental Centre, he joined 15 Punjab Regiment, where he was posted to the Alpha Company.
When war broke out in 1971, Lance Naik Muhammad Mahfuz was deployed on the Wagah-Attari Sector with his company. His company was ordered to carry out an attack on village “Pul Kanjri” from where the Indian Army had been exerting immense pressure on Pakistani troops facing them. This Indian position was quite close from the defended positions of Pakistani troops but was very heavily held by the Indians. As part of his Company’s attack, he was deputed by his Company Commander to form part of the firebase and support the attack by manning the Light Machine Gun (LMG). Therefore, he was part of that detachment that covered the move of the assaulting troops leading wave. As the attack progressed, his detachment too moved forward with the assaulting troops, until they were caught up in cross fire. This cross fire was incessant, and that too combined with all calibres of artillery shelling. His detachment kept creeping up and during this act, his companion firing the LMG embraced shahadat.
He got hold of this LMG and started firing at the Indians with renewed vigour and motivation, inflicting heavy casualties on them. While he was engaging the Indians, a direct enemy shell destroyed his LMG. This did not stop young Mahfuz. He had seen an enemy bunker whose automatic fire had inflicted heavy casualties on his comrades. By using his best training in the art of field craft, he closed up with enemy position, going straight for this LMG position. While he was closing up, both of his legs were injured badly by shell splinters and bullets, and he was totally incapacitated and therefore pinned down, unable to even walk.
Lying face down, he kept observing the battle scene and decided to go for bunker that housed this Indian LMG. Hardly fit for walking or even moving, he still gathered all his energy and resolve to go for it at any cost to avenge his fallen comrades and complete the mission of his Company. By stealthily crawling initially, he managed to close up with the LMG bunker and somehow was able to get around the rear entrance limpingly, while the Indian detachment was engaging the advancing Pakistani attacking forces. He managed to muster up all his strength, and not only pounced on the firer but he went for his neck and strangled him to death with his bare hands. Meanwhile, the other crew member, who was watching the grappling match, managed to bayonet him and got him fatally wounded, and he fell down more or less unconscious by now.
His brave action resulted in capture of the Indian position in a miraculous attack, and remain one of the finest actions at tactical levels in history of the Pakistan Army. The attacking troops managed to capture this formidable position by sheer dint of the courage of Mahfuz Shaheed.
After the 1971 War, when the flag meetings took place, the Indian Army Commander conveyed to the Pakistani Commander that he had been in many actions in wars and real life, but he never came across someone as brave as Mahfuz Shaheed.
Former Army Chief, General Tikka Khan said these words in praise of Muhammad Mahfuz Shaheed, “The shaheed has set an unprecedented example for emulating by all men of the Pakistan Army. The whole nation and Pakistan Army is proud of his bravery and actions”.
Captain Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed (January 1, 1970-July 5, 1999)
Karnal Sher Khan was born on January 1, 1970 in village Fujun (Nawan Kili) in District Swabi. His father, Khursheed Khan was a farmer and his mother died when he was only eight years old, in 1978. His paternal aunts brought him up. His family is deeply religious, and they say that Sher was an embodiment of piety and Islamic teachings. Karnal Sher’s grandfather Mr. Ghalib Khan had participated as a volunteer in 1948 Kashmir War.
When Karnal Sher Khan was born, his grandfather proposed to name him “Karnal Sher Khan”. Karnal Sher’s father objected this name but Sher’s grandfather replied that Sher Khan would accomplish what he (Ghalib Khan) could not, and that he would become a Colonel in Pakistan Army. That is how Capt Karnal Sher Khan came to be called as “Karnal Sher Khan”
Owing to his martial instincts, he joined Pakistan Air Force as Airman in 1988, and was declared All Round Best Airman in his batch. After the basic training, he was posted to the School of Aeronautics at Korangi, Karachi for advance training where he was awarded with “Chief of Air Staff Trophy” for his outstanding performance. In February 1991, he was posted to Risalpur as electrical fitter.
His mind was not at ease, and had a growing inner desire to be where the action was. With a burning desire to become an officer and be a leader in action, he decided to join Pakistan Army. The Inter Services Selection Board rejected him in his first attempt. He, however, with his persistence made it in the second attempt, and was selected for commission with 90 PMA Long Course in October 1992. He was commissioned on October 24, 1994 and joined 27 Sindh Regiment. He is remembered by his colleagues to be cheerful, and was always smiling. He established a reputation of being a highly motivated and devoted soldier. He was fondly called as Shera (lion) and was very popular among officers and soldiers/colleagues.
Desirous of some real action and to get away from routine, he volunteered to serve at the Line of Control in Kashmir. His request was acceded to, and he was posted to 12 NLI Battalion in January 1998.
He was soon deputed to defend posts in Mashko Valley in the Gultary area of the Kargil Sector. While defending these posts, he repeatedly pushed back the Indians that were far superior in numbers and modern weaponry. He dealt a severe blow to attacking Indians particularly on 8 Sikh Infantry Battalion, that was not only stopped but pushed back. He even counterattacked the enemy during day as situation demanded. He wanted to defeat the enemy even if the cost was his life. It was a surprise attack for Indian Army, as they were not expecting it. Knowing the importance of his post, Karnal Sher was not only successful in forcing the enemy to retreat but also followed them to their base camp, and embraced shahadat in the process. He killed many Indian soldiers who became fearful of his attacks and ran away. He with his twenty one comrades moved with lightning speed, fighting closely, and was able to penetrate the battalion headquarters of 8 Sikh Regiment. During the close quarter battle, he lost most of his comrades, was surrounded and ordered to surrender but decided to continue attacking and fought till his last breath. He eventually embraced martyrdom while fighting.
Indian authors could not stop themselves from praising the ferocious counter-attack by Captain Karnal Sher Khan Shaheed, Nishan-e-Haider, and his men on their blocking position. Indian author Amarinder Singh in his book “A Ridge Too Far” appreciated this act of bravery as:
“At 0645 hours the next morning, the first counter attack by a weak platoon of twenty men came in; it was broken short of Helmet. Forty-five minutes later, the two “Sangars” (posts) manned by Naib Subedar Karnail Singh and Naib Subedar Rawail Singh holding the MMG and AGL on the forward edge of the perimeter of the Helmet defences, were both hit by the RPG rockets, killing both the JCOs. Havildar Sukhwant Singh took command and beat off the first attack. However, a much determined attack in greater strength and led by two officers was then launched. Having lost his two JCOs and suffered heavy casualties, Lieutenant withdrew to India Gate, as did Subedar Sardar Singh and his forward MMG detachment. The enemy pursued them as far as India Gate. There despite the sustained and heavy fire of Major Parmar and his men, they reached the edge of the defensive perimeter and did not falter until both of the officers had been killed. Of the two Pakistani Officers who led the attack, one, later identified as Captain Karnal Sher of 12 NLI... was awarded with Pakistan’s highest award for gallantry....” (A Ridge Too Far, Amarinder Singh, P 116)
After his shahadat when his body was recovered, a few Indian soldiers tried to maltreat his body, the Commanding Officer of 8 Sikh ordered them to step back, and treat him with honour as he fought bravely. His remains were later shifted in a honourable manner to Srinagar. He also stated that he should be rewarded with the highest gallantry award of Pakistan. His written citation by the Indian Commanding Officer makes not only him and his family proud but also Pakistan Army, and the Pakistani nation as a whole.
Havildar Lalak Jan Shaheed (April 1, 1967-July 7, 1999)
Havildar Lalak Jan was born in village Hundur of tehsil Yaseen, Ghizer in 1967. He received his early education from Government Middle School for Boys Hundur. Havildar Lalak Jan possessed a strong martial instinct since his childhood and to fulfill his desires, he joined Northern Light Infantry Regimental Centre as a recruit in 1984.
زیارت گاہِ اہلِ عزم و ہمت ہے لحد میری
کہ خاکِ راہ کو میں نے بتایا رازِ الوندی
جس دھج سے کوئی مقتل میں گیا، وہ شان سلامت رہتی ہے
یہ جان تو آنی جانی ہے، اس جاں کی تو کوئی بات نہیں
(فیض احمد فیض)
نشان حیدر عزیزِ ملت
ہر ایک دل میں ہے تیری عزت
یہ مرتبہ ہے کہ تاقیامت
رہے گی زندہ تری حکایت
کہ تُو نے ہم کو حیات بخشی
رہ وطن میں شہید ہو کر
After successful completion of his one-year training at Bunji, he was posted to 12 NLI (Northern Light Infantry) Regiment in 1985. Havildar Lalak Jan was having smart military bearing and therefore, picked up for training as a part of special guards. Seeing his smart military bearing and disciplined conduct as special guard, Lalak Jan was included in the General Officer Commanding (GOC) Guard of 12 Division. He was later on selected to represent his battalion in Brigade commando platoon competition, where he secured the first position. In 1994, Havildar Lalak Jan was posted as weapon training instructor in (NLI) Regiment Training Centre Bunji. He remained Company Havildar Major of Jinnah Company and performed the duties of Special Guard Commander at Yadgar-e-Shuhada in the Regimental Centre. He was posted back to the unit in December 1997, and was appointed Company Havildar Major of Alpha Company.
In 1999 Kargil conflict, Havildar Lalak Jan was second-in-command of his post along Line of Control. During the course of war, Indian forces attacked his post many times. Havildar Lalak Jan was deployed ahead of his post as 'screens' to give early warning as well as inflict casualites on the enemy.
Havildar Lalak Jan along with his two men at the 'screens' was repulsing the Indian attacks with great valour, and was able to inflict heavy causalities on the Indians with his Light Machine Gun (LMG). On July 5 around 1700 hours, Lance Naik Bashir and Sepoy Bakhmal Shah embraced shahadat due to Indian sniper fire, yet Havildar Lalak Jan stood fast alone against the advancing enemy. Meanwhile intense enemy attacks and long fight resulted in shortage of ammunition and Havildar Lalak Jan went to the dead enemy soldiers and collected their weapons and ammunition, and started repulsing the Indian attacks with more valour and vigour. By 1830 hours, Havildar Lalak Jan received one bullet of enemy automatics but refused to vacate his position. Despite his injury he was manning all the firing bays around his position simultaneously in order to paint a false picture of own manpower to the Indians. Meanwhile, he received two more bullets during the combat, but kept the Indians at bay for five consecutive days despite being outnumbered. Miraculously, reinforcement from battalion headquarters under command of Captain Kashif Khalil and Captain Ahmad arrived at about 0400 hours on July 7, 1999 and the position was restored.
On seeing the condition of Lalak Jan, Captain Ahmed told him to go back to the base camp as his arm was in no condition to be used. Lalak Jan told his officer that he did not want to die on a hospital bed, but would rather die in the battlefield. He told him that he should not worry about the arm. While this was going on, the Indians started shelling from a secret bunker in an adjacent hill. By that time, Captain Ahmad had taken up the command of the handful of troops. He realised that the fire was coming from a hidden bunker and directed fire towards it, but the effort was in vain. There was only one way left to counter the hidden Indian bunker; it had to be blown up from a closer range.
When the injured Lalak Jan volunteered for the mission, the Captain, who was of the opinion that he would do it himself, immediately rejected his plea. However, Lalak Jan persuaded him, giving him his previous landmine laying experience coupled with his mountaineering skills as the qualifying conditions for his selection for the task. The Captain agreed.
Lalak Jan put a bag of explosives on his back, and while shouldering an AK-47 descended the hill for the second time amidst heavy Indian shelling. Managing to avoid being seen by the Indian forces, and utilising his knowledge of the hills to take cover, he located the secret bunker and threw the explosives inside. The bunker, which was also an ammunition dump, blew up in what was probably the biggest blast ever heard in that area. Lalak Jan managed to take cover, but the Indian Army lost 19 to 20 men inside and around the bunker. The other Indian soldiers saw Lalak Jan, and opened fire on him. Surrounded from all sides by Indian fire, Lalak Jan tried to resist and return fire. This effort was in vain, and Lalak Jan embraced shahadat when a number of bullets pierced through his chest. Later, Commanding Officer of 12 NLI sent two commando forces to recover the body of Lalak Jan. The two forces were called ‘Ababeel’ and ‘Uqaab’. Ababeel provided the covering fire while Uqaab went into the destroyed enemy bunker to retrieve the body of Lalak Jan. When his body was found, Lalak Jan had his AK-47 clinched to his chest.
The unflinching courage and bravery of Havildar Lalak Jan and his men at Qadir Post was also acknowledged by the enemy forces attacking Qadir Post in the following words:
“There were no wounded and no prisoners. Nor any man abandoned his position. It has been most gallant defense action fought to the last man last bullet”.
The undaunted valour and courage displayed by Havildar Lalak Jan Shaheed wrote shinning pages of history, which will remain alive as a source of motivation for generations in profession of soldiery.
“And do not think of those killed in Allah’s path as dead: indeed they are alive and receive their sustenance from their Lord.They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah.”
Surah Aal-e-Imran [ 3:169-170], Al-Quran
The writer is a military historian and biographer.