War & Heroes

Anecdote of Courage: Jessore Sector 1971

By 1970, political intransigence and its resulting outcome alongside conspiracies of the enemy were brewing up the worsening law and order situation in East Pakistan. Mired between these two odds were men of Pakistan Army, braving both conventional and unconventional challenges, acting as a last mooring to the integrity of a united Pakistan. The hostile terrain of 56,990 square miles with 700 watercourses and tropical hilly jungles infested with insurgents was taking its toll on the Pakistani soldiers fighting thousands of miles away from their homes. These men were fighting in isolated penny pockets for months against the Indian regulars and Muktis. Political unrest in cities, insurgency inwards and frequent incursions at the borders was a daunting challenge for the units stationed in East Pakistan. Consequently, fresh reinforcements from the Western part of the country were being airlifted to East Pakistan to control the fast deteriorating situation.

Meanwhile, the Eastern theatre was mired in its own predicament; War Courses commenced at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) to overcome the shortage of officers. Young Anwar Saeed Butt, who was an orphan, out of his sheer patriotism decided to take the plunge and joined the War Course at PMA. After the requisite trimming and chiseling at the Military Academy, he was commissioned in 32 Cavalry Regiment on September 6, 1969 at Sialkot. After an incubation period in the Regiment, which is deemed instrumental for any young officer to acquaint himself with the military way of life, its core values and traditions, he found himself at Armour School, Nowshera, rubbing shoulders with other young cavaliers. In view of the brewing tensions, incontrovertibly acquiring mastery in tank gunnery, driving and maintenance, communication, and tactics was sine qua non for these young lads undergoing the mandatory Basic Armour Course. Anwer was quick in picking things up as his course report reflects, “A quiet and sober officer who has abreast himself well in Armour tactics”. Soon, the same quiet and sober officer was to display the practical manifestation of the knowledge he had gained at school and write a tale of unflinching resolve and courage.
In view of the growing hostilities, two officers from 32 Cavalry were posted to East Pakistan, Lt Hafeez, who joined 29 Cavalry (the Regiment which had given a very good account of itself in the 1971 War) and Lt Anwer Saeed, who was posted to the newly raised 3 Independent Armour Squadron at Jessore Sector. On joining the Squadron, Lt Anwer was given the command of a troop of tanks. In October 1971, 3 Independent Squadron was tasked to carry out an attack in Jessore sector and Lt Anwer was earmarked as one of the leading troop leaders. In pursuance of the given task, the tanks of 3 Squadron reached their FUP (forming up place), from where they charged on to the enemy like a spirited clan of cavalry men. The operation was undertaken in unfavourable parity and air situation, but these odds neither dampened the spirits of the gallant cavaliers nor diminished their resolve. The journey ahead of FUP was indeed a daunting one, as they had to brave heavy fire of enemy recoilless rifles and tanks but despite these odds, the determined squadron kept on pressing forward. As 3 Squadron was moving forward, a roar of Pakistani tank engines started to transcend over the shredding sounds of Indian recoilless rifles, causing the enemy to shiver sitting in their well dug in positions. During this close duel of nerves and wits, the troops of Lt Anwer were reduced to its minimal level of existence. The lone troop leader, instead of withdrawing, decided to take on the enemy tanks single-handedly. In the ensuing battle, Lt Anwer achieved the unsurpassed honor of destroying five enemy tanks. This bold action of the lone troop leader created significant disarray in the files of the enemy which subsided only when an armour piercing round pierced through Anwer’s tank, setting it on fire. Anwer, although wounded, managed to get out of the burning tank and was seen slumping forward. Oblivious of the tenacity and perseverance of the young Lieutenant, an enemy Major led a party of soldiers towards the burning tank to capture the wounded cavalry officer. But some birds are not meant to be caged; Anwer resisted the ignominy of captivity, shooting the Indian Major to death with his service pistol. When the accompanying Indian soldiers saw their Major being killed, they emptied the magazines of their rifles on Lt Anwer, causing his martyrdom. Anwer indeed lived up to the cavalry’s tradition of death before disgrace. Due to the indomitable courage and doughty resolve, Lt Anwer was awarded Sitara-i-Jurat. The medal with all its shine and glow, still hangs framed in the office of the Commanding Officer of 32 Cavalry as a reminder of Lt Anwer’s courageous act of not surrendering despite tempests of odds. 
Lt Anwer Saeed lays buried in some unmarked grave in East Pakistan. Many young men like him were laid to rest in the Eastern part, entrusting them to the coffer of sacred soil. Every gust of breeze over these unmarked graves bears witness to the loyalty and sacrifices of the young men who gave their lives for the cause of a united Pakistan. 
As Quaid-i-Azam said during a speech in Lahore on October 30, 1947, “There is no better salvation for a Muslim than the death of a martyr for a righteous cause.”

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