At the dawn of 6th September 1965, the nation was awakened with the clarion call of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, “India has attacked Lahore and Pakistan is at war” He further said, ‘My fellow countrymen, move forward and confront your enemy. Allah has bestowed us with an opportunity to show that as a nation we are ready to give our lives for our religion and beliefs”. It was a challenging time and 100 million Pakistanis were to be tested. The undeclared Indian invasion was a cowardly strike against a peaceful neighbor. The people responded with faith and belief that truth and justice was on their side. The spirit of nationalism surged and the citizens of Pakistan, whose hearts had been reciting the Shahada, did not rest until the canons of our enemy had been silenced.
Pakistan’s support for the indigenous just struggle of the people of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJ&K) jittered India. As a last resort, and without provocation, India decided to expand the conflict and crossed the International Border in to Lahore. The Indian Commander-in-Chief, General Chaudhri, had announced that in a few hours he would be dictating terms from his headquarters in Lahore. The Indian attack was unexpected as the troops were neither deployed on the border nor any preparations had been made for a nation that was soon to be involved in a life and death struggle. The people rose like one. Our first line of defense was our unwavering faith in Allah, along with our determination to remain a free and independent nation. National unity was at the uppermost level, political and regional differences were forgotten as the nation rose united to defend their hearth and home. Orderliness and discipline was evident. The Governor of West Pakistan, at that time in Nathiagali, immediately returned to the citadel of Lahore to inspire and mobilize the citizens. As the troops moved to the border, they were aided by the public and many people began carrying food to the trenches. The rumble of Indian artillery could be heard throughout Lahore, but life carried on undisturbed. The public stood by their valiant Armed Forces.
Historically, wars are known to result in a flow of refugees, terror-stricken people leaving their homes, a breakdown of orderliness and a loss of governmental control. No such contingency arose anywhere throughout Pakistan. Despite facing the risk to life and property, no one living in the vicinity of the border areas left their homes. A determined nation, a third of the size of the aggressor, held fast and responded to the national motto gifted by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah; faith in Allah, national unity and discipline.
Pakistan was successful in 1965 because of the soldiers’ devotion, coupled with the support of the people. Ex-servicemen rushed to recruiting areas for the allocation of service with troops at the front. Aged veterans were observed climbing the heights in Kashmir, responding to the call for reservists to join the colors. All citizens played their role, from singers, writers, intellectuals, civil bureaucracy, railway personnel, the police and students. Patriotic songs galvanized the nation in the same way that the speeches of Churchill mobilized Britain during the Second World War. The words of writers and journalists filled the airwaves instilling a spirit of patriotism. Shopkeepers donated generously to the war effort. Items that could be of use to the army were donated by the people and piled up at Army Centers. National unity was its peak. The women of Pakistan also played their part, the Girl Guides movement and All Pakistan Women’s Association collected funds by arranging blood donation camps, and offering to help the medical corps as nursing volunteers. Students and young people thronged the roadsides, where our troops were moving, offering food and snacks. The people were full of patriotic fervor. Large numbers of volunteers gathered at Army Centers, asking for assignments to help in the war effort. Some joined in digging trenches while others joined the civil defense force. Journalists countered misinformation and rumors. Many common people participated in counterintelligence efforts and helped in capturing the spies. In Shakargarh Sector, people acted as scouts providing vital intelligence. The whole nation stood like a rock behind their valiant Armed Forces.
Pakistan was able to move its forces from the Western front because unruly elements who had been pressing for their demands through violence had calmed down. Lahore city was only 14 miles from the border. Our strategic communication networks including the Grand Trunk road and the main rail road arteries were a mere 40 miles tank ride from the border. An advancement of the Indian assault, disrupting our lines of communications, could have been disastrous for Pakistan. The enemy mounted 13 attacks on the Lahore-Kasur front and 15 on the Sialkot front. The Indians had moved three miles deep before they were met by our forces. The attacks on both fronts were heroically stopped and forcefully pushed back. Our Army, being one third of the size of the Indian Army, thwarted the Indian aggression due to the unparalleled gallantry of our soldiers, their unflinching resolve, invincible spirit, belief in Allah and steadfast support of the people. An example can be provided through the conduct of Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, who courageously directed our artillery to break the Indian attack against Lahore. He was posthumously awarded with Nishan-e-Haider. In the critical battle for Lahore at Kasur Sector, Major Mohammad Munir successfully carried out a counterattack and blocked the Indian advance. He was posthumously awarded Sitara-i-Jurat. Incidentally, he hailed from Kasur and embraced shahadat defending his homeland. He, along with countless jawans and officers, rendered unprecedented acts of bravery; the spirit of sacrifice was reminiscent of the spirit exhibited by the early Muslim warriors. The battle of Chawinda on the Sialkot front has gone down in the annals of history as one of the most outstanding military triumphs and the biggest tank battle since World War II. Our forces destroyed four enemy tanks for one of our own. While initially our thrust was defensive and resisted enemy intrusion, but soon we were able to mount an offensive attack thrusting our tanks and infantry 5 km into Indian territory and capturing the town of Khem Karan. Pakistan also captured 40 square miles of Indian territory, preventing them from capturing the strategically vital area of Sulemanki Headworks. Our gallant Army also captured Indian territory in Rajasthan. Moreover, Pakistan defeated the Indian offensive plan in Kashmir at Chamb sector and captured the Indian Illegally Occupied territory in Kotli Sector. The Indian artillery loss was great and amounted to almost two units being captured. Our small Air Force also kept the Indian jets at bay, while we lost 16 aircraft, the Indians lost 110. Squadron Leader M. M. Alam, SJ, in his F86 Sabre aircraft, singlehandedly shot down 5 Indian Hunter aircraft in a single sortie. Our paratroopers neutralized 3 Indian Air Force bases. Pakistan Navy kept our sea lanes open and did not allow the Indian Navy – that included an aircraft carrier – to enter our territorial waters. Our daring attack on Dwarka is a major naval victory whereby a small force caused major destruction to the enemy’s naval assets. The war united the nation by a spirit of patriotism and national solidarity. Courage, bravery and nationalism carried the day ultimately forcing the cowardly enemy to capitulate.
Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, recounting the national spirt of 1965 said, “The Pakistani soldiers jumped into the fiery pits of warfare but did not let the country be harmed. The bravery shown by our nation during the 1965 War serves as an inspiration for our youth even today”. General Bajwa said that today hybrid war has been imposed upon Pakistan to weaken it internally, “Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war. InshaAllah we will win this war and any other aggression as we did in 1965.” Our Prime Minister, in his message on August 14, 2021, said that we want peace within and without, to pursue our socioeconomic agenda. Naya Pakistan has shifted our focus from geopolitics to geoeconomics, with the wellbeing and welfare of our people as our top most priority. Imbued with the same spirit of national unity and patriotism exhibited by our nation in 1965, we can surely overcome any challenge, both internal and external, and in the words of our great Quaid, make Pakistan one of the greatest nations in the world.
The writer is a retired Brigadier and former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Iraq.
E-mail: [email protected]
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