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Friday June 14, 2024

The spirit of 1965

September 06, 2022

The month of September is reminiscent of an important landmark in the history of our country when the nation came out in the defence of its motherland on September 6th, the day that augured the beginning of the Second Kashmir and the third Indo-Pakistan War in 1965.

Before we begin with the account of the Indo-Pakistan War 1965, it is important to know what led to it eventually. The Great Rann of Kutch, perhaps due to economic reasons was abandoned and even patrolling was discontinued in 1953. On February 25, 1956, a company of Indian Reserve Force (later Border Security Force) occupied Chhad Bet, dislodging a company of Sind Rangers that was withdrawn to Wingor and ordered not to cause any provocation. This followed a series of talks but nothing happened. In January 1965, the Indians began creeping forward with the intention of occupying the whole of Great Rann. A lot went on till July 1, 1965, when the Kutch Agreement was signed with India. Some heroic actions were seen in these operations.

6 September- the Indian attack on Lahore and Sialkot

Pakistan’s support for the indigenous just struggle of the people of the 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 Lahore. The Indian Commander-in-Chief, General Chaudhry, 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 were in place. Our first line of defence was our unwavering faith in Allah, along with our determination to remain a free and independent nation. National unity was at the uppermost level, and political and regional differences were forgotten as the nation rose united to defend its hearth and home. As the troops moved to the border, they were aided by the public and many people began carrying food to the trenches.

The speech of Field Marshal Ayub Khan

On the dawn of 6th September 1965, the nation was awakened by 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.

Chhamb-Jaurian Sector

This Sector saw a rollercoaster ride. Starting operation on September 1, Pakistani forces started “Operation Grand Slam” as a sequel to “Operation Gibraltar” across River Tawi in the Gujrat - Jalalpur Jattan area. Despite this area being heavily defended, Pakistani forces had taken territories right up to the famous Akhnoor Bridge and beyond which the attack was stopped, our valiant forces had fought so bravely here and, in these actions, they were able to capture sizeable territory, tanks and artillery guns alongside thousands of prisoners of war.

Sialkot Sector

This Sector, as it eventually transpired, faced one of the two main efforts of the Indians (Lahore being the other), where the main battle took place around Chawinda. There were, however, several other operations, that I will touch on briefly.

1. The Battle of Jassar Enclave. 115 Infantry Brigade was ordered to move to Pasrur on September 1, 1965, where they were ordered to defend general area Narowal and also be prepared to attack and clear Indian enclave south-west of Jassar Bridge on Pakistan side of River Ravi. The Brigade and its troops defended this area tooth and nail.

2. The Battle of Sialkot.

The main thrust into the middle of this Sector originated from the “Working Boundary between Maharajke-Charwa-Nakhnal, carried out by the Indian 6 Mountain Division, where the Indian 1 Armoured Division was to break out. The flanks were to be protected by the 26 Infantry Division on the west and by the 14 Infantry Division on the east. This area was defended by the 15 Infantry Division of the Pakistan Army, mainly the 24 Brigade. Despite being outnumbered and ill-equipped the Pakistani forces fought hard and have left behind tales of chivalry and honour.

3. The Black Elephant, the battle of Chawinda and making of “Men of Steel”

Despite the fog of war and massive confusion, the Pakistan Army faced the main thrust of the Indian Army, led by “The Black Elephant”, the formation sign of the Indian 1 Armoured Division, duly supported by three infantry divisions, gave the run for the money to the Pakistan Army, that stood its ground and held the Indian might at bay. In the Battle of Chawinda, 25 Cavalry and 24 Infantry Brigade, ably supported by 10 Infantry Brigade and a Squadron of 31 TDU stood out.

4. Enter Pegasus (6 Armoured Division)

The 6 Armoured Division, which was still not fully operational and not equipped to its full potential in men and material, was thrust in the Ravi - Chenab corridor and gave a good account of themselves.

5. Lahore Sector

This Sector took on the might of the Indian Army. Not expecting the Indians to open an all-out War, 25 per cent of the Army was on leave and the main defensive positions were held by the Rangers and some regular army. By the time it was revealed, the forces moved to their battle locations, and the Indian Army had advanced north and south of the city. That day the PAF came into their own and they mauled the Indian attack and bought useful time till the army was in their trenches. This by no means was as easy as it seems. There are classic examples of heroism like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, who rose to fame after the War.

1. Battles on Lahore-Amritsar Axis. There was a masterly counterstroke of Brigadier Qayum Sher, Commander 22 Infantry Brigade, with 23 Cavalry who turned the tables on the Indians. This action raised the morale so high, that Major General Sarfraz, ordered Brig Qayum Sher to be prepared to press on to Wagha and even beyond. The jeep of Major General Naranjan Prasad, GOC 15 Infantry Division of the Indian Army is a prized trophy of the Lahore Army Museum.

2. Khalra-Burki Sector. The task of defending this sector rested with the 103 Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brig Muhammad Asghar. It is out here that 17 Punjab and 12 Punjab, reinforced by B Squadron 30 TDU, a company of 15 Baloch, and B Company of 11 FF (R&S) wrote tales of valour. This brigade was ably supported by the 24 Field Regiment Artillery and commanded by Lt Col Mohammad Nawaz Sial. It was during one of these raging battles, that Major Aziz Bhatti, personally directing artillery and other types of fire, was hit by a tank shell and embraced Shahadat. The operations of 17 Punjab, will always be remembered so would be the heroic deeds of the 103 Infantry Brigade.

The Award of Hilal-e-Istaqlal

Hilal-e-Istaqlal is an honour awarded to civilians in Pakistan. In 1966, the Government of Pakistan awarded Hilal-e-Istaqlal to Lahore, Sargodha and Sialkot for showing severe resistance to the enemy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Every year on Defence Day (6 September), this flag is hoisted in these cities.

The Role of singers/musicians/entertainers

The melodious voice of Madam Noor Jahan, and Mehdi Hasan gave more courage to the fighting soldiers and helped in boosting their morale. Brave people of Lahore used to stand on their rooftops to witness the passing fighter jets of Indian and Pakistan air forces. The daily evening programme of “Jamhoor di Awaz”, hosted by Nizam Din was always awaited and enjoyed by the people.

Rann of Kutch Skirmishes - April 1965

In March 1965, the Indians carried out a joint exercise “Arrow Head” with a brigade group supported by INS Vikrant and seven destroyers and frigates in the Gulf of Kutch operational area. In this exercise, the Indians practised various types of naval operations, with particular emphasis on carrier-based operations, including anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, airstrikes and reconnaissance missions. Clashes ensued between the Indo-Pak forces over the border in the Rann of Kutch area to establish sovereignty over 3500 square miles of the disputed territory. The ships of PN started patrolling the approaches to Karachi and the area extending towards the southeast commencing April 1965. PNS Babur was converted from a training ship to an operational cruiser. All the operational units were put on full operational readiness, including the submarine PNS/M Ghazi. The stand-off continued for four months till the international tribunal ordered the seizing of hostilities.