September 6 – Remembering the Heroes of Defence
Commemorated with gun-salutes and prayer ceremonies across the country, 6th September – Defence Day of Pakistan – is celebrated in memory of the brave soldiers who laid their lives protecting our homeland in the War of 1965 against India. Defence day is one of the most important events of Pakistan’s history. On September 6, 1965, Indian army crossed the international borders of Pakistan without a formal declaration of War. It was a time when not only the brave soldiers but the whole nation was cast into the mold of a cohesive unit to defend our home land and defeat the Indian Army in this act of coarseness.
During the time of the most crucial wars that we have ever had, our Air Force pilots showed their skill and courage in the skies, and dogfights were common. Legends were born: MM Alam who shot 5 Indian planes in less than one minute and has a haul of 9 Indian planes to his name; the amazing Sarfaraz Ahmad Rafiqui whose exploits included shooting down two Indian Hunters in the Chamb sector on the 1st of September, and on the 6th when attacking the Halwara air base he downed one Indian Hunter and then his guns jammed, but he continued to give cover to the rest of the formation, till he was shot down; the attack on Pathankot air base which destroyed ten IAF planes on the ground, and the list of these amazing heroes goes on.
The seventeen-day war witnessed the largest tank battles since World War II, causing thousands of casualties to both sides, but remained militarily inconclusive. Pakistan withstood the invasion of its territory by an enemy four times its size, and in doing so the whole nation stood up to the challenge with an iron resolve. The nation mobilized at every level, where every child, man or woman worked towards the war effort, be it to raise funds, train as civilian guards, or as nurses in hospitals. Madame Noor Jahan took to the airwaves to sing her inspirational war songs in praise of the defenders, and she became a symbol of the indomitable will of the nation.
The long-standing border disputes, communal tensions, and conflict over the question of Kashmir flared up in a full-scale war between India and Pakistan in September 1965.The disputed state of Kashmir had become the flashpoint in 1965, and led to the Indo-Pakistan war later the same year. Border skirmishes that started in April spiraled into a war as the Indian Forces crossed the international border and advanced towards Lahore on 6th September 1965. While the Indian Army outnumbered Pakistani Forces 3:1, their air force had a 5:1 numerical superiority against the Pakistan Air Force. However, as the World War II veteran, Major General Prasad led the 15th Infantry Division of the Indian Army towards Lahore, there was a counterattack by Pakistan near the strategic BRB Canal, and he was forced to abandon his vehicle and retreat. Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, the Company Commander in the Burki area of the Lahore sector played a critical role in stopping the Indian advance, for which he was posthumously awarded the highest military award, Nishan-e- Haider.
At 3:00 AM on September 6, 1965, without a formal declaration of war, Indians crossed the international border of West Pakistan and launched a three-pronged offensive against Lahore, Sialkot and Rajasthan. There was a fierce tank battle on the plains of Punjab. The domestic Indo-Pak conflict transformed into an international conflict and raised Super Power concerns. The U. S. suspended military supplies to both sides during the Indo-Pak War. Both the Soviet Union and the United States took a united stand to curtail the conflict within the boundaries of the Sub-continent from escalating into a global conflict. China threatened to intervene and offered military support to Pakistan. It was to keep China away from this conflict that both the Soviet Union and the United States pressured the U. N. to arrange for an immediate ceasefire.
The main diplomatic effort to stop the fighting was conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and a ceasefire came into effect on September 23, 1965.The Soviet Union, which had remained neutral while India and Pakistan were at war, played broker at Tashkent afterwards. A Soviet Government communiqué formally announced on December 8 that the Indian Prime Minister Shastri and the Pakistani President Ayub would meet at Tashkent on January 4, 1966.The Tashkent Conference lasted from January 4 to January 10. The Soviet Premier Kosygin earned praise as a peacemaker. The main achievement of the Conference was to withdraw, no later than February 25, 1966, all armed personnel to the position held before August 5, 1964.
A Monument- ‘Yaadgar-e-Shohda’ was also constructed for the Martyrs of the war of 1965, but unfortunately, we tend to overlook this monument many times. All of us have passed by it but never stopped think and pay our respects. For many, it is just a showpiece of trivial importance, but underneath its concrete cement, lies the stories of bravery, patriotism and sacrifice.
By Yousma Siddiqui