Our blood runs thick, our blood runs green

After the 1965 war, both the nations learnt that the Kashmir conflict could not be solved by military intervention.

Ali Ashraf Khan September 05, 2015
September 6th is celebrated as Defence Day in Pakistan. It was on this day that India launched an attack on Pakistan back in 1965. Only a couple of months after launching Operation Gibraltar in Kashmir, Indian forces crossed the border in retaliation, pushing back Pakistani Rangers and advancing towards Lahore from two sides.

They had driven up to Batapur from the Wagha check post during the night of September 5th and 6th before they were pushed back. While this was happening, the Indian army chief was boasting about sipping on coffee at the Lahore Gymkhana club.

Despite it being a surprise attack, it was held back and fought off, inflicting heavy losses to the opposing side. One of the most well-known and famous heroes of the 1965 War was Air Commodore MM Alam, a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot nicknamed ‘little dragon’. He was also awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat for holding the record of having taken down five Indian aircrafts over the city of Lahore. The people of Lahore came out on the streets to witness the air battle taking place in the skies, making Alam’s task all the more difficult as he had to be ensure no civilian got hurt.


Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, another hero who sacrificed his life in 1965, was commanding a platoon posted in the Burki area of Lahore. As the commander, Major Bhatti chose to lead from the front and moved his platoon forward despite constant heavy firing from Indian tanks and artillery. For five days, he carried on with the attack without taking a moment to rest. He continued to resist Indian attacks for those five days, defending a Pakistani outpost on the strategic Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian canal. However, on September 12, 1965, when he was leading his jawans (soldiers) on the forefront, he was hit by an enemy tank shell in the chest, leading to his martyrdom. He is the true reflection of the character of a Pakistani soldier.


A similar case of gallantry was repeated during the 1971 war by Major Shabbir Sharif. Under orders to advance towards the Sulemanki sector, he captured the Indian Jhangar Post and fought fearlessly as he passed through minefields laid out by the enemy, under heavy shelling, and finally led his company on a high bund (levee). He ended up eliminating Indian soldiers positioned in fortified bunkers and on the night of December 5th, he overpowered Indian Major Narain Singh of the fourth Jat Regiment and ended up killing him during hand-to-hand combat.


In response, Indian troops resorted to an air strike and heavy artillery shelling, and since Major Sharif was on the forefront, he was hit by an enemy tank shell on the chest and embraced martyrdom.

Another hero, during the 1965 war, was Squadron Leader Sarfaraz Ahmed Rafiqui, who on September 6th led a formation of three F-86 aircrafts on a strike against the Halwara airfield. The formation was intercepted by about 10 Hunter aircrafts, out of which Squadron Leader Rafiqui accounted for one in the first few seconds of the battle.


But unfortunately, his guns jammed due to a defect and stopped working. However, he refused to leave the battle ground and instead ordered his second in command to take over as the leader and continued the engagement while providing the formation with as much protection with an unarmed aircraft as possible. His aircraft was eventually shot down and he was killed, but his bravery enabled his formation to shoot down three more fighter aircrafts.

The air combat firing capability of Squadron Leader Rafiqui was also admitted by Major General GS Sidhu in his book, The Indian Cavalry: History of the Indian Armoured Corps till 1940, and he called the Pakistan Air Force pilots “blood thirsty vampires”. General Sidhu conceded Indian defeat in the 1965 war due to nerve shattering gallantry displayed by the Pakistani fighting forces.

On September 8th, India launched its main attack against Sialkot in the Chawinda sector using its armoured division and other offence formations. What ensued has been described as the largest tank battle since World War II. Divisions in southern Pakistan took the initiative to push back Indian troops and entered Indian territory. During the operations, India captured about 400 square miles of Pakistani territory but lost more than 1,600 square miles of its own territory in Khem Karan and the Monabao sector of India.

These are just a few names from a long list of brave soldiers who fought tirelessly for their country.

The entire war lasted for 17 days and ended due to the USSR taking a stand acting as mediator between both parties. A peace agreement was agreed upon which was signed in Tashkent in 1966. The Tashkent declaration, which put an effective end to the war, also included that Indian and Pakistani forces would have to pull back and station themselves at their pre-conflict positions and pre-August lines.

Both nations pledged that they would not interfere in each other’s internal affairs. The fact that the Tashkent declaration took India and Pakistan ‘back to square one’ changed the entire dynamic of the war in such a way that neither could claim full victory or defeat. The 1965 war was a defining moment since both nations learnt that the Kashmir conflict could not be solved by military intervention. Secondly, the remarkable military success of the Pakistani military was not only due to their superior tanks and high level of preparedness, but also due to the wise policy that Field Marshal Ayub Khan had been pursuing during the run-up to the war.

In 1964, only a year before the war, on the initiative of Ayub Khan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey had concluded an agreement called ‘Regional Cooperation for Development’ (RCD) which also provided defence assistance to each other on the side-line. An agreement similar to RCD was concluded with Indonesia as well. Therefore, when the war began, the Pakistani Air Force was able to use Iranian air fields so that our Pakistani fighter planes would be out of reach of Indian bombardments.

In addition, Turkey supplied Pakistan with spare parts for the F-104 Star fighter planes along with ammunition. Indonesia sent submarines and gun boats into the Bay of Bengal, defending former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

At the same time, the US had not only backtracked from its earlier assurances, but tried to pressurise Pakistan to not use American fighter planes and tanks in the war against India. But the bold Pakistani president told US that Pakistan had not purchased military hardware and equipment to be used as a display in museums, rather the planes were purchased for use in defending our territory in case of an attack.

China was another true friend of Pakistan during the 1965 war. They welcomed President Ayub Khan with open arms when he made a secret trip to China during the war. Thus, regional alignments have helped us defend our country, rather than relying on supplies from far away non-Asian countries that do not share the same regional roots and values as us.

The most important lesson that came out of the entire war was the memory of our nation’s unquestioned solidarity with the army and the feeling of belonging and loyalty to our home country. Memories of the bravery of our heroes fighting the enemy face to face and the civilians at home that had united as one to defend the country are truly inspiring.

Unfortunately, this single-minded solidarity seems to have weakened over time, but is slowly recovering due to operation Zarb-e-Azb in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Karachi operation being carried out by the Rangers.

Let us take the events of September 6, 1965 as a reminder that there is no Pakistan without us; it is the Pakistani people who make or break our country and we are the only ones who can make it a worthy place to live in.

Let us, as a united nation, step forward and make an honest commitment towards supporting the present drive against economic terrorism whole heartedly.

Who lives if Pakistan dies and who dies if Pakistan lives?

God bless Pakistan and mankind.
Ali Ashraf Khan The author has been a Central Information Secretary of PML (Malik Qasim & Khwaja Khairuddin), remained associated in MRD formation and then as Member Central Coordination Committee of PDA. He is an ex-member of FACC during PPP's regime. He takes active part in trade body politics as a member EC of FPCCI 2014 and belongs to a refugee family from Kargil and Ladakh.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Imtiaz Awan | 8 years ago | Reply It is high time to accept the realities. One must remember that fact is stronger than the fiction. Indian claims of victory in 1965 war could be taken as nothing more than a good fiction to please themselves. It is nothing but natural what a timid enemy should do. At the same time it is very unfortunate that few Pakistani writers simply term GIBRALTAR Operation as a failure without carrying out in depth study of the failures and achievements of GIBRALTAR Operation. No doubt nine out of ten forces of GIBRALTAR Operation miserably failed to accomplish their mission.But GHAZNAVI Force commanded by Major MunawarKhan SJ (Sitara e Jurrat) successfully won the support of local mountainouseagles in Rajouri-Budil Region and they taught unforgettable lessons to the Indian security forces (My hats off to the true Muslim wariors of Rajouri and Budil Region). GHAZNAVI Force over ran Rajouri Garrison (attack started in the evening, Indian soldiers posed strong resistance and it continued till next morning, the death toll of Indian soldiers raised to over 700, eventually remaining Indian personnel managed to escape), beside other losses of men and material, wiped out four Indian Infantry Battalions (3 Kamaon Regiment, 8 &9 Kamaon Regiment and 7 Madras Regiment), Jatha of 600 Jain Singh and two Artillery Batteries in Rajouri, Budil, Thana Mandi Naushera and Mehndor. Maj Munawar also formed Revolutionary Council for Rajouri-Budil Region under the chairmanship of Ex President Muslim Conference Sardar Jalal Deen. Major Munawar Khan SJ controlled area measuring 500 sq miles (750 sq KM) in Rajouri-Budil Region and established his own government, had his own civil administration till the implementation of UN mandated Cease Fire. He was a hero amongst the war heroes of Indo-Pak Armies in 1965 war. He became a symbol of terror for the Indian security forces. There is none except Major Munawar Khan SJ, in Indo-Pak Armies who had secured and controlled this much of area in one theatre of war during 1965. Had the paper tiger Gen Yahya Khan not involved himself in the rapidly progressing Operation Grand Slam brilliantly planed by Gen Akhtar Malik, Pakistan Army would have conveniently carried out link up with Rajouri already under the administrative control of Major Munawar Khan SJ. The Map of Kashmir would have changed. A large number of Indian security forces in IOK would have surrendered and India would not have dared to open a front on International Border. But alas……….. Another sad and strange part of the story is that despite the fact Major Munawar Khan controlled and administered 750 sq km area in IOK, he was awarded with just a Sitara-e-Jurat by the govt of Pakistan. According to the memoirs of few senior AK officials and other reliable sources, Gen Akhtar Malik had recommended and discussed Major Munawar’s case with Gen Ayub, Gen Musa and AK president Abdul Hamid Khan for award of both Nishan-e-Haidar and Hilal-e-Kashmir to the officer for his extra ordinary gallantry and miraculous achievements. But Gen Akhtar Malik was told by Gen Ayub that he was proud of Major Munawar Khan and no doubt he was King of Rajouri but Nishan-e-Haidar could only be awarded to a martyred and AK president regretted on the pretext that since the area of Rajouri-Budil Region captured by Major Munawar had been vacated and returned to India after UN mandated Cease Fire, therefore AK legislative assembly was not going to sanction this award (What a logic). Whereas on the other hand Major Ranjeet Singh Dayal captured Haji Pir Pass just 8 km inside AK, without any resistance by the Pakistani Troops and he was awarded Mahavir Chakara. Both the places Rajouri-Budil Region and Haji Pir Pass had strategic importance but are there any comparison between the achievements of both the officers? Control of Rajouri-Budil Region placed Pakistan in a strong bargaining position. Hence it is suggested that we must include the chapters in our books/articles regarding failures of GIBRALTAR Operation as well as the great achievements/successes of GHAZNAVI Force. (For veracity of information in above given comments your attention is drawn to History of Indo-Pak War by Gen Mahmud, 22 Fateful Days for India by D.R.Mankekar, The untold Story by Gen B.M.Kaul, Comments of Brig Chitranjan Sawant on Operation Gibraltar, History of AK Regiment vol-II and Force Inquizitive by Gautam Basu)
Mehroz Siraj | 8 years ago | Reply A lot of people in India conveniently forget a very important basic understanding regarding the 1965 War. Pakistan should not be dubbed as a transgressor because whatever happened in Occupied Kashmir, was something that happened in a disputed territory, not Indian lands. Secondly, being a smaller nation, Pakistan's utmost priority and major objective would have always been safeguarding its established cities and controlled lands from Indian invasion. This, we did perform very well and the statistics from the 1965 war prove this well. The fact that we were able to defend our motherland solidly, while still drilling deep into Indian territory (considering events such as Operation Somnath and air raids in Pathankot, Halwara, Ambala, etc) is what is victory for us.. The fact that we were able to repulse the Indians back after downing well over 100+ Indian jets is something that international historians have appreciated as well. This is what victory means for us--defending our homeland whilst standing firm and strong.
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