Commemorated with gun-salutes and prayer ceremonies across the country, 6th September – Defense Day of Pakistan – is celebrated in memory of the brave soldiers who laid their lives protecting our homeland in the 1965 War against India.
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.
The Pakistan 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.
Pakistan faces new threats and challenges, whether it’s terrorism, or criminal and mafia gangs in Karachi or in Baluchistan, fueled and financed by our enemies. General Raheel Sharif, the Chief of Army Staff, launched the operation Zarb-e-Azb (Azb was the Prophet’s (PBUH) sword, and zarb means cut) in June 2014, and since then incidents of terrorism have plummeted. Karachi, a megapolis of over 16 million people and the financial centre of Pakistan, was hostage to well-entrenched criminal gangs and mafias. It is now a much safer city.
Fifty-one years later, Kashmir is again on fire after the martyrdom of 22-year old Burhan Wani in July, and the demand for azadi (freedom) resonates from every corner of the Valley. Till the Kashmiri people are granted their inalienable right to self-determination, thereby removing the core cause of conflict, durable peace will continue to elude South Asia.
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