Lt Col Syed Shahid Abbas

The historic day of 6th Sept reminds us of our joint national resolve in beating back an aggression, let loose on our country just 18 years after its birth. On the eve of the invasion, more than 12 divisions of the Indian Army, an independent armoured brigade group and 3 additional infantry brigades stood poised against Pakistan, spread out from Tithwal in the North to Rajasthan in the South.

In the early hours of the morning, the Indian forces crossed the international border and invaded Pakistan on a broad front without formal declaration of war. During the 17 days war, India mounted 13 major attacks on Lahore-Kasur and 15 major attacks on Sialkot fronts. By the grace of Allah Almighty, most of these attacks were repulsed with strong will and force. The Indians had moved in three miles deep, in the first few hours of their attack before they came up against our defences. During the rest of 17 days, they could not advance as many inches, although their local superiority on many positions was as high as five times or even more. This reflects the resolute will and determination of the Pakistan Armed Forces.

The battle of Sialkot, or the battle of Chawinda as it has come to be known, remains the subject of discussion in professional quarters even to this day. Our men knocked out four tanks for each of their own and this index, which has been corroborated by neutral observers, speaks volumes for the skill and guts of our tanks men. The contribution of Pakistan Artillery in breaking the back of India’s offensive on Sialkot and on other fronts is yet another inspiring story.

On Lahore and Sialkot fronts Pakistan was fighting purely a defensive battle. In Kasur Sector, our troops not only contained one of India’s major thrusts to hit Lahore from the flank but they also went for a limited offensive action to prevent further enemy build-up. In a swift action they occupied Khem Karan thereby putting an end to whatever mischief enemy was brewing.

Pakistan Army also made a small push into Indian territory at Sulemanki. This action, again, was ordered to forestall Indian design to capture Sulemanki Headworks. In this area Pakistan occupied 40 square miles of Indian territory. In Rajasthan we captured over 1200 square miles of Indian land, from where India made desperate and futile bids to push us out.

In Kashmir, Pakistan’s action to break up India’s offensive build up in Chhamb area was a perfectly planned text-book attack, which staggered the Indians who ran for their lives, leaving everything they had in their well-prepared defensive positions? In artillery alone, they left enough pieces for us to raise two field regiments. We occupied over 350 square miles of territory in Akhnur Sector and 16 square miles in Kotli Sector.

Behind the Armed Forces stood the dauntless and united people of Pakistan. No visitor to Lahore during those fateful days could detect the slightest indication that a deadly struggle was raging right outside the suburbs of this stout-hearted city. As the armed forces took the enemy along the borders, the people in their own way plunged themselves into war efforts, collectively and individually. On all roads leading to the battle-fronts, people thronged on both sides, all hours of the day, offering snacks, cold drinks, tea and cigarettes, to the troops on the move.

In the world of art and literature, the 17-days war brought about a real revolution. It transformed the artists – writers, composers, poets, painters and the broadcast and newspaper media into front line fighters on the intangible, yet vital front of art. Poetry rode high on the wings of patriotism.  The exploits of the soldiers were versified into ballads and set to stirring music. Pakistan’s small but dedicated air force kept the Indians on the defensive by its relentless pressure, and maintained complete mastery of the sky throughout the 17-days war. The PAF launched deep penetration bombing missions on Indian airbases. It also provided effective close support to the Army on various fronts from Chamb to Rajasthan. Suffice to say that by September 23, when hostilities came to an end, India had lost 110 aircraft, besides 19 damaged. On its part PAF came out of war nearly unscathed losing only 16 aircraft.

The Pakistan Navy dominated the seas and kept our sea lanes open and safe for ships coming to Pakistani ports.  A swift and spectacular raid on Dwarka on September 7 was one of its brilliant demonstrations of daring action. n