On November 1, 1947 the Dogra governor of Gilgit agency surrendered to Gilgit Scouts and the Pakistan flag was raised. After the liberation, Major Aslam Khan (later brigadier) was posted to Gilgit to take over command of the forces available in the region. He raised the strength of the combined forces and organised them for different contingencies. An immediate appreciation of the situation was carried out and it was found that Skardu was still held strongly by parts of the 6th Jammu and Kashmir Infantry Battalion and the possibility of a likely enemy counterattack was not ruled out. The 6th Jammu and Kashmir Infantry Battalion was re-raised at Skardu in December 1947 composed of Dogras, Sikhs and Muslims soldiers. It was anticipated that India would like to capture Gilgit and reinforce Skardu through alternative routes. Taking this into account it was decided to fight the battle in enemy territory.

Four wings were raised and Major Ehsan Ali was made commander of “D” wing of ex-Gilgit Scouts with the mission to neutralise the enemy at Skardu and conquer all of Baltistan including Kargil and Leh. Major Ehsan Ali, a local of Nager (Gilgit) was the first man from Gilgit region to get commissioned in the Kashmir state army in 1932. Skardu was linked with Gilgit along river Indus, located at 7400 feet above sea level and its location was strategic towards Ladakh on one side and beyond Karakoram Pass, Yarkand valley in China. The column was named the Ibex Force, assembled at Harmosh, 25 miles east of Gilgit and on February 1, the leading column left Harmosh for Skardu. The distance from Gilgit to Skardu is 160 miles and a 20-day journey, but the liberation forces covered it in 14 days, that too in winter.

Lt Col Thapa, incharge Skardu garrison anticipated an advance from Gilgit and therefore decided to block the approach at Tsari, 20 miles short of Skardu. Two platoons were deployed on both banks of river Indus. At the same time, heavy enemy reinforcement also started pouring into Skardu to advance on to Gilgit. Despite enemy presence at Tsari, the positions were crossed quietly by the leading elements of Ibex Force. A platoon was left behind to tackle the enemy and Tsari, which was attacked on February 9, 1948 once it was detected. The enemy was overpowered in close coordination with mujahid Bakhtawar Shah. Raja of Rondou also played an important role in clearing the enemy and raised a lashkar of 300 volunteers. After clearing the opposition at Tsari, the Ibex force crossed Indus towards Skardu garrison. In Skardu troops of the 6th Jammu and Kashmir light Infantry Battalion were deployed at Kharpocho Fort, at dominating ground point 8853 and in and around the cantonment. Two additional companies were rushed to Skardu from Srinagar and brigadier Faqir Singh was appointed sector commander with the order to move forthwith.

The first attack on Skardu garrison was launched on February 11, but lost surprise once detected by the enemy; it resulted in heavy exchange of fire. As there was no headway, it was decided to withdraw liberation forces for regrouping. However, the Skardu garrison was surrounded and the enemy was fixed at Kharpocho Fort, the cantonment fort, the fort of Raja of Skardu and gurdwara east of the cantonment. The second attack was launched on March 24, 1948 and half of the enemy positions were occupied including point 8853, but it was not a complete victory. In the meantime, news came that a brigade size reinforcement (Biscuit Column) under brigadier Faqir Singh was on its way to rescue the beleaguered force at Skardu. The advancing party consisted of 350 men, 600 coolies and 200 horses with ammunition, clothing and ration. Brigadier Faqir Singh was also accompanied by his advisor Colonel Coutts.

They heard the news that an ambush was planned and laid at Thurego 8 miles west of Gol along Kargil-Skardu road. Two platoons covered an area of two miles and once the enemy came inside, the site boulders were rolled down on them besides heavy firing. Brigadier Faqir Singh and his advisor managed to escape with some troops due to poor visibility. Many jumped into river Indus and drowned. The place of this action is famously known as Faqir Singh Ki Pari. In the meantime, the siege of Skardu continued as the enemy was confined to Skardu cantonment and Kharpochu fort. The besieged troops were supplied through para drops. On 8 April came the news that two battalions of 163 Brigade (“Z” brigade) are on their way to Skardu. The 5th Jammu and Kashmir Battalion was under Lt Col Sampuran Singh and the 7th Jammu and Kashmir Battalion under Lt Col Kirpal Singh. It was decided by Major Ehsan Ali to ambush this force too at Parkuta 68 kilometres from Skardu. The ambush site covered an area of 4 miles from the junction of Shyok and Indus up to Parkuta. On April 20, when enemy forces came near the southern bank of river Indus, they were fired on by ambush forces.

Later, it developed into a long battle over a month from mid-April to May 17. As a result of this, the siege of Skardu was lifted and handed over to local volunteers as the remaining forces were sent to Parkuta. Major Ehsan Ali personally came to Parkuta and a decisive victory was achieved as surviving enemy forces ran back towards Kargil. With this action, Ibex Force succeeded in clearing the whole Indus valley. The retreating enemy under Lt Col Kirpal Singh was again ambushed at Kharmang and only a small party was able to reach back to Srinagar. The “Z” brigade ceased to exist with this last blow. In May 1948, elements of Ibex Force succeeded in capturing Kargil and Dras by Eskimo Force which was a great blow to India. In the meantime, 300 men of Chitral Scouts and Chitral Body Guards under command Shahzade Mata-ul-Mulk and Major Burhan-ud-Din arrived at Skardu and took over control of the situation. Colonel Mata-ul-Mulk asked Lt Col Thapa through a messenger (POW) to surrender but he did not reply. Indian air force kept attacking the position of liberation forces and para dropped supplies to besieged troops. In view of the increasing pressure of liberation forces on the night of 12/13 August, Lt Col Thapa asked for terms of surrender. Thapa now realised that the game was up and informed general Thimmaya that the garrison had no option but to surrender. On August 14, 1948 after a 5-month long siege Lt Col Thapa, Captain Ganga Singh, Captain Parhdal Singh, Lieutenant Ajit Singh with 250 men surrendered to liberation forces. According to historian Dr. Ahmad Hassan Dani “the final victory was achieved with the help of Chitral men that delivered the final blow under the command of Col Mata-ul-Mulk”. Major Ehsan Ali proved his mettle as a conqueror of Baltistan was awarded Sitara-e-Jurrat by the government of Pakistan for his leadership and bravery. Lt Col Sher Jung Thapa later (brigadier) was awarded Mahavir Chakra by India. He along with other POW were repatriated to India after the war.