By Brig (Retd) Waheed Uz Zaman Tariq
It reminds me the day the 1965 war started. I have just joined my high school and was just in class six. We were hearing the news of a war of independence going on in Kashmir valley and we listened to Sedai Kashmir radio. The signals were very weak. It talked of actions of Mujahedeen inside the valley and we could understand that the Kashmir valley had been infiltrated by the freedom fighters. That was the time when Algeria and some other nations have just become independent and a fight for freedom did not fall under the broader category of terrorism.
It was the end of August, 1965 as I recall, when we heard about the advance of Pakistani troops towards Chamb and Jaurian and I still remember the pictures of our soldiers crossing Tavi River. Then we heard in early days of September, 1965 that we are knocking at the doors of Akhnor. Fight was also going on in Hajji Pir sector as well as in Kargil sectors. Then appeared a news somewhere on 4th of August, of Indian artillery fire over a village Awan Sharif, in the Gujrat District and we heard about many casualties, out of which dozens were killed in the mosque. Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahader Shastri had warned us that he can open a sector of his own choice but our Foreign Ministry was adamant in her stance that India would not violate the sanctity of international border.
The D-day arrived
As we were told that war has started and India had attacked Lahore before the dawn of 6th of September. We lived in a roadside village of Chak Uggu, situated on Gujranwala Hafizabad Road. WE say buses bring people from Lahore and Sialkot area. People were on the roofs of buses and had left for safer places. The buses were camouflaged by mud and tying of green branches of trees. A traditional healer by the name of Hakim Nazir lived on roadside and he had a radio set and we all gathered to listen to the President Ayyub Khan’s address to the nation. His words moved our hearts and I found all the people in tears but with a new enthusiasm as if a nation had been reborn and the people looked determined and ready to make any sacrifice, to save the country. The nation was one, from Peshawar to Ras Kumari (then in East Pakistan). India radio and BBC were broadcasting the news of Indian occupation of Lahore, yet the ground reality was different and we were confident that they cannot penetrate too far into the Pakistani territory.
A girl from our village by the name of Shidan was married to someone at town of Hadiara, in Lahore District. Her mother Marian was a crying as there was a rumor that she had been murdered as the Indian army overran Hadiara. In the afternoon, I spotted here dropping from a bus and reaching safely. I was pleased to escort her and she looked to me as if she had come out of grave.
In the air we saw, Indian aeroplanes being chased by the jets of the Pakistan air Force. One day we saw a burning aeroplane descending rather falling on our heads and was being followed by our planes. Then we saw flame of fire rising from Qila Didar Singh two miles in the west of our village. Then there were clouds of smoke. Initially, the people thought as if the town has been bombarded and was burning. Later on, it was known that the plane was our own but mistakenly hit by our own guns. There was no fun in going to school, as our school ground was having some air force set up moved to it and there was radar there and some troops camped there. Indian warplanes headed to Sargodha air base and they passed over us. Most of the moves were in the night. In the city of Gujranwala, sirens were installed to warn about an impending air raid. The Indian air force had suffered a big loss in the initial days of the war and we had, otherwise, a feeling of safety.
One day we heard that Indian paratrooper had landed on GT Road and may come to our villages. Although later that news was found to be false but our village youth was searching for such suspicious people but could not be found. The people were vigilant about any stranger, who was suspected to by a spy of the enemy, until proved otherwise.
Meanwhile, a fund called as Defai (Defence) Fund was raised and I found all the people generously donating money ration and even household commodities. People were ready for making any sacrifice. Our youth was donating blood as the medical set up of army was set near Ladhiwala village (as Gujranwala Cantonment did not exist in those days. People who have been displaced from the villages of Sialkot were accommodated in our village, in the primary school, mosques and even in the houses and fed by the people.
The Speech of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
The news of war were taken seriously by all of us. We listened to the speech made by Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the Security Council of the United Nations. Despite the fact that none of us could understand the English speech, yet we could learn the meaning from few semi educated people. Next day we read it in the newspaper. We knew that w e received moral and material support from China, Iran, Turkey and Indonesia and we were sad to know that a Muslim country Malaysia had announced to support India> Then we knew about the brokerage for peace in the region and then on 23rd of September, 1965 the war ended. Our school remained closed for another more month.
Irrespective of the fact that the war was imposed or a continuity of our unannounced military involvement in Kashmir, we did receive a moral support from the world over. We lost some territory and gained four times of that in other areas. We saved Lahore and Sialkot and could show our ability to s=defend. The spirit of the unity was aroused and West and East Pakistan were together, in their fight against India. The nation showed her unity and will to make sacrifice for the country. We were all one and determined to save ourselves.