17 Days of Unity, Bravery and Sacrifice

September 6 is a day that will forever be engraved in every Pakistani’s heart. It is the day when Pakistan stood united against Indian aggression and defended itself against an enemy who boasted a much bigger and vastly more equipped military. In the 17 days that followed, the armies of the two countries were locked in a ferocious battle until the United Nations intervened. India in its arrogance, felt that it could give a knockout blow to Pakistan and finish off, once and for all, the Kashmir dispute. But the world witnessed that India received a befitting response from Pakistan. At no point could Indians penetrate into Pakistan and most of the attacks were pressed back with fanatic will and fury. Indian command appeared to be determined to achieve a decision and was willing to accept heavy losses; they left piles of dead bodies in front of some of the posts that they had tried unsuccessfully to storm. 

The 17 days of war in September 1965, are a milestone in the history of Pakistan. Every man and woman, and even children, took part in fighting against the vile aggression of the enemy: be it fighting at the front or to raise funds, train gaurds or nurses who tended to the injured. Pakistanis fought with such gallantry that their ruthless enemy was forced to give up its dream of a quick and easy win against Pakistan. The war of 1965 is a testimony to the fact that a nation, small in number, succeeded against its bigger enemy's aggression through sheer patriotism and the will to do whatever it took to protect its sovereignty. Pakistanis not only fought bravely but proved that they will not accept the hegemony of fascist Indians.
Every year on September 6, we as a nation, not only commemorate the sacrifices of those who fought with resilience and laid down their lives to defend their homeland but also celebrate the unflinching courage of every citizen who rallied behind the Armed Forces and fought united. Women, along with the rest of the nation, were also inspired by the patriotic spirit; they took oath to come out of their houses to stand against the enemies and protect their homeland like their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. 
Brig Nusrat Jehan Saleem who provided her services during the 1965 and 1971 wars nursing the wounded, in her book Meray Sathi, Meray Ghazi, Meray Shaheed, explains that the involvement of women was of utmost importance. Even though the women in the army were not fighting the enemy at the front, they, nonetheless, played a significant role tending to the injured. She also recounts in her book the awe-inspiring stories of valour and sacrifice of the men who vowed to fight to their last to protect the honour of their motherland.
As the Indian army crossed international borders into West Pakistan, they organized an attack on Lahore. India suffered heavy losses as the attack against Lahore was not only held back but beaten by the Pakistan Army, which defended on the ground and was supported by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Lt. Gen Masood Aslam says, recalling the attack on Lahore, “As the Indian blitz on September 6th developed against the city of Lahore (the heart and soul of Pakistan), it was met with the indomitable spirit, resolve and blood of a handful of soldiers, who stood like the Rock of Gibraltar to defend their motherland, looking death in the eye. Numerically, India had 4:1 superiority on land and 3.6:1 in the air. I can’t describe the events which took place and the sagas of bravery written by the men in uniform can’t even be cursorily covered, however, no account of the 1965 War is complete without mentioning Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed. No words to describe this brave man! … To sum up, it is easy to discern that the Indian offensive plan against Pakistan lacked finesse in conception and was bereft of boldness in conduct. History will always remember it as a War of Lost Opportunities.” 
After the Lahore attack, India launched an attack on Sialkot. Pakistan Army once again took the challenge to protect and serve the country and with iron resolves it withstood every treacherous punch from the India Army and delivered an even strong reply to an enemy four times its size. The tank battle at Chawinda, where the Indians brought a whole Armour Division, with hundreds of tanks, saw nothing but knocking down of their tanks by fearless Pakistani soldiers. The Battle of Chawinda is remembered as a classic tank battle in annals of history.
PAF also played their part and fought against all odds despite small numbers and having less advanced aircrafts and showed invincibility in battle against overwhelming odds. Air Commodore (R) Sajjad Haider, Sitara-e-Jurat, who was commanding the Sherdils of No.19 Squadron against the Indian Air Force, in his interview with Hilal (English), stated, “No. 19 Squadron (Sherdils – war call-sign was Zambos) that I had the good luck to command was assigned the mission to destroy Indian artillery that was deployed across the Jassar Bridge in the Sialkot-Shakargarh Sector. One of our infantry battalions was under intense pressure and had suffered casualties as it was being directly targeted by Indian artillery guns … We knew this once we were strafing the Indians. But the mission of destroying the Indians was of great strategic importance, and for that my pilots and I took maximum risk. We had been able to destroy Indian forces advancing to capture Lahore. We destroyed their tanks, guns, infantry and other war equipment. Indian war plan had been shattered on the very first day of 1965 war. Consequently, I told my warriors that we would recover at Sargodha base to refuel and hopefully re-arm. But fate had other plans for No.19 Squadron. Fighters from Sargodha continued the destruction of enemy for rest of the war.” 
Muhammad Mahmood Alam, also known as MM Alam, is another name that comes up when we talk about Pakistan’s defence against Indian air offensive. He became the first honored fighter pilot of Pakistan Air Force who was awarded the title of Sitara-e-Jurat for his brilliant efforts during the war. He made history by taking down nine Indian fighter jets in air-to-air combat. His record of shooting down five Indian aircrafts in less than a minute still remains unbeaten.
Pakistan Navy also played a vital role in defeating the country at sea against the Indian Navy. They are proof of raw courage and dedication during the Indo-Pakistan War. Ghazi — the only Pakistani submarine in the conflict area — enforced a blockade, which resulted in bottling-up the Indian fleet and enabling the Pakistani fleet to move in and destroy the Indian naval fortress of Dwarka.
Pakistan is home to brave warriors and the nation is indebted to our Shaheeds and Ghazis who have carved a path for generations to follow so that if and when the time comes, every single citizen will stand hand-in-hand to defend their homeland against any enemy. 
Learning about the country’s history and sacrifices of our people is vital for every Pakistani, a woman’s role in this context is of great importance as she is the conduit through which the knowledge about 0ur history is transferred to future generations. As September 6 approaches let us once again recall the names of those who have fought with gallantry and who continue to fight with unmatched courage and heroism against all internal and external threats. Let us remind ourselves that we (every man, woman and child) are responsible for protecting the nation against all those who wish it ill. As a nation let us resolve that Pakistanis will never hesitate to fight those who pose a threat to the sacred soil just like our heroes before us. HH

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