September 6 is celebrated every year by the nation as the Defence Day of Pakistan to commemorate Pakistan’s finest hour when its armed forces frustrated a surprise attack by the numerically superior Indian Armed Forces on September 06, 1965. But Pakistan has been the victim of aggression many times after that too, so what makes 1965 so special?
On September 06, 1965, the people of Pakistan stood as a united solid edifice to meet the onslaught of an enemy that chose the cover of darkness to achieve its heinous ends of occupying our motherland. The spirit of ‘65 is the strength of character, the firm resolution, the fortitude that overwhelmed every Pakistani to stand up to be counted as a defender of its homeland, whether one was a soldier, sailor or airman, farmer, shopkeeper, student, or artisan, whether one was a singer, poet or writer.
I was a student of class 8 in PAF Public School Sargodha. I distinctly remember our Principal Mr. Hugh Catchpole suspended classes on the morning of 6th September and assembled us in the school auditorium and informed us that since Pakistan had been invaded by India, we were in a state of war. He was closing the school down and moving us to a safe location since Sargodha was likely to be the target of Indian air raids. He then switched on the radio on the public address system, and we heard the President, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, addressing the nation. What a speech! Every word, every phrase is still imprinted in our minds today even after 56 long years.
“The enemy does not know which nation it has challenged. On our lips tremble the kalima of La Ilaha Ill Allah.”
Our whole being was filled with a mercurial spirit. We declared to Mr. Catchpole that our nation needed us and we did not want to go to a safe place; we would rather got to the war front and face the enemy. The Principal cajoled us eleven and twelve years old that we had no formal training to fight and we were shipped off to safety.
The fledgling nation on the other hand, for the first time, in its brief history, was invited by its head of the state to wage jihad and it responded with full vim and vigour. The soldiers, sailors and airmen fought gallantly, many making the supreme sacrifice of their lives. The glorious trail of valour emblazoned by them in our history is written in golden words.
The spirit of ‘65 filled every Pakistani who was so imbued with his passion that he was transformed into a super being, or so it seemed. Poets, imbibed with the spirit of ‘65, rendered motivational songs as if revelations were bestowed upon them, urging every Pakistani to meet the challenges fearlessly. Singers crooned the martial songs with such zest that it filled the soul with the spirit of sacrifice. Farmers, labourers, artisans, and common folk turned up for military or defence duties. When the city of Lahore was attacked by a crafty enemy in the dead of the night, it was only lightly defended, but the brave people of Lahore marched to the front armed with only spears, sticks and rods to shield their beloved city. Indeed “the enemy did not know which nation it had challenged!”
People lined up at hospitals and dispensaries to donate blood for the wounded and injured. Students formed their own committees for civil defence duties and digging up trenches. It was as if the entire nation was one solid impregnable wall. The rest is history. The Indians never achieved their depraved goal of having a drink at the Lahore Gymkhana. They were stopped in their tracks by a resolute nation, determined to deter any aggressor.
The spirit of ‘65 is something to take pride in and remember. However, the question that arises is: Pakistan has been faced with numerous crisis situations after 1965, but why has the spirit of ‘65 never surfaced again? In 1971, when our Eastern wing was dismembered; in 1998, when sanctions were imposed on us and we were declared a pariah state after the nuclear tests; in 1999 during the Kargil Crisis; in 2001-2002, when the Indians amassed their troops on the international boundary, threatening us with dire consequences; the war on terror which was thrust on us and we ended up sacrificing thousands of lives. All these trials and tribulations called for a revival of the spirit of ‘65. However, it was not to be, and we remained divided and in a state of disarray.
What really matters is leadership: inspired leadership which can transform an inchoate mass into a compact solidified force, which can withstand any test, any trial. The people of Pakistan are one of the finest in the world. Full of zest for life, capable of struggle and strife. What they need is a leader to take them across the trials and tribulations and achieve their rightful place in the comity of nations.
6th September is now observed as Martyrs’ Day to pay homage to the valiant who gallantly sacrificed their lives to defend Pakistan.
The writer is the former Group Captain PAF and an author.