8th Battalion – The Frontier Force Regiment (8 FF)

It will be recalled that 8 FF took part with effect in the Pakistan-Indian border dispute in the Rann of Kutch. On the declaration of war with India, 8 FF were at Hyderabad. On September 6th, 1965, 51 Brigade Group rushed towards the border with 8 FF in the van. By the evening of the same day, 8 FF arrived in its battle location: ahead of Khokarapar and occupied the dominating heights directly facing the enemy force covering Monabao railway station.

A Company under Major Aqil Dad was deployed as left forward company, west of the Khokharapar-Monabao railway line. B Company was the right forward company covering the railway line and two old tracks, while C and D Companies were in depth in the vicinity of Khokharapar railway station.

The battalion, by now a veteran of desert warfare, fully utilized its expertise and by the morning of September 7th was fully dug in to face the enemy. Recce and standing patrols were mounted to gather information. All this was done so skillfully that the enemy had no inkling whatever that a full battalion had been deployed against him so close to the border. At about 1400 hours on September 8th a company strength of the enemy was observed in working dress on top of the main feature south of Monabao, improving their defenses. This was too good a target to miss, and after considerable canvassing permission was finally granted to the O.C. B Company, Major M.M. Sarfaraz Khan, to engage the enemy with 83 Mortar Battery Artillery, having 12 x 120mm. mortars. This was the first shot fired in this sector.

The F.O.O., Lieutenant Rizwan Ullah, 14 Field Regiment Artillery, took the shoot with marked skill. In all, about 107 shells were fired with devastating effect, causing numerous casualties to the enemy. As the target had been registered, the enemy position was engaged intermittently throughout the night to obstruct the development of defenses. This created such a panic that both the enemy companies left their defenses and retreated, leaving behind sizeable stores, rations and ammunition.

Almost simultaneously, and not knowing of the enemy withdrawal at night, a brigade offensive was planned in which 8 FF was to play a prominent part. But before the attack could go in, the Rangers conveyed a wireless intercept to Brigade Headquarters, stating that the enemy had vacated Monabao position. This was excellent news and the Brigade Commander went to the B Company position and asked the officer commanding how long he would take to occupy Monabao. The latter told him fifteen minutes. The Brigade Commander gave approval but soon changed his mind, stating that B Company was holding important ground and therefore he would not like to disturb this company or, for that matter, the holding battalion, 8 FF. Instead he ordered the reserve battalion to occupy Monabao, vacated by the action of B Company, 8 FF. This action has been described in some detail as it was necessary to record the pre-eminent contribution of 8 FF in the fall of Monabao.

Thereafter 8 FF fought numerous actions big and small but all on enemy soil. The battalion captured over one thousand square miles of enemy territory and held it against all enemy counter-attacks right up to March, 1966. It also captured a total of 88 prisoners, including seven officers, two J.C.O.s and 79 other ranks in addition to a large booty of arms, ammunition and stores.

In the Pakistan-India War of 1965, most of the actions in this desert area were fought by company independent groups. Some of these actions are depicted below:

Capture of Rohri and Pancldilllla: These were two border posts which C Company 8 FF were ordered to capture. This was carried out in dashing style and the company, led by Captain Abdul Rashid Qureshi, captured both posts which were manned by the Indian constabulary. They captured one officer and 33 other ranks, in addition to killing many of the enemy.

Raid on Jaisander: On September 17th A Company, commanded by Major Aqil Dad, was sent to raid an enemy gun area behind the Indian defenses at Jaisander. Owing to the lack of authentic information about the enemy, the company walked into an enemy brigade defensive locality. Rather than withdraw without a fight, the company chose to attack certain defenses and created havoc. Major Aqil Dad was wounded leading his men. The company killed many enemy before withdrawing. Major Aqil Dad was awarded a Sitara-e-Jurat, while Havildar Sabir Shah, Sepoy Mohammad Saud Khan and Sepoy Mukhtar Gul were awarded Tamgha-e-Jurats.

Re-capture of Sundra: Even after the cease fire the troops in this area were jockeying for good tactical positions as compared with the Indians. Sundra is an Indian village in the district of Barmer, approximately 32 miles north of Khokrapar. It had been captured by the Pakistan Rangers earlier, but an overwhelming strength of Indian Regular Force had retaken the post. However 8 FF reacted strongly and the enemy were evicted promptly by D Company group under Major Luqman Mahmood, supported by a troop of rather old tanks.

D Company in this action captured five officers including the Indian Commanding Officer, two J.C.O.s including their Subedar Major, and twenty other ranks, together with a large quantity of arms and equipment. The rest of the time during this war was spent in sending out offensive fighting patrols.

Re-capture Area South of Rohri: As already mentioned, 8 FF had captured a large tract of Indian territory during 1965. On arrival of 18 FF, only recently raised, the southern portion of the territory, with Monabao railway station as its centre point was handed over to them. 8 FF remained responsible for all territory north of Rohri in Indian Rajasthan. The Indians took advantage of the vast area infiltrated between Rohri and Monabao. The United Nations observers intervened but the enemy refused to vacate their positions and Pakistan had no option but to use force again.

A composite force of a squadron of light tanks, a battery of field artillery and four companies of infantry were ordered to evict the Indians. The infantry consisted of two companies 8 FF, one company 18 FF and a company from 27 Punjab.

Let us now follow B Company 8 FF (Major M.M. Sarfaraz Khan), one of the assault companies. It marched the whole night of November 11/12, 1965 over difficult desert and attacked the objective from the rear of the enemy position. Surprise was complete and B Company captured the objective with only one casualty, Lance Naik Ghulam Hussain. This N.C.O., in spite of being seriously wounded, continued in the assault and was subsequently awarded an Imtiazi Sanad. The enemy suffered several casualties including eleven prisoners who all belonged to C Company, 3rd Battalion of the Indians’ Guard Brigade. Later 18 FF, with the tanks, continued to pursue the retreating enemy until they left our side of the line of control.

For this action the Commander-in-Chief personally congratulated the assaulting troops.

The following officers were serving with the battalion during the above operations;

Lieutenant-Colonel Ghulam Mustafa Khan Janjua (up to December 15th, 1965)
Lieu tenant-Golonel Giulam Jelani Khan (took over on December 16th, 1965)
Major Shadman Khan
Major Luqman Mahmood
Major M.M. Sarfaraz Khan
Major Zahur Hussain Malik
Major Abdur Rashid Qureshi
Major Aqil Dad
Captain Sardar Khan
Captain Zafar Hayat
Captain Mohammad Ehsan
Captain Nisar Ahmed Qureshi
2/Lieutenant Amin Ullah
2/Lieutenant Muhammad Ghalib Sultan