The Hour of Trial

The information regarding the Indian invasion took some time to reach Rawalpindi. The field commanders wanted to be certain that it was full scale invasion and not a few stray border incidents, before they informed the General Headquarters. The President, however, came to know of it through the Air Force channels earlier than the C-in-C of the army and rang him up to find out the exact situation. The C-in-C knew of the formations having moved forward and was quite confident that no amount of Indian pressure would be able to bend, much less break, the line of defense formed by the devoted sons of Pakistan, Threat of an Indian invasion was not new. It had existed from the very inception of Pakistan. Those who had expected to return and capture Pakistan within six months, after the two separated, had made known their intentions on many occasions. Pakistan was, therefore, prepared and vigilant.

It was after 5 a.m. by the time the Chief of General Staff, Major General Malik Sher Bahadur informed the C-in-C General Mohammad Musa that India had invaded Pakistan. Major General Malik Sher Bahadur, who was reputed for his coolness had been informed as soon as the commanders in the field were satisfied that the Indians had crossed the International Border and it was a full scale invasion and not a mere border incident . Having received the exact positions from all sectors, the Chief of General Staff apprised C-in-C in the meantime, as has been mentioned earlier, had been informed by the President and had the time to discuss the problem with him. One can visualize Maj. Gen. Sher Bahadur stroking his steel Grey mustache and smiling to himself on the folly that India had committed. He was confident that the officers and men of Pakistan Army would acquit themselves in a superb manner. His thoughts, however, were towards the mind of the enemy.

Director of Military Intelligence, Brig. Irshad Ahmed gave the debriefing in the Operations Room to C-in-C and others as he had anticipated Indian attacks on Lahore and Sialkot. There had been no information from Sialkot regarding any large scale Indian advance except at Jassar. The C-in-C and CGS were both of the opinion that Jassar was being used as a diversionary movement only. It was not yet clear but it appeared that the previous forecast of General Headquarters that India was likely launch Indian Armoured Division from Samba against Chawinda as the focal point still held good. As a result of this forecast the Staff College, Quetta had carried out Defense Exercises with regard to that area and most of the commanders and their staff were acquainted with the whole of the area and the likely tactics that the Indians would employ. The C-in-C and the General Staff having already apprised the field commanders of the plan could not do much except to watch the course of events and by keeping abreast of the developments remain one move ahead of the enemy all the time. As time passed and there was no sign of 1 Indian Armoured Division having been launched the feeling in the Operations Room became crystallized that the place chosen for the deployment of Indian armour was the Sialkot front. It was reasonable too. The terrain in front of Lahore was not as good as in Sialkot sector. There was a more weighty reason in favor of using armour in Sialkot. As explained earlier the political objective decided upon by the Indian Government was the complete annihilation of Pakistan which resulted in the formulation of the Military objective as the occupation of Pakistan territory and not the destruction of the armed forces of Pakistan. If General Chaudhuri who has been hailed by Indian writers as one of the greatest military commanders of Asia today, knew his subject, he would put his armour where it had a clear run for miles in front of it. Lahore rested with its back on river Ravi, clearly a tank obstacle and a bottleneck. On the other hand, a trust from Chawinda meant a clear run up to Wazirabad without any formidable obstacle except the canal for which enough brigade material had been arranged. If, by a diversionary attack against Jassar and Sialkot city they could entice away the defending force of the two flanks, it would give them a clear run up to Wazirabad without fighting a battle.

The Indian C-in-C acted exactly as the Pakistani General Staff had anticipated. He had decided to launch his armour from Samba on the firm plain of Sialkot and make a dash for the bridge of Chenab at Wazirabad. As will be seen later this decision cost him heavily. It was a bold plan but, as elsewhere, the action did not match the boldness of the plan. The bania in him, coupled probably with the interference from the politicians prompted and in a way forced him to over insure on less important fronts, there by making the plan not as effective as it would otherwise have been. If the Indian C-in-C had kept in front of him the objective to destroy the armed forces of Pakistan irrespective of the fact whether large tracts of our territory had been captured or not while doing so and without counting the number of places at which Pakistan was being attacked he would have been absolved of all blame for the failure of his army. As things stand today. The count on the first day, in addition to Pir Sahaba and Haji Pir Pass, regarding which the Indian radio was jubilant in every communiqué it gave out, was seven fronts. These seven fronts were Sialkot, Jassar, Wagha, Burki, Kem Karan, Kasur and Sulaimanki. The large number of fronts opened by General Chaudhuri did not upset the plans of General Mohammad Musa and his staff. They had catered for them. If General Chaudhuri had brought about dispersion with a view to dissipating the meager resources of men and material at the disposal of Pakistan then he was mistaken. As a leading foreign correspondent had said,

“These two fronts were intended to be diversional attacks to scatter Pakistan’s smaller army over a wider front and weaken the defenses around Lahore. Man for man, unit for unit, it is probably safer to say that Pakistan Army is at higher standard of training than the Indians.” (BBC 1410 hours, 10 September 1965)

Simultaneously with forcing Pakistan Army’s general staff to spread out over a front of 1600 miles he was doing the same for himself. Lieut. General Kaul has commented on this aspect when he says,

“He (Indian C-in-C) was not justified in taking …. Offensive over two extensive an area, which prevented him from concentrating sufficient forces any where.” (Kaul op. Cit., P.478)

If he had kept inferior froces at most of these points and contained superior Pakistani Forces, in order to get the requisite superiority at the decisive place then his decision to open so many fronts would have been militarily justified. As it became clear to the Pakistani General Staff on the very first day that the enemy had attacked on all fronts with a superiority ranging from 3:1 to 4.5:1 they were satisfied that they will not be forced to make major moves from one front to another except possibly in one or two cases.

The odds against Pakistan Army on various fronts on the first day of war, the 6th of September, 1965, in terms of Infantry battalions were as follows:

Pakistan India
Tithwal Pak 1 3
Uri Sector AK 2 8
Haji Pir Pass 2 Pak 20

Punch Sector 3 AK
Akhnoor 6 18
Sialkot Jammu axis 2 9
Chowinda 4 24
Jassar 2 3
Wagah 7 (including 2 in res.) 17
Burki 2 7
Kem Karan 5 (6 Sep.) 13
Hussainiwala-Kasur 7 4
Sulaimanki 2 4
Sind 2 8

The story of how the commanders and men met this challenge on various fronts will unfold itself in the following pages. A mention, however, must be made of the manner in which the common man on the street and the administration stood the test in their “Hour of Trial”. The Armed Forces are from the amongst the nation. It was only natural that the nation which produced men of unbeatable spirit must possess courage and determination of the highest order.

Unmindful of the Indian numerical and material superiority, the Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army, issued order of the day with confidence in his army and faith in Allah. He was not wrong when he said, “Officers and men of Pakistan Army, this is the Hour of Trial and Glory”.

He gave details of the areas where the Indians had invaded and continuing he said, “Our gallant troops defending these areas have stopped the enemy’s advance and inflicted heavy casualties on their invaders. Within hours of the start of the fighting our forces have stabilized the situation and are in complete control of it……….”