The 6th of September is a golden chapter in the history of Pakistan, when Pakistan, its military and people stood united in 1965 in defense of Pakistan. Later in 1971, taking advantage of the civil war in East Pakistan, attacked and dismembered Pakistan in a humiliating defeat. In the first war the nation was united in the second war it was fighting with itself.
More Photo on PAF role in War 1965
“Why is it, one may ask, that we still celebrate this day as the Defense of Pakistan Day when during the passage of 35 years since, we had another war thrust on us by India, with disastrous results and dismemberment of the country. In many ways people strongly feel that it is now more important to recall and remember the 6th of September as it was our ‘finest hour’ to borrow a famous Churchillian phrase. The 6th of September is important to us as a nation because the Indo-Pakistan war that followed was fought by Pakistan as a nation united in its determination and resolve to halt and beat back Indian multi-dimensional attacks against Pakistan,”
as Lt. Gen. (Retd) Sardar F. S. Lodi states in The Nation newspaper, on Sept. 6, 2000
While a number of decisions made by the Army High Command during the four wars fought by the country have been the subject of controversy, what has remained unquestioned is the valour displayed by thousands of jawans and young officers in all these conflicts.
September 6th, 1965 & the PAF
By: Arshad Hussain
September 6th, 1965 will be live in our national history, a day to remember for valiant men & women, who sacrificed their day for our present and future days. When the PAF rose to meet the challenge of Indian military aggression by launching full scale air war in accordance with Air War Plan of June 29, 1965 by registering its name in the annals of air warfare against numerically superior Indian Air Force.
As the Indian Army started its advance against Lahore at about 1.00 am after mid night of 5/6 September, 1965 from the borders of Amritsar and its adjoining areas, presuming its vanguard armor and mechanized infantry units will easily over run the thinly deployed ground defense units of the Pak Army and Sutlej Rangers at Wagah, Burki and other border posts through multi roads network.
Some of the Pak Army units had just deployed at its battle positions, while others were on the roads heading to wards borders. When the Indian Army units at about 2/3 am launched its grand invasion of West Pakistan, The main advance began on three axes with the major thrust along with the GT Road aimed capturing the city of Lahore and where the Indian Army Chief General J. N. Chaudhry and his staff generals will celebrate victory at Lahore Gymkhana club in the evening.
The Indian military offensive seemed designed not merely to relieve pressure exerted by the advancing Pak army on Akhnur & Jammu axis, but to defeat the Pakistan armed forces by capturing major cities Lahore and Sialkot in the initial stage then shifting its advance for other areas.
Although long before the Indian ground offensive against West Pakistan was launched in the mid night of 5/6 September, the PAF s’ Air Commodore Aziz Ahmed head of the Indian Desk in Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had sent a red signal to all concerned that prior to the outbreak of war with India on 30th August, 1965:-
An Indian attack outside Kashmir was imminent and listing detailed Indian Army movement from peace locations to its battle positions particularly mentioning Indian armoured division had been deployed in Jallunder since July 1965, where it could launch out in one of several battle points against West Pakistan.
None at the government of Pakistan and Pak army high command level particularly C-in-C General Musa Khan and Chief of the General Staff Major General Sher Bahader took it seriously, except Air Marshal Nur Khan went away seriously convinced of the impending war with India. He therefore on 1st September, 1965 ordered the PAF to the highest state of alert. This was the most significant strategic move made by the C-in-C of the PAF, whose merit would be determine through air victory against numerically superior Indian Air Force during Indo-Pak War with in first three crucial days of air war. A bold snap decision by the Air Marshal Nur Khan!
While the PAF increased its combat posture from day to day, the country s’ political leadership and the hierarchy of the Army, incredibly, continued to languish in the shade of the Foreign Office s’ assurance concerning escalation. A wishful school of thought was promoted by the Foreign Office prior launching of the operation Gibraltar that “it will be localize military venture with in limits and boundaries of occupied Kashmir and the Indian Army will not be able to counter it effectively there”. Therefore, No contingency plan in case of violent counter attack by the Indian Army against Pakistan was ever visualized during the planning phase of operation Gibraltar as a result of its ultimate reaction from enemy.
The Pakistani Leadership and Army had miscalculated the ultimate outcome of the operation Gibraltar. The political Indian Leadership was not prepared to treat the military venture in Kashmir as an issue isolated from Indo-Pak relationship in the wider sphere. Meanwhile, Indian political leadership in the response to Pak Armys’ operation Gibraltar and Grand Salam in Jammu Kashmir areas, finally decided on September 1st , to put into motion her long standing plan of attacking West Pakistan at Lahore, Sialkot and Kasur with the ground invasion timed to materialize in the early hours of September 6th, 1965.
The Pakistans’ High Commissioner in New Delhi, India Mian Arshad Hussain got the top secret details of the ground attack plan of the Indian Army against Lahore including exact H Hours of September 6th,1965 acting imaginatively communicated the entire details to the Foreign Office, Islamabad, Pakistan through Turkey s’ embassy in New Delhi, India. It was timely war warning alarm but again, No contingency action was taken by the Government of Pakistan.
On the night of 5th September there was a dinner hosted by the International Aid Agency in Lahore. The guests included GOC 10th Division Major General Sarfaraz Khan and some American aid officers from the border. The Americans crossed the border at Wagah between 8.00pm -9.00pm night of 5th September. They camed in three civilian jeeps driven by Indians. The driver of one jeep made some excuse for going across the border to Indian side. The other two drivers jumped in. Under the circumstances it would reasonable to assume that drivers were on reconnaissance mission to check the deployment of Pakistani troops.
On the night of 5th/6th September HQ 10 Division checked with Military Operations Directorate before ordering move of troops. The duty officer in MO Directorate was Lt.Col. Happy Aslam. He said,” The Foreign Ministry will not give clearance. The GOC can, of course, use his own discretion.” The marching columns of the Pak Army arrived in battle locations from 03.30am-04.30am. 23 Field Artillery Regiment occupied its gun positions by 03.30am.
The first breaking news of the Indian army major assault against Lahore was also communicated to the PAF s’ Operational Headquarters, Rawalpindi from Lahore Airbase Commander Wing Commander Ayaz A Khan at about 4.00 am, which was received from a mobile observer wing deployed at Wagah to monitor the enemy air force s’ activities. This was the specialized PAF unit which witnessed first Indian Army s’ tank units advance on the GT Road and attacking rangers s’ posts during the mid night. Air Vice Marshal M Akhtar was detailed at night duty in Operational Air Headquarters, Rawalpindi sensing the ultimate war scenario with India, immediately informed President Ayub Khan as well calling to Air Marshal Nur Khan and the Army Chief General Musa Khan about Indian Army attacks against Lahore through hot lines.
Since, the PAF was a highly trained, highly disciplined, and motivated professional air force since decade led by inspiring and dedicated professional leadership ever ready to take on the enemy air force during peace and war. That s’ why , the ever vigilant PAF geared into air war operations immediately after the Indian army started its major offensive against West Pakistan like a well oiled razor sharp air war machine. Every one in the Air Force, from high command level to the airmen level, was up on his toes and contributed his max towards the fulfillment of the PAF role in the air war beyond the call of the duty.
Success of an offensive or a defensive aerial mission is not simply due to the expertise of the pilot but it is the culmination of perfect team work of several branches and units including radar, communication, controllers, aircraft and pilots, maintenance and technical personnel.
During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the PAF was deployed against numerically superior enemy Air Force five/six times its size and enjoying the inventory of superior and faster aircraft; However the PAF rose to meet its enemy with courage, dash and initiative, achieving air superiority and ultimately taking the air war into the Indian territory during the first crucial days of 6th and 7th September, 1965.
On 6th September, The PAF s’ Combat Air Patrols (Caps) of two F-104s of No 9 Squadron armed with guns and sidewinder missiles were already airborne before dawn, making orbits over Chamb area. Sakesar GCI vectored the F-104s towards Ghakhar near Rahwali airfield, Wazirabad. Where the IAF s’ aircraft were targeting Lahore bound stationary “ Babu Train “ on the railway station. The F-104s piloted by Flt Lt Aftab A Khan and his wingman Flt Lt Amjad H Khan reaching the scene made contact with 4 IAF s’ Mysteres aircraft, busily engaged in bombing and rocketing against train, killing innocent passengers including young Abida Toosi, a medical student of Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Lahore embraced shahadat in the air raid. Although Flt Lt Amjad was soon forced to return Sargodha Airbase with a radio failure, but daredevil Flt Lt Aftab pressed for the mission to engage and target enemy Mysteres formation diving his aircraft in full afterburner at supersonic speed. The Indian aircraft promptly scattered and began to escape at low level. Aftab engaged one Mystere from 4-5,000 ft range and shoot it down with sidewinder missile.
Later on monitoring the All India Radio Sakesar was able to announce that one Mystere had been shot down, other badly damaged. This was the first aerial combat between PAF and the IAF, after the outbreak of Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. TheF-104s No 9 Squadron was first to engage the IAF in the aerial combat, as well Flt Lt Aftab A Khan credited with the world s’ first victories by a Mach 2 interceptor aircraft at the out set of the air war on 6th September.
Meanwhile, more formations of F-86s from Sargodha Airbase on a CAP were sent to engage 6 Hunters reported over Sialkot along one F-104. The enemy aircraft broke off with out aerial combat, leaving behind much needed closed support missions by the Air Force to the Pak Army battling on the borders. Now at Peshawar Airbase, around more then two hundred miles away from Lahore, where six F-86s of No 19 Squadron was ready to airborne armed with guns and rockets since September 5th as per specific instructions of Air Marshal Nur Khan. Meanwhile, a call received from Air Headquarters of launching the first air strike by the No 19 Squadron under the command of Squadron Leader Sajjad Haider on the Indian Army around Lahore.
Sajjad recalls “Though the sun was up in the morning of 6th September, the air was still bracingly cool at our airbase. The news of Indian military attacks against Lahore came as a thunderbolt to all of us and it worked up the fighter pilots into a vicious mood. Everyone was urged to go forward to safeguard his nation and country. As we were ordered to launch air strike mission on the Indian Armour units advancing to wards Lahore along the Amritsar-Wagah GT Road, a jubilant mood prevailed among pilots for the first mission in the morning. Those who joined me on the mission were Flt Lt Arshad Sami, Mohammad Akbar, Khalid Latif, Dilawar Hussain and Ghani Akbar.”
“Our F-86s were armed with rockets in addition to the six guns. We took off and leveled off at the pre-planned height before heading towards, Wagah, Lahore.Shortly afterward we were over the target area and went in as far as Amritsar. Turning back we spotted enemy vehicles of all sorts moving along the road crossing Wagah border, covered by the Sherman tanks. I also saw the now famous Omni Bus parked at the Wagah Custom Post which the Indian Army later paraded that day in the streets of Amritsar as the war trophy from Lahore. For a while the enemy did not see us orbiting overhead. But when they did it was a sight to see the soldiers and drivers jumping out to take cover leaving vehicles to fate.”
“ All pilots check your firing switches; hot; target in sight.”
As the second dragged on the Haider formation reached the pull up point and the six F-86s climbed steeply into the sky like darts getting ready for attack.
“I had by now dived in for attack and let go my first burst of rockets. My formation followed. I all we made six attacks each, as our formation orbited over the targets at tree top level. By the time we had expended our guns and rockets and returning to our Airbase. We saw a litter of bonfires destroying dozens of Sherman tanks, cannons and army vehicles. “
It was an armour brigade task force group trying to cross the BRB Canal at Batapur bridge. The war diary of 10 Division defending Lahore led by Major General Sarfaraz Khan , recorded that “ at this crucial juncture appeared 6 PAF s’ F-86s and for 15-20 minutes wrought havac on enemy armour and infantry, who were advancing in the open road trying to cross the BRB canal.
Dawn of 6th September, 1965 saw a formation of 6 F-86s of No 19 Squadron fully loaded with 5 inch rockets (a last minute premonition the night before, by Air Marshal Nur Khan the C-in-C, which paid rich dividends) flying on “Hot Patrol’. The moment the Air Defence Commander learnt of Indian Army’s advance towards Lahore, the 19 Squadron formation was diverted to stop the advancing Indian armour columns at Wagah. In twenty minutes of action, the Grand Trunk Road was littered with scores of burning tanks, armoured and soft vehicles. The 5 inch rockets had a devastating effect on the enemy armour. The formation led by Squadron Leader Sajad Haider with Flight Lieutenants M Akbar, Dilawar Hussain, Ghani Akbar and Flying Officers Khalid Latif, and Arshad Chaudhry brought the Indian attack to a dead halt.
To Be Continued…