Honoring Heroes: Remembering Pakistan’s Sacrifices on Defence and Martyrs Day

Sara Nazir

Defense Day is observed annually as a tribute to the sacrifices made by the Pakistani armed forces during the 1965 war and decades beyond that. One of the most important national events in Pakistan’s history is Defense Day observed on September 6.

On September 6, 1965, without making a formal declaration of war, the Indian army entered Pakistani territory on September 6, 1965. It was a time when not only Pakistani brave soldiers but the entire nation was thrown into the mold of a cohesive unit to defend their motherland. Indian forces breached the West Pakistani border and began a three-pronged onslaught against Lahore, Sialkot, and Rajasthan. A ferocious tank fight took place between forces of both countries on the Punjab plains.

On September 8, two days later, India used its armored division and other strike formations to commence its primary assault against Sialkot. The subsequent tank combat has been dubbed the biggest since the Second World War. It was a long, bloody battle that took place over many days and nights. Both sides suffered casualties. The Indian main attack was ultimately repulsed and severely mauled. Pakistan responded by launching its own counterattack in the South of the Lahore sector, taking control of the Indian regions of Khem Karan and beyond.

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Pakistan army was successful in defending not just the targeted regions but also the lives and homes of thousands of civilians. In protecting the nation’s borders, Pakistan’s armed forces embodied the virtues of bravery and unselfish sacrifice. Major Raja Aziz Bhatti was awarded the highest Nishan-i-Haider military award for his extraordinary role in defending the Lahore Bedian region in 1965.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) demonstrated its prowess in the air by launching constant airstrikes from Pathankot to Agra; for the loss of only six aircraft, PAF had destroyed fifty enemy aircraft on the ground and in the air, and damaged eight others—this is without accounting for the increased losses brought on by PAF’s night bombardment.

Muhammad Mehmood Alam, a PAF pilot, made history by downing five Indian aircraft in less than a minute; his record has yet to be beaten. Alam, also known as “Little Dragon,” twice won the Sitar-e-Jurat for his bravery in air combat and exceptional flying skills.

On the naval front, the Pakistan Navy, despite being numerically less than the Indian Navy, carried out a series of operations to build strategic deterrence and provide an appropriate reaction. Pakistan Navy contributed heroically by successfully launching “Operation Dwarka,” which utterly destroyed the Indian Radar system that was instructing the Indian Air Force to attack Pakistan.

Their loyalty to the homeland during the 1965 war with India would serve as inspiration for future generations. When the call to duty sounded, these brave souls did not waver. Their sacrifices serves as a reminder of the significant price paid for the liberties we enjoy today. Every year, 6 September is an opportunity to remember and commemorate these brave men who gave their lives in defense of Pakistani country’s strength, unity, and sovereignty. These martyrs have paid the ultimate price for Pakistan, and their memory will endure as a symbol of the resilient Pakistani people.

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Even though the war was officially over in late September 1965, the fight of Pakistan’s security forces against enemies of the nation-state has remained unrelenting to this date. Defense Day is now an opportunity to pay homage to not only the martyrs of the 1965 war but also to all those brave sons of the soil who gave up their lives for the motherland in the line of duty, they stood guardof the borders, they remained unyielding in the tough terrains of Pakistan borders, they stood on the roads to ensure that the enemy couldn’t succeed in harming the beloved people of Pakistan. Thus, in memory of the martyrs of the Pakistan army, Air Force, Navy, Police, Para-military forces and all other security tentacles Pakistani nation now observes 6 September as Defense and Martyrs Day.

According to a report by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, 8,832 Pakistani security personnel embraced martyrdom in the War on Terrorism. Top of FormOverall, Pakistan lost 83,000 lives during the war on terror and its security forces now stand as victors in the world’s once most formidable battlegrounds. Defence and Martyrs Day serves as a reminder that we are a strong, proud nation that cannot be sabotaged by a hostile enemy at the gates. The Day stands for the tenacity, bravery, and strategic thinking of the great nation of Pakistan.

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The author is a gold medalist in Strategic Studies from Air University Islamabad and currently teaching as visiting faculty in a university based in Islamabad. She regularly writes on South Asian security and strategic issues.