Written by Taj M Khattak
President Ayub Khan’s brief address to the nation on 6th September 1965 was a moment when the history of Pakistan took a turn.
It was a moment which we remember for exactly what we were doing or where we were when it happened. On that day, a few minutes past eleven in the morning and barely seventeen years old I found myself entering office of the President Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB) Kohat as an officer candidate – just as Ayub’s authoritative words ‘Mere aziz hum watano’ (my dear countrymen) boomed across the room from a small transistor radio – words which were to electrify an entire nation.
President Ayub spoke of how that morning, Indian army had attacked Lahore at three places with an infantry division and three armour regiments and that Pakistan was at war with India. Students of military strategy know very well that a force of that proportion can reach its objective without much difficulty, given the small distance between the International border and outskirts of Lahore.
It was, therefore, no empty boast from Indian army Chief General Chaudhary who wanted to celebrate the evening at one of Lahore most famous addresses. The attackers were stopped dead in their tracks by a much smaller force which made history by their sheer tenacity and grit before reinforcements arrived and earned the gratitude of the entire nation.
At sea Pakistan Navy was about to write history of its own as all ships of its flotilla i.e. PNS Babur (with Captain MAK Lodhi in command), Khaibar (Captain A Hanif), Badr (Commander A H Malik), Tippu Sultan (Commander Amir Aslam), Jahangir (Commander K M Hussain), Shah Jahan (Commander Zafar Shamsie) and Alamgir (Commander I F Qadir) left harbor in the morning shortly after receiving orders to proceed to their pre-assigned war stations.
Pakistan Navy’s only submarine PNS/M Ghazi with Commander K R Niazi in command had sailed from Karachi three days earlier on 3rd September and on 4th September, she was ordered to shift her patrol to within a radius of 50 miles off Bombay (Mumbai). It performed its task superbly and kept the Indian Navy bottled up in its various ports and bases.
Around noon on 7th September, all the ships at sea were alerted about the impending attack on Dwarka at night. They were ordered to be in Initial Position (IP) by sunset. From there they were required to proceed towards Dwarka for bombardment at midnight and on completion withdraw to its arc of patrol. The force was cautioned about the possible presence of some enemy surface combatants and air threat.
There has been some debate as to why Dwarka was chosen for the strike. The intended objectives in the prevalent environments of 1965 were very logical and were, a) to draw enemy units out into barrier laid by PNS/M Ghazi, b) destroy the IAF’s only bomber guidance beamer in the area for directing strikes from Jamnagar against Karachi, c) to cause alarm and confusion along the Indian coast since Dwarka was the centre business in the region, d) possible diversion of air effort from land operations towards seaward defense of Indian coast and lastly to gain psychological advantage by striking deep into Indian territorial waters.
When in the vicinity of Dwarka, a crucial pilotage aspect of utilizing perfectly good twenty fathoms line was overlooked resulting in loss of 2000 yards in range advantage. In simple words, a four-inch gun will be hard put to lob a shell to a target 14,000 yards away.
During withdrawal phase, an appearance of spurious radar contacts, ‘sighting’ and even shooting down of low flying aircraft created some confusion. The confusion compounded just as the number of air contact reports multiplied. Whether there was actually any aircraft in the area at the time or not, will never be known.
But it was the Indian Navy Chief Vice Admiral Soman and Defense Minister Y B Chavan who take the cake for sheer craziness in their memoirs.
In spite of President Ayub declaring that Pakistan was at war with India, Soman wants the world to believe that he was prohibited to fight against Pakistan Navy and Chavan thought that defending Andaman and Nicobar Islands from imaginary Indonesian attack was far more important than the war against Pakistan. This is not being made up – it is actually in their memoirs.
Many officers and sailors of who participated in the 1965 war are no more with us and have since passed away leaving behind memories of Pakistan Navy’s finest hour and an example for the younger generation to follow in their footsteps.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of defending our motherland a small prayer for our departed companions is in order – May Almighty Allah bless their souls and may the earth rest lightly on their mortal remains. Amen.