By Muhammad Mateen
The national symbols and ceremonies, for instance the flag, the anthem, the national days, and war memories etc., demonstrate deeper strands and meanings of the nation and serve as an integrating force within a polity. Symbolism, in view of its characteristic to raise collective consciousness, a prerequisite for a nation to thrive, is perceived as important as the economic and political factors. The national symbols constitute essential building blocks of a nation and, in other words, provide expressions to the nationhood. They bind the people together by reminding them of their nation’s history. Moreover, they communicate a message, on the one hand, to its citizens about the loyalty, allegiance, devotion and sacrifices a nation demand, and, on the other hand, to the external forces through demonstration of power and unity. Likewise, the national days to commemorate national memories and heroic initiatives undertaken by the members of a community are included among the oldest instruments to reflect the collective identity as a nation. Owing to their crucial role in a nation’s formation, Emile Durkheim, a renowned French Sociologist, terms the national symbols as determinants of a society’s conduct. In this context, the heterogeneous societies are more inclined towards adopting Durkheimian approach to bridge the chasms and inculcate a sense of collective identity among their assortedconstituents.
The Defense Day is a manifestation of the national symbols of Pakistan. It is very unfortunate that we often take independence for granted, while ignoring the sacrifices rendered by our forefathers to achieve it. Likewise, the military and security agencies of the country are serving round the clock to protect motherland from the threats posed by foreign adversaries and domestic peace spoilers. In this backdrop, Defense Day, as the name suggests, marks the commemoration of valor, bravery, courage and professionalism demonstrated by Pakistan’s armed forces against the Indian treachery and aggressive designs during the 1965 war. Despite the surprise attack by Indian forces, the dauntless military personnel, with the whole nation on their back, not only successfully defended the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, but also struck back with unparalleled zeal and crushed the Indian forces as well as their aggressive dreams. The Defense Day is celebrated to remember the sacrifices rendered by Pakistan armed forces and pay tribute to all the martyrs of 1965 war. In fact, the brave soldiers of Pakistan military services, backedby
a unified nation against Indian aggression, objectified Jinnah’s affirmation that, “There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan.”
The entrenched rivalries between India and Pakistan are largely embedded in the Kashmir conflict, an unresolved agenda of partition of Subcontinent. The Kashmir issue instigated a few military maneuverings from both sides during the early years; however, they remained confined to the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir, with no spillover effects at the shared international border. Nonetheless, on September 6th, 1965, Indian armed forces, in utter violation of International Law, attacked Pakistan across the international border near Lahore without any declaration of war. India, the claimant of being the largest democracy, rebuffed the UN Charter and norms of civilized behavior in international relations to pursue its hegemonic designs in the region. Although Indian army chief Gen. J. N. Chaudhry was confident of Indian success to the extent that he announced to have a peg of whisky in Lahore Gymkhana Club on eve of September 6th; however, Pakistan Army, with the support of Pakistan Air force, repelled the Indian attack causing heavy losses to the aggressors. Later, on September 8th, the Indian army launched its major attack at Sialkot border, which also ensued the largest tank battle following World War-II. The brave soldiers of Pakistan army fought back and firmly mauled a numerically strong Indian army, forcing it to withdraw after heavy physical and material losses. On the other hand, Pakistan army, in the meantime, also launched a counter offensive in South of Lahore and captured Khem Karan and its surroundings. On September 22, 1965, the war ended after both sides accepted the UN administered ceasefire.
Indian army, despite of its large numbers and being equipped with advanced US weaponry – the US, while ignoring Pakistan’s security, concerns augmented defense support to India after the latter’s defeat in the Sino-India war of 1962 – had to face humiliation at the hands of Pakistan army. The brave soldiers of Pakistan army sacrificed their lives but did not allow enemy to damage the integrity of motherland. Likewise, Pakistan Air Force provided significant support to the cadres of Pakistan army. Despite their first engagement in a war with India, the PAF pilots demonstrated extravagant skills and caused heavy losses to Indian Air Force. On the other hand, although the war was being fought on Lahore and Sialkot borders, Pakistan Navy, in view of strategic deterrence, conducted some tactical operations, which not only dented the Indian naval power but also underlined professionalism of Pakistan Navy. In this context, operation
“Dwarka”, which caused irreparable losses to Indian Navy, marks the devotion, dedication and commitment demonstrated by Pakistan Navy during the war. The enemy, much constrained by the news of Pakistan Navy submarine Ghazi out at sea, could not put its naval combatants to action. In effect all naval units had bottled up at harbour through a classical example of blockade by a single sub surface platform against a numerically superior enemy. On 6 September 1965, one destroyer, two new and two old frigates were deployed on the eastern coast of India. The Carrier Vikrant and Delhi were under refit at Bombay while most of the remaining destroyers and frigates had just returned to Bombay after completing their exercises at Vishakhapatnam. It so happened that Indian Navy was caught unguarded right at the outset of an impressive naval action. It was an operational compulsion that Karachi harbour be defended and radar station at Dwarka was providing vital info to enemy air raids aimed at this asset. It was therefore planned to carryout naval bombardment at Dwarka to serve following objectives: To draw the heavy enemy units out of Bombay for the submarine to attack, to destroy the radar station at Dwarka, to lower Indian morale, to divert Indian air effort away from north. The bombardment commenced when ships were around 6 miles away from Dwarka and it took only four minutes to complete the firing with altogether 350 rounds on the target. It is a marvelous achievement that all personnel of Pakistan Navy endear and hope to repeat such feats in all future naval endeavours. Thus, the Defense Day is celebrated to pay tribute to the bravery the armed forces and to honor those who sacrificed their lives to defend and protect the integrity ofPakistan.
On the other hand, every citizen of the country demonstrated unblemished support for armed forces during the war. The people of Pakistan set aside their political, ethnic and sectarian differences and came forward as a unified nation against Indian aggression. National unity at the back of armed forces is considered an essential element for success in wars. Hence, Pakistan emerged as a unified, self-confident and proud nation at the end of 1965 war. In this context, the Defense Day also communicates a message of unity and solidarity among the youth class. Thus, the Defense Day is commemorated to renew our pledge that we are a unified nation and that we would not be daunted by foreign aggressions.
The sociologists hold that national memories manifesting the valiance and sacrifices during wartimes are potent because they not only connect the past heroes with the existing and future generations, but also reestablish and reinforce the sense of nationhood and inculcate a devotion and loyalty among its members. The Defense Day not only marks the valor and courage displayed by Pakistanis as a nation, with unprecedented sacrifices rendered by valiant armed forces and the masses on their back, but also illustrates the spirit envisioned by the father of nation; Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while addressing the military personnel in Karachi on February 21, 1948, stated, “With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve.” Here, it is pertinent to recall that the Kashmir Conflict, a primary cause of deep-rooted rivalries between India and Pakistan, has still been lingering after the lapse of some 74 years. The situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir has further worsened after India, infringing from the successive UNSC resolutions and bilateral agreements, unilaterally revoked the special status of the disputed region on August 5, 2019. This has added a new chapter in the history of Indian brutalities and suppressions against innocent Kashmiris. Thus, on this Defense Day, apart from thanksgiving to our valiant soldiers, there is also a need to renew our pledge for the Kashmircause.