The myth of September 6, 1965

Every year we Pakistanis celebrate September 6th with a lot of ‘national fervour’ and laud the armed forces for being ‘victorious’ against the Indian forces back in the 1965 war. The state commemorates the ‘Defence Day’ by holding various ceremonies and special programmes. Milli naghmay (patriotic songs) are aired on the local television channels and radio stations, while the newspapers bring out special supplements to mark the day. This is all very well, but I wonder if our people know that in actuality we are not celebrating a victory. Not only did we lose militarily in 1965 – state propaganda aside – but we also lost our national unity in the process. Forty-two years down the road, ours is a country that is on the verge of dismemberment, again.

August 1947 gave birth to two independent states, India and Pakistan. It also gave birth to territorial disputes that haunt both South Asian neighbours to date. Kashmir is one of the main disputed territories. The two infant states fought a war in 1948 on the Kashmir issue, but despite a ceasefire, the issue was never resolved. At the beginning of 1965, skirmishes between the two neighbours erupted once again on another disputed territory – Rann of Kutch. Having no real economic value, the Rann conflict was only rooted in the overall contentious relationship between the two sides. Fortunately, the Pakistan army was successfully able to defend itself against the Indian army and in fact gave it a bloody nose. This served as a morale booster for our military.

The high morale of the military, egged on by Ayub Khan’s overambitious foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, led to a misadventure that cost Pakistan its dignity. In the late summer of 1965, Pakistan launched ‘Operation Gibraltar’. Pakistan sent infiltrators – military commandos in civvies – into Indian-held Kashmir (IHK) to ‘liberate’ it, and expected that the ‘downtrodden’ Kashmiris would support the insurgency. Little did we know that the plan would crumble like a house of cards.

It was not only a plan fraught with miscalculation, but a foolish one to begin with. There was no proper reconnaissance, no political intelligence, and the Kashmiris in IHK were not even taken into confidence. “Whatever his [Ayub’s] reasons, Pakistan went into Operation Gibraltar without any preliminary preparations and undertook a guerrilla operation inside IHK with a large number of regular soldiers, some SSG elements and a smattering of irregulars, expecting to be welcomed by the local population and raise them up in arms against the Indian government. They were destined to be rudely disillusioned. Far from rising up in arms, the local population denied any support and, in many instances handed over the infiltrators to Indian troops” (Qadir, Brigadier (retd) Shaukat, ‘Operation Gibraltar: Battle that never was’,

Before the operation was launched, Z A Bhutto somehow managed to convince Field Marshal Ayub Khan that even if India responded to the incursions in Kashmir, it would not cross the international border. Thus there was no question of a full-fledged war. But as soon as India had brutally crushed the insurgency in IHK, it launched an attack on Pakistan on September 6, 1965. The public was led to believe that India had launched a ‘surprise attack’ on Pakistan, and that ‘Hindu India’ would be taught a lesson. Thus the armed forces had full public support.

It is to the credit of our air force and the jawans fighting in the battlefield that they put up a strong fight against a superior enemy. But it is the generals who let the country down. “Ayub had attempted to save his forces in Kashmir; more importantly, he wanted to avoid a general war. But the war he sought to avoid had come to Pakistan, and the nation had to be rallied to efforts not envisaged in the plans to capture Kashmir. The vast majority of Pakistanis knew virtually nothing about the course of the hostilities. All they knew came from Radio Pakistan, and in the name of national morale, the public was informed over and again of the successes on the battlefield, or at the very least, the heroism of units and individual members of the armed forces who had fallen in combat. The fact that Pakistan itself had been targeted by Indian forces, that air raids had ranged to Peshawar on the one side and Dhaka in East Pakistan on the other, did not shake the Pakistani public’s belief that the war was going well and that India was paying a heavy price for its audacious assault on Pakistani territory” (Ziring, Lawrence, Pakistan in the Twentieth Century: A Political History, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 293).

The reality of the much-touted ‘friendly’ relations between Pakistan and the US was also exposed during the 1965 war. Pakistan had allied itself with the US during the Cold War era, and in an effort to please the US, Pakistan joined the South East Treaty Organisation (SEATO) in 1954 and later the Baghdad Pact in 1955, which was renamed the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) in 1959. Being a signatory to these treaties gave Pakistan the necessary means and resources to strengthen itself militarily and economically. When the war broke out in 1965, Pakistan expected that the US would come to its aid and used US-supplied weaponry against India. The US never came to Pakistan’s help, because it perceived communism to be the threat to its interests, hardly India. Thus a military embargo was imposed on Pakistan and military supplies were cut off by the US.

A little more than two weeks into the battle and it was quite evident to Ayub that the army was running out of logistics – ammunition, fuel, food, etc. It is reported that during the war, the American ambassador said to Ayub Khan, “They [the Indians] have got you by the throat Mr President, don’t they?” or words to that effect. It is ironic that when our fairweather ‘friend’ the US decided to leave us in the lurch, the communist Soviet Union came to our aid and helped broker a ceasefire between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistani nation was left bewildered about why Ayub Khan opted to end the war that we were ‘winning’ and instead signed the Tashkent Agreement. Since the public was kept in the dark about the real reasons behind the war and its actual progress, it was hard for them to understand that Ayub had indeed made a wise move by ending the war. The public considered it a sell-out and a betrayal. Little did the public know that had the war gone on, we would have lost much more than our ‘pride’.

There are some lessons to be learnt from the experience of 1965. One of the main lessons is that subjective and wishful thinking in politics and war is no substitute for objective analysis. It would be useful in this context to recall the old Clausewitzian adage: ‘War is the extension of politics by other means.’ It is also time we reflect on the loss of our national unity. Back in 1965, the nation stood behind our military. Today, the situation is quite different. Why is it that today we are not as emotional about our ‘sons of the soil’ as we were back in 1965? These are the wages of repeated military interventions at the cost of national unity. When the military took away the sovereign right of the people, the right to rule the country themselves, it took away the respect it rightfully deserved. We can still rediscover this unity if the military goes back to the barracks and allows the civilians to exercise their democratic rights.


Salman said…
MAZ said…
You relied too heavily on very partial sources! the arguements u made are actually quite valid though! btw can u explain that if what u said is true then why did china offer to jump into the war inorder to completely crush india?
Ajay said…
what an excellent article..specially abt the millitary rule in Pakistan. I feel sorry for what common pakistanis will feel when they will come to know the facts.
Waleed said…
I see that although you have condemed ayub khan a lot!, nothing by you have been said about Z.A.Bhutto who in my view was the real instigator of operation gibralter!
vichchoobhai said…
Yes, Bhutto misled Ayub and h emisled Yahya subsequently about East Bengal. The only thing to the credit of Bhutto (from Pakistanis' point of view) is that he vowed to develop an atom bomb even if the people had to eat grass. Full freedom to AQ Khan and hey presto Pakistan became a nuclear power.

Tashkent meeting with Ayub and the arm-twisting by the Soviets was so stressful for the Indian PM Shastri ji that he died of a heart attack at Tashkent and Ayub had to be the pall bearer. What a travesty !

We have falsifiers of history on both sides of the border and when history comes to be re-written many skeletons will tumble out of our cupboards. Watch out !
bandev said…
I think this article is a real eye opener for the Pakistanis, who over a few generations have been taught in their schools, colleges and Universities about India, its wars with India (The common Pakistani believes that they have won all the wars they have ever fought with India since 1948 till the Infamous Kargil "Misadventure" to say the least, in 1999). I am kind of amazed and surprised because of the fact that this piece comes from a fellow blogger who is from Pakistan, and that is something I never expected. My two cents on certain aspects of the Pakistani state:

a) People in Pakistan cannot think of anything other than "Hindu India"...that is to say that when anyone talks of India they talk of Hindus. This idea of India being synonymous with Hinduism, is something, which is very deep rooted, and years of neutral and liberal education cannot change that. In every conceivable strata of its society, they believe that India and Hinduism go together and there is no existence of one without the other..let us not go into describing whether it is true or incorrect or right or wrong...

2)Feudalism and its components refuse to leave the Pakistani mindset. They are not directly responsible for the ills it has brought to the Nation State of Pakistan, as a greater part of it owes its origin from the Raj and its economic strategies which they followed in India, but they are the most vulnerable folks of this system. This kind of an economic set up has defined its education, social , military sectors and keep on doing the same till otday, forming the biggest obstacle in the minds of the people. I have read many interesting accounts including economic, about this mindset and its continuing legacy. When I say a Roadblock, I am actually referring to a seemingly irrelevant notion but in hindsight one of the foremost drivers within the Pakistani social system. Generations of Pakistanis have been brought up within this mindset, which has not given them an opportunity to question their masters, be it their fathers, bosses to whoever it may be. They have been very obedient to say the least to ideas of their seniors, the ones who ran the system. The feudal divisions in Pakistan are so stark that it makes the difference between day and night grey in comparison

c) The Omipresence of the Military in every conceivable sphere of the Pakistani social system. The military has been a very powerful vehicle for the rulers of Pakistan since its inception. Sports, religion, politics, administration, community, public works deppt , everywhere, the presence of the military was never missed. With its coming to power after dilly dallying in terms of establishing democracy in Pakistan, the military has made sure that the ideology of the common Pakistanis, should never be beyond its purview. this included spreading hatred, misinformation, military propaganda and every thing that is related to India and the zionists. I know that a great part of the society, including the Pakistani press ascribe to the ideas of Indian (Read Hindu) Zionism in collaboration with the Jews and the Mossad. The unfortunate part of it lies somewhere else. In a democracy and I feel to a great extent in any civilized society, there needs to be free and fair media, who can call a spade a spade and nothng more. This aspect is amazingly missing from Pakistam. To say that Pakistan does not have a free press is somewhat of an understatement. From my experience I have seen the anchors in Pakistan are very different from what we see n the Indian mdeia daily. An anchor is supposed to be a moderator a presenter with no bias (he may have his own personal which is not meant for publc consumption), the biggest channels in Pakistan filed anchors who clearly present the view of the speaker, they do not question their authenticity and relevance, it is an amazng experience for me. Resultant of the absence of a free and fair press has taken its toll on the Pakistani masses, who cannot question the integrity of thier press and the military propagandas. For eg they belive that they won all the wars and are waiting for another in some years time, that Mujib ur Rehamn was a RAW agent, and the right hand man of Indira Gandhi, that there was no genocide in East Pakistan following Operation Searchlight on March 25, there was no mass scale looting, rape and arson committed by the Pakistani regulars, that they did not plan and excute systematically hundreds of thousands of Bengali Hindus, that it was because of Aamir Abdullah Niazi and him alone that they lost the 71 war completely choosing to turn a blind eye to the Chief Martial Law Admin, Tikka Khan, ZA Bhutto and Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali and others, totally misinformed motion about every atrocity they have committed in the name of Islam, even the fact that there is no real dange of Pakistan breaking away into smaller fragements. Such is the level of wilful ignorance of facts and numbers...
Anonymous said…
For the first time, I found a Pakistani born in Pakistan not having delusions.

Typically, what I have seen there is an inherent inferiority complex w.r.t Indians and that is getting translated into comments like Indians are afraid of Pakistan, Indians want to take over Pakistan, Indians lost wars to Pakistan.

We Indians dont want you people in our country neither do we seek your land. I wish that you can guys keep your explosive people (I thought I would never see this - I literally mean people who explode) in your country.

Your proud people can dismember your Northern Infantry and call them Mujahadeen or Taliban or whatever. Unfortunately, our politicans are more interested in making India superpower, rather than solving the issue of Pakistan. Either you get to keep your country and stop sending explosive people to my country or you just dont have a country!
Adeel Sheikh said…
hahahaha this is silly really....

Operation Gibraltor was a failure because of Pakistan Army's miscalculations. They thought that people of kashmir would fight beside them. Which they didn't. Agreed.

But this girl deliberately concealed the the whole OPERATION GRANDSLAM. Which pakistan army launched in southern kashmir. Indians took a hell of beating and our army surged forward with considerable success. That was actually the reason why the indians crossed international borders near lahore. If indians were winning the war in kashmir why would they assault lahore and sialkot?... Read More

Read up on it ... google OPERATION GRANDSLAM

Secondly the article once again deliberately concealed the fact that it was not USSR which came to pakistan aid but it was india who went running after two weeks to UNO because they were taking a beating everywhere. If indians were actually winning the war why would they want ceasefire? Pakistan never wanted ceasefire, they never asked anybody for ceasefire.
Adeel Sheikh said…
Indians outnumbered pakistan 5:1
Indians attacked lahore (BRB canal)
Indians attacked the sialkot sector. ... Read More

Indians couldn't overrun lahore.
Indian armor couldn't sieze sialkot. Infact pakistan army launched a counter attack inside india after stopping the indian advance near sialkot.
Indian airforce was took a beating. 100 IAF fighters were shot down to our 20-30.
Indians went running to there mama in UN.

Indian objectives of the war: Sieze lahore and sialkot. And launch a further assault towards islamabad to cut it out from the rest of the country (FAILED)

LOL Indians only made a fool of themselves. They were humiliated in the whole world. Defeated by a country smaller in size and outnumbered by a ratio of 5:1.

Shaz Khan said…
well the myth of 1965 victory is no more a myth...everyone knows that pakistan lost it...and there should be no humiliation in it...coz war to have some result, it went india's way..and this was very much expected...coz they have bigger military force than india... pakistan shud be appreciated for how passionate every citizen of pak was when they were facing a superior power... i have noticed the myth is stronger in the military families in pakistan... they take it too peronally...
Ganesh said…
Good one.
Ganesh said…
This article is an eye opener for any one who underestimates the opponent's capability, be it India or Pakistan.
India was easily having the upper hand with it's army might when compared to Pakistan at that time. It was really foolish on Pak's part to engage in such a war without knowing India's strenghts. I'm an Indian and am not trying to sound cocky here. The same I would say for India if it engages itself in a bloodly conflict against China which is far superior.
But I'm glad that recently one of the Indian high ranking chiefs of the army/navy/airforce(not sure)gracefully accepted the fact fact about chinese superiorty and the military imbalance.
Anonymous said…
china offered to jump into war because china knew that pakistan was about to collapse and fearing India will take over changing geopolitical map of asia china offered to jumo into war.
Ramesh said…
In 1965 Indo-Pak war Ayub Khan said to Bhutto "SEATO, CENTO or DEGaulle, Cant' anyone save our face?, If none comes to our needy aid then of Pak there is no trace. When is U'Thant coming? And will Kenyatta meditate?, Find out you blithering fool, Before it is too late." And so ended this interview on 7th of September, A day Ayub will not forget and Bhutto long remember."
Anonymous said…
Interview between old Field Marshal Ayub and young Bhutto on Indo-Pak war 1965."undaunted Bhutto continued,(if this were not enough) 'We cant' use Pattons anymore because Lynden is acting tough.' "To hell with you and Lynden too"(FM's wrath was great) What news is from comrade Chou en Lai, my latest little mate?" Bhutto crossed his fingers and in soft voice then said,"Chou is yellow as he always was, His mother-in-law is dead."
Dbigxray said…
awesome and completely unbiased article. I am glad that some Paksitanis do know the real truth inspite of the state controlled media. the ex ISI chief also published a book named Myth of 1965 which was removed from market from PAkistan Army. can anyone find it ?
Strike Eagle said…
nice one....eye opener for sure.......misfortune that the commonman of Pakistan was always given all wrong facts..hope this kind of articles help them..:)
Anonymous said…
A good article by the young lady, who has obviously researched as a serious journalist while also keeping herself out of the emotions.
Wars are not just about "winning" or "losing". They are clandestine planned operations to gain economic or geopolitical power. Or, they are really about defence which 1965 war came out to be for both India and Pakistan. Neither India's nor Pakistan's interests were aligned with any other country at that time to stage a war, so such a planned gain was merely the slip. Pakistan was aligned with CENTO and SEATO but these were treaties to defend member countries from being attacked by communist or socialist powers of the time (namely, China and Russia).
The overambitious, inexperienced, and ireverrent foreign minister of Pakistan (Bhutto) misled the administration and his nation (history prooves he did this actually three times within thirty years, each time actually projecting himself as either the poor victim or the dashing hero). Operation Gibralter was ill-conceived, too-rushed, and mis-calculated; Bhutto's overconfidence would not accept realism atthat time; he was adamant to make it happen. His poor grasp of international relations and arrogant certitude that attack (or incursion) in one area (Kashmir) would not provoke attack by the affected India in another area (Lahore, Sialkot), was a shameless deed in history the equal of which is rare in history. His unlistening stance, even of the Chinese and then, falsifying their message to Ayub Khan catapulted Pakistan into Operation Gibralter impunitively.
Two admired attributes of Ayub Khan worldwide (quite opposite of Bhutto) was that the Field Marshall was a patriot above all AND he wanted peaceful coexistence with India. The 1965 war was thrown at his lap as a burning ball by his inexperienced and overambitious foreign minister. And Ayub Khan had to then fend the rest, even take the blame for all the bad calculations, bad planning and foolishness that followed. The cease-fire was a blessing for both sides;Pakistan had lost the Kashmir launch and India wanted to get back to its own development.
That Ayub Khan became a pall bearer of LalBahadur Shastri was an ironic happening; it actually followed the two having met in Tashkant (Muslim part of then USSR), and deciding never to war again. Both liked each other and decided to meet again to plan peace. But Bhutto had other plans at the cost of the nation and its principles and pride. It is not without reason that both, the Russian foreign minister Alexi Kosegyn and the American President Lyndon Johnson, told Ayub Khan separately on different occasions in words like: be careful of your foreign minister, he is a double agent; he let you down and will lead your nation down again! Gen. Charles deGaulle had similar feelings that he communicated to our Field Marshall.
What ghastly facts under the rug!
The ONLY way out is to EDUCATE the public so that "Shaoor" hails and people realise deeply what is at stake at various junctures in history, not just drift away in slogans and emotionalism.
Anonymous said…
In 1965 Indo-Pak war old Ayub said to young Butto, "SEATO, CENTO or DeGaulle, Cant anyone save our face? If none comes to our needy aid then of Pak there is no trace. When is U Thant coming and will Kenyatta meditate? Find out you blithering fool before it is too late" So ended this interview on 7th of September, a day Ayub will not forget and Bhutto long remember. RAMESH YADAV

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