Defence Day is celebrated in Pakistan as national day to commemorate the sacrifices made by Pakistani soldiers in defending its borders. The date of 6 September marks the day in 1965 when Indian troops crossed the international border to launch an attack on Pakistani Punjab, in a riposte to Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam targeting Jammu While it is officially commemorated as an unprovoked surprise attack by India, which was repulsed by the Pakistan Army despite its smaller size and fewer armaments, this narrative has been criticised by Pakistani commentators as representing false history.
The Context of the War 1965
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 began with Pakistan sending 7,000–8,000 specially trained Mujahid raiders into the Kashmir Valley with the objective of inciting the population into rebellion and dislocating the Indian Army installations. In the second stage, on 1 September, it launched a tank attack, dubbed Operation Grand Slam, towards the Akhnoor bridge in the Jammu Division. It was intended to be a “short and swift, fait accompli operation”. According to scholar Shuja Nawaz, the Pakistani general intended to capture the Akhnoor Bridge and swing towards Jammu to cut off India’s communications with the Kashmir Valley. The Pakistanis had ignored the Indian Prime Minister’s warnings that India would retaliate on Pakistan if Kashmir was attacked.
On 6 September, according to its “pre-declared strategy” of riposte, the Indian Army crossed the international border in Punjab with the objective of cutting off the Grand Trunk Road near Lahore. The attack came as a surprise to the Pakistani commanders. According to Air Marshal NurKhan, the Army Chief General Musa Khan told the President on the second day of the war that the Army had run out of ammunition. He states that the Army suffered heavy losses in the war. On 23 September, Pakistan accepted an UN-mandated ceasefire.
Celebrations and parades
The Army of Pakistan displays its latest missiles, tanks, guns, army aviation helicopters and armament being used by Engineers, Electrical and Mechanical Corps, Army Air Defense, Signals, Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps. Everyone is allowed to watch such functions live by going to specific places. These shows are also displayed on national TV channels. National songs, special documentaries about 6 September 1965 and the stories of the people who were martyred on that day are displayed on TV. The facts are told of how people sacrificed their lives for the defense of the country and what the responsibility is of the younger generation, the children, who are the future of Pakistan.
The change of guard ceremony takes place at Mazar-e-Quaid, Karachi, where the cadets of Pakistan Air Force Academy present the Guard of Honour and take the charge.
- Kumar, Prejudice and Pride 2001, p. 45: “Young Nation, a youth supplement published by the liberal Friday Times of Lahore wrote: It tells an epic tale of our soldiers who being a very small number compared to the Indian and having very little ammunition, weapons and machinery, fought with such spirit, bravery and courage that it stunned the Indian forces, and of the unity of our people.”
- Air Marshal Nur Khan, Dawn, 6 September 2005, quoted in Hiranandani, Transition to Guardianship 2013, pp. 1963–1964: “It was a wrong war and they misled the nation with a big lie that India, rather than Pakistan, had provoked the war and that we (Pakistanis) were the victims of the Indian aggression.”