Defence Day: Does it really matter who attacked first?

Published: September 8, 2012

Take pride in Defence Day for the sake of all those who died protecting us. PHOTO: AFP

It was September 6 two days ago ─ just another day in London, the country I am currently living in. However, in my home country, this date was marked in red on many calendars.

Until around a decade ago, Defence Day used to be a public holiday. However, as the wave of ‘enlightenment’ hit the country and we became workaholics, this date on the calendar was replaced with the usual colour. The only sign of the importance September 6 had in our history is now the special editions of the newspapers and some TV shows, or to some extent, verbal and written accounts by those who witnessed the war 47 years ago.

When I was a child, I used to be proud of Defence Day and I was not alone. There were many others like me who shared this sense of honour. We were proud of the fact that we managed to defend our borders in 1965 and did not allow the enemy to enter and conquer Lahore (which was the biggest target of the enemy, as per the local folk).

However, as I said, this was all before the wave of enlightenment. As soon as this wave reached us, we became members of a confused club. We began to ask repeatedly ‘who attacked first?’ We were, and still are, confused over what the reality is. The stories of those who had experienced the war or all those facts which were fed by the “peace loving” class; which one is correct?

Thus, the pride we as a nation once felt for the valour exhibited by our soldiers just vanished and the sacrifices they made for us went up the spout just like that.

Now the question is, should I still call this day “defence day”? Should I still take pride in it? Should I still call myself part of a great nation?

My answer to all these questions will be a booming “Yes!”.

The fact remains that when the war started (let’s forget about how and who started it for now), Pakistan managed to defend its border. There is no dispute here and this alone is enough reason to be proud of. No matter what the circumstances are, we knew how to defend ourselves because we had passion back then and that passion is what’s missing today.

Maybe we don’t consider our country worthy of fighting for anymore, but I don’t see fire in the eyes of our youth when they speak of their country. A couple of decades ago, if you asked a normal lad if he would lay down his life for Pakistan, his answer would most certainly be ‘yes’. Today, unfortunately, I cannot claim the same with certainty.

We have wavered from what we were; we have become slackers; we lack the fire to fight for Pakistan.

I still believe we are a great nation but we need to come together to celebrate our victories rather than putting ourselves down all the time.

How about we forget why, when and how the war started and just take pride in Defence Day for the sake of all those who died protecting us? How about we do it as a means of paying tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives for this country?

To me, those who sacrificed their lives are greater heroes than those who sold the nation in whatever suitable name they found for the task. I wish we could respect their sacrifices and help achieve and maintain what they fought for.

This post originally appeared here.

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Rai Muhammad Azlan Shahid

Rai Muhammad Azlan Shahid

The author is an MSc in Marketing from the University of the West of England. Currently he is based in Lahore and associated with the area of education marketing. He blogs at and tweets @Mussanaf (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • A reader

    This article is no different from 100s of articles written on Defence Day, every year. Rhetorics aside, this article really offers nothing new. Urdu Text Board stuff, really.Recommend

  • Fakhar Ul Islam


    Made me smile. You completely miss the point!! though I do agree with the point that the sacrifices need be recognised and one must be proud of it.. yes on an individual level one must celebrate those sacrifices. as a Nation… NO. why!!!
    1. History is distorted. The Nation doesnt have a sniff on an Idea of what Operation Gibraltar was. It was our side (army) infiltrating Indian held Kashmir as civilian mujahedeen to cause disturbance. We thought we will be welcomed by Kashmiris which didnt happen.
    2. The Nation has no Idea of what Operation Grand Slam was. This operation was prematurely launched cause of ‘shock’ miscalculations in Operation Gibraltor when COAS was on leave and we had army games being held in sialkot sector. Grandslam was a success and we reached Aknoor by 1 september 1965.
    3. Now what happens… Gen in command Operation Grand Slam, who was leading a successful operation was mysteriously relieved of his command by Gen Musa, replaced by Gen Yaya, and ordered to stop the advance.
    4. The 48 hr delay gave enough time for Indians to regroup and they launched a dummy operation in Lahore with Major offensive on Sialkot with a mechanised armoured div. Tanks that is.
    5. Brigadior in command was ordered to move towards lahore who intercepted an indian correspondence and acted on his own to maintain his position. accidentally standing face to face this offensive. resulting in the biggest tank battle after WW-II in Chawinda.
    6. then we went to UN to end the war. Indians accepted because pakistan had captured some on her territories too. these were mainly desert around sind. India however had part of Sialkot city captured too along with a few villages.

    We sacrificed for our wrong policies and lost so many lives. Economy suffered. Army morale dropped. Maj Gen Akhtar Malik.. not recognised for his skills in operation grand slam and he was relieved of command. May be because he was an ahmadi. Brig. Abdul Ali Malik his brother not recognised for his command in the bettle of chawinda again may be he was an Ahmadi.

    We need to correct our history. Recognise the truth. and Correct our mistakes.

    I salute our heros.

    Not reliable source wikipedia is but its a start for your research. :DRecommend

  • Sinclair

    Indian army has given us at least 4 Victory Days (65, 71, 98, 08), yet I dont see us beating our chests about any of them. How lame that one has to celebrate a Defence Day? Its all about priorities of a nation.Recommend

  • mr. righty rightist

    The writer needs to attend workshops on creative writing.Recommend

  • Sinclair

    Actually, I think the day Lahore’s police gave up lives to protect Srilankan cricketers is more of an important occasion to celebrate. That was really something.Recommend

  • Dogar

    “It was Pakistan which started all the wars”

    Isnt that the usual rhetorics that we hear from our Indian neighbors and most of our fake liberals?

    Allow me to clear up a few things here:

    If one understands military strategy even a single bit, one would know that in military terms in general and in the Indo-Pak scenario in particular, ‘Riposte’, ’Counter-Offensive’ and most important of ALL ‘Preemption’ is a DEFENSIVE action, NOT an Offensive one.

    So when any country launches a preemptive strike, it is NOT termed as an act of AGGRESSION under the International Law of War.

    Invariably the country which causes the other country to execute a Preemptive maneuver is to be blamed.

    To keep things in perspective;

    As Russia is ready for a preemptive strike on European missile defense systems if the US refuses dialogue on legally binding guarantees on ABM.

    As Israeli army launches preemptive strikes on Palestinians when they are found planting bombs.

    As the US retains the right of a preemptive strike against anybody in the garb of 9/11 :

    And there are hundreds of such examples, if only you had been an actual ‘Great Thinker’

    So when it is said it was Pakistan which ‘started all the wars’, it only shows how shallow knowledge about military strategy some people have.

    We should counter this lame propaganda which usually the Indians and a few of those media anchors adopt for cheap point scoring.Recommend

  • http://localhost:8080 Sir King Kong Bunty

    Lahore and Sialkot were already defended, if it would not have been for operation gibraltar. Policies like this are responsible for creating the mess that we are in now. Unfortunately the deep state still has not learned its lesson. 65 war has become a tool of perpetuating the myth that 1 pak soldier is equivalent to 100 indians. The same pattern was repeated in 71, 99. This must stopped if PAksitan has to prosper as a nation Recommend

  • BlackJack

    My friend, you can have many more Defence days like this – keep sending your army over, give up, and then scamper back saying that you defended your borders (Kargil is a good example of an outright victory by the Pak army). India will never want the headache of administering Pakistan. In fact, you even defended East Pakistan because the Indian army left shortly after the war (paraphrasing your blog, let’s forget about how and who surrendered for now).Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    Of course It would have made no difference if Poland or USSR had first attacked Nazi Germany. right? RIGHT?

    Also had Iraq first attacked NATO countries it would have made no difference?

    If (Prophet)Mohammad had first attacked the Makkan States it would have made no difference?

    How about we forget why, when and how
    the war started and just take pride in
    Defence Day for the sake of all those
    who died protecting us?

    History is not so convenient. You cannot just choose to ignore how and why the damned war started. Shame on you.Recommend

  • Vigilant

    Well said…..scarifies must be recognized at individual and national levelRecommend

  • Mohinder sandhu

    so much of FAKE PRIDERecommend

  • Douchebag_Detector

    @Fakhar Ul Islam: Get a life, stop trying to being cool by repeating “history is distorted, history is distorted”. Sacrifices must be recognised, Recommend

  • F

    Truth matters. The oficial narrative around Defense day is that India attacked, Pakistan defended and won. This is a fabrication and outright lie invented to protect the Pakistani Generals. The soldier died fighting lies for his country. The Generals lived – then they turned Defense day into a story that makes them look good. Pakistani Army started the war, it lost. The country – for whom the soldier died, lost militarily, socially and politically. It should be his and only his day.
    For those thinking what could have happened if this or that, remember: Ifs and buts don’t mean anything. History is unkind that way. Recommend

  • Noise

    All those Pakistani men died because of the military leadership’s lies and deceit. All that courage and and strength was wasted in trying to correct an unnecessary mistake. Ctrl-z in real life is very costly.Recommend

  • Boss

    I don’t think Pakistanis should stress their minds too much. Keep calm and keep staring at Veena. My god she is hot.Recommend

  • varuag

    The facts of the war are well established and it is of historical importance to know the realities of the 65 war preferably from the memoirs of those in the know-how. While the notion of instigation is relegated in your analysis, its the most crucial piece especially when both nations are today nuclear weapon states.

    Jingoistic notions like “passion winning wars” are exactly at the root of our collective subcontinent being swayed by a few charismatic pedagogues. I disagree with the author’s notion of keeping the fires burning without being aware of the truth. Every nation’s soldiers are important and their sacrifices are not to be forgotten but wars call for dispassionate analysis if only to chart future course of action. Recommend

  • sid

    So u mean india was planning to attack pakistan……and so Pakistan conducted preventive strikes…………….??????????..this is not propanganda………..accept reality and don’t teach false history Recommend

  • Critical

    @Author and other Pakistanis

    I may not be an expert,but my common sense clearly tells me that India will never attack and capture the lands previously given to form Pakistan inspite of the fertile Sindh and Punjab,the beautiful Swat and even the so called “Azad Kashmir”( India does know that between 1950s and 60s,around 3 lakh Punjabis were moved to Kashmir so that they will not switch loyalties lest India attacked and recapture them)

    Honestly,What will India get by conquering Pakistan? What does Pakistan have?
    Oil? Coal? Uranium Deposit? Rich Mineral deposit??

    Just that 180 million angry muslims will be added to our currrent population which is already fighting against poverty….and when the borders are vanished,they will move all over India and continue their mission of “bleeding India through thousand cuts”…
    India would change from being a aspiring superpower to a failed state….
    Thats why India didnt cede the territories of East Pakistan into India and rather allowed a new country called Bangladesh

    Borders were drawn for a reason and I dont think Pakistan would have any problem even if they leave the Eastern border unguardedRecommend

  • Huria

    “A couple of decades ago, if you asked a normal lad if he would lay down his life for Pakistan, his answer would most certainly be ‘yes’. Today, unfortunately, I cannot claim the same with certainty”

    I am so happy to hear this, because if it is true, it means our younger generation are not hate mongers. Recommend

  • Anoop


    Pre-emptive strike? But, Retried Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who I think knows about it more than you disagrees.

    He says no such thing of Pre-Emptive strikes.

    Besides, if we do take that line it would mean Pakistan accepting Kashmir as India’s territory.

    Stop trying to hide the obvious incompetence and utter lack of strategy from Pakistan and face the truth.

    Even if you don’t, remember it is India which can gloat of unlimited success with Pakistan, not vice versa.

    Its not bravery if an Ant takes on an Elephant. Its foolishness.

    As a result Pakistan is ranked 13th on the Failed List of Nations, while India is sitting pretty at 87.Recommend

  • Tony Singh

    Your generals have grand visions. They do not think anything about foot soldiers. They are just cannon fodder for them.
    Look at their grand designs
    1965 Lost more than 1500 sqkm of most fertile land Pakistan has.
    1971 – Lost more than half of land mass (in some ways its linked to 1965)
    1999 – 4500 + Pakistani soldiers died. Sartaz Aziz, Mushraff and Nawaz Sherif did not even bother to acknowledge NLI’s sacrifice untill after India told the world about it.
    There was another Kargil attempt in May 2002 too
    Hiding OBL in Abbotabad
    List is endless.
    All your defence is good at is having “Fauji” brand business in Pakistan from land grab to processed food to transportation, telecom and yes tablets.
    And yes “A very happy defence day”! And do not try another “Preemptive stunt”. This time Indians might call your nuclear bluff.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Dogar: ““It was Pakistan which started all the wars”
    Isnt that the usual rhetorics that we hear from our Indian neighbors and most of our fake liberals?”

    So do you consider retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan an Indian or fake liberal? Because you know he does say that.Recommend

  • Khaksar

    @Dogar ….well you just gave examples. You didn’t talk about what that “information” was, which made Pakistan take the trouble to launch a preemptive attack!Recommend

  • John B

    @Fakhar Ul Islam:
    All is true and discussed well from PAK perspective by Amin in his book. However, one should also remember that Indians were sitting with their tanks perched on top of Lahore and a bridge separated them and they had the bridge.

    What that battle showed was India is least interested in PAK territory and is not willing to burden herself with the responsibility of conquered army. We saw that once again in Bangladesh war years later. Recommend

  • Moz

    I think we should celebrate those heroes who sacrificed their lives. But this does not mean, we should forget what really happened. It is not just 65, we have been lied to our entire history by our military establishment. Plus u celebrate when u have won, Pakistan didn’t win anything. Our objective of the war wasn’t achieved, so we lost. Recommend

  • John B

    The theory of preemptive strike as defense may be correct in the context of imminent and perceived danger, but can you care to explain what was the imminent and perceived danger in 1965 from India.

    The military historian’s perspective on PAK induced war in 1965 against India is clear. From PAK perspective, coming out of Indo-China war of 1962,India could be a soft target and it was opportune time to wage war against India. PAK failed its objective and thus lost the war.

    The same opportune time India sensed in Bangladesh war and came out on top of it, whereas PAK failed in 1965.

    Indians never wanted to enter Lahore but was wagging their tail with their tanks by standing at the mouth of Lahore. The same way US did in gulf war of 1990s. Recommend

  • gp65

    Respect for the martyred soldier can take the form of Shahid Divas or Martyrs’ day. Caling it Defence Day perpetuates and reinforces the deliberate and ongoing lies that Pakistan army leaders have told Pakistan for decades i.e. that India was the aggressor and the war was imposed on Pakistan.Recommend

  • http://Bengalaru Great Thinker

    I had given a point by point reply to the same line that you took in a different blog. All, I can say, is that you and your kind can continue to live in your own cuckoo world. You can progress only, if you accept your history and learn from it.

    I see a few positive signs over the last few days. The comments from a few Pakistani bloggers urging Pakistani’s to introspect itself is a good sign. The toning down of Army’s opposition to anything connected with India is a positive sign. The stand taken by the Pakistani government on the Rimsha case is a positive sign. I hope Pakistan can now build on this.

    All the best!!! Recommend

  • Karachiwala

    Time has come to bring all Paki generals and those responsible to start all these wars to justice. Most of the lot has died but as a token Pak nation should denounce those responsible. Please refer “Hamood ur rRehman Commisson Report”. Pak army is good enough for guard of honour to foreign delegates only.. nothing more. Please refer Dr Ayesha Siddiqa book ‘Army incorporated”.Recommend

  • Naeem Siddiqui

    Dear Author,

    Agree with you, no matter what the policies of rulers and policy maker were, we must take pride for those who sacrificed their lives to protect this country. they deserve respect and honor and this is due on us. Recommend

  • RK Singh

    not really. As you guys lost on all occasions.Recommend

  • Farrukh Hanif Awan

    I find it hard but not to laugh at his article. We started it. The world knows it, we know it. History can not be re-written. We waged a war against a democratic government on the pretext of a lie. A lie we are fed everyday on our news channels. By our media, our older generation yet we remain silent. I was proud once of what I used to read but due to heavy media censorship all i had were accounts of lies.
    India was in such a favorable state when the ceasefire was called it was baffling for most of the world why didn’t they just finish us off. The only explanation I could come up was that they didn’t want to be labelled in the world as the Aggressor. We lost the battle when we over estimated our potential. Yes we had some major success but over all the battle was a stalemate. Stalemate only because India didn’t push in. If they had, we would have lost lahore or would have been cut off from lahore at least. Operation Giberaltor was quashed because our MUSLIM kashmiri brethren did what was right by them.
    The same was the problem with Kargil. Did anyone in its right mind ever go through the battle plan? I mean what was the fallback? Nuclear fallout? Total Annihilation? Would that have made it worth it? Who would then celebrate this? Us or them? I pity us, I pity this nation who glorifies the sword over the pen. I pity us all. So go on and celebrate. I mourn the loss of the soldiers who died for the WRONG cause. Wrong cause which has led to this day and please when you mention defence day do try to write about what we did to our muslim brethern of East Pakistan. Please do. I swear to god the accounts you will find that would leave you disgusted with the very notion of us being the SAINT. We are not the saint. We are pitiful nation of lies and deceit. I only see one man in our history who was honest with us and that was Jinnah. Only JinnahRecommend

  • gp65

    @Farrukh Hanif Awan: ” I only see one man in our history who was honest with us and that was Jinnah. Only Jinnah”
    Please read a little more about him as well and perhaps you may come to a different conclusion.
    – If you think poorly of the lawyers who threw rose petals on Mumtaz Qadri, I doubt you would approve of Jinnah. Please type the word Ilm-ud-din in google search and see what you come up with.
    – If you think poorly of AMir Liaqat for inciting murder of Ahmadis, I doubt you would approve of the call for Direct Action DayRecommend

  • Farrukh Hanif Awan

    My friend, i have read all i could find on jinnah. The indian prespective and ours. I am not the supporter of any qadri or any liquats (let a jury decide this if we can have a judge to preside over it). To me they are just a small blot in our history of blots. I support Jinnah for the man he was and history is not full of so many people. Sadly at our end we only had One against three great leaders of india.
    The point here is not what he did or she did. Here the point is who started the war and the above article. My raving as you may call it was against the very notion of defence day. Defence means as you already know to defend yourself against an aggressor. If all accounts are taken we are the one’s who incited two wars with a democratic country. We did that. We should acknowledge it. We got defeated in three of them. We should acknowledge that as well. One we lost with a nuclear arsenal at our disposal. Acknowledge what we have done and move towards a better tomorrow.
    Is it better to live a lie then to know the truth? Truth sadly is lost on us. I am pitying the nation we have become. Jinnah didn’t envisage such a nation. He had by far a greater goal in mind which sadly got hijacked. Thus the experiment culminated into a disaster in ’71. We didn’t lose East Pakistan, we lost the people who made Pakistan possible. The nation we call Pakistan was to be with Bengal because without Bengal there could not have been a Pakistan. Recommend

  • gp65

    @Farrukh Hanif Awan: Thank you for being good enough to respond to me and explain your thought process. Appreciate that.
    I have unintentionally misled you into believing I am a Pakistani when in fact I am an Indian. In fact I agreed with pretty much most of what you said. I simply wanted you to rethink the statement about Jinnah being the one honest man. I see Jinnah and Nehru as pragmatic politicians who were sometimes inconsistent. Jinnah more so than Nehru. This is why I pointed out the 2 specific actions of Jinnah that might be inconsistent with your viewpoint as it came across from the rest of your post.Recommend

  • Farrukh Hanif Awan

    Well he was a human being who might as per your point of view have made mistakes. Gandhi acknowledged him as a real deal. A thorough professional whose words could be vouched upon. Nehru hated him, more so that he was not at all in awe of him or his party. If we go through Jashwant Singh’s point of view, he is in some ways blaming Nehru’s action which led to the partition of the sub continent. But coming from such a senior statesman in his own rights, jashwants views can be put into the context of BJP vs Congress battle. If we go down this road, again we will point out who did what and the blame game will begin again. For me, i find my country pitiful in some contexts. Do you find your country pitiful?Recommend

  • Rai M Azlan

    here is the unedited version of this blog post:

  • Haider

    Yes it matters. We (Pakistan) started the War. Only when we were losing and india started to response, did we begin to retreat and called it a defense day for a war we started!! Funny isn’t it! All the wars n skirmishes like siachen have been started by us. We are the aggressive nation in this context.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Farrukh Hanif Awan: “Do you find your country pitiful?”

    I do not find my country pitiful because I feel it is going in the right direction. But there is much more too do. To many people do not have enough to eat. While most kids manage to go to school now there are far too many adult illiterates – in particular rural women. There are not enough toilets and of course there are some people who are bigoted. Individuals iinvolved in corruption (even ministers) have been made accountable but the insttutional mechanism to minimise corruption is yet missing. But in my county there is no institutional bigotry, even individual acts of bigotry have reduced over time and there is focus and discussion about issues like hunger and literacy and removing corruption in our Parliament. People came out in suport of Anna Hazare in millions throughout the country. So I have hope not pity for my country though I recognize its imperfections..Recommend

  • RA

    “A couple of decades ago, if you asked a normal lad if he would lay down his life for Pakistan, his answer would most certainly be ‘yes’. Today, unfortunately, I cannot claim the same with certainty.”

    Funny how you make this claim while sitting in London yourself.Recommend

  • farrukh awan


    That is a good outluck. With such wonderous and intelligent people in this region yet somehoe we have managed to make it look like a circus. I work with your fellow indians here and i get some strange feedback. Maybe prespectives are different. Recommend

  • M.Ahmer Ali

    6th September is observed as a defence day only for replying the Indian forces’ attack on Lahore on 6th September 1965 and on this day we arrange talk shows repeating the history of bravery and courage of Pakistan army repeatedly and by threatening the enemies to keep their eyes off Pakistan because Pakistan army is wakening but would any one like to define that what day shall be celebrated in the future regarding the drones’ attacks?????Recommend