With 1971 commenced the most tragic year of our history. Failing to resolve a political problem by political means, a Martial Law regime, manipulated by some megalomaniac politicians, resorted to military action in East Pakistan on night 25/26 March.
Widespread insurgency broke out. Personnel of two infantry divisions and Civil Armed Forces with weapons were airlifted in Pakistan International Airlines planes, over-flying about 5000 miles non stop via Sri Lanka in the first week of April 1971 – the longest operational air move by Pakistan Army.
By May near normalcy had been restored, thanks to the fast reaction, dedication and cool courage of our soldiers, sailors and airmen operating in a hostile environment under adverse climatic and terrain conditions without adequate logistics and medical support. India’s immoral covert armed intervention having failed.
By October it had concentrated four times our strength in over 12 divisions (400,000) supported by five regiments of tanks and about 50,000 activists trained and equipped by Indian Army. Indian Navy’s one aircraft carrier, eight destroyers/frigates, two submarines and three landing crafts, against our four gunboats, eight Chinese coasters and two landing craft supported them.
Eleven Indian Air Force squadrons – 4 Hunter, 1 SU-7, 3 Gnat and 3 MiG 21 – from five airfields around East Pakistan faced our one valiant Number 14 squadron of F-86F Sabres based on a single airfield around Dhaka .
On 21 November, Eid day, when our fatigued soldiers had been operating in the most hostile environment for almost ten months, including a month of fasting, the Indian army felt emboldened enough to launch a full scale invasion at over twenty fronts in the east, west and north of East Pakistan .
Divisions attacked our brigade positions; brigades attacked our battalion, company and platoon positions, supported by their armour, artillery and air force. When most of our defensive positions, rooted to the ground could not be overrun, Indian forces after suffering heavy casualties resorted to outflanking moves. The aggressors could not capture, till the cease-fire; on 16 December, a single town except Jessore, which was not defended for strategic reasons.
For the Pakistani soldiers this was their finest hour fighting against heavy odds with their backs to the wall inflicting heavy casualties, bloodied but unbowed” when an Indian commander, through a messenger asked for our Jamalpur battalion to surrender, encircled by two brigades, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sultan Ahmad, Sitara-i-Juraat of 31 Baloch replied in a message wrapped around a bullet which read, “I want to tell you that the fighting you have seen so far is very little; in fact the fighting has not even started. So let us stop negotiating and start the fight.”
Similarly 4 Frontier Force under 205 Brigade (Brigadier Tajammul Malik) held out at Hilli for 19 days against 6 battalions, inflicting heavy casualties, till withdrawal on 11 December, after getting outflanked. Similar hard fought actions took place at Bahaduria and elsewhere by Punjab, Baloch, Frontier Force and Azad Kashmir units all arms and services, and Civil Armed Forces including West Pakistan Rangers and police units. 107 Brigades (Brigadier Mohammad Hayat, Sitara-i-Juraat) held at bay a division of 5 brigades and 2 armour regiments at Khulna inflicting heavy casualties till 17 December and ceased fighting only after repeated orders of our Eastern Command.
On the West Pakistan front, on 3 December 1971 , India attacked with the main effort against Shakargarh sector with three infantry divisions supported by three armoured brigades against our 8 Division front, operating under our 1 Corps (Commander Lieutenant General Irshad Ahmad Khan). The attack was halted in the tracks, inflicting heavy casualties. 8 (Independent) Armoured Brigade (Brigadier Mohammad Ahmed, Sitara-i-Juraat) effectively blocked and destroyed enemy penetration our minefield and saved Zafarwal from being outflanked by enemy armour. In Jammu and Kashmir , Chhamb, Lahore , Kasur, Sulemanki and Rajasthan sectors, war was carried into Indian territory , with success at some points, not so successfully at others due to inadequate forces and air support.
For the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force this conflict was their finest hour. Fighting against overwhelming odds in both wings of the country raged with full fury. Before our counter offensive could be launched in West Pakistan , India asked for cease-fire in the United Nations. The Ghazis and Shaheeds proved in their supreme hour of trial all the military virtues of Faith, Honour, Valour, Fortitude, Endurance, Loyalty, Group Cohesion and Unlimited Liability, and above all, the spirit of Jehad.
On 4 December 1971 , the United States moved a draft resolution calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of Indian forces, which was vetoed by Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thereafter, another six resolutions including one by China were introduced calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of forces, some of which were accepted by Pakistan. However, due to behind the scene political machinations by India and her allies their passage and implementation was stalled till Dhaka fell on 16 December 1971 and the cease-fire had been perfidiously converted to surrender.” I took a careful look at the documents and was aghast to see the heading – which read Instrument of ‘Surrender‘……” writes Lieutenant General J.F.R.Jacob, Chief of Staff, Indian, Eastern Army. (Lieutenant General J.F.R.Jacob, “Surrender at Dacca : Birth of a Nation).
Flawed national and operational strategy proved to; be disastrous for Pakistan, both politically and militarily. Power, national and operational strategy, the methodology of crisis and conflict management and higher direction of war in which we had been found wanting in 1971.