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Defence Day of Pakistan: remembering the sacrifices

Published September 6, 2023
Members of the Pakistan Air Force march near the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah during Defence Day ceremonies, or Pakistan’s Memorial Day, to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Photo: Reuters
Members of the Pakistan Air Force march near the mausoleum of Muhammad Ali Jinnah during Defence Day ceremonies, or Pakistan’s Memorial Day, to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir. Photo: Reuters

September 6 is celebrated by the nation as the Defence Day of Pakistan to commemorate the country’s finest hour when its armed forces frustrated a surprise attack by its numerically superior Indian Armed Forces in 1965.

On this memorable day, the people of Pakistan stood united as one solid edifice to meet the onslaught of an enemy that chose the cover of darkness to achieve its heinous ends of occupying our motherland.

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9/11 ushered a fresh challenge for Pakistan, when it unconditionally joined the Global War on Terror (GWOT) since it was in its own interest as the bane of terror was right at its doorstep and could have had severe repercussions if it had been unchecked.

Pakistan Army, which has borne the brunt of the GWOT, was at a handicap since it had never been exposed to war against insurgency, or fought a faceless enemy, battled against the scourge of suicide bombers, saboteurs, seditionists and terrorists. It adapted to the new ordeal with fresh gusto and gave a good account of itself despite being faced with heavy odds and at times uncalled for criticism by other allies in the GWOT.

The miscreants, who had taken advantage of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, were abetted, trained and equipped by the enemies of Pakistan, and found it opportune to challenge the writ of the government and harass the people of Swat, Tribal regions and FATA. Their internecine warfare was targeting politicians, law-enforcing agencies and even visiting dignitaries to destabilise and embarrass Pakistan.

The armed forces of Pakistan launched various military operations to fight terrorism and extremism, which had taken a huge toll of human lives. Prominent among them are: Operations Al-Mizan, Rah-e-Haq, Sher-e-Dil, Zalzala, Sirat-e-Mustaqeem, Rah-e-Raast, Rah-e-Nijaat, Koh-e-Sufaid, Zarb-e-Azb and now Radd-ul-Fasaad.

Operation Al-Mizan was the first major operation of the Pakistan Army against the militant groups working against Pakistan in which 70,000-80,000 army personnel were deployed in FATA who suffered initial losses due to lack of information about the methodology of the enemy, their hideouts and guerrilla warfare tactics. Full convoys were targeted by the Taliban militants in the initial stages causing many casualties. Besides the basic infantry, Special Force units of the Pakistan Army, the elite SSG (Special Services Group) were also directly engaged in fighting. This operation comprised many small operations too such as Operation Kalosha II, which took place in South Waziristan.

Operation Rah-e-Haq was launched to check Talibanisation of the region and to stop attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The first phase of Operation Rah-e-Haq commenced in November 2007 in collaboration with the local police against Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley.

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The militants, however, gradually infiltrated into key cities. The second phase began in July 2008 and continued throughout the year. The third was launched in January 2009, which ended after a peace accord, known as Malakand Accord, was signed between the Government and TNSM.

The Pakistan Army launched Operation Sher-e-Dil on September 9, 2008 in Bajaur Agency to target all the militant groups that threatened the security of Pakistan. By early December over 1000 militants and 63 security personnel had been killed.

Operation Zalzala was launched in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA) in January 2008 against Baitullah Mehsud and his supporters. Around 200,000 locals are estimated to have been displaced, though it cleared most of SWA.

Operation Sirat-e-Mustaqeem commenced in June 2008 but was halted by the Army on July 9, 2008 in Bara Tehsil, Khyber Agency- FATA. Then-PM Yousuf Raza Gillani’s government ordered the Army against the Taliban forces in Khyber Agency.

The immediate trigger for the operation was two kidnappings in Peshawar of six women and a group of 16 Christians. Soon after the capture of Bara Tehsil the operation was put to a stop.

Operation Rah-e-Rast was a major action in Swat, launched in 2009 after the Malakand Accord failed to ensure peace in the region. Major offensive took place in Mingora in the last week of May and by the end of the month, Pakistan Army regained its control over Mingora.

Operation Rah-e-Nijaat was launched by Pakistan Army in October 2009 to combat militants with the help of gunship helicopters and aircraft. The major objective of this operation was to destroy the militant stronghold in the region.

Operation Koh-e-Sufaid was launched on July 4, 2011 by the Pakistan Army against the militants in Kurram Agency located within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Operation Koh-e-Sufaid targeted militants in Kurram with the principal objective of securing and re-opening Thall Parachinar road which had been repeatedly under attack by Sunni Militants.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in 2014 against the last stronghold of the militants in North Waziristan after peace talks with the Taliban leaders failed. The Operation was conducted against the Tehrik-i-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Qaeda, Jundallah and the Haqqani Network.

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The military strategy used for this was SEEK-DESTROY-CLEAR-HOLD. Pakistan Air Force and some elements of Pakistan Navy combined to seek the target, and destroy its infrastructure, training complexes and weapons’ arsenal. Zarb-e-Azb resulted in phenomenal success as the terrorists’ backbone was broken and their structure dismantled. Nexus sleeper cells were largely disrupted and with the Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) the remaining sleeper cells were busted.

Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched in 2017 for the conduct of Broad Spectrum Security (Counter Terrorism) operations in all four provinces of Pakistan and to achieve countrywide de-weaponization and mop up the remaining miscreants.

New annals have been added to the already emblazoned trail of glory of its predecessors by a fresh group of martyrs from Pakistan Army, who laid down their lives in the operations against terror. The Army, Air Force and Naval Chiefs have boldly led from the front inspiring their men to gallantly combat the enemy. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, to date 83,000 Pakistani lives have been lost in terror attacks, out of which 6,802 are security personnel.

Thus fresh blood has been infused in the list of martyrs, who have displayed exemplary courage in the defence of Pakistan. May their sacrifices not be in vain.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst

Comments

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JK Sep 08, 2023 02:41pm
Nation will always remember the great sacrifice of all brave soldiers during 1965 war....but it is sorry to learn that crooks have occupied lands given to the Shuhadas famalies!
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John Sep 11, 2023 06:28pm
@JK, Love for real estate has doomed the efficiency of the institution!
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HIK Sep 14, 2023 05:19pm
Everyone knows who the culprits are but the institution is looking the other way!
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