By; Yasmeen Ali
The picture of Batapur Monument, built by Major General Tajammal Hussain Malik hangs proudly in my dining room. This monument is dedicated to the ever lasting memory of the men of the 3rd Battalion of the Baluch Regiment, who, fell, stopping the main Indian offensive on Lahore, along the G. T Road, on 6th September 1965, at Batapur Bridge, on the BRBL Canal, Wagha Sector.
Gen Tajammal Hussain Malik, in 1965, a Lt. Colonel , was CO (Commanding Officer), 3rd Baluch. The Battalion marched on foot to Batapur, from Lahore. He ordered recoilless rifle fire on the oncoming Indian tanks, blowing them up and thus halting the Indian onslaught-all with pouch ammunition! THUS mocking the Indian Commander General Chaudhry’s claim to have the “Chota peg” in Lahore Gymkhana before the day was over.
I share with you General Tajammal’s excerpt of interview given to Defence Journal in September 2001 which says all:
QUESTION: Please tell us something about your experiences as CO 3rd Baluch in 1965?
On 17 July 1965, I took over the command of 3rd Baluch, the Battalion I had joined as a second lieutenant after repatriation from India where I was serving in the Rajput regiment since my commissioning on 16th February 1947.
Immediately after assumption of command I started intensive training. In about a month and a half the battalion was fully trained for war. Chamb operation had started on the 1st of September 1965 but the troops at Lahore were carrying out normal peacetime training till 4th of September.
On 4th of September, I held my battalion ceremonial parade and in the afternoon there was a basketball competition. On 5th morning a TEWT (tactical exercise without troops) was to be held and instead of going to the exercise we were suddenly called to the Brigade Headquarters and ordered to move to our allotted defensive positions astride GT road on Wagha Sector.
We were specifically ordered not to leave the unit lines before midnight 5/6 September. From my unit lines to Batapur
bridge was about 14 miles, which my Battalion had to cover on foot. At about 6 o’ clock on 6th September, my companies had reached their allocated position extended over a distance of about 5 miles astride the GT Road. My right forward company had just reached its position on both sides of the BRBL canal when the Indian Army attack started. I had hardly taken off my pack when I received a message from the Brigade Major 114 Brigade that India had attacked Pakistan and captured Wagha and Gawindi post on Burki Sector and was advancing towards Lahore.
It was my first experience of war and it is a fact that I felt highly thrilled. A little later, about half a dozen Indian planes flew past towards Lahore. The Indians had started their advance with 15th Indian Division consisting of 4 brigades on Wagha Sector and 7th Division less one Brigade on Burki Sector. Obviously Wagha sector was comparatively more important from the Indian point of view because the Grand Trunk passes through it and after reaching Shalimar gardens they could get on Mahmood Booti Road and capture Ravi bridge without going through the built up area of Lahore City. This would have sealed off Army reinforcements to the beleaguered troops in Lahore Cantonment who were, in any case, not yet ready to go into battle.
Most of the divisional artillery units and 22 Brigade, which was in reserve, were doing their normal PT parade on the morning of 6th September when the leading Indian troops had started their attack on our positions on BRBL canal. A major portion of Lahore garrison officers heard the news about the Indian attack when they were having their breakfast in the messes or in their houses. This was the state of preparedness of 10th Division, who were responsible for the defence of Lahore, on the morning of 6th September, I called up my depth companies to fill up the gaps in the defensive area.
We fought that battle without trenches, without defensive minefield and without barbed wire in the defensive positions when the Battalion was pitched against a division of 4 brigades. If I go into the details of the narrative of the battle of 6th September, it would become very lengthy. The area between the BRBL canal upto Ravi bridge was all empty. The two leading enemy tanks were destroyed by one of our anti-tank guns firing from behind a bullock cart. Both sides were surprised in this battle. We were not expecting enemy attack because we were moved only as a precautionary measure with only the pouch ammunition and not allowed to even dig our trenches till the time the positions were visited by the Brigade Commander or the GOC.
The Indians were surprised to find the BRBL occupied by Pakistani troops who had started firing on the Indian advancing troops. They were expecting that the canal would be empty, whereas on reaching there they were confronted by every type of fire. In those days, our defensive battle concept was in three layers; the first layer, the second layer and the resistance zone each 2000 yards apart. They perhaps thought that they had reached the first layer positions and they had yet to face the second layer and resistance zone.
Instead of pressing their attack to capture the bridges across the canal they decided to halt the advance with sporadic firing and carry out proper canal crossing operation at night. By the evening we had considerably strengthened our positions and were ready to face the challenge.Till today I call it a miracle. For, had the Indians succeeded in capturing the Batapur Bridge that morning, Lahore would have fallen latest by 11 o’clock that morning and General Chaudry, the then C-in-C Indian Army would have celebrated their victory in Gymkhana Club over a peg of whisky, as promised to his officers, on the eve of the battle.
The narrative of the battle for the next seventeen days is a long story. By 10th September, we were ready to resume the advance on the Indian soil, but because of the incompetence and cowardice of the higher command we could not do so and when the war ended the Indians were in occupation of about 240 square miles of our territory beyond the far bank of the BRBL canal.
Our armoured division offensive on Khem Karan sector had also got bogged down. Indian war correspondent Kuldip Nayar in his book “India’s Critical years” has described a very interesting account of Indo-Pak battle in Lahore-Khem
Karan sector wherein he states that when our Armoured Division offensive started in Khem Karan sector, the Indian C-in-C General Chaudry ordered General Harbash Singh, Commander Western Command to withdraw his troops behind Bias river. General Harbash Singh refused to comply with the order saying he would not withdraw his troops but would instead fight the battle from his existing defensive positions. General Chaudry retorted, “You do not know the capabilities of Armour” implying that he could not comprehend the power of an Armoured Division. The Sikh General replied saying that “In war it is the courage that matters and not the technical knowledge”. By doing so, the Sikh General saved India.
Had our attack succeeded, the Indian Army would have suffered the same defeat as Arab Army had suffered at the hands of Israelis in 1967 war. Here again our higher leadership failed to carry the battle to a successful conclusion.After the end of the war, in order to hide their weaknesses and the public criticism, instructions were issued by the General Headquarters to destroy the war diaries so that, at some later stage, if any commission of inquiry was appointed to examine the conduct of war, no record of their incompetency could be produced as evidence.
I stand up and salute our brave soldiers!