Col Riaz Jafri (R)
I was a Major in the Pak Army and doing Japanese language course in Transit Camp
Karachi when in the early morning of 6th September 1965 a number of IAF fighter planes appeared over the skies of Karachi and tried, though unsuccessfully, to bomb some strategic targets like oil refinery, Faysal Air Base, West Wharf complex and Karachi sea port etc. The bombs and fighter planes noise coupled with the continuous Air Raid Siren shook the Karachites out of their slumber and most of them came out or climbed up their roof tops to see what was happening.
On realizing that the war which was expected had actually broken between India and Pakistan and the Indian planes were attacking Karachi by flying so low, they, strangely enough, instead of taking some shelter against the air raid started shouting and booing at the Indian planes with their fists and anything that came their way – a piece of rock, a stick or an iron rod — anything.
Soon after a few F-86s scrambled from the then Mari Pur air base, now Masroor air base and in no time were much higher in the skies than the Indian planes, which seeing them in such commanding position immediately made bee line for the Indian border. No damage was done except for a pipe catching fire in the Oil Refinery, which was soon taken care of. At around 8 a.m. our Japanese teachers (whom we the 8 students out of respect used to address as San-se, meaning female Master) arrived in her daily taxi from her hotel but she looked visibly shaken and dishevelled. Naturally, there was no class that day and we all talked about the war. After a while the San-se spoke but her voice was wavering and wobbly and she asked as to what kind of people we Pakistanis were?!
She said that first she didn’t expect her taxi driver to come but he was there as usual at the appointed time and greeted her smilingly, then the roads had the usual morning schools and office going traffic. People having their “pan” from the busy shops! Every thing looked normal like any other day as if nothing had happened. Dash it—you had been under an air attack only a few minutes ago!. Tokyo would have been all quiet. Not a soul out of home or shelter. No traffic on roads. No — nothing.
Then she asked me to take her to a post office, which I obliged respectfully. She came out of the post office with a telegram that she had sent to the GHQ (Director of Mil Trg) which read, “In this hour of peril I offer my service to Pakistan Military in any capacity”. That was unexpected for me and asked her as to what could she do for the military? “Oh I can be a Secretary, an office worker, a Telephone Operator, a Nurse or whatever.” Is it not a matter of pride for we Pakistanis?!
Around mid morning we started receiving our posting orders for the fronts except me which didn’t come even for next three days when my patience gave up and I took a train to Lahore on my own on 9 September 1965. These three days provided me with the opportunity and time to watch Karachiites’ morale, vigour and patriotism quite closely. Every one was imbued with the spirit of giving a befitting reply to India. It was so inspiring and motivating that it made me proud of them and I shall never forget it till I live. Just to cite an example or two: A Recruiting Office was hurriedly established in the Transit Camp by about 11 a.m. that day. And by about 2 p.m.—just in a matter of three hours — there were more than two thousand young men, some visibly looking from fairly well to do families, some in branded jeans and jaugers and Rayban Sun Glasses, quite of few of them graduates offering themselves to be enrolled as simple foot soldiers (sepoys) and go to the front. Amazing!!
One of my car tires was flat and the person repairing it, who had incidentally served me with a cup of tea and some confectionary also, would not take any money even on my insistence, because he knew I was an army man. That was the spirit of the Karachiites and all Pakistan in 1965. And that made the Indian designs of over-running Pakistan eat dust. Same would be the morale and the spirit of every Pakistani, In Sha Allah, again now if India tries any adventure again.
—The writer is freelance columnist, based in Rawalpindi.
Col Riaz Jafri (R)