6th Septmber, or Defence Day, has been celebrated by us as a day of victory since 1965. It is a day of exultation on which we recount the glorious events and incidents of a battle which we won, against an aggressor who attacked us in the dark of the night, out of the blue, and disturbed our peace. It has always been a day on which we pay tribute to our heroes and martyrs, and reminisce the glory of that day and the entire 17 day battle.
Over the past few years, however, this exultation and pride has somewhat been staled by the emergence of a group of “liberals,” or “apologists,” whose task is to change our perceptions of victory into defeat, to make us look like deluded individuals singing hollow songs of victory, glorifying individuals who did not know what they were doing, fighting a war for God knows who and for God knows what reason, etc, etc.
There is, however, more, a lot more to this story. More to it than these two extreme views. One in which we naively believe whatever we have been told by our elders or read in our textbooks; and the other which makes us the aggressor, and a deluded one at that. As a common, patriotic Pakistani, I still feel that despite all our miscalculations, failures, losses, 6th sept is still a day to be celebrated, or at least remembered. Ok, we did NOT achieve our “objective”, which was to liberate Kashmir. And yes, realistically speaking, we initiated the war by launching the infamous “Operation Gibraltor,” which in a way does make us the aggressor. And fine, we were extremely deluded to assume that despite our meddling in Kashmir, the enemy will not retaliate.
YET, in spite of all these miscalculations, we were, nonetheless, able to thwart a most forceful attack on our borders, and in doing so proved to them that they also had some delusions of their own. Did India not miscalculate and underestimate our capability, or simply the courage and zeal with which we managed to defend ourselves. And in spite of everything anyone might say, did we not emerge as a nation, united as a single body, at least for those few days. From the soldier to the journalist, the poet, the writer and the common man – EVERYONE participated in the war to whatever extent they could. Everyone put in their share. Statistics even show that the crime rate in the country dropped significantly during the days of war, thus even the common robber and criminal participated in the coutry’s defence.
Then there was the courage, bravery, valour and fervour displayed by our soldiers. From martyrs like Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed and Major Zia ud Din Abbasi Shaheed to victors like MM. Alam and Major Shabbir Sharif who fled from his hospital bed with a broken arm to return to the war front, the 17 day war is replete with stories of courage and valour, of nobility and sacrifice. We can never deny that these men are our heroes, our saviours, and deserve not only to be remembered but be honoured by us forever.
6th September, then, is actually a day of reflection, of introspection for us, as a nation. Therefore, let us, by all means, learn the facts about the 65 war, let us also be open about teaching them to our kids. Let us not glorify war mongering generals, let us not carry out endless debates on who won or lost wars on the military or political fronts. Let us not hope or wish for another war. Let us live peacefully with our neighbours, and not indulge in war mania or be part of an arms race. Let us actually spend our budget and resources where they ought to be spent, on improving living conditions and uplifting the common man. Let us do all this honestly, wholeheartedly, with goodwill and sincerity towards our neighbours. Let us not repeat our mistakes. But, for Heaven’s sake let us at least be confident that we do possess the ability to become a nation, and to defend ourselves, the potential lies within us. Let us criticise our mistakes, but not undermine the sacrifices of our compatriots, nor underestimate our potential. Let us, with the spirit of reflective criticism, remember and celebrate Defence Day.