The whole nation was at work, the whole nation was at war and the whole nation was united as the strongest Army ever!
We were told to evacuate early morning right after Fajr. There was tension at the border, and we could feel it everywhere around us. But it wasn’t fear, no. That was the most amazing fact, that none of us were scared; from our driver to the cook who served us tea early morning, we all were waiting for the call. It was like every sinew in our body was at the ready, attentive and prepared to serve over whatever it had to offer.
My job was to help in the evacuation of the people via Sialkot to a safer place. Since I was in the German Embassy, my jeep was always ready; I had triple checked the engine and the breaks like always. Today was the third day, and still there were several residents left to be shifted.
At the border, I heard that we were obviously out of enough fuel; but Alhamdulillah the fuel was taken care of by the Iranian government. They would supply it to us for free; a brotherly courtesy from a brotherly Muslim neighbour. And not just us civilians, our fighter jets were allowed to land in Iranian and Turkish bases, fill fuel and take the air again. The war was a blow to India; where it was dependent on help from the British and the French; with all its ammunition and military force, 3 times greater than ours, still our men were strong, standing, fighting and not weary at all.
And I’m not talking about the people at the borders. The route I took, I would cross a bridge that came between the mounts. And there used to be a soldier standing in an upright position about midway between the bridge. If I’m not wrong, I probably crossed that bridge about 5 or 6 times, and not once did I see him so much as inattentive. That soldier that I had started assuming to be a djinn, would be standing rooted to the spot I last saw him, as upright and alert as ever. I can never forget the impression he made on me, just by fulfilling his duty, and so well too.
So this spirit of Allah’s special grace at times of war came to us, and we felt the closeness to the One we served in reality. At that difficult time the whole nation stood behind Field Marshal Ayub Khan, forgetting all political differences, and we felt proud of him. His voice would fill shriveled hearts with strength and hope. What young, old, sick, crippled; they were ready at his word; the nation proved its ability to gather behind one in times of difficulty.
“hum dushman ko bata den ge k us ne kis qoum ko lalkara hai!”
and wasn’t he so right about it?
From where I was, I saw young teenage kids ready to donate blood for the injured. Amusingly, a few even filled their pockets with stones just to qualify for the donation as they were underweight. Not just that, the families gave away their possessions to the Army, and what’s more, as i remember, some beggars emptied their pockets in front of our eyes. There were many unimaginable scenes that were actually witnessed by me.
And this account is just from the first few days when war ensued. We were never out of food, clothing or medicine and aid, we were never out of hope, and we were never out of the spirit that we had inherited as Muslims.
Sialkot saw the world’s largest tank battle; India’s tanks versus our people. The strategy was to defend, but there were too many tanks on the opposing side. Some of our daring men volunteered to give away their lives for the defence of their soil; these men tied bombs to their waists and would lie down in a line to the approaching herd of tanks. As they would come near, these brave men would blow themselves up one by one, thereby destroying the first line, before it could even attack. So who would be ready to lie down in front of a tank, obvious that there’s no coming back?
Here’s the point. There were so many volunteers for the job that we had to ask them to go back; ‘we have enough now!’.
And the soil of Sialkot finds pride in the blood of the Shaheeds that made it fertile.
When they attacked Lahore, it was unexpected nonetheless. The major problem came when there was a lack of Army presence to defend the city. As help was coming in, I stand witness to the remarkable display of patriotism by the Pathans, who came all the way from Sarhad, laden on trucks, sporting rifles and whatever ammunition they had. They came to the frontline before the Army present there did, and offered themselves in the fight. Their words were that they will go in first, and the Army shall come after. SubhanAllah!
My elder brother, Qaiser Ali Khan, was the Director General of Pakistan at that time. He sought my help to settle the Pathans there at the border villages as there were so many of them. How would we arrange food for so many more people? The government could not provide it. So I gave the opinion of announcing this news via the local Masjids and asking for the food of one person from every house, which I reckoned would not be very hard task. Believe me, at the end there was so much food available that we had to announce again to stop providing food any further! Yes, you could see back then, that people would have done ANYTHING to serve their country and to assist the Army.