What could we possibly thank smog in Lahore for? It is just one problematic affair, graphically mutilating our lungs and bombarding our eyes. However, the young students around are very happy with the sudden change in school schedules and the swiftly-announced holidays! This is precisely what happened last week with my daughter—an eighth grader and a Korean-Pop aficionado—Zara. Smartly dressed in her uniform, hurrying the dollops of cereal into her mouth last Thursday, she went ballistic with euphoria at the sight of the mobile beeping the news, “Dear Parents, due to the prevailing smog, the school will remain closed today, 7th November 2019.”
It was then that I decided to wait till the sun showed up, and planned the “baby’s day out”. I methodically sweet-talked her into googling the “Chawinda Battle”, which—to my amusement and delight—she quite fondly did. After giving her an articulate speech on the dictums of a battle, I got her extremely excited about visiting 25 Cavalry, stationed here in Lahore.
On a cemented platform in front of the 25 Cavalry’s Regimental Headquarters stands in silence, the once roaring lion pride of the of the Fakhr-e-Hind the title with which the Indian 1 armoured Division was known. The 60 ton Centurian belongs to Lieutenant Colonel Tarapour, the Commanding Officer of the 17 Puna Horse one of the most celebrated unit of the Indian Army. Lieutenant Col Tarapour was promised the Mahaveer Chakra, the highest gallantry award in advance for his assigned mission that was to cut off Chawinda – Pasrur road at Mile3. In the ensuing bloody encounter the officer was killed and his tank captured. Mile 3 could never be reached. He was indeed a gallant adversary. The huge tank standing there is not only a mere trophy reverberating the bloody armed encounter but symbolizes the real strength of a nation which in terms of both size and military preparedness was much inferior to her adversary. It depicts the resolve and determination of the people to defend and survive even in the face of heavy odds. The great Battle of Chawinda cannot be confined in the limited confines of this article, nevertheless, I have made an endeavor to very briefly touch upon a few events which might give one some idea as to the story of the now age old battle.
Sequel to the ongoing skirmishes in Kashmir on either sides of the LOC, the Indians on the the morning of 6 September attacked across the international border. Apart from Kashmir two main fronts developed, one between Chenab and Ravi rivers extending from the Pukhlian salient to the Jasser bridge over the Ravi (generally known as the Sialkot sector) held by 15 Division with 6 Armoured Division in Reserve under 1 Corps. The second between the Ravi and Sutlej Rivers extending from the Siphon of the BRB Canal on the Ravi to Hussainwala Headworks (generally known as the Lahore Sector). This area was held by 10 and 11 Division with 1 Armoured Division in the area as Army reserve.
In the area of 10 and 11 Division the Indians attacked repeatedly however all attacks were repulsed successfully. In the area of Sialkot where the famous battle of Chawinda was to be fought, the biggest encounter after the second World War of tank versus tank fight, the following events unfolded.
GOC 15 Division on visualizing a massive Indian attack at Jasser ordered 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry already deployed at Charwa to move to Narowal to counter attack the Indians if they captured the Jasser Bridge. This proved to be a judgement of error as information was received that the Indians had launched a major attack with tanks at Charwa and Bajragarhi. The move of 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry had created a gap of about 18000 yards, weakening the Charwa defenses, consequently the Indian Red Route Charwa-Chobara-philluarah was opened for the Indian tanks. The advance was led by 17 Puna Horse and 16 Cavalry on two axes.
On receipt of the news of the Indian attack, GOC 15 Division ordered 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry to return and reoccupy their defenses at Charwa. 25 Cavalry was moving on the route Narowal-Pasrur-Chawinda and had just cleared the Degh Nadi when at about 0800 hours it was informed that Indian tanks were advancing south with their location not known.
The Commanding Officer 25 Cavalry Lieutenant Colonel Nisar Ahmed Khan ordered his Regiment moving east to west, to swing right and move northwards. Turning from line of march the Regiment covered a front of about 12000 yards with the right flank resting on Degh Nadi.
At this point in time the regiment contacted the leading elements of 17 Puna Horse and 16 cavalry. A tank verses tank engagement followed. The Indians broke contact and took up a defensive line Bhagowal-Chobara-Phillaurah. Major Effendi Commanding C Squadron of 25 Cavalry on the right flank while rummaging in the 16 Cavalry’s Commanding Officers’s abandoned tank found the copy of the Indian Armoured Divisions operational orders which confirmed the presence of the Armoured Division operating in the area.
On 9th September 24 Brigade (15 Div) asked for reinforcement from GHQ which placed 6 Armoured Division with 14 (Para) Brigade under 1 Corps. 10 September, on the front that was to be taken by 6 Armoured Division, the Indian 1 Armourd Division renewed its attack on Phillourah and Gadgar but was ruthlessly repulsed by the heroic 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry.
11 cavalry and 7 FF relieved 25 Cavalry and 24 brigade on night 10/11 September. At 0500 hours on 11 September artillery fire on Gadgar and Phillourah started and the Indian 1 Aromoured Division renewed its attack. 11 cavalry put up stiff resistance but could not hold on for long owing to heavy pressure from a reorganized outnumbering enemy. Phillourah was occupied by 17 Puna Horse. At 11:00 hours Lieutenant Colonel Amir Gulistan Janjua Commanding Officer Guides Cavalry received orders to attack towards east in order to relieve pressure on 11 Cavalry and 9FF. In the ensuing battle Guides claimed 21 Indian tanks destroyed in exchange for six of its own. However in order to cope with the deteriorating situation in Phillourah General Abrar GOC 6 Armoured Division pulled out 11 Cavalry to collect south of chawnda. 25 Cavalry along with 14 FF and 24 Brigade called back into the line of battle again and checked the Indian tanks south of Phillourah.
On 15 September, the Indian attacked Chawinda, Jassorian and Badiana but repulsed. On 16 september the Indians captured Jassorian and almost achieved their aim of cutting the Chawinda-Pasrur road. The Indian GOC encouraged 17 Puna Horse to cut the road at mile 3 by promising the Mahaveer Chakra the highest Indian gallantry award to the Commanding Officer Colonel Tarapour. The Indian tanks rolled towards Chawinda and were engaged by 1 (SP) Field Regiment till 25 Cavalry tanks arrived. In the fierce tank verses tank battle the tank of the Commanding Officer 17 Puna Horse Lieutenant colonel Tarapour was knocked out and the Commanding Officer was killed. With this the crown of the Indian Military might fell on the ground and the attack fizzled out. By 20 September areas lost were recaptured in a series of counter attacks. On 21 and 22 September the Indian 1 Armoured Division handed over the front to 6 Mountain Division and disappeared. The battle of Chawinda was over, Sialkot was saved so was the pride of Pakistan and its people. The battle can be termed as the bloodiest and boldest of the encounters in the history of warfare.
P.S: Upon returning home in the evening, I saw Zara not being enthusiastic about using her laptop—something that she usually does each day when she is back from school—instead I saw her being happy with what she had learnt during the course of the day. She also zealously took out her writing pad and started scribbling something. Upon inquiring her, she stated that it was a poem in Korean that she wished to write, as a tribute to all those who served in this battle and lost their lives.
It is easy to send a child to school and let him be taken care of. What is difficult, however, is to ensure that he is augmented and enforced with knowledge at home, which is imparted at the right time, and for the right reasons. Only then can we raise responsible and well-informed citizens for tomorrow.