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A heroic 1971 battle remembered

November 27, 2015

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EVEN though we lost East Pakistan, the people of Pakistan must be told that the Battle of Hilli fought between Pakistani and Indian forces over 25 days in 1971 is a golden chapter of our history. Outnumbered in men and material, Pakistani troops fought a heroic battle. Many foreign institutions have adopted this battle for teaching.

The battle began when the Indians attacked our position on the night between Nov 22/23 at 0130 hours.

The Indian attack was led by 20th Mountain Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Lachman Singh. It consisted of four brigades, plus direct support from their 30 Corp besides Mukti Bahini militia and elements of East Pakistan Rifles who had switched sides and others. Within half an hour of the Indian attack, spearheaded by 8 Guards, they had suffered 97 dead.

The Pakistani side consisted of 4 Frontier Force, having just six field guns, part of the 80 Field Regiment artillery, commanded by Major Anwar Khan, three old tanks, commanded by Lt. Sher Jan Tajik (SJ), two jeep-mounted anti-tank recoiless rifles, besides 51 policemen from West Pakistan and local volunteers.

The enemy continued to attack with the aim of breaking through to the Bogra-Rangpur road to break 16th Division in two parts, but 4 FF didn’t allow them and kept them engaged till the end of the war.

Maj Mohammad Akram fell in battle and was awarded Nishan-i-Haider. Many others were also awarded for gallantry. 4 FF lost 150 and about the same number wounded. I was among those who went into Indian territory to look for Major Akram’s body. He had gone inside the territory to hunt for tanks and acted beyond the call of duty.

Brig. M. Mumtaz Malik, SJ, SI, took over command when informed that Lt Col (later Brigadier) M. A. Abbasi was wounded, Major Anwar was killed and many others wounded in a daylight attack by two of our companies. This attack was ordered by Brig Tajammul Hussain Malik under adverse circumstances because there was no air support and we were facing a much larger enemy force.

This battle is known as the Battle of Hilli, and Brig Mumtaz, now retired, must be considered an authority. Any one writing a book on this battle must consult him.

Major (r) Mian Muzaffar Gul

Peshawar

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2015