One of the most remarkable, and unifying, incidents in the history of Pakistan is celebrated each year on the 6th of September. On this day in 1965, India worked to attack Pakistan across international borders without a formal declaration of war. As we find ourselves in the midst of tension and rivalry between India and Pakistan even today, it is worth knowing about this day- how it impacted Pakistan as a nation and how it continues to impact us in a myriad of ways even today.
The day is celebrated because it represents that moment in the history of Pakistan where the entire nation felt united, and it became the moment where Pakistan recognized its own identity through this unification. During the war, the entire country stood unified behind the military government in hopes of protecting their land. Despite the surprise of the attack, and the instability of Pakistan since its creation, the nation fought hard and well to protect itself and its people. Pakistan emerged from the war a stronger, more self-confident nation feeling extremely proud of its armed forces. For the first time since its borders had been defined, all of Pakistan stood for a cause, recognizing that there was something worth fighting for and worth defending.
Defense Day is also to commemorate all those heroic souls that we lost, and all those we continue to lose, while protecting and defending Pakistan. We celebrate their strength, their dignity and their bravery. Even today Pakistan’s armed forces are ranked extremely high globally. Our military forces are the seventh largest in the whole world in terms of active troops. The progress we are making in terms of military forces is incredible, a symbol of our resilience amongst all our chaos. For instance, the inclusion of women within our army is outstanding. Pakistan has the largest number of female armed forces in the Muslim world, with over 9000 women serving. Pakistan is also currently the only country in the Islamic world to have female major generals in the army. Defense Day is to pay tribute to all the work done by our armed forces, the lives devoted to uphold Pakistan. The Pakistan army is the largest contributor of troops to the UN peacekeeping missions in almost 23 countries. In our day-to-day lives as civilians we often forget about the people who live their life to honor this nation and its population. For this reason we use Defense Day to give thanks to and celebrate our heroes.
Remembering the events of the 1965 Indo-Pak war is important because it teaches us how to use our history for the future. One can still question what the real purpose behind India’s decision to attack without warning was. Rivalry? Power? The need within the modern world to be defined by arbitrary lines drawn on a map, and then to ensure the region that you belong to continues to ride up the hierarchy? Such notions result in an ‘us and them’ sense of the world, where humanity ceases to exist beyond national borders. We carry the trauma of the 1947 partition with us everyday- we see it in our architecture, our media, and our family histories- and we are forced to continue experiencing it as the tensions between India and Pakistan keep rising. As citizens, as humans and as the future of this world we must question such sentiments, we must fight for a world where we do not fear someone who shares our cultural roots.
This year on Defense Day we must remember to celebrate consciously. Pride in our nation and hope for our future springs eternal- but we must also think of our Kashmiri family and the suffering such tensions have caused them. To really celebrate our nation this year, we must further such feelings of joy and unity to those in need.