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جمعہ، 17 ستمبر، 2010

Pakistan Navy – Keeping the spirit alive

Khalid Khokhar

THE soul-stirring spirit of nationalism and patriotism that captivated the sailors of Pakistan Navy during 1965 war against India, rejuvenates whenever the nation confronts any natural catastrophe like “Tsunami-2004”, “Pakistan Earthquake-2005”, “Pasni flash floods-2007” and now the worst-ever monsoon floods-2010 in the history of Pakistan. The torrential rains swelled the water courses with very fast currents, causing colossal damages from Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province to the southern province of Sindh – covering more than 3000 Km seaward distance. The floods have marooned hundreds of villages and destroyed power stations, roads and bridges, forcing many to sleep in the open with little food and no clean water. The TV channels have captured countless episodes of human suffering where million acre feet of water submerged many towns and farmlands in its journey. As per the estimates of the United Nations, the number of people suffering from the massive floods in Pakistan exceeds 20 million - more than the combined total of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. As per official estimate, 1,542 people have died with 1327 injured and leaving 20 million survivors homeless in the natural disaster. The floods have ruined the crops more than 7.9 million acres (3.2 million hectares) of cotton, sugar cane and wheat. At least 200,000 livestock have died and millions more are at risk. 
The lessons learnt from 1965 war, found its new dimensions when the navy sailors undertook the challenging and thrilling task with high spirits in the wake of floods-2010. The track record of Pakistan Navy is that it has rendered very useful services in rescuing and rehabilitating the victims after every inland flood, internal strife, bomb blast disposal, etc. Moderate day ‘art of state’ demands that we need our armed forces to deal with internal crisis when the country needs their extraordinary abilities and skills. The Navy is well-equipped for colossal disaster management. Passive Defence Headquarters (PDHQ) is already well placed with its comprehensive details of duties (action station) in case of any contingencies. For instance, when Pasni Tehsil (Balochistan) went under 3-4 feet water during 2007 floods, Pakistan Navy carried out the rescue and relief operations in the coastal areas of Balochistan and saved countless people marooned in the flood-hit area. Similarly, when a 7.6-magnitude earthquake-2005 killed at least 87,350 people and left 3.5 million homeless in the affected Northern parts of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, Pakistan special services groups of Commandoes and Mariners performed life-saving duties will full zeal and enthusiasm and saved many precious lives. Pakistan is facing another war-like situation, and this time it is against gushing flood water creating havoc throughout Pakistan. The sailors are in action again with selfless objective to rescue and protect their compatriots from worst-ever floods in the annals of Pakistan‘s history. Pakistan Navy has deployed more 1100 naval marines and commandos to pull out people stranded in the flood-ravaged region. Pakistan Navy Special Flood Relief teams have been mobilized to proceed to the flood ravaged areas in Khyber Puhtunkwa (Ghazi, Charsada, Noshahra and surrounding areas) and in Sindh (Nawabshah, Thul (Jacababad) Ghospur, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Larkana, ShahdadKot, and Sukkur). The relief teams have more than 100 boats and 2 hovercrafts to rescue survivors to the safe places. At least 4 helicopters based in Sukkur are airlifting marooned people to safer places. Pakistan Navy Marines and naval Commandoes have evacuated tens of thousands of people from flood-threatened areas in the south, including from Shahdadkot. In order to prevent the outbreaks, Pakistan Navy has established two Medical Centres, providing medical assistance to 9,048 patients. The naval pilots and aviators have carried out 107 sorties through fixed and rotary wing, rescuing more than 106,496 people and evacuated stranded hapless locals from the areas. The people hailing from these affected areas are thankful to see the guardians of land and Sea, risking their own life to rescue the floods victims. 
The innate spirit unraveled during floods-2010 is reminiscent of soul-touching memories of 1965 war against India. The story of 1965 war vis-à-vis Pakistan Navy’s response goes like this. When India attacked Pakistan in the Lahore area at 0630 on 6th September 1965, Pakistan Navy was already in the state of high alert providing seaward defence and within few minutes the ships cast away to perform the most sacred and singular duty of safe-guarding it’s Sea-frontiers from Indian aggression. At that time, the Submarine Ghazi was the only submarine that Pakistan Navy had in 1965. The PN submarine was deployed off Bombay to look after the heavy units of the Indian Navy. It spread a reign of terror in the rank and file of Indian warships and they could not come out of the harbour - including the aircraft carrier VIKRANT. It was this blockade that enabled the Pakistan fleet to move in and blast the Indian naval fortress of Dwarka known as “Operation Dwarka”. The objectives of operation were: (a) to draw the heavy enemy units out of Bombay for the submarine GHAZI to attack; (b) to destroy the radar installation at Dwarka; (c) to lower Indian morale; (d) and to divert Indian Air effort away from the north. On 7 September 1965, PNS BABUR, PNS KHAIBAR, PNS BADR, PNS JAHANGIR, PNS ALAMGIR, PNS SHAHJAHAN and PNS TIPU SULTAN carried out bombardment of Dwarka about midnight using 50 rounds per ship. On 8 Sept 1965, at 0024 bombardment was ordered to commence when ships were 5.5 to 6.3 miles from Dwarka light. It took only four and half minutes to complete the bombardment, firing altogether about 350 rounds on the target. There was no appreciable resistance from the enemy and the ships safely arrived at their patrol area by 0635 on 8 Sep.
“Operation Dwarka” as codenamed, will be long remembered in the annals of Pakistan Navy’s courageous expeditions, as on that day (Sept 8) in 1965, the Pakistan Navy rose to the occasion; ever ready to perform its national commitment of defending the sea-frontiers of Pakistan. 8th September 1965 remembers those who sacrificed their precious lives for the country and they are the source of inspiration to defend their country against any aggressor. Pakistan Navy derives immense source of motivation every time the month of September approaches. Commander H H Ahmad PN (later Vice Admiral, Chief of the Naval Staff) in his article “1965 War: Epic Exploits of the Pakistan Navy” beautifully unravels the epic expeditions of Pakistan Navy that refreshes our memories of what our seniors did in safe-guarding our coast-lines during 1965 war. The bombing at Dwarka had unprecedented implications on the morale of our troops. The same nationalist spirit is still alive in the hearts of navy sailors while bravely encountering the recent floods-2010. Pakistan Navy is leading from the front in discharging the spirited duty to save the precious lives of their fellow-countrymen stranded in the flood-devastated area.

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