No 35 Wing In Front Of C-130, Leader Zahid Butt 14th From Left, 1965.
In early and middle August the infiltration of Mujahids had inflamed an already smouldering situation in occupied Kashmir, and the Indian forces of occupation had reacted sharply. On 15 August they reoccupied Kargil, on the Pak side of the cease fire line, which they had vacated earlier, and immediately took energetic steps to plug the gaps along the line to prevent the Mujahids from slipping into and exiting freely from Occupied Kashmir. As anticipated by the PAF, requests for the air dropping of supplies began to roll in, and soon became desperate.
The PAF's C-130 ('Hercules') wing had planned meticulously for its task, and was all set to go; but in view of the President's lack of enthusiasm for taking the risk of a C-130 wreckage being found in Indian held Kashmir, the C-in-C was constrained to hold them back. Finally, however, when the demands became very desperate indeed, the President agreed to let the PAF go ahead with the drops, but only if there was absolutely no doubt that they would succeed.
It is difficult to exaggerate the true extent of the hazard confronting the C-130 crew in this situation. Staggering along just above the stall, in the blackness of the snowstorm on a moonless night, in a heavily loaded transport surrounded in close proximity by mountains towering 3,000 ft or more above them, the crew were dependent for their survival on a combination of flying skill and a tenuous radar picture. But their sole link with the ground was liable to vanish without warning should a gust cause the gyro limits of the radar to be exceeded during the turns that had to be made to avoid the precipitous rocks.
PAF drop missions enabled the embattled troops as well as large numbers of Mujahidins to survive. Another dividend also followed in their wake: when news spread that the PAF's transport crews had performed seemingly impossible tasks, the morale of other PAF personnel received a solid boost, and served as an added inducement in ensuring that every one would give of their best when their turn came. The transport wing thus set the tone of PAF operations for the war which was to follow, and reinforced the confidence of others that they too would accomplish any task, however difficult it may seem.
The Mujahids affair had provided India with immediate grounds for enlarging the conflict, and she lost no time. After their earlier success in Kargil and other points along the cease fire line, the Indian forces had launched a well planned military offensive which had won them the occupation of a number of positions in the Titwal and Poonch sectors, including the strategically important Haji Pir Pass. On 25 August, the Indian Army had shelled Awan Sharif, a village inside the frontiers of West Pakistan, near Sialkot. This should have been yet another warning of the volcanic nature of the developments in Kashmir, but the leaders of Pakistan remained sanguine about the eventual outcome.
The PAF leadership, however, was dead serious and, commensurate with the tempo of developments in Kashmir, the second phase of the war readiness plan was ordered on 29 August 65. During this phase the PAF was required to achieve the highest air defence status whilst assuring a limited capability for offensive action. This involved full dispersal, camouflage and concealment measures at PAF bases, the deployment of ack ack guns for the defence of operational bases, and the initiation of ground defence schemes to counter a possible commando threat. Critical items of stores were redistributed and, to make up for the shortage of fuel storage facilities, stations were instructed to keep the available fuel tanks fully topped up at all times.
All arrangements were completed for alternative sources of supply should the main source be denied in war. The last action of this series was the activation of the Gin-C's Air Operations Headquarters, with all necessary communications, 'somewhere in Pakistan', on the evening of 31 August 65, to command and control the operational activities of the PAF.