By Maj (R) Munir Ahmed (2nd SSC)
Editor’s Note: Maj Munir Ahmed was commissioned in18 FF Regt in July 1972. After the retirement, he has settled in Lahore.
In November, 1972 while my unit (18 FF) was still deployed at Wahga Sector, Lahore, it was allotted a vacancy for attachment with the Northern Area. I volunteered and I reached Rawalpindi after three days. I stayed there at rear HQ of Karakorum Scouts for a week as due to inclement weather conditions at Skardu, the Fokker flights got cancelled. Finally, I got the flight for Skardu and experienced air travel for the first time in my life (Thanks to Pak Army for provision of this opportunity).
From Skardu airport, I was taken to HQ Karakoram Scouts where after enjoying the traditional hospitality of Scouts, I was sent to Olding Wing. I had to travel in a jeep on a very narrow and dangerous road for about six hours. This journey was quite hectic and obviously, I was not at all tuned to this type of hardship. My Wing Comd at Olding was Major Mahboob (A Gunner officer). He was extraordinary nice man. He allowed me to stay in a very comfortable Mess for three days and then I proceeded to my actual assignment.
I had to visit all the posts of the Wing with stay of five to six days at each post. Olding Sector was divided into two sub sectors with River Shingo bisecting them. In addition to the Wing of Karakoram Scouts, an Army unit (57 Punjab) had moved to this area, being the first Army unit in Northern Area. It was not deployed and was still in the process of acclimatization. I started off with my visits. Climbing for hours together in completely snow bound area was quite a rigorous experience to start with, but later, I started enjoying it thoroughly. For the first time in my life, it revealed to me, how difficult is to defend your motherland in such difficult areas. At the same time, you are overwhelmed with the feelings that you are undergoing this hardship for the comfort, safety and security of your people. This gives you a strange satisfaction which cannot be described in words. Within two to three weeks, I got myself completely acclimatized with the environment and started enjoying my stay with Scouts. Soon I was known all over the posts. The winter season was at its peak and the snowfall at its optimum.
I was on a post known as Ali Post, when I received a telephone call from my Wing Comd asking me to report to Wing HQ after two days, keeping in view the time and distance margin. When I reached Olding, I found that three of our men deployed at Amoni Top (The highest occupied peak in our Sector at that time) had died due to suffocation and lack of oxygen a few days back. Our Wing had completely lost the communication with the Post. The Post Comd, a JCO, managed to send down a team of three persons to report about the deaths, two out of them suffered from frostbite and were immediately evacuated to Skardu for necessary treatment. The major fear for the Wing Comd and the Bde Comd was that due to this happening, troops located at the top may abandon the Post which could have been a tactical loss to our side.
GHQ, through proper channel, was requested for necessary assistance. Two helicopters were sent to evacuate the dead bodies from the Post. Due to more height, these could neither land (due to no landing space) nor could hover. They went back without accomplishing the assigned task. Worries got multiplied. CO 57 Punjab (Lt Col Azad), Bde Comd, Brig Imtiaz (later Maj Gen and MS to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), 2IC Karakoram Scouts, Maj Jamal (elder brother of film actor Kamal) got together at Olding and started evolving the strategy to come out of this turmoil. I was asked if I could volunteer to take an expedition to the Top for morale boosting of the troops there and to bring back the dead bodies lying there in the same room where rest of the troops were living since so many days. Without any second thought, I volunteered for it. My quick response for the seniors was a complete surprise. My passion was hailed by all of them. Actually my name was proposed by my Wing Comd who was somehow sure that I was the right man for this task.
Amoni Top, being the highest occupied peak, had lot of strategic significance for us and from this peak, we could overlook Kargil Airport on Indian side and thus their all types of troops activities were being monitored by us.
I selected the best team consisting of one JCO and fifteen soldiers and next morning left the Wing HQ before first light under the umbrella of prayers of whole 57 Punjab, troops of Karakoram Scouts, Brig Imtiaz, Col Azad, Maj Jamal and Maj Mahboob. My first destination was an Adm Point by the name of Chashma. It was about ten hours uphill climb. After a very rigorous climb in snow we managed to reach Chashma just before the sunset. We stayed there for two days, took lot of rest to recharge ourselves for the final phase.
After two days, we bowed our heads before our Creator and left for the Top which was not visible due to long distance. The morale was sky high. The journey was not only long but was quite dangerous as well. My witty nature paid me a lot during this adventure and the troops would enjoy my jokes and my Balti language which I had learnt during my stay. After mid-day, we could see the mighty peak. During this marathon journey, we came across quite dangerous spots where some of my companions advised to go back but being in a minority, their advice was not conceded. We also came across a huge avalanche but we were lucky enough as we had already crossed that area in four small groups. By 4 PM, we could see the troops standing at the Top and waving us to acknowledge that we have been seen by them. It was unbelievable for them that in that hostile weather anybody could dare to come to the Top. They were waving flags and dancing with joy. We were still 50 minutes climb away when the Post Commander sent a team with hot cup of tea in flasks. This tea recharged us immensely. Finding the destination right in front, our morale got to its apex.
Just before last light, we managed to reach the peak. We got out of communication with our HQ after leaving Chashma Adm Point. So the senior lot sitting at Olding was not aware of our whereabouts after we left Chashma. We stayed at the peak for three days, said good bye to the troops who were full of jubilation with our presence with them. After two days journey, we brought the dead bodies back, by dragging them on stretchers with long ropes tied with their ends.
The entire tiredness vanished when on reaching Olding, a grand reception was waiting for us. All troops of 57 Punjab, Karakorum Scouts on both sides of the foot track welcomed us. Our achievement was highly hailed by Brig Imtiaz who ordered for initiation of my citation for some award. I did not get the award since I was just on attachment, plus never informed my unit (18 FF) about this event even on my return from attachment after five months. It was after three years that while we were in Azad Kashmir, an officer from Karakoram Scouts visited the unit and informed my CO about this. Then I came to know that the name of Amoni Top was changed after I left and was known as MUNIR TOP. My CO got annoyed for not informing the unit about all this. In fact this all was done for a good cause with great passion. When my CO called me from my Coy and asked me to confirm the happening, I had almost forgotten this.
Any reward for this was never in my mind but Allah compensated me in 1989 when I was blessed and honored with SITARA-I- BASALAT for my exemplary performance in anti-dacoit Operations in Sindh. I have the honour of killing the most notorious dacoit Ghulam Chandio, the government of Sindh had offered rupees one million for his head money. PAK ARMY- ZINDABAD.
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
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