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13 December 2017 Last updated 41 minutes ago

The Story of Lalak Jan Shaheed, Nishan-i-Haider

Amina and Rubina, Proud daughters of Havaldar Lalak Jan Shaheed, Nishan e Haider (1999) Amina and Rubina, Proud daughters of Havaldar Lalak Jan Shaheed, Nishan e Haider (1999)

Lalak Jan Shaahed was born in Yasin, Ghizer District, in the Northern Areas, Pakistan. After school he joined the Pakistan Army, and reached the rank of Havaldar. As a junior officer in the Northern Light Infantry, Jan fought against India in the Kargil War of 1999. He volunteered to be deployed on the front lines and drove back a number of attacks by the Indian army.

Tiger Hill in the Kargil Sector had been occupied by 11 men of 12 NLI (Northern Light Infantry) unit of the Pakistan Army. One of these men was Subedar Sikander, the person who was responsible, with 10 other men, to hold back India's offensive long enough to force the Division at Siachen to retreat. His 2IC (Second in Command) was Havaldar Major Lalak Jan.The 10 men of 12 NLI were told by Subedar Sikander to change their positions while firing back at the attacking Indian forces. As the men followed the orders, they managed to bluff the Indians into believing that the size of the force was much more than 11.

On 1st of July, 1999, the 18 Grenadiers Battalion (India) launched a fierce attack on Tiger Hill by virtue of artillery shelling of the occupied bunkers. Subedar Sikandar placed his men in such positions that they managed to repulse the attack without any loss of life on their own part. It is not known how many men were lost by the 18 Grenadiers Battalion. On the morning of 2nd July 1999, amidst the mist, the 18 Grenadiers launched another attack on Tiger Hills. Subedar Sikandar ordered his men to retreat to a secret bunker. Once the men were safe, he ordered Lalak Jan to descend Tiger Hill, and amidst the Indian Artillery shelling plant the landmines in the area in front of the Indians. The impossibility of the task was realized by all, but the Subedar insisted that the army has sent them down to fight, and that they would have to complete this task if they were to make a dent in the Indian offensive. Planting the landmines was the only way for them to damage the Indian armor and artillery, as none of the 11 men of 12 NLI had any heavy weaponry. The Subedar insisted that the mist would help Lalak Jan as well, and the Indians would not be expecting it either.

Accepting the daunting task, Lalak Jan descended Tiger Hills amidst the mist. The remaining men gave him as fierce a cover as possible to distract the Indians. Lalak Jan used his natural mountaineering ability to the fullest in the snow clad area and planted the landmines in such a manner that the Indians would encounter them in case they tried to move forward towards the hill. Lalak Jan returned, having successfully planted the mines as ordered. The trap was now set. All that the men required to do now was to lure the
Indians into it.

Subedar Sikandar told his men to gradually reduce the firing to a standstill. About two hours after firing ceased from the Pakistan side, the Indians thought that they had managed to clear the area of the insurgents. Hence they began to move forward. The landmines wrought havoc with their initial forward movements. The Indians suffered heavy casualties, however, as they have not publicized this incident, the exact amount of damage is not known. The damage was in any case, severe enough that 18 Grenadiers did not attack Tiger Hills for at least 3 to 4 more days, until they were supported by another Indian Unit, eight Sikh.

On 6th July, both 18 Grenadiers and eight Sikh attacked Tiger Hills in the fiercest of Tiger Hill battles or the Kargil Operation. Some of the Indian soldiers launched an attack from the steeper side of the hill. The NLI was not expecting an attack from this side. The NLI fought this battle at a heavy cost. Seven of the 11 men were killed, including Subedar Sikander. The Indians had managed to destroy a number of the Tiger Hill bunkers by either a hand to hand fight or by dropping a grenade into it. Only Lalak Jan and three other men remained. The onslaught of the Indians was continuing and they were rapidly advancing towards capturing the hill.

Lalak Jan, who was now the senior most person around, placed his men in strategic positions, at least two to three per person, and told them to fire without staying in one position. These four men, pitted against an enemy much superior in number and weaponry, managed to repulse the Indian onslaught by sheer courage and determination.

On 7th July 1999, 18 Grenadiers and eight Sikh launched yet another offensive. This was a successful attack. Two of Lalak Jan's men were killed. Lalak Jan and his only other remaining comrade in arms, Bakhmal Jan were both seriously injured. Not giving up, Lalak Jan got hold of an LMG and while Bakhmal Jan provided him with the ammunition, the two men kept trying to repulse the Indian attack. Lalak Jan's left arm had been rendered useless as he had received a bullet in it. Bakhmal Jan, unable to sustain his injuries, died while supplying the ammunition to Lalak Jan. From there on, in one of the most stunning demonstrations of determination, Lalak Jan held up the two units of the Indian Army for four complete hours. The Indian offensive finally slowed down and they descended Tiger Hills. The reason for this is not known, perhaps they thought that they could shell the bunker in which Lalak Jan was positioned.

After the Indian offensive had subsided, reinforcements (5 to 6 men) were sent to Tiger Hill under Captain Amer. When he saw the condition of Lalak Jan he told him to go back to the base camp as his arm was in no condition to be used. Lalak Jan told the captain that he did not want to die on a hospital bed, but would rather die in the battlefield. He told his Captain that he should not worry about the arm.

While this was going on at the hill, the Indians started shelling from a secret bunker in an adjacent hill. By that time the command of the handful of troops at Tiger Hill had been taken up by Captain Amer. He realized that the fire was coming from a secret bunker and also directed fire towards it, but the effort was in vain. The exact reason for the failure of this fire by the Pakistanis is not known. It could have been because of one of three reasons:

1) The secret bunker was very well designed and protected by the Indians
2) the fire was not directed properly or
3) the bunker was not in the range of the light weaponry possessed by the Pakistanis atop Tiger Hill.

There was only one way left to counter the secret Indian bunker; it had to be blown up from a closer range. When the injured Lalak Jan volunteered for the mission, his plea was immediately rejected by the captain, who was of the opinion that he would do it himself. However, Lalak Jan persuaded him, giving him his previous landmine installation experience coupled with his mountaineering skills as the explanation. The Captain agreed.

Lalak Jan put a bag of explosives on his back, and while shouldering an AK-47 descended Tiger Hills for the second time amidst heavy Indian shelling. Managing to avoid being seen by the Indian forces, and utilising his knowledge of the hills to take cover, he located the secret bunker and threw the explosives inside the bunker. The bunker, which was also an ammunition dump, blew up in what was probably the biggest blast of the entire Kargil Operation. Lalak Jan managed to take cover, but the Indian Army lost 19 to 20 men inside and nearby the bunker.

The other Indian soldiers saw Lalak Jan and opened fire on him. Surrounded from all sides by Indian fire, Lalak Jan tried to resist and returned fire. He sustained serious injuries as a result of heavy mortar shelling, but managed to defend his position and frustrate the Indian attack before dying at his post.

On 15th of September 1999, the commanding officer of 12 NLI sent two commando forces to Tiger Hills to recover the body of Lalak Jan. The two forces were called 'Ababeel' and 'Uqaab'. Ababeel provided the fire cover while Uqaab went into the destroyed enemy bunker to retrieve the body of Lalak Jan. When his body was found, Lalak Jan had his AK-47 clinched to his chest.

Pakistan awarded him the Nishan-i-Haider, Pakistan's highest military award, for extraordinary gallantry. Since Pakistan's creation, only ten soldiers in all have received this honour.