As I Knew Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed

This is a guest post from Colonel Azam Qadri, in honor of the anniversary of his Shahadat. He was a very close friend of Major Shabir Sharif Shaheed.

I am blessed to have known Major Shabir Sharif personally and shared quality friendship, time and space with him, which necessitated an urge to write two books on him and start my weekly supplement on HEROES OF PAKISTAN, with him.

Maj Shabir Sharif was an exceptional human being, a gem of a friend and the finest officer that Pakistan Army has ever produced. I would request the young officers in the armed forces of Pakistan as well as the youth of Pakistan to know more about him and emulate him and his qualities.

Early Life

Maj Shabir Sharif Shaheed was born on 28 April, 1943 at Kunjah, a small town of District Gujrat. His father, Late Maj Muhammad Sharif joined British Indian Army in 1935 and retired from Pakistan Army in 1965. Maj Shabir has four brothers and sisters. The eldest sister is Mrs Khalida Saadat, brother Capt(Retd)  Mumtaz Sharif, Sitara-e-Basalat, younger sister Mrs Najmi Kamran and his youngest brother, Gen Raheel Sharif, the Chief of the Army Staff, Pakistan Army.

In 1950, Maj Shabir started his early education from Presentation Convent School, Rawalpindi and thereon, due to postings of his father. He was intellectually an exceptional student. While studying at Government College, Lahore; in 1961 he was selected for Pakistan Army and attended training with 29th Long Course at PMA, Kakul.

Maj Shabir was an outstanding sportsman of hockey, cricket, football, athletics and cycling. He was declared best sportsman of hockey and cricket of Saint Anthony High School.

By nature, Maj Shabir was daring, possessed extra ordinary courage and a person full of life. He had good sense of humour and knew how to laugh during hardships. He truly followed his family motto which was always emphasised by his grandfather and father ‘kasabkamal Kun, kay azizjehansho’ which means ‘do something great in order to become honourable in the world’. We can see true manifestation of this phrase in every facet of his life; academics, sports, PMA (awarded Sword of Honour), 1965 War (Sitara-e-Jurat) and in the 1971 War the highest gallantry award of Pakistan, Nishan-e-Haider.

Days at PMA

Shabir Sharif joined 29th PMA L/C on 21 Nov 1961. He spent a charmed, enviable and exceptional life while at the PMA.  Right from the time he got into the Academy, till his passing out, there were stories about his exceptional and upright character and qualities. Being the best in his course, he passed out on top by winning the Sword of Honour. 

While going through the archives and research on Maj Shabir’s life, I picked up the PMA magazine of his days, in which he was called “the “BULL”. As per the magazine, “The bull is an extremely good debater and undoubtedly the top cadet, who has been duly awarded with the “Sword”. When not in one of his moods, is quite a jovial character. He is friendly and pleasant company”.

Indo Pak War 1965

Operations of 10 Infantry Brigade were planned in a manner that 6 FF, with 13 Lancers in support, was to cross River Tawi and advance at top speed and get around Throti Feature and capture of Jaurian.

After the commencement of operation and facing tough resistance, 6 FF operation was slowed down and suffered casualties. The Brigade Commander at that stage ordered 6 FF to send out a Reconnaissance Patrol, to take a look at the deployment of Indians on and around that Throti feature. Shabir who was originally tasked to carryout Reconnaissance saw an opportunity where an arty battery was in a state of rest and not fully alert. Seeing an opportunity, he changed his mind and instead of going back he attacked the Gun positions and got them into a panic, thus forcing them either to withdraw or fall for him. He captured four Indian POWs and having destroyed two guns he brought along a field gun towed to a gun-tower (Shaktiman). He put in his own wounded soldiers and Indian POWs in the same vehicle.

On his arrival back, with full Infantry formation about Indian deployments Ops of 10 Infantry Brigade were resumed with 6 FF again leading on the main axis with 13 Lancers in support and the other action being undertaken by 14 Punjab Regiment, who were to move on the right flank and manoeuvre and get around Throti Feature and face towards Jaurian. These ops were a great success and the Indians panicked and ran. A large number of vehicles, ammunition dumps and POWs were taken by the Brigade. It was perhaps the largest ever haul of men and materials in all our wars with India.

Indo-Pak War of 1971

When the war was about to break out Maj Shabir was itching to get back to his Paltan and get into action, when I last spoke to him at the PMA, he told me that in case he is not posted to the Paltan, he will bolt away and join them on the battle front. For his greatest satisfaction he got a posting order and joined the Paltan around May 1971.

During the war, a company commander from India, Major Narain Singh, had sworn before going on this attack that he would either retake the bridge, or would never return. Narain Singh was also interested in defeating Shabir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander with them. While the battle was going on, Narain Singh, with a few men, came very close to Shabir’s position.

“Where is Shabir Sharif?” he called out, “If he has the courage, he should come out right now and face me like a man”.

Shabir Sharif, being as hot headed as the Singh, left his position and jumped in front of him upon the call. Perhaps, Narain Singh could not make out that it was Shabir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction. The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabir and his shirt caught fire. A few Pakistani soldiers also came out and tried to put out the fire, as Shabir himself was only obsessed with Narain Singh’s call. Seeing the Pakistani soldiers coming out, some of the Indians accompanying Singh were about to open fire when Singh stopped them.

“No firing,” he said, “This is a man-to-man fight”.

Shabir too, for his part, told his men to step back. The fire on his shirt had been extinguished. Both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers stepped back, but at the same time never took their guns off each other, or their fingers off the triggers.

A hand to hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. The soldiers in the direct vicinity were standing close by as armed spectators. Singh had his Sten gun in his hand and Shabir held his wrist to prevent him from firing. After a short struggle, Shabir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the Sten gun from his hand, he emptied it in Singh’s chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was all right, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.

Maj Shabir Embraces Shahadat

The ferocious non-stop battle of 4, 5 and 6 December is an amazing feat of valour and sacrifice led by its Company Commander, Maj Shabir. At around 1100 hrs on 6December, the Indians launched yet another major counter attack with tanks, preceded by air strike and heavy artillery fire. Maj Shabir started firing on the Indian tanks with 106mm Recoilless Rifle. While he was engaged in targeting the enemy tanks, one of the enemy tanks fired with its main gun on him, which proved fatal. Maj Shabir gave his life leading from the front and fighting till the last minute. Here was a brave man whose mere presence was a guarantee for victory. He had said this before the war:

“If war breaks out this time, I will not be a witness to cease fire”

It’s worth mentioning this operation of 6 Frontier Force were so humiliating for the Indians that in 12 days they changed their General Officers Commanding and Brigade Commanders thrice in this Sector.

The history of our great nation Pakistan is replete with examples of heroism and extreme sacrifice, the likes of which have no parallel. In the midst of the pain, death, and horror of war that has continued to date, there are numerous stories of ordinary people stepping up and making heroic sacrifices for their fellow soldiers and countrymen. Although the names and stories of most of these everyday heroes perish with time, every once in a while, one of those stories becomes legend and is told from generation to generation.

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