Lalak Jan Shaahed (Urdu لالک جان July 1999) was born in Yasin, in the
Ghizer District, of the Northern Areas of Pakistan (now called
Gilgit-Baltistan). 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 around 130 men of 12th
NLI (Northern Light Infantry) unit of the Pakistan Army. These men were
under the command of Subedar Sikander, who was given the responsibility to
hold back India's offensive long enough to force the Indian Division at
Siachen to retreat. Havaldar Major Lalak Jan was his 2IC (second in
command). The men of 12th NLI were ordered by the Subedar to change their
positions while firing back at the attacking Indian forces, doing which,
they succeeded in bluffing the Indian command into believing that the size
of the force was much larger
On 1 July, 1999, the 18th Grenadiers Battalion (India) launched a fierce
attack on Tiger Hill, under cover of heavy artillery shelling around the
occupied bunkers. Subedar Sikandar placed his men in well-entrenched
positions, and managed to repulse the attack without any loss of life on
their own part. Exact casualty figures for the attacking Indian 18th
Grenadiers Battalion, are not available.
On the morning of 2 July 1999, hoping to use the cover of the mist, the 18th
Grenadiers launched another intense attack on Tiger Hills. Realizing the
great difficulty in holding their previous positions that had been spotted
and zeroed-in by the Indian artilliery deployed below, Subedar Sikandar
ordered his men to retreat to secondary positions around a secret bunker.
Once the men were secure, he directed Lalak Jan to descend Tiger Hill and,
amidst the Indian Artillery shelling, plant the landmines in the area in
front of the Indian forces. Though this was deemed a nearly impossible task
by all, the Subedar and the 2IC agreed that this task was very important, if
they were to make a dent in the Indian offensive. Planting the landmines was
the only way for them to neutralize the Indian armor and artillery, as the
men of 12th NLI did not have any heavy/armour-piercing weaponry; their
light-attack unguided (RPG-7)s were inadequate for the task. They were
hoping that the mist under which's cover the Indians were attacking, would
help Lalak Jan as well, and that the Indians would not be expecting such an
audacious and surprising move from the men holed up above.
Fighting in Mountains
Accepting the daunting task, Lalak Jan descended Tiger Hills in the mist. He
was provided as fierce a cover as possible, to keep the Indians distracted.
Lalak Jan, born and raised in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain Ranges
in northern Pakistan, used his natural mountaineering abilities to the
fullest, and managed to plant the landmines in such a manner that the
Indians would encounter them as soon as they tried to move forward to new
positions higher up towards the hill.
Lalak Jan returned to 12th NLI's position, having successfully completed
The trap was now set; The men had to lure the Indian forces 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
ventured forward, hoping that they'd managed to clear the area of the 12th
NLI. The landmines planted by Lalak Jan wrought havoc to their forward
movements. The Indians are believed to have suffered heavy casualties,
suffering losses in both men and armor. This incident was not publicized by
the Indian side however, due to which the exact amount of damage is not
known. The damage was severe enough, in any case, that 18th Grenadiers
battalion did not attack the Tiger Hills positions for around half a week,
until support arrived in the form of another Indian Unit, eight Sikh.
On 6 July, both the 18th Grenadiers battalion and the 8th Sikh launched a
combined attack on Tiger Hills, in what many consider one of the fiercest
battles of the Kargil Operation. Detachments of Indian soldiers launched an
attack from the very high, steep side of the hills. The 12th NLI was not
expecting an attack from this side, and it took them by surprise. The NLI
fought this battle at a heavy cost. Over half the 12th NLI unit's strength
was lost in the fighting that ensued, suffering 80 casualties out of the
unit's total strength of around 130. Casualties including Subedar Sikander,
who had commanded the unit in this battle so far. In the course of the
fighting that ensued, some number of bunker fortifications held by the NLI
unit were completely destroyed by the Indians, launching surprise attacks
and dropping grenades into them.
Towards the end of the engagement, only Havaldar Lalak Jan and three other
men remained. The onslaught of the Indians was continuing and they were
rapidly advancing towards capturing the hills. Lalak Jan, now the senior
most person around, placed his three men in strategic positions, assigning
two to three positions per person, and ordering them to rapidly fire from
different positions. These men, pitted against an enemy vastly superior in
number and weaponry, managed to repulse the Indian onslaught, in a saga of
sheer courage and great determination.
On 7 July 1999, the 18th Grenadiers battalion and the 8th Sikh unit launched
yet another combined offensive. This time they succeeded in their attack.
Two of Lalak Jan's men were killed, and Lalak Jan and his only other
remaining comrade in arms, Bakhmal Jan were both seriously injured. Not
giving up, Lalak Jan got hold of a LMG and while Bakhmal Jan provided him
with the ammunition, and the two men desperately kept trying to repulse the
Indian attack. Lalak Jan's left arm had been rendered useless after
receiving bullet wounds to it. Bakhmal Jan, unable to sustain his grave
injuries, died while supplying the ammunition to Lalak Jan.
From there on, in one of the most stunning demonstrations of determination
and courage, Lalak Jan held up the two units of the Indian Army for four
complete hours. Eventually the Indian offensive slowed down and finally they
descended Tiger Hills. The reason for this is not known, but it is suggested
that they preferred to opt for shelling the bunker in which Lalak Jan was
More Fighting in Mountains
After the Indian offensive had subsided, reinforcements (50 to 60 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 on account of his severe
injuries, his arm being shot and completely limp, and in no condition to be
used. Lalak Jan told the captain that he did not want to die on a hospital
bed, and would rather die in the battlefield. He reassured his Captain that
he should not worry about the bullet wounds in Lalak's arm, that Lalak Jan
could still be of some use in the battlefield.
Around this time, soon after Captain Amer's reinforcements arrived, the
Indians started shelling from a secret, out-of-sight bunker in an adjacent
hill. 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 zeroing in and targeting the bunker
proved exceedingly difficult. The exact reason for the failure of this fire
by Captain Amer's forces is not confirmed. Three likely reasons come to mind
however. The secret bunker might have been very well designed and protected
by the mountainsides, the fire might not have been directed properly or
thirdly, the bunker was not in 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.
Lalak Jan, despite his injuries, volunteered for the mission, but his plea
was rejected by the captain. Having significant experience of the mountains
himself, the captain was of the opinion that he would be the best man to do
it, himself. The captain relented in the end, on Lalak Jan's persistent
insistence that his audacious landmine installation experience and his
mountaineering skills would enable him to have a fighting chance to complete
Final Operation and Fight
Lalak Jan put a bag of explosives on his back, and while shouldering an
AK-47 descended Tiger Hills for the second time, again amidst heavy Indian
shelling. Managing to avoid being seen by the Indian forces, and utilizing
his knowledge of the surrounding hills to take cover, he located the secret
bunker and threw the explosives inside the bunker.
The bunker, which incidently was also an ammunition dump, blew up in a very
big blast. Lalak Jan managed to take cover, and the Indian Army lost 16 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 made
a valiant effort to resist and returned fire.
He sustained grave injuries, especially as a result of heavy mortar
shelling, and managed to defend his position for some duration, frustrating
the Indian attack, before dying at this post.
On 15 September 1999, the commanding officer of 12th NLI sent two Special
Service Group Comando groups to Tiger Hills to recover the body of Lalak
Jan. The two forces were designated 'Ababeel' and 'Uqaab'(Eagle). 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, Havaldar Lalak Jan
had his AK-47 firmly clinched to his chest.
Pakistan awarded him the Nishan-i-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military award,
for extraordinary gallantry. Only ten soldiers have ever received this
honour. Jan was the first person from the Northern Areas of Pakistan to
receive the award.
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