What happened to Pakistan’s Pride PNS Ghazi; Did It Really Self Explode? Or Sunk By Indian Navy? An-Unsolved Mystery From 1971 War.

by Ayesha Sohail

We build our picture of the past from things we dig up and imagination. The past of our country is full of those incidents where digging leaves you with nothing but more questions. Maybe at some point, someone will solve our historical mysteries, and we would know who did what and when. One such secret in our history is the sinking of Pakistan’s pride, PNS Ghazi. The truth about the Ghazi lies somewhere between the Indian and Pakistani versions of the sinking, but no one knows precisely where. It is a mystery even after 49 years of 1971 Indo-Pak War as many theories came forward that the naval authorities destroyed records of Ghazi’s sinking.


During the 1971 war, the Indian Navy deployed the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant to create a blockade in the Bay of Bengal. It isolated East Pakistan. In retaliation, Pakistan had deployed its first South-Asian submarine, PNS Ghazi, to attack INS Vikrant called as Ghazi Attack. The primary goal was to find and sink INS Vikrant, while the second one was to lay mines on India’s Eastern seaboard. PNS Ghazi quietly sailed out of the Karachi Harbor on November 14, 1971, despite its frequent equipment failure.

PNS Ghazi's route

A Master plan to Lure Ghazi:

In the book ‘No Way But Surrender – An Account of the Indo Pakistan War in the Bay of Bengal 1971′ by Vice Admiral N Krishnan, he states,

“We decided that in preparing our plan, we would rely much more on deception and other measures against the GHAZI. We decided to use INS RAJPUT as a decoy to try and deceive the Pakistanis into believing that VIKRANT was in or around Visakhapatnam.”

In another book; “Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership”, 1972, Maj. General Fazal Muqeem Khan states:

“Pakistan dispatched PNS GHAZI to the Visakhapatnam Naval Base in the Bay of Bengal. GHAZI had to reach its destination on November 26, 71. She was to report on arrival, but Pakistan’s Navy had heard no word. Pakistan Navy made efforts to contact her but to no avail.”

The Night of Dec 3-4, 1971:

On the night of December 3-4, 1971, an explosion tore through the PNS Ghazi, blowing its bow and crashed to the seabed.

What Exactly Caused the Explosion?

Indian Navy claims that they destroyed the submarine by depth charges fired by its ship INS Rajput. At the same time, Pakistani authorities say the submarine sank because of either an internal explosion or accidental blast of mines.

According to Pakistan Navy  According to the Indian Navy  
“PNS Ghazi commenced laying a small minefield east of the Vishakhapatnam harbor mouth on the overnight of 2-3 December 1971. Then at daybreak on December 3, it headed out to deeper water to search for the INS Vikrant battle group. Not finding it, PNS Ghazi returned to the Vishakhapatnam harbor mouth area at sunset. PNS Ghazi may have misjudged her position and doubled back into her own minefield around midnight.”  Less than a minute later, at 00:15, a massive underwater explosion shook the destroyer. INS Rajput crewmen were unsure what had happened. After sunrise, local fishers saw an oil slick and some floating debris in the area including a new submariner life vest labelled “USS DIABLO.”  

The Indians made preposterous claims about the sinking of the GHAZI. However, loaded with mines, it seems to have met an accident on her passage and exploded.

The Story of the Pakistan Navy’ Published Twenty Years Later in 1991:

The Story of the Pakistan Navy’ published Twenty years later in 1991, gives a slightly different account. The indication of GHAZI’s tragic fate came with a message from NHQ India on December 9. Both the manner of its release and the text quoted below clarified very little:

“I am pleased to announce that Pakistan Navy Submarine GHAZI sunk off Visakhapatnam by our ships on 3/4 December. Dead bodies and other conclusive evidence floated to surface yesterday – 091101 EF”.

Indian Navy made a mysterious silence for six days between December 3 and December 9. Failure of the GHAZI to communicate after November 26 strongly supported such a possibility. As it happened, the release of the message on December 9 served to divert their public’s attention from the sinking of KHUKRI. They claimed to sink GHAZI a few hours before the loss of KHUKRI.

Where’s PNS Ghazi now?

According to an Indian magazine, the submarine lies embedded in the Vizag seabed about 1.5 nautical miles from the breakwaters. A spot has been marked on nautical maps near the harbour to help ships avoid the wreck. Ghazi’s images, taken with underwater cameras revealed that the submarine is still sitting on an even keel. Thousands of fishing nets have covered the submarine’s hull.

However, the cause of the blast remains unclear, and the decades-old-puzzle remains unsolved.

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