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The Tamgha-i-Difaa, Pakistan's General Service Medal

Brian Wolfe

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Pakistan’s General Service Medal

Throughout the history of modern warfare most countries have awarded medals to their military personnel for service during times of war. In the past, major wars were often defined by one decisive battle. At times that final battle defined the whole war, as in the Battle of Waterloo, for which the British, among others, struck a medal.

In time, as conflicts became shorter and more isolated to specific brief campaigns and/or punitive raids, there was still a need to recognize the service by the military. The striking of a separate medal for each small conflict would have been too expensive and the resulting massive groups of these campaign medals being too heavy to even wear on a uniform. The answer was to issue a General Service Medal and affix bars or clasps to the ribbon for each campaign. Most countries have implemented a general service medal and Pakistan is no exception. The general service medal of Pakistan is called the,


In the photo below we see the obverse and the reverse.

The Clasps

As we look at the different clasps (or bars if you prefer) please note that I have tended to stay away from the usual list of casualties and loss of material and focused more on the individual conflict itself along with a brief overview of the actions. I have also attempted to temper the view of the conflicts, resulting in these clasps, to as much of a neutral attitude as possible rather than attempting to weigh the views of both sides (Pakistan and India) and then draw an uneducated conclusion; knowing full well the difficulty of either side to remain completely objective and unbiased.

Kashmir 1948

This clasp was awarded for service during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48, also known as the First Kashmir War, which was fought over and in the Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu. Muslim tribal militias backed by the Pakistani Army crossed the border claiming it to be needed to quell a rebellion in the Princely State. Originally this was a conflict between the Princely State and the Muslim Militias, however as Pakistan took an ever greater part in the action the Hindu ruler, Hari Singh, fearing a Muslim uprising, requested assistance from India. In return he agreed to join the Union of India. After several engagements between India and Pakistan the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, requested the UN to intervene and a cease fire was arranged in December of 1948. The war resulted in India claiming the bulk of the area which included the regions which were best suited to agriculture and also containing the largest percentage of the population.

Dir Bajaur 1960-62

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947 several small areas near the Afghanistan border such as Bajaur and Princely States such as Dir remained independent though with agreements which loosely tied them to Pakistan. Shortly after these agreements were signed armed insurgents funded by Afghanistan started to infiltrate these areas. The goal of these tactics was to drive the areas, in this case, Dir and Bajaur, to seek assistance from Afghanistan and thereby secure the areas under Afghanistan’s rule. For several months the forces of these small independent states resisted the insurgents which tried the patience of the Afghanistan government causing them to send in their regular army. This in turn caused the ruler of Bajaur, the Nawab of Khar, to request assistance from the Pakistani Army. The Afghani Army was forced to retreat and the Pakistani military built forts along the border and made a commitment to station troops permanently in Dir and Bajaur, along with the other areas and states along the border. This whole area is now under Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agency.

Rann of Kutch 1965

The Rann of Kutch is an area along the border between Pakistan and India in the Indian State of Gujarat. Rann itself is a low area on the Arabian Sea coast and alternates between a salt flat and a tidal basin. This disputed area was part of the border negotiations and in 1960 it was agreed that since there had been no agreement reached that the area would be left as it was until future discussions and a resolution could be reached.

In 1965 Pakistan moved American supplied tanks into the area, under protest from the United States; the protests were, of course, ignored. The reasons for this move on the part of Pakistan was to test the American resolve that armour supplied to Pakistan would not be used to attack Indian territory. A more tactical reason for this decision was to attract Indian forces from the North and away from Kashmir where attacks had been planned by Pakistan in the near future. India first noticed increased Pakistani Border Police patrols probing deeper and deeper into India and followed by the establishment of a line of forts, again well within India territory. Pakistan was very confident in their actions based on what they viewed as a demoralising defeat of Indian forces by China in 1962 which would make India reluctant to engage in another war anytime soon. The Indians were not about to suffer another humiliating defeat and counter-attacked. In the end of this five month long war (April to August) a tribunal of the UN was requested by both parties and a settlement reached. The small gains by Pakistan, of Indian territories, gave them confidence that they could defeat India in a full scale war. This would prove to be a huge misinterpretation of the Indian resolve as will be seen next.

Kashmir 1964-65

Pakistan and India were once again to see conflict in Kashmir in1965 for what would become to be known as the Second Kashmir War. The war itself was the end result of several border skirmishes and was, for the most part, carried on along the border of the two countries. The UN stepped in after five months of intense fighting mandating a ceasefire between the two countries.

As in 1948 (First Kashmir War) it was an issue of control of the area of Jammu and Kashmir this time with thousands of Pakistani soldiers, dressed as local inhabitants, infiltrating the area. The local inhabitants, rather than siding with the Pakistanis alerted the Indian government to what was taking place and India responded by crossing into Kashmir to engage the enemy. After a back and forth slogging match, escalating from infantry engagements to armour then air strikes, India decided to try a different tactic as both sides seemed to be caught up in a never-ending conflict. This tactic was to open up another front in the Pakistani Punjab. The resulting second front drew Pakistani forces away from the first front in Kashmir to engage the enemy on this new front; resulting in a slight relief of the pressure on Indian forces in Kashmir. Even with the new front and the relocation of some Pakistani forces to the Punjab the war itself was still in a state of virtual stalemate. In the end India held more of Pakistan’s territory (about 700 square miles) than Pakistan did of Indian territory (approximately 200 sq. miles). In a further reflection of the 1948 War India held the more agriculturally significant land while Pakistan gained mostly desert areas.

This conflict is an interesting study in what can take place when miscalculation, false assumptions and lack of intelligence gathering takes place. The Pakistanis believed that the indigenous population, being predominately Islamic would support any insurgence by Muslim Pakistan. This turned out to be a huge miscalculation based on pure speculation. India in turn failed to monitor the area that had proven to be a sore spot between the two nations for years and thereby allowed the infiltration of thousands of Pakistani soldiers. Pakistani military leaders were over confident in the misconception that India would be defeated in a rapid single strike. Perhaps this may have actually worked, however they were discovered before any such action could take place. In addition to this Pakistan did not consider that Indian military planners would open a second front and their lack of foresight and under-estimation of India’s military minds caused the withdrawal of the much needed men and material from the Kashmir front to strengthen the new front in the Punjab.

Perhaps in defence of Pakistan it should be noted that there appeared to be an air of caution on the part of Pakistan that this should not escalate into a full blown war between the two nations. It is speculative to suggest that this fear of escalation may have played a part, no matter how small, in Pakistan’s political and military leaders not pressing the engagements harder than they did. This last paragraph is offered only as speculation and the reader is encouraged to research deeper into the Kashmir Wars to draw their own conclusions.

Siachen Glacier 1984 (to present)

The Siachen Glacier area lies in Northern India and borders India, Pakistan and China. India and Pakistan both claim sovereignty over the region and this resulted in India in1984 launching a large military operation that resulted in their gaining control of this area ever since. Since 1984 there have been many skirmishes between Pakistani and Indian forces but, as yet, no major battles or war.

This area is perhaps the most inhospitable on the planet to attempt to carry out military operations. With both countries maintaining a permanent military presence there have been more casualties caused by the harsh conditions than from enemy engagements. This is due to the Siachen Glacier area being 20,000 feet above sea level. Interestingly enough both sides would like to withdraw from the area and plans were under way by India to do so. However due to Pakistani incursions during the 1999 Kargil War [see below] these plans were terminated. This leaves the Siachen Glacier the highest altitude in the world where an ongoing military stand-off is taking place. Access is so difficult that, other than helicopters, both sides still find themselves relying on mule transport. Indian medals can be found with the recipient’s regiment given as, ASC AT (Army Service Corps, Animal Transport).

[ 1999 Kargil War: Fought between India and Pakistan from May to July, 1999, once again in an area of Kashmir. Pakistan withdrew as part of an agreement that the United States would mediate the dispute. India remains in control of the area].

I hope you found this article on Pakistan’s General Service Medal the Tamgha-i-Difaa, its clasps and their brief history interesting.



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Brian, thanks for this illuminating summary of the clasps. I'm sure there are those on either side of the border who could find fault with some points, but this is a helpful short guide to the award. I'm looking forward to reading other comments.


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Hello Hugh,

Thanks for your comments. I would be more than happy if both sides had issues with some points, that way I would feel that I have remained as neutral as possible.

I've read many accounts of these conflicts by authors from both sides and about the only thing they seem to agree on is that there were indeed conflicts. If I have fallen prey to propaganda from either side then I apologize as there was no intention to show preference.



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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 years later...

Hi Brian,

I collect military medals in general, and have examples from about 30 countries,  but the bulk of the collection is British. Some years ago, I decided to “specialise” and now I concentrate – where my currency, the Mickey Mouse, useless, worthless S.A. Rand will permit - on the INDIA GENERAL SERVICE series, and the GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL series - and of course, local buying opportunities rarely present themselves, because, as you may know, there is a serious dearth of medal stocks available in South Africa - unlike the UK or the USA - where they are pretty much available on every street corner.

And so what I am trying to accomplish, is to attempt to obtain at least ONE of each CLASP issued in these SERIES, either as singles, or in multi-clasp issues.  And I have made reasonable progress, to the degree that I am now up against (mainly) expensive, or high-cost examples to complete the collection.  And those medals that I DO have are mixed between British issues, and those issued to “local” or “native” recipients. I do not discriminate. Anyway, SO FAR, I have managed to accumulate the following CLASPS into my collection:


1854: Pegu; Bhootan; Jowaki 1877-8; Burma 1885-7; Hazara 1888; Burma 1887-89; Samana 1891; Hazara 1891 and, Kachin Hills 1892-93. (NINE clasps of a possible 24).

1895: Relief of Chitral 1895; Punjab Frontier 1897-98; Samana 1897 and Tirah 1897-98 (and including both a silver and a bronze example of the PF 1897-98) - (This gives FOUR of a possible 7 clasps).

1908: North West Frontier 1908; Afghanistan NWF 1919; Waziristan 1919-21; Mahsud 1919-20; Malabar 1921-22; Waziristan 1921-24; NW Frontier 1930-31; Mohmand 1933 and NW Frontier 1935. (This means TEN out of 12 possible clasps)

1936: North West Frontier 1936-37 and North  West Frontier 1937-39 (TWO out of two)

Then in the GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL 1918 – 1962 and 1962 - 2007 Series (Army and Air Force),        I have:

!918 – 1962: Iraq; Palestine; S.E. Asia 1945-46; Palestine 1945-48; Malaya (GVIR); Malaya (EIIR); Cyprus; Near East; Arabian Peninsula and Brunei. (TEN of a possible 20 clasps).

1962 – 2007: Borneo; Radfan; South Arabia; Malay Peninsula and Northern Ireland. (FIVE out of a possible 13 clasps).


Now, ALSO, as a sort of “supplementary” collection, because they followed the BRITISH system (more or less, after 1947-48), I am also collecting both the INDIAN and the PAKISTAN equivalent versions of the British IGS series.  And, so far I have managed to acquire these:

INDIA IGS 1947-1965:  Jammu and Kashmir (1947-1949); Naga Hills; Goa 1961; NEFA 1962 and Mizo Hills. (FIVE of a possible seven clasps)

INDIA SAINYA SEVA 1960: NEFA and Bengal-Assam (TWO of a possible six clasps)

PAKISTAN GSM: Kashmir; Dir-Bajaur 1960-62; Rann of Kutch 1965; Kashmir 1964-65 and Siachen Glacier 1984. (FIVE out of FIVE clasps).

I HAVE NOTICED, Brian Wolfe, that a recent acquisition of mine – the PAKISTAN GSM (or Tamgha-i-Difaa as it is also known) the MEDAL (and clasp) for the PAKISTAN GSM SIACHEN GLACIER 1984 is of a noticeably different quality / production finish to the earlier examples of the series. As you are well aware, Pakistan COPIED the BRITISH IGS and used a fancy SCROLL suspender, but instead of the British “flower” or “rosette” on the clasp, Pakistan used a five –pointed “star” or flower - but giving a similar appearance to the British issue.  Using your earlier photographs of these clasps -  above, I can confirm that my example of the SIACHEN GLACIER looks just like yours. That is, that the “star” on the suspender is poorly finished, and is not neatly “cut out” as in earlier medals, leaving rather thick borders around the star, and also the actual suspender appears not to be separately pinned to the medal (as should be “usual”) but seems to be formed with the disc, in a “one piece” production. These is only ONE other photograph of this medal and clasp, which I can find on “Google” and it is the SIACHEN CLASP example presently for sale by Floyd Medals (Florida, USA) HERE: http://www.floydmedals.com/order/exec/frmProductDetails.aspx?abs=1&navtypeid=MTM1&navtype=Q09VTlRSWQ==&productid=MTQwMw==&CatID=Mg==&1=1  AND you will see the same poorly formed five-pointed star and one-piece suspender/disc -  the same as yours, and the same as mine, just acquired. SO, Brian, the QUESTION :  It is my theory, that the earlier examples were produced in the 1950 – 1960s, whereas the SIACHEN GLACIER example could only have been produced twenty years later, in 1984 or after that date, AND that the recent medal was either produced by a different (and less skilled) manufacturer, or that less money was allocated to the medal by the authorities, resulting in what is obviously a medal and clasp of lower quality. What are YOUR thoughts on the matter?                                With best regards,  David BENNETT.  The David Bennett Collection, Durban, SOUTH AFRICA.

And HERE are my three latest acquisitions, - Kashmir 1964-65 and Rann of Kutch 1965 and SIACHEN GLACIER 1984 -  and I think that the comparison clearly illustrates what I have suggested in my post, above.

David Bennett

Durban, Natal


Pakistan GS medals.jpg

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And HERE is something to ADD to this discussion, which I have just today discovered: A friend of mine (in Europe -  who also collects these medals, amongst others) has shown me that he has one of these medals WITH AN UNOFFICIAL Clasp, which I am advised is called the "SHAQMA" clasp. And I have an illustration of it HERE. You will see that the border of the clasp is very different from the more elaborate border of the official clasp, AND that the unofficial clasp and scroll LACKS the "FIVE POINTED STAR" - or flower of the original. And finally, notice ALSO that the medal itself is similar to the SIACHEN GLACIER example we already know about -  where the suspender is NOT PINNED onto the medal disc, but seems to be of a one-piece manufacture, or, at least added later by soldering (?). Any ADDITIONAL comments, fellow collectors???  And also any further information on WHY / HOW / WHEN / WHERE this new, unofficial clasp originates, please  ??????                        Best regards, David BENNETT. 

Pakistan GSM -  the unofficial SHAQMA clasp .jpg

Edited by David B 1812
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Hey David, have to agree with the points you have raised regarding the appearance and details of the clasp. I have seen some medals around the market, most probably that rules out the discussion about being a one piece manufacture, would be interesting to find out more about this clasp since information about this clasp is limited 

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