Sunday, July 06, 2008

Book Review: Pakistan Army: Wars Within

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan army: warrs within — by Khaled Ahmed

Crossed Swords: Pakistan its Army and Wars within
By By Shuja Nawaz,
Oxford University Press 2008

Today an army built to face India is being asked to retrieve territory lost to the terrorists. Trying to reclaim lost terrain is like invading your own people, but the additional handicap imposed on the army is that it is being sent in without political support

Here is finally a definitive book on the Pakistan army. It is from a former IMF officer whose credentials are reflected in his dedication: ‘born in the warlike Janjua clan, brought up by Brigadier Mohammad Zaman Khan, his uncle, married to the daughter of Lt Col ID Malik, and brother of General Asif Nawaz, army chief from 1991 to 1993’. The book has the advantage of primary sources and a vast array of interviews with the dramatis personae of a very controversial army. His hand is steady, his judgement moderate, on a theme of excesses.

The Pakistan army, a well organised entity, has tried to fit into an underdeveloped political system. While responding to the unequal challenge of nextdoor India, it has ended up cannibalising the state it is supposed to defend. Its acts of trespass and usurpation have sapped its professional function and habituated it to reinterpreting its defeats as victories. Author Nawaz compares it tentatively with the Kemalist army of Turkey that often clashes with the democratic aspirations of the Turks — with roles reversed as far as religion is concerned — and, more relevantly, with the Indonesian army with its tentacles deep inside the national economy and its system of privileges.

Throughout the book, the special relationship between the army and the United States appears most striking, not least because of the nature of the task the nation placed on the shoulders of its soldiers: that of defeating a many times larger enemy in a just war and of keeping the state itself geared to this military undertaking. Lack of realism in the subcontinental challenge was offset by this oceanic axis during the Cold War, which in turn converted the army into a rightwing organisation wary of all brands of socialist politics. From there, ideology framed for the state by politicians facilitated its mutation into an Islamic army that sat back and let jihad undermine the state itself in the 1980s.

Therefore, there is more that should be laid at the door of the civilian mind than the book allows, keeping strictly within what soon appears as a fascinating framework of inquiry. Is the Pakistani civilian mind militarised by the dominance of the army or by the history of the people who formed Pakistan? Does Pakistani nationalism postpone the civilianising of the Pakistani mind or is it the army that pulls Pakistan towards the collective dream of a winnable ‘just war’ with India? Out of this theorem emerges the phenomenon of the Islamic soldier — anywhere from the COAS to the mid-ranking officers — who heroically questions the legitimacy of Pakistan’s clinch with the US, thus enlarging the challenge of the army’s mission statement and making it potentially adventurist and dangerous.

The first clash with the prime minister the book describes culminated in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. It was the army’s only leftwing defiance of Liaquat Ali Khan’s method of handling what they thought was India’s annexation of Kashmir. The account is riveting because the book updates the information we so far have on a war — barring Kargil in 1999 — conducted under a civilian government that, unlike Kargil, ironically ended in triumph if you take into account the strategic blunder by Nehru of going to the UN Security Council to get the Pakistan army out of Kashmir. The ignored blunder on the Pakistani side was the use of the ‘tribals’ which the army repeated again and again till the ancillary replaced the actual in the 20-year ‘deniable’ jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

General Ayub thereafter found it easy to sweep aside the civil servants ruling a fractious Pakistan to inaugurate his own era. A non compos mentis governor general Ghulam Muhammad was succeeded by first president Iskander Mirza who didn’t survive his own martial law. Cold War was the matrix and the ‘pacts’ with the US — signed by civilian leaders — were the mainstay. But error still lurked in the inability of the military mind to strategise itself out of predictable losing wars with India. The author covers the decade of Ayub with great deftness. What Pakistanis condemn as a period of military usurpation ultimately reappears as Pakistan’s best years in the histories now increasingly dominated by a concern for the national economy. Tragically, this promises to happen to General Musharraf’s ‘liberal’ years too.

The democratic purple patch in our lives was the Bhutto Era, but today it serves as selective inspiration, better ignored in detail. Civilian leaders soon took regularly to pleading with the GHQ to relieve the country of its recurring democratic stomach pains. General Zia arose on the burning pyre of a polarised society, Islamised to exorcise Bhuttoism, and died at the hands of — the book vacillates between the US and the army itself, taking in stride the assertion of the inconclusive Justice Shafiur Rehman Inquiry Commission Report that its work was hampered by the army. It handles General Aslam Beg carefully, stopping short of examining the mind of the stereotypical anti-American officer. He could have discovered there new pathological deposits to turn over.

The book has ISI chief General Javed Nasir telling us, around 1992, how he tried, unsuccessfully, to bring the self-enrichment (as opposed to uranium enrichment!) of Dr AQ Khan — 23 properties in Islamabad by then — to the notice of prime minister Nawaz Sharif as Khan proceeded to gift Pakistan its nuclear bomb. An effort to prevent him from selling ‘documents’ abroad, probably during trips to Iran, Syria and Algeria, came to nothing when Dr Khan refused to deposit them at the GHQ (p.475).

Army chief General Waheed Kakar too put the tabs on Dr Khan: ‘ISI had gathered information about the Dubai activities of AQ Khan and his attempts at forming a network of agents. When confronted about these activities, Khan said he needed a clandestine network to bypass the US’s controls on access to nuclear technology’ (p.475). The book doesn’t explore the ‘Dubai opening’, where AQ Khan made his first sale to Iran, most likely because it could have spilled out if the scope of this large volume. Later disclosures in the West have dated the dangerous cleavage between pro-Arab General Zia and pro-Iran General Beg from this Dubai opening.

A glimpse into the ISI’s chaotic Islamic heroics all over the world under General Javed Nasir is on offer. So is the nugget about prime minister Nawaz Sharif giving his assent to the Kargil Operation: ‘This is a military operation. All I can say is that...there should be no withdrawal, no surrender of any post because that will greatly embarrass us’ (p.517). And the book quotes General Ziauddin on it, the man Mr Sharif was to appoint in place of General Musharraf after firing him as army chief in 1999.

This is a standard textbook. Author Nawaz gets us into the inner working of the army, at times making us marvel how wrong we have been about certain officers — one was army chief General Kakar — simply because we didn’t know what was happening within. And Kakar was not given to shooting off his mouth like General Beg who called it, unoriginally, his ‘glasnost’. Kakar acted with non-intervening wisdom in a national environment completely divorced from rationality and helplessly inviting trespass. We get to know that army chief General Asif Nawaz was dubbed an enemy of prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the basis of a tsunami of rumours concocted from within the civilian enclave, finally exposing the general’s professionalism as his only disadvantage.

Today an army built to face India is being asked to retrieve territory lost to the terrorists. Trying to reclaim lost terrain is like invading your own people, but the additional handicap imposed on the army is that it is being sent in without political support. Meanwhile, the anarchists have discovered that when they kill non-Muslims in the West they inspire fear and loathing, but when they kill Muslims in Pakistan it leads to conversion. The army has the impossible task of saving a country of converts to the cause of the enemy. *


A.H Amin said...

Crossed Swords , Pakistan,Its Army,and the Wars Within-Shuja Nawaz , Oxford University Press,Pakistan , 2008700 pages; 13 black and white photographs, 6 maps; ISBN13: 978-0-19-547660-6ISBN10: 0-19-547660-3

Book Review

A.H Amin

Crossed Swords is the latest addition to the list of books dealing with Pakistan Army . Written with an eye on the Western audience by a Pakistani who has settled in USA the book is a welcome addition to books on Pakistan Army.It contains some new sources and some new information .Unfortunately most of the information is anecdotal and the narrators are extolling their own performance.

The author's viewpoint is somewhat subjective as he is a brother of one of the ex chiefs of Pakistan Army General Asif Nawaz.

The book contains some factual errors , some possibly typing errors,expected from Oxford University Press Pakistan which has a reputation of doing this.Some errors are however historical and factual and were entirely avoidable.On page 8 3rd Light Cavalry of Meerut fame is written as 3rd Light Infantry and on page 9 becomes 3rd Light Cavalry.On page 22 Ayub Khan is placed in Assam regiment though Ayub's battalion officer Joginder Singh specifically stated that Ayub Khan was in Chamar Regiment in WW Two.On page 426 Naseerullah Khan Babar is promoted to lieutenant general and similar fate befalls Major General Sarfaraz Khan on page 223.13 Lancers becomes 13 Cavalry on page 305.On page 470 he changes the ethnicity of Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari a Baloch Seraiki by calling him a Punjabi , an honour that no Baloch would like to have.

A far more serious error Shuja makes while discussing the ethnic composition of Pakistan Army on page 570.He states that Sindhis and Baluchis are 15 percent of Pakistan Army.This is a serious distortion of history.The term Muslim Sindhi and Baluchi abbreviated to MS & B was given to Ranghar/Kaimkhani/Khanzada Rajout recruitment in Pakistan Army in 1950s.The aim was to rationalise the recruitment of Ranghars in Pakistan Army.Later the usuper Zia in order to appease the Sindhis created the Sindh Regiment but Sindhis as far as my resaech reveals are far less than Ranghars/Kaimkhanis/Khanzada Rajputs in the army.The Ranghars are a significant class in fightig arms being some at least 35 % of armour and distinct from Punjabis.The Baloch are hardly represented in the army.As a matter of fact the Pakistan Army has such a reputation in Balochistan that no Baloch would like to join it.All thanks to General Musharraf,Zia and ZA Bhuttos policies.

These are expected errors and more so from Oxford University Press Pakistan known for changing authors photograph with those of their uncles on jackets of books as they did with Colonel M.Y Effendi in his book Punjab Cavalry published by Oxford University Press in 2007.The old prince narrated to me the sad story when I met him and was also quite cheesed off by the fact that the princess running the Oxford Pakistan is too arrogant to meet any author or to even discuss anything on telephone.

The above errors are insignificant.However Shuja has made some asertions which can be classified as serious errors or even distortion of history.On page 71 he asserts that calling off of Operational Venus by Pakistan's civilian government was one of the reasons why the 1947-48 war failed.I state this because the sub title of the chapter is " Why the War Failed".On the other hand he fails to point out the major fatal decision when the Pakistani government refused to allow the armoured cars of 11 PAVO Cavalry to assist the tribesmen in breaking through to Srinagar.Those who are not familiar should know that the main reason why the tribals failed to take Srinagar was because Indian armour counterattacked them and destroyed them at Shalateng.This fact was discussed by Brig A.A.K Chaudhry also in his book.Operation Venus plan came much later.At that time the Indian Army was well established in Kashmir and well poised to meet any threat.Very few participants of the Kashmir War have left any written accounts of their war experiences. General Iqbal who participated in the war and later on rose to the rank of full general and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, long after the Kashmir War made one very thought provoking remark about the Kashmir War in an article in the Pakistan Army Green Book 1992. This particular publication was sub titled 'Year of the Senior Field Commanders'. Iqbal wrote; 'During 1948 Kashmir Operations I saw one senior officer sitting miles behind the frontline and counting availability of mules and rations. He had relegated the fighting to a senior battalion commander .In 1963 once Major General Fazal I Muqueem Khan in his book The Story of Pakistan Army .Fazal thus wrote; 'To the Army's horror, Pakistan during her greatest hour of triumph in Kashmir agreed to accept the was difficult to understand why Pakistan let that opportunity pass. Was it assumed weakness; or as a result of pressing advice; or from misplaced chivalry towards an unfriendly neighbour in distress? Whatever the reason,Pakistan's reluctance to accept the risks of continuing the war,cost her Kashmir at that time. It was a risk worth taking."

The Pakistani attack force collected for Operation Venus consisted of about six infantry battalions and two armoured regiments. To oppose this the Indians had two infantry brigades (50 Para Brigade and 80 Infantry Brigade) .In addition there were two armoured regiments in the same area i.e. Central India Horse and the Deccan Horse . In addition the Indians also possessed more than 10 other armoured regiments which were not in Kashmir but in Punjab or Western UP and could move to Kashmir. We shall see in 1965 how Pakistani armour functioned and the reader can keep that as a yardstick in order to appreciate how Pakistani armour and infantry would have behaved in Operation Venus; had it been ever launched!Fazal does not explain how capture Of Beri Pattan bridge would have led to complete collapse of Indian hold over Kashmir,apart from temporary severing of the line of communication to Poonch.Greater part of the Central India Horse was at Nowshera close to Beri Pattan while Deccan Horse in Chamb-Akhnur area was also within striking range and the battle would have been a hotly contested affair!Shaukat Riza did not take the extreme viewpoint similar to Fazal's when he wrote his book on Pakistan Army.He merely said that 'On December 30 both sides saw the wisdom of cease-fire'.

Lately in an article General K.M Arif adopted a more rational viewpoint, when he stated that the Kashmir War of 1948 was mismanaged simply because Pakistan was not in a position to fight it successfully summing it up by stating ; 'It is too hazardous a risk to fight a war on ad hoc basis'.There is no doubt that Pakistan was in a favourable position to win the Kashmir War at least till the first week of November. Mr Jinnah exhibited great Coup de Oeil when he ordered Gracey to employ two brigades and advance with one brigade each towards Jammu and Srinagar. But Mr Jinnah was unlucky in possessing no one like Patel and his Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet proved to be an undoubted failure at least as a war cabinet! Mr Jinnah's decision not to have a Pakistani C in C although taken in the best interest of the country and the Army as Mr Jinnah saw it ensured that the British acting C in C procedurally blocked the execution of Mr Jinnah's orders in October to attack Kashmir. Pakistan was unlucky in having a man like Iskandar Mirza at the Ministry of Defence.Mirza did not advise Mr Jinnah correctly and the fact that he had hardly served in the Army and did not understand military affairs further ensured that Mr Jinnah and the Prime Minister remained as ignorant as they were about military affairs as they were when they were in high school. It is incorrect to criticise Liaqat for Operation Venus since in December 1948 the Indian position was much more secure than in 1947.Liaqat can be criticised for not ever visiting Kashmir while the war was on and for not standing by Mr Jinnah in pressurising Gracey in October 1947 to order the Army to attack Kashmir.Had a Pakistani C in C been appointed even in December or in March 1948 the Indians may not have held on to Poonch-Nowshera area at least. Had Major Masud been allowed with his armoured cars on Domel-Baramula Road despite Ghazanfar Ali and Sher Khan's objections;Srinagar may have been captured by the Tribesmen by first week of November 1947. The Indians were lucky in having comparatively more regular army officers who led from the front and is evident from higher officer casualties among Indian Army officers above the rank of captain vis a vis the Pakistan Army.

The treatment of 1857 is also very superficial.The author states that the Bengal Army which rebelled some 80 % were Purbias (page.7) , but fails to point out that the vast majority of cavalry which led the rebellion notably at Meerut i.e 3rd Light Cavalry which actually captured Delhi was Muslim and mostly Ranghar Muslim.His use of the term British for the pre 1858 period is also factually incorrect as India till 1858 was ruled by the English East India Company using mostly its private Bengal Army ,Madras Army,Bombay Army , its private European regiments and some regiments on rent from British Army to conquer ventire India.

In discussion of Martial Races Theory the author totally ignores the fact that Punjab Loyalty in 1857 to the British was one of the main reasons why martial races theory was evolved.This is a simple point noted even by British writers like Philip Mason.The author also fails to note the politically important fact that the English East India Company's army was the knight in shining armour which saved the Muslims of Punjab and settled areas of present Pashtun NWFP from the Sikhs who were using Muslim Mosques as stables gunpowder magazines and plastering their walls with cowdung.Perhaps this fact did not suit the martial races ruled by a 10 % minority,the Sikhs in the Punjab and settled Pashtun areas for more than four decades in Punjab and some two decades in modern NWFP's settled districts.

The author talks about martial races theory and thinks that martial races theory was all about Punjab and Frontier as it is now but perhaps does not know that one of martial races theory's most famous exponent Major General Macmunn regarded the Khanzada Rajputs of Firozpur Jhirka as the finest fighting race in India.

The author also fails to note that the Sikhs were in majority in the fighting arms till First World War and were reduced to a minority by being replaced with Punjabi Muslims after First World War because the Punjabi Muslims were regarded as phenomenally loyal , even against Muslims by the British.Thus the author conveniently ignores two important developments of WW One i.e the Singapore rebellion of 129th Light Infantry by Ranghar Muslims and the tribal Pashtun mutinies against British as a result of which tribal Pashtun recruitment was reduced to the gain of Punjabi Muslims.

In discussion of Ayub Khan the author totally ignores allegations about Ayub's tacfical timidity in Burma.This incident was discussed by three writers of the time.Major General Joginder Singh of Indian Army who was Ayub's battalion mate , Sardar Shaukat Hayat who was an ex Indian Army officer and Major General Sher Ali Khan.In an article Brigadier Nur Hussain a reliable authority did state that Ayub Khan was close to General Gracey because they drank together.

The authors discussion of old officers is also partial.On page 31 he notes that Brigadier Gul Mawaz got an MC , a medal which many earned but fails to note that Major General Akbar Khan won a DSO which is higher in scale than MC.On page 33 he states that " Akbar Khan who gained notoriety in Kashmir ....." .Akbar Khan was the pioneer of Kashmir war but Shuja thinks that he was notorious.A strange assertion.

Mr Jinnah's historic decision of creating two infantry battalions of Bengalis is also not all discussed by the author.It may be noted that Ayub Khan refused to expand the East Bengal Regiment till 1966 as a result of which the Bengalis were further alienated for not being given the due share in the armed forces.this decision was reversed by Yahya Khan in 1966 but by then it was too little too late.

The authors analysis of origin of officer corps is also superficial.He fails to note the 50 % ranker quota that the British kept for Indian rankers in the officers selected for IMA Dehra Dun in order to keep the Indian officer corps slavish and backward.

The author does note the fact that Pakistani SSG captured Indian War Plan on Samba Kathua road before the war actually started but fails to note the fact that it was Pakistan's Military Intelligence led by Director Military Intelligence Brigadier Irshad who refused to give any serious thought to this discovery and dismissed it as an Indian ruse.This was revealed to this scribe in an interview by Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar in March 2001.

The most serious distortion of history committed by Mr Shuja Nawaz is on page 226 when he gives the credit of 25 Cavalry's action of 8th September 1965 at Gadgor to Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik.The authority he quotes is Farouk Adam , then a very junior officer and not in 24 Brigade Headquarter.

It must be clarified that a good military historian or analyst's prime motivation in all writing has been to endeavour to write "what men did" rather than what "they ought ideally to have done" or what "someone later with the benefit of hindsight tried to portray , what they had done". Thus the analysis of Chawinda Battle done with pure loyalty to service without any inter arm rivalry or nationalistic motivation. Pure and unadulterated military history filtered dispassionately separating fact from fiction and myth from reality. History as Frederick the Great once said can be well written only in a free country and ours has been continuously under civil or military dictators since 1958.
I maintain as one great master of English prose said that "all history so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence is romance"!

Battle of Chawinda was thus not romance! What many in this country wrote and was outwardly military history was essentially "Romance"! Inspiring, superhuman but a myth promiscuously mixed with reality!Chance plays a key role in battle and at Chawinda chance played a very important role! Nisar, when he deployed 25 Cavalry did not know what was in front of him ! KK Singh Commander 1st Indian Brigade also did not know what was in front of him! This mutual ignorance saved Pakistan on that crucial day ! Later heroes were created! I repeat "Heroes were created" ! The hero had to be from the Salt Range however ! At least Shuja Nawaz wants it this way !
What were the key facts? Most important tangible fact was "casualties" ! These were deliberately hidden since these would have let the cat out of the bag! Everyone would have discovered who really fought and who got gallantry awards on parochial,regimental or old boy links !How many were killed in the biggest military blunder "Operation Gibraltar"! This is Top Secret ! How many infantry men died at Chawinda? Again no mention of any figures! The real motivation here is not national interest but to preserve or more important to "guard reputations"

Now lets talk about the broad front deployment that Shuja Nawaz refers to .There is no doubt that the "broad front deployment" was done by Nisar and Nisar alone and Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik had no role in it. It is another matter that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him. It was like Jutland when both contending fleets were running towards each other at express train speed. Why Nisar behaved as he did and what actually happened even today is hard to understand, whatever anyone may claim now with the benefit of hindsight!

Shuja Nawaz here in his 600 page book offers no tangible proof that the actions of 25 Cavalry had anything to do with what Brig A.A Malik told Nisar. Nisar was told to "do something" as clearly stated by an authority no less than Pakistan Army's official historian Major General Shaukat Riza,apparently not from Jhelum or from North of Chenab by a twist of fate .There is no doubt that Nisar did something without the least clue of what was in front of him. The important thing is that Nisar did something rather than getting paralysed into inertia and inaction! The "Do Something" order by Brig A.A Malik to Lt Col Nisar CO 25 Cavalry should not have been glorified to something higher by Shuja Nawaz simply on authority of an article written by a person who was a company 2IC in an infantry battalion of 24 Brigade and that too only in 1992.This is a serious historical failing.At least in a military historian but is the Oxford University Press Pakistan run by professionals.One may ask Colonel M.Y Effendi.

The same words of Brig A.A Malik " Do Something" were repeated by Nisar in his article published in Pakistan Army Journal in 1997. Perhaps Shuja Nawaz did not read all the accounts of direct participants.Perfectly excusable as he is based in USA.But not good military history certainly.The fact is that the 25 Cavalry on 8th September 1965 was functioning in a vacuum.Brig A.A Malik had no clue about armour warfare and Nisar had no higher armour headquarter to guide him.. 24 Brigade had two infantry units, one which had been overrun and dispersed on 8th September i.e 3 FF and 2 Punjab which was at Chawinda. The crucial action took place at Gadgor few miles north of Chawinda in which 25 Cavalry faced the entire Indian 1st Armoured Division. This was an extraordinary situation and Nisar acted on his own best judgement since Malik had abdicated to Nisar by stating that he should do something. It is another thing that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him and acted boldly and unconventionally. Had he known what was in front of him he may have been paralysed by inertia and inaction! But this is speculation and some part of history always remains unfathomed and hidden! Nisar acted through sheer reflex and deployed his unit in an impromptu manner. The fire fight which took place at Gadgor between 0900 hours and 1200 hours was a pure tank versus tank affair. 25 Cavalry versus two leading tank regiments of Indian 1st Armoured Division! Thus the Indian Armoured Corps historian stated "The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter had lost more tanks than the enemy had...the worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next move. This interval gave Pakistanis time to deploy their 6th Armoured fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured Division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost" (Refers-Pages-393 & 394-History of Indian Armoured Corps-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-Delhi-1990). Thus the Indians acknowledged "This regiment's (25 Cavalry) performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the 1st Indian Armoured division and its objective, the MRL canal".(Refers-Page-395-Ibid).

This is not the only source.Major Shamshad a direct participant has already stated on record that SJs were awarded to some officers for an attack in which not a single man was killed on both sides! Here he refers to Major Farouk Adam.This reminds me of an incident in armour school Nowshera in 1991.I was an instructor in Tactical Wing.The Senior Instructor incharge of the Young Officers Tactical course asked us , " Should we give an Alpha Grade" . My lone reply was that no Sir , since Armour School gives Alpha to sons of generals only .This was a norm then .The Infantry School where I did the junior tactical course but later on it started giving alphas after 1985 to oblige some sons of generals.But that is how Pakistan Army is.

The historical fact remains that 25 Cavalry was part of 24 Brigade but all that Nisar its CO did on the crucial 8th September at Gadgor was based on his own judgement. On 9th and 10th September no fighting took place as Indians had withdrawn their armoured division to the crossroads. On 10th September, 6 Armoured Division took over and 24 Brigade was a part of 6 Armoured Division. On 8th September there was a vacuum and Nisar acted in a sitaution which can be classified as one characterised by "absence of clear and precise orders"!
Shaukat Riza's book is basically a compilation of existing facts. It has historical value since Riza was allowed access to official records.Shaukat had no axe to grind . Shuja Nawaz by his own confession is a close relative of A.A Malik.

Shuja also forgets Brig A.A Malik's request to withdraw when Indian tanks had crossed the railway line on 16th September and occupied Buttur Dograndi and Sodreke. This fact was brought to light not by the much criticised Shaukat Riza but by the then GSO-2 of 6 Armoured Division Major (later General K.M Arif), first more bluntly in Pakistan Army Green Book-1993 and again a little tactfully in his recently published book Khaki Shadows.

Thus no connection with 3 FF, an infantry unit which as far as I know suffered more casualties than any other infantry unit at Chawinda. 3 FF fought admirably but was launched thoughtlessly as brought out by Major Shamshad in his letter published in Sept 2001 DJ and consequently suffered enormous casualties at Sodreke-Buttur Dograndi area. Shamshad was the tank troop leader in support of 3 FF when it disastrously attacked Buttur Dograndi. In opinion of Shamshad, the attack had failed not due to any fault of 3 FF but because of poor planning by Commander 24 Brigade.

Even at formation level Chawinda was not a big battle in terms of casualties since the Indian 1 Corps suffered less casualties than 11 Indian Corps in Ravi Sutlej Corridor.

A.A Maliks poorly planned counterattacks leading to bloody casualties for Pakistan Army were also discussed by Major General Fazal i Muqeem in his book on 1971 war.

On page 233 while discussing the main Pakistani offensive the author fails to point out that the Pakistanis had a 7 to 1 superiority in tanks and yet they failed.Further he fails to point out the fact that major failure of Paskistani 1st Armoured Division occured ion the 4th Brigade where its commander Brigadier Bashir ordered its tank regiments every night to return to leaguer at their start point every night thus abandoning all territory they had gained during the day.

In the treatment of Chamb Operation of 1971 the most significant decision of Major General Eftikhar to switch from North to South is not discussed at all.This was one of the most landmark operational decisions in history of Pakistan Army.The author also fails to highlight the cowardly action of then Brigadier Rahimuddin Khan in not joining 111 Brigade on pretext of dealing with Shiekh Mujibs trial.This great warrior later rose to full general in Pakistan Army.

Shuja also gives no thought in his worthy analysis to Pakistan Army's launching a pre-emptive attack on India in September 1971.This if done in the words of Indian Commander Western Command General Candeth would have thrown all Indian plans to attack East Pakistan to the winds . (Refers-The Western Front -Candeth).

In the chapter dealing with Z.A Bhutto Shuja does not discuss the cadrisation plan proposed by ZA Bhutto and his tasking of Pakistan Army's Military Operations Directorate to implement it.This plan if implemented would have reduced the standing army in size and enabled the Pakistani government to spend more money on training.This plan was scrapped by Zia in 1977.

On page 471 Shuja glorifies General Kakar for having no liking for politics.He ignores the fact that Kakar was not groomed for higher ranks and was promoted because of ethnic biases.Simply because a Pashtun president was comfortable with a harmless compatriot.He also fails to note that General Kakar acted against Nawaz Sharif not because Kakar was a democrat but simply because he feared Nawaz as a threat to his chair of army chief.General Musharraf has himself acknowledged in his book that General Kakar was parochial and was favouring Pashtun officers.No compliment to an army chief who is supposed to be a much bigger man.No wonder that Kakar had been packed off to a backwater in Quetta by General Baig.Becoming chief was something that a man of Kakar's mediocre intellect could never have imagined but this happened only because of party baazi in the army and the fact that Ghulam Ishaq Khan wanted a Pashtun brother.Fair enough in a backward and tribal medieval society like Pakistan !

The author lauds caretaker premier Moin Qureshi's role in making the state bank independent but forgets Qureshi's most controversial release of advance to Bayinder Turkey for Islamabad Peshawar Motorway while also stating that this project was uneconomical.This gained nothing but total loss for Pakistan as Bayinder repatriated many million dollars without doing anything and later successfully sued Pakistan for huge damages in International Court of Justice at Hague.

On page 480 Shuja extols Talibans wild west justice in hanging Afghan President Dr Najeeb but fails to note the allegation that Pakistani agencies were suspected to be behind the assasination of Mulla Borjan the most popular and independent leader of the Taliban.

On page 481 Shuja quotes Benazir to prove that General Kakar was a brilliant strategist.What did Benazir know about strategy and what strategy did Kakar ever successfully execute other than removing a Punjabi Kashmiri president against decision of supreme court just to assist a fellow Pashtun president.What is Shuja trying to prove .

In discussing tenure of General Jahagir Karamat Shuja ignores totally the Ukrainian tank deal commissions.Nawaz Sharif the then prime minister tasked ISI to launch an investigation.Major General Zulfiqar then in ISI was tasked to investigate.He went to Ukraine and Azerbaijan and compliled a thick volume on the whole transaction and commissions taken.This was used by Nawaz later and one of the reasons why Karamat quickly stepped down.The information was given by a staff officer of major rank with DG ISI of that time and confirmed by an Intelligence Bureau officer.

As an officer who served from 1981 to 1993 how would I sum up the Pakistan Army.1981 to 1983 a cheap emphasis on being good Muslim, growing a beard to get a good report from Zia.Further Zia used religion to get dollars.This was the basic motivation.Begs time saw for the first time a tradition of some criticism being accepted.Asif Nawaz time saw emphasis on starch but no change in the army.Kakars time saw parochialism par excellence with a chief at the head who used to count cherries in his garden and was upset when some guards ate some.A petty man elevated to the highest rank.Karamat I did not see in service and did not serve with so I cannot comment but is reported to be a mild man.Musharraf as I saw him as a major general was flashy,extrovert,egoistic but dynamic.The present army from what I learn from serving officers is again business as usual.Nothing much to write about.The agencies off course play the usual games for money and for their own naukri and Islam being misused for operational reasons.

The most serious criticism of Shuja's analysis is in treatment of Islamic fundamentalism in the army.Shuja on page 585 consoles the audience of his book that Islamic fundamentalism is still not a threat in Pakistan Army.Shuja ignores the more dangerous fact that the army has misused Islam as a slogan to mobilise the populace to achieve its narrow institutional agenda.This is more dangerous than being Islamist.Now this policy may go out of control.Right from Zia in 1977 the army generals used Islam as a slogan to fight a proxy war in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan.Events may prove that this would be the undoing of Pakistan as it stands in its present form.Now Pakistan is perceived in the west as part of the problem and not the solution.Particularly its army and intelligence agencies are seen as the heart of the problem.India is continuously preparing for a war although a low intensity one and no solution has been achieved in Kashmir.Afghanistan is increasingly hostile and a strange but logical Indian-Russian-Iranian-NATO un declared strategic alliance has come into place in Afghanistan against Pakistan.All these are serious developments.The coming ten years may vindicate this assertion.

The Pakistan Army and its generals may be remembered in history as one of the reasons for Balkanisation of Pakistan.Not a good omen for Pakistan.The army's involvement in Pakistan's politics and government is now a serious reason of imbalance for Pakistan's political system.No hope appears in sight as we hear rumours that the agencies are still active in destabilising Pakistan's own elected government.

Shuja has burnt his midnight oil.He has compiled and collected all the facts in a nice way but his analysis has been shallow.We expected something far more profound than this.600 pages written in vain.

A.H Amin said...

Military Control in Pakistan-The Parallel State ,Mazhar Aziz /Editor data available Price: $150.00 , ISBN: 978-0-415-43743-1 ,Binding: Hardback

Published by: Routledge ,Publication Date: 24th October 2007 ,Pages: 160

Book Review

A.H Amin

Mazhar Aziz's book on military and politics in Pakistan is a new addition to books dealing with civil military relations in Pakistan.

Mazhar Aziz Mazhar Aziz (PhD, University of Nottingham, 2006) is a former Pakistani civil servant and an independent scholar with research interests in democracy and political representation, civil-military relations and foreign policy.

He is an outsider to the Pakistani military having observed it as a civil servant who at times are junior partners in the civil military nexus in Pakistan barring few exceptions like the old fox Ghulam Ishaq or the half military half civilian Iskandar Mirza.

Aziz in words of a reviewer "introduces the concept of institutional path dependency. According to him, the institutional innovations of the formative years of Pakistan's history (1947-54) created a form of path dependency that has been responsible for thwarted democratisation, military intervention and post-military withdrawal crises." Aziz however fails to define this concept of " Institutional Path" precisely and also fails to connect it with the negative British colonial military legacy particulary the British Imperial policy in Punjab from 1849-1947.

Under the British the Punjab the preferred British recruiting area for the army from 1857 till 1947 had a special status.It was a non regulation province where the deputy commissioner was far more powerful than in any British province and most of the initial deputy commissioners were ex army.It was a province where the feudals and the British had a special relationship.It was a province where the vast bulk of British intelligence resources were employed as its location was the most strategic in entire British India.It was a province which had the closest link and the largest contribution to the British war effort as far as 1857 ,First World War and Second World War were concerned.

While the Indian Army and notably the Punjabis , and most particularly the Punjabi Muslims were the closest collaborators of the British immediately after partition the Pakistani Army particularly its pro British generals were the most valuable political asset of the British.The Pakistani generals led by Ayub Khan soon out of personal ambition became the self styled guardians of Pakistans territorial and ideological boundaries.Ayub Khan with open support of civil servants like Ghulam Mohammad and the military cum civil servant Iskandar Mirza on his own started negotiating with USA and boasted that the US Director CIA was his best friend.At this point in time Ayub was propelled to do so by personal ambition and by the declared intention of safeguarding Pakistan and the army's institutional interests on the pretext of acquiring US weapons.In this case he was however not alone.The initial move for US aid was made by Mr Jinnah and later by Liaquat Ali Khan and Ghulam Mohammad.From 1954 onwards however Ayub was picked out by USA as USA's best bet.India was too large to be manipulated and India's Congress too formidable a party to be messed with.In Pakistan however manipulation was simpler because of the pre partition feudal military civil service connection.Thus in case of Ayub the mafia was not military alone but civil military West Pakistani feudal with Punjabis in lead and all conspiring to reduce the Dravidian Bengalis politically.What followed was a joint conspiracy by the army with a linguistically Punjabi chief in league with Punjabi feudals and civil servants to snatch legitimate political power from the Bengalis.Mazhar Aziz misses this point or has practiced selective distortion.

The Yahya takeover of 1969 was the most credible intervention by the army done out of national interests.General Yahya did make an honest attempt to introduce direct franchise and provincial autonomy.Unfortunately he failed because all of pakistan's rulers starting from Jinnah had mishandled the Bengalis and the situation became unmanageable.

Zia on the other hand acted out of personal motives because he feared that Bhutto wanted to sack him and the top army generals feared Bhutto who was a popular leader.Again a case of class interests rather than institutional interests.

Aziz misses the point that the army or its top clique was used by the USA to achieve its geopolitical ends in Pakistan.Every military takeover in Pakistan had some link with USA or became a servile instrument to further US geopolitical objectives.

Aziz also fails to note that initial military takeovers were more personality oriented while starting from Zia the army's generals very correctly called the trade union of generals acted out of class interests.After 1977 it became the stated objective of the Pakistan Army's top generals and its intelligence agencies to destroy all independent political leadership in Pakistan.Thus every political party was penetrated and every effort made to destroy independent political leadership.The Punjab again was the centre of these efforts and the emergence of Nawaz Sharif in 1988 was the high point of these covert efforts.

General Zia's successor General Beg did hold the elections of 1988 but failed to control the ISI pursuing a parallel policy or simply ignored what it was doing thus destabilisng and removing the first PPP government in 1990.In 1990 Mr Nawaz Sharif was the best choice of the army's ruling clique but he was removed in 1993.In this case again the matter was not entirely or even 50 % institutional but a collusion of a Pashtun president and a Pashtun army chief to remove a Punjabi PM who was becoming too assertive.Their natural choice was a Sindhi lady .This move again was unconstitutional and motivated by personal and ethnic motivation rather than institutional motivation.

In 1999 the Musharraf coup was again motivated by personal considerations rather than any institutional considerations.Many generals supported Musharraf because they had been fired by Nawaz Sharif notably General Mahmud Corps Commander Rawalpindi.

After 2001 however Musharraf got a great opportunity to play the role of USA's best collaborator.Again a continuation of the Punjab loyalty to British of 1857 and Ayub loyalty to USA in the Cold War or Zia loyalty to USA in 1979-1988.

It would be more correct to describe the army in Pakistan as a mixture of institutional and class loyalty with personal motivation and ambition of the army chief as the main catalyst.The army is divided into many classes and the real culprits are the top 150 or 200 generals around the chief.Their ambition distorts the whole scenario and their selfish actions cannot be called institutional interests.

Unless their is total defeat as happened to the Russian Army in 1917 the hegemony of the army signified by these top 150-200 windbag generals would continue come what may !

Now how to bell the cat.Only defeat in war can reduce the army's role in Pakistan.The same happened in Russia in 1905 and 1917.In Turkey in 1918.In Japan in 1945,Alone the Pakistani politicians cannot do it.They are the test tube babies of many army intelligence agencies.

It appears that change is round the corner.The army is facing internal fractures.Its lower ranks for the first time in its history were involved in at least two major assassination attempts against the army chief and these included many soldiers from Musharraf's own SSG commandos.The army is being challenged by Islamists and its credibility is being reduced.Conventional war is out but the secret war at covert levels continues.India intelligence knows that the war never ended and so does the Pakistani intelligence.For the first time in West Pakistan's hopeless history the army is being challenged in NWFP and Balochistan and the threat has not been contained.This is an ethnic war as its a Punjabi Army with junior Pashtun auxillaries like the Yusufzais and Khattaks fighting the Baloch and tribals .

The army is trying to sell itself to USA as its best bet but it appears that the USA has decided that some structural changes are needed in the Pakistan Army.

The bottom line however is not the Pakistani generals but US policy , at least at the Defence Department,State Department,CIA and DIA level.They want the Pakistani generals.They do not trust the Pakistani politicians and that's the main reason why the Pakistani generals and only the top 20 are guarding their class interests .A small class by numbers but very influential and destructive.

Only defeat in war or Balkanisation will reduce the role of Pakistani generals.Mazhar misses this point.

To conclude Aziz fails to present a comprehensive case for the Instutional path theory although he makes many repetitions in the core 100 pages of his book.

A.H Amin said...



MARCH 1999

Brian Cloughley�s book on the Pakistan Army is a welcome addition to the extremely limited number of books on the Pakistan Army.The fact that such a book was not written by a Pakistani soldier or a civilian scholar does not paint a very bright picture about the state of history writing,or to be more specific military history writing in Pakistan.Brian Cloughley has the singular advantage of having served for a relatively long period in Pakistan as a UN Official and as a military attache.In addition he is also a soldier and thus his perception of military affairs is different from a scholar who is a civilian and thus suffers from certain limitations which can only be overcome by extraordinary analytical ability and painstaking hard research.Brian Cloughley has made an honest attempt to present things as they are or as he percieved them to be with whatever facts he could lay hands to and the result is a relatively significant work on Pakistani military history with reference to on ground military performance of the Pakistan Army in three Indo Pak wars.

On the whole Cloughley�s account is fairly balanced and the layman reader can form a fairly continuous picture of the progress of the Pakistan Army from 1947 to date.The initial history of the Pakistan Army however is given a broad brush treatment and the British Indian Colonial social and military legacy is totally ignored.This leaves the reader with an impression that the Pakistan Army was an entity created in 1947 and all that it did from 1947 onwards had little connection with the pre 1947 British Colonial policy and the military experience of the Indian Army in the two world wars.The 1947-48 Kashmir War where the Pakistan Army got its baptism of fire as the independent army of a sovereign country is hardly discussed.Thus important military controversies like the Operation Venus Controversy etc are not discussed at all.The conduct of Kashmir War by the Pakistani civilian leadership and and its resultant impact on the army�s perception of the civilian leadership is not discussed.The British recruitment policy and their irrational advocacy of the "Martial Races Theory" is not discussed at all.The impact of the conservative British military heritage on the intellectual development of the post 1947 Pakistani military leadership is totally ignored.The Ayub period has been given a relatively more detailed treatment and the conduct of 1965 war is reasonably detailed and the analysis of military operations is objective,critical and thought provoking.No serious effort is however made to explain why the Pakistan Army failed to achieve any decisive breakthrough despite having technically superior equipment as well as numerical superiority in tanks.The 1971 war which was more of a one sided show and a war in which Indian victory in the Eastern Theatre in words of Field Marshal Mankekshaw was a "foregone conclusion" keeping in view the overwhelming Indian numerical superiority1 ,has been discussed in much greater detail than 1965 war.This is a serious draw back since 1965 deserved more space because it had more lessons keeping in view the fact that both sides employed their strategic reserves.The post 1971 history of the army has been given a better treatment and enables the layman reader to understand many aspects of the present state of confrontation in the Sub Continent.

There are many factual and analytical errors in the book which were entirely avoidable and were not beyond the author or the publishers control.The publisher shares a major responsibility in ensuring accuracy of facts while analytical errors or analytical drawbacks are more within an authors sphere of responsibility.15 Lancers was not raised in 1948-50 but in 19552.Iskandar Mirza was not from the ICS (Indian Civil Service) but the Indian Political Service3.The author has asserted that Ayub Khan was "gallant in combat" 4but there is no record of it in terms of gallantry awards or mention in despatches.On the contrary Ayub was accused of tactical timidity in Burma5.Akhnur has been mentioned as the only road link to Kashmir6 whereas Akhnur ,as a matter of fact was the only road link to Poonch Valley only.The Indian 50 Para Brigade was not moved on 7th September to relieve the 54 Brigade as asserted on page-87 but made its appearance in the 15 Division area only on 10th September and that too in the Hudiara Drain area7.On page-96 the author states that 13 Dogra in 4 Indian Mountain Division area captured Bedian but was driven out by 7 Punjab�s counter attack the next day.In reality 13 Dogra never attacked Bedian ,nor was Bedian defended by 7 Punjab.Bedian was defended by 7 Baluch and attacked by 17 Rajput.Further Bedian was not attacked by a unit from the 4 Mountain Division but by a unit of 7 Indian Division which failed to capture it in the first place8.Jassar was not defended by a Pakistani Tank Troop as written on page-110 but by the whole 33 Tank Delivery Unit9.The Jassar operation did not result in release of a whole Indian tank regiment but release of two infantry battalions and a squadron minus10.4 FF was not part of 6 Armoured Division as stated on page-117.The whole "Order of Battle" of the Pakistan Army on the Western Front as given on page-225 is incorrect.Formations of the I Corps have thus been shown as formations of 11 Corps and vice versa.8 Armoured Brigade which was a part of 1 Corps has been shown as part of 4 Corps.Rahimuddin Khan has been promoted to Zia�s son in law on page-275 whereas Ejaz ul Haq was Rahim�s son in law. Aziz Ahmad the famous civil servant has been described as Aziz Ali9a.The order of battle of the Pakistan Army on page-284 has also some factual errors;eg Pakistan Army does not have any mechanised infantry divisions whereas the author has shown two divisions as mechanised divisions.One tank unit allotted to Pakistan in 1947 ie the 19 Lancers has not been listed at all in the list of armoured units allotted to Pakistan10.

The author rightly wonders why some military commanders guilty of timidity in Khem Karan were not immediately sacked!But he fails to mention that one of them was promoted to the rank of major general few years after the war.His analysis of the Khem Karan operations is considerably thought provoking.But the major reason for failure of the Khem Karan offensive ie poor initial planning which led to traffic congestion and poor engineers effort and delayed the concentration of the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division has not been discussed at all.The author however rightly points out that failure to carry out thorough reconnaissance was one of the major reasons of failure of the Pakistani armoured thrusts failure in Khem Karan.However his assertion that the Indians had considerable reserves to contain Pakistan Army even if it had achieved a breakthrough is not based on material facts.India did have its 23 Mountain Division,but this formation was nowhere near Khem Karan when the Pakistani offensive was launched.In any case a Mountain Infantry division could have been of little value against the Pakistani 1 Armoured Division.

The analysis of the tank battles in Sialkot is not comprehensive and lacks depth.The authors assertion on page-120 that the ad hoc force under direct command of the I Pakistani Corps forced the Indians back to the border is not correct11.The 24 Brigade which did so was a part of the 15 Division and 25 Cavalry the tank unit which in the words of Indians stopped them acted on orders of its commanding officer alone and 1 Corps Headquarter had little idea of what 25 Cavalry did in stopping the Indians till the evening of 8th September.The author has not mentioned 25 Cavalry at all which in words of the Indian Armoured Corps�s historian; was the unit whose " performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the Indian 1st Armoured Division and its objective,the MRL Canal 11a" and stopped the 1st Indian Armoured Division on 8th September,all by itself.The authors reproduction of the Indian writer Verghese�s views that the Indian 1st Armoured Division dashed forward rashly is not based on facts.The Indian advance was fairly balanced and it was halted on 8th September not because the Indians had completely committed their armour but because the Commander 1st Armoured Brigade lost his nerve because of false and unsubstantiated reports of his flanks being under counter attack at a time when both the advancing Indian tank regiments had committed a total of only three squadrons with three squadrons uncommitted and the Indian 1st Armoured Division had a third tank regiment totally fresh and in a position to easily outflank the Pakistani armour in Gadgor area12.The author has also not discussed at all the Indian armours total lack of activity on 9th and 10th September.This inactivity at a time when there was just one tank regiment to oppose five Indian tank regiments was the main reason for the Indian main attack�s failure in Sialkot Sector.

The treatment of the 1971 war is far more detailed than 1965 war.All the emphasis is however on the Eastern Theatre where the Indian victory in words of the Indian Chief was a foregone conclusion.The author has highlighted actions of bravery at small unit level and has shown that the Pakistan Army put up a good show in East Pakistan as far as the junior leadership was concerned.The battles on the Western Theatre have however been largely ignored and the battle of Chhamb which was described by the Indians as "the most serious reverse suffered in the 1971 war 13" has not been discussed in much detail.Major General Eftikhar was the finest commander at the operational level as far as the Pakistan Army is conerned and any history of Pakistan Army is incomplete without discussing Eftikhar�s brilliant opearational leadership in Chhamb.Eftikhar was one of the only two Pakistani senior commanders praised by the Indian military historians.One Indian military historian described him as one who "showed skill and determination in carrying out his mission" .14

The analysis of the Bhutto period is quite comprehensive and the personality of Mr Bhutto and his attitude towards the army has been described quite correctly.The sycophantic persoanlity of Zia has however been given a generous treatment and many of Zia�s well known antics to please Mr Bhutto like orders to all officers of Multan Garrison to line up their wives to greet Mr Bhutto�s cavalcade passing through the Fort Colony have not been discussed at all.No Mard i Momin except one solitary EME officer Major Kausar had the moral courage to disobey this illegal order and Zia immediately got him dismissed from the army.

The intelligence and operational failure in Siachen on part of the ISI and the formation responsible for the defence of Siachen as a result of which the Indians were able to infiltrate 35 miles inside Pakistani territory have not been discussed at all.On the contary General Pirdad who was the formation commander during the Siachen debacle has been praised as an admirable officer15.The authors assertion that English language was neglected during the Zia era is not based on facts.I was a cadet in Zia�s tenure at the Pakistan Military Academy.Any cadet who failed in English was not promoted to the next term and English teaching and examination standards were very tough.The crux of the problem was the overall deteriorating English standards in Pakistan following Bhuttos nationalisation of educational institutuins and the relatively poor material joining the army in the post 1971 era.The post Zia era has been covered in a very incisive manner.The authors assertion that the "Director infantry" was a post that any infantry officerw ould welcome is incorrect.Mahor General Zahir Ul Islam Abbasi was posted as Director Infantry following a diasastorous Charge of the light Brigade type attack in Siachen which he had ordered without prior approval of his next senior operational headquarter. in which one of the Pakistani units suffered unnecesarily high casualties including the death of a brigade commander.The authors criticism of the ISI is forthright,accurate and thought provoking.In this regard he has shown courage in criticising a top heavy agency whose much trumpeted reputaion is not matched by actual on ground performance and which suffers from a tendency to embark on private wars.

Brian Cloughley has done a remarkable job in writing a fairly critical history of the Pakistan Army.Most of the factual errors were avoidable but something which should have been taken care of by the publishers who knew that the author was a foreigner and did not have the time to cross check or recheck all the facts because of not permanently residing in Pakistan.The author appears to be too much of a gentleman to critically analyse many of the Quixotic blunders of Indo Pak military history. Nevertheless Brian Cloughley�s book has filled a void in Indo Pak military history by at least constructing a continuous and fairly comprehensive picture of one of third worlds important armies.Regardless of the fact whether any one may agree or disagree with Cloghley�s analysios.the book by and large retains the position of a book which is compulsory for any layman or foreigner doing research on the Pakistan Army.

A.H Amin said...


A.H Amin

August 2000

Major General Joginder Singh (Retired) - Lancer International -New Delhi-1993-273 Pages-Fifteen Sketch Maps. ISBN-1-897829-20-5-Price-Hardbound-380/- Indian Rupees- (Not including postage).

When I saw this books short description on LANCER BOOKS promotional leaflet I immediately ordered one through Bharat Verma's London UK office.I was very excited and thought very seriously that this book would be a really fine magnum bonum type of an effort on the Indian Army.

At that time I was writing my book Pakistan Army till 1965 and hoped that this book would be a tremendous help.

Following are my personal observations written in late 1999.

“Behind the Scenes”, setting aside other factors discussed in the succeeding paragraphs still is a welcome addition to the limited number of books available on the Indo Pak wars. Major General Joginder Singh possesses the distinction of being an insider in the higher Indian command and staff echelons in the period 1958-65 and his analysis carries the weight of authority of a man who saw how various operational and higher command decisions were taken from close quarters.

Major General Joginder Singh the author was commissioned in the 5th Battalion 14th Punjab Regiment more popularly known as “ Ali Baba’s (its commanding officers designation) Forty Thieves” British Indian Army in 1937 after having joined the army through the “Y Cadet Scheme”.

Joginder saw military action in the British operations against the Frontier tribes in the late 1930s. He attended the 1945 Army Staff Course at Quetta, served in various command and staff appointments including a stint at the Indian Ministry of Defence, command of an Infantry Battalion (7 Punjab), Commander 80 Brigade-Nowshera Sector), Deputy Commandant Infantry School, Brigadier General Staff 15 Corps during the Sino-Indian War, GOC 5 Infantry Division and Chief of Staff of the Western Command under three successive GOC in chiefs. The last assignment included 1965 War after which Joginder finally retired in 1967.

The book is divided into five parts and covers the entire modern post-1947 Indian military history with maximum space devoted to the 1965 conflict while smaller tracts are devoted to the 1971 War, Interwar years followed by a small section dealing with the more recent developments.
The first part dealing with “National Strategy” feels that strategic insight is sadly lacking in India’s higher decision making echelons. He feels that politicians leading India are short-sighted and self- centred and feels that Indian higher leadership lacks the qualities necessary to attain India’s position of natural leadership in Asia.

Joginder discusses in considerable detail his experiences as 80 Infantry Brigade Commander where he first advanced the possibility that Akhnur bridge by virtue of being the sole link to Poonch Valley and the fact that it was defended by the weak 191 Infantry Brigade defending Chamb Sector represented a serious imbalance in Indian defensive posture in South Kashmir and that it was most likely that Pakistan Army in case of war may capture it with ease using a force of an armoured brigade infantry division.

Joginder states that a divisional exercise was held based on this scenario in April-May 1956 but the only outcome was that “GOC 26 Division was asked to proceed on pension” (Page-28) while no other changes were made in operational plans or organisational structure till 1965. The layman readers may note that shortly before the September 1965 War the Indian High Command did agree to upgrade the Chamb Brigade to a Divison in August 1965 but at the time of Grand Slam Chamb was defended only by an infantry brigade and a squadron of light tanks.

Joginder devotes a small chapter to his experiences as Brigadier General Staff 15 Corps responsible for Indian Occupied Kashmir and discusses his recommendations which included creation of an infantry division to defend Chamb, construction of a bridge on Chenab at Riasi as an alternative to Akhnur bridge stationing of an independent armoured brigade in Jammu area and stationing of an infantry division size force as 15 Corps Reserve. None of the recommendations were followed by Joginders bosses !

The author’s discussion of Sino-Indian War is not much different from the other much known discussions in various well circulated books, so it is pointless to burden the readers with repetition of much discussed issues.

The most valuable albeit controversial part of the book is the one dealing with the authors experiences as Chief of Staff of the Western Command before and during 1965 war.

The author had a high opinion of his first GOC Western Command who died in a helicopter crash in 1963 along with four general officers and an airforce air vice marshal. Joginder also had a very high opinion about his second GOC Manekshaw.

It was during this period as the author discusses that the Western Command carried out a detailed appreciation dealing with a future Indo-Pak conflict and recommended an offensive posture with attack aimed at isolating Lahore (going for Balloki Headwork’s) and Sialkot (from Jammu-Samba area) and against the Mangla Dam-Mirpur area were planned. It was during this period that the Western Command’s proposals for opening a second front across the international border Joginder states that the Army Chief Chaudhry accepted the idea of opening a second front in case of war across the international border. Joginder, however, noted that by 1964 Nehru incapable of taking any decisions due to bad health and indifferent mental state while defence held a very low priority with Nehru’s successor Shaastri. Thus the 1964 memorandum prepared by the Western Command was simply filed away. Joginder felt that General Chaudhri was not assertive in presenting the Indian political leadership with the true defence requirements.

The controversial part of the book begins once Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh enters the scene as the third boss of the author as GOC Western Command in November 1964. It appears that there was a personality clash between Joginder and Harbaksh while Harbaksh’s book “War Despatches” published before Joginder’s book indicates that Harbaksh did not have a very high opinion about Joginder.
Joginder states that Harbaksh wanted to base India’s main defence on River Bias while abandoning the entire territory from the international border till Beas. While it is impossible to confirm or deny this assertion it seems highly improbable that Harbaksh could hold such an opinion whether one takes Harbaksh as an Indian or a Sikh.

Joginder states that at a conference held in May 1965 the GOC of 1st Indian Armoured Division advanced the thesis that the most likely axis of Pakistani main attack was Patti-Harike -Beas Bridge. It was this conference that the Indian Chief as per the author agreed to deploy an armoured brigade in Khem Karan area to meet the Pakistani armoured threat emanating from Kasur area. Harbaksh Singh as per the author thought otherwise giving a higher priority to a Pakistani frontal threat in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor. Harbaksh Singh on the other hand states in his book that he had appreciated before the war that a Pakistani armour threat from Kasur towards the Beas bridge was most likely. There is no way in which Joginder’s assertions can be proved or disproved.

Joginder’s approach towards Harbaksh Singh while discussing almost all aspects of the 1965 war is hostile to the point of being irrational. Thus he defends Major General Nirinjan Prasad who was sacked for exhibiting timidity and cowardice by Harbaksh Singh. Joginder thinks that Niranjan was sacked not because he was irresolute but because he was a difficult subordinate. Again it is not possible to agree or disagree with Joginder about this assertion. However, Niranjan’s sacking was even justified by very neutral and dispassionate Indian military historians like Major Praval. There is one fact which stands out in 15 Division’s conduct on 6th, 7th and 8th September, i.e its conduct keeping in view its numerical superiority in infantry and the degree of surprise that it had achieved on 6th of September was not commensurate with the overwhelming advantages that it enjoyed. As a matter of fact many Pakistani defenders of Lahore who were interviewed by this scribe were surprised at the lack of initiative exhibited by the 15 Division in its operations on the 6th of September 1965. No one can deny the fact that two infantry brigades of this division bolted away in face of Pakistani counterattacks and that this led to a serious operational crisis on the 8/9 September once the 96 Brigade was brought forward to check the conditions of near rout.

I am not implying that the Indians were non- Martial as many Pakistanis earnestly believe since it is a fact that a Pakistani unit from the Punjab Regiment opposite Barki also bolted away. What I am merely trying to point out is the fact that there was something seriously wrong with 15 Indian Division at divisional as well as brigade level. However, Joginder denies it and sees Niranjan as an angel of a man since Harbaksh sacked him.Niranjan was also called Dhoti Parshad in Indian Army.

Joginder asserts that he gave a suggestion that the BRB should be crossed at Barki , after the main Indian attacks against Lahore had failed on 6-9th September , but does not explain how it could have been successfully done, keeping in view the net performance of all Indian brigades of 7 and 15 Division tasked to contact the BRB, was pathetic by all definitions. He asserts that he also suggested that the 26 Indian Division should bypass Sialkot and capture Sambrial west of Sialkot but does not explain how an infantry division would do so when an armoured division supported by two infantry divisions had failed to capture even Chawinda which was hardly 11 miles from the border.

The author asserts that Harbaksh Singh took no interest in the main Indian attack i.e the 1 Corps operations opposite Chawinda but does not explain why it was so. Was it due to some inter arm rivalry or because Harbaksh was not interested that India should win the war?

The author’s conclusion that there was no worthwhile higher direction in 1965 war as far as the Indian Army is concerned stands out as one of the most credible conclusions of the book. His assertion that the 1965 War was a show of some “20 Lieutenant Colonel and their units and about seven regiments of the armoured corps....” is valid for both the armies conduct in 1965.

Joginder flatly denies that General Chaudhri ever asked Harbaksh Singh to withdraw to the Beas River. General Kaul whose book was published many years before Harbaksh Singh’s “War Despatches” had also made a similar accusation (i.e that such a withdrawal was suggested by Chaudhri).

I came across a similar assertion in another book by an Indian Colonel H.C Karr’s book. It appears that Chaudhri did discuss something with Harbaksh about re-adjusting his position but since there is nothing on record, therefore, only a Prophet or a Jinn may ever know about what exactly happened. The possibility that Joginder dismisses this incident since Harbaksh Singh had written that it occurred cannot be denied since “opposition for opposition’s sake” is one of the cardinal attributes of the Sub Continental psyche.

The author agrees that the main failure at Chawinda occurred in the handling of 1st Indian Armoured Brigade on the 8th September 1965 but has spent far more energy in painting Harbaksh Singh as the main reason for the Indian failure all over the book. In this regard it appears that the book had the support of the Indian military establishment who were outraged by Harbaksh very frank and forthright remarks about the mishandling of Indian Army at various levels in the 1965 War. In this regard the book stands out as more of a “Rejoinder” to Harbaksh’s “War Despatches” than a study carried out in a detached manner with the aim of correctly analysing the 1965 War.

The author gives no explanation why the Indians wasted two complete days doing nothing following their failure at Gadgor on the 8th of September. This was the most critical phase of war for the Pakistanis when they were off balance and it was possible for the Indian armour to regain its freedom of manoeuvre by outflanking the Pakistani force opposite them.

The situation after 10/11 September when the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division started reinforcing the 6th Armoured Division was totally transformed. The major Indian failure occurred on 8th 9th and 10th September and was entirely because of indecisiveness and lack of resolution in pressing forward on behalf of the Indian 1 Corps/1 Armoured Division/1st Armoured Brigade Commander.

The author has also discussed 1971 War in brief but here his criticism is very mild about the higher direction in the war. Indian Western Command Chief Candeth has acknowledged in his book that had the Pakistanis attacked in late October 1971 all Indian plans to attack East Pakistan would have been blown into winds. This proves that the plans to invade East Pakistan were not as sound as they appeared and that the Indian plan was only carried out successfully since Yahya was irresolute enough not to launch a counteroffensive in the Western Front as had been planned before 1971 War.

Joginder does not explain how establishment of the Bangladesh strategically helped India in the long run since Bangladesh is militarily stronger than the old East Pakistan and is not an Indian satellite as Indians had envisaged.

Even Indian thinkers are divided about the strategic success of the 1971 War! Was it fought to add another feather to the Durga Devis cap or to liberate the Bengalis ! Indira’s conduct after the 1971 War does not paint a very bright picture about her motivation to start the 1971 War. Even if the aim was to help the Bengalis it failed since major killings by the Pakistan Army whatever their quantum took place in April-June 1971 and by November 1971 the situation was far different from that of June 1971. Genocide was committed but the Indians came not with a missionary’s motive to help the oppressed but for other reasons.

Wars are not fought for missionary purposes alone and 1971’s only enduring legacies are “a more aggressive and militarily viable Pakistan eager to vindicate its honour” and the creation of a smaller ethnic state which proves that after a decade or two all provinces of present day Indo Pak are tomorrow’s full time members of the UNO! In this regard the 1971 war as far as India was concerned was a strategic failure and only a symbolic success! It would have been a success only if India had the resolution to overrun West Pakistan or to at least recapture Pakistan held Kashmir.

Joginder has not discussed anywhere the relative failure of the Indian command system especially with reference to the Western Command. A dispassionate glance at the conduct of 1965 and 1971 wars proves that the Indian command system is too unwieldy and keeping in view the frontage, location of formations and their number it is very difficult for any man whether it is Harbaksh or Manekshaw to effectively command anything like the Western Command as it is and as it was in 1965 and 1971 wars. Joginder’s hero Manekshaw had nothing to do with actual operational command of any corps division or command in any of the three Indo Pak wars.

The Indian failure at Chamb in 1971 which was criticised by Joginder definitely had a connection with the confusion in the Indian GHQ as the narratives of Candeth and Gurcharan Singh prove. Joginder does not explain why Chamb, which was adequately defended in 1971, lost to Pakistan in 1971. It was a command failure and had a deeper connection with the divisional commanders personality and handling of armour than with anything at brigade or unit level where the Indian 191 Brigade was brilliantly led and managed to hold three infantry brigades supported by three tank regiments for more than two days.

An interesting revelation of the book is the fact that Ayub Khan commanded the Chamar Regiment and was under fire in WW Two and seen as not fit to command a battalion of his parent regiment Punjab Regiment.

How should we analyse the Indian Army’s failure in 1965 or how should I put it as a Pakistani? Joginder sees the hand of Harbaksh Singh in all Indian failures in 1965! This, however, is too simplistic an approach.

There were deeper reasons for the Indian (as well as the Pakistani) failure to function as dynamic entities beyond unit level in 1965.

The Indian Army of 1965 was like the Austrian Army of 1809. It consisted of perhaps equally brave junior leaders but was severely handicapped since rapid expansion since the Sino-Indian war of 1962, despite being impressive on paper had not made the Indian military machine really effective because of poor training at divisional and brigade level. It was numerically strong but organisationally ineffective having dashing young leaders but tactically and operationally inept brigade divisional and corps commanders from the older pre- 1947 commissioned generation whom were initially supposed not to go beyond company level, had the transfer of power not taken place in 1947. The strike corps was a new concept and the Indian 1 Corps which was shortly created before the 1965 war was a newly raised formation whose corps commander and armoured divisional commanders were about to retire in 1965 when war broke out. The Indian commanders beyond unit level, as was the case with Pakistan Army, consisted of men who had experience of infantry biased operations in WW Two and did not understand the real essence of armoured warfare. It was this lack of understanding that led to the failures in achieving a decisive armour breakthrough in both sides. It was a failure of command as well as staff system where even the staff officers on both sides were too slow for armoured warfare and worked on yards and furlongs rather than miles. Their orientation was position oriented rather than mobility oriented and their idea of a battlefield was a typical linear battlefield. Their Burma or North African experience where the Japanese and Germans frequently appeared in their rear had made them extra sensitive about their flanks.

These were men who thought in terms of security rather than speed. Conformity rather than unorthodox dynamism, having been trained in the slavish colonial orders oriented British Indian Army was the cardinal script of their life. It was this British system in which every senior commander was more interested in doing the job of those one step junior to him that led to the lack of dash and initiative at brigade and battalion level. They were trained that way and there behaviour as far as the timidity at brigade and divisional level has to be taken in this context. How could one man, an army commander responsible for three corps is made responsible for failures that occurred at battalion brigade and divisional level!

Once I heard about Joginder’s book in 1998, I had very high expectations and was convinced that a man who has been the Chief of Staff of the Western Command will be the best judge of 1965 War. In this regard the book was a big disappointment since instead of analysing Indian military history it is more of a proof that Joginder Singh was a very fine staff officer and that Harbaksh Singh was a horrible man! Joginder’s book is a welcome addition to the limited number of first hand/direct participant accounts on 1965 War.

The fact that the writer has made some controversial assertions and has made an effort to write a rejoinder to Harbaksh Singh’s more famous “War Despatches”, however, does not diminish the historical value of the book, at least for the Pakistani readers of military history.

I still maintain that the book thus retains the status of “must be read and indispensable books” on the list of all keen students of Indo Pak military history. However, his anti-Harbaksh bias should be taken with a pinch of salt.

In addition his discussion of what could have been done must be viewed in relation to the relatively pathetic performance of both the armies in all three wars.

The under employment of Pakistan and Indian Armies in all three wars have a deep connection with the conservative British colonial legacy.

Harbaksh and various other actors were a product of that system and were relatively better or perceived to be better than their contemporaries and thus elevated to the higher command ranks. It was the outmoded system that proved to be a failure in all three wars. Individuals were just the tip of the iceberg.

A.H Amin said...

History of The Baloch Regiment 1820-1939
The Colonial Period

Major General Rafiuddin Ahmad (Retired) - Published by Baloch Regiment Centre, Abbottabad; Printed by Central Army Press Rawalpindi (First Edition, 1998.)

Reviewed by A.H AMIN
October 2001

The two volumes on the history of the Baloch Regiment are a welcome edition to the extremely short list of books on Pakistani Military History. The first volume covers the period from 1820 to 1939 while the second volume covers the period from 1939 to 1956. Major General Rafiuddin Ahmed took to military writing at an early stage in his military career and came to be regarded as an accomplished military writer by the time he reached colonel rank in the mid early 1970s. This scribe read a bunch of one of his excellent writeups on German Airborne Warfare in 1975-76 at Quetta. These were presented to my father by then Lieutenant Colonel Rafi and as far as I recollect the general was then an instructor at the command and staff college Quetta. The writers father in laws family were active members of Aligarh Old Boys Association Rawalpindi .The readers may note that the most active members of this association included a prominent Baluchi Brigadier Gulzar Ahmad, and most meetings of the association were held at this scribes grandfathers residence in Rawalpindi , which now houses the Darya Abad Girls School. A major qualification of General Rafi is that in essence he is not a member of the “Typical Prototype Generals Trade Union” having been promoted to general rank a little late ! Before we proceed further it is important to caution the layman reader about the immense odds that a military writer confronts once he writes a regimental history ! Writing a regimental history of an infantry regiment consisting of many battalions which participated in many wars including two world wars spread over an 180 years period is a gigantic undertaking ! It is but natural that any such enterprise cannot be perfect or free of factual as well as analytical errors ! In addition it must be remembered that Indo Pak and this includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka is not a “History Friendly” Region and “Intellectual Honesty” is the rarest commodity in all official quarters whether civil or military in this entire region of intellectual darkness. Organisations as well as political parties are run on the basis of personal interest rather than national interest and at least two Indo Pak Wars were triggered by individuals who were motivated by egoistic and personal rather than nationalistic motivations disguised in high sounding slogans! The readers must also note that General Rafi’s history is one which although not an official history was “officially sponsored” in terms of financial support and thus the general, as happens with all official or officially supported intellectual ventures, even in far more advanced western countries, was allowed to proceed in a certain officially prescribed course which did not allow him to be too critical in conduct of operations of the post 1947 period involving “Sacred Cows” of the Pakistani military establishment. In the first volume however the general has been more critical since those who called the shots then are now patronless skeletons, little more than footnotes of history and their conduct can be criticised. The general has however made an effort to do some critical analysis “in between the lines” which is reasonable! At places he has been uncritical but the first volume is certainly better since history is easier to be written when the actors have long been dead and are in no position to cause any mental or physical discomfiture to the historian in question!
The military history of various battalions of the regiment has been covered in an excellent manner linking the unit’s role with the overall military situation. The narrative is most interesting since the author has included various incidents from unit histories involving details of battle actions in which gallantry awards were won or accounts dealing with military personalities. The author does not hesitate from giving his opinion on various historical aspects and this makes the narrative more interesting. The battle accounts are supported by excellent maps although credits for most have not been mentioned in the acknowledgement section. The photographs and paintings are of excellent quality and make the book very interesting to read. The author has taken pains to highlight the role of the Baluchis in various remote campaigns in East Africa in the late 1890s. Many in Pakistan were not aware of these campaigns. The acounts dealing with the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 and the First World War are extremely well done . The analysis integrates the pure military history aspect with the Indo Pak and particularly Indo Muslim point of view. It is a difficult exercise since the Indian Army was a mercenary army and employed to fight against the freedom fighters! The writer has managed to highlight the performance of the Baluch Regiment and has also been symapthetic to the Freedom Fighters. For some reason he did not have any sympathy with the Sindhi Hurs, but this shall be discussed in the next review of volume two.
The strangest part of the work is absence of an introduction or a foreword by any retired or serving Baluchi officer! This perhaps is an indication of the lack of importance that we attach to anything connected with intellectual activity! The emphasis remains on self projection, personal advancement and personal fortune building ! We have a large number of so called illustrious retired officers! One visit to ’Pindi, Islamabad or Lahore is enough to prove their existence in terms of material progress! But what is their intellectual contribution to posterity in terms of transferring conceptual and intellectual experiences! Nil! All did exceedingly well on paper but have nothing to pen down! Ayub the longest serving chief wrote a book but that book had little to do with military history! Yahya was held in detention till he died and wrote little or we know little about what he wrote! The breed of Attique, A.I Akram etc is extinct! The lack of three or four pages written by any senior officer, serving or retired, and the Baluch Regiment did produce many generals(!) as opening remarks in General Rafi’s history is without doubt an irrefutable proof of our intellectual bankruptcy!
The first volume contains factual errors which were entirely avoidable had the writer relied simply on three or four standard books on Indian Military history. The Safavids were overthrown not by Nadir Shah (Page-8) but by the Ghilzai Pathans from Afghanistan, who were previously Persian subjects and who in turn were overthrown by Nadir Shah in 1726. The Marhattas reached the outskirts of Delhi not in 1738 (Page-9) but in 1737 (Refers-Page-436-Oxford History of India-Percival Spear-1937 and Page-294-Later Mughals-Volume Two-William Irvine-Calcutta-1921-22). The assertion that “An Afghan power arose in Kabul” (Page-Nine and Ten) is also incorrect. Ahmad Shah Abdali was crowned as the first king of Afghanistan at Kandahar in 1748 at the age of 23 and captured Kabul later but kept his capital at Kandahar till his death and is buried in Kandahar. Ahmad Shah did not begin his career as a Mughal adversary (Page-Nine) but as a soldier in Nadir Shah’s army and later made his entry into real power politics once he plundered Nadir Shah’s treasure in the chaotic situation after Nadir’s assasination by his Qizilbash generals. Ahmad Shah Abdali annexed Punjab not in 1754 (Page-10) but in 1751-52 (Refers-Page-434-The Cambridge History of India-Volume Four-The Mughal Period-Edited by Wolsely Haig and Richard Burn). The assertion that Ahmad Shah Abdali won the gratitude of Muslims and Hindus alike for defeating Marathas is also debatable. The target of both the Afghans and the Marathas were the rich and in this regard they did not give anyone a waiver simply because he was a Muslim or a Hindu! As a matter of fact Abdali proclaimed by Iqbal as a great hero mercilessly subjected Muslim Delhi and Muslim Punjab to merciless slaughter, rapine and plunder and his deeds are a frequent subject of even poetical works of Muslim poets like Waris Shah and Mir Taqi Mir! The layman reader may note that the loot that this so called soldier of Islam gathered in 1757 alone from Muslim Delhi was carried from Delhi to Afghanistan by 28,000 transport animals ! (Refers-The Pursuit of Urdu Literature-Ralph Russell-Zed Books-London -1997-Distributed by Vanguard Books-Lahore).
Delhi was captured by Lake not in 1805 (Page-11) but September 1803. The writer has supported 1st Punjab’s claim (Page-30) of being the 3rd Battalion of Coastal Sepoys which in reality was the result of Lord Roberts decision to replace Madrasis with Punjabi manpower in the period 1885-1893. It is an indisputable fact that the post 1885 Punjabi manpower had nothing to do with the pre 1885 battlehonours of the 2nd, 6th,16th, 22nd and 24th Madras Native Infantry which to date they claim as their own. The men of 3rd Battalion of Coastal Sepoys were not the ancestors of the post 1885 manpower of 1st Punjab. Technically the First Punjabi claim is right but historically and ethnically no one can deny the fact that some two third of the manpower of the Madras Infantry of pre 1885 was South Indian Hindu. The 1st Punjabis should thank Lord Roberts for getting the pre 1885 Battle Honours won by a regiment which consisted of some two third Madrasi Hindus and one third Muslims of mixed ancestry. Lord Hastings tenure lasted not from 1814-23 (Page-38) but from 1813-1823 having begun from 13th October 1813 (Refers-Page-238-A Popular History of British India-W. Cooke Taylor-1854-Reprinted Mittal Publications-Delhi-1987). The assertion that the “British Government in India tried to salvage its position through swift retaliation “(Page-41) i.e teaching Afghans a lesson is incorrect. The actual happenings were as following. The British Governor General Ellenborough was irresolute and simply wanted to withdraw the Bengal and Bombay Armies from Kandahar and Jalalabad. His generals i.e Nott and Pollock were more resolute and knew well by their experience of having Jallalabad and Kandahar successfully that the predominantly Hindu sepoys of the Bengal and Madras Armies and a smaller nucleus of British regiments could still teach the Afghans some parting lesson by once again capturing Kabul. It was resolution on part of both these indomitable generals that the British recaptured Kabul once again in Seprember 1842 and then withdrew the Bengal and Bombay Armies via the longer route i.e Kandahar-Ghazni-Kabul-Jalalabad-Khaibar. (Refers-Pages-269 and 270- A History of the British Army-Volume XII-1839-1852-Hon J.W Fortescue-Macmillan and Co Limited-London-1927 and Refers-Page-407-Cooke Taylor-Op Cit). The Governor General had initially given simple orders to withdraw from Afghanistan in May 1842. It was under military pressure that he agreed to a withdrawal after recapturing Kabul ! The statement that “In January 1843 Amir Dost Mohammad returned to Kabul” (Page-41) is misleading and implies that this “Amir” was fighting some kind of war of liberation. As a matter of fact this Amir had surrendered to the East India Company’s troops on 3rd November 1840 and living a comfortable life as a state prisoner with a large number of wives at Ludhiana . He was released not because of the myth in Afghanistan that he was exchanged for British prisoners (who had a matter of fact been released in 1842 by a British punitive column) but simply because Ellenborough had decided to follow a policy of good will as the Afghans had not harmed the British non combatant hostages. The British losses at Battle of Miani are described as heavy (Page-50) although they were not relatively heavy (about 62 Killed and 194 wounded) once compared to British Indian Battles of that time like Assaye, Chillianwalla etc. The writer states that there were very few all Muslim battalions in Indian Army except the three Baluch Battalions (Page-61). The Bengal Army had six All Muslim infantry Battalions in 1893 i.e the 5th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 33rd and 40th.
I was unable to find footnote one in the main text of chapter six. This probably was a printing error. The spellings of Fortescue are not “Fortesque”. Delhi was garrisoned not by six infantry regiments on 11th May 1857 (Page-80) but by three i.e the 38th, 54th, and 74th Bengal Native Infantry. There were no British detachments in Delhi (Page 80) but few British ordnance personnel serving as technical staff in the magazine. Detachment in strict military terminology means a subunit in between an infantry section or platoon. The writer states that there were Bengal Army units in Sindh (Page-81). This is incorrect since there were no Bengal Army units in Sindh in 1857. The two native units i.e 14 and 21 Native Infantry were Bombay Army units. The two Bengal Army units bearing numbers 14 and 21 Bengal Native Infantry were at Peshawar and Jhelum respectively. 14 NI rebelled and was destroyed while 21 NI remained loyal, survived the rebellion and still survives as a unit of the Indian Army.Both the Bombay Army units in Sindh in 1857 however had a large number of Hindustanis and one of them i.e the 21 Native Infantry did rebel .Bengal Army was withdrawn from Sindh after 1850 and the area was a part of Bombay Presidency. Nicholson was not a captain from the British Army (Page-86) but from the private Bengal Army of the English East India Company. The term “Maratha Army” ( Page-95,104 etc) is misleading.The Gwalior Contingent led by Tantia Topi consisted of Hindustani (Refers -The Revolt in Central India-1857-59-Intelligence Branch-Army Headquarters- Simla-1908.) troops serving in Gwalior state and hardly had any Marathas. The only other troops that Tantia led consisted of Hindustani regiments of Bengal Army stationed in Central India or the Doab. The Sepoy Rebellion had some Maratha leaders but very few Maratha soldiers since the largely Maratha Bombay Army never rebelled.
It is incorrect that the caste basis was abolished and enrolment of Brahmins was discouraged (Page-112) in the post 1857 reorganisation . As a matter of fact there were no class basis in the companies of the pre 1857 Bengal Army and all classes were mixed in each company . On the other hand companies were recruited strictly on “One Class” or “One Caste” basis in the reorganised post 1857 Bengal Army. After 1857 more loyal than the king loyalists like Sayyid Ahmad Khan became self styled consultants on the policy of divide and rule and suggested to their British masters that the rebellion of 1857 had started because “ Government certainly did put the two antagonistic races into the same regiment, but constant intercourse had done its work and the two races in a regiment had almost become one. It is but natural and to be expected, that a feeling of friendship and brotherhood must spring up between the men of a regiment, constantly brought together as they are. They consider themselves as one body and thus it was that the difference which exists between Hindoos and Mahomeddans had, in these regiments, been almost entirely smoothed away. “( Refers- Page-66-Causes of the Indian Revolt-1858-Sayyid Ahmad Khan- Written after 1857 rebellion and presented to Lord Canning the Governor General) As late as 1885 there were “caste companies” as well as companies based on “ethnic classes” or “ethnic class cum religion”.Thus there were at least 25 “Hindustani Hindu Brahman Infantry Companies” in the Bengal Army out of total 352 regular infantry companies (Refers-Pages-406 & 407-A Sketch of the Services of the Bengal Army up to year 1895-Lieut F.G Cardew-Office of the Superintendent Government Printing Press-Calcutta-1903).
The assertion that the first contingent consisting of Indian troops west of Suez consisting of 126 Baluchistan Infantry in 1878 (Page-129) is also incorrect.The first Indian troops were employed west of Suez Canal was in 1801 (when the Suez Canal had not been excavated) (Refers-Pages 74 & 75-Lieut F.G Cardew-Op Cit). These consisted of troops of Bengal and Bombay Armies. There is no doubt that the first Indian VC was won by the Baluch Regiment. However the writer should have mentioned that Indians became eligible for this award only from 1911. Lettow Vorbeck complimented 11 Baluch but the odds that Lettow Vorbeck faced were a hundred time greater than any Indian British or South African troops.The readers may note that Lettow Vorbeck with just maximum 3,500 white troops and maximum 12,000 native troops kept at bay some 300,000 British South African Colonial and Indian troops inflicting 15,000 battle casualties on the allies , some 700,000 disaeses casualties , one camp followers are included and a financial loss of 350 Million US Dollars finally withdrawing into Portueguese East Africa .(Refers-Pages-183 & 184-Concise History of WW ONE-Brig Vincent.J.Esposito-Pall Mall Press-London-1965) .Lettow did not surrender till the end and did so only once he heard that Germany had concluded an armistice with the allies!
The assertion that Afghanistan took advantage of the British involvement in the Great War(Page-217) and attacked British India is also incorrect.The Afghans missed the golden period in WW One once India was defended by a total of just 15,000 British troops (Refers -Page-479-Cambridge History of India-Volume Six ) .Once they attacked the British the war was already over and the British had reinforced India. The most serious drawback of the book is the fact that exact class composition of each battalion in WW One and in the period 1919-39 has not been given.
The readers must note that errors are a natural part of any historical work.The resource starved and intellectually barren Pakistani society is not “Research friendly”.Pakistani scholars cannot hire research associates like Churchill could.It is a one man show and once one man does it , it is but natural that more errors will be committed. Nevertheless the writer did a commendable job.His achievements have to be viewed in the relative dimension. What is the contribution of our senior retired officers to military writing? Nominal ! In this regard General Rafi’s history is a positive contribution ! At least he has made a significant attempt to add something to the limited amount of analytical and factual data of Pakistani military history. I remember a letter I received from General Tirmizi in reply to a tactical paper that I had sent him.Tirmizi wrote “ I have not studied the concept but I do commend your effort for taking so much pain and coming up with something thought providing”. General Rafi’s work is thought provoking provided it is read. What he states may not be totally convincing but it will hopefully cause some ripples and perhaps will spur some lazier minds to make another intellectual endeavour ! A vain hope , but one which we must entertain ! The printing is excellent and the quality of paper excellent. General Rafi has made a landmark effort in military history writing. His work has filled a serious void in Pakistani military history. We wish him best of luck with the third volume and hope he will be more forthright in dealing with Pakistani military history which has been promiscuously mixed with myths and fantasies.

A.H Amin said...

Stray Reflections on Commencement of Writing Pakistan Army 'Pakistan Army Since 1965'

A.H Amin

August 2000

The first part of this book 'The Pakistan Army till 1965' was distributed free of cost to a vast cross section of people including retired and serving Pakistani army officers of ranks varying from captain to four star general. Some copies were sent to libraries both Pakistani as well as foreign and some copies sent to research oriented organisations. No feedback was received from Pakistani readers, a happening, which may be termed as a rule rather than an exception. I have been writing for various Pakistani military journals since 1989. The various articles, which I thus wrote, dealt with doctrine, military training, leadership etc. With the exception of four cases out of which three were letters written praising my articles in two lines by officers who retired as colonels or brigadiers and one in which a factual error inadvertently committed by me was pointed out by the late General Attiq-ur-Rahman. No letter was written by any officer critically analysing my articles. The same is true for the vast majority of articles published in various army journals and magazines. The trend in Pakistan since independence has been towards anti-intellectualism.

There are historical reasons for this anti-intellectualism. The irony is that the situation was not remedied after independence. Education in British India was aimed at acquiring degrees so that Indians could become lawyers doctors or government officials. That they surely did, in the process of which some acquired great wealth and also became political leaders, senior civil servants and prosperous middle class professionals. The intellectual basis of modern Europe's success was the renaissance, the French Revolution and the Industrial revolution. During this period great progress was made in Europe in political thought, philosophy and scientific advancement. The Indo-Pak sub-continent was introduced to modern thought by the British by virtue of being colonial subjects of the English East India Company. Thus research intellectual activity etc were never important or of any consequence for the people of the Indo-Pak. On the other hand a mad rush towards acquiring rank and status, government jobs or political power by claiming to be champions of Hindu and Muslim rights plagued the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent! Once this mad rush for government patronage and jobs got an impetus from 1858, communalism became a major factor in Indo-Pak politics. This was since at this time the other parts of the world were talking about nationalism, socialism and political liberties. All the intellectual thrust of Indians was towards interpreting laws in communal terms! This was a Godsend blessing for the British colonial rulers! They encouraged communalism since it divided the Indians and ensured that they stayed away from dangerous ideas like war of liberation against the colonial state or from socialism or communism. The British very cleverly introduced parliamentary institutions, which enabled the leading Indians to divert their energy into harmless constitutional debates!

The fathers of communalism as an idea in Indian politics were Syed Ahmad Khan, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gandhi and the Jauhar brothers! The British on the other hand right from 1858 followed a subtle but brilliant policy, introducing parliamentary democracy as bait to divert the energies of the more prominent Indians! A bait, which aroused ambition, whether based on ego, lust for glory, social recognition or material rewards! Peaceful yet heroic! Safe yet glorious! The double advantage of pursuing a prosperous law practice or business career or wielding feudal power while at the same time also being leaders of the subject Indians and the possible successors of the British Viceroys! Parliamentary democracy or its prospects once the British finally left India produced two distinct kinds of reactions, both of which helped the British and went against the people of the Indo-Pak Sub-continent! The leaders of the Hindu majority saw themselves as successors of the British Viceroys while the principal leaders of the Indian Muslims hypothesised that parliamentary democracy in independent India would mean Hindu ascendancy and Muslim subservience or more correctly all power in the hands of the Hindu politicians! The Hindu-Muslim question in reality was a 'Hindu-Muslim leaders clash of ego' question! It all started once the British introduced local self-government based on elections from the 1860s and aggravated more and more as leaders who were Hindu by accident of birth tried to sideline other leaders who were Muslim by accident of birth! Initially leaders from both the communities talked in terms of high sounding slogans like 'Nationalism' 'Liberty' 'Democracy' etc but became more narrow in approach once their religion became a psychological disqualification in being leaders of all Indians! The fact that the vast majority of Indians whether Muslim or Hindu would remain poor as they were before 1947 and are in the year 2000 was not important for these men. The Congress and League were essentially bourgeois parties with a larger feudal presence in the league and a larger urban business presence in the Congress. Both these parties employed religion as a tool to further their party agendas, middle class business class or feudal on the whole and egoistic at the higher level!

Nehru was an atheist and a socialist, Mr Jinnah was a highly Westernised man, and yet both were great Hindu and Muslim leaders. Both the parties were instruments of business professional and feudal classes to achieve maximum power and both increasingly divided Indian society on communal lines simply because their leaders were essentially highly egotistical men! The irony of Indo-Pak history is the fact that modern Indo-Pak history is a story of clash of great men like Nehru and Jinnah who employed religion as a tool simply because they correctly albeit ironically realised that the people of the Indo-Pak were too naive to understand vague slogans like liberty or democracy and could only be galvanised or mobilised by raising religious slogans! In a more advanced Indian society Nehru and Jinnah may have been leaders of all Indians rather than only Hindu Indians or Muslim Indians! India, however, was like Europe around the time of the 30 years war and thus both these great men were forced by historical circumstances to be only communal leaders! Both wanted to be leaders of all Indians regardless of race or religion, but both were forced, thanks to the fire of religious communalism lit by glorified agitators or complex and outwardly impressive hypocrites like Gandhi to be communal leaders! Nehru was too sophisticated a man to be a Hindu and Jinnah was too enlightened a man to be only a leader of Indian Muslims. It was a twist of fate that both are today remembered albeit rightly as leaders of Hindu or Muslim India.

Thus while the other parts of the world intellectually as well as materially made great progress during the period 1850-1950 all the energies of the Indians at all levels were increasingly diverted into communalism; thereby ensuring that intellectually as well as materially the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent remained backward! History was written as Muslim or Hindu history, politics was practised as Hindu or Muslim politics and while Europe was experimenting with radical social legislation, all the energies of Indian constitutionalist were absorbed in debating representation on basis of religion! College or University education was important because it was a pre-requisite for government jobs or to practise in the law courts! Research teaching and writing were unproductive jobs since they did not enable a man to be a deputy collector or barrister or doctor! It was a mad race made further mad by frequent outbursts of communal frenzy, which increased as population increased during the period 1890-1940. All this helped the Britishers who had been traumatically shaken by the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 when a largely Hindu majority army had rebelled under Muslim leaders! The British were thus happier playing the role of judges resolving Hindu Muslim disputes rather than performing the more unpleasant task of facing a combined political movement of all Indians regardless of race or religion as in 1857, 1919 or 1922 ! This is the basis of anti-intellectualism in the Indo-Pak Sub-continent. It is more true for Pakistan since the Muslims were educationally more backward and relatively less true, yet still true and applicable to India too!

Pakistan and India have produced very few serious military writers. In Pakistan the situation is worse since an unofficial ban was imposed on military writing by various military usurpers who ruled the country for the greater part of its history. Unfortunately the larger number of men who joined the officer corps of both the Indian and Pakistan Army were from the relatively less educated or superficially educated classes of Indo-Pak society. There were some military writers in Pakistan like Attiq-ur-Rahman, Fazal Muqeem, Shaukat Riza and A.I Akram. Attiq-ur-Rahman wrote well but was more obsessed with more outward forms of military discipline and was more of a martinet and proper soldier than a military writer of depth. A man of impeccable integrity, a man of Honour and a most cultured and proper soul, Attique did not have any of the dynamism or subtlety of a Liddell Hart or Fuller. He was never remembered as an inspiring field commander but as a 100 percent proper soldier who was obsessed with military drill and haircut.As a retired officer he was obsessed with Golf Courses which he rightly regarded as a waste of time and effort. However, this was where his concern ended. He stopped writing after 1990 and thus retired from the army's intellectual life at a time when the army needed a serious military writer. General A.I Akram wrote well but his books dealt with seventh and eighth century Arab Wars and had little relevance as far as practical utility in terms of modern warfare unit level tactics or operational strategy was concerned. General Shaukat Riza dabbled more with military writing but his writing lacked depth, broad outlook and dynamism. He was employed by Zia's military regime to write a heavily doctored trilogy on the history of the Pakistan Army at a time when the man was semi-senile and sick. The resultant three books thus lacked depth of analysis, their only significance being, a collection of three rudimentary handbooks which provide basic facts about order of battle, broad outline plans and other basic details which untouchable low caste retired majors like this scribe cannot ever obtain access to through normal official channels available to any researcher in any civilised country! Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan stands out as the relatively most competent clearheaded and coherent out of all the above mentioned gentlemen. His books lacked strategic vision and a broad outlook but nevertheless were precise and forthright without confusing layouts which are hallmarks of all Shaukat Riza's books. The unfortunate part about Muqeem's writings was the fact that Muqeem wrote first as a sycophant serving general hopeful of getting the next rank and later as a retired general to please or at least cover up an all powerful serving prime minister. The positive aspect about Muqeem's works was the fact that Muqeem was generally precise, correct and exact in analysing a fallen gladiator, a typical quality of all successful men, at least in the Indo-Pak Sub-continent, where a primitive historical state of civilisation and political system do not allow dispassionate, blunt critical and forthright analysis. This is relatively more true for Pakistan which has witnessed military rule or dictatorship in guise of democracy for the greater part of its history; I would say, for its entire history from 1947. Lack of critical analysis due to dangers of being labelled blasphemous is the greatest tragedy of history writing in all countries where Muslims live! Perhaps the reasons can be found in the fact that Christianity is 500 years older than Islam and may be in the year 2500 we in this part of the world will be writing history the way Europeans are doing in 2000! The problem with history writing in Islamic countries is lack of tolerance. Those in power are sacred figures by virtue of authority and totalitarian powers. Analysis or forthright analysis is dangerous in most cases and injudicious in many! Muqeem may have been an excellent historian in West Europe! But the question is that Muqeem was not willing to be sidelined or isolated or persecuted in a society, which does not tolerate criticism of those in the higher echelons of power! Thus each of Muqeem's work although relatively better than others was a condemnation of the previous regime's military efforts! Thus in his first book he criticised Liaquat the first Prime Minister for incompetence in the Kashmir War while raising Ayub to the level of a modern Napoleon. In his second major book Fazal rightly criticised Ayub for structurally weakening the army by encouraging sycophants and retiring relatively better officers who were perceived as likely political threats. Similarly Muqeem's analysis of the 1971 war is reasonably balanced, but exonerates Mr Bhutto of all blame and also exonerates the Pakistan Army of the terrible genocide that it carried out in East Bengal in 1971. Shaukat criticises Bhutto since he was Zia's principal political opponent but exonerates Ayub of all the blunders and the follies committed in the period 1950-1969!

A very learned gentleman who I hold in very high esteem by virtue of being a close friend of one of my dearest friends rightly told me to reduce what he called 'polemics' in the first volume of this history. A conceptual difference arises about the use of the word 'Polemics'. The term has different meaning for different people and is unfortunately used in a sweeping manner to dismiss valid historical criticism! There is no denying of fact in stating that 'Polemic' may be an unpleasant figure of speech for a professor of English literature or a criminal error of conduct for a sycophant or a man of this world. The fact that polemics i.e. 'practice of controversial discussion' is something, which is the essence of all historical writing, is absolutely undeniable and incontrovertible. The historian cannot be a diplomat in order to escape being branded as one who indulges in polemics. The historian has to indulge in controversy because there are no archives or source material in any library or records office in this world, which enable a research scholar to understand the innermost depths of human personality. Every historian who wants to be loyal to posterity has to be polemical. History is but another name of a never-ending controversy! At some point in time or text all historians enter the realm of polemics! It's a part of their craft or calling! I wrote an article for the Command and Staff College Quetta about two years ago. It contained some criticism about the higher organisation of the Pakistan Army. The article was surprisingly published since the Staff College was headed at that time by one of the most upright and intellectually honest generals of Pakistan Army; a rare commodity in a sub-continental army and I would say in any army of the world. In addition the staff college's principal magazine's editor at that time was one of the most dynamic and boldest colonels, (at least in my humble opinion), of the army! The colonel editor who twice risked his career by attacking the Quetta Police over an entirely honourable issue in 1979, and by refusing to supervise Degchas in a general officers daughter's wedding in early 1987 was being posted out to command a tank regiment. Somehow he managed, or I should say was instrumental in ensuring that my article criticising the higher command organisation be published in the 'Citadel' magazine. The Editorial Introduction was, however, written by another colonel who succeeded him as the editor and belonged to the majority 'go safe' calculate a decade ahead 'take no risk' breed of career officers! The clever editor exonerated himself of all that I had said in the article by stating that 'the article lacks documentation for certain controversial assertions'. The gentleman's point was valid but this is what historical analysis is all about; i.e. dealing with controversy in face of fog and obscurity and lack of documentation! Who in this world can find documentary evidence for saying that many wars that this world fought were to satisfy egos of Kings, Presidents or Prime Ministers! That revolutions killed millions or that countries were divided simply because one politician did not want the other to be the country's next Prime Minister or Governor General! So much for 'Polemics', bad word for professors, careful men, career officers, successful men! But one of the most essential tools in historians craft.

A.H Amin said...

The Pakistani military mindset

A.H Amin

2nd August 2003

While third world military figures , in power or retired make impressive speeches at various forums and think tanks , very few outside their countries understand their mindset and motivation , which by and large is driven by highly personalized and ulterior motives !

Keeping this premise in view it is important to understand the mindset and the personalities of the third world military juntas , most important in this case being the Pakistani military junta !

The British Indian Army which gave birth to Pakistan and Indian armies in 1947 was essentially a colonial army designed for internal security and limited defence of India against external threats .The British ensured that all Indians who came to this organization were from the politically most docile and loyal classes ! In order to keep the Indian officer corps slavish they kept a 50 % quota for Indian Army rankers in Indian Military Academy Dera Dun right from its foundation in 1930-32 .

Layman readers may note that the “ lower middle class” as well as the “ middle class” by and large are the politically most conservative classes ! Social climbers by orientation , intensely careeristic in outlook and extremely conscious of personal benefits , having none or little of the pride or spirit de corps that made the Prussian junker officer defy Hitler ! In the Russian Civil War many major reactionary White Army leaders including Denikin,Kornilov etc were from humble background ! Similarly all of Pakistan’s military rulers less Yahya Khan were from humble background and all brought with them the intense greed and ambitiousness of a man from humble origins with none of the ideological idealism that distinguishes a man of ideology from a social climber !

Now the mindset of the military junta :--

1- Personal motives having priority over all other motives :-- You would find no Manstein or Guderian in them but highly ambitious men who practiced sycophancy with their seniors , hole punchers in US terms , yes men ,masters of personal manouvre in order to get the right report from the right boss at the right time ! They pleased their seniors and they know how to handle balls of any benefactor may it be Bush or Reagan where aid is concerned ! They have no ideology less personal interest !

2- View Wars and International Geopolitics as a means of personal benefit:-- The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a divine and phenomenal lottery for Pakistan’s military rulers ! Zia the son of a humble tailor , and many of his generals Akhtar etc siphoned millions of US dollars in private accounts , from the US aid meant for Afghanistan ! knowing the Americans well , they must have also earmarked good retainers for Zia and his ISI chief in any case ! Serious observers like Selig Harrison and Cordovez have concluded that the Pakistani military junta never wanted that the Soviets should withdraw from Afghanistan since that would have meant stoppage of US aid ! Similarly 9/11 is a heaven sent opportunity for General Musharraf since it enabled him to get US aid and the much needed US boost to stay in power !

3- Can be coerced and bought if the Bigger players know how to drive them:-- These leaders have price tags and can be manipulated to a significant extent without risking wars like the Iraq war ! This is so because their vision is personal , has none of Khomeini or Osama’s ideological agenda ! Thus if the USA sensibly deals with them with carrot and stick they can be made to conform to US policies !

4- Ulterior motives in prolonging conflicts to get aid :-- These leaders have an ulterior motive that their benefactor super power i.e USA is kept occupied in its war against terror , not because they have any love for Islam , but simply because this would bring them more aid , an important part of which is siphoned into private fortunes ! Thus at a certain covert level these leaders are interested in the terrorist’s cause also ! Thus the third world intelligence agencies have many irons in the fire whether it is initiating a terrorist outrage or encouraging one !

5- Increasing reliance on coercive power of state :-- Since these leaders have little or no contact with national aspirations of their masses , they increasingly rely on the coercive power of the state which leads either to a Shah of Iran like situation or strengthening of a Saddam like totalitarian regime ! In both cases it was the fault and mishandling of US policy makers !

6- Role of the Intelligence agencies :-- To buy judges , to blackmail politicians , to start wars of low intensity to get aid , to manipulate low intensity war players for specific ends to please or disturb their super power benefactors !


The USA is dealing with sharp social climber third world leaders who know how to please and how to practice sophisticated ball lifting ! These men have no ideology and can withstand tremendous amount of kicking as they did while pleasing seniors in their military careers ! It is simpler to deal with these tinpot dictators than Osama or Mullah Omar ! If policy makers in the USA understand this fact their task would be simpler !

A.H Amin said...

1965 analysed

A.H Amin

Published in Indian Strategic Review and Defence Journal


1965 was a watershed in Indo-Pak history! The war instead of being dispassionately analysed became a ground to attack and condemn political opponents! Complete books were written out of sheer motivation based on pure and unadulterated venom! To date the trend continues at the cost of serious research and history writing! Most of these books were written by beneficiaries of the usurper Ayub or Bhutto haters! Men with a naive knowledge of military history made worse by a desire to settle personal scores! Jaundiced history of the worst kind!

This article is an overall analysis of the 1965 war based on military facts rather than any motivation to settle political scores based on matters of ego rather than any serious objective considerations! It is hoped that after 36 years readers would be more interested in hard facts rather than pure and unadulterated polemics by men who did not know the division of battle “more than a spinster”!

Timing of 1965 War

This has been the subject of many controversies and myths! In 1965 India was recovering from the effects of the China War. Indian Army was engaged in a process of massive expansion with units and divisions half trained half novice! Something like the Austrian Army of 1809! Outwardly expanding and larger but lacking the military virtue and military spirit identified by Carl Von Clausewitz as the key elements in an military machines effectiveness! There was no overwhelming Indian numerical superiority unlike 1971 and many parts of the

Indo-Pak border like the vast bulk of Shakargarh bulge were unmanned on the Indian side! Qualitatively Pakistan had a tangible superiority by virtue of possession of relatively superior tanks and artillery! The Centurion tank which was the backbone of Indian army was concentrated in the Indian Armoured division while the vast bulk of Indian infantry divisions were equipped with the obsolete Shermans! Even in quality of command there were serious drawbacks! The Indian 1 Corps had been just raised and the GOC of the Indian 1st Armoured Division was about to retire! Indian Mountain Divisions brought into the plains lacked sufficient antitank resources and were not in the ideal fighting condition. Some 38 plus Indian Infantry Battalions were absorbed by the blotting paper of Indian Army i.e a tract known as Kashmir! All these battalions were deployed north of Chenab River.

Indian Army was in the process of expansion and the Indian Army had no strategic reserves in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor against the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division.

Setting aside the ethical dilemma whether war is the best instrument of policy to settle political disputes militarily 1965 was the ideal time for Pakistan to settle its political problems with India. This point was realized by some mid- ranking senior officers in the Pakistan Army which included the Pakistani DMO Gul Hassan, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik and by some civilians like Foreign Minister Z.A Bhutto and Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad.

On the other hand Musa the Pakistani C-in-C was opposed to war! This was not because Musa was a pacifist but because Musa lacked military competence and was enjoying his second four-year-term as C-in-C of the Pakistan Army! Ayub the military ruler was initially against any military adventure but revised his ideas after Pakistani military successes in Rann of Katch.

In Clausewitzian terms 1965 was the ideal time for Pakistan to start a war. The following quotation illustrates the rationale; ‘Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not; if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages but it will rather increase the disparity of forces — but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account’.1

Comparative Level of Planning-Strategic

At the strategic level the Pakistani plan was superior. Its initial thrust launched with an infantry division-tank brigade size force against Akhnur was enough to cause a crisis of strategic level in the Indian Army. The situation with Akhnur in Pakistani hands would have been disastrous for India. All the Indian plans to launch the 1 Corps against the MRL would have been thrown to winds and Indians would have spent the entire war redressing the imbalance caused due to loss of Akhnur! On the other hand the Pakistani thrust in Khem Karan would have bottled up three Indian Infantry divisions in the Beas-Ravi corridor and three Indian divisions would have been forced to surrender. 1965 could have then been a Pakistani strategic success rather than a tactical draw as it turned out to be.

On the other hand the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division was well poised to deal with any Indian armoured thrust launched in the Ravi-Chenab corridor.

Pakistani failure lay in poor execution and understanding at the strategic level rather than planning

It was in implementation rather than planning that the Pakistani GHQ and Ayub failed miserably at the strategic level. The reason was simple. Both Ayub and Musa lacked strategic insight! They lacked the resolution and strategic coup d oeil to conduct decisive warfare. Both were extremely defensive in their approach and saw war as reacting to enemy countermoves rather than making the enemy react to their moves. Thus Musa as late as 1983 naively claimed in his book “My Version” that the aim of Grand Slam was not to capture Akhnur but to merely threaten it. In other words Musa saw a move which had the potential to cause a severe strategic imbalance in the Indian High Command as a tactical move to relieve pressure on Muzaffarabad! Allah be praised!

Even a foreigner saw the immense importance of capturing Akhnur. Thus the remarks of Marshall Chen Yi the Foreign Minister of China who was visiting Pakistan at the time of Grand Slam. Chen Yi thus “made a sharp cutting movement at the little finger; ‘knock them out at Akhnoor’.That will help the freedom fighters and also guarantee the security of East and West Pakistan. With the little finger gone, the whole hand becomes useless”!2 So thought a veteran of a many decade long civil war! This was Greek for a man who was elevated to the rank of Army Chief because of political considerations! This was Greek for a man accused of tactical timidity in Burma!

Inability to develop a doctrine of decisive warfare

The principal reason of failure of both the armies was “failure or inability to develop a doctrine of decisive warfare”. This was a colonial legacy. The Indian Army of pre-1947 was an internal security machine designed for defence while the main forces of the empires allies came into action on other decisive fronts. The concentration on both sides was to have tactical concepts while no doctrine integrating tactics with operational strategy and national strategy existed to give coherence to the whole business of warfare.

Lack of Resolution in the Ayub-Musa duo to energetically conduct the war

1965 was a failure in resolution at the highest level. Both the president and his handpicked chief lacked the resolution to provide strategic direction to a well oiled machine which had the potential to inflict a severe strategic defeat on the enemy.

Failure of Pakistani GHQ to effectively supervise execution of plans or to create alternative organization or command arrangements to supervise the conduct of war

The job of an army HQ is not just to formulate plans but to effectively supervise the execution of plans. Ayub in words of a British contemporary was devoid of “operational experience” “organizational understanding” and “lacked tactical flair”.3 Thus Ayub and Musa saw no need to have intermediate corps headquarters to over insure the success of the army’s main attack involving a force of an infantry division and an armoured division. This was a case of extreme naivette rather than a minor error of judgement. Probably the supreme commander was too busy with Five Year Plans and big business and had lost sight of the business of soldiering! His handpicked proxy chief wanted a peaceful tenure in which he would not be forced to exercise any strategic judgement!

The 12 Divisional organizational failure, one of the main reasons of Grand Slam’s failure, was another glaring case of lack of organizational insight on part of Ayub and Musa. While the Indians had bifurcated their forces in Kashmir based on north and south of Pir Panjal range right from 1948 and early 1950s Pakistan’s military supremos naively thought that one divisional headquarter was sufficient to manage a front of 400 miles in a mountainous territory spanning the Himalayas, Karakorams and the Pir Panjal!

Indian and Pakistani armour failures compared

At the strategic level both India and Pakistan got an opportunity to knock out the other side. Pakistan got it twice, first at Akhnur and then at Khem Karan. India got it once at Gadgor on 8th September. Both the sides failed. On the Pakistani side the failure had more to do with lack of strategic insight at Akhnur, ordering a change of horses in the middle of a crucial operation. Then at Khem Karan the Pakistani failure was at divisional level i.e failure to pump in all five armoured regiments on the 8th or 9th September thus achieving a decisive breakthrough.The situation was made worse by absence of Corps Headquarter. The Indian failure at Gadgor had more to do with failure at brigade and divisional level in actual execution despite the fact that the Indians had the mains “available” as well as “physically available” to achieve a breakthrough. The failure was Brigadier K.K Singh Commander Indian 1st Armoured Division who saw a threat to his flanks which in reality was a tank squadron of 62 Cavalry which had lost its way and blundered into the Indian artillery echelons opposite Rangre. The Indians had the means to achieve a breakthrough but failed primarily because lack of coup d oeil and resolution at brigade level. This was a command and execution failure. In Khem Karan on the other hand Pakistan had the resources but failed to bring them into the battle area because of poor staff work and planning at divisional level. Thus on the decisive 8th September Pakistan did not have the means to achieve a breakthrough and this had more to do with poor initial planning and staff work at div and brigade level rather than at the command or execution level. Thus the Pakistani failure was a staff and planning failure in which all from brigade till GHQ were included while the Indian failure was a command failure in which the prime culprits were the armoured brigade and divisional commander.

On the Pakistani side the success at Gadgor had more to do with outstanding leadership at squadron and unit level rather than any operational brilliance at brigade or divisional level. In the Indian success at Khem Karan, however, an important role was played by Indian higher headquarters at divisional corps and army command level.

Triumph of Defence and Failure of Offence as a Form of War

1965 was a failure of offence and triumph of defence. Except in Grand Slam where initial overwhelming superiority enabled Pakistan to achieve a breakthrough, on both sides defence triumphed as a way of war. Both the armies were more used to defence because of British colonial military experience and comparative relative lack of difference in weaponry also ensured that defence triumphed over attack. Thus the attackers failed at Gadgor, Chawinda, Assal, Uttar and Valtoha regardless of religion of the defender! Both the armies lacked the dynamism to conduct attack a far more complicated form of war and totally outside the pre-1947 experience of fighting divisional and brigade level defensive battles till overwhelming superiority enabled the Britisher to resume the offensive as at Alalamein and that too with non-Indian formations like the purely British armoured divisions or in Burma where the British-Indians had overwhelming superiority against the Japanese in tanks and air.

Ignored aspects of the war

There are certain points which are conveniently forgotten or not understood at all. Although the paratroopers failed in Pathankot area their dropping delayed the move forward of 14 Indian Infantry Division to support Indian 1st Armoured Division operations opposite Chawinda. The latter fact was acknowledged by a man no less eminent than the Indian GOC Western Command Harbaksh Singh.4


While Indian GOC Western Command Harbaksh Singh admitted that the Pakistani attack opposite Khem Karan could have been decisive we in Pakistan have twisted 1965 war into a case of blaming the civilians for intriguing against the army and leading it into an aimless military adventure. Even today India’s top military thinker Ravi Rikhye admits that Khem Karan had the potential to be India’s Fourth Battle of Panipat.

Pakistan failed because its military leaders lacked the strategic insight which was necessary to transform its tangible qualitative superiority in equipment and manpower at the tactical level into a victory! 1965 was an undoubted strategic failure on part of Pakistani higher command. Pakistan paid the price six years later. Success would have meant unity. Defeat led to civil war and secession. The fault lay in lack of strategic insight at the military level.

A.H Amin said...

January 2001

The Anatomy of Indo-Pak Wars

A Strategic and Operational Analysis


India and Pakistan have fought three declared wars and many undeclared wars of proxy or low intensity wars. This article is a brief analysis of the essence of these wars at the strategic and operational level.

1947-48 Kashmir War

The 1947-48 War was an improvised war fought on an ad hoc basis. It began with some tangible operational strategy and little definite strategy on the Pakistan side and a definite operational strategy on the Indian side. At the onset Mr Jinnah the Governor General of Pakistan ordered the British Acting C in C Pakistan Army to order two brigades into Kashmir, one on the Sialkot-Jammu Axis and the other on Murree-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar-Axis. This was a tangible plan based on a precise strategy of severing Indian landward and aerial lines of communication to Kashmir. The plan was rendered null and void since the Britisher refused to obey Jinnah’s order.

This was followed by a hastily scrambled series of actions with regular Pakistan Army officers leading irregulars, irregulars besieging Indian/Dogra garrisons and conducting mini-wars against Chamb, Naushera, Srinagar, Skardu, Leh etc. In April 1948 the regular Pakistan Army entered the scene. At this stage the Indians were in a strategically disadvantageous position. Leh being cut off, Poonch besieged, Skardu besieged, Naushera threatened etc. At this stage the Pakistani strategy was to contain Indian Army advance towards Muzaffarabad, capture Poonch and safeguard Pakistan’s soft underbelly opposite Gujrat. No one at this stage thought of a ceasefire, which would have been of great strategic advantage to Pakistan. The Indians conceived a fine plan to outflank Muzaffarabad and executed a brilliant brigade level march across against the 3,000 metres plus high Nastachun Pass, thus unexpectedly forcing their way with great ease to Tithwal. The Pakistani official history noted “Brigadier Harbux Singh, commander of the 163 Brigade waited at Tithwal for two days to let the rest of his brigade join him there . He lingered a little longer to prepare for his next move and perhaps also to coordinate his moves with that of the Indian offensive in the Jhelum Valley for a two pronged push towards Muzaffarabad. This delay changed the subsequent course of history in Kishanganga Valley, as it enabled the first two companies of 4/16 Punjab under Major Mohammad Akbar Khan to reach by a forced march in the vicinity of Tithwal and take up positions there”1. The Pakistanis saved their position by reinforcing it with a brigade.

On the operational level the Pakistanis did well by capturing Pandu a position of tactical importance in the Jhelum Valley by a brilliant infiltration plan conceived by Commander 101 Brigade Brigadier Akbar Khan DSO with the indomitable Major Ishaq MC as his Brigade Major. Akbar deputed Lt Col Harvey Kelly, commanding 4/10 Baluch to plan the attack in detail.2 Pandu, however, was an operational episode of great tactical significance but limited strategic value.

From April 1948 to December 1948 the Pakistani GHQ merely reacted tactically moving companies and battalions while the Indians moved strategically. In Phase One, they recaptured Rajauri the gateway to Poonch with a single tank squadron! In Phase Two, they achieved two strategic triumphs! They forced their way through Zojila Pass driving on to relieve Leh and capture Kargil Dras and they relieved Poonch which was a mini-Indian East Pakistan surrounded from all sides by Pakistani troops.

At this stage the Pakistani GHQ had conceived the Operation Venus. Venus was a thrust against the Indian line of communication leading to Poonch Valley with an infantry and a heavy tank brigade in Naushera-Beri Patan area. At this stage the Indians were involved in the relief of Poonch and Leh and strategically off balance. The official account of 1970, however, maintains that the aim of Venus was not to sever the Indian line of communication to Poonch but merely to force the Indians for ceasefire which they did and which came into effect on night 31 Dec 1948/01 January 1949. If ceasefire was the aim then the Pakistani strategy was barren since a ceasefire in July 1948 would have been far more strategically desirable! This was so since in April 1948 Zojila (captured by Gilgit Scouts under Lieut Shah Khan on 7th July 1948) the gateway to Srinagar as well as Ladakh in Pakistani hands, the frontline near Rajauri and Poonch surrounded by Pakistani troops/irregulars. It is not clear what the Pakistani GHQ advised the civilians at this stage but no records have been made public which prove that they gave any advice!

In the 1960s General Fazal-i- Muqeem asserted that the ceasefire of 1948 took place to the army’s horror since the army was close to a great victory. However, this point is refuted by the Pakistan Army’s Official account of 1970. Much later in 1976 General Sher Ali who was commanding a brigade of the Venus Force asserted that had the operation been launched Pakistani tanks would have been in Jammu within no time! This has to be taken with a pinch of salt once we compare it to the performance of armour in an offensive role in 1965 and 1971!

The Kashmir War ended with the Indians as masters of Poonch Valley, Srinagar Valley and Leh Valley but with a communication to all three valleys running precariously close to the Pakistani border! Thus strategically the Indian position despite all their strategic triumphs was not secure since their line of communications offered multiple objectives to any single Pakistani thrust. One tank brigade with a twenty mile thrust could threaten the existence of a whole Indian army corps. The Indians took no care to remedy this state of affairs despite many war games held in their Kashmir Corps to show that the Pakistanis could threaten the Indian line of communication in Poonch Valley.3

1965 War

The 1965 War was a comical affair! Civilians at the foreign ministry assessed that the Indians could be knocked out at the strategic level while soldiers at the highest military level and political level, the president being a soldier were not interested in any military adventure. The civilian hawks led by Bhutto, however, were in league with a group of generals and brigadiers within the army and finally succeeded in persuading the president

(famous for tactical timidity in Burma) into embarking on a military adventure. Musa the army chief had little strategic insight and was against any military adventure in which he may be forced to exercise his qualities of leadership! Musa had rudimentary understanding of strategy and tank warfare since he was a political choice appointed more because he was seen as politically no threat rather than for any military strategic or operational talent!

The Pakistani offensive plan i.e. a thrust against Indian line of communication at Akhnur in case of a limited war in Kashmir or/and against Indian line of communication between Indian Corps holding Ravi-Sutlej Corridor at Jandiala Guru on Amritsar-Jullundhur road in case of an all out war was brilliant in conception. This was so because if successful any of the two plans would have forced the Indians to sue for peace at best and to surrender at worst. No less an authority than the Indian Western Command C in C Harbaksh Singh thus confessed

“A Blitzkrieg deep into our territory towards the Grand Trunk Road or the Beas Bridge would have found us in the helpless position of a commander paralysed into inaction for want of readily available reserves while the enemy was inexorably pushing deep into our vitals. It is a nightmarish feeling even when considered in retrospect at this stage”.

To the Pakistan Army’s misfortune a plan which was brilliant at the strategic and operational level failed simply because those who were leading the military machine at the highest level lacked the strategic insight as well as resolution! The first opportunity was thus missed in Chamb-Jaurian Sector, when even a foreigner i.e. Chinese Foreign Minister visiting Pakistani thought that Akhnur5 was the key!

The second and most serious operational failure occurred in Khem Karan.This had more to do with poor execution at the divisional and brigade level and poor initial higher organization and composition of troops at the divisional level. The first being an operational failure and the second being an organizational failure at the higher command level.

At the operational and tactical level three events stand out in the war i.e. the Grand Slam Operation in Chamb-Jaurian, blunting of Indian offensive at Chawinda at Gadgor on 8th September when one lone tank regiment gave a severe mauling to two tank regiments out of a total available Indian force of an armoured division, and a brigade level counter attack in Lahore Sector.

Grand Slam failed because of change of command! Not because Akhtar Malik was better than Yahya but because one man either Akhtar or Yahya should have conducted the whole operation! The Indians admitted that their position was saved because of the pause of 48 hours, which occurred at Tawi after the Pakistani Chief Musa ordered change of horses in the mid stream!

Now the battle of Gadgor. Technically Gadgor was 24 Infantry Brigade Group versus 1st Indian Armoured Division. In reality the contest was 25 Cavalry versus Poona and Hodsons Horse since 24 Brigade Commander told Colonel Nisar to “do something”6 the vaguest order of 1965 War! Nisar had no idea of what was in front but by a miraculous coup d oeil deployed his tank regiment 25 Cavalry in a manner which would produce an instant nervous breakdown in an instructor who taught tank tactics at the armour school! 25 Cavalry was deployed by Nisar like a thin line of steel! Like a thin net to catch a whale! The manoeuvre if it can be called one succeeded because the Indian brigade commander was paralysed by the fog of war! Thus Commander Indian 1st Armoured Brigade saw a finger as a mountain! He saw a threat to his flanks which in reality was a half squadron of Indian 62 Cavalry which had lost its way and fired at Indian Artillery opposite Rangre! What Nisar deployed after the “Do Something” order was seen by the Indian brigade commander as a tank brigade! Thus he lost the will to use two uncommitted tank regiments to outflank the Pakistani position! Gadgor was a psychological defeat inflicted on K.K Singh by Nisar with Nisar not knowing what was in front of him and K.K Singh over estimating three times what was really in front of him. Thus in cognitive terms, at Gadgor was a tank regiment commander who did not know what was in front of him against a tank brigade commander who was overawed by what he assessed was in front of him and was reduced into a state of total inertia and indecision. The important factor in this decisive battle was the fact that tangibly K.K Singh had the third tank regiment as well as three uncommitted squadrons within his two committed tank regiments with which he could have easily outflanked Nisar and got to his rear! Nisar had tangibly no reserves with which he could have countered K.K’s outflanking manoeuvre.

The counter attack of Brigadier Qayyum Sher in Lahore Sector was a successful divisional battle ordered by Major General Sarfaraz MC and executed by Brigadier Qayyum Sher most resolutely! It produced a crisis on the Indian side and threw the Indians off balance! Both retired in the same rank sometimes after the war!

1971 War

The 1971 War was a strange war! The Indians won great glory but failed to strategically solve their military problems! They overran East Pakistan creating a new state of Bangladesh but merely reduced Pakistan’s defence problems and increased their own problems by creating a new state which became more hostile to India and is far more difficult to militarily to deal with than the old East Pakistan!

The Indians, and an authority no less eminent than their 1971 GOC Western Command General Candeth have admitted that had the Pakistanis started a pre-emptive war in October 1971 all their plans to attack East Pakistan would have been thrown to the winds!7 But strategic insight had not been inculcated yet in the Pakistan Army! The Pakistanis waited and allowed the Indians to attack them in December 1971.

Much has been said about a Pakistani counter offensive in December 1971 to save East Pakistan. At this stage the Indian 1 Corps was in position and the Pakistani Higher Command like K.K Singh on 8th September to gamble their last card! There was a reason for this inaction. One that the cost was too heavy and the second that armour higher commanders (the CGS Gul Hassan and GOC 1st Armoured Division) as Yahya Khan asserts had lost the will to launch an attack.

Two cases of operational brilliance and one case of a Gadgor type tactical heroic stand out in 1971. These are the cases of the Pakistani 23 Division offensive in Chamb, the Indian defence of Poonch and the Barapind-Jarpal Battle. In Chamb Pakistan’s General Eftikhar successfully fought a divisional battle in which he deliberately manoeuvred a force of two plus tank regiments inflicting a severe mauling on the Indians forcing them to abandon Chamb. Eftikhar was firmly in control at all stages. When his initial tank thrust was checked at Maandiala he did not sink into inertia or indecision like K.K Singh at Gadgor or Pakistan’s Naseer at Khem Karan! Nor did Eftikhar tell his armoured brigade commander to “Do Something”! Eftikhar did not abdicate the conduct of operational strategy to any tank regiment of tank brigade commander! He resolutely regrouped his command and launched another attack from the south emerging victorious! The second case was the Indian stand at Poonch. The Pakistanis conceived a fine plan to capture Poonch but the Indian brigade commander at Poonch was too resolute while the Pakistani divisional and brigade commanders at Poonch lost their nerve!

The third case of a Gadgor type battle occurred at Barapind! Here the Pakistani tank brigade commander gave a simple order to resort to counter penetration to his tank regiment commander who on his own converted it into an attack! Unfortunately he carried out a piece meal attack, first sending in a squadron and then two more! The Indians admit that had 13 Lancers attacked with all three squadrons8 they would have broken through despite nominal artillery support. The hero of this battle was not the Indian brigade or regiment commander but the Indian squadron who blunted the attack and the Indian troop leader Arun Khetarpal who stopped the attack by skin of his teeth losing his life in the process! In words of Indian Armoured Corps historian the Indian success was attributable to a ‘last ditch stand by just one tank troop leader’.

1984 Crisis

The 1984 Crisis was a calculated Indian response against alleged Pakistani involvement in the Sikh Insurgency in Punjab. Tangibly the Indian position was far superior to Pakistan since Pakistan Army was still equipped with the old T-59s. The situation was saved by two Individuals who polished off the Indian ‘Durga Devi’ thus leading to a swift de-escalation of the crisis.

Siachen Crisis
1984-To Date
A case of zero strategic insight on the Indian side and of personal ambition on part of two and three star Indian generals to start private wars to gain promotion. Both sides gained nothing and one Indian Division and one Pakistani brigade is committed to a mad sentry duty role since 1984!

1987 Crisis

The 1987 Crisis was a case of over enthusiasm at the military level with little outward enthusiasm at the highest political level. The Indian Chief Sundarji was living in visions of Glory and visualized that a military manoeuvre would escalate into a war which would lead to a successful Indian military thrust severing the Pakistani line of communication in Rahimyar Khan Sector thus leading to the emergence of a new state in Pakistani Sindh and the creation of a second Indian Field Marshal after Manekshaw i.e Sundarji!

Comically Sundarji’s visions of glory were not matched by strategic insight! Thus he was overawed into inaction and inertia like K.K Singh at Gadgor, once the Pakistani High Command relocated the Pakistani reserves northwards in a purely defensive move!

1987 was a watershed and marked the Indian Army at its lowest position in the eyes of the highest Indian political leadership

vis-a-vis the high position of 1971. Sundarji destroyed all that the Indian Army had gained in 25 years with one night of irresolution and inertia!

1999 Crisis

The 1999 Crisis in Kargil were the result of an audacious Pakistani plan to inflict a sharp but highly subtle psychological defeat on the Indians by threatening the Indian line of communication to Leh and Siachen by placing a small Pakistani force on the heights overlooking the Dras-Kargil-Leh Road. The execution at tactical level was brilliant albeit marked by poor logistic arrangements at divisional level! The Pakistani political leadership lost the resolution to press home the move to its final conclusion. Full facts are not available about what the Pakistan Army’s highest leadership wanted at this point in time.

The Indians payed a heavy price in terms of casualties for an intelligence failure. What Pakistan gained or lost is not clear although a debate continues about who was Kargils winner. Kargil stands out as merely one stage in a long series of actions in Pakistani military history. If Kargil was a political failure then logically the army should have packed off the political leadership in June 1999! Yet it chose to blame Nawaz only later on like it blamed Liaquat for calling off Operation Venus in 1948! Have things changed or we changed!


Indo-Pak Military history is a continuous story of strategic failures and a mix of operational successes and failures. At the tactical level both the armies fought well.

The reasons for the strategic failures are historical. Both states are successor states of the British Colonial Indian Empire. Indians were not groomed or trained for making strategic decisions. Strategic insight is the result of a process spread over many generations. The German General Staff was not created by a sudden flight. Even the British Empire was not created by the strategic genius of one man! Militarily the failure of both armies at the higher level is more easy to understand. Both were the continuation of a colonial army designed for internal security and brigade level actions. The Indian Army in WW Two either fought as part of a larger British Army or in circumstances of immense material superiority with massive US military aid as in Burma! The political failure in Pakistan is equally simple to explain since in words of Mr Jinnah most of the Muslim politicians would not do anything without consulting the DC (Deputy Commissioner)! That may be a reason why Nawaz Sharif went to DC!

A.H Amin said...

The 1971 War

An examination of the strategic concept of

the war


September 2000

The strategic concept of Pakistan’s defence i.e. ‘Defence of East Pakistan lies in the West’ was formulated by Ayub Khan in late fifties and became the foundation of Pakistan’s defence policy. The concept envisaged having bulk of the army in the northern half of the West Wing and was based on the assumption that this arrangement would force India to keep bulk of its army/strategic reserves on its western front. We will analyse the various aspects of this concept as following:-


The interconnection between the internal and
external fronts. The basis of defence and stability of a country is absolute harmony and in consonance with the internal and external fronts. The internal front means ‘morale of the civilian population’ ‘their belief in the legitimacy and moral credibility of the political government’ ‘belief in national aims and ideology of the country’ ‘identification with the Armed Forces of the country as defenders of the country’s integrity’ etc etc. External front includes the country’s Armed Forces, and its foreign policy. A country’s defence is based on both and any weakness in one will weaken the other. This inter-relationship was ignored by Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership during the period 1947-71. The Muslim League was initially dominated by a partnership of refugees from Muslim minority provinces and later by a combination of Punjabi Muslims and civil-military bureaucrats. The Bengalis were alienated first because of the National language issue and later because of the constitutional representation issue. The Bengalis were initially patriotic and only demanded linguistic equality and had even agreed to political parity in 1956. This arrangement was seriously disturbed once Ayub usurped political power in 1958. Immediately after independence the founder of the nation Mr Jinnah made an attempt to broaden the army’s recruitment base by ordering the raising of the East Bengal Regiment in 1948. This was a purely political decision taken by Mr Jinnah and implemented by a British C in C. By December 1948 two battalions of this unit composed of Bengali Muslims had been raised. This process was, however, discontinued once Ayub Khan an intellectually naive and tactically timid man became the Pakistan Army’s C in C in 1951. Ayub was biased against having Bengalis in the army. During his tenure an unwritten policy of not raising any more Bengali infantry battalions was followed. Ayub also retired the most promising Bengali officer Major General Majeed soon after taking over. The East Bengal Regiment was limited to two units and the expanded Pakistan Army remained a largely Punjabi dominated army. The irony of the whole affair was the fact that during this entire period all the army chiefs were non-Punjabi! In any case this was the first serious negation of the concept of having a national army. The Army was on the other hand firstly viewed as a Punjabi Army in the East Wing. Secondly and far more worse; it was viewed as an organisation designed primarily for the defence of the West Wing. The 1965 war further convinced the Bengalis that the army was not a national army but one designed to defend the West Wing. Thus from 1965 the rift between the internal and external fronts became much wider and the army was increasingly viewed as a foreign entity in the East Wing. The seeds of the events of 1971 were laid during the Ayub era. The Bengali populace viewed the federal government as a neo colonial government with its political base in the West Wing. The Army was increasingly viewed as a coercive instrument which was aimed at perpetuating the West Wing’s political and economic exploitation of the East Wing. By 1971 Pakistan’s ‘Internal Front’ was seriously eroded and this in turn greatly weakened its external front.


The Military Capability to implement the strategic concept. Till 1962 the military balance between Pakistan and India was equal. The Sino-Indian conflict led to a major change in Indian defence policy and the Indians initiated a major programme of military expansion. In 1965 when the second Indo-Pak War took place; the relative Indo-Pak military capabilities were not as significant; and Pakistan was better placed at least in terms of strategic reserves. Stoppage of US military aid in 1965 brought a major change in the military sphere. Pakistan concluded an alternate defence arrangement with China but this was not sufficient to redress the imbalance. India on the other hand more rapidly expanded her Armed Forces and the gap between India and Pakistan in terms of infantry formations became far more wider than in 1965. Thus India’s overall military superiority over Pakistan increased from 1965 when it was about 20 to 35 in Infantry1 to 15 to 32 in 1971. The situation became far more worse in terms of strategic reserves since Pakistan’s armour potential was severely reduced because of stoppage of US aid. The Indians on the other hand almost completely replaced their ancient tank fleet of 1965 with brand new Vijayanta-Vickers or Russian supplied T-54/55 Tanks. In brief Pakistan did not possess the military capability to implement the strategic concept.


Pakistan’s Internal Situation. The military regime of Yahya made an honest attempt to bring democracy in Pakistan and successfully held Pakistan’s first ever general elections based on Universal Suffrage since 1946. The country was already polarised because of the political legacy of the Ayub era and the East Wing was on the verge of secession. This situation was not of Yahya’s making but inherited by him. The situation demanded extraordinary political vision which was sadly missing in the country’s political as well as military leadership. Yahya although sincere at heart believed in the power of bayonet and thought that the East Wing could be kept within the federation through military action. The consequences of the surgical and brief military action were not fully grasped by Yahya and most of the West Wing’s politicians. In 1971 the country was divided and in no position to simultaneously deal with a civil war as well as an external war. This adverse internal situation nullified the whole concept.


Lack of clarity in the Pakistani Military Higher Command about the ‘Modus Operandi’ of executing the Strategic Concept. It may be noted that at least till 1968-69 the Pakistani GHQ was not clear about ‘what action should be taken in West Pakistan if an Indian attack was mounted against East Pakistan’2. In brief the Pakistani military leadership was confused and vague about the method of execution of the strategic concept; i.e. ‘Defence of East Pakistan lies in West Pakistan’ as late as 1968-69 at the time when defence plans were revised under General Yaqub Khan’s tenure as CGS. The concept was based on the assumption that Indian pressure/threat against East Pakistan could be dealt with by launching a major counter offensive taking the war inside Indian territory on the Western Front. This was a very generalized assumption and was interpreted by different officers in a different manner. General Gul Hasan who took over as CGS had more clear ideas about the implementation of this concept; but Gul’s views were not shared by the higher military leadership. One school of thought led by the CGS General Gul Hassan felt that this could be best done by ‘simultaneous launching of preliminary operations and the counter offensive’ or ‘that the reaction to any Indian invasion of East Pakistan should be an all out offensive by Pakistan’s Strike Corps i.e. the I Corps’3. Yahya and his Chief of Staff General Hameed felt otherwise. They were of the view that ‘preliminary (local level tactical attacks) operations by the holding formations should be launched first and when the preliminary objectives had been secured and the enemy’s attention had been diverted, the main counter offensive should be set in motion.4 Yahya and Hameed failed to realise that the only chance of salvation in 1971 when Pakistan was facing serious odds was in resorting to the boldest measures. Gul’s views were not accepted and Yahya and Hameed decided on a vague plan of ‘first launch preliminary operations followed by counter offensive’. The final strategic plan was vague and confusing on two counts; i.e. firstly it did not take into account the fact that the Indians enjoyed overwhelming superiority in the Eastern Theatre and possessed the potential of overrunning East Pakistan; secondly no time frame was fixed for launching the counter offensive of 1 Corps. It may be noted that Pakistan possessed relatively superior strategic reserves on in the Western Theatre and its 1 Corps two strike divisions i.e. 6 Armoured Division and 17 Division had no offensive role. In brief once Pakistan embarked on war its strategic plans were confused and vague and its strike formation was not clear about when it was to be launched. This conceptual confusion doomed Pakistan’s strategic plans from the onset.

The Validity of the Chinese Card

The Chinese card on which so much hope was based had limited and seasonal validity! The Himalayan snow fall blocked the passes through which China could militarily influence the war! This seasonal factor was never incorporated as an important factor in the Pakistani strategic plan. If China was to be involved or Chinese friendship tested the ideal time to launch a pre-emptive attack on India was mid-June or mid-July or even September. Manekshaw the Indian Chief realised this and forced Indira to wait till December when the Himalayan snowfall had completely nullified chances of Chinese overland intervention and had freed India’s Mountain Divisions facing China for the attack on East Pakistan.
The Fate of Pakistan Army’s Strategic Plan in Actual Execution

Foch defined two broad essentials of strategy i.e. ‘Economy of Force’ and ‘Preservation of Freedom of Manoeuvre’. The Pakistani GHQ did well in case of the first and created a strong strategic reserve by new raisings and by economising sectors which were relatively less vulnerable. Its response to the East Pakistan insurgency in the first phase in March 1971 was praised even by Indian military writers as ‘a remarkable performance on Pakistan’s part’5. China aided Pakistan immensely and two new infantry divisions were raised to replace the 9 and 16 Divisions which were Pakistan’s strategic reserve till March 1971. In addition Pakistan raised 18 and 23 Division in June July 1971 and the 33 and 37 Division on the eve of the war. It may be noted that apart from this Pakistan had also raised two independent armoured brigades in 1970 by withdrawing the integral armoured regiments of some of its existing infantry divisions.6 All these measures gave the Pakistani commanders a significant strategic reserve to implement the official strategy of launching a counter offensive on the Western Front aimed at ensuring that the Indians could not concentrate their entire strength and over run East Pakistan. However, the Pakistani GHQ failed in the actual execution of this strategic plan.

It was in preservation of ‘Freedom of action’ that the Pakistani GHQ failed. This freedom of action could be preserved and denied on the other hand to the Indians only if Pakistan launched its counter offensive immediately after the war started. If this had been done it was possible that the Indians could have been forced to pull out some of their formations from the Eastern Theatre; thereby reducing the pressure on Pakistan’s Eastern Command. Since no such counter offensive was launched; India was allowed to invade and conquer East Pakistan at leisure. In the meantime two Pakistani armoured divisions; one independent armoured brigade (3 Armoured Brigade-Lahore) and three infantry divisions (17, 7 and 37) remained uncommitted during the entire war.

Once the war started the Indians were extremely cautious. Once they realised that Pakistan was irresolute; they became more audacious and stepped up their offensive operation. In Shakargarh for example the Indian 1 Corps Commander had initially earmarked five of his nine infantry brigades for a holding role. Once he realised by 7th September that Pakistan was not launching any major attack in his area of operations he switched three of his holding infantry brigades into an offensive role. This increased pressure, forced the Pakistani GHQ to pull out one armoured regiment from its 23 Division attack in Chamb and to commit half of its 33 Division (a part of the strategic reserve) to defence of Shakargarh. In addition the other half of 33 Division was committed to the defence of the Southern Sector once the 18 Division attack towards Loganewala failed. As a result of this increased pressure the Indians were unable to impose their will on the Pakistani GHQ in strategic terms.

This was despite the fact that Pakistan had a relatively better offensive potential in the Western Theatre.
Yahya Khan based the entire Pakistani plan on the wishful thought that the Indians would never invade East Pakistan. Once the Indians did so he became indecisive and kept on delaying the decision of launching Pakistan’s strategic reserve in order to reduce Indian pressure on the Eastern Command. He only decided to launch the counter offensive on 16 December when the Eastern Command had surrendered. Thus the strategic concept i.e. defence of East Pakistan lies in West Pakistan; whatever it was worth in words of General K.M Arif was never tried or implemented.

Chances of Success of Pakistani I Corps Offensive

We will examine in brief the chances of success of the Pakistani 2 Corps offensive; in case it had been launched in brief. The Strike Force consisted of one armoured division (T-59/T-54/55 Tanks) and two infantry divisions (7 and 37 Division) which were based in area Arifwala-Pirowal-Burewala-Bahawalnagar. This strike corps was to launch the main attack inside Indian territory from general area Sadiq Ganj-Amruka-Minchinabad and thrust towards Bhatinda; thereafter, swinging north towards Ludhiana. The Indians were relatively well placed in this area and had their 1st Armoured Division in Muktsar area consisting of four armoured regiments (Vijayantas) and three mechanised infantry battalions. Apart from this they had two covering troop forces i.e. the ‘Mike Force’ (T-54 and T-55) comprising one tank regiment and one tank regiment minus, one squadron in area in Ganganagar area. This force was tasked to threaten the flanks of Pakistani 1st Armoured Division in case it attacked India while the 1st Indian Armoured Division manouvred into action. In addition the ‘Foxtrot Force’ (T-54/55) consisting of one tank regiment and another tank regiment less one squadron was already under command 67 Independent Brigade tasked with defence of Fazilka.

The above mentioned dispositions meant that force wise the Indians were well poised to defend the area where Pakistan’s main counteroffensive was to be launched. The result would surely have been a fierce clash of armour which may have led to a draw or one side inflicting relatively greater losses on the other without making much headway in the final reckoning.

This means that the 1 Corps attack even if launched held no guarantee of success in terms of relieving the pressure on East Pakistan or in terms of capturing a strategic objective. There was, however, one guarantee of success for Pakistan’s 2 Corps too! This was in case Pakistan launched a pre-emptive attack on India in early October. This would have been a good option. Pakistan in any case had been condemned for human right violations and genocide and this allegation is levelled even today. Unfortunately its leadership remained obsessed with diplomatic niceties and hairsplitting and tried to play an all correct conduct game. Thus this golden chance was lost.

Other Offensive Options

Pakistan had other offensive options to relieve pressure on East Pakistan. These included employment of its northern strike corps i.e. the 1 Corps (6 Armoured Division and 17 Division) to launch a thrust in the far more vulnerable Indian belly between Pathankot and Chamb; thereby threatening the lifeline of four Indian divisions in Kashmir; forcing the Indians to switch their 1st Armoured Division north of Beas River. This was a far better option since an advance of 15 to 20 miles would have enabled Pakistan to sever the Indian line of communication. In the case of 2 Corps counter offensive the operation involved an advance of more than 60 miles in face of an Indian armoured division. In 1 Corps area the Indians had two armoured brigades as against one Pakistani Armoured Division and one independent armoured brigades. The Pakistani GHQ, however, made no plans for any offensive employment of 1 Corps, offensive employment and this formation was left unutilised throughout the war. Initially two of its armoured regiments were employed in the 23 Division attack in Chamb and after 10 December once, one of its armoured regiments reverted back to it; it was given no other task except to be prepared to launch a counterattack in Zafarwal.
Pakistani Military Leadership’s Dilemma. It became fashionable after the war to heap all the blame on Yahya and his cronies. Yahya, as a matter of fact was a far more capable chief than Musa. He inherited a situation which was of Ayub’s making. Yahya did his best to remedy the serious military imbalances; raised new formations; improved plans where none as a matter of fact had existed. He was faced with a hostile neighbour having full support of USSR; while at the same time facing a civil war created because of ambition of two crafty politicians. The odds with which Yahya was faced were high and demanded the strategic vision of Moltke and the operational talent of a Rommel or Manstein. There were some Rommels like General Eftikhar but no Moltke’s to give higher strategic direction. Yahya was initially dynamic but successively became more timid and cautious at a time when the only salvation was in resorting to the boldest measures. Even the Indians praised Yahya’s initial conduct. One author thus wrote: ‘Nevertheless Yahya showed a good sense in taking decisions and his command decisions were generally well deliberated upon and sound. He had been thrown into a rotten situation, which had come into being the day Pakistan came into being with its two wings. His only hope lay in somehow getting round Mujeeb and getting him to see reason, he tried that... he had perhaps achieved a measure of success too... but the cyclone of 12/13 November destroyed everything... the elections gave the Bengalis an overwhelming majority. The Six Points would have meant a virtual dismemberment of Pakistan. This could not be permitted. So the only course open was to hold military rule and restore the law and order if necessary by force’7. Kissinger in his White House Years has asserted that it was USA’s intervention which saved West Pakistan from being overrun by India. This is a vague statement. It is doubtful whether India was willing to invade West Pakistan in force after the fall of East Pakistan.

The answer to Pakistan’s dilemma was a bold attack and only a bold all out attack could have forced India to drop the idea of invading East Pakistan. Long ago Clausewitz well summed up the solution for states like Pakistan in 1971 when he said ‘Offensive war, that is the taking advantage of the present moment, is always commanded when the future holds out a better prospect not to ourselves but to our adversary’. In this case the future had better prospects for India and Pakistan’s only hope was an all out offensive posture. Clausewitz defined the solution in yet more detail in the following words ‘Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not; if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages Ñ it will rather increase the disparity of forces-but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account’8.

Indian General Candeth who commanded the Indian Western Command made a very thought-provoking remark in his memoir of 1971 war which proves that Pakistan’s only chance lay in offensive action. Candeth thus wrote:-

‘The most critical period was between 8 and 26 October when 1 Corps and 1 Armoured Division were still outside Western Command. Had Pakistan put in a pre-emptive attack, during that period, the consequences would have been too dreadful to contemplate and all our efforts during the war would have been spent in trying to correct the adverse situation forced on us’.9


Only a Napoleon or a Frederick could have saved Pakistan in 1971 from being divided and humiliated and cut to size! There were potential Napoleons and Fredericks in the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 but these were systematically sidelined or weeded out from 1950 to 1958. A conspiracy against originality and boldness! Ironically the political situation that the Pakistan Army inherited was created once the West Pakistan Civil servants and the then army C in C had ganged up in the period 1951-58 to keep the much despised Bengali in his place! The civilians did well in creating the 1956 Constitution which solved all major political problems of Pakistan. The politicians were, however, never allowed to implement this constitution since its implementation through holding of a general elections in 1959 may have led to a East Bengali victory, thus seriously reducing the civil-military dominance of Pakistani politics. Thus martial law was imposed in 1958 to avoid a general election! Ironically the army finally saw the light of the day a bit too late once a martial law was imposed in 1969 to hold a general election ! The tide of history in these 11 years had become irreversible! Strategic insight could at best have averted total humiliation! But there was no strategic insight since Ayub Khan had ensured from 1950 to 1969 that no strategic insight should be groomed and cultivated!

A.H Amin said...

Indo-Pak Wars
A Strategic Summing Up

Excerpts from final chapter of ‘Pakistan Army Since 1965’ the second part of two volume history of the Pakistan Army written by A.H Amin

May 2001

Clausewitz states that it is far more difficult to understand strategy than tactics since things move very slowly in strategy and the principal actors are far away from the heat and friction of the battlefield. Thus strategy is a hundred more times difficult to comprehend and conduct than tactics.

In this final chapter which sums up all that happened we will endeavour to arrive at a strategic summing up.

The first fact that stands out is that the men who dominated the Indo-Pak scene, in the period that we have studied, both soldiers and politicians, were all tacticians, none being a strategist! They, some of whom were great men, were caught in historical currents, which were too strong to be manipulated! On one side was a Jungian situation with deep hatred of communalism firmly ingrained in the unfathomed and mysterious subconscious of the vast bulk of the populace! An irrational albeit substantial hatred that increased with leaps and bounds as ambitious middle and higher classes fought for jobs and legislative council seats! These men were clever in a tactical way, having been to some British University or a Legal Inn and were driven by burning egos to be the successors of the British Viceroys! Initially they borrowed some leafs from Europe’s Nationalism and talked about India and India’s independence as a country! Politics, however, remained in the drawing rooms of rich businessmen and feudals and chambers of barristers and lawyers till the First World War. The First World War constitutes a watershed in world history! It destroyed five Empires, four i.e the Romanoff, Hapsburg, Hohenzollern and Ottoman totally and one i.e the British who won the war but theirs was a Pyhric victory! They lost the will to retain their empire since the flower of its youth was destroyed on the battlefields of France! This fact was indirectly acknowledged by Alan Brooke the British Warlord once he admitted in writing that Britain lost its best men in the First World War.

The First World War aroused great expectations in India and the mild lawyers who dominated the Indian political scene before the war saw far greater opportunities in the near future! If Lenin could mobilize the masses in the name of revolution and Kemal could do it in the name of Turkish Nationalism, why not mobilize the Indian masses too over some slogan! Alas India was only a geographical expression! A mosaic of complicated ethnic groups, castes, religions, sects! Who could be the Indian Lenin or Mustafa Kemal! How to bring a revolution! A Hindu called Gandhi discovered one cheap tactical response! A melodramatic employment of ancient Indian/Hindu slogans and names! This wily man tactically outwitted the outwardly more clever nationalists who dominated the pre-war congress! Two Muslims also arrived at similar conclusions like Gandhi! These were the Jauhar Brothers who mobilized the Indian Muslims in the name of Islam by unsolicitedly taking up the already doomed c!ause of the Turkish Caliphate! Religion was injected in the blood of Indian politics! It started from Punjab, which had been bled, white on the bloody fields of Flanders, Mesopotamia, Gallipoli and Egypt! Martial Law was imposed in the Punjab in 1919! The sword arm of India, at least the areas south of Chenab, was now suddenly transformed into a bastion of revolutionary activity! The Britishers were saved simply because while Punjab burnt, Bengal was relatively tranquil and UP was still not mobilized by Gandhi and Jauhar! Just like 1857 when UP was in rebellion and Punjab and Bengal were staunchly loyal! Politicians in a vague political environment in which no one was clear about India’s political future employed religion as a tactical weapon! This was the period 1919-1923! What was the Khilafat Slogan in the strategic sense, except as a short-term ploy to mobilize the Indians! What was Gandhi’s Non- Co-operation without violence! A river raised into a massive flood, which ended in a destination less desert! Tactical behaviour does not lead to strategic results and this is what happened! The Congress remained the largest organized party but was perceived as a Hindu dominated entity by the more provincial as well as Muslim dominated parties! The Khilafat exhausted the Muslims without any long-term aims! The British came up with a strategy of provincial autonomy with the carrot appointment of provincial premiers that effectively checked chances of success of any all India rebellion against the British! Mr Jinnah left the Congress but was confined to the Muslim minority provinces! And had no concrete programme, at least in the period 1923-39. So much for the politicians!

Now the soldiers! The Indians finally achieved their target of having commissioned ranks in the army! Here too the victory was tactical! Indians a term then used for all who lived in the Indo-Pak before 1947 were supposed to be platoon commanders or company commanders and not battalion, brigade, divisional or corps commanders! Needless to add some even today are platoon or company commanders despite outwardly wearing ranks of brigade, divisional or corps commanders! Pakistan was more unfortunate in having one who was the army chief but functioned like a platoon commander during the period 1958-66! Another such platoon cum corps commander doomed the Pakistani cause in 1971 in the East Pakistan! True that he was an MC, but then many JCOs were MCs and retired as MCs! If gallantry awards alone are a criteria for higher ranks then at least five of Indian or Pakistan Army chiefs should have been rankers who won the VC in WW Two! A fifty percent ranker quota in the officer ranks deliberately imposed by the British ensured that the Indian officer corps remained naive in essence! The other fifty percent were also taken care of simply by ensuring that watchful deputy commissioners weeded out the potentially brighter and independent ones in the initial screening for officer ranks! The Second World War changed everything! The British even then ensured that no Indian should command anything beyond a battalion in actual combat barring Thimaya who commanded a brigade in action in an acting capacity! Instead the British promoted many Britons with five or six years service to command brigades! Indians were kept at mostly administrative jobs or did not cross the battalion commander line! This was an imperial strategic response! The Britishers were clear that more Indians in higher ranks after the war could be potentially dangerous! Thus the response not to have Indians in higher ranks! The Second World War, however, destroyed the British resolve to stay in India! Even then what we call the Independence and what they call the transfer of power in 1947 was their parting kick! One state too big to be effective as an advanced and developed state and one state with a geographical incoherence was their parting gift! The irrefutable lesson of post-1919 Indian history is the fact that the British response at every stage was strategic, while the Indian response at every stage was tactical! The reason was simple! India was too diverse and disunited to respond strategically! The Congress move not to have Muslim ministers in UP in 1937 was a cheap tactical reaction which strategically doomed the Congress aim to rule over an undivided India! Mr Jinnah’s agreement on the clause that each princely state’s ruler could opt to join India or Pakistan regardless of the states religious composition was again a tactical response! The imposition of Boundary Commissions to partition Punjab and Bengal were again strategic responses of the British to ensure that Indo-Pak remains a hostage to a vicious cycle of never ending disputes!

The Second World War strategy not to have Indians in higher ranks paid immense dividends in the First 1947-48 Indo-Pak War in Kashmir! Both the armies had British C in Cs who were in constant communication with each other many times in a day and conducted the strategy while Indian brigade and divisional commanders took care of the tactical part! Mr Jinnah did make one meaningful attempt to be the strategist once he ordered the Pakistan Army into Kashmir but this move was blocked because Jinnah had no capable lieutenant and institutionally the Pakistan Army was British dominated!

Mr Nehru remained a tactician even as prime minister of India! He saw the army as a threat and attempted to reduce its stature! He learnt his lesson in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and, thereafter, did make an attempt to introduce strategic reforms in the Indian Army. Pakistan on the other hand remained in the hands of second rate tactician politicians who delayed constitution making simply because the ruling elite which was from the west wing knew that elections would mean sitting in the opposition ranks with a Bengal Muslim Aborigine ruling them!

The Pakistan Army was doomed to be led by an indigenous chief who had no strategic understanding and did not want to have anything to do with higher strategy! He did have grandiose ideas like Napoleon the Third but lacked operational insight or strategic depth.

We will examine the strategic scenario with the above-mentioned background in mind.

The First 1947-48 Indo-Pak War

The British started with a strategic plan having Britishers dominating the key posts in both the newly created countries! The war was fought largely by individuals on the Pakistani side and by the British Governor General and senior army commanders on the Indian side! Gilgit was won by Pakistan simply because the British officers of Gilgit scouts and the Gilgit Scouts VCOs acted with remarkable unison! No credit to the Pakistani Government, which had no clue about what was happening in Gilgit in September-October 1947. The Indians were doomed in this case since their Dogra Governor made plain his intentions to do away with the Gilgit Scouts! The VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts acted tactically but while doing so achieved a great strategic victory for Pakistan! It was a fairly even contest. There were two non- Muslim Companies in the 6 J and K at Bunji against two non-Muslim Companies! There was an airfield at Gilgit just like there was one at Sringar! The Indians lost the Northern Areas because of outright strategic incompetence! The Pakistanis have proved equally strategically barren! No statue at Islamabad commemorates what the VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts led by the indomitable Scott Major W.A Brown achieved for Pakistan in October November 1947! Without Gilgit or Baltistan what would have been Pakistan’s China policy! There was a Dogra Governor in Gilgit in 1947! Today the Northern Area still does not have a Gilgiti Muslim Governor!

The situation in the Jhelum Valley was saved by tribals who possessed Èlan and great fervour but had no strategic insight! Something for which they cannot be blamed! Bhimbhar was won by local militia while Poonch was besieged by local militias only to be lost once Pakistan Army had entered the scene in 1948. On the Indian side the crowning feat of strategic insight was capture of Zojila, the brainchild of Thimaya. Something, which vindicates this scribe’s humble assertion in the previous paragraphs, i.e Thimaya was the only Indian who had commanded a brigade in actual action in the Second World War!

In the final summing up, the Kashmir war of 1948 was a partial Indian victory and a strategic Pakistani failure since the Indians delayed ceasefire till the relief of Poonch and recapture of Kargil-Ladakh, while the Pakistani leadership delayed ceasefire while Poonch was surrounded by West Pakistan like East Pakistan was surrounded by India and Zojila the gateway to Baltistan was in Pakistani hands! The Indian acceptance of ceasefire on 31 December 1948 had a strategic design while the Pakistani non acceptance of ceasefire earlier was a matter of lack of strategic insight! The important fact here is that the Britishers who led India both politically (Mountbatten) and militarily Russell and Bucher had greater strategic insight than Messervy or Gracey!

1965 War

Strategically the Indians were ascendant at the time of ceasefire in 1948. Their superiority suffered once Nehru downsized the Indian Army viewing it as a colonial relic. The Indian Armoured Corps historian is stating nothing but the simple truth once he states ‘The first fifteen years after independence saw a steady decline in the efficiency, state of equipment and importance of India’s Armed Forces... the belief in ahimsa and the consequent pacifist strain in our people’. Gurcharan further adds, ‘The Government’s attitude became plain to all ranks soon enough when their pay and allowances were drastically reduced’. From 1954-58 the strategic balance started tilting in favour of Pakistan. US military aid enabled the Pakistan Army to acquire greater organizational flexibility and operational efficiency. The balance swung in favour of Pakistan particularly in terms of armour and artillery. Technical superiority is, however, meaningless unless it is matched and accompanied by corresponding organizational superiority and strategic insight. On both, strategic as well as organizational plain the Pakistan Army remained as barren as in 1947. Till the divisional level the Pakistani organisation was qualitatively superior to the Indians. The trouble started at corps and army level. The ruling Pakistani clique had no understanding of higher military organisation! They viewed war as a clash of battalions, brigades and divisions which could be conducted by a General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. At the army level there was equal barrenness and ineptitude! They saw any future war in Kashmir as a ‘Limited War’ something like the 1947-48 Kashmir War! If Nehru had not attacked across the international border in 1948 why should Shastri who was smaller should do so! These pedants forgot the fact that Nehru did not attack in 1948 because Liaquat decided at the last moment to call off Operation Venus aimed at cutting Indian communications to the Poonch Valley!

On the strategic plain the Pakistani cause was doomed from the beginning not because of any tangible inferiority but simply because Pakistan’s military leaders had no clue about their capability to inflict a strategic defeat on India! These men who dominated the corridors of the army’s higher command had rudimentary ideas about operational strategy or higher strategy. They did not have confidence in themselves! On the other hand the civilians in the cabinet were far more resolute than the army C in C and the president!

The conduct of 1965 War and its subsequent analysis, however, later became a highly politicized issue. Thus the resultant analysis was highly subjective. It became a battle of Bhutto haters and Ayub haters! Largely Bhutto haters wrote the history of that war in the period 1977-90 and a highly distorted picture emerged as a result of these exercises in personal hatred.

The 1965 war could have been a Pakistani strategic victory if the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division had achieved a breakthrough in Khem Karan! Had the Pakistani Blitzkrieg succeeded, and there was a great chance of it succeeding at one stage, three Indian divisions would have been rolled like Hitler rolled up the bulk of the French Army and the BEF in France in 1940. 1965 would have gone down in history as a Pakistani victory. This fact has been openly admitted by no less a man than the Indian C in C Western Command Harbaksh Singh when he stated ‘’A Blitzkrieg deep into our territory towards the Grand Trunk Road or the Beas Bridge would have found us in the helpless position of a commander paralysed into inaction for want of readily available reserves while the enemy was inexorably pushing deep into our vitals. It is a nightmarish feeling even when considered in retrospect at this stage’. Harbaksh was not a member of Bhutto’s party but an illustrious officer of the Indian Army who held the highest operational appointment in the Indian Army.1965 was not a foreign policy failure as Shaukat Riza the mouthpiece of the military establishment asserted but a military failure. A military failure that was avoidable, had the military establishment been led by more dynamic people! A military failure which occurred because of poor higher command structure and absence of a corps headquarter and an infantry division, both of which could have been raised with ease only if someone in the higher quarters in the GHQ knew their operational significance!

Now the strategic rationale why Pakistan had to resolve the issue through a resort to arms in 1965. The Indians had started reorganizing their army after the Sino Indian War of 1962 and the balance of forces was fast tilting in Indian favour. What was the solution to this problem! Long ago, Clausewitz gave an answer to this when he said ‘Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not; if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages — it will rather increase the disparity of forces —but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account.’ There is no evidence which indicates that Ayub or Musa read Clausewitz! It appears that Bhutto had read Clausewitz! Bhutto and Aziz did have a strong rationale for being the hawks that they were in 1965. Strategically, 1965 was the last Pakistani chance to impose a military solution on India. The events of 1971 prove that the balance was fast tilting in favour of India. The US had decided to revise its policies keeping in view Pakistan’s China policy. A war had to be fought in 1965! The failure did not lay in the fact that 1965 War was fought but in the fact that the Pakistani higher command was conceptually intangibly qualitatively and intellectually incompetent to win a war which tangibly speaking it had the potential to win!

1971 War

Pakistan Army did learn some strategic lessons from the 1965 War. The army was organized on rational lines. Many corps headquarters were created. However, the whole situation had now drastically changed. While 1965 was the best chance for Pakistan to go at war, 1971 was the worst moment to start war with India! Again as in 1947 the Pakistani leadership was caught in an irrevocable vicious whirlpool of history! Since Ayub lacked both political as well as military strategic insight he had irrevocably alienated the country’s East Wing! Pakistan in 1971 was a house divided against itself and East Pakistan had to fall! Sometimes history assumes an air of inevitability. Beyond one point the flow of events becomes irreversible and even a Napoleon or Alexander cannot change the current.This is what happened to Pakistan in 1971.

Interestingly, 1971 was an Indian strategic failure too . They achieved a short-term aim but failed to strike at the centre of gravity i.e West Pakistan.In the final reckoning they created another hostile anti-Indian state which is far more difficult to subdue than the former East Pakistan as it was in 1971! On the other side the ‘Pakistan problem’ as the Indians call it has not been resolved! Kashmir is a huge blotting paper that keeps at least half a million Indian troops occupied while militancy goes on and no solution is in sight! Religious extremism which had witnessed a decline in the period 1947-77 on both sides of the Radcliffe line after 1947 is now ascendant!

Post-1971 situation to date

The Indians have failed to arrive at a strategic solution to their military problems. The initiative has been in the Indian hands since 1971 but they have proved equally inept ! In 1971 they did not have the will to launch a second phase i.e the reduction of West Pakistan! In 1984 they came close to a conflict which was avoided only because Durga’s Sikh guards polished her off!

In the post-1979 period both the Soviets and Indians failed strategically. The Soviet response to the Afghan problem should have been increased aid to India so that Pakistan was made to react to a strategy of indirect approach. This did not happen. In 1987 the Sundarji was playing the part that Bhutto was playing in 1965 i.e manipulating an indecisive political chief executive into a war! Rajiv Gandhi checked Sundarjis ambitions and decided to make peace.

The Pakistani military establishment had realized after 1971 that India could not be defeated in any future conventional war. Thus the switch over to Low Intensity Wars like in Indian Punjab in 1984 and in Kashmir from 1987 onwards. The future of Indo-Pak will be decided by a series of Low Intensity Wars. The Low Intensity War in Kashmir is likely to be followed by one in Sindh or Balochistan. The possibility that the US encourages Low Intensity Wars in Chinese Sinkiang through India cannot be ruled out.

The principal danger lies in escalation of a low intensity war into a nuclear conflict. This is a serious possibility unless major political changes occur on both sides of the Radcliffe Line. The rise of religious extremism on both sides of the Radcliffe Line is the most serious threat to future regional stability. On the Indian side this threat is more political while on the Pakistani side this threat has a deeper connection with militants who are a smaller group but enjoy greater support in the country’s Armed Forces. No one can predict whether the militants will succeed in Pakistan or not. The distant rumbling of a revolution or a coup can be felt but can never be accurately predicted. Religious militancy’s success or failure in Pakistan has a deep connection with the success or failure of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan. Religious militancy will receive a boost in both cases. If, the Taliban fail it will be seen as a conspiracy of the West against Islam. If they succeed their success will be seen as a model which must be repeated in the entire Islamic World!

Anonymous said...




Farouk Adams Letter

The Battle of Chawinda

I refer to Agha Humayun Amin’s article on the Battle of Chawinda, and also being “direct participant, would like to share with your readers, some of my knowledge on the subject. Since I am writing from memory, I will touch only upon those incidents and aspects of the battle, of which I am certain.

About a week before the war started, an A. K officer from the Gibraltar Force, exfiltrated, and brought to HQ 24 Brigade, certain Indian Army documents. These purported to show the presence of the 1st Indian Armoured Division opposite us. Brig Abdul Ali Malik accordingly informed the higher HQ, and GHQ detailed Maj. Mahmud of the Army Aviation to physically carry these documents to GHQ for evaluation. GHQ’s assessment was that these documents were part of an Indian deception plan. Brig Malik disagreed with this assessment. So it is incorrect to say that he had no idea what he had against him, though it is correct that when the attack came, he had no way of knowing that this was the main effort of the enemy. But neither did anyone else.

When the Jassar fiasco took place, Brig Malik advised 15 Div. not to move him, because he expected a strong attack against his positions. HQ 15 Div. did not agree.

HQ 15 Div. ordered 24 Brigade to clear the imaginary enemy bridgehead at Jassar. Brig Malik tasked 2 Punjab Regiment (my unit) to do the needful. The Commanding Officer, Lt Col Jamshed MC Bar, SJ, suggested an attack at first light, instead of a night attack, because we had no idea about the enemy location, terrain etc etc. But 15 Div. orders were clear and inflexible, and so Col Jamshed, decided to lead the attack in person. But before this could be done, the actual situation in Jassar became clear, and the attack was called off.

At about first light on 08 September, an NCO of the Engineers came into our positions. He told of a heavy Indian attack that had severely mauled 3 F.F Regiment which was deployed as screen. He was immediately taken to the Brigade HQ, where Brig Malik questioned him in the presence of Col Jamshed and Major Aslam Shah, who was the B.M.

If Brig Malik had any doubt about a serious enemy thrust in his sector, that was now removed. It took him about a minute to take, what many consider, the most important decision of the war i.e. to advance on a broad front and engage the attacking enemy forces. This decision was entirely Brig Malik’s, and it saved Pakistan. Had it gone wrong, he would have been court martialled. Since he suspected that HQ 15 Div. was prone to panic, he ordered Maj. Aslam Shah to break wireless contact with the Div. HQ (which was re-established when the enemy had been engaged, and Tikka Khan had taken over 15 Div). Brig Malik then gave the operation orders to his unit commanders, including Lt Col Nisar, CO 25 Cavalry. It is, therefore, absolutely incorrect to say that Brig Malik “abdicated” his command to a unit commander. Indeed, after that first day, 25 Cavalry was not involved in operations as regiment, because the situation warranted squadron actions in support of infantry. And this support these squadrons unstintingly and heroically provided. But this by no stretch of the imagination can be taken to mean the de facto command of the Chawinda Battle was at any time exercised by Co 25 Cavalry. This remained firmly in Brig Malik’s hands who remained unswerving and steadfast and central to the battle, right till the very end.

After the first three days of almost continuous battle we had suffered serious depletion in numbers, and had suffered extreme exhaustion both physically and mentally. And so we were withdrawn from the FDLs to recover, but that same evening the situation at the front became so alarming that we were thrust right back into the battle. It is a fair comment on the morale of 24 Brigade group that despite our bedraggled state and the mauling we had received, there was no hesitation on the part of anyone to rejoin battle. From then, to the end of the war, 24 Brigade held its position and survived — but barely. It is difficult to explain what extreme weariness really is.

There is mention in the article under reference, of Brig Malik’s request to be moved to the “rear”, which was refused by Gen Abrar. If a Brigade Commander is to make such a suggestion, he cannot just say “rear”. He has to give an alternate plan of operations which he must work out with his staff. Gen Aslam Shah (then B.M) denies that any such suggestion was ever made, and this fits into the experience of people like me, who were quite clearly told that for 24 Brigade, this was to be a “last man last round battle”. Therefore, if such a suggestion is recorded, either its context is missing, or it is the result of a misunderstanding. When we were suddenly pulled out of recuperation and sent back into battle (refer sub-para above) we were told that we will be pulled back for refitment at the first possible opportunity. Perhaps this could be the context.

2. And now I would like to make few general comments as under:-

Anyone reading the article under reference is bound to come away with the impression that the Battle of Chawinda was fought exclusively by Brig Amjad Chaudhry, Lt Col Nisar, Maj. Muhammad Ahmed, and the “direct participant” Maj. Shamshad. The infantry, it seems was just not there. As authentic history, therefore, this article will be seen as trifle lop-sided. The truth is that by sheer coincidence some very brave and steadfast men got thrown into what was 24 Brigade. With the courage of these men, came a good deal of luck by providence — and the combination made for quite a number of gallant actions by all arms, and all ranks.

Brig Muhammad Ahmed was heroic, and so was Lt Col Nisar, but how can the rest of 25 Cavalry be put into the dustbin of anonymity? Indeed I can’t think of one officer or tank commander who did not perform.

Yes, General Abrar was a good commander. He was calm and poised and did not foist needless interference on 24 Brigade. Brig Amjad Chaudhry too had a reputation of a good artillery officer, though I would have to be a very brave man to declare him the best gunner officer in the sub-continent. These officers held their nerve, and did not panic. And nor did they need to. They were never within the sights of the enemy. But people like Lt Col Shinwari, Lt Col Jamshed and Maj. Aslam Shah constantly were, and yet they kept their calm. And last but not the least the composure of Brig Abdul Ali Malik deserves to be saluted. Throughout the battle his HQ was either in the FDLs or not more than 400 yds in the rear. He kept his cool in the face of direct enemy fire for days at end — comparison between him and the others is like comparing a fighter in the ring with the audience. When Lt Gen (Retd) Tariq, S. J came on PTV two years ago on the occasion of Defence Day, he talked of his experiences of the Battle of Chawinda. He was generous in his praise of many gallant actions. But he singled out Brig Malik beyond all the rest as the man whose battle it really was, while all the rest of us revolved around him. Having seen him at close quarters, I cannot disagree with this assessment.

3. Lastly, to call a respected senior officer “a VCO type” General, was not in very good taste.

Farouk Adam Khan S. J
27 June 001


A.H Amin's Reply

I refer to Ex Major Farouk Adam Khan’s S.J letter on my article “ Battle of Chawinda” .

I have only touched “incidents and aspects” of the battle about which “I could be certain” based on the “authority of tangible concrete and precise” records in the form of “ official sources of the Pakistan Army” like Major General Shaukat Riza’s “The Pakistan Army-War 1965” sponsored and published by the Pakistan Army and printed by the Pakistan Army Press in 1984 , The Pakistan Army Green Book-1992 the official yearbook of the Pakistan Army published by the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters and accounts of direct participants like Major Shamshad. I had the opportunity of meeting other participants like Brigadier Ahmad in 1982 , Lieutenant Colonel Raza in 1993 and Major Shamshad in 2000. In addition, I met a large number of participants while serving in 11 Cavalry from 27th March 1983 till 9th April 1985.

l Firstly the assertion by the worthy critic that the Indian mailbag was captured by an exfiltrating element of Gibraltar Force. The Gibraltar Force was a fiasco of magnanimous proportions and very few exfiltrated in good shape what to talk of capturing a mail bag. The mail bag was captured by a deliberate ambush launched under the direction of Headquarter 15 Division under direction of Col S.G Mehdi. The official account on this episode is clear. Thus Shaukat Riza states “Lt Col Sher Zaman (MI Directorate) ordered Col S.G Mehdi (15 Division) to lay an ambush on the road (Samba-Kathua), and get some prisoners. At 0100 hours night 3rd/4th September, Zaman had a call from an excited Mehdi. An Indian despatch rider had been captured. His message bag contained mail for HQ Squadron 1 Indian Armoured Division. The bag was immediately flown to Rawalpindi.” (Refers-Pages-133 & 134-The Pakistan Army-War 1965-Shaukat Riza-Army Education Press-1984).

l What happened after this at least on paper was a mystery till Gen N.U.K Babar cleared this point on paper in an interview conducted by this scribe and published in DJ April 2000 issue by stating that the mail box was dismissed as an Indian deception by the then DMI Brigadier Irshad.

l In paragraph 1 the worthy critic states about Brigadier Malik i.e “It took him about a minute to take the most important decision of the war i.e to advance on a broad front and engage the attacking enemy forces”. Now this is a figment of the worthy critics imagination. In “Summer 1997“ issue of “Pakistan Army Journal“ Brigadier Nisar the Commanding Officer of 25 Cavalry gave his version of the Battle of Gadgor-Chawinda. Nowhere in the article did Nisar state that Brigadier Malik gave him any order on the decisive 8th of September “to advance on a broad front and engage the enemy”. On the other hand this point has been treated very clearly by Shaukat Riza in the Pakistani GHQ’s officially sponsored account. Shaukat describes the initial situation on the crucial morning of 8th September 1965 in the following words “At about 0600 hours 24 Brigade received the news that 3 FF had been overrun. Brigadier Ali Malik got on to Col Nisar and ordered 25 Cavalry to do something”. (Refers Page - 148-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit) That was the only order Malik gave. All the subsequent deployment was done by Nisar and the brunt of the Indian attack was borne by “Bravo Squadron” of 25 Cavalry commanded by Major Ahmad. It was Col Nisar and Nisar alone who did the broad front deployment without any orders to resort to any broad front deployment from Brigadier Malik.

l In paragraph 1 the worthy critic states that Brigadier Malik never made a request for a withdrawal on 16th September. My source for stating that Brigadier Malik made a request for withdrawing from Chawinda position is none other than a major direct participant staff officer of the battle i.e Major K.M Arif the then GSO-2 (Operations) 6th Armoured Division at Chawinda. It was 6th Armoured Division Headquarters which controlled the battle after 9th September. It is very strange that the critic finds my narration odd rather than contesting the authority which I quoted to support my assertion. In an article published in Pakistan Army Green Book-1992-Year of the Senior Field Commanders, General K.M Arif (Retired) made the following assertion i.e “The battle raged with considerable intensity on September 16. After its failure to capture Chawinda the enemy failed to envelop it by a two pronged attack. In the process the villages of Sodreke fell and Buttur Dograndi came under attack. The severe fighting resulted in many casualties. The situation was confused and the outcome uncertain .So fluid the situation became that at 1630 hours 24 Brigade Commander requested permission to take up a position in the rear.Abrar told the brigade commander on telephone, “You know what is there in the kitty. There is no question of falling back.We shall fight till the bitter end from our present positions.” His words proved a timely tonic. 24 Brigade fought gallantly. Soon the danger subsided.” (Refers -Page -6-” Abrar’s Battlefield Decisions”-Pakistan Army Green Book-Year of Senior Commanders-Pakistan Army-General Headquarters-Rawalpindi-1992). This assertion was made by one of the principal staff officers of the 6th Armoured Division who was present on the scene and not a figment of my imagination.

l Even 6th Armoured Division’s War Diary contains a record of the above mentioned telephone call.

l As to the worthy critic’s assertion in paragraph 1 about de facto command of Chawinda Battle remaining in Brigadier Malik till the end. All that I stated was that during the most decisive encounter of the whole battle at Gadgor on 8th September it was Nisar and Nisar alone who exercised coup d oeil deploying his regiment entirely on his own without any orders from 24 Brigade about “any broad front deployment” or any “specific orders to deploy in any particular disposition”. After this decisive encounter at Gadgor the Indians did not do anything till 11th September. From 10th September 6th Armoured Division entered the scene and controlled the Chawinda battle, 24 Brigade being one of the many brigades that it commanded.

l Refers the criticism in paragraph 2 that “the battle was fought exclusively by Amjad Chaudhry,

Lt Col Nisar, Major Mohammad Ahmad and the direct participant Major Shamshad” all I can say is that the critic did not read my article but only scanned through it.On map opposite Page-40 it is written that C squadron i.e Shamshad’s squadron arrived opposite Gadgor area at 1130 hours after the situation had been stabilised. On various pages I have stated eg “ 25 Cavalry was to Pakistan Army’s good luck, a newly raised but extremely fine tank regiment” (Refers-Page-43). The same point is repeated on various pages.

l About Abdul Ali Malik’s command qualities Gen Fazal Muqeem notes in his “Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership” “The few counterattacks which 8 Division tried during the war were most noticeable by their lack of planning.The units were hurled into battle without having been given enough time for planning and preparations .The worst example of this attack was on December 17 when against all protestations of its very gallant commanding officer , 35 FF was sent into battle for almost certain massacre” (Refers-Page-215 and 216-Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership-Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan (Retired)-National Book Foundation-Lahore-1973).

l Chawinda was an armour battle and this is proved by casualties suffered by tank and infantry units. How many infantry units except 3 FF could match the casualties of 11 Cavalry in 1965 i.e 34 killed. As a matter of fact the direct participant Major Shamshad has referred to one counter attack in which an infantry company of 2 Punjab had Nil killed and two officers got the SJ. Even in Chamb during Grand Slam 11 Cavalry lost 19 killed on 1st September 1965 alone while 14 Punjab lost a total of 3 killed in the entire Grand Slam. (Refers-Page-108 1 & 109-Pak Bharat Jang-Colonel Mukhtar Gillani -Rawalpindi-April -1998). As a matter of fact 11 Cavalry suffered more casualties in Grand Slam than all ten infantry units except one i.e 13 Punjab which had lost 24 killed as against 11 Cavalry’s 19 killed.But then the strength of an armoured regiment is around 400 vis-a-vis 800 of infantry.

l Lastly the reference to VCO. This was purely symbolic and had nothing to do with rank or status in the literal sense. Sher Bahadur’s efforts to divide and distribute the 4 Corps Artillery Headquarter before the 1965 War have been discussed by an authority no less eminent than Pakistan Army’s last C in C, Gul Hassan.This if done would have seriously compromised chances of Pakistani success in Grand Slam and Chawinda.Without concentrated artillery at Grand Slam or in Chawinda none including Abrar or Malik could have defeated the Indians.

Kind Regards

A.H Amin

Major Shamshads Rebuttal of Farouk Adams Letter of August 2001 , published in Letters to Editor Defence Journal September 2001

The Editor
Defence Journal
Dear Sir,

Brig (Retd) Muhammad Ahmed
The May 2001 edition of your esteemed magazine carries a letter by Brig (Retd) Mohammed Ahmed which mentions as under,
“Major Shamshad is right, in a way, when he says only Charlie Squadron went up to Pasrur. The little difference being that only Charlie Squadron went up to Pasrur the others were turned back half way when the Jassar fiasco was discovered.

I would like to correct the record here.

The entire action of night 7/8 and 08 Sept has been covered in a single article appeared in Oct 1997 edition of DJ. I have nowhere stated or recorded what Brig Ahmed has ascribed to me. An editing error has appeared in the March 2001 edition of DJ which the Brig should have corrected rather than confirming it.

The fact is that entire regiment moved to Pasrur on its way to Jassar. The regiment was detained at Pasrur while Charlie Squadron was despatched to Jassar which reached Narowal at 0300 hours and turned about to reach Pasrur at 0500 hours.


The August issue of DJ carries a letter by Farooq Adam SJ on the subject and another by Mr A H Amin who is on the panel of D J. Both the gentlemen have made reference to me. I, therefore, feel obliged to put in my word to keep the record straight.

Farooq Adam, as a direct participant appears to have reservations about the description of the battle by A H Amin who was not a participant. He has merely conducted research and has adequately defended his point of view by quoting his source of knowledge. A H Amin has quoted Gen Fazle Moqeem who has reflected upon command quality of Brig Ali and how 35 FF was massacred in Nawa Pind in 1971. To support the opinion of Gen Fazle Moqeem I can quote one out of several ill planned attacks which fizzled out in initial stages, ordered by Brig Ali in 1965. On the morning of 17 Sept 3rd FF were ordered to attack Jassora with a company. A detailed discription has been published in May 1998 issue of DJ. For those who could not reach that edition and also to prove inanity of command I shall describe the attack precisely. The company was commanded by Capt Raheem Shah and was supported by my troop of three tanks.

I submitted to CO 3FF that before attacking Jassoran, which was 2000 yards away from Railway line, we had to clear Buttardograndi half way between Railway line and Jassoran. I also informed him that area Jassoran-Buttardograndi is occupied by a tank regiment supported by an infantry battalion which I faced on 16 Sept and eventually my troop was shot up by that force. It was impossible to dislodge an armoured brigade by attacking with a company and three tanks. My plea was brushed aside with remark that Butterdograndi had been cleared during the night. As we formed up behind railway line heavy artillery fire was dropped on us causing casualties to our infantry. In the FUP we located a centurian in Battalion one which was destroyed. Finally we attacked without artillery. Capt Raheem Shah and his company displayed tremendous courage.

8 Gharwal was entered in the middle of 5 feet high maze crop. As our men reached the trenches they were fired at from point blank range. Many of them fell other turned and went to ground. They were surprised: I saw this massacre standing in cupola from a distance of 50 yards. I moved the tank up and mounted the trenches. By this time I had reached the killing range of enemy tanks deployed in Jassoran. My tank was shot up and went into flames. My second tank was also hit and damaged. The third tank turret # 1, tank commanded by LD Kamal prudently did come up and was saved. In this swift action two enemy tanks were also destroyed. Here the attack fizzled out.

It is now for the reader to assess the competence of higher command. In my opinion it was callous act to launch a company and three tank against an armoured brigade. To further illustrate my point of view, a quotation from a book (Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman) will be in place.

Quote “When the moment of live ammunition approaches, the moment to which his professional training is directed, the issue of the combat, even the fate of the campaign may depend on his decision. What is happening in the heart and vitals of a commander. Some are made bold by the moment, some irresolute, some carefully judicious, some paralyzed and powerless to act” Unquote. I place ours higher in the last category.

After having gone through the letter of Farooq Adam and his two earlier scripts, on the subject (“Hero of Chawinda” published in daily The News in April/ May 1992 and “THE ALI OF CHAWINDA”published in UNIFORM Sept 1994 issue) I can say that his writing is more of fiction than honest description of the events on the battlefield. On reading his script of 1992, I expressed my views which have been published in daily THE NEWS of May 1992. I reproduce below the opening paragraph of the article which delivers goods to those who are interested to know the facts.

Quote”On the outset I shall mention here that I have never served in the direct command of Brig Ali. Hence there is no possibility of having ill will or malice towards him. However, I feel that both the writers have tried to aggrandize the revered general out of proportion. I hold this opinion as I have first hand knowledge about the Battle of Chawinda. I was a troop leader and squadron commander in 25 cavalry which was a part of Brig Ali’s brigade. Mr Agha Babar should show Adam’s article to his literary friends in Newyork to be appreciated as a good piece of literature. Anyone with little knowledge about army matters and warfare will confront him with awkward questions such as, Why should Brig Ali ask Col Nisar as to how many tanks did he have? Was he ignorant of the organisation and deployment of his only tank regiment?. Why did Farooq Adam leave his defensive position when enemy tanks were still more than a mile away? Why did he not wait for the tanks to destroy once they reached the killing zone of his ante tank weapons? Why was Chobara captured and abandoned time and again?. Was a pitched battle fought at Chobara? If so what was the score of casualties? And many more such questions.’Unquote.

The knowledge which Farooq Adam wants to share with the readers is of no consequence unless he first fixes his position in a fighting unit. Was he a platoon /company commander or a staff officer. I have gone through his three scripts mentioned above. Only at one place (UNIFORM Sept 1994) he said that he was attached to Major Mohammad Hussain whose company was to follow 25 cavalry tanks on the morning of 8 Sept. Was he attached to Major Mohammad Hussain to advise him.

I will not go in details here, which of course I have, to prove that whatever Farooq has written is all truth. Only one example is enough to prove what I state.

On page 59 of the periodical UNIFORM of Sept 1994 he writes while describing the dialogue between Brig Ali and Col Nisar. “How many tanks do you have? One squadron of tanks right here, another dismounting from transporters nearby”. He claims that these words were exchanged at Chawinda in the morning at Chawinda on 8 Sept. This is totally untrue. The whole regiment was concentrated at Pasrur. Col Nisar was called by Brig and told “enemy had come think about it”. He must have also told him that enemy tanks were advancing on Charwa-Cawinda track. What happened thereafter has been recorded by me in the form of 8 articles in D J starting from Oct 1997 to May 1998. 9th and concluding article will appear in near future. My suggestion to Farooq is to write an account of 17 days as he saw the battle moving day by day, mere eulogy is not welcomed.

Passing orders is a simple affair.The quality of effort a commander makes to insure the implementation of the order is what that matters. The extent of personal involvement, his control and direction of the events, his presence at the place and time where the fate of the battle is being decided are the factors which go in to assess the competence of a commander. In this light I found our leader wanting.

Maj (Retd) Shamshad Ali Khan

Brig Kamal Alam and Colonel Anwars Criticism of Chawinda and A.H Amin's Reply Defence Journal January 2002

Dear Major Sehgal,

In his letter in Defence Journal of Aug 2001, Mr . Amin says that in the Pak Army Journal (Summer 97) Brig Nisar does not mention any order coming his way from his Brigade Comd on 8 Sept 1965. I am no historian but some questions immediately come to mind viz. Does Col Nisar also mention that the Brigade Commander told him to “do something”? If not who is to be believed, Brig Nisar or Gen Riza. And if he was not told to “do something“, what major event galvanized him into taking this unilateral action against the enemy advance? Did he get information about the enemy advance himself, or did someone give it to him, and if so who? When he got his information, was he in the presence of the Brigade Commander , or was in wireless contact with him? And when he decided to strike out on his own, did he at least inform the Brigade? And if so what transpired; or did the rest of the Brigade merely follow 25 Cav through guess-work?

The point I want to make is that in order to be classified as “history“ we have to first establish whether 25 Cav was a part of a larger formation, or was acting in a vacuum. And if it was subordinate to

24 Brigade, did it take itself out of the Brigade ORBAT on its own, or did if take the Brigade under its own command. This relationship can only be settled by the communication between the two. So far it has been considered a settled fact beyond any controversy, that this Brigade and all its components fought an outstanding action. After all there have been M Ds and presentation on the subject for the last 36 years and most officers have had a chance to take part in one or another of these. And no adverse comment has come to tarnish the reputation of any officer of the brigade.

It is only recently that through one sentence of Maj Gen Shaukat Riza ‘s Book almost all infantry actions of this battle seem to have been nullified, and the brave conduct of the Bridge Commander has been found fit to be relegated to those who functioned below par.

I am afraid that Gen Riza’s Book is primarily the amalgam of various war diaries, with very little original research , “officially sponsored” to give the “official view“. A very good insight into its historical value and credibility lies in what it has to say regarding the change of command in Chamb, which is a scandal that has refused to be hushed up despite the best official efforts. On page 121 of the book Gen Riza blatantly states that change of Command in Chamb was pre-planned. And then he goes on to brazenly assert that this was confirmed by most officers in GHQ and 12 Div. He forgot that this was a deliberate, set-piece attack, the operation orders for which per force would have to be attended by GOC 7 Div, if the command was to change, and all the lower formations would have known about it, and at least some shred of documentary evidence of this effect would have survived, at least in GHQ. But there is not a word extant to corroborate this cover-up. And what is worst is that immediately after the war in Staff College under, Gen Riza was serving “a 12 Div officer” who was the GOC of this Division. He was Gen Akhtar Malik. At a time when even subalterns like me could question Gen Malik on this subject and get a candid reply, it is impossible to believe that Gen Riza did not know all details of this change from the horse’s mouth. And knowing this and then wilfully distorting history is deserving of the strongest opprobrium. And then DJ takes one line of this “history” and knocks out all infantry actions, and goes further to malign the commander of Chawinda Brigade! And now this is to pass for history?

Brig (Retd) Kamal Alam, TJ
House No. 5
Street # 25 F-7/2,
14 Dec 2001
To : The Editor Defence Journal

I refer to letter by Mr. Farouk Adam and Mr. Amin on the Battle of Chawinda (Defence Journal Aug 2001). In 1972, in company of some regimental at officers I met Gen A .A Malik in Mangla. The question of 3 F F came up. He said the heaviest attacks seemed to come wherever this unit was deployed. As such at one point he had to ask the Div HQ if there was any possibility for this unit to be relieved and rested. The Div HQ said this was not possible. War diaries are often not written immediately . There are often inaccuracies in them. Is it possible that this event is being referred to by both writers? At any rate 24 Brigade War Diary should also be consulted.

Mr. Amin quotes Gen Riza’s Book i.e. Brig Malik got on to ...............” From this it is obvious that it means the communication was by wireless or telephone. But I have attended an M D on this battle and also heard its narration from Brig Shinwari. Both were nearer to Farouk Adam’s explanation of events of

8 Sept. Mr. Amin says he has referred to “official sources” and “officially sponsored” GHQ account of this Battle. This is its weak point. Our “officially sponsored accounts” unfortunately have been cover-ups. Gen Riza wrote about such an important battle without interviewing any infantry CO, or any officer of the Brigade HQ, when they were all alivel! What sort of history is this?

I heard the talk by Lt Gen Tariq S. J to which Farouk Adam has referred. I have also heard him on the subject in person. He said that all units gave their very best but also that the Brigade Commander’s conduct, whose HQ was often in line of direct fire, was most inspiring.

After reading the original article one gets the impression that the whole battle was fought by Col Nisar and Maj Ahmed ably supported by Brig Amjad Chowdhry’s guns. It seems infantry was non-existant! Granted it was a tank battle and very well done by 25 Cav. But I can’t recall any DEFENSIVE tank battle over two weeks duration without an infantry firm base. And if Chawinda base did not hold, that would be the end of the tank battle also. But the infantry did hold, better than any infantry brigade on either side. And the Brigade Commander showed more pluck than any officer of his rank, also on either side. I am willing to stand corrected on this. And if not corrected, will not this make these units and Brig Malik deserving of credit?

Lt Col Mohammad Anwar
Flat No. 123 — C
Askari Housing Complex
Walton - Lahore
5 Dec 2001

It is amusing as well as encouraging to note that this scribe’s article on Chawinda Battle of 1965 published in Defence Journal March 2001 issue continues to attract flak from critics!

The latest in the series are two letters , both written by retired officers . First of all I must clarify that my sole motivation in all writing has been to endeavour to write “what men did” rather than what “they ought ideally to have done” or what “someone later with the benefit of hindsight tried to portray , what they had done”. Thus the analysis of Chawinda Battle done with pure loyalty to service without any inter arm rivalry or nationalistic motivation. Pure and unadulterated military history filtered dispassionately separating fact from fiction and myth from reality. How far I succeeded is for readers to judge.

History as Frederick the Great once said can be well written only in a free country and ours has been continuously under civil or military dictators since 1958. Enters Defence Journal which in its resurrected form from 1997 picked up the gauntlet of serving as a medium of intellectual honesty and forthright criticism and published facts which were unpalatable for some and welcomed by the vast multitude. A breath of fresh air in a country reduced to intellectual stagnation because of years of censorship and intellectual persecution! I had written for the Pakistan Army Journal and Citadel but had left military history writing when in 1998 through a dear friend I discovered that there is a new Defence Journal in Karachi which is open to some critical writing!

I maintain as one great master of English prose said that “all history so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence is romance”! Battle of Chawinda published in DJ March 2001 was thus not romance! What many in this country wrote and was outwardly military history was essentially “Romance”! Inspiring, superhuman but a myth promiscuously mixed with reality!

Chance plays a key role in battle and at Chawinda chance played a very important role! Nisar, when he deployed 25 Cavalry did not know what was in front of him ! KK Singh Commander 1st Indian Brigade also did not know what was in front of him! This mutual ignorance saved Pakistan on that crucial day ! Later heroes were created! I repeat “Heroes were created” ! This was what the article was all about !

What were the key facts? Most important tangible fact was “casualties” ! These were deliberately hidden since these would have let the cat out of the bag! Everyone would have discovered who really fought and who got gallantry awards on parochial,regimental or old boy links !How many were killed in the biggest military blunder “Operation Gibraltar”! This is Top Secret ! How many infantry men died at Chawinda? Again no mention of any figures! The real motivation here is not national interest but to preserve or more important to “guard reputations”

Brigadier Kamal Alam’s Letter

a. I stick to the assertion that the “broad front deployment” was done by Nisar and Nisar alone and Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik had no role in it. It is another matter that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him. It was like Jutland when both contending fleets were running towards each other at express train speed. Why Nisar behaved as he did and what actually happened even today is hard to understand, whatever anyone may claim now with the benefit of hindsight! Brigadier Alam offers no tangible proof that the actions of 25 Cavalry had anything to do with what Brig A.A Malik told Nisar. Nisar was told to “do something” and Nisar did something without the least clue of what was in front of him. The important thing is that Nisar did something rather than getting paralysed into inertia and inaction! I may add a personal note here. I understand that Alam’s elder brother Brig Mujahid Alam COS 31 Corps while this scribe was commanding 5 Independent Armoured Squadron was a fine soldier.

b. Alam raises the question about the controversial “Do Something” order by Brig A.A Malik to Lt Col Nisar CO 25 Cavalry. The same words were repeated by Nisar in his article published in Pakistan Army Journal in 1997. Then Alam raises the question about 25 Cavalry functioning in a vacuum. 24 Brigade had two infantry units, one which had been overrun and dispersed on 8th September i.e 3 FF and 2 Punjab which was at Chawinda. The crucial action took place at Gadgor few miles north of Chawinda in which 25 Cavalry faced the entire Indian 1st Armoured Division. This was an extraordinary situation and Nisar acted on his own best judgement since Malik had abdicated to Nisar by stating that he should do something. It is another thing that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him and acted boldly and unconventionally. Had he known what was in front of him he may have been paralysed by inertia and inaction! But this is speculation and some part of history always remains unfathomed and hidden! Nisar acted through sheer reflex and deployed his unit in an impromptu manner. The fire fight which took place at Gadgor between 0900 hours and 1200 hours was a pure tank versus tank affair. 25 Cavalry versus two leading tank regiments of Indian 1st Armoured Division! Thus the Indian Armoured Corps historian stated “The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter had lost more tanks than the enemy had...the worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next move. This interval gave Pakistanis time to deploy their 6th Armoured fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured Division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost” (Refers-Pages-393 & 394-History of Indian Armoured Corps-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-Delhi-1990). Thus the Indians acknowledged “This regiment’s (25 Cavalry) performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the 1st Indian Armoured division and its objective, the MRL canal”.


c. At Gadgor on 8th September it was 25 Cavalry and 25 Cavalry alone which saved the day. Major Shamshad a direct participant has already stated on record that SJs were awarded to some officers for an attack in which not a single man was killed on both sides!

d. 25 Cavalry was part of 24 Brigade but all that Nisar its CO did on the crucial 8th September at Gadgor was based on his own judgement. On 9th and 10th September no fighting took place as Indians had withdrawn their armoured division to the crossroads. On 10th September, 6 Armoured Division took over and 24 Brigade was a part of 6 Armoured Division. On 8th September there was a vacuum and Nisar acted in a sitaution which can be classified as one characterised by “absence of clear and precise orders”!

e. Shaukat Riza’s book is basically a compilation of existing facts. It has historical value since Riza was allowed access to official records.

f. The change of command aspect about which Alam asserts is correct and was officially hushed up but why should Shaukat Riza have any sympathy for the armoured corps of 1960s which was arrogant and looked down on artillery as I personally witnessed right till 1980s as a young officer in Kharian and Multan? Artillery officers were never welcomed in armoured corps unit messes unless real exceptions based on personal ties and armour officers rarely visited artillery messes.

g. Chawinda was a tank battle, thus armour suffered more casualties. On the other hand Lahore was an infantry battle where the indomitable 1st Baluch lost something like around 30 killed in battle , more casualties than most infantry units in the much trumpeted Grand Slam.

h. Now I offer some figures for the readers to form their own conclusions.

13 PUNJAB 24


The above casualties prove that Grand Slam was both an infantry and armour battle yet armour suffered proportionately more casualties since the effective battle strength of a tank unit is half that of an infantry unit. 14 Punjab lost just 3 killed while 10 Guides Cavalry at Chawinda lost 3 killed in officers alone apart from 12 OR/JCOs killed! 11 Cavalry lost more in killed casualties in 1965 War than any of the above units of the Grand Slam i.e 34 killed. No fault of infantry since Chawinda was an essentially a tank battle.

i. Brigadier Alam does not give any figures which prove that infantry suffered more casualties at Chawinda. I have already admitted in my letter that the only infantry unit which bore the brunt of Indian assault was 3 FF on the 8th September. 3 FF aside the brunt of the attack at Chawinda was borne by armour units since Chawinda was a tank battle. At Lahore, the brunt of the attack was faced by infantry since Lahore i.e 10 Division battle was an essentially infantry battle. Thus, there were units like 1st Baloch and 16 Punjab which suffered tremendous casualties.1st Baloch suffering casualties of 31 killed in 10 Division Area (Refers-Page-139-Col Gillani-Op Cit). 16 Punjab suffering casualties of 106 killed and 70 missing most of whom were killed (more than total of all regular infantry units in Grand Slam) (Refers-Page-138-Col Gillani). On the other hand there were formations which in words of Colonel Mukhtar Gillani exaggerated the fighting and suffered nominal casualties like the 103 Brigade in 10 Division area (Refers Page-143-Col Gillani).

j. Even at formation level Chawinda was not a big battle in terms of casualties since the Indian 1 Corps suffered less casualties than 11 Indian Corps in Ravi Sutlej Corridor.

k. Brigadier Alam has mixed inter arm rivalry with operational leadership and personalities. Infantry had a role in Chawinda. Every arm and service had a role. If I have not discussed infantry actions in detail it is not because infantry did nothing at Chawinda but simply because Chawinda was a tank dominated battle with artillery playing a crucial role. Had I been biased I would not have stated in various articles that the greatest tank commander of Pakistan Army at operational level was Maj Gen Iftikhar who was an infantry man. Similarly Ibrar whose conduct I pointed out as most decisive was again an infantry man .

l. If Brigadier Alam wants to highlight the infantry side of the battle he is free to write an article on the “Role of Infantry at Chawinda”.

m. I have also compiled some casualty figures of armour units in 1965 which will give the reader a fair idea of who did what and who suffered more or less:—

UNIT Killed casualties Battle area Remarks
GUIDES 15 CHAWINDA Including 3 Officers
CHAWINDA Including 1 Officer
12 CAVALRY 8 KHEM KARAN Did Traffic Control / Flank Protection etc. being Recce Regiment
AKHNUR Including 3 Officers
19 LANCERS 18 CHAWINDA Including 2 Officers
23 CAVALRY 18 10 DIVISION Including 2 Officers
24 CAVALRY 14 KHEM KARAN Including 2 Officers

Note:—These casualties were compiled personally and may not be wholly or totally accurate.

n. Lastly, Alam’s assertion that DJ is distorting history. A bit naive since articles published in journals are opinions of individual writers and not of the management. This is true for all journals whether it is Pakistan Army Journal or Command and Staff College Citadel.

o. Finally, Brigadier Alam’s letter was crude and lacked common courtesy that one would associate or expect from one holding the rank of a brigadier.

Lt Col M. Anwar’s Letter:—

a. I was not referring to 3 FF when I discussed Brig A.A Malik’s withdrawal request of 16 September. Hence, Col Anwar has misunderstood the point. Brig A.A Malik had requested permission to withdraw when Indian tanks had crossed the railway line on 16th September and occupied Buttur Dograndi and Sodreke. This fact was brought to light not by the much criticised Shaukat Riza but by the then GSO-2 of 6 Armoured Division Major (later General K.M Arif), first more bluntly in Pakistan Army Green Book-1993 and again a little tactfully in his recently published book Khaki Shadows. Thus no connection with 3 FF, an infantry unit which as far as I know suffered more casualties than any other infantry unit at Chawinda. 3 FF fought admirably but was launched thoughtlessly as brought out by Major Shamshad in his letter published in Sept 2001 DJ and consequently suffered enormous casualties at Sodreke-Buttur Dograndi area. Shamshad was the tank troop leader in support of 3 FF when it disastrously attacked Buttur Dograndi. In opinion of Shamshad, the attack had failed not due to any fault of 3 FF but because of poor planning by Commander 24 Brigade.

b. About the assertion of Col Anwar that official sources are cover ups, all that one can state is that if these are cover ups why don’t experts like Brigadier Alam and Farouk Adam or Col Anwar or Lt Gen Tariq devote some time to writing serious military history.

c. In my writings I have relied on official, unofficial and personal as well as Indian accounts. If someone has better knowledge of facts he is most welcome to apply his intellect and come out with a better account.

d. Anwar has a point that infantry was holding a firm base. I have not denied this anywhere. My emphasis, however, was on the real battle, the armour battle which was fought at Chawinda. It is up to a reader to form subjective conclusions.

e. Anwar states that infantry has been ignored, I contend that the real fact which has not been favourably received by some is that Brig A.A Malik has not been projected as much in my article as he had been before. Infantry, is an arm and I have great respect for it , A.A Malik was an individual who did well and rose to three star rank despite launching poorly planned counter attacks as brought out by

Gen Fazal i Muqeem in 1971 War as a GOC .

Lastly I want to quote a great captain of war :—

“ I am not publishing my memoirs, not theirs and we all know that no three honest witnesses of a brawl can agree on all the details. How much more likely will be the differences in a great battle covering a vast space of broken ground, when each division, brigade, regiment and even company naturally and honestly believes that it was the focus of the whole affair! Each of them won the battle. None ever lost. That was the fate of the old man who unhappily commanded”.

“Memoirs of General Sherman”

Lastly my humble submission; Chawinda was about operational leadership, not small unit actions or projecting individuals or maligning them. If someone feels otherwise it is his subjective opinion.

Kind regards

A.H Amin

Anonymous said...




I Sehgal Bengal Tiger said...

Agha Amin and Battle of Sialkot-1965

Ijaz Gul


Jul 24, 2008 Thu 12:07 pm

I know the urgency Agha Amin had in contacting me repeatedly about his ilog on Chowinda, but I wanted certain confirmations before putting my views. In the course, I traced and talked to some of the participants of this battle and agree that Agha Amin’s account is most accurate.

First, hats off and a tribute to those soldiers who fought bravely in the Battle of Chowinda despite the confusion generated by the paper tiger commanders like Gen. Ismail, Sahibzada Yakoob Ali Khan and many more who earned laurels over the dead bodies of their soldiers.

1. INDIAN PLANS. Yes it was an FIU operation supported by an infantry ambush party that captured an Indian despatch rider. Though the Indian Operational Instructions coincided with Gen. Yahya’s leading Hypotheses of an Indian Main Offensive in this sector, these despatches were rubbished as deception by the master Pakistani Think Tank. The original hypothesis was downgraded by the New GOC 15 Division Major General Ismail, Deputy Division Commander Brigadier Riaz ul Karim, Corps Commander Lt. Gen Bakhtiar Rana, and Deputy Corps Commander designate Sahibzada Yakoob Ali Khan once Indian’s attacked Jassar.

“Howa ke pehley he jhonkey pe haar man gai
Wohi Chiragh jo hum ne jala ke rakhay thay”

2. JASSAR ENCLAVE. It is an enclave where major operations from neither side were possible as the terrain is divided by River Ravi. Yet when an Infantry Brigade was despatched in haste to defend the bridge on both sides of the river, the leading unit had very little defensive power in terms of preparation and defence stores. Consequently, some of its elements were over run in double quick time by a diversionary attack of an Indian infantry brigade prior to the main attack on line Charwa- Chobara- Philora. Brigadier Muzaffar made a very big blunder of judgement in his assessment and reported in panic that an Indian Main had been launched.. As a result the entire defence of Sialkot sector was unhinged in panic and 24 Brigade minus 3FF in screens and 25 Cavalry were moved in haste towards Jassar. The defence had taken a 90 Degree turn. In this vacuum what remained between India and Sialkot were the screen positions of 3FF. On the evening of 7th September, GOC 15 Division ordered 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry to launch a counter attack on Jassar. The reserves were near Narowal and the Division Headquarter preparing for a white linen dinner, when Indian Divisional Artillery began pounding 3FF positions. Major Mehmood of Aviation then took the risk of flying over Jassar only to report that the bridge over River Ravi was in tact and in Pakistani occupation. A squadron of 25 Cavalry under Major Shamshad had already reached the Jassar sector while the two remaining were on the move. 15 Division had been caught with its pants down.

3. PHILORI-CHARWA-CHOBARA SECTOR. Indian advancing columns engaged the screens of 3FF on the night of 7 September. By first light 8 September these screens after suffering casualties and over run fell back to line Philori-Charwa-Chobara and along with a company of 2 Punjab took hasty defensive positions. The same morning Indian armour columns overran Charwa-Chobara, bypassed Philori and reached 3-4 KMs from Chowinda. At 8:30 am 18 Squadron of PAF commanded by Squadron Leader Salauddin Shaheed came into action with three F-86 Fighters who engaged the Indian Armour and imposed a delay of one hour on Indian advance. This one hour was very crucial as it provided two squadrons of 25 Cavalry that arrived from Narowal enough time to regroup and move into battle formation for encounter battle. It was a very bold move on part of the commanding officer to take on the Indian advancing armour head on. PAF provided crucial support. The next two sorties were led by Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudary with whom I talked today to get the records straight.

In the course of writing this, I traced out some of the participants of this action and am convinced that all actions of 8 September were taken solely by Lt. Col Nisar the Commanding Officer of 25 Cavalry at his own initiative and no one else. Throughout this battle Brigadier A A Malik remained in a school at Philora and let Nisar handle the situation. Again on 9/10 September, it were 25 Cavalry and 3FF that repulsed Indian attacks.

4. RELIEF IN LINE. As if the comedy of errors was not enough, the paper tiger think tank now led by Sahibzada Yakoob decided to carry out relief of troops engaged in battle for three days. 25 Cavalry and 3FF were replaced by 11 Cavalry and 9 FF (motorised) on night 10/11. In fact there was no relief and the entire movement was a fiasco. Indians exploited the situation and launched a fierce offensive on the 11th morning. The advancing Indians were first spotted by Major Muzzafar Malik of 11 Cavalry who then alerted everyone else. It was a tough task for the new units because they had moved at night and were not familiar with the terrain. Brigadier AA Malik was to repeat history when as GOC in 1971, he launched a just arrive 355FF into action at Bera Pind and had it massacred.

The biggest lesson of this battle was that both armies were in efficient in handling operations at a large scale. Indian caution and reluctance to pursue and exploit situations resulted in failure of their plan and heavy losses. In terms of Clausewitz’ Friction, it was mostly the mental blockage on part of commanders on both sides that resulted in mistakes. Yet the conduct of small units on both sides was outstanding.

1965 was also to usher a spirit of camaraderie amongst the paper tigers that survives even today. They form a mutual praise group while the most hardy and true ones lie around to rot in anonymity

Thanks are due to Agha Amin, Brigadier Mehmood (ex-servicemen fame), Group Captain Cecil and Major Shamshad.