Espionage Around Us …

Posted on June 5, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |

Hamid Hussein –

“Spying is a like a game of chess.  Sometimes you have to withdraw, sometimes you have to sacrifice one of your pieces to win – preferably a knight rather than a king or queen”.  John Rhys-Davies

Pakistan army spokesperson announced on 30 May 2019 that two army officers and one civilian were tried by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) for spying and passing information to foreign intelligence agencies and convicted. 

No details were provided about charges and results of investigations.  Usually FGCM proceedings are not made public.  Army is very concerned about the negative fallout especially public opinion and generally restricts circulation of any negative information.  This is true of all armies and Pakistan army is no exception. 

However, in 21st century, a candid discourse barring release of sensitive or operational details, sharing general information prevents speculation and rumors.  This enhances the strength of the institution where public has more trust in the accountability process of the institution.  It will take some time before we know the details of this incident when officers involved in investigations and FGCM proceedings provide details. 

Retired Lieutenant General Javed Iqbal Awan was awarded fourteen years imprisonment and retired Brigadier Raja Rizwan Haider and a civilian Dr. Wasim Akram were awarded death sentence. It is likely that some other officers who came under the radar during this investigation will face inquiry and many a career will end.  Some innocents will go down with the guilty. 

Javed is from a military family and from traditional recruiting grounds of Chakwal.  His father was Major, and his brother retired at Colonel rank.  After his early education at Military College Sarai Alamgir, he joined Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) at Kakul.  He was commissioned in 9th Frontier Force Regiment.  He was an above officer but a very hard-working individual. 

His career path was typical of an officer destined for higher ranks.  He served as instructor at PMA and Staff College Quetta and commanded Rawalpindi based 111 Brigade.  He attended United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  After promotion to Major General rank, he first commanded a division in Bahawalpur and then Jhelum.  He was then appointed Director General Military Operations (DGMO). 

This is most important posting at Major General rank and usually held by an officer destined for further promotion.  In April 2011, he was promoted to Lieutenant General rank and appointed Adjutant General (AG) and in December 2013, he was appointed Corps Commander of XXXI Bahawalpur Corps.  He retired in April 2015. 

Brigadier Raja Rizwan Haider is from Khanpur.  His father was a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) of Engineers.  Rizwan completed his early education from cadet college Hassan Abdal; a nursery for Pakistan army officers.  He joined 68th PMA course and commissioned in 10th Frontier Force Regiment. 

He was a bright officer and successfully climbed promotion ladder serving at command, staff and instructional appointments. He commanded a Brigade in tribal areas with good reputation.  He served as Defence Attaché in Germany from 2009-12.  He was superseded at Brigadier rank and retired in 2014. He is a handsome chap and fond of pretty faces. 

Cultivating agents in hostile or even friendly countries for classified information is basic job of every intelligence agency.  Usual incentives are financial, blackmail from a weakness or compromise and ideological. 

Three recent cases from different countries are good case studies.  Joint Secretary of Indian Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), Rabinder Singh was roped in by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) mainly with financial incentives.  Rabinder’s family was settled in United States.  RAW started surveillance of Rabinder and seeing the threat, in 2004 CIA extricated him via Nepal.  He later died in United States. 

In February 2019, former Energy and infrastructure minister Gonen Segev was convicted of spying for Iran in exchange for money.  He was tried in a civilian court and to prevent divulgence of sensitive information, prosecutor made a plea deal with the accused where charges of treason were dropped, and he was sentenced to eleven years in jail.

2019 is an embarrassing year for United States and shows robust Chinese efforts to penetrate US institutions.  In March 2019, former Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer Ron Hansen pleaded guilty to spying for China and will spend fifteen years in jail. 

In April, a former diplomat Candice Claiborne who had worked in US embassy in Beijing pleaded guilty to receiving money from Chinese agents and then lying to investigators.  In a plea deal, she may get a lesser sentence of five years in jail. 

In May 2019, a Mandarin speaking former CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to 20 years in prison for spying for China.  In 2017, he passed on sensitive defense information for a paltry sum of $25’000.  In May, former CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee was arrested for giving classified information to China.  He may spend a decade in jail. 

The most interesting case is of US Air Force counter-intelligence Sergeant Monica Witt.  A Persian speaking agent who worked in the Middle East in service and later as contractor.  After leaving air force, she was troubled, converted to Islam and defected to Iran in 2013.  Her defection was ideological and not for any financial gains.

Javed Iqbal and Rizwan were likely recruited when they were posted abroad.  Recruitment inside Pakistan is very difficult due to robust counter-intelligence operations of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB). We don’t know what kind of information was passed on. 

Javed had served as DGMO and in that position privy to all operational plans. It is not clear how much information DGMO has about nuclear assets deployment.  If he is in the loop, then this information is very valuable.  There is no available evidence of any other motive and it appears that financial gain was main motive.  It is almost certain that CIA recruited him. 

I have not been able to confirm if Rizwan did a stint at Counter Terrorism directorate of ISI.  If he had served at ISI, then information about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations is the information he may have passed.  In his capacity as Brigade commander or as Defence Attaché in Germany, there is nothing unique information that he possessed.  He had a liking for pretty faces and in addition to money, there is possibility of a ‘honey trap’. 

It is not clear whether he was cultivated by CIA or RAW.  Some sources suggest that IB stumbled on his case during a raid to net some other culprits.  Both officers were arrested in September-October 2018.  In January 2019, military spokesperson admitted that they were in custody for espionage charges. 

Dr. Wasim Akram is a PhD doctor and worked in a nuclear facility. He was likely recruited by CIA to pass on information about the work he was familiar with.  Army spokesperson claimed that these cases were separate and not part of a network. 

Even if same agency had recruited them, such operations are usually run in ‘silos’ where one team usually does not know about the work of the other team. This is essential to prevent unravelling of multiple projects if one set of birds is netted. 

Two separate trials of accused were held under Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act.  Few months ago, I had heard that capital punishment was on the cards that suggested seriousness of the charges. 

Punishment also is based on the nature of the information leaked.  All leaks are not equal. We don’t know the exact nature of charges and evidence   It is a sad chapter that has come to an end.  These are the spider webs of the dark art and gods of espionage sometimes want human sacrifice. 

Javed Iqbal was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment while Brigadier Rizwan and Dr. Wasim Akram were sentenced to death.  The question is whether difference of sentence relates to the nature of information passed on or which agency recruited them.  If the nature of crime is same but Wasim got capital punishment because he divulged nuclear secrets; a more serious crime and Rizwan passed on information to RAW; a sure ticket to gallows. 

Some are asking question whether Javed was spared the gallows because of his rank and connections while JCO’s son sent to gallows.  They are of the view that being senior and privy to more sensitive information, if crime is same then he should have faced the same sentence.  Another question that must be on the minds of senior officers involved in sentencing is the climate in the country. 

Recently, army has taken a very hard stance against Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) accusing them to be agents of hostile intelligence agencies.  In this environment, showing leniency to fellow officers who are not simply accused but convicted of this crime would not go well. 

This decision of army brass was a correct one and even harshest critics of army have praised the army brass.  However, now pause and reflection is needed.  I see a clear and present danger, where some senior officers citing this evidence advocating for maximum punishment for PTM leaders now under custody.  The two cases are totally different and any such action either due to anger or arrogance will have very serious consequences. 

“In the intelligence community, a rumor was almost as good as a confirmation”.  Kenneth Eade

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A Poet, a Pakistani and a Person …

Posted on March 21, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |

An edited write up of Raza Naeem’s review carried in The Wire – ‘

The appetite for seeing you silent
Is even emerging from the graves
But you speak!

For to listen is prohibited here
The passions which had terrified me
Now in their expression
I see others tremble with fear’

Kishwar Naheed is one of the greatest Urdu poets of the 20th century, and perhaps Pakistan’s greatest living poet.

She will turn 80 in 2020 and this year celebrates the 50thanniversary of the publication of her iconic ghazal collection, Lab-e-Goyaa (‘Speaking Lips’).

Over her long journey as a poet and feminist, she has contributed many iconic poems which have entered the feminist history of Pakistan: ‘Pehla Sufaid Baal’ (‘The First White Hair’), ‘Karre Kos’ (‘The Stiff Two Miles’), ‘Clearance Sale’, ‘Hum Gunaahgaar Auratein’ (‘We Sinful Women’) and ‘Men Kon Hoon’ (Who Am I).

Her iconic autobiography, Burri Aurat ki Katha (‘The Story of a Bad Woman’), is not just the autobiography of a poet but the story of a whole generation.

Her latest collection of poetry, Shireen Sukhani se Paray (‘Away from Sweet Talk’) contains many poems which especially relate to the plight of the contemporary Pakistani woman – or any woman for that matter.

Poems about the defiance of Hazrat Zainab in the court of Yazid, Sheema Kirmani’s own defiance at the Sehwan Sharif shrine, on the female victims of Karo Kari, a dirge for the benighted Zainab Ansari of Kasur, an ode to Asma Jahangir, the plight of palace maids and surrogate mothers, her own foster-mother and much else.

Her nearly-forgotten poem, ‘Qibla-Ruu Guftagu’ (‘Conversation facing the Kaaba’) should have been the anthem for the ‘Aurat March on International Women’s Day’ this year:

‘That they who became afraid even of young girls
What a petty existence they possess
Proclaim in every city
Have the spirit, keep this faith
That they who became afraid even of young girls
They indeed are petty themselves’

While this piece cannot do justice to Kishwar Naheed’s true literary stature, it’s really a sad day when Pakistan’s greatest poet and feminist icon and some of her would-be successors in the 21st century are today standing at daggers drawn.

The trigger: Naheed’s critical comments.

I believe some of the more vocal radicals of the Aurat March need to critically engage with the voluminous work produced by Kishwar Naheed over more than 50 years, beyond her iconic poem ‘Hum Gunaahgaar Auratein’; there is apparently also a language disconnect, since Naheed has produced her work almost entirely in Urdu, while most of the Aurat March radicals, operate primarily in English.

As Najiba Arif says in her wonderful poem ‘Kishwar Naheed ko Zinda Rehna Chahiye’ (Kishwar Naheed Must Live):

‘Kishwar Naheed is a dense tree
Which grows on the road on its own, all by itself
And extends its shadow across the way
Exhausted travelers rest under its shade
Birds’ nests hang from its branches
In which their eggs and progeny are protected
Songs echo when the wind passes through its leaves
Its branches rustle in silence
And whisper
Look, we have held the moon
If you want you can go far in the moonlight
Its trunk is sunk in the earth
Its roots have sprouted from the soil
And go within the deep waters

Kishwar Naheed has no daughter
But she knows how to be a  mother to one

Kishwar Naheed is alone
But she knows how to give support

Kishwar Naheed is a woman
And can speak the truth
Can take poison
Can adorn the gallows

Kishwar Naheed is that spirit which must live.’

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Talibans’ Mullah Omar …

Posted on March 12, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |

They say the Younger Bush n his VP, Dick Cheney,had put Osama Bin Laden on the Back Burner n it was OBama who pulled all the Stops to put the Hunt forefront — n rest is History. Here is the Story of the next guy who died a natural death.

Dutch journalist Ms Dam spent five years researching and interviewing Taliban members for her book. She managed to speak to Jabbar Omari, the man who effectively became Omar’s bodyguard when he went into hiding after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Culled from The BBC – Bette Dam’s ‘The Secret Life of Mullah Omar’ says the leader never hid in Pakistan – as believed by the US. Instead, he lived in hiding just three miles from a major US Forward Operating Base in his home province of Zabul.

Mullah Omar signed control of the Taliban over to his defence minister, Mullah Obaidullah, in December 2001He lived in isolation and wrote notebook entries in an invented language ………… He died on 23 April 2013 and was buried without a coffin in a featureless grave.

Mr Omari hid the Taliban leader until his death from illness in 2013 Soon after the fall of the Taliban, Omar – on whose head the US placed a $10m bounty after the 11 September terror attacks – hid in secret rooms in a house close to a Forward Operating Base Wolverine, home to 1,000 US troops and where US Navy Seals and British SAS forces were sometimes based.

US forces even searched the on one occasion, but failed to find his hiding place. Omar would sometimes hide in irrigation tunnels to avoid detection

He lhad earlier moved to a second building just three miles from another US base – home to about 1,000 troops. Ms Dam was told that Omar got his news from the BBC’s Pashto language service.

Despite claims by the militants, Omar could not run the Taliban group from his hiding places. But he is said to have approved a Taliban office in the Gulf state of Qatar, where US officials are talking with Taliban leaders in a bid to end the long war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban leader remained a key figurehead despite not having day-to-day involvement.

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Pak n Bangladesh …

Posted on February 22, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |

Once upon a time Pakistan was Every Thing n Bangla Desh was a Deciml Point …………….. But Now it is the Other Way Round!!!

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An Old Soldiers Unadulterated Nostalgia …

Posted on January 23, 2019. Filed under: Pakistan |


Listening to the fascinating tale of the longest serving Commandant of Chitral Scouts, known for his association with the Afghan jihad, who has become a mythical figure in the area.

The Colonel left the Commandant’s House at the small town of Darosh in Chitral District in the evening, presumably for the last time. He was headed for Peshawar to attend his farewell dinner which was planned for the next evening at Bala-Hisar Fort, the headquarters of Frontier Corps.

The next day was his last in service and the dinner thus arranged was to honour him. A few eulogising speeches, a shield, handshakes and then he would pass into oblivion.

The sentry on evening duty at the Commandant’s House was astounded to see the headlights of the approaching jeep. Unexpectedly, the Colonel had returned soon after he left home. He parked the jeep and let the driver retire for the day.

The sentry wondered at the changed plan. Now the Colonel would not be able to make it to his farewell dinner in Peshawar, even if he leaves at dawn the next day. But it was not the sentry’s business to question the travel itinerary of his commander and so he kept wondering.

Close to midnight, he saw the silhouette of the Colonel strolling in the lawn with his dogs. Twice he paused, patted his dogs, looked up towards the heaven and murmured something in an inaudible tone. After a while, he walked past the sentry, asked him to tie up the dogs and went inside the house.

Soon after morning prayers, his close friend Khursheed Ali, a Darosh non-military local, rushed to the Commandant House on the urgent call from the major stationed in Darosh. The officers of FC and the police SHO were waiting for him. The eerie silence was broken by the worried major who asked the sentry to break open the Colonel’s bedroom door which was bolted from inside. There he was, lying on the bed with a pistol dangling loosely in his hand.

On the table was a small note which explained how his private possession was to be distributed among the people he cared most. Among them was Khursheed Ali who got the two dogs to look after, while all other pets (including his favourite Markhor), photographs, furniture and belongings were willed to the FC Mess. He left some money for the sentry; the rest, after expenditure on his funeral service, went to his brother.

Though the short note did indicate a few things, it could not explain ‘why’ he did what he did!

On August 3, 1989, as per his wishes, he was buried in the shade of a Chinar tree which lay across the Commandant House, in a small ground purchased by the Colonel in his lifetime. Thousands of people descended from the valleys of Chitral, including the Kafirs, to attend his funeral. A smartly turned out contingent of FC, with misty eyes, fired a volley of shots in the air.

Thus ended the story of Colonel Murad Khan, the longest serving Commandant of Chitral Scouts, who lies buried in Darosh.

I first heard about Colonel Murad in November 2013 while having tea in the office of my friend Major General (now Lt General) Ghayur Mahmood at Bala Hisar Fort. I was recently posted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as Secretary Excise and Taxation and was assigned additional responsibilities by the government to look after the Chitral district.

The same week I crossed the torturous Lowari pass and descended into Darosh, a town 40 kilometres short of Chitral. The whole bazaar seems to be buzzing with stories about the Colonel.

My friend Khalid, an excellent polo player, took me to Reshun village some 50kms beyond Chitral on the road leading to Shandur. There we met a short and muscular retired Havaldar of Chitral Scouts. Sher Ali in his heydays was also a great polo player and had represented Chitral umpteen times in the famous Shandur Mela. In 1980, Col Murad had spotted him at Shandur and offered him a job in Chitral Scouts as a sowar. The job raised the social status of the polo player and ended in a steaming affair with a girl whose rich father refused to accept him in his household.

That year, a dejected Sher Ali dropped out of the polo team, and his travails reached the Colonel’s ears. Next morning the Colonel made him ‘sit next to him’, drove the jeep at a furious pace, followed by a detachment of scouts in other vehicles and in three hours reached his village. The girl’s father fearing arrest escaped in the mountains.

The Colonel cajoled the village elders that they must prevail upon the girl’s parents to agree to this match. Overwhelmed by this unexpected response, the girl’s parents agreed. A month later, the knot was tied with much fanfare. The bridegroom and his entourage entered the village led by Chitral Scouts bagpipe band playing ‘….Jolly Good Fellow……..’

Geoffrey Moorhouse, a travel writer, historian and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Royal Society of Literature, had also met Colonel Murad in Chitral. In his book To The Frontier (p 1984) he had described the Colonel as a shy, bald, stocky man who smiled appealingly but never laughed and offered his opinion only when asked.

Murad invited Moorhouse for lunch at the officer’s mess in Chitral which the latter compared with the club house of golf course in the home counties of England. The Colonel smilingly pointed towards an obelisk at the mess which read: ‘this stone was well and truly laid by Bonzo, Boob and Henry, July 1934’ and added “there’s supposed to be a bottle of Johnny Walker buried under there. One of our regimental heirlooms, I suppose.”

Later, on the Colonel’s invitation, Moorhouse visited Chitral Scout’s headquarters at Darosh where he showed him his pet Markhor, a ridge which marked the Durand Line, Christmas cards from old British officers of the regiment and other memorabilia. What impressed Moorhouse most was his knowledge about the Afghan jihad across the border and that he “made study of Chitral his great pastime since he was posted here”. The Colonel was very proud of his troops whom he always referred as ‘my boys’.

Moorhouse was admiringly introduced to the Colonel in 1983 by Rauf Yousefani, then SP Police in Chitral as someone who should “have been a Brigadier by now if he had played his cards properly. But he seems quite happy to finish his time here. He’ll be retiring soon.”

However, he proved the pundits wrong by becoming the longest serving commandant of Chitral scouts. His popularity among the masses and knowledge of the terrain made him almost indispensable for the modern Great Game defined as Afghan jihad. His fame grew beyond Lowari pass down to the GHQ in Rawalpindi and was given extensions in service twice by General Zia, something unheard of in Army.

I met Khursheed Ali at his residence in Darosh. In the early 1980s, Ali was an ‘angry young’ reformer who was made the member of Zia’s Majlis-e-Shoora. He was the closest friend of the old Colonel and fondly narrated anecdotes of bygone era.

Once in 1980, when the Afghan war was at its height, a Russian plane came strafing over the mess while they were sipping tea in the lawn. “All of us dived for cover, but ‘our’ Colonel kept calmly sitting on the chair smoking his cigarette.” Colonel Sahab used to resolve domestic and property disputes of the people of Chitral, helped them in getting education, organising sports tournaments and finding jobs for the deserving ones. Sher Ali was one of the many beneficiaries of his benevolence. Every family in Chitral owned him; that explained his fame and popularity in the valleys.

Both the friends were close to Zia who would give them preferential treatment whenever he visited Chitral.

The plane crash of General Zia is said to have brought down curtain on the Colonel’s career. In 1989, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited Chiral to witness the famous Shandhur Festival where polo is fiercely contested between Chitral and Gilgit. After the match, she was ushered to the Chitral Scouts Mess for refreshments. Lo and behold, she was greeted by a large size portrait of General Zia which adorned the wall of the main hall, still smiling under his greasy moustaches.

Bhutto was known to be magnanimous in such matters and hardly took any notice of this slip. However, there were people in her entourage who were more loyal than others. As the story goes, the then interior minister took the Colonel aside and gave him some sure tips about ‘royal’ protocol.

In Chitral, I was repeatedly told this incident was the pretext used for denying Colonel Murad further extension of service which he desperately desired. Khursheed Ali, his closet friend, however opined that though Colonel Murad had shared with him his desire for another extension, he knew deep down that his wish was like the proverbial wild horse. Army discipline discourages extensions of any sort. He had already created a record of getting two against the backdrop of the neo ‘Great Game’, but with the Afghan issue almost settled, the usefulness of Colonel Murad had also dwindled to the lowest ebb. In the post-Zia era, the new army chief hardly knew about the Colonel’s exploits in Chitral. The die was cast.

Four months before his retirement, while gossiping with his close circle as to why people commit suicide, he casually inquired from the local doctor the easiest mode of committing it. Then he placed his hand above his ears and gently moved his middle finger as if he was pulling the trigger. “He winked at us and the room echoed with laughter!” Kursheed Ali realised the significance of this act a little too late.

Colonel Murad was a confirmed bachelor who had not maintained any links with his family. In his ten years at Darosh, he was twice visited by one of his brothers; he never availed leave for a single day. His trips to the FC Headquarters in Peshawar were short and he would not stay for an extra night outside Chitral. “This was his home and we were his family. So he wanted to stay here forever.”

I wanted to know more about Colonel’s family. It took me six months and more visits to Khursheed Sahab’s home in Darosh to pick up pieces of jigsaw puzzle. The Colonel, a handsome lad in his village, had fallen in love with his cousin. But before the match could be formalised, he had joined the army and the two kept exchanging letters. However, their stars were crossed. Unable to cope with the situation, he quietly left home but told his mother he would never come back home again.

A year after the Colonel died, Khursheed Ali was called by the Scout officers to meet a relative of the old Colonel. He found an old woman (the mother) bent over the Colonel’s grave, wailing and murmuring in Potohari Punjabi — “Oh Murada, tain apni zid puri ker ditti (you stuck to your words)!”

As you descend from the Lowari pass and drive past the town of Darosh towards Chitral, do stop for a while in the bazaar. At some roadside inn, while sipping the hot milky tea, somebody would turn around to narrate the story of our old Colonel.

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1965 War – AF Stories …

Posted on January 10, 2019. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From Hamid Hussain –

1965 POWs

Seven Indian Air Force officers who were prisoners of war during 1965 conflict prior to flying back to India; 22 January 1966, Peshawar 

Left to Right – Vijay Mayadev, Kodendera ‘Nanda’ Cariappa, Brijpal Singh Sikand, unidentified Pakistan army Lieutenant Colonel, Squadron Leader (later Air Vice Marshal) Bahar ul Haq of Pakistan Air Force; Captain of the plane, Onkar Nath ‘Piloo’ Kacker, Mahendra Vir Singh, Lal Sadarangani and Manmohan ‘Mani’ Lowe.  On the plane stairs are two unidentified members of the plane crew.  

Repatriated IAF PoWs 1965 War - 1 (002)

Seven IAF pilots on repatriation to India meeting Indian Air Force Chief Air Marshal Arjan Singh in his office; 22 January 1966.  From left Vijay Mayadev, Lal Sadarangani, O. N. Kacker, K. Cariappa, B. S. Sikand and Air Marshal Arjun Singh. M.V. Singh is next to Arjun Singh with face partially hidden and M. M. Lowe is hidden behind Lal.  Photograph courtesy of Air Marshal Kodendera ‘Nanda’ Cariappa.

Flight Lieutenant Kodendera Nanda Cariappa was serving with No 20 Squadron.  His Hunter was shot down on 22 September 1965 by Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) fire near Kasur.  He was injured during ejection.  He was first treated at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Lahore and later transferred to Rawalpindi.  Pakistan army chief General Muhammad Musa visited him at CMH Lahore and in Rawalpindi Ayub Khan’s son visited him.  After repatriation, he steadily rose to higher ranks. 

He commanded No: 111 Helicopter unit and later commanded No: 8 Squadron.  He retired at Air Marshal.  His father was first Indian Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal K. M. Cariappa.  Field Marshal Cariappa was Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s brigade commander before partition of India in 1947.

Squadron Leader Brijpal Singh Sikand was serving with No: 23 Squadron. On 03 September 1965, he was part of a four Gnat sortie over Lahore.  Indian plan consisted of four Mystères luring the Sabres, while low flying Gnats were to pounce on Pakistani jets from two different directions.

Two F 86s Sabres and one F-104 Starfighter were in the air. The four Mystères, having apparently lured the patrolling Sabres, turned north and exited the battle area, leaving the Gnats to strike from behind.  Indian Gnats broke off on appearance of F-104 and headed back.  One Gnat flown by Sikand, however, having gone back, turned about and re-entered Pakistani airspace. Another F-104 was scrambled and Gnat landed at an unused airfield of Pasrur.

A field ambulance was stationed near the air strip commanded by Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) Dr. Yahya Ghaznavi who took surrender of Sikand. Two PAF pilots arrived to take custody of Sikand and the Gnat.  Sikand told his captors that he got separated from his formation, lost directions and with low fuel landed on the air strip.  In 1971 war, Sikand was commanding Kalaikanda based No: 22 Squadron.  He retired as Air Marshal.

Hatmi_Sikand (002)

On left Squadron Leader Saad Hatmi talking to B. S. Sikand at the airfield after surrender; 03 September 1965.  Photograph courtesy of Air Commodore ® Kaiser Tufail.

Flight Lieutenant Vijay Mayadev was commissioned in 1962.  In 1965, he was serving with No: 9 Squadron based at Adampur flying Gnats.  Initially, No: 9 Squadron was mainly flying Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) to protect vital installations and airfields.  Later, Gnats were used to escort Mysteres for ground support attacks in combat zone. 

On 19 September, four Mysteres of No: 1 Squadron were launched in a ground support attack.  They were escorted by four Gnats of No: 9 Squadron.  Vijay was wingman of this pair of Gnats.  He was shot down by Flight Lieutenant Saif ul Azam of No: 17 Squadron flying F-86E. After repatriation, Vijay became flying instructor and seconded to Iraqi Air Force for a while.  Vijay retired in 1980 at the rank of Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flight Lieutenant Saif ul Azam who brought down Vijay was a Bengali and his life story is amazing. 

Saif won gallantry award of Sitara-e-Jurrat for this action in 1965 war.  During 1967 Arab-Israeli war, he was in Jordan on deputation.  He volunteered for combat missions and wearing Jordanian uniform, shot an Israeli Mystere – IVA. 

When Jordanian air force was destroyed, he then moved on to Iraq.  Now wearing Iraqi uniform, he was engaged in combat with Israeli aircraft.  After separation of East Pakistan in 1971, he was repatriated to his new homeland of Bangladesh where he retired as Group Captain. 

His life highlights the ironies of the times.  He was born a British subject in Indian Bengal and in 1947, became Pakistani citizen and served his country well.  He fought against Israel helping Arabs and in 1971, became citizen of Bangladesh.

He has the distinction of wearing the uniform of four air forces and winning gallantry awards from three countries; Sitara-e-Jurrat from Pakistan, Husam-e-Isteqlal from Jordan and Noth-e-Shuja from Iraq. 

Squadron Leader Onkar Nath ‘Piloo’ Kacker serving with No: 27 Squadron was flying Hunter that was shot down on 07 September by Squadron Leader M.M. Alam. He rose to the rank of Wing Commander.  He was Commanding Officer of No: 10 Squadron equipped with Indian manufactured HF-24 Marut.  He was killed in a HF-24 crash in 1970. 

Flight Lieutenant Lal Sadarangani was serving with No: 8 Squadron.  His Mystere-IV was shot down by AAA fire on 13 September.  He retired as Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flight Lieutenant Manmohan ‘Mani’ Lowe was serving with No: 5 Squadron.  His Canberra was shot down on 21 September by Squadron Leader Jamal Ahmad Khan flying F-104.  His navigator Flying Officer K. K. ‘Raj’ Kapur was killed.  Mani retired as Wing Commander and joined Air India. 

Flying Officer Mahendra Vir Singh was commissioned in 1962.  He was serving with No: 27 Squadron.  His Hunter was shot down by AAA fire on 08 September and he had leg injury.  He retired as air commodore.

Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh (1919-2017) was a fine officer and gentleman.  Arjan and Pakistan Air Force Chiefs Air Marshal Asghar Khan (1957-65) and Air Marshal Nur Khan (1965-69) were pioneers of Royal Indian Air Force before independence in 1947. 

Although now commanding rival air forces, they had profound respect for each other.  In the spring of 1965, Indian and Pakistani troops clashed in Rann of Kutch area.  Pakistan Air Force Chief Air Marshal Asghar Khan contacted his counterpart in India Air Marshal Arjan Singh and they agreed to keep their air forces out of this conflict that could lead to a general war. 

Arjan always praised Asghar and Nur for their professionalism and called them ‘my dear friends’.  In 1966, when Arjan Singh visited Pakistan, he stayed with Nur Khan. 


Air Marshal Arjan Singh and Air Marshal Nur Khan in Peshawar 1966

Even at the age of 97, Arjan had such a graceful personality as evidenced by a photograph below;

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Gen Zia ul Haq – A Memory …

Posted on December 6, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan |

From Hamid Hussein …

General Zia ul Haq was originally commissioned in 13th Lancers as an Emergency Commissioned Officer (ECO).

He was transferred out of 13th Lancers on an adverse report for playing Indian music in the mess and probably being observant Muslim and praying openly. 

That is how he landed in 6th Lancers after the war with a recommendation that he should not be offered regular commission. 

Captain (later MG) I. Rikhey was squadron commander of Jat Squadron of 6th Lancers.  When Rikhye joined the regiment, he was posted to Punjabi Muslim (PM) squadron.  6th Lancers was not an Indianized regiment and CO was not sure how Indian soldiers will react to an Indian officer. 

The CO asked Risaldar Major Dadan Khan (a PM) about his views of posting an Indian officer to the squadron.  Dadan replied that Rikhye Sahab ‘apna bacha hai’ (our son) as Rikhye was a Punjabi Hindu who grew up in Lahore. 

Senior most Indian VCO of PM Squadron Feroz Khan took Rikhye under his wing and made sure that he succeed. Brig. Jatar was with Jat squadron and that is how he became friends with Zia.

Rikhye helped Zia and gave final recommendation that he should be offered regular commission (this would not be the last time that Zia was bailed out by seniors). 

Zia was later transferred to Guides Cavalry and then commanded 22 Cavalry.  Here is an interesting story of that vintage era.

Rikhye later came across Zia at a UN general assembly meeting.  Zia was shaking hands with all standing in line to greet him but on seeing Rikhye he embraced him warmly surprising all present. 

Rikhye was later invited by Zia when he was President of Pakistan as his personal guest.  He also invited Brig Jatar but he could not come due to ill health.

Zia vs Zia (1967)

Lt. Colonel Zia ul Haq as CO of 22 Cavalry 1966 in Multan. Standing next to him is regiment’s adjutant Lt. Zia Masood. (Picture courtesy of The Friday Times).

When Zia was commanding 22 Cavalry, his adjutant was also named Zia (Masood). 

One day Lt. Zia’s girl friend rang up the office but he was not there and phone was picked up by the CO Lt. Colonel Zia saying, “Assalam alikum.  Colonel Zia speaking”.  The girl thought that Lt. Zia was trying to fool her by a mimicking voice.  She made fun of him and said that ‘till yesterday, you were Lt. Zia and today you are Colonel Zia.  Tomorrow, you will say I’m General Zia’. 

story was narrated by an officer of 22 Cavalry.

MG I. Rikhye’s wife was kind enough to send me his books.  Rikhye’s son Ravi is a good friend and I recently met him in Maryland.  I have a copy of the History of 6th Lancers that I’m looking to gift to the regiment. 

If any Pakistan army officer can help me to send this book to the rightful owner – that will be great.



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Pak – This Pic Speaks …

Posted on December 2, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan |

The Real Googly: More than Imran, the Pakistan Army Wants Peace With India

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The French Way – Diagnosis, Treatment …

Posted on October 26, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan, The French Contribution |

THE FRENCH WAY by Rear Admiral Mian Zahir Shah (Retd)  PAK Navy …

Like the uniform, parades are a part and parcel of military life. There are daily parades, passing out parades, ceremonial parades, and even blanket parades. There is also a little parade in the morning in every military unit, which is called the sick parade.

 The sick parade is one parade that is never a favourite with the Command, for the men on this parade are invariably not going to be available for work for that day.

There is always a certain percentage of the ship’s company on sick parade. Some are the genuinely sick, while others are pretenders trying to get away from some unpleasant work. They are called malingerers, and malingering is a punishable offense.

While a complaint of stomach-ache or headache is a favourite ploy, good malingering requires talent and some even take it to the level of a fine art. 

When we went to France for manning a submarine, it came as no surprise – as soon as the men had got their bearings in that new country – to see a sizeable sick parade shuffle along to try their hand with the French Medical Officer in the submarine base.

After an hour or so the sick parade returned in a very subdued manner. Stranger still, they were most uncommunicative about their treatment and about the medicines they had received.

Next morning the sick parade was much smaller. On the third day the sick parade were zero and miraculously remained like that – except for the really genuine cases – for the rest of their stay in France.

The command was pleasantly surprised with this miracle and was most curious to know how it had happened. Soon it was discovered that the reason for it all was the French medical practice.

In Pakistan we follow the British medical system and have become quite comfortable with it. We gulp down pills that are sugar coated, open up our mouths to take the thermometer, and roll up our sleeves to take injections.

 The French doctors on the other hand, ask you to take your pants down for almost anything. 

Injections are given on fleshy buttocks, temperature is taken anally with a comparatively monstrous thermometer, and tablets, or suppositories, also administered anally, are equally oversized and need no sugar coating for where they are going. 

 The suppositories were promptly nicknamed ‘torpedoes&#39’ by the submarine sailors, and the process of taking them was called ‘loading stern tubes’.

It was, in fact, a bewildering experience for an unsuspecting Pakistani – even civilian – to go to a doctor in France for the first time.

Even if his complaint was a simple, innocent ailment like a sore throat, he was bound to find himself set upon by white-gowned people, all speaking an incomprehensible language, who would straight away subject him to a series of the most unmentionable indignities.

Furthermore, the doctor also insisted that the first of the suppositories be taken by the patient right there and then, s’il vous plait, to see that he gets it right. This was culture shock at its worst!

The stay in France was not a short one, so the sailors learnt to live with their ailments stoically, manfully enduring discomfort and pain than bruise their sensitive egos.

And when writing back home, medicines started taking priority over spices in the lists of items that near and dear ones were asked to send to them in France.

It was a happy day for everyone when the submarine eventually arrived in Pakistan.

But along with the general happiness, one long dormant and practically forgotten headache of the command slowly raised its ugly head once more. With the gradual replacement of the French medicines by local ones, the sick parades returned STRONG!

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Kargil War – Pak Chief and his Cabal Betray Pak Govt and Pak Army …

Posted on September 23, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan |

Originally Published in the Dawn – By Ejaz Ahmed, a Ford scholar at the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois. He is a visiting  fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C

In her book, ‘From Kargil to the Coup’, journalist Nasim Zehra calls them the Kargil clique. Cabal would be a better word to describe them because, as Zehra says, “These generals planned operation Koh Paima (KP), as covert, unaccountable campaigners.”

Her work is the first critical book-length account not just of the operation but also its aftermath, which led to a coup. Ironically, the cabal, which should have been tried for tactical and strategic idiocy, went up the totem pole.

Then Chief of Army Staff Pervez Musharraf entrenched himself as the president of this country. His Chief of General Staff Aziz Khan became a four-star general and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Javed Hasan became a three-star general and went on to head the National Defence University and later, the Administrative Staff College. Commander 10 Corps Mahmud Ahmed was made director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The civilians were ousted and several, including then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, ended up in jail. Who says failure is an orphan?

India set up a Kargil Commission to look into how and why its strategic intelligence failed so badly, why its military response was so slow and sloppy in the beginning, the problems of interoperability between the army and the air force, the high Indian casualties and the flaws in logistics and leadership in the field.

The commission was headed by a civilian, not a military officer. Its mandate was wide and deep. It went into every little detail, from the tactical to the strategic. It calculated any future threat and recommended force reconfiguration. And – this is the best part – it made its report public.

In short, that country tried to learn its lessons. No such thing happened, or could happen, in Pakistan.

Instead, as Zehra’s book title says, what began as a covert, unauthorised, illegal military operation, outside the purview not only of civilian principals but also without the knowledge of the Pakistan Air Force and the Pakistan Navy and even the military’s own intelligence agencies, led to a military coup and the ouster of a civilian government.

But before that, the cabal had to handle the deep resentment within the army. Musharraf had to face tough questions. Hasan, the FCNA commander, could not face his troops. As Zehra mentions: “Internally … there was disquiet after the withdrawal. Instructions were that Kargil would not be discussed in any school of instruction … No courses would be taught at the National Defence College.”

Kargil was a taboo subject and remained so for a fairly long time.

There has been a lot of speculation since 1999 about how much then prime minister Nawaz Sharif knew about the operation and also when exactly he got the full picture.

Zehra’s book puts an end to that speculation. In one of the chapters, Necks on the Line and Lotus Lake, she describes the “deceptive briefings” that were given to Sharif: “On 29th January in Skardu, they told Sharif the general thrust of their intentions while not revealing the plan in full. In order to boost the Kashmir struggle, they said,  FCNA troops needed to become active along the LoC .”

Sharif had no clue that Pakistani troops had already crossed the LoC and entered Indian-occupied Kashmir. As Zehra mentions, he thought that “small-scale operations could complement his political and diplomatic efforts to move forward on detente and peace with India”.

A second briefing was given in February and a third on March 13 by major-general Jamshed Gulzar of the ISI. These briefings were completely unrelated to Operation Koh Paima or its specifics. Reason: the ISI, as also the Military Intelligence (MI), had no idea about the operation.

At one of these briefings, Musharraf proposed that militants scale up their operations in Kashmir. He also suggested that they be provided Stinger surface-to-air missiles.

Former lieutenant-general and cabinet member Majeed Malik strongly objected to the proposal. The prime minister, however, did not reprimand Musharraf for proposing the induction of a platform that would obviously be considered escalatory by India at a time when the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan were attempting to carry forward gains from the Lahore Declaration, held earlier the same year between Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Zehra calls it “divergent tracks”. The Kargil cabal was pushing Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif into a direction that ran completely opposite to what Sharif was trying to achieve through the dialogue process initiated subsequent to Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999.

While the Kargil story unfolds in the back drop of the civil-military imbalance in Pakistan and has to be judged and analysed in and through that broader prism, it is also the tale of an operation poorly conceived and executed by the four generals — notwithstanding the outstanding bravery and battlefield performance of junior leaders and soldiers.

They fought like the dickens, many volunteering to fight even after reports emerged that the defenders had been left to their own devices with rations and ammunition depleting.

As Zehra writes: “The Kargil clique had no plans for [the men occupying the heights] when the enemy struck back.”

The irony is that similar plans to occupy strategic peaks along the LoC had previously been rejected at least three times.

It was not until May 16, 1999 that the cabal decided, with reports pouring in from the Indian media of skirmishes in Kargil, Dras and Batalik sectors along the LoC, to explain what had been planned and what was happening.

Finally, on May 17, the prime minister was given a detailed briefing at Ojhri Camp where the chiefs of the air force and the navy were also taken into confidence. But still there was no mention of Pakistani troops having crossed the LoC.

Those present at the briefing were told that the battle reports were all about heightened activity by militants who had occupied impregnable heights in the area while the army was providing them logistical support. Sharif was also told that he would be remembered as Fatahi Kashmir (the conqueror of Kashmir).

Unable to understand the operational maps used for the briefing, unable to figure out what the line on the map meant in terms of real distances on the ground, or what the military symbols signified, he was given the impression that “the strategic heights lay somewhere in the un-demarcated zones”.

The full extent of what had happened and the cul de sac in which Musharraf and his cabal had pushed the army and the country only became clear to Sharif when he went to Skardu’s Combined Military Hospital and saw severely wounded soldiers.

The hospital’s commandant informed him that he was transporting dozens of wounded soldiers to Rawalpindi every day. Sharif was “crestfallen and teary-eyed as he walked around and comforted the wounded soldiers.”











The book also reveals how Musharraf sent a friend to Sharif’s father, suggesting that he talk to the prime minister, his son, and advise him “to recall the troops since continued or accelerated fighting could also mean the Indians might open other war fronts. The message was conveyed and the prime minister’s father agreed to do as advised.”

Prussian officer and war theoretician, Carl von Clausewitz, wrote about war’s “triple nature”: its first level pertains to the primitive violence of people — that is, the ability to take risks and the willingness to kill; the second involves managing violence and harnessing it towards an aim — the job of military commanders; the third is a political level where a government determines the ultimate objective of a war because no clash of arms is an end in itself.

Clausewitz also understood that there would be tension between the first and the second levels as well as between the second and the third ones. But they all need to be taken together because that is what constitutes the grammar of war.

He used two terms, Zweck und Ziel, to explain these dynamics. Zweck is the purpose, the political objective, for which a war is being fought; Ziel is the aim of various battles in that war and how they are to be conducted to achieve the war’s political end. Going by this formation, Ziel must add up to Zweck.

Kargil upended this entire logic. The cabal’s assumptions – that Operation Koh Paima will bring the Kashmir dispute into sharp focus, that India will either swallow the occupation of Kargil heights or not fight back in any systemic way, that there was no possibility of India using its air force, that international arbiters, given the presence of nuclear weapons in both India and Pakistan, would seek de-escalation in Pakistan’s favour – were all deeply flawed and betrayed a poor understanding of the environment in which the operation was launched.

Of course, there were officers who realised the folly of these ‘paper tigers’, as the late lieutenant-general Iftikhar Ali Khan, who was working as the defence secretary at the time, described them to Nawaz Sharif. But they could not do much because the gang of four had given everyone a fait accompli.

Zehra’s book does not theorise about civil-military relations. Nor does it go into the theory of decision-making.

It offers the reader a story, a thrilling one which is replete with information. But because the story unfolds as it does, one can clearly see the dynamics of a system where the generals exercise a reach far beyond their remit.

In equal measure, it throws light on how civilian principals are used to pull the chestnuts out of fire and then scapegoated.

This is a story which provides ample raw material to a theorist of civil-military relations.




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