Indo Pak War 1947/48 – Prelude …

Posted on February 26, 2018. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan |

Hamid Hussain 

In August 1947, the British departed from India after partitioning the country into two independent states. Two pillars of stability; Indian Civil Service (ICS) and Indian army were divided between the two countries. Pakistan inherited the north-western frontier of India and its associated tribal question.

A tribal territory under British protection separated Indian administrative border from Afghanistan that in turn served as a buffer state between British India and Tsarist Russia; later Communist Soviet Union.  East India Company encountered these tribes after the demise of Sikh Durbar in 1849 when Punjab was annexed. In the next four decades, this relationship evolved over various stages.  By 1890s, Afghanistan’s borders were stabilized with demarcation of boundaries with Persia, Russia and British India.

There was a layered administrative structure of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).  Five settled districts (Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu & Dera Ismail Khan) were administered like rest of India under Indian penal code.

In between settled districts and tribal territories were areas called Frontier Regions (FR) administered by deputy commissioner of the adjoining settled district.  In the early phase, deputy commissioners also dealt with the neighboring tribes.  Later, when tribal agencies were created Political Agents dealt with tribes under a separate code called Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

In 1947, there were five tribal agencies; Khyber, Kurrram, Malakand, North and South Waziristan.  In general, scouts operated in tribal agencies, border military police (later Frontier Constabulary) in Frontier Regions and police in settled districts.

Troops of Indian army were deployed in various garrisons as a back-up for internal security duties and for external defense against possible Russian threat.

After Second World War, events moved at rapid pace and all three main players; Congress, Muslim League and British government were not prepared for these cataclysmic changes. By 1946, it was clear that British were finally leaving India and frontier question was seen in this context.

After Second World War, it was decided to gradually cut back regular troops on the frontier.  In 1944, a committee was formed under Lieutenant General Francis Tuker to recommend new frontier policy. This Frontier Committee recommended that regular troops should be withdrawn and Razmak, Wana and Khyber Pass garrisons should be replaced with scouts and khassadars (tribal levies).

Imperial giants of frontier Sir George Cunningham and Sir Olaf Caroe recommended implementation of committee’s recommendations.  Withdrawal of troops was to be complemented with a massive economic and infrastructure investment in tribal areas.

In 1944, Khojak Brigade on Baluchistan frontier was disbanded.  In March 1945 Tal Brigade was disbanded and some of its units were assigned to Kohat Brigade.

In April 1946, Indian army Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Claude Auckinleck presided a high-level conference at Peshawar.  It was attended by Governor NWFP, Agent to the Governor General Baluchistan, British counsel at Kabul and senior military and civil officers.

A unanimous decision was reached to replace regular troops in tribal areas with scouts and khassadars.  It was to be gradual withdrawal in five phases and to be completed in two years.

On 23 July 1947, GOC of Northern Command Lieutenant General Frank Messervy issued orders for reconstitution of his command.

According to this plan, fourteen battalions deployed on frontier defense were reduced.  Four battalions of Zhob brigade were withdrawn and levies took their place.  Three battalions from Tal were removed and replaced by frontier scouts and khassadars.  Gardai brigade (four battalions) was to be withdrawn in two phases; 15 August and 01 October 1947.  One battalion stationed at Malakand was removed.  Wana and Kohat brigades were reduced by one battalion each.

The decision of gradual withdrawal of regular troops from frontier was made by British high command long before partition of India and process had already started at the time of independence.

Indian army was divided between two countries and regiments were in the process of reorganization.  Muslim elements heading to Pakistan and non-Muslims heading to India.

In 1947, about half of 5000 British officers decided to stay and serve with Indian and Pakistani armies on secondment.  Those with long service opted for retirement while others asked for transfer to British army. Several factors including a recent World War with industrial scale carnage, desire of emergency commissioned officers to go back to their civilian jobs, shock of fratricidal communal civil war between Hindus and Muslims meant that not many British officers were willing to continue soldiering.

Immediately after independence in October 1947, India and Pakistan got involved in armed conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir. This resulted in speedy exit of remaining British officers. Within few months of independence, majority of British officers had left the combat units.  However, many senior British officers remained at important positions especially technical, staff and instructional appointments.

In early 1948, the list includes C-in-C General Douglas Gracey, Chief of Staff (COS) Lieutenant General Ross McCay, Deputy COS Major General W. Cawthorne, Chief of General Staff (CGS) Major General R. A. Hutton, most senior officers of engineer, signals and ordnance branches, commandant of Staff College (Brigadier I.C.A. Lauder) and commandant of military academy (Brigadier F. H. B. Ingall).

On the frontier, officers of Indian Political Service (IPS) and scouts were responsible for maintaining peace.  In 1946, interim government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was very critical of frontier officers that severely affected the morale of IPS.  Deputy Commissioner of Mardan Gerald Curtis confronted Nehru and later resigned.  When Mountbatten asked NWFP Governor Sir Olaf Caroe to leave on the advice of Nehru, British officers lost all confidence.  Many officers called it a day and handed the reins to Pakistani officers.

However, in 1947, still several British army and political officers were performing duties on the frontier.  Evelyn Cobb was Political Agent (PA) of Malakand Agency and he raised Pakistani flag on August 14, 1947.  Lieutenant Colonel Vernon Cox was resident of Waziristan, Captain Robin Hodson was PA of North Waziristan and P. T. Duncan was PA South Waziristan.  Several officers were ably administering frontier settled districts including Arthur Dredge at Bannu, Andre Wooler at Kohat and St. John Major at Hazara.

Withdrawal of regular troops from tribal areas was envisioned under British high command after Second World War.  Even if India was still under British rule, it was most likely that by the fall of 1948, all regular troops would have been withdrawn.  Partition of India and division of armed forces in early 1947 speeded up this decision.  In October 1947, Pakistani C-in-C General Frank Messervy in a meeting with country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah where Cunningham was also present warned that Pakistan army was in a bad shape and suggested that regular troops should be withdrawn from Waziristan within three months. All three present at the meeting agreed and Pakistan government made the final decision in October 1947.  On 06 November, Resident of Waziristan announced this decision to tribal jirga. The troops withdrawal code named Operation Curzon was completed by December 1947.

Army withdrawal from tribal areas was done under the watchful eyes and close cooperation of scouts and khassadars.

The key factor which most historians have ignored is link between frontier question and incursion of tribesmen in Kashmir in 1947.  By early September 1947, almost every tribe on the frontier was asking British governor Sir George Cunningham to let them go to kill Sikhs.  With some satisfaction, Cunningham wrote that ‘I would only have to hold up my little finger to get a lashkar of 40’000 or 50’000’.  In fact, later Cunningham was instrumental in convincing Jinnah to support tribesmen.  On October 29, Cunningham met Jinnah and advised him to increase tribal incursion supporting them with supplies and exert more control.  On the same day, a meeting attended by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan agreed to support tribesmen establishing a seven-member committee based at Abbottabad. However, Cunningham had his misgivings and was not sure how this will end.  He wrote that ‘the harm has been done, and we have to make the best of the situation’.

Tribal lashkar had entered Kashmir valley by the third week of October 1947.  This means that they must have left their homes at least one to two weeks before in early October. Thousands of able bodied armed tribesmen were already out of their lair heading to greener pastures in Kashmir.  The religious factor was at play but main incentive for the tribesmen was the lure of loot.

I have not been able to find any documentary evidence of what was promised to the tribesmen but from some later oral traditions, it has emerged that they were told that they would keep captured arms and ammunition as well as any loot. On their way to Kashmir, tribesmen lived off the land in Pakistani territory.  Even in cities like Abbottabad, they would walk into any shop and take what they liked.

In Kashmir, they usually refused food offered by local Muslims for the fear of poisoning and usually grabbed sheep or goats and slaughtered and cooked for their consumption. In Kashmir, they looted from Muslim and non-Muslim alike.  They returned with captured arms, ammunition, gold etc. and brought even captured Kashmiri women. However, it was only a handful of women that ended up in tribal areas.  Majority of women were abducted by fighters from Pakistani controlled Kashmir, Hazara and Punjab.

The role of Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah is interesting.  He had single mindedly fought for a separate homeland for Muslims and for seven years was fighting on different fronts.  Now suffering from advanced tuberculosis of lungs, his frail body was not able to support his agile mind to tackle the crisis in Kashmir.

Local leadership in Punjab and NWFP was fumbling through Kashmir problem.  In September 1947, Jinnah told The New York Times that ‘he was doing his utmost to hold back Moslem tribesmen, who were demanding a holy war against Hindus and Sikhs.  He admitted that he was not sure he could restrain them overlong’. Defence Secretary Iskandar Mirza told Cunningham that when the subject of tribal incursion was broached, Jinnah told him ‘do not tell me.  I want to keep my conscience clear’.

When Maharajah of Kashmir signed accession agreement with India and Indian troops were flown to Srinagar, on the night of October 27-28, Jinnah ordered Lieutenant General Douglas Gracey who was officiating C-in-C to send troops into Kashmir. Gracey told Jinnah that this order would result in implementation of ‘Stand Down’ order for British officers serving with Pakistan army.  Gracey also telephoned Supreme Commander Field Marshal Claude Auckinleck at Delhi.

On the morning of October 28, Auckinleck flew to Lahore, met Jinnah and convinced him to withdraw his order.  Jinnah obliged but was very angry.  On the advice of Auckinleck, Jinnah also agreed to meet Mountbatten, Nehru and Maharaja of Kashmir for a roundtable discussion.  On the same day, Mountbatten persuaded Indian Defence Committee to accept Jinnah’s invitation. In the afternoon, during meeting of Indian cabinet, all opposed the idea and in the end only Mountbatten went to Lahore to meet Jinnah.

On November 01, Jinnah met Mountbatten to discuss Kashmir situation.  Jinnah suggested that both sides should withdraw.  When Mountbatten asked him how the tribesmen can be called off.  Jinnah confidently replied that ‘all he had to do was to give them an order to come out and to warn them that if they did not comply, he would send large forces along their lines of communications’.  This may be an argument by a smart barrister but not in line with ground realities. 

Internal tribal dynamics and local political maneuvering determined who went to Kashmir.  NWFP Chief Minister Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan and Muslim League supporter Pir of Manki Sharif lobbied Pushtuns of settled as well as tribal areas for Kashmir.  Majority were Pushtuns from Mardan and Swat and Pushtu and Hindko speaking Hazarawals as well as Mahsud, Afridi, Mohmand and Bajawar tribesmen.

Recently ousted Congress Ministry of NWFP and followers of Abdul Ghaffar Khan stayed away.  Wazir representation was very small as Faqir of Ipi in Waziristan had prohibited his followers to join Kashmir adventure.  A rival Pir of Wana and some others who competed with Faqir of Ipi for local influence sent a small group of Wazirs.  Faqir of Ipi who had been a thorn in British side was not willing to accept the rule of Anglicized Indians even if fellow Muslims.

Later, everyone blamed tribesmen for all failures in Kashmir. Two veteran pro-Pakistan Kashmiri leaders of Pakistani controlled Kashmir who fought in 1947-48 struggle later saw induction of tribesmen as damaging to Kashmiri cause.

Referring to tribesmen Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan stated that ‘the movement suffered a great set back because they were uncontrollable’.  He added that ‘they did lot of damage’ and ‘the looting created a very bad impression’ as they looted Muslim and non-Muslims alike.  Referring to Pakistan, he said, ‘they made an absolute blunder allowing a thing like this’.

Sardar Ibrahim Khan while appreciating fighting qualities of tribesmen was of the view that ‘we made a terrific mistake’ referring to no command and control of tribesmen.  Another pro-Pakistani Kashmiri Muhammad Yusuf Saraf; a resident of Baramula and later Chief Justice of Pakistani administered Kashmir also echoed same sentiments stating that ‘there was generally no distinction between Hindus and Muslims in so far as loot and arson was concerned.  The local ‘cinema hall was converted into a sort of a restricted brothel’.

Tribal factor needs to be seen in the general context.  Tribesmen angered by latest news of atrocities against Muslims during partition carnage now wanted to embark on a religious obligation.  In fulfilling this duty, they also looked for a chance of loot and plunder with clear conscience.  They were small bands led by their own clan leaders and all depended on how good or bad were these leaders.  There was no central command and no arrangement for supplies.

Except for rebellion of locals in Poonch, local population of Kashmir was too frightened or passive for an armed rebellion.  Tribesmen played a major part in wresting the territory that is now Pakistan controlled Kashmir.  Years later, tribesmen would pester political agents for favors pointing to the fact that they had gone to Kashmir to pull Pakistani chestnuts from the fire.

If tribesmen had not been directed to Kashmir in October 1947, it is very likely that some of them would have forayed into Muslim majority settled districts of Pakistan near their border. This conclusion is based on the simple fact that general break down of law and order or signs of weakness by government is an opportunity by highlanders to deprive inhabitants of the plains of their wealth.

Some incidents when it became clear that British were leaving point to this fact.  In April 1947, Bhittanis; generally, a weak tribe and some Mahsuds looted the border town of Tank.  They not only looted the town but burned property and cut off its water supply.  A robust seven platoon scout detachment under a British officer secured the town.

Another detachment under Major James Majury (5/13 Punjab Regiment) was sent for patrol and they found that three Mahsud lashkars were on their way to take their share in the loot.  A stern warning by Majury telling them that area was well defended resulted in melting away of the Mahsuds.

When Wazirs heard about free for all affair in Tank, hundreds of Wazirs with ladders and ropes and string of camels headed towards Bannu.  Tochi Scouts intercepted them arresting many and dispersing them.

Pakistan was faced with enormous challenges with no infrastructure of new government, flood of refugees, precarious law and order and serious economic concerns.  There was neither time not will to review frontier policy therefore Pakistan continued to administer tribal areas as under British rule.

Jinnah brought back veteran British political officer Sir George Cunningham from retirement as governor of NWFP.  Sir Ambrose Dundas was appointed Chief Commissioner of Baluchistan and later he succeeded Cunningham as NWFP governor. IPS was absorbed into Ministry of States and Frontier Affairs.  Only a handful of Indians were serving with IPS therefore officers of Provincial Civil Service (PCS) serving in subordinate positions were promoted and posted to tribal agencies.

Jinnah’s address to tribal jirga at Government House in Peshawar on 17 April 1948 gives hints of the complexity he was facing.  Tribesmen were concerned about two issues; to maintain their independence and continuation of allowances as under British rule. They were essentially asking for continuation of status quo and Jinnah obliged.

On the issue of freedom, he said, ‘Pakistan has no desire to unduly interfere with your internal freedom’.  This was exactly what Frontier Crimes Regulation was about where tribal customs were codified.  Jinnah first criticized allowances stating that ‘you are dependent on annual doles’ and ‘at the end of the year you were no better off than beggars asking for allowances, if possible a little more’.

After criticizing it, he said that as you wish to continue these allowances and khassadaris therefore ‘neither my government nor I have any desire to modify existing system’ but added the caveat of ‘so long as you remain loyal and faithful to Pakistan’.  Some restrictions on tribesmen were abolished and gradually tribal society was integrated with the country.

Sources: 1. Charles Chenevix Trench.  The Frontier Scouts (New Delhi: Rupa & Company: 2002 Indian Edition of original 1985 publication)  2. Daniel Marston.  The Indian Army and the End of the Raj (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) 3. Andrew Whitehead.  A Mission to Kashmir (New Delhi: Penguin Global), 2008 Indian Edition 4. Pradeep P Barua.  Gentlemen of the Raj : The Indian Army Officer Corps 1917-1949 (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008)  5. William A. Brown. Gilgit Rebellion – The major who mutinied over the partition of India (South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword), 2014  6. Major General Shahid Hamid.  Disastrous Twilight (London: Leo Cooper, 1986)  7. Major General Shaukat Raza.  The Pakistan Army 1947-1949 (Lahore: Wajidalis, 1989)  8. Brandon D. Marsh. Ramparts of Empire: India’s North-West Frontier and British Imperialism 19919-1947.  PhD Thesis. The University of Texas at Austin, May 2009. 9. Major General ® Akbar Khan.  Raiders in Kashmir (Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992) 10. Hamid Hussain.  Waziristan – The Past.  Defence Journal, November 2004. 11. John Connell.  Auckinleck: A Biography of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck (London: Cassell, 1959)  12. Norval Mitchell.  The Quiet People of India (Weardale: The Memoir Club, 2006). 13. Head Quarters Northern Command Order.  Reconstitution of the Indian Army – Reliefs, dated 23 July 1947.  Copy of this order was provided to author courtesy of Major General Syed Ali Hamid from his father Major General Shahid Hamid’s personal papers.



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Pakistan and the Bomb …

Posted on February 21, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan |

The Ally From HellThis article, the product of dozens of interviews over the course of six months, is a joint project of The Atlantic and National Journal. A version of this story focusing on nuclear security appears in the November 5, 2011, issue of National Journal.

Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Shortly after american Navy SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama.

But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons.

These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists.

“The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term, and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama said last year at an international nuclear-security meeting in Washington. Al-Qaeda, Obama said, is “trying to secure a nuclear weapon—a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”

Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material: it is the only Muslim-majority state, out of the 50 or so in the world, to have successfully developed nuclear weapons; its central government is of limited competence and has serious trouble projecting its authority into many corners of its territory (on occasion it has difficulty maintaining order even in the country’s largest city, Karachi); Pakistan’s military and security services are infiltrated by an unknown number of jihadist sympathizers; and many jihadist organizations are headquartered there already.

“There are three threats,” says Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.” Pakistani leaders have argued forcefully that the country’s nuclear weapons are secure.

In times of relative quiet between Pakistan and India (the country that would be the target of a Pakistani nuclear attack), Pakistani officials claim that their weapons are “de-mated”—meaning that the warheads are kept separate from their fissile cores and their delivery systems. This makes stealing, or launching, a complete nuclear weapon far more difficult. Over the past several years, as Pakistan has suffered an eruption of jihadist terrorism, its officials have spent a great deal of time defending the safety of their nuclear program.

Some have implied that questions about the safety of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal are motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former army chief and president, who created the SPD, told The Atlantic in a recent interview: “I think it’s overstated that the weapons can get into bad hands.” Referring to Pakistan’s main adversary, India, he said, “No one ever speaks of the dangers of a Hindu bomb.”

Jeffrey Goldberg explains what makes Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal so dangerous.

Current officials of the Pakistani government are even more adamant on the issue. In an interview this summer in Islamabad, a senior official of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), the Pakistani military’s spy agency, told The Atlantic that American fears about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were entirely unfounded. “Of all the things in the world to worry about, the issue you should worry about the least is the safety of our nuclear program,” the official said. “It is completely secure.” He went on to say, “It is in our interest to keep our bases safe as well. You must trust us that we have maximum and impenetrable security. No one with ill intent can get near our strategic assets.”

Like many statements made by Pakistan’s current leaders, this one contained large elements of deceit. At least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program have already been targeted by militants. In November 2007, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying workers to the Sargodha air base, which is believed to house nuclear weapons; the following month, a school bus was attacked outside Kamra air base, which may also serve as a nuclear storage site; in August 2008, Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers attacked what experts believe to be the country’s main nuclear-weapons-assembly depot in Wah cantonment.

If jihadists are looking to raid a nuclear facility, they have a wide selection of targets: Pakistan is very secretive about the locations of its nuclear facilities, but satellite imagery and other sources suggest that there are at least 15 sites across Pakistan at which jihadists could find warheads or other nuclear materials. (See map on opposite page.)

It is true that the SPD is considered to be a highly professional organization, at least by Pakistani-government standards of professionalism. General Kidwai, its leader, is well regarded by Western nuclear-security experts, and the soldiers and civilians he leads are said by Pakistani spokesmen to be screened rigorously for their probity and competence, and for signs of political or religious immoderation.

The SPD, Pakistani officials say, keeps careful watch over behavioral changes in its personnel; employees are investigated thoroughly for ties to extremists, and to radical mosques, and for changes in their lifestyle and income. The SPD also is believed to maintain “dummy” storage sites that serve to divert attention from active ones.

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Musharaf …

Posted on December 1, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan |

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A Pakistani Film …

Posted on November 29, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan |

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Maj Gaurav Arya addresses the British Parliament …

Posted on November 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

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Deleted Post …

Posted on October 23, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan, Regimental, Searching for Success |

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1971 War – Sabuna Drain Battle -Another Version …

Posted on October 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan |

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Gen Rawat speaks ala Timmy n Sam …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From The Indian Express –

Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat today said the country should be prepared for a two-front war, insisting China has started “flexing its muscles”, while there seems to be no scope for reconciliation with Pakistan whose military and polity saw an adversary in India.

Referring to the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the Army chief warned that the situation could gradually snowball into a larger conflict on the northern border.

He said there is a possibility that these conflicts could be limited in space and time or can expand into an all out war along the entire frontier, with Pakistan taking advantage of the situation.

“We have to be prepared. In our context, therefore, warfare lies within the realm of reality,” he said, adding the Army’s supremacy among the three services must be maintained to successfully combat external security threats.

The comments by Gen. Rawat came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a “forward-looking” approach to Sino-India ties, putting behind the Doklam standoff. The Army Chief said India cannot afford to let its guard down against China.

“As far as northern adversary is concerned, the flexing of muscle has started. The salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold is something we have to be wary about and remain prepared for situations emerging which could gradually emerge into conflict,” he said.

In military parlance ‘salami slicing’ denotes divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies. The Army chief also talked about China engaging in a psychological warfare by using the media and information technology against India during the Doklam face-off.

The Army chief rejected the notion that credible deterrence could prevent war and pitched for adequate budgetary allocation for the armed forces. Talking about Pakistan, Gen. Rawat said there was no scope for any reconciliation with that country.

“As far as our western adversary is considered, we don’t see any scope of reconciliation, because their military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that there is an adversary, India, which is all out to break their nation into pieces,” he said.

Gen. Rawat also wondered how long the country will continue to tolerate the proxy war by Pakistan and when it would conclude that Pakistan has crossed the threshold limit, adding the scope of a possible conflict is difficult to predict.

He said it was for the political masters to take a call on the issue.

Rawat also explained that credible deterrence does not take away the threat of war. “Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true,” he said.

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1971 War – Pak Wins Sabuna Drain Battle …

Posted on August 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

As received from Sikander Mirza, who was kind enough to send it to me after reading my version of this Battle. Wonderful that Shahbir Sharif was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s highest Gallantry Award and then later his younger brother became Pak Army Chief following Gen Kayani.

During the 1971 War, India attacked East Pakistan on 21st November 1971. The General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi launched an attack on India on the western front (West Pakistan) on 3rd December 1971. After the Chamb Jaurian thrust Pak still had a 5 Division strong reserve under Gen. Tikka Khan. However at Suliemanke, two companies of 6 Frontier Force were ordered to take the Sabuna Drain.

Bravo Company 6 FF, was under a 1965 War Veteran and a Sitara-e-Jurrat Holder, Major Shabbir Sharif, who was also a Sword of Honor of Pakistan Military Academy Kakul.

The Indian Army had created an artificial Bund, steep on the Pakistani side, with a low incline on the Indian side.. In front of this ridge on the Pakistan side, there was also a Drain. There were only two bridges for vehicular traffic. Inside the Ridge there were camouflaged cemented bunkers.

It was important for Pakistan to neutralize this ridge, for it would pave the way for a Pakistani thrust. The ridge was called Saboona ridge, and the bridge was called Gurmakhera bridge. The other bridge was far away, and is not relevant.

At 4:00 P.M., 3rd Dec 1971, Sharif assembled the soldiers of Bravo Company and said, “Men! The moment for which we were commissioned in the Army has arrived. Today, it is a question of honor of the mothers who have borne us. I will only say one thing. If anyone from amongst you runs away from the battlefield – I will shoot him. And if I run away, then you have to swear by the honor of your mothers and sisters, that you will shoot me. Give me your word that you will die today rather than step back.”

At 5:45 PM, Shabir Sharif launched the attack against Gurmakhera Bridge. Before reaching the bridge, Shabir’s men, around 100 in number, had to pass next to the Indian Village of Beriwala. This village was reasonably well protected by the Indian Army. Bravo company knew that there were landmines in the region and a safe route through was not known.

“If you don’t risk, you don’t win wars. At most there will be a 10 percent casualty rate. Have faith in God and keep moving. I will lead.”
Bravo company passed through this landmine area safely without Shabbir having to lead.

When the company reached the bridge, Farooq Afzal was given the task to take a few men and check out things. Two Indian soldiers could be seen standing in front of the bridge. The Pakistani soldiers took them out and camouflaged Indian bunkers overlooking the bridge – two of which had the entire bridge area covered. The Indian fire halted further progress.

Asking Shabbir Sharif through wireless to provide covering fire, Afzal attacked the bridge from the front by breaking up his men into groups of three with the slogan ‘Allah O Akbar’ to distract the Indians from three different sides. The point being that at least one of the three would crawl up to the bridge and reach the area directly beneath the bunkers, where the Indian guns had no reach. The plan was successful but in the process 6 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Having reached directly beneath the two bunkers which were covering the bridge, the Pakistani soldiers took them down by lobbing hand grenades inside.

Once the two bunkers covering the Gurmakhera bridge were neutralized, Shabbir Sharif and his men joined Afzal. It was time to destroy the rest of the bunkers.

An intense battle developed as the Pakistani soldiers neutralizing the bunkers. In some cases where the Indian soldiers finished their ammunition, they threw out their wireless sets on the Pakistanis. Hand to hand combat was also seen while in a few cases the Indians ran away. The most common scene, however, was one in which grenades were lobbed out, and if the Pakistanis survived they would in turn lob back.

Sharif cleared two bunkers himself. While at the first one, he stood next to the bunker and called out the personnel inside to come out. The usual happened and a grenade was tossed out. Sharif threw it back inside, stunning his own men. This action was to become the topic of discussion in the entire company for the next two days.

The second bunker was cleared without daredevilry.

The entire operation of clearing the bunkers and taking control of the Saboona Ridge took 30 minutes. Shabir took out the signal gun and fired a success signal straight up in the air. The other companies were now aware that Sharif and his men had taken control of the Gurmakhera Bridge and the Saboona Ridge. The other companies were to proceed with their attacks, one of which involved capturing the Beriwala village that Sharif had bypassed earlier.

It was pitch dark, Sharif and a few men started collecting the bodies of the Pakistani soldiers who had died in the assault. Digging of new bunkers, this time on the opposite side of the ridge than the one facing Pakistan also began simultaneously.

It was at that time that an old man’s voice was heard from a distance.
“We need to go back to Gurmakhera Village. The Muslims have attacked Beriwala” Shabbir went closer to the old man. The man could not recognize the Pakistani army uniform due to the darkness and believed he was talking to an Indian soldier.

“I brought my son’s barat (wedding procession) to Beriwala in the afternoon. The muslims have captured the village. We had to run during the rukhsati (last ritual of the wedding).” “Don’t you know that there is a war going on?” Shabbir asked in Punjabi, “This is a silly time to have a wedding, that too when you are so close to the border”

“Please protect us. I have a whole procession with me here. Even the girl’s family is here. We need to get back to our village. The muslims are coming in this direction.” Sharif decided not to waste time, or unnecessarily panic the old fellow. “We will take care of the Muslims. You hurry up and get all your people across. And listen to the radio more frequently for any important announcements”

He then alerted all of his men manning the positions at the bridge that a wedding procession was going to be passing through and there should be no fire on it. While the procession was crossing over the ridge, a soldier asked Sharif: “Sir. These people are legitimate POWs. Why are we letting them cross?” Shabbir smiled. “Have a heart soldier. This is the happiest day of their lives. Let’s not make them spend it inside a cell.”

When the news of the Pakistani attack reached the opposing brigade commander, Brig. Surjeet Singh, he immediately ordered Delta company of 4 Jat and a squadron of T-54 tanks to recapture the the Saboona Ridge and the Gurmakhera bridge.

At 11:00 PM, one of Shabbir’s men informed him that he could hear tanks approaching the Gurmakhera Bridge. After Shabbir himself confirmed it, he positioned his rocket launchers near the bridge. There were three rocket launchers at his disposal, and two men were required to man each one. There was also some ammunition that had been taken from the defeated Indian forces on the ridge. Two of the rocket launchers were placed in such a manner that the tanks would have to go past them before they could come near the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona ridge. The third was positioned near Shabbir, to be used as a back up in case the first two failed.

When the tanks eventually came in pitch darkness, Shabbir was stunned to see that they passed by the first two positions without any fire from the Pakistani soldiers. Shabbir immediately called the men through wireless, and asked them why they didn’t shoot? “Sir, these are Pakistani tanks”, a soldier replied from the other side.

“No they are not”, Shabbir screamed, “Why would our tanks come from the side of the other bridge. That is not in Pakistani control. Shoot!”

Despite the clarification, there was so much confusion amongst the ranks that no one fired. Shabbir knew that if these had been Pakistani tanks they would have crossed over the ridge 3 km to the West and come as a reinforcement on the Indian side. He got hold of the rocket launcher which was near him, and fired at one of the tanks. When the tank caught flames and illuminated the scene, Sikhs were seen coming out of it. It was at that time that the entire Pakistani force started firing on the Indians.

The Indian foot soldiers were closer to the tanks and they could be easily spotted due to the flames and also due to the aerial advantage that the Pakistani forces had. From the initial 14 tanks that were ordered to attack, only 8 had managed to reach the bridge, and 4 of them had been destroyed in the first 5 minutes of the battle. The others too were safe only because they were out of range of the rocket launchers and Energa grenades (mounted on G3 rifles. The Indian retreat was inevitable. During this skirmish, 10 Pakistanis were killed and 13 injured, while on the Indian side there were 43 killed, numerous injured and 10 were made POWs, including an officer.

Despite the victory, Sharif knew that this was only the beginning and the Indians would definitely try again. He contacted the battalion headquarters and asked for ammunition and landmines. Another mystery was why the Indians had not blown away Gurmakhera bridge, which is usual in such conditions. Around 4:00 AM, an ammunition jeep arrived. In between, there had been a small attack on Sharif and his positions, but had been easily repulsed as the Indians were much less in number and there were no tanks.

When day broke, a search was carried out to find out any Indian soldiers hiding in the captured area. 55 men were rounded up, 3 being officers. Add to these the 10 POWs captured the last night, and Shabbir now had 65 POWs in all. “We should organize a party that escorts them back to our headquarters”, an officer suggested. “It is a long walk. Plus I need every one of my men here”, Shabbir replied.

“But they have to be sent back, we cannot keep an eye on them over here forever.” After a quite moment, Shabbir ordered the officer: “Ask them to take of their shoes” … “What?” exclaimed the officer. “What are we going to do with their shoes”

“Have you ever tried to walk in this area without your shoes?” Shabbir asked, “I have, and I tell you it is next to impossible to go far without them. Firstly you cannot run very fast, and chances of getting injuries on the feet are high.”

The officer assembled all the Indian POWs, “Listen, you see that tree. You will make a line, put your hands above your heads and run to that tree. Our headquarter is over there. Tell them that you will have been sent by Shabbir Sharif. Now, if anyone tries to run away, or break away from the line, I will shoot him and also the man in front and behind him. From this height I will be able to see all that is happening. If everyone starts running at the same time, I will ask my men here to take part in some duck shooting and we will shoot. So do not push me”

The POWs reached the headquarters without any escort. None tried to escape.

Once the POWs had been sent back, Shabbir’s men searched the bunkers thoroughly. A wireless set was found and although it had fixed frequency, the Indians had forgotten to change it during the attack. This gave a tremendous advantage to Shabbir, as he could now listen to the plans that were being made on the Indian side to recapture Gurmakhera bridge.

The other interesting item that was found was a bundle of Indian currency. This was perhaps the salary that was to be distributed amongst the Indian soldiers but had not been done so due to the Pakistan attack. Shabbir ordered the currency to be sent back to the headquarters so that they could give it back after the war – although due to lack of firewood, a small amount of the currency was burnt to make tea.

At 8:30 PM on 4th Dec. 1971, the Indians (4 Jat Regiment) attacked again with a squadron of T-54 tanks. Shabbir knew that they were coming, courtesy the wireless set that had been captured. He was also in a much better position ammunition wise, now having 102 millimeter anti tank guns, and landmines. The battle lasted only 30 minutes, with the Indians retreating with 14 dead, 21 injured and 8 MIAs (missing in action). The Pakistani side suffered minor injuries but no casualty.

Having suffered three defeats in their effort to retake the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona Ridge, the Indians finally launched a major attack on Shabbir’s men on the night of 5th Dec 1971. This attack had the support of 4 Jat and 3 Assam and T-54 tanks amidst heavy artillery shelling.

A company commander from the 4 Jat Regiment, Major Narayan Singh, had sworn that he would either retake the bridge or would never return. Narayan Singh was also interested in defeating Shabbir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander.

While the battle was going on, Narayan Singh with a few men, came close to Shabbir’s position. “Where is Shabbir Sharif?” he called out, “If he has the courage, he should come out and face me like a man”

Shabbir Sharif, being as hot headed as Singh, left his position and jumped in front. Perhaps Narayan Singh could not make out that it was Shabbir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction (it does not make sense for him to call Sharif out and throw a grenade at him). The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabbir and his shirt caught fire.

A few Pakistani soldiers also came out and tried to put out the fire, as Shabbir himself was only obsessed with Narayan Singh. Seeing the Pakistani soldiers coming out, some of the Indians accompanying Singh were about to open fire when Singh stopped them.

“No firing” he said, “This is a man to man fight” Shabbir too, for his part, told his men to step back. The fire on his shirt had been extinguished. Both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers stepped back, but at the same time never took their guns off each other, or their fingers off the triggers.

A hand to hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. The soldiers in the direct vicinity were standing close by as armed spectators. The rest of the soldiers (on the ridge) were at the same time involved in the fierce battle that was taking place due to the Indian attack.

Singh had his sten gun in his hand, and Shabbir held his wrist to prevent him from firing. After a short struggle, Shabbir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the sten gun from his hand, he emptied it in Singhs chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was alright, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.

The attack petered yet again in an Indian retreat, although this was done after testing Shabbir’s men to their fullest capabilities. During this attack, there were 3 killed and 11 injured on the Pakistan side, while there were 19 killed, 45 injured, and 34 taken as POWs on the Indian side. 9 Indian tanks were also destroyed in this attack by the Pakistan artillery shelling and anti tank guns (2 or 3 of these tanks were rendered useless for they got stuck in the land before they were taken out).

Later, it was revealed that Major Narayan Singh was given Vir Chakra by India, a medal that is equivalent to the Pakistani Sitara-e-Jurrat, for his performance on the battlefield in 1971.

Shabbir’s right shoulder was badly burnt due to the fire that he had caught while fighting with Singh. When asked by one of his subordinates to go back and get some treatment, he said:, “I didn’t leave men fighting on the battlefield when I was not responsible for them. This time around I am their commander. Do you think I am going to go back leaving these men who I am supposed to command?”

He was referring to the 1965 war, when he as an ordinary Lieutenant, had been injured severely in the arm. Having gone back to the hospital for treatment, his arm was put in plaster and he was told that he cannot take part in the war anymore. He however, escaped from the hospital and went to the front, where he fought the rest of the war with one arm in plaster!

The 5th Dec attack created despondency amongst the Indians. Terming it a crisis, both GOC Major Gen. Ram Singh, and his Artillery Advisor Brig G.S. Reen took effective charge from Brigadier Surjeet Singh.

The Indians attacked yet again at 11:00 AM on 6th Dec. 1971. Shabbir was manning a 102 millimeter gun when a tank fired in his direction. He fired back at the tank and took it out. With a second tank lurking nearby, Shabbir could have abandoned the gun and saved his own life. He instead decided to keep firing at the tank in an attempt to render it useless before it caused any further damage. However, the tank’s shell landed only inches away from Shabbir and exploded throwing Shabbir and two other Pakistani soldiers 5 feet up in the air. Shabbir died seconds after he fell on the ground.

His last words were: “Don’t lose the bridge”

Having seen Shabbir dead, the Pakistani soldiers fought with even more vigor, more out of revenge than for anything else. The Indian attack was beaten back but at grave cost.

After the War, one of the Indian commanders, Col. Shashi Pal, came to the headquarters in the Pakistan area for talks. He was given the currency that Shabbir had sent back from the bunkers with due apologies for the currency that had been burnt for making tea. Shashi Pal shook his head slightly and said, “Politics apart, he was a fine soldier”.

Later it was also found out that the Indians did have the explosives in place to blow up Gurmakhera bridge. But the remote detonation had not worked for one reason or another.

Shabbir’s men had been saved by God, and nothing else.

This seems a colorful version but broadly more detailed than my version which is not first hand but as gleaned from some who took part and a recce of the ground before and after the battle. Shows how different sides see things.

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India n Pakistan “I” Days …

Posted on August 12, 2017. Filed under: Pakistan |

From a lover of India n Pakistan and their Militaries – HAMID HUSSEIN … …. Happy independence day to iNDIA and PAKISTAN. Wishing both countries peace and prosperity.

Apas mein doonon mulkoon ka parcham badal gaya Kal raat us key gham sey mera gham badal gaya. A poem by late Pakistani poet Ahmad Faraz titled ‘to my Hindustani friends’ summaries my own feelings about the two countries.

گزر گے کی موسم، کی رتیں بدلیں
اداس تم بھی ھو یارو اداس ھم بھی ھیں
Guzar gaye kai mausam, kai rutein badlein
Udaas tum bhi ho yaro, udas hum bhi hein.

فقط تمھی کو نھیں رنج چاک دامانی
جو سچ کہیںں تو دریدہ لباس ھم بھی ھیں
Faqat tumhi ko nahin ranj-e-chaak damaani
Jo such kahein to dareeda libaas hum bhi hein.

تمھارے بام کی شمعیں بھی تابناک نھیں
مرے فلک کے ستارے بھی زرد زرد سے ھیں
Tumharey baam ki shamein bhi taabnak nahein
Merey falak key sitarey bhi zard zard sey hein

تمھارے آینا خانے بھی زنگ آلودھا
مرے صراحی و ساغر بھی گرد گرد سے ھیں
Tumhare aeena khaney bhi zang alooda
Mery surahi o saghar bhi gard gard sey hein.

نا تم کو اپنے خدو خال ھی نظر آیں
نا میں یے دیکھ سکوں جام میں بھرا کیا ھے
Na tum ko apney khado khaal hi nazar ayen
Na mein ye dekh sakoon jam bhi bhara kya hey

بصارتوں پے وہ جالے پڑے کے دونوں کو
سمجھ میں کچھ نھیں آتا کے ماجرا کیا ھے
Bassartoon pey wo jaaley pare key donoon ko
Samajh mein khuch nahin ata key maajra kiya hey

تمھیں بھی ضد ھے کے مشق ستم رھے جاری
ھمیں بھی ناز کے جور و جفا کے عادی ھیں
Tumhein bhi zid hey key mashq-e-sitam rahe jaari
Hemhein bhi naaz key jor-r-jafa key aadi hein

تمھیں بھی ظعم مھا بھارتا لڑی تم نے
ھمیں بھی فخر کے ھم کربلا کے عادی ھیں
Tumhein bhi zum maha bharta lari tum tein
Hamein bhi fakhar key hum karbala key aadi hein

ستم تو یے ھے کے دونوں کے مرغزاروں سے
ھواے فتنہ و بوے فساد آتی ھے
Sitam to ye hey key donoon key marghzaroon key
Hawae-fita or boey fasad aati hey

الم تو یے ھے کے دونوں کو وھم ھے کے بھار
عدو کے خوں میں نھانے کے بعد آتی ھے
Alam to ye hey donoon ko waham key bahaar
Udu key khoon mein nahanein key baad ati hey

سو یہ معال ھوا اس درندگی کا کے اب
شکسستہ دست ھو تم بھی شکستہ پا میں بھی
So yey maal hua iss darindagi ka key ab
Shakista dast ho tum bhi, shakista paa mein bhi

چلو کے پھر سے کریں پیار کا سفر آغاز
چلو کے پھر سے ھم اک دوسرے کے ھو جاہیں
Chalo key phir say karein piyar safar ka aghaz
Chalo key phir sey hum ek dosrey key ho jaeen

تمھارے دیس میں آیا ھوں دوستو اب کے
نا سازو نغمہ کی محفل نہ شاعری کے لیے
Tumhare des mein aya hoon dosto ab key
Na saaz-o-naghma ki mehfil na shari key liye

اگر تمھاری انا ہی کا ہے سوال تو پھر
چلو میں ھاتھ بڑھاتا ھوں دوستی کے لیے
Agar tumhari ana hi ka hey sawal to phir
Calo mein haath barhata hoon dosti key liye

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