Operation Grand Slam (1965 War)

The following is a long extract from Major Amin’s book on the India-Pakistan wars. Other extracts will be posted later. Since this is a very long chapter, I have highlighed and italicized certain sections that the reader can jump to and get the basic story, without bothering with the details. Of course, anyone interested in the details can read the whole thing. 


By Major Agha Humayun Amin


1965 was an eventful year in Indo-Pak history. The Pakistani military ruler Ayub emerged victorious in the Presidential elections held in January 1965 amidst allegations of rigging. This factor created a desire in Ayub to improve his political image by a limited gain in the realm of foreign relations. He got an opportunity to do so in April 1965 over a minor border dispute with India in the Rann of Kutch area. The Pakistan Army dominated the skirmishes in the Rann area as a result of which a climate of overconfidence was created in the Pakistani military and political establishment.7

In May 1965 following the jubilation in Pakistan because of the Rann affair Ayub became keen to launch the proposed “Operation Gibraltar”: a proposed plan to launch guerrillas into Indian held Kashmir with the objective of creating a popular uprising, finally forcing India to, abandon Kashmir. Ayub  went to Murree on 13 May 1965 to attend a briefing on the conduct of Operation Gibraltar.8 We will not go into the controversy surrounding this plan, which is basically an exercise in futility, and mud slinging initiated by some self-styled experts, motivated largely by personal rivalry and ulterior biases, since the prime aim of this article is to discuss the military significance of Operation Grand Slam and its connection with “Operation Gibraltar”. In this briefing Ayub “examined”  the “Operation Gibraltar” plan prepared by Major General Akhtar Malik, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 12 Division. The 12 Division was responsible for the defence of the entire border of Pakistan occupied Kashmir from Ladakh in the north till Chamb near the internationally recognised border to the south. It was during this briefing that Ayub suggested that the 12 Division should also capture Akhnur.9 This attack was codenamed “Operation Grand Slam”. General Musa, the then C in C  Army and Altaf Gauhar the then Information Secretary and Ayub’s close confidant, the two principal defenders of Ayub have not given any explanation about what exactly was the strategic rationale of “Grand Slam” and what was its proposed timing in relation to “Operation Gibraltar”. We will discuss this aspect in detail in the last portion of this article.


The confusion in history writing in Pakistan may be gauged from the fact that Shaukat Riza’s book on 1965 War, despite being Pakistan Army’s official account does not contain the two words “Operation Gibraltar”! It appears that the idea of launching a guerrilla war in Indian held Kashmir was in vogue since the 1950s. Major General Mitha confirms in his GHQ inspired book, written soon after publication of Gul Hassan Khan’s memoirs10 that had outraged the Pakistani GHQ that he heard ideas that such an operation should be launched since 1958.11 Mitha claims that from 1958 to 1961 he had advised that “such operations had no chance of success and each time F.M Ayub Khan had agreed with me and vetoed the suggestions”.12 General Gul Hassan states that the secret “Kashmir Cell” formed by the Foreign Office on Ayub’s orders consisting of various key officials including the DMO i.e Gul Hassan was informed by the Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad that the President had ordered GHQ to prepare two plans to encourage/provide all out support sabotage/guerrilla operations in Indian Held Kashmir. Gul states that the decision to mount guerrilla operations with active Pakistan Army involvement was taken after the Rann of Katch skirmish. Altaf Gauhar who was the Information Secretary at that time claims that the Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad had “convinced himself that Pakistan was in a position to dislodge the Indians from Kashmir” and that “Once trained Pakistani soldiers went inside Kashmir the people of the Valley would spontaneously rise in revolt” and that “fear of China would prevent the Indians from provoking an all out war that would give Pakistan army the opportunity to drive the Indians out of Kashmir just as it had done in the Rann of Kutch”. Gauhar further claimed that the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and the Foreign Office drew up the plan for Operation Gibraltar.13

Pakistani expectations, and this does not include Bhutto alone, as many self-styled experts based on personal rivalry would much later claim; were raised to unrealistic heights after the Rann affair and Ayub was convinced that Gibraltar would succeed! In a written communication before the war Ayub asserted that  “As a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of blows delivered at the right time and place. Such opportunities should, therefore, be sought and exploited”.14

Gauhar states that Mr Z.A Bhutto the Foreign Minister was so convincingly persuasive in his advocacy of Operation Gibraltar that he convinced many Pakistan Army officers serving in the GHQ, who in turn urged the Pakistani C in C Musa to “bite the bullet”.15 Further Musa, the C in C much later in 1983 claimed that Bhutto had “Brainwashed” his officers.16 These two assertions if true means that either Bhutto was a military genius or those army officers who he convinced had no grey matter and that the Pakistani C in C was a glorified headclerk whose function was that of a rubber stamp rather than anything to do with higher military strategy or operational planning.

This article is not about “Operation Gibraltar” but “Grand Slam”, however, no discussion or analysis of Grand Slam is possible if Gibraltar is not discussed, although in brief. Operation Gibraltar envisaged guerrilla operations inside Indian Occupied Kashmir by a number of guerrilla groups of roughly a battalion strength comprising of Kashmiri Volunteers trained by Pakistan Army, Pakistan Army Special Services Group (SSG) Commando personnel and some regular infantry troops.17 The total strength of the “Gibraltar Force” was not more than 5,000 to 7,000 men subdivided into five forces i.e (1) “Salahuddin Force” operating in Srinagar Valley, (2) “Ghaznavi Force “ in Mendhar-Rajauri area, (3) “Tariq Force” in Dras-Kargil area, (4) “Babar Force “in Nowshera-Sundarbani area, (5) “Qasim Force” in Bandipura-Sonarwain area, (6) “Khalid Force” in Qazinag-Naugam area, (7) “Nusrat Force” in Tithwal-Tangdhar area, (8) “Sikandar Force” in Gurais area and (9) “Khilji Force” in Kel-Minimarg area.18 The mission assigned to the various Gibraltar forces was warfare in the enemy’s rear including harassing enemy communications, destruction of bridges, logistic installations, headquarters with a view to create conditions of an “armed insurrection” in Kashmir finally leading to a national uprising against Indian rule leading to liberation of Kashmir or at least parts of it.19

The infiltration operation of the Gibraltar Force commenced from first week of August 1965.20 General Harbaksh Singh the C in C Indian Western Command described the infiltration operation as “brilliant in conception”.21 The Gibraltar Forces mission was too ambitious and its achievement was beyond its means, however, in words of Indian military writer Major K.C Praval “Although the Gibraltar Force failed to raise a revolt, they did succeed in creating a great deal of confusion and disorder by acts of sabotage, violence and murder”.22  Praval praised “Nusrat Force” which was operating in Tithwal area which in his words “caused a great deal of damage before it could be pushed back over the ceasefire line”.23 Indian General Harbaksh Singh in the typical Indo-Pak style of not being intellectually honest once dealing with assessment of enemy actions, inadvertently admitted the mental dislocation that the Gibraltar Force had caused in the headquarters of Indian 15 Corps. Harbaksh thus stated “General Officer Commanding 15 Corps gave the following assessment of the prevailing situation: — The maximum success gained by the infiltrators was in the Mandi area where they had secured local support”24 ……….  “General Officer Commanding 15 Corps in a personal signal to me recommended the abandonment of the Hajipir offensive …..on account of the serious tactical situation in that sector”. 25   This happened on 15th August! On 17th August 1965 General Harbaksh Singh noted that the 15 Indian Corps Commander’s assessment of operational situation in Kashmir was “rather too grim and gloomy”.26 Even Joginder Singh who later wrote a book to refute most of Harbaksh’s assertions admitted in his book that “GOC XV Corps Lt Gen Katoch appeared to be overwhelmed by the scale of infiltration”.27 The reader may note that all this was happening despite an overwhelming Indian numerical superiority in troops. A small example being the 25 Indian Division area where the Indians had some 20 infantry battalions 28 at a time when the total strength of the 12 Pakistani Division responsible for all 400 miles of Kashmir was not more than  15 infantry battalions! 29

The local population of Indian Held Kashmir did not co-operate with the Gibraltar Force and by 18th August the operations of the Gibraltar Force were considerably reduced. The Indians brought in additional troops and the infiltration operation was checked by 20th August. As discussed earlier the Indian 15 Corps Commander was unnerved, however, the C in C Western Command Harbaksh Singh exhibited greater resolution and spurred the 15 Indian Corps into launching two major counter infiltration attacks inside Pakistan Held Kashmir to destroy the logistic bases in Hajipir Bulge and Neelam Valley areas. Both these attacks succeeded since the 12 Division was already over stretched with single infantry battalions holding frontages varying from 10 to 20 miles. 30 There is absolutely no doubt that Gibraltar was an undoubted failure! The loss of Hajipir Pass, the principal logistic base of the infiltrators on 28th August and Indian successes in the Neelam Valley and opposite Uri on 29-31st August 1965 unnerved the Pakistani GHQ who assumed that Muzaffarabad was about to be attacked!31 The supposed liberators of Indian Held Kashmir  were more worried now about what they had held before commencement of hostilities! It was under these circumstances that the  Pakistani GHQ ordered execution of Grand Slam with the aim of relieving Indian pressure against Muzaffarabad! Shaukat Riza the official historian of the 1965 War admitted that by 31 August the Indians had ruptured 12 Division’s defences and this was the main reason why the GHQ decided to attack Chamb “to ease pressure on 12 Division”. Shaukat also quoted Musa and the Chief of General Staff Sher Bahadur in stating that the main reason why Grand Slam was launched was that “there was danger of Indians capturing Muzaffarabad”.32 Musa in his roundabout way of saying things did not mention Muzaffarabad but merely stated that the main object of launching “Grand Slam” was “reducing pressure in the north by capturing Chamb and threatening Akhnur”.33


Significance of Akhnur

Akhnur Class 18 bridge 34 on the fast flowing Chenab River was the key to Indian communications from Jammu and mainland India a group of  valleys lying south south of the Pir Panjal Range and West of Chenab River, most prominent of which was the Poonch River Valley. The bridge was the sole all weather lifeline of one oversized Indian infantry division, with at least twenty infantry battalions, defending Poonch, Rajauri, Jhangar and Nauhshera and one Independent Infantry Brigade defending Chamb-Dewa Sector. Possession of Akhnur could enable an attacker to threaten Jammu the key to all Indian communications from Pathankot to Srinagar/lLadakh etc.

Orientation with the area

Chamb-Jaurian Sector is bounded by the ceasefire line from Dewa till Burjeal in the west, the international border from Burjeal till River Chenab in the south, various branches of River Chenab from Phulkean Salient till Akhnur in the south and Southwest, and a range of hills between the height of 1000 to 3000 feet running in a roughly east-west direction in the north. Some ridges run from this range of hills downwards in a north-south direction, most prominent of which are Phagla-Sakrana Ridge located about between a mile and two miles, eastwards from the border, followed by Tam Ka Tilla, east of Pallanwalla and the Fatwal Ridge four miles west of Akhnur. Average relative height of each ridge varied from 40 to 80 feet. These ridges on the face value were minor features, however, in terms of fields of fire and observation; their value was immense for a defender engaged in opposing tanks. The gradient rose from north to south as well as from west to east, and the area to the north restricted tank movement, while the area in the south with minor boggy patches afforded excellent manoeuvrability for tanks. Two small ridges known as Mandiala North and South dominated Chamb village itself. The Munawar Wali Tawi running from north to south into the Chenab River divided the sector into two halves, was located about 7 to 8 Kilometres from the border. The Nala had a wide bed varying from 100 yards in the north to 300 yards in the south and steep banks, which made it a partial tank obstacle. There were various crossing places on the Nala notably at Chamb, Mandiala, Darh and Channi from north to south respectively. The Nala had a lot of water in summers but maximum water depth in September was not more than four feet, thus making it negotiable for all types of tanks. Only one partially constructed bridge spanned the Nala near Chamb in 1965. Road Akhnur-Jaurian Chamb to the south and Road Akhnur-Kalit-Mandiala, both running in a east-west general alignment were two metalled roads running almost parallel to each other connected Chamb with Akhnur. The area of manoeuvre for tanks from the west was restricted to a 12 Kilometre gap between Burjeal and Dewa Hills and a 7 to 8 kilometre tract from Burjeal to the Chenab River which became relatively more boggy as one went closer to Chenab River. Both the roads leading from Chamb to Akhnur were intersected by Nalas running from north to south at a distance of two to four kilometres with small ridges in between, thus reducing tank speed, but were no obstacle for tanks. The ground all along was thus broken as well as interspersed with dry Nalas. These Nalas restricted the cross-country mobility of wheeled vehicles once off road. There were mango groves and wild orchards at places, which provided adequate cover. The area was well cultivated and in September 1965 the fields had four feet high standing crops of millet and maize. River Chenab running from north-east to south west in the south and the line of hills running in an east-west direction provided natural built-in flank protection against any tank threat, for any tank force advancing from west to east but also restricted the movement of a tank force. In terms of tank manoeuvrability and space for manoeuvre the area from the border in the west till Akhnur may be described as a cylinder which is about 12 kilometres wide on the extreme western side at its western entrance and gets progressively narrower as one advances from west of east by virtue of a line of hills in the north and Chenab River in the south both of which successively get progressively closer narrowing the north-south space reducing the north south open space gap from 12 kilometre in the west to about 3 to 4 kilometre at Akhnur. Thus in terms of tank warfare, the defenders task became easier, as the attacker advanced from west to east since space for manoeuvre was reduced by some one fourth.

Till August 1965 the Indian force defending Chamb Jaurian consisted of the 191 Independent Infantry Brigade Group consisting of four infantry battalions and no armour.36 In addition the border posts were manned by two irregular battalions of Punjab Armed Police and Jammu and Kashmir Militia Battalion. These two battalions, however, had nominal military value like the Pakistani Rangers, by virtue of being poorly trained/equipped. In May 1965 as part of “Operation Ablaze” (Indian plan of mobilisation/shifting forward of forces in Punjab in May 1965)  the Indians placed  a tank squadron of AMX-13 Light tanks under command 191 Brigade.37  Activities of the Gibraltar Force Infiltrators in Chamb-Jaurian forced the Indians to bring in two additional infantry battalions by end of August 1965, 38   however, both infantry battalions reverted to their parent formations after successfully dealing with the Gibraltar Force infiltrators by end of August.39 In 1956, 80 Indian Infantry Brigade responsible for defence of area Naushahra-Rajauri-Jhangar had pointed out that 191 Brigade defending Chamb-Jaurian Sector to his left constituted a vulnerable left flank.40   The same officer as Brigadier General Staff 15 Indian Corps Kashmir had concluded that Pakistani troops attacking from opposite Chamb could capture Chamb and had recommended stationing of a tank regiment in the sector, upgrading 191 Infantry Brigade to a division and construction of an alternate bridge over the Chenab  at Riasi.41  None of these recommendations except upgradation of Akhnur Bridge to carry AMX-13 tanks were accepted by the Indian higher headquarters! The Indian military planners  till 1965 had firmly believed  that Pakistan would not cross the international border between Chenab and Burjeal and thus regarded the southern half of Chamb Salient as “sacrosanct”.42  The Indian planners had hypothesised that the most likely area of Pakistani attack in South Kashmir was the Jhangar-Nowshera Sector.43 The Indian defences in Chamb-Jaurian were thus not as extensive as in other sectors of Kashmir. The Indian artillery consisted of just  one field regiment and a troop of medium guns.44 In August 1965 in the wake of Operation Gibraltar the Indian High Command finally decided to upgrade Chamb-Jaurian Sector to a divisional command, however, till 1st September 196545 the area was defended by 191 Independent Infantry Brigade directly under command 15 Indian Corps. The 10 Division headquarters staff designated to take over the area was at this time being organised at Bangalore in the Indian south.46  The 10 Division headquarters was assigned a time frame of three weeks in August 1965 and ordered to take over the command of 80 Brigade and 191 Brigade by 15 September 1965 and had reached Akhnur  by 28th August 1965. The headquarters had no communication equipment and nominal staff on 1st September 1965.47 The Indian armour consisting of  a squadron of AMX-13 Light tanks which was assigned the responsibility of anti tank defence of the main tank approach west of Chamb. It was deployed in an extended form  two troops on a ridge between Daur and Palla responsible for the defence of the area from Paur in the north till a little east of Burjeal in the south, one troop in the south in Munawar area and one troop in reserve at Barsala. On 1st September, however, three tanks were under repair in the rear. All Indian infantry battalion anti-tank recoilless guns were grouped under 15 Kumaon and tasked with the anti-tank defence of the Mandiala crossing. The border was manned by the border force irregular battalions and 3 Mahar and 6 Sikh Light Infantry as shown on the map with 15 Kumaon and 6/5 Gurkha in depth. 15 Kumaon was deployed on the pivotal Mandiala Heights and 6/5 Gurkha was deployed till 1st September on the Kalidhar Ridge east of River Tawi. This Ridge it may be noted was an important feature which dominated both the Chamb-Jaurian-Akhnur Road from the north and overlooked the Akhnur-Naushera-Rajauri-Poonch Road from the south.

Pakistani Force Composition and Plans.

Pakistan’s 12 Division Headquarters which was also responsible  for the  defence of entire  Kashmir and was facing three Indian divisions and two independent brigades was tasked to command the Grand Slam attack force.

The division was commanded by Major General Akhtar Malik described by Shaukat Riza as a “largehearted man and a natural leader”. One whose “subordinates never felt crowded by him, or inhibited in speaking out their minds”.48 Another  military historian described Akhtar Malik as “an avid bridge player”.49 Akhtar Malik was assigned two tank regiments (from 6 Armoured Division then deployed in Gujranwala area),

an independent artillery brigade (Artillery 4 Corps) consisting of three medium regiments, one field regiment, two heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 8 inch guns respectively, a Light Anti-Aircraft gun battery, a corps artillery locating regiment, another artillery brigade (Artillery 7 Division) consisting of two field regiments and one locating regiment. His infantry component consisted of three infantry brigades i.e Number 4 Sector (3 and a quarter infantry battalions of the semi-regular AKRF), 10 Brigade (Two regular battalions) detached from 7 Division and placed under command 12 Division for Grand Slam and his own divisions, 102 Brigade (three infantry battalions).50 Akhtar Malik moved to Kharian on 28th August with a small tactical headquarters. Arrangements were made to exercise command of the Grand Slam force through the communication system of the 4 Corps Artillery Brigade. The Pakistani plan was based on three phases i.e an initial  breakthrough by two infantry brigades each supported by a tank regiment along two points capturing the Chamb salient east of Tawi Nala, followed by capture of Akhnur by 10 Brigade Group (including a tank regiment) and finally a northward advance by the 102 Brigade on axis Akhnur-Jhangar linking up with Pakistan’s 25 Brigade operating against Indian communications in Naushera-Jhangar area with the final objective of capturing Rajauri51  which Pakistan had lost earlier to an Indian tank squadron on 12 April 1948.52

Comparison of Strength.

It is an unfortunate trait of Indo-Pak history to magnify enemy strength and to omit mentioning own strength. The operational situation in Chamb was thus later described in words like “the Indians held the Chamb Valley strongly”53, or “Chamb was very well guarded. Apart from its very strong fortifications, the Indians had by then increased their forces in Chamb to seven battalions”.54  The following table comparing Indian and Pakistani strengths is self explanatory (Pakistan had a 6:1 advantage in tanks and artillery):—

Execution of Operation Grand Slam.

We will not discuss each and every detail of Grand Slam operations but stick to the salient facts relevant to the overall context and scope of the operation. The Pakistani attack commenced at 0500 hours 1st September 1965 supported by  a terrific pre-H-Hour artillery bombardment executed in the words of the Pakistani official historian by “nine field, seven medium and two heavy batteries”  which had commenced belching fire 55 at 0330 hours.

The artillery was deployed so boldly that medium and 8 inch howitzers were deployed ahead of field guns 56 thus increasing their range and ability to support operations for a longer duration without redeployment. Pakistani armour which was divided into squadrons did not do well on the 1st September and was effectively engaged by Indian anti-tank guns and AMX-13 tanks. 11 Cavalry was checked in the south by the two three tank troops of 20 Lancers while 13 Lancers attacking in the north was also checked by the brilliant anti-tank gun screen under 15 Kumaon and a single tank troop of 20 Lancers.

The extremely mediocre Pakistani  infantry brigade commanders took greater interest in the work of battalions and the first major tactical blunder of the day was committed once the southern attacking infantry brigade i.e the 102 Brigade Commander wasted the entire day by insisting that Burjeal a minor position must be captured despite clear instructions of General Akhtar Malik to bypass it.57

Thus half of 102 Brigade and a squadron of 13 Lancers was committed to clear the Rome that Burjeal was! Burjeal was finally captured at 1500 hours!58  Shaukat Riza states that it was defended by two infantry companies of 6 Sikh but also adds that only 14 Indian soldiers were captured once it (Burjeal) was finally cleared!59 Shaukat’s verdict on the operations of 1st September is accurate once he states that  “The Indians had only covering  troops on border outposts “but the Pakistanis failed to cross the Tawi on 1st September as their “artillery fire was distributed”.60 This is only a partial explanation since the artillery fire was distributed because armour was distributed and the 12 Division failed to cross the Tawi on the first day because of the delay of 102 Brigade at Burjeal. In any case by evening of 1st September the 191 Indian Infantry Brigade despite all the Pakistani blunders was at its last gasp! Its sole field artillery regiment i.e the 161 Field Artillery Regiment (14 Field Regiment as per K.C Praval) had abandoned its guns61 as a result of effective Pakistani artillery counterbombardment. Thus by afternoon the Indians were supported by just one troop of Medium guns! By 6.30 in the evening 13 Lancers finally reached the line of Tawi Nala but made no attempt to cross it.62

The Indian 10 Division which had assumed command by evening of 1st September ordered the 191 Indian Infantry Brigade to withdraw to Akhnur the same night. It also ordered 3 Mahar and 6/5 Gurkha to continue holding defences in the Kalidhar area in the north. 191 Brigade was now tasked with defence of Akhnur, while 41 Mountain Brigade which was concentrating at Akhnur was ordered to “occupy the Jaurian-Troti position as quickly as possible”.63  Chamb which had been captured by evening of 1st September 1965 was occupied by an infantry unit of the 102 Brigade at 0800 hours 2nd September 1965.64 On 2nd September 1965 while General Akhtar Malik was finalising arrangements for advance towards Jaurian the command of the C in C General Musa arrived in the area of operations in a helicopter and ordered change of command of Grand Slam, replacing General Akhtar by General Yahya the GOC of 7 Division which was also in the same area of operations since 28th August 1965. This happened around 1130 hours on the morning of 2nd September 1965. 65  Brigadier Gulzar who  was provided access to official records of the GHQ66  and whose book was published in  August 1968 i.e some 18 years before Shaukat Riza’s account, states that change of command took place at 1100 hours.67  The Indians were equally surprised and their military historian noted that because of this change of command the Pakistanis gave “24 hours to the Indians to strengthen their defences”!68 Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry well summed up the feelings of the Grand Slam Force as “Bitterly disappointed and completely at a loss to understand”!69

Yahya proceeded in a leisurely manner calling an orders group at 1430 hours and gave orders for crossing Tawi which was not held by any troops, the 191 Indian Brigade having withdrawn to Akhnur the previous night! The 10 Brigade supported by 13 Lancers crossed the Nala “without any trouble” in Shaukat Riza’s words by 2130 hours 2nd September. Thus the Indian defences continuity was not compromised despite the fact that their 191 Brigade had withdrawn in a near rout situation. In polite language the Indians were thus not routed but pushed back and given a grace period of 24 hours to prepare a brigade strong defensive position on line Troti-Jaurian over which more Pakistani blood was to be shed on 3rd September 1965. The critical time span was not seized by the forelock and what could have been accomplished with ease on 2nd September was postponed to 3rd  September! The readers may note that the Indians were still outgunned in terms of armour and artillery by six to one and thus in no position to resist a determined onslaught.

The Pakistanis had, however, lost the first major opportunity to impose strategic dislocation on the 10 Division by the 24 hour pause on 2nd September 1965. Thus when the Pakistanis resumed advance on 3rd September the 41 Mountain Brigade reported that it was in position at Troti-Jaurian “reasonably well prepared to oppose the enemy”!70 Another tank squadron of 20 Lancers was also in the same position.

The Indians were not strong enough to stay in this position but  it was a good bargain since they were trading space for time as their strategic reserves were swiftly moving into position to launch a “Riposte”. On 3rd September Yahya ordered 10 Brigade (three battalions) with a tank regiment  under command to attack and secure Jaurian by  last light of the same day.71

The Indian 10 Division assumed command of the 191 Brigade and 80 Brigade by the evening of 1st September.72 The Indian 15 Corps made frantic efforts to remedy the situation and ordered 41 Mountain Brigade (Corps reserve) to occupy an intermediate position at line Troti-Jaurian. It also ordered 20 Lancers (AMX-13) less two squadrons to move from Pathankot and occupy a defensive position under command 41 Mountain Brigade at Troti-Jaurian.73 10 Brigade was to attack from Pallanwala area on two axis i.e an infantry battalion and two  tank squadrons on axis Chamb-Akhnur in the north and a battalion and a tank squadron on a southern axis heading towards Nawan Hamirpur and thereafter advancing along the northern bank of River Chenab with a view to outflank the Indians from the south.74 The 10 Brigade Commander issued his orders at  1130 hours and advance commenced at 1300 hours. The advance made very slow progress due to broken terrain interspersed by a growing number of north to south aligned watercourses (Nalas) and the Indian position at Troti-Jaurian was contacted by 13 Lancers by approximately 1700 hours in the evening. The right axis force reached Nawan Hamirpur by 1800 hours. The Indians now brought in their third brigade i.e the 28 Brigade (two battalions)  deploying it in another position in the rear of 41 Brigade at Fatwal Ridge about 4 kilometres west of Akhnur.

On morning  (0800 hours) 4th September Yahya ordered 6 Brigade of 7 Division to relieve  102 Brigade till then deployed at the line of Tawi Nala and 102 Brigade to move forward and concentrate at area Pahariwala. 10 Brigade commenced its attack on 41 Brigade position from 1130 hours. 13 Lancers attempted to outflank the Indian 41 Brigade’s defences between Kalit and Troti, and made some progress but was delayed by two Indian AMX-13 Tank troops till last light. The Indians realised that they could not hold the 41 Brigade position for long and ordered withdrawal of 41 Brigade to Akhnur during the night of 4/5 September 1965.75 The 102 Brigade also moved forward and two of its battalions attacked Sudhan Ki Dhok on the Tam Ka Tilla Ridge on 5th September 1965. By evening 5th September 1965 the leading elements of the 13 Lancers were in contact with the 28 Brigade position on the Fatwal Ridge just four miles west of Akhnur. It was at this stage that Musa sent the message about “teeth into the enemy and should bite deeper and deeper”, in all probability drafted by a staff officer who had read the exact text of Auchinleck’s message to the 8th Army during the Tobruk battle! But later events proved that the Pakistani GHQ, including the self- promoted field marshal of peace, only had Ritchies, Cunninghams and Mclellans, but no Auchinlecks! The whole situation changed on 6th September once India attacked all along the international border  opposite Sialkot, Lahore and Kasur. The 7th Division was ordered to transfer 11 Cavalry, HQ 4 Corps Artillery Brigade and 39 Field Regiment to 1 Corps in Ravi-Chenab Corridor.76 Grand Slam was over!


The Origins of the Grand Slam and Gibraltar Controversy in Pakistani Military History

The Grand Slam and Gibraltar controversy  instead of being handled like a military failure unfortunately degenerated into a highly personalised affair. As a result instead of dispassionate and constructive analysis, the real reasons for failure of the 1965 war were substituted for analysis of minor tactics and in settling personal scores. Mr Bhutto the principal leader of the pro-war party in the Pakistani leadership was dismissed by Ayub from the post of Foreign Minister and very soon became a major political opponent of Ayub. Ayub tasked his Information Secretary and right hand man Mr Altaf Gauhar to initiate a campaign of character assassination of Bhutto. Bhutto by no definition an angel, like any politician  also indulged in personal attacks. The controversy was soon overtaken by the 1968-69 political agitation, which resulted in the exit of Ayub, and to a second military government in Pakistan. Since Yahya the military dictator who succeeded Ayub was  one of the key figures in the Grand Slam drama the issue was tactfully avoided by all politicians. The emergence of Bhutto in 1970 elections as the principal leader of the West Pakistan Wing once again ignited the 1965 controversy, but again the issue became a low key affair once Bhutto became the Prime Minister from 1971 to 1977.

Grand Slam once again made headlines once Brigadier Amjad Ali Chaudhry’s book was published in 1977.77 Chaudhry raised doubts that Ayub may have been influenced by USA into not capturing Akhnur and that the change of command was merely a tactful way of slowing down the pace of operations. Amjad also quoted Yahya as saying that he did not capture Akhnur, which as per Amjad was within Yahya’s grasp, simply because he was ordered by the then army high command not to do so! 78 Amjad’s book infuriated the then government of the military usurper Zia who was engaged in a life and death political confrontation with Bhutto and like all military governments of Pakistan, including the present one, idolised the Ayub Government! Amjad had also accused the US government of pressurising Ayub into not capturing Akhnur and this was also regarded by the Zia regime as improper! The readers may note that the change of command on 2nd September was an outrageous decision that had shocked the participants of Grand Slam! As per a participant the change of command question was “debated with so much passion that GHQ had to issue instructions outlawing such talk”.79  There is substance in this assertion. Brigadier Riazul Karim a more credible authority states that soon after the ceasefire “a rumour went around that our senior officers were unnecessarily panicky and that the war had been fought by brigadiers and below….this caused  a storm in the GHQ”.80

Later on Musa the most affected party, cooked up another story that the operations of 12 Division on 2nd September were delayed since artillery  was not deployed well forward to support further advance. This false assertion was challenged by Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry who was a direct participant and was the man on the spot.81 Systematic efforts as part of a totally political plan of character assassination of Bhutto, without realising that Grand Slam was Pakistan Army’s failure, were undertaken during the 11-year old Zia government to re-write the history of Pakistan. General Musa was actively assisted in writing two books which were published some six years after Amjad’s book. Musa made up a story to cover up the change of command on 02 September, stating that it was a pre-arranged issue.82  The same story was repeated by Shaukat Riza in his GHQ dictated trilogy on the Pakistan Army.83  This was 1984-85. Finally in 1993 Gul Hassan the then Director Military Operations memoirs were published. Gul exposed the cover up and dismissed the idea that change of command had been pre-planned!84

Soon after publication of Gul’s book another defender of Ayub came on the scene ! He alleged that Grand Slam was a failure in any case! The learned author is an intelligent man! But so was Bhutto, Aziz and many others! The trouble starts when one intelligent man is at loggerheads with another! Thus the resultant subjectiveness of this book, since  much of it is about another intelligent man, and defence of a benefactor who was injured by this intelligent foe of the learned author! Above all one who  was the author in questions enemy, without doubt a terrible enemy!85 One about whom a close friend once said that “with friends like him one does not need enemies”!86 The reasons for failure of Grand Slam  given by this author, thus,  were emotional but not substantial! 10 Division, which  came from Bangalore consisted of just three  or four officers who organised a headquarters at a garbage dump in Akhnur and was a still born baby on 1st September 1965. One whose GOC was sacked for incompetence in 1965 war! 87 It was again a case of mixing Bhutto with Akhtar Malik and the intricacies of the art of war! The net result was thus a  good biography of a benefactor while simultaneously exposing the machinations of a Machiavellian evil genius! It may have been  a best seller but was certainly not  good military history! The worst part about writing of history in Pakistan is the fact that those who took part in the actual conduct of operations either did not have the ability to express themselves in writing, were too disgusted or disillusioned to do so, or did not have the funds to get their accounts published! Military history has thus to date been distorted!

A case of failure at the highest level

Lack of resolution as well as military talent in Ayub was the most  serious drawback as far as  Pakistan Army’s conduct in 1965 War in general and Grand Slam in particular was concerned. Subconsciously Ayub was the last man who wanted war despite all the propaganda of Kashmir dispute. It is possible that this hesitation had some link with Ayub’s poor or insignificant war record in WW Two. On various occasions Ayub avoided military action. In the 1947-48 period when many officers in Pakistan were volunteering for participating in the Kashmir war Ayub did not show any inclination to participate in the Kashmir war. Ayub exhibited extreme timidity88 when the Chinese asked Pakistan to take advantage of the India-China War and settle the Kashmir dispute by exercising the military option. Seven years in power, however, somewhat emboldened Ayub’s spirits and by 1965 he felt confident enough that the Hindu who Ayub mistakenly thought as more timid than the Pakistani would not dare to start a conventional war even if  Pakistan pinched the Hindu damsel at will, sometimes in the Rann and sometimes in Kashmir! Even in 1965 Ayub was not interested in a war which he wanted to avoid at all cost. This was a case of the desire to gain the glory of martyrdom in battle without actually getting killed in action! It was Ayub’s misfortune that he was surrounded by more resolute, ruthlessly ambitious, albeit militarily relatively naive, advisors like Bhutto and Aziz  Ahmad who did not have any of Ayub’s timidity. Musa, Ayub’s handpicked Chief was the weakest link in the whole chain of command. The last person  to wish for a war in which he would be forced to exercise his intellect in the actual conduct of modern war involving tanks divisions and corps etc, about whose employment Musa had very rudimentary ideas. A limited war i.e. a war in which fighting remained confined to Kashmir was seen by Ayub as a political opportunity to enhance his prestige which had suffered because of allegations of rigging in the 1965 elections. Thus Operation Gibraltar which visualised a Guerrilla War leading to Kashmir was seen by Ayub as a golden means of winning Kashmir without war and getting all the glory reserved for the victor of a war without ever starting an all out war! Ayub did not have the resolution to start an all out war in 1965! He also did not have the long-term vision to understand that India would retaliate militarily against the infiltrators sent into Kashmir by Pakistan. Ayub  thus unwittingly set fire to the fuse which triggered a  series of actions and counteractions which ultimately led to an all out war. Later critics blamed Bhutto for doing the right things for the wrong reasons! As a matter of fact all major actors were doing the right things for the wrong reason! But that is what the game of power is all about! Ayub was militarily naive enough to think that India would not start an all out war if Pakistan went for what Ayub himself called “India’s jugular vein”89 i.e. Akhnur. Critics think that Ayub lost his nerves later and  made an attempt to halt the Pakistani advance by ordering change of command of the force, since he suddenly realised that an all out war was likely if Pakistan captured Akhnur. If this was Ayub’s motive then once again it was too late and Ayub’s half measures and half hearted conduct of military operations in Grand Slam harmed the Pakistani military cause in two ways. Firstly, it provoked India to launch an all out war which Ayub did not have the resolution to fight and which Musa did not have the military genius to conduct! Secondly, as a result of this indecision Pakistan failed to capture Akhnur whose loss would have led to a serious operational imbalance in the Indian dispositions in Kashmir and would have weakened India’s resolve to attack Lahore and opposite Chawinda without first redressing the serious imbalance opposite Kashmir. Thus Pakistani military/political leadership failed in both aims; ie to sever the jugular and to prevent an all out war; and primarily because of irresolution on part of their own higher leadership  rather than enemy resistance. Thus Ayub and his team were not propelled by a burning desire to defeat the enemy by decisive conduct of operations but by an essentially defensive attitude. Thus even after 6th September they viewed Pakistani thrusts inside India not as actions taken to strike a decisive blow on the enemy but merely as measures to reduce Indian  pressure on Lahore. The GHQ simply did  not have a forward command and control set up designed to  vigorously prosecute the war but essentially a distant headquarter modelled on colonial principles from where orders were issued for defence of India. The war on the Pakistani side was thus conducted disinterestedly because the higher leadership was simply irresolute and was not prepared or interested in fighting the war which came as a rude shock to them once the Indians attacked Lahore. Pakistani military writers like Shaukat Riza’s claim that the Pakistan Army never wanted a war in 1965 but war broke out in 1965 largely because of those accursed Machiavellian schemers i.e. Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad; does not speak very highly about the standard of resolution of Ayub or Musa.What is the aim of an army if it never wanted to fight  a war to settle a just cause or to recover a territory which was at least as official propaganda went some sort of  a Pakistani Alsace or Lorraine. It is an open secret that till this day the Pakistan Army claims that it was the Foreign Office who got them involved in 1965. So what did the army’s leadership want; to rule their own people, in uninterrupted peace,creating large business empires which made many far more prosperous than they were in 1958! Perhaps the only positive impact of the 1965 war was the realisation in the otherwise politically naive and docile Pakistani masses that their leaders were essentially making a fool out of them and Kashmir was just a cheap slogan to galvanise the masses! Unfortunately, that is what history is about! The masses have always been mobilised by great actors who were great leaders! Kashmir was never regarded as an issue by Ayub but was forced upon him by the hawks like Bhutto and Aziz, off course again for the wrong reasons, more subjective than objective, aided by military advice of Akhtar Malik. It is an irony of Pakistani military history that these civilian hawks possessed much greater resolution than the two soldiers leading the country’s government and the army! Once a man lacks resolution his conduct is vacillating and indecisive and all decisions that he makes are compromises and half measures. But even worse is the case when a man in total power lacks military talent or that animal instinct or talent that enabled civilians like Cromwell,  Hitler, Stalin or Mao to do great things in the military sphere! It was a case of military incompetence at the highest level combined with lack of resolution! This essentially was the tragedy of the Pakistan Army in 1965. A time when it was still possible to settle the so-called  Kashmir dispute by exercising the military option. It is best to quote Clausewitz who gave guidelines about the philosophy of war at least seventy five to ninety years before Ayub and Musa were born, but whose ideas perhaps were not digested by both of them. Clausewitz said; “No war is commenced, or, at least no war should be commenced, if people acted wisely, without first seeking a reply to the question, what is to be attained? The first is the final object; the other is the immediate aim. By this chief consideration the whole course of the war is prescribed, the extent of the means and the measure of energy are determined; its influence manifests itself down to the smallest organ of action”.90 The Pakistani leadership and the sycophants who courted them later laid the entire blame for starting the war on one who had nothing to do with soldiering and one who was not in any case the right authority for asking the question whether the Indians would start an all out war even if their jugular was severed !It was an irony that a soldier and not a naive civilian was leading the country at this stage. One who was far more naive than even Shaastri  the civilian who knew much less about soldiering but understood grand strategy in  a crystal clear manner. The Indians however dumb their execution of war at least started it with clear cut and definite rationale and did achieve their aim of putting an end to military adventurism in Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership, and this included the army chief turned president, was confused and as  a result conducted the war with most inexplicably.

Responsibility for Operation Gibraltar and possible motivation of various principal characters

Operation Gibraltar conceived by the ISI91 as Gauhar has stated and perhaps by Akhtar Hussain Malik and/or other people and were in vogue since 1958 was approved by President Ayub in July 1965 and executed from 1st  August 196592. This means that the operation was not a conspiracy by the Pakistani Foreign Minister Bhutto alone or a pet of General Akhtar but had the blessings of Ayub. Since 1977 many Pakistani intellectuals have been wasting a lot of stationery in proving that Ayub was an innocent bystander who was duped by his Machiavellian Foreign Minister! This is an exercise in futility and it is high time that it is stopped. Above all it proves that the intellectual calibre of the Pakistani GHQ was so low that responsibility for conceiving military operations had been abdicated to the Foreign Office! The idea was too idealistic and naive but before it was launched its advocates included almost everybody who mattered in the Pakistani military and political hierarchy! Off course later with the benefit of hindsight almost all participants tried to lay the entire blame on the Pakistani Foreign Office and Mr Z.A Bhutto.

After 1965 War an exercise was initiated to prove that Ayub Khan was duped by his Foreign Minister into war with India! One opponent of Bhutto propelled by a body chemistry of pure and unadulterated venom alleged that it was a conspiracy on part of Bhutto, so that Pakistan may lose the 1965 War as a result of which Bhutto would succeed Ayub as Pakistan’s next ruler!93

In the final analysis it was Ayub who bears the ultimate responsibility for ordering Gibraltar! Failure is no crime! Churchill one of the greatest names in modern history has been accused of ordering the Gallipoli landing, which turned out to be a blunder in terms of fallacious execution! But the idea was brilliant, and this mind you is Liddell Hart’s verdict! It was in execution that it failed! Continuing on this line of thinking Ayub or Bhutto cannot be accused of blundering! War as Clausewitz says is directed on assumptions and  “All action in war is directed on probable, not on certain results. Whatever is wanting in certainty must be left to fate or chance, call it, which you will. We may demand that what is so left should be as little as possible, but only in relation to the particular case…”. To thus rephrase Clausewitz with special reference to Gibraltar or  Grand Slam, initiating both operations was not a crime as many including the Pakistani official historian Shaukat Riza were trying to prove! It was failure to achieve success which was possible to achieve due to various military organisational strategic and operational lapses, which was a crime!

The aim of Gibraltar and Grand Slam was after all to internationalise or defreeze the Kashmir issue . The positive aspect about Grand Slam was the fact that unlike the most recent operation Kargil of 1999 Pakistan’s means were more balanced in relation to its objectives. A word about the motivation of various principal characters in launching Gibraltar and Grand Slam. Ayub viewed Gibraltar and Grand Slam as acts of limited aggression like the Rann of Kutch skirmish which would force India into negotiating on Kashmir at best and redeem his political position at worst. Bhutto and Aziz also had similar ambitions on a smaller scale! Akhtar Malik may have been motivated by the lust for glory, a perfectly honourable aspiration as per Clausewitz . His minority status and humble origins , having risen from the ranks may have made this urge stronger!

Intelligence Failure on both sides

There were intelligence failures on both sides. The Indians failing to discover the move of 7 Division and heavy concentration of armour and artillery opposite Chamb and the 6 Armoured Division’s existence. The Pakistanis failing to discover the true extent of Indian preparations and its firm intention to launch an all out war.

The breakdown of command issue

The breakdown of command issue has not been understood by many civilian and military writers who have discussed Grand Slam. Confusion, uncertainty and breakdown of information are the norms rather than the exception in war. Breakdown of command was rationalised later by apologists of Ayub to justify the change of command. Wireless failures, communication breakdowns and loss of key commanders are a  normal occurrence in military history! In 1971 war an infantry unit in the same sector went missing just before the attack despite having all the wireless sets. In the, same sector in 1971 a brigades units were missing and a brigade attack had to be postponed for twenty four hours. In the same sector in 1971 despite having all the communication and divisional command arrangements two infantry brigades kept feeding their divisional headquarters. Anyone who has a doubt may read the 23 Divisions second principal staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Saeed Ahmad’s book “Battle of Chamb-1971”.94  Clausewitz throughout his work “On War” states that “Breakdown of command”  is the most normal condition in war. It appears that a breakdown of communication did take place on 1/2 Sept 1965.

However, some direct participants hold the view that even then, the delay of 24 hours was avoidable in case change of command had not taken place. To conclude, it was a choice of four to six hours breakdown of command and control and 24 to 36 hours change of command between Akhtar Malik’s continuing as commander or Yahya’s take over as the commander. The only serious point that can be brought against Akhtar Malik is delay in resuming operations on 2nd September 1965. The Indians had commenced their withdrawal from Chamb at 2050 hours on 1st September 1965. 12 Division had nothing in print after 2400 hours 1st September, 1965 and should have commenced its advance towards Jaurian by 0700 hours involving 2nd Sept 1965. At 1100 hours when change of command was ordered 12 Division was still on the west bank of Tawi.

Concentration of Resources and All Arms Cooperation

The advantage of overwhelming superiority in armour was, however, not utilised in the initial plan by distributing armour over two axes under infantry brigades who in turn dished out squadrons to their infantry battalions for the dirty work of close support! This meant that artillery fire could not be concentrated and the artillery general Shaukat’s caustic but accurate observation that artillery fire on 1st September 1965, although initially concentrated, was naturally distributed into targets spread over a 30,000 yards front 98 after the Pre-H-Hour bombardment. There is a discrepancy in accounts of Shaukat Riza and Amjad Chaudhry about utilisation of artillery .Shaukat claims that artillery fire after the H-Hour was distributed and thus relatively ineffective, however, Chaudhry states that even after H-Hour some Indian strongpoints were “attacked with as many as 13 batteries of all calibre” 99. It is true that armour was not properly employed on 1st September 1965 but the superiority in tanks when combined with overwhelming artillery support even then was so immense that the 191 Brigade was no longer a fighting force by the night of 1st September 1965.

Smaller Controversies in conduct of operations.

Some participants were of the view that Yahya assessed that the Indian 41 Brigade position required a deliberate and planned attack and this delayed the attack on 41 Brigade position at Troti by few hours. This, however, is a matter of assessment and  no general in war is a prophet who knows the DS solution.

Failure to create strategic dislocation

The important factor which salvaged their position was the fact that “dislocation” was not imposed on them. This factor can only be understood in the classic Clausewitzian scenario of diminishing force of attack. The Pakistanis were attackers and their capability of offensive action was fast being reduced due to casualties and successive narrowing down of space for manoeuvre. On the other hand the Indian defensive capability was improving. Their 191 Brigade was dislocated but the Pakistanis had failed to “dislocate the equilibrium” of the 10 Division; something which was well within their grasp, had no change of command taken place on the 2nd of September.

Chances of Pakistani success in Grand Slam

The Pakistani chances of success in Grand Slam were very high, had the change of command not occurred on 2nd September 1965. The Indians described Grand Slam as “bold and masterly” in conception.100  The Indians found the 24 hour delay on from morning of 2nd to 3rd September  inexplicable at a time when in words of their highest operational commander “the sudden collapse of 191 Brigade had created a critical situation”.101 The Indians thus were confounded and one of their leading historians remarks i.e “ There was a pause in operations (referring to Pakistan’s 12 Division) because,  for  some accountable reasons, the Pakistanis relieved 12 Infantry Division and handed over conduct of further operations to Major General Yahya Khan”.102 Another Indian direct participant and chief of staff of Western Command, no relative of Bhutto or Akhtar Malik noted “At 1100 hours on 2nd September an event of great significance took place. The enemy came to our rescue. There was a change in the command of Pakistan’s operational force in Chamb. HQ 7 Infantry Division replaced HQ 12 Infantry Division. With the inevitable procedural delay that such changes involves, we got a breather of 36 hours. Our forces reeling under the impact of relentless onslaught so far regained a measure of balance. It was a providential reprieve. Major General Mohammad Yahya Khan took over the command of operations  as he thought it was a sure success and wanted all the glory for himself. GOC 12 Div Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik was sent back to look after the Hill Sector.”103 The Indians were in a bad shape on the morning of 2nd September. Contrary to Pakistani writers writing with ulterior motives of settling personal scores assertion that “the Indians had been building up their strength for defence of Munawar gap through which Pakistan could attack Akhnur”.104  The reader may gauge this so-called build up from direct quotes from Indian military historians:— “C squadron 20 Lancers (the only Indian tank force between Tawi and Akhnur on 2nd September) had only three tanks left”.105 The only reinforcements were at Pathankot some 80 miles from Akhnur and these consisted of another light tank squadron of 20 Lancers which had no ability to withstand Pakistan’s two tank regiments of five Patton Squadrons. The 191 Brigade was marching to Akhnur since 2050 hours night 01 September and the 41 Brigade which later established a position at Jaurian by morning of 3rd September was at Akhnur. The Indian armoured corps historian described the change of command of 12 Division as a “Godsend for 41 Mountain Brigade which improved and consolidated its defences”.106

Employment of Armour

Armour was not correctly employed on 1st September 1965. Regardless of all rhetoric about Grand Slam’s brilliance, armour was under-utilised and poorly employed. The vast numerical advantage of six to one in armour, was partially nullified by dividing the two tank regiments between two brigades who in turn dished out each tank squadron to one infantry battalion. Thus instead of using the armour as a punch it was used like a thin net, as a result of which its hitting power was vastly reduced while the Indians were able to engage tank squadrons made to charge them in a piecemeal manner! Thus while the Pakistani victory, thanks to tank numerical and qualitative superiority was a foregone conclusion, the cost in terms of equipment and loss of manpower was too high as the following figures prove. 11 Cavalry lost 19 killed alone in Grand Slam and all 19 of these brave men were killed on 1st September 1965!107  The readers may note that this figure exceeds killed casualties of all regular infantry units which fought the Grand Slam battle from 1st September till ceasefire except 9 Punjab which lost 24 killed.

Organisational Failures

It appears that in mid-May 1965 when Ayub attending the Murree briefing earlier discussed the idea that 12 Division’s task was too big to defend Kashmir as well as conduct Grand Slam did not occur to Ayub! This man commanded the corps without ever having thought how his corps with five divisions with one river dividing his command and with divergent and different roles fight their battles in war.Kashmir with 400 miles of  difficult terrain was left to be commanded by one divisional headquarters though we have seen that as early as 1948 the Indians keeping in view the terrain requirements had subdivided the area into two divisional commands. Raising another divisional headquarters’ was not that much of an expensive issue so as to require US aid! Similarly it was taken for granted that one corps headquarter with a not very intellectually gifted commander was enough to control four divisions; two in defence in two different areas with a  major river in between and two divisions which were supposed to carry the war into enemy territory, one of which was an armoured  division! To say that by 1965 it was already too late, to raise another divisional headquarters, after the plan to launch Gibraltar was made, does not hold any substance. The Indians as late as 1st September 1965 brought in a  new divisional headquarters to command and control the operations in Chamb-Akhnur area. Pakistan had the 8 Division Headquarters which had been stripped of all its brigades and was doing nothing at Kharian.This headquarter could have been tasked to take care of Grand Slam.It required imagination  and common sense and it is not just enough to blame Mr Shoaib the Finance Minister for not having another divisional headquarter!110 Ayub Khan did not change the command arrangement in Kashmir after he became the C in C in 1951 and the same  situation i.e. Kashmir being entrusted to one divisional headquarter continued till 1958. Ayub’s understanding of basic principles of command and organisation can be gauged from the fact that he thought that one divisional headquarter was enough to control  25 battalions of infantry organised under five sector (brigade) headquarters spread over  400 miles of the most difficult mountainous terrain in the world! Shaukat Riza does not find anything wrong in this arrangement. This command arrangement contained the seeds of disaster of many failures of 1965 war as far as Operation Grand Slam was concerned. The problem was not that of lack of US dollars but essentially lack of perception on part of the hero of Burma fame! Creating two or three divisional headquarters did not require US aid but operational vision, a quality which Ayub lacked. In 1990 a British General  who knew Ayub well, having served in Indian Army in WW Two; hit the nail in the head once he wrote without  off course mentioning the “12 Divisional Headquarters Command Organisational Fiasco” that “as C  in C Ayub was an adequate administrator but without operational experience….and devoid of tactical flair and organisational understanding”.111  This statement cannot be taken lightly. Shaukat Hayat and Sher Ali as Ayub’s opponents may be accused of being subjective in their criticism. Lieutenant General Sir James Wilson cannot be put in this category. Wilson also observed Ayub from close quarters while serving as General Gracey’s Private Secretary in 1949. If Akhtar Hussain Malik broke down soon after change of command and wept, while blaming no one it was not because he had failed but because he was too much of a gentleman to blame anyone! God Bless his soul! While the senior Indian generals have admitted that change of command was crucial in saving Akhnur, we have been downgrading the achievements of very few great generals in our history! This self-defeating exercise was conducted by all, the military establishment and the civilians, and for various reasons, all of which had nothing to do with military history! These few great men who we have been unjustly criticising, left footprints, not business empires on the sands of time! That’s why their sons are not ministers or members of national assembly! Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself!

Assessment of 12 Division’s Role in 1965 . War at the strategic level and Influence of Operation Gibraltar and Grand Slam on Indian Military Operations in Kashmir

It is a tragedy of Pakistani military history that the futile mudslinging matches between various mandarins and political opponents of Bhutto, in the process of pursuance and as part of a  war of egos has clouded the true contribution of 12 Division at the strategic level in the 1965 War. Grand Slam was a military operation approved by all who mattered at the highest level in the Pakistani decision making circles. The exercise of downplaying 12 Division’s role in 1965 is a classic case of misinformation through verbal sophistry  but without concrete knowledge. One in which self-styled experts well described in the English verse “Never set a squadron in the field, Nor the division of battle knew, More than a spinster”, indulged in a battle of words, assigning to their opponent, more Machiavellian qualities than he could have humanly possessed! The vastness of Akhtar’s task may be gauged from the fact that his command was spread over a 400 mile area containing mountains between 3,000 to 28,000 feet and his 25 battalions were facing more than 38 Indian infantry battalions. The reader may note that the total Indian battalions in Ravi-Sutlej corridor opposite Lahore, Barki, Bedian and Kasur never exceeded 30 while the entire Indian 1 Corps and 26 Division’s total strength between Chenab and Ravi never exceeded 29 infantry battalions. On the other

hand Kashmir, north of Chenab observed around 38 and perhaps more infantry battalions. The following table is self-explanatory:—111a

                                                    PAKISTAN INDIA
NORTH OF CHENAB 1 15 (Incl 11 AK Battalions) 2/3 Regt 38
CHENAB-RAVI CORRIDOR 7 (Including 2 TDU) 12  6 1/3 29
RAVI-SUTLEJ CORRIDOR 10 (Including 2 TDU) 17 7 30
TOTAL 18 49 1401/3 103

The Foreign Involvement Dimension and the Change of Command Controversy

Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry raised some doubts that the change of command took place because of US pressure. This is the realm of speculation. It is highly improbable that this was the reason for change of command. Of all the people Ayub had the maximum to gain from success of Grand Slam. It appears that change of command had more to do with Ayub’s lack of military insight than with superpower interference! Yahya as later events proved was his hot favourite and was being groomed to take over as the next chief as Musa’s book “From Jawan to General” proves. Musa writes in his memoirs that Yahya was not his first choice as Army C in C but was selected by Ayub overruling Musa’s reservations about Yahya’s character.112   Musa’s book prove that he did not like Akhtar Malik. So, here there was a convergence of objectives. Musa not liking Akhtar since he was close to  Bhutto and Ayub liking Yahya having made up his mind to groom him for higher ranks. The situation on night 1st September 1965 was excellent. So why not let Yahya have the credit. It was ignorance and naivety of the worse kind on part of both Ayub and Musa to decide on the change of command!

Grand Slam-Some other viewpoints:-

This scribe interviewed certain direct participants, who for reasons in comprehensible are still terribly afraid of being quoted. One direct participant stated that even after 6 Brigade had replaced 10 Brigade on 6/7 September 1965 Eftikhar Khan (6 Bde Comd) told General Yahya that he could capture Akhnur since his forward troops are at “Mahwali Khad”. Yahya, however, told Eftikhar to stay put and to forget about Akhnur.

Some participants from 7 Division alleged that Gen Malik was not tracable on 1st & 2nd Sept 1965 and reasons for this absence according to the participants were ones which cannot be written. This school of thought holds the view that Amjad Chaudhry was covering Akhtar’s absence since they were from the same community ! This scribe met a retired colonel many years ago and discussed this question with him. The colonel who again did not wish to be quoted stated that General Akhtar retained the same alertness and clarity of mind even after chemical factors had produced significant changes in the body chemistry, thus dismissing doubts that the general was not sober on night 1/2 September 1965! The colonel was the generals district mate and from the same battalion! Allegations of such type have been levelled against General Grant, Mustafa Kemal etc and are beyond the scope of this brief article.

The Rationale of Grand Slam and its timing

The million dollar question that no one including Ayub’s latest biographer  has answered is about the timing and strategic rationale of Grand Slam! Shaukat Riza the official historian of the Pakistan Army has nothing to say except that the aim of Grand Slam was to “force the Indian Army to throw up its gains in 12 Division area”. If this was the aim then Grand Slam was a miserable failure since the Indians did not evacuate an inch of territory in Kashmir because of Grand Slam! It did so only after Tashkent but so did Pakistan! So at the strategic level Grand Slam, in the manner it was launched had no strategic aim but merely a mid- level operational aim and one that provoked India into launching an all out war! This fact proves Ayub’s lack of strategic insight! Shaukat Riza also states in his very disjointed history that the “aim of Grand Slam was limited (again a compliment to Ayub’s strategic acumen!) i.e to relieve pressure against 12 Division.”113 Shaukat also notes that the army was a part of the wishful thinking when he states that “General Sher Bahadur admitted that it was wishful on our part to believe that Indian reaction to Grand Slam would be restricted to Kashmir”.114 Musa does not give any strategic rationale for Grand Slam in his book. But then Musa was not expected to have anything to do with strategy! Gauhar admits the ambiguity about the plans strategic rationale and timing when he writes  “the purpose of Grand Slam was never clearly defined”.115

All this lack of strategic acumen is no compliment to Ayub! Altaf then  praises Ayub at this point for selecting Akhnur as an objective in his book but fails to note that Ayub despite being a soldier never appreciated that there is a military term known as “Riposte” which means “Strike a vulnerable point thus forcing the enemy to abandon his attack”.116 War is not an isolated attack and the higher the level, the broader is the requirement to examine a matter from all angles. Akhtar Hussain Malik the GOC of 12 Division had to think only about his division but Ayub as Supreme Commander had to think about the whole country. The fact that Ayub as a soldier at least by length of service if not by virtue of having seen much of combat, failed to realise that if one adversary goes for another’s jugular vein as Ayub called Akhnur, speaks volumes for Ayub’s comprehension of a strategic issue, also keeping in mind the fact that the enemy in question had already redeployed his striking force and reserve divisions within 10 to 50 miles of the main Indo-Pak border since mid-1965!

Ayub approved both “Operation Gibraltar” as the infiltration campaign was called and “Operation Grand Slam” as the thrust against Akhnur was later to be called.117 The Army and men like Altaf Gauhar and Shaukat Riza were  to later blame the Foreign Office for provoking India to attack Pakistan!

Who conceived the Grand Slam plan:—

Altaf Gauhar insists that it was Ayub who made the brilliant choice of Akhnur as an objective and that everyone praised him for doing so!118  Amjad Chaudhry and many in the army state that Akhnur was Akhtar Malik’s choice. Here Musa has come to our help although somewhat unwittingly! Musa first states that “The push towards Akhnur was not part of it (The original Gibraltar plan). However it was considered as one of the likely operations that we might have to undertake, as we felt that our activities would have an escalating effect”.119 This proves that the attack on Akhnur was already forwarded by 12 Division as one of the contingencies in the initial planning. Musa did not want to say it but inadvertently admitted this reality! Musa later in the same book also states that Ayub did say in the same meeting “Why don’t you go for Akhnur”, but the first part of the paragraph in Musa ‘s book proves that the Grand Slam idea i.e choice of Akhnur as an objective had originated from the 12 Division.

Grand Slam compared with Battle of Chamb-1965

It is an ironic fact of history that Grand Slam has attracted far more attention than the Battle of Chamb of 1971. Chamb was a far more difficult to enter in 1971 than in 1965! Four  Indian brigades were deployed on ground to defend it unlike 1965 when the only Indian troops in 1965 holding the area consisted of one overstretched brigade. In 1971 two Indian tank units of technically better tanks than the two attacking Pakistani units were defending it! The Pakistani artillery was inferior to Indian artillery in 1971 both in technical as well as numerical terms. The Pakistani commander Eftikhar Khan was far more dynamic than anything that Pakistani army has seen from 1947 till to date! In 1971, keeping in view the near parity of all types of forces/equipment even capturing Chamb was an achievement! In 1965 not capturing Akhnur, keeping in view the overwhelming Pakistani superiority in tanks and artillery was the worst operational and strategic crime in Pakistani military history!

Ultimate Responsibility for failure to take Akhnur

The ultimate responsibility for failure in not taking Akhnur rests on Ayub. Yahya in case he obeyed Ayub’s orders for not taking Akhnur was merely obeying orders. Amjad Chaudhry, however, blamed Yahya alone since some critics hold that Yahya had not considered him fit to be promoted to general rank. The principal responsibility for not taking Akhnur lies with Ayub.


Ambition, lust for glory etc are perfectly reasonable aspirations where they are matched with military talent pertaining to operational strategy, low intensity operations, strategic insight or statesmanship! All these were sadly lacking at all levels, except unit level bravery and enthusiasm! Gibraltar failed because of  pure and unadulterated military incompetence and Akhtar Malik bears the principle responsibility for Gibraltar! The Grand Slam story was different!  It was  not a case of  balanced distribution of lack of talent at all levels that resulted in the failure of Grand Slam! The principle reason why Grand Slam failed was delay in initial launching and change of command! 

Pakistani victory in Grand Slam keeping in view the immense superiority in armour and artillery was a foregone conclusion, just like the Indian victory in East Pakistan! Any divisional commander with a medium calibre could have captured Akhnur! The fatal error was change in command! Victory despite all the imperial blunders committed by 12 Division on 1st September was within Pakistan’s grasp, had not Ayub and Musa ordered change of command! The issue was not that Akhtar was brilliant or Yahya incompetent but simply that the very act of change of command was against all sound military axioms even if Yahya was Akhtar and Akhtar Yahya!

There is nothing that can describe “Operation Grand Slam” more accurately and briefly than Schiller’s quotation i.e “What is lost in a moment, is lost for eternity”! The dilemma that destroyed the Pakistani chances of victory or at least strategic dominance were also summed up long ago by another great philosopher Sun Tzu who described the most essential condition for victory as a general who has the military capacity and is not interfered with by his sovereign!

This article is not the defence of any individual but a humble attempt to see military facts as they were! It was written because a person who I hold in very high esteem asked me to do so. The only point that pinches a dispassionate student of the art of war is the fact that Grand Slam was launched some three to four days late and the change of command on 2nd September gave the Indians 24 valuable hours to dig a position at line Jaurian-Troti! The seeds of its failure were planted many years before when soldiers strayed into politics and became more interested in creating business of power, devolution of power and basic democracies, rather than in military theory, strategy, operational strategy, doctrine and military reorganisation! Grand Slam was Pakistan’s failure, Pakistan Army’s failure! It was  not Ayub’s failure alone, nor Bhutto’s failure, nor Akhtar Malik’s failure! Operation Gibraltar was an altogether different affair but this article is about Grand Slam! All the reasons for Pakistan’s foreign policy of appeasing USA were rendered null and void on 6th September 1965! War is a continuation of policy but only so when those who conduct it have military talent! This was sadly lacking in the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani supreme commander at the strategic level! Pity the army that blames its foreign minister for military failures! Foreign policy whatever its quality or failures gave the Pakistan Army Pattons, locators and 8 inch howitzers to blast a hole in the bloody valley of Munawar Tawi! The true failure was Ayub’s and Musa’s in failure to function as army chiefs and national leader, so as to ensure that political questions could be settled with military effectiveness! Ayub had the maximum to gain from Grand Slam! Ayub erred in this case not because of irresolution alone but more because of lack of strategic, operational and organisational insight! The change of command, as we have discussed, and delay in launching the operation, was the main reason, if not the only reason, why Grand Slam failed!

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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

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