A piece from military historian Dr Hamid Hussain. It includes some details (including the role played by Governor George Cunningham, a Scotsman and an “old frontier hand”) about the mobilization of Pakhtun tribesmen to attack Kashmir in 1947, an invasion covered in greater detail in a recent detailed Brownpundits article about the Kashmir war.
Following piece is outcome of several related questions about frontier policy at the time of independence in 1947, order of battle, question of British officers staying in Pakistan etc. It was linked with Kashmir incursion; a fact not noticed by most historians.
Frontier in 1947
In August 1947, 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 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. Economic development project was placed under Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Mallam and his assistant was Fraser Noble of Provincial Development Department. Mallam produced an ambitious 27 crore Rupees investment plan for the frontier that included investment in schools, clinics, agricultural and animal husbandry projects.
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. It was with this background that Pishin Scouts were raised and decision was made to raise Central Waziristan Scouts and retrain Malakand battalion. Khyber Rifles was re-raised on 26 April 1946. The nucleus was from war time raised Afridi battalion. Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Sharif Khan ‘Sharifo’ (5/10 Baluch Regiment) was appointed commandant of Khyber Rifles. Khassadars were to be trained and disciplined to make it a reliable partner of scouts. To achieve this objective, in 1946, a new position called district officer in charge of khassadars was created. In 1946, in North Waziristan about two thousand khassadars were put under the command of Frank Leeson.
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 August 1947, the order of battle of regular troops on the frontier was following;
- Nowshehra Brigade
- Peshawar Brigade
- Kohat Brigade
Waziristan Area Command: It was commanded by Major General Roger Eustace Le Fleming (2/4th Bombay Grenadiers). It’s headquarter was at Dera Ismail Khan. One battery of 21st Mountain Regiment was attached to each brigade along with support engineers and signal staff.
- Wana Brigade
Commander: Brigadier Booth
Brigade Major: Major Mahmud Jan
This brigade had only one cavalry regiment; Guides Cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel W. E. Lockhart who handed over command to Lt. Colonel N.A.K. ‘Windy’ Raza (ex. 3rd Cavalry) in November 1947.
- Bannu Brigade
Commander: Brigadier Mian ‘Gunga’ Hayauddin (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment)
Brigade Major: Major Muhammad Hayat
- 1/8 Punjab Regiment at Mir Ali. This battalion had come from Bannu in February 1947 to relieve 14/9 Jat Regiment. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel L. J. E. Kweley who handed over to Lieutenant Colonel M.G.D. Kallue in September 1947.
- 4/15 Punjab Regiment at Bannu was commanded by three British officers in 1947-48 period: Lieutenant Colonels; T. J. Hutchinson, J. W. Brown & H. D. Harrison. The first Pakistani commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Sher Muhammad. Battalion moved to Peshawar in January 1948.
- 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment at Bannu commanded by Lieutenant Colonel I.R. Greenwood who handed over command to Muhammad Saeed in September 1947. In the summer of 1948, battalion participated in Kashmir operations and returned to Abbottabad after ceasefire in December 1948.
- One Squadron 6th Lancers at Bannu. Regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel I. H. K. Chauvel who handed over command to Hissam Effendi in February 1948.
- One Squadron 19th Lancers at Mir Ali. Regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel G. E. M. Meadows (May 1947 – December 1947) and Lieutenant Colonel J. U. Wakefield (December 1947- July 1949).
- Razmak Brigade
Commander: Brigadier Steed
Brigade Major: Major Tor Gul
- 3/14 Punjab Regiment at Razmak. In 1947-48, battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J. G. Davis (1946-47) followed by Lieutenant Colonel Patrice Merson (1948) who then handed over command to first native commandant Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Nawaz. In January 1948, battalion moved to Sialkot.
- 4/16 Punjab Regiment at Razmak commanded by Lieutenant Colonel M. K. McLeod who handed over to Lieutenant Colonel Nausherwan in September 1947. Battalion moved to Abbottabad in January 1948.
- 5/12 Frontier Force Regiment (Guides Infantry) at Razmak commanded by Lieutenant Colonel McMunn (August 1947 – May 1948). In January 1948, battalion moved to Bannu.
- 2/10 Baluch Regiment at Razmak commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Featherstone (August 1947 – July 1948) who handed over to Lieutenant Colonel Aurangzeb in 1948. On 12 December 1947, battalion moved to Mir Ali and on 24 December left for Karachi.
- Gardai Brigade
Commander: Brigadier Muhammad Ayub Khan
Brigade Major: Major Mir Afzal
- 4/8 Punjab Regiment at Damdil. Battalion had arrived from Fort Sandeman in July 1947. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel W. Gracey who handed over to Sawal Khan in October 1947. In January 1948, it moved to Lahore.
- 1/14 Punjab Regiment at Damdil commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Jan (August 1947 – November 1947) who handed over to Abdul Jabbar. In December 1947, battalion moved to Lahore.
- 2/16 Punjab Regiment at Damdil commanded by Lieutenant Colonel N. J. Jones who handed over command to Lt. Colonel H. U. Qureshi in January 1948 when battalion moved to Karachi.
- 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles at Gardai commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Brieshwar Nath (March 1947 – November 1947) who handed over command to Bashir Ahmad. Battalion moved first to Bannu and in January 1948 moved to Kohat.
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.
Colonel Dennis Ambrose (1/6 Rajputana Rifles) served for over two decades with scouts and was Inspecting Officer Frontier Corps (IOFC) from 1945-48. In 1948, Inspector General Frontier Corps (IGFC) was Brigadier D. H. J. Williams (6/13 FFRifles) and his deputy was Colonel W. H. Fitzmaurice (6/13 FFRifles). Richard Corfield (17/13 Frontier Force Rifles) stayed with scouts serving with Tochi Scouts from 1945 to 1949 and then with South Waziristan Scouts 1949-50. In 1947-48, four British officers commanded South Waziristan Scouts (SWS); Lieutenant Colonels; D. R. Venning (5th Gurkha Rifles), A.C. S. Moore (Guides Infantry), K. M. Chambers (3/8 Punjab Regiment) and D. K. Old-Rini. In 1950, Lt. Colonel J. Harvey Kelly (4/10 Baluch Regiment) briefly commanded SWS. P. C. Garrett (2/12 Frontier Force Regiment) served with Zhob Militia from 1947-50.
Major William Brown (10/12 Frontier Force Regiment) was commandant of Gilgit Scouts in 1947-48 and responsible for annexation of Gilgit with Pakistan. His second-in-command during this time was Captain A. S. Matthieson (Seaford Highlanders). Matthieson had earlier served as khassadar officer in North Waziristan (1946-47). On 12 January 1948, Major Brown handed command of Gilgit Scouts to Major Aslam Khan while Captain Muhammad Khan became second in command.
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. Razmak Brigade consisting of all Muslim and Pakistani soldiers withdrew under the protection of Tochi Scouts commanded by W. Sandison (5/8 Punjab Regiment) and khassadars commanded by David Treffry. After withdrawal, Razmak, Wana and Gardai brigades were disbanded in December 1947. The tragic last act of the colonial enterprise when the curtain fell was assassination of last British officer on the frontier; Political Agent of North Waziristan Patrick Duncan on 31 May 1948.
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 some 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.
- Charles Chenevix Trench. The Frontier Scouts (New Delhi: Rupa & Company: 2002 Indian Edition of original 1985 publication)
- Daniel Marston. The Indian Army and the End of the Raj (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
- Andrew Whitehead. A Mission to Kashmir (New Delhi: Penguin Global), 2008 Indian Edition
- Pradeep P Barua. Gentlemen of the Raj : The Indian Army Officer Corps 1917-1949 (New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 2008)
- William A. Brown. Gilgit Rebellion – The major who mutinied over the partition of India (South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword), 2014
- Major General Shahid Hamid. Disastrous Twilight (London: Leo Cooper, 1986)
- Major General Shaukat Raza. The Pakistan Army 1947-1949 (Lahore: Wajidalis, 1989)
- 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.
- Major General ® Akbar Khan. Raiders in Kashmir (Lahore: Jang Publishers, 1992)
- Hamid Hussain. Waziristan – The Past. Defence Journal, November 2004.
- John Connell. Auckinleck: A Biography of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck (London: Cassell, 1959)
- Norval Mitchell. The Quiet People of India (Weardale: The Memoir Club, 2006).
- 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.
February 25, 2018.
Defence Journal, March 2018