Interview: Cecil Choudhry and MG Hidayat Niazi

Major Amin’s interview of Pakistan Air Force veteran Cecil Choudhry and Honorary Major Gen Hidayat Niazi
CECIL WAS EXTREMELY BITTER IN RECOLLECTIONS OF ANWAR SHAMIM WHEN THIS SCRIBE INTERVIEWED HIM AS ASSISTANT EDITOR DEFENCE JOURNAL- GRATEFUL THAT THE INTERVIEW WAS PUBLISHED WITHOUT ANY EDITING BY THE JOURNALS OWNER MR IKRAM SEHGAL—
THIS SCRIBE INTERVIEWED CECIL CHOUDHRY IN 2001 AND RELEVANT EXCERPTS ARE AS BELOW :—
Pakistan Army through eyes of Pakistani Generals
Q. What do you have to say about the assertion that our Intelligence agencies indulge more in petty reporting and in settling personal scores rather than solid intelligence gathering?
What can one say about something that is almost God’s truth. My personal experience during both the wars was that the way these agencies were being made to function was a complete waste of resources. We had no authentic information about our targets that we could rely on in our planning. We were provided information that was 10 years old.
Q. Who was the finest air force professional that you saw in your entire service?
This is a very difficult question to answer because we are covering a wide spectrum. The finest was Sarfraz Rafiqui. The finest Chiefs were Air Marshal Asghar Khan and Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan in that order. Most professional officers I worked directly under, Syed Mukhtar Ali, Hakimullah and (late) Masroor Hussain. Highly professional officers I worked with were P.Q. Medhi (ex Chief), Aliuddin (present DGCAA) and late Hashmi.

Q. How would you compare the PAF with IAF in 2001 in terms of operational efficiency?
In terms of operational efficiency the PAF certainly has an edge over the IAF, but we need to get them the badly needed equipment to enhance that edge. This is the only factor that can neutralize the numeric imbalance/inferiority.
Q. How would you compare the PAF of 1965, 1971 and 2001 in terms of operational efficiency?
As I mentioned earlier the PAF has remained a highly professional fighting force despite having gone through many crises. I have full confidence that it continues to remain one of the most operationally efficient Air Force in the world.
Q. What recommendations do you have in mind to make the PAF more effective and combat worthy?
Provide it with the badly needed replacement of the undelivered F16s and other equipment.
Q. Is the system of training in the PAF in line with requirements of modern warfare?
Oh! Absolutely beyond any doubt.
Q. Which Head of State had the finest understanding of airpower as an instrument of national strategy?
No doubt it was General Zia-ul-Haq who really did support PAF modernisation but unfortunately his energies remained diverted towards perpetuating his rule through his so- called Islamization process. This resulted in doing damage to both the country as well as Islam.
Q. What has been the negative contribution of the First Ladies in erosion of professionalism in the PAF?
Actually there has not been any negative contribution of the First Ladies in erosion of professionalism in the Air Force. On the contrary most of them have had a positive contribution. This sort of thing has only taken root because of just one First Lady, Begum Anwar Shamim. She ran the Air Force while her husband twiddled his fingers in the office. But then, that is all he was expected to do as the Chief because from the time I came across Squadron Leader Shamim and had the opportunity to observe him from close quarters all he did was twiddle his fingers. Twiddling twiddling he became the Chief! There may have been some magic in it ! I don’t know !!!!
THIS SCRIBE INTERVIEWED HONORARY MAJ GEN HIDAYAT NIAZI AND RELEVANT EXCERPTS ARE AS BELOW:–
WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS ABOUT ZIA AS YOU SAW HIM IN YOUR ARMY TENURE?
Firstly, as a man Zia was honest, God-fearing and kind hearted. He offered his prayers five times a day. On the other hand I make no hesitation in stating that Zia institutionalized corruption. He gave many corrupt people like Air Chief Anwar Shamim three to four extensions. Personally Zia was not corrupt but he tolerated corruption, sheltered corrupt people and conveniently ignored their activities. Perhaps he thought it politically expedient to do so. As a man Zia was clean, intensely devoted to his mother but as a head of state and army chief he damaged institutions. It was simply impossible humanly to be effective as a president and army chief. Thus the country as well as the army suffered.
WHAT WAS THE INFLUENCE OF ZIA’S ONE MAN RULE ON THE PAKISTAN ARMY IN THE PERIOD 1976-88?
Personal likes and dislikes became the most important factor in promotion. Institutions outwardly improved but quality of soldiering deteriorated in essence. Outwardly the army was more educated but inwardly lacked the qualitative steel grit and determination of the 1965 era. Since Zia’s foremost priority was political survival, politics got greater attention at the expense of the army.
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