Letter of General Akhtar Malik (Re Grand Slam)

There is endless controversy in Pakistan about the way Gen Akhtar Malik, who led the opening phase of Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir in 1965 (operation Grand Slam) was removed from command the day after the attack started. The Pakistan army had decisive superiority in tanks and artillery and on the first day captured Chamb and were threatening to break through towards Akhnur, but on the 2nd day of operations there was an abrupt change in command as Gen Malik was replaced by Gen Yahya Khan. This led to some delay and gave the Indians the chance to reinforce their defenses. Many in Pakistan blame this command change for the failure of Grand Slam. You can read more about the operation in another post. The controversy will no doubt continue. Here is a letter from Gen Malik to his brother, written 2 years after the war, which gives his version of events (I received this via Major Amin).
Gen Akhter Hussain Malik’s Letter to His Brother Gen Abdul Ali Malik
My Dear brother,
I hope you and the family are very well. Thank you for your letter of 14 Oct. 67. The answers to your questions are as follows:
a. The de facto command changed the very first day of the ops [operations] after the fall of Chamb when Azmat Hayat broke off wireless communications with me. I personally tried to find his HQ [headquarters] by chopper and failed. In late afternoon I sent Gulzar and Vahid, my MP [military police] officers, to try and locate him, but they too failed. The next day I tore into him and he sheepishly and nervously informed me that he was ‘Yahya’s brigadier’. I had no doubt left that Yahya had reached him the previous day and instructed him not to take further orders from me, while the formal change in command had yet to take place. This was a betrayal of many dimensions.
b. I reasoned and then pleaded with Yahya that if it was credit he was looking for, he should take the overall command but let me go up to Akhnur as his subordinate, but he refused. He went a step further and even changed the plan. He kept banging his head against Troti, letting the Indian fall back to Akhnur. We lost the initiative on the very first day of the war and never recovered it. Eventually it was the desperate stand at Chawinda that prevented the Indians from cutting through.
c. At no time was I assigned any reason for being removed from command by Ayub, Musa or Yahya. They were all sheepish at best. I think the reasons will be given when I am no more.
d. Not informing pro-Pak Kashmiri elements before launching Gibraltar was a command decision and it was mine. The aim of the op was to de freeze the Kashmir issue, raise it from its moribund state, and bring it to the notice of the world. To achieve this aim the first phase of the op was vital, that is, to effect undetected infiltration of thousands across the CFL [cease-fire line]. I was not willing to compromise this in any event. And the whole op could be made stillborn by just one double agent.
e. Haji Pir [Pass] did not cause me much anxiety. Because [the] impending Grand Slam Indian concentration in Haji Pir could only help us after Akhnur, and they would have to pull out troops from there to counter the new threats and surrender their gains, and maybe more, in the process. Actually it was only after the fall of Akhnur that we would have encashed the full value of Gibraltar, but that was not to be!
f. Bhutto kept insisting that his sources had assured him that India would not attack if we did not violate the international border. I however was certain that Gibraltar would lead to war and told GHQ so. I needed no op intelligence to come to this conclusion. It was simple common sense. If I got you by the throat, it would be silly for me to expect that you will kiss me for it. Because I was certain that war would follow, my first choice as objective for Grand Slam was Jammu. From there we could have exploited our success either toward Samba or Kashmir proper as the situation demanded. In any case whether it was Jammu or Akhnur, if we had taken the objective, I do not see how the Indians could have attacked Sialkot before clearing out either of these towns.
g. I have given serious consideration to writing a book, but given up the idea. The book would be the truth. And truth and the popular reaction to it would be good for my ego. But in the long run it would be an unpatriotic act. It will destroy the morale of the army, lower its prestige among the people, be banned in Pakistan, and become a textbook for the Indians. I have little doubt that the Indians will never forgive us the slight of 65 and will avenge it at the first opportunity. I am certain they will hit us in E. Pak [East Pakistan] and we will need all we have to save the situation. The first day of Grand Slam will be fateful in many ways. The worst has still to come and we have to prepare for it. The book is therefore out.
I hope this gives you the gist of what you needed to know. And yes, Ayub was fully involved in the enterprise. As a matter of fact it was his idea. And it was he who ordered me to by-pass Musa while Gibraltar etc. was being planned. I was dealing more with him and Sher Bahadur than with the C-in-C. It is tragic that despite having a good military mind, the FM’s [Foreign Minister Z.A. Bhutto’s] heart was prone to give way. The biggest tragedy is that in this instance it gave way before the eruption of a crisis. Or were they already celebrating a final victory!!
In case you need a more exact description of events, I will need war diaries and maps, which you could send me through the diplomatic bag.
Please remember me to all the family.
Akhtar Hussain Malik

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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.

21 thoughts on “Letter of General Akhtar Malik (Re Grand Slam)”

  1. One of the most ironic things in 65 war is how the civilians in either side of the conflict appear more aggressive (Bhutto pushing for the war, Shastri giving the the go ahead for crossing the international boundary), while the military being cautious (Ayub , Yahya indecisiveness, On Indian side, Chaudhri wanting to cede Punjab , pushing Shastri for ceasfire by giving wrong ammunition info )

    I could never understand why grand slam was called grand slam and not some Islamic name though. Gibraltar clearly has Islamic connotation, perhaps some western-ized Pak general named Grand slam.

    For whatever its worth i have my sympathy on Bhutto calculation though, that India would not cross the IB . If i would have been his place considering Shastri and all the mumbo jumbo which is taught in Pak textbooks about Hindus, i would have made the same calculation. Pretty sure many in India might have been a bit surprised themselves on what Shastri did.

      1. ” Bhutto kept insisting that his sources had assured him that India would not attack if we did not violate the international border. I however was certain that Gibraltar would lead to war and told GHQ so. I needed no op intelligence to come to this conclusion. It was simple common sense. If I got you by the throat, it would be silly for me to expect that you will kiss me for it.””

        I was referring to only the non crossing of the IB part.

        Hindsight is 20-20 , and today Bhutto calculation might seem a bit off, but if India didnt cross into Punjab in 47-48 war then he was well within his rights to feel that India (after 65 and under a newish “weak Hindu” PM ) would lack the gumption to cross IB.

  2. Pakistan’s fallacies about fake arab/persian origins and “weak hindus” bite them in the ass over and over again. Haleem does not have magical properties.

    1. Indians share these same beliefs.

      It is after all, the Hindu-right in India that trumpets the idea that Hindus have been weak and passive, which is how Muslims and Christians have gained the upper-hand on them. In various rallies they command Hindus to shed their timid shell, “be brave”, and attack Muslims.

      The belief about Indian Muslims being descended from Arabs/Persians is also shared by the Hindu-Right. Pakistanis especially are frequently referred to as the products of West-Asian rape in these circles, a theory partially used to deny Muslim Nationalism in South-Asia, as they are after all just the remnant bastards of foreign invasion, still suffering from Stockholm-syndrome.

        1. I’m generally indifferent to, “your ancestors were raped” polemics, as pretty much everyone’s ancestors were raped.

          Razib or someone well-versed in genetics would have to confirm, but I don’t think there’s evidence from a genetic standpoint to say there was significant West-Asian Muslim gene flow into most Indian Muslim populations (rape or otherwise).

          1. but I don’t think there’s evidence from a genetic standpoint to say there was significant West-Asian Muslim gene flow into most Indian Muslim populations (rape or otherwise).

            yeah. really low. 1% ish, with that mostly in the NW regions probably? as you have noted tho it is harder to tell in pakistan area since the populations in afghanistan are not that different from indigenous ones.

            this is not to say lots of muslims don’t have a line of genealogy back to west asia. i don’t have any west asian genetic segments, but i see a *very very small* shift in my mother with aligns with the fact that her maternal grandfather was descended from a family who had relocated from delhi in the 19th-century, and, were descended on the male line from a man who left persia in the 17th-century due to religious persecution (he was a sunni ulema) and settled there. there is a koran in noakhali that this man brought from iran, with the names of his male descendants down to the present day.

            it tells u a lot about the power of culture that my mother knows this story, but has no clue (along with my dad) how she’s 10-20% tibeto-burman.

      1. No. They view them as converts. The Hindu Right claims even the most West eurasian shifted Pakistanis aka even Pashtuns as originally hindus. They lament at Hinduism sticking to a historical strategy of relative peace against the abrahamic “villains” who invaded India and converted its masses by the sword. They are starting to try and “reconvert” Muslims.

        Pakistanis on the other hand do claim these false racial origins. Hindus are wrong about the proportion of Hindus converting to Islam by war. They tend to overestimate. Pakistani Muslims tend to heavily exaggerate or straight up falsify West Asian blood.

        The Hindu right doesn’t hate West Asian features. In some of their original nutty manifestos (Hindu right is not a monolith) it calls for increased breeding of the taller, more caucasoid, lighter skinned people of the subcontinent. If anything, they try to vehemently claim the more West Eurasian people as their own in the form of the original “Aryans.”

        1. The Hindu-Right has a number of conspiracy theories they like to throw at Muslims. Many of them are contradictory, though as most “true-believers”, the Hindu-Right has mastered the art of double-think.

          So they can (and do) on one hand argue Muslims are the rape-babies of invaders, and thus in conjunction with their Islamic faith, complicit in the atrocities committed against medieval Hindus, and perpetual foreigners. They will also argue that Muslims are low-caste converts that were too self-serving to resist conversion at the hands of Mullahs to gain some newfound positions. They will also argue Muslims were forcibly converted, and thus their very existence is a tragedy.

  3. Indian and Pakistani militaries had senior officers in their ranks who had served alongside in the British Indian Army. Threfore, they likely had a better measure for each other’s capabilities. The politicians had less basis for making assessments. Intelligence capabilities on both sides were likely very poor, and these would be the basis for many of the politicians’ assessments.

  4. Apparently Gen. Bajwa is getting a 3 year extension of his term – https://www.dawn.com/news/1500427.

    Any comments on this? Does this mean Pakistan does not wish to change leadership at a very critical time when it is challenged on multiple fronts? Does this imply (lack of) confidence in Imran Khan’s leadership?

    1. I mean he humiliated and outclassed India in front of the whole world by easily winning the aerial dog fight, rescuing Abhinandan from understandably angered villagers, and treating him well. Can you imagine what Modi and his thugs would do if they apprehended a Pakistani soldier? I mean look at what they do to ordinary Indian Muslims (lynchings etc). Although maybe he’ll just tell him to “go to Pakistan.”

      For that and more, Bajwa deserves many an extension.

      Hail Ghazi Bajwa!

    2. /Does this mean Pakistan does not wish to change leadership /
      On the contrary- the leadership is very much in saddle. The leadership consists of 30 unelected and unaccountable army officers who drag the country by its neck. Imran Khan is lucky he is getting 3 year extension.
      Pakistan is a military with a country attached to it for it’s benefits.

  5. ZA Bhutto went to Cathedral and John Connon school in Mumbai in the 40s. Any Pakistani textbooks he encountered there would be both geographically inappropriate and time travelling. To the extent he had prejudices about Hindu weakness, he gained them from experiences with Hindus there and in his home state in Gujarat, not a textbook.

    I don’t know what Bajwa thinks, but he served under former Indian Chief of Army Staff Bikram Singh in Congo, so also has a first hand understanding of Indian military culture.

    1. LOL, yeah, was just kiddin. BTW what you say about time travelling and all is true of Ayub as well. Ayub in a way was even more westernized than Bhutto was, that does not mean he didnt hold those prejudices.
      Also ironically Bhutto perhaps might be the only person from the top Pakistani side who might have encountered the few incidents of “Hindu aggressiveness” when his dad had to deal with Sardar Patel after Indian army rolled along in Junagadh, and the Nawab had to flee.

    2. Gujarati recent culture is very diplomatic at best and conciliatory at its worst. It is heavily influenced by Jain dharma, something I was partially raised in. I resent the degree of Pacifism I was taught by some of my elders. Granted, my parents, probably because they grew up outside this heavily Jain Gujarati fold, insofar as my mother grew up in Hyderabad and my father in New Delhi, were heavily skeptical of these notions, dropping hints from the get go to heavily question them. My parents are “proud Jains,” especially my father the way many secular Jews are “proud Jews.” They like all the success oriented positive stereotypes, even if they are only, with regard to actual beliefs and practice, members of the faith in name only.

      Hindu weakness is really easy to argue, when you are surrounded heavily by people who heavily buy into the philosophy that largely shaped Gandhi. The epicenter is essentially all of non Rajput Gujarat. Interestingly, militaristic tendencies have increased sharply lately.

      Amit Shah is no Jain lmfao

  6. This is partially racial too. That is why Pakistanis viewed Bengalis largely the same way and justified rape as a form of “aryanization” of locals, thus elevating their progeny to relatively more superior stock.

    Take out human rights and other Western liberal heuristics. Some of it is not entirely irrational, given the, on average bigger stature of Pakistanis relative to Bangladeshis. And the fact that invaders from the West have dominated and imposed themselves on top of the subcontinent’s hierarchy for millennia and that Pakistanis on average tend to have more of that invader blood. This especially easy to succumb to as a confirmation bias to justify atrocity.

    The reason you see so many comments on this blog or even posts asking to uplift Brahmins are the largely egalitarian Western liberal sentiments on here. We don’t like to see a group of historical losers continue to be put down and lose. I think that can get taken too far. But it isn’t irrational even from an economic perspective whatsoever. All of this tribalism and hierarchical behavior erodes meritocracy, societal harmony, in the long term at least, and free and fair voluntary transactions between individuals. It fundamentally leads to the inefficient use of all styles of capital, especially human.

    The only way to fix it is to first recognize it. But also to be cautious and not enter the sometimws nuanceless mentality of some post modernist neomarxist immutable oppression vs. oppressor historical paradigm.

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