Run up to the Kashmir War of 1947-48, Pakistani POV

From Major Amin.

  • There was duplicity on Pakistan side in not agreeing to simple formula proposed by Lord Mountbatten that Muslim majority states join Pakistan and non-Muslim majority states join India-Thus Pakistan was unrealistically hoping to get Hyderabad Deccan , Jodhpur ,Bikaner and Junagadh–
  • Thus technically and legally Maharaja of Kashmir’s joining India was legitimate
  • Nehru’s agreement to plebiscite in Kashmir was the most stupid blunder of the whole
  • Ideally Kashmir should be demilitarized and made independent after a plebiscite but this is not acceptable to Pakistan, India or China.

Also for general interest an extract from my book HISTORY OF PAKISTAN ARMY VOLUME ONE

History is made by those who seize fleeting opportunities in the critical time span in any particular situation and relentlessly execute their plans without second thoughts, subduing inner fears, overcoming procrastination and vacillation, and above all by those who are propelled by the burning desire to defeat the enemy rather than any halfhearted judiciousness and timidity. Ninety years of loyalism and too much of constitutionalism had however made the Muslims of 1947 slow in taking the initiative and too much obsessed with consequences of every situation. This attitude was excellent as long as the British were the rulers, but not for a crisis situation, in which geography, time and space, alignment of communications and weather temporarily favored Pakistan, in case initiative and boldness was exercised and simple but audacious plans were executed in the shortest possible time! Today, it is fashionable to blame the Indians, Mountbatten, Gracey etc. as far as the 1947-48 War is concerned. A dispassionate study of the events of 1947-48 clearly proves that victory was closer in 1947 than ever again as far as the Pakistan Army was concerned. Opportunities were lost because very few people who mattered at any level apart from Mr. Jinnah, Brigadier Akbar Khan and some others were really interested in doing anything!

The 1948 war was fought over the Muslim majority state of Kashmir ruled by a Hindu ruler, who did not want to accede to Pakistan. The specific sole and immediate aim of this chapter is to briefly analyses the 1948 war and to explain why Pakistan failed to achieve, what was within its grasp and why the Indians despite their overall material superiority could not achieve as much as they should have done. The morality of Kashmir dispute and who is morally right is beyond the scope of this book, except the simple point that as far as the broad mechanics of the philosophy governing the partition of India was concerned; i.e. division of India on a communal basis and as Non-Muslim and Muslim India, Kashmir should have been a part of Pakistan. There are detailed accounts of the Kashmir Dispute and whole books have been dedicated to it, a reader interested in this dispute should study those books. So we shall directly move on to the exact discussion of military mechanics of the 1948 war.

Theoretically, a Princely state could join any state i.e. India or Pakistan or stay independent. The British policy in this regard was not precise. A Princely State could join one of the two states i.e. India or Pakistan, with regard off course to physical propinquity. The choice of country was left entirely to the rulers of the princely states. As far as physical propinquity was concerned the state of Kashmir had all road rail and river communications with Pakistan and none with India. As far as the sentiments of the population were concerned, everything indicated that they did not certainly want to join Hindu majority India. The ruler Hari Singh was not inclined to joining Pakistan. In the third week of August 1947 the Kashmir State Force opened fire on a political meeting at a village near Dhirkot in Poonch district. On 24 August 1947 the Muslims of the area started a small rebellion under Qayyum Khan an ex sepoy from the army.

Other similar rebellions of small scale broke out in various parts of the state and the state forces were soon dispersed all over the state in internal security duties. It may be noted that the Kashmir State Forces consisted of nine infantry battalions out of which had the communal ratio of 22.2 % Muslim, 5.5 % Sikh and 55.55 % Dogra 1. As the rebellion spread the principal anti-India leader Sirdar Ibrahim fled to Pakistan and started considerable efforts to mobilize Pakistani public opinion and military support in sustaining the rebellion, which had little chance of success at least in the valley in case the Hindu ruler was able to secure Indian Army’s assistance by virtue of acceding to India2. As true or exaggerated reports of anti-Muslim atrocities reached the Trans-Indus Pathan tribal area the Pathans who have been historically famous for a multi- faceted motivation combining thirst for glory, Islamic zeal and lust for loot started movement towards Abbottabad and Murree on their own initiative. While all this was going on Hari Singh the ruler of Kashmir kept sitting on the fence, inclined to joining India, but unable to arrive at a firm resolve to do so for fear of the backlash against this decision from the Muslims, who constituted the 75 % majority. The situation was getting very swiftly out of control of the Maharaja’s forces. There were more than 60,000 demobilized Muslim ex- servicemen who were World War II veterans, and many of these men formed militias and started harassing the dispersed state forces and harassing the various roads and bridges in the state. By 15th October these militias forced the State Forces to abandon Fort Owen, around the same time the Dogra communication between Kotli and Poonch was severed and the state forces Muslim troops had almost deserted and joined the rebels while the non- Muslim units were besieged at Bhimbar, Mirpur and Mangla3. It must be remembered that at this moment the Pakistani GHQ was not involved in the operations. The Muslim League’s high command had tasked Mian Iftikhar ud Din Minister for Refugees to prepare a plan aimed at ensuring that the Muslim majority state of Kashmir should join Pakistan. Brigadier Akbar Khan then serving in the Pakistani GHQ wrote an appreciation ‘armed revolt inside Kashmir‘  on Mian Iftikhar ud Din’s request. It appears that Mr. Jinnah had tasked Liaquat to handle the Kashmir business. Liaquat in turn earmarked Mian Iftikhar ud Din. Iftikhar requested Sirdar Shaukat Hayat and Brigadier Akbar Khan for advice. A conference presided by Liaquat was held at Lahore in September 1947.

This was attended by Akbar whose appreciation had already been shown to Liaquat by Iftikhar ud Din earlier. Ghulam Mohammad the Finance Minister who was a contemporary of Liaquat at MAO College Aligarh4 and at this time was foremost in playing sycophant par excellence with Liaquat also attended the conference. Brigadier Akbar recalls that everyone was enthusiastic but no one including the Prime Minister had any concrete idea about the tangible and concrete aspects of the actual plan of operations, especially as far as the logistic and armament aspect was concerned.

Shaukat was appointed as overall in charge with Major Khurshid Anwar (Retired) commanding the northern tribal force which was as per Akbar’s appreciation to attack on Muzaffarabad-Srinagar axis and Major Zaman Kiani of the INA to command the southern force tasked to operate against the Kathua area in the south. Shaukat Hayat was not in favor of appointing Khurshid Anwar since he was a non-fighting arm soldier.

Shaukat states in his book that Liaquat under Ghulam Mohammad’s influence appointed Khurshid Anwar, then commander of the Muslim League’s semi-military National Guard to command the main northern invasion force. Akbar was to provide logistic support to the tribesmen which were to be employed for the invasion. There were three principal parties in the whole invasion affair. On one side was the Muslim League leaders like Shaukat Hayat (an ex-major) Iftikhar ud Din and Khurshid Anwar who had been ordered by Mr. Jinnah to do something to help the Kashmiri Muslims. Then there were the tribesmen who were concentrating at Batrasi opposite the Kashmir border and there was Brigadier Akbar Khan a Burma DSO who was Director of the newly formed Weapon And Equipment Directorate at the General Headquarters, tasked unofficially to support the tribal raiders logistically, using all resources at his disposal in GHQ as Director Weapons and Equipment without letting the Britishers controlling the Pakistan Army know! The tribesmen were brought from the NWFP tribal areas on trucks requisitioned by Government of Pakistan and concentrated in Batrasi north- east of Abbottabad. The invasion was to commence from 20th October 1947; the main northern tribal force invading Kashmir under Khurshid Anwar on Abbottabad-Garhi Habibullah-Muzaffarabad-Srinagar axis with a smaller auxiliary force advancing along Murree-Kohala-Muzaffarabad axis. The official history does not mention the Lahore conference presided by Liaquat but merely states that ‘Major Khurshid Anwar (as a result of some divine revelation!) undertook to organize and lead (whether voluntarily or on someone else’s orders is left to the readers’ imagination!) the tribesmen into Kashmir when the opportunity arose’! In addition Major Aslam Khan an ex- Kashmir State Force Officer and a MC of WW Two also joined the Lashkar. Aslam was son of Brigadier Tor Gul who was a loyal subject of the Hindu Dogra ruler of Kashmir before 1947! The Lashkar of tribesmen had been assembled by the efforts of Khan Khushdil Khan of Mardan. On the night of 20/21 October 2,000 tribesmen captured the bridge spanning the Neelam River on the Hazara Trunk Road linking Muzaffarabad with Abbottabad without a fight, since the all Muslim guard platoon of 4 Jammu and Kashmir Infantry joined the tribesmen. The Muslim companies of his state forces 4 Jammu and Kashmir Battalion in Muzaffarabad area rebelled and joined the tribesmen. By morning of 21 October the 2,000 raiders assisted by the Muslim Companies of the 4 Jammu and Kashmir State Infantry Battalion had captured the first major border town Muzaffarabad.

Fighting continued till 23 October since other Dogra troops of the 4 Jammu and Kashmir infantry fought on till 23 October in the localities of Domel and Kohala. The 1947-48 Kashmir War had formally started.5

Geography, weather, sentiments of the bulk of the population, initial comparative location of regular army troops available for action in Kashmir and the layout/alignment of communication; all favored Pakistan.

Muzaffarabad was not more than 47 miles from Abbottabad, 51 miles from Murree and 90 miles from Rawalpindi the three major garrison towns of Pakistan. All the major road and rail links to the state ran through Pakistan. The likely direction through which the Indians could rush in the reinforcements ran through a dirt road from Pathankot to Jammu and from here to Riasi across the Bannihal Pass (snowbound from November to March) to Srinagar which was more than 257 miles long. Whereas Muzaffarabad was linked to Srinagar by an all-weather tarmac road without any major water obstacle or any serious gradient. The distance between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad was less than 100 miles. The only rail link of the state was the one connecting the town of Jammu with Sialkot in Pakistan. The only way Indians could reinforce the State and save its capital Srinagar was by airlifting troops to Srinagar. If Srinagar was captured the whole Kashmir vale and the entire northern areas including Ladakh could no longer be held by the Indians. There were no subtleties or complexities of operational strategy in the whole situation except following one simple straightforward plan i.e.; a bold and swift advance to Srinagar assisted by a troop or squadron of armored cars. We will discuss in brief in the following paragraphs what actually happened and the major reasons which led to failure.

The entire Kashmir War of 1947-48 was fought over a large area comprising more than 89,000 square miles and over the highest mountain barriers in the world. However the innumerable actions of the war studied in detail are confusing and do not provide the layman reader with a clear picture, thus the result is a situation in which the trees become more important than the whole forest. In brief the Kashmir War was fought in four areas, one of which was most important and the center of gravity for the other three. These four areas were the Jhelum Valley or the Muzaffarabad- Srinagar Road, the Northern Areas comprising the Gilgit-Leh axis in the Indus Valley and the Zojila Pass area, the Poonch River Valley and fourthly the area between Jammu and Mirpur. The center of gravity of the whole war was the Jhelum Valley, which was the only place where an advantageous decision could have been achieved at the earliest and in the relatively shortest time and space as far as the Pakistan Army was concerned; had the Pakistani political and military leadership possessed greater strength of resolution and independent spirit; than they actually did! The fate of the war in Indus valley depended on the degree of success in the Jhelum Valley since the Indian line of communication to this theatre lay through the Jhelum Valley. The fighting in Poonch river valley also depended on the success of the struggle for Jhelum Valley, since a Pakistani success in Jhelum Valley in terms of capture of Srinagar would have freed all Pakistani troops for a concentration against Poonch town from the north and would have definitely led to the capture of Poonch. The fourth sector of the war i.e. the area south of Bannihal Pass and between Akhnur Tawi River was the only area that the Indians could have held with a certain degree of success in terms of relative forces available, geographical location and the terrain factor.



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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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3 years ago

Looks like paragraphs are missing??

3 years ago

\Theoretically, a Princely state could join any state \
That was the constitutional process . No point in waving it off.
Baluchistan was not a Princely State with a British Resident; it had direct agreement with Whitehall; still that was gobbled by Pakistan- hence the Freedom movement which is still ongoing.

OTOH, Jinnah was able to seize the oppurtunity in 1947 and outmenouvered Congress/Nehru/gandhi.

3 years ago

Quick question:
1) India couldn’t take Kotli or Mirpur because Nehru insisted on holding on to the much less valuable Poonch.
2) India tried to secure Skardu but Pakistanis were just plainly superior there.
But then
What was going on in Neelum Valley? India got to southern bank of Neelum at Keran(from where IA routinely shells Pakistanis) but why not try and take the northern bank and capture the whole thing?

Brown Pundits