Decline in Violence Worldwide; For Now?

Steven Pinker has an article in the Guardian about the continuing decline in violence within humanity as a whole.
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Last para:
“Though I’m relieved that making myself a hostage to fortune eight years ago has not turned out badly, (at least so far), needless to say my greater relief is for the state of humanity. Despite the headlines, and with circumscribed exceptions, the world has continued its retreat from violence. We need invoke no mysterious arc of justice or end of history to explain it. As modernity widens our circle of cooperation, we come to recognise the futility of violence and apply our collective ingenuity to reducing it. Though a few narcissistic despots and atavistic zealots stand athwart this current, history does not appear to be on their side.”

• Steven Pinker’s graphs can be seen in full here

I happened to have the following exchange on FB about this article

 Omar Ali: I don’t doubt his data, but as Ali keeps telling us, this trend may not last. I am still optimistic, but as is obvious from Syria etc (and from reading Fukuyama), the modern state is a critical factor in this trend. What if state failures accelerate? and at some point, what if those single disasters coalesce into world war? That would do it for Pinker (and for us)…Maybe more for us than for Pinker. SJWs and postmarxist bullshitters notwithstanding, the core of Western states (and East Asia/China) may still hold…..People in intact states may see a continuation of this trend, even as the shit hits the fan from Morocco to Malaysia. Now THAT may be a more likely outcome than total reversal of this trend. In that case the death toll would depend on whether India has hit the fan or escaped (which pretty much means Pakistan would also have escaped…since if we hit all the way, the splashes of gore would probably get India to slip anyway). Unless India hits the fan, the worldwide toll from a Morrocco to Malaysia hit would still be low (I am assuming Indonesia will find a dictator and escape the trend)…Cheery thoughts. 🙂

Abbas: We are in for interesting times, as the Chinese say… 🙂

Ali: I think it is more likely than not that we have lived through a brief liberal interlude in history and the world is about to return to its natural state of universal conflict between neotribal nationalisms. How’s that for cheerful thoughts?

Abbas: Keep working on making the singularity real, my friend. The fate of humanity hangs in the balance. (To be read out loud in the movie-trailer guy’s voice.)

Omar: Ali, It would be foolish to take any of your guesses (about anything) too lightly, but I remain an optimist (of sorts). I think Europe, China and the Americas may not rejoin the world-war trend even if the waters rise and things get worse. They may see some modestly nasty things, but not a return to universal conflict. They will probably kill a lot of people outside their own countries (and sort of, kind of, fight each other in the middle east and Africa, mostly via proxies), but not descend into total war with each other. Why? I dunno. I just think our brains are somehow wired to prefer the pessimistic view, so our nth-order “considered view” should be deliberately biased towards optimism. Something like that. That’s not a very solid basis for optimism, I admit. 🙂

by the way: I think the US has caused state failure in Iraq and contributed to it in Syria (and now has a supporting role in the attempted state failure in Yemen; in Yemen I think the Saudis are the prime movers of the idiocy. There is no reason to accept the Eurocentric Metropolitan Racist view that only White people have agency. The Subaltern may speak 🙂 )
Why has the US caused these state failures? I dont think it was deliberate. But I do think it shows you that it is not just the SJWs/Postmarxist academics who don’t appreciate how important the state is; even the decision makers of the most powerful state in the world don’t seem to get it. Or rather, they don’t seem to have sufficient grasp of where the asabiya or legitimacy of a state comes from: it comes from genuine fellow feeling, or it comes from colonial structures that happened to be this way and within which the necessary fellow feeling builds over time. EITHER can work. Both together are even better. But remove both, and the shit will hit the fan…
Which is also why groups like the Kurds can fight better than any fake army put together by US advisers alone. US advisers PLUS genuine national feeling (Afghanistan, if the US had not allowed us to mess it up) can work though 🙂

What do you think? 

PS: another comment on that FB  thread:
Aditya: What a dose of negativity and gloom this morning! And I don’t much like Pinker myself. 

Those who have money riding on it are really bullish on Africa. I have some firsthand visibility into a region from Manila to Delhi to Cairo and I can’t see really many causes for gloom myself. A bit Edgy White-Liberal? Perhaps, but these are good times for the region. Also a good time to remind ourselves that IF south India were hived off, the remaining portion of north India lags Bangladesh’s and Pakistan’s development indicators. There’s a new tech incubator in Pakistan, there are big data think tanks in Sri Lanka and massive cross regional investments brewing. The rational force against world war won’t be the nation state but the increasingly dense network of capitalist self interest.


The 1965 War. A Summary by Major Amin

Major Amin is a Pakistani military historian who has written extensively about the Pakistan army (and other military history topics). Since both India and Pakistan have decided to try and outdo each other in claiming that the war was an emphatic victory for their side, I have copied and pasted one of his old articles that gives a more objective view of the war. A war whose memory should be an embarrassment for the higher officials and leaders of both countries, though lower level officers and men can still take pride in smaller-scale stories of courage, initiative and achievement.

Pakistan started hostilities in late July and early August with operation Gibraltar and then raised the ante with Operation Grand Slam in late August. But both operations were confined to Kashmir and for some unfathomable reason the geniuses running Pakistan at that time seriously did not expect India to respond at any point outside of Kashmir. But India did exactly that on 6th September by crossing the international border in Lahore and Sialkot (primarily to relieve pressure on Kashmir, though later claims that they never intended to actually capture Lahore are probably bunk. They at least intended to try). Caught off guard (the details are quite amazing) Pakistan was still able to stop those thrusts short of both major cities. Pakistan officially dates the war to the attack on Lahore and paints India as the “unprovoked aggressor”, which is of course, also bunk. They were sorely provoked.

Anyway, that date has since been celebrated as defense of Pakistan day. Claims of resounding victory are exaggerated with each passing year and by now the mythmaking has reached ridiculous proportions. That Pakistan failed to achieve its objectives in Kashmir (where we started hostilities with operation Gibraltar and far from liberating Kashmir, got into trouble in our own part of Kashmir; then attacked with Grand Slam and also got stopped short of the main objective Akhnur), then barely held off the Indian counter-offensive in Lahore and Sialkot in spite of a distinct edge in weapons and training (and near-parity in numbers in Northern Punjab) makes claims of a great victory somewhat hollow. (Pakistan’s weapons, organization and and training were distinctly superior because we had joined the American anti-communist front in 1954 and received an impressive and systematically implemented aid package as a result; this superiority was especially marked in tanks and artillery. Near parity in numbers was possible  in Northern Punjab thanks to concentration of forces).

But while Pakistan failed in its objective, so did India once they had been provoked into full scale war. The Indian army failed to take Lahore in spite of achieving “near surprise”. Then their major armored offensive was blunted and stopped in Chawinda, and they almost suffered disaster in the battle of Assal Uttar (see below). Finally, they also failed to convert superior staying power and deeper reserves into decisive victory by agreeing to a ceasefire when Pakistan had only a few days of supplies left. So they can celebrate having survived whatever their smaller neighbor managed to try, but to describe it as a great victory is a bit much.

Image result for 1965 war

The attack by Pakistan’s 1st armored division in the battle of Assal Uttar deserves special mention. It was Pakistan’s most ambitious attempt to change the outcome of the war and indeed for a day or two a fourth battle of Panipat seemed within our grasp. The weak-kneed Indian commander in chief (General Choudhry) is on record as having panicked and suggested giving up most of East Punjab and withdrawing East of the Beas river! That would have been an absolutely stunning Pakistani victory even if it went no further than that. But GOC Western command General Harbaksh Singh held his nerve and tenacious defense by Indian troops, a successful tank ambush at Assal Uttar and an absolutely disastrous command performance from the superior Pakistani armored forces saved India.

India’s major opportunity came in the Sialkot sector and there it was the Indian commanders who proved over-cautious and made multiple blunders and missed several opportunities, while tenacious defense by the Pakistanis, a heroic action by one tank regiment (25 cavalry), and superior artillery and air force support saved the day. Details below.

Still by day 17 of the war Pakistan was running out of supplies and it is very likely that if India had kept going, they could have won a decisive victory . Luckily for Pakistan, the “great powers” did not want any change in the status quo in South Asia and were putting pressure for a cease-fire. Indian PM Shastri (a civilian, but one who seems to have had more resolution than his army chief) may have been willing to fight on, but again General Choudhry seems to have lost his nerve and advised his PM to accept the ceasefire.

The net result was therefore a draw. Nobody won anything new, though both sides had opportunities and near misses. India had the upper hand by the time of the ceasefire but that is about the best that can be said.

All this and more is summed up in Major Amin’s articles in greater detail, so I am posting them here.
Overall map:

From Defence Journal. 

1965 War. Overall Analysis

Columnist A H AMIN analyses the 1965 war dispassionately.

1965 was a watershed in Indo-Pak history! The war instead of being dispassionately analysed became a ground to attack and condemn political opponents! Complete books were written out of sheer motivation based on pure and unadulterated venom! To date the trend continues at the cost of serious research and history writing! Most of these books were written by beneficiaries of the usurper Ayub or Bhutto haters! Men with a naive knowledge of military history made worse by a desire to settle personal scores! Jaundiced history of the worst kind!

This article is an overall analysis of the 1965 war based on military facts rather than any motivation to settle political scores based on matters of ego rather than any serious objective considerations! It is hoped that after 36 years readers would be more interested in hard facts rather than pure and unadulterated  polemics by men who did not know the division of battle “more than a spinster”!

Timing of 1965 War

This has been the subject of many  controversies and myths! In 1965 India was recovering from the effects of the China War. Indian Army was engaged in a process of massive expansion with units and divisions half trained half novice! Something like the Austrian Army of 1809! Outwardly  expanding and larger but lacking the military virtue and military spirit identified by Carl Von Clausewitz as the key elements in an military machines effectiveness! There was no overwhelming Indian numerical superiority unlike 1971 and many parts of the

Indo-Pak border like the vast bulk of Shakargarh bulge were unmanned on the Indian side! Qualitatively Pakistan had a tangible superiority by virtue of possession of relatively superior tanks and artillery! The Centurion tank which was the backbone of Indian army was concentrated in the Indian Armoured division while the vast bulk of Indian infantry divisions were equipped with the obsolete Shermans! Even in quality of command there were serious drawbacks! The Indian 1 Corps had been just raised and the GOC of the Indian 1st Armoured Division was about to retire! Indian Mountain Divisions brought into the plains lacked sufficient antitank resources and were not in the ideal fighting condition. Some 38 plus Indian Infantry Battalions were absorbed by the blotting paper of Indian Army i.e a tract known as Kashmir! All these battalions were deployed north of Chenab River.

Indian Army was in the process of expansion and the Indian Army had no strategic reserves in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor against the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division.

Setting aside the ethical dilemma whether war is the best instrument of policy to settle political disputes militarily 1965 was the ideal time for Pakistan to settle its political problems with India. This point was realized by some mid- ranking senior officers in the Pakistan Army which included the Pakistani DMO Gul Hassan, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik and by some civilians like Foreign Minister Z.A Bhutto and Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad.

On the other hand Musa the Pakistani C-in-C was opposed to war! This was not because Musa was a pacifist but because Musa lacked military competence and was enjoying his second four-year-term as C-in-C of the Pakistan Army! Ayub the military ruler was initially against any military adventure but revised his ideas after Pakistani military successes in Rann of  Katch.

In Clausewitzian terms 1965 was the ideal time for Pakistan to start a war. The following quotation illustrates the rationale; ‘Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not; if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages but it will rather increase the disparity of forces — but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account’.1

Comparative Level of Planning-Strategic

At the strategic level the Pakistani plan was superior. Its initial thrust launched with an infantry division-tank brigade size force against Akhnur was enough to cause a crisis of strategic level in the Indian Army. The situation with Akhnur in Pakistani hands would have been disastrous for India. All the Indian plans to launch the 1 Corps against the MRL would have been thrown to winds and Indians would have spent the entire war redressing the imbalance caused due to loss of Akhnur! On the other hand the Pakistani thrust in Khem Karan would have bottled up three Indian Infantry divisions in the Beas-Ravi corridor and three Indian divisions would have been forced to surrender. 1965 could have then been a Pakistani strategic success rather than a tactical draw as it turned out to be.

On the other hand the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division was well poised to deal with any Indian armoured thrust launched in the Ravi-Chenab corridor.

Pakistani failure lay in poor execution and understanding at the strategic level rather than planning

It was in implementation rather than planning that the Pakistani GHQ and Ayub failed miserably at the strategic level. The reason was simple. Both Ayub and Musa lacked strategic insight! They lacked the resolution and strategic coup d oeil to conduct decisive warfare. Both were extremely defensive in their approach and saw war as reacting to enemy countermoves rather than making the enemy react to their moves. Thus Musa as late as 1983 naively claimed in his book “My Version” that the aim of Grand Slam was not to capture Akhnur but to merely threaten it. In other words Musa saw a move which had the potential to cause a severe strategic imbalance in the Indian High Command as a tactical move to relieve pressure on Muzaffarabad! Allah be praised!
(details of grand slam lower down in this article)

Even a foreigner saw the immense importance of capturing Akhnur. Thus the remarks of Marshall Chen Yi the Foreign Minister of China who was visiting Pakistan at the time of Grand Slam. Chen Yi thus “made a sharp cutting movement at the little finger; ‘knock them out at Akhnoor’.That will help the freedom fighters and also guarantee the security of East and West Pakistan. With the little finger gone, the whole hand becomes useless”!2 So thought a veteran of a many decade long civil war! This was Greek for a man who was elevated to the rank of Army Chief because of political considerations! This was Greek for a man accused of tactical timidity in Burma!

Inability to develop a doctrine of decisive warfare

The principal reason of failure of both the armies was “failure or inability to develop a doctrine of decisive warfare”. This was a colonial legacy. The Indian Army of pre-1947 was an internal security machine designed for defence while the main forces of the empires allies came into action on other decisive fronts. The concentration on both sides was to have tactical concepts while no doctrine integrating tactics with operational strategy and national strategy existed to give coherence to the whole business of warfare.

Lack of Resolution in the Ayub-Musa duo to energetically conduct the war

1965 was a failure in resolution at the highest level. Both the president and his handpicked chief lacked the resolution to provide strategic direction to a well oiled machine which had the potential to inflict a severe strategic defeat on the enemy.

Failure of Pakistani GHQ to effectively supervise execution of plans or to create alternative organization or command arrangements to supervise the conduct of war

The job of an army HQ is not just to formulate plans but to effectively supervise the execution of plans. Ayub in words of a British contemporary was devoid of “operational experience” “organizational understanding” and “lacked tactical flair”.3  Thus Ayub and Musa saw no need to have intermediate corps headquarters to over insure the success of the army’s main attack involving a force of an infantry division and an armoured division. This was a case of extreme naivette rather than a minor error of judgement. Probably the supreme commander was too busy with Five Year Plans and big business and had lost sight of the business of soldiering! His handpicked proxy chief wanted a peaceful tenure in which he would not be forced to exercise any strategic judgement!

The 12 Divisional organizational failure, one of the main reasons of Grand Slam’s failure, was another glaring case of lack of organizational insight on part of Ayub and Musa. While the Indians had bifurcated their forces in Kashmir based on north and south of Pir Panjal range right from 1948 and early 1950s Pakistan’s military supremos naively thought that one divisional headquarter was sufficient to manage a front of 400 miles in a mountainous territory spanning the Himalayas, Karakorams and the Pir Panjal!

Indian and Pakistani armour failures compared

At the strategic level both India and Pakistan got an opportunity to knock out the other side. Pakistan got it twice, first at Akhnur and then at Khem Karan. India got it once at Gadgor on 8th September. Both the sides failed. On the Pakistani side the failure had more to do with lack of strategic insight at Akhnur, ordering a change of horses in the middle of a crucial operation. Then at Khem Karan the Pakistani failure was at divisional level i.e failure to pump in all five armoured regiments on the 8th or 9th September thus achieving a decisive breakthrough.The situation was made worse by absence of Corps Headquarter. The Indian failure at Gadgor had more to do with failure at brigade and divisional level in actual execution despite the fact that the Indians had the mains “available” as well as “physically available”  to achieve a breakthrough. The failure was Brigadier K.K Singh Commander Indian 1st Armoured Division who saw a threat to his flanks which in reality was a tank squadron of 62 Cavalry which had lost its way and blundered into the Indian artillery echelons opposite Rangre. The Indians had the means to achieve a breakthrough but failed primarily because lack of coup d oeil and resolution at brigade level. This was a command and execution failure. In Khem Karan on the other hand Pakistan had the resources but failed to bring them into the battle area because of poor staff work and planning at divisional level. Thus on the decisive 8th September Pakistan did not have the means to achieve a breakthrough and this had more to do with poor initial planning and staff work at div and brigade level rather than at the command or execution level. Thus the Pakistani failure was a staff and planning failure in which all from brigade till GHQ were included while the Indian failure was a command failure in which the prime culprits were the armoured brigade and divisional commander.

On the Pakistani side the success at Gadgor had more to do with outstanding leadership at squadron and unit level rather than any operational brilliance at brigade or divisional level. In the Indian success at Khem Karan, however, an important role was played by Indian higher headquarters at divisional corps and army command level.

Triumph of Defence and Failure of Offence as a Form of War

1965 was a failure of offence and triumph of defence. Except in Grand Slam where initial overwhelming superiority enabled Pakistan to achieve a breakthrough, on both sides defence triumphed as a way of war. Both the armies were more used to defence because of British colonial military experience and comparative relative lack of difference in weaponry also ensured that defence triumphed over attack. Thus the attackers failed at Gadgor, Chawinda, Assal, Uttar and Valtoha regardless of religion of the defender! Both the armies lacked the dynamism to conduct attack a far more complicated form of war and totally outside the pre-1947 experience of fighting divisional and brigade level defensive battles till overwhelming superiority enabled the Britisher to resume the offensive as at  Alalamein and that too with non-Indian formations like the purely British armoured divisions or in Burma where the British-Indians had overwhelming superiority against the Japanese in tanks and air.

Ignored aspects of the war

There are certain points which are conveniently forgotten or not understood at all. Although the paratroopers failed in Pathankot area their dropping delayed the move forward of 14 Indian Infantry Division to support Indian 1st Armoured Division operations opposite Chawinda. The latter  fact was acknowledged by a man no less eminent than the Indian GOC Western Command Harbaksh Singh.4


While Indian GOC Western Command Harbaksh Singh admitted that the Pakistani attack opposite Khem Karan could have been decisive we in Pakistan have  twisted 1965 war into a case of blaming the civilians for intriguing against the army and leading it into an aimless military adventure. Even today India’s top military thinker Ravi Rikhye admits that Khem Karan had the potential to be India’s Fourth Battle of Panipat.

Pakistan failed because its military leaders lacked the strategic insight which was necessary to transform its tangible qualitative superiority in equipment and manpower at the tactical level into a victory! 1965 was an undoubted strategic failure on part of Pakistani higher command. Pakistan paid the price six years later. Success would have meant unity. Defeat led to civil war and secession. The fault lay in lack of strategic insight at the military level.

End Notes

Pages-397 and 398-On War-Edited by Anatol Rapport-Reprinted National Book Foundation-1976.

Page-93-Memoirs of a Bystander-A Life in Diplomacy-Iqbal Akhund-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1997.

Pages 428 & 429-Pakistan-Memories of Earlier Years-Lieut Gen Sir James Wilson-Army Quarterly and Defence Journal-Volume-120-No Four-October 1990.

Pages-61,129,135 and 136-War Despatches-Harbaksh Singh-Lancer-1991.

Ravi Rikhye’s article on Assal Uttar-ORBAT-19 August 2001.

The Battle of Assal Uttar

The Battle of Assal Uttar: Pakistan and India 1965

v.1.3 February 24, 2002

Agha Humanyun Amin (orbats)

Roland Davis (supplemental orbat information)

Ravi Rikhye (commentary)

Pakistan Orbat

Please note that President (General) Pervez Musharraf was a lieutenant of artillery in the 16 (SP) Field Regiment, 1st Armored Division Artillery.

Also please note that the Pakistan Army during this period normally assigned only seven infantry battalions to an infantry division (with the exception of the 12th Azad Kashmir Division).  It was thought that Pakistan did not need a full complement of infantry.  Great reliance was put on the excellance of Pakistan Artillery (justified, in the event), and in the numerical and quantitative superiority of the Pakistan Cavalry (only partially justified, in the event).  After the 1965 War Pakistan recognized its error and increased infantry in its divisions to a more standard nine battalions.

11th Division was a new raising only some months old.  For this reason, all its artillery came from other divisions and was either not replaced or replaced with new raisings.  In the Pakistan Army new raisings relied heavily on recalled reservists who were not necessarily pleased to return to active duty, sometimes just weeks before the outbreak of war.  The issue is not that some of the battalions failed to perform well, but that so many actually did a commendable job.  In 1971, when India mobilized its reservists Territorial Army battalions, it remained unsatisfied with their performance even though the reservists had at least six months to retrain.

Pakistan raised four cavalry regiments as Tank Delivery Units (30, 31, 32, 33 TDU), intending to decieve the Indians as to their real strength. This gave Pakistan 17 regiments vs India’s 15.  Four of India’s regiments were, however, equipped with the AMX-13 or PT-76, tanks which while excellent for reconnaissance, were near useless against Pakistan’s M47/48 and M4 Shermans, and quite inferior to Pakistan’s two M24 Chaffee regiments.  This widend the disparity in Pakistan’s favor even further.

1st Armored Division [Maj. Gen. Naseer Ahmad Khan]

12th Cavalry (Division reconnaissance regiment, Chaffees)

Division Artillery [Brig. A.R. Shammi] (killed in an ambush)

3 (SP) Field Regiment [Lt. Col. Ghulam Hussain]

15 (SP) Field Regiment [Lt. Col. Ehsan Ul-Haq] (later Major General)

16 (SP) Field Regiment [Lt. Col. Akram Chaudhry]

21 Medium Regiment [Lt. Col. Maqbool]

19 (SP) Light Anti Aircraft Regiment [Lt. Col. Mohammad. Sarwar]

1 Engineer Battalion [Lt. Col. Altaf Hussain]

3rd Armored Brigade [Brig. Moeen] (in reserve, did not enter battle)

19th Lancers (Pattons) [Lt. Col. Bashir Ahmad] (Later replaced at Chawinda) – See Correspondence

7th Frontier Force (Armored Infantry) [Lt. Col. Abdul Rahman]

4th Armored Brigade [Brig. “Tony” Lumb]

4th Cavalry [Lt. Col. M. Nazir] Pattons

5th Horse [Lt. Col. M. Khan] Pattons (sole pre 1947 unit not to fight in any Indo-Pakistan action)

10th Frontier Force (Armored Infantry)[Lt. Col. Fazal Kareem]

5th Armored Brigade [Brig. Bashir]

6th Lancers [Lt. Col. Shahibzad Gul] Pattons

24th Cavalry [Lt. Col. Ali Imam]  Pattons

1st Frontier Force (Armored Infantry) [Lt. Col. Syed Shabbir Ali]


11th Infantry Division [Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid Khan]

15th  Lancers [Lt. Col. Iskandar Al Karim] I Corps Reconnaissance Regiment

32nd  Tank Delivery Unit [Lt. Col. Aftab Ahmad] Shermans after war 32 Cavalry

Division Artillery [Col. Shirin Dil Khan Niazi] (Major General in 1971)

26 Field Regiment [Lt. Col. Ata Malik] (ex 7th Division)

38 Field Regiment [Lt. Col. Hamid Tamton] (ex 8th Division)

12 Medium Regiment [Lt. Col. Bashir] (ex 8th Division)

9 Medium Regiment [Lt. Col. Gulzar] (ex 10th Division)

35 Heavy Regiment [Lt, Col. M. H. Ansari] (later Major General) (35 Regt ex I Corps Artillery)

Troop/88 Mortar Battery (ex 8th Division)

37 Corps Locating Regiment [Lt. Col. Khalil Ahmed Khan] (37 Regt ex I Corps Artillery)

3 Engineer Battalion [Lt. Col. Saleem Malik]

25 Signals Battalion [Lt. Col. Anwar Ahmad Qureshi]

21st Infantry Brigade [Brig. Sahib Dad] initially detached, returned Sept. 6 Div striking force/reserve

5th Frontier Force [Lt. Col. Mumtaz]

13th Baluch (now spelled Baloch) [Col. M. Hussain]

52nd Brigade [Brig. S.R.H. Rizvi] (deployed from Kasur-Khem Karan Road to Kasur-Ferozepur Road)

2nd Frontier Force [Lt. Col. Fateh Khan]

7th Punjab [Lt. Col. Shirazi]

12th Baluch [Lt. Col. Akhtar]

106th Infantry Brigade [Brig. Nawazish Ali]  (deployed Bedian Sector, North of Kasur)

1st East Bengal [Lt. Col. A.T.K. Haque]

7th Baluch [Lt. Col. Rasul Bux]

Indian Orbat

Werstern Army (Kashmir theatre, Punjab theatre down to Bikaner in Rajasthan)

[Lt. Gen. Harbax Singh] Commanding XV, I, XI Corps, total 11 divisions

XI Corps [Lt. Gen. J.S. Dhillon] Commanding 4, 7, 15 Divisions

2nd Independent Armored Brigade [Brig. T.K. Theograj]

3rd Cavalry  [Lt. Col. Salim Caleb] Centurions

8th  Lancers  [Lt. Cpl. P.C. Mehta] AMX-13

(Third regiment was away in another sector)

1st (SP) Field Regiment (Sextons)

4th Mountain Division [Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh]

9th (Deccan) Horse [Lt. Col. A.S. Vaidya, later Army Chief]  Sherman IV/V

A Squadron [Maj. J.M. Vohra, later Lt. Gen.]

B Squadron [Maj. G.S. Bal]

C Squadron [Maj. D.K. Mehta]

7th Mountain Brigade [Brig. Sidhu]

4th Grenadiers

7th Grenadiers

9th Jammu and Kashmir Regiment

62nd Mountain Brigade

1/9th  Gorkha Rifles

13th Dogra

18th Rajputana Rifles

(33rd Mountain Brigade was away in another sector)


Neither India nor Pakistan take their military history seriously. India, for example, has still to release its war histories for 1965 and 1971, though xeroxed copies were obtained by the Times of India.  The histories are so bland as to be next to useless.  The history of the 1962 War may not even have been written. Aside from the Ministry of Defense’s in-house historians, no one is allowed access to war documents.  The same is true of Pakistan. Much of the conduct of Indian and Pakistani battles is by means of verbal orders, and there seems to be no scheme of keeping proper records and notes of conversations and signals.  Unsurprisingly, Indian and Pakistani military history becomes an unbroken disaster of “I said – he said”  Few of the histories published by retired soldiers would meet the requirement of rigor needed for real history.  The more decent writers couch their language in ambigious terms, so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Those with an axe to grind go after their bete noir, who can do nothing right, while covering up their own errors, to indicate they did nothing wrong.  Good research is expensive, and almost without exception no Indian or Pakistani writer, university, or publisher can afford to pay for it.  So accounts are written in great part because you happen to run across an officer who was there, or a story told you by the batchmate of the general concerned, who heard it from a staff officer, who was told by someone from the general’s staff…and so on. Even the most concietntious writer has trouble getting a fair picture under these cirucmstances, and the best such writers can do is to acknowledge their limitations, and continue.  Else we would have no history at all, good or bad.

When writing about Indo-Pakistan wars, a further complication arises.  Both sides find it near impossible to give the other credit where credit is due, whereas criticism becomes rabid propaganda.  So the account of the Battle of Assul Uttar makes the outcome a great victory for the Pakistanis, with cruel and demanding Indian generals heedlessly sacrificng thousands of their men to make unsuccessful inroads into the staunch Pakistani defense.  Pakistanis, being from the smaller and more insecure country, are worse when it comes to objectivity, but we also have no shortage of Indians without a good word for the Pakistanis. It remains unclear how anyone is supposed to learn anything when neither side wants to be fair.

Into this morass come two Pakistani writers, Maj. Agha Humanyun Amin and Brig. Z.A. Khan, both retired and former cavalry officers.  Both have a disspassionate commitment to getting as close to the truth as possible, and both completely reject any attempt by their Government to put a gloss on mistakes.  Both are iconoclasts with a keen eye for the absurdity that war generates.  Both have a sense of humor, prodigious memories, and many friends willing to talk freely off the record.  Thanks to Mr. Ikram Seghal of Pakistan Defense Journal, both have a forum from which to speak candidly and courgageously, and we are the richer for it.  It is hard to come up with any Indian writers who equal Amin and Khan in their attention to detail and frankness, though overall you will find Indians readier to blast their own side than is true for Pakistanis.  India being the bigger is less insecure.

Because the Battle of Assul Uttar was a disaster for Pakistan cavalry, as an Indian I have chosen to use Amin and Khan’s accounts rather than the Indian accounts, such as the excellent treatise by Lt. Col (Dr) Bhupinder Singh (1965 War: Role of Tanks, BC Publishers, Patiala, India, 1982) .  To me what happened on the Pakistan side is of more interest than what happened on the Indian side.  Amin and Khan have the inside story, which was not available in such detail to the world till they spoke.  I hope also that by using primarily Pakistani sourcess, I will deflect criticism from chauvinistic Pakistanis who might think I am bent on slandering Pakistan because I am an Indian.  I have been in enough trouble with my government for exposing Indian lies and propaganda with regard to Pakistan.  If I can slam my own government for its stuypidies and mistakes, I certainly have the right to examine the mistakes and stupidites on the Pakistan side.  I have no interest in proving something at the expense of someone else.  Scholarship and propaganda are two different things.  Like Amin and Khan, I am interested in the truth, however imperfectly we may get to view it.

My main concern, in this first of two parts, is to try and understand why Pakistan’s 1st Armored Division, the pride of its army, blundered so badly at Assul Uttar despite an eneormous superiority in armor. In the second part, I will try and understand why  the newly raised Pakistan 6th Armored Division, in contrast, put such a staunch defense in the Battle of Chaiwanda, against a much more closely match adversary.


In 1965, Pakistan had two armored divisions, the 1st and the 6th.  Both fought major battles.  While the 6th Armored Division acquited itself well, the 1st Armored Division failed miserably and completely.  Its division commander, two of its three brigade commanders, and most of its staff officers were transferred out as reprimands for their unacceptable performance. This division witnessed scenes that have never taken place in the history of the Pakistan cavalry, before or since.  We have an armored regiment where, after the CO is killed, the 2nd in command refuses to take charge and none of the squadron commanders picks up when the 2 i/c refuses.  We have armored infantry abandoning their APCs when they come under friendly fire, and then running from the field, all the way back home.  We have a regimental commander who achieves his phase line, but does not bother to inform brigade, and then decides if brigade – who has no idea where he is – does not link up with him that night, he will surrender in the morning,  Seventy officers and men from two squadrons decide they had best push off while they can, and leave for Pakistani-held territory.  The next morning, as good as his word, the regimental commander surrenders as soon as someone can be arranged to accept the surrender, and hands over 11 running tanks in the process.  We have a divisional engineer regiment that builds a bridge across an obstacle, only to find the banks are too high for passage, and then has to rectify the problem, halting the entire division in the process.  We have regimental commanders arguing with brigade commanders, brigade commanders arguing with the division commander, instead of cooperating to get on with the battle.

We know all this and more because two Pakistani retired officers have written of these strange and perhaps unique events.  Our sources for the Battle of Assul Uttar are primarily Pakistani, and we ask Pakistani readers who may get offended to keep that in mind.

Opening stages

On September 5/6, Indian XI Corps (4 Mountain, 7 and 15 Infantry Divisions, 2nd Independent Armored Brigade) launched its three divisions against Lahore. 4th Mountain Division was on the southern axis, alunching from Khem Karan towards Kasur, which lay perhaps 6-7 km from the international border.  7th Division was to the north of 4th Mountain Division, also aiming at Kasur from a different direction. The Indians deny Lahore was their objective, saying instead that their attacks were limited to keeping Pakistan from launching a major attack against the Punjab.  Be that as it may, had India gained Kasur, it could have outflanked the Lahore defenses, which would have been under attack from two different direcxtions.  The defenses of Kasur were immensely difficult to negotiate.  The Pakistanis had done a superb job of building defenses that could hold superior Indian numbners failing that, inflict such heavy losses that the gain would be unworthwhile.

4th Mountain Division (two brigades, a third was in another sector) and a Sherman regiment attacked at seven points, expecting to be opposed by a single regular infantry battalion.  Instead, it found a brigade reinforced with armor, and the entire Pakistan 1st Armored Division sitting behind.   Pakistan 11 Infantry Division defended the Southern Lahore area with six battalions.  Because of the large frontage, only its 21st and 52nd  Brigades were defending Kasur, now subject to a two-pronged attack by India.  11th  Division, though a completely new formation, was led by a geenral who repeatedly showed a capacity for rapid action aimed at keeping the initiave.  Pakistani plans were to seize Khem Karan, opening the way for a rapid advance to the Beas River. The Beas had two bridges over it at this time Pakistan was to seize one bridge and then turn north.  If successful, this manuver would have isolated eleven divisions of the Indian Army, more than half its effective strength at the time, in the Punjab, Pathankot, Jamm, Kashmir, and Ladakh.  The way to Delhi would also have been open, a liesurely one-day drive.  This was because India had no reserves, and no troops east of the Beas River.  Had Pakistan succeeded, a Fourth Battle of Panipat could have taken place: the first three, fought from 1526 onward, changed the fate of India each time, and the Fourth would have been no different.

The Pakistani counterattack caught advanced Indian troops in a difficult position.  They had pushed forward as far as possible under the impression they faced only one regular infantry battalion supported by paramilitary forces, and were without reserves to sustain their offensive.  They also had only one tank regiment of Sherman IVs and Vs armed with 76mm guns in support, absolutely no match for the Pakistan M47/48 Patton.  Pakistan artillery was, as usual, superbly handled, with the 140 guns available to the sector by pooling all units within range.  The Indian division was completely outgunned in artillery: as a mountain division it had 120mm mortars and 105mm pack howitzers, though a single heavy regiment was deployed in support.  Indian 106mm RCLs were deployed on a meagre scale of six per infantry battalion and were essentially ineffective against the Pakistani tanks except at close range.  The PAF – again as always in contrast to the IAF – supported the ground troops with all means at its disposal.  Last, and this is very important, the Indian infantry had insufficient training on facing armor, quite aside from the shortage of appropriate anti-tank weapons.  RCL crews would hold their fire for fear of giving away their positions.

Considering the situation, GOC Indian 4th Mountain Division immediately ordered the division to fall back and assume a horseshoe shaped defensive position with Assul Uttar as its focal point.  This village of 1500 persons had presumably been evacuated, but we do not know the situation here.  As in most accounts of battles, the civilians who live on or near the battlefield are seldom mentioned.  Both India and Pakistan, however, have a good record of clearing civilians off the field before fighting, and neither side bombs civilian targets.  So the non-combatant loss on both sides is low.  Now, of course, thanks to the United States, which has declared water purification plants, baby food factories, and electrical power plants as legitimate targets for attack, India and Pakistan may well change their mind.  Assul Uttar was chosen because it was located at the focal point of two roads leading from Pakistan to Khem Karan, and thus the defenders could cover both likely axes of advance.

The Pakistanis have said that 4th Mountain Division was routed.  From their viewpoint, it is understandable they thought so:  some Indian infantry units, unable to take the pressure of Pakistani artillery and air attacks, unable to defend themselves against Pakistani armor, and quite aware of how seriously outgunned the Indian tanks were, retreated before being ordered to withdraw, or withdrew in a disorderly manner.  Considering the speed with which the Indians set up their new defense line which was never breached – about 24 hours – it is, however, more reasonable to accept that the division withdrew in an overall organized manner.

Either on the 6th itself or on the 7th, Pakistan 11th Division etablished a bridgehead in Indian territory. On September 7, Pakistan 5 Armored Brigade of its 1st Armored Division began the first Pakistani attack that culminated in the battle of Assul Uttar.  Also concentrating in the bridgehead were 4th Armored Brigade and 21st Infantry Brigades.  It is difficult without better accounts to tell how many attacks the Pakistanis made: 4th and 5th Armored Brigades made at least five, perhaps seven or even eight attacks between them.  At the very first, Pakistan 5th Brigade overran Khem Karan.  Subsequently, however, every attack was defeated by the Indians though they did npot suceed till after the ceasefire in getting back lost ground.  Even Khem Karan, however,  was not fully under Pakistan control till September 10.

By now, HQ Indian 2nd Armored Brigade with two regiments (one Centurion,  one AMX-13) had moved to reinforce Indian 4th Mountain Division.  On the 8th and 9th Pakistan armor attacked repeatedly, to be beaten back with heavy losses, both to the Indians and the terrain, which was soft in many places. On September 10th, the day of the last attack, the advancing Pakistani tanks ran into 4th Division’s horseshoe ambush, and the attackers were annhilated.  The ambush was placed in sugarcane fields – the crop was standing tall and ready to be harvested – and Indian Shermans had learned by now to hold their fire till Pakistani tanks came within 550-750 meters.  At longer ranges Indian shot simply bounced off the Pattons.This ambush was only one part of the reason for the Pakistani defeat at Assul Uttar.

The other reason was that the Pakistan Chief of General Staff himself arrived to push the offensive forward. He took over the business of giving orders to the brigades – three command levels down.  Odd as this may seem, GOC Indian XI Corps, otherwise an excellent commander, was at one point ordering the movement of tank troops and even single tanks on the battle field, five and six levels down! To ensure the CGS’s orders were executed, GOC 1 Armored Division ordered the Officer Commanding Pakistan 5th Armored Brigade to drive back some kilometers for a meeting.  The conversations were intercepted, and the Indians ambushed the GOC’s convoy, an indication of how intersperesed the two armies were and how fluid the battlefield.  The artillery brigadier was killed, and though the GOC escaped – contrary to Indian belief he also had been killed – it appears that Pakistan 1st Armored Division completely disintegrated.

If the twin setbacks of Assul Uttar and the ambush were inusfficient, on the same day Pakistan GHQ ordered the division’s third brigade to the Sialkot sector, where the fiercest tank battles since World War II were underway. The next day 1st Armored Division was reorganized.  Its 4th and 5th Brigades were given one tank regiment and one armored infantry battalion each, and the division HQ plus 4th Armored Brigade was sent north against the possibility of an Indian breakthrough at Sialkot.

This did not end the battle of Khem Karan-Kasur.  The Indians continued attacking until the ceasefire was announced – by September 19th Pakistan had started to run of ammunition, aircraft spares, and reserve equipment.  The Chief of the Army General Staff and the Chief of Air Staff met with the President of Pakistan that day to request a ceasefire be negotiated.  Twenty-three days into the war, Pakistan was done for – hardly surprising, as the Americans had kept Pakistan on a short leash, giving just 14-21 days of supplies.  Enough time for the Americans to arrive should a communist power attack Pakistan insufficient to do India any serious harm.  Meanwhile, India was just getting into its stride, learning from its mistakes, pulling fresh mountain troops from the east into the western theatre.  Logically, India should have continued the war, but was talked into a ceasefire by Russia and America, both of whom wanted the status quo preserved.  That is another story.

Before we go into the reasons the Pakistani offensive failed, I am compelled to make a general observation.  Western military experts and observers have had a lot of fun taunting both India and Pakistan for the limited results in the 1965 War.  I would like to ask, how many wars have Britain, France, and the United States won in 23-days, and if so, were both sides as evenly matched as India and Pakistan? I need say no more on the subject, and I hope future western historians writing about India and Pakistan show a little more humility.


Now to some analysis.  The Patton was a far superior tank to anything the Indians possessed, and the Pakistanis outnumbered the Indians 3-1 in tanks if we exclude Indian AMX-13s, and 3-0 in armored infantry.  Are we justified in this exclusion? The had no more utility in battle than an armored car, perhaps less, because after it fired off its 12 round magazine, it was left defenseless till resupplied.  It was acceptable as a reconnaissance vehicle completely unacceptable as a tank.  The Pakistani M24 Chaffee may have been a light tank, but it was a proper tank, and a successful one. Quite incidentally, the US had agreed to replace the M24 with the more modern M41, but refused when the time came because it was wooing India.

The Patton had computers to handle firing solutions most important, it could fight at night, whereas none of the Indian tanks could. The Indians had perhaps half as many artillery pieces as the Pakistanis, and were outgunned to boot.  If that wasn’t enough, Pakistani artillery command was absolutely first rate – a result of the excellent training imparted by the Americans. The Pakistanis had good air support, the IAF had its own problems and was usually absent.  The pure infantry numbers were equal.  Pakistani defenses were long-planned and thickly constructed Indian defenses were hastily thrown up in the field.  The Pakistani commander had helicopters available to him, and could arrive anywhere on the battlefield in short order, and did. The Indian commander had no such advantage.  So what went wrong?

Many of the following points are equally applicable to Indian armor forces, but since our attempt is to understand why Pakistan did not succeed when it should, we will discuss India only tangentially.

1. Command failures at all levels

According to Pakistani sources,  GOC 1st Armored Division, two brigade commanders, three of the six tank regimental commanders, all three of the infantry battalion commanders, and the engineer battalion commander failed to command their troops as required. The division was the pride of the Pakistan Army, and four of the six many of cavalry regiments plus all three Frontier Force Regiment infantry battalions were seasoned units with at least one hundred years of service each.  How such a situation came about in a highly professional army and in the leading division of the Pakistan Army is not something we as outsiders can answer.  The mystery is compounded by the contrast with 6th Armored Division’s memorable stand in the Sialkot sector.

2.  Dilution of cavalry regiments due to new raisings

Under the 1954 US plan, Pakistan was to have eight tank regiments of 75 tanks each, and the US supplied approximately 700 tanks toward this end.  This left ample numbers of tanks for war wastage and training.  In 1962, Pakistan decided to switch to an establishment of 44 tanks per regiment this enabled 4 new regiments to be raised.  Pakistan wanted to raise four more regiments, but this would have breached the manpower celings set by the US.  Instead, Pakistan created four Tank Delivery Units, which in reality were reserve tank regiments.  Between 1960 and 1965 Pakistan more than doubled the number of its armored regiments, from 8 to 18, without increasing either its tank fleet or its training capabilities.  In the subcontinental context of the day, a minimum of 2-3 years were required to train new crews from scratch, and a new regiment required at least two years to shake down even with seasoned cadres taken from other regiments.  Though the Pakistanis for some reason do not emphasize this point, even with recalled reservists, the training standard in cavalry regiments must have been affected. India, by contrast, had yet to seriously undertake its armor expansion, so all its regiments were seasoned.  We know many of the Pakistani crews at Assul Uttar were inadequate trained because many tanks had 50 miles or less on their odometers, indicating they had been pulled straight from war reserves. The Indians believe that the Patton was too complex a weapon system for a subcontinental army of the day, and this too created difficulties.  Last, by raising so many extra regiments without any increase in tank strength, the Pakistan cavalry had very little left over for reserves.

Parenthetiucally, it is worth noting that had the US supplied Pakistan the agreed number of M36 tank destroyers, India, already inferirior in numbers of tank regiments, 14 to 18, would have been in serious trouble.  The M36 mounted a high-velocity 90mm gun in a turret, and was a lethal anti-tank weapon.  It was to provide anti-tank support for Pakistan’s infantry division.  This would have freed Pakistan from using armored regiments to support its infantry, leaving all 18 regiments to be utilised for offensive operations.  Only six  Indian regiments were available for this role (4 in Indian 1st Armored Division and two excluding AMX in Indian 2nd (Indpendent) Armored Brigade. We can only speculate on what the outcome might have been had Pakistan deployed three full-strength armored divisions.

3. Role of infantry inadequately understood/7th Division shifted

Pakistan seemed to have little conception that tanks require the close support of infantry.  Time and again tanks were sent out with little or no infantry support, and on that fateful day at Assul Uttar, the tanks riding into the ambush had no infantry support.  Perhaps we should not be too harsh on Pakistan – Israel did not understand this till after 1973.  It is not as if infantry was short – the division had four battalions of its own and another battalion (1 FF) from the 11th Division was under command.  To add to the problems, the 1st Armoured Division’s running mate, 7th Infantry Division, had been broken up with its brigades going to reinforce other sectors.  Had 1st Division been able to work with it usual partner, matters might have turned out differently.

4. No reconnaissance at Assul Uttar

Pakistan sent its tanks to Assul Uttar with infantry and without performing reconnaissance. The Indians hid their Shermans in tall sugarcane fields – the crop was ready for harvesting.  The Shermans were spaced out every 500 meters.  When the Pakistanis rolled into the U-shaped Indian defensive positions, they were hit from every side while unable to see where the Indian fire was coming from. Though the Patton was almost invulnerable at range, at 6-800 meters it could be destroyed by Indian Centurions and Shermans.  Moreover, according to the Indians, the Patton tended to catch fire when hit, causing crews to bail out rapidly following a hit.

5. No logistics support

This point is not discussed in any detail in Pakistani accounts.  Nonetheless, several times tanks were lost after they ran out of fuel or got bogged down in soft terrain.One wonders where 1st Divisions ARVs and fuel tankers were.  Our purely impressionistic take is that (a) insufficient attention was paid to logistics to begin with (b) the division may have been short of B vehicles – Brig. Khan says when the division moved to its battle station several hundred vehicles broke down because of insufficient peacetime maintenance (c) the fluidity of the battlefield inhibited B echelon personnel from replensihing their advanced troops.  No one can blame administrative troops in soft vehicles for their relcutance to charge up and down an insecure battlefield, with the danger of an ambush always present.  Further, the Indians were also constantly on the attack, so if an area was under Pakistan control in the morning, it might not be in the afternoon, and the Pakistanis might regain the area at night. (d) Overall communications were poor.

6. Faulty concentration area/Too small a bridgehead/ Faulty tactics

Pakistan crammed an armored division and a substantial fraction of an infantry division into what appears to be an area less than 30-40 square kilometers and bounded by rivers, canals, and streams.  This analyst has seen no good maps, and so this remains an impression, but he suspects there is something to this.  In any event, creating a single small bridgehead for an entire armored division to pass through would seem to work only if the lead armored brigade attacks with utmost rapidity and violence. The lead brigade, 5th Armored, would repeatedly get pushed back on the bridgehead, or would return on its own.  Each time a brigade left the bridgehead, it was told to attack two or three divergent targets so that its effort was split. The shifting of units from one HQ to another, or one sector to another, even as battles were underway was a notorious feature in both armies.  Indian 2nd Independent Brigade, for example, had all its integral regiments taken away before the outbreak of war, and replaced by three other regiments.  True that the armored corps on both sides was small, so every officer knew every other officer, but it cannot be helpful to chop and change just before and all through battles. Instead of using tanks against infantry, both sides insisted on colliding head on with each other’s tank regiments in the old cavalry tradition.

7. Tank units too quick to recoil

This is a criticism equally applicable to Indian tank units.  First, because of a paucity of resources, both sides had little armor relative to the size of their armies.  Because the infantry was unable to protect itself against tanks even for a short time, tanks had to be dispersed in penny packets all over the battlefielf for infantry support – even in armored brigades and divisions.  Tanks were valuable, they were also – in the absence of  proper tank-infantry cooperation – highly vulnerable.  The lack of reconnaissance information in Indo-Pakistan Wars is absolutely remarkable: most of the time both sides were fighting almost blind over terrain with which they had little familiarity, and often with outdated, bad, or no maps at all. Given these circumstances, it is unsurprising that both sides tended to quickly recoil if they came upon each other unexpectedly.  The unit that you came upon suddenly was just as happy when you bounced back and would very rarely come afater you – because it too was bouncing back, worried about the unknowns surrounding the situation. There was no conception of selecting an objective and sticking to it, taking the inevitable casualties as a necessary condition of success.  Ironically, of course, the one time the Pakistanis did bash on regardless under pressure from the CGS and divisional commander, they drove into the Assul Uttar ambush.  If the Pakistan armored infantry had been doing its job, this would not have happened.  Incidentally, the integral reconnaissance troops of Pakistani armored regiments were mounted on jeeps, so one cannot really expect these men to go forth boldly into the unknown. Again ironically, in seeking to limit casualties by bouncing back, in the long run the casualties were greater than if the push had been maintained.

8. Returning to leauger at night

Incredibly, after Pakistani tanks had pushed forward, often at cost, the moment darkness fell, the concern was solely to get back to a secure position, just as happened in the Western Desert.  After all, Indians and Pakistani both learned their craft from the British.  So most of the gains of the day – sometimes all of the gains of the day – were surrendered. The rationale was that the tanks were exposed to enemy tank-hunting parties working at night.  Well, that’s what the armored infantry and SP guns were for, weren’t they? And what about the excellent night-vision equipment on the Patton? And the moonlit nights? How is an army supposed to advance if it falls back everynight? Armored brigade commanders would invariably ask to return to secure territory once the light began to fail once a tank regimental commander, who had advanced with a single platoon of infantry, asked not to be ordered back at nightfall, and the brigade commander refused because he could not spare additional infantry.  His infantry was still trying to clear out the Indians from the route of advance.

9. Faulty Command and Control

In the absence of a corps HQ, GOC 11th Division was given overall command of 1st Armored Division as well.  He had his hands full protecting his extended sector and maintaining his bridgehead, particularly with two of his seven manuver units detached to the armored brigade.  This double-responsibility could not have helped a situation already bedevilled by bad leadership.

Hvaings aid all this, we have to return to the issue of leadership.  In 1st Armored Division, there was none. The contrast with 11th Infantry Division couldn’t have been greater.  This division had been hastily raised a few months earlier, but its commander was a very tough, very steady soldier.  He always kept his focus on obtaining and maintaining the bridgehead, no matter what the Indians were up to.  He personally visisted all his rifle companies every day, and so was never in danger of the appaling ignorance that seemed to have befogged higher HQ for the armored division.  India put in nine attacks in 12 days against his division.  He held off every one of them.  One wonders what if he had been commander of 1st Armored Division….

Letter to the Editor

From Hamayun Akhtar Malik
Lahore, January 27, 2002

Subject: The Battle of Assal Uttar: Pakistan and India 1965 (v.1.2 October 14,2001)


It was by chance that I came across your above referenced article on theInternet.

I would like to bring your attention an incorrect statement in the article, which is to say the least a gross injustice. In your list of the Pakistan army’s formations, you have stated that Lt. Col.Bashir Ahmad, who commanded 19 Lancers, was “later sacked at Chawinda”.

This is not true. Lt. Col. Bashir Ahmad, who was CO 19 Lancers at the outbreak of the war, was in fact reassigned and he remained on active duty on the frontlineuntil the end of the war.

It is true that at the end of the engagements at Chawinda, an incident occurred between two Pakistani regiments that resulted in some losses due to a mix-up in communications . The officer at HQ, who was actually responsible for the incident, passed the blame onto the CO of 19 Lancers, in order to save himself.

Since there was no time to carry out a detailed investigation, the Divisional Commander reassigned Lt. Col. Bashir, but he remained on active front-line duty.

It is a matter of record that the allegations were subsequently found to be baseless and false. This is attested by the fact that Lt. Col. Bashir Ahmad was given the command of Guides Cavalry after the war. He later served in a Middle Eastern country as a member of a Pakistani military advisory group. As many would attest, Lt. Col. Bashir Ahmad was considered to be one of the most outstanding officers of the Pakistani armoured corps. During his career, he was selected to go to the USA and UK on postings that were reserved for the best officers only. To this day, both 19 Lancers and Guides Cavalry continue to honour him on their annual regimental functions. Would this be likely had he been ‘sacked’ or dishonoured the regiment in any way?

I have listened to the personal experiences of numerous junior and senior army officers , much of it in confidence, none of it published. Their accounts are supported by records kept in GHQ, but unfortunately not accessible to members of the public, historians or not. Since it is not my objective to taint the reputation of others, I shall not go into details.

After the 1965 war, Lt. Col. Bashir Ahmad was given the command of Guides Cavalry. During the course of the following year, Gen. Abrar Hussain, who had investigated the whole matter, later apologised to Lt.Col. Bashir Ahmad and promised to set the record straight at the next board meeting. Unfortunately, Gen. Abrar Hussain suffered a stroke a few days prior to the meeting of the promotion board, and was not able to attend. In his absence, the remaining members of the board were either not sufficiently briefed about the subject, or they took the cowardly way out and remained silent during the meeting chaired by Gen. Yahya Khan. Thus the career of one of the finest officers in the army came to an end. It is a matter of record that the promotion was denied by Gen. Yahya Khan without even discussing the fact s of the case.

But that is another story. Such is life, injustices happen, but would you not agree that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do not lose sight of the truth, no matter which side we are on?

[Mr. Malik provides names of three retired generals who he says would verify his statements.]

Your stated objective is to seek and report the truth. In the interest of fairplay, justice and common decency, I urge you to remove the offending statement from your article.

Sincerely etc.

We forwarded Mr. Malik’s letter to Major Amin, and a correspondence followed between them.
Major Amin’s final (edited) reply says:

“Hamayun Malik has himself acknowledged that Bashir was sacked in 1965, which is all that has been written on the orbat site.

No one has alleged on the subject site that Bashir was dismissed or retired or sacked for cowardice.”

Battle of Chawinda

Battle of Chawinda

Comedy of Higher Command Errors

Major Shamshad’s excellent  and thought provoking articles published in the Defence Journal in 1997-98  on the Battle of Chawinda, inspired this scribe to  redraft parts of   his book “The Pakistan Army till 1965” and present them  in form of an article devoted exclusively to the Chawinda Battles. The article is a humble attempt to integrate the picture incorporating viewpoints of both sides and to analyse the Battle of  Chawinda in its larger perspective.

Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN examines this crucial battle objectively.


The tank battles fought in the area between Charwa and Chawinda from 8th to 21 September 1965 were the most decisive battles of the 1965 War . Initially the Indians were very close to victory while in the last stages the Pakistan Army was in a relatively better position to launch a counterstroke which could have forced the Indians to abandon all gains made inside the Shakargarh Bulge from 7th September.

The Chawinda Battles also gave birth to many myths as far as the Pakistan Army was concerned. Many conflicting claims were made about ‘Military Effectiveness’ ‘Martial Fervour’ etc citing the ‘Battles of Chawinda’ as an example. The Indian commanders were also criticised for phenomenal incompetence, but somehow they rationalised their failures as a case of normal failure in face of technically superior tanks.

Pakistani Dispositions

Pakistani dispositions in Ravi-Chenab Corridor where the battle of Chawinda was fought were  as following:– (ONE) 8 Division consisting of four infantry brigades (24,101,104 and 115 Brigades) four armoured regiments (20 Lancers,25 Cavalry, 31 & 33 TDU 1) defending Sialkot-Pasrur Sector and Jassar. The total frontage that this division had to defend was approximately  180,000 yards. 2  But this was only a theoretically awesome figure, because till 1965, keeping in view the force to space ratio in terms of divisions available, the Indians were not in a position to be effective as a threat all along this frontage. (TWO) 6 Armoured Division in Chenab Ravi Corridor3 to defend the area from any Indian incursion. The 6 Armoured Division was not a full strength division and  consisted of a divisional headquarter, three armoured regiments (one of which was in Chamb for Grand Slam) two artillery regiments, two motorised infantry regiments and had no brigade headquarter. Initially it was placed at Gujranwala but later placed at Pasrur4. This Division according to Musa was placed at Pasrur with the express intention of dealing with enemy’s main attack which was expected on the Jassar-Sialkot approach.5

Indian War Plan

The Main Indian Attack  was aimed at decisively disrupting the Pakistani defensive layout and resultantly  forcing Pakistan to commit its main armoured reserves for defence was to be launched by the newly formed Indian 1 Corps comprising the 1st Armoured Division and three infantry divisions (6 Mountain Division 14 Division and 26 Division) in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor from Samba area on the general axis Samba-Chawinda-Phillora-MRL Link and eventually secure line Daska-Dhallewali-Mandhali6. In other words the Indian aim as stated by another Indian military writer was to ‘cut off Sialkot from Lahore’.7 As per the wording of the decisions taken at the planning conference of the Indian Chief of Army Staff held on 9th August  the object  of the  1 Corps attack aimed at Daska was ‘with a view to relieving Jammu’.8 This meant that the Indian Army Chief viewed a Pakistani attack on Jammu with a view to severe the Indian line of communication as most likely. This attack was rightly termed as ‘Riposte’ by some Indian authors.Riposte has been defined as ‘Striking a vulnerable point thus forcing the enemy to abandon his attack’.9

The Battle of Chawinda

The main Indian attack against Pakistan was launched by the Ist Indian Corps opposite Chawinda in Sialkot Sector. The Sialkot Sector was defended by the Pakistani 1 Corps comprising 15 Division and 6 Armoured Division. From 1956 onwards the 1 Corps was the only corps of the Pakistan Army. Till 1965 its area of operational responsibility extended from river Chenab till Sulaimanke in the north and  it consisted of 1st Armoured Division, 6 Armoured Division,10,11 and 15 Divisions. The 1 Corps since soon after its creation in 1956 was commanded by Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana10  whose basic qualifications were described as extreme loyalty and limited intellect by many contemporaries! In early September the frontage of the corps was reduced to the  area between Ravi and Chenab rivers or simply the Ravi-Chenab Corridor, and its under command formations were reduced to the 6 Armoured Division and 15 Division.

Pakistani Dispositions and Plans:- 15 Division (four infantry brigades, four tank regiments)  was designated to defend the area of responsibility while the newly formed 6 Armoured Division (previously known as 100 Armoured Brigade) was the main strategic reserve in the area. The total frontage of 15 Division was 180,000 yards and the distribution of forces/dispositions/tasks were as following11:–

15 Division:- This division was commanded by Brigadier Sardar Mohammad Ismail Khan from the ASC. Its defences were organised as following:-

115 Brigade:– The main task of this brigade was to defend the area along the river Ravi with special emphasis on Jassar  bridge over river Ravi. The brigade had two infantry battalions, one tank regiment (33 TDU), one R & S company and two artillery batteries (one field and one mortar).

24 Brigade:– Defend area Chobara-Phillaura and be prepared to attack an enemy force which seek to attack the Sialkot Sector (i.e. 15 Division area of responsibility). It was a sort of a reserve/counterattack force. The brigade had two infantry battalions, one tank regiment (25 Cavalry), one R & S company, and one field artillery regiment less  a battery in direct support.

101 Brigade:– Defending Sialkot city against enemy attack along main Jammu-Sialkot road and also to be prepared to go  on the offensive in case  of an enemy concentration in Phillaura area. The brigade had  two infantry battalions,one R & S company, one tank squadron (ex 31 TDU) and one field regiment and a mortar battery less troop in direct support.

104 Brigade:– This was a reserve brigade but had just  one infantry battalion, one tank regiment (31 TDU) minus one squadron and a field regiment less battery in direct support.

One infantry battalion in an independent role to defend the crucial Marala Headworks.

Covering Troops/Advance Positions:–

One tank regiment (20 Lancers) less squadron deployed in front as covering troops from Chaprar till main Jammu-Sialkot road. 20 Lancers was the corps recce regiment.

One tank squadron (20 Lancers) with one infantry company, one R & S company deployed as advance position on main Sialkot Jammu road in area Raspur-Kundanpur.

One R & S company as screen on border to cover the front from Bajra  Garghi to Charwa.

One R & S platoon  with R & S Battalion Headquarter in Shakargarh area.

Rangers (border police) to keep the border between Chaprar and Marala Headworks under observation.

12 Mujahid Companies (Militia) and rangers all along the border subdivided into small posts for observation/local defence.

NOTE:– There were a total of 24 Rangers/Mujahid Companies in 15 Division area. These were of limited military value and could not face regular Indian Army.

6 Armoured Division:- 6 Armoured Division was not an armoured division in the full sense but did have a large number of the organisational ingredients of an armoured division. It was commanded by Major General Ibrar Hussain. It was the 1 Corps reserve and was the main Pakistani armoured reserve in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor  with the primary role to take on an enemy strike force attacking 1 Corps area of responsibility. According to Musa the most expected line of Indian approach in 1 Corps defended area was the Sialkot Jassar Corridor12  and the 6th Armoured Division was to be used in  a defensive role against an enemy offensive in 1 Corps area.According to Gul Hassan it was also visualised that the 6 Armoured Division could be used to attack the Jammu sector but later on this idea was dropped13. The 6 Armoured Division was a curious division for it had no brigade headquarters! On 6th September 1965 it was in dispersal in Gujranwala-Nandipur area. It had the following units14:-

Guides Cavalry (10th Cavalry)
22 Cavalry

11 Cavalry (On loan to 12 Division/7 Division  for Operation Grand Slam since late August 1965 and in Chamb area on 6th September 1965.

Two infantry battalions one of which was in Kharian as defence battalion with the 1 Corps Headquarter.

One self-propelled field artillery regiment and one medium battery. Later on from 6th September onwards the formidable and extremely well organised 4 Corps Artillery Brigade consisting of one field, one medium, one heavy and one locating regiment was also  affiliated with it.
One engineer and one signal battalion.

Indian Dispositions and Plans:- The Indian 1 Corps was deployed opposite the Pakistani 1 Corps. The 1 Corps consisted of  one armoured division (1st Armoured Division) and three infantry divisions (6 Mountain Division,14 Infantry Division and 26 Infantry Division). The 1 Corps was the principal Indian strike force and was tasked to launch the main Indian attack inside Pakistan.The main task of this corps in words of K.C Praval was to ‘cut off Sialkot from Lahore’ and this was to be done by  attacking from general area Samba east of Jammu and  advancing in a southwesternly direction  cutting the Sialkot-Jammu road around Daska15  as already discussed in the earlier part of this chapter. Gurcharan Singh described 1 Corps task as ‘secure a bridgehead extending to line Bhagowal-Phillora cross roads junction south of Tharoah with a view to advancing to the eastern bank of the MRL canal’ with the possibility of advancing  further to line Dhalewali-Wahulai-Daska-Mandhali’16. The initial objectives of this attack were capturing  Phillora Chawinda and Pagowal areas.Distribution of forces/dispositions and formation tasks were as following17:–

1st Armoured Division:– It was the  spearhead of the Indian offensive. This formation was much weaker in numerical/organisational terms from the 1st Pakistani Armoured Division  i.e. having only four tank regiments and lorried infantry battalions and two brigade headquarters. 62 Tank regiment was therefore taken from 26 Division and assigned to it as the fifth tank regiment.It was tasked  to advance inside Pakistani territory  on general axis Ramgarh-Phillora-Pagowal-Chawinda-MRL from first light 8th September after the 6 Mountain Division had secured the bridgehead in Maharajke-Charwa area.As per the Divisional plan this advance was to be conducted on two axis with 43 Lorried Brigade on the right and 1st Armoured Brigade on the left. The 1st Armoured Division was organised as following:–

1st Armoured Brigade:- It consisted of  two tank  regiments (17 Poona Horse, 16 Light Cavalry) one tank squadron (from 62 Cavalry), and one and a quarter infantry battalion (lorry borne) etc which was tasked to advance in the first phase on axis Ramgarh-Harbal-Sabzkot-Chobara-Phillora. Tasks/Groupings for operations till MRL canal after capture of Phillora were to be given later.

43 Lorried Brigade:- Grouped as one full tank regiment (2 Lancers), one tank regiment less squadron (62 Cavalry)  and two lorried infantry battalions tasked to advance on axis Salehriyah-Saidanwali-Cross roads-Mastpur-Ahmad Pur-Pagowal.

Divisional Reserve:- One tank regiment (4 Hodson’s Horse) and one lorried infantry company.

6 Mountain Division:- This division was the principal infantry component of the 1 Corps offensive battle and was tasked to secure the bridgehead inside Pakistani territory from where the 1st Armoured Division was to be launched on the thrust towards MRL canal.Its initial task was to secure the bridgehead in area Maharajke-Charwa and exploit till line Ahmadpur-Nauni.It was tasked to commence the attack at 2300 hours on 7th September 1965.18 It had the following troops for the bridgehead operation:-

69 Mountain Brigade:- The right forward assaulting brigade in the 6 MountainDivision bridgehead operation. It had three battalions and a tank squadron from 62 Cavalry and  was tasked to capture Maharajke area in the first phase of the 1 Corps operation.

99 Mountain Brigade:- The left forward assaulting brigade in the 6 Mountain Division bridgehead operation.It consisted of three infantry battalions  and was tasked to capture Charwa in the Corps phase one.

35 Infantry Brigade:- Originally from 14 Division, this brigade consisted of three infantry battalions and was placed under command 6 Mountain Division specifically for the bridgehead operation. It was the reserve brigade of the 6 Mountain Division and was earmarked for unforeseen tasks.

14 Infantry Division:- In the initial Indian attack plan this formation was supposed to take full part in the I Indian Corps offensive in Sialkot sector. However the peculiar developments of events in September 1965 dictated otherwise and this formation played a limited role in the 1 Corps operation. These reasons are explained in detail in note 146.19  The Division  played no role in the initial battles of 8 to 10 September 1965 as its 35 was under 6 Mountain and 1st Armoured Division but was assigned a limited role from  11/12th September to attack Zafarwal. Its 116 Brigade reached Samba area from Pathankot on 10th September and became the first brigade to function under command 14 Division opposite general area Zafarwal.20

26 Infantry Division:- This formation consisted of three infantry brigades (19,162 & 168) and one tank regiment (18th Cavalry).19 Brigade had two infantry battalions while 162 and 168 Brigades had three infantry battalions each. It was assigned the mission of  containing Pakistani forces at Sialkot so that these could not create any problem on the northern flank of the 1st Armoured Division’s line of advance. To achieve this aim 162 and 168 Brigade with a tank squadron each,162 Brigade on the right and 168 Brigade on the left were to carry out a limited advance into astride Sialkot Jammu road  in the direction of Unche Wains-Niwe Wains-Bajragrahi areas from 2330 Hours night of 7th September onwards. The third brigade i.e. 19 Brigade was to be the reserve brigade.21 It appears that this brigade was brought particularly against the Pakistani Marala Salient which was called ‘ Dagger Salient’ by the Indians. All the Pakistanis had in this dagger salient was one simple infantry battalion! The main malady with which the Indians suffered was having too much infantry and not knowing how to use it while the Pakistani problem seems  to have been having too many tanks and not knowing how to use them!

Battle of Chawinda-6th to 22nd September 1965

Jassar Bridge Crisis:- At 0315 hours on the night of 6th/7th September Indian artillery shelled the Pakistani 115 Brigades positions on both sides of the Jassar Bridge.It was ironical that both the 115 Pakistani Brigade (two infantry battalions,one R & S Company and one TDU tank regiment) and the 29 Indian Brigade(three infantry battalions and one tank squadron) opposing each other in Jassar area were commanded by two extremely timid and highly nervous commanders. The task assigned to 29 Indian Brigade originally from 7 Division but now operating in an independent role directly under 11 Corps Headquarter was to capture the Pakistani enclave across river Ravi which was a potential Pakistani jump off point inside Indian territory. The Indians launched their attack at 0400 hours 6th September and  by 0415 hours reached the southern end of the Jassar bridge which was a few hundred yards from the Indian border. 115 Brigade launched a counter attack using tanks and dislodged the Indians from the southern end of the bridge by 0800 hours. The Pakistani GHQ, influenced by nervousness at Headquarter 1 corps, took the situation opposite Jassar very seriously and ordered the 6 Armoured Division in dispersal in Gujranwala-Nandipur area to move to Pasrur on night 6/7 September.22  The Indian brigade commander sent exaggerated reports about Pakistani success to 11 Corps Headquarter and requested permission to withdraw. 11 Corps Headquarter instead sent  their Chief Engineer Officer and another staff officer to revive the morale of 29 Infantry Brigade Commander. These two officers on arrival were able to put some spirit in the 29 Brigade and under their supervision the 29 Indian Brigade launched another attack on night 06/07 September 23. This attack was successful and the Indians recaptured the southern end of the bridge by 0800 hours 7th September 1965. In response to this development the 115 Brigade blew up a span of the Jassar bridge which was already prepared for demolition since 6th September at 0800 hours 07 September 1965. In reality the situation had stabilised now with river Ravi in between and both the brigades positioned north and south of the river. Brigadier Muzaffar was unfortunately for Pakistan Army of a different stuff. At 1130 hours on the same day i.e. 7th September without reconfirming he sent a report to Headquarter 15 Division that an enemy infantry battalion had crossed the ravi river and established a foothold on the northern side of the river 24. All this was happening at a time when Headquarter 11 Indian Corps had ordered the 29 Brigade on 8th September  to leave a battalion and revert to its parent formation 7 Infantry Division’s command in area Bhikiwind on the night of 8/9th September25, in response to the developments in 4 Mountain Division sector as a result of the 1st Armoured division’s offensive in Khem Karan. 115 Brigades alarming report naturally caused grave apprehensions in the Pakistani High Command from 15 Division onwards till the GHQ. Headquarter 15 Division despatched 24 Brigade less one battalion opposite Chobara-Phillora alongwith one tank regiment (25 Cavalry) to 115 Brigade area (Jassar). 25 Cavalry spearheading the fire brigade sent to extinguish the exaggerated fire at Jassar reached Jassar at 2200 hours on 7th September and found out that the situation was not a fraction as serious as reported by 115 Brigade and at 0200 hours on night 7/8 September to return to his original location Pasrur which 25 Cavalry reached at first light 8th September26. Meanwhile the 6 Armoured Division which had started moving from Gujranwala to Pasrur on 6th September evening and whose leading elements had reached Pasrur by 2345 hours was ordered to return to Gujranwala by 0500 hours 7th September!27 Contrary to the porevalent thinking in Pakistan Jassar was no Indian deception but a sheer defensive action aimed at eliminating a dangerous enclave from which the Pakistanis could threaten Amritsar. It was the fog of war that made the Pakistani GHQ and 1 Corps imagine the shadow at Jassar as that of a giant ! Interestingly the Indian brigade commander at Jassar was as much afraid of the Pakistani troops opposite him as the Pakistani 1 Corps and GHQ were afraid of the Indian threat opposite Jassar. If Major Shamshad a direct participant who went to Narowal (Jassar)  is to be believed then only one squadron of 25 Cavalry was sent to Jassar.28

The 26 Division Fixing Manoeuvre against Sialkot from 7th to 8th September:– The aim of 26 Division attack against Sialkot was not to capture Sialkot but to contain the Pakistani forces in Sialkot so that they could not pose a threat to the northern flank of the main Indian attack force consisting of the 1st Armoured and 6 Mountain Division.Keeping in view the Indian superiority in this sector this was an easy to achieve objective.The Pakistani 15 Division had relatively better mobile forces in the shape of  one tank regiment, one TDU tank regiment and one R & S Company but just three infantry battalions (two from  101 Brigade and one being from the divisional reserve i.e.  104  brigade) against one Indian tank regiment and eight infantry battalions. The Indian attack commenced two brigade up  against the border villages of Niwe Wains, Bajragarhi etc from 2330 hours night 7/8 September. Both the brigades captured their insignificant objectives.In any case the troops opposite Sialkot were too weak to interfere with the advance of the main Indian attack. The Indians however remained obsessed with defence of Jammu and later brought a fourth brigade i.e. the 52  Mountain Brigade(three battalions)  on 11th September 1965.29

The Main Indian Attack and 25 Cavalry (24 Brigade) Counter actions 0n 8th September 1965:–We have already discussed that 25 Cavalry and 24 Brigade minus one unit in defence opposite Charwa was despatched to Jassar on 7th September and that 25 Cavalry returned to Pasrur at approximately 0500 hours on 8th September. While 25 Cavalry and 24 Brigade were moving to Jassar and moving back to Pasrur the third battalion of 24 Brigade i.e. 3 FF which was holding defences opposite Maharajke-Chrawa extended as a screen for over 10,000 yards30   was overrun by the concerted attack of the 69 and 99 Mountain Brigades on the night of 7th/8th September. This news about the overrunning of 3 FF  was received at 0600 hours at Pasrur by the 24 Brigade headquarter which  had just reached Pasrur from Jassar at 0500 hours on 8th September. The news was shocking! Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik the 24 Brigade Commander knew little about tank warfare and had no idea of the quantum of troops opposite him. However the Commanding Officer of 25 Cavalry Lieutenant Colonel Nisar, was a capable armour officer. In adition 25 Cavalry was,to Pakistan Army’s good luck, a newly raised but extremely fine tank regiment, having on its strength some very outstanding officers, not merely on paper but in terms of bravery in face of enemy and in extraordinary situations. Malik who like Nisar had no clue about the situation in his front  and asked Nisar to do something.31 Thus Malik abdicated the conduct of battle to the commanding officer of a tank regiment which was under his command! The regiment was refuelling at this time  having poofed up all the fuel going to Jassar (Major Shamshad, a direct participant and later referred to, states that only Charlie Squadron went to Pasrur) and coming back. Nisar immediately ordered tank squadron (B Squadron) commanded by Major Ahmad (originally from Guides Cavalry and an extremely brave leader of men) to advance in an extended order towards Charwa the reported point of enemy breakthrough!After tasking one of the squadrons to advance towards Charwa Nisar alerted the remaining part of the regiment to move towards Chawinda. At 0730 hours Nisar sent another squadron (A Squadron) towards Tharoah on receiving reports that Indian armour was seen opposite Tharoh area. At 1130 hours Nisar sent ‘A’ Squadron to area west of Gadgor.In short by 1200 hours the whole of 25 Cavalry was deployed three squadrons in line abreast opposite the Indian 1st Armoured Brigade leading the advance of the Indian 1st Armoured Division. ‘B’ squadron of 25 Cavalry came in contact with the advancing tanks of the Indian 1st Armoured Division near Gadgor.The Indian 1st Armoured Division which had commenced its advance from the bridgehead secured by the 6 Mountain Division in Charwa-Maharajke area after crossing the international border at 0600 hours on the morning of 8th September.It was advancing  two regiments up;with an inter regiment gap of approximately 3500 to 4000 metres in between,each regiment one squadron up, 16 Light Cavalry supported by a Gurkha infantry battalion on the right,advancing towards Phillora 17   Poona Horse on the left advancing towards Tharoah cross roads.Both the tank regiments had a clean run during the first 15 kilometres of their advance inside Pakistan.According to the Indian armoured corps historian the Pakistan Airforce aircrafts attacked the leading Indian armour elements at  about 8.40 Am. at Chobara but were unable to hit any tank. The Indian 16 Light Cavalry advancing two troops up came in contact with 25 Cavalry’s tanks advancing in extended order towards Chobara without a clue that the Indian 1st Armoured Division was just a few miles away. 25 Cavalry ‘s ‘Bravo Squadron’ commanded by Major Ahmad ,suddenly at approximately   50 to 200 metres ranges   at about 0900 or 0945 hours came into contact with two leading tank troops of 16 Light Cavalry. Some of Ahmad’s tanks had taken firepositions while some were in the open .The Indians were on the move. A confused firefight followed in which both sides lost tanks, Pattons burning on being hit while Centurions getting shot through both sides! Both the Indian leading tank troop leaders were killed, thus leaving the leading squadron commander  of 16 Light Cavalry clueless.32 Major Ahmad of 25 Cavalry carried the day by fighting from the front, thus inspiring his men to fight till death, rather than withdraw an inch. It was during this firefight that Major Ahmad, who had already changed his tank once was also severely burnt after having personally destroyed four tanks.33  There is no doubt that it was Major Ahmad who saved the Pakistani position at Gadgor by fighting from the front and injecting in his men real steel. He was the only squadron commander in 25 Cavalry who led from the front and was the only major who proved himself equal to the crisis in 25 Cavalry! Major Shamshad one of the direct participant in that battle gave the same verdict.34  16 Light Cavalry CO tried to bring up another squadron, commanded by an Indian Muslim officer Major M.A.R Shiekh to outflank the Pakistani position in front from the the east. The space for manoeuvre was however extremely limited Poona Horse the left forward Indian unit being just 4000 metres away from the right forward unit. In the process of manoeuvring this second squdron exposed its broadsides to 25 Cavalry tanks of ‘ Alpha Squadron’ losing many tanks including that of Major Shiekh who received a head injury35  and died on the spot. Finally  this second squadron was held up having lost its squadron commander and unable to manoeuvre due to limited visibility and lack of space to manoeuvre. As per General Gurcharan Singh  once the second squadron was held up CO 16 Light Cavalry passed ‘exaggerated’ reports to the 1 Armoured Brigade Commander who in turn ordered 16 Light Cavalry not to advance any further36. We will not go in the details of what 25 Cavalry or 16 Light Cavalry did since this in itself would require a whole book.In brief 16 Light Cavalry’s advance was checked at Gadgor by 1000 hours 8th September. 17 Poona Horse which was advancing on the left towards Tharoah commenced its advance two squadrons up but soon changed to one squadron up because of the limited fields of fire and observation that made command and control, extremely difficult.It came in contact with 25 Cavalry at 0945 hours in Tharoh area and was also checked like 16 Light Cavalry. According to Gurcharan Singh some firing took place in between the tanks of 16 Light Cavalry and 17  Poona Horse37. This happened because the inter regiment gap between both the regiments was too less. ‘C’ Squadron 62 Cavalry which was tasked to provide left flank protection to the 1st Armoured Division’s advance was delayed as its tanks got bogged down while inside Indian territory .When half of this squadron did finally got going and crossed the border at 1000 hours it went south towards Zafarwal by some misunderstanding after crossing the Degh Nala instead of advancing parallel and north of the Degh Nala as originally ordered!This squadron crossed the Degh Nala and reached Zafarwal in Pakistani territory absolutely unopposed and later recrossed the Degh Nala to go north once it probably realised that it was supposed to stay north of Degh Nala!Once this squadron was recrossing the Degh Nala it was engaged by an Indian artillery battery providing fire support to the 1st Armoured brigade,which naturally mistook it for Pakistani tanks seeing it approach from south of Degh Nala.In turn this squadron also opened fire on the Indian battery which they thought to be a Pakistani battery destroying several guns and vehicles!38  By 1300 hours Brigadier K.K Singh Commander 1st Armoured Brigade was a mentally defeated man.He reached the conclusion that ‘He was held up by at least two Patton regiments and that there was no possibility of advancing  direct towards Phillora without suffering unacceptable losses’.He was further unnerved by reports of a ‘raid by enemy tanks on guns and soft vehicles’ (which in reality was the firing between 62 Cavalry’s tanks coming recrossing Degh Nadi!)39 Commander 1 Armoured Brigade concluded that ‘his line of communication was not secure’40    and ‘decided to adopt a defensive posture for the security of his command at 1400 hours issued orders withdrawing the brigade into a ‘box’ around Sabzpir cross roads! The 17 Poona Horse which had encountered opposition but was taking positive measures to deal with it was also withdrawn and deployed to cover the eastern flank in the area,and the 4 Hodson’s Horse was also detailed to defend the southern flank41. All this was happening at a time when there was just 25 Cavalry in front of the whole 1st Indian Armoured Division! The readers may note that the Indians were not lacking in valour as cheap propaganda conducted in Pakistan after 1965 claimed but phenomenally incompetent at unit and brigade level. Their right forward unit 17 Poona Horse could have easily outflanked 25 Cavalry’s ‘Alpha Squadron’. Major Shamshad a direct participant thus rightly observed in his article that ‘There is a big gap, about six miles wide, between Hasri Nala and Degh Nala which could have provided a safe passage to 17 Poona Horse up to Pasrur. No troops were deployed to defend this area. It appears that they did try to advance but the higher headquarters held them back. I say so because I saw trackmarks of Centurions in Seowal on 19th September.’ 42 It may be noted that the 43 Lorried Brigade advance on the other axis also went diasastorously, less due to enemy opposition and more due to poor  as well as inefficient execution.The 43 Lorried Brigade which was supposed to commence advance at 0600 hours commenced advance five hours late at 1100 hours because its leading unit 8 Garhwal reached the start line much later than planned,and got delayed as soon as it commenced advance due to poor traffic control ! No men with landmines tied to their chests were needed in face of such phenomenally incmpetent staff and battle procedures! 43  Lorried     Brigade led by 2 Lancers finally reached Sabzpir cross roads at 1530 hours where tanks of the Indian 1st Armoured Brigade opened fire on Indian Armoured Corps’s 2 Lancers  mistaking them for Pakistani tanks and in the process destroyed two Indian tanks including CO 2 Lancers tank!43  Thus 43 Lorried brigade also harboured at Sabzpir cross roads.Gurcharan Singh’s verdict on the Indian 1st Armoured Division’s performance is worth quoting and is also a tribute to 25 Cavalry, the only unit of the Pakistan Army that did on 8th September 1965 what no other unit of Pakistan Army ever did and most probably would ever do again.44 Gurcharan thus wrote; ‘The first days battle could not have got off to a  worse start. The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter the brigade had lost more tanks than the enemy had….whole of 1 Corps had gained a few kilometres… The worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next offensive move. This interval gave the Pakistanis time to move up and deploy their 6 Armoured Division with five additional armoured regiments.In fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost’.45 Harbaksh Singh also accurately summed up the Indian failure; ‘both 16 Cavalry and 17 Horse failed to determine the strength of the opposing armour and displayed little skill in outmanoeuvring it… the Brigade Commander made the unfortunate decision to withdraw 17 Horse from Tharoah for countering an alleged serious tank threat on the Left flank. This was a grave error of judgement as 4 Horse which by this time had been released to the Brigade by GOC 1 Armoured Division, could have been used to meet any flank threat posed by the enemy armour. The blunder cost us dearly.We made an advance of only four miles beyond the bridgehead when a much deeper penetration could have been achieved. The fleeting chance that could have been exploited to gain a striking success, was lost forever…. and while we were fumbling about ineffectively in a chaotic situation of our own creation, the enemy had that vital breathing space so essential for a quick rally round from the stunning impact of surprise. We courted a serious setback through faulty decision and immature handling of armour which the enemy was not slow to exploit. From now onwards,the thrust intended to keep the enemy off balance and reeling until the final blow by sheer speed of advance, turned into a slow slogging match—a series of  battering-ram actions’.46 I have not come across any finer summing up of the Battle of Chawinda than the one done by Harbaksh Singh. I have specifically quoted it to show that 8th September was the most critical day of the otherwise long series of actions around Chawinda which dragged on till cease-fire on 22 September 1965. It was on 8th September or 0n 9th when the Indians could have easily outflanked the Pakistanis at Chawinda,had their higher armour commanders not been paralysed into a state of inertia indecision and inaction because of 25 Cavalry’s memorable extended line stand in Gadgor area. Major Shamshad  states that  ‘Instead of wasting two days in planning, If Poona Horse had advanced from Dugri to Shehzada and captured Pasroor on 9th we would have been in serious trouble.Alternatively, 2 Royal Lancers could have moved unopposed from Bhagowal to Badiana and cut Sialkot-Pasrur Road’.47  After 9th September when the Pakistani  6 Armoured Division and later the 1st Armoured Division beefed up Pakistani strength it was no longer a question of valour or superior generalship but simple,unimaginative frontal battle with both sides having equal number of tanks.Keeping  this background in mind  we will not waste much stationery on the battles around Chawinda after 9th September.48  These battles like Phillora etc are good motivational topics for indoctrinating the other ranks but little else. The real issue was decided on 8th September 1965 and not by Tikka Khan 49      etc but by Nisar and his officers  and men around Gadgor!

Operational Situation on 9th and 10th September:– The Indians had not suffered a  physical defeat on 8th September.It was their higher command that was afflicted by paralysis and in this state they ‘exaggerated’ dimensions of the force in front of them and imagined something much larger than one battered regiment in front of them! On 9th September they had two absolutely fresh regiments (4 Horse and 2 Lancers), one reasonably fresh regiment (62 Cavalry), and two regiments with relatively weaker tank strength against 25 Cavalry whose tank strength was down to two tank squadrons.50 In infantry they were vastly superior having twelve battalions against one. Had they possessed a resolute general nothing could have stopped them, not even Tikka Khan projected by Shaukat as ‘one ‘known for his firmness and endurance’.51 But their brigade  divisional and corps headquarters was paralysed due to the trauma of Gadgor! In words of the Indian armoured corps historian on 9th and 10th September ‘The 1st Armoured Brigade with its three Centurion regiments and its motor battalion remained ‘boxed’ in its defensive position during these two days’.52 25 Cavalry found the Indian Operation Order regarding ‘Operation Nepal’ (the 1 Corps Offensive) in one of the abandoned/hit tank of 16 Light Cavalry and came    to know  that the formations opposite them were the Indian 1st Armoured Division, 6 Mountain Division and 14 Division and that these were functioning as part of 1 Indian Corps.53  This operation order enabled the Pakistani High Command to understand the entire Indian plan aimed at destruction of the 6 Armoured Division and the fact that Chawinda was on the axis of the main Indian line of advance. The 6 Armoured Division whose headquarters were located at Bhalowali east of MRL  54 was alerted in the evening of 8th September and assigned the mission  ‘be prepared to destroy enemy penetration in area east of MRL canal, on further orders’.Shaukat Riza’s account of what followed  on 8th  and 9th September is not reliable and therefore extremely vague. No sane reader  can make head or tail of what Shaukat assisted by his team of GHQ’s so called cream officer material was trying to say about 6 Armoured Divisions actions in the aftermath of the Indian attack. In all probability Shaukat was trying to put a smokescreen on the Pakistani High Command which was as unnerved as the Ist Indian Armoured Brigade and Division! Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry who did not become a general and therefore did not belong to the trade union of Pakistani generals had a better explanations per Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry ‘the presence of the Indian 1st Armoured Division was discovered from the copy of the operation order found in an Indian tank which had been knocked out in the first encounter. This information was immediately transmitted to GHQ. The GHQ took 48 hours to decide upon their next move. Our operational plans had perhaps not taken into  consideration all the options open to the aggressor’.55    GOC 1st Armoured Division issued the following ‘ be prepared’ contingency orders at 2200 hours 8th September 1965:– (1) Guides Cavalry to move to Badiana extending northwest towards Sialkot. (2) 11 Cavalry to move to Pasrur to deal with any outflanking  enemy move towards MRL from east of Degh Nala.(11 Cavalry at this stage was moving from Chhamb back to 6 Armoured Division’s command and reached Pasrur on night 9/10 September) .56     (3) 22 Cavalry to stay in concentration area and send its recce troop to screen area north of Badiana (4) 9 FF (Motorised Infantry) to deploy in area Phillaura-Degh Nala with at least one platoon at Zafarwal. 57    It may be noted that Shaukat did not describe what 6 Armoured Division actually do on 9th and 10th September!Nor did Shaukat state the precise location of 6 Armoured Division between 7th and 9th September. The period 9th and 10th September can be very exactly described by a Clausewitzian term ‘SUSPENSION OF ACTION’ which has been defined by Clausewitz  as a situation when ‘Action in war temporarily  stops for a variable duration  due to a variety of reasons which may be broadly classified into four  distinct categories; ie; firstly—want of resolution in the military commander; secondly—imperfect human perception;thirdly—inherent strength of defence and fourthly—imperfect knowledge of the situation.58

We have already seen that the Indians were immobilised due to primarily the first factor identified by Clausewitz.During this period the various units of 6 Armoured Division were slowly arriving in general area Chawinda-Badiana-Pasrur and various advisors were thrust upon GOC 6 Armoured Division like Brigadier Riaz ul Karim who was made deputy GOC 6 Armoured Division and  Major General Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan who  was appointed  Deputy Corps Commander 1 Corps59    (probably  keeping in view the fact that General Bakhtiar Rana however reliable and effective in  the drill square type requirements of the Ayubian army, would  not be able to understand the subtleties of armoured warfare!!!!). It appears that the GHQ realised the need to intellectually improve the performance of the eminent corps headquarter after seeing its deplorable performance during the Jassar Bridge panic when the corps headquarters was paralysed by inertia ! Brigadier Riazul Karim narrates an interesting incident about this advisor business. Oonce the war started Riaz volunteered for command of troops but was told by the VCO type Chief of General Staff Sher Bahadur ‘not to be unnecessarily excited as we had already got good commanders with the armoured formations’. Riaz narrates that ‘ as soon as news of failure of 1st Armoured Divison’s failure was confirmed, I was suddenly called up by General Musa who said that I should go immediately to join 6 Armoured Division and guide the GOC on armoured operations’. The role  of the corps commander was nominal. Riaz states that ‘ Another senior armour officer was detailed by the GHQ to join corps headquarter….the general officer was reported to be discussing on telephone plans and events directly with C in C over the head of the corps commander and furthermore, also passing GHQ orders regarding even minor armour operations direct to GOC 6 Armoured Division ‘. There were too many cooks trying to prepare the Pakistani broth! Thus in words of Riaz ‘Whenever I advised the GOC on any matter,he told me that he had already received orders from C in C/CGS/DMO to do something else.My GOC was therefore usually in a flat spin.Fortunately however, there,was never any divisional battle as such’.60

During this period the Guides Cavalry was stationed in general area Bhureshah-Alhar while 11 Cavalry reached Pasrur on night 9/10 September. 22 Cavalry was in general area Badiana and 25 Cavalry alongwith 24 Brigade was holding general area Gadgor-Phillora and not in contact with the Indians who as we discussed earlier had gone temporarily on the defensive in box formation from the afternoon of 8th September. The 6th Armoured Division was not given any operational responsibility on 9th September  and at this stage 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry were still functioning under command 15 Division. Finally on the night of 9/10 September the much needed change in area of responsibility was made by Headquarter  1 Corps assigning the area expected to be soon threatened by the 1st Indian Armoured Division;ie area Charwa-Phillaurah-Chawinda-Chobara-Badiana-Pasrur; to the 6 Armoured Division;alongwith 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry.61  At this stage GOC 6 Armoured Division made a plan to contain the Indian main attack which was based on the rationale that either the Indians would  attack on axis Phillora-Chawinda-Pasrur-Daska or on axis Bhagowal-Badiana and west of Sialkot towards general area Ugoke-Umman with the aim of isolating Sialkot.Based on this assumption about enemy intentions Major General Abrar issued the following orders:– (1) Phillora-Gadgor to be continued to be held by 24 Brigade-25 Cavalry battlegroup (2) Chawinda to be prepared/earmarked as alternative position for 24 Brigade or as depth position for reinforcements (3) Badiana to be covered by one tank regiment  (4) Zafarwal to be thinly masked by elements of the R & S  Battalion (13 FF)  (5) Pasrur to be held by 14 Para Brigade which was previously Corps Reserve (5) Artillery Brigade 4 Corps to support 6 Armoured Division Operation.62  At 0900 hours on 10th September Shaukat Riza claims that the Indians attacked 25 Cavalry opposite Gadgor and lost  seven tanks 63, but the Indians did not mention any such attack! GOC 6 Armoured Division was called to 1 Corps Headquarter at 0900 hours on 10th September and asked to make the following amendments to his plan on the recommendations of Major General Yaqub in the capacity of Deputy Corps Commander:– (1) Zafarwal to be held by 14 Para Brigade with one TDU tank squadron from 33 TDU  and one company R & S under command (2) 11 Cavalry and 9 FF to hold Phillauarah (3) Guides Cavalry and 14 FF to hold Badiana area (4) 22 Cavalry in area track junction (5) Pasrur to be held by 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry.64 In the afternoon on the same day Yaqub arrived in 6 Armoured Division Headquarter to ensure implementation of his amendments in Abrar’s plan, with particular emphasis on 11 Cavalry relieving 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry at Gadgor.This decision was criticised by both Shaukat Riza and General K.M Arif who was grade two operations staff officer in 6 Armoured Divisional Headquarter during the war.65

Battle of Phillora– 11th September 1965:- The Indian 1 Corps/1 Armoured Division finally gathered greater resolution and recommenced their advance on 11th September. It may be noted that by now two more infantry brigades i.e. 58 and 116 Brigades (Originally on the ORBAT of 14 Division) moving up from Pathankot  had joined the Indian attack force.116 Brigade minus one battalion joined 14 Division for operations opposite general area Zafarwal while 35 Brigade and  one battalion of 116 Brigade were placed under command 1st Armoured Division.58 Brigade was placed under command 6 Mountain Division.66 The Indian plan of attack was based on  a preliminary deception plan to impress upon the Pakistanis that the main Indian attack was coming from the direction of Sabzpir, while the 1st Armoured Brigade was to mount an attack originating from Rurki Kalan67. Details of this plan were as following:– (1) 43 Lorried Brigade  (two battalions) to capture area Rurki Kalan by first light 11 September .In the next phase it was assigned the be prepared task of assisting 1 Armoured Brigade in reducing Phillora (2) 1 Armoured Brigade (three tank regiments) to break out at first light 11 September with two regiments  i.e. 4 Horse  and 17 Poona Horse encircling Phillora from both flanks by a pincer movement (17 Poona Horse isolating Phillora  from the west and 4 Horse from the east) while the third regiment 16 Light Cavalry was to advance towards road junction area near Khakan wali on Phillora-Sialkot road with the aim of intercepting any Pakistani armour from interfering with the main  armour attack against Phillora.(3) 62 Cavalry and one infantry battalion functioning as a separate battlegroup directly under command 1st Armoured Division were to function as right flank protection  force against any threat from Sialkot. The whole brunt of the Indian tank attack was directed against 11 Cavalry and 9 FF  who had just relieved 25 Cavalry and 24 Brigade during the night  of 10/11 September and had had no opportunity to orientate themselves  with the terrain during day time. The assault on Rurki Kalan commenced at 0600 hours and Rurki Kalan was captured by 0640 hours. The main tank battles took place on line Libbe-Nathupur-Saboke and 11 Cavalry with two tank squadrons of Pattons and one of  obsolete Tank destroyers and  not knowing the area ,was no match to the overwhelming Indian superiority68 of six squadrons of Centurions with intimate infantry support of two battalions. 6 Armoured Division ordered Guides Cavalry and 14 FF to mount an attack from Bhagowal-Bhureshah area against the right flank of the Indians aimed at area Libbe-Chahr at 1130 hours on 11th September. The aim of this attack was to relieve pressure on 11 Cavalry. This Guides had a severe firefight with 16 Light Cavalry losing many tanks as well as destroying some enemy tanks but was unable to make  any  impression and the main Indian attack against 11 Cavalry holding Phillora proceeded smoothly .Phillora was captured by the Indians on  1530 hours on 11th September. I1 Cavalry fought well and lost so many tanks that from 11th September onwards it ceased to function as a complete tank regiment. The Indians fought well but in the overall strategic  context capture of Phillora was of little consequence. Had the Indians shown similar resolution and a little more coup d oeil and modified their plans at the brigade and divisional level on the 8th of September, by 11th September they would have been leisurely holding the east bank of MRL. Gurcharan Singh accurately described the situation from 11 September onwards as one in which; ‘there was little hope of a battle of manoeuvre any longer’.69   The Pakistani position on the night of 11/12 September was serious but luckily Pakistan possessed an extremely resolute man in the person of Major General Abrar Hussain (an MBE of Second World War). Abrar remained calm and unperturbed and luckily the Indian higher commanders opposite him failed to understand that by remaining inactive on 11 th and 12th September they were losing their last opportunity to inflict a decisive defeat on Pakistan at a  time when fresh tank regiments from the 1st Pakistani Armoured Division had not yet reinforced 6 Armoured Division.

Operational Situation 12th and 13 September:– Swiftness in decision making was certainly not the  cardinal command attribute of personality of  higher commanders in both Indian and Pakistan Armies!After capturing Phillora the Indian higher headquarters again wasted 48 hours in planning their next move.The Indian troops at this stage were motivated and they had some excellent commanders at regiment and squadron level like Colonel Tarapur who was as brave as any Pakistani. Subconsciously higher commanders on both sides were still behaving like platoon commanders and company commanders;the primary role of Indians in the British Indian Army; rather than brigade divisional or corps commanders.It never occurred to them that Phillora in itself was of little military value and every day that they were wasting was enabling the Pakistanis to reinforce their defence opposite Phillora.GOC 6 Armoured Division Major General Abrar Hussain now firmly resolved to make the final stand at Chawinda.Abrar made the following readjustments on 12th September:- (1) Remnants of 11 Cavalry to collect south of Chawinda (2) 25 Cavalry to move forward to Chawinda (3) 14 FF to move to Chawinda (4) 24 Brigade to move to Chawinda (5) 14 Para Brigade to move to Zafarwal from Pasrur.70  Luckily for Pakistan the Indians did nothing like advancing on 12th as well as 13th September! During this Godsend period of much needed rest and recuperation the 3rd Armoured Brigade (one tank regiment and one self propelled artillery regiment) arrived  at Sambrial near Chawinda at 1500 hours on 12th September and was designated as 1 Corps reserve.71 Its tank regiment 19 Lancers was absolutely fresh as far as having participated in actual combat was concerned and was equipped with brand new Pattons.In afternoon 12 September as per Gurcharan Singh  the Indians captured Zafarwal employing a tank squadron of 2 Lancers which was withdrawn back across Degh Nala by 116 Brigade the same day. Harbaksh Singh however states that this tank squadron ‘ made no attempt to push forward to Zafarwal and having idled away the rest of the day returned to Kangre’.72  Once the Indians tried to recapture Zafarwal on 13th September it was already strongly held by six tank troops,one R & S Platoon and five infantry companies.What had happened was that on 12th September after getting the correct  report from army aviation’s air observer at 1500 hours  (which Shaukat Riza has naively dismissed as questionable and doubtful ) 6 Armoured Division had directed 14 Para Brigade to send an infantry battalion and tank squadron (ex 22 Cavalry) to Zafarwal. Brigadier Niazi (of East Pakistan fame) commanding 14 Para Brigade sent a  report later that day that Zafarwal was occupied by Indians and requested the GOCs permission to recapture it.We have already seen that Zafarwal was not in enemy occupation and this report of Commander 14 Para Brigade  was not correct.In any case even if the Indians occupied it for a short duration as Gurcharan claims but Harbaksh Singh (a relatively  more reliable authority denies) it was not occupied by the Indians when according to Shaukat Riza 14 Para Brigade (employing one infantry battalion less one company-4 FF)  secured it by 0100 hours night 12/13 September.73 At 0600 hours 13 September  i.e. five  hours after 4 FF (14 Para Brigade) had occupied Zafarwal (without any enemy holding it) a squadron of 22 Cavalry (with one infantry company of 4 FF  tank mounted) which had been ordered at 1335 hours on 12 September from Pasrur also reached Zafarwal. Shaukat Riza has repeated another false claim regarding capturing of Zafarwal which in reality was held by none other than ghosts by an R & S company and a tank troop of 32 TDU sent to Zafarwal by 115 Brigade entirely on its own initiative! According to Shaukat 115 Brigade commander came to know through unspecified sources (probably some angels helping 115 Brigade)Indians on 12th September had squandered their last opportunity to outflank the Pakistani 6 Armour that the Indians had captured Zafarwal at 0800 hours 12 September and sent the above mentioned force which recaptured Zafarwal at mid day 12 September. Later Shaukat claims that this force was ordered to withdraw to Dhamtal!74 Shaukat has repeated a claim which appears to be as false as the one advanced by Gurcharan Singh regarding the 2 Lancers squadron having occupied Zafarwal on 12th September and later withdrwaing from it on orders of the 116 Indian Brigade! The Indians squandered 12th September in inactivity and failed to exploit the last opportunity to outflank the Pakistani 6 Armoured  Division from the open flank of Zafarwal and thereby again regain the initiative and employ their  armour in a meaningful war of manoeuvre rather than the medieval methods of frontal ramming as they were employing at Phillora!Harbaksh Singh hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that  ‘These piecemeal and disjointed attempts on Zafarwal in which the armour had shown no interest,were our undoing.For while we were making ineffective jabs at the objective  the enemy had reinforced  the town with armour and infantry’.75   Finally on 13th September the Indians did launch an attack on Zafarwal with an infantry brigade and a tank squadron (116 Brigade and squadron 2 Lancers) but in words of Harbaksh Singh ‘the squadron of 2 Lancers in keeping with its performance all along came to a halt in the Degh Nadi when opposed by some recoilless gun fire and hence failed to contact 5/5 Gurkha Rifles (the battalion attacking Zafarwal) and the attack fizzled out short of the objective’. Harbaksh Singh is by no means exaggerating when he said that; ‘What could have been a  cheap victory,was thrown to the winds by dilatory tactics and a want of proper coordination’.76 Shaukat Riza in  a bid to glorify the odds faced by 14 Para Brigade in beating the  Indian attack on Zafarwal states that some Indian  tanks came to within few yards of the forward defended localities. Harbaksh Singh’s findings prove otherwise and even Gurcharan Singh does not glorify Indian tanks so much as to have reached ‘within few yards’ from the Pakistani defences!77 Shaukat’s account is good as a motivational speech for other ranks or for school children or  may be a  good citation for getting gallantry awards but definitely not good military history! Another development on 13th September was the capture of Pagowal (Bhagowal) by the 69 Mountain Brigade assisted by a tank squadron. The last major development of this period was the arrival of the 4th  Armoured Brigade comprising one tank regiment,one motorised infantry battalion and one self propelled artillery regiment (5 Horse,1 FF and 15 SP ) from Khem Karan adding yet another fresh tank regiment to assist 6 Armoured Division. This brigade had been pulled out from Khem Karan on 11/2 September and reached Sambrial a little west of Sialkot by train on the night of 12/13 September 1965. It was commanded by Brigadier Riaz ul Karim an MC from Burma who had taken over from Brigadier Lumbs on 11th September 1965 and was also deputy GOC 6 Armoured Division.78

Indian attack on Chawinda-14th & 15th September:– By early morning 14th September the 6 Armoured Division was deployed as following:– (1) Guides Cavalry, 22 Cavalry and 14 FF organised under a headquarter known as Combat Command-Colonel Wajahat from Gunna Kalan west of Pagowal till Jassoran in the south a frontage of  12,000 yards (2) 24 Brigade comprising three infantry battalions,one R & S Company and one tank regiment (2 Punjab,3 FF, 14 Baluch, B Company 13 FF and the indomitable 25 Cavalry) was holding the pivot of the whole battle i.e. Chawinda area (3) 14 Para Brigade with  three and a quarter infantry battalions,one R & S Company and a  tank squadron holding Pasrur and Zafarwal79. The Indians who thought in steps and at the tactical level now decided to capture Chwainda. Salient features of the Indian plan to capture Chawinda, which was to be put into execution at first light 14th September  were as  following:– (1) 4 Horse to  advance from Chahr to Fatehpur and cut road Badiana-Pasrur in area Buttar and then swing Southeast towards Sarangpur with a view to destroying Pakistani armour which may try to escape from or attempt to reinforce Chawinda (2) 17 Poona Horse to thrust toward Kalewali-Chawinda and be prepared to support 43 Lorried Infantry Brigade’s assault on Kaliwal-Wazirwali and later Chawinda if ordered (3) 69 Mountain Brigade Group (including 16 Cavalry) to ensure that Pakistani armour was prevented from joining the main armour battle in area south of Phillora and Chawinda from direction of Sialkot (4) 43 Lorried Brigade with under command one infantry battalion from 35 Infantry Brigade to advance and attack Chawinda from firm base at Phillora. (5) 1 Artillery Brigade to concentrate in area  Saboke in support of 1 Armoured Division 80. As it was obvious the Indian assault being frontal did not make much progress and by  last light 14th September the Indians made nominal progress capturing the villages of Kalewali, Wazirwali and Alhar. The area captured was so limited that the tactical pre condition of an infantry assault was not satisfied due to limited space for manoeuvre and the planned infantry attack on Chawinda was not launched. Harbaksh Singh who unlike Shaukat Riza and some other Pakistani historians does not distort history to prove that the  Indians were intrinsically superior to the Pakistanis by virtue of belonging to some superior religion or some martial race (particularly the north of Chenab races!) is honest enough to admit that in the attack of 14th September ‘Inspite of our superiority in forces,we had failed to capture Chawinda and with that 1 Armoured Division threw away a cheap success and added another failure to its spate of lost opportunities’81. It should be noted however that  Harbaksh’s criticism though to some extent valid, does not take into account the fact that even three tanks against one in defence cannot succeed. This is so not because the defender is a  Hindu or a Sikh or a Muslim but because of the devastating power of modern weapons. Tank as a weapon is not meant to be used as a ramming device because the lethality of modern munitions reduces  this ramming device into chunks of scrap within few minutes. The second aspect dealing with comparative strength is also debatable. The Indians being attackers had naturally suffered more casualties than the defenders. The Pakistanis had three tank regiments in Chawinda and surrounding country against four Indian regiments involved in the  attack on 14th September.In addition two fresh tank regiments had reached Sambrial close to the battle area by the morning of 14th September. In any case by 14th September the battle had degenerated into futile frontal bloody clashes of armour at close ranges and were an apology of real armoured warfare. In this regard Harbaksh’s criticism was to some extent influenced by an anti armour bias which was common to both the armies. A dispassionate analysis of all tank battles till 14th September clearly prove that it was not the Indian armour which failed at the troop squadron and regimental level, but the Indian commanders at Brigade and Divisional level.No evidence proves that there was any difference in Pakistani and Indian armour in terms of valour,tank gunnery or tactical proficiency at the regimental and squadron level. There was another aspect in the fighting of 14th and 15th September. More casualties were caused by artillery and air attack than in actual tank to tank battles!It is but natural that the tank corps men on both sides will never agree that any such thing happened.In this regard the Pakistani artillery being qualitatively superior to the Indian artillery by virtue of having the most modern US guns and by virtue of having the qualitatively superior 4 Corps Artillery Brigade 82  led by Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry, described by many contemporaries as one of the finest artillery officers that the sub continent produced played a crucial role.15th September did not bring much change in the situation and the Indian I Corps Commander reached the conclusion that unless more infantry was brought in the built up area terrain of Chawinda and surrounding villages tanks wont be able to make any headway.Thus the Indian I Corps Commander instead of dynamic modification of plans aimed at achieving a  decisive decision remained obsessed with Chawinda which had become sort of a mini Verdun; and  issued orders that Chawinda was to be captured by 6 Mountain Division assisted by 1 Armoured Division,Badiana by 1 Armoured Division and Zafarwal by 14 Division. During the afternoon of 15th September 19 Lancers also joined the battle.It was deployed  in area west of Mundeke Berian.83

Indian bid to capture Chawinda-16 September 1965:– The Commander of 1st Indian Armoured Division  had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to outflank Chawinda before attacking it with infantry and selected Jassoran-Buttar Dograndi area to the west of Chawinda for this purpose 84. The Indian plan for conduct of operations on 16th September was as following:– (1) Poona  Horse with under command one infantry battalion to first capture Jassoran and then advance to Buttur Dograndi, (2) 4 Horse to cross the railway line and secure area Sodreke crossing covering roads Chawinda-Badiana and Badiana-Pasrur (3) The places captured by Poona Horse and 4 Horse were to serve as firm base from where 6 Mountain Division would mount a night attack on Chawinda on night 16/17 September85. The Indian attack commenced at 0600 hours 16th September and Buttur Dograndi was captured by 1030 hours. After this the Indians did not make much headway and at 1615 hours abandoned Buttur Dograndi since they did not have sufficient infantry to hold it. Later an attack was made to recapture Buttur and it was during this attack that Colonel Tarapur  of 17 Horse died as a result of artillery fire. The Indians recaptured Buttur Dograndi again on the same day late in the evening but failed to make any more progress. The planned attack on Chawinda on the night of 16/17 September was not launched because the Indian  6 Mountain Division   was not yet  ready  for the attack due to lack of recce and other reasons.86 Artillery fire played a major role in defeating the Indian armour whose failure was made 100 percent certain thanks to singularly unimaginative orders for headlong advance in area of extremely limited dimensions!Shaukat Riza describes the situation on 16th September in the following words; ‘Indian armour must have been particularly inept (it was the 1 Corps Commander who was inept)  that with the support of six artillery brigades (there were three artillery brigades) they managed to advance only 3000 yards in 15 hours. And they must have been particularly  thick skinned to continue advance while being hit by 90 artillery pieces including twelve 8 inch howitzers for 15 hours. In fact Indian artillery was scattered all along the front. There was hardly a place  where it could provide  the quality of concentrated fire necessary for blasting a hole in our defences. Indian armour  scattered whenever hit by the concentrated fire of our 4 Corps Artillery’.87 The Indian failures in making any worthwhile progress on 15th and 16th September  had a more intimate connection with poor higher leadership that pigheadedly insisted on a modern charge of heavy brigade of tanks, than with Pakistani artillery, which off course took advantage of the errors of enemy leadership at brigade and divisional level in the employment of armour, which was unnecessarily sacrificed in a suicidal manner, rather than being employed in a dynamic war of movement. Amjad Chaudhri the man who had trained the 4 Corps artillery brigade in peace and handled it in a most masterly and resolute manner at Chawinda noted that  ‘most of the attacks mounted by the enemy  were broken up by artillery fire…. On the east of Chawinda, the enemy was prevented from coming close to our positions by our artillery though he made repeated efforts to outflank Chawinda from this direction…. The nearest he came to this position was approximately 600 yards when he was forced to withdraw after his leading tanks had been destroyed and accompanying infantry badly mauled…. On two occasions the enemy succeeded in partially overrunning the western flank of our defences but these attacks too were repulsed with massed fire of all the guns… casualties inflicted on the attacking troops by our shelling were so heavy that in one of the actions even after he had left our main defensive position behind him,the enemy’s will to continue the attack was broken and he was forced to withdraw… Up to 16 September the Indians concentrated their tanks and  infantry and attacked on a narrow front….’88 Despite unimaginative leadership the Indians did come close to a breakthrough on the 16th September. General K.M Arif who was  a general staff officer in headquarter 6 Armoured Division at Chawinda in 1965 described the critical situation on 16th September in the following words ‘The battle raged with considerable intensity on September 16. After its failure to capture Chawinda the enemy attempted to envelop it by a two pronged attack. In the process the villages of Jassoran and Sodreke fell and Butur Dograndi came under attack. The severe fighting resulted in many casualties. The situation was confused and the outcome uncertain. So fluid became the battle situation that at 1630 hours 24 Brigade requested permission to take up a position in the rear. Abrar (the GOC) told the brigade commander on telephone, ‘You know what is there in the kitty. There is no question of falling back. We shall fight till the bitter end from our present positions’. His words provided a timely tonic. 24 Brigade fought gallantly. Soon the danger subsided.89 Major Shamshad who participated in the Buttur Dograndi action ascribed poor unit and brigade level command as the principal reason for the Indian failure. Shamshad states that he never saw a general officer in the entire war ! Shamshad states that the Indians could have carried the day by just pushing one tank troop supported by artillery fire to the railway line ahead of Buttur Dograndi  or simply moving to Chawinda Railway Station which was undefended , thus winning the ‘Battle of Chawinda’.90  However Shamshad states that ‘the enemy was no good or in other words the enemy squadron commander felt contended after capturing Buttur Dograndi without any losses and destroying eight of our tanks in the process’.91  Shamshad states that the Indians remained inactive for one hour and this lull was fatal for the Indians.

The Operational Situation from 17th September till ceasefire:– The Indians withdrew from Buttar Dograndi at 0600 hours on 17th September because of heavy casualties caused as a result of artillery shelling.Gurcharan Singh states that it was decided that Jassoran would suffice as a firm base for launching an assault on Chawinda and it was decided to abandon Buttur Dograndi. At  1200 hours 17 September 4 Armoured Brigade’s 19 Lancer was ordered by 6 Armoured Division to clear line Buttar Dograndi-Purab-Mundeke Berian. This was done by 1600 hours since the Indians were demoralised due to heavy casualties suffered on 16th September. By the evening of 17th September the Indians withdrew their armour  north of the railway line; and took up the same dispositions as on 15th September. There is considerable confusion about why the Indians withdrew their tanks north of the railway line while there was no significant reason to do so. Harbaksh Singh thinks that tanks were withdrawn north of the railway line, ‘Through an inexplicable misunderstanding from Jassoran’ on 18th September. It appears that the Indian Army was afflicted by an almost as serious inter arm bias as the Pakistan Army and this withdrawal was a clear proof of this bias.Infantry and armour commanders did not see eye to eye and the Indian armour was not interested in fighting the infantry’s battle. Indian general Menezes admitted the existence of this inter arm rivalry and lack of communication. Menezes thus said; ‘A regrettable lack of understanding between certain commanders  often thwarted cohesive action so essential in achievement of a common goal. There were misunderstandings galore between the infantry and armour commanders in the Second Battle of Chawinda’.92 Harbaksh states that 1st Armoured Division was asked to recapture Jassoran as it was intended to be used as the firm base,from where Indian infantry was to mount the main infantry attack on Chawinda. At this stage it appears that the Indian 1 Armoured Brigade Commander who was ordered by the GOC 1st Armoured Division to recapture Jassoran had lost all the will to fight.Harbaksh states that the 1 Armoured Brigade Commander gave a plea that he could not recapture Jassoran at such a  short notice but would be able to do so on first light 19th September (8 hours after the planned assault time of Indian infantry attack on Chawinda!) .This left the Indian 6 Mountain Division Headquarter which was tasked to command the infantry attack on Chawinda with no other option but to recapture Jassoran without Indian armour’s support…This was done by employing one infantry battalion of 35 Brigade and Jassoran was recaptured on the evening of 18th September.Finally the long planned and many times postponed infantry attack on Chawinda was launched on night 18/19 September  employing  35 (two  infantry battalions) and 58 Infantry Brigade (two infantry battalions)  under command of the 6 Mountain Division.Both the brigades were to attack Chawinda from the west simultaneously with the railway line as interbrigade boundary.At this stage the Indian troops were demoralised more because of a perception that their higher commanders were employing them in senseless as well as futile frontal attacks.Any army in this state of mind ceases to function like a well oiled military machine and there comes a point when it becomes extremely difficult to prod the under command units into action. The same was the fate of the planned Indian attack on night 18/19 September. Harbaksh Singh praised the efficiency of Pakistani artillery in dislocating the Indian attack from the very beginning by effectively shelling both the assaulting Indian brigades in an extremely  decisive and effective manner. Harbaksh Singh thus wrote praising Pakistan artillery’s performance in the following words; ‘Enemy shelling created such confusion that all control was lost. The leading troops lost direction and 14 Rajput barged into our own neighbouring position in Wazirwali held by a company of 5 Jat and a squadron of 2 Lancers of 43 Lorried Brigade. There was a brisk exchange of fire between our forces. 5 Jat taken completely by surprise, abandoned their positions!14 Rajput equally stunned by the unexpected opposition en route to their objective also dispersed in confusion…next morning 5 Jat reoccupied their positions-14 Rajput were still out in the blue. Two companies of 4 JAK Rifles (the second infantry battalion of 58 Brigade) which managed to reach Chawinda were thrown back by the enemy’s combined infantry and tank fire.By that stage all control at battalion and brigade level was lost and the formation (6 Mountain Division attacking Chawinda) ceased to be a cohesive force’.A similar fate befell the other assaulting brigade i.e. 35 Infantry Brigade. First its  ‘ Forming Up Place’  was  effectively shelled by the Pakistani artillery  while the Indian troops were in the process of deploying  in the formation of attack. This caused significant dislocation but one of its battalions reached Chawinda while the other was repulsed half way.After first light the battalion which had reached the outskirts of Chawinda was also forced to withdraw to Jassoran in face of heavy Pakistani  pressure93. As per Shaukat Riza both Pakistani artillery and armour played a major role in defeating the Indian infantry attack on 19th September. According to Shaukat ‘C Squadron 25 Cavalry  saw some men of 3 FF and 2 Punjab (in face of Indian infantry attack of 35 and 58 Brigade) moving towards the rear….at 0400 hours 19th September Lt Col Nisar (25 Cavalry) ordered his tanks to engage the area of railway line west of Chawinda….the combined fires of 25 Cavalry and artillery 4 Corps broke the enemy attack’94 Thus ended the last Indian major attack on Chawinda.This was followed by a counter attack by the 6 Armoured Division employing 19 Lancers and two infantry companies which forced the Indians to abandon Jassoran by 1800 hours 19th September. This counterattack was launched when some Indian tanks were observed advancing towards Jassoran. These were tanks of two squadrons of 4 Horse which had been already ordered by 1Armoured Brigade to position themselves in  Jassoran  and Sodreke area by first light 19 September to protect the western flank of 6 Mountain Division which it was thought would have occupied Chawinda by then. 6 Mountain Division had not informed 1st Armoured Division about failure of its infantry attack and the 1st Armoured Division sent 4 Horse to Jassoran as earlier planned to protect 6 Mountain Divisions flank against a Pakistani counter attack. The Pakistani 6 Armoured Division  resultantly ordered 19 Lancers to attack Jassoran as it thought that the Indians were again launching  a major attack involving tanks.95 After 19th September fighting in and around Chawinda was reduced to routine exchange of fire rather than any more futile frontal assaults. On 20th September the Indian High Command finally realised that it was impossible to achieve a decisive breakthrough in Chawinda  area.Keeping this in mind they decided to hand over the defence of  the area opposite Chawinda to the 6 Mountain Division (with two tank squadrons of 1st Armoured Division under command 6 Mountain Division) and to relieve 1st Armoured Division. 1st Armoured Brigade was to be in the rear of 6 Mountain Division at Rurki Kalan while 43 Lorried Brigade  was to hand over its defended area to 99 Mountain Brigade and withdraw to area cross roads.Nothing significant happened till cease-fire at 1410 hours 22 September 1965 96

23 Mountain Division and Pakistan’s Operation Windup

In the last stages of the war the Indian GHQ had decided to employ  23 Mountain Division initially designated as ‘Army Reserve’ in the Western Command area.As per Harbaksh Singh initially the Indian GHQ had contemplated during the period 15-18 September, using this formation in Kasur area with the aim of ‘wearing down Pakistani military potential’  in the  Ravi-Sutlej Corridor. Later it was decided to use 23 Division in Dera Nanak area for an offensive across the Ravi  on axis Dera  Nanak-Narowal-Pasrur and orders for this offensive were issued on 20th September 1965 directing 23 Division to concentrate for the proposed operation in area Dera Nanak by 26 September 1965 but the planned operation was  abandoned in the end. It is doubtful  whether the Indian High Command possessed any resolve to launch this formation whose success keeping in view the  lack of sufficient armour and hesitation to attempt any operation involving an assault across a major water obstacle by both sides would have succeeded.As a matter of fact at this stage the  Indian Army was as keen as cease-fire as Ayub Khan! This can be imagined from the following incident. As per  General Menezes the Indian Army Chief  had already portrayed a picture of  ammunition shortage, a pet excuse of soldiers, once the Indian Prime Minister asked  General Chaudhry whether ‘the Army would be able to achieve significant results on the ground’ whereas later as per Menezes it was discovered that  only 14 to 20 percent of the Indian ammunition stocks had been used! 94

The Pakistani GHQ behaved in a remarkably similar way. General Musa thus vetoed the proposed Pakistani Counterstroke against the Indian penetration at Chawinda codenamed ‘Operation Windup’. According to the Pakistani C in C the operation was cancelled  since ‘both sides had suffered heavy tank losses……would have been of no strategic importance….’ and above all ‘the decision…was politically motivated as by then the Government of Pakistan had made up their mind to accept cease fire and foreign sponsored proposals’.95 Musa was definitely in no mood to attempt any further manoeuvre that would test Pakistani generalship at strategic or operational level, just like General Chaudhri!


The real  heroes of Chawinda were Colonel Nisar and his unit ∏ whatever their perception or misperception,not knowing what was in front of them  , and thankfully so,for this may have reduced their resolution to make a resolute stand, saved  Pakistan on 8th September by their most heroic resistance in Gadgor area. General Ibrar who entered the scene albeit after the really decisive engagement of Gadgor had been fought  played a decisive role in keeping the Pakistani position intact after fiascos like Phillora and by prodding Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik not to panic on the fateful 16th of September. The Indians made the Pakistani task easier by pure and unadulterated  military incompetence at unit and brigade level ! There is no doubt that nothing could have stopped them from reaching the MRL on 8th 9th 10th and 11th September, had they possessed, an armoured brigade or divisional commander of even a medium calibre! The Indian failure commenced from division and brigade and not from troop and squadron level. At tank, tank troop and tank squadron level, both sides fought equally level ! It was at brigade and divisiona level that the Indians failed on 8th 9th 10th and 11th September , and thank God there was no brigade headquarter (Abdul Ali Malik having nothing to do with Gadgor) controlling 25 Cavalry on the Pakistani side.I say this with conviction with what I saw of the Pakistan Army and this is true till 1993 when  I left service ! From what I  have assessed the Indians are equally illustrious to date at brigade and higher levels ! This mutual incompetence has saved both the countries in all three wars ! Abrar later played a decisive role in saving Pakistan by his most resolute leadership during the highly critical period from 11th to 19th September when the Indians came close to victory on at least three different occasions. During one of the most critical moments of  the Battle of Chawinda , on 16th September ,  Abrar as we discussed earlier  dismissed the request of 24 Brigade Commander to abandon Chawinda. This if done would have seriously jeopardised the Pakistani position ! And yet after the war Abrar was superseded and 24 Brigade Commander promoted to general rank finally retiring as a  three star general! The third factor in the Pakistani success was 4 Corps Artillery Brigade under the indomitable as well as extremely able leadership of Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry. All three were sidelined. Abrar never went beyond Major General’s rank since Yahya Khan did not like his face, and Abrar was not from Ayub’s unit !Chaudhry also suffered on the same count and retired as a brigadier while the much more mediocre gunner Tikka rose to the highest rank!Nisar did become a  brigadier but was sidelined even before the 1971 war broke out, since he was not from the infantry, and  did not have the right push and pull or patrons in higher positions after 1971! It was an irony of Pakistani history that Abrar since he was on the wrong side of the army chief was placed on a much lower rung in the heroes of 1965 war than men like Tikka Khan (in whose area of responsibility no major fighting took place) etc.On the other hand many like Niazi (14 Para Brigade Commander) etc rose to the rank of Lieutenant General by virtue of push and pull based on parochial and personal relations with Ayub being from his unit, while the real heroes were sidelined.


1Shaukat Riza does not says anything about the TDUs or Tank Delivery Units. All evidence indicates that TDUs were full fledged tank regiments. Theoretically a TDU was organised at the scale of one TDU per armoured division. A TDU  consisted of  a Regiment Headquarter and two ‘Holding Squadrons’ with a Squadron Headquarter and two tank troops of six tanks each and a Signal Platoon and Maintenance Detatchment known as the LAD or the Light Aid Detatchment (Page-288 & 289-Armoured Regiment in Battle-1980). The theoretical aim of a TDU which was mistakenly called a Tank Destroyer Unit by the Indians was  (a)-Receive manpower from reinforcements camps and tanks from the vehicle depots (b)- Impart limited refresher training to tank crews  and to form them into a well knit team (c)- Deliver the tanks with crews to the divisional administrative area (d)- Maintain, Inspect and conduct limited field repairs to the tanks. These units were raised shortly before the war and in Musa’’ words (in case of TDUs Musa has been far more truthful and straightforward than Shaukat Riza) ‘Integral Armoured Regiments (Tank Delivery Units-TDUs—as they were called for deception purposes) allotted to the infantry divisions provided the divisional commanders concerned with a powerful armoured unit directly under their command. They did not have to request higher headquarters for for close armoured support. Nor did the need arise for us to fall back on our armoured divisions for this purpose, thereby dissipating their resources, and diverting them from their main tasks. All the units were used with very good results, in particular against the enemy tanks supporting their Infantry. In the Sialkot and Kasur sectors integral armoured regiments already deployed their effectively co-operated with 6 and 1 Armoured Divisions respectively when the latter went into action and thus we achieved an accretion of armoured strength in these areas.The presence of the  regiments on the fronts held by infantry formations,and as they were available for immediate deployment there had a favourable effect not only tactically but also psychologically‘ (Pages-107 & 108- My Version -General Musa Khan-Wajid Alis -Lahore-1983).Compare this with Shaukat Riza who is practising deception more than two decades after 1965 war and hardly gives any importance to the TDUs in his book on the 1965 war. See The Pakistan Army-War 1965 -Major General Shaukat Riza (Retired)-Army Education Press-Rawalpindi-1984. This was Shauakat’s first book on the history of Pakistan Army and was, in fact it was more of an official version of the events of the 1965 war as the dictator and usurper Zia wanted to be written. Considerable part of the book was thus devoted to anti Bhutto diatribes, since Bhutto’s People’s Party was Zia’s main political rival!Despite being having official blessings and full support of the Pakistani GHQ the book was an extremely poor specimen of all that a book must be in order to be graded as a serious military historical work.The meticulousness or lack of meticulousness of the so called blue eyed GHQ Staff officers who assisted Shaukat Riza who was described as semi senile by one staff officer who assisted him, can be gauged from the fact that there is no map,depicting the on ground battle dispositions of the main 1965 War except one(which is highly inaccurate and a horror of a military map in terms of having no relevance at all to the ground that it sought to depict-there are some maps showing battle dispositions of battalion level of the Rann of Kutch which was an insignificant part of the pre war skirmishes).In addition this marathon effort of the  GHQ does not have any figures about casualties suffered by the Pakistan Army in the 1965 War.Perhaps it was thought that they were too martial to suffer any casualties!

2 Page-21-Musa Khan and Pages-139 to 144-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.

3Page-175-Memoirs of General Gul Hassan Khan- Lieutenant General Gul Hassan Khan-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1993.

4 Page-21-Musa Khan-Op Cit.

5 Page21-Ibid.

6 Page-19-War Despatches- Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh-Lancer Books-New Delhi-1990.

7Page-395-The Indian Army Since Independence-Major K.C Praval (Retired)-Lancer International-New Delhi-1990.

8Page-18-Paragraph no-33 (a)-War Despatches-Op Cit.

9Page-39- An Introduction to Strategy-General Andre Beaufre-Faber and Faber-London-1965…This attack was a ‘Classic Riposte’ in the sense that it forced the Pakistan Army to abandon both the attacks i.e. ‘Grand Slam’ as well as the ‘Counter Offensive’ in Khem Karan.In this respect the Indians achieved their strategic object but without having captured any significant objectives on ground!

10 Gul Hassan has thrown some light on this heavy weights possession or lack of decisiveness, intellect etc in considerable detail in his memoirs .(See pages-192 , 194-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit).

11Pages-139 to 145-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

12 Page-21-Musa Khan-Op Cit.Musa ‘s words cannot be taken on the face value since he stated these in a book written 18 years after the war.

13 Page-175-Gul Hassan-Op Cit.

14Pages-140,141 and 147-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

15 Page-395-K.C Praval-Op Cit.

16 Page-385- The Indian Armour-History of the Indian Armoured Corps-1941-1971-Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-Delhi-1994.

17Pages-141,142,163,164,165-War Despatches-Op Cit.

18 Page-136-War Despatches-Op Cit.

19Pages-61,129,136 & 135-War Despatches-Op Cit.The Indian High Command was greatly unnerved by the swift Pakistani thrust towards Akhnur and on 3rd September 1965 was forced to rush the 28th Infantry Brigade which was originally responsible for defence of Pathankot/Madhopur Headworks to Akhnur.As a result the 14 Division was forced to leave its 58 Infantry Brigade for defence of Madhopur .As per the original Indian plan the 28 Brigade was to be 6th Mountain Division’s third brigade for the  bridgehead  operation.But 28 Brigade was forced to move to Akhnur due to the Grand Slam thrust scare.As a result the Indian high Command  placed   14 Division’s 35 Infantry Brigade under 6 Mountain Division command in lieu of 28 Brigade for the bridgehead operation while 58 Infantry Brigade was temporarily left at Madhopur since the main Pakistani attack location was not known till 8th September and the Indians feared that Madhopur/Pathankot area was one of the likely areas of the expected Pakistani thrust.Thus for the offensive the 14 Division was left with just one brigade i.e. the 116 Infantry Brigade.In addition the rapid pace of events in first week of September forced the Indians to shorten the move period of concentration of the I Corp’s formations from the actual planned period of ten to four days.As a result it was not possible for 14 Division to concentrate in time for taking part in the offensive as far as the initial two days were concerned.

20Page-395-The Indian Armour-Op Cit and Page-144-War Despatches -Op Cit.

21Page-135,138 & 141-War Despatches-Op Cit.

22False Alarm at Jassar :–Page-147-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.According to Gul Hassan Headquarter 1 Corps was  the main culprits responsible for the exaggerated reports sent toGHQ.Gul thinks that it was not  Brigadier Muzaffaruddin i.e. 115 Brigade Commander who was unnerved but GOC 15 Division (Brigadier Sardar Ismail and his Colonel Staff Colonel S.G  Mahdi known with the nickname of Killer Mahdi) and Commander 1 Corps.Shaukat Riza who had a better access to war diaries/records however maintains that it was Brigadier Muzaffaruddin who was the main reason for the false alarm at Jassar.(Page-191-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit and Page-147-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit). Musa placed the entire blame for the Jassar false alarm on the shoulders of GOC 15 Division and his Colonel Staff Colonel S.G Mahdi.According to Musa ‘During this period,the headquarters of this division (15 Division) appeared to be in a state of delirium.Its Colonel Staff (a Military Cross from Burma) was sending messages  to GHQ  and its lower formations that enemy commandos had infiltrated and were operating behind Sialkot town….it regained sanity only after the acting Divisional Commander and the Colonel Staff were relieved of their jobs’  (Pages-65 & 66-Musa Khan-Op Cit) . It may be noted that HQ I Corps was commanded by one who was not famous for  any intellectual prowess but owed longevity in  his post as Corps Commander to proven loyalty,yesmanship and extreme lack of imagination.This was the opinion of about fifteen different officers who had served with Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana in various capacities and who were interviewed by the author during the period 1985-99.In the opinion of Brigadier  Amjad  Chaudhry a relatively more reliable authority than both Gul and Shaukat, and one  who was present on the spot as Commander 4 Corps Artillery Brigade Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana said ‘the Indians had established a bridgehead with one infantry battalion (a tribute to the level of thinking of Ayub’s handpicked and Pakistan Army’s only corps commander !!!!) and his assessment was that they would build it up to a brigade strength by next morning…he ordered me to get corps artillery into  action to support the counterattack to be launched next morning to destroy the bridgehead…when I reached the brigade headquarter in  Narowal I found Commander 15 Division (Brigadier Ismail) and Brigadier Abdul Ali commander 24 Brigade already there.We were all surprised to learn from the local brigade commander Brigadier Muzaffaruddin that the situation on his front was nothing like what it had been made out to be (Amjad does not explain who made it out,why and how on earth did GOC 15 Division was in 115 Brigade area if no alarming report was sent or why was General Bakhtiar convinced that the main Indian attack was coming from Jassar) and that after demolition of the bridge (only one span was demolished) only four or five Indian soldiers had managed to crawl up to the near end of the bridge and he was taking action to deal with them (!!!!)’ (Page-73- September 65 -Before and After -Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Ferozesons Lahore-1977). Amjad Chaudhri and Musa Khan  as late as 1976 and 1983 respectively, mistakenly thought that the Indian effort opposite Jassar was the part of some grand deception plan ans that the Indians were trying to ‘make us look towards Jassar while they crossed the international border at Charwa from the direction of Samba (Pages-73 & 74-Ibid)  or that the Indian move at Jassar was a ‘Feint’ or ‘Diversionary Effort’ (Pages-65 & 66-Musa Khan-Op Cit).According to Harbaksh Singh no such grand strategic  deception was intended but all that happened at Jassar was a figment of the 115 Brigade Commander,15 Division Commander and 1 Corps Commander’s extremely disturbed and nervous imagination as on 6/7th September!Compare the comparative lethargy of Pakistani Commander 1 Corps with Harbaksh Singh. While Harbaksh personally went to revive the spirits of local commanders in face of perceived or real enemy threats Bakhtiar Rana preferred forwardly reports received from lower formations without moving out of his headquarter,to check the situation in person as Harbaksh Singh that indomitable Jat did!It must however be remembered that before the war the Pakistani GHQ had a preconceived notion that the Indians would go through the inconvenience of crossing the Ravi at Jassar and launch their main offensive from Jassar (Page-18-Ibid) . It is quite possible that both 15 Division acting GOC and Commander Pakistani 1 Corps were influenced by this preconceived notion in currency in the Pakistani GHQ and passed on this false report without rechecking.Later once the perceived threat petered out Brigadier Ismail was made a scapegoat while Rana escaped  Scot free by virtue of having closer bonds with Ayub-Musa and his higher rank.Musa in his book (informed sources think that it was beyond Musa’s capability to write a single page without assisatnce!!!!) criticises GOC 15 Division for ‘demolishing the bridge (Jassar Bridge)’ on page- 65 of his book but also states on page-18 of the same book that  before the war he as C in C had assessed that  one of the two important aspects of the Indian invasion plan in case of war was to ‘Capture Jassar and the railway bridge intact’ (Page-18-Ibid). Musa nowhere explains the royal lethargy of his handpicked man i.e. 1 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Rana who as per Musa ‘Ably Commanded’ I Corps (Page-64-Ibid)  in not personally checking the actual situation at Jassar or even sending a senior staff officer from Headquarter 1 Corps for doing so.

23Page-111-War Despatches-Op Cit.

24Page-146-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

25Page-111-War Despatches-Op Cit.

26Page-147-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit


28Page-28-Article- “A Subaltern in Action-1965 War”- Major Shamshad Ali Khan Qaimkhani (Retired)-Defence Journal-October 1997-Karachi-1997. Shaukat Riza  claims in his official acount that the whole of 25 Cavalry was sent to Jassar and the unit was recalled when its head (i.e leading troops had reached Narowal).

29Page-147-War Despatches.

30Page-148 & 149-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.Shaukat Riza has painted  an exaggerated picture  about the  extreme length of  3 FF defences. The reader must note that in the initial pre war plan 3 FF was supported in depth by a whole tank regiment i.e 25 Cavalry .Firstly 15 Division did not have sufficient troops to man the entire area of responsibility.Secondly thanks to  the extremely incompetent Pakistani intelligence agencies both military and civil of that time (as well as now) who were/are good only in petty reporting against their own officers and in making personal fortunes,no one in the Pakistani GHQ had the slightest idea that  the Indian 1st Armoured division was in Kashmir

31Page-150-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

32 The description of the fight is based on Gurcharan Singh‘s account.Refers Page-392-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.

33Pages-150 to 154-Ibid.There are various conflicting accounts about who in 25  Cavalry did what.These are largely irrelevant in the broader context.There is one thing in this whole affair about which all historians whether Indian  or Pakistani completely agree;ie it was ‘25 Cavalry alone  which stopped the Indian 1st Armoured Division on 8th September from advancing towards MRL’.It was 25 Cavalry’s show alone and it is historically irrelevant whether some one says that it was Nisar or Ahmad or Shamshad who saved the day.

34Page -46-Article – ‘A Subaltern in Action’- Major Shamshad Ali Khan Qaimkhani (Retired) -Defence Journal— November 1997-Karachi. The level of interest in military history in Pakistan may be imagined from the following incident. A close friend of this scribe asked a senior Pakistan Armoured Corps officer whether he reads the ‘Defence Journal’ or not.The armoured corps officer replied, ‘ I don’t read magazines which publishes trash written by people like Major Shamshad’. This senior officer and many like him have never written anything to do with military history but have highly inflated egos,probably based on their peactime records,good ACRs ,good career appointments and course reports!

35 Page-392-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

36Page-392-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.




40Ibid.This false and factually totally incorrect misconception  about threat on the flank or that the Indians advanced too fast on 8th September was advanced by various authors like Verghese,  Kar etc and repeated as late as 1999 by Cloughley.The 1 Armoured Brigade had not dashed forward rashly as mistakenly asserted by Verghese (Pages-120 & 121- A History of the Pakistan Army-Wars and Insurrections- Brian Cloughley- Oxford University Press-Karach-1999-). The 1 Armoured Brigade had advanced  reasonably cautiously despite the fact that keeping in view the overwhelming Indian tank strength vis a vis Pakistani tank strength on 8th September the Indians could have taken the risk of  advanced much more rapidly; and could have easily outflanked 25 Cavalry by simply pushing their third regiment from east of Degh Nala.In reality as we have seen the Indians did not even use their two complete regiments advancing in front and two others (62 Cavalry and 4 Horse) who were free did nothing at all.Cloughley has even modified history by asserting that the force which struck on 8th September (i.e. 25 Cavalry) was under direct command of Headquarter 1 Corps! (Page-120-Ibid). In reality 1 Corps, or even 15 Division Headquarter  had nothing to do with what 25 Cavalry did on 8th September.The only  two men who acted with considerable coup d oeil and saved the situation were  Nisar and Abdul Ali Malik.Another Indian author Kar was under the false impression that the Indian 1st Armoured Division had exposed its flank on 8th September (Page-664-A Military History of India- Lt Col H.C Kar-Firma KLM-Calcutta-1993) . There was no  Pakistani force on 1st Armoured Division’s flank on 8th September except some ‘Jinns’ which were the product of Indian 1st Armoured Brigade Commanders extremely graphic and fertile imagination!

41Pages-393 & 394-Ibid.

42Page-47-Major Shamshad Ali Khan Qaimkhani (November 1997 Issue) -Op Cit.

43Page-394-Indian Armoured Corps-Op Cit.

44People in Pakistan even today do not know how much Pakistan owes to 25  Cavalry.It is ironical that the myopic brains of Ayub and Musa in line with their anti armour bias ignored 25 Cavalry when gallantry awards were distributed. 25 Cavalry should have received at least one NH. But then 25  Cavalry was not the Punjab Regiment and had no Godfathers ! Nisar later retired as a brigadier while none of the squadron commanders and troop leaders (those who were in tanks on 8th September) went beyond brigadiers rank!Only one who was sitting many miles behind at the regimental headquarters did go beyond brigadier.During Zia’s time some officers from armoured corps were promoted because of  family connections and sycophancy with Zia  or for baby sitting Zia’s mentally retarded daughter.

45Page-394-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

46Page-143-War Despatches-Op Cit.

47Page-47- Article- ‘A subaltern in action in 1965-Critique’- Major Shamshad  Ali Khan Qaimkhani (Retired)-Defence Journal-February 1998 – Karachi.

48We will discuss more of this aspect in the next chapter.The battles around Chawinda were later portrayed in Pakistan as  a propaganda theme to illustrate that the Indians were defeated despite their massive numerical superiority.While useful to a reasonable extent as  a propaganda theme;this assertion is conceptually incorrect and a partial distortion of facts of history.This is good opium for the cheap popular imagination but trash in terms of real military instruction. The issue or the deciding factor  at  Chawinda was not Islam versus Hinduism,but an excellent unit consisting of a large number of excellent officers who by their resolute stand imposed a severe check on the imagination  of an irresolute and intellectually myopic leadership. At unit level both the Indian units i.e. Poona Horse and 16 Light Cavalry fought as bravely and heroically as 25 Cavalry losing in the process more tanks than 25 Cavalry. But these units were handicapped by an incompetent and irresolute higher headquarter who became mentally  paralysed.The rot in the Indian command structure started from brigade headquarters downwards and not from squadron or regiment upwards.At this time commander Indian 1st Armoured Brigade had the liberty to employ the third unit i.e. 4 Horse and two squadrons of Poona Horse and one squadron of 16 Light Cavalry.It was the 1st Armoured Brigade Commander who lost his nerve and stopped the advance.The conclusion is that at regimental and squadronlevel both the Indians and the Pakistanis fought equally well!Tarapur leading the Poona Horse was as good and as brave an officer as Nisar (and both had served before partition at the same station Aden), the difference being We must not forget that the same Hindus under British officers humbled many tough foes including the Afghans, the Sikhs ,the Turks,Japanese Germans.The factor which went against the Indians on 8th September was not that Hindus were less brave, or the Pakistani (or Punjabi Muslims braver) as is foolishly propagated in Pakistan, but the fact that their higher headquarter, the brigade level in particular and divisional in general failed to preserve their mental equilibrium in face of the stress of battle and the friction of war.Luckily for Pakistan there was no brigade headquarter,controlling 25 Cavalry, with a timid,equally cautious (like the Indians) brigadier more concerned with his personal safety in the immediate present and promotion in future than with taking any dynamic decisions in battle.Thus while on the Indian side higher command was poor, no such comparative armoured brigade headquarter existed, luckily I would say;keeping in view similarly mediocre performances on the Pakistani side as amply proved in 4 and 5  Armoured Brigades,and the whole show was that of Colonel Nisar and his squadron commanders and tank commanders.Brigadier Malik the 24 Brigade Commander only told Colonel Nisar to do something but after that it was Nisar alone who did everything.All the so called heroes later projected after the war like Tikka Khan had nothing to do with all that happened on 8th September.

49After the war much projection was given to Tikka Khan since he was the same  drill square type ex serviceman breed like Musa and Ayub and both must have seen  in him one who was unimaginative and intellectually mediocre enough to be groomed for higher command ranks in line with the Ayubian philosophy of ‘Goof Selection Syndrome’.Luckily for history Tikka took over 15 Division from afternoon of 8th September;when Gadgor was already being fought;otherwise all the glory for what 25 Cavalry did would also been laid at his feet!Tikka survived the 1971 war and the notoriety in the genocide of the Bengali Muslims in 1971, because he was viewed by Bhutto as a good pawn and a yes man!

50Page-154-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.


52Page-395-The Indian Armoured Corps-Op Cit.

53Page-154 & 155-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit

54Page-4-Article-Abrar’s Battlefield Decisions-General K.M Arif (Retired) — The Pakistan Army Green Book-1992-The Year of the Senior Field Commanders-Pakistan Army General Headquarters-1993.

55Page-75-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.

56Page-159-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.11 Cavalry as we have already discussed in the  section dealing with Grand Slam had received orders to move to 6 Armoured Division concentration area on 6th September.Between 6th and 9th September these orders were amended and Shaukat Riza has used the term ‘fragmentary’  for these orders amending 11 Cavalry’s final destination which is a polite way of saying that the GHQ and 1 Corps were quite confused and nervous.It may be noted that 11 Cavalry has been much criticised (and that too most unjustly) for not having done well later at Chawinda.11 Cavalry had already seen some very hard fighting in Chhamb and had already suffered more than 50 casualties by 6th September including 19 killed,one of which was 11 Cavalry’s finest officer Major Mian Raza Shah.In addition one squadron of 11 Cavalry consisted of  M-36-B -2 tanks which were quite obsolete by 1965.

57Page-155 & 156-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

58Page-115,290,291,292-On War-Carl Von Clausewitz-Edited by Anatol Rapoport- Pelican Books London-1974.

59Page-155 & 158-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.Both Yaqub Ali  Khan and Riaz ul Karim  were recipients of  ‘Military Cross’ of Second World War and were Hindustani Muslims.Yaqub Ali Khan was one of the most intellectually gifted officers of the army and one who later created history by agreeing to military action against the Bengali Muslims  in 1971 and resigned his commission when ordered to take military action.

60Page-12-Article- ‘Higher Conduct of 1965 Indo Pak War- Brigadier Riaz ul  Karim Khan, LOM, MC-Defence Journal-Special Issue-Volume Ten-Numbers-1 & 2-1984- Karachi.


62Page-157 & 158-Ibid.


64 Page-158 & 159-Ibid.

65Page-159 -Ibid and Page-5-Pakistan Army Green Book-1992-Op Cit.Arif while  criticising Yaqub, at one time his Commanding Officer in 11 Cavalry in the 1950s  has just stated that the ‘plan had been jointly evolved with some experts’, meaning Yaqub.This relief of 25 Cavalry by 11 Cavalry was very unpleasant for 11 Cavalry since it had no idea about the area, while 25 Cavalry knew the area like the palm of their hand, but was not as serious an error of judgement as portrayed by both Shaukat and Arif.After all 25 Cavalry deserved some rest after all that it achieved on 8th September and in any case remained available as a valuable reserve with the 6 Armoured Division!

66Page-144 & 145-War Despatches-Op Cit.

67This illustrates the narrow vision of  basically glorified JCO type armour commanders of the Indo Pak regardless of the fact whether they were from Indian or Pakistan Armies.This new Indian armour operation which was supposed to be a grand deception was being mounted from just four or five west of the old location of the Indian 1st Armoured Brigade; but it was thought that it was  a major change of direction and would disorient and confuse the Pakistanis.On the Pakistani side already everyone in the 6 Armoured Division was clear that Phillora was the next major Indian objective.Even the Indian armoured corps historian was visibly amused by this few kilometres sideways shift of armour and drily noted; ‘The 1st Armoured Brigade moved from Sabzpir crossroads on the evening of 10 September in order to get to the southwest of Maharajke.The move took time because of heavy going due to rain and the enemy shelled the regiments throughout their move. The Pakistanis were apparently fully aware of the new location of the formation. They must have wondered what the purpose  of  a  sideways shift of a few kilometres,which could have been covered in minutes by day, was’ (Page-395-The Indian Armour-Op Cit). Gurcharan Singh very correctly pointed out that ‘ there was little possibility of either side achieving surprise  because shifting the point of thrust a few kilometres this side or that hardly matters where half  a dozen  armoured regiments were deployed in defence…it was  a head on encounter….’  (Page-398-Ibid).

6811 Cavalry has been most unjustly criticised for not fighting well at Phillora-Gadgor on 11th September. The Indian attack on  11th September was a very deliberate and well planned affair with full artillery support and overwhelming concentration of force against Phillora.Unlike 8th September when  the Indians and 25 Cavalry just unknowingly crashed into each other; on 11th September the Indians had a fair idea about the extent of Pakistani armour’s defensive dispositions and had made detailed artillery preparation.25 Cavalry had been in the area before the war since it was integral armoured regiment of 15 Division.11 Cavalry had never served in this area being a part of 6 Armoured Division based in Kharian and had reached Phillora-Gadgor after last light 10th  September having fought for six days in Chhamb, where it had suffered more than 50 casualties including 19 killed; and having carried out a long journey on tracks and train all the 80 miles distance from Chhamb to Gadgor.The Indian armoured corps historian described the odds faced by 11 Cavalry at Gadgor-Phillora in the following words; ‘The weight of fire brought down by a whole regiment of Centurions was to much for the enemy who started to withdraw….the enemy left behind 23 tanks destroyed or burnt’  (Page-397-The Indian Armour-Op Cit).

69 Page-396-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

70 Page-164-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

71Page-164 & 165-Ibid.

72Page-398 & 399-The Indian Armour-Op Cit and Pages-148 & 149-War Despatches-Op Cit.It appears that Harbaksh was right since Shaukat Riza also did quote an air observer who saw some Indian  tanks moving towards Zafarwal on 12th September,but never reached Zafarwal (Page-165-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit). Shaukat thought that the air observer made a false claim (Shaukat’s  assertion being incorrect as is proved by Indian account), but it appears that 2 Lancers made some token movement towards Zafarwal on 12th September. Gurcharan and Harbaksh were both Sikhs but Gurcharan was defending armoured corps motivated by espirit de corps while Harbaksh Singh not being from armour was being more factual!Personally I would believe Harbaksh Singh since he had greater integrity as  a historian than any other Indian or Pakistani participant including all Pakistani generals who wrote any books on 1965 war.

73 Page-165-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

74Pages-165 & 166-Ibid.

75Page-149-War Despatches-Op Cit.


77Page-166-Shaukat Riza-Pages 399 & 400-The Indian Armour and Page-149-War  Despatches-Op Cit

78 Page-171 & 172-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.


80Page-151-War Despatches-Op Cit.


82The Pakistani Chief of General Staff General Malik Sher Bahadur  was a  man of limited vision and had little understanding of the decisive role of artillery in modern warfare!The outcome of Battle of Chawinda may have been different had Sher Bahadur succeeded in disbanding 4 Corps artillery as he very much wanted! Gul Hassan has described in his memoirs  in some detail Sher Bahadur’s myopic wish to disband Headquarter 4 Corps Artillery and  distribute its units piecemeal  to other formations, just before Grand Slam in which this headquarter played the most decisive role. Luckily two men Brigadier Reilly the Anglo Indian Director Artillery and Brigadier Amjad Choudhry  convinced Gul to take a stand in his capacity as DMO. (Pages-171 & 172-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit). Amjad stated in his book without naming Sher Bahadur (since it was 1976)  that it was the intention of GHQ to  make headquarter artillery 4 Corps do the work of a ‘traffic control centre’.Amjad stated that ‘I argued with him (Gul Hassan) that our corps artillery should not be employed in penny packets. I suggested to him that  if the Corps Artillery was used as a GHQ reserve of firepower, it would enable the GHQ to influence the course of battle in any sector which needed reinforcing. Brigadier Gul Hassan saw my point and agreed with me and and ordered us to concentrate between Wazirabad and Sialkot’ (Page-35-Brig Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit)   .

83Page-170-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

84Page-401-K.C Praval-Op Cit.

85Page-402 & 403-The Indian Armoured Corps-Op Cit and Page-152 & 153-War Despatches-Op Cit.

86 Page-404-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

87Page-171-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

88Page-75 & 76-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.Pakistani armour and infantry officers will never admit this fact.See how armour and infantry fared without artillery support at Bara Pind in 1971 in the same Sialkot area in a scenario where about one Indian tank regiment  and three infantry battalions  humbled three Pakistani tank  regiments and two  infantry battalions!

89Page-6-Pakistan Army Green Book-1992-Op Cit.Major General Mitha in his book/polemic against Gul also mentioned that the senior armoured corps attached to 6 Armoured  Division Headquarter as advisor advised Abrar to withdraw from Chawinda.Mitha has however neither  named the officer who gave this advice nor mentioned the date on which this incident occurred (Pages-38 & 39-Major General A.O Mitha-Op Cit). Brigadier Zaheer Alam Khan in an article stated that  on 15 or 16 September Brigadier Hissam-el Effendi  an otherwise colourful and flashy personality (reputed to have married his British commanding officers wife) ‘ ordered withdrawal of the divisional headquarter (of 6 Armoured Division) when the news about Indian tanks at Badiana was received.Z.A states that Abrar on hearing about this order countermanded it and removed Brigadier Sardar Hissam-el Effendi from 6 Armoured Division’s Headquarters (Page-59- The Way it was-Brigadier Z.A Khan – Defence Journal – Karachi-May-1998).

90Page-22- Article- “Battle of Buttur Dograndi-16/17 September 1965”- Major Shamshad Ali Khan Qaimkhani (Retired)- Defence Journal-April 1998- Karachi.


92Page-404-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.Gurcharan does not state the ‘inexplicable misunderstanding’ as Harbaksh had stated why the tanks   were withdrawn north of  the railway line. (Page-155-War Despatches-Op Cit). See page-496- Fidelity and Honour-Lt Gen S.L Menezes-Viking-India-1993.

93Pages-154 & 155-War Despatches-Op Cit.

94Pages-173 & 174-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

95Page-174-Ibid and Page-405-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

96Page-406-The Indian Armour-OpCit and Pages-158 & 159-War Despatches-Op Cit.

94Page-492 -S.L Menezes-Op Cit.

95Page-70-Musa Khan-Op Cit.

Operation Grand Slam

Grand Slam—
A Battle of Lost Opportunities
Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from WASHINGTON DC does a detailed analysis of Pakistan Army’s attempt to capture AKHNUR in 1965.
The aim of this article is to discuss “Operation Grand Slam” in the overall context of the 1965 War, assessing its strategic significance, and the various controversies surrounding it.
The Kashmir problem shaped the future of Indo-Pak Sub-Continental politics from 1947 onwards and led to the militarisation of India and Pakistan. The Poonch Valley link road connecting Jammu with Poonch Valley, the second largest valley of Kashmir, was a hot favourite military objective of military planners in Pakistan, right from 1947-48. One of the major military objectives of the 1947-48 War was to harass Indian communications around Jammu in areas Akhnur and Kathua.1 Beri Pattan Bridge over River Tawi a few miles south-east of Nowshera on this road was the main objective of a planned Pakistani armoured brigade and infantry brigade attack code named  “Operation Venus” in December 1948.2 As a matter of fact one of the reasons which motivated the Indian Government, in 1948, into requesting for a complete ceasefire may have been its anxiety to avoid a major battle, opposite its communications to the Poonch Valley.3 The Pakistani governments, calling off the projected “Operation Venus”, and acceptance of this ceasefire offer and final ceasefire with effect from night 31 December 1948 and 1st January 1949, was later much criticised in Pakistan. Claims were made that the Pakistani Government agreed to a ceasefire “to the army’s horror” at a time when military victory was within Pakistan’s grasp!4 A Pakistani officer who was then  commanding the infantry brigade strike force tasked to execute “Operation Venus”, much later in 1976 claimed that, had the operation been launched, he could have been in Jammu within 24 hours and into Pathankot and Gurdaspur in the next 24 hours! 5
Thus when “Operation Grand Slam” was conceived and launched in 1965 history was repeating itself and as later events turned out, ironically history repeated itself, in terms of irresolution and indecisiveness on part of Pakistan’s highest military  and political leadership. The bluff self-promoted Field Marshal from a so-called martial area proved himself as indecisive as the Hindustani Muslim Prime Minister of 1948 who was much criticised by many intellectuals in Pakistan6 for indecisiveness and timidity in the 1947-48 War. History repeated itself for the second time in 1999 when a smaller scale military operation was called off in Kargil. The man accused of timidity on this occasion was a Punjabi (Kashmiri) Prime Minister! The 35th anniversary of the 1965 War demands that we in the Indo-Pak Sub-Continent must re-assess the validity of the historical life scripts into which past experiences have programmed us! It is a vain hope since most human beings despite all advancement in civilisation are dominated by absurd urges!
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.35
Indian and Pakistani Force Composition and Plans
Indian Force Composition and Plans. 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:—
8.25 42 : 1Two Battalions of border police   have not been counted as these  were like the Pakistani Rangers. One Indian infantry battalion included in the total i.e the 6/5  Gurkha was deployed at Kali Dhar in the rear and had nothing to do with the fighting on 1st September 1965.
616:1Pakistani tanks were far superior to Indian tanks in terms of firepower, mobility as well as protection.
183.56:1The Pakistani total does not include one anti aircraft battery that enhanced air defence and two regiments of locating artillery which severely  reduced the Indian artillery’s capability to retaliate, by virtue of locating enemy guns and neutralising them by counter  bombardment. Pakistani batteries included nine field batteries, seven medium batteries and two heavy batteries while Indians had three field and a troop of medium guns.
Ad hoc through artillery headquartersSame since 10 Div HQ was newly raised10 Div HQ was brought from Bangalore to Akhnur on 28th August 1965 and was in the raising/formation process.
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 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 10th 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. But then the total effective strength of an armoured regiment is around 400 while that of infantry battalion is around 800. The reader, however, is cautioned not to jump to false conclusions about Grand Slam from this single example. Some units like 14 Punjab lost as few as  3 killed while the total killed of all regular infantry and tank regiments did not exceed the figure of 104 killed.108  The reader may note that the casualties of the 10 Indian Division were 246 killed and 240 missing most of whom were killed.109  On the other hand the fighting on 1st September was in prepared defences and far more difficult than later. Armour’s mishandling was affordable on 1st September 1965 and was improper but not lethal as was the case with change of command on 2nd September.
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
115 (Incl 11 AK Battalions)2/3 Regt38
7 (Including 2 TDU)12 6 1/329
10 (Including 2 TDU)17730
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! n
1 Page-21-Raiders in Kashmir- Ex Major General Akbar Khan, D.S.O-First Printed 1970-Karachi-Reprinted by Jang Publishers-Lahore-1992.Page-214-‘The Nation that Lost its Soul’-Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan-Jang Publishers-Lahore-April 1995. Shaukat Hayat states that Akhnur was an objective assigned to the 1947 irregulars tasked to invade Kashmir from Pakistan in 1947, while Akbar Khan who is relatively more credible states that the objective was Kathua-Jammu Road.
2 Page – 266-‘The Kashmir Campaign’-1947-48-Historical Section-General Staff Branch-General Headquarters-Rawalpindi-1970.
3 Page-295 & 296-The Pakistan Army-1947-1949- Major General Shaukat Riza -Printed by Wajid Ali’s (Private) Limited-Lahore and distributed by Services Book Club-General Headquarters-Rawalpindi-1989. The signal initiated on orders of General Bucher the Indian C in C to General Gracey the Pakistani C in C and signed by Brigadier General Staff Manekshaw was thus worded; “In view of political development my government thinks continuation of moves and countermoves too often due to misunderstanding accompanied by firesupport seems senseless and wasteful in human life besides only tending to embitter feelings. My Government authorises me to state I will have their full support  if I order Indian troops to remain in present positions and to ceasefire. Naturally I cannot issue any such order until I have assurance from you that you are in a position to take immediate reciprocal  and effective action.Please reply, most immediate.If you agree I shall send you by signal verbatim copies of any orders issued by me and I will expect you to do the same”.This signal was dated 30th December and the Pakistani artillery had just bombarded the Beri Pattan Bridge.
4 Page-115- ‘The Story of the Pakistan Army’- Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan-Oxford University -Karachi- 1963. Page-120-‘The Story of Soldiering and Politics in India and Pakistan’-Major General Nawabzada Sher Ali Pataudi-First Published Lahore-1976-Reprinted by Syed Mobin Mahmud and Company-Lahore-1988. Page-117-Akbar Khan-Op Cit. Page-15, 16 & 17-September ‘65-’Before and After’-Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Ferozsons Limited -Lahore-1976. The reader may note that Fazal Muqeems’ book was written in 1963 with the direct blessing of the ruling military clique in Pakistan. Muqeem who was later to criticise Ayub Khan the then Pakistani President, in this book hailed Ayub as Pakistan’s saviour!
5 Page-120-Sher Ali-Op Cit.
6 Page-343- ‘Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan’-S.M Ikram-Shiekh Mohammad Ashraf-Kashmiri Bazar Lahore-Second Edition-July 1965. S.M Ikram was a Punjabi Muslim civil servant whose book is a landmark study of Indian Muslim politics and highlights the Punjabi Muslim point of view about modern Muslim history. His book again had the blessing of Ayub and was reprinted in a revised form at a time when Ayub was involved in a political confrontation with his opponents led by Mr Jinnah’s  sister. As a result Ayub enlisted the services of many paid intellectuals in order to reduce Jinnah’s role in the Pakistani  history  and projection of Iqbal in his place as a greater leader. (Refers-Page-140-‘The Military in Pakistan-Image and Reality’-Brigadier A.R Siddiqi-Vanguard Books Pvt Limited-Lahore-1996).
7Pages-84 to 92-Brigadier A.R Siddiqi-Op Cit. General Gul Hassan Khan who was the Pakistani Director of Military Operations in 1965 and later rose to the post of Pakistan Army’s C in C also thought that in May 1965 the Indian Army’s morale was at its lowest ebb following the Rann Skirmish (Refers-Page-179-‘Memoirs of General Gul Hassan Khan’-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1993). This was also the opinion of Aziz Ahmad the then Foreign Secretary who according to Gauhar was convinced that India could be dislodged from Kashmir by a guerrilla war in which Pakistan Army actively participated (Refers-Page-319-’Ayub Khan-Pakistan’s First Military Ruler’-Altaf Gauhar-Sang-E-Meel Publications-Lahore-1993).
8 Page-321-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
9 Page-36-‘My Version -Indo Pakistan War-1965’-General Musa Khan-Wajid Alis Limited-Lahore-1983-Page-322-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit-Page-183-Gul Hassan-Op Cit.
10 The book enjoyed official patronage and was distributed  to military libraries and units by the Army Education Directorate Edn-4 (Lib). See Note on first page bearing no number-‘Fallacies and Realities’-Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha-Maktaba Fikr-O-Danish  (which has no future in Indo Pak!)-Lahore-1994.
11 Page-43-Ibid. This disproves the theory that the idea about Operation Gibraltar originated from outside the army!
12 Ibid. Mitha does not explain why that angel of a man Ayub later agreed to launch Operation Gibraltar!
13 For Gul’s statement regarding the time when the decision to launch Gibraltar was taken, see Page-116,167 & 168-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit. For Gauhar’s statement regarding Aziz Ahmad’s assessment of the Kashmir situation see Page-319-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
14Annexure-G to GHQ Letter Number 4050/5/MO-1 Dated 29 August 1965.Directive from President Ayub Khan to General Mohammad Musa, Commander in Chief Pakistan Army. Quoted by Stanley Wolpert -Page-91 of main text and page-338 of Bibliographical Notes-‘Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan-His Life and Times’-Stanley Wolpert-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1993.
15 Page-323-Ibid.
16 Page-10-Musa Khan -Op Cit.
17Page-65-‘Pakistan -Bharat Jang-September 1965’- Lieutenant Colonel Mukhtar Ahmad Gillani-142 Harley Street- Rawalpindi-July 1998.
18 Pages-65 & 66-Ibid.
19 Ibid.
20Page-67-Ibid. Colonel Gilani claims that it commenced from 15th August 1965. Musa states that the operation was put into effect from 7th August 1965 (Refers-Page-35-Musa Khan-Op Cit. Gauhar whose authenticity of facts is less reliable since he was a civilian states that all the forces commenced movement from 24 July and reached their destinations (in Indian Held Kashmir) by 28 July 1965 (Refers-Page-323-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit). Brigadier Z.A Khan claims that movement commenced in late July and the ceasefire line was crossed from 1st August 1965, while 7th August 1965 was the date set for commencement of operations (Refers- Page -155-‘The Way it Was’-Brigadier Z.A Khan-Dynavis Private Limited-Pathfinder Fountain -Karachi-1998. The Indian account dates the beginning of infiltration from 5th August (Refers-Page-26- ‘War Despatches’- Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh-Lancer International-New Delhi-1991.) and larger moves from 8/9 August 1965 (refers-pages-30 & 31-Ibid).
21 Page-26-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
22Page-251-‘The Indian Army after Independence’-Major K.C Praval-First Published in 1987-Lancer International-New Delhi-Paperback Edition Reprinted in 1993.
23 Ibid.
24 Page-41- Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
25 Page-36-Ibid
26 Page-38-Ibid.
27 Page-127-‘Behind the Scenes-An Analysis of India’s Military Operations’-1947-71-Major General Joginder Singh-Lancer International-New Delhi-1993.
28 Page-43-Ibid.
29 Pages-105 to 110-‘The Pakistan Army’-War 1965- Major General Shaukat Riza -Printed for Army Education Press by M/S Wajid Alis Limited-Lahore-1984.
30 Pages-104 to 109-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
31 Page-39-Musa Khan -Op Cit and Page-110-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
32Page-111-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit. For Shaukat’s quoting Musa  and Sher Bahadur about danger of loss of Muzaffarabad see Page-113-Ibid.
33 Page-39-Musa Khan-Op Cit.
34Page-344- ‘The Indian Armour-History of the Indian Armoured Corps’-1941-1971- Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-New Delhi-1993.
35 The description of terrain is based on narratives of K.C Praval  and Gurcharan Singh Sandhu op cit, Article-Battle Lore-Breakthrough in Chamb- in Soldier Speaks-Selected Articles from Pakistan Army Journal-1956-1981-Army Education Press-General Headquarters-First Edition-1981.The Battle of Chamb-Lt Col Saeed-Army Education Press-GHQ-1979.
36Page-345-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
37Page-334 and 345-Ibid. For explanation of Code name “Operation Ablaze” see Page-89-Joginder Singh-Op Cit.
38 Page-345-Ibid and Page-36-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
39 Page-345-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
40 Page-26-Joginder Singh-Op Cit.
41 Pages-36 & 37-Ibid
42 Pages-343 & 334-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
43 Page-344-Ibid.
44 Page-345-Ibid and Page-257-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
45 Page-255-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
46 Page-257-Ibid
47 Ibid.
48 Page-104-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
49 Footnote Number One-Page-46-Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Op Cit.
50 Pages114 & 115-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
51 Page-117 & 118-Ibid.
52 Page -297-Gurcharan Singh -Op Cit.
53 Page-39-Musa Khan-Op Cit.
54 Page-48-Amjad Chaudhry -Op Cit..
55 Page-116-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.
56 Ibid. This was achievement of  the indomitable gunner Amjad Chaudhry who was later not promoted for doing well in war ! Amjad was assisted by another extremely able artillery officer Aleem Afridi who was later famous in removing Yahya by threatening him with a march of 6 Armoured Division to Rawalpindi immediately after the surrender at Dacca and later in the Attock Conspiracy case to overthrow Mr Bhutto in 1972.
57 Page-49-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.Shaukat Riza , who was more interested in the artillery aspect of all operations , does not state anything about the delay that was caused due to Burjeal , and its overall negative effect on the overall conduct of operations on the 1st September 1965 , but merely states that “Burjeal had been bypassed  by 13 Punjab” and “Brigadier Zafar ordered  8 Baluch to clear the position forthwith” . (Refers-Page-120-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit).
58 Page-121-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.
59 Ibid.
60 Page-123-Ibid.
61 Page-62-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit . Harbaksh states that this was a “blemish on the fair name of  161 Field Regiment as well as 10 Division” .Also seePage-50-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit. It was  here that Pakistani locating regiments proved their worth by locating Indian guns through modern US sound ranging devices .Chaudhry states that many 25 Pounders of this Indian unit received direct Pakistani artillery shell hits .K.C Praval says it was 14 Field Regiment ( Pages-260 & 261-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit).
62 Page-348-Gurcaharan Singh-Op Cit.
63 Page-60 & 61-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
64 Page-121-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.
65 Ibid.
66 See page-11 of Preface-Brig Gulzar Ahmad-Op Cit.
67 Page-151-Ibid.
68 Page-261-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
69 Page-55-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.
70 Page-61-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
71 Page-124-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.
72 Page-348-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit
73 Page-60-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
74 Page-124-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.
75 Page-62-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
76 Page-131-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit. Auchinlek had passed a message saying “During three days at your advance headquarter, I have seen and heard enough to convince me, though I did not need convincing, that the determination to beat the enemy of your commanders and troops could not be greater, and I have no doubt whatever that he will be beaten . His position is desperate , and he is trying by lashing out in all directions to distract us from our object which is to destroy him utterly.we will not be distracted. And he will be destroyed.You have got your teeth into him.hang on and bite deeper and deeper and hang on till he is finished . give him no rest .The general situation in North Africa is EXCELLENT.There is only one order ATTACK AND PURSUE.ALL OUT EVERYONE. C. AUCHINLECK GENERAL C IN C. (Refers-Pages-312 & 313-The Sidi Rezegh Battles-1941-J.A.I Agar Hamilton and L.C.F Turner-Oxford University Press-Cape Town-1957.
77 Page-64-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.
78 Page-63-Ibid.
79Page-46-Letter from a major from Lawrencepur dated 1st September 1975 to Editor Defence Journal Karachi- Defence Journal-No 11-Decemeber 1975-Volume Number-One-Karachi-1975.
80Pages-13 & 14-Article-Higher Conduct of 1965 War-Brigadier Riazul Karim Khan-Defence Journal-Special Issue-Volume Ten-Numbers-1-2-1984- Karachi.
81 Page-55-Brigadier Chaudhry-Op Cit.
82 Pages-39 & 40-Musa Khan -Op Cit.
83 Page-121-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
84 Explained in detail by Gul-Page-201-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit.
85 Bhutto later implicated Gauhar in a trumped up case on ridiculous grounds i.e possession of a bottle containing about 12 ounces of Scotch Whiskey and an old “Playboy” issue.
86 Remarks of a friend of Mr Bhutto who had served in Burma Shell quoted by Akhund (Memoirs of a Bystander) or Rafi Raza (Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Pakistan) published by Oxford University Press Karachi in 1997. The inability to provide an exact reference is regretted since I lost both the books which I had bought in 1997 and was unable to find a copy to locate the exact page number.
87 Pages-257 & 305-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
88Page-918 to 920-‘Shahab Nama’-Qudratullah Shahab-Sang-E-Meel Publications-Lahore-1994.Shahab who was with Ayub at that time as a civilian staff officer has given a detailed account of this incident. Shahab who later became very religious (as many men in their old age !!!!) was a sycophant par excellence who competed with,but was finally surpassed by  another  in playing the sycophant courtier with Ayub. Qudrat was notorious in sycophancy with Ayub and also wrote the notorious “The New Leaf” that appeared in the Pakistan Times issue of 19th April 1959. (Page-102-Pakistan-Military Rule or Peoples Power-Tariq Ali-Jonathan Cape-London-1970 ). Shahab was also notorious in initiating a campaign against Justice M.R Kayani (Page-4-Preface to M.R Kayani’s collected works by Iftikhar Ahmad Khan-‘The Whole Truth’-M.R Kayani-Pakistan Writers co-operative Society-Lahore-1988).  A case of two typical lower middle class civil servants employing sycophancy as a tool for advancement! Herein lies the secret of success of many Pakistani successful civil servant families who later amassed great wealth despite being from basically humble or middle class background!
89Page-322-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
90Page-367-On War-Edited by Anatol Rapoport-Pelican Books-London-1974.
91Page-321-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
92Page-155-Brig Z.A Khan-Op Cit.
93Page-112-‘The First Round-Indo Pakistan War’-1965-M. Asghar Khan-Islamic Information Services Limited-London 1979.
94“Battle of Chamb”-Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Saeed-Army Education Press-GHQ Rawalpindi-1979.
95Page-45-Letter to the Editor Defence Journal  from Major Khursheed Ahmad (Retired) , Hyderabad-Dated 26 Otober 1975 -Defence Journal-No 11-Decemeber 1975-Volume Number-One-Karachi-1975.
96Page-47-Letter to Editor Defence Journal from Lieutenant Colonel M.R Hassan (Retired) dated 06 October 1975.
97 Page-53 & 54-Amjad Chaudhry -Op Cit.
98 Page-123-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit
99 Page-48-Amjad Chaudhry-Op Cit.
100 Page-255-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
101 Page-61-Harbaksh Singh-Op Cit.
102 Page-349-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
103 Page-118-Major General Joginder Singh-Op Cit.
104 Page-331-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
105 Page-349-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
106 Page-349-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
107 Page-45-History of 11 Cavalry (FF)-Lieutenant Colonel  Khalid Gujjar-Quetta Cantt-1999.
108Calculated from total regular infantry casualties given by Lieutenant Colonel Mukhtar Gilani (Page-109-Colonel Mukhtar Gillani -Op Cit), total casualties of 11 Cavalry (Refers- page-45 of 11 Cavalry History-Op Cit) and total casualties of 13 Lancers i.e 16 killed (Refers-Page-160-Brig Z.A Khan -Op Cit).
109 Pages-404, 405 and 409-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
110 Page-182-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit. Till 18th September this Headquarters was doing nothing sitting in Kharian and in words of Shaukat Riza “engaged in line of communication pursuits”.
111Page-428-Article-Pakistan- ‘Memories of the Early Years’- Lieutenant General Sir James Wilson-in-Army Quarterly and Defence Journal -Volume-120-Issue Number Four-Tavistock Street-London-October-1990.
111aPage-230-Footnote 68-The Pakistan Army Till 1965-Major A.H Amin-P.O Box 13146-Arlington-VA-22219-USA-17 August 1999.
112 Page-187- Jawan to General-General Mohammad Musa- East and West Publishing Company-Karachi-1984.
113 Page-113-Shauakat Riza-1965-Op Cit.
114 Page-114-Ibid.
115 Page-327-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
116 Page-39-‘An Introduction to Strategy’-General Andre Beaufre-Faber and Faber-London-1965. Altaf praised Ayub in the following words; “everyone admired Ayub for giving the operation a real edge and a new dimension” (Page-322-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit).In the Army and Civil Service as in the Corporate Sector the sycophants are always admiring their bosses.Psychologists have concluded that , “Flattery”  pays and it does gets you into better places”. See Pages-321 to 328- of the Research Essay-“Flattery Will Get You Somewhere:Styles and Uses of Ingratiation”-Edward.E.Jones-in Readings About the Social Animal-Edited by Ariel Aronson-W.H Freeman and Company-San Francisco-1973.It is one thing to make a plan on the map and another to execute it.Ayub did not have the “Resolution” to capture Akhnur as we shall discuss in greater detail later.
117 Page-322-Altaf Guahar-Ibid.
118 Page-322-Altaf Gauhar-Op Cit.
119 Page-35 and 36-Musa Khan-Op Cit.

Pakistan and India. The Long View

An awful lot can be said about the India-Pakistan conflict and what is said is heavily dependent on how the writer sees the world and what he or she wants it to become. Now that the latest round of proposed “National Security Adviser Talks” has fizzled, a lot is being said about who is to blame and what to do next. I thought it would be a good idea to just step back a little from the (necessarily and correctly) petty tactical maneuvers behind the talks and their cancellation and look at the (somewhat scary) big picture and then try to see what the possible futures look like. The last section is my personal obsession and can be skipped.
So here goes:

Kashmir is a disputed region that is claimed by both India and Pakistan. Pakistan holds one chunk of Kashmir (now administered as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir) and India hold another. Without going into the details of whose claims are how good and what the UN resolutions really say, let us note one fact: Pakistan wants to change the status quo in Kashmir. India pays lip-service to the notion that it wants the Pakistani part of Kashmir, but in practice India looks like it will go along with keeping the status quo. So as far as Kashmir is concerned, India’s interest is to have Pakistan STOP trying to change the status quo (especially via terrorism or military force; India knows that complaints in international forums and human rights clubs are not a significant issue if kinetic actions cease). Pakistan’s interest on the other hand is to force India to give up its part of Kashmir, i.e. to CHANGE the current borders and administrative arrangements. In this sense the positions are not symmetrical.

Pakistan has tried various things to change the status quo. When India was partitioned, the princely ruler of Kashmir dithered about his choice (whether to join India or Pakistan). At that point, we tried to force his hand by sending in tribal irregulars to grab Kashmir by force (and we nearly succeeded; tribal lashkar were entering Srinagar when the Indian army intervened and pushed them back). After the tribal lashkars were forced back, regular army units joined the fight and both sides fought to a standstill by 1948 and then agreed to take the issue to the UN. Neither side did what the UN resolutions demanded (details vary depending on whom you ask). But the bottom line is that India held one part of Kashmir and we held the other and of course, both sides refused to budge from where they were.

In 1965, we tried operation Gibraltar to “liberate” Kashmir by sending in commandos who were supposed to spark a general uprising. The general uprising never happened and a conventional military offensive (operation Grandslam) was stopped after some early success and led to a short general war (the 1965 war) which was pretty much stalemated when both sides threw in the towel and agreed to a ceasefire. Again, opinions and details vary depending on who you ask, but no one can deny that the borders looked about the same after the 1965 as they did before it, so our attempt to change the status quo had again failed.

In the 1971 war, India defeated our forces in East Pakistan but nothing much changed on the Western front. The status quo in Kashmir remained more or less the way it was before the war (though definitions and fine details of the boundary changed a little and diplomats argue forever about how many angels now dance on which pin).

In the late 1980s a widespread revolt did break out amongst the Muslim population of the vale of Kashmir and in the 1990s we vigorously promoted an Islamist-Jihadist insurgency staffed by Pakistani as well as Kashmiri militants. The revolt and the subsequent Islamist insurgency (the two are not the same, though details and definitions can be argued about endlessly) shook India’s hold on Kashmir for a while and both India and the local population paid a very heavy price, but by 1999 it seemed that the insurgency itself was not going to drive India out of Kashmir and our civilian PM was thinking of making peace. The army stepped in to nip this in the bud and launched a limited war in Kargil, but failed in it’s objectives (tactically and strategically unsound to begin with) and got a bit of a scolding from the Americans in the bargain; always a net negative for us because Uncle Sam has historically paid for a lot of our “national security” upkeep.

In 2001 our brothers in Afghanistan (who provided strategic depth and much more for the Kashmir Jihad) got into trouble with America and were forced to temporarily relocate to Pakistan. Pakistan was also forced to tamp down the Kashmir Jihad in the generally “Jihad-unfriendly” atmosphere that followed and India has been able to use the breathing space to restore some degree of peace in Kashmir. But while we have kept the Jihad on a tight-ish leash (Mumbai 2008 being the biggest, though not sole, exception), we have not shut down the Kashmir branch completely. And of course, we have not changed our “principled stand”. We still want to change the status quo in Kashmir. The problem is, how is that to be done?

Since 2001, there have been several rounds of peace talks and many proposals for a peace settlement in Kashmir. Pakistan is of the view that even though our guerrila and military efforts failed to dislodge India from Kashmir, we still have a good claim on the state and India should agree to a substantial change in the current status quo in order to make peace with us and to have peace in the subcontinent. On the other hand, the dominant Indian view seems to be that since Pakistan has already “tried it’s worst” and failed, it should not expect to receive on the negotiating table what it could not win on the ground by force.

Peaceniks and pragmatists on both sides have proposed that we could agree to keep the status quo on borders (India keeps their Kashmir, we keep ours) but should give substantial autonomy to each side and allow freer movement across the border,so obviating any need to adjust borders and fight wars.

This sound good (and I personally think it is the nearest thing to a doable deal) but hardliners on both sides reject any such deal. At it’s core, the objection from the Indian side is based on lack of trust. Some Indians think they detect a scheme to use autonomy and softer borders to prepare the ground for bigger future demands (supported by an anti-Indian Kashmiri Muslim populace). Extreme Hindutvadis may also feel that any compromise with Pakistan is unacceptable and the long term aim should always be to one day destroy Pakistan and reabsorb it into India (or to absorb at least the Indian half of it, the Afghan and Baloch half are welcome to their own states).

Hardline Pakistanis meanwhile think acceptance of the current boundaries means giving up on the dream of ever seeing a Kashmir united with Pakistan and is a betrayal of the ideals of the Pakistan movement. More to the point, the security establishment feels that if peace comes, can disarmament and loss of domestic power and status be far behind?

Pragmatic peaceniks know that the fears of hardliners are not unfounded. But we do feel that those fears are unhelpful for the bulk of the population and stand in the way of a doable deal that can be made to work for all sides.On peace being prelude to another attempt at taking Kashmir away, well, we would say that India is not run by children. If India could stop us in the 1990s when the world was not so anti-Jihad, when India was poorer, when its armed forces were less equipped and when it’s establishment was at least as corrupt and incompetent, why should it lose control in the future when all these factors may change in India’s favor?

For the Hindutvadis, I would say this. Yes, you may never see the Indus basin, home of the Rig Veda and site of so many historic Sikh and Hindu sites returned to Mother India, but  worse things have happened in history. Maybe you can take it as the price “Mother India” has to pay for having been conquered and ruled by invaders for so many centuries and for not being able to assimilate them into India more fully. Maybe, as Don Corleone said, “there just wasn’t enough time”.. Meanwhile, enough local people were assimilated into the conqueror’s culture to such a degree that they no longer think of themselves as Indian. IF Indian-ness is truly deep rooted and desirable (and this conversion is actually a bad fit for our deeply Indian culture), then their descendants may drift back. If not, maybe it is time to move on.

On the Pakistani side, yes, I think the ideals of the Pakistan movement will be betrayed by such a deal. But really, even you guys cannot seem to agree on what those ideals were in the first place. Maybe the whole partition thing was a bad idea. Why make it worse? It cannot be reversed, but at least it should not be made worse. Let it go. What’s next? 200 million Indian Muslims added to Pakistan?

And yes, if we don’t get Kashmir the coming conflicts over water may find us forced to trust India and international mediation. But the Indus waters treaty has worked for 50 years. If we have peace and increased trust, we may be able to work it out in the future too. In any case, what is the alternative? It’s not like all our attempts to get Kashmir by force have been hugely successful to date. Sure, we would be nicely placed if we owned ALL the rivers from Tibet to the sea, but we don’t. China and India happen to be upstream. But then again, many other nations with rivers that run down from other countries don’t control their destiny all alone. They have to make deals and manage. Deals are easier when you are at peace.

And finally, the security establishment and it’s fear of irrelevancy and demotion: no such luck. This is not a valid fear at all. Guess who will get all the Amul franchises when peace breaks out? Yes, cousin Jimmy and retired Brigadier uncle! Money can be made in many ways. You can make it in peace rather than war. Collect tolls. Distribute movies. Arrange concerts. Set up businesses.You know you can do it. And security? it will be an even bigger headache after we betray the two-nation theory and try to hold Pakistan together for Chinese transit companies and Qingchi makers. Endless Islamist, Baloch and Mohajir insurgencies loom on the horizon. Maybe even a Maoist one will break out if poor people get shafted extra-hard. Your jobs are safe.

This is the case for peace. What is the hardline case?

Note that the two sides do not have symmetrical aims. Pakistan’s aim is to force India to make concessions using the threat of renewed support for Jihadis, Khalistanis, Maoists, NE Separatists etc, to force India to make concessions. India’s aim is to prevent Pakistan from making such an attempt. In order to see decisive change in this respect, India also wants clear and decisive action against the Mumbai attackers. Such action is not just desirable because a heinous terrorist crime was committed and its perpetrators have not yet been punished (though I personally think that is a good aim in itself) but because such action would be the best evidence that Pakistan is no longer committed to the Jihadist option against India. If Pakistan does this, India will almost certainly be willing to make at least a cold peace. Thus, when I speak of an Indian hardline case, I do not mean the extreme Hindutvadi case of wishing to reabsorb Pakistan “with extreme prejudice”.

The Pakistani hardliners case is qualitatively different. We are the party that wants a change in borders or at least some major move towards Kashmiri autonomy that we can accept as a halfway house to union with Pakistan. We have tried to force this change using proxies as well as the regular army and we have (till now) failed. But our hardliners think the failure is not as final as it seems. Our options are still open. Now that America is getting out of our hair, and China wants us more than ever (or so we think), we can deploy the threat of revived Jihad and Khalistan to ask for concessions. If India does not make concessions, we may have to move beyond the threat. Those willing to use these levers (rather than those just wanting to threaten to use them) are probably in a minority even in Pakistan. But the minority has the Paknationalist narrative on their side. So they can get their way because they control the Pakistaniat narrative and when push comes to shove, their opponents cannot muster good arguments without challenging the core narrative. All else being equal, the national narrative wins.

So let us suppose the hardliners win the argument. Do they have a case in the real world? i.e. can they win?

That depends on what weight one assigns to different factors. Pakistan has a proven record of deploying proxies and supporting insurgencies. All talk of Balochistan and MQM notwithstanding, India does not have such a record in West Pakistan. Even though Doval sahib has reportedly said “we can hurt them more than they can hurt us using these same tools”, an objective observer would have to say the edge lies with Pakistan. Our use of proxies has a record of “success”. India’s (in West Pakistan) does not. And Indian internal security institutions are already stretched thin and their state is known to be rickety and inefficient. Advantage Pakistan?

On the other hand, India is the bigger power. It has the bigger armed forces (even if they are weaker pound for pound; I am not saying they necessarily are. Maybe they are not. But the point is that even if they are somewhat less efficient than Pakistan’s armed forces (superior American weapons, less waste and corruption in procurement and weapons systems, higher asabiya??) they are so much bigger that they probably have a conventional edge. What if they actually use that advantage? Well, we don’t know for sure until they do, but these are two nuclear powers, Everyone gets nervous. So the threat of force is in India’s favor, but even India would prefer that it not be put to the test. 

It may be that in a few years India will be in a position to impose penalties with less fear of things getting out of hand (or going unexpectedly badly) but it is not in that position yet (wet dreams of ultranationalist Indian notwithstanding). Even though India may be able to prevail in a conventional confrontation, it will not do so without considerable cost; costs that may set back the economic takeoff that is India’s best chance of breaking out of the glorious poverty that has long defined it.

So, the bottom line is, we don’t know if the hardliners on either side can win. It is best not to put their theories to the test.

Best case scenario: that MNS and his government manage to reach out to Modi and BOTH sides are mature enough to understand that it is in the interest of both nations  not to put the hardline options to the test. Even while MNS is not in a position to bypass GHQ and the Paknationalists, he can arrange for lower profile meetings, smaller deals on trade, tourism and transit,  and other baby steps.. And if things go well and Indian development continues to accelerate then Pakistani economic needs, increasing economic disparity and international pressure may force even GHQ to give up on Kashmir. Then we can think of flashier and bigger peace moves and start dreaming about a South Asian Economic Union.

What will really happen: probably a few more bumpy years, but no serious war. Things will limp along, till peace slowly settles around the exact same borders we have had since 1948.

Finally, a few words about why I regard the hardcore “ideology of Pakistan” as a threat to peace: The Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate is the charter state of “Hard Pakistani Nationalism”. Muslims live in all parts of India and (especially in parts of the South) their presence is not necessarily connected with the Turko-Afghan invasion and colonization of North India. But the Muslim intellectuals that laid the intellectual basis for the struggle for Pakistan saw themselves as the inheritors of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal empire.

This does not mean that the Delhi Sultanate was foremost in the minds of everyone who wanted Pakistan. Not at all. It may not have been the proximate motivation for most of the supporters of Pakistan. Left wingers for example point to the “Muslim salariat” and its fear of being outcompeted by the more educated Hindu middle class. Or at the fears of the North Indian Muslim-feudal elite that had been pampered and protected by the British but that saw unpleasant changes coming in the wake of independence and democracy if Hindu-dominated mass parties came to power. Others have more fanciful theories; e.g. a prominent progressive Pakistani politician has written a book trying to prove that Pakistan was just the natural outcome of “Indus man” going his own way, distinct from the rest of India, as he has always done. Why “Indus Man” was more North Indian Feudal and Bengali than Punjabi (and many other inconvenient facts about history) get in the way of that theory, but the point is, the theory is out there and like most theories (even the silliest ones) there is some evidence for it if that is all you want to look for.

There is even a popular theory that Jinnah never really wanted Pakistan and the demand was more or less a bargaining chip that got out of hand. But hardcore Pakistani nationalists understood then (and understand now) that Pakistan must identify itself with the Turko-Afghan invaders, must reject the previous culture and religion of the inhabitants of this region (as a pre-enlightened state that we gave up once we adopted the superior religion and culture brought in by Islamic invaders),  and must see itself as the “Un-India”; not just a political unit of greater India that happens to be mostly Muslim, but a separate nation that consists of people who do not share a common culture with the rest of India.

This understanding appears, at one level, to be a fringe view. Among Pakistan’s small super-elite the most educated segment consists of Western-educated intellectuals who, like their Indian counterparts, get 90% or more of their knowledge of history, sociology, culture and even religion from Western sources, in Western languages. Among this super-elite, the dominant mode of thought is not “hard paknationalism” or Salafist Islam, it is Eurocentric neo-orientalism (a bad term, I know, but this post is not long enough to accomodate a detailed description, you can guess what I mean), leaning heavily towards postcolonialism and postmodern Marxism. Meanwhile among the barely literate or illiterate masses, the inherited wisdom of their own older cultures (from Pakhtunwali to rural Punjabi values to Sindhi and Baloch culture, with all their subsets and varieties) still guides life far more than any superficial snatches of propaganda they may have picked up from the modern mass media and mass education.

But “Pakistaniat”, based on the Delhi-sultanate-charter-state view that I sketched above, rules supreme in official propaganda, in mass media and especially in modern mass education. This version of Pakistaniat is so ridiculous in the eyes of the Western-educated super-elite commentators that they not only reject it as ridiculous, they find it hard to even take its presence seriously. Their books and articles (and these are, of course, most of the books and articles the highly educated read, within Pakistan and even more so, outside of it) do not engage with this Pakistaniat because “the eye cannot see what the mind does not know”. But enough about them. We can see this paradigm in operation if we wish, and it turns out to be the one guiding our foreign ministry, our defence services and our intelligence agencies. It is the historical myth promoted in our educational institutions. And it is the one we use when we name our most important weapons. It is a framework that matters. Not the only one, but very much an important one. And critical when it comes to relations with India. You can see more on this topic in my previous posts here and here, but it is easy to see why this narrative to the extent that it remains a real factor in Pakistani opinion, is a hurdle to peace. ..

I believe the Indian secular state narrative is not a mirror-image obstacle to peace. The hard-Hindutva narrative does have the potential to obstruct peace (not just because of what it says about Pakistan but because it raises the possibility of new partitions within India), but it is not yet the official core narrative of the Indian state and until it becomes so it is not the equivalent of the Paknationalist story. And no, I don’t think the election of Modi constitutes such a point in itself; even Modi pays lip service to secular democratic India, and in these things “lip-service” is the point; it sets the parameters for public debate and restrains excesses. A lot of what is still powerful in our religious culture (fanaticism, unwillingness to marry across religious boundaries, inability to tolerate literary and artistic expressions considered offensive, etc) is restrained by this modern Western import. At some point our modernizing indigenous culture will meet the decaying karma of British liberalism and hopefully this union will occur in a happy zone and not in the dumps. But until then, this Western liberal import is a positive factor that India maintains closer to the modern ideal than we do. And that is why their national narrative can live with the present borders, but ours finds it harder to do so because ours demands more than what we got in 1947.

PS: A couple of clarifications (since people have asked)
1. Don Corleone saying “there wasn’t enough time”. That quote is from the famous garden scene in The Godfather (see below at 2 minute onwards). The thought I had in my mind was that by 1800 the Turko-Afghan colonization of India had run out of steam. Large areas of India were dominated by the Sikhs and the Marhattas and the remaining Turko-Afghan elite were so Indianized that the thought of going home or asking for reinforcements from Central Asia was dying out. At the same time, much of India was pulling ahead of Central Asia in warmaking technology and even in Asabiya (clearly illustrated by the fact that the Sikh Kingdom ruled parts of Afghanistan instead of vice versa; a fact that gifted those parts to West Pakistan 😉 ). It was the British who froze the North Indian Muslim elite in place and allowed visions of “our greatness till the British came along” to take hold. Given more time, Indians (Hindus, Sikhs AND Muslims) may have fought over many things, but none of the rulers would have imagined they were Central Asian any more.

2. A number of friends have objected to my characterization of “extreme Hindutvadis” as desiring an eventual reabsorption of the Indus valley into Greater India. Two points: One, I did say “EXTREME Hindutvadis”. I am well aware that most Indians would prefer not to add to their current headaches by absorbing Pakistan into India. But the dreamers are out there. Take my word for it 🙂
Two: even the extreme ones rarely imagine a straightforward reunion of current West Pakistan with India. The idea is more like “you, being wrong in so many ways, will fall apart. All sorts of shit will happen. Then the kids may come home crying to mama”. I am not saying this will happen, just reporting that its out there 🙂

3. Others are offended that I have not mentioned the desires of the Kashmiri people. I think the desires of the Kashmiri people are rather mixed-up at this time. First of all, the Hindus and Buddhists would prefer to stay in India. The Muslim majority may wish to leave India, but it is not clear that a majority now want to go to Pakistan. That leaves independence and neither India nor Pakistan will permit that and both are strong enough to prevent it. Case closed.

4. About my “optimistic” best case scenario, see more here. It would have made this post too long (though the link is an old post, some of which I may modify if written today).

Everyone has a plan ’till they get
punched in the mouth. (
Mike Tyson)

Post post-script: Friend and uber-intellectual Ali Minai added a comment that I am posting here in its entirety:
I would make two additional points:

1. There is another sense in which the Kashmir situation is asymmetrical, though you do allude to this indirectly. There is a real separatist movement in Indian Kashmir with real buy-in from a significant (possibly growing) segment of the population. There is no such separatist challenge on the Pakistani side. Thus, in real terms, Kashmir is a much more “actual” problem for India than for Pakistan. It is true that Pakistan has failed to change the status quo of the borders, but the price of that “failure” has been paid more by India than Pakistan – if we do not count the jihadi menace afflicting Pakistan now as part of that cost. As long as this calculus obtains, I don’t see the true decision-makers on the Pakistani side budging. India may think it can counter this by supporting separatism elsewhere in Pakistan, but it just isn’t the same.

2. The hysteria created by the Indian TV news media is truly a phenomenon in its own right. There is a corresponding process in Pakistan, but it pales in comparison. This may have gone into overdrive post-Mumbai, but is not caused by that horrific event. I have been watching the evolution of this ultra-hyper-super-duper-nationalist media in India with considerable horror for many years since long before Mumbai. Unlike the jingoism in the Pakistani media which is: a) mostly incompetent; and b) leavened by a fair amount of serious punditry, a lot (not all) of the TV news media on the Indian side is superficial and “Fox-y”. The print media, in contrast, is much better – better than Pakistan’s – but we all know that print is dead 🙂

Both you and I recently had a more-or-less friendly twitter argument with a well-known Pakistani anchor/pundit who thought that India may soon go the way of Nazi Germany. In my opinion (and yours, I think), that is absolute crap. It just cannot happen in India, with its huge population, its diversity, its inherent tumult, its philosophical traditions, its socioeconomic stratification, etc. However, India, Pakistan, and any other country, can be subject to nightmare transformations. Some would say that it has already happened in Pakistan, but such nightmares are possible also in India. It’s hard to predict what the form will be – it will definitely not be Nazi Germany! – but the danger is limitless with the involvement of two nuclear states. The world can barely survive a dysfunctional Pakistan; it cannot survive a dysfunctional India. As such, India has a greater responsibility to remain serious, gracious and sagacious even in the face of provocation. When it too turns to provocation, I think it is time for everyone to get very nervous.

I think a serious case can be made that we are at the beginning of a great worldwide “unravelling” –  brought on by climate change, demographic pressures, terrorism, etc., all feeding into each other. Perhaps in a hundred years, the period when liberal democracy thrived in half the world and the rest aspired to it will be seen as a quaint interlude in a multi-millennia history of war, misery, oppression and autocracy. But that hasn’t happened yet, and what occurs between India and Pakistan may be one of the most important determinants of its likelihood.


Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas Shaheed and Flt Lt Mati ur Rahman Shaheed. Heroes.

Matiur rahman.jpg

On August 20 1971 Flight Lt Mati ur Rahman and Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas died in the crash of a T-33 jet trainer near the Sindh coastline, 32 miles on the Pakistani side of the border with India. BOTH pilots were awarded the highest gallantry award available. Pakistan awarded the Nishan e Haider to Pilot officer Minhas and (2 years later) the newly independent state of Bangladesh awarded Flt Lt Rahman the Bir Sreshto, the highest gallantry award in BD. Educated Pakistanis are likely to know why Rashid Minhas is a hero (though some of the details they learned are less certain than the popular stories imply). Meanwhile it is my impression that even educated Bangladeshis are not as informed about Matiur as we are about Minhas. So here, as a public service, is what we know about this episode.

When the Pakistani army launched operation Searchlight in March 1971, the aim was to crush the movement for Bengali autonomy with overwhelming and decisive force. As a first step in the crackdown, the Bengali military and paramilitary units in East Pakistan were disarmed (and in several cases, most egregiously in Comilla, massacred en masse in the next few days). Those who got wind of the crackdown revolted and grabbed what territory they could (most successfully in Chittagong, which was mostly overrun by Bengali troops and where Major Zia ur Rahman was able to announce the independence of Bangladesh from the radio station) before the West Pakistani troops were able to bring superior numbers and firepower to bear and drive them out. Those who escaped capture or execution went to India where (with Indian help) they organized the Mukti Bahini and started a guerrilla war in East Pakistan.

Bengalis serving in the armed forces in West Pakistan were not subject to arrest or execution and the steps taken against them varied very widely. But partly because the autonomy movement did have very wide support and partly as a reaction to the extreme harshness of the crackdown, they were also overwhelmingly pro-Bangladesh. A few of them went to great lengths to escape from West Pakistan (e.g. via Kabul, or even by the hazardous route of sneaking across the Kashmir or Sialkot border into India) to join the nascent Bangladeshi resistance in India but given the difficulties involved, most remained, albeit unhappily, on their jobs. Many were reassigned to duties where they would not have access to sensitive materials or weapons, while some continued to perform their usual duties and a few were genuinely loyal to Pakistan and did all they could to convince their superiors of the same and aggressively participated in the West Pakistani war effort when permitted to do so.

Pilots serving in the Air Force were generally reassigned to ground duties. Several Bengali officers serving in Masroor airbase in Karachi were assigned to such duties and were supposed to be kept away from flying. One can get some idea of the intensity of nationalist feeling aroused in them from the fact that the entire group started trying to figure out what, if anything, they could do to play their part in Bengali resistance. They knew there were being watched by intelligence, so they did not discuss politics or make plans in any obvious meeting. Instead, they would discuss plans in short snatches in the course of normal work activities while appearing to be discussing work-related matters. Flt Lt Mati ur Rahman was assigned as deputy flight safety officer, an assignment that allowed him into the flight area a bit more than the others. He and his friends decided that he would try to hijack an aircraft and take it to India. Sneaking into and starting a fighter aircraft without ground crew assistance was practically impossible, so they decided he would hijack a T-33 jet trainer when it was being taken for a solo flight by one of the junior trainees. His fellow officers were to take his wife and infant daughters to the Indian consulate while he carried out his plan (this did not actually happen, the family was arrested but later released and repatriated). They themselves would face whatever consequences came their way. He apparently obtained a replica pistol that was recovered from the wreckage, so it seems that the hijacking was to be carried out using that weapon.

On the morning of the hijacking, young pilot officer Rashid Minhas was going for the second solo flight of his short carrier. As he started to taxi towards the main runway, Matiur drove his Opel Kadett to a point on the taxiway where it was obscured by some bushes and where his actions were not visible to the air-traffic control. No one knows exactly what happened on that taxiway, but it is assumed that he signalled the young officer to stop and seeing the deputy flight safety officer on the taxiway, the young pilot naturally stopped his plane. It is assumed that Matiur than climbed on to the aircraft and got into the instructor’s seat behind Rashid. He may have used his replica pistol to order Rashid to take off. In some versions put out later (for example, in the TV movie made by PTV with Air Force assistance) Rashid is knocked out using chloroform and hit repeatedly by Matiur, but there is no proof of either occurrence.

 What we do know is that the plane headed out to the runway with both of them on board and that Rashed was able to send out a message saying he was being hijacked. Given the unexpected nature of the call and the occurrence, it is no surprise that air traffic control took a few minutes to figure out what was happening and by the time the order to scramble interceptors was given, the T-33 had already disappeared flying close to the ground where it was not visible to radar. Matiur was aware of the gaps in radar coverage and may have used that knowledge but nothing is known for sure about what happened on that flight during this time. In any case, the Sabre jets scrambled to intercept the T-33 never caught sight of it.

Ground control and the airborne Sabres did try to radio Rashid to eject, knowing that he could actually eject BOTH pilots (with the rear seat pilot being ejected first) thus ditching the aircraft and bringing an end to the affair. But for whatever reason, he never did that (or never got a chance to do that).

But just 32 miles short of the Indian border, something did happen. According to eyewitnesses on the ground, the aircraft seemed to fly erratically before it crashed into the ground, killing both pilots. Later investigation showed that Rashid went through the instrument panel at the point of the crash, indicating that he had been in his seat inside the aircraft when it hit the ground. But Matiur Rahman’s body was found some distance away and seemed to have been thrown out of the aircraft while it was in flight at high speed. The cockpit canopy was found some distance away and forensic examination indicated that it had flown off in flight and hit the tail section at high speed. This has led to the conjecture that Rashid opened the canopy deliberately, pulling Matiur out of his seat (he was not strapped in because the rear seat harness is locked away during solo flight). That Matiur was squatting on the seat without a cushion may also have impeded his ability to control the aircraft (he was without a seat cushion because in the T-33 the pilot’s parachute IS the seat cushion and he did not have one). The aircraft has dual mechanically linked controls, so neither party can override the other completely without a struggle and both can interfere with the flight.

A few hours later, Karachi airbase learned that their missing plane was down within Pakistan and rescue choppers headed out for the wreckage (and the base commander probably heaved the biggest sigh of relief ever heaved east of Suez). The next day the air chief went to see President Yahya and recommended that Rashid be given a Sitara e Jurat (the third highest gallantry award in Pakistan), to which Yahya replied “Why Sitara e Jurat? Give the boy the Nishan e Haider!”.  Meanwhile Matiur Rahman’s body was brought back to Karachi and buried in a graveyard near the airbase. Naturally, he was also vilified as a traitor and backstabber.

It seems as if there was not much notice taken in East Pakistan until 2 years later, when the young Republic of Bangladesh gave him its own highest gallantry award and later named the Jessore airbase in his honor. After a long campaign by a small but determined band of Bangladeshi nationalists, his body was finally brought to Bangladesh in 2006 and buried in the martyred intellectuals graveyard in Dhaka with full honors.

Nobody is certain if a struggle actually occured on that plane. It seems likely that there was a struggle, but there are other theories, including one that says the canopy blew off because the pilots forgot to lock it, this pulled the un-belted (and squatting) Matiur out of the plane and led to a crash, with no need to posit a struggle.

In any case, both were treated as heroes by their respective countries.

Feel free to add comments with information that may change or add to this story.

Much of this account is derived from Kaiser Tufail’s excellent blog post on this topic. which I reproduce below. In addition, i have used a report from Cecil Choudhry (also reproduced below), another usually reliable and relatively objective source.
I remember reading a longish article from (or based on the account of) one of the Bengali officers who was with Matiur at Masroor Airbase, but cannot remember where it was published. If anyone knows what I am talking about, please comment.

The T-33 seat, with and without the parachute used as seat cushion. Explains why Matiur did not have an easy flying job ahead of him.

Matiur Rahman’s daughter prays at his grave in Pakistan in the 1990s.

Khaleda Zia at the state funeral in 2006

another picture of Rashid Minhas

 “Bluebird-166 is Hijacked” By Kaiser Tufail 

“Why only a Sitara-i-Jur’at?  The boy deserves nothing less than a  Nishan-i-Haider,” retorted President Yahya Khan as PAF’s C-in-C, Air Marshal A Rahim Khan informed him of the hijacking incident that had taken place hours before.[1]  The Air Chief, who was hosting the President at lunch in Peshawar on 20 Aug, 1971, had recommended the lesser award, but was pleased to know that the PAF was being honoured with its first Nishan-i-Haider.[2]  The same day, announcement of the highest gallantry award was made.  In deference to the hallowed nature of the award, the Board of Inquiry into the aircraft accident was suspended and, eventually scrapped without finalisation.  The final moments of the flight of the hijacked T-33 have, therefore, been open to more than one interpretation over the years.  This write-up looks at some officially recorded vital bits of evidence (indicated in bold-face text), to reconstruct what really happened.

In the aftermath of the military crackdown that started in East Pakistan on 25 March 1971, the Bengali pilots in the PAF were grounded for fear of an adverse reaction.  As the situation became more complex and war clouds started gathering, it was felt prudent to withdraw the flying clothing and equipment of Bengali aircrew, with hijacking of aircraft being precisely one of the fears.

The Bengali pilots at PAF Base Masroor (Karachi), sensed the surveillance cover of Intelligence Units and agreed not to meet collectively.  It was decided that a charade of friendly relations with the Base personnel would be maintained, and any kind of protest avoided to the utmost.  In the meantime, short, meaningful meetings would be conducted in the course of normal activities.  The consensus on hijacking an aircraft to India emerged in no time, with the underlying thought being that the incident would call world attention to the cause of Bangladesh freedom movement.  It was also agreed that the backlash of the hijacking would be borne with fortitude by the remaining Bengalis.[3]

At first, the Bengalis mulled hijacking one or more F-86 Sabres, but the mere presence of a Bengali pilot on the tarmac would have been viewed with suspicion.  Besides, starting up a jet aircraft without help from ground crew and support equipment was a difficult proposition.  How about sneaking into an already started one – a two-seater being flown by a single pilot?  The idea sounded enticing, because gullible students going for their solo missions in the T-33 at No 2 Squadron seemed easy prey.  Students would surely obey any instructor’s command from outside, especially if it had something to do with aircraft safety.  A visual signal for a fuel or hydraulic leak, a flat tyre, even a finger pointed generally at the aircraft would get an immediate response from the student.  Chances were that the student could be sufficiently alarmed through hand signals about some external malfunction with the aircraft, and he would stop to find out more about the problem.

Flt Lt Matiur-Rehman had been an instructor in No 2 Squadron till he and his Bengali colleagues were grounded soon after the start of the counter insurgency operation in March. He was, however, given charge of the Ground Safety Officer with a mandate to check malpractices in aircraft maintenance and operations, thus authorising him to move around on the flight lines and tarmacs in an official transport.  Given his affability and, his wife’s friendliness with neighbourhood ladies, Matiur-Rehman was considered the least likely of the Bengalis to arouse suspicion.  He fitted the plot perfectly.  Apprehensions about the safety of his wife and two daughters were allayed by his Bengali colleagues when it was decided that the family would be moved, with prior coordination, to the Indian Consulate in Karachi, before the Hijack Day.[4]

Relaxing in the squadron crew room, Minhas ordered his Mess breakfast to be heated.  He could take his time to eat comfortably as he was not scheduled to fly that day, the visibility being poor for solo flying by students. Those scheduled for dual flying were busy checking their mission details, so as to prepare the briefing boards and get the pre-mission briefing from their instructors. One of them noted the scheduling officer adding Minhas’ name on the scheduling board for a ‘Solo Consolidation’ mission.[5]  The change in scheduling took place as the visibility had improved and students were cleared to fly solo.  This was conveyed to Minhas who was waiting for his breakfast in the Squadron tea bar.  He jumped up, half-excited, half-prepared and proceeded to get the mission details. After being briefed by his instructor Flt Lt Hasan Akhtar, Minhas quickly gathered his flying gear.  Breakfast had to wait, but Minhas hastily gobbled up a couple of gulaab jamans, the pilots’ favourite high-energy snack. He also shared a few swigs of a cold drink with his course-mate Plt Off Tariq Qureshi, before he headed to the flight lines to make good his 1130 hrs take-off time.  “That was the last we saw of him, munching snacks on his way out,” recalls Qureshi. Preliminaries and start-up was uneventful as the T-33, with the call sign ‘Bluebird-166,’ taxied out of the main tarmac.

In the meantime Matiur-Rehman, who had earlier checked the students’ flying schedule during a brief visit to the squadron, sped off in his private Opel Kadett car to the north-eastern taxi track that led out of the main tarmac. The sides of the taxi-track had thick growth of bushes, which concealed his position both from the ATC tower as well as the tarmac. As the aircraft approached, he was able to stop it on some pretext, as expected.  Seeing the instructor gesturing, Minhas must have thought that some urgent instruction was to be conveyed. After all, his mission had been scheduled as an after-thought, and something might have gone amiss in the haste.  He expected Matiur-Rehman to plug in his headset and talk to him on the aircraft inter-com.  Not encumbered by his flying gear (parachute, anti-G suit, life jacket and helmet), Matiur-Rehman easily stepped on to the wing and slipped into the rear cockpit through the open canopy.[6]

Squatting on a seat without a parachute (which also doubled as a seat cushion), Matiur-Rehman was in an awkward position to properly control the aircraft himself.[7] To compel the student to follow his instructions would have required the threat of use of lethal force; else, the student could have turned back, or just switched-off the aircraft.  A replica pistol recovered later from the wreckage explains Minhas’ predicament.[8]

At 1128 hrs, ATC Tower received Minhas’ call: “Bluebird-166 is hijacked!”  In the rough-and-tumble that followed, the T-33 got airborne from Runway 27 (heading 270°), at 1130 hrs.  The aircraft turned left, (a non-standard turn out of traffic) and started steering 120°.  It was seen to be descending down to low level and, in no time, disappeared from view.  Two more frantic calls, “166 is hijacked,” were the last that were heard from the T-33.

Not sure if he had heard it right, Flt Lt Asim Rasheed, the duty ATC officer understood what was going on only when the aircraft did an abnormal turn out of traffic and ducked down very low. Asim called up the Sector Operations Sector (SOC) to inform about the unusual incident; however, when the Sector Commander started asking for details, a quick-witted Asim dropped the phone to save precious time and called up the Air Defence Alert (ADA) hut.  “A T-33 is being hijacked. Scramble!” he ordered. Wg Cdr Shaikh Saleem, OC of No 19 Squadron, who had just arrived in the ADA hut after inspecting the flight lines, immediately rushed to the nearby F-86s along with his wingman, Flt Lt Kamran Qureshi.  Kamran, the sprightlier of the two, got airborne first, with the leader following closely; the pair was airborne within the stipulated time. The SOC had, however, no clue about the T-33’s position as it had descended to the tree tops and was not visible on radar.  In any case, about eight minutes had already elapsed since the T-33’s  take-off, and the scrambled pair of F-86s would not have been able to catch up before the border, even at full speed.  Some more critical time was also wasted when the F-86 pair was mistakenly vectored onto a B-57 recovering from Nawabshah after a routine mission.[9]

After a while, another pair of F-86s led by Flt Lt Abdul Wahab with Flt Lt Khalid Mahmood as his wingman, was scrambled. Wahab, who had been watching the unusual departure of the T-33 from outside the pilots’ standby hut, recalled later, “We knew something was wrong, we had seen the aircraft taxiing dangerously fast. After we got airborne, there was a lot of confusion. Nonetheless, we gave fake calls on ‘Guard’ channel that the F-86s were behind the T-33 and, it would be shot down if it did not turn back. However, with no real prospects of scaring Matiur-Rehman with warning bursts from the F-86’s guns, the only option that remained was to order Minhas to eject.  A flurry of radio calls then started, asking Bluebird-166 to eject.  There was no response, but the calls continued for several minutes, being repeatedly transmitted by the F-86s, as well as the SOC.”[10]

Crash site is roughly in centre of picture
The situation remained confused and it was apprehended that the hijack might have been successful.  The prevailing uncertainty was cleared up in the afternoon, when a phone call was received from Shah Bandar that a plane had crashed nearby and the aircrew had not survived.  The Base search and rescue helicopter was launched immediately and it was able to locate the wreckage at a distance of 64 nautical miles from Masroor, on a heading of 130°.  The tail of the T-33 showing its number 56-1622 could be seen sticking out in water-logged, soft muddy terrain at the mouth of Indus River, just 32 nautical miles short of the border. Estimated time of the crash was 1143 hrs.

Minhas’ body was found still strapped in the seat, 100 yards ahead of the wreckage, while Matiur-Rehman’s body was found clear of the seat, lying further ahead.  Both ejection seats had been thrown clear of the aircraft on impact and, there seemed no sign of ejection. The location of Matiur-Rehman’s body away from the ejection seat indicates that he was not strapped up, having being unable to free the stowed harnesses after he had hurriedly stormed into the cockpit.[11]

Investigators were baffled when the canopy was found to have a prominent scrape mark of the tailplane, while the tailplane was correspondingly dented by the canopy.  Normally, during ejection sequence or jettison of canopy alone, the canopy would have been rocketed up and, would have cleared the tail by a wide margin (this being the very purpose of the rocket thruster).  Now it seemed that the canopy had merely inched up into the airflow and had been blown into the tailplane.  Could Minhas have actuated the canopy opening lever to throw the unstrapped rear seat occupant overboard, and then safely recover the aircraft?[12] A proper procedure, though, would have been to use the canopy jettison lever which would have rocketed the canopy well clear of the tailplane. In the heat of the moment, it seems that Minhas did what came naturally to him.[13]

The massive canopy hitting the elevator would have deflected it downwards, causing a sudden nose-down attitude at a precariously low height.  Minhas would have then yanked back on the controls to prevent the aircraft from going into the ground.  The sudden and violent pitch-up – which was confirmed by eyewitnesses – resulted in the aircraft stalling out.  This is partially corroborated by the wreckage report of aircraft flaps found in the down position, implying a desperate need for vital lift to prevent stalling.  The rather flat attitude in which the aircraft fell, as well as the compact spread of the wreckage, also confirms the stalled condition of the aircraft.

Confronted with a very complex situation requiring quick thinking and steel nerves, Minhas was eventually able to counter Matiur-Rehman’s cunning design.  Despite having the option of ejecting safely, and in the course of action also tossing out the hijacker who did not have a parachute, Minhas ostensibly tried to save the aircraft. Sadly, the unusual attempt at opening the canopy had resulted in a chain of uncontrollable events that eventually caused the crash. Nonetheless, Minhas did manage to prevent the aircraft from being hijacked to an enemy country, laying down his life in the process.  He was destined to become the youngest star on Pakistan’s firmament of valiant heroes.  May Allah bless his soul and may his Nishan-i-Haider be an inspiration for the future defenders of Pakistan.

Cecil Choudhry’s account:

A few months back I had the opportunity along with a friend to spend an evening with Group Captain (R) Cecil Chaudry. Obviously the time was spent discussing his experiences. As it turned out Cecil was responsible for investigating the Rashid Minhas crash back in 1971 and told us a some details which are not known publicly.

The episode has become controversial over the past few decades with some people claiming that the Nishan-e-Haider award was politically motivated and perhaps the young Pilot Officer never deserved it. Also the media and school books information/portrayal of this episode has created some factual distortions. In the interest of hi story I am reproducing here substantially what Cecil told me about the incident. Obviously given that this discussion took place quite sometime back I do not remember his narration word to word but am reproducing the essential information. Also, I do not claim to have done any independent investigation but I believe that Cecil’s narration of events is an important input.

Now coming to the story,

It is important to remember that Rashid Minhas was a very young and inexperienced pilot. The crash took place during his second solo flight on T-33 aircraft. In the run up to the 1971 crisis the PAF had grounded all East Pakistani pilots in PAF and had assigned them ground jobs. As part of this Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman was made the Deputy flight safety officer of the base. The Flight Safety Officer was Flt Lt Basit (if I remember the name correctly).

Flt Lt Basit as FSO used to on occasions do surprise checks on the OCU students at the base. As part of this he used to stop these students while they were taxing out on a sortie and check if they had correctly stowed equipment in the cockpit or would query them on emergency checklists etc. As one would expect the student would get reprimanded if he was found wanting on any of this.

On the day of the crash when Rashid Minhas was taxing out on a dusk training sortie and saw Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman (Deputy Flight safety officer) signalling him to stop he naturally assumed that the purpose was to do a similar check. Therefore, he not only stopped but his attention shifted to the cockpit. This allowed Flt Lt Mati ur Rehman to enter the instructor seat and initiate roll for take off. By the time Rashid Minhas realized this the aircraft was well into the take off sequence. On this Rashid gave a call to the ATC saying that the aircraft is being hijacked. Now this was 1971, aircraft hijacking was not considered an imminent possibility that too in Pakistan and at an air force base. The ATC requested confirmation of the call and got one from Rashid. On this fighters on ADA were scrambled to intercept the aircraft Again as hostilities were not imminent at that time the fighters were not at the highest ADA level (I forget exactly the ADA level Cecil mentioned but I think that it was 10 minutes). However given that Mati ur Rehman knew where the Radar gaps were (being till recently an active pilot) and the dusk conditions an interception was not made.

No further information became available till late at night when the PAF base got a call from a police station near the Indian border stating that an aircraft had crashed near a village bordering India. Next morning a team was dispatched to the crash site. Following this an investigation into the incident was launched.

Now coming to the factors that led Cecil to believe that a struggle for control took place and the crash was perhaps intentional.

As the aircraft overflew a number of villages some eyewitnesses were available. According to them the aircraft was not flying straight and level but was banking or pitching up and down. If Mati ur Rehman had been in complete control of the aircraft this would have resulted in a straight and level flight. Only a struggle resulted in an erratic flight with probably Rashid Minhas trying to control the aircraft in one way and Mati ur Rehman counter acting.

Fl Lt Mati ur Rehman’s body was found some distance before the crash site while Rashid Minhas body was at the crash site, had gone through the instrument panel and in the nose of the aircraft. The aircraft had crashed nose first. Mati ur Rehman’s body also had a sand blasting type effect on one side which indicated that he was blown off from the aircraft and dragged quite a bit on the desert surface.

This evidence linked in with the earlier events. The manner in which Mati ur Rehman took over the aircraft did not allow him time to strap on. During the likely struggle for aircraft control he used his greater experience to counter Rashid’s efforts. Also he was sitting on the instructor’s seat and could over ride some of Rashid Minhas’s actions. However, the option to jettison off the canopy in an emergency was available with both pilots. Near the point of crash Rahid Minhas in his efforts, either intentionally or accidentally, jettisoned the canopy. As Mati ur Rehman was not strapped on he was blown off explaining the way his body was injured and the fact that it was found before the crash site.

This resulted in sudden force on the controls of the aircraft in one direction, as force applied by Mati ur Rehman to control the aircraft was removed. This along with perhaps the effect caused by the loss of canopy, low level and Rashid Minhas’s inexperience resulted in the crash of the aircraft.

I hope this clarifies some of the issues regarding this incident. Personally I would like to get hold of the PAF‘ official investigation report into the incident which should be more detailed and should also shed more light into the incident.



Poetic Perversion

Orya Maqbool Jan,
who is one of Pakistan’s best-known right-wing pundits, has turned his
attention to the heartbreaking
scandal of massive child abuse in the town of Kasur
. For those who may not
be up on this tragic affair, it has been reported that a local ring in the area
south of Lahore has been abducting children, abusing them, and using videos of
the abuse to blackmail the parents into silence while selling the videos to
consumers of child pornography. There are also allegations about the complicity
of the local police and politicians, and at least two police officials have
been disciplined so far. After the scandal broke in the media, the furor has
led to the government appointing a commission to “investigate” the whole
affair, but people are understandably skeptical. Meanwhile, there has been a
deluge of social analysis and much national soul-searching about the factors
that allowed such an unspeakable horror to go on for years. Of course, this is
not the first such incident – the previous
was, if anything, even more chilling – and reports of related evils
such as honor killings, bride burning, rape, etc., are all too common across
the whole region, not just in Pakistan. But it is natural for decent people to
ask: How could this happen in our society? Well, finally the wisdom of Mr. Orya
Maqbool Jan has produced
an answer
: It’s our literature. Oh, not trashy, pulp literature that gets
sold on the streets and gets serialized in the papers that pay Mr. Jan’s
salary, but the “high literature” of Urdu and Persian, a thousand years in the
making and recognized the world over as one of the great creations of the human
intellect. That literature, according to Mr. Jan, is so poisoned with
pederasty, so steeped in lust for young flesh, that it was but a matter of time
before something like the Kasur incidents happened. With uncharacteristic
restraint, he does not prescribe a remedy, but there’s a strong implication
that book burnings would be a good first step.

Mr. Jan’s article is in Urdu, and though many readers of this blog cannot
read it, I do not find in myself the will to translate it. Rather, having
summarized its core theme, I intend to use it as an occasion to comment on the
issue it raises as a dedicated consumer of the literature that Mr. Jan
excoriates. In particular, he points the finger of blame towards Urdu’s “god of
poetry”, Mir Taqi Mir, eighty-six percent of whose work, according to Mr. Jan,
is steeped in the evil of pederasty. Others who merit mention by Mr. Jan
include the great Persian master, Hafez Shirazi, and with a jump of a few
hundred years, the 20th century Urdu poet, Firaq Gorakhpuri, and the
great Urdu short-story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto. Two pious poets who get
praised for avoiding the filth are the great dreamer of geopolitical dreams,
Iqbal, and Altaf Hussain Hali, who, despite writing some great romantic poetry
himself, also predicted that most poets in his literary tradition were headed
to hell. Presumably, he did not wish to include in this list his beloved
mentor, Ghalib, on whose death he wrote the
most moving elegy
in the Urdu canon.

My first reaction upon reading Mr. Jan’s article was to feel sorry for him. Presented
with the vast and profoundly beautiful tradition of classical Farsi and Urdu
poetry, all he chooses to see in it is filth! However, like all bad analysis
based on unwarranted generalization, his article too contains a grain of truth.
Once you get past the odious hectoring, the ridiculous conflation of
homosexuality with pedophilia, the profound misunderstanding of romantic
expression in the classical poetic tradition, and just plain ignorance, the
author does have a very small point.
There is, indeed, a minor thread of pederasty that runs through the cultural
traditions underlying our beautiful poetry, and it does occasionally surface in
the poetry itself. But contrary to the implication in this article, it is not a
central theme – not even a significant marginal theme – in the literature. At
most, it is an occasional reference, and that too driven more by convention
than actual practice.

Much can be written on the long-standing prevalence of the evil practice of
pederasty across the world and about its seepage into literature, but here I
will focus on the issue of the poetic and linguistic confusions promoted by the
article at hand.

Mr. Jan refers to Hafez’ famous couplet

agar an tork-e sheeraazi ba-dast aarad dil-e maa raa
ba-khaal-e hindu-ash bakhsham samarqand o bokhaaraa raa

(If that Turk from Shiraz would take my heart in hand
I would give away Samarqand and Bokhara for the beauty spot on her cheek)

and somehow infers from it that the poet is referring to a young Turkish boy.
This inference may reflect Mr. Jan’s own psychological compulsions, but has no
basis in language. As is well-known, Farsi has no gender at all in terms of
pronouns or the handling of verbs and adjectives, which means that the gender
of a person being referred to cannot be inferred from text in the absence of
other information. Based on anecdotal justification from a few poets, some have
used this fact to assume that “the Beloved” in all of Persian poetry
is a young male, but that is patently absurd.

First, let it be noted that ghazal
poetry in both Farsi and Urdu is rife with lust. Sometimes, this can be
sublimated into a metaphorical and mystical “love of God” meaning,
sometimes not. When Hafez says:

zolf aashofte o kh(w)ee-karde o khandan-lab o mast
pirhan chaak o ghazalkh(w)aan o soraahee dar dast
nargisesh arbade-jooi o labash afsoos-konan
neem-shab mast be-baaleen-e man aamad binishast

(tresses wild, sweating, smiling, intoxicated,
dress open, singing poetry, flask (of wine) in hand,
eyes flashing combat, lips pouting sorrow,
drunk, she came at midnight to my bedside and sat down)

he clearly refers to a very Earthly personage, and a woman, based on the
description. The “tork-e sheeraazi” for whom Hafez was willing to
give away Samarqand and Bokhara was similarly unlikely to be male, let alone a young

In Urdu, the issue is complicated further because, when it adopted the
Persian idiom, it explicitly chose to refer to the Beloved as masculine – out
of a sense of propriety, it is said. But as anyone who reads this poetry with a
brain in their head knows, this is just convention. When Ghalib writes:

lay to looN sotay meN us kay paaoN kaa bosaa magar
aesi baatoN say vo mehroo badgumaaN ho jaaye gaa

Literally, it says, “Indeed, I could kiss his foot while he sleeps, but such
acts would prejudice that moon-faced one against me”. But clearly, in spite of
using the male gender, the poet isn’t referring to some “moon-faced” guy! As Ghalib’s
letters bear out – and as other material corroborates extensively – masculine terms
for the Beloved, e.g., “yaar”, “dost”, “but”, “janan”,
“dildaar”, etc., all, in fact, refer by default to women in the
poetry of Ghalib and others in his tradition. Sometimes this becomes quite
clear and even the gender shifts:

in paree-zaadoN se layN gay khuld mayN ham intiqaam
qudrat-e haq say yehee hoorayN agar vaaN ho gayeeN           (Ghalib)

(We will take revenge upon these fairy-folk in paradise if, by God’s will,
they became houris there).

or when in that fantastic poem Ghalib wrote about Calcutta, he says:

vo sabza-zaar haaye mutarraa ke hae ghazab!
vo naazneeN butaan-e khud-aaraa ke haaye, haaye!
sabr-aazmaa vo un ki nigaahayN ke haf-nazar!
taaqat-rubaa vo un ka ishaaraa ke haaye haaye!

(Oh! Those magnificent and verdant parks, and [in them] those haughty,
glamorous “idols”! Oh! The anguish caused by their glances – Heaven keep them!
– and Oh! Their gestures that induce utter helplessness [in me]!)

Of course, occasionally Ghalib throws out a curveball such as:

aamad-e khat say huaa hae sard jo baazaar-e dost
dood-e sham’-e kushta thaa shaayad khat-e rukhsaar-e dost

which literally means: “Since the emergence of facial hair (or the arrival
of a letter) has chilled the market for the Beloved’s favors, perhaps the down
on the Beloved’s cheek was like the smoke from a dying flame.” The play here is
on the dual meaning of “khat”, which can mean “facial hair” or “letter”, and on
the “chilling” in reference to both the end of love and the dying of the flame.
This couplet – which sounds much better in Urdu than in any possible
translation! – is mainly an exercise in linguistic virtuosity. This unfortunate
topic of facial hair is, indeed, something of a recurring theme in both Farsi
and Urdu classical poetry, but knowing something of the lives of some of these
poets (e.g., Ghalib), one can safely infer that they were more interested in
exploiting the double meaning of the word “khat” than in exploiting
any beardless youths.

There are some poets about whom there is separate anecdotal evidence
regarding their interest in boys. Even in these cases, the implication often is
that it represents a Platonic admiration – a worship of Divine Beauty, so to
speak – rather than sexual attraction. Many of these anecdotes are associated
with famous Sufis – notably Sarmad
and the Sufi poet
Fakhruddin Iraqi
– one of whose most famous ghazals (tirsaa-bache-i shangee,
shookhee, shikaristaani)
– describes a ravishing young Christian, albeit without
specifying gender. But the “Christian youth” (tirsa-bache)– like the “Magian
elder” (peer-e moghan) – also had a symbolic meaning within the Sufi poetic
tradition. Since Muslims were forbidden to traffic in wine, the tavern keepers
in Iran were mainly Magian (Zoroastrian) and many of the wine-servers young
Christians (or other non-Muslims). Since wine was used in Sufi poetry as a
metaphor for Divine knowledge, the Magian elder came to symbolize the mystical
Master, and the wine-server – sometimes represented as a Christian youth or a Magian youth (“moghbache”) –
acquired significance as the enabler of enlightenment. As such, this symbol is
found in the work of many poets, and though it is often accompanied by
descriptions of the individual’s beauty, a mystical reading is always possible
in these cases. A typical theme is how the youth entices the poet away from the
path of orthodoxy (e.g., this ghazal by Attar),
which, as any student of Sufi poetry would know, reflects the core idea that
traveling the (true) Sufi path of enlightenment requires abandoning the (false)
path of ostentatious orthodoxy. To read such poetry as representing love of
boys is “not even wrong”!

In India, we find the interesting case of the great poet, musician and
mystic, Amir Khusro, who often expressed his love for his mentor, the great
Sufi master Nizamuddin Auliya, as the love of a woman for her beloved. Though
such gender-bending may seem strange to us today, it is part of the Sufi poets’
recurring attempts to capture the essence of mystical love for the Master and
for God in comprehensible metaphors.

In the Urdu tradition, the attributes of the Beloved usually indicate that
the reference is to a woman. There are indeed exceptions – some of which Mr.
Jan quotes in his diatribe – but these are quite rare. Mir Taqi Mir and a few
poets of his time were probably the most serious culprits in this matter, which
does reflect a certain moral degeneration in that milieu, but even here this is
a very minor theme. Mr. Jan’s method of counting up all verses where the male
gender is used and assuming that they all refer to boys indicates either
ignorance or willful misrepresentation – probably the latter since Mr. Jan is
an educated man and himself a writer. He also does not seem to understand (or
acknowledge) that, in this idiom, the term “tifl” (literally: child) and
“bacha” (literally: child) do not have to mean little children. Rather, they
refer generically to a young person with the implication of innocence. One also
finds rather lecherous references to a “kamsin” Beloved, i.e., one of tender
age. In a milieu where girls were often married off in their early teens, such
references are not surprising – and, indeed, are still
in today’s pop culture.

Let it also be said that much of the talk of wine, women and song in
classical Farsi and Urdu poetry is, as they say, “baraaye she’r-goftan” (just for
the sake of turning a verse). Many great poets indeed led eventful lives that
provided the material for their work, and some of these experiences included
romance and revelry. But the impression that every poet was perpetually in the
throes of unrequited love with remarkably beautiful and bloodthirsty mistresses
who specialized in tormenting their lovers and chopping off their heads – well,
that is just fiction. We know enough of the lives of many poets to be certain
that, for them, all the talk of carnal pleasures was just a heady mix of
convention, metaphor and wishful thinking. Even Ghalib, who wrote about both
women and wine from personal experience, wrote in the highly romanticized and
exaggerated idiom of his tradition, and only someone utterly unfamiliar with
that tradition would read his romantic work – or that of other great poets such
as Hafez or Khusro or Mir Taqi Mir – in a literal way. To reject a vast,
profound literary corpus spanning a thousand years based on the existence of a
few – even a few thousand – examples of truly perverted lines is, to say the
least, rather perverse.

All this is not to minimize the issue of pederasty as a real problem in the
societies of the Middle East and South Asia, or that references to it in literature
are meaningless. After all, literature is the mirror of its environment. Both
Rumi and Sa’di mention pederasty in their poetry in a matter-of-fact way, which
tells us something about Persian society at the time. This declines with later
poets from Hafez onwards, but that is probably more because their work turned
towards other themes and became much less didactic. Given the implication in
Mr. Jan’s article that child abuse is mainly the doing of godless libertines,
it is worth recalling that the practice has been widely associated with
religious seminaries and schools – from predatory
schoolmasters at English public schools
to lustful mullahs in madrassas
and perverted priests in the Catholic Church (for which we now have plenty
of evidence
). Unfortunately, like slavery and violence against women, the
exploitation and molestation of children is an aspect of “man’s inhumanity
to man” that has existed in all human societies since time immemorial –
and is especially a problem in South Asia, where child
marriage is still a burning issue
. It is an unspeakable evil that must be
combated with every available resource. We are fortunate to live in an age when
this is at least recognized as an important imperative rather than the practice
being accepted or swept under the rug. But to blame this larger societal evil
on literature through selective, misguided and ignorant interpretations is itself
a kind of abuse.


Quaid e Azam and Iqbal. A meeting of minds..

An Imaginary meeting.. 
By Pakistani-American writer Asif Ismael. 

“Didn’t I tell you, sir, this idea of yours: a separate homeland for the Muslims, is a bit fanciful? And you continued to press me to come to Bombay.” Jinnah said, arranging the crease of his pants over his knees. Through a slit in the curtains hanging behind his host’s back, a sunbeam streamed into the room and fell on the silver base of a hooka placed next to his feet–its reflection distorted in his impeccably shined black shoe. He sat on the rocking chair stiff as a board, for even a slight movement made the chair squeak.

His host, Iqbal, lying down on his side in a four-post bed, had his temple glued to his fist: a man in deep thought–a posture imprinted on the minds of the masses–the bed-sheet crumpled around the point of Iqbal’s elbow.

Iqbal, for the last several minutes, had been staring at the floor, lost in thought. Actually he’d been marvelling at Jinnah’s shoes, glistening, on his Isfahan, planted firmly, an inch or two apart, one slightly ahead of the other, but not too far ahead, reflecting a certain precision which his poetic sensibility had found challenging to grasp.

“Look, it’s not over yet,” Iqbal said. He closed his eyes, grabbed his hooka pipe and began inhaling through his fingers clenched around the tip. The embers turned crimson within the bowl. The room smelled of imported tobacco. The toking filled the room with gurgles.

Jinnah’s lips quivered without emitting a sound as he tried talking through the loud and prolonged guggle of the hooka; then pressing them together he waited for the old man to finish his noisy inhale. The gurgling stopped followed by a spell of raspy cough that brought the host’s eyes to tears. Raising his eyebrows Jinnah took a deep breath, like a sigh, and holding it in his chest he waited for the cough to subside. And when it did and as he slowly exhaled the trapped air in his chest, he noticed drops of tears rolling down on Iqbal’s cheeks. The smoke, the swirling blue haze caught in the sunbeam over the head of his host, thrown in turmoil when touched by his breath. He decided to stay quiet.

A man in his twenties, his hair held in a ponytail, appeared at the door holding a pigeon, white as snow. He held the bird next to his chest, petting it. “Allama Ji, today is the day, when the whole town will know what kind of pigeons we breed here in Mohalla Kashmarian,” he said. He stopped in his tracks at the door upon noticing the stare of Jinnah. He was unsure, though, if those two arrows of steel were directed at him or at the pigeon.

“Oh, don’t mind this chap: He’s my pigeon breeder, the best in Punjab,” Iqbal said, clearing his throat.

“I’d better be going–I’ll have to catch the train early in the morning from Lahore. Meetings and more meetings!–I wonder when this will end, if ever,” Jinnah said, getting up. “Think about what I’ve said. Have a nice Pigeon Day.” Putting his black overcoat on, he glanced at the pigeon breeder who stood in the doorway lost in his world, his eyes on the pigeon, petting it softly. Jinnah put his hat on, shrugged his shoulder to ease them into his coat, and left the room.

“Allama Ji, is he the only one you’ve been able to find in the whole world to lead the Muslims of India? Sometimes, you seriously make me wonder, Allama Ji,” the pigeon breeder said, sitting on the rocking chair where Jinnah had sat. The pigeon emitted a squeal.

“Oh Bashir, my son, you’re too innocent–To win you must find the best of the breed. When the pigeon is flying high, looking like a dot, darting across the vast blue sky, who cares if it has been bred in Sailkot, Daska, Lahore, London, Paris or New York,” Iqbal said, getting off from the bed and sliding his feet into a pair of slippers. “Lets go to the rooftop.”

“Allama Ji, hurry up! Wearing a yellow shawl bright as sun, she’s been waiting for you on her rooftop,” Bashir said. “I’m going to carry your hooka. How about some daaroo?”

“Oh Bashir, you are a bastard of the highest order. Don’t you see the sun is still way too high? Do you want me to see four pigeons flying in the sky, instead of two?” Iqbal said, taking the bird from him. The pigeon fluttered a bit before settling in a new set of hands. “What a beauty! Look at her eyes! Wells filled with water sweet and pure; the delicate nose, the straight neck putting even a shaheen to shame!”

“Today’s the day, when the pigeons fly high–when the eyes meet across the sky; when love fills the old boot; and water rises in the new shoot,” Bashir said, stepping behind Iqbal on the stairway.

“Okay! Okay! just get the damn daaroo,” Iqbal said, turning around. He looked up and said: “The wind blows lifting the yellow sand off the golden dunes, carrying the musk of the beloved.”

From the rooftop they both saw Jinnah, hunched like a bow, getting his skinny frame into his black Bentley, his chauffeur standing stiff holding the car’s door open for him. A gang of kids availing this godsent opportunity of putting their hands on such a shiny creature, had touched the car to their heart’s content, leaving streaks of dirt in the spotless glimmer of its black armor.

With one foot in the car, Jinnah turned around as if he felt their gaze on his back. He looked up for an instant, and saw Iqbal and his pigeon breeder standing at the rooftop. They waved at him, smiling. Shaking his head he slid into his car. The driver shut the door softly and yelled at the kids already planning to run behind this sleek creature that looked so foreign and new in their old Mohalla Kashmarian.

Inside, the car smelled of tanned hide, tobacco, English tweed, and dog.


The Helper Boy

Today’s horrific child abuse scandal from Punjab (the exact extent is disputed, with official inquiry reports saying the numbers are smaller and hinting that families in a property dispute may be making up some of the accusations; but of course those inquiries may well be part of the coverup too) reminded me of this short story by Pakistani-American writer Asif Ismael. It was originally published in viewpointonline but seems not to be on their site any more. So I am posting it here..

The Helper Boy 

It’s a very cold morning. Rustam wipes the fog off the windshield of the parked truck and looks out. It’s dark except for a thin strip of light on the horizon. Not a soul in sight, except a dog hopping across the GT Road. Keeping one of its hind legs off the ground it lurches toward the parking lot of Hotel Paradise, the truck-drivers hotel. It wobbles across a dozen or so parked trucks, and heads over to the tea-stall located by the hotel’s entrance, where behind the counter a cloaked figure moves in the dark.
It must be Ibrahim, the owner; he sleeps in his shop, in a room at the back. A flame leaps in the air behind the counter, a flickering glow of orange. Ibrahim is hunched over his stove.
Rustam wraps himself in his blanket, quietly unlatches the truck’s door, and slips out into the cold. By the time he gets to the tea-stall his bones feel chilled. The dog, standing by the doorstep, wags its tail as if welcoming Rustam. It’s a female dog, its shriveled teats hanging under her belly empty. She is so thin that he can see her ribs through her scarred brown coat.
The door squeaks as Rustam pushes it to enter the shop. Inside, Ibrahim squats by the fire, throwing crumpled papers into the flames. He turns his head, looks at Rustam, and nods with a smile. His face is swollen and wrinkly from sleep, his fingers combing his fist-length, bushy black beard, and his eyes wide and staring, reflecting the fire. Rustam walks over to the stove, sits beside him, and moves the end of a log.
“It’s good to get up so early,” Ibrahim says, as he winks at Rustam. “Everyone is asleep except the two of us.” The flames have started to die. Rustam bends over, takes a deep breath, and blows on the logs till he runs out of breath. Ash swirls around his head, and gets in his eyes, making them teary. The wood catches fire. As he wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, he feels Ibrahim’s hand on his shoulder. He freezes. The logs crackle, sparks fly out of the earthen stove. “I wish I’ve a boy like you to help me out with my shop,” Ibrahim says, squeezing Rustam’s shoulder. “Your Ustad is so lucky to have you.”

Rustam blows on the fire as if he didn’t hear what Ibrahim just said. “What would you say if I ask your Ustad to leave you with me for a few days?” Ibrahim says. Rustam keeps his eyes on the fire. He can sense, through his blanket, the heat of Ibrahim’s hand over his shoulder. “You’re not in a talking mood today,” Ibrahim says. “Is everything okay?”
“Ustad will never let that happen, and even if he does, what makes you think that I’ll stay?” Rustam says, keeping his eyes on the flames. “I’ll take good care of you if you work for me,” Ibrahim says. He slides closer to Rustam and pulls his shoulder. Rustam stiffens, shrugs to loosen Ibrahim’s grip on him. “Alright! Alright! Keep the fire going,” Ibrahim says, taking his hand off Rustam. “I’m leaving to say my fajr—when I’m back I’ll make tea for you and your Ustad.”
Ibrahim stands up, unwrapping and then quickly wrapping his woolen shawl around his stocky frame, and heads out the door. Outside as he passes by the dog she wags her tail, looking at Ibrahim. He throws a kick at her, but she’s swift to move away, missing the point of his shoe. He bends down and picks up a rock. The dog, putting her tail between her legs, runs away.
“Mother-fuckers! Freeloaders! Can’t even wait for the sun to rise!” Ibrahim shouts, throws the rock at the dog but misses. He resumes walking. The flames now leap in the air, their tongues licking the cold off the room. The wall behind the stove is black with smoke, except for the clear, white outline of two hands, their finger spread apart and pointing upward. The hands seem to tremble behind the flames.
Rustam remembers the wood-stove of his house, its blackened hearth of baked mud, where he and his younger brother, Ameer, etched with the point of stones, the sun, with its wiggly rays rising from behind the mountains, birds and trees, and a hut with a stream flowing by its side. The dog has come back, and standing at the threshold she stares at Rustam. He looks around for leftovers.
A rat moves along a crack on the floor, sniffing, its fearless eyes fixed on Rustam, its whiskers jerking. Rustam searches in his pockets for any remaining bit of the roasted peanuts Ustad bought for him yesterday from the outskirts of Multan. He finds a piece stuck within the seams of his front pocket. He tosses it towards the rat. The rat sniffs the peanut, and then putting in its mouth it draws nearer, wanting more. Rustam shoos it away by suddenly getting up.
The dog stands by the door and stares at Rustam, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She does that several times. Rustam walks towards her, but as he gets to the door, she starts limping towards the road. He follows her. She looks back every few steps as if to make sure he’s behind her. She crosses the GT Road and keeps walking, towards the line of massive Peepal trees over on a hillock.
The air is still and quiet During the day, the area around Paradise Hotel is crowded with truck drivers, hawkers, drug sellers, fruit vendors, the women holding babies begging; some crouching to touch the feet of the passersby for food or money; and once in a while a woman in a black burka shuffling nervously a few paces behind her pimp. Ustad, though he doesn’t like girls, is quite good in telling apart a taxi from a regular woman.
The dog stands still for a moment, looks back, and then disappears behind the mound populated with the Peepal trees. Rustam quickens his pace. Upon reaching the trees he stops, his eyes searching for the dog. He spots her a few meters to his right, a shadow between two massive trunks. As he gets closer, she disappears from view again. On reaching the point where she has gone out of sight, Rustam finds himself looking into a triangular hollow at the base of a trunk. He bends over to take a peek. It’s dark in there, but he’s able to count six puppies crawling around on hay-covered ground. The dog sits down and the puppies cling to her, their eyes closed. What can possibly be in those withered sacs?
The dog stands up, and the puppies fall off her and roll on the ground. She looks at Rustam and he knows what she wants. He turns around and heads back to the shop—this time with a quicker pace. She follows him. Passing the front of his truck, he halts, and upon hearing the snores of Ustad, he resumes walking. Ustad is still asleep, tucked comfortably in the cozy sleeping cabin of his truck. On most days he doesn’t get up unless Rustam shakes him up and hands him his cup of tea. After waking up, the first thing he’d do is to light up a cigarette. Some days Ustad pulls him inside the blanket, and after having him, he’ll ask him to light a cigarette for him. He’s been with Ustad for the last year and a half.
Rustam enters the shop. It’s still warm in here, although the fire is beginning to die. The dog sits at the threshold. Ibrahim is still at the mosque, praying. Rustam squats on the floor, moves the logs, and throws a ball of crumpled papers in the fire. Behind the smoke, the hands look as if they are underwater. He looks around for a pan of milk, but he knows that Ibrahim keeps things, things which can be stolen, in his room at the back. He goes to the rear end of the shop, and, standing in front of a padlocked door, peers through a crack into Ibrahim’s room. All he sees is darkness. A rustle on his back makes him turn around. Ibrahim stands right behind him, his lips quivering under his mustache, his eyes gleaming like coals.
Rustam marvels at his swiftness. How quietly he must have entered the shop and got all the way back here without making a sound? “What are you doing here?” Ibrahim whispers in his ear, his lips touching Rustam’s earlobe. “Nothing.” Rustam feels his heart begins to pound. Suddenly he feels very warm. “You want to come in?” Ibrahim leans forward and whispers in his ear, pressing his body against his.
“I need milk,” Rustam says. He inches back and tries to stay calm, the ridges of the door dig into his back. “Anything for you!” Ibrahim’s face is next to his. Rustam feels his warm breath on his cheeks. He smells of Nivea, the cold cream his Ustad also uses. “I need a lot of milk,” Rustam says, taking a deep breath and holding it in his chest, as he watches the hairy, pointed swelling of Ibrahim’s neck, an inch away from his face, moving up and down. “A lot of milk.”
“How much do you need?” Ibrahim says swallowing his saliva.
“A kilo, may be.”
“Do you have money?”
“I keep milk inside in my room,” he says. “There I also keep butter—nothing tastes as good as pure, desi butter with a freshly made, hot prathaa.”
Reaching above Rustam’s head Ibrahim twists a key in the padlock and lowers the chain. The door flings open with Rustam’s weight on it. Ibrahim pushes Rustam further inside the room, and once they are both inside the room, he shuts the door behind him. The room has no window; it smells of wax and cold cream.
Without turning the light on, Ibrahim moves his hand on Rustam’s back, all the way down. There’s no way out of this room for Rustam.
“I need a pan to carry milk,” Rustam says.
“Hot or cold?” Ibrahim’s voice is now shaking, as he massages Rustam’s buttocks.
“How much would you pay?” Rustam says, feeling Ibrahim pressing himself against him, his hands fast undoing his waist-cord.
“How much do you need?”
“Five hundred rupees.”
“I can have a fifteen year old girl for that money.”
“How about four,” Rustam says. “Plus a kilo of milk.”
“I’ll give you enough to make you happy,” Ibrahim says, pushing him towards the mattress. He’s twice Rustam’s size.
“But, first give me the milk. I promise I’ll come back,” Rustam says, but he knows further negotiations are futile.
“I will give you as much milk as you want, but after.” Ibrahim lowers his shalwaar and pushes him on the mattress. Rustam lays on his stomach and looks back, clutching onto the bed-sheet. Ibrahim, tucking the end of his kurta under his chin, throws himself on Rustam’s back. He is heavy and breaths like a mad bull. His beard feels like a sandpaper against Rustam’s nape.
“I always think about you, even when you’re not around.” Ibrahim pinches Rustam’s cheek, as he moves on top of him. “You’ve such dry skin. Let me rub some cold cream on you.”
Ibrahim puts a dab of cold cream on Rustam’s cheeks and some upon himself. It doesn’t take long.
Ibrahim gets up and leaves the room. Rustam stays lying on his belly and thinks about the dog standing outside on her three legs, her six hungry pups waiting for their mother, and his Ustad: what if he finds out about what’s just happened?
Rustam comes out of the room tying his waist cord. The morning light seems brighter after having dissolved the leftovers of the night. Squatting on the floor, in front of the fire, Ibrahim warms milk in a pan. Rustam sits down by his side, holds out his hands to the fire, and glances at Ibrahim. As if looking for something on the floor on the other side, Ibrahim turns away his face; his hands tremble as he tries to keep the blackened pan steady on the flames.
“I think it’s quite warm now; do you need some sugar?”
“Where’s the money?” Rustam says. Ibrahim takes out a bundle of crumpled ten-rupee notes. He wets his thumb with his saliva and starts counting. “I can only give you fifty for now.” He holds five ten rupees notes out to Rustam.
“Why don’t you keep it for yourself,” Rustam says. “I don’t need money.”
He picks up the warm pan of milk from the ground.
“Don’t be angry with me now. Next time I’ll give you much more, I promise.” From the weight of the pan Rustam can tell it’s probably less than a kilo of milk.
“Do you want some sugar?” Ibrahim asks.
“I’ll take it to my truck,” Rustam says. The warm pan feels good against his belly. “I will bring your pan back. No, I don’t want sugar.”
“Promise me you won’t ever tell your Ustad.” Ibrahim moves the logs and stares at the flames. His beard shines as it reflects the glow of the fire. A log hisses, sparks fly out of the fire and disappear in midair. “You also don’t tell him, that I’ve taken so much milk from you,” Rustam says, walking towards the door.
At the threshold, the dog looks at Rustam curiously as he comes out of the shop holding the pan against his belly. She hops back towards her puppies, and he follows her. From the now crimson horizon, a beam of light shoots across the sky, flooding the air with a warm, golden hue.
Rustam’s face breaks in a smile. Ustad has promised him a girl in Lahore, at their next stop. Ustad has made advanced arrangements for that. Since he’s grown in size, he’s begun to like girls. “Girls are expensive to get, but I’d get anything for you as long as it makes you happy,” Ustad has told him.
Rustam knows deep inside that Ustad has been good to him; but he also knows that time has come to be on his own; he knows Ustad is not going to let him go that easy; only if he could get married. Rustam follows the dog, feeling the pleasant warmth spreading over his entire body. With the smile still on his face, he imagines himself lying on top of the naked back of a girl, moving.

The End


The (British) Indian Army’s Legacy in India and Pakistan

By Brown Pundits Archive 5 Comments

An old post from Dr Hamid Hussain. Reposting here to save it for future reference.

Lest We Forget
Hamid Hussain

Pakistan and India are now seen through the prism of mutual hostility. However, armies of both countries share a common heritage. During the Raj, an amazing feat was achieved when a fine army consisting of local soldiers and commanded by British officers was built from scratch. Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Gurkha soldiers served together on all battlefields. After First World War, officer rank was opened for Indians and a number of young men joined the army after graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and then Royal Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. A generation which trained together and fought together as comrades in Second World War later served with Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh armies.

First native Commander-in-Chief of Indian army General K. C. Cariappa (nick named Kipper) and first native Chief of Staff (COS) of Pakistan army Lieutenant General Nasir Ali Khan were both from 7 Rajput Regiment (it consisted of 50 percent Punjabi Muslims and 50 percent Hindu Rajputs). In August 1947, when army was divided between the two countries, Muslim element of Rajput Regimental Center at Fatehgarh consisting of four officers and six hundred other ranks was given a cordial farewell. Among the four officers was Tajjamal Hussain who joined 7 Rajput as a young man but later fought against India in 1965 and 1971 wars. His parent regiment was fighting from Indian side. In more recent times, a Pakistani officer deployed along border walked to the Indian sentry who was a Rajput and started a conversation. The Pakistani officer told him that they were also Rajputs. Indian soldier promptly replied that ‘taan Ranghar nain; kyon key taan zamin te daroo donoon chad ditte’ (you are no more Rajput because you have given up both your land and alcohol’.)

In 1927 a young man from Hazara left for Sandhurst to become officer in Indian army. He was in number 5 company. One of his course mates in the same platoon was a Bengali Hindu boy. A picture of the platoon shows both young lads who were commissioned on February 02, 1928. Both served with British Indian army; Muslim boy joining 1/14 Punjab Regiment (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army) and Hindu boy elite 7th Light Cavalry (now an armor regiment of Indian army). In 1947 after partition of India, they joined the armies of newly independent India and Pakistan. In 1965 war, the young Muslim man from Hazara Field Marshal Ayub Khan was President of Pakistan while Bengali Hindu General Jayanto Nath Chaudri (nick named Mucchu Chaudri) was Commander-in-Chief of Indian army.

In Sandhurst, two young men Brij Mohan Kaul (nick named Bijji) and Akbar Khan were together. In 1942, Kaul and Akbar were again together for staff course in Quetta. In 1947 Kaul was defense attaché in Washington but came back to India when hostilities between Pakistan and India started over Kashmir. He was with Jawaharlal Nehru on his trip to Jammu while from the other side now Brigadier Akbar Khan was orchestrating the war with code name of General Tariq. After graduating from Sandhurst, B. M. Kaul joined 5th Battalion of 6th Rajputana Rifles (5/6 RR). Battalion Quartermaster was Captain Umrao Singh. Battalion was stationed in Razmak, Waziristan. At the same time another battalion stationed at Razmak was 6th Battalion of 13th Frontier Force Rifles (6/13 FFR). Lieutenant Muhammad Musa of 6/13 FFR (now One Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) was Kaul’s friend. In Razmak, Waziristan at one time there were several young Indian officers serving with elite 6/13 FFR. The list included Muhammad Musa (later General), Akbar Khan (later Major General), Mohammad Yusuf (later Major General) and Mohindar Singh Chopra (later Major General). After a stint at Army Service Corps when Kaul tried to get back to infantry, he asked for transfer to his friend’s 6/13 FFR (then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Russel nick named Russel Pasha) but could not get the transfer. Hostilities between India and Pakistan started in the fall of 1947 in Kashmir and continued for over a year. An audacious Kaul rang up now Lieutenant Colonel Musa stationed at Lahore that he was going to visit him. The uniforms of both armies looked alike. Kaul crossed the border and all along he was saluted and waved by Pakistani soldiers. He went to Lahore cantonment and showed up at Musa’s office. Musa was shocked to see him in his office as Musa’s boss Major General Muhammad Iftikhar Khan was in the next room. Musa quickly put Kaul in a jeep and under escort sent him safely back to India through Ferozpur border. Kaul later became Chief of General Staff (CGS) and Corps Commander of Indian army and Musa commander-in-chief of Pakistan army.

Nawabzada Sher Ali Khan was the scion of princely state of Pataudi. He graduated from Sandhurst and joined one of the oldest cavalry regiment; 7th Light Cavalry. After partition, he opted for Pakistan. In 1947-48 Kashmir war he was commanding 14th Parachute Brigade. His parent battalion was also in Kashmir theatre fighting from Indian side. Tanks of Pataudi’s parent battalion 7th Cavalry then commanded by Lt. Colonel Rajindar Singh ‘sparrow’ (later Major General) captured Zojila. This was a first rate performance by 7th Cavalry operating tanks at such high altitude.

In December 1924, S. P. P. Thorat and Nawabzada Agha Mahmud Raza sailed together from Bombay to join Sandhurst. Thorat joined 1/14 Punjab (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army). In December 1928, in Aurangabad, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Ayub Khan joined the battalion. Thorat as a senior Indian officer groomed newly arrived Ayub Khan. After 1947-48 Kashmir conflict, Thorat visited Lahore several times as part of Indian delegation. Every time, he made sure to visit his parent battalion; the rear party of which was stationed in Lahore. Raza became Major General in Pakistan army and Ayub Khan Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Pakistan army. 1930 batch of Sandhurst included Mian Hayauddin (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, now 6 FF) and Umrao Singh (5/6 RR). Hayauddin (nick named Gunga) served with the Sikh company of the battalion and was fluent in spoken and written Gurmukhi (Sikh language). In 1948, he was commanding Bannu Brigade and fought against India in Poonch sector in Kashmir winning gallantry award of Hilal-e-Jurat. He later rose to become Major General in Pakistan army. Umrao commanded 5th Infantry Brigade of Indian army in Kashmir in the same conflict (he was wounded in action). He later became Lt. General and in 1962 Indo-China conflict with China was commanding XXXIII Corps.

K. S. Thimayya (nick named Timmy) joined 4/19 Hyderabad regiment (now 4 Kumaon Regiment). His colleagues were Lieutenant Ishfaq ul Majid, Captain Kunwar Daulat Singh and Captain S. M. Shrinagesh. Thimaya became Adjutant of the battalion and groomed many new officers including Mohammad Azam Khan. Thimayya became Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Indian army and Azam Lieutenant General and Corps commander in Pakistan army. Captain Akbar Khan and Captain T. P. Rajan served together with 7/13 FFR when battalion was stationed in Kohat. Akbar became Major General in Pakistan army while Rajan retired as Colonel of Indian army. During Second World War, several Officers Training Units (OTUs) were established in India to grant emergency commissions to new officers. The first one was established in Mhow. Three company commanders chosen for this OTU were Majors Mohammad Musa, Moti Sagar and Pritam Kirpal. Musa trained many non-Muslim officers who served with Indian army and Sagar and Kirpal many Muslim officers who later served with Pakistan army. Moti was from 1 Rajput and later rose to become Lt. General and GOC-in-C of Southern command of Indian army.

Gul Hassan joined 9/13 FFR in 1942 and served with the Sikh company of the battalion. Later he served as Quarter Master and Adjutant of 3rd Cavalry when it was commanded by Lt. Colonel K. M. Idris. After partition, he joined 5th Probyn’s Horse (where he served as Adjutant, Second and in command and finally Commanding officer). Later, he became Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan army. Many of his comrades served with Indian army and his old 3rd Cavalry fought in many conflicts with Pakistan. Muhammad Khan Jarral was commissioned in 1942 from Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. His company commander at the academy was Major Satyawant Mallanah Shrinagesh (He served as Adjutant of 4/19 Hyderabad and commanded 6/19 Hyderabad). Jarral joined 2nd Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (J&KR) and fought in Second World War in different theatres. Pakistan and India got entangled in Kashmir immediately after independence. Jarral was appointed adjutant of Gilgit Scouts. In Zoji La he was commanding A and B wings of Gilgit Scouts against Indian troops. Lieutenant General Srinagesh was commanding Indian troops in Kashmir. Jarral fought against his previous company commander at Dehra Dun in this conflict.

During Second World War, in African theatre, several British Indian army regiments fought against Italians. In the battle of Keren, 6/13 FFR, 3/2 Punjab and 2/5 Marhatta fought side by side. 6/13 FFR was commanded by Lt. Colonel Dudley Russel (he won Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) and later rose to Lt. General rank). Subedar of the Sikh company of 6/13 FFR just before the attack told his men ‘Guru de saun, Unnath di kasam, char jao’ (in the name of Guru, swearing by 59th, attack). 59 was the old number of 6/13 FFR when it was designated 59th Sindh Camel Corps. In view of many troubles which the battalion caused in the past, it was also nick named ‘Garbar Unnath’ (troublesome 59th). Captain Anant Singh Pathania (later Major General) of 6/13 FFR won MC in this battle and another officer of the battalion Major Vidya Dhar Jayal (later Brigadier) won a DSO. Both officers served with Indian army later. 6/13 FFR is now One Frontier Force (FF); senior most battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army.

In the battle of Casino in the spring of 1944, 17th Infantry Brigade consisting of 4/12 FF (now 6FF), 1/10 Baluch (now 6 Baloch) and 19th Infantry Brigade consisting of 6/13 FFR and 3/8 Punjab (now 3 Baloch) participated. Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers and officers fought under the same flag. When Pathan company of 6/13 FFR was severely mauled, Dogra company led by Major Kashmir Singh Katoch (later Lt. General) cleared many machine gun nests. In 1965 war, Kashmir Singh was Lieutenant General commanding XV Corps of Indian army against Pakistan. Kashmir Singh’s parent battalion (now 1 FF of Pakistan army commanded by Lt. Colonel Shabbir Ali Khan) was fighting Indian army in Khem Karan area. In the spring of 1945, at the battle at Gothic Line, 1/5 Marhatta (now 1 Marhatta Light Infantry of Indian army) and 6/13 FFR (now 1 FF of Pakistan army) fought together. Both battalions were held by heavy German machine gun fire. Soldiers of both these battalions fought with utmost gallantry against the common foe and won two well deserved Victoria Crosses. Namdeo Jadhao of 1/5 Marhatta and Ali Haider of 6/13 won Victoria Cross for their bravery. On Burma front, two elite cavalry regiments 5th Probyn’s Horse and 9th Deccan Horse were part of 255 Tank Brigade. 5th Horse is now elite regiment of Pakistan army and 9th Horse holds the same position in Indian army. In Rangoon, many young officers including Captain Gul Hassan, Captain Riaz ul Karim (nick named Bacchu Karim later became Major General), Captain I. U. Babar, Captain S. S. Mustafa, Major S. S. Kalha (Artillery), Major Ranbir Singh (7 Rajput Regiment), D. C. Basapa (16th Cavalry) and many others belonging to different religions and ethnicities lived and fought together.

Sam Manekshaw (later Indian army chief) and Haji Iftikhar Ahmad (later Major General in Pakistan army) were buddies at military academy in Dehra Dun. Sam won his Military Cross in Burma with his parent battalion; 4/12 Frontier Force regiment (now 6 FF of Pakistan army). His friend in the battalion was Atiq ur Rahman (nick named Turk). In 1947, Lieutenant Colonel Sam, Major Yahya Khan (later Pakistan army chief) and Major S. K. Sinha (later Vice Chief of Army Staff of Indian army) were serving together at Military Operations Directorate in Delhi. After 1971 war, when Sam came to Pakistan for negotiations, his host was now Lieutenant General Atiq. Dinner was served in silverware of Sam’s parent battalion; 6 FF.

Second Lieutenant Permindra Singh Bhagat of 21 Field Company was attached to 3/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 5 FF) when he won his Victoria Cross at the battle of Keren. Bhagat later rose to become Lt. General of Indian army; however he still had some bond with old PIFFERS (nick name of Frontier Force). At the time of partition, Sikh company of 3/12 FF was absorbed in Sikh Light Infantry (SLI). Bhagat remained Colonel of SLI even after his retirement. Zorawar Chand Bakhshi (nick named Zoru) joined 16/10 Baluch Regiment and was posted to Pathan company. He fought Second World War with his Pathan comrades. Once he was asked by his Commanding Officer (CO) to take Dogra company soldiers for a task and Zoru was not happy as he wanted to take his own Pathan soldiers. It was in this action led by Zoru that Sepoy Bhandari Ram won Victoria Cross. In 1965 war he fought against his former Pathan comrades now part of Pakistan army as Brigadier (commanding 68th Brigade) and in 1971 as Major General (commanding 26th Division).

In Libyan theatre, Rommel’s Africa Corps overran 7th Armored Division of Indian army (GOC Major General Frank Messervy escaped capture by posing as an orderly). Many Indian officers became prisoners and the list included Major P. P. Kumaramangalam (2nd Field Regiment of Artillery), Yahya Khan, Tikka Khan and Yaqub Khan (18th Cavalry). Many of these prisoners were housed in a camp together. This camp had the distinction of holding a record number of future senior officers including three future army chiefs of two countries under its roof. The senior most officer Major Kumarangalam (later General and Indian army chief) was appointed commanding officer of the camp. His assistant was Lieutenant Shamsher Singh, his adjutant Captain Yahya Khan (later General and Pakistan army chief) and Quartermaster Captain Tikka Khan (later General and Pakistan army chief). Other inmates were Captain Yaqub Khan( later Lieutenant General of Pakistan army but demoted to Major General rank when he declined to launch military action in 1971 in East Pakistan), Ajit Singh (later Lieutenant General), Captain Kalyan Singh (later Major General), Naravne (later Major General), Lieutenant Shamsher Singh (later Brigadier) and Lieutenant Hissam Effendi (later Brigadier).

In Second World War, some of the captured Indian officers and soldiers were organized into Indian National Army (INA) by their Japanese captors. Several who refused to join INA were tortured and kept in very difficult circumstances. Among them were two brothers Lt. Colonel Gurbakhsh Singh then commanding Jind State Forces and Captain Harbakhash Singh (later Lt. General) of 11th Sikhs as well as men of 5/13 FFR. Harbakhsh later commanded 11th Sikh in 1947-48 Kashmir conflict against Pakistan and in 1965 war he was GOC-in-C of Western Command. The case of 1/14 Punjab (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army) in Second World War is a very strange one. Before their capture by Japanese, the battalion performed very well against Japanese and had lost three officers, five Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCOs) and thirty eight men killed in action. Several officers of 1/14 Punjab including Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbakhash Singh Dhillon, Gurdip Singh Dhillon, Mohan Singh Deb, Muhammad Zaman Kiani and Abdul Rashid joined INA during their captivity. Many soldiers of the battalion followed their Indian officers. Later, Ayub Khan re-raised the battalion in 1946 in Mir Ali Waziristan. His Second-in-Command was a Sikh Major G. S. Brar. After partition, Shah Nawaz Khan stayed in India and served as Minister of State for Railways in Nehru cabinet. However, he sent his son Mahmood Nawaz to Pakistan where he joined his father’s parent battalion 1/14 Punjab now designated 5 Punjab. He fought in 1965 war from Pakistan side against India. 1/14 produced two Pakistan army chiefs; Ayub Khan and Asif Nawaz and several generals of Pakistan and Indian army including Lt. General S. P. P. Thorat and Major General Anis Ahmad Khan of Indian army (Anis opted for Indian army at the time of partition. He was Director Supplies & Transport of Indian army from 1949-53. After retirement he moved to Pakistan where his brother-in-law Major General Shahid Hamid was Master General of Ordnance of Pakistan army) and Lt. General Alam Jan Mahsud of Pakistan army. Ayub’s son Gohar Ayub also joined his father’s battalion.

After Second World War, Field Marshal Claude Auchinlek asked two Indian officers to travel to cantonments to assess the causes of lower morale of officers. The two chosen officers were Azam Khan and Man Mohan Khanna. Both later became Lt. Generals in Pakistani and Indian armies respectively. Lt. Colonel Sarabjit Singh Kalha CO of 2/1 Punjab (now 2 Punjab of Pakistan army) was one of the most decorated officer of Indian army winning DSO, MC and Bar. He was killed in Indonesia when after Second World War some Indian troops were stationed there.

Many infantry and cavalry regiments which became part of Indian and Pakistani army after partition served together in higher formations. Many battalions fought together in different theatres in First and Second World Wars. 3rd Indian Motor Brigade consisted of three elite cavalry regiments; 2nd Lancers, 11th Prince Albert Victor’s Own (PAVO) Cavalry and 18th Cavalry. 2nd Lancers and 18th Cavalry were allotted to India and 11th Cavalry to Pakistan. 3rd Independent Armored Brigade consisted of three elite cavalry regiments; 17th Poona Horse, 18th Cavalry and 19th Lancers. In 1947, 17th Horse and 18th Cavalry were allotted to India and 19th Lancers was to Pakistan. 17th Poona Horse was stationed at Risalpur and when it embarked for India, it left its equipment to incoming 13th Lancers. Indian army regiments had class squadrons and companies from a single class. In 1947, Muslim companies and squadrons of regiments allotted to India were sent to Pakistan and vice versa. Sikh C Squadron of 13th Lancers joined 17th Poona Horse while Muslim Rajput Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse joined 13th Lancers.

In 1947 when regiments were divided between the two countries some interesting incidences occurred. It was decided to assign elite Guides (10th) Cavalry to India and 14th Sindh Horse to Pakistan. The reason was that Guides Cavalry had two non-Muslim (Sikh and Dogra) squadrons and one Muslim (Pathan) squadron. On the other hand, Sindh Horse had two Muslim (Muslim Rajput and Pathan) squadrons compared to one non-Muslim squadron. Commanding Officer of Guides convinced the military authorities that in view of the long association of Guides with frontier as well as regimental center being located at Mardan in Pakistan, Guides should be allotted to Pakistan. In return Sindh Horse was allotted to India. Punjabi Muslim Squadron of 4th Hodson Horse and Pathan Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse joined Guides Cavalry when later was allotted to Pakistan. Muslim Rajput Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse went to 13th Lancers. After partition, during transition times, several non-Muslim officers continued to command many battalions allotted to Pakistan. CO of 7/1 Punjab (now 18 Punjab) was Lieutenant Colonel Budh Singh till November 1947, CO of 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 6 FF) was Lt. Colonel Gupta till November 1947 and CO of 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles (now 7 FF) was Lt. Colonel Brieshwar Nath till November 1947.

In 1947-48 Kashmir conflict, comrades who fought together in Second World War so recently were now facing each other. Kalwant Singh, L. P. Bogey Sen and M. M. Khanna fought from Indian side while Mian Hayauddin, Azam Khan, Sher Ali Khan Pataudi and Akbar Khan from Pakistani side. 4/10 Baluch (now 11 Baloch), 7/10 Baluch (now 15 Baloch), 2/1 Punjab (now 2 Punjab), 1/15 Punjab (now 9 Punjab), 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 4 FF), 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles (now 7 FF) had barely said goodbye to the non-Muslim companies (Dogra and Sikh) of their battalions when they faced them in Kashmir. Commander of 50 Para Brigade Brigadier Y. S. Paranjpye and commander of 77 Para Brigade Brigadier Mohammad Usman who until very recently did a superb job of internal security duty in Pakistan found themselves fighting from Indian side in Kashmir. The Sikh company of 1/1 Punjab (now 1 Punjab of Pakistan army) commanded by Major S. S. Pandit said goodbye to their Muslim colleagues and on reaching India was sent to Kashmir. They were attached to 2 Dogra during the war and later absorbed in 1 Sikh. In October 1947, Dogra B Company of 4/13 Frontier Force Rifles (9 FF) left for India. Barely two months later, Dogra PIFFERS ended up in Kashmir where they became E company of 4 Kumaon then commanded by Lt. Colonel M. M. Khanna. Khanna was buddy of Pakistani officer Brigadier Azam Khan who had joined 4 Kumaon as a young lad and was now commanding 25th Brigade of Pakistan army against his former comrades. Khanna narrowly escaped death at the hands of his former comrades when his party was ambushed and fourteen out of fifteen members of the CO’s party were killed. G. G. Bewoor, L. P. Sen and D. K. Palit were all Baluchis (all three had joined Baluch regiment when they got their commission). In 1947 in Kashmir, Bewoor commanded 2 Dogra, Palit commanded 3/9th Gurkha Rifles and Sen was commander of 161 Brigade against Pakistanis. On Pandu, First Bihar was fighting against Pakistani troops while their former second in command and first ‘native’ commanding officer Habibullah Khan Khattak (later Major General) was now serving with Pakistan army. In 1948, Colonel M. G. Jilani took command of Gilgit Scouts. His parent battalion was 1 Mahar which was fighting form Indian side in Kashmir.

In 1965 war in Sialkot sector, Indian Ist Armored Division commanded by Major General Rajindar Singh slugged it out with Pakistan’s 6th Armored Division commanded by Major General Abrar Hussain. Elite cavalry regiments of India; 4th Hodson Horse, 16th Cavalry and 17th Poona Horse fought some sanguine battles with elite Pakistani regiments; Guides (10th) Cavalry and 11th PAVO Cavalry. Lt. Colonel Nisar Ahmad of 25th Cavalry who fought against 17th Poona Horse commanded by indomitable Colonel A. D. Tarapur in 1965 war admired his opponent and later told his superiors that ‘it was a quite an education to listen to tarapurwala’s wireless intercepts. He maintained a total grip over his command’. At the battle of Assal Uttar in 1965, 5th Probyn’s Horse, 6th Lancers and 19th Lancers of Pakistan army fought against 3rd Cavalry (Pakistan’s then Director General Military Operations Brigadier Gul Hassan has served as Adjutant of this battalion before partition) and 9th Deccan Horse of Indian army.

In the tragic days of partition, horrific violence was perpetrated on both sides of the border. In these times of madness, Muslim and non-Muslim officers and men of Indian army performed the difficult task of internal security duty to the best of their abilities. 77 Para Brigade commanded by Brigadier Y. S. Paranjpye was moved from Quetta to Multan on internal security duty. 1 / 2 Punjab (2 Punjab group of Punjab Regiment was allotted to India) of the brigade commanded by Lt. Colonel Gurbachan Singh safeguarded non-Muslim and Muslim convoys on both sides of the border. Punjabi Muslim, Dogra and Sikh sepoys of this fine battalion performed their duties and India could be proud of having such a fine battalion among its army ranks. In several cases, Muslim officers commanded non-Muslim troops and vice versa and they shot at their fellow co-religionists without any fear or favor to protect life and property. Second in command of 5/6 Rajputana Rifles Major Haq Nawaz commanded Hindu Jats and Hindu Rajputs and they protected Muslim convoys in eastern Punjab and Captain Syed Ahmad Mansur of 1 Mahar took his Marhatta company to escort Muslim and non-Muslim convoys on both sides of the border. In Sialkot, Major Iftikhar Janjua (later Major General) was officiating commanding officer of 3/10 Baluch (now 10 Baloch). A group of Muslims approached him and told him that they will be searching the houses of non-Muslims of the area and he should not be concerned. Iftikhar kicked their spokesperson out of the room with the warning that if anybody tried to take law in their own hands he will shoot them. Many other fine men and officers of Gurkha Rifles, Baluch Regiment, Garhwal Rifles, 1 Kumaon and 2/15 Punjab (now 10 Punjab of Pakistan army) performed splendidly in those trying times.

There was a degree of comradeship among many officers despite problems between India and Pakistan. Thimayya was stationed in Jallandhar in 1947-48 and he visited Lahore where his host was his old friend Major General Iftikhar Khan who was then commanding 10th Division of Pakistan army. General K. M. Cariappa also used to stay with his old friends during his official visits to Pakistan which was frowned upon in India. In the winter of 1947 while fighting was going on between Indian and Pakistani troops, Cariappa was stuck in Jammu due to high floods in rivers and a blocked Banihal pass due to landslide. The only good road was from Jammu to Sialkot. Cariappa wanted to go to Sialkot and via Lahore enter India. He had his GSO-2 call GSO-1 of his good friend Major General Iftikhar Khan then commanding 10th Division in Lahore to get his permission. He got the reply that Iftikhar was out of town and Mrs. Iftikhar was not well therefore they will not be able to receive General Cariappa. In 1948 after cease fire, Indian delegation consisting of Lt. General Srinagesh, Major General Thimaya, Brigadier Sam Manekshaw and Major S. K. Sinha (later Lt. General) was entertained by Brigadier Shahid Hamid (later Major General) of Pakistan army. In 1965 war, General ® Cariappa’s son Flight Lieutenant K. C. Carriappa (nick named Nanda) flew sorties against Pakistan. His jet was shot down and he was captured in Pakistan. Cariappa had served Ayub Khan’s brigade commander and children of Cariappa and Ayub were known to each other. When young Cariappa was recuperating from his injuries in a military hospital in Pakistan, Ayub’s wife and son Akhtar Ayub visited him. There is unconfirmed report also that Cariappa was given a tour of President House where he roamed around calling President Ayub Khan uncle. However, both Pakistanis and Indians denied that this happened and it may just one of the folklore. Ayub also sent a message to General ® Cariappa that his son was fine. He offered to release him but as was expected from the fine officer and gentleman like Cariappa he said ‘I will ask no favor for my son which I cannot secure for every soldier of the Indian Army. Look after all of them. They are all my sons’. In January 1966, Cariappa was repatriated to India along with all other Indian prisoners of war. He later rose to become Air Marshal of Indian Air Force.

In 1963, Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant was commanded by Vice Admiral N. Krishnan. Pakistani cruiser ‘Babar’ commanded by Syed Mohammad Ehsan was sighted very close to Vikrant. Krishnan knew Ehsan from old days and sent a warning message stating ‘Syed, don’t come closer we are ready for you’. Ehsan replied ‘Krish; I have Ayub (Pakistani army chief) on board – bound for Colombo. Thought will have a dekho (look) at my old country. Cordial greetings’. Even during war there was a certain elan and respect between soldiers of both armies. In 1971, a Pakistani officer on patrol along Sindh border saw a lone Sikh soldier. He yelled at the soldier accompanying him saying ‘ Oye Khalsa ye; bandooq dey, bandooq hey’ (I see the Sikh; give me the gun, give me the gun). The Sikh soldier was close enough to hear all this commotion. Excited officer took his soldier’s automatic gun and fired a burst of bullets towards the Sikh soldier at close range. Bullets hit the Sikh and his body went in the air. The Sikh soldier yelled ‘thand pay gaye ye’ (are you satisfied now) and dropped dead on the ground. In 1999, during Kargil war, commanding officer of 8th Sikhs sent a recommendation for bravery award for his worthy opponent Captain Sher Khan (27th Sindh & 12th Northern Light Infantry). Sher Khan was awarded the highest gallantry award of the country.

Indian and Pakistani armies share a common history and the memory of that shared bond is fading away. There is some limited interaction between two armies in United Nations peace missions in different parts of the world. In an ironic twist of history, in early 2005, in war torn Congo, nine Bangladeshi soldiers were ambushed and killed by a militia force. Pakistani troops (along with South African troops) avenged the deaths of Bangladeshi soldiers by overrunning one of the militia bases killing fifty militiamen. In this operation, Indian attack helicopters provided air support to Pakistani troops. Both countries should work towards peaceful coexistence and strive to decrease the animosity so that they can address more acute problems of national integration, internal cohesion and economic prosperity. Peaceful and confident India and Pakistan can then contribute more soldiers to peace missions around the globe where next generation of soldiers and officers can interact in a more friendly and cooperative manner thus reliving the memories of their forefathers.

Author thanks many for providing details of interesting historical events and anecdotes. All errors are author’s sole responsibility.


Patricia Crone. Scholar of Islam

I was away on vacation so this is a bit late. But better late than never. (from friend Robin Khundkar)

Patricia Crone co-authored a controversial work on early Islam called “Hagarism – making of the Islamic World” which she later conceded had serious problems and with drew from publication, Never the less she was a serious scholar and respected by everyone including those who were critical of her conclusions. Below are remembrances of her as well as three outstanding essays she wrote for Open Democracy in the last decade.

May not be of interest to everyone but worth the time of folks interested in Early Islam


Patricia Crone: Memoir of a superb Islamic scholar
Judith Herrin
12 July 2015  
Open Democracy

The great historian of early Islam, Patricia Crone, died peacefully on July 11 after a long battle with cancer. This memoir by her friend and colleague was written earlier this year for a volume of essays in her honour and links to her outstanding essay on Mohammed published by openDemocracy.

This essay is the introduction to Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts, Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone, eds. B. Sadeghi, A. Q. Ahmed, A. Silverstein, and R. Hoyland (Brill 2015), xiv-xx, and is republished with thanks.

About the author
Judith Herrin is emeritus professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College, London. Her books include The Formation of Christendom, Women in Purple and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

On the floor of Patricia Crone’s grand study that runs the entire depth of her house in Princeton, and looks out on her lovely garden, lies a very striking Persian carpet, most gloriously woven in red with white patterns on it. Her father had it in his office and I always imagined it had been a tribute by him to her brilliance. But no, he thought that all his four daughters should be fluent in at least two international languages and insisted on them going to finishing school in France and England. So after taking the “forprøve” or preliminary exam at Copenhagen University, Patricia had to go to Paris to learn French and then to London where she determined to get into a university as a pleasant and productive way of becoming fluent in English. She was accepted as an occasional student at King’s College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations. And when she discovered SOAS, where they offered exactly the kind of course she wanted and could not do in Denmark (History branch IV), she wrote to her father and asked him if he would pay for three more years in London. His generous agreement thus sponsored her association with Islamic history. At SOAS she learned Arabic, later adding Persian and Syriac, and got a First, which pleased her father, whom she describes as an academic manqué. She then went on to write her PhD on the maw­ālī in the Umayyad period under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, although he left for America before the thesis was examined in 1974. Then she was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at the Warburg Institute. And that is where we first met in the autumn of 1976.

Patricia had already spent two years at the Warburg and was well established in a nice office on the third floor looking out over Gordon Square. As this was her final year as SRF she was looking for a more permanent university position. The Director, Joe Trapp, had very kindly offered me a small stipend to organize a couple of interdisciplinary seminars, and arranged for a second desk and chair to be installed in her office. When I knocked on the door and went in to take possession of my designated space, we became acquainted. I was immediately struck by her very bright blue eyes and quizzical expression. As I later learned they were the outward signs of an extremely astute intelligence, a highly skeptical approach to problems and a passionate commitment to her research.

Patricia was a heavy smoker, and I was not. At the time the Warburg allowed smoking even in the Reading Room, though not in the stacks, a striking feature of the ubiquity of the habit. I found this unpleasant and Patricia gallantly agreed to smoke out of the window, which made the room very cold in the winter. But by then we had discovered that there was more that united than divided us – and this great compensation for the disagreement over cigarettes was confirmed when Patricia agreed to contribute to the first seminar I organized which was devoted to Iconoclasm (her paper on Islam, Judaeo-Christianity and Byzantine Iconoclasm, 1980, is reprinted in her Variorum volume, Aldershot 2005). She took some persuading but the result is a fascinating exploration of the forces and borders between Islam, Judaism and Christianity that made the Near East such a trembling cauldron of potent explosion between the seventh and the ninth centuries.

She and Michael Cook had already finished their joint study Hagarism, which was due to be published in the spring of 1977. Michael expressed considerable anxiety about its appearance, realizing that it would ruffle more than a few feathers, especially Muslim ones. This was inevitable because the whole purpose of the book was to look beyond the Islamic tradition for contemporary accounts of the Prophet preserved in other languages. They had carefully examined all the records they could find in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Persian, Aramaic and Coptic for evidence of the movement that forged the Arab tribes into such a mighty military force. Of course many dismissed Muhammad as just another infidel prophet, but others, especially Babylonian Judaism, presented indisputably useful contemporary evidence. While the first section of the book challenged the average reader with detailed analysis of some rather obscure texts, the second put together an account of the Near Eastern provinces before the rise of Islam, while the third offered an exciting new synthesis of all these observations, presenting the idea of Hagarism as a dominant force in the mixed world of the Prophet. On the eve of the book’s publication, Michael took their names off the bell at the door to their flat on Marylebone High Street, but there were no incidents – reviews ranged from the highly appreciative to the extremely negative and beyond. ‘Crone and Cook’ was to become a term for unacceptable “revisionism,” but also, to those who appreciated the result, a touchstone for the wider explanation of the rise of Islam.

By the summer of 1977 as these notices began to arrive, Anthony Barnett and I had had our first child, who was rapidly introduced to the Warburg. Patricia enjoyed putting up the notice that read, “Quiet please, baby sleeping,” outside our office. Tamara soon became too active to be put to sleep on a cushion but it was typical of Patricia’s generosity that she encouraged me to bring her in, leave her and rush around the stacks checking footnotes. She even offered to look after the 18-month old when I was invited to give a paper to a Middle Eastern History Group in Edinburgh, interested in the role of medieval women. When I protested that I couldn’t go, she simply told me to deliver Tamara to her flat for the day with all the necessary equipment. It was cold that November and Patricia got completely exhausted continuously pushing Tamara. She had discovered that the moment she stopped Tamara started wailing, and as motion in the pushchair seemed the only way to stop the noise, Patricia carried on walking around, up and down the pavements of central London until I got back! And that paper was the first of many efforts to present the power and unusual authority of Byzantine women to a mixed audience, which became a major preoccupation of my later scholarship.

In 1977 Patricia took up an appointment at Oxford University and was rewriting the first part of her thesis as the book entitled Slaves on Horses. Her exploration of the evolution of the Islamic polity followed on from Hagarism with a sophisticated analysis of the role of tribes and tribal culture in early Islam, which she compared with Turkish tribes in the conquest of Central Asia. The two conquests by tribal peoples on horseback form the starting point and cross-fertilize the argument. At first she commuted from London to the Oriental Institute in Oxford, and we continued to see each other, but later she moved to Cambridge and began work on Roman, provincial and Islamic law, based on the second part of her thesis, exploring the inter-connected features of Near Eastern legal systems – Roman, Jewish, Islamic – as well as the promotion of slaves to positions of high authority that set Islamic society apart from traditional late antique and medieval societies. This was followed by Meccan Trade which had a rather different perspective in settling the issue of Muhammad’s rather humble mercantile activity that influenced the early years of Islam. She argued that the spice trade was an Orientalist invention and that the trade depicted in the Muslim sources couldn’t account for the supposed wealth and power of Quraysh. It has proved equally definitive.

These three immensely erudite studies of the role of slaves, law and trade in early Islam are supported by many pages of references and appendices, more footnotes than text, and are rooted in comparative analysis. They do not lack lighter moments. Patricia’s example of how Islamic lawyers tackled the Roman legal dilemma of what happens when a slave girl, who has been promised her freedom if she gives birth to a son, has twins, forms an appendix that makes you laugh out loud.

While still teaching in Oxford, she and Martin Hinds began working together on the earliest conception of religious authority in Islam, which became God’s Caliph. It was a great pleasure to visit them during his visits to Oxford, to see how happy she was, and this made his premature death all the more difficult to bear. She also kept in touch with us as our family expanded and we have photos of Patricia with our younger daughter Portia.

From 1985 onwards I was often in Princeton so we kept in touch by letters, the exchange of offprints and Christmas cards – hers often displayed her puppets during a performance. In these Patricia revealed a talent for making and costuming puppets, which she then controlled to create a performance in the theatre also constructed for the purpose. She invited local children to make up the audience and gave extraordinary pleasure – another unexpected achievement. She also gave extravagant New Year’s Eve parties, which always involved elaborate decorations, with streamers, colored baskets of gifts and much delicious food and drink. I think it was one of the Danish customs she imported with her.

In Cambridge her house was conveniently close to the station so that she could make a quick dash to London or the airport, and within easy bicycling of Gonville and Caius, the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the University Library. Patricia always arranged her life to maximize the time she could spend at work – her efficiency in this respect is clear from the number of books and articles that resulted. She is utterly single-minded manner in the way she pursues intellectual problems.

Her research takes off from a very close reading of the sources, questioning their reliability, credibility and purpose with a general distrust of the common interpretation and received wisdom. She constantly challenges opinions expressed by both medieval and modern experts with a profound skepticism that characterizes her work. Along with this commitment to her chosen field went a determination to make it understandable to those who wanted to know, an example I found inspiring.

This concern with making Islam comprehensible is evident from her contributions to more contemporary issues. When Anthony suggested that she should write something about Muhammad for openDemocracy, she produced two very widely read articles. “What do we actually know about Muhammad” (with nearly 100,000 readers), “Jihad, Idea and History” which answers questions such as “What is Jihad?” and “Was Islam spread by force?”, as well as a reflection on religious freedom in Islam. This direct engagement with problems of today in an unprejudiced fashion balances Patricia’s dedicated research into the much earlier history of Islam. To both spheres she brings a deep sense of involvement based on fearless honesty and very good judgment.

Similarly, when approached by Novin Doostdar of Oneworld Press for a book she did not want to write, she persuaded him to undertake a series of small biographies of Muslim figures modeled on the Oxford Past Masters and the modern equivalent. Together they planned what has become a most successful and informative range of short introductory volumes to key players in the Muslim world, from late antiquity to the present day, which provide a perfect entry point to periods of Islamic history when individual rulers, generals, religious leaders, poets and philosophers helped to create new conditions. Figures as different as Caliph Abd al-Malik, Mehmed Ali, Nazira Zeineddine, Abu Nuwas and Chinggis Khan come to life in brief biographies commissioned, edited and occasionally re-written by Patricia. 30 volumes in her series, Makers of the Muslim World, are already available and two more will be published this autumn.

As she realized how difficult it was for students of the late twentieth century to grasp the restrictions of the pre-industrial world, she began to introduce her lectures on Islamic history with one on the main features of pre-industrial societies. John Davey, an editor with Blackwells, suggested that she expand this into a book without footnotes designed for the general reader, something of a departure from her previous work. In Pre-Industrial Societies she emphasized a broad comparative approach to clarify the gap that separates us moderns from the non-industrialized world, and the huge differences wrought by the industrial revolution. Evidence from the Far East (China, Japan), the Indian sub-continent and Islamic societies of the Near East and North Africa, was employed to highlight the specific character of such communities prior to industrialization, drawing parallels between imperial structures (of the Byzantine, Chinese, Japanese and the Muslim Caliphate), and the looser, less organized small units that dominated Northern Europe. In an imaginary island setting, she sets out the options for people who suddenly find themselves without a government and traces how they might react. Above all, she elucidates the underlying significance embedded in systems of land tenure, the role of cities and most important of religion in such pre-modern societies, whether Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian or Christian.

Her delight in identifying structural inversions is captured in vivid terms: “there was nothing shameful about patronage as such: it benefitted employed and employee alike. Wherever trust mattered as much as or more than skills, nepotism was a virtue, not a sign of corruption.” (33) And after exploring these features across a very wide spectrum of such societies Patricia then looked at the particularly distinctive nature of Europe, ‘First or freak?’ and the concept of modernity. She asks what constitutes the modern and her reply encapsulates a great deal of thought, how to present Marxism, totalitarianism and democracy, in a commanding survey of what industrialization brought in its wake. And what a basic shift this involved: “ideologically we are all identical, however different we may seem, not, as in pre-industrial societies, different regardless of our fundamental similarities.” (194) It is a book whose depth of insight grows with re-rereading.

Much to my regret, in 1995 when I returned to England to take up the Chair of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London, Patricia was already being courted by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. So we swapped continents and remained on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Before she left, however, Patricia gave one of her most extravagant parties, taking over the Hall of Gonville and Caius College for a feast, a real feast, preceded by champagne on the lawn. Anthony helped light fireworks to mark the event. Every table was packed with friends and colleagues who had been carefully placed to provoke interesting conversations, and after the great dinner college staff cleared away the long tables and benches so that we could dance to her favorite Strauss waltzes and polkas. This is so much harder to do than you imagine – we needed more rock and roll as well – but everyone enjoyed celebrating her and wishing her all the best for her move to the States.

Fortunately, it didn’t mean that we saw each other less, as we made more effort to keep in touch. After discovering that we shared a passion for opera, we planned our visits to Glyndebourne and London operas to be sure that we could go together, and in this way enjoyed several memorable performances and splendid picnics every summer. I also return to America frequently and take every opportunity to visit her in Princeton, in the elegant double house she converted on Humbert Street. Typical of Patricia, she decided against living in the grand accommodation provided by the Institute down Olden Lane, and purchased this plot in central Princeton, which was near the shops and the University library. As usual she ensured that she could bicycle to work.

Ensconced at the Institute, Patricia devoted herself to further detailed studies of Islamic government, the Muslim dynasties, the nativist prophets and pagan opponents of the Prophet – and yet more work in progress. All this is only achieved by maintaining a rigorous working schedule, never relaxing her concentration until the evening, passed as often as not watching old films and favorite BBC series. Yet hers has never been an ascetic existence. An extraordinarily welcoming manner and generous hospitality means any number of parties for students and colleagues, delicious dinners and a range of Californian red wines to accompany her excellent cooking. She has always travelled most adventurously – all over the Near East, further afield to Vietnam and more recently to Uzbekistan. For my part I only persuaded her to travel from London to Lewes, though once we went as far as Aberystwyth for a seminar on comparative medieval social structures (we thoroughly enjoyed the single track railway through the Welsh hills and the sea front on the coast). But I can confirm what a cheerful travelling companion she is, and what an enormous pleasure it is to count her as the best of friends.

Patricia has an extraordinary capacity to adapt to change and appears equally at home in London, Princeton and surely in Denmark at family reunions with her siblings. Yet she is very rooted, taking immense care over the planting of her garden (and her neighbors’), and joyfully celebrating their flowering. Her devotion to the roses which bloom so briefly in Princeton blocks any effort to lure her away at that time. She is also unusually responsive to changes in other parts of the world today, foreseeing with great distress and her acerbic tongue the agonizing conflicts across the Middle East today.

Any lasting solution to these deep social clefts will need to respect and understand their history. The rise of Islam brought to an end what is now called Late Antiquity and precipitated the formation of eastern and western Christendom in what remained of the Roman Empire north of the Arab conquests. This makes Islam the most recent historically of all the world’s great monotheistic religions. Perhaps for this reason, its insistence on being the only vehicle of the true prophet is amongst the most vehement, and its claims are the most vulnerable to research. The historian of the extraordinary rise of Islam, therefore, has to be especially scrupulous, exacting and meticulous, both in order to be sensitive and if possible unimpeachable in her reconstruction of what happened, as well as to glimpse the previously existing context through the all-encompassing stamp of the conquests. It is Patricia’s accomplishment to have achieved this. Acutely conscious of the human realities (of all kinds) she remains utterly intransigent in her own approach as a secular historian par excellance. What makes it doubly awesome is that she carried this through both for what became the Arab world and for the pre-Islamic history of Persia, to which she dedicated her most recent years resulting in yet another magnum opus, The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran, which has now garnered four prestigious prizes, including the Albert Hourani book award, the Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies book award, the Central Eurasian Studies Society award, and the James Henry Breasted Prize of the American Historical Society for the best book in English in any field of history prior to 1000CE. Together with her major works on Medieval Islamic Political Theory and God’s Rule, she has transformed our understanding of this critical period of history that is so relevant today.

Patricia Crone, Questioning Scholar of Islamic History, Dies at 70
New York Times
JULY 22, 2015

Patricia Crone, a scholar who explored untapped archaeological records and contemporary Greek and Aramaic sources to challenge conventional views of the roots and evolution of Islam, died on July 11 at her home in Princeton, N.J. She was 70.

The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she was a professor from 1997 until her retirement last year, said the cause was cancer.

Fred M. Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history at the University of Chicago, said Professor Crone had “made it clear that historians of early Islam had failed to really behave as historians — that is, had failed to challenge the validity of their sources, but rather had accepted complacently what I call the ‘traditional origins narrative’ created by the Islamic tradition itself.”

As a result, in books like “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” (1977, written with Michael Cook), she disputed assumptions that Islam had been transmitted by trade from Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it had been spread by conquest instead. She also identified how indigenous rural prophets in what is now Iran had defied conquering Arabs and helped shape Islamic culture, setting the stage for conflicts within Islam that endure today.

Current events frequently intruded on Professor Crone’s scholarship on historic divisions in the Middle East between secularism and Islamic orthodoxy, and between the Arab world and the West. Writing about present-day Muslims on the website openDemocracy in 2007, she said, “Wherever they look, they are being invaded by so-called Western values — in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy.”

Patricia Crone was born in Kyndelose, Denmark, on March 28, 1945, to Thomas Crone, the chief executive of the Scandinavian Tobacco Company, and the former Vibeke Scheel Richter. She is survived by four siblings, Clarissa Crone, Diana Crone Frank, Alexander Crone and Camilla Castenskiold.

She attended the University of Copenhagen and then received undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She taught at Oxford and Cambridge before joining the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent research center, where she was the Andrew W. Mellon professor.

“Each one of her brilliant and original monographs — and the same holds true for most of her articles — had profoundly impacted the field or helped to identify entirely new branches within the discipline,” Professor Sabine Schmidtke, who succeeded Professor Crone at the Institute for Advanced Study, said in an interview.

In another essay for openDemocracy, Professor Crone focused on the Prophet Muhammad himself, writing that “we can be reasonably sure that the Quran is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God.” She summarized the major themes of the Quran as “God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment.”

She also wrote that Muhammad was perceived not as the founder of a new religion but as a preacher in the Old Testament tradition, hailing the coming of a messiah. His success, she argued, “had something to do with the fact that he preached both state formation and conquest: Without conquest, first in Arabia and next in the Fertile Crescent, the unification of Arabia would not have been achieved.”

Her other books include “God’s Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought” (2004) and “The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran” (2012), which detailed the historical precedents for local rebels defying the ruling elite.

“Her death,” Professor Donner said, “deprives our field of someone who was at one and the same time its main motor and, in a way, its conscience; and while many in the field of Islamic history might have disliked some of what she said, I doubt that anyone in the field didn’t care what she said.”

What do we actually know about Mohammed?
Patricia Crone
Open Democracy
10 June 2008

About the author
Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015. Her publications most relevant to this article include Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton University Press, 1987 [reprinted 2004]; “How did the quranic pagans make a living?” (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (68 / 2005); and “Quraysh and the Roman Army: Making Sense of the Qurashi Leathertrade” (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, forthcoming [spring 2007]).

Patricia Crone’s main recent work is Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh University Press, 2004); published in the United States as God’s Rule: Government and Islam [Columbia University Press, 2004])

It is notoriously difficult to know anything for sure about the founder of a world religion. Just as one shrine after the other obliterates the contours of the localities in which he was active, so one doctrine after another reshapes him as a figure for veneration and imitation for a vast number of people in times and places that he never knew.

In the case of Mohammed, Muslim literary sources for his life only begin around 750-800 CE (common era), some four to five generations after his death, and few Islamicists (specialists in the history and study of Islam) these days assume them to be straightforward historical accounts. For all that, we probably know more about Mohammed than we do about Jesus (let alone Moses or the Buddha), and we certainly have the potential to know a great deal more.

There is no doubt that Mohammed existed, occasional attempts to deny it notwithstanding. His neighbours in Byzantine Syria got to hear of him within two years of his death at the latest; a Greek text written during the Arab invasion of Syria between 632 and 634 mentions that “a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens” and dismisses him as an impostor on the ground that prophets do not come “with sword and chariot”. It thus conveys the impression that he was actually leading the invasions.

Mohammed’s death is normally placed in 632, but the possibility that it should be placed two or three years later cannot be completely excluded. The Muslim calendar was instituted after Mohammed’s death, with a starting-point of his emigration (hijra) to Medina (then Yathrib) ten years earlier. Some Muslims, however, seem to have correlated this point of origin with the year which came to span 624-5 in the Gregorian calendar rather than the canonical year of 622.

If such a revised date is accurate, the evidence of the Greek text would mean that Mohammed is the only founder of a world religion who is attested in a contemporary source. But in any case, this source gives us pretty irrefutable evidence that he was an historical figure. Moreover, an Armenian document probably written shortly after 661 identifies him by name and gives a recognisable account of his monotheist preaching.

Patricia Crone is professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her publications most relevant to this article include Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton University Press, 1987 [reprinted 2004]; “How did the quranic pagans make a living?” (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (68 / 2005); and “Quraysh and the Roman Army: Making Sense of the Qurashi Leathertrade” (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, forthcoming [spring 2007]).

Patricia Crone’s main recent work is Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh University Press, 2004); published in the United States as God’s Rule: Government and Islam [Columbia University Press, 2004])

On the Islamic side, sources dating from the mid-8th century onwards preserve a document drawn up between Mohammed and the inhabitants of Yathrib, which there are good reasons to accept as broadly authentic; Mohammed is also mentioned by name, and identified as a messenger of God, four times in the Qur’an (on which more below).

True, on Arabic coins and inscriptions, and in papyri and other documentary evidence in the language, Mohammed only appears in the 680s, some fifty years after his death (whatever its exact date). This is the ground on which some, notably Yehuda D Nevo and Judith Koren, have questioned his existence. But few would accept the implied premise that history has to be reconstructed on the sole basis of documentary evidence (i.e. information which has not been handed down from one generation to the next, but rather been inscribed on stone or metal or dug up from the ground and thus preserved in its original form). The evidence that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, on the eve of the Arab conquest of the middle east, must be said to be exceptionally good.

Everything else about Mohammed is more uncertain, but we can still say a fair amount with reasonable assurance. Most importantly, we can be reasonably sure that the Qur’an is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God. The book may not preserve all the messages he claimed to have received, and he is not responsible for the arrangement in which we have them. They were collected after his death – how long after is controversial. But that he uttered all or most of them is difficult to doubt. Those who deny the existence of an Arabian prophet dispute it, of course, but it causes too many problems with later evidence, and indeed with the Qur’an itself, for the attempt to be persuasive.

The text and the message
For all that, the book is difficult to use as a historical source. The roots of this difficulty include unresolved questions about how it reached its classical form, and the fact that it still is not available in a scholarly edition. But they are also internal to the text. The earliest versions of the Qur’an offer only the consonantal skeleton of the text. No vowels are marked, and worse, there are no diacritical marks, so that many consonants can also be read in a number of ways.

Modern scholars usually assure themselves that since the Qur’an was recited from the start, we can rely on the oral tradition to supply us with the correct reading. But there is often considerable disagreement in the tradition – usually to do with vowelling, but sometimes involving consonants as well – over the correct way in which a word should be read. This rarely affects the overall meaning of the text, but it does affect the details which are so important for historical reconstruction.

In any case, with or without uncertainty over the reading, the Qur’an is often highly obscure. Sometimes it uses expressions that were unknown even to the earliest exegetes, or words that do not seem to fit entirely, though they can be made to fit more or less; sometimes it seems to give us fragments detached from a long-lost context; and the style is highly allusive.

One explanation for these features would be that the prophet formulated his message in the liturgical language current in the religious community in which he grew up, adapting and/or imitating ancient texts such as hymns, recitations, and prayers, which had been translated or adapted from another Semitic language in their turn. This idea has been explored in two German works, by Günter Lüling and Christoph Luxenberg, and there is much to be said for it. At the same time, however, both books are open to so many scholarly objections (notably amateurism in Luxenberg’s case) that they cannot be said to have done the field much good.

The attempt to relate the linguistic and stylistic features of the Qur’an to those of earlier religious texts calls for a mastery of Semitic languages and literature that few today possess, and those who do so tend to work on other things. This is sensible, perhaps, given that the field has become highly charged politically.

Luxenberg’s work is a case in point: it was picked up by the press and paraded in a sensationalist vein on the strength of what to a specialist was its worst idea – to instruct Muslims living in the west that they ought to become enlightened. Neither Muslims nor Islamicists were amused.

The inside story
The Qur’an does not give us an account of the prophet’s life. On the contrary: it does not show us the prophet from the outside at all, but rather takes us inside his head, where God is speaking to him, telling him what to preach, how to react to people who poke fun at him, what to say to his supporters, and so on. We see the world through his eyes, and the allusive style makes it difficult to follow what is going on.

Events are referred to, but not narrated; disagreements are debated without being explained; people and places are mentioned, but rarely named. Supporters are simply referred to as believers; opponents are condemned as unbelievers, polytheists, wrongdoers, hypocrites and the like, with only the barest information on who they were or what they said or did in concrete terms (rather as modern political ideologues will reduce their enemies to abstractions: revisionists, reactionaries, capitalist-roaders, terrorists). It could be, and sometimes seems to be, that the same people now appear under one label and then another.

One thing seems clear, however: all the parties in the Qur’an are monotheists worshipping the God of the Biblical tradition, and all are familiar – if rarely directly from the Bible itself – with Biblical concepts and stories. This is true even of the so-called polytheists, traditionally identified with Mohammed’s tribe in Mecca. The Islamic tradition says that the members of this tribe, known as Quraysh, were believers in the God of Abraham whose monotheism had been corrupted by pagan elements; modern historians would be inclined to reverse the relationship and cast the pagan elements as older than the monotheism; but some kind of combination of Biblical-type monotheism and Arabian paganism is indeed what one encounters in the Qur’an.

The so-called polytheists believed in one creator God who ruled the world and whom one approached through prayer and ritual; in fact, like the anathematised ideological enemies of modern times, they seem to have originated in the same community as the people who denounced them. For a variety of doctrinal reasons, however, the tradition likes to stress the pagan side of the prophet’s opponents, and one highly influential source in particular (Ibn al-Kalbi) casts them as naive worshippers of stones and idols of a type that may very well have existed in other parts of Arabia. For this reason, the secondary literature has tended to depict them as straightforward pagans too.

Some exegetes are considerably more sophisticated than Ibn al-Kalbi, and among modern historians GR Hawting stands out as the first to have shown that the people denounced as polytheists in the Qur’an are anything but straightforward pagans. The fact that the Qur’an seems to record a split in a monotheist community in Arabia can be expected to transform our understanding of how the new religion arose.

The prophet and the polytheists
What then are the big issues dividing the prophet and his opponents? Two stand out. First, time and again he accuses the polytheists of the same crime as the Christians – deification of lesser beings. The Christians elevated Jesus to divine status (though some of them were believers); the polytheists elevated the angels to the same status and compounded their error by casting them (or some of them) as females; and just as the Christians identified Jesus as the son of God, so the polytheists called the angels sons and daughters of God, apparently implying some sort of identity of essence.

The polytheists further claimed that the angels (or deities, as they are also called) were intercessors who enabled them to approach God, a well-known argument by late antique monotheists who retained their ancestral gods by identifying them as angels. For Christians also saw the angels as intercessors, and the prophet was of the same view: his polemics arise entirely from the fact that the pagan angels are seen as manifestations of God himself rather than his servants. The prophet responds by endlessly affirming that God is one and alone, without children or anyone else sharing in his divinity.

The second bone of contention between the prophet and his opponents was the resurrection. Some doubted its reality, others denied it outright, still others rejected the idea of afterlife altogether. The hardliners appear to have come from the ranks of the Jews and/or Christians rather than – or in addition to – the polytheists; or perhaps the so-called polytheists were actually Jews or Christians of some local kind. In any case, the hardliners convey the impression of having made their appearance quite recently, and again people of the same type are attested on the Greek (and Syriac) side of the fence.

The prophet responds by repeatedly rehearsing arguments in favour of the resurrection of the type familiar from the Christian tradition, insisting that people will be raised up for judgment. He adds that the judgment is coming soon, in the form of some local disaster such as those which overtook earlier communities (e.g. Lot’s) and/or a universal conflagration. His opponents tease him, asking him why it does not seem to be happening; he persists. At some point the confrontation turns violent and the book is filled with calls to arms, with much fighting over a sanctuary.

By then it is clear that there has been an emigration (hijra), though the event itself is not described, and there is some legislation for the new community. Throughout the book there is also much acrimonious debate about the credentials of the prophet himself. But God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment are by far the most important themes, reiterated in most of the sura (chapters of the Qur’an).

In sum, not only do we know that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, we also have a fair idea of what he preached. Non-Islamicists may therefore conclude that the historians’ complaint that they know so little about him is mere professional grumpiness. But on one issue it is unquestionably more. This is a big problem to do with Arabia.

A question of geography
The inhabitants of the Byzantine and Persian empires wrote about the northern and the southern ends of the peninsula, from where we also have numerous inscriptions; but the middle was terra incognita. This is precisely where the Islamic tradition places Mohammed’s career. We do not know what was going on there, except insofar as the Islamic tradition tells us.

It yields no literature to which we can relate the Qur’an – excepting poetry, for which we are again dependent on the Islamic tradition and which is in any case so different in character that it does not throw much light on the book. Not a single source outside Arabia mentions Mecca before the conquests, and not one displays any sign of recognition or tells us what was known about it when it appears in the sources thereafter. That there was a place called Mecca where Mecca is today may well be true; that it had a pagan sanctuary is perfectly plausible (Arabia was full of sanctuaries), and it could well have belonged to a tribe called the Quraysh. But we know nothing about the place with anything approaching reasonable certainty. In sum, we have no context for the prophet and his message.

It is difficult not to suspect that the tradition places the prophet’s career in Mecca for the same reason that it insists that he was illiterate: the only way he could have acquired his knowledge of all the things that God had previously told the Jews and the Christians was by revelation from God himself. Mecca was virgin territory; it had neither Jewish nor Christian communities.

The suspicion that the location is doctrinally inspired is reinforced by the fact that the Qur’an describes the polytheist opponents as agriculturalists who cultivated wheat, grapes, olives, and date palms. Wheat, grapes and olives are the three staples of the Mediterranean; date palms take us southwards, but Mecca was not suitable for any kind of agriculture, and one could not possibly have produced olives there.

In addition, the Qur’an twice describes its opponents as living in the site of a vanished nation, that is to say a town destroyed by God for its sins. There were many such ruined sites in northwest Arabia. The prophet frequently tells his opponents to consider their significance and on one occasion remarks, with reference to the remains of Lot’s people, that “you pass by them in the morning and in the evening”. This takes us to somewhere in the Dead Sea region. Respect for the traditional account has prevailed to such an extent among modern historians that the first two points have passed unnoticed until quite recently, while the third has been ignored. The exegetes said that the Quraysh passed by Lot’s remains on their annual journeys to Syria, but the only way in which one can pass by a place in the morning and the evening is evidently by living somewhere in the vicinity.

The annual journeys invoked by the exegetes were trading journeys. All the sources say that the Quraysh traded in southern Syria, many say that they traded in Yemen too, and some add Iraq and Ethiopia to their destinations. They are described as trading primarily in leather goods, woollen clothing, and other items of mostly pastoralist origin, as well as perfume (not south Arabian frankincense or Indian luxury goods, as used to be thought). Their caravan trade has been invoked to explain the familiarity with Biblical and para-Biblical material which is so marked a feature of the Qur’an, but this goes well beyond what traders would be likely to pick up on annual journeys. There is no doubt, however, that one way or the other a trading community is involved in the rise of Islam, though it is not clear how it relates to that of the agriculturalists of the Qur’an. On all this there is much to be said, if not yet with any certainty.

Three sources of evidence
The biggest problem facing scholars of the rise of Islam is identifying the context in which the prophet worked. What was he reacting to, and why was the rest of Arabia so responsive to his message? We stand a good chance of making headway, for we are nowhere near having exploited to the full our three main types of evidence – the traditions associated with the prophet (primarily the hadith), the Qur’an itself, and (a new source of enormous promise) archaeology.

The first is the most difficult to handle; this overwhelmingly takes the form of hadith – short reports (sometimes just a line or two) recording what an early figure, such as a companion of the prophet or Mohammed himself, said or did on a particular occasion, prefixed by a chain of transmitters. (Nowadays, hadith almost always means hadith from Mohammed himself.) Most of the early sources for the prophet’s life, as also for the period of his immediate successors, consist of hadith in some arrangement or other.

The purpose of such reports was to validate Islamic law and doctrine, not to record history in the modern sense, and since they were transmitted orally, as very short statements, they easily drifted away from their original meaning as conditions changed. (They were also easily fabricated, but this is actually less of a problem.) They testify to intense conflicts over what was or was not true Islam in the period up to the 9th century, when the material was collected and stabilised; these debates obscured the historical nature of the figures invoked as authorities, while telling us much about later perceptions.

The material is amorphous and difficult to handle. Simply to collect the huge mass of variant versions and conflicting reports on a particular subject used to be a laborious task; now it has been rendered practically effortless by searchable databases. However, we still do not have generally accepted methods for ordering the material, whether as evidence for the prophet or for the later doctrinal disputes (for which it will probably prove more fruitful). But much interesting work is going on in the field.

As regards the second source, the Qur’an, its study has so far been dominated by the method of the early Muslim exegetes, who were in the habit of considering its verses in isolation, explaining them with reference to events in the prophet’s life without regard for the context in which it appeared in the Qur’an itself. In effect, they were replacing the Qur’anic context with a new one.

Some fifty years ago an Egyptian scholar by the name of Mohammed Shaltut, later rector of al-Azhar, rejected this method in favour of understanding the Qur’an in the light of the Qur’an itself. He was a religious scholar interested in the religious and moral message of the Qur’an, not a western-style historian, but his method should be adopted by historians too. The procedure of the early exegetes served to locate the meaning of the book in Arabia alone, insulating it from religious and cultural developments in the world outside it, so that the Biblical stories and other ideas originating outside Arabia came across to modern scholars as “foreign borrowings”, picked up in an accidental fashion by a trader who did not really understand what they meant.

The realisation is slowly dawning that this is fundamentally wrong. The prophet was not an outsider haphazardly collecting fallout from debates in the monotheist world around him, but rather a full participant in these debates. Differently put, the rise of Islam has to be related to developments in the world of late antiquity, and it is with that context in mind that we need to reread the Qur’an. It is a big task, and there will be, indeed already have been, false turns on the way. But it will revolutionise the field.

The third, and immeasurably exciting, type of source is looming increasingly large on the horizon: archaeology. Arabia, the big unknown, has begun to be excavated, and though it is unlikely that there will be archaeological explorations of Mecca and Medina anytime soon, the results from this discipline are already mind-opening.

Arabia seems to have been a much more developed place than most Islamicists (myself included) had ever suspected – not just in the north and south, but also in the middle. We are beginning to get a much more nuanced sense of the place, and again it is clear that we should think of it as more closely tied in with the rest of the near east than we used to do. The inscriptional record is expanding, too. With every bit of certainty we gain on one problem, the range of possible interpretations in connection with others contracts, making for a better sense of where to look for solutions and better conjectures where no evidence exists.

We shall never be able to do without the literary sources, of course, and the chances are that most of what the tradition tells us about the prophet’s life is more or less correct in some sense or other. But no historical interpretation succeeds unless the details, the context and the perspectives are right. We shall never know as much as we would like to (when do we?), but Islamicists have every reason to feel optimistic that many of the gaps in our current knowledge will be filled in the years ahead.

‘Jihad’: idea and history
Patricia Crone
1 May 2007
Open Democracy

About the author
Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015


What is jihad?
Jihad is a subject that non-Muslims find difficult to understand. In fact, there is nothing particularly outlandish about it. All one has to remember is that holy war is not the opposite of pacifism, but rather of secular war – fighting in pursuit of aims lying outside religion. Whether people are militant or not in its pursuit is another matter.

With that general observation, let me pose the four questions to be addressed in this essay. They are:

1.    Exactly what is jihad, apart from holy war in a broad sense?

2.    Is it true that Islam was spread by force?

3.    Did the pre-modern Muslims ever feel that there was anything wrong about religious warfare?

4.    What is the relevance of all this to the world today? (I must stress that when I get to this fourth topic, I am no longer speaking as a specialist).

So first, just what is jihad?
Well, actually there are two kinds, depending on whether the Muslims are politically strong or weak. I shall start with the type associated with political strength, because that’s the normal type in Islamic history. I shall get to the second in connection with the question of modern relevance.

The normal type of jihad is missionary warfare. That’s how you’ll find it described in the classical law-books, from about 800 to about 1800. What the Quran has to say on the subject is a different question: the rules it presupposes seem to be a good deal more pacifist than those developed by the jurists and exegetes. But it is the work of the latter which came to form the sharia – the huge mass of precepts on which the public and private lives of Muslims were based (at least in theory), down to the coming of modernity, which still regulates their devotional lives today, and on which Islamists (or “fundamentalists”) would like once more to base the entire arena of public life.

The scholars said that jihad consisted in backing the call to Islam with violence, where necessary. It was “the forcible mission assisted by the unsheathed sword against wrongheaded people who arrogantly refuse to accept the plain truth after it has become clear”: thus a scholar who died in 1085. The idea was that God was the only ruler of the universe. Humans who refused to acknowledge this were in the nature of rebels, who had to be brought to heel. At the very least, they had to submit to God politically, by being brought under Muslim government. But ideally, they would submit to him in religious terms as well, by converting.

Holy warriors worked by making regular incursions into the lands of the infidels order to call them to Islam. Normally, they would do so as part of an official expedition launched by the state, but they might also operate on their own. In any case, if the infidels didn’t want to convert, they could just surrender politically (at least if they were Christians and Jews). In that case they were placed under Muslim government, but kept their own religion in return for the payment of poll-tax. But if they refused both religious and political surrender, they should be fought until they were defeated. The terms were in that case set by the conquerors, who might kill the men and enslave the women and children (or so at least if they were pagans); or they might treat them as if they had surrendered voluntarily.

Once an infidel community had been subdued politically, one moved on to the next lot of infidels and did the same to them. This had to go on until the whole earth was God’s or the world came to an end, whichever would be the sooner.

Missionary warfare was a duty imposed by God on the Muslim community, not on individuals, and it was discharged primarily by the ruler, who’d typically mount one expedition into infidel territory a year, if he had infidel neighbours. But it was highly meritorious for private individuals to go and fight as well, and there were always volunteers on the borders. If you couldn’t go yourself, you could earn merit by donating money or giving gifts to the cause, like people in 19th-century Europe would make donations in support of the missionaries working in distant countries.

The way that ordinary Muslims thought of jihad in the past can be compared to Christians’ attitude towards those of their co-religionists who chose to become missionaries. Nowadays the latter are often regarded as interfering busybodies, but formerly they were admired for their willingness to devote their lives to the salvation of benighted natives. That’s the attitude that prevailed in jihad: it was an extremely noble enterprise. After all, people risked their own lives for it. It was the height of altruism.

The Christian missionaries did not themselves fight; they merely followed in the wake of soldiers. But a holy warrior was a missionary and a soldier all in one. He was engaged in something that modern observers would call religious imperialism.

That’s an institution with very long roots in the middle east. Ancient near-eastern historians call it warfare at the command of a god, and the star example is the Assyrians. Their god Ashshur endlessly told them to go and conquer. The god of the Israelites was of the same type. “I have given into your hands Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it and fight him in battle”, he says to Moses in Deuteronomy, where Moses reports that “We took all his cities and utterly destroyed the men, the women and the little ones”.

In the same vein a Moabite king says in an inscription that “Kamosh (the deity) spoke to me and said, Go and take Nebo from Israel. So I went and fought it…and took it and killed everybody, 7,000 men, boys, women, girls and slave girls”. The Muslim God also told his people to conquer, but with one big difference in classical thought, namely that he wanted the victims to convert.

The Assyrians, the Israelites and the Moabites didn’t pretend to be doing anything for the good of the victims. They fought for the greater glory of their own god, and their own community, not to save anyone else. The same seems to have been true of the early Arab conquerors. But in classical Islam, the divine command to go and fight is no longer addressed to an ethnic group, only to believers, whoever they may be; and it is now linked to a religious mission civilisatrice: the believers conquer in order to save souls, not (or not just) to glorify their own community.

It is this fusion of religious and political imperialism that makes classical jihad distinctive, for the two don’t usually go together. The great universalist religions were apolitical and spread by peaceful proselytisation: thus Buddhism, Christianity, and Manichaeism, and also Bahai’ism. And universalist conquerors are not usually out to save people’s souls: think of Alexander the Great, the Romans, or the Mongols. But in Islam, religious mission and world conquest have married up.  


Was Islam spread by force?
The second question posed at the start of this essay was: is it true that Islam was spread by force?

The answer is, in one sense, yes, but even this needs careful qualification. Warfare did play a major role both in the rise of Islam and its later diffusion. But some places were Islamised without any war at all, notably Malaysia and Indonesia. Above all, even where Islam was spread by jihad, it was not usually done the way people imagine. People usually think of holy warriors as engaging in something like Charlemagne’s forced conversion of the Saxons, war for the extirpation of wrong beliefs throughout an entire community. But that model is very rare in Islamic history. The effect of war was usually more indirect.

The scholars said that all infidels had to be brought under Muslim sovereignty, but that Jews and Christians acknowledged the true God and had a revelation from him, so they could be allowed to exist under Muslim protection in return for paying poll-tax. All other infidels were pagans, so how were they to be treated? There is general agreement that the Arabs of Mohammed’s Arabia got the choice between Islam and the sword, and that they did so because they had no religion, as one early scholar put it. (Paganism didn’t count as one.) That’s the best example there is on the Muslim side of the Charlemagne model, if I may call it that, and it is a juristic schematisation of history rather than rather than historical reporting.

Some jurists insisted that this was how all pagans should be treated: people who did not acknowledge the sole sovereignty of God had no right to exist. Others said that for one reason or another, the Arabs were exceptional: all other pagans could be granted protection in return for paying poll-tax in the same way as the Jews and the Christians. This disagreement was enshrined in Muslim law, and modern Islamists typically go for the first view, equating pagans with modern secularists and atheists (among them is an associate of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, lionised in Europe by some of the very secularists whom his associate would force to convert). In pre-modern practice, tolerance usually prevailed as far as conquered communities were concerned. The only infidels who could not be allowed to exist in either theory or practice were apostates – who have become a highly sensitive issue today.

But if people were allowed to keep their religion under Muslim rule, how could the jurists define jihad as missionary warfare? How was it different from other forms of imperialism, such as the Crusades (which were fought for the recovery of the holy land, not the conversion of the Muslims) or secular expansionism?

The answer is that in effect jihad just was ordinary imperialism, but it was undertaken, or at least justified, on the grounds that it would result in conversion, if not straightaway, then sooner or later – and it usually did so too, in a number of ways. For a start, the Muslims routinely took a lot of captives. Male captives were often given the choice between Islam and death, or they might recite the Muslim profession of faith of their own accord to avoid execution. More importantly, captives were usually sold off as slaves, and slaves almost always ended up by converting because most slavery was domestic.

And above all, back in the conquered area, Muslim rulers would move in along with judges and religious scholars to build mosques, apply Islamic law, place restrictions on the building of non-Muslim houses of worship and introduce other discriminatory measures so that the original inhabitants were reduced to tributaries in their own land. They were not necessarily persecuted. The Muslim record of tolerance is generally good. (Obviously, there are plenty of examples of persecution of one kind or another; that religious minorities generally speaking did better under Muslim than under Christian rule under pre-modern conditions nonetheless remains true, however hackneyed the claim has become.) But the non-Muslims would soon have a sense that history was passing them by, that all the action was elsewhere, and this would translate into a feeling that their own beliefs were outmoded. So they would convert too, and that’s the method that really mattered.

In sum, jihad typically spread Islam in much the same way that 19th-century European imperialism spread western culture (and/or Christianity): nobody was directly forced to accept western modernity, or Christianity, but by moving in as the politically dominant elite, the imperialists gave their own beliefs and institutions a persuasiveness that made them difficult to resist. Medieval Muslim scholars were well aware of this effect, and unlike their modern successors, they never tried to deny the role of war in the expansion of Islam.

Muslims, morality, and religious warfare
That brings me to the third question: did the pre-modern Muslims never worry about the moral status of religious warfare?

The answer is mostly no, but sometimes yes. The scholars insisted that the warriors had to fight with the right intentions, for God, not for booty. They also debated whether it was right to conduct holy war under a wrongful ruler (the Sunni answer was yes). But if everything was in order on the side of the warriors, the jurists were satisfied that the enterprise was in the best interests of the victims. The conquered peoples were being dragged to Paradise in chains, as a famous saying went. Far from feeling ashamed about their use of war, Muslims often stressed that holy war was something that only they would engage in, meaning that they were willing to do much more for their religion than other people. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives so that others might live, as they put it. To them, it proved that only Islam was a truly universalist religion.

But the conquered peoples, above all the Christians, always held the Muslim use of war to be wrong, and this did eventually affect the Muslims. As early as 634 CE, a Greek tract declared that the so-called prophet must be an impostor because prophets don’t come armed with the sword. Fifty years later a Christian patriarch supposedly told the caliph that Islam was a religion spread by the sword, meaning that therefore it could not be true. The Christians were to harp on this theme for ever after. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Muslims began to mention this claim, clearly because they were upset by it.

For example, al-Amiri, an Iranian philosopher who died in 996, takes issue with unidentified people who say that “if Islam were a religion of truth, it would be a religion of mercy, and the one who calls to it would not in that case attack people with the sword to take their property and capture and enslave their families; rather, he would proselytise with words and guide to it by the force of his explanations”. In other words, true religion is spread by peaceful mission; holy war is just a religious cover for rapaciousness, whatever people might say about the purity of their intentions.

It isn’t always clear in these texts whether the charges were made by Muslims or non-Muslims, but there were certainly Muslims now who felt the association of warfare and religion to be wrong. A 10th-century religious leader by the name of Ibn Karram, for example, was said by his followers to have been worthier of prophethood than Mohammed, because he lived an ascetic life and did not conduct war. And some Muslims (or ex-Muslims) rejected all established religions, not just Islam, on the grounds that all prophets, not just Mohammed, were tricksters who used religion to start wars and accumulate worldly power. So now the concept of holy war had to be defended.

One of the most interesting defences is by this philosopher al-Amiri. He responded by identifying jihad as defensive warfare. That’s what many modern apologetes do, too, sometimes writing off offensive jihad – missionary warfare – as an Orientalist invention. (Orientalism often gets used as a grand trash-can in which modern Muslims dump all the aspects of pre-modern Islam that they have come to dislike.) Modern Muslims will even go so far as to cast the prophet’s wars and the Arab conquests as defensive, or pre-emptive, but this was more than al-Amiri could bring himself to do.

When it came to the prophet, he fell back on the altruism argument: Mohammed was not in it for material wealth or power. This is clear from the fact that he suffered for ten years in Mecca before setting up a state in Medina; he conquered people for their own good, not for his own sake, and the Iranians ought to be grateful to the Arabs for having destroyed the Persian empire; not only did the Arabs bring the truth, they also freed them from for the oppressive tyranny and rigid social hierarchy that prevailed in that empire. The Muslims came as liberators on all fronts. Of course, al-Amiri says, Mohammed would have preferred not to use the sword at all, but since the infidels so stubbornly resisted him, he had no choice.

Al-Amiri’s tone here is rather like that of the 19th-century British imperialists who felt resentment against all those uncooperative peoples whose recalcitrance had forced Britain to take them over more or less against its will, as they felt it. They didn’t like war either, but what could one do when the natives refused to see the light. One had to fight them for their own sake, and the noble purpose elevated the war to a high moral status. That was al-Amiri’s response in a nutshell. But what his opponents argued was precisely that on the contrary, the use of war discredited the alleged purpose and proved the religion it was meant to spread to be false. So the more the Muslims defended jihad by yoking it to the service of religion, the more their non-Muslim opponents reacted by thinking that the religion must be bad. That’s how Christians and Muslims have been talking past each other for 1,400 years.

Meanwhile, other people defended jihad by observing that religion had two different functions: it organised collective life, and it also offered individual salvation. At the collective level it was a prescription for socio-political order, with its do’s and don’ts, its morality, its law and its war. At this level, coercion was indispensable, and holy war was just one form in which it was practiced. At the individual level it was pure spirituality, and at that level coercion was impossible. The only jihad you could fight here was the so-called greater jihad against your own evil inclinations.

So for example, the scholars will say that a man who has been converted by force becomes a full member of the Muslim community and must live as a Muslim in public, even though he is not a believer in his inner self. He had been coerced at the level of social and political affiliation, but one couldn’t force him to believe. In fact, they said, one could never know what was going on in people’s inner selves, and it wasn’t anyone’s business either: it was between the individuals and God alone. But what people did externally affected others and so had to be regulated. Having been forced into the Muslim community, the captive would have to live as a Muslim – the rest was up to him. Eventually, they said, the chances were that he or his children would see the light, become sincere believers of their own accord, and grateful for having been forced.

In this formulation the claim was that jihad was better than secular conquest. Unlike Alexander the Great, Mohammed incorporated people in a polity in which they had the option of being saved, in which they had the ability to see for themselves, in which they could choose to become true believers. But it left inner conviction as something over which the individual had full control.

This argument ought to be easy for modern people to understand, or at least Americans, for they also tend to think that war can be legitimated by a high moral purpose – as long as that purpose hasn’t got anything to do with individual faith. The moral purposes they have in mind are wholly secular, not the lower level of religion, and the salvation they talk about is in this world. But they too tend to be eager to rescue other people by enabling them to become more like themselves: richer, freer, more democratic. What do you do when your fingers are itching to intervene, when you have the power to do it, when you are sure you are right and you are convinced that the victims will be grateful – quite apart from all the advantages that may redound to yourself from intervening? Aren’t you allowed to use force? Indeed, aren’t you obliged to use it? Is it right to save people against their will? Should you force them to be free? If you say yes to these questions, you are in effect a believer in jihad.

But will the victims be grateful? In the Muslim case, the answer was normally yes. The scholars mention it time and again, as something everyone knew. People fell grateful that they had become Muslims, in whatever manner it had happened, voluntarily or by force. This made it difficult to entertain serious doubts about the legitimacy of jihad. In the last resort, most people liked the result. And this is one of the most striking differences between Muslim and European imperialism, which are otherwise so comparable. The one led to Islamisation, the other to westernisation; the one dragged you to Paradise in chains, the other to secular modernity. But people aren’t grateful for having been westernised. In line with this, westerners no longer take any pride in their imperial past. Today, westerners often hold imperialism to have invalidated the very civilisation it spread. They have been persuaded by their own arguments against jihad in a way the Muslims never were. Why this difference? It would call for another lecture.


Jihad, then and now
This leads to the fourth question: what is the relevance of all this to the modern world? The Muslims have not practised missionary jihad since the decline of the Ottoman empire, at least not under the sponsorship of states, and to my knowledge there are no serious calls for its return. What the tradition has left is a strong activist streak, a sense that it is right to fight for your convictions. “Look at you, you Christians, with your passivity you have turned religion into something that doesn’t exist”, as demonstrators against Salman Rushdie said in Paris in March 1989. But to understand the fundamentalists we need to go to the other kind of jihad, the one practised when the Muslims are politically weak.

What happens when Muslim territory falls under infidel sovereignty? Can Muslims stay on and live under non-Muslim rule? Some jurists said yes, others denied it on the grounds that Islamic law could only be applied in full under Muslim sovereignty. If infidels conquered Muslim land, the Muslims had to emigrate, they had to make a hijra to a place where they could practice Islamic law – either an existing Muslim state or a new one set up by themselves – and then they should start holy war in order to reconquer their homeland. Not all scholars subscribed to this view, but it was upheld by many in response to the loss of Muslim territory in Spain and it also inspired anti-colonial movements in British India, French Algeria and elsewhere.

Imagine an even worse scenario: what happens when not a single Islamic state exists any more, when all political power has turned infidel? The answer is the same with greater urgency (and probably less disagreement too). You must emigrate to a place where you can establish a Muslim state and then you must wage holy war to get it going. In both cases, the model is Mohammed: first he lived in pagan Mecca, under infidel sovereignty, then he emigrated to Medina where he established a Muslim polity and started jihad and conquered Mecca, which he cleansed and purified; thereafter his followers began the conquest of the rest of the world, in what eventually turned into missionary warfare.

Jihad for the recovery or actual creation of Muslim sovereignty (as opposed to its expansion): that’s the type that is practised today. Modern fundamentalists (or Islamists) call it defensive jihad, though it is not what the classical Muslims understood by that term. It makes sense to them, partly because they feel on the defensive; partly because everyone recognises the legitimacy of defensive war; and not least, because participation in defensive jihad is an individual obligation, like fasting and prayer, not a communal duty like the missionary type, which you don’t have to undertake as long as others are doing it. So calling your jihad defensive is good for mobilisation.

Whatever you call it, the missionary element is greatly reduced in this type of warfare. Of course, you have to convert people to your own beliefs in order to get them together for state formation and conquest, but the emphasis is not so much on saving people as on saving Islam, especially in the more extreme version when no Islamic state is deemed to exist at all. For Islam can’t exist without political embodiment, according to this view. There has to be a place on earth where God rules. Without it, collective (and individual?) life ceases to have any moral foundations.

In the past, jihad for the actual creation of Muslim sovereignty was only practised by heretics, for it was only heretics who would deny that existing states were Islamic. The very first to do so were the Kharijites, who are almost as old as Islam itself. There were also Shi’ites who did. But the Sunnis always accepted their own states as Islamic in some (sometimes minimalist) sense, at least until the 18th century, and most still do, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Their jihad is concentrated on the recovery of Muslim territory, such as Palestine, and the defence of Muslims in places such as Chechnya. They don’t attack infidels elsewhere, nor don’t they believe in fighting Muslim rulers, or not any more.

But other fundamentalists deem all Muslim states, or even all Muslim people apart from themselves, to be infidels. Al-Qaida is among them. They direct their efforts against America rather than fellow Muslims because America is deemed to be behind everything wrong in the Muslim world – you can’t correct the shadow cast by a crooked stick, as Osama bin Laden is said to have put it. But when America, the crooked stick, has been removed, it will be the turn of the Muslim world in general, and by that they mean all countries with a Muslim population, which is in effect the whole earth by now. So as far as al-Qaida is concerned, the old distinction between the abode of Islam and the abode of war has disappeared.

The extreme fundamentalists can’t see any difference between living in Egypt, for example, and living under non-Muslim rule, thanks to the all-pervasive influence of the modern state. In the old days the political domain was also worldly and corrupt, but the social domain was still shaped by Islam. Nowadays, however, it is the state that regulates marriage, divorce, inheritance, trade, finance, work, health, childcare, schooling, higher education, and so on, often with attention to what the sharia says, but freely reshaping it to fit modern, secular aims which originate in the infidel and politically dominant west.

So one way or the other, Muslims are ruled by the west wherever they live, not just politically but also socially and culturally. Wherever they are look, they are being invaded by so-called western values – in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy. Religion does not actually shape the social realm any more, except rhetorically. All that religion shapes in modern Muslim societies is voluntary associations such as Sufi orders, Muslim brotherhoods, and fundamentalist cells, which fall short of being whole societies, let alone states, and which you can set up in non-Muslim countries too. So in effect, as the fundamentalists see it, all Muslims have become diaspora Muslims.

Some Muslims are happy with this. They want the socio-political order to be secularised; they want religious affiliation to be voluntary. They are the secularists, the people we have no trouble understanding. But to the fundamentalists, or rather to the extremists among them, all Muslims are now living in a new age of ignorance (jahiliyya) such as that which prevailed in pagan Arabia before the rise of Islam. This is why one must get together to reenact Mohammed’s career and save Islam.

Establishment religious scholars often compare such fundamentalists to the Kharijites of the early Islamic period, and with good reason. They are amazingly similar. There is the same declaration of other Muslims to be infidels, the same sense of fighting for God rather than for people – God has to rule even if the whole world is going to perish in the attempt -the same utter ruthlessness too. The Kharijites allowed assassinations, indiscriminate slaughter, the killing of men, women and children alike, much like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Their missions were often suicidal, too, not in the sense that they’d set out on individual missions bound to result in death, but rather in the sense that tiny numbers would take on huge forces bound to exterminate them, inspired by a quest for martyrdom. They had sold their souls to God, as they put it, and got a good price for them, too, namely Paradise; they went into battle intending to collect the price. And then as today, women would fight along with the men.

There is of course no direct link whatever between the Kharijites and modern fundamentalists. People like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri don’t even seem to know their own tradition all that well. Rather, they have stripped Islam of practically everything that most Muslims consider to be their religion.

What’s left is an archetypal monotheist of the confrontational type: a separatist and militant zealot. In the view of such zealots, God’s people can’t live together with infidels, they must have their own political space. Right and wrong must be embodied in separate communities, and every Muslim must fight to bring this about.

The history of Islam starts with a great separation of God’s people from the rest of mankind by force of arms, and Islamic history thereafter is punctuated by regular attempts to restore the separation, to get rid of all the complexity that obscured the simplicity of the original vision. Those who engaged in such attempts tended to come from the more peripheral areas of the middle east, often from a tribal background, and they were always minorities. The fundamentalists, too, are only a small minority today. But you don’t need an awful lot of people of this kind for an awful lot of trouble.

No pressure, then: religious freedom in Islam
Patricia Crone
7 November 2009
Open Democracy
About the author
Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015. This article is based on a lecture given at the University of Freiburg in 2007, which was itself based on P. Crone, ‘No Compulsion in Religion: Q. 2:256 in Medieval and Modern Interpretation’, in M.-A. Amir-Moezzi, M.M. Bar-Asher & S. Hopkins, eds., Le Shi`isme imamate quarante ans après, Paris: Brepols, 2009, 131-78, to which the reader is referred for documentation

The Quranic statement: “There is no compulsion in religion” – erupted into controversy again in 2006 when the Pope selected the most illiberal view of the text available. But when the thirty-eight Muslim scholars responded that he was wrong, they were necessarily misrepresenting history. To understand why they might wish to do this, we have to go back to 720-750 AD.

To understand the place of religious freedom in Islam, I will examine the different interpretations, from the earliest times until today, of the Quranic statement, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). Actually, I could not possibly cover all that in one article either, but that’s not too much of a problem, for all the major pre-modern interpretations were in place by the tenth century. So first I shall deal with the interpretations up to the tenth century, then I shall jump to the twentieth century and deal with the modernists, the Islamists and the context in which you may all have heard about the verse recently, namely the controversy over the Pope’s speech at Regensburg in September 2006, almost exactly one year ago.

The Pope was just one out of many people to talk about this verse. You hear a lot about it these days. When the American journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq in Jan. 2006, her kidnappers tried to convert her to Islam, but insisted that there was “no pressure” (= “no compulsion”) on her to convert. A friend of mine recently spotted the statement on a bumper sticker: “no compulsion in Islam”, it said; and you can read a lot about the verse on many websites too.

So why is there so much fuss about this statement? Well, one reason is that it expresses a tolerant view that Westerners like to hear, so it is a good passage to dispel their prejudices about Islam with. But it is also a statement of great importance in connection with the question whether Islam can coexist with a secular sphere: is Islam a belief system that you can combine with a any political order that you like – as long as they are religiously neutral? Or is it a religion that dictates its own political order? That’s a key issue today, and the “no compulsion” verse figures in the discussion. But you can’t appreciate what people say about it today without knowing the traditional interpretations, so as I said, we have to look at the pre-modern exegetes. They start round about 720-750 AD.

The six interpretations
La ikraha fi’l-din, “There’s no compulsion in religion”: to our modern ears it sounds like a declaration of unlimited religious freedom. It sounded that way to the earliest exegetes too, so in principle they could have said, this verse shows that Muslims must reject the use of compulsion in religious matters and that everyone must be free to choose his own religious beliefs. But in practice, they could not, and did not, say anything of the kind. Because if it is up to the individual to choose his own religion, then you can’t have a polity based on religion; if religion is a private matter, then the public space is secular, in the sense of based on some non-religious principle, such as territory or nationality, or whatever else a large number of people can feel they have in common. The exegetes lived in a polity based on Islam. Islam had created the public space they shared. For as you know, Islam had not grown up within a state, the way Christianity had; rather; it had created its own state. You obviously can’t have religious freedom in a community based on religion. You can’t have religious freedom in a church. All you can have is freedom to leave the church, if you don’t agree with it. But in a society based on shared religion you can’t easily have that freedom either unless you remove yourself physically, to go to live somewhere else.

So the “no compulsion” verse was a problem to the earliest exegetes, and they reacted by interpreting it restrictively, in one of three ways.

One solution was to say that the verse had been abrogated. It was generally agreed that God sometimes repealed a verse in favour of another without removing the text of the old one from the book. So some exegetes said that the verse had been revealed in Mecca, when Muhammad had no power: God was telling him that he could not and should not try to force the infidels to convert. But when he moved to Medina and set up a state of his own, God ordered him to wage holy war against the infidels. So the proclamation of religious freedom to the infidels was abrogated. In short, religious freedom had come and gone.

Unique specificity
Another solution was to say that the verse had been revealed in Medina in connection with some problems of purely historical relevance, to do with children of the Medinese: there were people in Medina whose children had been brought up by Jews, and so had become Jewish, or there were some who had converted to Christianity back in the days before the coming of Islam. When Muhammad came to Medina, the parents wanted these (by now adult) children to become Muslims and tried to force them, so this verse was revealed telling them to stop. This interpretation tied the verse to a unique historical situation. It hadn’t been formally abrogated, it just had no relevance any more, for no situation like that could arise again. For good measure some adherents of this scenario added that the verse had been abrogated. So this second solution was really a less drastic version of the first.

Freedom for dhimmis
The third solution also said that the verse had been revealed in Medina, but it placed its revelation in a later context to do with defeated infidels. According to this third interpretation, the verse was about protected people (dhimmis). Dhimmis were Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims who had passed under Muslim rule and been allowed to retain their own religion in return for the payment of jizya, poll-tax. Legally, they were not members of the Muslim community, just protegés of it. The third interpretation was to the effect that the verse prohibited forced conversion of dhimmis. Actually, all the jurists agreed anyway that dhimmis could not be forced to convert, so this was really just a way of finding something for the verse to do, but it had the advantage of giving the rule a memorable formulation, and we actually know of real cases where the verse was invoked to protect the right of dhimmis to retain their religion. So on the third interpretation the verse was indeed a proclamation of religious freedom, but only for dhimmis, not for Muslims or mankind at large.

So these were the three positions advanced by the earliest exegetes: the verse had been abrogated, or it had lost relevance, or it applied only to dhimmis. These are the canonical interpretations – the interpretations of the equivalent of the church fathers – and you’ll find one, or two or all three of them in every commentary on the Quran down to modern times, and quite often in modern ones as well. They all had the merit of making the verse compatible with the use of force for the maintenance and expansion of the Muslim community. It did not clash with the rule that apostates had to be executed, or with the use of force against internal dissenters, for it wasn’t about Muslims. Nor did it clash with the duty to wage jihad to bring all mankind under Muslim sovereignty, for it only granted freedom to infidels after they’d been subjected.

So the problem had been solved. But you aren’t going to get off that lightly. There are more interpretations that you need to know about.

The descriptive turn
The three canonical interpretations rest on the assumption that the verse should be understood as laying down a legal norm: it says that there is no compulsion in religion in the sense that it is morally wrong and legally forbidden to use force in religious matters. In other words, it is prescriptive. But from the ninth century onwards there were people who wanted to use the verse for purposes of theology rather than law. They included the theologians of the Mu’tazilite school, and according to them, the verse was not prescriptive, but descriptive. It did not condemn or prohibit anything, it was a straightforward factual statement. “There is no compulsion in religion” means just that: there isn’t any, full stop.

What they meant by this was that when God says that there is no compulsion in the religion, He means that He does not practise compulsion. God does not force you to be a believer or an infidel – i.e. He does not predestine or determine it for you: you have free will. This may sound farfetched to you, but the word for determination was jabr, compulsion, and the word for free will, or one of them, was qadar, power. God was seen as refraining from using His power so that you could have your own; he was abstaining from compulsion – from determination – so that you could choose whether to be a believer or an unbeliever. That’s what God was saying here, according to the Mu’tazilites: the verse was a declaration of unlimited freedom from divine coercion. God allows you to choose your own salvation. It is just humans who don’t: the Mu’tazilites accepted that. They agreed that religious freedom was only for dhimmis. But vis-à-vis God everybody was free to choose for himself.

You’ll say, how could the Mu’tazilites hold that humans can use coercion where God won’t? Well, they had a second interpretation here. They said that the verse could also be read as declaring that there is not and cannot really be any such thing as human coercion in religious matters either, for it simply is not possible to force other people to believe. You can only force them to act as believers, i.e. to conform on the surface; you can’t force them to believe in their innermost hearts. So on the first Mu’tazilite interpretation, God is saying that He won’t force people to believe; and on the second Mu’tazilite interpretation, He is saying that you can’t do it. In short, in your inner self, your private interior, you are free vis-à-vis humans and God alike.

But your external self was a different matter. You were free as a disembodied soul, not as an embodied social being. As a member of a human society you were subject to coercion in all kinds of ways. Social life is impossible without coercion. There was – still is – no way round that. And since the Muslim polity was based on religion, coercion had to be used in religious matters too. But that didn’t contradict the verse according to the Mu>tazilites because the coercion was only applied to the external person: the inner person was free; there was no coercion in religion in the sense of inner conviction. So on their interpretation the verse was not contradicted by the duty to wage holy or execute apostates either. It was even compatible with forced conversion. It was allowed to force people to become Muslims when they hadn’t become dhimmis yet or couldn’t become dhimmis, either because they were pagans rather than Christians, Jews or Zoroastrians or because they were slaves. In fact, one Mu’tazilite said that forcing people to convert was a good thing, because sooner or later they or their children would acquire genuine faith: so you would have saved them from eternal hellfire. And you hadn’t forced them to accept the truth. In their inner hearts they had converted of their own accord. You had only forced them into the Muslim community which made it possible for them to see the truth.

You’ll probably react by finding this a self-serving argument, and so it was, of course. It allowed the Mu’tazilites to legitimate the use of force in religious matters while at the same time claiming that there was no such thing. But they weren’t just being self-serving. When the Mu’tazilites made their sharp distinction between inner conviction and external conformance, they were saying was that individual salvation was one thing, civic religion was something else. Civic religion was all about keeping Muslim society together in the here and now, it was the religion you had for the public space, the religion that was good for the social and political order. Your own wishes had to be subordinated to those of the community here. You could not and did not have complete freedom at that level. Here as in other societies, you had to obey the law, and the law happened to be religious. But you could choose your own innermost convictions, your own avenue to salvation. You could believe what you liked as long as you did not endanger the boat that everybody was sailing in.

This distinction between civic religion based on the law and individual conviction based on a freely chosen theology or philosophy or spirituality was quite a marked feature of Muslim thinking in the tenth and the eleventh centuries. Many people saw the law-based, collective religion of the community as something lower and more prosaic than individual spirituality or philosophy or esotericism. They had a strong sense that individuals had needs that went far beyond those served by communal worship. So they distinguished between the external and the internal, the lower and the higher: they saw these two as forming two distinct levels of religion. But they did not go so far as to secularise the lower level. They didn’t say that the civic level should have nothing to do with religion at all. Some came close. The Ismaili Shi’ites initially denied that the civic religion – the law – had any saving power. You were saved by your inner convictions alone. But that put them beyond the pale, so they changed their mind. Being a good social being, a good citizen, did have saving value by common consent, that of the Ismailis included. It just wasn’t all there was to religion, or even the most important part.

What the Mu’tazilites were saying was that in the higher sphere of religion there was no compulsion. All human beings, not just dhimmis or Muslims, had an inner sanctum that was controlled by themselves alone. They had what you would call freedom of conscience. But this freedom was wholly internal, you couldn’t claim it as a social being. And it was deemed to exist as a matter of fact, so it was not protected by the law. It wasn’t a right you could claim. All you could do was to retreat into your inner self, where you were alone with God. Here again the Ismailis were an exception: they did award legal protection to individual religiosity. But for everyone else it remains true to say that individual freedom of religion was never given legal expression; it was never allowed to prevail against the social order.

The two Mu’tazilite interpretations of the verse, as a statement that God will not and that humans cannot coerce in religious matters, were extremely long-lived. They went into both Shi’ism and Sunnism, where their Mu’tazilite origin was soon forgotten. You’ll find those two interpretations along with the canonical three in a fair number of Sunni and Shi’ite commentaries all the way down to modern times.

No forced renunciations of Islam
Now I’ve given you five interpretations. I’m sorry, but I have to add a sixth: it takes us back to the prescriptive interpretations. Some people said that the verse did indeed prohibit forced conversion, but not of dhimmis: what it prohibited was forced conversion of Muslims to something false, i.e. it said that it was unlawful to force Muslims to renounce Islam. This interpretation was also in place by the tenth century, but it is much less common than the other five. In fact, there were more interpretations, but I shall leave them aside because practically all modern interpretations involve doing things with one or more of these six.

Modernism and Islamism
So what happens in modern times? Well, what happens is that Europe becomes the dominant power, and the Europeans go around saying that Islam is a backward religion which established itself by force, which lacks the virtue of tolerance, and so on. So Muslims now have to rebut these charges, and the “no compulsion” verse is an obvious one to do it with. As I said, it voices a view that Westerners like. But as I also said, there’s more to it. The dominance of the West doesn’t just mean that Muslims have to cope with rude remarks from Westerners. It also means that their own traditional pattern of a society based on a religious law begins to looks outmoded. Modernism means separating religion from socio-political matters, it means draining law and war of religious significance and basing them instead on secular ideologies such as nationalism or communism, leaving religion as something optional for your private salvation. That’s the European pattern; that’s what allows for religious toleration; and that’s what every self-respecting society now had to claim to have as well in order to count in an era of European dominance. So whereas the early exegetes had to interpret the “no compulsion” verse restrictively, the twentieth-century exegetes have to widen its meaning again, to read it as a universal declaration of religious freedom that would both refute the European charges and provide an impeccable Quranic basis for something like a separation between religious and political matters in Islam. The religious scholars start working on the verse in a modernist vein already around 1900, but it isn’t really till the 1940s that they get going.

So how could they widen the interpretation of the verse without declaring all the earlier exegetes to be wrong, and so throw out their entire exegetical tradition? Well, for one thing they could stop talking about the verse being abrogated: nobody, absolutely nobody says that it is abrogated anymore, not even the most conservative Saudis.

But then what? Well, the answer is they could go to the Mu’tazilite strand which was embedded in both the Sunni and Shi’ite traditions. The Mu’tazilites had done some separation of the public and the private spheres, the civic and the individual; and if you read them in the light of modern preoccupations, you’ll misunderstand them. You’ll engage in creative reinterpretation, as people will say these days. When a modern person reads a pre-modern exegete explaining that there is no coercion in religion because we have to choose for ourselves, he will not see that the exegete means that God does not coerce you; he will take the exegete to be saying that we should not do it. In other words, he will understand a factual statement about the absence of divine coercion as a prescriptive statement prohibiting human coercion – and that gives him the position he wants. Or again, if he sees a statement to the effect that religion is confession by the heart and therefore beyond compulsion, he will read that too as a prohibition of compulsion, not as a claim that compulsion is all right because it only affects outer man.

From the 1940s onwards you see one exegete after another adapt the two Mu’tazilite arguments along those modernist lines. Tantawi, the current rector of al-Azhar in Cairo, is among them. He is actually perfectly familiar with the explanation of the verse as a factual statement that God doesn’t coerce us, but that doesn’t stop him having the modernist adaptation as well. The modernist (mis)interpretation has become an independent position in its own right. Countless exegetes have it. More often than not, they’ll tell you that the verse is a declaration of religious freedom and that this shows Christians to be wrong when they claim that Islam was spread by force. Along with this they’ll often adduce the second canonical interpretation, about how the verse was revealed when the Medinese wanted to convert their Jewish or Christian children to Islam by force: this interpretation (which had changed already in the centuries not covered here) is now read as a timeless account of how Islam respects religious differences, not as a story trying to get rid of the verse by tying it to a bygone historical situation. Modern exegetes will often add that it isn’t possible to convert people by force, meaning that therefore it is prohibited, not that therefore no legal prohibition is necessary.

But of course forced conversion of Jews and Christians isn’t the real issue any more. The big issue is Muslim society itself. The laws regulating modern Muslim states are mostly secular: should the civic sphere be wholly secularised? Can Muslims be fully integrated in secular societies in the West? In other words, should religion be something you have along with your citizenship rather than as part of it?

And if yes, should this additional membership be wholly voluntary, so that Muslims would be free to convert to other religions, or to have no religion? The modernists tend to be rather unclear on this: they hide behind the bluster about forced conversion, feeling that if they assert the principle of religious freedom there, then they’ve paid their respects to modern values and can keep silent about the rest. For to say that people are free to leave Islam is officially to declare the public order to be secular, so that one could in principle be an atheist or a Buddhist or a Hindu along with being a full citizen of Egypt. And you are then half way to the situation where no religious community has privileged access to the state, where all religious associations are equally private. That is full secularism, and it would be a radical change. It is too radical for most modernists to contemplate it. Islamists.

Nowadays the modernists are under siege by the Islamists –people who want the public sphere to be fully based on Islam again. Some are militant and some are not, but all are convinced that secularism is a mistake. In their view, Islam should not be drained of authority, but on the contrary serve as the basis of it. As they see it, Islam prescribes its own social space and its own political agency, and religious freedom is nonsense unless Muslims are allowed to have this freedom within their own political organisation: religious freedom is the right to live as a Muslim, not just in private affairs, but also in public ones.

You can read that in Sayyid Qutb, the enormously influential Islamist who was hanged by Nasser in 1966. According to him, you must wage jihad to bring about that freedom now, for secularism is an oppressive system that doesn’t allow you to practise what you believe. All this is directed against the Egyptian regime, Nasser’s state, not against the infidel West. He wrote his exegesis in jail; it was a secularist regime that was persecuting him, and which eventually hanged him: secularism did not mean freedom to him, just as it didn’t to the mullahs in the Shah’s Iran.

To them, as to other the victims of Middle Eastern regimes, secularism did not stand for religious neutrality, as it does to Westerners, but rather the forced imposition of something false and foreign. They would adduce the “no compulsion” verse against these regimes. The verse forbids forced conversion to falsehood, as the blind shaykh Umar b. Abd al-Rahman said during his trial for complicity in the assassination of Sadat in 1981. He was quoting the sixth interpretation I have given you, from an Andalusian scholar who’d written at the time of the Christian Reconquista. According to Sayyid Qutb and others, true religious freedom can only obtain under Islamic rule, for it is only under Islamic rule that people will be allowed to follow their own creeds.

It sounds great until you start thinking about the implications. How can Christians, Jews, Buddhists or atheists be full members of a state which is conceived as an expression of Islamic aims? They can’t, of course. Several Islamists will explicitly tell you that actually, non-Muslims will have to resume the position of dhimmis, protected people. And by non-Muslims they typically mean Jews and Christians, full stop. In the past, some jurists held that only Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians qualified for dhimmi status; others said that all infidels did, whoever they were. The Islamists always go for the restrictive view, and what they want to outlaw with it is atheism. Their position is quite clear: atheism is a form of paganism, or idolatry, and Islam does not recognize that as a religion. Religion means monotheism, and religious freedom does not include the freedom to have no religion, because in their view there can’t be any morality without religion.

In actual fact, the Islamists don’t really believe in religious freedom, except for themselves, because they believe that religion should form the basis of the social and political order; but the concept of religious freedom is so prestigious that even they can’t quite abandon it.

Many of them are so torn between their desire to present Islam as a religion of tolerance and their determination to force their fellow-citizens back into the Islamic fold that they end up in complete incoherence. Take the ayatullah Sabzawari, a Shi’ite cleric who published his exegesis in 1997. He starts by interpreting the no compulsion verse to mean that compulsion is unnecessary, impossible, and forbidden: it couldn’t be clearer. He adds that Islam was not established by the sword: fine. But Muslims do have to fight, he says, not to convert people by force, only to restore them to their original nature, which is Islam. In his view this is not really compulsion, for like other Imamis he combines the second Mu’tazilite argument with the old idea of Islam as original human nature (fitra) and argues that to deny Islam is to deny one’s own identity and will, so that being forced to live as a Muslim is simply to be restored to one’s self. Besides, he says, compulsion only affects the external man, and sometimes it is actually a good thing for both the public order and the victim; indeed, what would be more repugnant in moral term than leaving people to work for their own damnation? In short, forced conversion is unnecessary, impossible, forbidden, required, a good thing, and highly commendable.

Or for a Sunni example, take Dr ‘Amir ‘Abd al-‘Aziz , editor with Yusuf al-Qaradawi and others of the Journal of Islamic Jerusalem Studies, who published an exegetical work, in Arabic, in 2000. He too starts by affirming that the “no compulsion” verse rejects forced conversion. “It is not permitted for Muslims to convert infidels to the faith by force”, he says, “for that kind of thing is no use, leads to no good, and does not bring about faith in the hearts of their own free will”. He adds that it is not necessary to use force either, for Islam is a clear religion based on cogent arguments (many traditional exegetes say that too). On the contrary, he declares, the coercive method is characteristic of vacuous, odious, self-absorbed egoists and oppressive authorities. So there is no coercion. But, he says, the verse was revealed specifically about Christians and Jews. Idolaters and similar godless and permissive people have to be compelled to adopt Islam, since they cannot be accepted as dhimmis and do not deserve any consideration because of their godlessness, stupidity, error and foolishness. In other words, Muslims are not permitted to convert anyone force, but “anyone” really just means dhimmis, as in traditional law. All others have to be forced, above all Muslim secularists.

The Islamists tend to avoid discussing apostates, but some of them explicitly say that the verse does not grant freedom of religion to them. So all their talk about religious freedom is really designed to get rid of it. Unclarity. In short, everybody is agreed that Islam goes in for religious freedom, but not on what it means, except that Christians and Jews shouldn’t be forced to convert. Everything else is unclear. Unclarity is also the key impression left by the controversy over the Pope’s speech at Regenburg in 2006, with which I shall conclude.

The Pope mentioned that according to some experts, the “no compulsion” verse probably dated from “the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat” and that other rules had later been added concerning holy war; in other words, the Pope adopted the first canonical interpretation, according to which the verse had been revealed in Mecca and abrogated in Medina. Thirty-eight Muslim scholars responded that the Pope was wrong: the verse had been revealed in Medina in connection with some Jews or Christians who had wanted to force their children to convert to Islam, as one could read in al-Tabari and other early commentators; it did not date from the period when the Muslims were weak and powerless, but rather from their period of political ascendance, and it taught them that “they could not force another’s heart to believe”.

Well, to a historian, that was an odd reaction. One can read the Pope’s interpretation in al-Tabari and other early commentators too. One might have expected the thirty-eight scholars to respond that the Pope was out of date, and that the interpretation he went for no longer carried any weight: that is certainly true. But that is not what they said. They said that he was mistaken; and they corrected him with reference to a hybrid interpretation of their own: the Medinese were forbidden to convert their children by force, they said. Fine, that’s the second canonical interpretation, as dusted off by modernists. The verse taught them that they could not force another’s heart to believe. That’s the second Mu’tazilite interpretation, the verse as a factual statement about the impossibility of coercing inner man. Traditionally, that goes with the view that coercing outer man is all right, though it doesn’t usually do so in modern works, so what did they mean? Were they reserving the right to coerce outer man, the social being? I don’t know. I suspect that the formulation was a compromise designed to paper over the cracks between different positions.

Here the interpreters of the “no compulsion” verse show us another aspect of the clash between secularism and Islam. To a historian, the thirty-eight scholars were being somewhat less than frank. They told the Pope that he was wrong instead of freely admitting that the view he had selected is indeed part of the Islamic tradition. One Islamicist professor in America happily followed suit and publicly said that the Pope should apologize for getting his facts wrong. But the Pope didn’t get his facts wrong, he just selected the most illiberal view available, which is out of date. The reason why the thirty-eight scholars did not simply say this outright is partly that they were not writing as historians, but rather as theologians, and partly that it would have been to acknowledge that doctrines change. That is something that Muslim clerics are still reluctant to do.

To a historian, the thirty-eight clerics were guilty of traducing the past: they knowingly misrepresented it. But what the thirty-eight clerics would reply, I imagine, is that we historians are guilty of traducing the present: for we knowingly show people’s convictions to be historically conditioned rather than perennial truths. By insisting that the past must be understood in its own light, we remove the support of the tradition from the present; we undermine its authority. This is true, and it is all the worse if you think that change is a sign of falsehood.

We historians do not equate change with falsehood, but there is no way around the fact that we are secularisers: we are secularising history, because we separate the past we are studying from our own and other people’s modern convictions; we do not allow the past to be rewritten as mere support for these modern convictions. That’s a problem to all traditional believers, and perhaps to Muslims more than most. Muslims tend not to have a problem with modern science: the Quran does not have a mythological account of the creation, it is not incompatible with any modern scientific views. But history is a different matter because the truths of Islam are tied to history. So whether they want to or not, historians also find themselves as actors in the debate whether, or to what extent, Islam should coexist with a secular sphere.

Where will it all end? Well, there at least even the most modern of historians can give the most traditional of answers: God knows best.


Assassination attempts on senior Pakistani army officers

From Dr Hamid Hussein.

Marked for Death – Assassination Attempts on Senior Officers of Pakistan Army
Hamid Hussain

Since 2002, Pakistan army is involved in a rapidly evolving struggle against terrorism.  When the first shots of this new war were fired, Pakistan army was neither trained nor prepared for the conflict.  Confusion, complacency and utter incompetence at all levels gave an upper hand to the extremists all over the country.  First, the government lost the control of tribal areas followed by the loss of the large swaths of the settled division of Malakand.  Militants established themselves in tribal regions and from there launched forays into major cities.  They abducted, killed and bombed civilians and soldiers alike all over the country sending the whole nation into a deep depression.

Police and paramilitary forces faced the brunt of the militant onslaught.  Many soldiers and disproportionately large numbers of young officers of army were killed and wounded in clashes with militants.  Militants embarked on a deliberate course of targeting senior officers of security forces including army.  Many senior police, paramilitary and army officers were targeted by militants.  This was a multipronged strategy with objectives of eliminating individual officers to shake morale of officer corps and on psychological plane sending the signal to general public that security forces couldn’t protect them.

On June 10, 2004, the convoy of Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General and VCOAS) Ahsan Saleem Hayat came under attack that resulted in death of eight soldiers.  Ahsan’s driver and co-driver were shot killing co-driver on the spot while driver was seriously wounded and later died.  Driver’s foot remained on the accelerator and car kept moving but in a zigzag fashion.  Ahsan’s ADC seated behind the driver got hold of the steering wheel and got out of the ambush.  Attacker’s plan was to first detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stopping Ahsan’s car and then spray it with bullets to finish the job.  IED failed to explode and attackers hiding near the bridge opened fire killing several guards but Ahsan survived.

On February 25, 2008, Surgeon General of Pakistan army Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmad Beg was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself near his car stopped at a traffic signal in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.  He is the senior most army officer killed by militants.  On November 19, 2008, retired Major General Amir Faisal Alvi was shot and killed in Islamabad.  Alvi had served as GOC of army’s elite Special Forces Special Services Group (SSG) and involved in many early operations in tribal areas.  He was known for joining his troops in the heat of the operations that boosted the morale of his troops. After his retirement, militants had issued several threats to him and finally succeeded in killing him.

In a three week time period, three serving Brigadiers of Pakistan army were targeted in the capital city of Islamabad sending shock waves among the officer community.  On October 22, 2009, Brigadier Moinuddin Ahmad along with his driver was shot dead in Islamabad.  A week later, another Brigadier Waqar Ahmad Malik was shot in Islamabad. He was director Defence Services Guards (DSG).  On November 05, 2009, Brigadier Sohail and his driver were shot and injured when their car was ambushed in Islamabad.

On December 04, 2009, terrorists attacked a mosque in Rawalpindi cantonment used by soldiers and their family members killing more than forty people including several children.  Two suicide bombers blew themselves inside the mosque while other two threw hand grenades and sprayed the congregation with automatic rifle fire.  This was one of the most devastating attacks on army fraternity.  The dead included Major General Bilal Omar, Brigadier Abdul Rauf, Lieutenant Colonel Manzoor Saeed and Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar ul Hassan.  The only son of then Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Masood Aslam was also among the dead as well as sons of Major General Nasim Riaz, Brigadier Mumtaz, Brigadier Sadiq, Colonel Qaiser, Colonel Shukran and Colonel Shabbir.   Fathers of Major General Awais Mustafa and Colonel Farooq Awan were also among the dead.  Colonel Kaleem Zubair lost his father as well as his son in the carnage. This was the most heart breaking tragedy until militants trumped their own brutality when in December 2014 they attacked Army Public School in Peshawar killing around 150 students as well as many teacher.

On September 07, 2011, two suicide bombers targeted the residence of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Frontier Corps (FC) – Baluchistan Brigadier Farrukh Shahzad.  In a devastating precision and coordination, first suicide bomber rammed the explosive laden car targeting FC vehicles waiting to escort the DIG-FC who was coming out of his residence killing several soldiers.  Five minutes later rushing through the chaos, second suicide bomber was able to barge through the damaged gate and partially demolished walls of the residence and detonated his explosives.  The second attack inside the residence killed the wife of Brigadier Shahzad, FC administrator Colonel Khalid Masood and injured Brigadier Shahzad and one of his children.  Thirteen FC personnel lost their lives and another sixteen injured in this incident.

In September 2013, GOC of Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi was visiting a remote outpost in Dir when his vehicle hit an IED killing him and Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef Ahmad.  It was a planned attack and later militants released a video of the attack.  Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah claimed that they were planning to target the Corps Commander of Peshawar based XI Corps but Niazi’s turn came first.

Though rare, but militants have also attempted to kidnap officers or their family members with the objective of exchanging them for the release of captured militant leaders.  Son-in-Law of then Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majeed; the senior most officer of Pakistani armed forces was abducted by militants and kept in Waziristan for several years.  He was from a wealthy family and militants asked for a large sum of money as well as release of some high profile militants under army’s custody.  He was released but the terms of his release are not known.  On October 11, 2012, Brigadier Tahir Masood who had retired a week before from the media wing of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) was kidnapped right from the heart of Islamabad while his driver was killed.  To date, he has not been recovered and believed to be in the custody of militants in Islamabad.

There were two major assassination attempts on then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and President General Pervez Mussharraf in December 2003.  The first attack was on December 14, 2003 when terrorists planted large amount of explosives under a bridge.  When Mussharraf’s convoy reached the bridge, it was blown but no one was killed.  Over five hundred pounds of explosives were placed on the farther side of the bridge and explosive charge was detonated by an operative on the site via a telephone call to the receiver attached to the explosive charge.  Terrorists hoped that by this placement the oncoming car of General Mussharraf would either hit the concrete flying in car’s direction or ram into the exposed steel bars.  In case of missing these two eventualities, the car may plunge into the huge gap in the bridge slamming down in the bed (see the pictures below).  The operator in an effort to be not too visible positioned himself in such a way that obscured his direct visual contact with the convoy.  The result was that he couldn’t time the detonation with the car getting on the bridge.  These precious few seconds saved everybody.

Two weeks later on December 25, Mussharraf’s convoy was hit by two suicide car bombs in quick succession.  The driver of first attack was later identified as a Kashmiri named Mohammad Jamil.  The skin of his face blew off clean from skeletal structure preserving features.  An army plastic surgeon reconstructed it and it matched the picture on burned out identity card.  His cell phone was damaged but SIM was intact and from the calls as well as his diary recovered from his home provided some clues.  The driver of second car was a Pathan named Khaleeq.  The tracking of this piece of the investigation led to discovery that two soldiers of elite Special Services Group (SSG) were helping militants.  One named Dogar had served in the security detail of General Mussharraf and other Arshad was in the security detail of Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) General Yusuf Khan.  Later Military Intelligence (MI) recovered powerful rockets from his house in Kahuta.

General Mussharraf assigned the task of investigation of the assassination attempts to then Rawalpindi based X Corps Commander Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.  This interaction brought Kayani very close to Mussharraf and later resulted in his succession to Mussharraf as COAS.  The puzzle of the December 14 attack was solved by a chance discovery by military authorities in Quetta.  They found that a civilian chap named Mushtaq had links with extremist elements in technical staff of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at Quetta and Peshawar bases.  Quetta based XII Corps commander Lieutenant General Shahid Hamid called Kayani and informed him about this information.  This information led to arrest of several low level PAF technicians who were involved in the assassination attempt.

The ending of the saga of these two assassination attempts is tragic as well as comic.  On April 15, 2012, 150 to 200 heavily armed militants attacked central jail in Bannu freeing over 400 prisoners including a chap named Adnan Rashid.  Adnan was involved in assassination attempt on General Mussharraf.  Details of his arrest were never disclosed and there is some confusion.  A senior police intelligence official informed me that he was single handedly apprehended by an inspector of Intelligence Bureau (IB) (this inspector was later killed in a target killing incident).  Adnan was a PAF technician and may be member of the group suspected to have links with militants.  Later, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in assassination attempt on General Mussharraf.

After his escape from Bannu jail, Adnan became another alligator in the swamps of Waziristan and quickly rose among the militant cadres due to his discipline and thorough planning.  He was no boy scout and was busy planning high profile strikes.  He established a small elite group and personally trained them for another assassination attempt on General ® Mussharraf.   He planned and executed a mass jail break in 2013.  On July 29, 2013, over one hundred heavily armed militants stormed central jail in Dera Ismail Khan freeing around 180 inmates from the center of the city flooded with police, paramilitary forces and headquarters of a whole infantry division of the army.  This was another sad day for the state of Pakistan.  In July 2014, Adnan was arrested in South Waziristan when military started a push in Waziristan.

Another key member of the group that planned attack on General Mussharraf was a chap named Mushtaq.  He was arrested and kept in the custody of PAF at a base in Rawalpindi.  In November 2004, when he came out of shower he saw the guard sleeping.  He put on an overall used by PAF technicians, walked to the main gate where guards waved him and then asked a uniformed PAF soldier on motorcycle to give him a ride to the bus station close by and disappeared.  A deeply embarrassed army vowed to capture him and a special cell in Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was assigned for his capture.  Mushtaq was not the one to be happy with this one in a life time chance.  He went straight back into the belly of the beast and started planning another strike on General Mussharraf.  ISI got his scent, followed his contacts and he was finally arrested when he was travelling from Lahore to Islamabad.

Pakistan army paid a heavy price in the last decade and loss of such a high number of senior officers is unprecedented in recent military history. With the hind sight of 20/20, it seems that many of these losses were avoidable. One much neglected aspect is orientation towards personal security.  In my own observations, I found that almost all officers use drivers and in some cases guards.  Analyzing many assassination attempts, it is quite clear that assassins first shoot the driver thus immobilizing the target.  This quite clearly shows that if you are not driving your own vehicle, you are a sitting duck as you cannot escape from the ambush.  Compare this with the notorious case of Raymond Davis who was driving his car alone in a foreign country carrying his own personal weapon, reacted quickly and shot two who tried to stop his vehicle. If competent and professional, guards can provide some screen but in most cases they fail to protect their charge.  Personal security is a special task and simply handing a weapon to a lazy soldier from the cantonment does not equate to security.  I recall attending a high profile wedding in rural Pakistan.  I was chatting with one of the guests; a local garrison commander. I observed that he had three armed soldiers in civilian clothes guarding him. Even casual look showed that they were probably from supply or signals, handed a weapon and asked to accompany the local commander.  Few minutes later I noticed that two handed their weapons to the third and probably either went to rest room or eat food.  The lone guard had his own weapon slung over his shoulder while the two weapons of his colleagues were at his feet.  I sincerely hoped that garrison commander carried his own personal weapon and was not putting his life in the hands of his guards.  Many officers at the forefront of the operations have been threatened by militants.  Officers should be briefed about basic principles of personal security.  Two simple measures of driving their own vehicles and carrying personal weapon will help to keep the initiative in their own hands.

A decade ago, Pakistan army stumbled into a war with an unhealthy mix of confusion and hesitation at the highest level and unpreparedness at all levels thus handing the initiative to the militants. It took several years for the army to take the fight to the militants.  In the last one year, cleaning of some of the swamps of tribal areas and clean up in the cities has dramatically reduced violence all over the country.  Now that the militants are on the run, it is important to keep the momentum in tribal areas as well as cities to keep the citizens of the country soldiers and civilians alike safe.

Acknowledgements: Author thanks many for their valuable input and clarifications.  However, conclusions as well as all errors and omissions are author’s sole responsibility.


Sources of information are based on author’s frequent visits to the troubled regions and interaction with a diverse group of individuals.  Most of the information about attempts on General Mussharraf is from his autobiography, Pervez Mussharraf.  In the Line of the Fire: A Memoir (London: Simon & Schuster), 2006

Hamid Hussain
[email protected]
July 31, 2015