Book Review: The 1965 War by Shaukat Riza


From Major Amin

  2. This book was the first official effort to record military history of 1965 war. Major General Shaukat Riza an artillery officer dabbled in military writing and had penned many articles and military papers etc. He was described as a soft spoken gentle man who did not take kindly to being ordered to carry out ruthless action against civilians thus his removal from 9 Divisions command in 1971 in East Pakistan. On the other hand Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry when I met him in 1977-78 described him as not getting along well with major general abrar in the staff college in 1967-68 while serving as chief instructor. In addition he had a long record of having served as an instructor at various army schools of instruction including the prestigious command and staff college. The first major attempt at writing the 1965 war history was made by Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry whose book on 1965 war was published in 1977. Shaukat Rizas book was officially sponsored and he was provided access to all records.
  3. However as all official publications are , the book was doctored and sanitized and the author did not enjoy the right to critical analysis. The book nevertheless has great value. First it contains almost all major orders of battles of all major formations . Second it gives a clear picture of major events of the war. Third it manages to give insights about some most decisive battles of the 1965 war. Most interesting battle of Gadgor where Shaukat Riza described how clueless the 24 Brigade commander was when the Indian 1st Armoured Division broke in and all he could say was “ Nisar, Do Something”.
  4. Brigadier Shaukat Riza’s analysis of Operation Grand Slam is also reasonably critical.  where he faults 12 Division with bad handling of artillery and dispersing artillery fire. He totally misses out how armour was divided by 12 Division on first day of the war thus leading to failure although B Squadron 11 Cavalry had reached Chhamb at Tawi River at 0830 Hours in the morning. However with regard to change of command it appears that major general shaukat riza was forced to give legitimacy to the post 1965 pakistan army whitewash, i.e that change of command of operation grand slam was pre planned and not a surprise as was mostly believed. His treatment of Pakistan Armys First Armoured Division attack is critical and incisive.He admits that whole 4 cavalry. was captured by the Indians .Further he admits that there was much exaggeration of enemy strength in the reporting of armoured division commanders at various levels. When he describes how various brigades of Pakistans 1st armoured division were ordered left and right away from the scene of attack he hints at a Pakistan Army general headquarters deeply afflicted and paralysed by supreme indecision, vacillation and irresolution.
  5. The maps of the book are weak in details of what actually happened merely showing topgraphic details while what formations actually did is left to the readers imagination. However when we received this book via the army book club in 1985-86 this was a revolutionary development as till that time censorship had deeply plagued the cause of military history in Pakistan. Much blame of the failure was passed to ZA Bhutto while Generals Ayub and Musa were presented as innocent bystander pure maidens !
  6. One must admit that the general was handicapped by too many cooks doctoring his book and practicing sycophancy with the usurper and dictator zia , at the height of his power. Even General Mc Chrystal confessed that his book was subjected to some kind of official censorship and sanitization. This is the cost of becoming generals in any army where a man has to compromise over many things . As Sir Francis Bacon brilliantly summed it up , men gain dignities through indignities.
  7.  Major General Saeeduz Zaman Janjua many times recounted how even General Asif Nawaz , although his close relative , had to be obsequious and flexible with his seniors , as a brigadier and major general , failing which he would not have been promoted. Particularly he recounted a situation where a very senior officers son was caught cheating in the Pakistan Military Academy and General Asif Nawaz had to stop at relegation while the minimum punishment was withdrawal from the academy. This is how the world moves and only those who compromise and submit climb high in the so called systems or hierarchies. A man with no war record but one who was all in all in Pakistan of 1984.A sad year like George Orwells book 1984.
  8.  The book ignores how badly Pakistan Army was organized with formations like 12 Division holding an area of responsibility occupied by some five Indian divisions. What stopped Ayub Khan from raising 5 more divisional headquarters in 12 Division area of responsibility. At least this book gave us some idea about what had happened and a skeleton structure to construct a more detailed picture. His two later books Pakistan Army 1947- 59 and Pakistan Army 1966-71 were also similarly handicapped by censorship and sanitization by the Pakistan Army GHQ but more of this in subsequent book reviews.

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