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October 2000     Vol 4      No 3     Reg No.SS-346


Publisher & Managing Editor:
Ikram-ul-Majeed Sehgal

Chief Patron
Air Marshal (Retd)

Mohammad Asghar Khan

Patrons
Lt Gen (Retd) SF Lodi

Brig (Retd)TH Siddiqi
Lt Gen (Retd) Imtiaz Waraich

Board of Editorial Advisors
Ardeshir Cowasjee

Arif Nizami
Ms Maleeha Lodhi
Ms Nasim Zehra
Hameed Haroon
Humayun Gauhar
Ambassador (Retd) Afzal Mahmood

Brig (Retd) Saeed Ismat, SJ

Panel of Contributing Editors
Air Marshal (Retd) Ayaz A. Khan

Vice Adm (Retd) IF Quadir
Dr Shireen Mazari
Farhan Bokhari

Panel of Columnists
Col (Retd) EAS Bokhari
Col (Retd) Abdul Qayyum
Dr. Matiur Rahman
Ms Amina Jilani
Capt (Retd) A.A. Jilani

Executive Editor
Ms Ambreen Jahangir

Vice President Marketing
Syed Tauseef  Muhammad Ali

Advertising Manager
Naushad Alam

Internet Coordinator/Graphic Designer
Rizwan Alam Khan

Cover Design
Shujaat Ali

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Ms Parveen Akhter

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Tariq Jamal

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Brig (Retd) Asmat Beg Humayun

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Azizullah Goheer

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Dear Readers,

We are living in dangerous times, economically and geo-politically.  Unfortunately the civilian team inducted by the military regime is not capable of turning the country around.  They are an odd bunch of routine-followers having no ability to make the dynamic moves necessary for the nation’s economic and political emancipation.  All their efforts are to somehow please the IMF so that their future jobs are not at risk.  Only street-smart people with known entrepreneurial potential can deliver the goods,  the CE would do well to requisition their services on an emergent basis.  Moreover, we have to come to terms with “Dirty Tricks” which are going to come at Pakistan from all sides, the mysterious release of THE REPORT was only one such malafide initiative.  I am taking the liberty of reproducing an article that I wrote for THE NATION by that name.

Some skeletons can never stay in the closet. From time to time the Hamoodur Rahman Commission's Report (HRCR) surfaces (or is made to surface) Phoenix-like to haunt Pakistan, more particularly the Pakistan Army. The motivation behind the present radiations is hardly a mystery, which is the one institution that remains between India and regional hegemony? As a Psy-war weapon the Report is far more cost-effective in maligning the Army than the expensive one-page ADs being run by India in major international newspapers pre-the UN Millennium Summit.  A broad section of our own intelligentsia seems to have fallen for this, proceeding  to castigate an Army that is three decades removed from the catharsis of 1971. While politicians have a vested interest in trying to force  the uniformed personnel under pressure back to the barracks,  a broad spectrum of the elite facing accountability have reinforced this unholy nexus. The "fog of war" invariably covers the actions and misdeeds of the victors, only the dirty linen of the vanquished is on display for public approbation.  Many years later,  only myths and half-truths emerge, the truth remains buried.

In isolation from the main text the Supplementary Report is contradictory at places. The deep underlying root cause (the macro-reason)  leading to the disintegration of the finest experiment in nationhood of its time is ignored for the micro-reason of targeting  some individuals and exonerating others. The Report comes across simply as an exercise by the then rulers to pass the buck to their predecessors and gloss over their own culpability,  not an uncommon occurrence in this world. Was it a coincidence that the Report spared all those in power 1972-1975 period? The Army action on night 25/26 March in Dhaka was the watershed  event that sparked open rebellion in East Pakistan, however, the Report  absolves those who planned and executed that charge to blast their way through the civilian barricades, among them Tikka Khan and Farman Ali Khan.  In the face of anarchy and the civilian siege of Dhaka Cantonment all  options were of Catch-22 nature.  Militarily speaking, the surgical operation accomplished its objectives with far lesser casualties than envisaged but in the political sense it could only lead to the blood cycle that ensued. Someone needed to be crucified among the "East Pakistan 1971 war alumni" for tarring and feathering, was any General other than Maj Gen Rahim Khan available in 1973 despite Gen  Niazi clearly stating that he fell back from Chandpur to Dhaka on his orders? Similarly Maj Gen Ghulam Umar, an honourable man of great ability,  commitment and  integrity is targeted needlessly.  A "club" of armchair warriors excel in creating myths about people they like and horror stories about those they dislike, no question of a fair hearing and/or even the benefit of doubt. Different standards for different people apply.  Imbibing alcohol and going after women is eulogised as "manly" (Mard Aadmi hai), and if we do not "belong",   as  "drunkards" and "womanizers".  Entire sections of our military history have been changed to suit myths about  favourites.  To quote Count Ciano, "Victory has a thousand fathers, defeat is an orphan".  Gen AM Yahya Khan did a most honourable thing, as the nation's leader during this catastrophe, he accepted full responsibility (and demanded punishment thereof), why was his request to be put on trial in public turned down at that time? Could it be that others more culpable  had a profound stake in keeping him silent?

Is it fair to stand in judgement relying only on misinformation and distorted facts about events three decades ago?   Samuel Butler said, "God cannot alter the past but historians can".  We have more things to worry about than trying to exorcise the faded ghosts of 1971.  The Report's sudden appearance is clearly a well-timed Indian strategy, one has only to read "The Kautiliya Arthasasthra" (Books 11 to 14) as translated from Sanskrit by R.P. Kangle and the requirements of a "Vijigisu" (would-be world conqueror). Five thousand years later the same principles apply, to quote Chinese Philosopher and Strategist Sun Tse Tzu, "winning a war without bloodying swords" is the clear objective here. The Indians may  be laughing themselves sick at our becoming a tool of their "great game".

One of the names on the list was that of Brig (Retd) Muhammad Taj S.J.& Bar.  Lt Col Taj was CO 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) during the 1971 war. Just consider only the events leading upto battle.  As my company gave a canopy of machine gun fire over a train burning from end to end carrying Guides Cav tanks at Daharki Railway Station on 10 December 1971,  he stood defiantly on the road only 200 yards away, arms akimbo,  flatly refusing to take cover till the  Indian aircraft had been driven away and the cavalrymen ran to their tanks shackled on the MBFRs and   started the engines, making a sharp right swivel to break the chains, letting the tanks fall sideways down the dusty embankment and  putting out the fire.  Now that I call courage!  "Don't be late", Taj growled with pride at the bravery of Guides Cavalry,  " Tell Ayub (the Guides Cav CO) we have an appointment with the Indians you better not miss!"  Or pummelling  Sep Yaqub (now a PIA Security Guard in Karachi) and giving him a bear embrace for shooting down an SU-7 which crashed and exploded only a few hundred yards away a mile or so short of Umerkot.   Try and recapture the elan he would instil in the sub-units of 45 Punjab and 46 Baluch as they fanned out left and right of us, "Good hunting, tell the Indians Taj is here". Quite dramatic, unabashed showmanship perhaps, but invaluable in  raising the morale of troops on the receiving end of continuous Indian air attacks.  And on Sanohi Ridge, the guns of 26 Field and 40 Field on the reverse slope booming away, exhorting 44 Punjab  to take 199r and 200r, two sandy dunes occupied by the Indians in the proximity of  Chor, "Is there a better day to be Shaheed than today,  is there a better way to be Shaheed than with a bullet in your chest?" he would ask anyone who would listen. And during  the O (Orders) Group with Maj Gen Naseer,  GOC 33 Div,  sitting with his knee cap shot up and Lt Gen K.M. Azhar, Governor NWFP,  also  wounded looking on, "Hamid  (we were assembled in the Gun Position of a Battery of 40 Field) will give us something to eat,  we won't become Shaheed on an empty stomach!"   Maj (later Lt Gen) Hamid Niaz gave us a banquet of "Sukhi Roti and Dal,"  a  very hot mug of (gunner's) tea and sent us off with a teary embrace into the darkness to what he thought was certain death. Lt Col Taj was decorated with Sitara-e-Jurat for bravery in 1965 and then again in 1971. One cannot recapture in one article Taj's actual war exploits, only how we were deeply motivated, individually, as a unit  and even as a formation, during desperate times by this man's presence, how he lifted our spirits in an environment only someone who has been in a battle situation can empathize with.  Now those who have never smelt cordite  would have this man court martialled? This Army and this country owes a debt of gratitude to the Tajs of Pakistan, a hundred, maybe a thousand Tajs were seen up and down the line thus exhorting their sub-units, units and formations from Kashmir to Kutch  throughout the war.  They blunted the brunt of the enemy's threat, asked for no quarter and gave none. As someone who prides himself in having served under one such Taj I take issue with any Report that disparages this brave man's conduct during war, be it 1965 or 1971.   44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) may be forgiven for being prejudiced, why not ask the others (including some Generals today serving in other units of 60 Bde and 33 Div) what Taj symbolized  during war?  During peace, every loudmouth with a booming voice who has not heard a shot being fired in anger becomes a hero.

The release of this  Report is highly motivated, it has only one target, the Pakistan Army.  Asking to go  public is not out of any  great ideal or altruistic purpose, those who leaked the Report know that most of the officers targeted for trial are dead and gone, they really want to put the Pakistan Army on public trial. We might as well go back and put Mir Jafar on trial for changing over from Nawab Sirajuddoula to Robert Clive at Plassey.  Thirty years (or two hundred and fifty years), what does it matter, it is a time to forget - and forgive and get along with our lives.  To quote Paul-Emile Borduas, "the past must no longer be used as an anvil for beating out the present and the future".

Leave the Army alone. Better still, leave Pakistan alone!


The views, opinion and recommendations expressed in the articles published in this magazine are entirely that of the author of that particular article, this magazine serves only as a neutral platform for healthy debate where contrary thoughts in print are considered an important cornerstone of the freedom of expression enshrined as the essence of democracy.

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