“Panoramic Analysis —Senior and Junior Leaders —Aug 1947 to Dec 1971”

Columnist Lt Col (Retd) Mukhtar Ahmad Gilani discusses the metamorphosis of junior and senior leadership during Pakistan’s first 25 years.

According to the British Government policy, natives were not accepted as officers even in the units totally composed of Indian troops. The Government was strictly following the remarks of a former Commander-in-Chief India (Field Marshal Roberts-1885-93), “Native officers can never take the place of British officers, Eastern races, however, brave and accustomed to war, do not possess the qualities that go to make leaders of men, I have known many natives whose gallantry and devotion could not have looked to the younger British officer for support in time of difficulty and danger _____”
However, soon after the first Great War in 1921 in view of the pressure from the Indian political leaders, the British Government, after selection, had granted King’s Commission from Sandhurst Academy to a small number of native young men. Among those Indian political leaders Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah (the Founder of Pakistan) was in the forefront. Some of the Indian political leaders, under the leadership of Mr Jinnah were sent to European countries by the British Government to study the working of officers training institutes. The driving force of the committee was Mr Jinnah whose dynamic arguments compelled the British Government to agree for establishing Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun in 1932.
But inspite of their seniority the Indian officers were not given command of troops and mostly they were relegated in the rear headquarters on unimportant jobs. The British did not want the native officers to command active units. One reason was that majority of the native officers, mostly captains, belonging to the Indianised units, who had been made prisoners of war in Malaya and Singapore, joined Indian National Army raised by the Japanese. Therefore, the loyalty of native officers was considered doubtful. However, in the last phase of the 2nd Great War a very small number of senior native officers were given command of units in action and one or two, on active service, even commanded brigade. But those native officers at the time of independence, most being non-Muslims, opted for the Indian Army. Only one Muslim officer opted for Pakistan.
During the 2nd Great War a large number of Indian young men were granted emergency commission. A great number of them had actively participated in the war as patrol leaders, platoon commanders, company officers and some with unflinching loyalty even commanded companies so they received practical experience of command of troops in action. Those who were commissioned in Armour or Artillery also commanded troops, squadrons, gun positions, acted as forward observation officers and some commanded batteries in action.
Independence-August 1947
At the time of independence Pakistan inherited Sandhurt commissioned, Indian Military Academy commissioned and emergency commissioned officers. The total number was 3,450 whereas according to the strength of the Pakistan Army requirement was 7,750. As already mentioned above that majority of the senior officers had not actually participated in action as battalion, brigade or division commander, therefore, they lacked practical experience of commanding troops. But they were soon promoted due to their seniority. Out of these, just before the end of 2nd Great War, very few had been allowed to command units in the rear areas.
Due to the shortage of senior rank Pakistan Government had, however, allowed some senior British officers (C-in-C, COS, few division commanders, directors in GHQ) and some highly technically qualified (EME, Engineer, Artillery) officers to continue service in the Pakistan Army.
The emergency commission officers were posted in various units and proved great asset as junior leaders even in peacetime soldiering. Each unit was short of at least fifty percent officers but under great stress and strain the young officers carried out their duties with zeal and efficiency. For many months they had rendered remarkable service in escorting refugee trains and foot convoys stretching for many miles, organising training and sorting out numerous administrative problems of multifarious nature.
The units of the Pakistan Army were short of weapons, mortars, guns, ordnance stores, transport, tanks and ammunition. There was also acute shortage of uniforms, boots, stationery, office furniture, cooking utensils and above all cash. Division of assets, as agreed upon, had been refused by the Indian leaders and our share of every item was arrogantly confiscated by the Indians. The strength of units was incomplete. Many decisions in respect of strength, organization, administration and training were perforce made on ad hoc basis and the same were implemented with untiring energy and devotion.

Kashmir War 1947-48
During the Kashmir War of Independence most of the local Kashmiri retired JCOs, NCOs and Sepoys had joined the freedom movement. About a dozen ex-INA officers had also volunteered to lead the freedom fighters. Many Muslim officers, JCOs and troops, serving with the Kashmir state forces, had deserted and joined the freedom movement. The ex-INA officers and Kashmir state forces officers quickly organized the freedom fighters into platoons, companies and battalions, and soon they fought coherently. Many junior officers from the Pakistan Army also joined the freedom fighters and led successful patrols, ambushed enemy convoys and inspite of big handicaps in strength, arms and without artillery support captured many enemy posts and areas of tactical importance.
About a dozen senior officers commanded battalions and brigades in action, although they had no previous experience but even then their performance was satisfactory. Some battalion commanders managed to capture areas of strategical and tactical importance inspite of shortages in machine guns and practically without artillery support. Whatever has been achieved during the Kashmir war in the shape of Azad Kashmir was mostly due to the daring actions of the freedom fighters and their leaders, young Pakistani officers and a few Pakistani battalion and brigade commanders. Capt Sarwar and Capt Zafar Iqbal had won the first Nishan-e-Haider and Hilal-e-Jurat respectively, and many other gallantry awards were won by other officers.

Period between 1949-64
After the Kashmir war, senior Pakistani officers with 8 to 10 years service were promoted as battalion commanders. Some 2nd-in-command and company commanders were hardly few months junior to the commanding officers, and some brigadiers were only one or two months senior to their battalion commanders.
Soon after 1950 many exercises with troops were carried out and at every level officers gained experience. But the performance of the brigade and division commanders could not be tested during training exercises as most of them were acting as directors and at the same time commanders of their formations.
Between 1952-58 in GHQ a concerted effort was made by creating a training cell, under a loaned British general, called Training Advisory Staff (TAS) to test senior brigadiers due for further promotion. Training exercises with troops were run which proved of great value.
Majority of the senior officers were promoted due to their loyalty and dependability and those who boldly spoke out against a higher opinion were quietly weeded out and some resigned in protest when juniors with no better professional ability and competency were promoted. So Pakistan Army lost some very fine and experienced senior officers.
Some senior officers devoted more time on inspections of unit lines, charpoys, socks, nails on the soles of boots, medal ribbons and hair cut. They took pleasure in catching men improperly dressed or not conducting themselves in soldiery manner when out of unit. Through their internal system of intelligence even personal activities of officers and petty matters of units were reported and based on which court of inquiries were ordered and some had to submit explanation for trivial lapses. During training exercises they would pay more attention to the contents of haversack, quality of cooked meal, sign posting and track discipline. Obviously, those senior officers became browbeaters but not popular.
The command of elite armoured formations (brigade and division) was often entrusted to non-armour officers, who during training exercises copied the style of Guderian, Rommel, Hoth and Patton. They were not conversant with minor armour tactics nor they were familiar with technical aspect. They even had failed to discover the awesome striking power of armour in action and thus handled ignominiously their formations. Only lip service was devoted for terrain analysis of operational areas and no serious effort made to find out the classification of bridges and quality of roads/tracks.
During, 1964 the Indians often carried out shelling of the border villages and posts well inside Azad Kashmir territory. Indian patrols, at times consisting of 30 to 50 soldiers, even raided many villages without provocation. Perforce, in retaliation, a number of Azad Kashmir units patrols, led by junior leaders, infiltrated deep into the enemy territory. They successfully destroyed many bridges, vital installations and raided supply dumps, headquarters and ambushed convoys. Planning and training, as directed by the 12 Division GOC, was the responsibility of respective brigade and unit.

1965 War
Before the all out war during March 1965 the Indian superior forces had occupied area, belonging to Pakistan, which was a flagrant violation of the agreement about the control of Rann of Kutch. When no heed was paid to the warnings of our Rangers, perforce Pakistan Army ordered 51 Brigade and 6 Brigade to eject the Indian force with offensive action from our area of control. Commander 6 Brigade (Brigadier Eftikhar) with bold action drove out the Indians with heavy losses from our area. The performance of a number of junior leaders was also commendable.
In Chamb-Jaurian Sector on 1st September counter offensive was launched under the command of Maj Gen Akhtar Malik. By first light 2nd September most of the objectives, including the vital enemy post of Chamb, had been captured by the forward battalion. The advance of the forward brigade was halted for about 11 hours because change in command of the division commander was ordered. The ultimate aim of the counter offensive, the capture of the strategically important town of Akhnur, could not be achieved due to inordinate delay of 11 hours. However, under the new division commander, Maj Gen Yahya Khan, Jaurian was captured on 5th September and on 6th September the forward troops had reached the area only 7 kilometres short of Akhnur. This was a great achievement. Pakistani force had captured 370 square miles of the enemy territory. The performance of 8 brigade commanders (Brigadier Zafar, Brigadier Hamid, Brigadier Azmat/Eftikhar), Brigadier Amjad (Commander 4 Corps Artillery), all the battalion/regiment commanders, company/squadron/battery commanders had been admirable and many of them won gallantry awards.
After launching the counter offensive in Chamb-Jaurian Sector the Pakistan high command (the President, the C-in-C and the CGS) had failed to foresee the strategical counter action of the Indian Army against Sialkot, Lahore and Kasur, in view of the foreign office assurance, that India would confine its retaliation to the territorial limits of Kashmir, no firm orders were issued to move the holding formations to the borders. Inspite of these follies the Indian forces had failed to capture any place of strategical importance.
In all other sectors, Pakistan Army fought defensive battles, but due to some daring actions at brigade and battalion level, some area of the enemy was captured in Kasur, Sulemanke and Rannkutch sectors. In Sialkot sector, after the 2nd Great War, the biggest tank battle had been fought. The enemy was twice stronger in armour and artillery whereas in infantry enemy was 4 times stronger. The performance of company/squadron and battalion/regiment commanders was commendable.
The selection of Brigadier Ismail (from ASC) as GOC 15 Division, the holding formation of Sialkot sector, was infelicitous. Strategically, the entire operational area (including Sialkot, Chawinda, Pasrur and Narowal) was important. The GOC had no experience of command of infantry formation. Within two days of the start of war he had failed to stand the shock of war and was rightly replaced by Maj Gen Tikka Khan who promptly restored the prevailing chaotic situation and cancelled all orders of withdrawal and destruction of the canal bridges. 6 Armoured Division was also deployed in Sialkot sector for aggressive defence of the vital areas and counter offensive action when the situation permitted. In manpower and tank strength it was equal to a brigade group. It was called a division because it was commanded by a major general (IBRAR HUSSAIN) who had no previous experience of commanding even an armour unit. He left the tactical deployment of squadron/unit, and actual fighting for the unit commanders.
The co-ordination of deployment of 15 Division, 6 Armoured Division and the Corps Artillery was the responsibility of 1st Corps commander Lt Gen Bakhtiar Rana. But he proved a ceremonial head as most of the important battle moves were controlled by GHQ. The brigade commander (Brigadier Abdul Ali responsible for the defence of Chawinda, with meagre strength in armour and infantry, blunted the enemy onslaught with repeated daring actions. With burnt and destroyed tanks the area around Chawinda had become the graveyard of enemy tanks. Because of overwhelming superiority in infantry the enemy had occupied a substantial area of Shakargarh. Brigadier Niazi had also fought successful battle and kept the enemy at bay.
Maj Gen Sarfraz, GOC 10 Division was responsible for the defence of Lahore sector. Clear orders for the move of units to the battle locations were not passed but due to the initiative of some battalion commanders forward companies had been moved on 5th/6th September night to the battle locations just before the enemy troops were about to cross the BRB canal. The enemy concentration was immediately shelled by the present artillery observers. With intensive small arms fire and accurate shelling enemy attack was repulsed. At dawn some enemy tanks were destroyed and the PAF also took a heavy toll of the attacking enemy columns. Subsequently, the enemy made repeated efforts to cross the BRB Canal and Hudiara drain but most of the battalion commanders and company/squadron/battery commanders fought gallantly with devotion and so the defences remained intact. Major Aziz Bhatti was commanding a company who with repeated valiant offensive action had blunted enemy infantry and tank attacks. He was awarded Nishan-e-Haider. The performance of Brigadier Qayyum Sher had inspired his troops to stand firm. Gallantry awards were awarded to many junior commanders and men. 10 Division had saved Lahore with meagre resources.
Maj Gen Hamid GOC 11 Division was responsible for the defence of Kasur sector and also was required to provide bridges and bridgehead for the launching of 1st Armoured Division commanded by Maj Gen Naser. 11 Division had been moved to the battle locations in time, and Khem Karan and a few more border villages were captured due to daring actions of battalion and company commanders. But 11 Division had failed to provide bridges in time during dark hours, for crossing the canal and Rohi Nullah on our side of the border by the advancing columns of 1st Armoured Division. Unfortunately, the Division was commanded by a non-armour officer. At that time 1st Armoured Division was the most expensive and awesome formation in the whole of Asia. Patton tank was considered the best and it could out manoeuvre the Indian heavy Centurion tank. But the 1st Armoured Division was handled in chaotic manner in the battle. The brigade commanders all belonged to the armour but unfortunately like their division commander they also lacked boldness, drive, robustness and miserably failed to take advantage from the weaknesses displayed by the enemy during battle. Only one unit commander (Lt Col Shahibzad Gul) and few Squadron commanders with daring actions had advanced deep into the enemy territory, but the Division commander and his Brigade commanders displayed hesitancy and passiveness and lost initiative.
Maj Gen Hamid was the Senior Division commander and considered to be professionally well groomed. He was in enviable position to co-ordinate the operation of 1st Armoured Division because being on the spot he was well aware about the prevailing situation. But he remained unconcerned and allowed opportunities offered by the enemy to slip by. In 11 Division performance of Brigadier Shahib Dad, Brigadier Nawazish and some battalion/regiment, company/squadron/battery commanders was praiseworthy.
In Sulemanke Sector, Commander 105 Brigade (Brigadier Akbar) and particularly his two battalion commanders had displayed boldness and captured about 40 square miles of enemy territory. Counter attacks of the enemy were repulsed with heavy losses.
In Rann Kutch sector the enemy was much stronger in infantry, armour and artillery but 51 Brigade commander (Brigadier Azhar) and his unit commanders, Rangers, Mujahids and Hurs with constant aggressive action captured about 1200 square miles of enemy territory.
It is often said that 1965 war was the war of junior leaders (unit commanders down to platoon/troop level), with the exception of a few division and brigade commanders, who in all the sectors with prompt valorous actions had won many tactical victories. It is strong that the services of professionally well groomed senior officers like Lt Gen Altaf Qadir, Maj Gen Attiq-ur-Rehman and Maj Gen Mohammad Yaqub Khan (highly qualified armour officers) were not availed.

1966 to 1971
The experience gained at all levels during 1965 war was immense. Raising of new formations and units had commenced during the war and it continued for some time because the Indian Army was being expanded and reorganised. India had amassed qualitative military hardware, aircraft and naval ships for her Armed Forces. Due to the restriction imposed by USA, for the sale of tanks, guns, vehicles, instruments, aircraft and urgently needed spare parts, Pakistan was offered help by friendly countries and a lot was purchased from some countries at exorbitant rate.
When during 1966 Gen Yahya Khan was appointed C-in-C Pakistan Army a number of general officers and brigadiers were retired to make way for the new blood. A good many officers who had commanded units in action were also retired because of supersession or not having qualified from the Staff College. Due to the “AXE” Pakistan Army lost a number of dedicated and professionally sound senior and junior officers. A good number of those were promoted who had been holding staff appointments during the war or elsewhere in the rear.
Training was realistic and genuine efforts were being made to implement lessons learnt during 1965 War. The “New Concept of Defence” was modified and organization of infantry division carried out by allotting more infantry battalions. A few corps headquarters were raised to control battles on the spot. Many staff appointments were up graded and those who bad been colonels only a few months back were promoted major generals. Army had become top heavy in senior rank from brigadier to lieut general. Some were promoted due to their special contacts with the personalities at the top. Soon red tape and weight of brass on shoulders lost reverence, importance and charm.
On 25 March 1969, President Ayub resigned and handed over power to the C-in-C Gen Yahya and Martial Law was declared. A good number of senior and junior officers were employed on Martial Law duties which kept them away from professional activities. On 30 January 1971 an Indian Airlines Fokker was hijacked, with the connivance of the Indian secret service and forced to land at Lahore airport. The Government of India cancelled all overflights by Pakistan plying between West and East Pakistan. Indian troops were concentrated on the border. Political situation, particularly in East Pakistan had become dangerous. In March 1971 miscreants and anti-Pakistan people had started insurgency activities and many communication centres, ferries and bridges were damaged by saboteurs. The Bengalis in uniform had become rebels. On 25/26 March 1971 the military action against the rebels and miscreants went into full swing under Lt Gen Tikka Khan who had been appointed as the Governor of East Pakistan. Troops were assiduously busy for establishing law and order in the country. A meagre strength of about 10,000 reliable troops was available against about 125,000 strong armed rebels. Under great stress and strain all ranks carried out their assigned task admiringly. About a dozen tenacious actions against the armed rebels were fought in which the troops also suffered heavy casualties. Lt Gen A A Niazi took over as the Corps Commander Eastern Command. He was known as a master of tactics. During 1965 war he had commanded a brigade and awarded HJ. The Indian forces had been concentrated close to the borders and training of rebels and miscreants was in full swing in the Indian camps. To create prestigious appointments for ‘favourites’ four Lt Generals were appointed as governors of various provinces and some senior officers on other civilian jobs.
Two divisions were sent to East Pakistan in view of the mounting Indian threat. Some new formations and units were raised in West Pakistan to compensate the imbalance, It was said that most of the division commanders and those holding other prominent appointments had been instructors in the Staff College as such high quality of performance was expected from them. Most of the junior commanders were also veterans of 1965 war.
Under the leadership of mostly junior leaders (2/Lieut to Lieut Col) the troops in East Pakistan since February 1971 had lived and fought under horrid conditions. Undaunted efforts were made by troops to establish law and order in the country and in the process suffered lot of casualties. When on 21 November 1971 (the Eid day) all out war started, the troops of Eastern Command had been deployed in penny pockets all along the border. The Commander Eastern Command, before the all out war, had been after declaring bombastically in sarcastic tone to launch counter offensive deep into Indian territory. By ignoring the defence of Dacca the principle of maintenance of the aim had been flouted by him. He had overlooked the strategy of offensive defence for prolonging the war for an honourable ceasefire. For the Indian high command “Tiger Niazi” was only a battalion commander in the uniform of a general.
Maj Gen Ansari (9 Division), Maj Gen Nazar Hussain. (16 Division), Maj Gen Qazi Majid (14 Division), Maj Gen Rahim (39 Division raised 18 October on ad hoc basis) and Maj Gen Jamshed (36 Division — only one brigade had consisted of para-military troops and Mujahids etc on ad hoc basis) were considered professionally sound. Maj Gen Jamshed had proved an outstanding company and battalion commander and won a few gallantry awards. All the formation commanders obeyed orders but no one resisted for affecting changes in the faulty deployment. The performance of Brigadier Saadullah and Brigadier Tajammal Hussain was commendable. Major Akram (Nishan-e-Haider), Lt Col Sultan, Major Ayub, Major Kifaitullah, Capt Khund, Lt Zamir, Lt Tahir and many other junior leaders had fought many daring actions against much superior enemy supported by tanks and numerous guns. Commander Eastern Command had lost control over his troops because units and formation were outstretched and mixed up. The enemy forces, in accordance with plan, were dashing towards Dacca which had no deterrent defence. On 16 December 71 the Eastern Command accepted unconditional surrender and lost East Pakistan. About 65,000 troops became prisoners of war. According to a French General Bauffre Pakistan has many good captains but no good general.
The performance of senior commanders, involved in fighting on the western front has been adequately covered in my article “Lost Opportunity — A Military Analysis — 1971” published in the Defence Journal issue of January I, therefore, request the learned readers to glance through it also. However, the performance of junior leaders is briefly highlighted in the foregoing paragraphs.
Although, during the first week of December 71, the attack of 12 Division on Poonch had failed but inspite of many handicaps (including darkness and unknown difficult terrain) most of the junior leaders during fighting displayed many acts of valour and also comradeship qualities in extricating their wounded comrades in arm. Some officers of 9AK, 19AK and 26AK had gallantly led their troops in action.
In Chamb (now Eftikharabad) sector due to the brave action of a junior officer of 4 Punjab Mandiala ridge was captured. 4 FF and 17 FF had captured Moel and Manawar respectively and a company commander of 14 Punjab captured the vital post of Burejal. A troop commander of 28 Cavalry had managed to hold an important tactical height.
On 9 December 71 Maj Gen Eftikhar’s helicopter crashed and he died after few hours in the hospital. Chamb had been captured due to his bold leadership and irresistible drive.
In Sialkot sector under the bold leadership of Brigadier Nisar Ahmad the Changez Force ( 20 Lancer + 33 Cavalry + 13 Punjab + 12 Medium Regt) operated between the Basantar nullah and the Bein nullah, and fought a series of delaying battles. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the five times stronger enemy tank and infantry forces and most of the squadron, troop and company commanders fought with characteristic devotion. Sowar Muhammad Hussain’s conspicuous gallantry was recognized with the highest award of Nishan-e-Haider.
Lt Col Akram ( 35 FF) with untiring efforts had managed to concentrate his unit in a new area without recce and at dawn attacked Jarpal which was held by an enemy battalion and an armour regiment. For seven hours tenacious battle continued and the unit suffered heavy casualties. Many junior commanders had fought with impetuous rush which convincingly forced the enemy to abandon offensive action.
In Lahore sector many battalion and company commanders fought gallantly. LNK Mahfooz (15 Punjab) under heavy enemy fire had crawled up to an enemy MG post and destroyed it by throwing grenades but was killed. For his outstanding gallant action he was awarded Nishan-e-Haider.
In Kasur sector, under the inspiring leadership of Brigadier Mumtaz (106 Brigade), Lt Col Ghulam Hussain Chowdry, Capt Arif Saeed, Lt Abdul Malik (3 Punjab), Inspector Hanif (Rangers) had captured the strongly defended Hussainiwala enclave and they, including few more, were decorated with gallantry awards. 44 Baluch with great determination had captured the strongly built monument of Qaiser-i-Hind.
In Sulemanke sector under the inspiring leadership of Brigadier Hamza ( 105 Brigade), with meagre resources, many enemy posts and some ground of tactical importance were captured by the units. The performance of Major Shabeer (6FF) was outstanding and awarded Nishan-e-Haider. A few other junior leaders for gallant action also received gallantry awards.
In Rajistan sector the offensive of 18 Division had ended in fiasco. 51 Brigade (Brigadier Tariq Mir) had failed to carry out the task. It is said, for most of the time, the communication with 18 Division Headquarters and the units under command had remained out of order. 28 Baluch (the Recce and Support) when called upon to capture an objective had been pulled out of the operational area for unknown reasons. Some junior officers with daring efforts had managed to recover bogged down and damaged tanks, vehicles and guns.

An honest attempt has been made to recount the performance of senior and junior commanders who had served with the Pakistan Army from August 1947 to December 1971. The assessment is based on the study of relevant military history books, numerous articles, interviews of many soldiers and personal reminiscences.
We can learn a lot from bitter facts of history if there is remorse. We can avert mistakes and blunders committed by our predecessors, but mere study and little acquaintance will not suffice. We can draw inspiration from the study of valiant deeds of our heroes.
Obviously lot of names could not be included because space imposed limitation. I may have, unconsciously, injured the feelings of some learned readers, but I sincerely submit that my intention has been to mention facts only known to me.
The narrative is confined to the officers of fighting arms only.


The Pakistan Army - Maj Gen Shaukat Riza

Memoirs - Lt Gen Gul Hassan Khan

The Pakistan Army - Maj Gen Shaukat Riza

The Pakistan Army - Maj Gen Shaukat Riza
War 1965
My Version - Gen Musa Khan

Muhammad Ali - Matlubul-Hasan Saiyid
Jinnah — A political study

The Way It Was - Brigadier Z.A. Khan

September 1965
Before and After - Brigadier Amjad Ali

The Indian Army - Major Praval
After the Independence.

War Despatches - Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh

Defence of the
Western Border - Maj Gen Sukhwant Singh

Prepare or Perish - Gen Krishana Rao

War-September 1965 - Lt Col Mukhtar Ahmad Gilani