DEFENCE NOTES

THE WAY IT WAS

za-khan

DJ continues publishing extracts from
Brig (Retd) ZA KHAN'S very readable
forthcoming book


6 Armoured Division was the 100 Independent Armoured Brigade consisting of three armoured regiments, 13 Lancers, Guides Cavalry and 11 Cavalry, two motorised infantry battalions, 9 FF and 14 FF, one self propelled artillery regiments, it had engineers and service units which had been upgraded from companys to battalions, it did not have any brigade headquarters. The division commander was Major General Abrar Hussain, there was no colonel staff, the GSO 1 was Lieutenant Colonel Farzand Ali, 13 Lancers, the AA&QMG was Lieutenant Colonel Ghouse Mohiuddin, 4 Cavalry, the GSO 2 (Operations) was Major Habib Akbar, 6 Lancers, later brigadier, the GSO 2 (Intelligence) was Major Mir Abad Hussain, 6 Lancers, later brigadier, there was a DAAG and I became the 'DQ', relieving Major Khalid Kayani who hurriedly completed the formalities and left. The division had moved to its war location about twenty days earlier, I expected all the operational plans to be ready and the division ready to go to war, but when I arrived I found that the operational plans were still being made.

My job was the selection of suitable administrative areas for the location of the service units of the division to support the various operational plans. When I examined the scales of the reserve ammunition I found that the scales allowed were far below the battle expenditure rates, for instance machine guns were allowed a hundred rounds per gun per day. The Pakistan Army had not laid down expenditure rates so I referred to the US Army manual on the subject and reported it to Lieutenant Colonel Ghouse Mohiuddin who in turn reported it to the GOC.

A few days later I saw an Ordnance officer idling in the headquarters and asked him what he was doing for a living, he replied that he did not have anything to do so I suggested that he inspect the ammunition stowed in the tanks. He started the inspection and came back the next day to report a serious problem, the high explosive ammunition stowed in tanks was fused for anti-aircraft firing with a time fuse set at zero, at which setting it would burst just after leaving the gun barrel. I again made a report to the AA&QMG who reported it to the GOC, this time the GOC took up the case with the C-in-C who took a serious view of the matter, later it was rumoured that Major General Saeed Ghawas, the Master General of Ordnance, was held responsible for this negligence on the part of the Ordnance Corps. The ammunition had been supplied by the Americans fused for anti-aircraft firing and a point detonating fuse for firing the ammunition from tanks had been supplied but the Ordnance had not changed the fuse.

After inspecting the ammunition stowed in the tanks when the reserve ammunition was examined it was found that instead of AP (armour piercing) ammunition HEAT (high explosive anti-tank) ammunition was held in the reserves. In shape and look the HEAT ammunition looked like a high explosive round and appeared entirely different from AP ammunition. When the report came to me I made out a note suggesting that some of this ammunition be issued to every tank so that the tank crews and the NCOs who were to draw ammunition from the reserves became familiar with it, otherwise they would refuse to accept the ammunition as armour piercing ammunition. The suggestion was not agreed with and it was said that the ammunition was being kept as a 'surprise'. During the war the NCOs refused to accept this ammunition and reported that the armour piercing ammunition had finished in the stock. General Musa reported to President Ayub that tank HE ammunition had been stocked instead of AP, that the AP ammunition had finished, and therefore it was necessary to arrange a cease fire.

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With these occurrences the AA&QMG labeled me a trouble maker and he said that whenever he saw me walking towards the tent in which his office was located, he knew he had trouble. After the ammunition problems came the problem of 'jerricans'. Every wheeled vehicle in the division was required to have filled tanks and carry spare petrol for a specified mileage. On checking it was found that some units did not have enough jerricans, complete count of jerricans had to be taken, the required number of cans per unit had to be worked out and the necessary number of cans arranged and distributed.

While these problems were being resolved the Military Farms informed us that the army had run out of powdered milk and we had to make arrangements for the local purchase of milk. Inquiries showed that there was plenty of milk available on the banks of the Chenab, collection points were set up on the Gujranwala-Hafizabad road from where army vehicles transported it to Gujranwala where 'pasteurisation' was carried out under the supervision of the Military Farms personnel and milk was issued to units. Almost everyday I would receive a report that at some units milk had curdled and permission to expend powdered milk had to be given. Quartermastering a division in the field was like a housewife running a house, constant problems, unsung and taken for granted.

When the army moved to the border, the army schools of instructions closed down, students and the instructional staff were sent to their units, Major Z. U. Abbasi, who was the Armour instructor at the Infantry School at Quetta, was posted back to the Guides Cavalry, I had no close friend in the Division headquarters and Abbasi's arrival was a boon to me. We soon started getting together in the evenings, walking to the Gujranwala main bazaar and eating there. These evenings would start with 'gol gappas' followed by 'kabaabs' and ending with 'kulfis', the whole affair taking the better part of two hours. Abbasi had just got married and moved into married accommodation in Quetta, he said that he had just begun enjoying his married life, and was getting used to house jobs like watering the garden in the evening when he was suddenly posted back to his regiment.

In July the relations with India suddenly improved, leave re-opened, plans were drawn up to return to peace locations, and officers started going on foreign courses. Major Habib Akbar the GSO 2 (Operations) left for Fort Leavenworth, the American Staff College, and Major Khalid Mahmud Arif, later general, joined the headquarters as Major Akbar's replacement. While I was living in Kashmir Hotel, Lieutenant Colonel Ghulam Jilani Khan, my platoon commander in the PMA, who was also living in the hotel, once asked me what foreign course I had attended, I told him that I had not been abroad, he then asked me what course I would like to attend and I said the Armour Career Officers Course. Later in the year I was interviewed for this course, there was only one vacancy on this course and Major Khawar Peerzada, later lieutenant colonel, was nominated by Major General Sarfaraz, so a second vacancy was obtained and both of us were selected. With the army on the borders there was no likelihood of going abroad but at the beginning of August, I was suddenly ordered to proceed to the USA. I hurriedly left for Karachi where the processing before the departure was to be carried out.

My wife, convinced that I was going to be away for a long time, had surrendered the house in Rawalpindi, left our furniture and belongings with the Survey of Pakistan office, and moved to her parents house in Karachi, I spent about ten days with her. Z. U. Abbasi was also in Karachi on a month's leave and we met him and his recently wedded wife. My wife was very keen to accompany me to America but I insisted that I would go to Fort Knox, arrange for accommodation and then she could join me.

All the time that I was in Karachi the radio and the newspapers indicated that serious fighting was going on in Kashmir, this was not understood by us who had come from the army's deployment area where the procedure for returning to the peace stations had started and one quarter of the army had been sent on leave.

Major Khawar Peerzada, and I, with reservations for New York left by Pan Am and flew to London, while waiting in the transit lounge we heard our names announced asking us to report to the Pan American counter. When we went there, we were told that we had been off loaded and would have to make fresh reservations to New York, while we were still arguing at the Pan American counter our flight departed and we were stranded. The Pan American staff left and we were wondering what to do when a British Overseas Airways Corporation stewardess asked us what was wrong, we explained our problem and she advised us to go to the American Officers Club at Lancaster Gate in London and make fresh reservations by Pan American. We retrieved our baggage, took a taxi to Lancaster Gate, checked in at American Officers Club and Pan American booked us to New York two days later.

On arrival at New York, as per instructions we reported to the U.S Army liaison office at the Kennedy Airport, a bulky U.S. Army sergeant was sitting with his feet on a table, we told him that we had come from Pakistan and were on our way to Fort Knox. The sergeant, without changing his posture, told us to go to the Pan American counter and they would make all the arrangements. There was a very long queue at the Pan American counter and when we presented our tickets and asked for further travel arrangements, the man behind the counter said that Pan American was not responsible. We went back and told the sergeant, he walked to the Pan American counter, pushed his way through the queue and when we pointed out the man the sergeant spoke to him very rudely, the man told us to wait and he would deal with us after he had dealt with the other passengers. We waited for over an hour after which we were given ticket to Louisville, Kentucky, a reservation at a hotel and provided with transportation to the hotel and to La Guardia airport the next morning.

We flew to Washington and changed planes for Louisville, a little while after the take off the air hostess came and told us that the senator from Idaho was traveling on board and had asked if we could join him for a cup of coffee, which we did. After asking us a few questions about Pakistan the senator told us that East Pakistan would separate from West Pakistan, we were completely surprised by this statement and assured him that no such thing would happen..

On our arrival at Louisville airport a car came to collect us and we were shown to our quarters which consisted of a bed room, a sitting room, a bath and a kitchen with a refrigerator, cooking facilities and a dining table, which had to be shared between two officers. The next two days went in documentation, drawing of clothing, books etc, then the course began with an address by the general commanding the school, amongst other things he informed the American officers about the number of company commands that would be available at the end of the course and would be filled according to the order of merit, the rest of the students would have to be satisfied with staff and instructional vacancies. A command of a company after the course was important for further promotions, staff and instructional appointments were for second raters whereas it was the opposite in the Pakistan Army.

The course began with a test of English language in which reading speed, comprehension and verbal expression were tested. The reading rate and comprehension were important as the daily programme required a lot of reading and often a test was taken at the beginning of a period. Classes in English were held in which a peculiar aspect of the instruction was that phrases and passages from old annual confidential reports were displayed to illustrate poor written expression. The course was planned and organised to train officers to enable them to command companies, a tank squadron, in Pakistan Army. The instruction was function oriented, for instance 'Driving and Maintenance' was the supervision of maintenance and the documentation of vehicles; the technical aspects of the vehicle received only passing reference. In maintenance of vehicles and equipment it was emphasized that to be battle worthy it had to meet a laid down criteria, if the vehicle or equipment did not meet the criteria the company commander declared it unfit and it became the responsibility of the 'Ordnance', the equivalent of our Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, to repair or replace the vehicle or equipment.

A map reading test was also taken, this tested map reading as it applied to tactics, there were no questions of compass deviation, scale lines, instead the ability to site weapons and sub-units, location of cover and approaches from maps was tested. Leadership training was carried by a unique method, the whole class sat in an auditorium, a short movie depicted an incident in which a decision had to be taken by an officer, the lights would come on and the instructor would name an officer and ask what is your decision or what will you do?. The officer named would give his solution to the problem which would then be discussed.

The U. S. Army pay and allowance paying system was handled by NCOs, they accepted claims and paid out by cheques or in cash. In all the pays and allowances that I received at Fort Knox and later at Fort Hamilton, the travel documents or claims were handed over to a corporal or sergeant and within ten or fifteen minutes the payment was made.

Every foreign officer was sponsored by a married American officer living in Fort Knox, Captain Tutweiler was my sponsor. In addition to this a family in Louisville sponsored officers who came from Pakistan and had the record of all the officers from Pakistan who came to Fort Knox.

6 September 1965 was a Monday and a holiday in America, I had been invited by the sponsoring family in Louisville to spend the day with them. I got there about lunch time and after introducing me to all those present, my host took me aside and informed me that India had attacked Pakistan that morning and Lahore had fallen, the news came as a complete surprise. My host then got the latest news on the radio and television but both kept repeating that India had attacked Pakistan and Lahore had fallen. I was asked by other guests to comment and I told them that the whole thing was surprise and I could not comment. The next day Khawar Peerzada and I decided not to go to our classes and telephoned the Military Attache, Colonel Ismail, to find out if there were any orders for us. After trying several times, someone answered the phone and told us that the Colonel had come back late from a party and was sleeping. On hearing this we felt reassured and went to our classes. The news about the fall of Lahore was soon corrected, heavy fighting was reported on the 'Ichogil Canal' and pictures in newspapers appeared showing our tanks knocked out across the Jassar bridge over the Ravi River and the television showed the Indian army fighting in Kashmir.

About two weeks after the outbreak of the war we were instructed that the we were to return to Pakistan. We started the process of handing over living quarters and other items but after the ceasefire was announced we were again instructed to return to our classes and were told that a case had been taken up with the government of Pakistan to allow us to continue our courses as the cease fire had taken place. We reversed the handing over procedure and joined our classes but a few days later we were told that we were to return to Pakistan and left for Fort Hamilton in New York from where we were to be provided transportation to Pakistan.

The authorities at Fort Hamilton gave us tickets by Pan American for Tehran and told us that our further travel arrangements would be made in Tehran. When we arrived at Tehran we found no one there. We telephoned the U. S. Army Mission and were told to go to a hotel and contact the U. S. Army Mission the next day. We got the address of a hotel on the road from the airport to the city and checked in. The next day we went to our embassy in Tehran and they contacted the U. S. Army Mission who made reservations for us by Iran Air to Karachi.

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