|The successful attack at Biarbet by 6 Brigade raised the morale
of the Pakistan Army and the threat of retaliation by the Indian prime minister at a place
of his own choosing led to the deployment of the Pakistan Army on the border. When the
agreement on the Rann of Kutch dispute was reached minefields were lifted and 10 and 15
Divisions moved to their peacetime locations, but armoured divisions remained deployed
giving Pakistan the opportunity of taking action in Kashmir with the army ready to meet
any Indian retaliation across the international borders.
To create a favourable situation in Kashmir, it was decided to create an uprising. The creation of an uprising in Kashmir had been previously given consideration, after the raising of the SSG Lieutenant Colonel A. O. Mitha was asked by General Ayub, C in C Pakistan Army, to examine the possibility of an uprising and its implications. Lieutenant Colonel Mitha's conclusions were that an uprising could be created, it required time and a systematic approach, but the Indians would attack across the international border the moment they started losing their grip in Kashmir. General Ayub underlined the conclusion about India attacking and wrote I agree.
Sometime in the late fifties an organisation controlled by a civil intelligence agency was created to train Kashmiris in handling explosives, espionage, sabotage and the creation of a infra-structure for supporting a guerrilla war in Kashmir. This organisation caused a lot of explosions in Kashmir, mostly in open fields and by late 1964 claimed that the infra-structure for supporting an uprising had been created.
Major General Akhtar Malik, accepting the existence of an infra-structure to support a guerrilla organisation, proceeded to train a force to operate in the Indian-held Kashmir to create a situation which would lead to a general uprising, the operation was code named Gibraltar'. Ten forces', about five hundred men each, called Khalid, Tariq, Qasim, Salahuddin, Ghaznavi, Khilji, Murtuza, Babar, Nusrat and Sikandar were organised. The personnel were taken from the villages of Azad Kashmir, NCOs were from the Azad Kashmir and the Pakistan Army, soldiers and NCOs who had served in the SSG and left the Army were called up, the company command level had some officers from the SSG and from the Pakistan Army, force' command was by Azad Kashmir Army officers as it was supposed to be a Kashmiri operation. The training of Gibraltar Force started in March 1965 at Kotli, Mongburji near Rawlakot, Shinkiari and Ratu in Gilgit. The training was to finish in June but was extended to July because of the Rann of Kutch disengagement.
Major General Akhtar Malik's plan, approved by President Ayub, was to bring about an uprising in Indian Held Kashmir with a nucleus of trained freedom fighters, while the Indian Forces along the Ceasefire Line were kept occupied by the Azad Kashmir Forces, a limited force was to be used for a short duration in Kashmir to deliver a final blow. The Pakistan Army was to be ready to defend the international borders.
In the latter half of July the various infiltrating groups moved to their jump off points near the points at which they were to cross the Cease fire Line. Ammunition and supplies were issued and guides, provided by the agency which had created the support organisation for the uprising, joined their forces. On August 1, 1965, Gibraltar Force started moving to cross the Ceasefire Line, columns entered the Kashmir Valley from passes at Gulati, Minimarg, Kel, Haji Pir Pass and Kotli. The main bases for operations were to be Gulmarg-Srinagar and Rajauri. In crossing the Ceasefire Line and infiltrating no difficulty was encountered. The force whose area of operations was to be Gulmarg-Srinagar, entered Indian Held Kashmir through the snow covered Haji Pir Pass, at an altitude of about 9000 feet, and slipped between the Indian posts when low clouds obscured visibility. They were clad in shalwars and kurtas and had no warm clothing.
August 7, 1965, was the planned date for the commencement of operations. Some groups commenced operations as soon as they arrived in their designated areas, other groups which had arrived earlier than planned did not commence operations though advised by SSG officers to do so. The difficulties of the infiltrators commenced as soon as they entered Indian Held Kashmir. The guides deserted and gave the Indians the locations of the forces that they had guided. When contact was established with the leaders of the clandestine organisation which was to provide intelligence etc, the persons usually imams of mosques, disowned the commitment and vanished. By August 5, 1965, the Indian intelligence buildup showed large scale infiltration to Srinagar, Poonch, Rajauri, Kargil and Leh areas, that the infiltrators were well armed, supplied with Indian currency and paying for food and other services, operating with great mobility and attacking Indian posts and vulnerable points. The Indians reacted with a well coordinated and planned counter measures, the infiltrating groups were located with the help of the guides that had guided them and with the help of locals who had seen them, troops were deployed on the routes on which the infiltrators were reported. Initially the Indian troops were in uniform but later they dressed like the infiltrators and moved about in small groups. Wherever a group of infiltrators was located by the Indians, it was surrounded and subjected to mortar fire. The infiltrators who had received only three months training and had no battle inoculation, usually panicked under mortar fire, ran and were hunted down by the Indians individually or in small groups. In the Kashmir Valley, Gulmarg-Srinagar area, the infiltrators, harried by Indian troops, avoided by the local population and suspicious of similarly dressed groups, were eliminated. Only the SSG officers, NCOs and men from the Pakistan Army were able to make their way back.
In the Rajauri area the infiltrators were met with open arms and the area rose in revolt against the Indians. Unfortunately the importance of keeping the infiltration routes open was not appreciated by the controlling headquarters, the Indians sealed the routes and surrounded the area. Supplies were dropped by the Pakistan Air Force, for two months the area was besieged and only surrendered after the cease fire in September 1965.
The Indians recovering from the surprise, deployed 3 Division in Northern Kashmir, 19 Division in the Tithwal Valley, 25 Division in Rajauri, concentrated 10 Division at Pathankot and deployed eight Jammu and Kashmir Militia battalions, under 15 Corps. Kuru and Majnun posts in Kargil, Kontal, Danna, Ali Koh and Pir Sabah in the Tithwal area and the Haji Pir Pass were captured by the Indians.
By the thirteenth of August it had become clear that Operation Gibraltar was doomed to end in a fiasco and would have serious national and international repercussions. When Haji Pir Pass was lost the possibility of recapturing it was considered but had to be given up because the climb was too steep from our side. Attacks were launched in 4 Sector in Chamb but by 23 August 1963, Brigadier Abdul Hamid Khan, later lieutenant general, and his brigade were back from where they had started. At this stage to retrieve the difficult military and political position, Major General Akhtar Malik proposed an attack to capture Akhnur and so cut off the only all weather route available to the Indians. He asked for one additional brigade which was given to him from 7 Division commanded by Major General Yahya Khan, later general and President of Pakistan.
The plan was approved by President Ayub and General Musa. In the words of General Musa Pakistan Army therefore launched a powerful counter offensive from the Bhimber side across the Jammu Tawi on the night August 31/ September 1 to capture Akhnur and the bridge across the Chenab. The Indians knowing the importance of the area had seven battalions of infantry, one light tank regiment, two artillery regiments in the area and other reinforcements were available from 26 Division in Jammu area.
Major General Akhtar Malik, who conceived the plan and initially commanded the operation code named Grand Slam, gave the aim of the operation as 12 Division, with additional troops under command, to destroy enemy in Lalial, Dewa, Sakrana and Chamb and capture Akhnur with a view to launching further operations against the enemy towards Rajauri. The operation was to be carried out in three phases. Phase 1 was to start at 0500 hours on September 1, end at 1200 hours with the clearance of the area west of the Tawi River, Phase 2 was the capture of Akhnur by 10 Brigade and in the last Phase 102 Brigade was to advance to Dharamsal and Naushara while 25 Brigade attacked Rajauri. 11 Cavalry and 13 Lancers ex-6 Armoured Division, 7 Division Artillery, 4 Corps Artillery and two light anti-aircraft artillery regiments were made available for the operation. The 6 Armoured Division and 7 Division units and formations taking part in these operations had approximately 25% personnel on leave. A warning order' was sent on 1 September to 1 Armoured Division to be prepared to break out of bridge head to be established by 11 Division to capture the bridge over the Beas at Raya.
The first phase of the operation was completed at 0900 hours on 2 September, twenty hours behind schedule. Fifteen AMX-13 tanks, thirteen field guns and considerable number of vehicles were captured. On the first day of operations, the Indian Air Force attacked our forces. Major Bunty' Sarwar, commanding a SSG company was strafed and killed, later Pakistan Air Force aircraft shot down four Indian aircrafts and drove the Indian Air Force away.
For the commencement of the next phase, artillery was not in firing positions, general Musa visiting Major General Akhtar Malik's headquarters and finding the prevailing conditions unsatisfactory, ordered Major General Yahya Khan to assume the command of the operations. 10 Brigade started the second phase at 1300 hours on 3 September, two days behind schedule, one day lost in the completion of Phase 1 and one day due to the change in command. When 10 Brigade started the second phase, 6 FF with a squadron from 13 Lancers advanced on Trotti feature but took the wrong route. C' Squadron 13 Lancers commanded by Major Mohammad Abbas drove through a wooded area south of Trotti feature and penetrated the Indian defences in this area forcing them to abandon the important Trotti feature. 14 Punjab ordered to capture Jaurian did not follow the brigade commander's orders and were only able to contact the Jaurian defences on the night of 4/5 September. On 4 September 6 Brigade arrived from Quetta, relieved 102 Brigade forming the firm base on the Tawi, and 102 Brigade advanced forcing the Indians to abandon Jaurian. The Pakistani forces were still about 25 miles from Akhnur on the morning of 5 September, the advance to Akhnur continued during the day and the night of 5/6 September. On the morning of 6 September the Indians attacked across the international border at Jassar and Lahore, on this day Major General Yahya's forward elements had reached the vicinity of Akhnur.
The Indian attack had an immediate effect on Grand Slam', 10 Brigade was ordered to move to Sialkot, 11 Cavalry reverted to 6 Armoured Division, 4 Corps Artillery was placed under command 1 Corps, Major General Yahya went over to the defensive against the Indian 10 Division attacks which continued, without any appreciable gains, till the cease fire.
13 Lancers lost two squadron commanders killed, Major Malik Sultan Mohammad and Major Fakhre Alam, both had been transferred from infantry to 13 Lancers in 1956. Major Mohammad Abbas was wounded, fourteen all ranks were killed and twenty eight were wounded. The regiment earned the battle honour Dewa, Chamb and Jaurian. Risaldar Mohammad Yousuf, a troop leader in C Squadron, 13 Lancers, once called at my house after both of us had retired. He told me that after his squadron commander, Major Mohammad Abbas, was wounded, he had advanced and stopped at a report line from where he could see the Akhnur bridge, it seemed that there was no enemy holding it, he did not receive any orders to go any further and did not do so. 13 Lancers have the milestone at which they stopped, it says Akhnur 4 Kilometres, the squadron commander had been wounded and evacuated, at the 13 Lancers regimental headquarters, the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Sher, who was awarded a SJ, and the Second-in-Command Major Saeed Azhar, later brigadier, failed to realise the significance of the point at which Risaldar Yousuf's troop had stopped and if 13 Lancers had made a report to the brigade and the division, they also failed to realise the importance. How was the battle being conducted? Who was conducting it?