So India was to become independent. My Army, the Imperial Indian Army, would no longer exist. I was still young, only thirty-nine. I had had a successful war. I had achieved my fondest ambition - to command my regiment in battle. In the staff world I had held the most sought-after post of GSO1 of one of the famous fighting divisions, the 8th Indian. I had been decorated. But now what would I do? I felt somewhat confused. While I had a recurring urge to try something new, and was toying with the idea of a business career, it was the desire to remain a soldier that was foremost in my heart.
I could, I knew, transfer to the British Army. All officers of the Indian Army had been graded in the event that they might transfer; if they elected to retire they would receive a bounty; if they chose to transfer the bounty would be smaller. I also knew that certain selected officers might be retained on the Imperial Indian Army List, for temporary secondment to either the new Indian Army or the Pakistan Army in training or advisory capacities. Those taking up such appointments would be paid the higher bounty, and the officers concerned would be carried on a special list at Supreme Army Headquarters, New Delhi, commanded by Field-Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck; Supreme HQ would continue for at least five years and officers on loan to the two new armies would be permitted to count the time served towards their regular pension.
I had two years to go before qualifying for my full regular pension in the rank of major, my official peacetime rank. Special rules did allow high ranks held during the war to count towards enhanced allowances, but the basic requirement was for a full twenty years' service. It therefore seemed that if I now opted out of the Army, I would forgo a full pension.
It was while I was mulling over the various alternatives that I was summoned to see Sir Claude Auchinleck, the Commander-in-Chief. This was most unusual. Comparatively junior officers are not normally sent for directly by the C-in-C. I made a few enquiries, but no one knew why I'd been sent for: not my immediate boss, the Director of Military Operations, nor even his boss, the Chief of the General Staff. I was still very much in the dark as I straightened my tie, pulled down my jacket and set off to see the big white chief.
I had known Sir Claude Auchinleck throughout my service; although I was to have my differences with him later, I always found him the most charming of men. I was ushered into his office and he immediately put me at my ease. Another man was present, whom I recognized from his photographs in the Press - Liaquat Ali Khan. Liaquat was a lawyer by profession and he was to be the workhorse who put the new state of Pakistan together; he became Pakistan's first Prime Minister. But at the time his presence only served to deepen my mystification.
Minutes later, all was
clear. I was being offered the opportunity of a lifetime - the opportunity
of founding the Pakistan Military Academy.
16 - Partition
16 - Partition
Naturally I accepted the invitation to set up the Pakistan Military Academy. As Sir Claude Auchinleck and Liaquat Ali Khan explained, the new Pakistan Army obviously needed its own supply of young officers - and quickly. In short, Pakistan would need a Sandhurst, a West Point, a Duntroon of her own. During the war I had spent a short but successful term as Commandant of the Armoured Corps Officers' Training School at Ahmednagar, near Bombay; I thus had some first-hand knowledge of what this job would entail. The appointment would carry the rank of brigadier to begin with and would last as long as it took to get the place established and producing first-class young officers on a regular basis, though in the first instance I signed an agreement to serve Pakistan for three years, until August, 1950.
Not everyone thought I was doing the right thing. The Adjutant-General, Sir Reginald Savory, told me bluntly that he thought me a fool; he had taken an interest in my career ever since the day he inspected the OTS at Ahmednagar while I was in command. I ought to opt for transfer to the British Army, he said; he even showed me my grade and said that as an officer with 'Al' against my name I would have an excellent future in the British Army. 'Damn few in that bracket,' he barked. 'You'll be a damn fool not to transfer to them.'
But I had made up my mind. I had once hoped I might return to Sandhurst as an instructor; but this was even better. To create a military academy from scratch and command it - I just could not resist.
Time was short, however, and there were innumerable preparations to be made before I could leave Delhi. The whole country seemed to be erupting in violence and I wondered how best I could reach Rawalpindi, a large city in the north of what would be Pakistan, where the Pakistan Army would have its headquarters. Eventually I decided to drive up from Delhi on 14 August, the day before 'P-Day'.
One of my chief worries concerned my old and faithful servant, Adalat Khan. A Muslim he had been in my employ some ten years; obviously I would take him to Pakistan with me. The roads between Delhi and Rawalpindi were very unsafe, however; every day came news of Muslims being attacked and massacred by Hindus, as well as vice versa. As an Englishman I knew I would probably be safe enough if I ran into an ambush, but if Adalat were with me and we encountered a hostile bunch of Hindus, his safety would be less certain. It seemed a better bet to send him by train; so far they had not been attacked and I had heard that, as so many Muslims would be travelling north to reach Pakistan at Partition, armed escorts would be provided. I booked Adalat on the train to Rawalpindi on the 13th.
The days sped past. While I rushed around completing my arrangements and saying goodbye to everyone in Delhi, Adalat packed up all my gear; by this time I had accumulated rather a lot and it amounted to several boxes full. It was 13 August. I took Adalat to the main Delhi railway station, along with all my belongings. Then we discovered that the special escorts had not yet started on the refugee trains heading for Pakistan. I was not too worried, however; railway passengers were still far less likely to be attacked than travellers on the roads. To be on the safe side I told Adalat to stay on the train no matter what happened; he wasn't to worry about my baggage which would in any case be loaded into the goods van. I bade him farewell, promising to meet him in two or three days at Flashman's Hotel in Rawalpindi. Even I didn't know to what extent we were tempting Fate.
The escorted trains which started a few days later were a disaster. Coming south they were full of Hindu refugees, going north they carried Muslims; either way they were liable to attack by opposing factions. The trains were stormed by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of men, and the small escorts of a dozen or so men were totally inadequate. No one had anticipated the ferocity of these attacks or the careful planning that went into them. Ambushes were laid either in stations or in the open country where the track had been tampered with. The raiders were often armed with mortars and light machine guns, acquired from Assam and the borders of Burma where a mass of redundant weapons had been dumped at the end of the war, buried in huge pits to save transportation costs.
The escorts were invariably swamped by the sheer number of attackers. In some cases they were worse than useless, particularly if the insurgents were their co-religionists, when they simply stood by and watched the slaughter. There were too few British officers to spare for this duty, but when they were available they often put up a fantastic show. One such escort commander heard, while they were already under way, that the engine crew of his train had been bribed to stop at a prearranged place; an ambush would almost certainly await them. He was in the rear coach and the trains in those days did not have communicating corridors. Nothing daunted, he climbed out on to the roof and staggered forward from coach-top to coach-top, swaying perilously, until he reached the locomotive. The engine driver, guessing his mission, slammed on the brakes; but the officer was not to be denied. He bashed the driver and the fireman with the butt of his pistol, then drove the train through the prospective ambushers at sixty miles an hour!
Alas, many British officers were killed carrying out this sort of duty. There was a party of twenty men of the Queen Victoria's Own Corps of Guides, under one of their own officers, returning from southern India to their home station of Mardan, now in Pakistan. With the exception of the British officer they were all Muslims. Somewhere in central India their train was stopped and attacked by Hindus. Naturally the officer fought alongside his men. It is said they fought until their ammunition ran out, then fought on with their bayonets, but eventually all were overwhelmed by the Hindu mob. Their bodies were never found.
Not content with slaughter, the attackers usually ended by looting the contents of the trains, searching the bodies of their victims for valuables and rifling through boxes of belongings.
But I could only assume that Adalat was safe as I set out on my own journey north on 14 August. Had I waited another week, I am sure I would not have got through in one piece.
The distance from Delhi to Rawalpindi is approximately 500 miles by road. I planned to do it in two stages. First I would drive the two hundred and thirty miles to Jullundur and spend the night there. I hoped to have a chance of meeting an old cavalry officer friend, Brigadier Thyrett-Wheeler, who was in command of a brigade of the Punjab Boundary Force; their HQ was at Jullundur. The next stage would take me across the Beas River and on via Amritsar to the new border and thence to Lahore. Lahore would be the first Pakistani town on my route, and I thought I might spend another night there before pushing on to Rawalpindi.
Early on the morning of 14 August I duly set off in my small black drop-head Vauxhall, with my two Australian terriers in the back. The top was rolled down, my bedding roll and hand luggage were slung in any old how, but on the front seat beside me I placed a .45 Colt automatic. I was wearing uniform, with my black 6th Lancer beret on my head.
The first stage was quite uneventful. I had some sandwiches and beer (very hot by the time I opened it!) and, pausing only for refreshment, made steady progress towards Jullundur. There was much more traffic than usual on the Grand Trunk Road, but I encountered no special cause for delay. Arriving in Jullundur in the late afternoon I found myself a bed at the local dak bungalow, a traveller's resthouse, and unloaded my gear from the car, noticing as I did so that one of my tyres looked rather jaded; I thus had to put off my visit to Brigade HQ for a while in order to visit the bazaar and search for a replacement. I was in luck, however, and the problem was soon resolved.
I found Brigadier Thyrett-Wheeler in his office; he was too busy to talk at the time but invited me to dinner that evening. I returned to the dak bungalow and took the dogs out for a walk, remarking how peaceful everything seemed in Jullundur, then rejoined my friend for dinner. After an excellent meal and a brandy or two, my host asked where I was heading. Lahore, I told him, then Rawalpindi. His reaction rather startled me.
'Lahore?' he echoed.' You're mad!'
Tomorrow was Partition Day and anyone crossing the new border would certainly run into trouble, he said; for my own safety I should be travelling with an escort of armed men. I argued, but he was insistent. He arranged for some watchdogs to join me on my departure at 6 am the following morning.
He should have locked me up. By 5 am I had already left - no escort, just me and my two little dogs. I felt I would be much safer on my own.
I already knew that the most dangerous part of my journey would be between the Beas River and the border, thirty miles beyond Amritsar. This was the heart of the Sikh country. I was not surprised, therefore, when nearing the Beas River bridge I had to stop for a wild party of Sikhs, three to four hundred strong, who were streaming across the road towards a nearby village. They looked to me like a real Sikh jatha, an organized raiding party; all were armed to the teeth. But a casual glance told them that I was alone and unlikely to interfere with their plans, and I took the precaution of keeping my pistol out of sight. They paid me no attention. They rushed past shouting their war cries: 'Wah, Guru-ji ka Khalsa! Wah, Guru-ji- ki fateh!, (Hail to the Guru of the Sikh religion! Hail to his victory!)
I drove on towards Amritsar. The road was now increasingly littered with the pathetic flotsam of a people in flight: shoes, old pots, broken wheels, bits of cloth. And then I started to come upon the bodies. There were scenes of carnage everywhere. In the distance I could see the smoke and flame of innumerable fires, I could hear yelling hordes. Amritsar itself was like the cities I'd seen in Europe in the war, just after the enemy had withdrawn: burning houses, smashed doors and windows, broken carts, telephone lines down, streets empty. There wasn't a living soul to be seen.
I began to feel I had made a mistake; perhaps my friend in Jullundur had been right. The presence of a company of infantry would undoubtedly have been comforting here. But the Boundary Force could hardly have spared the men; they were already fully stretched as they responded to one call after another, following reports of trouble.
As I left the outskirts of Amritsar I passed through one of the most bestial scenes I have ever witnessed, though it wasn't till later that I heard what had happened. Four or five hundred Powindah nomads had been ambling peacefully along the Grand Trunk Road towards Amritsar, following their usual route. Half the year they wandered through the lower highlands of Afghanistan and surrounding states, but at this time of year they were starting to filter down through the Punjab towards winter grazing for their animals and the cities where they could do some trading. If they had any religion at all it was Islam, but as nomads they were loners, apolitical, non-violent. Near Amritsar this nomadic party was set upon by a jatha of Sikhs, hiding under cover of crops and armed with automatics and light mortars. Men, women and babies were all slaughtered, even the goats, donkeys and camels.
It must have happened very shortly before I arrived, for I could hear the survivors being chased through the crops by their killers. It was horrible, like a scene from Dante's Inferno. There was nothing I could do; I simply had to keep going. I picked my way through the corpses and was past the worse of the shambles when some of the murderers must have spotted me. They opened fire on the car. I swung onto the dirt berm at the side of the road, confusing any pursuers with a spume of dust as I sped towards the border. Later I stopped to inspect the damage: two bullet holes through one fender. We'd been lucky, I told my two very shaken little dogs.
I crossed the border with no further trouble and drove into Lahore, the capital city of the Punjab, which I had come to know so well while stationed there in the thirties. The outskirts appeared normal. I drove past that bastion of British officialdom, the Punjab Club, and opposite it the Gymkhana Club where I had had such fun at all the dances. Government House seemed just as aloof and austere as I remembered it. But then I entered the Mall with all its European shops and cafes, and the scene began to change. Alongside Queen Victoria's statue stood a Sherman tank, obviously cleared for action. Houses were burning or half-demolished, telephone wires were festooned everywhere, shops had been broken into by looters.
I felt quite sick and disheartened. Where was the wonderful freedom that my people had granted so hastily? Everyone seemed to be grabbing their freedom on the end of a knife or cudgel. I drove to Faletti's Hotel and ordered a drink. Some of the old servants were there, most of them Muslims, and one or two recognized me. All were horrified and apprehensive, despite the fact that they were safely within the confines of their new homeland. I thought of their co-religionists struggling to reach that promised land from the Muslim areas of India.
And there was the other side of the coin: desperate Sikhs and Hindus trying to cross the border in the opposite direction. More than ever now I was convinced that Wavell had been right, Attlee and Mountbatten wrong. As for Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the man whose pencil drew the partition lines on the map, he had done his best; but, with no understanding of India or things Indian, he had made several crass errors. The worst mistake was to allot that predominantly Muslim area, Gurdaspur, to India; the effects of this will be felt for decades, possibly for ever.
I decided not to stay the night in Lahore after all. I finished my drink and started the last leg of my journey. Personally I felt somewhat safer in that I was coming to serve the state of Pakistan. But there were madmen everywhere and one could not relax for a moment. Near Wazirabad there were further signs of recent atrocities: a Muslim mob had stormed a stationary train, looting and murdering the Hindu occupants. Such was the backdrop to the first day of partitioned India.
Late in the evening I drove into the compound of Flashman's Hotel in Rawalpindi. The strange, incomprehensible bush telegraph of the East was still working. I did not have time to walk from my car to the hotel office before Adalat Khan appeared to take charge of my life again. After my hideous journey I was delighted and relieved to see his open, honest face. He greeted me equally warmly, but with an anxious look. I soon discovered why.
Adalat's journey, in fact, had been much less eventful than mine. It later turned out that his had been the last of the refugee trains to cross the border unmolested. A Hindu crew had driven as far as the embryo border, then a Muslim crew had taken over. He had reached Rawalpindi safe and sound.
Not so my luggage. I had not been on Adalat's train - hence his anxious greeting. Wearily I decide that it had probably never even left Delhi and I gave it up for lost.
Weeks later, when I had settled down at Army HQ in Rawalpindi pending selection of a site for the new Academy, a warrant officer walked into my office one morning and told me he had just seen some boxes addressed to me on the platform at Pindi station. I grabbed Adalat and we rushed down to the station. It was there, all of it! I just could not believe it, in view of the daily reports of assaults on trains and the complete looting of their contents. The goods had arrived some six weeks after despatch from Delhi. It seemed so strange that I instituted enquiries. It turned out that my belongings had been sent on a regular goods train; these trains carried no passengers and were staffed by Hindu crew up to the border, then handed over to Pakistani crew. Supposedly, on the Indian side of the border the locals assumed a goods train was destined for Indian stations, and vice versa on the Pakistan side. And a goods train contained no refugees so it was not considered worthy of an attack!
So I did get my household
goods and souvenirs back after all. Indeed, most of them are still in my
possession to this day.
17 - The Pakistan Military Academy
17 - The Pakistan Military Academy
As soon as I had found myself a quarter at Flashman's Hotel I reported to Army Headquarters. To enable me to draw pay and allowances, I found that I was attached to the General Staff Branch in an appointment similar to the one I had held in Delhi, but it was purely a paper job. At a staff meeting presided over by the Commander-in-Chief , the Chief of the General Staff and the Director of Military Training, I was formally designated Commandant of the embryo Pakistan Military Academy.
I was told that I should plan for an Academy with a battalion consisting of four companies and a curriculum to be spread over two years. It was emphasized that the half-trained cadets coming from the Indian Military Academy must be finished off and commissioned post-haste; these, of course, were Muslim cadets who had opted for Pakistan. The IMA had been in existence since the mid-thirties when Indian gentlemen, desirous of pursuing a military career, were no longer sent to Sandhurst for training but to the IMA at Dehra Dun instead; this was part of the programme to 'Indianize' the Indian Army. During my time at Sandhurst there had been several Indian cadets but they all came from wealthy families, able to pay the rather heavy fees. Dehra Dun offered a comparatively expense-free course, and therefore was able to attract Indian boys from a much wider field. This also was the intention at the PMA, where the cadets would receive modest pay and allowances during training. In fact, any young man with the necessary physique who had a matriculation certificate and was able to pass the interview was adjudged acceptable.
Beyond these basic requirements, however, all was yet to be decided. Because of the hasty creation of this new state of Pakistan, no one had had much time to work out the details of the country's infrastructure, whether at government level or in the military. Everything had to be created anew and in a hurry. It was a massive task, therefore, that faced those of us involved in the decision-making process - sometimes daunting too. But it was a wonderful challenge and the atmosphere was one of determined excitement.
Initially I found myself given a free rein to make what order I could out of the confusion: to find a suitable location for the new Academy, to find a suitable location for the new Academy, to find the money and the staff as well, and to supervise the decisions relating to the curriculum. None of this was very straightforward, particularly as I had to work through the usual channels of the new Pakistan Army. In fact, my first problem brought me up against all sorts of obstacles: how to finance the Academy.
I began by estimating what staff, premises and equipment would be required, and working out a budget to cover these costs as well as the actual running costs of the place. This in itself was no easy task but finally I had produced the necessary budget. Now I had to persuade the Army to approve my budget and furnish the finance. It was to prove a most exhausting and time-consuming process.
Eventually I had to appear before the Adjutant-General to argue my case. A newly promoted officer, the Pakistani Adjutant-General was extremely pompous and difficult to deal with; he also seemed vague about what was required of him and hesitant about making decisions. The new Army's pay and accounts department proved parsimonious beyond belief and there were times when I was made to feel I was asking for the moon, when all I wanted was the very basic funding their new Academy required.
These early brushes with senior officers of the Army did not make me 'best beloved', but I was determined to forge ahead as fast as possible. At last I had their approval of my budget. Now it was time to tackle the next problem: where should the new Academy be located?
I already had a place in mind. Back in the thirties, when I had married for the first time, my wife and I sometimes rented a house in Abbottabad for the summer. Lying in a valley 4000 feet above sea level, surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas between northern Pakistan and Kashmir, Abbottabad had its own military cantonment and was not considered a true hill station like Kashmir, Murree or Simla. But summer temperatures were reasonable and the rents were cheap. Besides, Abbottabad had a fair polo ground and the local garrison played polo all year round. I used to send my polo ponies up there at the beginning of the hot weather; my wife, the servants and the ponies stayed for about six months and I usually managed to get two months' leave in July and August when I could join them.
I had thus come to know the area well. For many years Abbottabad cantonment had been the base depot for two regiments of Gurkhas, the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles and the 6th Furkha Rifles, as well as the 13th Frontier Force Rifles, a regiment of mountain artillery and a brigade headquarters. Five miles away there had been another cantonment at Kakul, which in the thirties had been home to the Indian Army School of Artillery and more recently, during the Second World War, a training school for young officers of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC). The area therefore had all logistical back-up of a well-established military station - supply depots, engineer services, etc. Moreover, it was only eighty miles from Rawalpindi by road; there was also a rail link from Rawalpindi, though it terminated at Havelian, ten miles short of Abbottabad. Thus the area was within fairly easy reach of Pakistan Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Kakul, as I remembered it, had been small but modern. The houses were built of brick and stone with all modern conveniences: running water, electricity and flush toilets - light years ahead of most military stations in the thirties! During the war the RIASC had expanded even faster than other branches of the Indian Army, and I knew their training facilities had expanded accordingly. I checked with AHQ to see whether Kakul was now occupied. To my delight they told me it wasn't - so I decided to go up there and confirm my feeling that this would be the perfect location for the new Academy.
I drove up the Grand Trunk Road and into the foothills until the road debouched into the broad valley where Abbottabad lay.
All around the valley stood the beautiful hills, rising towards the east where the majestic Himalayas wore white ermine capes and conversed with the sky. What a superb backdrop for the Academy!
The valley itself was good farming country, green and lush, and the local tribesmen, the Hazaras, were comparatively law-abiding - compared that is, with the trans-border tribes to the north-west.
Arriving in Abbottabad, I found everyone in the usual state of upheaval caused by Partition. The Gurkhas were leaving - 5RGR destined for the new Indian Army, 6GR to become part of the British Army - and the 12th Frontier Force Regiment was taking their place. But the training school at Kakul was, as I had been assured, empty.
The former facilities of the RIASC were all I had been led to expect. The staff quarters and large staff mess were in tip-top shape. New buildings housed four permanent student messes and single quarters for about four hundred students, married officers' hutments, a large lecture hall plus smaller study halls, two cinemas and much else besides. There were a few shortcomings, but these I felt were outweighed by all the advantages. This was the ideal place for the Academy.
I returned to Rawalpindi and wrote a report recommending that Kakul be the chosen site. I discussed it personally with the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Gracey, as well as with the Chief of the General Staff and the Director of Military Training, all of whom were British regular army officers on loan to Pakistan. Kakul's training school was duly chosen to be the site for the Pakistan Military Academy.
There now followed hundreds of meetings at AHQ in Rawalpindi as we began to get down to such matters as staff, courses and equipment. Again I found myself clashing with the gentlemen of the military accounts department over my equipment indents, as well as with several awkward customers who had been newly promoted and wanted to flex their authoritative muscles. However, most Pakistani officers, I am glad to say, realized that the founding of the PMA took priority over all new training establishments except the Staff College at Quetta, and gave me their full support and co-operation.
One man whose support I could always count on was in the Ministry of Defence, and thus one of my ultimate bosses, Iskander Mirza. We had known each other at AHQ in India and were on very good terms. Following several unnecessary delays on the question of staff, I decided to ask Iskander for his help. I wanted his authority to pick any officer I needed, over the head of the Military Secretary at AHQ whose job was to arrange the posting and allocation of all officers throughout the Pakistan Army.
But first, at an interview with Iskander, I explained that I wanted a regimental sergeant-major from the Brigade of Guards in London, plus six Guards drill sergeants. Iskander agreed, and said he would get the Pakistan Government to contact the British. But England, too, was in a state of upheaval after the war, and my requirements could not be met in full. Thanks to Iskander, however, I did get one invaluable man Regimental Sergeant-Major V.C. Duffield MBE of the 3rd battalion, Coldstream Guards.
Mr. Duffield had never served in the East before and knew nothing of Islam or the country in which he was to serve, as I discovered when he and his wife arrived in Pakistan. I did my best to acquaint him with my experience of nearly twenty years in India, describing the current situation in the subcontinent
and trying to explain what I thought Pakistan expected of us. An intelligent and receptive man, he quickly saw what an exciting prospect it was for an Englishman to take part in the building of this country's future. Although he and Mrs. Duffield had practically no social life in the Academy, and the minimum of creature comforts to which they must have been accustomed, they settled down very quickly and Mr. Duffield soon won the respect of all he met. A super drill instructor, he became a legend at Kakul for the high standards of drill, discipline and turn-out he required of the cadets - standards that the Pakistan Army still enjoys.
The other drill staff who came from England were not of the same quality: only two were Guardsmen, while the others came from regiments of the line and did not meet the standards I wanted. Some had personal problems and, after all, had been posted willy-nilly into a foreign country which was still suffering its own birth pangs. Ultimately I sent them all home, and told the indispensable Mr Duffield to build a Pakistani drill staff. This he did with great success, despite his nonexistent Urdu. Much of a drill sergeant's armoury is his ability to castigate his victims verbally; Mr Duffield's demeanour and vocabulary were superb and, after an astonishingly short time, I was amazed to hear his team of Pakistani drill staff using the very same admonitions in Urdu coupled with identical gestures!
As for the other staff, Iskander Mirza was as good as his word; thanks to him and the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was also Minister of Defence, any officer I asked for was made available and I had soon collected an excellent military staff. All were young - yesterday my colonels were captains and my majors were lieutenants - but most had seen active service in the Second World War. Anything they lacked in experience they made up in unbounded enthusiasm. I could not have found a better or more loyal team.
My first Deputy Commandant and Cadet Battalion Commander was Colonel M. A. Latif Khan, of the Baluch Regiment, who had fought with great gallantry in Burma and had been awarded the Military Cross. When his name was first proposed I had some doubts; it was hinted that his sympathies were anti-British. However, as soon as I met Latif I took an immediate liking to him. At our first interview I discovered that he was intensely nationalistic - in fact, after he left my staff his ambitions would get him into serious trouble. But I asked him point-blank if he was indeed anti-British; if so he would obviously be unsuitable as my deputy. He was very honest and explained that his prejudice was not against the British nation as a whole but one man in particular. It all boiled down to a tactless senior British officer treading on a young and sensitive Latif's toes. He told me frankly that he had made enquiries about me - and that in his opinion the Government could not have selected a more suitable person than myself to found the Academy! Needless to say, we struck up a lasting friendship.
Another officer I was fortunate enough to obtain for the Academy, in the capacity of a company commander, was Latif's brother-in-law, Major Abid Bilgrami. These two young men were married to charming and sophisticated sisters from the noble house of Bhopal - all were refugees from India. The ladies were to play a valuable role in organizing the social life at Kakul.
One of the first things that had been decided in our meetings at AHQ had been the length of the course and, in general terms, what subjects would be taught. I obtained the latest curricula from my alma mater, Sandhurst, from West Point in the USA, Duntroon (the Australian Academy) and the Academy in Canada. Roughly speaking, the syllabus was divided into two-thirds academic subjects, one-third military training. We worked day and night, sketching out the syllabus for each subject and writing precis after precis. Suddenly I realized we had reached a stage when the material requirements of many of these subjects were lacking. The military end was fine and growing day by day, but where were the textbooks and lab equipment?
One day I was sitting in my hotel room in Rawalpindi reading the Civil and Military Gazette; published in Lahore, this was the most influential newspaper of the Punjab - at the turn of the century its editor was none other than Rudyard Kipling. The leading article caught my eye: it was on the subject of education. The writer was bemoaning the fact that Pakistan had few seats of learning and the best of the colleges,in Lahore and Rawalpindi, were being vandalized and looted by hooligans from the bazaar. He went on to say that all the best Muslim universities were now across the border in India - Osmania, Islamabad and Lucknow - but practically all of their leading teachers had emigrated to Pakistan, destitute and without work; no one had any use for them, it seemed.
This article was doubly interesting, for not only did we lack equipment but also instructors to teach the arts, humanities and science. In short, apart from my military staff, I needed academic staff. The Adjutant-General's branch had suggested I call upon the services of the Army Education Corps and I did in fact take on one excellent lieutenant-colonel as Director of Studies, four majors and a number of captains. But I needed many more, and the rest of the AEC's people were in my opinion incapable of teaching the subjects we required. Their main job in peacetime was teaching the common soldier to read and write Urdu in Roman (that is, English) script as opposed to the shikasta form; they also taught English to some advanced students, but that was about the limit of their usefulness.
I dropped my paper and headed for the office of the senior civilian administrator, the Commissioner of Rawalpindi. I told him of my plight. I needed textbooks and various sorts of equipment desperately; AHQ had no funds to buy what I wanted - and yet in colleges in Lahore and Rawalpindi these precious assets were being looted and smashed by goondas, gangs of organized rioters. The police had their hands full and could not spare the men to stop the rioting. It might be years before Pakistan began producing her own educational material, and certainly before she had the foreign exchange with which to purchase it abroad. But I needed it now, I said. Might I collect a few soldiers and undertake a spot of organized looting myself?
To say the Commissioner was taken aback is an understatement. He was no newly promoted Deputy, but quite a senior member of the old Indian civil service and was accustomed to legal and civil niceties. However, he took my point and finally sent for the Superintendent of Police. We had a short conference and agreed on a time and place for me to launch my looting raid. Next I went to see the Commanding Officer of the Frontier Force Rifles, to borrow the services of his men, and to the local supply officer in Abbottabad who loaned me several three-ton trucks. On the appointed day we duly descended upon the colleges of Rawalpindi and systematically looted all we could cart away. It was exactly what we needed to start our first courses - indeed, I believe that some of our spoils from that day are still in use at the academy.
But I wasn't finished yet. Having acquired my materials, I now needed more staff to instruct my cadets. I went to see the Commander-in-Chief in Rawalpindi - the Adjutant-General, I felt, would probably find my scheme too hard to swallow - and showed him the editorial in the Civil and Military Gazette that had motivated me. What I proposed was that we should advertise for civilian professors and lecturers to join the academy - the very people who had fled from India and now found themselves without a job. General Gracey, who had been one of my teachers when I was a cadet, looked at me a though I had gone mad.
'My dear Bingle,' he said, using my army nickname, 'How on earth do you expect to absorb a bunch of civilians of that calibre into a military establishment? And how do you expect to pay them?
I was ready for this and had previously drafted a paper suggesting how my scheme might be carried out. I thought we could form a civilian cadre of instructors especially for the academy. I proposed they be given Military rank for pay and allowances but in a special cadre for service only in the Academy. They would not wear uniform, of course, but civilian clothes with academic gowns on top, which might make it easier for them to accept employment in a military environment; it would also emphasize their status and learning and could only have a good effect on their students. As for pay, the military finance people would very likely prove resistant to the proposal that they should foot the bill for this civilian cadre; they would certainly spend weeks if not months in committee meetings. But we could not afford to wait so long. I wanted the Chief to go over their heads. He agreed, and put in a call to the Ministry of Defence in Karachi immediately. Again, Iskander Mirza came through, and I got the necessary permission.
I placed my advertisement that same day. We were swamped with applications from displaced and out-of-work academics. Most had several degrees; one gentleman had doctorates in philosophy from Edinburgh, Bonn and Leiden universities. What a galaxy of talent - and all of them so eager for a job!
It was towards the end of 1947 that we got the final go-ahead to set up shop in Kakul. We now had the location, the beginnings of a curriculum and the staff. Our academic prospects looked excellent. But there was still plenty to be done before the first course at the Pakistan Military Academy could begin in January, 1948.
18 - Setting Up Shop
The first cadets were due to arrive at the Academy in January, 1948, though the official opening would not be until late the following year. Before they arrived, I still faced a scramble to prepare their accommodation and sort out the various shortcomings at Kakul. Because of the shortage of funds I found myself continually having to beg, borrow and steal.
I had heard that the Pakistan Government had decided not to post any troops in tribal territory; this new policy meant the closure of two military posts, at Razmak and Wana, each of which housed a complete brigade group with officers' clubs and all the usual facilities. I wrote to the two brigade commanders and to the presidents of the officers' clubs, asking that they donate to the Academy all furniture, furnishings, crockery - in fact anything they no longer needed. Their response was magnificent: lorry-load after lorry-load arrived at Kakul; we now had adequate equipment to furnish all our messes. In addition they sent the crests of the two brigades which had been hanging in their respective clubs, as well as the regimental crests of other British units who had served there. All were accommodated at the Academy, and two of the cadet anterooms are known to this day as the Razmak and Wana Brigade Rooms.
Another problem at Kakul was that the former training school had had no need of a big parade ground, and had possessed only one soccer pitch, one hockey ground and a few volleyball courts. I wanted much more. To meet our needs and allow for future expansion, I wanted a parade ground large enough to accommodate two battalions, at least four soccer pitches and hockey grounds, courts for basketball as well as volleyball, and an Olympic-sized running track. The running track, I decided, could be built on the old golfcourse used by officers in the days of the Artillery School; but the terrain - though wide enough for all the facilities I wanted - was very uneven and would need to be excavated, in places to cut away the hillside on which the Academy stood. Where would I find all the heavy earth-moving monsters to do the work?
The idea came to me one day in the bar of the Pindi Officers' Club: I would steal a mechanical equipment platoon. It so happened that in this bar I met a young British engineer officer, looking rather downcast. I asked him what was wrong and discovered that his unit was about to be disbanded. He was due to return to England and would have to leave behind his Punjabi 'Mussulmans' as he called them.
'They're a great lot, he said, reminiscing about their recent spell in Burma. 'I shall miss them.'
I struck while the iron was hot. 'How would you like to give your men a real send off - a burra khana (big feast)?'
If he could move his whole outfit up to Kakul, I told him, and work like hell for a week, I would arrange a burra khana they'd remember for the rest of their lives. As Commandant of the Academy I assured him I would fix it with AHQ. I suppose my red tabs impressed him; anyway, he agreed to my scheme with alacrity.
Before noon the following day, the young engineer officer and his whole unit had turned up at Kakul - with all their big bulldozers, graders and other heavy plant. And they did a marvellous job; within a few days the Academy had acquired all the flat terrain it needed. I was delighted - and so were his men, for I kept my promise and laid on a memorable burra khana.
Unfortunately the whole affair came out when I had to ask the AHQ accounts people for money to tarmac the new parade ground. Because I had not had the authority to order the engineering unit's movement, AHQ was not best pleased with me. They totted up the cost of moving the men and all their machinery, both to Kakul and back to Rawalpindi, the oil and petrol consumed, even the wear and tear on the equipment. Then they sent me a bill for 104,000 rupees and said they would take it out of my pay!
I chanced to be meeting the Prime Minister, Mr Liaquat Ali Khan, just after the bill arrived, and I made a clean breast of the whole business. He laughed, teasing me about all the rumours he'd heard of my 'organized looting' session in schools and colleges and about my reputation for treading on certain toes if I couldn't get what I wanted.
'Give me the bill, you dakoo (bandit),' he smiled. 'That is one of the better stories of the founding of our country. You won't hear any more about it. By the way, where did you get the funds to pay for the burra khana? Or did you come by those illicitly too?'
No, I told him, that had been perfectly aboved board. A few weeks after arriving in Pakistan I had asked for leave to visit India on urgent business. As I well knew, Pakistan was supposed to get one-third of all India's assets. I also knew we should never get our share of the Indian Military Academy; how could one divide it anyway? But the private funds were another matter. I flew to Delhi, wangled a staff car out of the GHQ pool and drove to Dehra Dun where the IMA was located. I knew the outgoing British Commandant was still there and I persuaded him to let me have our share of the private funds. It was only about four thousand rupees, but enough to start us off. There was a slight hold-up about the release of the money, and I had to appeal to Major-General Kalwant Singh, the new Indian CGS; he had been one of the Directing Staff when I was a student at the Staff College in Quetta. Finally I got the money and put it into Grindlay's Bank in New Delhi, who transferred it to an account I opened for the academy in their branch in Peshawar.
The PM just said: 'You ought to be in business.'
By late 1947 I was dividing my time between AHQ in Rawalpindi and the Academy in Kakul. One or two of the instructors had already moved in, and a dozen or so soldiers who were doing guard duty over the premises and stores. We were slightly nervous that the Academy might be raided, for trouble had broken out in Kashmir and we were only a few miles from the border.
It had all begun in October when the tribesmen of the old North West Frontier Province had banded together and, seizing advantage of the post-Partition confusion, invaded Kashmir. Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir, had been dithering over his right to opt for either India or Pakistan or to remain independent, a legal option all ruling princes had under the Partition Laws. The majority population of his state was Muslim; on the other hand, he himself and the Kashmiri intelligentsia were all Hindus. While he dithered, the massed tribes invaded. Afridi, Mahsud and Wahzir, all had been fighting the British for generations; they were well armed and they lived for loot and destruction. This was all a long way from Karachi and the Government of Pakistan; apparently they had heard nothing of the trouble brewing up on the borders, hence their decision to withdraw troops from the tribal areas. But this decision had repercussions that are still being felt today.
The massed tribesmen surged into Kashmir and could have reached the capital, Srinagar, with virtually no opposition; but they paused to sack the town of Baramulla and rape and kill the nuns in a convent there. Meanwhile the Indian Government had been pressurizing Hari Singh; he opted to take his state into India, and within hours the Indian Army was in his country, blocking the roads to the capital. Gradually they drove the tribesman back out of Kashmir.
The Government of Pakistan was outraged. Kashmir, the Pakistanis felt, belonged to them; after all, over 90% of the people were Muslim. They saw the Indian Army presence in Kashmir as a personal insult. There was an outcry for a jehad (holy war) and units of the Pakistan Army raced north to confront the Indians. The situation was referred for arbitration to the United Nations; while there was no official state of war between India and Pakistan, there were frequent outbreaks of fighting.
The tribesmen, meanwhile, drifted slowly back to their homelands bordering Afghanistan, some of them passing through Abbottabad. Totally undisciplined - their maliks (leaders) had little or no control of them - they arrived in bands of a hundred or so, firing their rifles in the streets and at one point commandeering the bazaar, helping themselves to whatever they fancied. The local police, under-strength and with few experienced senior officers, were incapable of tackling these tough bandits. For a while it looked as if they might raid Kakul as well, a mere five miles away. But gradually most moved on, heading for their homelands. The local people, however, the Shinwaris, had been unsettled by all these events. Some of them staged a minor raid on Kakul. I happened to be away at the time, and it was not till the next day that I found out what happened.
Among the first staff officers to arrive at the Academy had been Colonel Attiquar Rahman, my Chief Instructor. He was a very able man and I had been lucky to get him. His father was a very distinguished physician who, with his wife and family, had been living in southern India where he had spent many years in the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Dr Rahman and his wife had only just arrived in Pakistan and, like many other Muslim refugees, had been forced to abandon all their worldly goods - except for Mrs. Rahman's jewellery. While they stayed with their son at Kakul, Mrs. Rahman kept her jewels under the bed. Someone, probably a servant, must have tipped off the Shinwaris. They raided the place and found the jewels. But they had been heard in Mrs Rahman's bedroom. Several officers rushed in and three of the interlopers were caught, but the others made off with the bulk of the loot.
Naturally everyone at Kakul was mad as hell. I am not making excuses but the situation got completely out of hand. It must be remembered that these were very troubled times and mayhem was the order of the day. The officers undoubtedly misbehaved: allegedly, they tortured the three prisoners using rubber hoses and lighted cigarettes, and locked them in the military guardroom. Never, never do you lock civilians in a military guardroom. The following day I arrived at Kakul and went to my office, but no one mentioned the incident to me; I still had no inkling of the affair. That same day the officers decided to take their prisoners up the hill to Colonel Rahman's bungalow for further interrogation at the scene of the crime. The inevitable happened: the three Shinwaris made a break for freedom. They ran into the path of a convoy of trucks coming down the hill at a fair speed, and one man was run over; another jumped into a twenty-foot chasm and broke a leg, while the third was recaptured uninjured.
The convoy of trucks stopped and the junior NCO in command of the convoy sent for his commanding officer in Abbottabad. No one, alas, thought to send for me. The story reached Abbottabad within minutes and spread all over the bazaar. Soon a couple of hundred tribals were advancing on Kakul. The Superintendent of Police had also heard the story and had the guts to collect a couple of sepoys and follow the procession to Kakul.
All unaware of this time bomb, I was in my office at work. Suddenly I heard the noise of firing on the hill outside. I sent for my battalion adjutant. I still had no suspicion of the real cause of the trouble; I believe I thought some sepoy had gone berserk and was running around firing his rifle at all and sundry.
A minute later the battalion adjutant joined me - Captain 'Killer' Mehdi, a great chap and steady as a rock.
'What the hell goes on, Killer?'
'Don't really know, sir. Sounds like .303 fire to me.'
'Dammit, man, get cracking! Get my jeep.'
We jumped into the jeep and roared off down the hill. Halfway down, bang in the middle of the road, was this mass of humanity. I couldn't believe my eyes. Tribals seemed to be everywhere. As we drove up I saw the Superintendent of Police; he was leaning helplessly against the front of a truck, looking as white as a sheet, and his two sepoys stood alongside him. All had been disarmed. Their rifles had been grabbed as soon as they stepped out of the policeman's car.
The crowd was in an ugly mood. They surged towards us as Mehdi stopped the jeep, firing their guns in the air and yelling at us. Neither Mehdi nor I were armed but we plunged through their midst to speak to the policeman and find out what was going on. Eventually I discovered that a Shinwari had been run over by the army truck, though it was not till later that I understood why. I grabbed the nearest man and asked where the corpse was.
'Picche (on the back),' he said tersely, indicating the rear of the truck.
With considerable misgiving I walked round the truck. The corpse was dripping from the tailboard, a very unlovely sight: half the head was missing and there was blood everywhere. Now I could see why the assembled multitude was screaming for retribution. I climbed on the tailboard and stood for a moment looking down at them: thugs, covered in bandoliers, knives, pistols and rifles. Other than through the sights of a .303 rifle, I was probable the first British officer they had ever seen face to face. Their idea of fun was to kill one of my race, emasculate him and stuff his genitals in his mouth. I wasn't quite ready for that kind of meal.
Shakespeare put a great speech into Mark Antony's mouth, but I think I matched him that day. While I knew most of my audience spoke Pashto, I had to speak in Urdu as I didn't know any Pashto, and anyway Urdu was the language of Pakistan. I spoke of Muslim heroes: the Quaid-i-Azam, Khalid, Tariq, the lot. I promised a full enquiry conducted by the Governor-General himself. I promised a slap-up funeral for the victim and a burra-khana afterwards for the mourners. At last the message got through to them; they decided I was something new and strange - a British officer who was on their side. There were murmurs of 'Shahbash' (Bravo, good).
I looked round for Mehdi, who was not far away and still supporting me nobly. I jumped down from the tailboard, joined him and returned to the jeep. Gradually the crowd was beginning to disperse. With a sigh of relief, we picked up the Superintendent of Police and retreated to the Academy. I phoned the Deputy Commissioner in Abbottabad and reported what had happened. He rallied round immediately; he sent his men out into the bazaar and collected vast quantities of food, then arranged for a contractor to have the food cooked in a field adjacent to the cemetery.
At sundown that day we all assembled at the burial ground and the corpse was interred. There were speeches galore, including another briefer one from myself - again promising a fully-fledged enquiry. This would have been normal procedure in a case of this nature, but the investigation was taken out of the hands of the military on orders from Karachi, and an interminable civil enquiry was launched under the auspices of the North West Frontier Government. It was still not concluded when I left Pakistan in 1951. Needless to say, a lot of politics were involved and I think the Army would have done a cleaner and quicker job. Later I heard that all the officers alleged to be involved were exonerated. So ended a very messy day. I was glad to come out of it with a whole skin.
As the first Commandant of the new Academy I felt it was my duty not only to get the show rolling, so to speak, and start a steady flow of young officers into the Pakistan Army, but also to ensure that the institution would instil a certain esprit de corps in the cadets. To this end I had to find some way of inspiring them - creating a tradition that would provide them with a sense of heritage, something of which they could be proud.
Pakistan, of course, had no history or tradition. The state was only a few months old. The concept of a land called Pakistan ('Land of the Pure') is said to have originated in the 1920s - the dream of Iqbal the poet. The dream was now reality, and reality meant a fledgling country without a common heritage. Except for one thing: the vast majority of Pakistanis were of the Muslim faith. The Academy's inspiration, I therefore decided, must come from the great Muslim culture and traditions, fourteen hundred years old.
The idea came to us to name the four companies of the Cadet Battalion after those great Muslim heroes of the past: Khalid, Tariq, Kasim and Salahuddin (or Saladin, as we have anglicized the name). The idea soon caught on. As I had hoped, the cadets seized upon and cherished the names of their respective companies and when there was inter-company rivalry on the sports field the hillsides of Kakul rang with their calls of 'Khalid!' or 'Tariq!' and so on. Each company was immediately clothed with a personality of its own and the beginnings of a great esprit were born. Later, to carry the idea further, I decided to give the battalion itself a title and personality of its own. Mr Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League in British India and founder of Pakistan, had become Quaid-i-Azam (Father of the Nation), a title of great respect; I now asked the C-in-C to propose to Mr Jinnah that the Cadet Battalion be named 'the Quaid-i-Azam's Own' and designated the senior battalion in the Pakistan Army. And this was approved.
The next step was to get colours designed and presented. Regimental colours have always been the outward and visible sign of the spirit and honour of a regiment; the greatest dishonour a unit could suffer was the loss of its colours in battle. Today they are no longer carried on active service, but still the regimental spirit is enshrined in them. When new colours are presented there is a special ceremony, blessing them before they are handed over by some distinguished person. Traditionally all British and Imperial Indian Army battalions carried two colours: the King's Colour, embroidered and usually with the battalion's number in the centre, and the Battalion Colour; the latter might be in the colour of the unit's facings, and on the flag was embroidered the battle honours granted to the battalion in past campaigns. It was decided the PMA's Cadet Battalion would also have two colours.
A committee was set up at AHQ to discuss the question of the colours; I was a member and the chairman was the Pakistani Adjutant-General. We came up with two very attractive designs, one of which incorporated the Union Jack, for at this time, of course, Pakistan was a British Dominion and theoretically at least King George VI was King of Pakistan. None of the Pakistanis on the committee thought to question the appropriateness of this design - not even the chairman. I certainly did not. The two designs were sent for manufacture to the Royal School of Needlework in London. I don't know who gave the designs for the final approval, but as I discovered much later it was not the Minister of Defence in Karachi.
It was intended that the colours be presented by the Quaid-i-Azam in person at the Academy's official opening ceremony in late 1949. Unfortunately Mr. Jinnah died in September, 1948. In any case, the flags did not reach us until after the opening ceremony - and when they did at last arrive from England they were to cause me profound chagrin. But that was two years away.
On 26 January, 1948, I made my first address to the staff and assembled 'gentlemen cadets' - I had borrowed the term from Sandhurst - of the Pakistan Military Academy, the cradle of the future Pakistan Army. It was a proud moment for all of us.
The organizational chores continued, however, and I had to keep the training going at top speed; but there were moments when my mind turned to various intriguing matters - such as a badge for the Cadet Battalion, now named 'The 1st Pakistan Battalion, the Quaid-i-Azam's Own'. I fooled around with pieces of squared paper and finally came up with a design that pleased me. To my delight, this was approved at AHQ, with one exception, we still needed a motto to go with the badge. Another committee was set up, this one consisting of soldiers, scholars and moulvis (Muslim religious teachers) and after a week or two they selected a suitable passage from the Koran Sharif, the Muslim holy book: 'Nasroom minihalhi wah fatroom qarib', roughly interpreted as 'When God is with you then victory is near'. As the C-in-C's military secretary, Jim Wilson of the Rifle Brigade, said rather facetiously, 'I always thought it was better to have God 'under command' rather than 'in support'' - a reference to familiar battle terms.
Another requirement leading to flights of artistic fancy was for an Academy magazine. This, of course, was something I could delegate to others, but it was I who coined its name. One evening I was standing in my garden, gazing at the high mountains that formed such a beautiful backdrop to the Academy, and as I watched a silvery new moon appeared over the snowy peaks. There was the name for our magazine, I thought: 'The Rising Crescent'. I hoped it was symbolic of the new academy's future.
Between my more onerous duties there were many other aspects of Academy life in which I dabbled. At one stage I had acquired some heavy wooden-wheeled bullock carts, and now I had them stripped and lightened, then fitted with old car axles and pneumatic-tyred wheels; they carried a far heavier payload than the wooden-wheeled variety and were much easier for the animals to pull on the steep Kakul hills. Another time I bought some sheep and organized them on a profit-making basis. The grazing was good and the shepherds' pay was minimal. As the sheep were slaughtered they were sold to the mess contractor; thus the cadets got good meat and we built up the Academy's private funds.
Reluctantly I had been forced to concede that there was no case to be made for riding on the curriculum. But I was determined we shouldn't do without horses altogether;
I had heard that many ponies had been categorized as surplus to needs after the war, so I made a few discreet enquiries to find out what had happened to them. I discovered that the nearby remount depots of Mona and Sargodha were holding quite a large number. I forget what phoney excuse I used to get them, but I soon had forty ponies, together with orderlies, grooms and equipment, on the Academy establishment. I selected them personally; all were of a suitable temperament, make and shape for polo. I founded a riding school in Kakul, which cadets were able to join upon payment of a small fee; soon our embryo horsemen were riding all over the local countryside.
We also started a little stick and ball practice on the polo grounds of Abbottabad, and in no time I found I could together quite a respectable polo side: at first two cadets, one of the remount NCOs and myself, later three cadets and myself. And in those days, when few regiments had had the opportunity to organize themselves for polo, we made a strong combination. In fact, we often walked away the winners at tournaments in Abbottabad, even in Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
Step by step, one small achievement after another, the PMA was beginning to take on a life and character of its own. I found it very satisfying. But even so, there were constant and innumerable complications.
19 - Complications at Kakul
While the Hazara District, in which Kakul was located, was inhabited by a tribal people whose religion was Islam, Abbottabad and the larger villages had been home to a large colony of Sikhs and Hindus. Many were shopkeepers or moneylenders; many others performed menial tasks such as those of washermen and sweepers (disposers of excreta and other noisome residue) that no one else would touch. When first I decided on Kakul as the site of the PMA I believed that all Hindus and Sikhs had either been killed or had left for India. I was wrong. Soon after I moved into the Commandant's House, Adalat Khan, my Muslim bearer for many years, came into my room one day and informed me that a dhobi (washerman) was requesting an interview. We needed a dhobi to look after the household laundry, and I had been wondering where one might be found, so I told Adalat to bring him in. When Adalat returned he was ushering before him a wizened little man wearing a dhoti (loincloth), a garment worn exclusively by Hindus.
I was amazed: a Hindu in Kakul! I thought he had come to ask for my protection. Not so. Speaking with great dignity, he explained that he had come to pay his respects to me as the new Commanding Officer, just as he had always done in the past whenever a new pultan (battalion) came to Kakul. His father had been the dhobi here, and his father before him; his wife was dead and his children had fled to India. But he was not afraid: 'If they kill me, it will be because my time has come.' In the meantime he wanted to stay as my dhobi.
'If I may serve you,' he finished, 'I will always pray for Your Honour's long life and prosperity.' And he placed his hands together and bowed his head over them in the traditional attitude of obeisance.
I was much moved by his faith and dignity. He was of indeterminate age but looked wiry enough, capable of doing a full day's work. I agreed to give him the job as my personal dhobi. Adalat took him under his wing and gave him a quarter close to the house. He was still there, washing sheets and pillowcases on the rocks, when I left three years later. My Muslim servants were kind to him and bought his grain and vegetables in the bazaar so that he never had to leave the compound and be exposed to the ruffians of Abbottabad who surely would have killed him.
Later I heard of many other good deeds performed by honest people during this troubled time, but alas, they were few and far between; the acts of bestiality outnumbered them by far. I was proud of Adalat Khan and my other Muslim servants for their acts of charity and kindness.
But as a foreigner and non-Muslim, I had to think very carefully before deciding on certain matters which the Commandant of a military academy in his own country and among his own people would never have to face. I had served with Muslim soldiers for years in the Indian Imperial Army and therefore had some acquaintance with their religious beliefs and customs. I had also read much of the Koran Sharif, in an English translation, and on accepting the appointment as Commandant of the PMA had taken the precaution of brushing up my knowledge of the tenets of Islam. But I still found it wise to tread warily.
For example, during my first few months in command we faced the Muslim holy month of Ramzan. Throughout Ramzan Muslims are expected to fast from sunrise to sunset, and I wondered if this might cause problems with our work schedule. I called a conference of my senior instructors to discuss the matter, reminding them that our first priority was to train officers for the Pakistan Army and commission them on time.
At first there was silence in the room. My regular officers were waiting for the Director of Studies to speak: Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. M.M. Ahmed, one of the special 'officer civilians' I had recruited. Dr. Ahmed was very orthodox and he obviously felt out of his depth in this military environment, so far removed from the peaceful world of students and academics. He looked at me with a pained expression; I had to take pity on him. Far better that I should state my case, then allow modifications to emerge in discussion afterwards. So, with some temerity, I launched into the deep water.
First of all I made it plain that there would be no deviation of either day or night work as scheduled for the month; equally that I expected the fast to be kept within the meaning of the Good Book - but, as I understood it, the Holy Prophet himself permitted certain exceptions. Those who were sick or were on a journey or had a special task to perform might break the fast in moderation. I looked around the room; everyone was nodding agreement.
'All right,' I went on, 'we have four cadet company messes and the officers' mess. During Ramzan, all except one mess shall remain closed. In that one mess, food will be available throughout the day for those who feel they cannot complete their workload without it. Is that agreeable?'
The look of relief on their faces was answer enough. It was agreed.
My arrangements could not have worked in a more satisfactory manner. On the first two days of the fast the open mess had no customers during the daylight hours; but on the following days there began a trickle, and after ten days quite a number found they could not go the pace and fast as well.
Fasting was not the only requirement during Ramzan, for Muslims also had to abstain from tobacco. It was understood that any cadet or officer found having a surreptitious drag at a cigarette during fasting hours would be on a charge. I spoke to all my non-Muslim staff and made it plain that during Ramzan there would be no smoking in public, not even in the comparative privacy of administrative offices. In those days I was a heavy smoker, but I applied the rule to myself as well; I'm sure it gave my lungs a breather.
My readers must remember that the state of Pakistan, carved out of British India, was still only a few months old. The vast majority of its people were of the Muslim faith, although there were a few Hindus left and a number of Christians. In the early days there were some who wanted the land to be governed according to the tenets of the Shariat law; for example, death for adulterers, the loss of a hand for theft, and a total ban on the sale and use of alcohol. The majority of the intelligentsia were not for Shariat law, however, but rather for continuance of the British system of law which had been in force in the subcontinent for about two hundred years. At the same time, most people did accept a more stringent code of social and moral behaviour now, and a closer observance of the basic requirements of Islam.
It is the tradition in Muslim countries for all married ladies and ladies of marriageable age to observe purdah, the wearing of the veil. In some families the ladies lived in a separate part of the house and never appeared without the veil in front of any male who was not a part of the family. Most of my married Muslim staff had served in regiments with British commanding officers and with brother officers who were British; wanting to share in the social activities of the regiment, they therefore encouraged their womenfolk to forsake the veil and join in the normal life of the station. But I did have a number of instructors who were rather straightlaced, both socially and religiously, and who were not accustomed to letting their wives appear unveiled in public.
It was here that the two sophisticated sisters from Bhopal came to my aid. One married to Colonel Latif Khan, my deputy, the other to Major Abid Bilgrami, a company commander, they did much to help the wives of other officers and staff, particularly those who came from very orthodox Muslim backgrounds. I explained to these two ladies that I wanted to encourage my cadets and their future families to play the fullest possible role in their country's affairs, so the staff should set them an appropriate example. I was anxious to avoid offending anyone's religious susceptibilities and would not countenance any attempt to force the orthodox ladies to relinquish the veil; on the other hand they needed to be shown that a new day had dawned and that they could not help in the establishment of their country by remaining hidden in the women's quarters. This the Bhopal sisters understood; as well as organizing the social life of the Academy, they began gently to emancipate their sisters.
I formed a Ladies' Welfare Committee and requested the organizers to see that all the purdah ladies were included in its activities. For example, early in 1948 the Welfare Committee organized a meena bazaar (jumble sale) in the grounds of the officers' mess. Of course, all the ladies made goods and sweetmeats for sale, including those in purdah, for this sale was in aid of the Kashmir Refugees' Rilief Fund; donations to and support of this fund were almost a matter of national honour to the Pakistanis, who considered that the plight of the refugees was caused solely by the Indian invastion of Kashmir. So I informed all of my officers whose ladies were in purdah that I expected them to do their part of the meena bazaar and to make an appearance; special arrangements would be made to sequester them in a screened-off corner of the garden and after that it was up to them.
The party started well, with people coming from all over the valley to attend. There were games, prizes and auctions. The purdah ladies could get only fleeting glimpses of the fun by peering through the gaps in the screens behind which they had hid themselves. After a while I noticed that one of the screens had been moved, then that one or two of the ladies were actually mingling with the throng - albeit heavily draped in their burkhas (a sort of tent-like affair with slits for the eyes). Later, I saw that one at least had joined a group of unveiled ladies and lifted her own veil. So we were making progress.