|LETTERS TO THE EDITOR|
Defence Journal October 1998, carries an article 'The WAY IT WAS' by Brig (Retd) Z. A. Khan. The account of 18 Division Operations is highly untrue and totally fabricated.
Briefly, 18 Division Operation Orders required one Infantry Brigade (206) with an Armoured Regiment (38 Cavalry) to capture and establish a firm base at Longanewala, a junction on the Indian road system and another Infantry Brigade (51) with an Armoured Regiment (22 Cavalry) to operate beyond Longanewala to capture Jaisalmir.
In accordance with the Division Orders for a night march, by dawn on December 4, 1971, 22 Cavalry carrying three companies of an Infantry Battalion (38 Baluch) on the tanks had crossed the loose sandy desert and had reached the Indian road running parallel to our border. In the early dawn, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 18 Division arrived by helicopter and told Brigade Commander 51 Brigade that the advance should be halted till the remaining force caught up. Due to Division failure in provision of transport, the other Infantry Brigade was marching on foot along with the other Battalion of 51 Brigade. Other transport carrying logistical supplies and even the artillery were finding the movement over the sand dunes very difficult. The GOC said that 38 Cavalry command by Z. A. Khan was not operational. GOC said he was going to push people forward and some essential demands placed on GHQ, including air support, had not been met and he would get things expedited. During the next six or seven hours, except for some jeeps, no other troops were able to cross the sandy desert to reach the road. The jeep borne elements of Reconnaissance and Support Battalion (28 Baluch) were covering the flanks of the force. The enemy air was very active against the tanks of 22 Cavalry and many were destroyed.
Towards evening since no troops had been able to reach the road, orders were received for 22 Cavalry to move back to the green belt. 22 Cavalry tanks carried the 38 Baluch infantry back upto the point were the infantry which was marching forward were met. 38 Baluch were dropped and, thereafter, 22 Cavalry was no longer under command of 51 Brigade. The Infantry battalions of 206 and 51 Brigade deployed in a defensive position and the Tactical HQ of both Brigades were located side by side. Attempts were being taken in hand to deploy the force within range of own artillery.
We have now learnt from Lt. General Gul Hassan's published MEMOIRS that, as Chief of General Staff at GHQ he had no knowledge of this offensive and received the list of requirements after the operation had actually started. He states, therefore, no support could be arranged.
Major General Abdul Hamid now assumed command of the Division. He ordered the Infantry Brigades to leave a screen covering the approach they were guarding and the whole force to displace a few miles to the North to cover the approaches to Rahim Yar Khan. He had been informed by GHQ that an enemy force, located at Islamgarh, may advance against Rahim Yar Khan. As there was no North-South lateral at that time, the force had to move back to the Green Belt and then move to the new deployment area. This manoeuvre was completed within a few hours under cover of darkness. The force was deployed in defence till the end of hostilities.
We have now learnt from Indian General D. K. Palit's book 'THE LIGHTING WAR', that the Indians had deployed, two Divisions against 18 Division front; one division opposite Chor and one Division at Islamgarh for an advance against Rahim Yar Khan. General Palit says that the advance towards Chor went according to plan but the advance from Islamgarh against Rahim Yar Khan was abandoned because of what he calls the 'Spoiling Attack' by 18 Division and, secondly, the 'Loose Sand' that had been encountered.
38 Cavalry commanded by Z. A. Khan was never placed under command 51 Brigade. This is a matter of record. The 51 Brigade Orders Group scene, described by Z. A. Khan, is totally imaginary and, therefore, malicious. 51 Brigade Commander NEVER gave any orders to 38 Cavalry Commanding Officer or had any dealings with this Officer at any time. 51 Brigade Commander held only one Orders Group prior to the night advance and even that was attended by Second-in-Command 22 Cavalry. After 22 Cavalry was detached from 51 Brigade on the first day, no Armoured unit was under command 51 Brigade. (Please see page 207, 18 Division Operations, 'THE HISTORY OF PAK ARMY, 1966-71, Vol III, by Maj. General Shoukat Riza).
18 Division campaign was subjected to a critical analysis by a series of teams sent out by the GHQ. These operations were minutely examined by:-
a) Maj. General (Later Lt. General) Abdul Hamid who carried out a thorough
Maj. General A.B. Awan, later, took over command of 18 Division. General Awan on leaving on promotion to raise and command 5 Corps, selected 51 Brigade Commander Tariq Mir to be Corps Chief of Staff. Later Tariq Mir also commanded another Brigade elsewhere. This would not have been possible had there been a shred of truth in Z. A. Khan's allegations.
It is true that Z.A. Khan carries a heavy burden because his regiment was not fit for war and he, thus, missed the only opportunity of a life time of commanding troops in battle.
Old Z.A.'s biography, although, readable carries too many fabrications and his exploits will very likely be placed in the category of those of Brig. General, the fictional hero created by Arthur Conan Doyle.
A prestigious journal, like the Defence Journal, dedicated to the promotion of high professional values, must be careful that it is not used as a scandal sheet by being made to publish unsubstantiated allegations by persons seeking personal vendetta. Please be gracious enough to publish the above account in full which will re-assure us that you have no personal bias.
This has the full support and approval of Brig. (Retd) Tariq Mir who was astonished to read Z.A.'s account.
Lt. Col. (Retd) H.K. Afridi
Subject: Army in Civil Sector
Day in and day out, all tiers of the society cry hoarse that the alarming state of rampant corruption and mismanagement is pushing Pakistan towards utter collapse. When the federal government takes measures to counter the trend, it comes under scathing criticism. The army has been assigned the horrendous task to restore order in the fields where the civil sector has shown signs of collapse. The Army high command knows more than the critics that its primary role is to defend borders. Firstly, the choice to assist the civil sector is not that of the Army, the deteriorating state brought about by the corrupt and unscrupulous element has compelled the Federal government to assign to the Army the additional task to restore order. Secondly, what use is defending the borders, when the inner core of the country is blown out of existence.
Army is a significant organ of the state, not a show piece to be displayed in a shelf, watching helplessly termites eating away the very foundation of the country. Some critics sound as if they are referring to the Army as a foreign body descending from the outer space: portraying it to be a taboo to assist the country in its civil sector.
The country is brimming with brains and experts. What is lacking is sincerity of purpose, and keeping the country's interest above self. Due to its inherent organisational ability, discipline and instant accountability, let the Army take a sincere effort to reverse the trend of deterioration in the 'written off ' departments. More than the DMG class, the Army Officer receives training and experience to act efficiently in circumstances where a normal human will fail. When an army officer takes oath at the time of commissioning 'to move anywhere by land, air or sea' these are not just physical frontiers.
To say that the Army will lose respect or tarnish its image, if involved in civil affairs, may be considered as a price which the Army will pay, happily, for the good of the country, if due to its efforts the country could resume floating.
Col Sayed GB Shah Bokhari
Dated: December 31, 1998.
We live in UK but our hearts are in Pakistan. I have recently started reading your magazine. I find it very realistic and based on nationalism. We love our country and have a very simple approach to understand matters of national interest. I am a strong believer of the ideology that after Allah and our Prophet (PBUH) our Pakistan is most important to us. We should never compromise under any circumstances other than as tactics to the long-term security of our country. After reading your magazine I feel that I am not the only one. Long Live Pakistan.
From Babur Hussain.
'The Battle of Sylhet Fortress'
Major (Retd) Mumtaz Hussain Shahs article 'The Battle of Sylhet Fortress,' (Defence Journal - January 1999), vividly brings out the fact that the 1971 War in East Pakistan was fought by Eastern Command exactly how a war should not be fought.
Motley detachments of East Pakistan Rifles, Mujahids, Razakars and Civil Armed Forces (from West Pakistan) were thrown in to support totally inadequate regular Pakistan Army units to fight in penny packets over vastly extended frontages.
Early in 1970, Headquarters 14 Division and the new Corps Headquarters (later known as Eastern Command) set up at Dacca had visualized the following two contingencies in fighting war in East Pakistan.
* Contingency Alpha. The local population has risen in rebellion but India has not invaded East Pakistan. In such a contingency forward posture will be adopted by Pak Army and necessary dumping of ammunition, rations and POL etc. will be done accordingly.
* Contingency Bravo. The local population has risen in rebellion and Indian Army has invaded East Pakistan. In this contingency the only vital area of Dacca Triangle to be defended, with the aim of keeping the East Pakistan Government in being. (Defending the whole of East Pakistan with three infantry divisions, limited artillery and armour support and only one airfield for PAF to operate from, was beyond the Pak Army Capabilities). Eastern Command will ensure enough notice for change of posture from Alpha to Bravo.
Taking these stark facts into account the Eastern Command had recommended to General Headquarters at Rawalpindi that:
* The East Pakistan problem being political in nature should be solved politically. There was no military solution to the problem.
* In case of all out war with India, the Eastern Command could only defend the vital area of Dacca Triangle and keep the East Pakistan Government in being for as long as possible.
* When the war is declared between Pakistan and India, the Striking Forces in West Pakistan must capture sizeable Indian Territory to be used at the bargaining table.
Due to rapid changes in command between early 70 and late 71 the above guidelines were never followed. Forces in East Pakistan were deployed in a thin red line all along the borders. The vital area of Dacca was denuded. The Indian Army seized the opportunity by vertical envelopment and threatened Dacca, which lay defenceless.
The rest is painful history.
Brig. Iqbal M. Shafi