OPINION

THE WAY IT WAS

za-khan

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

22 Cavalry was raised as the integral regiment of 7 Division in 1962, equipped with M 48A1 tanks and stationed at Peshawar. It had a 'Class composition' of 60% PMs (Punjabi Musalman) and 40% Pathans. Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Yasin Khan, 11 Cavalry, raised the regiment and commanded it till the beginning of 1966. During the '65 war with India the regiment came under the command of 6 Armoured Division and held the left flank of the division, linking it with 15 Division. Since 22 Cavalry was deployed in a relative quiet sector, the Junior Commissioned Officers and the men explored the battlefield and recovered a number of tanks abandoned by the Guides Cavalry and other tank regiments operating in the area, after the ceasefire the regiment had more tanks than it was authorised. In the reorganisation after the '65 war 22 Cavalry became part of 4 Armoured Brigade in 1 Armoured Division. Lieutenant Colonel Sikander on promotion assumed the command of the regiment in 1966 but about a year later he had a difference of opinion with Major General Gul Hasan and was replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Zia-ul-Haq. 22 Cavalry was supposed to have been in a bad shape and Lieutenant Colonel Zia-ul-Haq was sent to bring it at par with the rest of the armoured regiments of 1 Armoured Division.

Colonel Zia-ul-Haq, who had been promoted from the day I had reported in 22 Cavalry before going to Jordan, on returning from the exercise in Dear Ghazi Khan, briefed me about the regiment and explained that he had commanded the regiment by a 'jirga' system where officers, JCOs and NCOs attended a meeting and he gave out his orders directly to the people who were to execute them, he advised me that I should continue the system. He also explained the regimental, brigade and the divisional training schedules. The next day I found myself umpiring 'B' Squadron with Captain Sikander Mohammad Zai commanding the squadron, Colonel Zia-ul-Haq, Brigadier Mohammad Nisar, commander 4 Armoured Brigade, Major General Gul Hasan and some staff officers from 1 Armoured Division were observing the exercise. Captain Zai was a cool headed natural tactician, he had become accustomed to the 'brass' at the troop and squadron level exercises, with a few hints Captain Sikander Zai carried out a very satisfactory manoeuvre which was appreciated by all the observers. That evening Colonel Zia-ul-Haq left the regiment and I assumed the command of 22 Cavalry.

22 Cavalry and 7 FF, an armoured infantry battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Niazi, formed 4 Armoured Brigade which was commanded by Brigadier Mohammad Nisar, SJ. Brigadier Nisar, called 'Kaka', behind his back, had been awarded the 'SJ' commanding 25 Cavalry, the 15 Division integral regiment, during the 1965 war with India. 25 Cavalry performance was considered the most outstanding amongst the regiments of Armoured Corps in the '65 war. The 'Brigade Major' of the brigade was Major Shah Rafi Alam, SJ.

Two days after taking over the command of 22 Cavalry, I commanded 22 Cavalry in a brigade exercise in which 12 Cavalry acted as the 'controlled enemy'. 4 Armoured Brigade advanced against 12 Cavalry and the next morning 22 Cavalry with a company 7 FF attacked a defended position, everything went according to the plan.

Included in the divisional training was a 'battle inoculation', to get all ranks used to artillerry fire, for this trenches had been dug with overhead cover, the officers and the men of armour and infantry went into the trenches and for about half an hour artillery fire was brought down near the trenches. After the 'battle inoculation' senior officers witnessed a test for the effectiveness of .5 inch and 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine guns which were mounted on M 48 and T59 tanks. The firing was conducted against gas balloons representing attacking aircraft at the distance of their weapon release point as indicated by a PAF officer. The weapon release point of the aircraft, as indicated, proved that the machine guns of World War II vintage mounted on our tanks were not effective at the range at which aircraft would release their rockets. The results of this test were important but for some unknown reason no further action was taken, probably because of the change in command of the division, these were filed and forgotten. 22 Cavalry suffered dire consequences in the 1971 because of this 'filing and forgetting'.

The 1 Armoured Division, at this time consisted of three armoured brigades, 3rd Armoured Brigade of two armoured regiments and an armoured infantry battalion, 4th and 5th Armoured Brigades of an armoured regiment and one armoured infantry battalion each. The Divisional Artillery consisted of a medium regiment, three 'self propelled' field regiments and an anti-aircraft regiment. The division had a reconnaissance regiment and the necessary service units. The reconnaissance regiment was 12 Cavalry commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Abdullah Shah Orakzai, the armoured regiments were 5 Horse commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Agha Javed Iqbal, 3rd PMA Course, later colonel, 6 Lancers, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Arshad Mehmud Javed, later brigadier, 19 Lancers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Syed Wajahat Hussain, later major general, the infantry units were 1 FF, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Saeed, later major general, 7 FF, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Niazi and 1 FF, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel 'George' Rabbani, later major general.

At the division headquarters Major General Gul Hassan Khan had been the 'General Officer Commanding' since about the middle of 1966. He had taken over the command from Major General Sahibzada Yakub Khan, later lieutenant general, and the task of re-organising, re-equipping and re-training the division after its poor performance in the '65 war fell on his shoulders. For this he evolved very rigid troop tactics which were over supervised during training, the general idea being that if the troop level training was good and actions executed properly at that level, the division as a whole would perform well. The emphasis was placed on maneuvering and the fire fight was ignored. Due to the over supervision of tank commanders and troop leaders and the role played by brigade commanders and lieutenant colonels in the training, there was noticeable stress at all command levels.

On arriving in the cantonment I started assessing the state of the regiment. A day or two after our arrival in cantonment, I had just come to my office in the morning when a sowar walked into my office without any preliminaries, saluted and asked for ten days casual leave. This surprised me and I asked him whether he had asked for leave from his troop leader and his squadron commander and had they refused the leave. He said that the procedure in the regiment was that the men had their leave sanctioned by the commanding officer and informed the troop leader and the squadron commander. I told him that the procedure had changed and he would have to start with his troop daffadar and told him to go, then I called the adjutant and the squadron commanders and told them what had happened and instructed the squadron commanders that they would be authorised to sanction leave up to ten days since they could better judge the need for leave and the numbers required for the tasks and how the person was employed.

One morning when I came to my office I saw benches being placed outside the adjutant's and the quartermaster's offices. A few days later when I came to my office in the morning, I saw a number of civilians sitting on benches outside the adjutant's and the quartermaster's offices. I called the adjutant and asked him who the civilians were. He told me that they were the 'creditors' of the regiment. I asked what he meant by 'creditors'. The adjutant explained that the regiment owed them money and they had come hoping that some payment would be made. I told the adjutant to tell them to go away and asked the second in command, Major Bhatti, to put up the regimental accounts for my information. The regimental accounts showed that the regiment owed a number of tradesmen who had supplied a variety of items and were not paid due the lack of funds. The Officers Mess accounts showed that a number of officers were several months in arrears. The local Standard Bank manager turned up one day and gave a list of officers' names who had taken loans and defaulted on the repayment installments. After taking into consideration the income of the regimental funds a schedule of payment was made for the tradesmen and they were informed that they would be paid according to the schedule, they should not come again and they agreed to the proposal. The officers who were indebted to banks and the Officers Mess were ordered to dine in their squadron langars on the payment of a nominal amount, the cheque books of these officers were confiscated and arrangements were made with bank that these officers cheques would only be encashed when countersigned by the second in command. These measures were hard but the affected officers soon controlled their expenses and the restrictions were removed.

Two Pathan risaldars were due to retire at the end of the year. About a month before their retirement I received a letter from the Division Headquarters informing me that the Divisional Commander was pleased to grant the two risaldars an extension of service. As the commanding officer of the regiment I expected that I would make recommendations regarding the services of the personnel under my command or at least I would be consulted before decisions regarding personnel under my command were implemented. I took the letter and went to the brigade commander who promised to speak to the division commander. I came back and an hour later the brigade commander telephoned that I should take up the matter directly with the division headquarters. I went to the division headquarters about an hour before closing time, met Colonel Zia-ul-Haq, the colonel staff, showed him the letter and asked him to tell the GOC that I wanted to see him about the extensions that he was giving to personnel under my command. Colonel Zia-ul-Haq told me that the general was busy and I would have to wait. I waited in Colonel Zia's office, after some time Colonel Zia went out of the office and came back and informed me that the general had gone. The day was Saturday. I picked up my cap and told Colonel Zia that I would be back on Monday. On Monday when I went to Colonel Zia's office, he made me sit down and called DAAG and asked him to bring the letter that the GOC had written to the Adjutant General and when the letter was brought he put it before me saying that the GOC was not going to write another letter withdrawing his request and therefore I should forget about it. I came back to my office and telephoned the lieutenant colonel in the Adjutant General's Branch who would deal with the case and explained that I was commanding the regiment and that the recommendation had been made without consulting me and I was against extensions because they affected the next persons in line for promotion. The officer heard me out and said that he would be dealing with the case and would ensure that no extension was granted. About a week before the risaldars were due to retire I gave instructions for arrangements for an appropriate send off. The two risaldars and the whole regiment awaited the extension order. On the last day of their service a 'burra khana' was held, speeches were made, the next day a party saw them off at the railway station. I was told later that even at the railway station they expected their extension order would arrive, none did and very reluctantly they boarded the train to retirement. My command of 22 Cavalry would have been very difficult if the extension was given, all the personnel would have looked up to Colonel Zia for their future and administration.

About the middle of December the formal handing and taking over between Major General Gul Hasan Khan and Major General A. O. Mitha began, very soon it became apparent to everyone in the division that relations were strained between the two generals, that Major General Gul Hasan Khan did not like to hand over the division to an infantry general. Major General Gul Hasan Khan had refused all the farewell dinner invitations from all units except from his old regiment 5 Horse. Major General Mitha was also invited and at the bar Major General Gul Hasan said something which was objectionable to Major General Mitha who very correctly said nothing in front of the junior officers but a little while later when the former went to the bathroom, he followed him and both emerged with faces that showed that hot words had been engaged. Gul Hasan and Mitha had been friends but from this event onwards they became enemies. Eventually the handing and taking over was completed and Colonel Zia-ul-Haq arranged a send off for Major General Gul Hasan with troops lining the road up to the railway station and cheering.

As soon as the regiment had settled down in the unit lines I called a meeting of all the officers in the officers mess and explained to them how I was going to command the regiment, the chain of command in the regiment would be followed, my orders would be issued to the second in command, squadron commanders, the adjutant and other staff officers who would be responsible to implement them and that I expected the recipients to follow the command channel. I explained to the officers that staff appointments in the regiment would be according to seniority, that the senior captain would be the adjutant, the next senior the quartermaster and so on and everyone would get a chance to hold these posts and in accordance with this policy I adjusted the officers in staff appointments and in the squadrons. During the meeting I noticed that some officers had a very blank look on their faces and after finishing my talk I told one of them that I had noticed that he had had a very blank look on his face. He told me that in the past the commanding officer had always issued his orders directly to the people who would actually execute them, which meant JCOs and all this would mean something completely different. I realised that I had a problem of putting the JCOs in their place and making the officers accept their responsibility.

On my first inspection of the unit lines, stores and kotes, I found that in the quartermaster stores clothing was dumped on the floor, arms were stacked against the walls of the kote, there were no arms racks. On a detailed checking of the arms it was found that all arms were correct. It took about a month to properly organise the stores and the kotes. At the beginning of my command I had to take disciplinary action against a number of men, one clerk had to be summarily court martialled for issuing railway warrants without any authority and there were other minor disciplinary cases. Very soon after we returned from the collective training the Woordie Major, the JCO adjutant of the regiment, reported that he did not have enough men for night duties and the men giving the duties were being rotated rapidly. When I inquired further into the matter I discovered that Colonel Zia-ul- Haq had made a large number of 'unpaid promotions' to Acting Lance Daffadars, Lance Daffadars and Daffadars, all these wore the ranks to which they promoted and were exempted from duties leaving very few men to do duties, I had to hold a durbar and explain to everyone that the unpaid promotion had been given in recognition of good work in the preceding year and those who had got unpaid ranks had enjoyed the privilege for various periods but since we were starting a new year, with a new commanding officer and new tanks, all unpaid promotees would revert to their actual ranks and if necessary new unpaid promotions would be made. During my tenure as the commanding officer, no unpaid promotions were made.

The training cycle in the Pakistan Army starts at the beginning of January and ends in December. As some wags said at the end of December we were the best trained army in the world having completed a year's training but at the beginning of January it was usually discovered that we have to do another year's training to make up for deficiencies in our training discovered on the new year's night. At the end of 1968, 22 Cavalry had a self assessed efficiency rating of about 95%, I did not know this. After assessing the state of the regiment I had to formulate my training aim and make a plan to fulfill it. In the plan the divisional and brigade requirements had to be incorporated.

My training aim apart from the normal upgrading of trades, educational training, promotion test was to develop a strong regimental command structure, self confidence in all ranks and a regimental culture of professional pride. For this all ranks had to be given a sound professional knowledge in the technical knowledge of the tank, sound tactical knowledge of the employment of tanks in battle, how to manoeuvre and how to use the tank weapons. The normal chain of command had to be re-imposed, the officers had to accept responsibility, the JCOs had to be brought to their proper level without hurting their dignity and destroying their ego, NCOs also had to be made to feel that they were responsible officers with authority and the rank and file had to be made to feel that they had an important role which only they could fulfill.

When I was promoted lieutenant colonel and had written to General Gul Hasan he had written back and informed me that 22 Cavalry was about to get new Chinese T 59 tanks. At about the end of the year the order came to collect the tanks from Karachi, a few drivers were trained to drive and mount the tanks on railway rolling stock called MBFRs and in about a fortnight the new tanks arrived and were driven to the unit lines and parked in the vehicle garage, the M 48s were removed and parked on the edge of the Multan airfield.

With the arrival of the new tanks the regiment had to learn to operate them. Normally this was done through a formal conversion training either at the Armoured Corps Centre and School or by another regiment already trained on the tanks. 22 Cavalry, for some unknown reason, suffered from a complex in the presence of the other armoured corps regiments of the division. The JCOs and the men of the other regiments equipped with T 59 tanks now started taunting the men of 22 Cavalry that they would be coming to train them in operating their new tanks. To make everyone in 22 Cavalry feel that they were as good, if not better, I asked permission to carry out the conversion training without any outside assistance, using officers, JCOs and NCOs of 22 Cavalry. Major General Mitha, knowing me from the days when I had served in the SSG under him approved my request and to everyone's surprise 22 Cavalry started its own conversion. For the officers, JCOs and NCOs it became a challenge to learn the subjects allocated to them, to be absolutely clear about the subjects and to teach it to the drivers, operators and gunners of the regiment. The theoretical training was carried out in the unit lines and then the regiment moved out to a camp near the Muzaffargarh ranges for drivers' training and firing. For the drivers' training we built a driving course on which the drivers were trained to drive the tanks on level ground, over every conceivable tank obstacle and mounting the tanks on transporters. A driving course of this type had not been made and used in the Armoured Corps previously.

After completing the drivers' training, a regimental exercise was conducted to test wireless communications which ended on the Muzaffarabad ranges where all the tank weapons were fired, completing the conversion from the M 48 to the T 59 tanks. The T 59 was notorious for burning its clutch, 22 Cavalry completed its conversion training without burning a clutch and during my command not a single clutch was burnt. The conversion without outside assistance apart from building confidence in all ranks also focused the interest of the other units on 22 Cavalry.

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