DEFENCE NOTES

 

The GHQ worked on the 'secretarial system'. Cases were initiated by GSO 2s and even sometimes by head clerks. Usually a GSO 2 or anyone initiating a case received instructions from a senior officer. Once initiated it went to senior officers of the initiating directorate and then to all the directorates which were at all connected with the case. In every directorate comments were first written by the GSO 2 concerned and then the file went to the senior officers concerned in that directorate. Generally the minutes by the GSO 2 was usually concurred by other officers. This made the GSO 2s the most important officer in processing a case and GSO 2s the most powerful community. The trick in processing cases was to contact the GSO 2 who was going to handle the case at the next directorate and either tell him to put favourable comment or draft the comment and give it or to stop a case have an adverse comment at this level was usually enough.

In the last quarter of 1964 it was decided to call up reservists for training with the Tank Delivery Units. Reservists were officers and men who had been prematurely retired. After retirement they found jobs or started small businesses. Employers were not prepared to give them leave of absence and a break in business continuity meant a financial loss. Therefore almost every one called for reservist training objected and tried his best to avoid it. But when they found that it could not be avoided they attended though a few had to be forced with legal action.

Just after the new year started the Military Operations Directorate carried out an exercise of testing the moves of formations to their war locations and deployment to avoid air attacks. I was given a written order which I delivered to the Headquarters 1st Armoured Division. The order directed the division to disperse as a safeguard against air attacks. The division deployed but one of its tank regiments, 4th Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Nazir, formerly from 13 Lancers, ran out of petrol in five miles of movement, giving an indication that the response and preparation of the division was inadequate but otherwise the movement and mobilisation plans were found to be satisfactory.

In GHQ on Sundays and Holidays a GSO 2 or equivalent officer was detailed as a duty officer. The duty room had a bed and a telephone. The duty officer was supposed to receive messages and take appropriate action on them. It was a very boring way to spend a holiday. About the middle of March I was on duty and had gone to the duty room with my lunch, tea, newspaper and reading material, expecting a long boring day with nothing to do. An hour or so after I arrived in the duty room the telephone rang. An officer identified himself and said that he was having difficulty implementing a GHQ order. After this every little while the telephone rang and some staff officer explained his difficulty regarding some order of which I had no knowledge. Only one officer, an Army Service Corps lieutenant, telephoned and told me that he had received orders to move a quantity of petrol, the action he had taken and he seemed to have had no difficulties. In about an hour I was sure that a formation was moving but I did not get an indication as which formation and where it was moving to. It was the beginning of the Rann of Cutch dispute.

The demarcation of the border between Pakistan and India had been carried out by the Survey of Pakistan and the Survey of India, with my father representing the Pakistan side, but the demarcation of Rann of Cutch had been left out. Some time at the beginning of 1965, the Commandant of the Desert Rangers, Lieutenant Colonel Aftab Ali, 4th Cavalry, while on a tour of the border noticed that the water from one of the escapes of the Sind canals drained into the Ding lake and ordered patrolling east of the lake. The Indian opposite number, a Sikh, initially objected to this patrolling but at a meeting conceded that the territory belonged to Pakistan. He was removed and Indian Central Reserve Police were sent to Ding Lake. They established a post at Ding Lake calling it Sardar Post and started patrolling aggressively threatening Mara Post west of Ding Lake. This was reported by the Rangers and 51 Brigade located at Malir, commanded by Brigadier K. M. Azhar, who had been one of the platoon commanders at the PCTS when we were there and later lieutenant general, a part of 8 Division commanded by Major General Tikka Khan, later general, was moved to Badin to deter the aggressive intentions of the Indians.

51 Brigade consisted of 18 Punjab, 6 Baluch and 8 FF and a field artillery regiment. The brigade left 6 Baluch in Malir as it was preparing to go to East Pakistan, and moved to Badin. 8 FF were ordered to change into Ranger uniform and deployed at Mara and Ding Posts, 18 Punjab went to Diplo. The Indians held Sardar Post with approximately a battalion and a smaller force held a post called Shalamar. The Indians were digging defences but troops were in tents. On 3 April, 51 Brigade reported that the Indians had occupied Ding Post east of Ding Lake and received instructions to throw the Indians out.

On receipt of the order, the 51 Brigade commander ordered 6 Baluch to join the brigade at Mara Post. On the evening of 7 April the brigade commander gave out his orders for a brigade attack with 18 Punjab and 8 FF on the night 7/8 April. The commanding officer of 18 Punjab could not attend the brigade commander's orders as his battalion was located nearly 20 miles away and could not complete the move that night to take part in the attack. Therefore the attack had to be postponed by twenty four hours.

The brigade planned a silent night attack with 6 Baluch marking and securing the forming up place (FUP) for the attack. The attack was to be carried by two companies each of 18 Punjab and 8 FF, with 18 Punjab on the left and 8 FF on the right. On the night 8/9 April 18 Punjab lost the way to the FUP and the H-hour had to be put forward. Finally the brigade formed up silently but as it moved forward one of its machine guns opened fire giving away the attack. The Indians manned their defences and opened fire. 8 FF on the right turned to their right and headed for Ding Post manned by one of their companies. On the left 18 Punjab lost a company headquarters due to the Indian fire and the company went to the ground. The other company continued and captured the Indian command post but on realising that it was the only company on the objective it ran back. The 51 Brigade attack failed completely. 18 Punjab scattered with some elements as far away as Rahim-ke-Bazaar. 8 FF was still a cohesive force located at Ding Post. The next day the brigade commander ordered 6 Baluch to attack Sardar Post. The battalion commander argued that with the Indians alerted the task was beyond the capability of one battalion but agreed to manoeuvre and attack the post from the rear. The battalion attacked and failed to take the post. Thereafter the brigade made no further attempt to capture the post.

At GHQ apart from the newspaper and radio reports no information was available but rumours spread that there had been a fiasco. At the Armour Directorate we had nothing to do with operations but immediately following the 51 Brigade failure I received a telephone call from an officer of the Military Operations Directorate who inquired if tanks could operate in the Rann of Cutch and if they could which tank would perform better, our M 48 or the Indian Centurion. I told the officer that I was not familiar with the terrain and could not answer his questions. He insisted on an answer. I asked him what type of vehicle could operate in the terrain. He said jeeps and army four-wheel drive vehicles were operating without difficulty. I told him that M 48s would be able to operate without difficulty. He thanked me and rang off. The telephone rang again. Major Sardar Ahmad was on the line from the Military Intelligence Directorate and was very annoyed that I had given an opinion when I had no business to do so and would be responsible for the consequences. The next day the Director and GSO 1 were out of station when the telephone rang and the Vice-Chief of the General Staff (VCGS) Brigadier Bilgrami, former commandant of the Staff College, asked for the Director. I explained that the Director and the GSO 1 were away. The VCGS asked me to come to his office. In his office he asked me whether I knew what was happening in the Rann of Cutch. I told him that I knew what I had heard on radio and what was in the newspaper. He explained that armour reinforcements had to be sent to the Rann and he asked my opinion whether an armoured regiment should be sent or a reconnaissance regiment. We discussed this and finally he decided to reinforce with an armoured regiment. 24 Cavalry, integral regiment of 10 Division, and a squadron of 12 Cavalry, 1st Armoured Division reconnaissance regiment, 6 Brigade of 8 Division commanded by Brigadier Efthikar Janjua, moved from Quetta. It was decided to attack Biarbet, another Indian post in un-demarcated area. 6 Brigade supported by a squadron of 24 Cavalry tanks and artillery captured the post which was defended by Indian parachute troops, taking about 150 prisoners. Pakistan Army's honour was redeemed. Our press claimed a major victory. The Indian radio announced that we had attacked with tanks and lost eight tanks. I heard this in the morning news broadcast from India and went to GHQ expecting that I would be blamed for the tank losses. However, on arrival I found everyone remotely connected was claiming that the use of tanks was his idea. It was said that the Indians had fired about one hundred and fifty rounds of recoilless rifle anti-tank gun rounds without a single hit.

While the 6 Brigade was moving from Quetta a post-mortem was held on the operations of 51 Brigade. The brigade commander attributed his failure to the cowardice of the commanding officer of 6 Baluch, Lieutenant Colonel Zaidi, Major Nadir Ali the company commander of 18 Punjab whose company had left the objective after capturing it and an artillery officer Captain Rathore, 8 FF who had not gone on to the objective.

The Biarbet attack by the Pakistan Army brought the threat by the Indian prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri that India reserved the right to retaliate anywhere it chose and both the Indian and the Pakistan Army moved to the border.

After the move of the Army to the border I received a telephone call from the Military Operations Directorate that a squadron of tanks had to be raised and positioned at Gujrat by the next morning and the necessary orders and instructions were under issue. I telephoned the Armoured Corps Centre, asked them how many tanks they could spare and told them to organise a squadron from their manpower. I telephoned the Vehicle Sub Depot at Golra to release the necessary number of tanks and vehicles and to keep the Depot open till the collection party from Nowshera arrived. Major Suboor who was an instructor at the Armoured Corps School was detailed as the squadron commander. He organised the squadron and was at Gujrat the next morning. The only item I forgot was the cooking utensils and the squadron had to go without food till they were organised.

A few days later, one morning when I arrived at my office I was told that I had been posted Deputy Quarter Master General (DQ), 6 Armoured Division. Major Mukhtar Syed the other GSO 2 in the Directorate told me that when he arrived in the office that morning he got a phone call from the Military Secretary's office that he was being posted to 6 Armoured Division. He said he told the person dealing with the posting that he did not want to go and I was posted. A few days later I left and joined the 6th Armoured Division Headquarters at Rahwali.

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