OPINION

THE WAY IT WAS

za-khan  

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

Indian troop movement in reaction to 'Grand Slam' started on 1 September. Reports of the Indian build-up on the borders started coming in on 3 September, a Pakistani 'lashkar' patrol operating on the Pathankot-Jammu road ambushed a dispatch rider and captured documents that revealed that the Indian 1 Armoured Division had concentrated in area Samba on the Pathankot-Jammu road. Rangers and Field Intelligence Units observing the road Pathankot-Jammu had also observed tanks off loading from tank transporters. One story that went around the army after the ceasefire was that the situation map in the Military Intelligence Directorate showed the Indian armoured division at Samba, that when General Musa, commonly referred to as Moses, saw the Indian deployment he ordered the armoured division markings removed saying it is spoiling our plans.

On Saturday, 4 September, GHQ and 1 Corps Headquarters sent instructions to all formations to be 'vigilant' but did not state that the Indians were likely to attack. All the formations decided to occupy their defensive positions except 10 Division where Major General Sarfarz Khan decided to deploy on the night 5/6 September. At 0320 hours on the night 5/6 September the Indians attacked across the international borders, artillery opened fire and a brigade attacked 3 Punjab located in an enclave across the Jassar bridge over the Ravi. On the Wagah-Lahore and the Burki-Lahore roads, 15 and 7 Indian divisions crossed the border and advanced on Lahore. In the Kasur area the Indian 4 Mountain Division launched attacks at three points.

At the Jassar bridge the two companies of 3 Punjab, in the enclave across the river, a part of 115 Brigade, attacked by two battalions of the Indian 29 Independent Brigade, fled across the bridge. In the morning the Signal Company commander of 115 Brigade, Major Mansur-ul Haq Malik induced two tanks of 33 TDU and a section of the Punjab battalion to advance across the bridge. Seeing the tanks rumbling across the bridge, the Indian infantry who had stacked their arms to dig defences, abandoned their positions and 3 Punjab re-occupied their positions. The two tanks after crossing the bridge got bogged down, their pictures were printed in newspapers worldwide.

At 15 Division headquarters, the GOC, Brigadier Ismail, a Service Corps officer, and the Colonel Staff, Colonel S. G. Mehdi concerned about the practicability of the plans of 15 Division, drawn up by Major General A. M. Yahya, the former GOC, tried frantically to decentralise command to brigades but could not do so due to logistic difficulties.

1 Corps headquarters had moved back to Kharian after the Rann of Kutch disengagement. At about 0700 hours on 6 September, the GSO 2 (Mujahid) went to the officers mess to buy a packet of cigarettes, there the GHQ liaison officer met him and told him that the Indians had attacked across the border. The GSO 2 hurried to the Corps Headquarters and found sweepers cleaning and office orderlies dusting offices, he telephoned the Corps Commander and the Corps Chief of Staff at their residences and gave them the news. The Corps Commander and the Chief of Staff hurried to the headquarters, held a conference and decided to move the headquarters to Gujranwala and 6 Armoured Division to its forward concentration area.

Major General Sarfaraz Khan, GOC 10 Division, on the receipt of the instruction to be 'vigilant' held a conference at which it was decided to deploy the division after the weekend, on the night 5/6 September. Major Arif Jan, from the 4th PMA course, commanding a company of 11 FF, Recce and Support battalion, was ordered to move after midnight on the night 5/6 September and take up a screen position near Wagah. After discussing with his senior JCO he decided to move at 2100 hours on the night 5/6 September because if he moved after midnight the troops could neither rest before or after the move started. Elements of the Indian 15 Division crossed the border away from the Wagah border post, circled back to the GT Road and ran into the Major Jan's company, in the skirmish he was killed. On the Burki-Lahore road elements of the Indian 7 Division contacted a company of 12 Punjab and one of 11 FF on the Hudiara Drain.

On the Lahore front it was said that the GSO 1 (Intelligence) of the Indian corps headquarters, had had the Grand Trunk Road reconnoitered from Wagah to the Shalimar Garden, found no signs of any Pakistani troop deployment and had assured the formation that they could drive to Lahore, probably this caused the Indian C-in-C to remark that he would be having his evening in the Shalimar gardens on 6th evening. Contacting the Pakistan Army on both roads the Indians became cautious but were able to advance up to the BRB Canal, the main defensive position of 10 Division. On the Wagah-Lahore road a Lahore Omnibus bus was captured and pictures of it appeared all over the world to show that Lahore had fallen. On the 11 Division front, commanded by Major General Abdul Hamid Khan, the Indians attacked at three points, all the attacks were repulsed.

The Indian Air Force attacked railways and road movement, a dawn patrol flown by PAF aircraft intercepted Indian aircraft attacking a train at Rahwali, my brother Flight Lieutenant Aftab Alam, flying a F-104, shot down an Indian aircraft. The PAF was also called upon to fly ground support sorties to prevent the Indians crossing the BRB at the places where they had reached it.

By about 1000 hours on 6 September, to everyone in the operations room of the Military Operations Directorate in GHQ, it should have been clear that the Indian attack across the borders of Pakistan had failed to achieve any critical gains, the Indians had been effectively stopped at all the places where they had attacked, even on the Lahore front where the enemy had contacted the main defenses on the BRB there was no cause to worry. With the Pakistan Army on the defensive from Sialkot to Sulemanki a sustained effort at Akhnur could have been decisive, the all weather route to Kashmir would have been cut and Rajauri where the uprising had succeeded could have been linked up.

At the GHQ the Indian attack on Pakistan had a stunning effect, the 'Grand Slam' operation was halted and 1 Armoured Division was ordered to break out from a bridge head to be established by 11 Division. The limited 'aim' of creating a favourable situation in Kashmir had changed into an ambitious one of defeating the much larger Indian army. Someone should have remembered that maintenance of the aim is the first principle of war.

After the deployment of the army as a result of the Rann of Kutch dispute, the Military Operations Directorate, at Kharian, reviewed the operational plans of the army and indicated the targets it wanted destroyed by the SSG. Every major bridge and other vital areas were required to be destroyed. Colonel S. G. Mehdi, who had commanded the SSG for about two years had apparently exaggerated the capabilities of the SSG, he was promoted, the SSG was reorganised into three commando battalions, there were great expectations from the SSG but when he was confronted with the Military Operations Directorate requirements, he backed out. General Musa who was attending the presentation, is said to have screamed you have cheated me and Colonel Mehdi was posted out.

A few hours after the Indians attacked across the borders of Pakistan, the SSG received orders to paradrop the commandos on the three main Indian air bases, Pathankot, Adampur and Halwara on the night 6/7 September, to destroy aircraft and put these bases out of action. This was a requirement given by the PAF at some earlier date and had been accepted by the SSG. The Headquarters SSG had carried out no preliminary planning for these operations, no intelligence had been gathered, no maps and air photos were collected and no troops had been earmarked and trained. Lieutenant Colonel Matin, Punjab Regiment, who had not served in the SSG but had been selected as a SSG battalion commander by Colonel S. G. Mehdi, was the officiating commander of the SSG on 6 September, the orders came without any warning and caught the SSG without any plans and troops earmarked for the operation. The officiating SSG commander and the GSO 2 (Operations), Major Dar, Punjab Regiment, later major general, who had also not served with the SSG but was made responsible for operational planning and supervision of the launching of operations, proceeded to launch the operation, officers and men going about their normal duties were hurriedly collected, taken down to the Peshawar airfield, grouped in three batches, given a perfunctory briefing with some air photographs, and were readied for dispatch. After innumerable delays the C-130s took off at 0330 hours on the morning of 7 September, giving the commandos about two and a half hours before daylight to complete an operation which required about eight hours. One team, commanded by Captain Durrani, FF, was given a bundle of quarter-inch maps, printed in 1923, of the Adampur air base area, after they had boarded the aircraft. The party which was dropped at Pathankot, commanded by Major Khalid Gulrez Butt landed on the Amritsar-Pathankot road at a considerable distance from the Pathankot airbase. Major Butt, who was commanding this drop, was not able to assemble the troops and he and most of the men surrendered when contacted by Indian troops. Two men, Pathans from the Frontier made their way back to Pakistan. This para-drop, though it had failed in its mission, had a serious impact on the planned Indian operations, 14 Indian Division was moving from Amritsar to Samba to take part in operations in conjunction with the Indian 1 Armoured Division, the Division was stopped on the road and was employed to hunt for paratroopers, the next morning the PAF found the road clogged with transport and inflicted a heavy toll. At Adampur, Captain Durrani was able to assemble the force and move towards the air base but found himself at the wrong end of the base, very soon it was daylight and armoured cars began patrolling, during the day Indian troops searched the area, some para-troopers were caught. That evening, Captain Durrani ordered his force to ex-filtrate back in small groups, he, with a small group, was captured at the junction of the Beas and the Sutlej rivers. The third drop took place at Halwara, the paratroopers landed on the roof of houses in a large village. The force commander, Major Hazur Hasnain, later brigadier, could not assemble his men but with two men made his way to the air base, he got to the perimeter fence, while he was there a PAF bomber attacked the base, unable to do anything he decided to make his way back to Pakistan, hiding during the day, moving at night. On the second night his party captured an Indian Air Force jeep in which they drove to the border and crossed over.

way1

way2

Apart from Kashmir, two main fronts developed, one between the Chenab and Ravi Rivers, extending from the Pukhlian Salient to the Jassar Bridge over the Ravi, held by 15 Division, with 6 Armoured Division in reserve and controlled by 1 Corps, the second between the Ravi and the Sutlej Rivers, extending from the Siphon of the BRB Canal on the Ravi to Husseiniwala Headworks, this area was held by 10 and 11 Divisions with 1 Armoured Division in the area as Army reserve.

During the night 6/7 September, the Indians attacked the two companies of 3 Punjab, deployed across the Jassar bridge, three times and in the fourth attack on 7 September they captured the end of the bridge. 1 Corps had ordered the preparation of the bridge for demolition and authorised 15 Division to blow it when necessary. GOC 15 Division now ordered the bridge to be demolished in such a hurry that the 3 Punjab companies across the river had to abandon their heavy weapons.

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