OPINION
One weekend while I was in Lahore, Colonel Javed Iqbal telephoned me at my house, he was on leave pending retirement, we had been good friends and I called him over to the Services Club, my brother Squadron Leader Aftab Alam had come over for the weekend, he and I went to the club and Colonel Javed Iqbal, a cousin of his and another civilian, joined us. We had a few drinks and Colonel Javed Iqbal's cousin told us that on the day that Lieutenant General Gul Hassan had been forced to resign, Lieutenant General Tikka Khan was the guest of honour at a cricket match in Sahiwal. During the lunch break while talking to the people around the lunch table, the general had commented that the government and the army command consisted of drunkards and vagabonds and he did not fit in, that afternoon he was called to GHQ and in the evening his assumption of the army command was announced. He became a very trusted lieutenant of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Colonel Javed Iqbal told me that he was going to Sahiwal the next day, I told him that I was going to Changa Manga, to accompany me and spend an evening with me in Changa Manga. The next day he accompanied me, during his stay he spoke about the army being unfair to him. I didn't see how the army had been unfair because he and the others with him had involved themselves in the country's politics.

Next weekend my brother telephoned me from Sargodha and told not to see the colonel with the foreign wife, meaning Javed Iqbal, I told him that I had known him for twenty years and saw no reason for not seeing him.

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Since the brigade had been in the field for over a year and had not carried out any firing I planned a field firing exercise for all the major units, one third at a time. In the field firing, besides troop, platoon, squadron, company and unit level exercises, I planned unit level attack and defence exercises with live ammunition, with artillery fire and air support. Also during the field firing - armour, infantry and artillery officers were trained as artillery observers in the attack and defence using live ammunition, these exercises were organised by Lieutenant Colonel Rashid and were very instructive.

When the first field firing party went to the Cholistan desert, a 52 Punjab company commander frustrated with the shooting standard of one of his men tied him to a jeep and dragged him in the sand, disciplinary action had to be initiated against the officer. The attack and defence exercises, carried out with live ammunition, with artillery fire and air support, with pop-up targets denoting the attacking and defending enemy, went very well and everything worked like clock work. To set up the range I had borrowed thirteen thousand rupees from 4 Cavalry after obtaining a promise from Colonel Abdur Rahman, the Deputy Director Military Training, that he would make a reimbursement and he did. The organisation of the pop up targets denoting the enemy attacking and defending was done by the OC Workshop and he set up a very good system.

When the second party went to the field firing range there were two accidents, in one a 2nd Lieutenant of 15 Lancers and a sowar were killed in the night firing. They had been sent to the target area to illuminate the target by firing illuminating ammunition from a trench which had been dug. Both of them, in sheer bravado, stood side by side outside the trench when the tanks were firing, a high explosive shell killed both of them. I was informed about the accident late at night and when I went to the 15 Lancers camp, the major in charge of the 15 Lancers party had completely collapsed and was crying in his tent, I made him wash his face, get out of his tent and carry out everything necessary for the despatch of the bodies to their homes. In the second accident a 52 Punjab JCO while loading a recoilless rifle lost his arm due to incorrect loading drill. In this firing the Inter-Services Public Relations brought a host of newspaper reporters to see the training of the Pakistan Army.

The third time we went on the Cholistan field firing range, it was the middle of February. Lieutenant General Abdul Hamid Khan, Major General Mumtaz, Brigadier S. R. C. Daniels and some other officers came to witness the attack and defence exercises. This time nothing went wrong.

After the exercise was over I asked the Corps Commander for permission to visit 22 and 38 Cavalry who were in the Sadiqabad area, after seeing the Corps commander off, I left for Sadiqabad, that night I spent with 22 Cavalry and after breakfast I left for Manthar to visit 38 Cavalry. Between Sadiqabad and Manthar a jeep drove up behind mine and started honking, my driver gave way, the jeep went ahead, stopped, and flagged me to stop. When I stopped I found Brigadier Ateeq, 18 Division artillery commander standing on the road, we met and walked off the road to talk. Brigadier Ateeq inquired what I was doing in the area, I explained that I was on my way to 38 Cavalry, he said that he was coming from 18 Division headquarters and was going to his headquarters, some other small talk followed, then he said I have heard from someone who has heard from F. B. Ali that he is plotting against the government, do you know about it I told him that I did not know anything about such a thing and that he should report the matter. I went to 38 Cavalry, had lunch with the officers and caught the train to Lahore that night.

Immediately after returning from the final field firing exercise I was detailed to attend an exercise in 1 Corps, at Mangla and Sialkot. In the exercise I made myself very unpopular with the I Corps commander and his staff who were directing the exercise by pointing out that in planning an attack at the corps level, the attack has to be launched on a frontage three times the width of the breach sought in the enemy's front if the enemy's defences were prepared in depth. This was considered heresy, as far more troops and resources would be required and I was made to quote the authority for making such a statement.

In the second phase of the exercise we moved to Sialkot where a presentation had been arranged. In the tea break Brigadier Tariq Mir, who had come from Quetta where he was the Chief of Staff of the newly raised V Corps, accosted me and shouted that I was spreading false stories behind his back about his conduct in the 18 Division operations during the war, I told him that if he liked, I could tell the story to his face.

After the brigade returned to its peace station, I went around the accommodation and was appalled to find that the 'cavalry' lines in which 15 Lancers and 4 Cavalry were housed were without electricity, in the barracks lanterns were used as in the last century. In the twenty years that I had spent in the army this was the first time I had seen the 'Indian Army' lines, before this every unit that I had served with had been in 'British Army' lines. The newspapers had just published a report that jails would have electric lights and fans, in a conference which the Corps commander was presiding and the three division commanders were present, I raised the subject of the electrification of the troops barracks and said that now that jails were to get electricity our troops should also get it. This was not liked at all but about three months later all the barracks were electrified.

One day I had nothing to do and instead of sitting in the office and idling, I decided to call on all the brigade commanders in Lahore. I went around the 10 Division brigades and found none of the brigade commanders in their offices, in 11 Division I found Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah, commander 22 Brigade, in his office, I had a cup of tea with him and came away. A week or so later Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah came to my office, had a cup of tea and went away. Brigadier Ateeq, on leave from 18 Division, called on me at my office, spent a few minutes and left.

In planning the training of the brigade I had planned a visit by all the officers of the brigade to the Barrapind battlefield where 13 Lancers were badly battered in the 8 Armoured Brigade counter attack. The planning of the visit had involved obtaining permission from the Corps and GHQ, and coordination with 13 Lancers, a part of 8 Armoured Brigade in I Corps, who were to describe how the battle had been conducted. The visit was scheduled for the last week of March, all instructions had been issued and preparations made, the day before we were scheduled to leave for Barrapind, the commanding officer of 13 Lancers, Lieutenant Colonel Syed Masood Ahmad, telephoned and asked me to postpone the visit. I argued that it involved getting permission again and would upset my training schedule. Lieutenant Colonel Masood said that he could not help that and that he would not be able to conduct us on the battlefield, I told him that I would manage without him and instructed 15 Lancers to take their officers mess and cooked lunch for all the officers. At six o'clock in the morning of the day on which we were to leave for Barrapind, the COS of IV Corps, Brigadier Z. R. Shah telephoned me and asked whether my brigade officers were to go to the Zafarwal area, I confirmed it and said we would leave at 8 o'clock, he said that the Corps commander had ordered the cancellation of the trip. I then telephoned my brigade major, Major Roshan Ejaz to inform all units and the commanding officer of 15 Lancers cancelling the trip.

At about 8 o'clock I went to my office and was informed that at 9 o'clock the Corps commander would address all the officers of the garrison. In his address the Corps commander told us that a conspiracy to overthrow the government had been un-earthed in which Brigadier F. B. Ali, Colonel Alim Afridi, Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah, commander 22 Brigade, 11 Division, IV Corps, and some other officers were involved and had been arrested, that strict disciplinary action would be taken against them and any other officers involved in the conspiracy. The news had stunning effect on all the officers.

The previous evening a letter had been received by all corps and divisional commanders, from the Chief of the General Staff, Major General M. Rahim Khan, to be opened at 11 o'clock at night, it stated that there was a conspiracy to overthrow the government, it gave a list of officer who were to be arrested and stated that any officer who resisted arrest was to be shot. It further gave a list of those officers who were suspected of being involved in the conspiracy and were to be placed under surveillance. On the day the Corps commander addressed the officers, when I went to my house I noticed three men in civilian clothes sitting in cane chairs outside the electric grid station across the road from my house, I was under surveillance.

The names of officers Brigadier F. B. Ali, Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah, Colonel Alim Afridi and some other officers who had been arrested were published in newspapers. Soon word was passed on the army grapevine that apart from the officers whose names had appeared in the newspapers, a number of majors and captains had been arrested, most of them were from Public Schools like Lawrence College and Hasan Abdal and included some generals' sons. Stories started circulating that the officers who had been arrested were not being treated as officers, they were blind folded and taken to unit guard rooms and locked up in cells like soldiers, one officer was rolled up in a carpet when he was arrested and moved to a cell. A lot of officers were arrested because they were friendly with those who were involved in the conspiracy, a major from 1 FF was arrested because he was friendly with an officer of 19 Lancers who had been arrested. Brigadier Inam ul Haq, Artillery, from my course was arrested and kept in solitary confinement in a cell for two months because Brigadier F. B. Ali had stayed in his house in Jhelum for a few days. Before the arrests a lot of officers used to criticise the going-ons of Bhutto and his government, after the arrests everybody was out to prove that he was 'more loyal than the king'.

A day or two after the arrests Major General A. O. Mitha sent a message that he would be coming to Lahore. I went to the airport, received him and brought him to my house, I described to him what had happened and he remarked that there would be a witch hunt and many fine officers would be ruined. I invited him and some SSG officers to dinner that night, in the evening his daughter Yamima telephoned to tell me that the general would not be able to come, the next time we met the general told me that after he left my house he discovered that he was being followed.

About a week or ten days after the arrests, the COS telephoned me and told me to come to the Corps headquarters at eight at night, in civilian clothes, when I went there Brigadier Z. R. Shah was waiting for me and told me that it was known that I was very friendly with Brigadier Wajid Ali Shah and I was required to give an account of my meetings with him and the details of my relationship with him. I told him that we were from the same course at the PMA but from different companies, that after being commissioned we had not met till I had gone to command 38 Cavalry in 18 Division and of our two meetings in Lahore, I was then asked to write down what I had said and I did so. After about another week the same procedure was gone through and this time I was asked for the details of my meetings with Brigadier Ateeq including the one in Sadiqabad, I described them and again wrote out what I had said, a few days later the arrest of Brigadier Ateeq was published in the newspapers. About this time I received the information that my brother Squadron Leader Aftab Alam had been arrested in connection with the conspiracy.

In May I was told to go to Rawalpindi to answer some questions, I went to Rawalpindi, moved into the Engineers mess and since I did not have anything to do I went to Murree where my mother was living all by herself, I spent about two hours with her and returned to Rawalpindi.

The next day Brigadier A. Q. Anjum, from my course and platoon at the Military Academy, interrogated me. One of the questions he asked me was why had my brother Squadron Leader Aftab told me not to meet Colonel Javed Iqbal. I told him that I thought it was because we had quite a few drinks and Aftab did not appreciate it. The next day I was called by the Director Military Intelligence, Brigadier Abdullah Malik, later major general, and told I was cleared of all connections with the conspiracy. A week later I was again called to GHQ by the Director Personal Services to repeat my statement before a lawyer and was told that I would be required to record evidence against Brigadier Ateeq.

About a month later I was ordered to go to the Attock Fort, where all the officers involved in the conspiracy were kept under arrest. The day before I was to go I got a telephone call from Mrs. Sabiruddin, the wife of Lieutenant Colonel Sabiruddin, 5 Horse, and the mother-in-law of my younger brother Lieutenant Commander Shamoon Alam, PN, asking me not to give any evidence to incriminate Brigadier Ateeq. I told her that whatever I had to say I had said already and I was not going to say anything else.

Before going to the Attock Fort I had written to the Pakistan Air Force that I would be coming to Peshawar to meet my brother Squadron Leader Aftab Alam who was under arrest in the Peshawar PAF officers mess. After reporting arrival at the Attock Fort I went to Peshawar and met my brother with another officer present in the room. My brother seemed to be in reasonably good spirits and I felt that things would be all right since he had not been charged with any offence. He was released about a month later. Later the Commander-in-Chief of the PAF, Air Marshal Zafar Choudhry was held responsible for ordering the arrest of about a dozen very good officers and charging them with the conspiracy to create a line of succession within the PAF.

At the Attock Fort my statement about my 'chance meeting' with Brigadier Ateeq and the conversation that took place between us was recorded in Brigadier Ateeq's presence and he did not ask any question.

After about another month I was required to go to the Attock Fort to give evidence at the trial of Brigadier Ateeq. Accommodation for officers giving evidence was arranged at the Azad Kashmir Regimental Centre in Mansar Camp, about five miles from the Attock Fort. Again I had a day with nothing to do so I went to Abbottabad where my brother Lieutenant Colonel Firoz Alam was posted, he had been deferred by the promotion board, the objection to his promotion was by Lieutenant General Sharif, later general, on the grounds that his attitude towards senior officers was not correct. After the deferment he asked for a posting to the Frontier Force Regimental Centre with a view to winding up his affairs and leaving the army. His request for retirement was not approved by General Tikka till he himself got his retirement orders in 1976.

I returned from Abbottabad in the evening and found a message informing me that I was to meet Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf, Corps of Signal, the prosecuting officer, in the bachelor officers quarters at the Attock Fort that night. I went at the appointed time and Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf told me that since I was to give my evidence the next day he wanted me to read the statement which had been recorded in the summary of evidence to refresh my memory and handed me copy of my statement, I read through it and returned it. In the room, besides Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf, there was Brigadier 'George' Rabbani who was also to give evidence on the following day. After I returned the copy of my statement, Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf told me that the evidence I was going to give against Brigadier Ateeq was not enough to convict him and therefore I should change my statement. I told Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf that I had come to give evidence and not to acquit or convict Brigadier Ateeq, he answered that if I wanted to serve in the army I would do what he was telling me. At this point Brigadier Rabbani also advised me to do what I was being told. I told Lieutenant Colonel Yusuf that I would inform Major General Zia ul Haq about what had transpired, before I gave evidence before the court. The trial was being held in the other ranks dining hall where a partition had been made in the room to give the presiding general an office. Before the trial commenced the next morning I was at Major General Zia ul Haq's office, when he arrived, I met him and told him the details of the previous night's incident and told him that I was bringing it to his notice officially. The general listened to me but did not say anything.

Later in the day, I was called to give the evidence and I said what I had stated previously, there was practically no cross examination. After my evidence was over, the defending lawyer of Major Sajjad Akbar, who had been my adjutant in 3 Commando Battalion, asked me to verify the character of Major Sajjad. I said that he had served as my adjutant in 3 Commando Battalion, that I had found him an excellent officer, always a volunteer for any mission, outspoken and frank and should have been decorated.

Although I had been assured by the Director Military Intelligence that I had been cleared of all charges of being connected with the conspiracy my house continued to be surveilled. Since the arrests for the conspiracy, my house had been under surveillance by team of men who sat in a electric substation opposite my house, the surveillance team had a Morris Minor car parked in a small park opposite the substation. I had noticed the car parked in the park and had noted that when I went out in my car the car followed me but never followed my staff car, apparently they got a report from the driver. One side light in the Morris was not working so it was quite easy to locate it, sometimes the surveillance party in the car would get bored and leave when we took a long time in the shopping areas of Lahore. One day my wife and I went to the cinema, the car followed us and two members of the surveillance team came into the cinema and sat down on the seats in front of us. After the film was over the car followed us, on the way back at a very large round-about, I drove round and round the round-about and the Morris followed, there was no other traffic, after doing a number of rounds I drove home.

After dinner almost every night my wife and I used to take a walk on the road in front of my house. After returning from Attock Fort after attending the trial, when we went for our walk the surveillance team started following us. I told my wife that I was going to challenge the men surveilling and she should not get upset. I turned about, walked up to them and accused them of following me, I asked who they were and told them I was going to my house to telephone for the military police, the team hurriedly packed and left in their car, that was the last I saw of them.

After the trial of the conspirators the details of the conspiracy and its detection started coming out. Lieutenant Colonel Tariq Rafi, officer commanding the GHQ Signal Battalion revealed that one of the officers involved was a good friend of his and asked him to join in the conspiracy. Lieutenant Colonel Tariq Rafi made a report about the approach and was instructed to join the conspirators. The conspirators met at various places but a key meeting was held in Jhelum where almost all those involved met at a wedding. In the meeting my name was discussed but it was decided that I would make a report, probably Brigadier Ateeq had conveyed my reaction at the chance meeting with him. Lieutenant Colonel Tariq Rafi in reporting the details of the meeting mentioned my name and when the lists of those who were to be arrested and those who were to be watched were finalised, my name was added to those who were to be surveilled by Major General M. Rahim Khan, the Chief of the General Staff, and I became involved in the conspiracy.

On the 3rd of December, 1971, when the Pakistan Army attacked from West Pakistan, 4 Cavalry was employed in eliminating the Indian enclave of Hussieniwala. When the regiment crossed the border at Gandasighwala, at the customs post a car impounded by the customs was found at the Custom's post. The officers of the regiment removed the car and other impounded items from the customs post. The car was taken to the regiment and the commanding officer was told that it had been removed from the Indian side of the border. After the ceasefire the commanding officer learnt that it had been removed from our customs post and ordered his quartermaster to return it. The quartermaster handed it over to the police of the area but for some reason did not obtain a receipt for the car. The car belonged to a Frenchman who claimed it after the ceasefire and when the customs did not return it he sued the government of Pakistan. Pressure was put on the police and the car was recovered, the press found out and published a news item saying that a car taken away by the army from the Gandasighwala customs post had been recovered in Lyallpur. An officer of 4 Cavalry, who had been placed on an adverse report by the commanding officer had made an allegation that a car had been stolen from the customs post with the connivance of the commanding officer but investigation by Brigadier Fazl-e-Haq had found no substance in the allegation. Lieutenant General Abdul Hamid Khan's wife's nephew, Major Naeem was serving in 4 Cavalry, he was not getting on well with his commanding officer and had told the Corps commander about the removal of the car. On the publication of the news report the Corps commander asked for an inquiry by the Special Investigation Branch, (SIB), an agency in GHQ which investigates crimes relating to the army. A major was sent by the SIB who investigated and reported that the car had been returned to the police and the officers involved had not committed any offense. The Corps commander said that he did not agree with the findings of the inquiry, that the SIB officer had been bribed by the commanding officer and the officers involved in the case, that disciplinary action should be taken against the SIB officer and ordered another inquiry with a lieutenant colonel from the Corps of Engineers as the president of the inquiry, he also asked the Military Secretary's Branch to demote Lieutenant Colonel Peerzada to his substantive rank of major.

 

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