|In the civilian vehicles that we had taken under our control there were
some Toyota land cruisers and jeeps, with these I formed a mobile patrol from Quaid
Company, 2 Commando Battalion, commanded by Major Hydayat ullah Jan. After drilling them
in mobile patrolling I sent them to reconnoitre the Rangamati-Chittagong road, the patrol
returned and reported that there was no sign of the rebels, the next few days were spent
in ensuring that the area around the Kaptai Lake was clear of rebels. A strong patrol was
sent to Mahalchari, a large village on the left bank of the Karnaphuli River where it
entered the lake. Subedar Ramzan and some frogmen went to Barkal, a village close to the
Indian border but located on the lake, it was clear of rebels but some Assam Rifles men
were seen in the village. Later Captain Munir and Subedar Ramzan took a strong patrol
there to clear them and Captain Munir was wounded.
A patrol on the lake on the way to Mahalchari, found the bodies of some engineers and their family members who had been brought from the Kaptai Dam, they had been lined up on the bank of the lake, shot and their bodies left to rot.
Two days later the Mizo army started arriving, it consisted of three battalions of six hundred men each. With the army came the President of Mizoram, Mr. Laldenga, his government consisting of various ministers and the commander-in-chief of the army and his staff. Everything was very formal and government like; all messages were routed through their foreign ministry and their foreign minister Mr. Paulian. First of all we negotiated terms, I agreed to supply them with about one ton of rice per day, a pound per armed soldier that they would provide, to be issued daily, their labour would shift it from the government rice godown to the DCs bungalow where they would load it on a boat and take it away. In return their army would be under my command and would act under my orders. They were allowed about four days for resting and a medical examination was arranged, these people had been living in the jungle for several years without any medical cover. After their army had been given whatever medical assistance that could be managed locally, they asked to be allowed to bring their civilians to Rangamati for medical assistance. I agreed to this, allowed them to occupy a school building and they were given medical assistance in the Rangamati hospital. After about two weeks I asked the non-combatants to return and they did.
The Mizos, after they moved out of India into Pakistan, were permitted to maintain a liaison office in Rangamati which was located near the DCs house, when the Bengalis revolted in March, the district commissioner Rangamati allowed an Indian raiding party to come to Rangamati and search the liaison office, the Mizos manning it were not present but their communication equipment was taken away by the Indians.
A few days after the Mizos arrived there were some incidents at night in the Rangamati bazaar and I had to impose a curfew on them. My main weapon for keeping the Mizos under control was the rice supply which was made daily and on any day that they misbehaved or disobeyed my order they lost a days ration.
After the Mizos had rested for a few days, I decided to move along the Karnaphuli River from Mahalchari to Manikchari, then to Khagrachari and the border, a force consisting of Ghazi Company which was about fifty strong and a battalion of Mizos, about two hundred men only, was moved in boats to Mahalchari with food, ammunition and other necessary stores and an arrangement was made for porters to be taken from Mahalchari.
The Chakmas are Buddhist by religion, they have matriarchy, women are the head of families and the villages. They have polyandry, women marry a number of men, and the women do not wear anything above the waist. A few days before the Ghazi Company force arrived at Mahalchari, we had negotiated with the village head-woman for porters. When the force arrived, the head-woman, with a cheroot in her mouth, asked Major Iqbal to line up all the loads that had to be carried, she then called all the adult males of the village, checked their biceps, checked the weight of the loads by lifting them and assigned them to the men according to their capability, a good JCO or NCO could not have done better. The Mizos, who were accompanying Ghazi Company, as soon as they arrived at Mahalchari, went through the village, killed all dogs that they could find and carried them away slung on poles to cook and eat.
Ghazi Company and the Mizos advanced from Mahalchari along the left bank of the Karnaphuli River to Manikchari to a point across the river from Manikchari, which was the site of a haat on the right bank of the Karnaphuli and no one lived there. When Ghazi Company arrived on the bank opposite the haat site there was no sign of any life in the haat, a number of boats were beached conveniently for the company to cross the river. The company got in the boats and started crossing the river, when they had gone a little way across the river, bottoms of the boats gave way and the boats sank, machine guns and rifles opened fire. The company waded back, ran up the steep bank of the river and a fire fight began, luckily there were no casualties. Major Iqbal now decided to move the Mizos well upstream and cross the river and gave the necessary orders. The Mizos, when they moved, taught us trick in deceiving the enemy, they moved in single file with one hundred yards interval between the men so that a person observing the movement from the opposite bank could only catch a glimpse of the movement through gaps in the bushes on the bank of the river and the movement seemed to be of a very long column of men much larger than the actual body. The East Pakistan Rifles opposing Ghazi Company over-estimating the number of the Mizos withdrew from Manikchari towards Ramgarh and Ghazi Company crossed the river to the haat site and secured it.
The next morning I dispatched Major Hydayat ullah Jans mobile patrol to go from Rangamati to Mahalchari and from there to Ramgarh with instructions to go up to the outskirts of Ramgarh but not to enter the city. Major Hydayat ullah successfully carried out the mission and waited there till 53 Brigade arrived two days later.
Leaving a small detachment to hold Manikchari, I instructed Major Iqbal to advance to Khagrachari. The Chakma porters left him at Manikchari, but he acquired an elephant to carry his stores. The company and the Mizos continued, crossed the Karnaphuli again but this time using a ferry and reached Khagrachari without opposition. At Khagrachari a vehicle was found and sent to the ferry to lift their stores which had been off loaded there from the elephant. From Khagrachari the company sent patrols to the border posts and found them unoccupied. The clearing of the area north of the Kaptai Dam was complete, with five platoons of commandos and a little assistance from the Mizos we had cleared an area of about two thousand square miles and what was more important, we had the co-operation of the people.
At Khagrachari another mass grave of the engineers brought from the Kaptai was discovered. This time there was a survivor, a fourteen year old boy who had been shot but survived by hiding in bushes, he told the story of how they had been rounded up at Kaptai and brought up to Khagrachari.
While the two company commanders were busy extending our control over the area I had a number of problems to attend to in Rangamati. When I had assumed the control of the operations of 205 Brigade in Chittagong we were informed that a company exploring for oil in the Hill Tracts had stored about two tons of explosives somewhere in the Hill Tracts. After securing Rangamati I took it on myself to find the explosives before they fell into the hands of the rebels. With the help of Chakmas, in a few days we located the explosives and transported it to Rangamati for storage.
In a building a little distance from the district commissioners house and office, nearly one crore rupees were found. This was part of the cash that had been given to the district commissioner to distribute to those who had been affected by the cyclone. The account showed that a few thousands had been paid to some Hindus, the district commissioner, when he escaped to India, took away two suitcases full of money, about a quarter million. I gave Major Iqbal the task of counting the money which took nearly a whole afternoon and informed the Eastern Command.
I had asked Raja Tridiv Roy to inform us of all the rebel activities in the Chakma territory. Apart from this we set about establishing information networks, one was controlled by Captain Sajjad with Mr. A. B. Chakma as the chief agent, this covered the Hill Tracts.
The second one was organised and operated by Major Salman, this operated in Chittagong and kept us informed of the movement of the agents of the rebels by reporting arrivals of strangers in selected localities of the city. The arrival of an agent in a locality could only be pin-pointed by the residents of the area who could tell who was a stranger in the area, as soon as information was received about an agent having arrived at a house it had to be quickly searched. The informants in Chittagong were Bengali boys who were promised good rewards, they were given a telephone number in Chittagong and they phoned in their information.
The third one was our trans-border intelligence net organised by liaising with the Navy interrogating officer in the Chittagong jail and arranging the release of suitable personnel. We even managed to locate an agent who worked as a secretary in the Awami League headquarters in Tripura in India
Besides gathering information I also worked out methods of attacking rebel camps, for instance their food was poisoned. The Indian border posts collecting rebels were attacked by giving 303 rifles with an explosive charge in it to deserters and asking them to go and fire a few rounds at the camp, knowing that they would surrender and hand over their rifles which would be placed with other weapons and after sometime the charge would explode. These methods required continuous thinking to evolve variations.
In Rangamati the presence of a large number of armed Mizos required my constant attention. Apart from controlling their rice ration and imposing a curfew on them, I had to show them that we had the force to deal with them, I told them that the army had reinforced Chittagong and had a division there. This claim of mine was reinforced when I invited three brigadiers for lunch, a visiting brigadier, 53 Brigade commander and Brigadier Hesky Baig who had dug out a khaki dungaree, put on a brigadiers rank and let it be known to all and sundry that he had been recalled to the army by Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, the commander Eastern Command.
At Rangamati I had about two companies of commandos, a brigade of Mizos, a number of boats on the lake manned by the frogmen which constituted my water-borne force. I had seen a number of light aircraft parked on the Chittagong airfield and thought that if I could find a pilot I could use an aircraft for reconnaissance and moving about over the Hill Tracts. I asked Major Salman, who had served in Chittagong with 3 Commando Battalion, to find a pilot, he found a businessman who was a licenced pilot. He checked out an aircraft which had been provided by some country for relief work after the 1970 cyclone, everything went fine, then the pilot finally asked if there was a likelihood of being shot at and when I told him that the possibility could not be ruled out, he quit and my grand scheme for my own air support was still-born.
I had a good supply of ammunition stored away, the commandos were equipped with the Chinese version of the AK 47, we called it the Chinese sub-machine gun, the 2 Commando Battalion had come with G 3 Rifles. We had no heavy weapons, I found out that the mortars of 4 East Bengal Regiment were lying in Commilla, not claimed by anyone. On a trip to Dacca I got an aircraft belonging to the Plant Protection Department and picked up the mortars from Commilla and loaded them in the aircraft, the aircraft was so overloaded that it barely managed to get airborne but nonetheless I got my mortars. I also picked up some rocket launchers with the intention of creating a heavy weapons platoon, the rocket launchers had been left behind by an FF battalion.
To maintain good relations with the Chakmas I started asking Raja Tridiv Roy over for drinks and dinner almost every evening and he became very friendly with me and my officers. One of the problems of the Chakmas, he told me was they had almost no government jobs. I arranged for the recruitment of about two hundred Chakmas in the East Pakistan Rifles, after receiving about a months training they were given uniforms of khaki shirts, shorts and a side cap which made them look very smart. When they came back after their training I gave them the task of guarding bridges, there were no rifles available so they were given shot guns. These probably became the nucleus of the Shanti Bahini, the Chakma guerrilla organisation which has been fighting the Bangladesh government. I also tried to get them other jobs but no one would agree to employ them.
When 53 Brigade re-took the charge of Chittagong, Brigadier Iqbal Shafi had an order passed by 14 Division placing the commandos under his command. When I was ordered to make a water-borne landing at Rangamati the brigadier asked for a platoon to be left in Chittagong which I did. While passing through Chittagong on my way to Dacca I met the platoon commander and asked him how his platoon was employed, he told me that they were doing guard duty at night, guarding the house where the brigade commander slept. At Dacca I told Brigadier Jilani that I could either hold the Hill Tracts or act as a fire brigade for 53 Brigade, he issued an order making 3 Commando Battalion independent of 53 Brigade and responsible for the Hill Tracts. I went back to Chittagong with a copy of the order and asked for the platoon to be reverted to me, the brigade commander asked for two men to be left with the brigade and I did so. When I checked how the men were employed I was told that they were employed as guards at night at the door of the brigade commanders bedroom. After I found this out, whenever the brigade commander refused anything that I wanted, I would request that my two men be returned.
Major General M. Rahim Khan relieved Major General Khadim Hussain Raja and took over the command of 14 Division with the responsibility of Mymensingh - Dacca - Jessore area. In the Dacca area he started clearing the Dacca-Bhairab Bazaar railway line with a brigade and reached the near bank of the Meghna River, the far bank was held by our old friends, 4 East Bengal Regiment. I was called by Eastern Command for orders and I flew to Dacca, there Major Bilal of Jangju Company, which had moved to Dacca after the 4 East Bengal disarming operation, met me at the airport and told me that an operation had been planned by Major General M. Rahim Khan in which Jangju Company was required to para-drop and secure the bridge over the river Meghna at Bhairab Bazaar, with Lieutenant Colonel Shakur Jan in command. Major Bilal said that a very narrow drop zone had been selected between the river and a high tension power line and if there was a slight drift the troops would either be electrocuted or drown. I told him that I could not imagine that Lieutenant Colonel Shakur Jan had not pointed this out to the general and that a major general of the Pakistan Army could not understand that he was putting the troops to the unnecessary danger of being electrocuted or drowned. I also told him that he must not have briefed the general properly and now wanted me to talk to him. He assured me that he tried his best but the general was adamant and not listening to him. I told him that I would talk to the general. Major Tariq Mahmood, later brigadier, Officer Commanding, Parachute Training School, was in Dacca, I called him and told him to take a helicopter, see the proposed drop zone and report its suitability, I also telephoned the general and asked for an appointment to discuss the para-drop, he told me to come at six oclock that evening.
Major Tariq Mahmood returned from the reconnaissance and confirmed Major Bilals fears about the selected drop zone. I thought over the tactical problem, two methods were possible, one was the crossing of the river upstream, preferably at night, establishing a firm base and advancing towards the bridge, the resources for this were available with the division commander. The second method was placing a company, on the home bank of the river and flying a company from Dacca to the far bank of the river, turning the helicopters around and lifting the company placed on the home bank, the whole concentration would take about twenty minutes from the time the first company landed. Both plans did not require special troops, ordinary infantry would have been good enough.
At the appointed time, Lieutenant Colonel Shakur Jan and I with Major Tariq Mahmood and Major Bilal went to the generals residence, I explained to him that I had the drop zone reconnoitered by Major Tariq Mahmood and he had found it unsuitable for a para drop. I further explained that even if the drop zone were suitable, the troops would take about half an hour to collect and the drop would be seen from a long distance warning the defenders of the bridge. I then gave him my alternative plan of lifting companies by helicopters, the general heard me out and I was sure that I had convinced him but he bowled me over by saying that the para drop would take place. I tried arguing with him but he would not listen, I finally told him that I would not kill my troops by agreeing to such an irresponsible plan, that I was going to the Eastern Command headquarters to make a report about what the general was proposing to do and inform them of the consequences. I then put on my cap, saluted the general and walked towards the door, when I was a few paces from the door the general called me back and said that he would carry out the operation as I had planned.
The next day the operation was carried out, the two commando companies landed by helicopters, quickly captured the bridge and drove away the defending Bengali troops. The operation was a complete success and received wide publicity. The general had been the GSO 2 (Training) at the PMA when we were cadets, he had worked his way up as an instructor and on the staff, he had been chief instructor of the War Course, but he showed a complete lack of common sense as far as elementary tactics were concerned. Later I learnt that he had arranged for newspaper reporters and the television to cover the operation, he had already had a picture printed in a newspaper of himself in a Gurkha hat standing with weapons taken from the rebels lined up in front, prominently displayed were the heavy tripod mounted machine guns captured by Captain Sajjad the day after we had landed at Rangamati.
Towards the end of April, Brigadier Ghulam Muhammad took over the command of the Special Service Group from Brigadier Sherullah Beg, both of them came to Dacca and then to Rangamati. The command of Eastern Command also changed. Lieutenant General A. A. K. Niazi, known in the Army as Tiger Niazi and notorious for his dirty jokes, took over the command from Lieutenant General Tikka Khan who became the governor of East Pakistan. 53 Brigade gave a presentation of the operations of 53 Brigade and 3 Commando Battalion showing how the clearing up operation had been carried out and how it had progressed, the arrows showing the actions of 3 Commando Battalion looked very impressive. The Chief of Army Staff, General Abdul Hamid Khan and Lieutenant General Niazi attended the presentation. When I met Lieutenant General Niazi in the Eastern Command headquarters, I failed to impress him as I was a far cry from his idea of a commando, I wore glasses, had two teeth missing, did not have an athletic build and was given to disagreeing and objecting. Often when the general said something Brigadier Jilani would signal that I was not to answer, he would later discuss the matter with the general and give me the necessary amended instructions.
During this period, with about half a platoon in Rangamati, to control the Mizos with Major Iqbal and Major Hadayat at Khagrachari and Ramgarh, the strain on my nerves was severe. The information received during the day was usually bad news which would make me irritable and I would take it out on Captain Sajjad, my adjutant, as he was the only officer with me. He, after a few days, got fed up with me and asked to be transferred, I told him to put it up in writing, when he did so I turned it down and told him to correct his English before I would forward it, he never did get his English right.
One evening when most officers had collected in Rangamati, we suddenly decided to go to Chittagong. Everyone piled into the district commissioners car and we drove to Chittagong a little after dark. We went to a party at Mr. K. Rehmans house, he made Igloo ice-cream in Chittagong, then to another party and finally to the club. At about one oclock we left the club and had to decide where to spend the rest of the night. I remembered the Port Rest House, we drove there, found the bedroom doors closed and knocked loudly. It was opened by the sleepy occupant, Major Beg of the Ordnance Corps, who told us that the rest house was occupied. We then decided to drive to Rangamati, there was no traffic, a few miles out of the city on the Rangamati road in the headlight we saw a man flagging us to stop, we did with weapons cocked and expecting trouble. When the car stopped the man walked up to the vehicle and peeped inside, he was from the Tochi Scouts, he identified us and gave a signal, the commander stepped up to the vehicle and apologised for laying the ambush and aiming his weapons at us, we thanked our lucky stars that we had stopped. The next time I went to Dacca Brigadier Jilani, COS Eastern Command told me that a report had been lodged by Major Beg of the Ordnance Corps that I had been drunk and disorderly and tried to throw him out of the rest house.
The companies of 2 and 3 Commando Battalions had got mixed up due the initial deployment. Ghazi and Quaid companies of 2 Commando Battalion were with me in Rangamati, one platoon of Hamza Company was in Commilla, Jangju Company was in Dacca. I decided to sort out the companies of 2 and 3 Commando Battalions by bringing both the companies of 3 Commando Battalion to Rangamati and sending the 2 Commando Battalion companies to Dacca. Besides I had all the stores and baggage of 3 Commando Battalion moved to Dacca, this was done by moving the stores etc by road to Chandpur and then by boat to Dacca, while unloading at Dacca, the crane operator dropped my car and cracked the chassis.
On 1 May while the Commander Eastern Command was away in West Pakistan, Major General Rahim Khan called me and ordered me to mount commando attacks across the border on the bridges and vulnerable points on the Indian lines of communications from Mymensingh and other border points in his area of responsibility. The orders from Eastern Command were that no provocation was to be given to India and no Pakistan Army men were to be used for attacks across the border. I started locating the commandos at suitable points for these attacks and informed Eastern Command, on 21 May, Eastern Command very firmly stopped the attacks and I was just able to prevent the attacks jumping off.
A few weeks after the Bhairab Bazaar operation I again received orders to provide a platoon to assist 39 Baluch, a part of 14 Division, commanded by Major General Rahim Khan, in clearing Brahmanbaria where 4 East Bengal Regiment still had a hold. I had no troops to spare as all my troops were stretched out from Rangamati to Khagrachari, Captain Sajjad, besides Captain Rehman the Regimental Medical Officer, was the only officer with me. He, probably to get away from me, at once volunteered to command an ad hoc platoon scraped together from the battalion headquarters personnel and I allowed him to go. Two days later he returned, the operation was successfully carried out but Captain Sajjad lodged a complaint with me that 39 Baluch had made the commando platoon attack all the points of resistance and had occupied the positions after they were captured. He said that Lieutenant Colonel S. M. Naeem, the commanding officer of 39 Baluch, an ex-commando officer had used the commandos to do all the fighting and the area had been cleared by a series of one platoon attacks by Captain Sajjad. The next time I went to Dacca I reported this to Brigadier Jilani, the COS of Eastern Command, I told him that we were not the only troops being paid for the job in East Pakistan. He issued an order that the commandos were Corps troops and their employment by the formations would require the prior approval of the Eastern Command.
When the Mukti Bahini started mounting raids from India into the East Pakistan border areas and withdrawing across the border, the Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, Brigadier Jilani discussed the problem with me. I told him that the Indians had declared a three-mile belt along the border as a dusk to dawn curfew area. I suggested that we declare a two-mile belt on our side of the border as a dusk to dawn curfew area in which anyone found moving about to be shot. He considered it a good idea and told me to go to the Governors House and get it approved by Lieutenant General Tikka Khan. I went to the Governors house, explained the purpose of my coming, the Governor heard me out and then started talking, he talked for over an hour about everything except what I had come to discuss, he kept me standing all the time and concluded without agreeing to the proposal. A rivalry had developed between Lieutenant General Tikka Khan and Lieutenant General A.A. K. Niazi and probably the Governor was not prepared to take any action to help in military operations.
While returning to Chittagong from a visit to Dacca I met Fazlul Quader Choudhry on the aircraft. While discussing the situation in East Pakistan he offered that he could provide some Bengalis who would act under our orders, I told him that I wanted some men who could be trained and sent to attack targets across the border. He agreed to provide the men and I sought the approval of Eastern Command, it took sometime before the approval was accorded. The training was organised by me in Commilla, the first attack was launched after I was removed from the command of 3 Commando Battalion, the results were promising but the operation was not followed up and fizzled out.
At the end of May, Major Nadir, from the Ordnance Corps, was posted as my second in command although the battalion was not authorized a second in command, a replacement of Major Mannan, Hamza Company commander, who had been transferred to Cherat, was not provided. I did not consider that Major Nadir would be of much use to me in Rangamati so I kept him in Dacca in charge of the rear element of the battalion.
In the last week of May I received a telegram at Rangamati saying that my father had suffered a stroke and was in hospital, I could not ask for leave as I had not given any leave to anyone. On 4 June I took a country boat fitted with an outboard and went on the lake, I had done this previously also, but this time when I had gone about half a mile the motor quit, I tried starting it with the rope starter but it would not start and started drifting. When I started the weather had been bright and sunny, it suddenly became cloudy, started raining and a strong wind started blowing driving the boat towards the bank of lake till it reached a very small island, beached and I secured it. For about an hour the storm blew rocking the boat, fortunately the middle portion of the boat was covered and I was protected from the rain. The rain and the storm ended, I was wondering what to do now when two Maug tribesmen came in a small boat, I beckoned them but they would not come near me so I pointed my pistol at them and they came. I indicated that the engine of the boat was not working, when they understood my problem they got in the boat and using long bamboo poles punted it to the Rangamati boat landing and I got out. For about three days afterwards I felt that I was rocking in the boat.
When I got back to my battalion headquarters from my boating adventure, I found a message ordering me to report to the Eastern Command headquarters. The next morning I flew to Dacca, at the airport a SSG officer met me and told me that a message had been received from Rawalpindi saying that my father had died in the Civil Hospital in Rawalpindi. When I got to the Eastern Command headquarters Brigadier Jilani, without my asking, gave me ten days leave. Since I could not leave Rangamati without a responsible officer I sent Major Nadir to take charge with instructions not to disturb the deployment of troops. I borrowed the fare money from Subedar Major Zardad Khan of 2 Commando Battalion and went home to Murree. When I returned at the end of my leave, I was instructed by the Eastern Command to prepare a plan for the Commando Battalions employment in the defence of East Pakistan in the event of war with India and give a presentation to Lieutenant General Niazi on a date to be given later.
While I was waiting for the presentation, Major General Mitha accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel Jaffar Hussain arrived from Rawalpindi on a tour of East Pakistan. Since I did not have much to do I accompanied the general on his visits to Mymensingh, Bogra and Khulna. At Mymensingh, 27 Brigade headquarters, commanded by Brigadier N. A. Hussain, was located, he showed Major General Mitha a signal from Major General Rahim Khan, his GOC, saying sweep the Madhopur forest, he said that he had sent a signal back asking for more sweepers. A few days later Brigadier Hussain was removed from his command and sent back to West Pakistan. At Bogra, as the Quartermaster General, Major General Mitha inspected the buildings that had been constructed to house refugees but had not been occupied, these were bought on behalf of the army as family quarters for the proposed Bogra cantonment. Major General Mitha had commanded 53 Brigade in Commilla 1963 to 1966 and had very good contacts with prominent citizens of Dacca, in the evening he would visit them to obtain their opinions and feelings on the situation, for these visits he asked me to provide him with two men in civilian clothes to accompany him and I did. Major General Rahim Khan learnt about it and voiced his resentment that he had not been provided similar SSG guards.
On 13 June, the GSO 1, 14 Division, asked for a platoon of commandos to arrest Mr. Ata Ur Rehman, ex-chief minister of East Pakistan who had been located in some village, he said that the sanction of the Eastern Command had been obtained. I protested that I did not have any troops in Dacca but when the GSO 1 insisted I told Subedar Major Zardad Khan to collect the cooks and clerks who were getting the SSG pay and go and arrest the ex-chief minister. The party went by helicopter, arrested the minister and brought him back. Later I informed Brigadier Jilani who told me that no approval for the use of commando troops had been given.
After I returned from leave, on the Eastern Command grapevine it was rumoured that Major General Rahim Khan had lost his command and a replacement was on the way. Near Feni there was a salient, about eight hundred yards wide and about two miles long protruding into the Indian territory of Tripura called Belonia salient. 9 Division after arrival in East Pakistan was given the responsibility of clearing the area east of the Meghna river and had done so except that the Belonia salient had not been cleared because it required a lot of troops to hold and could be fired upon from Indian territory. 14 Division, commanded by Major General Rahim Khan, had taken over the responsibility of this area when 9 Division moved to Jessore. The COAS was scheduled to come to Dacca so Major General Rahim decided to clear the salient the day before the COAS arrived and present it as his achievement. Two infantry battalions were concentrated and artillery guns were lifted by helicopters. The attack was launched under the generals direct control, the attacking infantry crossed the start line, went about three hundred yards and went to the ground and nothing could make them go again. The general, who had previously also used the commandos when he could not budge his own command, took two MI 8 helicopters to Rangamati and ordered Major Nadir to send two commando platoons to Feni to get his two battalions out of their predicament. Major Nadir sent me a signal informing me, when I checked with the COAS Eastern Command he told me that Eastern Command had not been given permission to use the commandos. I sent a signal ordering Major Nadir to refuse but he had picked up men from the outposts to make the platoons, they were taken to Feni and flown after dark into the salient. At about eight oclock at night the GSO 3 of 53 Brigade telephoned me and said that the GOC 14 Division had moved commandos to Feni and had launched them into the Belonia salient, that communications had been lost with the force, that I should do something about it. I told the GSO 3 that any idiot could tell you that communications are tied up before an operation commences and not after it has started, nothing can be done now. The next morning I went to the COAS Eastern Command and told him about the telephone message. He provided me with a helicopter and I went to Feni, on the Feni airfield I found that the commandos had successfully carried out the mission and returned. I asked for Major Nadir but he had taken off when he had heard that I had come and could not be found. I asked for the platoons to be paraded, and asked the JCOs why the communications had not worked. After some hesitation they admitted that they had not taken wireless equipment with them. I told them that this was contrary to the standing orders of the battalion and I would take disciplinary action against those who were responsible for the lapse and dismissed the platoon. The GSO 1 of 14 Division had witnessed the whole proceedings.
That night I was invited to dinner by Lieutenant Colonel Abdur Rehman, later brigadier, who was GSO 1 (Training) at Eastern Command, when I returned I was handed over a signal from Eastern Command relieving me from the command of 3 Commando Battalion with immediate effect and attaching me to Headquarters Eastern Command. On the second evening after I had lost my command, I received a message from Brigadier Jilani to come and see him at his residence the next morning, I went there and he asked me what had happened at Feni and I told him.
A few days later I was required to present my plan for the employment of the SSG in defence of East Pakistan, I was told to report to the Eastern Command Headquarters where after the evening review of the daily situation the Corps Commander would hear my plans. In the review all the incidents that had been reported during the last twenty four hours were marked on a map and were summed up by the various staff officers, then Lieutenant General Niazi walked over to the map, sat on stool and stared hard at the map, I expected a stream of orders, he stood up, looked at Brigadier Jilani and said kuch karo, walked back to his chair and sat down. There was no roar in the tiger.
During my command of 3 Commando Battalion I had given some thought to the employment of the battalion in the event of a war with India and had held planning exercises for my officers to get them used to thinking on the Eastern Command level. One of the plans that I had considered was an attack on Calcutta to seize the key points for a short time to upset Indian plans. The plan required the using of the 3 Commando Battalion as a nucleus to train two thousand men, movement by boats from Khulna or some other suitable place, at night, lying up in the Sunderbans for a day, moving up stream the next night and moving into Calcutta. I presented the plan. The generals remark was you want to become a brigadier! and turned the plan down, flat.
General Abdul Hamid Khan the COAS did not come the day after the Belonia salient operation by Major General Rahim Khan but about a week later and in his honour a dinner was arranged. At the dinner I met Major Shujauddin Butt, Baluch Regiment, from my course, who had been posted to the Martial Law headquarters, we had met after a long time and were standing and talking in the middle of a large hall in the 14 Division officers mess from which all the furniture had been removed. I had a glass in my hand, and there were groups of other officers around us. Major General Rahim saw me and walked over, I wished him and he stood with us, Major Shujauddin Butt and all the officers slipped away. I stood with the general for sometime, neither of us said anything, I then emptied my glass, excused myself and went to the bar. The general had expected me to beg forgiveness.
A day or so before the dinner in honour of the COAS, Brigadier Jilani left Dacca on promotion to take over his new post of Director General ISI, about the same time Major General Rahim Khan handed over the command of 14 Division and was moved to the Martial Law headquarters. I received a signal attaching me to Martial Law headquarters also. I reported for my new assignment and was told to inquire into the sabotage of some electric power distribution transformers, I started the inquiry and asked for transport and other facilities, the next day I was handed a signal attaching me again to Eastern Command and I became one of the dozen or so sacked lieutenant colonels awaiting disposal.
In this period army officers would not move around the city without an escort, each officer would have at least three or four men in his vehicle, there was no movement after dusk. Since I had nothing to do I took to hanging around Lieutenant Colonel Abdur Rehmans office during working hours and going at night to play bridge at Mr. Kamal Zia ul Islams house in the city, he was known to me from Lawrence College. I went without a driver and an escort, only one night I was stopped by an air force patrol vehicle.
Sometime in July I was told to complete the forms for a confidential report, I submitted the forms and in due course received a report written by Major General Jilani, who as the Chief of Staff of Eastern Command was my reporting officer. He gave me a good report, emphasizing that rather than pressing me in the conduct of operations, I had to be restrained. About a week later I received Lieutenant General Niazis report on me as the superior reporting officer. he said He was mostly employed by 14 Division for operations against rebels. GOC 14 Division found this officer to be dragging his feet, by-passing his orders, displaying despondency, negative in his attitude and an arm-chair soldier. I fully agree with the assessment of GOC 14 Division. His battalion has been doing a good job under enthusiastic and dedicated company commanders but he himself has been slow in his actions. He is argumentative and more of a theoretical soldier. He lacks personality and I do not think he can inspire confidence in his subordinates. He by-passes his superiors. I submitted a representation stating that both 2 and 3 Commando Battalions had never been under the command of 14 Division and gave copies of Eastern Command orders which showed that the battalions remained under command Eastern Command except for a short period when they came under the command of 9 Division. I said that I had only met Major General Rahim Khan once and had advised him against a parachute drop at Bhairab Bazaar, that the commandos had carried out very successful operations under my personal command, that I express my views on the practicability of orders, that my theory had been confined to the employment of Mizos and the employment of Bengali civilians to attack targets in Indian territory. About my personality I said that I had trained, commanded and employed the most confident and successful troops in East Pakistan. I stated that the basis of the report by Lieutenant General Niazi that my battalion had been under the command of Major General Rahim Khan was false and I attached signals and letters to prove my statement. Both Major General Rahim Khan and Lieutenant General Niazi were telling lies but I could not say so in so many words. I asked for the entire report by Lieutenant General Niazi to be expunged.
Lieutenant Colonel Iqbal Nazir Waraich arrived to take over the charge of 3 Commando Battalion and Lieutenant Colonel Hanif Malik to take over the charge of 2 Commando Battalion, I went to Rangamati and made a farewell round. I now prepared to go back to West Pakistan. I moved my household belongings and my car to Chittagong and arranged with 3 Commando Battalion to have my baggage shipped to West Pakistan. I asked my batman Sowar Abdul Aziz if he would like to come back to West Pakistan, he refused saying that fighting had to be done in East Pakistan and he would stay behind. My posting order came attaching me to Station Headquarters, Rawalpindi, the future looked gloomy.
On the evening before I was to leave Dacca, Lieutenant Colonel Iqbal Nazir Waraich and the elements of the commandos in Dacca arranged a farewell bara khana. We were sitting in the mens dining room eating when there was the sound of gunfire, I realised at once that the re-constituted East Pakistan Rifles, called East Pakistan Civil Armed Forces post at Farm Gate had been attacked. The weapons of the commandos were stacked in the next room, I quickly organised the men, we drove to the Farm Gate road junction and found that the Mukti Bahini had shot up the tents of the men manning the post and left, the EPCAF men were in the tents and had no guards or sentries. The next morning I was on the PIA flight to Karachi. l