Book review: Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army and the Wars Within - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 10 July 2008

Book review: Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army and the Wars Within

By Ajai Shukla

Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within
By Shuja Nawaz
Oxford University Press, 2008
655 pages
Cost: Rs 695/-

A trio of books over the last three years has fascinatingly illuminated the inner workings of Pakistan’s power establishment. Musharraf’s autobiography, In the Line of Fire, provided a window into the general’s mind; and Adrian Levy’s and Catherine Scott-Clark’s Deception: Pakistan, the United States and the Global Nuclear Weapons Conspiracy, described Pakistan’s systematic manipulation of the nuclear black market. Now Shuja Nawaj’s Crossed Swords: Pakistan; Its Army and the Wars Within gives a comprehensive insight into that country’s ultimate power centre.

Stephen Cohen has earlier written on the Pakistani army, but he was an “outsider”, granted selective access by a military that was confident of his discretion. Shuja Nawaz’s work is far more comprehensive, combining decades of experience as a journalist and TV broadcaster in Pakistan, the research rigour of an analyst, and an astonishing facility at recording and recalling incidents over the years. And yes! He just happens to be the brother of former Pakistani army chief, General Asif Nawaz, which obtained for him access to secret army records and files inaccessible to the ordinary chronicler.

Nawaz’s book also draws relevance from dozens of personal interviews with Pakistani decision makers over the years, shining important new light on events that are still current. That Nawaz Sharif is lying when he says Kargil came as a surprise to him becomes evident from the author’s interviews with Sharif’s foreign minister and close confidant, Sartaj Aziz, and with then ISI Director General, Ziauddin --- whom Sharif trusted enough to hand-pick as Musharraf’s successor. Sartaj Aziz admits to attending an army briefing on 12th March 1999 --- two months before the intrusions there discovered --- in which the army told him that groups of “mujahideen” had been sent into Indian territory. It is unlikely that Aziz would not have informed his PM.

And on 17th May, General Ziauddin --- Nawaz Sharif’s chosen man --- describes a detailed briefing at ISI headquarters in which Sharif was shown on a map the locations of all 108 Pakistani bunkers on the Indian side. Ziauddin recounts that, to his surprise, Sharif even asked questions and finally instructed the army that, “there should be no withdrawal, no surrender, because that would greatly embarrass us.”

Shuja Nawaz also debunks the traditional Pakistani version of the 1947 invasion of Kashmir, in which a maverick General Akbar Khan privately organised Pathan tribesmen, who swept past an effete Dogra army and were stopped at the doorstep of Srinagar only by Indian perfidy. Nawaz draws on Pakistani army archives to paint a new account of the deep involvement of Pakistan’s military in managing the invasion, even a tacit nod from Jinnah. And, most interestingly, the British generals in Pakistan were far more sympathetic towards the invasion than was earlier known. The British commander-in-chief in Pakistan, General Sir Frank Messervy favoured sending a Pakistani regular battalion into Srinagar in plainclothes, to capture the airfield and keep out Indian reinforcements; in December 1947 Messervy allocated a million bullets and Pakistani officer volunteers to the “tribal” invasion. Lt Gen Sir Douglas Gracey, who eventually succeeded Messervy, went even further in his support to the invasion of Kashmir.

Crossed Swords skilfully brings to life individuals like General Mirza Aslam Beg, the army chief after Zia’s death (murder, suggests Nawaz), and one of the murkiest figures in the history of Pakistan. Nawaz describes Aslam Beg as a man who coveted political power, but didn’t have the confidence to grab it; a closet Islamist with military judgement so poor that, even as US forces were scything across Kuwait in 1991, he was haranguing 600 Pakistani officers about America’s impending Vietnam in that country. And that was when his government had sent soldiers to the US-led coalition.

Given Nawaz’s identity as a Pakistani and the brother of an army chief, it would be unfair to expect complete objectivity from the book. It glosses over the truly dark issues of Pakistani genocide in Bangladesh, the army’s involvement in AQ Khan’s generous distribution of nuclear technology, and its direct presence in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Nawaz does not convincingly explain how Pakistan lost wars without ever losing a battle; no Pakistani likes the thought of being bested in direct combat with Indian troops.

But Nawaz compensates for those omissions by a highly readable account that will be a standard reference work on the Pakistan Army. At 655 pages, this is not a quickie born of a few months of work in the archives. It is a rich stew that has bubbled for decades in the pot of experience. The Indian Army would be the richer for a similar account.


  1. Crossed Swords , Pakistan,Its Army,and the Wars Within-Shuja Nawaz , Oxford University Press,Pakistan , 2008700 pages; 13 black and white photographs, 6 maps; ISBN13: 978-0-19-547660-6ISBN10: 0-19-547660-3

    Book Review

    A.H Amin

    Crossed Swords is the latest addition to the list of books dealing with Pakistan Army . Written with an eye on the Western audience by a Pakistani who has settled in USA the book is a welcome addition to books on Pakistan Army.It contains some new sources and some new information .Unfortunately most of the information is anecdotal and the narrators are extolling their own performance.

    The author's viewpoint is somewhat subjective as he is a brother of one of the ex chiefs of Pakistan Army General Asif Nawaz.

    The book contains some factual errors , some possibly typing errors,expected from Oxford University Press Pakistan which has a reputation of doing this.Some errors are however historical and factual and were entirely avoidable.On page 8 3rd Light Cavalry of Meerut fame is written as 3rd Light Infantry and on page 9 becomes 3rd Light Cavalry.On page 22 Ayub Khan is placed in Assam regiment though Ayub's battalion officer Joginder Singh specifically stated that Ayub Khan was in Chamar Regiment in WW Two.On page 426 Naseerullah Khan Babar is promoted to lieutenant general and similar fate befalls Major General Sarfaraz Khan on page 223.13 Lancers becomes 13 Cavalry on page 305.On page 470 he changes the ethnicity of Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari a Baloch Seraiki by calling him a Punjabi , an honour that no Baloch would like to have.

    A far more serious error Shuja makes while discussing the ethnic composition of Pakistan Army on page 570.He states that Sindhis and Baluchis are 15 percent of Pakistan Army.This is a serious distortion of history.The term Muslim Sindhi and Baluchi abbreviated to MS & B was given to Ranghar/Kaimkhani/Khanzada Rajout recruitment in Pakistan Army in 1950s.The aim was to rationalise the recruitment of Ranghars in Pakistan Army.Later the usuper Zia in order to appease the Sindhis created the Sindh Regiment but Sindhis as far as my resaech reveals are far less than Ranghars/Kaimkhanis/Khanzada Rajputs in the army.The Ranghars are a significant class in fightig arms being some at least 35 % of armour and distinct from Punjabis.The Baloch are hardly represented in the army.As a matter of fact the Pakistan Army has such a reputation in Balochistan that no Baloch would like to join it.All thanks to General Musharraf,Zia and ZA Bhuttos policies.

    These are expected errors and more so from Oxford University Press Pakistan known for changing authors photograph with those of their uncles on jackets of books as they did with Colonel M.Y Effendi in his book Punjab Cavalry published by Oxford University Press in 2007.The old prince narrated to me the sad story when I met him and was also quite cheesed off by the fact that the princess running the Oxford Pakistan is too arrogant to meet any author or to even discuss anything on telephone.

    The above errors are insignificant.However Shuja has made some asertions which can be classified as serious errors or even distortion of history.On page 71 he asserts that calling off of Operational Venus by Pakistan's civilian government was one of the reasons why the 1947-48 war failed.I state this because the sub title of the chapter is " Why the War Failed".On the other hand he fails to point out the major fatal decision when the Pakistani government refused to allow the armoured cars of 11 PAVO Cavalry to assist the tribesmen in breaking through to Srinagar.Those who are not familiar should know that the main reason why the tribals failed to take Srinagar was because Indian armour counterattacked them and destroyed them at Shalateng.This fact was discussed by Brig A.A.K Chaudhry also in his book.Operation Venus plan came much later.At that time the Indian Army was well established in Kashmir and well poised to meet any threat.Very few participants of the Kashmir War have left any written accounts of their war experiences. General Iqbal who participated in the war and later on rose to the rank of full general and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, long after the Kashmir War made one very thought provoking remark about the Kashmir War in an article in the Pakistan Army Green Book 1992. This particular publication was sub titled 'Year of the Senior Field Commanders'. Iqbal wrote; 'During 1948 Kashmir Operations I saw one senior officer sitting miles behind the frontline and counting availability of mules and rations. He had relegated the fighting to a senior battalion commander .In 1963 once Major General Fazal I Muqueem Khan in his book The Story of Pakistan Army .Fazal thus wrote; 'To the Army's horror, Pakistan during her greatest hour of triumph in Kashmir agreed to accept the was difficult to understand why Pakistan let that opportunity pass. Was it assumed weakness; or as a result of pressing advice; or from misplaced chivalry towards an unfriendly neighbour in distress? Whatever the reason,Pakistan's reluctance to accept the risks of continuing the war,cost her Kashmir at that time. It was a risk worth taking."

    The Pakistani attack force collected for Operation Venus consisted of about six infantry battalions and two armoured regiments. To oppose this the Indians had two infantry brigades (50 Para Brigade and 80 Infantry Brigade) .In addition there were two armoured regiments in the same area i.e. Central India Horse and the Deccan Horse . In addition the Indians also possessed more than 10 other armoured regiments which were not in Kashmir but in Punjab or Western UP and could move to Kashmir. We shall see in 1965 how Pakistani armour functioned and the reader can keep that as a yardstick in order to appreciate how Pakistani armour and infantry would have behaved in Operation Venus; had it been ever launched!Fazal does not explain how capture Of Beri Pattan bridge would have led to complete collapse of Indian hold over Kashmir,apart from temporary severing of the line of communication to Poonch.Greater part of the Central India Horse was at Nowshera close to Beri Pattan while Deccan Horse in Chamb-Akhnur area was also within striking range and the battle would have been a hotly contested affair!Shaukat Riza did not take the extreme viewpoint similar to Fazal's when he wrote his book on Pakistan Army.He merely said that 'On December 30 both sides saw the wisdom of cease-fire'.

    Lately in an article General K.M Arif adopted a more rational viewpoint, when he stated that the Kashmir War of 1948 was mismanaged simply because Pakistan was not in a position to fight it successfully summing it up by stating ; 'It is too hazardous a risk to fight a war on ad hoc basis'.There is no doubt that Pakistan was in a favourable position to win the Kashmir War at least till the first week of November. Mr Jinnah exhibited great Coup de Oeil when he ordered Gracey to employ two brigades and advance with one brigade each towards Jammu and Srinagar. But Mr Jinnah was unlucky in possessing no one like Patel and his Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet proved to be an undoubted failure at least as a war cabinet! Mr Jinnah's decision not to have a Pakistani C in C although taken in the best interest of the country and the Army as Mr Jinnah saw it ensured that the British acting C in C procedurally blocked the execution of Mr Jinnah's orders in October to attack Kashmir. Pakistan was unlucky in having a man like Iskandar Mirza at the Ministry of Defence.Mirza did not advise Mr Jinnah correctly and the fact that he had hardly served in the Army and did not understand military affairs further ensured that Mr Jinnah and the Prime Minister remained as ignorant as they were about military affairs as they were when they were in high school. It is incorrect to criticise Liaqat for Operation Venus since in December 1948 the Indian position was much more secure than in 1947.Liaqat can be criticised for not ever visiting Kashmir while the war was on and for not standing by Mr Jinnah in pressurising Gracey in October 1947 to order the Army to attack Kashmir.Had a Pakistani C in C been appointed even in December or in March 1948 the Indians may not have held on to Poonch-Nowshera area at least. Had Major Masud been allowed with his armoured cars on Domel-Baramula Road despite Ghazanfar Ali and Sher Khan's objections;Srinagar may have been captured by the Tribesmen by first week of November 1947. The Indians were lucky in having comparatively more regular army officers who led from the front and is evident from higher officer casualties among Indian Army officers above the rank of captain vis a vis the Pakistan Army.

    The treatment of 1857 is also very superficial.The author states that the Bengal Army which rebelled some 80 % were Purbias (page.7) , but fails to point out that the vast majority of cavalry which led the rebellion notably at Meerut i.e 3rd Light Cavalry which actually captured Delhi was Muslim and mostly Ranghar Muslim.His use of the term British for the pre 1858 period is also factually incorrect as India till 1858 was ruled by the English East India Company using mostly its private Bengal Army ,Madras Army,Bombay Army , its private European regiments and some regiments on rent from British Army to conquer ventire India.

    In discussion of Martial Races Theory the author totally ignores the fact that Punjab Loyalty in 1857 to the British was one of the main reasons why martial races theory was evolved.This is a simple point noted even by British writers like Philip Mason.The author also fails to note the politically important fact that the English East India Company's army was the knight in shining armour which saved the Muslims of Punjab and settled areas of present Pashtun NWFP from the Sikhs who were using Muslim Mosques as stables gunpowder magazines and plastering their walls with cowdung.Perhaps this fact did not suit the martial races ruled by a 10 % minority,the Sikhs in the Punjab and settled Pashtun areas for more than four decades in Punjab and some two decades in modern NWFP's settled districts.

    The author talks about martial races theory and thinks that martial races theory was all about Punjab and Frontier as it is now but perhaps does not know that one of martial races theory's most famous exponent Major General Macmunn regarded the Khanzada Rajputs of Firozpur Jhirka as the finest fighting race in India.

    The author also fails to note that the Sikhs were in majority in the fighting arms till First World War and were reduced to a minority by being replaced with Punjabi Muslims after First World War because the Punjabi Muslims were regarded as phenomenally loyal , even against Muslims by the British.Thus the author conveniently ignores two important developments of WW One i.e the Singapore rebellion of 129th Light Infantry by Ranghar Muslims and the tribal Pashtun mutinies against British as a result of which tribal Pashtun recruitment was reduced to the gain of Punjabi Muslims.

    In discussion of Ayub Khan the author totally ignores allegations about Ayub's tacfical timidity in Burma.This incident was discussed by three writers of the time.Major General Joginder Singh of Indian Army who was Ayub's battalion mate , Sardar Shaukat Hayat who was an ex Indian Army officer and Major General Sher Ali Khan.In an article Brigadier Nur Hussain a reliable authority did state that Ayub Khan was close to General Gracey because they drank together.

    The authors discussion of old officers is also partial.On page 31 he notes that Brigadier Gul Mawaz got an MC , a medal which many earned but fails to note that Major General Akbar Khan won a DSO which is higher in scale than MC.On page 33 he states that " Akbar Khan who gained notoriety in Kashmir ....." .Akbar Khan was the pioneer of Kashmir war but Shuja thinks that he was notorious.A strange assertion.

    Mr Jinnah's historic decision of creating two infantry battalions of Bengalis is also not all discussed by the author.It may be noted that Ayub Khan refused to expand the East Bengal Regiment till 1966 as a result of which the Bengalis were further alienated for not being given the due share in the armed forces.this decision was reversed by Yahya Khan in 1966 but by then it was too little too late.

    The authors analysis of origin of officer corps is also superficial.He fails to note the 50 % ranker quota that the British kept for Indian rankers in the officers selected for IMA Dehra Dun in order to keep the Indian officer corps slavish and backward.

    The author does note the fact that Pakistani SSG captured Indian War Plan on Samba Kathua road before the war actually started but fails to note the fact that it was Pakistan's Military Intelligence led by Director Military Intelligence Brigadier Irshad who refused to give any serious thought to this discovery and dismissed it as an Indian ruse.This was revealed to this scribe in an interview by Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar in March 2001.

    The most serious distortion of history committed by Mr Shuja Nawaz is on page 226 when he gives the credit of 25 Cavalry's action of 8th September 1965 at Gadgor to Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik.The authority he quotes is Farouk Adam , then a very junior officer and not in 24 Brigade Headquarter.

    It must be clarified that a good military historian or analyst's prime motivation in all writing has been to endeavour to write "what men did" rather than what "they ought ideally to have done" or what "someone later with the benefit of hindsight tried to portray , what they had done". Thus the analysis of Chawinda Battle done with pure loyalty to service without any inter arm rivalry or nationalistic motivation. Pure and unadulterated military history filtered dispassionately separating fact from fiction and myth from reality. History as Frederick the Great once said can be well written only in a free country and ours has been continuously under civil or military dictators since 1958.
    I maintain as one great master of English prose said that "all history so far as it is not supported by contemporary evidence is romance"!

    Battle of Chawinda was thus not romance! What many in this country wrote and was outwardly military history was essentially "Romance"! Inspiring, superhuman but a myth promiscuously mixed with reality!Chance plays a key role in battle and at Chawinda chance played a very important role! Nisar, when he deployed 25 Cavalry did not know what was in front of him ! KK Singh Commander 1st Indian Brigade also did not know what was in front of him! This mutual ignorance saved Pakistan on that crucial day ! Later heroes were created! I repeat "Heroes were created" ! The hero had to be from the Salt Range however ! At least Shuja Nawaz wants it this way !
    What were the key facts? Most important tangible fact was "casualties" ! These were deliberately hidden since these would have let the cat out of the bag! Everyone would have discovered who really fought and who got gallantry awards on parochial,regimental or old boy links !How many were killed in the biggest military blunder "Operation Gibraltar"! This is Top Secret ! How many infantry men died at Chawinda? Again no mention of any figures! The real motivation here is not national interest but to preserve or more important to "guard reputations"

    Now lets talk about the broad front deployment that Shuja Nawaz refers to .There is no doubt that the "broad front deployment" was done by Nisar and Nisar alone and Brigadier Abdul Ali Malik had no role in it. It is another matter that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him. It was like Jutland when both contending fleets were running towards each other at express train speed. Why Nisar behaved as he did and what actually happened even today is hard to understand, whatever anyone may claim now with the benefit of hindsight!

    Shuja Nawaz here in his 600 page book offers no tangible proof that the actions of 25 Cavalry had anything to do with what Brig A.A Malik told Nisar. Nisar was told to "do something" as clearly stated by an authority no less than Pakistan Army's official historian Major General Shaukat Riza,apparently not from Jhelum or from North of Chenab by a twist of fate .There is no doubt that Nisar did something without the least clue of what was in front of him. The important thing is that Nisar did something rather than getting paralysed into inertia and inaction! The "Do Something" order by Brig A.A Malik to Lt Col Nisar CO 25 Cavalry should not have been glorified to something higher by Shuja Nawaz simply on authority of an article written by a person who was a company 2IC in an infantry battalion of 24 Brigade and that too only in 1992.This is a serious historical failing.At least in a military historian but is the Oxford University Press Pakistan run by professionals.One may ask Colonel M.Y Effendi.

    The same words of Brig A.A Malik " Do Something" were repeated by Nisar in his article published in Pakistan Army Journal in 1997. Perhaps Shuja Nawaz did not read all the accounts of direct participants.Perfectly excusable as he is based in USA.But not good military history certainly.The fact is that the 25 Cavalry on 8th September 1965 was functioning in a vacuum.Brig A.A Malik had no clue about armour warfare and Nisar had no higher armour headquarter to guide him.. 24 Brigade had two infantry units, one which had been overrun and dispersed on 8th September i.e 3 FF and 2 Punjab which was at Chawinda. The crucial action took place at Gadgor few miles north of Chawinda in which 25 Cavalry faced the entire Indian 1st Armoured Division. This was an extraordinary situation and Nisar acted on his own best judgement since Malik had abdicated to Nisar by stating that he should do something. It is another thing that Nisar also did not know what was in front of him and acted boldly and unconventionally. Had he known what was in front of him he may have been paralysed by inertia and inaction! But this is speculation and some part of history always remains unfathomed and hidden! Nisar acted through sheer reflex and deployed his unit in an impromptu manner. The fire fight which took place at Gadgor between 0900 hours and 1200 hours was a pure tank versus tank affair. 25 Cavalry versus two leading tank regiments of Indian 1st Armoured Division! Thus the Indian Armoured Corps historian stated "The Armoured Brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter had lost more tanks than the enemy had...the worst consequence of the days battle was its paralysing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next move. This interval gave Pakistanis time to deploy their 6th Armoured fact the golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured Division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost" (Refers-Pages-393 & 394-History of Indian Armoured Corps-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-Delhi-1990). Thus the Indians acknowledged "This regiment's (25 Cavalry) performance was certainly creditable because it alone stood between the 1st Indian Armoured division and its objective, the MRL canal".(Refers-Page-395-Ibid).

    This is not the only source.Major Shamshad a direct participant has already stated on record that SJs were awarded to some officers for an attack in which not a single man was killed on both sides! Here he refers to Major Farouk Adam.This reminds me of an incident in armour school Nowshera in 1991.I was an instructor in Tactical Wing.The Senior Instructor incharge of the Young Officers Tactical course asked us , " Should we give an Alpha Grade" . My lone reply was that no Sir , since Armour School gives Alpha to sons of generals only .This was a norm then .The Infantry School where I did the junior tactical course but later on it started giving alphas after 1985 to oblige some sons of generals.But that is how Pakistan Army is.

    The historical fact remains that 25 Cavalry was part of 24 Brigade but all that Nisar its CO did on the crucial 8th September at Gadgor was based on his own judgement. On 9th and 10th September no fighting took place as Indians had withdrawn their armoured division to the crossroads. On 10th September, 6 Armoured Division took over and 24 Brigade was a part of 6 Armoured Division. On 8th September there was a vacuum and Nisar acted in a sitaution which can be classified as one characterised by "absence of clear and precise orders"!
    Shaukat Riza's book is basically a compilation of existing facts. It has historical value since Riza was allowed access to official records.Shaukat had no axe to grind . Shuja Nawaz by his own confession is a close relative of A.A Malik.

    Shuja also forgets Brig A.A Malik's request to withdraw when Indian tanks had crossed the railway line on 16th September and occupied Buttur Dograndi and Sodreke. This fact was brought to light not by the much criticised Shaukat Riza but by the then GSO-2 of 6 Armoured Division Major (later General K.M Arif), first more bluntly in Pakistan Army Green Book-1993 and again a little tactfully in his recently published book Khaki Shadows.

    Thus no connection with 3 FF, an infantry unit which as far as I know suffered more casualties than any other infantry unit at Chawinda. 3 FF fought admirably but was launched thoughtlessly as brought out by Major Shamshad in his letter published in Sept 2001 DJ and consequently suffered enormous casualties at Sodreke-Buttur Dograndi area. Shamshad was the tank troop leader in support of 3 FF when it disastrously attacked Buttur Dograndi. In opinion of Shamshad, the attack had failed not due to any fault of 3 FF but because of poor planning by Commander 24 Brigade.

    Even at formation level Chawinda was not a big battle in terms of casualties since the Indian 1 Corps suffered less casualties than 11 Indian Corps in Ravi Sutlej Corridor.

    A.A Maliks poorly planned counterattacks leading to bloody casualties for Pakistan Army were also discussed by Major General Fazal i Muqeem in his book on 1971 war.

    On page 233 while discussing the main Pakistani offensive the author fails to point out that the Pakistanis had a 7 to 1 superiority in tanks and yet they failed.Further he fails to point out the fact that major failure of Paskistani 1st Armoured Division occured ion the 4th Brigade where its commander Brigadier Bashir ordered its tank regiments every night to return to leaguer at their start point every night thus abandoning all territory they had gained during the day.

    In the treatment of Chamb Operation of 1971 the most significant decision of Major General Eftikhar to switch from North to South is not discussed at all.This was one of the most landmark operational decisions in history of Pakistan Army.The author also fails to highlight the cowardly action of then Brigadier Rahimuddin Khan in not joining 111 Brigade on pretext of dealing with Shiekh Mujibs trial.This great warrior later rose to full general in Pakistan Army.

    Shuja also gives no thought in his worthy analysis to Pakistan Army's launching a pre-emptive attack on India in September 1971.This if done in the words of Indian Commander Western Command General Candeth would have thrown all Indian plans to attack East Pakistan to the winds . (Refers-The Western Front -Candeth).

    In the chapter dealing with Z.A Bhutto Shuja does not discuss the cadrisation plan proposed by ZA Bhutto and his tasking of Pakistan Army's Military Operations Directorate to implement it.This plan if implemented would have reduced the standing army in size and enabled the Pakistani government to spend more money on training.This plan was scrapped by Zia in 1977.

    On page 471 Shuja glorifies General Kakar for having no liking for politics.He ignores the fact that Kakar was not groomed for higher ranks and was promoted because of ethnic biases.Simply because a Pashtun president was comfortable with a harmless compatriot.He also fails to note that General Kakar acted against Nawaz Sharif not because Kakar was a democrat but simply because he feared Nawaz as a threat to his chair of army chief.General Musharraf has himself acknowledged in his book that General Kakar was parochial and was favouring Pashtun officers.No compliment to an army chief who is supposed to be a much bigger man.No wonder that Kakar had been packed off to a backwater in Quetta by General Baig.Becoming chief was something that a man of Kakar's mediocre intellect could never have imagined but this happened only because of party baazi in the army and the fact that Ghulam Ishaq Khan wanted a Pashtun brother.Fair enough in a backward and tribal medieval society like Pakistan !

    The author lauds caretaker premier Moin Qureshi's role in making the state bank independent but forgets Qureshi's most controversial release of advance to Bayinder Turkey for Islamabad Peshawar Motorway while also stating that this project was uneconomical.This gained nothing but total loss for Pakistan as Bayinder repatriated many million dollars without doing anything and later successfully sued Pakistan for huge damages in International Court of Justice at Hague.

    On page 480 Shuja extols Talibans wild west justice in hanging Afghan President Dr Najeeb but fails to note the allegation that Pakistani agencies were suspected to be behind the assasination of Mulla Borjan the most popular and independent leader of the Taliban.

    On page 481 Shuja quotes Benazir to prove that General Kakar was a brilliant strategist.What did Benazir know about strategy and what strategy did Kakar ever successfully execute other than removing a Punjabi Kashmiri president against decision of supreme court just to assist a fellow Pashtun president.What is Shuja trying to prove .

    In discussing tenure of General Jahagir Karamat Shuja ignores totally the Ukrainian tank deal commissions.Nawaz Sharif the then prime minister tasked ISI to launch an investigation.Major General Zulfiqar then in ISI was tasked to investigate.He went to Ukraine and Azerbaijan and compliled a thick volume on the whole transaction and commissions taken.This was used by Nawaz later and one of the reasons why Karamat quickly stepped down.The information was given by a staff officer of major rank with DG ISI of that time and confirmed by an Intelligence Bureau officer.

    As an officer who served from 1981 to 1993 how would I sum up the Pakistan Army.1981 to 1983 a cheap emphasis on being good Muslim, growing a beard to get a good report from Zia.Further Zia used religion to get dollars.This was the basic motivation.Begs time saw for the first time a tradition of some criticism being accepted.Asif Nawaz time saw emphasis on starch but no change in the army.Kakars time saw parochialism par excellence with a chief at the head who used to count cherries in his garden and was upset when some guards ate some.A petty man elevated to the highest rank.Karamat I did not see in service and did not serve with so I cannot comment but is reported to be a mild man.Musharraf as I saw him as a major general was flashy,extrovert,egoistic but dynamic.The present army from what I learn from serving officers is again business as usual.Nothing much to write about.The agencies off course play the usual games for money and for their own naukri and Islam being misused for operational reasons.

    The most serious criticism of Shuja's analysis is in treatment of Islamic fundamentalism in the army.Shuja on page 585 consoles the audience of his book that Islamic fundamentalism is still not a threat in Pakistan Army.Shuja ignores the more dangerous fact that the army has misused Islam as a slogan to mobilise the populace to achieve its narrow institutional agenda.This is more dangerous than being Islamist.Now this policy may go out of control.Right from Zia in 1977 the army generals used Islam as a slogan to fight a proxy war in Indian Kashmir and Afghanistan.Events may prove that this would be the undoing of Pakistan as it stands in its present form.Now Pakistan is perceived in the west as part of the problem and not the solution.Particularly its army and intelligence agencies are seen as the heart of the problem.India is continuously preparing for a war although a low intensity one and no solution has been achieved in Kashmir.Afghanistan is increasingly hostile and a strange but logical Indian-Russian-Iranian-NATO un declared strategic alliance has come into place in Afghanistan against Pakistan.All these are serious developments.The coming ten years may vindicate this assertion.

    The Pakistan Army and its generals may be remembered in history as one of the reasons for Balkanisation of Pakistan.Not a good omen for Pakistan.The army's involvement in Pakistan's politics and government is now a serious reason of imbalance for Pakistan's political system.No hope appears in sight as we hear rumours that the agencies are still active in destabilising Pakistan's own elected government.

    Shuja has burnt his midnight oil.He has compiled and collected all the facts in a nice way but his analysis has been shallow.We expected something far more profound than this.600 pages written in vain.


    Bionote :----- A.H Amin

    Career Profile :-- Training Military Academy 03 May 1981 to 17 March 1983.Commissioned in the Tank Corps 11 Cavalary (FF ) ex P.A.V.O 17 March 1983 , posted to 58 Cavalry on raising May 1985 till May 1988, 15 Lancers May 1988 till April 1990 , MTO HQ 3RD Armoured Brigade April 1990-October 1990 , GSO-3 Research Trial and Publications School of Armour Nowshera October 1990 till June 1991 , Instructor Tactical Wing School of Armour June 1991 till January 1992, Second in Command 5 Independent Armoured Squadron Nowshera Janaury 1992 till August 1992, Officer Commanding 5 Indep Armd Sqn Okara August 1992 till December 1993 , 14 Lancers Bahawalnagar December 1993 till March 1994.Retired from Army 05 March 1994.Free Lance journalist and researcher March 1994 till todate.Editor monthly Globe Karachi August 2000 till May 2002 , Assistant Editor Defence Journal Karachi August 2000 till May 2002,Editor Journal of Afghanistan Studies June 2004 till August 2005 . Member Society of Military History , VMI , Arlington Virginia since 1995.

    Publications :-- Sepoy Rebellion of 1857-59 Reinterpreted , Pakistan Army till 1965 , Indo Pak Wars 1947-71 A Strategic and Operational Analysis , The Essential Clausewitz.Publications held at Library of Congress,US Army Staff College , US Military Academy West Point , Frunze Military Academy Russia,US Armor School , US Army War College and Columbia University Library.

    Writings published in Pakistan Army Journal,PRAVDA,Citadel Magazine of Command and Staff College Quetta,Defence Journal,Indian Strategic Review,Nation,News,DAWN,Friday Times , Globe,Afghanistan Times,Outlook Afghanistan, ORBAT.COM , Baloch Voice ,Intelli Briefs, Frontier Post,Journal of Military History,Journal of Afghanistan Studies.

  2. Agha Amin and Battle of Sialkot-1965

    Ijaz Gul


    Jul 24, 2008 Thu 12:07 pm

    I know the urgency Agha Amin had in contacting me repeatedly about his ilog on Chowinda, but I wanted certain confirmations before putting my views. In the course, I traced and talked to some of the participants of this battle and agree that Agha Amin’s account is most accurate.

    First, hats off and a tribute to those soldiers who fought bravely in the Battle of Chowinda despite the confusion generated by the paper tiger commanders like Gen. Ismail, Sahibzada Yakoob Ali Khan and many more who earned laurels over the dead bodies of their soldiers.

    1. INDIAN PLANS. Yes it was an FIU operation supported by an infantry ambush party that captured an Indian despatch rider. Though the Indian Operational Instructions coincided with Gen. Yahya’s leading Hypotheses of an Indian Main Offensive in this sector, these despatches were rubbished as deception by the master Pakistani Think Tank. The original hypothesis was downgraded by the New GOC 15 Division Major General Ismail, Deputy Division Commander Brigadier Riaz ul Karim, Corps Commander Lt. Gen Bakhtiar Rana, and Deputy Corps Commander designate Sahibzada Yakoob Ali Khan once Indian’s attacked Jassar.

    “Howa ke pehley he jhonkey pe haar man gai
    Wohi Chiragh jo hum ne jala ke rakhay thay”

    2. JASSAR ENCLAVE. It is an enclave where major operations from neither side were possible as the terrain is divided by River Ravi. Yet when an Infantry Brigade was despatched in haste to defend the bridge on both sides of the river, the leading unit had very little defensive power in terms of preparation and defence stores. Consequently, some of its elements were over run in double quick time by a diversionary attack of an Indian infantry brigade prior to the main attack on line Charwa- Chobara- Philora. Brigadier Muzaffar made a very big blunder of judgement in his assessment and reported in panic that an Indian Main had been launched.. As a result the entire defence of Sialkot sector was unhinged in panic and 24 Brigade minus 3FF in screens and 25 Cavalry were moved in haste towards Jassar. The defence had taken a 90 Degree turn. In this vacuum what remained between India and Sialkot were the screen positions of 3FF. On the evening of 7th September, GOC 15 Division ordered 24 Brigade and 25 Cavalry to launch a counter attack on Jassar. The reserves were near Narowal and the Division Headquarter preparing for a white linen dinner, when Indian Divisional Artillery began pounding 3FF positions. Major Mehmood of Aviation then took the risk of flying over Jassar only to report that the bridge over River Ravi was in tact and in Pakistani occupation. A squadron of 25 Cavalry under Major Shamshad had already reached the Jassar sector while the two remaining were on the move. 15 Division had been caught with its pants down.

    3. PHILORI-CHARWA-CHOBARA SECTOR. Indian advancing columns engaged the screens of 3FF on the night of 7 September. By first light 8 September these screens after suffering casualties and over run fell back to line Philori-Charwa-Chobara and along with a company of 2 Punjab took hasty defensive positions. The same morning Indian armour columns overran Charwa-Chobara, bypassed Philori and reached 3-4 KMs from Chowinda. At 8:30 am 18 Squadron of PAF commanded by Squadron Leader Salauddin Shaheed came into action with three F-86 Fighters who engaged the Indian Armour and imposed a delay of one hour on Indian advance. This one hour was very crucial as it provided two squadrons of 25 Cavalry that arrived from Narowal enough time to regroup and move into battle formation for encounter battle. It was a very bold move on part of the commanding officer to take on the Indian advancing armour head on. PAF provided crucial support. The next two sorties were led by Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudary with whom I talked today to get the records straight.

    In the course of writing this, I traced out some of the participants of this action and am convinced that all actions of 8 September were taken solely by Lt. Col Nisar the Commanding Officer of 25 Cavalry at his own initiative and no one else. Throughout this battle Brigadier A A Malik remained in a school at Philora and let Nisar handle the situation. Again on 9/10 September, it were 25 Cavalry and 3FF that repulsed Indian attacks.

    4. RELIEF IN LINE. As if the comedy of errors was not enough, the paper tiger think tank now led by Sahibzada Yakoob decided to carry out relief of troops engaged in battle for three days. 25 Cavalry and 3FF were replaced by 11 Cavalry and 9 FF (motorised) on night 10/11. In fact there was no relief and the entire movement was a fiasco. Indians exploited the situation and launched a fierce offensive on the 11th morning. The advancing Indians were first spotted by Major Muzzafar Malik of 11 Cavalry who then alerted everyone else. It was a tough task for the new units because they had moved at night and were not familiar with the terrain. Brigadier AA Malik was to repeat history when as GOC in 1971, he launched a just arrive 355FF into action at Bera Pind and had it massacred.

    The biggest lesson of this battle was that both armies were in efficient in handling operations at a large scale. Indian caution and reluctance to pursue and exploit situations resulted in failure of their plan and heavy losses. In terms of Clausewitz’ Friction, it was mostly the mental blockage on part of commanders on both sides that resulted in mistakes. Yet the conduct of small units on both sides was outstanding.

    1965 was also to usher a spirit of camaraderie amongst the paper tigers that survives even today. They form a mutual praise group while the most hardy and true ones lie around to rot in anonymity

    Thanks are due to Agha Amin, Brigadier Mehmood (ex-servicemen fame), Group Captain Cecil and Major Shamshad.





    Major Shamshad Ali Khan Kaimkhani (Retired)

    25 Cavalry

    This was first sent to daily DAWN but they did not have the guts to publish it on grounds that it involved the president and the army.

    The other day I came across a book entitled ,’ MEM OF STEEL,’. President General Mushrraf has graced the book with Foreword while the preface has been written by General Khalid Mahmud Arif (Retired). The book is based on war diaries supposed to had been maintained by the units and the staff or the general (late ) Abrar Hussain who commanded 6 Armoured Division in 1965 on Chawinda sector. I cannot reason out as to why the book has been published now when the event is forty years behind at this point of time. As there is nothing in the book that would have jeopardized the security of the country, it should have come out immediately after the war. That was the time when it could provided opportunity to higher command( there is nothing for junior leaders in the book) to learn from the experience of the one who had fought the greatest tank battle after world war- II. That would have saved us of many debacles in 1971 and especially the ones committed in Sialkot sector on western front The book has five parts. Part three (25% of the book) is the description of the events on the battlefield that is of interest to students of military history. 75 % of the book comprises of background and statistics regarding composition of units /formations, casualties in men and material on both sides, names of commanders, list of recipients of gallantry awards, photographs and such like details.

    I feel that late general Abrar Hussain has not authored the book because he was known to be of the type who would never indulge in such a travesty. General K.M Arif appears to be the ghost author of the book.

    I was a participant in the events on battlefield mentioned in part 3 of the book and have a different version.

    To give authenticity to my narration, which will be diametrically opposed to the one given in the book, it is necessary to state that I was directly involved in the events as a troop leader in C squadron of 25 cavalry and squadron commander twice on extreme critical moments on the battle field. I was face to face with enemy every day throughout the war. My location from day one had been at Gadgor, Phillorah, Chawinda and Butter Dogranmdi where the battle was fought. It is regretted that I did not have the good luck to see a red tab or even a staff officer on front line during entire war.

    From the text of part three it is clear that the general left his Headquarter, at Bhollowal ten miles behind the front line, for the first and last time in a helicopter on 11 September in the evening, By that time our two regiments , Guides and 11 Cavalry, had been badly mauled.. The right time for the general to leave his HQ was in the morning when he got the news that 11 cavalry was under pressure. Had he been at Chawinda at 1100 hours he could have directed and controlled the efforts of the three regiments and saved the day. By the evening, while sitting in the caravan, he had launched two more regiments, Guides and 25 cavalry. Guides was launched at a time( about 1100 hours) when 11 cavalry had retreated and Indians had taken up defensives position to shoot up Guides who attacked with high spirits on their first day in action. Some fine men and officers were lost in this action due to the apathy of commanding officer who launched the regiment in haste, without artillery and infantry support contrary to the dictates of terrain.. Lethargy and incompetence of HQ 6 armoured division resulted in our defeat at Phillorah which was the greatest tragedy on this front.

    As if that was not enough, 25 cavalry was launched at 1600 hours with a mission to occupy Phillorah track crossing which was reported not occupied by the enemy. Thanks to our stars and battle experience of preceding three days that we got away with loss of only one tank when we hit against enemy defenses at Phillorah at 1700 hours. This is a classic example how to destroy one’s forces piecemeal.

    Now a word about the title of the book.

    General Musharraf in the introduction of the book has mentioned that he was proud to be apart of the force called MEN OF STEEL by its commander. It implies that late general Abrar had ascribed the title of MEN OF STEEL to his own formation. This never happens, it amounts to praising oneself. Such an absurdity was not expected of general Abrar who, I am told , was a different breed.

    Titles or honors are always awarded by higher authorities .It was 25 cavalry alone which was referred to as men of steel by General Ayub Khan during the course of his talk on the eve of his visit to the regiment immediately after ceasefire, in acknowledgement of our performance. This had happened on Pasrur airstrip where we were camping .Army, Naval and Air Chiefs were also present. Since the president was not to visit any other unit or formation head quarter, all officers in the area were called at the airstrip.

    There are tangible, discernable and universally accepted actions of 25 cavalry on the battlefield that justify the suffix ‘ men of Steel’ with its’ title. The actions precisely and in short are;

    1-It was 25 cavalry alone which clashed headlong with an armored division , north of Fhillorah crossing at 0800 and pushed it back to Gudgor (2.5miles) by 1200 hours.

    2-we attacked, captured Gudgor at 1700 hours and pushed the enemy further back by three miles to Chobara.,

    3- we kept the enemy at bay for another two day with no additional force in our support. Air support was of course there.

    4- On night 10/11 September we were sent to Pasrur for rest and refit On this point of time we were placed under command 6 armoured division which had taken over Chawinda sector.

    5- At about 1100 hours on 11 September C squadron 25 cavalry found itself deployed behind Chawinda with a mission to stop the enemy at all cost that was believed to be advancing behind our force that had retreated from Gudgor-Phillorah area in the morning. In fact Div HQ had accepted the loss of Chawinda and therefore we were deployed behind that town to stop the enemy advance towards Pasror.

    After five hours of my insistence that Chawinda was vacant, at 1700 hours we were ordered to advance and occupy Phillorah, which according to high command was not held by the enemy. What happened later is along story but it should suffice to say that we hit enemy defenses in Phillorah where tank to tank battle ensued. In the process our one tank with crew was destroyed. The skirmish proved to be a deterrent and the enemy did not advance any further that day.

    6- On12, 13,14,and 15 September C squadron along with 3FF was defending area in the north and up to Jassoran in the west of Chawinda. It was through this area that the enemy attempted, for four days, to penetrate but could not succeed.

    7- On 16th the enemy launched an armored Brigade to out flank Chawinda and attacked Butter Dograndi in the rear of that town. They succeeded because the task force commander (who later retired as Major General Wajahat Hussain), failed to coordinate with 24 Bde and left Jassoran unoccupied providing a gap through which the enemy infiltrated and turned our flank. We suffered heavy losses. Seven tanks were destroyed including two of 33 TDU. In the evening we attacked Butter Dugrandi supported by artillery. . Destroyed two enemy tanks and some infantry. Under very critical circumstances we stopped the enemy at Butter Dograndi that was determined to reach Pasror that day. Artillery played effective roll but never fired on enemy tanks with open sights on that day as mentioned in the book. We never allowed enemy tanks to reach that close to our gun areas.

    8- It was a troop of 25 cavalry and company of 3 FF who again attacked (without artillery) Butter Dograndi, midway to our main objective Jassoran, on the morning of 17th and mounted enemy trenches north of the village. Although we suffered heavy losses and could not reach the objective, our offensive action forced the enemy to vacate Butter Dograndi and withdraw to Jassonan in the evening and eventually across the railway line Chawinda –Sialkot.(quoted from official history of 17 Poona Horse that was controlling the operation on Indian side).

    9-It was 25 cavalry again, along with 3 Ff who repulsed an infantry brigade attack on night19/20 September. Although some of their troops had crossed over the railway line and hit the track behind Chawinda at milestone 5, our tanks fired from behind railway line and forced the enemy to withdraw, leaving behind dead and wounded.

    Now where does the 6 armour division appear in this scenario? It has always been a troop or squadron action through out war accept 11 September that was a fiasco .I can confront any one who can prove me wrong.

    Now the story as to how did 6 armored division became’Men Of Steel’.

    I served in 6 armored division, of which 25 cavalry was a part , till September 1971. No one called the Division as men of steel it was only 25 cavalry alone. I was shocked when I visited HQ 6 armoured Div after Indian captivity in 1974. I saw on the name boards of staff officers written ‘MEN OF STEEL’ on top. No body could explain how it happened. Knowing general K.M.Arif I can say that he is behind this happening supported by general Wjahat Hossain(retd) who was commanding 6 Armored Division in 1973-74.

    To face the enemy is the professional obligation of a soldier. To be killed in action, get wounded and fall prisoner is very much a normal happening in the life of soldier and there is nothing to be proud or ashamed about it. This ancient and universal concept of soldiering does not hold good in Pakistan. Here a soldier sitting in trench and killed by artillery fire can be given gallantry award and also proclaimed a national hero. A gallantry award is justified only for an act performed beyond call of duty and in the face of enemy.

    Major K.M. Arif never left the Divisional HQ which was 10 miles away from front line and the Div Commander left only once in the evening of 11 September, as mentioned an the book, when fighting had subsided. Obviously both of them do not deserve the gallantry award.

    Major Khalid .Mahmod Arif ( Later general) was GSO-2 operation of 6 armored division in 1965.

    .In 1974 he was a Brigadier and held very powerful position in GHQ.

    To justify undeserved gallantry awards that he and the Div commander had received and also to cover-up the blunders committed by Div HQ, he floated the word that general Mosa Khan had called 6 armored division as men of steel at Pasror airstrip. Knowing his vindictive nature nobody could dare oppose him.

    On his signal this word was continuously and systematically given currency for 20 years. It is possible that he provided documentary support to this misdeed while he was in power.

    It is time that we stopped fabricating and twisting history to serve the vested interests and record true fact for our posterity.

  4. i have enjoyed reading thank for sharing your story Greeting.


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