29 CAVALRY SQUADRON COMMANDER DISLOCATES CORPS COMD AND LATER ARMY CHIEF
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Tank Ambush at Kushtia-Squadron and Company Commander Dislocate a Corps Commander
NOTE ON THE AUTHORS SPECIAL AFFILIATION WITH 29 CAVALRY
A Collage of Memories from the past
Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN
Major Agha.H.Amin (Retired)
Commissioned in the old PAVO Cavalry now known as 11 Cavalry (FF) .Served in various command , staff,instructional and research assignments till the rank of a major commanding an independent tank squadron.
Wrote three tactical pamphlets in service one of which "Tactical Handling of Recce Troop" was subjected to actual trials.
Now involved in oil and gas and power projects and successfully performed Asian Development Bank CASA 1000 Power study for SNC Lavalin Canada and World Banks UAP Power study for SNC Lavalin Canada.
Author Pakistan Army till 1965, Atlas and History of Indo Pak Wars, Taliban War in Afghanistan etc.
Inspiration to write this article.
Preliminary note on relative magnitude of Bara Pind as far as casualties inflicted on the enemy were concerned
The Indians suffered heavy casualties at Sulaimanke.Some 190 Killed, 196 Missing most of whom were killed or prisoners and 425 wounded.
These casualties were far heavier than those suffered by 54 Division which fought battles like those around Bara Pind Jarpal which suffered a total of some 76 Killed and 272 wounded.
So Bara Pind was a much smaller affair than Sulaimanke.
It is only sheer Pakistani incompetence that makes BARA PIND JARPAL famous.
And what happened after the war ?
Major General Abdul Ali Malik noted to be incompetent in launching counter attacks by Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan in his officially sponsored book Pakistans Crisis in Leadership was promoted to three star while Ameer Hamza commanding at Sulaimanke was packed off as a two star .
This was because Ameer Hamza being a Rind Qaisarani Baloch from Taunsa area in DG Khan did not have the old boy network from Pindi Division required under Tikka Khan to get promoted.War performance was not important.
Major Ameer Hamza was my fathers platoon commander at the Pakistan Military Academy in 1955.
Brigadier Rahimuddin who had avoided military action on pretext of conducting Sheikh Mujeebs trial from 111 Brigade in Chamb was promoted and became a four star.
Such were Pakistans strategic distortions that this same Rahimuddin was governor of Balochistan and also commanding Pakistans strategic reserve 2 Corps some 700 km away from his location just because he was the illegitimate usurper zias sons father in law.Pakistan Army is comical and full of contradictions !
Another brigade commander in Chamb who General Eftikhar wanted to sack for cowardice became a three star because his village was near Tikka khans and both had good relations.
This lopsided system of promotions is discussed in detail in the article on the link below---
I saw many of the leading characters some years earlier.Commander 1 Corp Gen Irshaads son was a class fellow at Quetta in 1968.Irshaad commanded 16 Division where my father served as GSO 2 from 1969 to 1971 with generals Sharif, A.B Awan and Nazar Hussain Shah.
Brigadier Ahmad was a family friend and was a dashing young colonel driving a sports car in Quetta, famous for his 1965 war action in 25 Cavalry at Gadgor.Brigadier Ahmad was a very close friend of an uncle . A chronic bachelor he had got married around 1970 or so.
In 1977 we had a house on Asad Jan Road and somewhere in 1978 a road in CMA colony was named after one Lieutenant Pervez Aslam who was killed in action in this battle.Crossing this road with his name caption daily on way to Forman Christian College every day reminded me of Bara Pind.Our only knowledge of this battle in 1972 was that uncle Ahmad had not got promoted because of Bara Pind.
I had asked Brigadier Afzal from the tank corps who lived nearby on Shami Road about Pervez Aslam and he had recollected Bara Pind.
Somehow in a short area of 2 km by 2 km nearly many famous personalities of that time as far as the army was concerned lived, starting from Major General Nasir of Valtoha fame , Brigadier Qayyum Sher who launched the finest counter attack of 1965 war, Brigadier Shami , Brigadier Ishtiaq AC,Brigadier Habib Akbar , Brigadier Riazul Karim MC , Lieutenant General Altaf Qadir,Lieutenant General Aftab,Major General Nawazish Ali who had sacked Zia in Jordan and had gauged him as a man not fit to be an officer,Attiqur Rahman,Khalid Karak and so many others.
I was intrigued by this battle as I was commissioned in 11 Cavalry in the same outfit i.e 8 Independent Armoured Brigade. Bara Pind was a heavy name and known well but rarely discussed.
The silence was finally breaken by Brigadier Jahangir Karamat with his ground breaking article in Sabre and Lance in 1983-84.I think this remains one of the most balanced articles on the battle . But that is what Jahangir Karamat is known for.Intellectually I think one of the most outstanding army chiefs.
I served in exactly the same area in September-December 1984 when the 8 Brigade was mobilised in same area and when war was imminent.
Technically our tanks were in real bad shape and had war broken out things would have been real bad.
We did recce of the entire area in anticipation of war.Those dark rakhs were weird and there was something really heavy in them psychologically.We walked in the evening around those rakhs and there was something mysterious.
It was grim to imagine what happened to those tankists in December 1971.
It was assasination of Durga Devi by her indomitable Sikh bodyguards that prevented war that November.
When we visited Bara Pind on recce the villagers still remembered that bloody day , it was not far back , some 13 years.
In 1983 in an article in Sabre and Lance Brigadier Jahangir Karamat had already cleared some of the myths of this battle and this had historiacl value as he had participated in that battle.
Brigadier Rao Abid Hameed our brigade commander again originally from Kanar or Kalanaur had made Jahangir Karamat article on Bara Pind compulsory reading for all officers.In his characteristic way he had asked all officers of the brigade to personally give him their comments on the article.
Brigadier Rao Abid Hameed our brigade commander in Pasrur in 1984
A large part of Ranghars were from the village where my great grandfather was allotted land in Lyallpur in 1898.These Ranghars were originally from villages like Kalanauar and Kanar which had provided the nucleus to all Hindu Maratha pre 1803 and all British Cavalry units from 1775. Many 13 Lancers Ranghars were from this village too .
In one of the pictures below in handshake with VCOAS is then Captain Kanwar Javed Shabbir one of the Ranghars from the same village in Lyallpur.The village produced more than three cavalry regiments strength in pre partition India , including pre 1857 cavalry regiments and Maratha Risalas led by various Pathan Muslim free booters from Hariana and present UP . Kalanaur and Kanar produced more than 15 cavalry regiments in pre partition India.
The famous triple layer minefield in Shakargarh Bulge was laid by 6 Engineer Battalion commanded by my father in November 1971.
One of the officers killed at Bara Pind was brother of my regimental officer then Major Faruq Yaqub Malik. 11 Cavalry had wisely kept their newly commissioned officers in adm area in Chamb as they knew nothing about tanks not having donrbasic courses.
13 Lancers did not do this .
A strategically adverse situation had developed for me in 1984.Majors Iftikhar (an outstanding officer who had topped courses and was real general material) and Anwar Mirza , an outstabdinf gentleman had left on ERE.These were two rocks on whose shoulders 11 Cavalrys foundation rested. Major Mama Mumtaz (old 6 Lancers) another old Lion had also left the regiment.So when crises triggered by a subaltern a little senior to me came , tempers flared quickly and I was placed under close arrest for gross disobedience.
Interestingly after having had a serious confrontation with my commanding officer who I had disobeyed things reached such a pass that I was attached to 15 SP , a very fine artillery unit.I was in the Romeo Battery with an outstanding and most upright man Major Zohrab.This explains why Zohrab did not go ahead in this army.
My commanding officer was a fine gentleman but he placed too much gentlemans trust in subalterns.This created misunderstandings.
We had proceeded as umpires around early August 1984 to 6 Lancers to Tilla Jogian Ranges and he had proudly told 6 Lancers officers that he liked me and that he was the only man with whom I communicated in the regiment.
Fate had it that I was charge sheeted and produced before Brigadier Rao Abid Hameed on 9 August 1984 who heard the charge of disobedience , returned my belt and attached me to 15 SP Field Regiment.Thus my sojourn with an SP regiment from 9 August 1984 to early October 1984.I think 15 SP was one of the finest regiments of this army.The main reason as I saw was its commanding officer Colonel Afsar Gulji.On the whole I may say that SP units were better since they were half artillery and half armour by virtue of constant interaction with armour.This explains the personality of General Musharraf also who was an SP gunner.
I received Khan Tahir Javed from 70th Long Course on his commissioning from PMA.He was my room mate for sometime.I found him to be an outstanding professional and we stayed in touch later on too.He taught me how to make a fire support plan while I was serving in School of Armour Nowsheras Tactical Wing in 1991.He was real general material , although real general material rarely becomes a general in this darbari , hazoor ka iqbal buland karnay wali sub continental army.
In 15 SP I heard the artillery perspective of the story.How artillery was totally not utilised in the 8 Armoured Brigade counter attack.
I had moved with 15 SP when the brigade was mobilised for war on 15 September 1984.
15 SP was commanded by an outstanding gunner officer Afsar Gulji.I think he gave me greater solidarity as a commanding officer than any armour officer would have.
Later I had requested Brigadier Rao Abid Hameed to attach me to a tank regiment as war was imminent.Brigadier Rao , the gentleman that he was , agreed and attached me with 29 Cavalry another regiment of the brigade.
In the 29 Cavalry the second in command Major Idris was old 27 Cavalry and recollected his experiences of the Bara Pind battle of 1971.
Colonel Gauhar posted me to B Squadron but Azam Niazi commanding C Squadron who I regarded as a friend connvinced me that I must join C Squadron.So I requested Colonel Gauhar who agreed.
Captain Azam Niazi gave me great support and solidarity in Qila Sobha Singh area and we became very good friends.
|With Major Azam Niazi my squadron commander in 29 Cavalry in October 1984 in 2010|
The time from July 1984 to November 1984 was a dark period in my life and this led to my greater concentration on understanding tank warfare so as to divert my attention from my deep crises.
However providence sent unexpected friends in shape of Colonel Haider Ali Durrani Commanding officer of 82 Light Supply and Transport Battalion who presided the court of inquiry alongwith Major Zohrab of 15 SP.
Durranis adjutant was the later famous Captain Iqbal from probably pabbi who later performed some very glorious feats of bravery at Siachen.
Haider Ali Durrani was not a man who could be influenced by anyone and Major Zohrab proved that he was a Dhund , the only tribe in Punjab which rebelled against British in 1857 apart from the Kharals of Jhamra.This was despite the hostile environment with the commanding officer and independent brigade commander , who had declared war on me.
I also had the opportunity to meet Major Rasheed a tall Bengali engineer officer who was commanding the independent engineer company .Rasheed was solid as a rock and later proved his uprightness by defying another 8 brigade commander inayat in 1988 or so.
This incident of Major Rasheed reducing to size commander 8 brigade was narrated by my friend then Captain Kamran Gul serving as Staff Captain A and Q in 8 Brigade in 1987-88.He was son of my fathers friend Brigadier Gul Mohammad Jadoon.May God Bless his soul as he left us in tragic circumstances sometimes back.
I was helped by strangers who were not my regimental officers but gunners , army service corps and from 29 Cavalry.I was impressed with 11 Cavalrys Ranghar Risladar Major who disagreed with my old commanding officers orders that the quarter guard should not salute me when I drove across the 11 Cavalry quarter guard on my way to 15 SP.It was a trying time adjusting with an SP Field regiment and with 29 Cavalry when war seemed imminent and our life abruptly cut short with a war which was forced on us.
I remember the day when Durga Devi was polished off by her Sikh guards.When I drove back to 29 Cavalry in my Volkswagon Beetle the whole 8 Independent Armoured Brigade was out in the Degh Nadi jubilantly washing their tranport and roaring with laughter while before that with the doom of war hanging heavy on us no one ventured outsided those dark Rakhs !
My personal war that began on 9th August 1984 and took me to 15 SP Field Regiment and then 29 Cavalry finally ended on 3rd November 1984 when I rejoined 11 Cavalry.My squadrons ORs were jubilant.The officers earlier avoiding me because of the previous CO also warmed up.Lieutenant Colonel Mian Liaquat Shah was a great commanding officer.He was brother of Major Mian Raza Shah from 11 Cavalry who had embraced martyrdom in Chamb in 1965.On promotion in 1983 Mian Liaquat Shah had been posted out to command 23 Cavalry.Both Liaquat Shah and myselfs joy knew no bounds on rejoining 11 Cavalry.
Fate had it that it was my good luck that an extremely upright officer Lieutenant General Shamsur Rahman Kallue was our corps commander and he agreed to my submissions in the redress of grievances against both my commanding officer and brigade commander.
Click on top to see the complete letter
General K.M Arif the VCOAS who was also then the Godfather of 11 Cavalry had most kindly agreed that my stand was right.November 1984 was a time of vindication and redress for me.Nothing gave me greater happiness than rejoining 11 Cavalry.
I rejoined 11 Cavalry around 3rd November 1984 when the old commanding officer was posted out and Lieutenant Colonel Mian Laiquat Shah , brother of Major Mian Raza Shah took over the unit.
We had our brigade major Major Naeem , also known as Naeem Phanna.Naeem was a hard task master and exhorted all to remember Bara Pind.This is what happened to us in 1971 , be professional , learn the job of fighting Naeem would say.
With dear friend mentor and my benefactor Major General Naeem after retirement
While Rao Abid Hameed the brigade commander was a thorough gentleman who forgave me for an incident where we exchanged hot words , Naeem Phanna drove the brigade hard ordering tank regiments to change their location at 30 minutes notice.It was common that we were having dinner and 5 minutes after dinner commenced an order came from Major Naeem to move the unit at 30 minutes notice.And all hell broke with us loading the tanks and moving.
All that Naeem said was load.So we loaded and were ready for move.He would then visit us after an hour and give us the next location which could be as close as a kilometre and as far away as 20 km.
Although we cursed the BM then but now we realise that this is how an outfit has to be trained for war.Today I understand that Naeem was one great professional I met in this army.
MY FATHER WAS GSO 2 OPERATIONS OF 16 DIVISION OF WHICH 29 CAVALRY WAS A PART.
THE UNIT WAS INITIALLY COMMANDED BY LTC SAGHEER HUSSAIN SYED AND LATER LTC CHIT CHAT BUKHARI.
MUCH LATER IN 1990 BUKHARIS SON WAS MY STUDENT AT THE ARMOUR SCHOOL.
Tank Ambush at Kushtia-Squadron and Company Commander Dislocate a Corps Commander!
Click on maps to enlarge
Tank Ambush at Kushtia
The tank battle of Kushtia is Greek to most in Pakistan. Ironically it was one of the most classic tank actions of 1971 war in which a vastly outnumbered tank infantry force of squadron company level inflicted such a punishment on the Indians that their corps commander lost his mental equilibrium and earmarked a whole division to deal with a Pakistani delaying force of squadron battalion strength. Civil War followed by a mixed Civil War and Conventional War further compounded by atrocities, confused real military competence with abnormal psychology and even genuine heroism or resolution in face of tremendous adversity was forgotten while atrocities were remembered!
It is ironic that many purely military writers like Shaukat Riza and Fazal Muqeem Khan ignored this inspiring battle!
Of all the people it was Siddiq Salik, more a journalist than a soldier who most precisely described the battle of Kushtia as "the first and last battle that Brigadier Manzoor's brigade fought in the entire war1"! Siddiq, however, never knew the degree to which this battle influenced the higher commander's perceptions and actions! But then Siddiq was more of a civilian and cannot be blamed for this lapse once we see so-called military historians making the same error! I came to know of the significance of this thought-provoking battle only after I read some Indian military accounts! No tribute to the cause of military history in Pakistan, which likes the politicians, has hit the rock bottom!
The Hamood Ur Rahman Commission found villains but ignored existence of heroes! It is again ironic that Hamood found villains not merely because they existed but because those who had ordered the inquiry wanted some villains to keep the men in Khaki in their place! Hamood thus unwittingly became the tool of politicians despite the fact that he was an illustrious judge!
Pakistan's legal or political history with the exception of one decision of the Sindh High Court and one single resolute Sindhi Muslim Chief Justice is after all little more than the confinement of all who matter in petticoats, in terms of resolution and heroic defiance since 1954! Robes or any other dress in the symbolic form are an illusion! Petticoats, are the essence!
Chief Justice Hamood ur Rahman like all his predecessors or followers was ineffective , as far as the big flies were concerned, since laws as the truest saying in English language states are like cobwebs through which the greater flies brake through! Hamood's findings had no de facto value! Ironically on the other hand the men who were identified as villains and cowards by the Hamood Commission were promoted while many real heroes were sidelined or superseded! Thus while Tajammul, Saadullah and Sher ur Rahman were sidelined Jehanzeb Arbab, Rahim Khan, Rahimuddin Khan, Admiral Sharif and many more did extremely well after the 1971 War and are doing well to date!
Click on maps to enlarge
2 Indian Corps (a newly raised corps headquarters) was tasked with the reduction of the SouthWest Sector of East Pakistan. The Indian 2 Corps was vastly superior to Pakistan's 9 Division defending the Sector. It had two over sized infantry divisions (4 Mountain and 9 Infantry Division) and one independent infantry brigade (50 Independent Para Brigade). 4 Indian Mountain Division had three infantry brigades (7, 41 and 62) one of which (7 Brigade) was initially held back as corps reserve.
In addition this division also had under command a tank squadron (45 Cavalry/PT-76), a Mechanised Infantry Company and an additional medium artillery battery apart from its integral divisional artillery.
9 Indian Infantry Division had three infantry brigades (32, 43 and 350) and one tank regiment less one squadron (45 Cavalry/PT-76) and one tank squadron (63 Cavalry/T-55).
PT 76 was a decisive weapon in East Pakistan as it was fully amphibious
Lieutenant General Raina the Indian Corps Commander had seen action in WW II in North Africa and Burma.
Pakistan's 9 Infantry Division comprised two infantry brigades, 57 Brigade (Brigadier Manzoor) holding the northern half and 107 Brigade (Brigadier Hayat) holding the Central Approach i.e Jessore.
An ad hoc brigade consisting of Para military forces of dubious military value was holding the southern approach (Khulna Sub-Sector).
In addition there was the "Divisional Reserve" consisting of half battalion Recce and Support, one infantry battalion and a tank squadron of M-24 Chafee Light Tanks.
The Pakistani 9 Division was commanded by Major General Ansari an artillery officer who proved in the war that he was an honest man and a devout Muslim, but did little in the realm of commanding his division or anything in terms of leading from the front!
The operational task assigned to the 2 Indian Corps was to capture Khulna, Jessore, Magura, secure ferry sites over Madhumati and finally either capture the Golaundu Ghat or to secure Paksay Bridge (Hardinge Bridge) over the Ganga, whatever ordered.
4 Mountain Division was tasked with the capture of Magura and securing of Ferry Sites over the Madhumati and subsequently secure Goalundu Ghat or Paksey Bridge.
9 Division was tasked to capture Jessore in the first phase and Khulna in the second phase.
Pakistan's 9 Division had employed five regular infantry battalions to hold the five main approaches running from West to East in between the Ganges River with 57 Brigade in the north and 107 Brigade in the centre.
We will not discuss the details of these dispositions since these are beyond the scope of this article.
Summary of Operational Situation till Battle of Kushtia
The Indians had been actively conducting military operations against the Pakistani 9 Division since mid-November 1971.
The pace of these operations was, however, extremely conservative unimaginative and timid! Indian victory in terms of tangible superiority in quantum of forces was a forgone conclusion in this sector as in any other sector of East Pakistan!
The reader may note that the ad hoc force at Khulna bolted towards Dacca around 4th/5th December without having been attacked!
The Indian tactics were based on establishing roadblocks in the Pakistani brigades rear with forces of battalion, tank squadron/troops strength while vastly superior tank and infantry forces attacked frontally and contained and pinned down the Pakistani infantry brigades.
Brigadier Manzoor the 57 Brigade Commander made the Indian task easier by assuming that they would attack Chuadanga and denuded all other approaches while concentrating most of his troops to defend Chuadanga!
Manzoor in the process, wittingly or unwittingly offered the Indian commander a golden opportunity to compromise the operational integrity of the 9 Pakistani Infantry Division.
The Indians had logically assumed that the Pakistani brigades would withdraw eastwards and fight as a division. They did not know that both the Pakistani brigade commanders had decided to fight their private wars and had already decided to withdraw northeastwards and southeastwards!
The next Indian move against Jhenida commencing from 4 December when the Indians established a tank infantry roadblock at a point halfway between road Chuadanga-Jhenida, thus came as a surprise to 57 Brigade which was effectively cut off from its parent formation i.e 9 Division.
The 1971 war was over the 9 Division as a division from 4th December 1971!
Its brigades continued fighting but they fought as brigades since the division commander had failed to goad and spur them into fighting as a division!
The division commander who preferred sitting on his prayer mat2 rather than leave his headquarters and goad men like Brigadier Manzoor, remained plagued with inertia and inaction!
There is not much to write about 9 Division's operational role after 4th December! 41 Brigade after its brilliant success advanced to Jhenida supported by tanks. Jhenida, thanks to Manzoor's Chuadanga blunder was almost defenceless and the Indians captured it after some limited fighting on 7th December 1971.
Meanwhile, 62 Indian Brigade advanced towards Kaliganj which was defended by a very small ad hoc force under colonel staff 9 Division. Kaliganj was captured by morning of 7th December. 9 Division's story ends here.
Its divisional headquarter withdrew to Faridpur while K.K Afridi's ad hoc force delayed the Indians over the Madhumati!
|Brigadier Manzoors cowardly withdrawal into 16 Division area of responsibility and Brigadier Hayats arbitrary withdrawal to Khulna destroyed the operational integrity of 9 Division and left a huge gap in between.Hayat was blamed for this lapse in the Hamood ur Rahman Comission Report.|
The 2 Indian Corps which was commanded by as much of a windbag as the Pakistani divisional commander now finally released 7 Brigade less battalion to 4 Mountain Division on 8th December. The Indian Corps Commander, the readers may note, thought that 57 Brigade had withdrawn towards Faridpur along with Headquarter 9 Division.3 The 7th Brigade reached Jhenida during night 8th/9th December 1971 and was ordered to advance towards Kushtia on 9th December. For this purpose 7 Brigade was also assigned two tank troops of the 45th Cavalry.
Tangibly everything was now excellent for the Indians .
Battle of Kushtia
9 Division was assigned with a squadron of 29 Cavalry for the defence of Hardinge Bridge.4 This squadron was commanded by one Major Sher ur Rahman.5 At this stage 57 Brigade was in the process of withdrawing across the Hardinge Bridge to Nator in 16 Division area. Manzoor tasked Sher ur Rahman along with an infantry company commanded by Major Zahid (18 Punjab) to delay the Indian force which was reported by the para-miltary Razakars to be on the way to Kushtia. Sher ur Rahman, as I many years later heard first hand from many soldiers of 29 Cavalry who had fought with him at Kushtia was no Manzoor!
He selected an ambush site along with Major Zahid the infantry company commander inside Kushtia. The main road passed across a high embankment at this site and there was some open face on both flanks while some trees and buildings provided concealment and firing positions to Sher ur Rahman's two tank troops6 and Major Zahid's infantry company. The ground on both sides of the road was boggy limited manoeuvre options of Indian tanks leading the 7 Brigade advance.
SHER UR RAHMANS SQUADRON HAD THESE OUTDATED M 24 CHAFEE TANKS OF WW TWO VINTAGE WHICH HE BRILLIANTLY USED AT KUSHTIA
The Indian tanks (two troops) leading the advance reached the outskirts of Kushtia at 2 p.m. and deployed outside the towns built up area. As per the Indian armoured corps historian precisely at this point in time the Indian 2 Corps Commander Raina along with GOC 4 Mountain Division arrived in a helicopter and "chided the commanders on the spot for their unnecessary caution when there was no enemy who was, in any case, on the run. He told them not to waste time on battle procedure but press on with tanks because there was no requirement to lead with infantry through the town".7
The Indians commenced advance tanks leading and infantry very close behind. The first shot as per one 29 Cavalry veteran was fired once the sixth and the last Indian tank was in range and the infantry company (of 22 Rajput) was also within small arms range. The scene after this was one of total chaos. Most of the infantry company was gunned down within no time and as per Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu "within a few minutes the battalion (22 Rajput) ceased to exist as a fighting force" and "stragglers kept trickling away until the next day".8 The Indian tank corps historian states that "The first shot from a Chafee (29 Cavalry) split open the fifth tank down the line".
Only one out of six tanks escaped the ambush. The battle was over! All that the Indian 7 Brigade Commander now did was to organise a defensive position with his second battalion behind a canal close to Kushtia. Gurcharan admitted and this was stated by many 29 Cavalry veterans that "Pakistani tanks made contact with the canal and engaged the defenders. At last light they blew up the canal bridge and withdrew to Paksay".9 57 Brigade was given the breather it needed to withdraw across the Ganges. Many years later I had the opportunity of hearing a first hand account of this withdrawal while under intense air attack from another direct participant Colonel Rathore from Engineers. Rathore was a very fine officer and a gentleman and when I heard him that he was staff officer with my father in 491 Brigade Group at Jaglot Farm.
The Paksey Bridge across which Brigadier Manzoors brigade fled the battle field leaving brave Sher ur Rahman and a company of brave 18 Punjab to cover their cowardly flight
|With father and col rathore at Pattan July 1979|
|Lieutenant Colonel Rathor extreme right while serving as a staff officer at Jaglot Farm in 1979-80|
This was 8 years after the war i.e July 1979. Reaction of Indian Corps Commander The reactions of Indian 2 Corps Commander may be termed as typical reactions of any Indo-Pak subcontinental Corps commander! I will simply quote Indian military historians in describing this part of the battle! Gurcharan Singh gives the following picture. "The Corps Commander received the news of the mishap on return to his headquarter. He over-reacted and ordered 4 Mountain Division to halt its advance along the Faridpur axis and contain the enemy along Madhumati with one battalion. The rest of the division ( i.e some two infantry brigades) was to back track to Kushtia, capture and clear the Hardinge Bridge. Two tank troops of 45 Cavalry were ordered to move from 9 Division to make up its "A" Squadron in Kushtia. Kushtia was bombed and strafed by the IAF on 10 and 11 December.
Pakistanis had evacuated it during night 9-10 December. 4 Division concentrated outside the town by morning of 10 December. Elaborate plans were made for a divisional attack on 11 December, when the town was found clear".10 I am quoting Praval a more balanced historian since some Indians may find Gurcharan's more forthright criticism unpalatable! Praval states "Unfortunately Barar and Raina over reacted to the reverse. During the evening the former ordered 41 Brigade top move from Jhenida to Kushtia. Later during the night Raina told Barar to move the third brigade too also, leaving a battalion on the Madhumati. Thus by evening of 10 December the whole division assembled in front of Kushtia"!11
SUCH THREE STAR WIND BAGS KNOWN AS CORPS COMMANDERS ARE IN AS PLENTY IN PAKISTAN ARMY AS IN INDIAN ARMY . TWO THOROUGHLY HOPELESS ARMIES IN MODERN MILITARY HISTORY ! SOME ARE GOOD IN COUNTING CHERRIES AND SOME IN PLAYING GOLF AND HOLDING HOAX MILITARY TRAING MANOEUVRES !
Now compare the Indians with what Shaukat Riza! Shaukat merely states without naming Sher or Zahid that "Enemy 7 Mountain Brigade attacked the position and suffered serious casualties".12 Fazal Muqeem merely brushes the affair aside by stating that "the attack was repulsed and three tanks captured".13 Is this the way military history is written? Its not difficult to figure that Gurcharan Singh and Praval were fairer with Majors Zahid and Sher ur Rahman than Shaukat Riza and Fazal Muqeem Khan. This is the sub-continental psyche! Talent must never be recognised! A conspiracy against originality and boldness! Heroism died in 1858! At least as far as higher level leadership was concerned!
Technical and Numerical Inferiority Nullified by Superior Tactics and Resolute Leadership
The battle of Kushtia proves that technical and numerical inferiority can be nullified by superior tactics and resolute leadership. Unfortunately while there were many Shers and Zahids there were no Lettow Vorbecks or Rommels commanding the Pakistani divisions or corps. There was one Rommel but he was on the western Front! Ask the troops who fought under him, not irresolute people who he kicked and abused in Chamb and you can find out .
Lack of Higher Planning at Divisional Level which led to independent withdrawal by brigade commanders and failure of 9 Division to function as a credible operational entity
The readers may note that the state of demoralisation and apathy in the 9 Division at higher level was such that no credible or concrete plan had been prepared for withdrawal of the division's two regular brigades in case of an Indian breakthrough which was most likely, keeping in view the immense disparity between the Indian and Pakistani forces!
It appears that both the regular brigade commanders i.e the 57 and 107 Brigade Commanders had made up their mind to withdraw northeast and Southwest to the safety of Rajshahi north of Ganges in 16 Division area and Khulna in the south! Whatever the motives of the brigade commanders this action resulted in rendering the 9 Division into an operational non-entity soon after the commencement of actual war on 5th December 1971!
One of the brigade commanders was thus later condemned in the Hamood Report for this unauthorised withdrawal! Even Fazal Muqeem 14 admitted this fact once he said "Headquarters 9 Division (Major General M.H Ansari) which had lost control earlier ...".
Dislocation of Enemy Higher Commander's Military Equilibrium
Two majors dislocated the enemy higher commanders mental equilibrium. What would have happened had there been some Sher ur Rahmans and Zahids in 9 Division Headquarter too.
What would have happened had the Pakistani GHQ allocated a few more tanks for the Eastern Command earlier in 1971 or 1970! If the Indians could employ T-55/T-54 tanks why could not Pakistani T-59s have been employed there? And what did most of Pakistan's T-59s in 1971 war do in the 1971 War apart from hiding in reserve forests or moving in trains!
Quality of Higher Military Leadership
The Pakistani 9 Division was commanded by Major General Ansari an artillery officer who proved in the war that he was a devout Muslim, but did little in the realm of commanding his division or anything in terms of leading from the front!
Ansari sat on the prayer mat but did little else during the war! He was as good as any unit Pesh Imam of his division. His operational role was zero multiplied by zero in the war! Defenders of Ansari assert that he was a decent man, but there are so many decent men in this world, who don't command divisions in battle but perform other minor roles more commensurate with their temperament or genius!
There was no military leadership at divisional level in the Pakistani 9 Division. This over ensured that the battle was relegated to the two infantry brigade commanders, one bold but not interested in fighting a divisional battle, while another who was most keen to hit the Paksey Bridge and become a part of the 16 Division! Brigadier Hayat took his own decisions, mission oriented but ones which compromised his divisions integrity withdrawing his brigade to Khulna, fighting an excellent brigade battle while also ensuring that the Indians were given an excellent gap to race forward towards Dacca in the middle!
Brigadier Manzoor's performance was "hopeless" in words of a participant and his role in the flight of his brigade cannot be over exaggerated! A Battle of Offensive Defence or Clausewitzian Shield of Blows The battle was a classic application of Clausewitz's concept of offensive defence in which he described defence as a shield of arrows!
A Case Study of Divisional Battle
The battle of 9 Division in 1971 illustrates the barrenness at divisional level. The absence of the GOC as a decisive operational division makes at divisional level.
The South Western Sector of Eastern Command was not a really very decisive sector of the 1971 War. The significance of the "Tank Ambush at Kushtia" lies in the heavy odds involved and how certain military commanders at squadron company level through resolution ingenuity and sheer tenacity emerged at least tactically victorious against vastly superior forces.
The true significance of the "Battle of Kushtia" lies in the fact that "ingenuity, resolution and a positive mental attitude could have enabled the Eastern Command to fight longer than it did"! That the seeds of the dramatic collapse of 16 December lay not in numerical inferiority alone but in phenomenal lack of military competence in the Eastern Command and those in the Military Operations Directorate in the Pakistani GHQ who insisted that the Eastern Command must conduct a rigid defensive strategy of holding every inch!
Major General Lachman Singh poses after the surrender with M 24 tanks of 29 Cavalry at Bogra
This article does not aim at proving that East Pakistan could have been a Pakistani victory but only that a more imaginative higher strategy could have resulted in a less humiliating defeat than what actually happened! The failure in East Pakistan was not a political failure alone but a military failure at the highest level! Sher ur Rahman lives in the hearts of 29 Cavalry veterans as the ultimate war hero! This I discovered in the Rakhs of Qila Sobha Singh! In Pakistani military history he figures nowhere, since he was not from the trade union of generals! Wrong forever on the throne! Truth forever on the Scaffold!
1Page-145-Witness to Surrender-Siddiq Salik-Oxford University Press-Pakistan-First Published in 1977-Third Impression-Oxford University Press-Pakistan -1998.
2Page-145-Siddiq Salik-Op Cit.
3Page-439-The Indian Armour-History of Indian Armoured Corps-1941-1971-Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Vision Books-New Delhi-1993.
4Page-141-The Pakistan Army-1966-71-Major General Shaukat Riza (Retired)-Services Book Club-1990.
5 I first heard his name while talking with my squadron commander Captain Azam Niazi in October 1984 while serving in 29 Cavalry. I had been attached with this unit since around 25th September (following another attachment period with 15 SP from 09 August 1984 to 25th September 1984) due to some disciplinary problem with my commanding officer in 11 Cavalry. Azam said that he joined the unit because he had been deeply impressed by Sher ur Rahman's exploits in 1971 War. The time spent with Azam was memorable and we made good use of it by hunting around the Degh Nala and the marshes around Qila Sobha Singh and Dhamtal. At that time, thanks to Durga Devi and Terry Tyrant seemed imminent and 8 Armoured Brigade was deployed close to the border.
6 Page-439-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit. I have relied on the Indian general's description in stating that the ambush force consisted of two tank troops!
7 Page-439-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
8 Page-439-Gurcharan Singh -Op Cit.
9 Page-441-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
11Page-331-The Indian Army Since Independence-Major K.C Praval-Lancer Books-New Delhi-1992.
12 Page-142-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit. 13Page-179-Pakistan's Crisis in Leadership-Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan-National Book Foundation-Lahore-1973. 14 Page-179- Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.
The Indians have quoted the above article on the website article below---
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of India's Greatest Military Victory