MODERN day war complicates rather than solves anything. A country goes to war either to defend its sovereignty in case of attack, or to overwhelm an adversary for political or territorial/material gains.
The War in 1965 was undertaken by General Ayub not for the first reason. Similarly, Hitler started WWII in 1940, Suharto annexed Eastern Timor in 1975, Gen Galteiri occupied Falkland Islands in 1982, and Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990 -- all for personal glory and political gains. Bush invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, for the black gold.
In 1965, the plan ‘Operation Gibraltar' involved sneaking a mixed force of 70,000, trained and regulars, into Indian-held Kashmir and invoke a general uprising in the local populace. The general feeling in the army high command was that Indians had no stomach of warfare and were no match for the superior. The war plan originated in the Foreign Office. The D-day was set for August 5, 1965.
Military high command took it to be as one blow, limited and confined operation, forgetting that war is not an isolated act and once started, it cannot be confined by time or space. Secondly, against defined and proclaimed logic, the military in Pakistan had taken over the political direction of the war.
Our scope is limited to the operation conducted on the Kashmir front under Maj-General Akhtar Malik where, given the opportunity and time, Pakistan could have dictated terms to India on other fronts (‘unexpectedly') opened later by India.
But it was not to be. Much has been written about the change in command in the 1965 War, when late Maj-General Akhtar Hussain Malik, Commander 12 Division which had the responsibility for Jammu and Kashmir, was replaced by Maj. Gen. Yahya Khan, Commander 7 Div, and Akhnur was let off the hook, thereby saving the Indian forces a huge embarrassment.
Discussing the initial plans of ‘Operation Gibraltar', Ayub had put his finger at Akhnur across river Tawi, on the sand model asked: “But why don’t you go for the jugular?” General Malik asked for more money and men and Ayub readily agreed. (Altaf Gauhar, Ayub Khan Pakistan’s First Military Ruler’s Sange-meel Publications 1998 p.332)
The attack on Akhnur was given the code name ‘Operation Grand Slam’, to be launched after the ‘Operation Gibraltar'. Gen Akhtar Malik was assigned this task as he knew the area like the back of his hand, and he was a bold and audacious commander.
Gen. Malik had already captured Chamb on September 1, and was well poised to go for Akhnur on September 2, 1965 when he was relieved of command in a most bizarre mysterious manner, defying common sense and logic. Before Musa flew Malik back from the front, General Malik had offered his services to fight under Yahya’s command to take Akhnur.
General Musa, the C-n-C, flew with Gen Yahya on the front on September 2, 1965 to replace General Malik who would not hand over charge otherwise. Yahya was specifically asked by Musa not to advance. A pause of 48 hours was enough for Indian forces to regroup and blunt the Pakistani advance. The Indians also opened another front on Lahore, thus spreading Pakistan Forces thin along the western border. Having lost the initiative, now Pakistan was fighting for its survival. One can lose a battle or even a war, but in Kashmir at that time, it was a victory lost.
The prevailing view in GHQ was that Gen. Ayub had lost his nerve. (Altaf Gauhar p. 334) Shortly before his death, Bhutto had expressed similar views about Ayub, saying he used to panic during crises. (Col. Rafiuddin Bhutto kay akhri 323 din, Jang Publications 1992 p.61) Bhutto observed that Pakistan Army had yet to produce another fighting general of Akhtar Malik’s calibre and had Malik been allowed to advance in Chhamb-Jurian Sector, he would have played havoc with the Indian Forces. (Col Rafiuddin p.66)
After the 1965 War, the talk on change of command in Kashmir became taboo but with death of Gen Musa, the subject was discussed threadbare. The ISPR floated the idea that the change of command in 1965 was pre-planned. Brig. Gul Hassan (late Lt. Gen. and Army Chief), at that time, Director Military Operations, in his memoirs, denied the existence of any such planned change of command during the execution of Operation Grand Slam.
Secondly, Brig. Gul Hassan said he knew Gen. Malik well enough to say that he (Gen. Malik) would never have accepted a command for 24 hours for such a daunting assignment. What happened behind the scenes may never be known. (Lt. Gen Gul Hassan Akhri Commander-in-Chief, Dost Publications Isd. 1999 p.231-234)
Gen. Ayub published his biography Friends Not Master in 1967 but he failed to cover the 1965 War, as it was not a glorious chapter of his life. He tried to gloss over history.
As soon as Yahya took over from Musa as C-n-C in September 1966, he posted out Gen Malik on a CENTO assignment in Turkey. General Akhtar Malik died in 1969 in a car crash in Turkey. It could have been a target-assassination. General Malik had met the Jordanian Ambassador a few days earlier in Ankara. The Ambassador had asked General Malik to help upgrade the Jordanian Army, a job that was accepted by the latter.
It could be Mossad for Israel didn’t want Jordan to acquire the services of a professional general (according to an ex-Army Officer who asked not to be revealed).
Israel has been deeply involved in anything that affects its security, especially its neighbours. In 1980, Mossad had eliminated an Egyptian nuclear physicist, Dr Yahia El Meshad, in Paris who had been helping Iraq in setting up its nuclear plant. (Claire Hoy & Victor Ostrovsky By Way of Deception Stoddart Publishing Co.Ltd. Toronto 1990 p.23)
According to officers who fought on Kashmir front, had General Malik been allowed to capture Akhnur, Ayub would not have ignored him for the post of C-n-C. The country as a consequence, would not have undergone the ensuring colossal tragedy of 1971. But that is a wishful afterthought.
Ayub, who had appointed Musa as his first Army Chief and Yahya as the next (the appointment of first almost cost us West Pakistan in 1965 and under the next one we lost East Pakistan in 1971), would not have liked a general of Akhtar Malik’s stature to command the Pakistan Army. Tragic but true!