Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hamid Hussain Reviews Cloughley's Book about the Pakistan Army

A History of the Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections by Brian Cloughley

Dear All,

Some questions came my way about Brian Cloughley’s good book about Pakistan army. I put them in an unconventional book review. Regards, Hamid.

Book Review by Hamid Hussain

A History of Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections by Brian Cloughley, Fourth Edition. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. 588

Brian Cloughley’s A History of Pakistan Army is the fourth edition of a book, which was originally written in 1999. Fourth edition adds many new chapters especially tenures of General Pervez Mussharraf and General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Author is one of few foreigners with long association with some senior Pakistani officers going back to early 1980s. This gives the author an advantage to draw on his personal associations.

Book is a comprehensive review of history of Pakistan army starting from 1947 when country gained independence. It documents journey of Pakistan army over six decades.

On page 29 author commenting about Ayub’s actions after becoming C-in-C states that “He examined the Military Secretary’s records of every senior officer and, if in doubt about someone’s competence, he sacked them”. This needs clarification and understanding of the context. The issue was not much about competence but about reliability. In March 1951, only about two months after General Muhammad Ayub Khan took over command of Pakistan army, a conspiracy was unearthed by the local police where a group of army officers were planning to overthrow the civilian government. The leader was then Chief of General Staff (CGS) Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan. Many officers involved in the conspiracy were left leaning and avowed leftist and famous poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was also involved peripherally. After the arrest of main culprits, Ayub used this opportunity to ease out all officers with leftist leanings. For Ayub, the issue was reliability of officers and proper orientation rather than competence. Many officers promoted by Ayub to senior ranks will never pass a competency test in any decent army.

Author complements Ayub for ‘considerable activity in all sorts of spheres’ and that constitution committee finished its work in just over a year. A little background will help readers understand the machinations behind these maneuvers to keep dominance of western wing. There were seven members of constitution committee; four from West Pakistan and three from East Pakistan. Even Ayub’s own handpicked cabinet members from East Pakistan; Muhammad Ibraheem, Abul Qasim Khan and Habib ur Rahman demanded greater autonomy during discussions on Constitution and warned of grave dangers of a highly centralized government. Several 4:3 votes during these deliberations clearly indicated a genuine different thought process and different perspective among ministers from the two wings. Ayub was clever enough to keep three Bengali members on board as he needed to show that Bengalis were at the table but in fact handicapped by being minority in the committee. After the promulgation of the constitution, he dropped all three Bengali ministers from the cabinet which clearly shows his motives.

On page 78 in remarks about Major General A. O. Mitha, author points to “withdrawal of a well earned decoration’ of the officer and suggests that Bhutto was responsible for the withdrawal. It is quite clear that then C-in-C Lieutenant General Gul Hassan recommended to the President for withdrawal of the award and even Mitha blames Gul Hassan and not Bhutto. As far as award of Hilal-e-Jurat is concerned, there are two aspects of the issue. One is whether Mitha deserved the decoration and second is the technical aspect whether proper procedure was followed. Mitha was close friend of then President and C-in-C General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan and was serving as Quarter Master General (QMG) in 1971. Yahya sent him to East Pakistan just prior to ‘Operation Searchlight’ in March 1971. Mitha arrived on March 24 and appointed Deputy Corps Commander to Lieutenant General Tikka Khan and put in charge of the operation. This was done verbally and no official notification was issued. Mitha travelled all over East Pakistan and gave direct orders to fighting formations for operations against Bengali rebels. Mitha was in East Pakistan from March 24 to April 11, 1971 when Pakistani forces disarmed Bengali troops and fought with rebellious soldiers. After pacification, he visited East Pakistan again about two months later. Chief of Staff (COS) General Abdul Hamid initiated the citation for the award of Hilal-e-Jurat to Mitha for his role in crucial operations in March 1971 and General Yahya Khan approved it. It is strange that Mitha was upset about the withdrawal of the award as he thought that he deserved it for his crucial role in the operations. However, in his memoirs he mentions that he was retired unjustly and gives the argument that as QMG his responsibility was only to supply what was in stock and had nothing else to do with either the planning or execution of war. In his view others were responsible for the debacle.

Now the tricky issue of whether Mitha deserved the award. His role was essentially advisory and although he was not in direct command of troops, in fact he travelled all over East Pakistan and gave direct orders as well as supervised operations including infantry, artillery and Special Services Group (SSG) troops. In view of general confusion all along the chain of command, lack of clear direction from top brass and management crisis at mid-levels, Mitha’s actions were important to take the initiative back and restore the writ of the state. Looking from this angle, in my view, he probably deserved the decoration. On pure technical and administrative grounds, Mitha was not in direct command of troops and his role was essentially advisory. In addition, citation was not initiated by his direct superior Lieutenant General Tikka Khan but COS. Mitha and then CGS Lieutenant General Gul Hassan didn’t like each other and when later became C-in-C, he recommended to President to withdraw the award on technical grounds. Bhutto who was busy putting generals in the dock was happy to approve it.

On page 88, author while describing some actions of 1965 war states that “Major Aziz Bhatti thoroughly deserved the award of Nishan-i-Haider (the highest gallantry award)”. There is no question that many soldiers including Bhatti fought bravely to defend their country and deserve all praise. However, highest gallantry award is usually awarded for actions beyond the call of duty and bravery in face of enemy action. Major Raja Aziz Bhatti was company commander of Alpha Company of 17th Punjab Regiment. On September 10, Bhatti was in a three story house in Barki village along with an artillery observer Captain Mahmood Anwar Shaikh of 24th Medium Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sial to coordinate artillery fire to stop Indian advance. He survived the action of September 10 when Barki village was captured by Indian troops. On September 11, Indian troops advanced towards the east bank of Ichhogil canal. Shaikh was replaced by a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) Subedar Sher Dil but he was not effective therefore Bhatti took over the important task of directing artillery fire on advancing Indian troops. Bhatti was supporting the Pakistani counter attack led by Major Habib Khan of 12th Punjab Regiment (Habib along with seven of his comrades was killed in this action). Indian artillery (7th Artillery Brigade as well as 5th and 66th Field Regiment and 82nd Light Regiment) was also very active in the theatre. Bhatti was killed by an artillery shell while manning own side. His commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier) Ibrahim Qureshi had to re-write his citation three times to qualify for the highest award. Some officers are candid about the deficiencies in the system of gallantry awards in off the record conversations. Only one officer Major General ® Tajammal Hussain Malik went on record and mentioned in his memoirs that after investigations by a committee set up by General Head Quarter (GHQ) it was determined that sixty to seventy percent of gallantry awards in 1965 war were bogus. In Indian and Pakistani armies controversies about gallantry awards caused significant resentment among soldiers. In Indian army, a fine cavalry officer who gallantly fought in 1965 war was a bitter man his whole life because he was not awarded a gallantry award. He claimed that if he had won the gallantry award, he would have been an army chief. He retired at Brigadier rank and later in life took his own life.

On page 294, author points to disagreement between Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo and General Zia ul Haq about promotion of two officers; Pir Dad Khan and Shamim Alam Khan referring to both of them as ‘admirable officers’. I’m sure they are wonderful chaps but promotion is based on professional competence. Major General Pir Dad Khan was commander of Force Command Northern Area (FCNA) in April 1984 when Indians occupied Siachin glacier. FCNA comes under the command of Rawalpindi based X Corps and Lieutenant General Jahandad Khan was Corps Commander from March 1980 to March 1984. I knew late General Jahan Dad Khan for several years and discussed this subject with him. I used to joke with him that he should thank Indians for taking Siachin excursion just two weeks after his handing over the charge. Pakistan was well aware of possible Indian move and this was discussed at the highest level. Pir Dad thought that due to extremely difficult terrain Indian move was not very likely. General Zia ul Haq was of the view that even if troops were involved in the area due to difficult terrain only a brigade sized force on Indian side and about battalion sized Pakistani force will be involved. Everyone missed the tough logistical question. Jahan Dad claimed that he envisaged this and informed the high command that army’s helicopter force will be needed. In addition, he advised that Military Intelligence should keep its ears and eyes open in the area and monitor Indian troop movement to give warning in time to Pakistani forces.

Pakistan’s plan was to move troops to strategic points in late April or May. Pir Dad was probably correct in his assessment about the terrain but he was proven wrong by Indians and area was lost under his command. It is not only Mr. Junejo who thought that officer didn’t deserve to be promoted but majority of Pakistani officers hold the same view. General Zia ul Haq rewarded him by promotion to Lieutenant General rank and appointed him Corps Commander.

On page 301, author while describing Benazir Bhutto’s relations with army writes that ‘on 24 May Benazir Bhutto dismissed the Director General Inter Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul’. This is not correct. Benazir complained to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Mirza Aslam Beg about Hamid Gul and asked him to take action against him. It was not due to any differences over policy but due to the fact that Gul was directly involved in cobbling together the opposition parties against Benazir in elections and involved in intrigues against her government (Mr. Gul has admitted to this fact after his retirement). Gul was not doing it on his own initiative but carrying army high command’s decision, therefore it was no surprise that instead of taking disciplinary action, Gul was given the prestigious assignment of command of Multan based II Corps. Late Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar was a close confidant of Benazir and he was the point man as far as army was concerned. I knew General Babar for long period of time and had several very long sessions with him and he shared many intrigues of that time period with me.

On page 344 when describing General Pervez Mussharraf’s appointment as COAS, author states that he ‘brought in or moved some of his own team’ and in this regard gives the example of appointment of Lieutenant General Muhammad Akram as QMG and then concludes that ‘the chain was not controversial’. This conclusion is flawed on several grounds and a brief description will clarify the point. Immediately after the announcement of his appointment, Mussharraf settled down in Armour Mess (General Jahangir Karamat was still in Army House) and Lieutenant General Khwaja Ziauddin then serving as Adjutant General (AG) joined him. Mussharraf embarked on major changes and brought the new team of his own confidants to key positions of command of Rawalpindi, Multan, Lahore and Karachi Corps and CGS, Military Secretary (MS) and Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI) posts.

Akram was Corps Commander of Lahore-based IV Corps and has been at that post for a little over a year. When Musshrraf was Corps Commander of Mangla based I Corps, he used to come to Lahore for relaxation. Every Corps has its own intelligence and it keeps an eye on happenings in its jurisdiction. Akram gently pointed to Mussharraf to be careful as he was in the run for the position of COAS and Mussharraf was offended by this. Musshhrraf’s first action as COAS was to remove Akram from the command and posted him as QMG (QMG and Chief of Logistics Staff positions are usually used by COAS to park a senior officer on the side for a while if he can’t be removed immediately). Rawalpindi based X Corps Commander Lieutenant General Salim Haider was moved to Mangla as Mussharraf had an earlier tiff with him on a petty protocol issue. Salim was replaced at Rawalpindi by Mussharraf’s old buddy Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmad (then serving as Commandant of National Defence College). Lieutenant General Muzzaffar Usmani was brought from Bahawalpur Corps to important Karachi Corps. Lieutenant General Muhammad Yusuf Khan was brought as Multan Corps Commander while Lieutenant General Khalid Maqbool was brought as Lahore Corps Commander. In addition, Major General Ihsan ul Haq was appointed DGMI.

All these newly appointed officers were trusted allies of Mussharraf and the trajectory of their future career clearly points to this fact. Mahmud and Ihsan served as DGISI and later Ihsan was given fourth star and appointed Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). Yusuf later served as CGS and then promoted to four star rank and appointed Vice Chief of Army of Staff (VCOAS). Khalid was later appointed Governor of Punjab in 2001 and became the longest serving governor of the province until 2008 when Mussharraf saw his own sunset. More important is the fact that when in October 1999 Ziauddin was appointed COAS, one of the first orders of Ziauddin which never took effect due to coup was to bring Salim Haider back as Rawalpindi Corps Commander and appoint Akram as CGS.

There are some errors in the book which can be corrected in next edition. On page 26 author describes the assessment of Nicholas Barrington of British High Commission and British Military Attaché written in 1966 about Ayub Khan. Author has mixed Ayub’s profile with another officer. The description of ‘an aristocrat from Patudi family and highly intelligent and rather an intellectual and he is also Anglicised’ by Barrington and ‘rather shy nature and one cannot see him inspiring his officers by the force of his personality though he might inspire admiration for his integrity and intellect’ and reference to polo by British Military Attaché is description of Lieutenant General Sahabzada Yaqub Khan and not Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Ayub was from humble rural background and his father was Risaldar Mir Dad Khan of Hodson Horse. Terms like Anglicised and intellectual do not apply to Ayub and it was Ayub’s powerful personality rather than his intellect which inspired others. Ayub could ride but was not a polo player and in early 1950s during Peshawar vale hunt was thrown off his horse. British High Commissioner Sir Gilbert Laithwaite had described Ayub’s profile but about a decade earlier in 1958 in these words, “He was according to our records, a failure as a Commanding Officer (Lieutenant- Colonel) on active service and had to be relieved”. This should also clarify author’s description of Ayub on page 48 “gallant in combat”. On page 77 when mentioning Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, author states that Yaqub was awarded Military Cross for gallantry in North Africa. This is incorrect and Yaqub didn’t earn any gallantry award in Second World War. He spent most of the war as prisoner of war first as involuntary guest of Italians and later Germans. He used this time to learn Italian and German languages. Yahya was in the same theatre during that time period and successfully escaped from captivity. He is alleged to have made the remark that Yaqub declined to join them in escape stating that he was learning the Italian and German languages.

The chapter on operations in FATA gives only one point of view as author relied heavily on diaries provided by then Corps Commander of Peshawar Lieutenant General Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai. Orakzai was Corps Commander of Peshawar based XI Corps from October 2001 to March 2004. Author edited Orakzai’s diaries for later publication and reliance on one single source narrowed the scope of analysis of a very complex situation. Personal friendship can also limit one’s ability to critically analyze and I suspect that this happened in this case. Some of Orakzai’s observations narrated by author are so incredulous that it is hard to believe that the man put in charge of the most important Corps held such views. On page 390 it is mentioned about South Waziristan that ‘No foreign fighters have been seen by independent witnesses’. Based on my own work on operations in FATA and interviews with different sources (operational as well as intelligence), I found almost consensus that tenure of Orakzai was to put it mildly paved the way of the future disaster. Mussharraf relied on Orakzai for advice about FATA thinking that being a member of a tribe was an advantage. This concept is flawed on several levels. Most educated tribesmen whose families left native lands grew up in cities and gradually lost contact with their ancestral lands. If someone has no interest then he may know few family stories about his own clan or tribe but this does not make him an authority on a different tribe. On another level, he can be less effective as other tribes will not see him as representative of the government but simply member of a tribe which could be rival for local resources (this happened when a Pakistani officer who happened to be member of Wazir tribe was a senior ISI operative in the region. He was an officer of Pakistan army representing government but to a Mahsud he was simply another Wazir and no matter how impartial he would be seen as member of the rival tribe).

According to some intelligence officers who operated in the region in that time period, Orakzai as well as then Inspector general Frontier Corp (IGFC) Major General Taj Muhammad Khattak were in complete denial and oblivious to the rapidly shifting ground right under their feet. ISI provided them details of movement of foreign fighters in FATA but their response was that there are no foreign fighters in our area of command and blaming them for generating false reports. Militants were gaining strength by the day and eliminating traditional tribal elders while other elders ran away to the safety of the cities. Orakzai like everybody and his cousin was talking about development of FATA and advocating making roads and spending money ignoring the basic fact that militants were rapidly expanding their authority, sidelining and eliminating traditional tribal leaders with government authority evaporating by the days and weeks not in years. In this context talking about building roads without first establishing the authority of the government meant that he was actually improving the logistics of militant infrastructure. This is proven by the facts that emerged later when army cleared some areas. Militants had established an elaborate underground infrastructure with extensive training facilities, industrial sized car and motorcycle bomb factories and tons of explosives neatly stacked in warehouses was found. This massive infrastructure was not put in place by ghosts but over several years right under the nose of XI Corps. In addition, in their great plans, senior brass was totally oblivious to the deep suspicion of the local population as locals were not blind and aware of double dealing of the army. Mussharraf brought Orakzai for briefing at the White House presenting him as an authority on tribal affairs. Americans had their own sources of information from inside Pakistan and were not much impressed. In 2004, when he handed over the command to his successor, militants were in full control of South Waziristan and Pakistan had lost large swaths of tribal territory. To be fair to Orakzai, he was carrying out the policy agreed by the senior brass. Now, General Mussharraf has admitted that at that time Pakistan allowed Afghan Taliban to park in Pakistani territory.

There are few things which are not important for ordinary reader but from a military history point of view need clarification. In the notes on page 49 author describing allotment of cavalry regiments in 1947 states that “The Guides Cavalry bound logically for Pakistan”. Guides Cavalry had two non-Muslim (Dogra & Sikh) and one Muslim (Pathan) squadron and initially it was allotted to India. On the other hand Scind Horse with two Muslim (Muslim Rajput & Pathan) and one non-Muslim (Sikh) squadron was allotted to Pakistan. Every regiment is proud of its regimental center but Guides center at Mardan was not an ordinary center but a shrine where legends of Raj served and stories told and re-told. It was unimaginable to think about Guides without Mardan. British officers convinced senior authorities and decision was reversed where Guides Cavalry was allotted to Pakistan and Scind Horse to India. This complicated the already confusing break up of regiments and battalions.

Author has expanded his earlier work by adding new chapters. Book is a good read for anyone interested in Pakistan army. It takes reader on a journey that spans sixty year history of Pakistan army.

Hamid Hussain
June 27, 2015