“Countries which worship armies tend to use them” (anon). The strong belief in the ‘invincibility’ of the Pakistani soldier and ‘unfailing divine help’, the sheet anchor of the nation and the military underlined all along the triumphant image of the Pakistani mujahid (warrior) against Hindu India.
Five days after the fall of Jessore, the last bastion of defence against the advancing Indian army regulars and guerrillas of the Mukhti Bahini, the redoubtable Z A Suleri, in his column Men and Matters titled Jessore: The Stalingrad of Pakistan wrote: “Our soldier is a wholly different species from others, specially his Indian (Hindu — parenthesis mine) counterpart. He is armed in weapons, but he is also armed in iman” (The Pakistan Times, Rawalpindi, December 10, 1971). On that very day, it had been my painful duty to announce that it was all over with
The Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Gul Hassan Khan summoned me peremptorily to his office to tell me that, “So you must do your usual PR stuff to prepare the nation to accept the shock...” Prepare the nation to accept the loss of
The Mughal emperor Babar wept after the loss of
Thus fifty-four percent of the country was gone.
Chained to the traditional military image of invincibility and his own as an unyielding ghazi (warrior), Lieutenant-Gen Amir Abdullah Khan (‘Tiger’) Niazi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command was still saying in press reports that the Indians dared not enter
Niazi’s empty boast was worse than defeat itself. It might have been like the shattering of the military image beyond repair, never to be the same again as an integrated whole, reflecting a force astride East and
Far away at the GHQ, the nerve centre of the military, emerged yet another sorry spectacle: The disgraceful image of the supreme commander, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, showed even on one of his rare visits to GHQ for a map briefing of the war. As he got off his four-star staff car he looked bloated in the face. He was in uniform, a warm
Thereafter, there was little to report except to say: “Our defensive positions are being improved and that some minor indentations had been made across the various sectors in
On December 16, Tiger Niazi surrendered at 1600 Hrs, according to the BBC. Back in
“Following an arrangement between the commanders of
Thus the sad tale that began and ran through the length of our turbulent history, beginning soon after the emergence of
And the strong belief in the ‘invincibility’ of the Pakistani soldier and ‘unfailing divine help’ shattered, never to be put together again, in a united bizonal
Niazi’s operational plan had been based on the archaic concept of defending every inch of the sacred soil. He broke up his forces into 300 outposts, all along the border, to create a vacuum inside the cities/villages and to lose the chance of a determined last-ditch stand by all integrated and highly motivated forces from a pre-selected vantage point.
Niazi, did live up to his word and ‘made
The enemy never obliged. The Indian General Jagjit Aurora gave his advancing formations two simple lines: “Leave the highways. Follow the byways.” They leapfrogged by, passing Niazi’s strong fortresses, entering
Back at the centre in
He raised the Federal Security Force under a police officer, Masud Mahmood, one of Bhutto’s blue eyed boys, almost as a parallel force against the army. How incredibly naïve, as history would tell.
Getting a fledgling sparrow to engage a falcon, that had constantly been one of Bhutto’s grand illusions, an almost suicidal streak in his character, and it got him to walk to the gallows.
As for the military image of the army, navy and air force, with some 95 senior officers in Indian captivity as POWs, what kind of an image building would have been either desirable or possible?
The image on its fateful and fatal clash with brute reality broke into smithereens, never to be put together again, as the attribute of a force astride east and west.
First published in the Daily Times,
A. R. SIDDIQI is a retired brigadier and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org