Sacrifice at the Altar of Gibraltar
WE have fought two major full scale wars with India, our arch enemy in 1965 and 1971, there have been numerous skirmishes like Rann of Kutch, Siachin and Kargil.
The most deadly, dangerous and totally unnecessary military adventure was the armed incursion in Kashmir code named Operation Gibraltar.
Fifty five years later we can think back and ponder on this clandestine operation and the only conclusion we come to is that this was nothing but a strategic blunder, a tactical mistake and a political disaster on a monumental scale.
This misadventure resulted in the death of thousands of young men, brought shame and humiliation to the country and resulted in the war of 1965. Sadly enough no lessons were learnt from this unmitigated disaster.
Had our leaders taken cognizance of this historical blunder that has been called Pakistan’s Bay of Pigs disaster future follies like the Kargil episode would not have been possible?
In the elections of 1964 Ayub Khan faced the formidable lady Fatima Jinnah who suffered a defeat in the presidential elections that was massively rigged.
Ayub now needed something to improve his image and restore his popularity.
Three brilliant minds of the day met behind closed doors to plan a strategy. Z.A. Bhutto, Foreign minister, Aziz Ahmed, foreign secretary and Major general Akhtar Malik, commander 12th div.
cooked up a clandestine operation called “Operation Gibraltar” After an initial brainstorming session by the top trio the rudiments of the plan were then discussed with some senior bureaucrats of the Govt. in their weekend sessions in Murree where our senior honchos meet on weekends to relax, play cards and exchange notes on different topics.
At one such session general Akhtar Malik disclosed his plans for conquering the Kashmir valley and forcing India to vacate the disputed areas.
These ideas were then put up to the president by Aziz Ahmed and ZAB and they managed to convince Ayub Khan that this bold and daring plan will finally solve the Kashmir issue, India will not launch an all-out war and he will be seen as the greatest hero of the country at par with Mohd.
Bin Qasim and Salah-ud-din Ayubi! General Musa Khan C-in-C Pakistan army had full knowledge and was fully briefed by the planners of the operation and Ayub himself was in total agreement about the launch of Operation Gibraltar.
Musa Khan in his book “My Version” has written: “After the Government finally decided that deep raids should be launched in Indian-held Kashmir, I directed Commander 12 Division, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, to prepare a draft plan for the operation, code-named Gibraltar in consultation with GHQ and within the broad concept we had specified.
GHQ approved it after making certain changes in it. With the help of sand model, he went over the final plan in Murree before it was put into effect on 7 August, 1965 under our overall control.
The Supreme Commander and his Military Secretary were present. He also agreed with it.
I was accompanied by the CGS (Major General Sher Bahadur) and the Directors of Military Operations and Intelligence (Brigadiers Gul Hasan and Irshad Ahmed Khan respectively).
Broadly the plan envisaged, on a short-term basis, sabotage of military targets, disruptions of communications, etc. and, as a long-term measure, distribution of arms to the people of occupied Kashmir and initiation of a guerrilla movement there with a view to starting an uprising in the valley eventually.”
The Gibraltar force consisted of about 8000 young men hastily recruited from the Kashmiri youth, given rudimentary training in the use of fire arms and primed for operations in IOK.
This force was divided into nine different groups named Salahuddin, Ghaznavi, Tariq, Babur,Qasim, Khalid, Nusrat, Sikander and Ghaznavi.
These brave youngsters were then airdropped in IOK with the mission to start sabotage and hit and run operations in Indian Kashmir.
A radio transmitter hastily installed in Rawalpindi named Sada-i-Kashmir started operating supposedly from the IOK.
All presumptions and projections proved totally wrong. The people of Kashmir did not rise up our boys received no help or shelter from the Kashmiri Muslims.
Many of them died fighting and some managed to limp back to Pakistan broken and bruised.
Once it became clear that the operation had failed Pakistan launched “Operation Grand Slam” spearheaded by the 12th division commanded by General Akhtar Malik.
This force made progress initially but got stalled across the River Tawi almost within striking distance of Akhnur the biggest Indian strong hold in the area, On the 3rd of September there was a change of command Akhtar Malik was relieved of command and General Yahyah was placed in the driving seat.
At 0300 hours on 6th September the mighty juggernaut of the Indian armed forces spitting fire and brimstone struck across the international border at Lahore and Sialkot and the rest is history.
—The writer is Professor of History.