The task given to General BM Mustafa, General-Officer-Commanding (GOC) of Pakistani 18 Division, was to safeguard the Karachi-Multan lines of communication and prepare to carry the war into Indian territory.
He planned a bold spoiling attack aimed at getting behind the Indian 12 Division and neutralising the Jaisalmer airbase. The initial plan was for the 51 Brigade, under Brigadier Tariq Mir, with two infantry battalions and 22 Cavalry (T-59s) under his command, to bypass Longewala and go for Ramgarh to position itself for countering any Indian reaction. The third unit of the brigade, a Bengali battalion considered to be unreliable, was placed in a defensive position with a minefield around to effectively contain it.
The 206 Brigade under Brigadier Jehanzeb Arbab was to leave a battalion to cover the approaches to Rahim Yar Khan, take the one battalion left with it and capture Longewala, establishing a firm base for the offensive. The Pakistan Air Force had not activated the Jacobabad airbase as planned, and therefore there was to be no air cover, a vital factor.
A task force, the composition of which kept changing, was to follow the 51 Brigade till Longewala and then take off for Jaisalmer to capture the IAF base located there. On the eve of the offensive, Brigadier Tariq Mir talked the GOC into abandoning this, another critical flaw in the plan.
The 51 Brigade's plan was for the 22 Cavalry, with troops of 38 Baluch on board their tanks, to advance along the track from Masitwari Bhit to the road connecting Longewala with Jaisalmer, bypass Longewala and continue to Ramgarh. The 38 Cavalry (Sherman-2 tanks), along with a battalion, was to attack and capture Longewala or await the arrival of the 206 Brigade which was to follow.
Pak General Headquarter's (GHQ) strategic aim was to draw out Indian 1 Armoured Division located in the general area Faridkot. Thus weakened, the Indian defences would crumble before the Pakistani-2 Corps' proposed offensive aimed at securing Bathinda and Ludhiana. A wishful thought, but then the Pakistanis have never lacked in tangential thinking!
(Next week: How Chandpuri inspired his men)
The spirit of a great regiment
The spirit of a great regiment manifests itself not only in battle, but also in the way it does things. Colonel Kartar Singh joined the Army in 1937 and was the first Indian Commanding Officer of the 1st Mahar. His contemporaries and he, and those who followed them, worked very hard, both on and off the battlefield, to make the Mahar Regiment what it is today - one of the most distinguished and sought after regiments. Over the years he has had a consistent relationship with his old battalion, nurturing it with affection, grace and gifts.
The Colonel turned 100 on April 1, and the momentous day was celebrated by the Mahars at a special function at Chandimandir, graced by the Colonel of the regiment, General Gyan Bhushan, South Western Army Commander, his Western Command counterpart, General Sanjiv Chachra and a host of serving and retired regimental officers. Through this show of affection for one of their stalwarts, one could witness the spirit of a great regiment.
In the midst of such veterans of the regiment (some 120 of them attended along with their ladies) like Major General SP Kapoor, Brigadiers HS Bath, ZS Dhaliwal and Manjit Singh, MVC, one was reminded of the valour and professionalism shown by them and pioneers like Generals VB Tuli, KV Krishna Rao, K Sundarji, Brigadier Ghasi Ram among others, who built the Mahars. The names of Major Ramaswamy Parameswaran, Param Vir Chakra; Naik Krishna Sonawane, Colonel GS Sangha, Sepoy Anusuya Prasad and Major PS Ganapathy, all Maha Vir Chakra awardees, serve to inspire the present generation of the regiment.
My salute to this valiant regiment and the splendid way it honours its veterans.
Jawans' perspective on AFSPA
How is a jawan to contend with false allegations of human rights violations in insurgency hit areas if it were it not for the protection afforded by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)? Not that AFSPA provides blanket immunity to offenders; they still have to face investigation, trial and punishment under the Army's own in-house system.
A system that is time-tested and proven, and barring the occasional aberration, dispenses speedy and well-judged justice. Some jawans have been punished for offences like causing simple hurt, molestation or threatening behaviour, punishments for which being unheard of in the civil judicial system.
Without the safety provided by AFSPA, jawans would be left at the mercy of the overground workers of separatists, who pose as human rights activists. Jawans are especially vulnerable given that they are not able, for lack of resources, to arrange for adequate legal representation to face motivated allegations. These factors must be taken into account whenever any decision on the lifting of AFSPA is taken.
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