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Father, son and the ghost

india Updated: Jun 29, 2007 05:29 IST
Anil Bhat

Like spams or pop-ups on the Net, Gauhar Ayub Khan featured again recently, trying desperately to boost the sale of his book. He forgets that books written by dictators or their sons are never taken seriously. His fantasy of “an Indian Army brigadier posted in military operations directorate, who later became an icon, sold operational secrets for Rs 20,000”, or words to the effect repeated often, now points to Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw, MC, affectionately known as ‘Sam Bahadur’, now in his mid-90s.

Gauhar Ayub Khan’s father, a self-styled Field Marshal, gave martial law and dictatorship to Pakistan, putting a fledgling country on the path to becoming a rogue nation. His successor, Yahya Khan, presided over Pakistan’s dismemberment (on the eve of the surrender of the Pakistan armed forces to the Indian Army in December 1971, at Dhaka, Lt Gen AAK Niazi was desperately trying to contact Yahya but could not do so as the latter was partying at his new mansion at Peshawar). The third dictator, Zia-ul-Haq, Islamised the army and ‘mulla-ised’ governance and, worse, sowed the seeds for Pakistan becoming a global liability because of terrorism, a task which the fourth dictator, Pervez Musharraf, completed.

Ayub Khan was born at Abottabad in the Northwest Frontier Province in 1908. Educated at Aligarh Muslim University and at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Britain, he joined the Pakistan army in 1928. He became the country’s Defence Minister in 1954. Later, he colluded with the then President Iskandar Mirza and imposed martial law on October 7, 1958, abrogating the Constitution of 1956. He ousted Mirza from power on October 27 and declared himself President of Pakistan. When war broke out between Pakistan and India on September 6, 1965, Ayub Khan promoted himself to the rank of Field Marshal.

In 1966, when the six-point demand for East Pakistan’s autonomy was raised by the Awami League, he began repression of his political opponents. The leaders of the Awami League, including party chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, were arrested. In the backdrop of an intense anti-Ayub movement from 1966 to 1968, Ayub Khan convened a round table conference of opposition political leaders at Rawalpindi on February 26, 1969. But when the conference failed to resolve the crisis, he handed over power to the army chief, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, and retired from politics. He died on April 20, 1974.

A fact about the Pakistan Army, as seen in the tank battles of 1965 and 1971, is that its tank crew abandoned their mounts as soon as a projectile hit them, for fear of fire. Staying on in the tank after it is hit and not aflame, the crew can continue engaging enemy targets with the tank’s main gun and automatics. Scrambling hurriedly out of tanks reflected lack of leadership and motivation and sub-standard training, which resulted in bad gunnery and poor battle procedures. This cost Pakistan dearly in terms of men and material in its conventional wars with India.

Both the Indian and Pakistan armies were one under undivided India. Clearly, the Pakistan army lost its professionalism very soon. Its leaders devised proxy warfare and took to terror tactics as early as in the first war, which had actually begun even before Independence. Pakistan had begun inducting ‘kabayalis’ well before the Indian army began its action on October 27, 1947. What the Pakistan army did in Jammu and Kashmir then — pillage and rape — was nothing short of terrorism.

In 1965, Pakistan pumped in ‘mujahids’. In the period preceding the 1971 war, the Pakistan army indulged in a long period of rape and genocide. The Indian army captured 93,0000 Pakistani armed forces personnel, who could not believe that they were not tortured and were repatriated in good health. Yet now, Pakistan refuses to return at least 54 missing Indian personnel who are known to be held captive in Pakistan.

If Sam Bahadur is an icon, it is only because he deserves to be one. Shortly after his retirement, he was invited to Pakistan. In Lahore, his birthplace, as he was departing after being hosted by the Governor of Punjab province, one of his employees placed his turban at Manekshaw’s feet. He wanted to thank Manekshaw for the well-being of five of his sons in the Pakistan army, who had all been held as prisoners of war in India.

His parting words, much to the embarrassment of the Governor and other officials, were, “We will never again say Indians are bad.”

Anil Bhat is Chief Editor, WordSword Features & Media