Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that the claims were designed to boost the sales of Gohar Ayub’s upcoming book based on his father’s diaries. But in an exclusive interview to HT, Pakistan’s former Foreign Affairs Minister repeated the charge — and showed his father’s diaries for good measure.
How’s your book based on Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s diaries progressing?
There are two books. One is an autobiography that I have completed and am in the process of adding more material to it. The other is based on the dairies of my late father. As President (of Pakistan), he used to write his daily diary. That’s fascinating. Date-wise, it records practically everything — right till he resigned and subsequently till about November, 1972 when his health gave way. Those diaries would be in the market by December this year.
New Delhi is dismissive about your disclosure. It says your story lacks credibility, is over 40 years old and appears aimed at promoting the book.
I would never mention anything that’s factually incorrect or for which I can be ridiculed. My father’s diaries contain material in his own hand. I did not say anything with the intention of making money or highlighting something against any Indian officer or personality. I (only) presented a fact relating to issues that are there (in the diaries).
If your father was maintaining a diary, he must have named the officer.
Yes certainly, he did tell me the name. The officer was well known to our family.
You mean the Indian officer.
Yes, he was well known not only to our family but also my in-laws — the Khattak family of Lt Gen Habibullah Khan. In a statement (to a Pakistani newspaper) I said he was a Brigadier in the Directorate of Military Operations and his wife was keen on canning fruits and vegetables. He became a legend, rose to the very top. Ask any Indian or Pakistani officer and he’d straightaway tell you who he is.
That means you’ll name him.
No need to name him. After all how many officers reached the very top? Or how many were in the directorate of military operations and reached the very top? And what ranks in the Indian or the Pakistan army constitute the very top?
The Chief of the Army Staff.
No, a Brigadier can also be COAS.
You mean he rose to be a General. Was he a full-fledged General?
Five star General or Field Marshal?
A Field Marshal?
Same as your father, a Field Marshal. Did he hold a rank equal to that of your father?
I said very top.
Were you approached by anyone from India after you made the statement?
A lot of Indian officers rang me up because my father had served in many Indian regiments like Ist Assam, which is today somewhere in Jaipur. Various retired Indian officers named a couple — their initials etc — but I did not disclose the name.
You say he reached the very top. We’ve had two Field Marshals. So who among the two?
(Laughs) It’s so very obvious.
Is he better known in terms of victories and wars?
I said he became a legend.
A legend during Indira Gandhi’s time?
It’s so simple, so easy. I don’t want to really (go into details).
But would you at least confirm that he became a legend during Indira’s time.
I would say that he became a legend.
Yes, but was it during Indira’s time?
See, one was the first Chief of Army Staff. He was not a legend.
I get the point now. But the amount you mentioned was too small.
At that time it wasn’t.
Did it end at that or did it continue? Do the diaries say anything more?
On this particular officer, nothing more than this.
Will you honestly reproduce a date-wise account of what Ayub Khan wrote?
Exactly what he wrote in his own hand.
Isn’t it surprising that the President recorded such a serious matter in his diary?
He was honestly recording all that occurred.
But it requires a degree of confidentiality.
Yes, it’s usually so. (That’s why) he made the proviso that it should be published way after his death.
He left behind a will?
It’s there in the diary itself. He was President till March 25, 1969. So, you can imagine how many years have passed.
Questions have been about the President sharing such confidential information with you.
It was known throughout the Pakistan Army — officers of that rank knew it.
How did it all begin?
The beginning basically was the 1965 war and that some plans were there involving some individuals and officers.
You claim the officer was in possession of the Indian war plan. But when you make the first contact, you have to be sure about the response.
(Laughs) I will not go into the details of how it was done, when it was done. Your Defence Minister has since gone into the Rajya Sabha and said it’s all lies. That it has been done to increase the book’s sale. But that’s not quite correct.
Has your father named this officer or any other Indian personality or officer?
He hasn’t named anybody.
Not even the officer about whom you have spoken?
He hasn’t named him in the diary. But he told me verbally.
How many diaries did he leave behind?
Thirteen. They used to be on his table.
You knew that he wrote diaries?
Anything about Pandit Nehru?
That was in the early sixties. The Tashkent meeting with Lal Bahadur Shashtri also happened before he started writing the diaries in 1966.