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?Living legend sold India?s war plan?

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 03:59 IST

Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub has reopened the controversy over the diaries of his father, field marshal Ayub Khan, by claiming that the Indian brigadier who sold to his country India's battle plans for the 1965 war rose to the ‘very top’ and was a living legend.

According to Gohar, the brigadier in the directorate of military operations passed on the secrets for Rs 20,000 in London. “Some retired Indian officers contacted me (in recent months) but I did not disclose his name,” he claimed. “He rose to the very top and became a legend.” He said that short of directly naming the officer, the diaries -- slated for publication in December -- would leave nothing to imagination.

In fact, in an interview to the Hindustan Times at his Islamabad residence, Gohar came close to identifying the Indian officer who is alive. Recalling a chance meeting they had at London's Hyde Park after the war, he said, “He has been a friend of my family and that of my father-in-law, Lt-gen Habibullah Khan Khattak.”

First made in May last year, Gohar's charge was rubbished, among others, by a known India-baiter and former chief of the Pakistan army, general Aslam Baig, who said no such war plan was received from India. But Gohar has not abandoned the controversial project, the objectivity of which is in grave doubt among certain influential sections in his  own  country.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee refused to believe that someone at that high a level could compromise national interest and security. “Gohar Ayub's is nothing but a statement, details of which aren't available to us. We are awaiting publication of the so-called diaries,” Mukherjee told HT. He said, “What's Gohar's credibility? Let's not be carried away by what others say about our officers.”

Questioning the timing of the book, sources termed it a ‘crude attempt’ to lower the image of the Indian army through insinuations against an officer who left the directorate of military operations years before the 1965 war. “It's blatant information warfare through selective leaks to impact the morale of our men and officers. We have in place the systems to counter such tactics,” they said.

The sources asked as to why the diaries weren't made public after the 1971 war when the Pak army was totally defeated and their country dissected? Is it so because Ayub Khan was then alive and could have been confronted?

“Knowing that dead men tell no tales, Gohar has chosen to wage a disinformation campaign against us when the Pak army is taking a beating on the home front,” they alleged.

As if to prove his assertions, Gohar had himself photographed by the Hindustan Times with the diaries done on presidential stationery in 13 hardbound volumes -- from September, 1966 to November, 1972. He said his father started keeping a daily account of his activities after he faced problems recalling from memory for his book, Friends Not Masters.

What weakens Gohar's version is the admission that Ayub Khan ‘verbally’ disclosed the officer's identity to him -- without naming him in the diaries.

Another question: In what context did the late President, who began writing in the second half of 1966, cover events relating to the 17-day war that ended on September 23, 1965?

By Gohar's own account, even the January 4-10, 1966 Tashkent Conference between Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan finds no mention in the diaries.