‘Operation Gibraltar’ is a major event in the history of Pakistan and Kashmir. Whatever it’s intent and purpose, it had a far-reaching effect on the history of India, Pakistan and Kashmir. It changed the course of history in the Sub – Continent. To the majority of the Pakistani and Kashmiri people, it was a daring military expedition to ‘liberate’ the Indian held Kashmir, but the reality appears to be somewhat different. Some writers and retired army men claim that it was a ‘conspiracy’. If it is true, then the question is a conspiracy by who and against who.
It is very controversial area which requires considerable but careful research and analysis. No researcher can ever claim to uncover the whole truth in a research of this nature. I don’t claim that I have discovered the whole truth, but I can certainly present the alternative view with solid arguments and prove that the planners of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ had more than one target in their minds and the ‘liberation of Kashmir’ was not their first priority. Had it been their priority then they must have given attention to the following:
1. Very careful planning with clear objectives.
2. Proper training and resources to achieve those objectives.
3. Close co – ordination with the bodies or organizations who could have helped to achieve those objectives, in this case the Azad Kashmir Government which was set up to liberate Kashmir; or those political organizations which believe in the liberation of Kashmir.
4. Broad – based consultation with the local people and win their confidence whose independence was to be achieved. Without their active support and participation this ‘Operation’ could not even survive in hostile place never mind of its success.
5. Above all dedicated and sincere leadership which believed in the plan, and had the ability to implement it.
Let us now examine these on the available evidence and see what was in the minds of the planners of this ‘Operation’, and how successful they were in achieving their target or targets.
1. Background situation
Pandit Jawhar Lal Nehru’s successor Lal Bahadur Shastri, rushed through a series of “Constitutional amendments, ( Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution ) despite strong opposition.” The aim was to bring the State of Jammu and Kashmir in line with other States of the Indian Union. The head of the State under new law was not to be elected by the State Legislature, rather the Delhi government had a right to nominate anyone. Also under the new law four seats were allocated in the Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha, to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. And for the first time the Kashmiri people would contest for seats in the Indian Parliament. This really meant a gradual erosion of the Article 370 which gave special status to Kashmir. There was a strong reaction to this in the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah declared on May 7 1964, that ‘no solution will be lasting unless it has the approval of all the parties concerned, namely India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir’.
It is believed by some people that Nehru towards the end of his life felt that despite his best endeavours India had failed to win the hearts and souls of the Kashmiri people; and that he needed to find a more realistic solution to the dispute. There were some influential people like Jayaparkash Narayan who also felt that the Kashmiri people should be given a chance to decide their future. In an article published in the Hindustan Times on 20 April 1964, he said, I might be lacking in patriotism, but it is difficult for me to believe that the people of Kashmir had already voted to live with India on the basis of the 1957 and 1962 elections which are highly controversial and are alleged to have been rigged. Why not give the Kashmiris a real chance to decide about their future. If we are sure that they want to live with us then what fear is there.
So it was with this kind of thinking Nehru released Sheikh Abdullah who was in prison since 1953, and allowed him to fly to Pakistan. It is believed that the aim was to sell to Ayub Khan a proposal of confederation between India, Pakistan and Kashmir. It is claimed that Sheikh Abdullah discussed the idea with Ayub Khan but due to untimely demise of Nehru on 27th May 1964, Abdullah flew back to Delhi and with it this plan aborted. 1 Many commentators think that the scheme was to partition the State on more ‘realistic’ and ‘practical grounds’, and by granting some kind of ‘independence’ to a part of the State with joint supervision of both countries.
Later Sheikh Abdullah and Afzal Beg toured Europe, West Asia and Makkah. Abdullah’s meeting with the Chinese Prime Minister Chou-in Lai in Algiers was disliked by India; and on their return to Delhi, both leaders were arrested. This further aggravated the already tensed situation.
The Pakistani government was clearly very perturbed by all this and believed that India was paving the way for the ‘merger’ of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. So alarm bells were sounded in government circles that some thing had to be done, but It was not clear what. It was not possible for any Pakistani government to remain quiet and let India, arch enemy, get away with all this. It was more of a political requirement then any commitment to the Kashmiri people or any ideology.endeavors
2. Leaders and Planners
Apart from that the people of the Indian held Kashmir were angry and agitated with the disappearance of a relic of the Prophet Mohammed ( peace be upon him ), which was kept at Hazrat Bal, in Srinager. All these events put together provided an attractive opportunity to some ‘ambitious high ups’ in the Pakistan government who thought it was right time to intervene in Kashmir. President Ayub was induced to launch “Operation Gibraltar” to free Kashmir. The White Paper on Kashmir published in 1976, stated that, at the time of Sino -India war some one close to President Ayub Khan suggested to him that it was the right time to attack India and free Kashmir. The President who fully understood the horrors of a modern war, reported to have said that he was thinking of either sending him to mental hospital or shoot dead for suggesting this kind of dangerous thing.
This clearly explains what the President Ayub thought of war with India. War, understandably, is not a joke and must be taken very seriously, and every effort must be made to avoid it. Then the question is why Pakistan started the war of 1965. It is no longer true to say that it was India who started the 1965 war. Only last month September 1997, in a statement in newspapers, also published in Daily Jang London, the then Air Chief Marshal, Noor Khan said that it was Pakistan who started the war.
A part of the answer to this question as to why Pakistan started the war is provided by a very senior freedom fighter and renowned journalist Mir Abdul Aziz. According to him a very senior retired officer told him that Ayub Khan was very upset about anti – Ayub demonstrations, even though he was at that time an ‘elected’ president. He was advised that:
‘This was the chance to strike in Kashmir and he would become the darling and hero of the Pakistani and Kashmiri people. On this Ayub Khan was convinced and the Operation Giberaltor was put into practice.”
Apart from that it must be noted that it was the same leadership in Pakistan which endeavored to negotiate the division of Kashmir in 1963. At that time Ayub Khan was the President, and ZA Bhutto was the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. It is inconceivable that the leadership which was prepared to accept the partition of Kashmir, and settle for whatever piece of land they had, was all of sudden overcome by ‘patriotism’ and ‘love’ for the Kashmiri people, and risked a war with India, hence lives of thousands of innocent people.
After the sino – India war, under the pressure of the Western powers, especially the United States of America, India and Pakistan had a series of bilateral talks in 1962/3, in which Bhutto represented Pakistan and Sardar Sawarn Singh represented India. The division of the State of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and no agreement was reached mainly because India refused to accept the Pakistani proposal for the division of Kashmir.
These negotiations started on 27 December 1962 and finished on 16 May 1963. The Indian delegation presented its plan for the division of Kashmir and called it ‘Political Settlement’. Pakistan by continued talking on the division plan, in principle, accepted that Kashmir can be divided provided the right price was paid to Pakistan. Moreover in the Calcutta meeting, Pakistani delegation headed by ZA Bhutto, put forward its own plan for the division of Kashmir. Pakistan demanded the whole districts of Mirpur and Poonch and Riasi, in return Pakistan was prepared to accept the postponement of the decision regarding the future of the Valley; or accept that the Valley may be ‘internationalised’ for ten years. India refused to accept this plan, and that was the end of this round of bilateral talks.
For more details see India – Pakistan Relations by GW Choudhry page 138. This book is written by a known writer who was a Minister in Pakistan Government.
3. Operation Gibraltar rejected by the Army Chief
Brigadier (R) Farooq who was an officer in the force which was sent to ‘liberate Kashmir’ claims in his book, ‘Operation Gibraltar’, that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan was one of the brains behind this. 5 According to him, Bhutto set up a ‘ Liberation Cell ‘, which included people like:
- Mr Aziz Ahmed
- Mr Nazir Ahmed
- Mr Ayub Buksh Awan
- Mr NA Farooqi
- Mr Ahmed
- Mr Altaf Goher
(although the later did not attend any of the meetings)
General Musa, Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Army at that time, confirms the existence of this ‘Cell’, which was set up in August of 1964. 6 The majority of the members of this ‘Cell’ were from the ‘Qadiani sect’. This ‘Cell’ had the support of some senior army officers, including Major General Akhtar Malik, who was also known to be a ‘Qadiani’.
When this ambitious plan was first sent to the GHQ, General Musa opposed it and wrote the following points to the President Ayub Khan:
A. Guerrilla war in Kashmir can only be successful if the people of Kashmir take part in it, and in my opinion we need more time to prepare people for this.
B. During the guerrilla war if India realized that it is losing the war in Kashmir, she will attack Pakistan.
C. As long as Pakistan is not in a position to defeat India militarily, we should not venture such operation in Kashmir.
D. In order to defeat India we need more army, better arms and better training.
(General Musa asked for money to set up two more army divisions to face the challenge. General Ayub in principle agreed with this idea, but the Finance Minister Mr Shoaib persuaded him against this by saying that the Pakistan economy cannot afford it. And this idea was dropped. It is ironic that no such army was raised before the start of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ or during its operations, but after the war, in the same month, two divisions were set up).
It is amazing to note that Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who retired from his position on 23 July 1965 was not consulted on this important issue. It was quite obvious that with an ‘ Operation ‘ of that nature there would be some serious response from India, which could lead to a full scale war, and for that the assistance of the air force was must. The planners, for what ever reason, assumed that like 1947 India would limit the war to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan had pay heavily for this wrong, rather foolish assumption.
Despite this opposition from the senior army men, including the Commander in Chief, the go ahead was given to this ‘Operation’. In Brigadier (R) Farooq’s view, Mr Bhutto played the leading role in persuading Ayub Khan. According to him, Bhutto must have said to Ayub Khan that:
1. You missed an opportunity of liberating Kashmir in 1963, while India was engaged in a war with China.
2. You are just as great and important as Mao- se -Tang of China, General Charles De Gaul of France, and Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. You have made Pakistan a strong and viable country. Pakistan needs you, and his (Bhutto’s) wish is that Ayub Khan remains president for life. This can only be done if some how Kashmir is liberated and joined with Pakistan. If this can happen then it will establish him in the history as a great leader and conqueror, and there will be no parallel to his greatness.
3. Furthermore Bhutto is what he (Ayub Khan) has made him, and it is his desire to serve him as the Foreign Secretary to pay his due.
Another writer, Arshad Ahmed, in an article on the 1965 war said:
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto wanted to deprive Ayub Khan of his power, and this was not possible until the strength, ego and pride of the army was not smashed. This view was supported by Marxist leader Tariq Ali, who was close to the Peoples Party which Bhutto formed after disagreements with the Ayub Khan Government, said in an interview in America that, he had asked Bhutto about the 1965 war, and Bhutto told him: Until these generals are not defeated it is not possible to get in power in Pakistan. 9 According to the writer this view is also supported by prominent people like Major General Rao Farman Ali, Lt. General Atiq Ul Reman, Major General Ahesan Ul Haq, Col. Ghafar and Altaf Goher.
Brigadier Arshad who was the Director Military Intelligence also opposed this ‘Operation’, but later agreed to go along with the tide, perhaps he had realized the trend and did not want to oppose this and jeopardies his promotion prospects. He later retired as a Lt. General. According to Brigadier (R) Farooq General Musa was a simple man. He gave his opinion about the ‘Operation’ and then did not make it a matter of pride and remained quiet. if he and General Sher Bahdar who also opposed the idea, had resigned then there would have been no ‘Operation Gibraltar’
A top level meeting was held at the Headquarters of the 12 th Division in May 1965. Once again, General Musa opposed the plan, and to this President Ayub Khan: ‘Musa I have been assured by the Foreign Office that India would not be involved in a full scale war’. When both General Musa and General Sher Bahadar said that if we are to start a guerrilla war at that level, it is very likely that India would react and attack Pakistan. President Ayub Khan reacted by saying: ‘We will have to take heart sometime’
Apart from the assurance to which President Ayub Khan made reference that India would not attack Pakistan, Pakistani planners of this ‘Operation’ were led to believe that India is not in a position to launch attack against Pakistan until 1966 or 1967. It was emphasized that we do not waste any more time, and start our action as soon as possible.
During this time the plan was discussed with Col. Syed Ghafar Mehdi, the Commander of the Special Services Group, whose officers were also to take part in this Operation. After reading it he said:
‘The whole concept of this Operation is wrong, and the planning is wrong too. The planners have not used their common sense and intelligence. This is a product of a bankrupt mind, and it is possible that this may prove to be “Bay of Pigs” for Pakistan.’ 14
4. Objectives of the Operation
We have looked at the planners and the leaders of the ‘Operation’, now let us examine at its objectives. According to Brigadier (R) Farooq it was assumed that as the result of this guerrilla war the Kashmir problem would be settled within weeks; if this did not happen, at least, it would force the United Nations to intervene and have a cease fire.
India had started calling Kashmir as its ‘integral part’, this was contrary to the UN resolutions and India’s pledges regarding Kashmir. The aim of the ‘Operation’ was:
* To expose the Indian claim on Kashmir by the guerrilla war – present it as the Kashmiri peoples struggle against the Indian rule in Kashmir.
* Force India to take some kind of military or political action which will prove to the world that there is still some trouble in Kashmir; and that the Kashmir dispute has not been resolved as claimed by India.
* To persuade the local people to fight against India. It was assumed that the support for this was already there and all they had to do was to give them a call, and people would be ready to fight and defeat world’s fourth biggest and well trained army. Perhaps this was also assumed that the Kashmiri people do not need any kind of training to achieve this gigantic task. 15
5. Preparation for a Guerrilla War
Mao Se Tang, who successfully waged a guerrilla war in China, said, in order for the guerrilla war to succeed there must be a:
- Strong public support.
- Excellent organization and administration.
- Strong fighting force with sufficient arms supplies.
- Territory suitable for commando actions.
- Economic stability/ self sufficiency.
If we look at Mao’s rules for the guerrilla war, the first priority is given to the public support, whatever it takes to get that support. Without the mass support of the local people there is absolutely no chance of winning this kind of war. If the purpose was to wage a successful guerrilla war against India and liberate Kashmir, then the Kashmiri people must have been taken into confidence. The local people must have been trained for this purpose, the people of Azad Kashmir could have been there to provide extra help and support. The people who were sent to fight a guerrilla war were not familiar with the territory.
Commenting on this point, General Musa, who was Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army at the time of war, in his book, ‘My Version’ said that the Kashmiris of the Valley were not taken into confidence about the ‘Operation’ that was to be started to liberate them. He wrote:
We had not even consulted the public leaders across the cease fire line about our aims and intentions, let alone associating them with our planning for the clandestine war…..
Any one with any sense can see and understand that the people of the area to be ‘liberated’ must have be taken into confidence, if the people organizing this gigantic task really meant business. Without the help of the local people outside army cannot win a war or even survive. Not only the people of Kashmir living on the other side of the cease fire line were not taken into confidence, also the people of Azad Kashmir, even the Azad Kashmir Government was not taken into confidence. When the ‘Operation’ was put into practice then the planners realized that they need to have some Kashmiri support for this. They already had set up a Liberation Council, and compelled by circumstances they announced that Choudhry Ghullam Abbass was leading this Liberation Council. They did not have the courtesy, even at that time, to speak to the top Kashmiri leader on this side of the border before making this announcement. Choudhry Ghulam Abbass was already very annoyed with all this, he immediately rejected that in a news statement in the Nawa E Waqat the following day: that he had nothing to do with all this, and that he did not know anything about the ‘Operation’.
General Musa also confirms the above position, he said:
Because of the haste with which the ‘Operation’ was launched, even Azad Kashmir leaders were not taken into confidence by the advocates of Guerrilla raids. Helplessly they remained in the background. Their co – operation was also very necessary and would have been very helpful. They could have assisted the mujahideen in various ways by themselves and in conjunction with the Kashmiris of the Valley.
It must be noted here that the total number of commandos who were sent to ‘liberate’ Kashmir were 3000, with 4000 volunteers (mujahids) and they were from Azad Kashmir Regular Forces. According to Brigadier (R) Isahaq and Brigadier (R) Salah Udin 98% of the mujahids were forcibly included in the force, and these were those people who had no means to pay bribe to the local police.
I have interviewed a number of local people of Mirpur and Bhimber who testified that the local people were forcibly included to fight a guerrilla war. Even people from my own village, including some of my relatives, were rounded up and taken to the training camps. Majority of them had never held a rifle in their hands before, and it was expected that these men would drive out highly trained Indian army from Kashmir.
As discussed earlier for a task like this to be successful, there has to be perfect planning, first class leadership to CO – ordinate and implement the planning; and of course high quality training. When we analyse the whole plan nothing was in order.
According to experts, guerrilla war fare has a number of stages which must be completed before embarking on the venture:
- Agreement by the leadership on practical and achievable objectives.
- Selection of a capable commander who firmly believes in those objectives.
- organizational set up and distribution of duties.
- Recruitment and training of those who are to take part, this includes the training of the officers.
- Intelligence network to support and advise the leadership.
- Supply Line to provide the guerrillas all what they require to accomplish the task.
- Distribution of task and areas that different groups can function independently but can help and co – ordinate in case of difficulty.
- Last but not least the resources.
There are a number of stages and procedures within all of the above which requires further break down and careful analyses of each one, but this will be divergence from the main point, and I don’t want to make this a chapter on the working of the guerrilla war.
Generally speaking other countries spend many months, and some times more than a year, preparing before the first bullet is shot. The planning is made in such a way that the struggle can be maintained for years, as exampled by the guerrilla struggle in Vietnam, China, Algeria, Ireland etc. For example, in Vietnam initial training was for nine months followed by ideological training for four months. Whereas the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ was ‘pushed through’ all the stages in a record six weeks, and the planning was to fight for a short period. On 16 May 1965 a meeting was held in Murree to discuss the mechanisms of the ‘Operation’ and on the next day General Akhtar Hussain Malik put forward 19 pages plan. Some people claim that it was prepared by LT. Col. Waqee Ul Zaman who was also a Qadiyani. 21
According to Brigadier (R) Farooq the Plan was prepared by amateurs (22) that is why no attention was given to many important things. No one thought of impact of this venture on the situation inside the country, or on the international community. No missions were sent out to persuade the international community or to explain what was the situation in Kashmir. 23 No consideration was given to economy of the country. Can we sustain this kind of ‘Operation’ for a period of time; and what if India crossed the international border, is our economy and military ready to take up this challenge. 24 Or was it enough that the Foreign Office had assured us through a third party that India would not cross the international border.
He further said that everything was rushed through and we missed out on many stages of the preparation, and even the officers had no practical experience of fighting a guerrilla war. 25 Some of them must have read books written on the subject and that was about it. 26 It was assumed that all the officers were also experts in the guerrilla war fare as well. 27 The reality was that some of the officers heard of the guerrilla war tactics during our training. 28 He said, 95% of us did not know anything about the history and geography of Kashmir. Also we had no idea of their social and culture, out of six commanders only one (Salaudin) had some knowledge on Kashmir. 29
7. Comments on the ‘Operation Gibraltar’
Brigadier Isahaq, who was second in command in the implementation of the Operation Gibraltar, commented on the ‘Operation’ in 1985:
Unfortunately we could not create the situation in the Valley as we expected. We could not win the confidence of the local people. Despite that they helped us and looked after our needs; and above all they did not inform the authorities about us.
Aslam, was one of the Officer who led the force in Kashmir in 1965 commented:
The purpose of this was good but when we look at the planning and its implementation, it appears that a third rate and useless army has done a quick job. But I want to emphasis that we are not third rate army. All those who had planned this and took part in this are known to be professional soldiers, to them if this Operation was not practical then they should have resigned rather than flattering.
Another Commentator, known as HJN said:
without any hesitation I can say that no matter how important is the expedition, it can only be completed if there is sincerity and dedication. It is unfortunate to note that both of these were not present in this. Our planning and actions lacked vision and consistency. In reality the planning and actions has made us a third rated army, which we are not…. Our officers were professionals I wonder they accepted to complete this in such a short time…… Integrity in an officer demands that he should speak his mind about operations and actions…..
…… Kashmir is very suitable for these kinds of small operations, but they must have the support of the local people. These small groups could not control an area for a long time, they must be helped by a regular army. I have not read in history that an area was liberated by these small groups without the support of a regular army. Therefore when the regular army could not reach there it was impossible for you ( guerrillas) to remain there. Under these conditions it was wrong to expect that you ( guerrillas) would be able to liberate Kashmir….
….It is amazing what was planned by the planners, and how and why people in the high power circles approved this. Despite the passage of long time (more than two decades), it is difficult to understand if it was a conspiracy, why no heads were rolled. Was it a conspiracy or simple incompetence and insincerity. Or shall I say treason. In my opinion those people who planned it, and those who agreed to implement it without suggesting any improvements and criticising it, have committed treason. It is difficult to find another words for this.
Some commentators say that the Kashmiri support for Pakistan was taken for granted. But this may not be the case. The evidence shows that the plan lacked proper planning. Perhaps one could add that the planners lacked sincerity as well; and the purpose of this war may not have been the liberation of Kashmir. One may ask, how could a government, which only two years ago were engaged in bilateral talks with India ( S Sing – Z A Bhutto Talks 1963) to divide Kashmir; and which at one time offered India ‘Joint Defence’, be so sincere to wage a war to liberate Kashmir. According to Qudrat Ullah Shoahb, he spoke to Nawab of Kala Bagh, Governor of West Pakistan, about the 1965 War, who said:
‘This was not Pakistan’s war. In fact this war was imposed by Major General Akhtar Malik, M M Ahmed, Z A Bhutto, Aziz Ahmed and Nazir Ahmed. The aim was to control Ayub Khan and increase their power and influence, and in doing so if it hurts Pakistan they damn care.’
Qudrat Ullah Shoahb had been a Minister of Information, Secretary to the President, and an Ambassador in Holland, and he was very informed and well connected person. He further said that:
At a time when Major Akhtar Hussain Malik was to take over Akhanoor to pave the way to take Srinager, the capital of Kashmir, he was wrongly removed from the command, and General Yayya Khan was put in his position. Perhaps the aim was to deprive Pakistan success in Akhnoor, Yayya Khan accomplished this task very well.’
Air Marshal Noor Khan, who was the Air Chief during the war of 1965, said in a statement that ‘ the thing which is worth noting about the 1965 war is that there was no planning of it at all.’
The question is if there was any planning for the war, which there must have been, then the Air Chief of the Army must have been involved in it; and if there was no planning for the war then one wonders what was the planning for? Was it a conspiracy of some kind, as pointed out by Lt. General (R) Atiq Ul Rehman and Col. (R) Ghafar Mehdi:
‘India and Pakistan war of 1965 was not won or lost, but it laid down the foundations for the disintegration of Pakistan. This question is still unsolved that the war was over zealous ambition of a few people or a conspiracy of more than one country’
A well known Kashmiri writer and journalist Mir Abdul Aziz commented:
Poor Kashmiris were made the scape – goats. They were never consulted, not even informed that a war of liberation of Kashmir was being started. Those who were sent to Kashmir Valley did not even know the Kashmiri language………. The whole affair was a wild goose chase.
Dr Basit, a famous lawyer and writer commented:
We want to ask if liberation of Kashmir was your purpose, then why this was kept secret from all the Kashmiri leaders? Was it not necessary for the Kashmiris to take part in their war of freedom?
K. H Khurshid, who was the secretary to Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and also Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Government commented:
I firmly believe that Ayub Khan was not fully aware of the reasons for the war of 1965. Foreign Office, Home Ministry and some senior officers from the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs which included A. B Awan, Nazir Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, prevailed on him and assured him that it is only a small programme which would not lead to a war with India. Ayub Khan who offered India ‘joint defence’ would not have agreed to a full scale war with India…. These men wanted to weaken Ayub’s hold on the government, and this is the real reason why he was so angry with them after the war.
8. Did the Kashmiri people let them down?
‘When the ‘Operation’ proved to be a disastrous, not only it led to a full scale war with India, it posed serious threat to integrity and stability of Pakistan. Also it did serious damage to the Kashmir cause in the form of the Tashkent Declaration. Apart from that it created some rift between the Kashmiri leadership on both sides of the border and the Pakistani establishment. Kashmiris were angry the way they were treated before, during and after the ‘Operation’. The people of Valley, who although were not taken into confidence, went out of their way to support the guerrillas, and when these guerrilla returned back to Pakistan they left helpless people of Kashmir at the mercy of the Indian forces.
The ‘Operation’ created a number of difficulties for the government of Pakistan, and that time the planners were criticised for their hasty and badly planned action. It is reported by a prominent writer and thinker, Altaf Goher, that in a Cabinet meeting after the war Bhutto and his team were severely criticised for bad planning and misleading the President. At that time Bhutto tried to put forward his case but realizing that he was not cutting any ice, he started crying and said that his political future is ruined. 40
It was after the failure of the venture when the planners of the ‘Operation’ turned their propaganda guns against the poor Kashmiris, and claimed that if it was not for the non co- operation of the Kasmiris, the ‘Operation’ would have been successful. In a systematic manner this misinformation was spread and government resources were used to carry out this propaganda operation. The planners of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ were unsuccessful in liberating Kashmir but they were successful in shifting the blame to the Kashmiri people. It is because of this Mir Abdul Aziz, quoted earlier, said, ‘poor Kashmiris were made the scape goats’
Many more quotations of prominent people who were at the helm of affairs in Pakistan, can be given to support that the planners of the war of 1965 had many targets in mind, and Kashmir was very low down on their list of priorities. But it doesn’t look necessary to do so. It is, however, important to clarify about the role of the Kashmiri people during the war of 1965. It is alleged that the ‘Operation’ failed because the people of Kashmir did not co – operate. This is not true. It is however, true that they were not taken into confidence and they were surprised and bewildered when they learnt about the ‘liberation’ forces.
Already I have quoted General Musa and few other prominent people who confirmed that the people of Kashmir were not consulted about the ‘Operation Gibraltar’, and despite that they helped the mujahids to the best of their ability. It was bad planning and insincerity by some high ups that the ‘Operation’ failed; and it is wrong to accuse the Kashmiri people for this failure.
Freedom fighter, writer and well known journalist, Mir Abdul Aziz, in a meeting with this writer said that when Sheikh Abdullah visited Pakistan in 1964, he discussed a possibility of guerrilla war in Kashmir, and Pakistani support for it. He was disappointed with the response of the Pakistani authorities. When he returned back from Haj he was arrested by India and once again put in prison. When Pakistan started the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ in 1965, he was still in jail, and must have been astonished to hear about ‘guerrilla war’, if it can be called so. 41
The first rule about the guerrilla war is that it is fought by the local people – by the son of the soil – people who know the local conditions well. Where people are brought from out side to fight a kind of ‘guerrilla war’ in an area which is strange to them, then more than likely they will fail in their purpose, as the mujahids failed in 1965. There were many reasons for their failure, one was lack of preparation and consultations with the Kashmiri people. The Mujahideen who were sent to ‘liberate’ Kashmir, as noted earlier, were from Azad Kashmir and they did not know the Kashmiri language and traditions. They looked different from the people of the Valley and were not aware of the climatic, geographical and social fabrics of the Valley.
The first problem you face when you go to a strange place, especially with hostile intentions, is to hide yourself and get a safe shelter. The language of the people is alien to you, the clothes you wear are different to yours. The food you eat is also different, in Azad Kashmir people eat ‘roti’, and in Kashmir Valley people eat rice; and ‘roti’ is eaten during famine or in extreme poverty and under medical care. It is claimed by Mir Abdul Aziz that some Mujahideen went to shops and asked for ‘dho seir ata’, meaning two kilo flour, but they asked in weights which were abolished a long time ago. Also the request for ‘atta’ was enough to expose them that they were not Kashmiris. 42
One can see from the above that it was not the lack of co- operation of the Kashmiri people which resulted in the failure of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’. The Kashmiri people helped them to the best of their ability, even though they were not taken into confidence, and mentally they were not ready to accomplish this gigantic task. According to Col. Mansha Khan, who later became member of the Azad Kashmir Assembly and the Speaker of the Assembly, said that the people of Valley co – operated with them even at times risking their lives. In a detailed interview with Justice Yousaf Saraf, he said that ‘they could not have come alive if the Valley people had not risked their lives and honour for the Mujahideen.’
Ayub Khan was assured by his advisors and the Foreign Secretary, ZA Bhutto, that India would not cross the international boundary to attack Pakistan. The Indian leaders and ministers were clearly saying that if Pakistan did not stop its adventure in Kashmir, then the conflict could spread to other areas. But Pakistani leaders did not take these threats seriously until the direct Indian attack on the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Sialkot in order to release the pressure on the retreating Indian forces in Kashmir.
It is claimed by some writers, as quoted above, that this operation was ‘deliberately mis-planned to topple or weaken Ayub Khan’ 44. This topic has become very controversial, but whatever its real motives, it resulted in a full scale war between India and Pakistan. The Security Council arranged a cease fire on 23rd September 1965.
9. Tashkent Agreement and Kashmir
After the war both India and Pakistan claimed ‘victory’. It is open to interpretation what is meant by the word ‘victory’, and it may be true to some extent that they were both ‘victors’ because both have in their occupation land which did not belong to them. The only loser in this war game were the Kashmiri people who were the main suffering party; and who despite huge sacrifices were still divided and oppressed.
Mrs Indira Gandhi was once asked by a foreign journalist that Pakistan claims to have won the 1965 war, and India makes a similar claim; what was her opinion on this. With a smile she said we did not send any one to liberate the area which is under illegal occupation of Pakistan. It was Pakistan which sent the “intruders” in order to get Kashmir from India. Our purpose, at that time, was not to get any more area which is occupied by Pakistan, we simply wanted to drive out the “saboteurs” out of Kashmir. Kashmir is still with us and the “intruders” were successfully pushed out of Kashmir. I want you to be judge and decide who is the ‘victor’.
During the war soon it was realized by the both countries that they were not in a position to win the war. India crossed the international border to attack Pakistan in order to release pressure it had faced in Kashmir. Pakistan successfully stopped that offensive, but that was about it. Pakistan was not in a position to take Kashmir from India by force, and India was also incapable of defeating Pakistan militarily. Both countries were not in position to continue war for any longer because of spare parts, supplies and economic impact, so both looked for a cease fire with some kind of honour – without giving this impression to their people that they have lost.
There was international pressure to stop fighting, and the Security Council passed resolutions to this effect. The Indian government agreed to the cease fire conditionally, she wanted Pakistan to withdraw her forces from the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Also she wanted assurance from the United Nations that Pakistan would not commit such acts of ‘aggression’. The Pakistani government on the other hand, showed her willingness to accept cease fire if it was to follow an immediate withdrawal of the Indian and the Pakistani forces from the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and replaced by the United Nations forces recruited from Afro – Asian countries. The obvious aim of this was to prepare grounds for a plebiscite in Kashmir to decide if the people of Kashmir wanted to live with India or join Pakistan. India was of course not interested in any kind of plebiscite, as she considered Kashmir to be ‘integral’ part of India. Anyhow both countries had to accept a cease fire unconditionally on 23 September 1965.
The September War was one of the most important event of President Ayub Khan’s rule, and it is amazing that he did not throw any light on it in his book ‘Friends Not Masters’. This book was published in 1967, and he was in a position to clarify many aspects of the war and many other important things, which for some reason he did not. According to Qudrat Ullah Shoahab, who had been an Information Minister and Secretary to the President, commented on the war:
When General Akhtar Malik was about to run over Akhnoor (an important town on the Indian side of Kashmir), many generals including General Musa and President Ayub Khan got alarmed that he would emerge as a hero, and this would make him a stronger candidate for the highest post of the Commander in Chief. President Ayub Khan already had a ‘suitable’ man, General Yayya Khan, for this position. Before General Akhtar Hussain Malik could take over Akhnoor, he was replaced by General Yayya Khan, probably that he could stop Pakistan army to invade Akhnoor, which he did successfully.
Apart from many other damages done to the Kashmir cause by the 1965 war, one serious blow was that for the first time in its long history, Kashmir was taken out of the United Nations to be discussed in Tashkent. This was a serious and delicate matter which required careful consideration, but the Pakistani authorities gave into the pressure and agreed to join discussions in Tashkent. They (Pakistani authorities) were pressurized not to take any action while India was engaged in a war with China, they gave in to the pressure to start the ‘Operation Gibraltar’, they were pressurized to have a cease fire, then they were pressurized to go to Tashkent for discussions.
On matters of this magnitude and importance there should have been careful consideration and experts, especially in international law and international relations, should have been consulted. Above all the Kashmiri leaders should have been taken into confidence, but there was no such precedent of consulting the Kashmiris. It was assumed that what ever the rulers of Pakistan may decide it would be agreed by them.
Thinking people like Qudrat Ullah Shoahab, who was Ambassador in Holland and happened to be a Kashmiri, warned President Ayub Khan of serious consequences if Pakistan had negotiations with India at Tashkent; and especially it would be bad for the Kashmir dispute. He said that there is a history of bad relationship between the Soviet Russia and Pakistan, especially with regard to foreign policy and the relationship with the West and the Pakistani role in the anti Soviet military alliances. It was as the result of this relationship that the Soviet Russia used its Veto in support of India when resolutions on Kashmir were debated in the UN Security Council. He further said that at Tashkent the whole environment would be against Pakistan and Pakistan would be under pressure to make compromises. And if Pakistan refused to do this and no agreement is made, then this would indicate a Superpower’s inability to act as an influential and may be honest power broker between regional states. This failure would be directly attributed to Pakistan; and this would further deteriorate Soviet – Pakistan relationship.
Apart from that it would not be prudent to discuss Kashmir dispute outside the United Nations. Since the start of the Kashmir crises, its natural and proper forum for discussions has always been United Nations, and whenever we talk about Kashmir dispute its reference is always the UN resolutions. But once we discuss it outside of this international forum, and some kind of agreement is reached there, then from then onwards that would be the new reference on Kashmir not the previous reference of the UN resolutions. If this happened then this would be a serious setback to our stand on Kashmir. It is claimed that President Ayub Khan after reading the telegram sent by Qudrat Ullah Shoaab said, ‘There is a lot of sense in what he says’.
But despite that President Ayub Khan ignored this advice and walked into this trap. The Soviet Union wanted to show that it has some role to play in the Asian countries as well. Pakistan had developed friendly relations with China, which became more prominent during the war. This pro – China stance of Pakistan was disliked by Soviet Union and America. It was in the interest of both if the Chinese influence over Pakistan can be reduced or neutralized. So the Soviet Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin invited Ayub Khan and Lal Bahadur Shastri to Tashkent. The negotiations continued for eight days. India refused to hear about Kashmir, and called it its integral part. Any expectations Pakistan may have had regarding getting some kind of concessions on Kashmir were soon dashed. The failure of the Conference looked apparent and that would have been a serious blow to the image of the Soviet Union, so a lot of arm twisting by Kosigen, the Soviet Prime Minister, resulted in a compromised text which was signed by both India and Pakistan on 10 January 1966 . This treaty is known as the Tashkent Declaration, and it only makes a passing reference to the Kashmir dispute.
Whatever edge Pakistan had over India on Kashmir was very ‘successfully’ lost in Tashkent, and this was a direct result of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’. The Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahdur Shastri, died in Tashkent after signing the Tashkent Pact. It is claimed by many Pakistani commentators that he did not expect any concessions on Kashmir let alone any kind of clear victory, and when he got that ‘victory’ in the form of the Tashkent Declaration, he was overjoyed and died. Qudrat Ullah Shaoahb, after seeing Ayub Khan carrying the coffin of Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent, commented that with the body of Shastri we wrapped up all the proceedings of the UN on Kashmir as well.
A Pakistani thinker and writer Inayat Ullah commented on the ‘Operation Gibraltar’:
Our forces (Commandos) prepared the ground for us in Kashmir, the next stage was to launch attack by regular army and capture Akhnoor. If General Akhtar Hussain Malik was not removed then we could have had Akhnoor and 200,000 prisoners of war as well, and Kashmir would have been independent. But our dictator (Ayub Khan) gave Kashmir to India on a tray, and went to Tashkent to get compliment from America and Russia.
On another occasion commenting on the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ he said:
One question which we are ashamed of and which still haunts us is that if our strategy was to please America, Russia and India then why sent our sons to Kashmir to be killed. This question is asked by every commando who went to Kashmir, it is asked by the Pakistan Army and the Azad Kashmir army; it is also asked by the nation and history.
GW Choudhry, who was a minister in Ayub Khan and Yayya Khan’s governments said:
Yet the Indo – Pakistan War of 1965 had disastrous effect both on Ayub’s authority and on relations between East and West Pakistan……. many army officers and including some generals, felt that Ayub should have continued the war with Chinese help (which China offered); Indonesia under Sukarno was also willing to help Pakistan. The younger groups of army officers felt that Ayub accepted the cease – fire and the subsequent Tashkent agreement under external pressure and to the detriment of his internal political order…… Ayub’s image was tarnished by his alleged surrender of the “national interests” at the Tashkent Conference – a theme on which Bhutto based his major attack against Ayub during the political upheaval of 1969.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Government in 1976 published a White Paper which said:
It is a simple political fact that the Tashkent Declaration ended the Kashmir dispute the way India wanted it to end. Pakistan could have ended this kind of speculation by immediately going back to the Security Council.
The “Tashkent Declaration” emphasized that both countries seek a solution to their disputes through peaceful means. The “Tashkent Declaration” was seen as a defeat by the Kashmiri and Pakistani people and there were processions against it. Whatever other achievements of the “Tashkent Declaration,” it failed to make any progress on the Kashmir dispute, rather it caused a great disappointment to the Kashmiri people. And as predicted by Qudrat Ullah Shoahab, Kashmir was never to be discussed in the Security Council as a dispute after the Tashkent Declaration. The Tashkent Declaration was followed by another pact (Simla Pact) which Pakistan made with India after the defeat of 1971 war, and now that is the last reference on Kashmir. No matter what Pakistani leaders say, the Kashmir dispute would never be solved according to the UN resolutions on Kashmir, because both governments agreed to solve it bilaterally.