This is the true story of a retired Major General of Pakistan Army, Akbar Khan and the role of Pakistan in stoking up the conflict in Kashmir. Pakistan played the role of an aggressor owing in part to the pressing compulsions to adopt that military stance. This narrative has the potential to make a course correction in the history of India-Pakistan relations vis-à-vis the Kashmir conflict if understood in its proper context. The crisis that followed in Kashmir after the partition in 1947 was hatched and formulated in Lahore and Pindi with the complete concurrence and tacit approval of top political leadership of the times. A detailed account can be found in Major General (Retd) Akbar Khan’s book, ‘Raiders in Kashmir.’
In 1947 Akbar Khan had served on the Armed Forces Partition Sub-Committee and in the process he had gathered complete knowledge of the numerical strength of Maharaja Hari Singh’s army and police personnel totalling to 9,000. Later, it helped him to formulate an offensive to take-on Maharaja’s forces by surprise. At the time of partition, contrary to Pakistan’s expectations Maharaja acceded to India even though Pakistan was totally insistent on Kashmir acceding to her. It also warned that Kashmir would be annexed by force if necessary. The historical events as recorded by Akbar Khan testifies to the fact that regular Pakistan army along with tribal forces actually set in motion its incursions in Kashmir and the combats that followed in different sectors subsequently are described in the book. He goes on to expose how Pakistan army played a vital role for about the first eight months (1947-48) along with the tribesmen including their ruthless behaviour to loot, rape, kill and create mayhem to accomplish the objective with scant respect for female dignity; later it played the open role in holding the territory against the Indian army.
Akbar Khan details how in the beginning of September 1947 he was asked to prepare a plan as to how to take over Kashmir. Serving that time as Director of Weapons and Equipment (DW&E) in GHQ he was aware of the quantum of weapons and ammunition while some it was obtained from Italy after obtaining concurrence of political leadership owing to the financial implications. These weapons were secretly diverted to the people of Kashmir.
Major General Khan subsequently wrote a plan of action based on factual position of weapons suggesting their distribution and placement in various sectors and sent twelve copies to his political and military masters. A few days later he was called to Lahore for a conference with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan and the plan was adopted after due deliberations. Among others the conference was attended by Finance Minister (Ghulam Mohammad, later Governor General), Mian Iftikharruddin, Zaman Kiani, Khurshid Anwar, Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan. Khurshid Anwar was appointed commander of the northern sector, Zaman Kiani, of the southern sector while Sardar Shaukat Hayat was to be the overall Commander. Sometime later Akbar was appointed Military Adviser to the Prime Minister-to cover his absence from duty.
The operation formally commenced on 22 October, 1947 when the Pakistani forces crossed the border and attacked Muzaffarabad and Domel on 24th Oct from where the Dogra troops had to withdraw. These advancing troops moved forward in the Srinagar road the next day and again took on the Dogras at Uri. On 26th they captured Baramula, where out of 14000 only 3000 survived. It clearly indicates that these advancing forces indulged in ethnic cleansing of local Kashmiris. Thus Pakistan has old record of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir. The troops were now only 30 miles from Srinagar and meanwhile Maharajah sent his papers of accession to Delhi asking for help to which Indian government sent over troops to Kashmir the next day.
On the evening of the 27th, the Prime Minister of Pakistan held a conference at Lahore to consider the situation arising out of Kashmir’s accession and India’s military intervention. The changed narrative in Kashmir required altering the military strategy at Pakistan’s end. Akbar Khan was recalled to Pindi. He proposed to act through military incursions to liquidate Jammu in order to block the only road along which India could send reinforcements. In his book, Akbar Khan recollects that how important Jammu was might be judged from the fact that the same night while military leadership was in conference, Mohd. Ali Jinnah himself had also ordered an attack by the army upon Jammu. According to Allan Campbell in ‘Mission with Mountbatten’ the order had been given to General Gracey, the acting C-in-C. Gracey had refused on the ground that he could not issue such an order without approval of the Supreme Commander in Delhi.
The next day Akbar Khan proceeded to Baramulla to supervise the progress made by the forces; while he reached them at night they were just four miles from Srinagar and had just finished an attack. He stayed overnight and the next day carried out a thorough reconnaissance of the whole area. The forces needed help to overcome the road-block and only armoured car could do the job. So he rushed back to Pindi and met Colonel Masud who volunteered to take a troop of armoured cars of his unit. His men, he said, would go in plain clothes without official permission and at their own risk. He also rang up Karachi with the proposal for more such help which came though reluctantly. A week later news came that the Indians were coming out of Srinagar and the Pakistan army and tribesmen were falling back without offering resistance. So they withdrew to the safety of Uri and refused to go back to the front.
Akbar Khan’s book is full of several sensational accounts and focuses on how the wrong moves and misadventure of Pakistan army and political leaders lead them nowhere. Over ambition and utter desperation to take Kashmir by sheer force were the reasons for its role as an ‘aggressor’. It seems that the Pakistani General has no remorse over the great loss of human lives and material wealth in Kashmir inflicted by Pakistan army. The book is a must read for the young generation of Kashmir who have little or no knowledge of Kashmir’s history and Politics. They are being made to believe a flawed and faulty narrative of history further skewed by politics.
It is often said that to know where we are going, we must know where we came from. The urgent need to understand the true history of Kashmir will help us chart a better course for its future.
(Rishi Suri is the editor at The Daily Milap, India's oldest and largest combined circulated Urdu newspaper. He has previously served as the Media Advisor to the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister).