Comment: Ayub Khan’s appointment —Riaz Shahid
This is in response to Mr Gohar Ayub Khan’s rejoinder ‘Clarification’, published in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section (Daily Times, February18, 2010) in response to my article ‘Reassessing Liaquat Ali Khan’s role’ (Daily Times, February15, 2010). In my article, I had deliberately not discussed Ayub Khan’s appointment as Pakistan’s first native army chief as these details are quite painful, not to mention controversial. Now that Gohar Ayub Khan has decided to challenge my assertions, I have no choice but to bring all the facts to light.
Mr Gohar Ayub admits that Ayub Khan was a colonel in 1947. He gives the example of General JN Chaudhuri who was also a colonel in 1947 and went on to become the Indian army chief. The fact is that General JN Chaudhri did become the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army, but on November 19, 1962, full 11 years and 11 months after Ayub Khan became Pakistan’s army chief! In his memoirs Glimpses into the Corridors of Power, Mr Gohar Ayub admits that his father was of the opinion that the rank of a full colonel was the most he could attain during British control.
The promotion from colonel to general in less than four years for Ayub Khan had strategic consequences for Pakistan, as Ayub Khan had neither attained the experience or the gravitas needed to do justice to the office of the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army. His shortcomings became apparent during the 1965 War into which he had led the country, thanks to the ill thought and badly executed ‘Operation Gibraltar’. Compare this to the Indian Army. Field Marshal Kodandera ‘Kipper’ Madappa Cariappa, who was its first native army chief, was the senior most Hindu officer serving in the British Indian Army on partition. He was the first Indian officer to be given command of a unit (by the British in 1942) in 200 years of the British Raj. For his military exploits against the Japanese as division commander of the 26th Division, Cariappa was given the Order of the British Empire (OBE). Ayub Khan had the honour of serving under him as a colonel in the Frontier Brigade Group in 1946.
Gohar Ayub considers participation in Kashmir was inconsequential, deeming my assertion that Ayub Khan did not participate in the Kashmir war as ‘ridiculous’. The Indians, however, think otherwise. Cariappa, as general officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Command in 1947-48, captured Zojilla, Dras, Kargil and Leh for India, and to this day the Indians worship him for that. On the other hand, what does Pakistan’s first native commander-in-chief have to show for him in terms of gallantry awards or mention in despatches?
The fact that Pakistan got a person to lead its army who had no experience of commanding division level operations and had not participated in the Kashmir war ensured that during an actual battle, Pakistan Army’s performance would be below the optimum and that operations in the Kashmir sector would be badly botched up. And that is exactly what happened during the 1965 War. The Indians, however, were lucky to get an army chief under whom the Indian Army had gotten its first baptism of fire.
What very few people know is that Ayub Khan was so junior at the time of independence that he was given Pakistan Army No10 (PA10) and was not selected to represent Pakistan in the partition council that was set up to divide the assets of the British Indian Army between the Pakistani and Indian armies. There were nine officers senior to him on August 14, 1947, amongst which there were at least five full brigadiers (Mohammad Akbar Khan, Muhammed Iftikhar Khan, Faiz Muhammad, Fazal-ur-Rehman Kallue, Nawabzada Agha Mohammad Raza). In his memoirs Friends Not Masters, Ayub clearly states, “A Council was then set up to divide the armed forces. We had Raza, Akbar and Latif on this council representing Pakistan…I had little direct connection with the division of the armed forces” (page 20).
Mr Gohar Ayub denies that the British gave Ayub Khan a horrible Annual Confidential Report (ACR) for timidity and refusal to participate in combat in Burma in World War II. Furthermore, he states, “Ayub Khan commanded 1st Assam Regiment from January 4 to December 27, 1945 in the Burma Campaign during which the battalion participated in heavy fighting till the Japanese surrender in mid-1945.”
Both of the above claims made by him are false and untrue. Ayub Khan’s timidity and refusal to participate in combat in World War II is an established fact. AH Amin and Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, who are the only defence analysts and military historians in Pakistan of international stature, testify to this. Reviewing Shuja Nawaz’s book on Pakistan Army, Crossed Swords, in Newsline magazine in August 2008, Dr Ayesha states, “In fact, he completely ignores the information that Ayub Khan had received a bad ACR from his bosses prior to the partition of India and had become a general through machination.” Furthermore, there are written testimonies in this regard from Lieutenant Colonel Parson and Lieutenant Colonel Mohatram who served in the same unit as Ayub Khan in Burma. The former in his presentation, ‘Battle of Kohima’, in 1984 categorically stated that, “Ayub Khan refused to command the regiment on the grounds that its men were no longer fit to carry on the battle and that he requested that he be sent back to India.” Lieutenant Colonel Parson’s revelations were published in the Daily Telegraph of Calcutta as well in Daily News of Karachi on April 28, 1984. From here the story gets really weird. Major General Joginder Singh, who was Ayub Khan’s battalion mate, asserts in his book Behind the Scenes (1993) that Ayub Khan was not considered fit to command his parent Punjab Regiment and was relegated to serving in Chamar Regiment, which was disbanded after the war ended. The point is that Ayub Khan did not serve in the prestigious Assam Regiment, which Gohar Ayub claims he did! For more on this issue and on Quaid-e-Azam’s order to transfer and freeze Ayub Khan’s career, I recommend the readers to read Major General Sher Ali’s The Story of Soldiering and Politics in India and Pakistan, Air Commodore Sajjad Haider’s Flight of the Falcon and Hasan Abbas’s Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism.
I hope that these facts set the record straight for the benefit of Daily Times’ readers.
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally Published at: http://indopakmilitaryhistory.blogspot.com/