June 26, 2020
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Ayub And The Fog Of '65

Let alone India's war plans, did Ayub Khan even know of Bhutto's strategy?

Ayub And The Fog Of '65
Ayub And The Fog Of '65
I was saving the conversation with Gohar Ayub, son of the Pakistan president and martial law administrator Mohammed Ayub Khan, for my autobiography. Now that Gohar has made public part of what he told me, I feel I should be saying all. Gohar used to live in a palatial house in the suburbs of Abbottabad in the North West Frontier Province. This was where he hosted a lunch for me. Mushahid Husain, then the editor of Muslim, had arranged it. I remember the day distinctly because I heard about the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi at Gohar's house. He spoke about her only for a while and that too cursorily. He was keen to tell me something which was not complimentary to our armed forces. His story was that our armour had chinks. I was sure it had.

But I was taken aback when he said that a copy of topmost secret papers from India's military headquarters would be "with us before they reached Nehru's table". The Indian military headquarters and its prime minister's office were located in the South Block—as they still are. Those days you could talk through corridors from one end to the other. Security requirements had not yet blocked passages. Nor had gates been built within gates. How could a paper conceivably reach Pakistan intelligence agencies before a messenger covered a few yards to deliver it at Nehru's office?

At that time he did not give the example of an Indian brigadier parting with the 1965 war plan for a sum of Rs 20,000. However, Gohar did remark that his father was "contemptuous of Indian officers selling their country for a few thousand rupees". I did not join issue with him because it was the first time I was hearing of any such thing. But I told Gohar about a remark his father had made against the Kashmiris when I met him in Islamabad in 1972. I had gone there to interview Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was briefly the president after Pakistan's debacle at Dhaka.

During that conversation with Ayub, I asked him why he sent his army as infiltrators into the Valley. He told me that sending the infiltrators was not his idea. That was 'Bhutto's war', as he put it, and I should ask him.

Ayub said Bhutto had assured him that the Kashmiris would rise in revolt once they knew the Pakistan army was in their midst. Ayub referred to the infiltrators as 'Bhutto's mujahideen'. According to Ayub, he told Bhutto that if he knew anything about Kashmiris, they would never raise the gun. (He did not live to see the days of insurgency).

Gohar is wrong in saying that the reports on Kashmir reaching his father were 'doctored'. His father has himself told me that Bhutto never took him into confidence on the scale of infiltration. (Ironically, that's exactly what Nawaz Sharif, in exile at Jeddah, told me about Pakistan's misadventure at Kargil).

Pakistan's attack in '65 began with hundreds of infiltrators—mujahids (liberators), as Bhutto, then Pakistan's foreign minister, hailed them—stealing into Kashmir. The report of the intrusion first appeared in the Indian press on August 9, 1965, along with Ayub's assurance to Kewal Singh, while accepting his credentials as India's high commissioner in Rawalpindi, that Pakistan would reciprocate every move from India for better cooperation. He argued that infiltration into Kashmir was not the same thing as infiltration into India. The 'uprising' that Pakistan expected to foment failed because local Kashmiris did not help the infiltrators.

When I interviewed Bhutto, he did not deny Ayub's allegation that 1965 war was his doing. His explanation, as recorded, is: "There was a time when militarily, in terms of the big push, in terms of armour, we were superior to India because of the military assistance we were getting and that was the position up to 1965. Now, the Kashmir dispute was not being resolved and its resolution was also essential for the settlement of our disputes and as it was not being resolved peacefully and we had this military advantage, we were getting blamed for it. So, it would, as a patriotic prudence, be better to say, all right, let us finish this problem and come to terms and come to a settlement. It has been an unfortunate thing. So, that is why up to 1965, I thought that with this edge that we had we could have morally justified it. Also, because India was committed to self-determination and it was not being resolved and we had this situation. But now this position does not exist. I know it does not exist. I know better than anyone else that it does not exist and that it will not exist in the future also."

War secrets are like spy stories whenever told. They enthral people. They relieve the period of war and peace. Gohar has whetted that kind of interest.
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