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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Bravest of the Brave - Ali Kuli Khan

This is the full article by Ali Kuli Khan. Part of this was published in the News. (the highlights and the emphasis are not mine) ~~t

Plato said “What is honoured in a country is cultivated there”. As I have spent the better part of my life in the Profession of Arms, I feel an urge to honour brave soldiers, who had served as role models in the formative years of my generation. Similarly, since most of the personalities mentioned in this Paper passed away in2008, it will be a befitting tribute if, I am able pay homage before this calendar year closes. Accordingly, since my main purpose is to inspire future generations with tales of Brave Army Lions, I will also be referring to some Lions who are mercifully very much ALIVE and others who may have been martyred earlier. If by this effort I am able to inspire even a few of Pakistan’s future soldiers, I would be more than satisfied; it also goes without saying, that in these difficult times, even a little boost to the national morale will be worthwhile. Allow me also to clarify from the outset, that these are, NOT THE ONLY BRAVE LIONS meriting mention; this is merely a list of people whom I knew personally. Inevitably, there will be others worthy of mention. It will be a great service, if someone else also highlights deeds of Pakistanis whose lives can serve as beacons in these troubled times.

Brig Abdul Shakur Jan,SJ,SI(M).

I first met Capt Shakur Jan 1961 when I joined PMA, where he was one of the platoon commanders; for the sake of those not familiar with life at the Military Academy, allow me to emphasise, that platoon commanders, arguably, exercise the greatest influence in moulding the characters and personalities of cadets. ‘Shakura’ as he was fondly known, was not my direct platoon commander, yet, he and a small band of SSG officers, like Capts Syed and Sikander had a larger than life sphere of influence. Despite the fact that Capt Shakur Jan had no direct responsibility towards me, yet, at the time of my ‘Prelim Boxing Bout’ with Shabbir Sharif (who was destined to become Pakistan’s most highly decorated hero) he went the proverbial extra mile to send me a message through my schoolmate, Badruddin (who also became a recipient of the coveted Sword Of Honour) that “No matter what happens in the bout I must conduct myself gracefully”. Was he conveying the well known and oft repeated dictum, “It is not important what happens to you, but what is important, is how you behave while it is happening to you”; an important lesson most effectively conveyed don’t you think? ! This is one example which illustrates how Brig Shakur Jan influenced lives of those with whom he came in contact; I am certain, there must be numerous other cases in which he had a positive impact on the lives of people.

Another aspect which held him in high esteem with cadets was the perception that he had seen ACTION. I do not think his cadets knew any details of this romantic notion, yet his credibility was so high that we all believed it; whatever the truth, in his subsequent career he more than substantiated this perception!

During the Runn of Kutch Emergency in April 65, Maj Shakur Jan got his first opportunity for direct confrontation with the Indian Army. He more than lived up to his promise when as a Company Commander of 15 FF, he carried out audacious Day and Night Patrolling and like a true commander led his Company in a successful attack on Biar Bet near Jattrai. For his gallantry in action, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ). Maj Shakur Jan fought the 1965 War in the Khem Karan Sector with his Company 15 FF.

In 1971, Lt Col Shakur Jan experienced combat in what was East Pakistan; while he was there commanding 1 Commando Battalion, I was also there flying MI-8 helicopters for the Pakistan Army Aviation. These were bad remorseful days because even though the Indians were heavily involved, it was essentially a Civil War, which to say the least, is distasteful to professional soldiers. Irrespective of what I have just written, these also were times in which both SSG and Army Aviation combined most admirably, to write what were, probably, the most glorious chapters in their respective histories. This was so because the terrain was ideally suited for Heliborne Operations and required men of vision and daring; people like Col Shakur Jan who could inspire soldiers and take them to unimaginable heights. Throughout 1971, countless missions were planned and executed to perfection because of fearless planning and execution by both the SSG and the Army Aviation. Unfortunately, because of the final ignominy of surrender all the good work of heroes like Col Shakur Jan and other gallant soldiers was sadly forgotten or scrubbed. Brig Shakur Jan, in line with the rest of his career, soldiered on bravely till May 1983 when he finally hung up his boots. Like all mortals, he passed away in 2008. Adieu brave friend and teacher.

Maj Gen Mohammad Mumtaz Khan, HJ,SJ

I had known Gen Mumtaz a long time before I had the honour to meet him. This was so because his father Ghulam Rabbani Khan of Mansehra was a great friend of my grandfather, KB Mohammad Kuli Khan.

The first time I met Lt Col Mumtaz was at Khem Karan soon after the Cease-Fire of the 1965 War; My Paltan, 12 Baloch (Sarbakaf) had fought the War in the Hussainiwala Sector, a little South of Khem Karan. As an Intelligence officer I had accompanied my Commanding Officer on his visit to 5 FF battle locations. I was mightily impressed with the composure and serenity of Lt Col Mumtaz ; he certainly showed no ill effects of the recent trauma his Battalion had undergone. The last days of the War had been particularly hard on 5 FF, because as the ceasefire drew closer, the Indian Army became more and more desperate to regain some lost prestige by ousting the Pakistan Army from the Khem Karan Salient. The Indian attacks were preceded with particularly heavy shelling (whose rumble we could hear in Hussainiwala) and were driven with great ferocity; fortunately these desperate efforts were thwarted by the dour defence put up by 5 FF under the command of Lt Col Mumtaz and 2 FF led by Lt Col Fateh Khan.

For his indomitable leadership in the most critical of times Lt Col Mumtaz was awarded a richly deserved Sitara-e Jurat.

In the 1971 War, Brig Mumtaz was commanding 106 Brigade which captured the Hussainiwala Salient; for his intrepid leadership he was awarded the Hilal-e-Jurat. It is very rare that an officer receives both the HJ and the SJ and Brig Mumtaz is one of them. Since I had personally participated in an infantry Battalion Attack in this very Sector in the 1965 War, I know from first hand, how difficult and arduous this Mission must have been. Full marks to Brig Mumtaz and his brave soldiers to have accomplished this task so successfully.

Maj Gen Mumtaz popularly known as ‘Mummy’ soldiered on happily till April 1976 when he finally retired. Till his dying day in 2008, he remained a hugely respected, and most popular figure Rest in peace brave soldier.

Brig Muhammad Hayat, SJ

Popularly known as Brig ‘Makhmad’ Hayat, he was another of the brave souls who departed for his Final Abode in this Calendar year. He was as brave as any of the other soldiers I have or will mention in this Paper, yet, since I did not have close personal contact with him I am slightly handicapped to write from personal knowledge. I could have collected information from others because he was a very popular and respected figure but that would have been second hand information which even Brig Hayat would not have approved.

The first time I heard of Brig Hayat was after the 1965 War, when he was commanding the famous 4 FF in the Sialkot Sector. It was Army lore in those days that he and his Battalion stood like a rock in the face of the Indian Main Effort and sent them reeling back with the help of Almighty Allah and his brave comrades. For his intrepid and cool leadership and his role as CO 4 FF which being part of 14 Para Brigade had thwarted the Indian Armour Attack with heavy casualties, he was awarded a richly deserved Sitara-e-Jurat. Brig Hayat was one of those brave, simple, modest and yet super confident personalities who with his “gravely” voice and his mere presence could inspire his comrades to great deeds of bravery. No wonder 4 FF responded so magnificently to his leadership.

In 1971, Brig Hayat was Commander 107 Brigade (Jessore) in what was the erstwhile East Pakistan. He did exceptionally well in those difficult days and terrain, but like so many others his exploits went unsung because of the ignominy of surrender.

A dignified and honourable man he retired from the Army towards the end of 1974. Brig Hayat was a simple, brave and popular figure who passed in 2008 and is mourned by a large circle of friends and admirers. Rest in peace brave soldier.

Maj Gen Nasir Ullah Khan Babar, SJ & Bar

Before you think or say anything, let me reassure all my readers that I am fully aware that Gen Babar is very much alive even though slightly handicapped because of his recent illness. Those of us who know him would vouch for the fact that even half a Naseer Ullah Babar will be more than a match for most other mortals.

So why have I included him here? Because this is a collection of the brave; all were his friends and I am confident that he would much rather be mentioned with this company of Lions than anywhere else.

Lt Col Babar, ‘Bob’ to his friends came into prominence during the 1965 War, when in a most audacious action as CO 3 Army Aviation Squadron, he landed his helicopter near an Indian Post and almost single-handedly took 70 Indian soldiers as Prisoners Of War; not only that, he marched them all night till he finally handed them over to a Pakistani Unit in Bhimber!!

For this rare bold action Col Babar was awarded his First Sitara-e- Jurat.

In the 1971 War he was Commander Artillery 23 Div and while he was forward of most fighting Arms he was severely wounded with an artillery shell. For his incredible bravery in the face of the enemy he was awarded his second Sitara-e-Jurat, almost within 100 yards of the very place where he had audaciously taken 70 Indian Prisoners Of War in the 1965 War.

Since we are talking of brave soldiers both dead and alive, dear reader, please allow me the liberty of mentioning another exceptionally brave Lion, Gen Iftikhar Janjua. I knew the Gen slightly because he had been my late father’s GSO-1 in that great Exercise of its time, ‘November Handicap’.

I have learnt from reliable sources that while he was commanding 23 Division and war with India became imminent sometime in July/August 71, he totally gave up on drinks that he was known to have enjoyed and started preparing for the impending war in all earnestness; no wonder 23 Div did so well in the 1971 War, because the opposing Indian forces thought there were three Pakistani Divisions operating against them whereas actually there was only one. As we all know, Gen Janjua was one of the few holders of both the HJ and SJ, but he unfortunately died in a tragic helicopter crash during the 71 war; I have made a special mention of him in this article because I want to stress that Gen Janjua as the GOC of an Infantry Division and Brigadier Babar as the Commander Artillery, probably was the most lethal combination that the Pakistan Army has ever put together; both of them were not only brilliant soldiers but also unafraid of anything; quite literally the bravest of the brave. In the end, allow me the indulgence of one last observation. Sometime ago I had asked Gen Babar who according to him was the best general the Pakistani Army had produced; his answer was without any doubt Gen Iftikhar Janjua, because he was a rare combination of being a meticulous staff officer, a brilliant commander and of course he had no peers as far as bravery and drive was concerned. I could not agree more.

1 Comments:

Blogger Azam Qadri said...

Very well written article.
Colonel Azam Qadri

June 13, 2015 8:32 AM  

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