Lest We Forget

Extracts from ‘The Monsoon War’
THE MONSOON WAR Sometime in early 1965, Pakistan raised the ‘Gibraltar Force’ for infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir. The force was commanded and trained by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, General Officer Commanding (GOC), 12 Infantry Division of Pakistan, at his divisional headquarters at Murree. The infiltrators were 30,000 strong, organised into eight forces with six units each; a unit had five companies of 110 personnel in each. A Brigadier was in command of each force, with a Pakistani Army officer in command of a unit, and in most cases, companies and platoons commanded by Pakistani Army junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) from 19 Para Baluch that belonged to the Special Service Group of the Pakistani Army and had been trained in guerrilla warfare. The main object of this force, code-named ‘Operation Gibraltar’ was to create condition in Jammu and Kashmir that would cause the people of that region to rise in rebellion against India in favour of Pakistan and in so doing, seize the law and order machinery, disrupt communications throughout the area, including the tenuous route to Ladakh, inflict casualties on the Indian Army and destroy its logistics capability.

To hold the ceasefire line, 12 Infantry Division was responsible for a frontage of approximately 640 kilometres and had divided the area into one to four sectors with an additional brigade — 102 Infantry Brigade. Each sector was commanded by a Brigadier; there were twenty-five infantry battalions (the infantry strength of three infantry divisions). There were also Mujahids, the civil armed forces (CAF) and the police who were integrated with the infantry battalions right down to the platoon and section levels. It was this force that was responsible for moving the Gibraltar Force across the cease-fire line and providing it all support.

The Gibraltar Force comprised six groups and were code-named Tariq, Qasim, Khalid, Salahuddin, Ghaznavi and Babur. All, except the Babur Force, comprised three or more companies on the organisational pattern described. The Babur Force consisted of a platoon of thirty-four men.


Operation Gibraltar was the brainchild of the Pakistan foreign minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, predicated upon the beliefs that the Kashmiri people were ripe for rebellion; the unlikelihood of the Indian Army crossing the cease-fire line or the international boundary in retaliation because of its low morale subsequent to the defeats in the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962 and the recently concluded operation in Kutch; also possibly, an assurance by the Chinese that should Indian cross the cease-fire line, they would respond suitably by applying military and political pressure. Bhutto had persuaded Field Marshal Ayub Khan to acquiesce to the operation. It is interesting that foreign minister dictated Pakistan’s national offensive policy, which finally got the green signal when on 15 May President Ayub Khan, the COAS General Musa, arrived at 12 Division headquarters at Murree. The meeting was also attended by the Chief of General Staff (CGS) Major General Malik Sher Bahadur, the Director of Military Operations, Brigadier Gul Hassan, and the Director of Military Intelligence (DMI), Brigadier Irshad. The military aim of the guerrilla operation was stated to be threefold: 1. To disrupt the Indian military and civilian control of the state; 2. To encourage, assist and direct an armed revolt by the people of Kashmir against military occupation; and 3. To create conditions for an advance by the Azad Kashmir forces into the heart of occupied Kashmir, and the eventual liberation of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK).The GOC of 12 Division, Major General Akhtar Hussian Malik’s plan envisaged a two-phased approach. In phase one: to create a shock wave by launching raiding (infiltrating) attacks on selected targets and thus prepare the ground for a general uprising, and in phase two: incorporation of the civil uprising into the guerrilla operation. At the conclusion of this meeting, Ayub Khan gave his formal consent and formed a committee to execute it. This comprised the CGS, DMO and DMI with the GOC of 12 Division as its executive member.

The operation was launched on 5 August 1965. The political intention was to make India and the United Nations believe that the planned uprising was that of the Kashmiri people alone. In the event, however, the Kashmiri people did not rise; instead, they actively assisted the Indian Army to get rid of this unprovoked aggression on Jammu and Kashmir.

The Indian Army acted swiftly to sever the routes of the infiltrators west of the cease-fire line by capturing terrain across the line in Kargil that threatened communications into Ladakh on 27 August 1965; setting up an improved defensive posture in Tithwal; and capturing the Haji Pir Pass that linked Uri to Punch thus, further posing a threat to Pakistan communications from Muzaffarabad to Kotli, opposite Punch, Naoshehra and Jhangar. Towards the end of August it was obvious to Major General Akhtar Malik that Operation Gibraltar had failed in its objective, handing India a golden opportunity to cross the cease-fire line. He knew he had to show some success and on 29 August1965, he reorganised the No.1 sector while ordering its sector Commander, Brigadier Fazal-e-Rahim Khilji, to make his own plan of operations and infiltrate behind Indian Army positions in Tangdhar-Tithwal with two Azad Kashmir Battalions, three groups of the SSG, the Nusrat Groups and three companies of Khyber Rifles. Brigadier A.A.K ‘Tiger’ Niazi (MC) was appointed Commander of the 1 Sector with two regular battalions and four Azad Kashmir battalions. Even with this force augmentation, 1 Sector lost Ziarat, Point 7229, Surjoi and Chota Kazi Nag thus posing a threat to Muzaffarabad. However, in the Chhamb Sector, the No.4 Sector captured Laleali and Red Hill by 16 August, a modest gain, only to lose both later.

All in all, Operation Gibraltar was a disaster not only for the Pakistani Army but also for those who had conceived and unleashed it — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, General Musa, the Commander-in-Chief, Ayub Khan and the cat’s paw, Major General Akhtar Malik. What alarmed this quartet was the negative impact the defeat, when known, would have on the international community and politically within Pakistan, particularly since the operation had been launched in secrecy; there was also the fear that they had given India — by its own example — cause to cross the cease-fire line, and the impetus of India’s successes might carry through to Muzaffarabad after the capture of the Haji Pir Pass; and there was also the fate of the 30,000 or so personnel of the Gibraltar Force in disorganized groups in Kashmir that were being hunted by the Indian Army and local voluntary militias, to be considered. An immediate success was required in the 12 Division sector to bring closure to Operation Gibraltar favourably and speed in launching an operation was critical.


Roli Books, Pg 528

— Amarinder Singh and Lieutenant General Tajinder Shergill PVSM


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