“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Sun zu (the art of war)
Has anyone wondered why General Ayub Khan failed to recapitulate the 1965 war, in his biography “Friends Not Master” — The simple reason behind this mysterious exemption was to conceal a hash up committed by him during the historic combat.
Contrary to the popular belief , Ayub Khan,as the mastermind, knew deep down that it was a victory lost.
Had the strategy been executed as planned and internal politics, personal ego and jockeying for power given way to a wee bit of patriotism during a critical juncture, things would have been much different.
Truth of the matter is that Pakistan had India on the mat through a very cogent “Operation Grand Slam” devised in May 1965, which was annexed to “Operation Gibraltar”, whereby the plan was to snap Jammu kashmir though internal revolt.
The commander of the operation, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik had forged ahead to dislodge the indian Forces in the Ankhur region after he had pulverised them in the Chumb sector.
Just the second day into the operation, victory seemed evident in Jammu kashmir; when the audacious General was surreptitiously relieved of his duty by Ayub khan in favour of Major General yahya Khan, a close aide of him (as well as the commander in chief of the 1971 debacle) .
General Akhter Hussain Malik’s request of serving under the command of Yahya Khan just for the sake of a successful completion of the mission was also not entertained.
With a delay of almost two days caused by the change in command and CoAS General Musa’s insistence of halting the operation — Indian Forces found their footings, got reinforcement and eventually went on the aggressive to target the sensitive areas of the state of Punjab. From there on in, it was all defensive for the Pak Forces — Who eventually thwarted the Indian attack but the time Lapse was vital to seal the Kashmir deal. Thereby a golden opportunity went begging because of personal glory.
Many experts still maintain that Ayub Khan could not stand the success of a random General, as it would have catapulted Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik to public fame apart from landing him the post of first in command in Army had victory been substantiated in Ankhur region.
Agha Shorish Kashmiri for one mourned the lost chance in an Urdu couplet (whose translation is) :
“The Land of Delhi is calling, Oh friends, Extend a helping hand to Akhtar Malik, oh friends.”
Moreover some analysts also believe that Ayub Khan had the tendency of losing his composure when faced with a crisis situation. Alfat gauhar and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had mentioned this anamoly publicly.
Anyway, the game plan of Ayub Khan was materialised when himself and Yahya Khan hogged the limelight for the successful defence in 1965 war. In 1966 Yahya Khan was promoted to army’s commander in chief. Whereas Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik was pigeonholed to CENTO and posted to Turkey, where he breathed his last.
We must not forget that Ayub Khan ended up signing a treaty with India after the 1965 war called the Tashkent Declaration which was deemed as a pusillanimous act by many in the country. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, considered Ayub’s right hand man, tendered his resignation, in protest and assembled a party of his own.
The events that unfolded after the Tashkent Declaration, didnot have good bearing on the country’s political outlook. Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman in East Pakistan garnered support, when he got vocal in the backdrop of Ayub khan’s fading popularity. The turn of events eventually led to the ousting of the dictator.
Till this day Major General Akhtar Hussain’s question : “Why changing horses in midstream?” Awaits its answer, which perhaps only General Ayub Khan could give.