CONTROVERSY: Why Gohar Ayub is wrong about 1965 —Khalid Hasan
India feels the compulsion to prove Kashmiri acquiescence to justify occupation, Pakistan to account for the miscarriage of its plans. Neither acknowledges the fact that Kashmiris did rise on their own against India in 1964. A senior intelligence official told Nehru: “Prime Minister, from what I have seen, Kashmir is not a part of India”
Not only are Gohar Ayub’s recent “revelations” entirely without basis, but their timing, one hopes unintended, has been most unfortunate. To denounce the Kashmiris for having let down Pakistan in 1965 on the eve of the visit of Hurriyat leaders to Azad Kashmir and Pakistan says little for Mr Ayub’s judgment or sensitivity. He accuses the Kashmiris of betraying those who had gone in to liberate them. Since Mr Ayub has made a very grave allegation, let me state on the basis of my own knowledge and study of Operation Gibraltar that the planners and executors of that well-intentioned and poorly planned action had refused to take the Kashmiri leadership on this or that side of the ceasefire line into confidence. When the Pakistani and Azad Kashmiri guerillas, many of them serving army officers, surfaced on the Indian side and began carrying out acts of sabotage, the Kashmiris were no less surprised than the Indians. They could have been Indian agents provocateurs, as far as the Kashmiris were concerned. Still, many of them offered the infiltrators food and shelter and assistance, actions that were punished by the Indians after the 17-day war ended. Thousands of Kashmiris were pushed into Pakistan and Azad Kashmir. Some of them remained in miserable conditions in refugee camps for years thereafter. Few of them were able to rebuild their lives.
As M Yusuf Buch has so brilliantly argued, it is open to question who in Pakistan counted on an insurgency in the Valley at the time. There are different versions, none wholly plausible. The situation in Kashmir in 1964-65 has been misrepresented in both Pakistan and India for opposite psychological reasons. India feels the compulsion to prove Kashmiri acquiescence to justify occupation, Pakistan to account for the miscarriage of its plans. Neither acknowledges the fact that Kashmiris did rise on their own against India in 1964. When Nehru sent a senior intelligence official to Srinagar, he came back with the candid report, “Prime Minister, from what I have seen, Kashmir is not a part of India.” The agitation in Kashmir in 1964 was directed by the Committee of Action in Srinagar. Mr Ayub’s insinuation that the Kashmiris were in a way reconciled to Indian occupation is regrettable. Popular uprisings follow their own dynamism. They need their own impulse and are sustained by their own strategy. They abort if they lack native political guidance. To ignore this principle is to plan for failure.
My cousin KH Khurshid, who heard about Operation Gibraltar before it was launched, made desperate efforts in Rawalpindi to have it called off. He could not see President Ayub Khan but he saw several people in government. He failed to convince any of them that Operation Gibraltar would fail, bring havoc to the Kashmiris and embroil Pakistan in a war it did not intend to fight. And what was the result of his efforts? Intelligence agents and police commandos burst into the private residence of the highly respected Kashmiri leader, Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf, where Khurshid was holding a meeting with him, picked up Khurshid, threw him into a jeep and locked him up in the notorious Dalai Camp. He thus became the first inmate of that old Dogra-built facility. Khurshid’s predictions turned out to be correct. Operation Gibraltar and its immediate offspring, the 1965 war, were both unmitigated disasters. Had there been no 1965 war, East Pakistan may still have been a part of Pakistan.
Mr Gohar Ayub has also heaped much abuse on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He has repeated the myth that Mr Bhutto assured President Ayub Khan that India would not cross the international dividing line. Assuming such an assurance was indeed extended by Mr Bhutto to Ayub, did not the president have enough foresight and wisdom to conclude that if pressed, India would not hesitate to hit back wherever it could. Mr Bhutto was the foreign minister of Pakistan, not the president. It was Ayub Khan who took all the decisions and it is he on whose shoulders the responsibility of giving the green light to Operation Gibraltar rests. The buck stopped at his desk. While I can sympathise with a son’s attempt to exonerate his father, the fact is that the responsibility for the 1965 misadventure is squarely that of Ayub Khan. If he was given bad advice, the onus for accepting bad advice was and is on him. Why did he not reject the bad advice and the “doctored” information he was given?
In a soon-to-be-published book, Pakistani journalist Husain Haqqani, who has been able to access a good deal of unpublished material in Washington, writes about the 1965 war: “The Pakistani people were told by the state that they had been victims of aggression and that the aggression had been repelled with the help of God. The propagation of this view needed the help of religious leaders and groups. But in discussions with American diplomats, Ayub Khan acknowledged that the war had begun as a result of Pakistan’s forays in Kashmir. The war ended within 17 days with a UN-sponsored ceasefire and was far from decisive. But official propaganda convinced the people of Pakistan that their military had won the war.” Tashkent punctured that balloon before long.
According to Haqqani, “The Tashkent agreement made no mention of Pakistan’s demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir either, which made the people wonder why Pakistan’s ‘military victory’ did not bring it any gain in territory or at least the promise of a future favourable settlement . Once it became known that the initiation of the war had been a blunder, the Pakistani establishment blamed Bhutto for advocating the guerrilla foray which led to the war. The official account is, however, replete with inaccuracies. For example, Bhutto is accused of hyping up reports from Kashmir that the people would rise up for ‘liberation’ if a fuse was lit in the Kashmir Valley. But the Foreign Office, which Bhutto headed at the time, had no role in reporting on the situation inside Kashmir. That was the task of Pakistan’s intelligence services. To cover their irrational exuberance in reporting on the ground situation in Kashmir, the intelligence services later fed falsified accounts to the media of how Bhutto had been the brains behind the war.”
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org