OP GIBRALTAR TOTAL DISASTER
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Man proposes God disposes. How true in case of a military operation, codenamed Op Gibraltar, that was launched by bigwigs of the Pakistan Army to seize Jammu and Kashmir by a clandestine operation. It had the explicit blessings of the then President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan who took pains to go to Murree to address the Gibraltar Force commanders from the level of a Major General to young Captains and motivate them in the name of Islam. Care was taken by the planners to tag the covert operation with the Islamic history in Asia and Europe. Imagine how saddened they all were when the edifice of terror collapsed like a house of cards. Their achievement was a big Zero.
Major General Akhtar Hussein Malik, General Officer commanding 12 Infantry Division based in occupied Kashmir was the overall commander and chief planner as well as executor of that Quixotic military operation that failed to take off the drawing board and sand model discussion room. General Musa, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army had, after an initial reservation, given the foolish plan a green signal.
Gibraltar is the name of the grand rocks from where the Arab military commander, Tariq, had set out to conquer the Christian Spain and achieved a grand success in his mission. Before commencing his military campaign in the 8th century AD, Commander Tariq had ordered the burning of all boats used by his Arab force to land at Gibraltar and told his officers and soldiers that thereafter Spain and Europe would be their home and hearth. The Arabs had indeed ruled the entire area up to the French borders for seven centuries plus until defeated and thrown out of Spain by Duke Ferdinand and his wife Queen Isabella to resurrect the Christian sovereignty. Field Marshal Ayub Khan was oblivious of the sad end of the Islamic forces in Spain when he named his Kashmir misadventure Operation Gibraltar.
The brain washing of officers and soldiers of the Force Gibraltar commenced on Day One when they were divided into TEN groups named after military adventurers and looters commanding Muslim forces that ravaged lands and ravished women wherever they unsheathed their swords. The different independent columns were named as:
Salahuddin; Tariq; Babur; Qasim; Khalid; Nusrat; Sikander; Khilji; Ghaznavi and the headquarters.
Each group was under command a Major rank officer of the regular army of Pakistan and his men comprised Mujahids, looters and rag-tag jihadis who did not know whether they were coming or going. Like the tribal raiders of Kashmir in 1947, an average jihadi of Gibraltar Force nourished in his heart and mind the sole aim of looting money and expensive jewellery and other goods, ravishing underage girls and grown up women as well as sodomising young boys of the captured areas. How could they have moral courage to sustain themselves when they met stiff resistance from the disciplined forces of the Indian Army. Nine groups out of ten either disintegrated under the pressure of the Indian Army or they mutinied and were disbanded by organizers of Op Gibraltar.Over one thousand raiders of the Gibraltar Force were killed or executed by the Indian Army, the J&K plus Pumjab Police, not forgetting the loyal local Kashmiris.
It would be worth mentioning that the valuable information about infiltration of this Pakistani Force was given to the Indian Army by a Bakarwal, a local shepherd, in the Gulmarg Area. How surprising and agonizing for the Administrators in India and India held J&K thatnone of the Intelligence agencies had any inkling of a massive infiltration of inimical force was underway. When a Security Conference of the Indian Security Forces was held on 3rd August 65 in Srinagar, no one was aware of the gloomy situation that would confront them within 72 hours of their dispersal for a quiet lunch in their respective homes.
The local farmers, shepherds, cowherds did sight strange men in green or militia long shirts and salwars different from what the Kashmiris normally wear. They brought it to the notice of the local Police who treated the real story as a mere figment of imagination. When a Bakarwal approached an Army contingent with the information, hard reality of a large scale infiltration of Pakistan Army personnel in disguise was taken note of and counter-infiltration operation launched.
As the days passed the units of the Indian Army gained control of the situation and took prisoners from amongst the Pakistan infiltrators. Some columns of the 25 Infantry Division of India in the Rajouri-Poonch areas captured one Captain Ghlam Hussein of the 8th AK Bn of Pakistan and Capt Mohammad Sajjad of the 18th Bn of the same Force. On an intensive interrogation they started singing and gave out valuable information about the aim of massive infiltration and what achievements, if any, were there.
The information given by Pakistani personnel Below Officer Rank indicated that the morale of mujahids and jihadis was rather low. Despite all administrative arrangements made on paper, the medical cover for the infiltrating force was conspicuous by its absence. Of course, the First-Aid Kit was issued but that was not enough to cope with the bullet injury sustained in a fire fight with the Indian Army units. The sick and the wounded infiltrators were left to die wherever they were and those close to the Cease Fire Line or the International Border were encouraged to retreat and go home. Lack of medical cover was seen as a major cause of low morale of the infiltrating soldiers and looters-cum-rapists. Salahuddin Force and two or three more of the ilk disintegrated and fled back to their homes. Reportedly, there was a case of mutiny in one column and they were disbanded.
Only one group, Ghaznavis, showed their mentors what they had achieved in the Rajouri-Mendhar sectors by giving tough time to the Indian defenders. Major Malik Munawar Khan Awan, commander of the Ghaznavi Force was a man of guts and he knew how to turn an adverse situation to own advantage. As an officer of the Indian Army, he became a POW in Rangoon, Burma where he learnt Japanese and spoke it fluently. He was an officer in Netaji Subhash Bose’s Indian National Army too. On return to India he was court martialled but released as Indian Independence was around corner. On vivisection of our motherland, Munawar opted for Pakistan and infiltrated into Rajouri-Mendhar area as per plan. In Rajouri area many local Muslims joined him and his group’s numbers swelled to almost 2,000. Their supplies, arms and ammunition were airdropped by the Pakistan Air Force planes at convenient times. Of course, when cease fire came into effect, he returned to Pakistan.
Haji Pir Pass –that is a place of tactical importance along Pir Panjal that had to be captured by the Indian Army to stop Pakis using it as an infiltration route. After delays owing to foul weather and challenging terrain, finally it was Major Ranjit Singh Dyal of the Parachute Regiment who and whose Jawans made a surprise appearance at the post unnerving Pakistani soldiers. The Indian force captured the tactically important Haji Pir pass and held on to it despite fierce counter-attacks by the regular forces of the enemy. Alas! It had to be returned to Pakistan after the Tashkent Agreement.
Initially the Indian Army was caught off guard by the infiltrators backed by the regular Pakistan Army. In the Chhamb-Jaurian sector the armour and artillery of the regular Pakistan Army played havoc. The Indian armour and artillery were not matching the enemy’s field capability. A case may be cited of their artillery shells scoring direct hits on the Indian ammunition depot setting it on fire. In the ensuing confusion, the local Brigade Commander, Brigadier Behram Master, a soldier to his finger tips, was killed on the spot. Many other Indian officers, JCOs and Other Ranks were caught unawares in sudden fire fights or blowing up of fuel depots and ammunition dumps. Of course, one lives and learns and the Indian Army controlled the battle scenario in various sectors by and by.
Without using our hindsight, we may objectively analyze the gains and losses of the Pakistan Army by launching an out of the box clandestine operation against India. The aim of the national leaders and military generals of Pakistan was to seize Jammu and Kashmir by executing the master plan of Operation Gibraltar. Did they achieve their aim? The answer is NO. On the contrary they were chastised by the UN Mission in J&K who blamed Pakistan squarely for infiltrating their personnel in disguise and attacking the Indian Positions surreptitiously. The UN Mission had marked their report Secret and the Secretary General of UNO let it remain classified. With the result, the UN body or the world at large did not blame Pakistan for this misadventure OP GIBRALTAR. Pakistan was emboldened by lack of international condemnation of Op Gibraltar. It embarked on another misadventure, Operation Grand Slam. Had the UNO taken an action to condemn Pakistan for misadventure, OP GIBRALTAR, possibly many lives on both sides would have been saved in the 1965 war between India and Pakistan.
India too learnt a lesson to augment its Intelligence Services. It also learnt from its costly debacle initially – never trust Pakistan nor take its words on their face value. Well, Learning is a continuous process. It is better to learn late than not learn at all. Let history judge us and pass a verdict on our learning process. Of course, the effort to learn must go on.
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