Don’t laugh. This is not a joke. We mean it. Obviously, cynics will rubbish this claim citing the Pakistan army’s less than sterling performance against arch-rival India since 1947 but we shall provide evidence for our assertion.
Let us consider the August 12 passing out parade of cadets at Britain’s military academy at Sandhurst. It is a prestigious institution and cadets from many countries wear this badge with honour. Who was the chief guest this year? General Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of the Pakistan army, of course. Bedecked with so many medals that there was not enough space on his broad chest, some of them had to be pinned on his stomach. Ample space there!
Bajwa as chief guest was quite an achievement. He represented the Queen, no less! When was the last time anyone heard that the army chief of colonial subjects was the chief guest at the military parade of a former colonial master’s academy?
Was it Bajwa, the individual, or head of the Pakistan army that was so honoured? One must conclude it was both since they are one and the same thing. One for the Pak army!
In his address, Bajwa advised the cadets to develop true professionalism and once they take a decision, to stick with it. There were echoes of the recent regime change in his native land. One gets the sneaky impression that his British hosts wanted some advice on regime change (of which Bajwa has plenty of experience) should it become necessary if Rishi Sunak becomes Britain’s prime minister. It will be the first time a WOG assumes this post. That is not cricket!
Sunak could be accused of money-laundering. His billionaire father-in-law and wife have brought tons of money into Britain. If this WOG were to get too uppity, the British aristocracy would know what to do.
Let us, however, return to the British academy. The passing out parade was not as impressive or colourful as is the case at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) in Kakul. It is a delight to watch the gentlemen cadets march into the parade ground in perfect formation to the tune of Aye mard-e Mujahid jaag zara, Ab waqt-e Shahadat hay aya, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar! (O brave mujahid, wake up, it’s time for martyrdom, Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest).
The smartly dressed cadets in their colourful uniforms march in perfect step and when they halt, the clicking of their boots, again in unison, can be heard a mile away. Their boots are so well polished that one can see one’s face in them. No other passing out parade matches the one at PMA.
If they march in to the parade ground to the tune of Allahu Akbar, they march out to the tune of Auld lang syne. For the uninitiated, Auld lang syne is an old Scottish Freemasonry song that they sing after completing their initiation rituals into the fraternity. What is an army, if it is not a fraternity, like freemasonry?
There is also rich symbolism in the two tunes. While the cadets are told that if they die, they will become shaheed (martyrs) and go straight to paradise with all its concomitant benefits, in this world, they should follow western norms and traditions. Our western masters (sorry, friends) do not like Islamic fundamentalists or at least not for long. We do not wish to create the impression that we take our Islam seriously.
The Pakistan army is also a thoroughly ‘professional’ army. It imbibed this fine value from the British colonial army in India from whose bowels it emerged in 1947. Ayub Khan, initiator of the great tradition of coups in Pakistan, wrote in his book, Friends, Not Masters, that during partition, Muslim officers, true to their professionalism, remained strictly neutral as millions were slaughtered.
When Indian troops invaded the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, the British officers in the Pakistan army refused to participate in the war when ordered to do so by the governor general of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. They said they would follow the orders of their supreme commander, General Claude Auchenleck who was the commander of both armies: of India and Pakistan. One for their professionalism and neutrality; to hell with the people of Kashmir.
When the Kashmiris aided by Pakistani tribesmen and regular troops began to make progress in Kashmir pushing Indian troops back, India took the matter to the security council. Foolishly, the ‘bloody civilians’ (their words, not ours) accepted a ceasefire otherwise the Pakistan army would have planted the flag of Pakistan not only in Srinagar but also swung south-east and headed straight for Delhi.
They would not have rested until they had hoisted Pakistan’s flag at Delhi’s Red Fort. The Pakistan army would then have announced that the descendants of Muhammad Ghauri, Mahmood Ghaznavi and Babur are back! But for the weak-kneed reaction of ‘bloody civilians’, the Pakistan army was deprived of reconquering Delhi.
With the weaknesses of bloody civilians so apparent, the strongman, General Ayub Khan could not allow the country to go to the dogs. He had to take personal charge to rescue the country from bloody civilians and incompetent politicians.
Another feather in the army’s cap. If it was deprived of the chance to conquer Delhi, there was always Karachi (it was the capital at the time). Later, Islamabad, or the prime minister’s house and the main television station, served as useful targets to conquer.
Ayub Khan was frustrated by bloody civilians on two more occasions in his quest to conquer Srinagar. In November 1962, when China was giving a bloody nose to Indian troops along their mountainous border, Pakistan had the opportunity to march into Srinagar. China was urging it to do so but US President John F Kennedy intervened telling Ayub Khan to desist. He promised that after the India-China war is over, the US would help settle the Kashmir dispute. Another lying bloody civilian!
Then in the September 1965 war, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, another bloody civilian, deceived ‘Field Marshal’ Ayub Khan by telling him that India would not attack along the international border even if Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir. While Pakistani troops were making steady progress against India in Kashmir, no troops were deployed along the 1,000-mile long international border. The treacherous Indians invaded Pakistan’s eastern front and had it not been for India’s cowardice, they would have occupied Lahore. The brave Pakistan army was frustrated in its plans once again to conquer Kashmir because of the false assurances of a ‘bloody civilian’—Bhutto.
It was the Pakistan army’s role in East Pakistan (later to become Bangladesh) that has been most misunderstood. The common misconception is that the Pakistan army surrendered to the invading Indian army on December 16, 1971. The actual story is much different.
Before the Indian army invaded East Pakistan in November 1971, General Abdullah Khan Niazi, commander of Pakistani forces in the east, had boasted that he would defeat India if the ratio was 10-1 against him. Pakistan had about 90,000 troops and civilian administrators (from West Pakistan) operating in East Pakistan. The Pakistan army had already taught the Bengalis a lesson in March 1971 when they dared to challenge the authority of the army by claiming the right to rule after winning the elections.
True to form, the devious Hindus invaded East Pakistan with only 300,000 troops. General Niazi was disappointed because he was expecting twice as many Indian troops. He felt that defeating a smaller Indian force would demoralize the Hindus. So, he decided to surrender instead.
The surrender has been completely misunderstood. If the 60,000 Pakistani troops (plus 30,000 civilians) had defeated the 300,000 invading Indian troops and forced them to surrender, how would they be fed, asked Niazi and his commanders? The West Pakistani troops were already low on food. Feeding 300,000 Dal-eating Hindus would have been a nightmare. So, they decided to turn the tables on the Hindus and all 90,000 West Pakistanis (troops and civilians) surrendered to them instead.
It was a master stroke. That is what explains the drunken orgies General Yahya and his coterie of generals were having in Rawalpindi when General Niazi surrendered in front of the world’s television cameras in Dhaka. Let the Hindus take responsibility for feeding 90,000 mouths every day for three years!
Yahya’s successors have followed this fine tradition by not fighting India unless they deploy sufficient troops to fight against the Pakistan army, the best fighting force in the world. In the meantime, it is available for hire in any part of the world where ‘bloody civilians’ have to be taught a lesson as to who is boss.
Long live the Pakistan army, the best in the world!