General Tariq and the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case - II

Major General Syed Ali Hamid continues with the context: the 1948 Kashmir war and its aftermath

General Tariq and the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case - II
"General Tariq” was the cover name adopted by then Brigadier Akbar Khan when he was involved with the clandestine stage of the Kashmir War. During his early service with 6/13th Frontier Force Rifles, he had served with Sher Khan and Nazir Ahmed. He would he closely associated with Sher Khan during the Kashmir Conflict and with Nazir Ahmed, whom he roped into the conspiracy. Unlike Akbar Khan, whose family had no previous association with the military, Nazir Ahmed was from a very strong military background. He was the son of Subedar Fateh Mohammad of Village Dulmial in Chakwal District which has a long and proud military history dating back several centuries. Nazir had been commissioned from Sandhurst in 1932 with the Indian Army Number IA-108.

For the first three-and-a-half years of the war, Nazir was on staff and instructional assignments. However, in 1944 after serving as the brigade major of the Bannu Brigade he joined the battalion in Italy. The battalion was part of 8 Indian Division, and saw some tough fighting during the final stages of the Italian Campaign during which Nazir was awarded an MBE. His citation records that while the 6/13th was fighting under the most difficult mountain conditions, “Major Nazir Ahmed by his tireless energy and on many occasions by the fearless exposure of himself on unprotected approach routes, succeeded always in keeping the battalion administratively on its feet.” At Independence he was the fourteenth most senior officer and allotted PA-14. Within a year and a half, he rose from lieutenant colonel to major general and placed in command of 9 (Frontier) Division at Peshawar.

General Gracey reviewing a parade. In the foreground is his ADC, Capt Wajahat, who visited Brig Akbar at his residence in Murree

After the Second World War, Akbar served in the Weapons and Equipment (W&E) Directorate in Delhi and subsequently in a similar organization established at GHQ in Rawalpindi. While on leave in Murree in early September he met Sardar Ibrahim (later the first president of Azad Kashmir) who was seeking weapons for the Kashmir cause - and Akbar managed to divert 4,000 .303 rifles of an older vintage that were held in army depots for the police. A few days later, he had a serious discussion with Mian Iftikharuddin, a senior member of the Muslim League on how to wrest Kashmir from the clutches of the Maharaja.
Akbar managed to divert 4,000 .303 rifles of an older vintage that were held in army depots for the police. A few days later, he had a serious discussion with Mian Iftikharuddin, a senior member of the Muslim League on how to wrest Kashmir from the clutches of the Maharaja

Akbar’s wife Nasim was from the Baghbanpura branch of the Mian family and a cousin of Mian Iftikharuddin. She was the daughter of Mian Shah Nawaz, a prominent politician, and Begum Shahnawaz, a member of the Muslim League and an eminent activist. Begum Shah Nawaz’s father was Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi, one of India’s leading lawyers. Against this background, it was natural for Nasim to be politically very aware and she played a leading role in supporting her husband during his period as General Tariq and in the subsequent planning for the conspiracy to overthrow the government. Those who knew her well say that she was very ambitious and was the brain behind Akbar’s brawn.

Maj Gen Nazir Ahmed MBE when he was GOC 9 (Frontier) Division at Peshawar, circa 1950

Akbar was willingly drawn into the clandestine operations in Kashmir without formal approval from the army, and on Mian Iftikharuddin’s request he submitted a plan titled “Armed Revolt inside Kashmir”. On 12 September 1947, he attended a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, which decided on a three-pronged strategy. Zaman Kiani (who had been discharged from the army for being a member of the Indian National Army (INA), was to organize an invasion from the south using former INA personnel. Concurrently, Khurshid Anwar (a retired major) was to organize an invasion via Muzaffarabad using members of the Muslim League National Guard that he headed. Akbar Khan was to organize the rebellion inside Kashmir but with no resources for actually staging an ‘armed revolt’ that he had proposed, he did not have an active role per se.
‘General Tariq’s’ Operational HQ was in Murree, in a house where he was living with his wife. They entertained many who visited the hill station and were very critical about how the government was handling Pakistan’s external relations and the war. The army was not unaware of this

Back at GHQ, Akbar took Brigadier Sher Khan, his regimental officer and now Director Military Intelligence into confidence as well as others who secretly supplied ammunition to the irregulars. Air Commodore Muhammad Khan Janjua, who was the senior most Pakistani officer in the Air Force, organized the supply of winter uniforms, ammunition and weapons. Janjua was from Malot, a small village near Jhelum and was one of the first batch of officers commissioned from the Indian Military Academy. He joined the 1/7th Rajput Battalion in 1935 and like Air Marshal Asghar Khan, transferred to the fledgling Indian Air Force soon after being commissioned. By 1942 he was commanding No 4 Squadron based in Kohat. He supervised its subsequent conversion to Hurricanes in the fighter-bomber role and commanded it in the Arakan, Burma in 1943/44. During the last year of the war he was with the air headquarters.

Sardar Shaukat Hayat, who was designated by the Prime Minister as the overall commander of the liberation forces, states that the use of Tribals was not approved in the meeting of 12 September. According to him, Khurshid Anwar with whom he was at loggerheads, mobilized them on his own initiative with the active support of Abdul Qayyum Khan, the Chief Minister of the Frontier who was himself a Kashmiri. A final coordination conference was held in Murree at the end of September which amongst others was attended by local Kashmiri leaders, Khurshid Anwar, Sardar Ibrahim and Mrs. Nasim Akbar Khan.

The fate of Kashmir was decided in 16 tense days starting from the night of 21-22 October when the Lashkar crossed the State boundary at Garhi Habibullah and ending on the night of 8 November when Akbar Khan with a handful of men (all that was left of the invasion force) blew the bridge over the nalluh at Chakoti and stemmed the Indian counter offensive. In between Akbar had been appointed Military Advisor to the Prime Minister and when Khurshid Anwar was injured, he was offered the command of the forces on the Srinagar approach and gave himself the codename of General Tariq. He established a rear headquarter at Rawalpindi in the private residence of Major Sethi an officer of the 6/13th who was commissioned in 1939 and at Independence was on Akbar’s staff in the W&E Directorate. He was used by Akbar and his wife for a variety of tasks – ADC, messenger, staff officer, etc.  during the two years of the planning and had intimate knowledge regarding the conspiracy. He subsequently became a prosecution witness.

Lt Col Mirza Hassan Khan, MC, (right) - Jammu and Kashmir State Forces and Gilgit Scouts, circa 1951

‘General Tariq’s’ Operational HQ was in Murree, in a house where he was living with his wife. They entertained many who visited the hill station and were very critical about how the government was handling Pakistan’s external relations and the war. The army was not unaware of this and General Gracey, the C-in-C who had heard disturbing reports, sent his ADC Captain Wajahat Hussain to spend an evening with the brigadier and his wife. Wajahat had no sooner arrived that Nasim Akbar Khan ‘gave a full salvo of loud complaints that, ‘you people in GHQ are not helping her husband with arms and ammunition and that he has no support from GHQ, etc. etc.’ Brig Akbar talked in more even tones about his achievements but his wife kept badgering Wajahat on GHQs shortcomings. When Wajahat (quite disturbed by his experience of the previous evening), apprised the Chief about his visit to ‘General Tariq’s’ HQ, Gracey replied, “I wanted you to confirm my apprehensions. Thank you. Pity Akbar, a fine soldier who will suffer because of his wife’s political ambitions.’ Gracey was a very experienced officer who had fought both the World Wars (awarded MC Bar) and having joined the Gurkhas in 1915 and had known the British India Army well. He could see what was coming.

Uri was just one of the sectors of the war in Kashmir. The battle was going on in many others – Kargil, Skardu, Poonch, Rajauri, etc in which Akbar had no role except that of an advisor. Intermixed with the fighting was behind the scene parlay against the backdrop of a threat of an all-out war that Pakistan was desperate to avoid. As the Indian Army buildup in Kashmir gained momentum, and the disparate elements – tribals, local volunteers, deserters from the Kashmir State Forces, etc. came under increasing pressure, the civil and military structure to deal with the threat became instutionalized and GHQ and its formations became directly involved. Akbar felt that his colleagues and seniors were jealous of him and Prime Minister Liaquat agreed to replace him with Brigadier Sher Khan in the role of ‘General Tariq’.

The Rear HQs expanded under Sher Khan but was ultimately dissolved and replaced by an organization named as Azad Kashmir Forces Coordination (AK Coord). It handled the posting and transfers of AK officers and its charge was given to Lieutenant Colonel Ziauddin who was promoted as officiating brigadier. The officer belonged to Kotli but there is little information available on his early career except that he was commissioned in 1942 and awarded MBE during the Second World War. While heading AK Coord, he was in close contact with COs of AK Battalions and introduced them to Akbar with the aim of using their units in executing the coup.

One of the very interesting characters that Ziauddin introduced to Akbar was Lieutenant Colonel Hussain (or Hassan) Khan who in March 1950 was also posted to the AK Coord. He belonged to Gilgit and enrolled into the Kashmir States Forces in 1939. In 1943 he was commissioned from the IMA into the 4th Battalion, Jammu & Kashmir Infantry. During the counter-offensive by the Fourteenth Army in Burma, the battalion served with a number of formations. His citation for a MC covers the entire period of a year (1 Oct. 1944 – 30 Sept. 1945), that the unit was in combat and states that “Throughout the period under review the superb gallantry, devotion to duty, outstanding leadership, and inflexible determination of T/Major HUSSAIN KHAN has been an inspiration to all ranks.”

In October 1947, Hussain was sent with troops by the Maharaja to assist the Dogra governor in Gilgit but sided with Major William Brown of the Gilgit Scouts in overthrowing the governor. A month later Hussain and other officers of the Scouts, announced a provisional government, with Raja Shah Rais Khan as the President and Hussain as the C-in-C. However, the Government of Pakistan replaced the provisional government with a Political agent and Hussain was given the responsibility of the Bunji Sector. In January 1948, he was put in charge of the Tiger Force (one of the 3 forces organized by Major Aslam Khan) and tasked to advance on the Gilgit-Bunji-Kamri-Gurais-Bandipora Axis. The force reached Bandipora in April but was pushed back and consolidated at Minimarg. In September the same year he was made a regular officer and absorbed into the 4/15th Punjab as an Acting Major.

(to be continued)