9.40           CHANGES IN THE ARMY HIGH COMMAND: PROFILES OF YAHYA AND YAOUB KHAN

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: DO 196/316

 

2-INT/RAW.6/60/1                                                                                                                                                                     British High Commission,

Rawalpindi.

 

5 May, 1966

M.K. Ewans, Esq.,

Commonwealth Relations Office,

S.W.1.

 

Dear Ewans,

 

Would you please refer to my letter 2-INT/RAW.6/60/1 of 28 April about the internal situation in which I promised that I would be writing further about the recent changes in the Army High Command.

 

2. During the past months wholesale changes have taken place in all the senior appointments of the Pakistan Army. A few posts still remain to be filled but most of the new appointees are now at work.

 

3. The reasons for the major change round appear to be first of all the expiry of General Musa's eight-year term as C-in-C of the Pakistan Army. So far no Pakistani has been C-in-C of any of the services for more than two four-year terms and Musa has proved no exception to this rule. The second was the need to make a better disposition of senior officers after the experience of the Kashmir war when so many of them were put to the test. The third reason was probably to keep happy some of the younger and brighter officers who had proved themselves and who deserved promotion.

 

4. The most important change is the departure of Musa. He has an unusual background in that his father was one of the suppressed Mongoloid race of Hazaras living in the mountainous area of Central Afghanistan who fled south at the turn of the century and was recruited in the Indian Army's Hazara Pioneers. He is not a particularly intelligent man but has been popular with the Army and certainly very loyal to Ayub. The main reason why Ayub was prepared to dispense with him may have been that he did not distinguish himself in the direction of the Kashmir war. It is said that he will be given an ambassadorship.

 

5. Musa's successor, General Yahya, who is acting as his Deputy until he takes over in the autumn, is also of Afghan origin; he comes from an ex-Afghan Qizilbash family settled in Peshawar. He was closely associated with Ayub in the 1958 coup and has always had the reputation of being very loyal to him. Already when he was Chief of Staff (from 1957 to 1962) he was tipped as a future C-in-C. He has the

reputation of being a brilliant solider and is certainly a colourful character: a near alcoholic with a marked weakness for the opposite sex. He is friendly to the west and popular with the Army, although there are probably some straight-laced Muslim officers who will disapprove of his private life. It seems likely that he will bring about a change of style in the Army. A personality note prepared by the M.A. is attached.

 

6. The present Chief of Staff, Major-General Sher Bahadur, is also leaving, probably on retirement. He has been Chief of Staff since 1962 and despite his retiring personality is considered by many to have been the brain behind Musa and G.H.Q. With the help of the brilliant Brigadier Gul Hassan, the Director of Military Operations (now promoted to Major-General), he was responsible for most of the direction of the war from G.H.Q. last September. This was no mean feat: G.H.Q. had to assume direct command of several of the fighting fronts.

 

7. The new Chief of Staff is an aristocrat from the Patudi family, Major-General Yaqub Khan. He is highly intelligent and rather an intellectual and he is also anglicised and very friendly towards us. I enclose a copy of a personality note prepared by the M.A.

 

8. The third important change is the departure of Brigadier Riaz, who for the last seven years has been the Inter-Services Director of Intelligence, on promotion to Major-General to command the infantry division at Sialkot. As you will see from a glance at our personality report (No. 69). Riaz has enjoyed a great deal of power. At one stage he was D.M.I. to Ayub and the latter has always had great confidence in him. He is the one man in the whole of Pakistan who Ayub must have felt to be completely loyal to him, for apart from his normal intelligence duties it is he who has been responsible for the internal security of the Armed Forces and thus for making sure that no officer should be in a position to topple the Government by a coup. Riaz may not have distinguished himself on the intelligence side during the Kashmir war. It was notorious that both the Indians and Pakistanis were extremely lacking in good intelligence about their opponents. But he has been close to Ayub for so long and proved himself such a loyal and effective supporter in the security role that it is a sign of great confidence on Ayub's part that he is prepared to see him go. Most of us here are surprised that this decision has been taken, especially at this critical time internally when the stresses and strains of the war and the Tashkent Declaration have not yet fully worked themselves out.

 

9. Riaz will be very difficult to replace. We have just been told that his successor is to be Brigadier Mohammad Akbar Khan about whom we know little, and that the change will take place in a few days. It is not yet clear whether Akbar will take on all of Riaz's intelligence, security and other clandestine responsibilities.

 

10. Among other changes it is perhaps worth mentioning that the existing Corp Commander, General Bakhtiar Rana, appears to have been pushed out. He may be

offered an ambassadorship. The new Corp Commands have been named: General Attiqur Rahman and General Abdul Hamid Khan, the latter being, like Yahya, closely associated with Ayub in the 1958 coup. Brigadier Peerzada, the third of those closely associated in the coup, who has been Joint Chief Secretary, Ministry of Defence for

the past two years, has just been promoted Major-General and appointed as Adjutant­General at G.H.Q. Rafi Khan, now promoted to Major-General, remains as the President's Military Secretary and controller of his household and private arrangements.

 

11. Ayub is going through a difficult time at the moment with opposition in both Wings and with critics inside the regime's "establishment". He still ultimately depends upon the Army to stay in power. The loyalty of Yahya is unquestioned but it might have been thought that Ayub would not at this juncture (despite the precedent of eight-year terms) dispensed with the services of Musa who is physically perfectly fit and has proved his loyalty so convincingly. The same applies to Riaz. The fact that the President has been prepared to make these changes is a sign of great confidence on his part in the general loyalty of the Army. It is still our view that although some colonels and below are discontented with the conduct of the recent war and subsequent policy the brigadiers and above are completely loyal to the President.

 

12. There remains the question of the attitude of the new appointees to India and Kashmir. As younger officers are promoted those reared in the artificially nationalistic atmosphere of post-Partition Pakistan are gradually reaching the higher posts. But they are not yet in sensitive posts, and despite reports in the Delhi press that Yahya "has long been known to be an advocate of a tough line towards India" the new team at G.H.Q., being more westernised and more intelligent than their predecessors, seem on the face of it much less likely to be led by the nose, as Musa must have been, into harebrained escapades in Kashmir without counting the cost.

 

13. I am sending a copy of this letter and its enclosures to Allinson in Delhi and to Beer in Karachi.

 

Yours ever

(N.J. Barrington)

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[Attachments]

 

MAJOR-GENERAL AGHA MOHAMMAD YAHYA KHAN, HJ, S.Pk (PA 98) GOC 7 DIVISION PESHAWAR

 

A Pathan of Afghan descent he was born in 1917 in Peshawar. Having obtained his B.A. at the Punjab University, he attended a course at the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, and was commissioned in 1939, was attached to the 2 Battalion The Worcester Regiment for one year and then joined the Baluch Regiment.

 

Prior to World War 11, Major-General Yahya Khan took part in operation on the North-West Frontier and during the war went overseas with his regiment and was active in Egypt, Sudan, Eriteria, Libya, Cyprus, Iraq and Italy. Whilst in Italy he was captured but successfully escaped from his POW camp.

 

He returned to India in 1945 and attended the 13th Staff College course in 1946, thereafter holding an appointment at GHQ before returning as an Instructor at the Staff College, Quetta. He was promoted T/Lt-Colonel in May 1949 and subsequently commanded a battalion of his regiment. After that, he was GSO I of a Division before his promotion to T/Brigadier in 1951.

 

On promotion to Brigadier, he was appointed to command 105 Independent Brigade and in February 1953 was transferred to the appointment of Deputy Chief of the General Staff. In January 1957 he was promoted to Major-General and became Chief of the General Staff.

 

In 1962, he became GOC 14 Division in East Pakistan and in August 1964 he was transferred to GOC 15 Division in Sialkot. In July 1965 he became GOC 7 Division in Peshawar.

 

He has shown considerable ability in his job, and is probably one of the few Pakistani officers capable of planning. He has a strong personality and is at times determined to the point of obstinacy, but he is intelligent and capable and did well at GHQ.

 

With Abdul Hamid and Peerzada he was responsible for the planning of the operation by which Martial Law was imposed on the country. He "vas also probably in the small ring which planned and executed the take-over of the Government by Ayub in 1957.

 

A heavy drinker, womanizer, intriguer and possible anti-British. He is said to be a strong favourite as the next C-in-C of the Pakistan Army.

 

In 1964 Mao-Tse-Tung visited East Pakistan and attended a reception in his honour. At the reception our DHC reported that Major-General Yahya rather pointedly turned his back on the distinguished Chinese guest to talk again rather pointedly, with the American and British guests. This at a time when the Pakistan Government propaganda was becoming more and more pro-Chinese.

 

His transfer from 14 division in East Pakistan to 15 Division at Sialkot in West Pakistan came rather earlier than was expected. Some said this was because he had become far too popular with the Bengalis.

 

His tenure of appointment in 15 Division has been even shorter but he was GOC during the mobilization of the Army at the Rann of Kutch affair in 1965 and command this key division when it was deployed in battle positions on the Indo-Pakistan border. As he took the place of Lt-General Altaf Qadir in 7 division this may be looked upon as promotion. During the Indo-Pakistan conflict of September 1965 he seems to have commanded in the Chamb Sector. He was awarded an immediate HJ.

 

January, 1966                                                                                                                        Brigadier P.H.D. Panton, CBE

 

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MAJOR-GENERAL SAHABZADA MOHD YAQUB KHAN (PA 136)

 

One of the Princely Pataudi family. Born 23 Dec 1920 in Rampur, U.P. Educated in England and Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, and Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun. He was commissioned in 1940 into the

18th Cavalry after a year with a British Infantry Regiment. The same year he went to the Middle East and served in 3 Ind Motor Brigade. Took part in the battle of MCHILI, withdrawal to TOBRUK and the siege of TOBRUK. He was later employed on security duties in Syria. He was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1942 and released in 1945. He returned to 18th Cavalry and was later appointed Adjutant of the Viceroy's Bodyguard. In 1948 he commanded the Governor General's Bodyguard. He later commanded an Inf Bn of the 1 st Punjab Regiment. In 1949 he graduated from the Command and Staff College Quetta. He also attended the War College, France. He commanded a number of Cavalry Regiments and 4 Armoured Brigade, he then served as Deputy Commandant Staff College Quetta. He was VCGS before taking over command of I Armoured Division early in 1961. In 1962 he became Commandant of the Command and Staff College, Quetta. During the Indo-Pakistan conflict of September 1965 he took over I Armoured Division after its Commander had led it to disaster.

 

Major-General Yaqub is an interpreter in French, Russian, German and Italian, most of which languages he learnt as a POW.

 

A deep thinking intelligent and rather intellectual General who has the potential to reach the highest rank. He is however of a rather shy nature and one cannot see him inspiring his officers by the force of his personality though he might inspire admiration for his integrity and intellect. He always appears cool and collected but on the polo field can become emotional and excited, but then, so do so many polo players.

 

He was married to Lt-General Sher Ali Khan's sister, but in 1960 divorced her and married a girl who had been brought up in Calcutta. She is charming and sophisticated, having defied convention and gone, on her own, to seek education in England. She is shy until one gets to know her when she becomes an entertaining conversationalist.

 

Yaqub is a first class polo player and always has good ponies.

 

January, 1966                                                                                                                            Brigadier P.H.D. Panton, CBE

 

 

Source: The British Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969, Oxford University Press, p. 524-528.