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OP-ED: Raiders of Kashmir

  • Published at 11:25 pm October 26th, 2020

The history of how the two Kashmirs came to be

For the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian Administered Kashmir and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir observe Black Day on different dates.

The first Black Day was observed on October 22, 1947, when Brigadier Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army was entrusted in a top-secret decision to invade the princely state of Kashmir, months after the independence of the two neighbouring countries.

Akbar Khan, a senior commander in Pakistan, was the mastermind of the aggression of Kashmir and commanded the first-ever India-Pakistan war over Kashmir. The commander bypassed the Rawalpindi General Headquarters (GHQ) when General Sir Douglas David Gracey was the C-in-C of the Pakistan Army.

The commander, a WWII veteran, was war decorated by the British army for commanding the “Burma Campaign” against the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia.

Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, had signed a “Standstill Agreement” with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, on August 12, 1947, only two days before the formal independence of a state for Muslims in India.

In reality, Jinnah signed standstill agreements with all the princely states in Pakistan, including Khanate of Kalat (Balochistan), Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Bahawalpur, Chitral, Swat, Hunza, Las Bela, Kharan, Makran, and others.

Theoretically, a princely state could join any country -- India or Pakistan -- or hold the status quo as an independent nation. The choice to merge was left entirely to the rulers of the princely states.

For most of the princely states which signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan, the military forcibly occupied the territory and coerced into signing the treaty of accession. Balochistan is one of the many examples in the post-partition history of Pakistan.

Jawaharlal Nehru did express doubts that the agreements signed by Jinnah would be flouted, but the governor general of Pakistan confidently negated his (Nehru) suspicion. Akbar Khan in his republished book Raiders in Kashmir writes that he designed a strategy under the title of “Armed Revolt inside Kashmir.”

On October 27, 1947, Jinnah ordered General David Gracey to mobilize troops in Kashmir Valley. Gracey declined with a note that all British officers had a “stand-down order” from Supreme Commander Claude Auchinleck of British forces in India and Pakistan in the eventualities of war and conflict between the two countries.

Soon, Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan called Akbar Khan to a closed-door conference in Lahore on the tense development, the accession, and possible Indian military intervention in Kashmir.

With full knowledge of Jinnah, the Pakistan military mobilized thousands from the fiercest Pashtun tribes from the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to raid and invade Jammu and Kashmir under the command of Brigadier Akbar Khan.

An estimated 5,000 raiders were armed with axes and swords, and the Pakistan army supplied modern weapons and also military lorries to capture Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. The raiders, known as “Lashkars,” plundered, looted, killed, and raped civilians in the brutal invasion, which caused thousands of Kashmiris to flee the valley.

At midnight on December 30, India asked for a ceasefire with effect from January 1, 1948. Pakistan accepted as the fate of Jammu and Kashmir had been taken over by the United Nations.

Thus Pakistan-occupied Kashmir became “Azad Kashmir,” having a subservient government to rule the valley. Azad Kashmir’s puppet government has always been loyal to Rawalpindi GHQ because the powerhouse lies there, not in Islamabad.

Since the stalemate in 1948, Pakistan systematically distorted the history of Jammu and Kashmir. The false narratives are injected into school textbooks, and also found documented in national museums and archives.

After the war, Akbar Khan fell from the grace of the Muslim League government. Liaqat Ali Khan appointed General Ayub Khan as chief of army staff after General Gracey retired on January 16, 1951.

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He can be reached at [email protected]; Twitter @saleemsamad.

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