Whatever else we may say about Maj Gen Akbar Khan (1912-93) of the Pakistan Army, we can’t accuse him of speaking white lies that his compatriots are adept in. Not exactly a descendant of Raja Harishchandra, but still he was quite candid about the brazen invasion that began exactly 73 years ago on this day—that is, October 22, 1947. And his candor reveals a great deal about the Pakistani mindset. He was very clear about his objective: recruit and command tribesmen from Pakistan’s north-western areas to occupy Jammu and Kashmir with a mix of stealth, audacity, and brutality.
In 1970, Khan published a book, Raiders of Kashmir, in which he wrote in detail how the Pakistani government conceived and executed the invasion. The very title is revealing. Cambridge Dictionary defines a raider as “someone who enters a place illegally and usually violently, and steals from it.” That’s what the invaders were, the Pakistani general said so.
In fact, he went on to justify the usage of the term. In the preface, he wrote: “Nehru called us ‘Raiders.’ He did so in a derogatory sense. But what he did not know was the raiding is, nowadays, an accepted and very highly developed branch of the art of war. Aircraft, commandoes, guerillas, motorized infantry, tank-cum-artillery groups, submarines, and even gentlemen of the cloak and dagger tradition, are all increasingly used for hit and ran tactics to achiever the objects of war.”
Khan mentioned the “distinguished gallery of personalities Jenghiz [Genghis] Khan, Taimur Lang, Mahmud of Ghazni, and even Alexander whom some historians called raiders.”
Notice the moral anachronism involved: the Pakistani general cites the violent conquests of military leaders of yore—who lived hundreds, one of them thousands, of years ago—to justify the egregious aggression against a peaceful, sovereign nation, India, in 1947. Those were less civilized times when there were few rules governing the domestic and international behavior of kings and kingdoms. The days when might was right and justice was what suited the strong. There was no United Nations, no Geneva Convention, and no conceptions of human rights, individual liberty, or civil liberties. It is like a contemporary president or prime minister getting a political rival knocked off and justifying the action saying that in the 14th century rulers also did similar things.
Evidently, Gen Khan—like other Pakistani generals and politicians—never knew about the moral progress mankind has made in the last hundreds of years. So, he failed, or decided not, to mention the massacres, plunder, rapes, and abductions perpetrated by the tribesmen whose fighting prowess he wrote admiringly about.
And certainly, he had no compunctions in indulging in hanky-panky as an army officer. As director, Weapons and Equipment at GHQ, he managed to divert 4,000 military rifles, intended to arm the Punjab Police, to the raiding tribesmen. His justification: “The police did not appear to in urgent need of them since they were not pressing for them.”
Khan mentions his meetings with the then prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and other top government functionaries regarding the tribesmen’s raid, thus giving the lie to the Pakistani propaganda that they had no role in the raids. Just as they say that they have no role in promoting terrorism in Kashmir. Pakistan’s malevolence changes form, not its nasty narrative.