POK is Pakistan-British duplicity
by N S Rajaram on 02 Nov 2019 7 Comments

Most people are now aware that Pakistan has occupied areas it calls Azad Kashmir (occupied Jammu) and the districts of Gilgit and Baltistan (once called Northern Areas). However, few know that Pakistan is in illegal occupation of the northern districts of Gilgit-Baltistan because of a coup by British officer Major William Brown, who was in-charge of the northern garrisons that the British once leased from the Maharaja. A rough chronological outline of the course of events beginning with Jinnah’s so-called ‘tribal’ invasion following Maharaja Hari Singh’s signing the instrument of accession, and the accounts of those who were there or who wrote about the sordid events at the time, is worth perusing.


October 1947


Pashtun tribesmen from South Waziristan region of Pakistan attacked Kashmir and moved along the Rawalpindi-Murree-Muzaffarabad-Baramulla Road on October 22, 1947. They were assisted by regular Pakistani soldiers in civilian clothes. Muzaffarabad fell on October 24, and the soldiers captured Baramulla the following day. They looted, raped, killed, burned and vandalized shrines and temples. They raped and killed Christian nuns and nurses at St Joseph’s Hospital. According to Tariq Ali, the local cinema hall became a “rape center”, with unspeakable atrocities continuing for several days.


On the morning of October 27, India airlifted troops from Delhi to the Srinagar airfield while the tribal forces were still at Baramulla. Nehru was unsure but Patel overruled him and asked the army to move. I know of this first hand from Sam Manekshaw and K.S. Thimayya.


As Alastair Lamb wrote, “The (tribal) leaders completely lost control over their men, an orgy of killing was the result. This was certainly the case at St Joseph’s College, Convent and Hospital, the site of what was to become one of the most publicised incidents of the entire Kashmir conflict. Here nuns, priests and congregation, including patients in the hospital, were slaughtered; and at the same time a small number of Europeans, notably Lt. Colonel D.O. Dykes and his wife, an Englishwoman preparing to leave the hospital that day with her new-born baby, Mother Teresalina, a twenty-nine-year-old Spanish nun who had been in Baramulla only a few weeks, as well as Mother Aldertrude, the Assistant Mother Superior, and one Mr Jose Barretto, husband of the doctor, met their deaths at Pakistani hands. This was the pattern of all riots led by Muslims beginning at least with the Khilafat if not earlier, supported and sponsored by Gandhi”. (Incomplete Partition, Roxford 1997, pp. 186–187):


Charles Chevenix Trench recounted, “In October 1947.... tribal lashkars hastened in lorries – undoubtedly with official Pakistani support – into Kashmir... at least one British Officer, Harvey-Kelly colluded, taking part in the campaign. It seemed that nothing could stop these hordes of tribesmen taking Srinagar with its vital airfield. Indeed nothing did, but their own greed. The Mahsuds in particular stopped to loot, rape and murder; Indian troops were flown in and the lashkars pushed out of the Vale of Kashmir into the mountains. The Mahsuds returned home in a savage mood, having muffed an easy chance, lost the loot of Srinagar and made fools of themselves. They came more to loot and rape than fight”. (The Frontier Scouts, 1985)


Sam Manekshaw, then a colonel in the Directorate of Military Operations, went to Srinagar with V.P. Menon to assess the situation on October 26, 1947. He later recalled, “Fortunately for Kashmir, the tribals were busy raiding, raping all along. In Baramulla they killed Colonel D.O.T. Dykes. Dykes and I were of the same seniority. We did our first year’s attachment with the Royal Scots in Lahore, way back in 1934-5. Tom went to the Sikh regiment. I went to the Frontier Force regiment. We’d lost contact with each other. He’d become a lieutenant colonel. I’d become a full colonel. Tom and his wife were holidaying in Baramulla when the tribesmen killed them”.


Tom Cooper of the Air Combat Information Group wrote, “The Pathans appeared foremost interested in looting, killing, ransacking and other crimes against the inhabitants instead of a serious military action.” Like all jihadis, the last thing they wanted was engaging regular forces in regular warfare. What they looked for were soft targets, unarmed men, women and children. This is what Jihad is really like.


According to Col. Mohammad Akbar Khan of the Pakistan army, who was promoted as Brigadier and charged with sending tribals to Kashmir, and a contemporary of Col. Dykes at Royal Military College, Sandhurst, “The uncouth raiders delayed in Baramulla for two (whole) days for some unknown reason. The reason was simple, loot and rape of undefended nuns, nurses and others. (War for Kashmir in 1947)


Nehru’s cowardice


Biju Patnaik (later Chief Minister of Odisha) piloted the first plane to land at Srinagar airport that morning, carrying 17 soldiers from the 1st Sikh Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai. The pilot flew low over the airstrip twice to ensure that no raiders were around. Instructions from Prime Minister Nehru’s office were clear: If the airport was taken over by the enemy, they were not to land. Taking a full circle, the DC-3 flew at ground level. Soldiers peered from the aircraft and found the airstrip empty. The raiders were too busy distributing war booty among themselves in Baramulla.


Lt. Col. Dewan Ranjit Rai immediately moved with his small platoon towards Baramulla hoping to stop the tribal raiders at the mouth of the funnel which opens 5 km east of Baramulla into a wide valley. He led his men from the front and died of bullet wounds the same day (October 27 1947) at Patan, but delayed the raiders for a day. As more Indian troops flew into Srinagar the next day, they started pushing the raiders back. It took two weeks for the Indian army to evict the raiders who had been joined by Pakistani regulars and were well-entrenched, from Baramulla on November 9, 1947.


Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah informed the UN Security Council on February 5, 1948: “The raiders came to our land, massacred thousands of people - mostly Hindus and Sikhs, but Muslims, too - abducted thousands of girls, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims alike, looted our property and almost reached the gates of our summer capital, Srinagar.”


Reporting from Baramulla, Robert Trumbull, New York Times, Nov.10, 1947, observed, “The raid of the convent is narrated in even gory details by Father Shanks, one of the fortunate survivors and the anonymous ‘witnesses’ in the following report:

“The tribesmen - great, wild, black beasts they were - came shooting their way down from the hills on both sides of the town. They climbed over the hospital walls from all sides. The first group burst into a ward firing at the patients. A 20 year old Indian nurse, Philomena, tried to protect a Muslim patient whose baby had just been born. She was shot dead first. The patient was next. Mother Superior Aldetude rushed into the ward, knelt over Philomena and was at once attacked and robbed. The Assistant Mother, Teresalina, saw a tribesman point a rifle at Mother Aldetrude and jumped in front of her. A bullet went through Teresalina’s heart. At the moment Colonel Dykes, who had assured us we would not be attacked, raced from his room a few yards along the terrace to get the Mother Superior out of danger, shouting at the tribesmen as he ran. But the Mother Superior fell shot, and Colonel Dykes collapsed beside her with a bullet in the stomach. Mrs. Dykes ran from her husband’s room to help him. She too was shot dead.


“While this went on, Mr. Gee Boretto, an Anglo-Indian, was killed in the garden before nine Christian Nuns. Then the nuns were lined up before a firing squad. As the tribesmen raised their rifles a young Afridi Officer, who once studied in a Convent School at Peshawar, rushed in and stopped them. At least there are living features of human quality in these incidents. He had been told his men were raiding a Convent, and had run all the way from the town. That saved all our lives by a few seconds”.


Dogra rule in the north: British coup


In November 1839, Dogra commander Zorawar Singh, who served Gulab Singh, started his campaign against Baltistan. By 1840, he conquered Skardu and captured its ruler, Ahmad Shah, who was forced to accompany Zorawar Singh on his raid into Western Tibet. Meanwhile, Baghwan Singh was appointed as administrator (Thanadar) in Skardu. But in the following year, Ali Khan of Rondu, Haidar Khan of Shigar and Daulat Ali Khan from Khaplu led a successful uprising against the Dogras in Baltistan and captured the Dogra commander Baghwan Singh in Skardu.


In 1842, Dogra Commander Wasir Lakhpat, with the active support of Ali Sher Khan (III) from Kartaksho, conquered Baltistan for the second time. There was a violent capture of the fortress of Kharphocho. Haidar Khan of Shigar, one of the leaders of the uprising against the Dogras, was imprisoned and died in captivity. Gosaun was appointed Thanadar of Baltistan and till 1860, the entire region of Gilgit-Baltistan was under the Sikhs and then the Dogras.


After the defeat of the Sikhs in the First Anglo-Sikh War, by the Treaty of Amritsar, 1846, the region became a part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Gilgit population perceived itself as ethnically different from Kashmiris and disliked being ruled by Kashmir state. The region remained with the princely state, with temporary lease of some areas to the British, until November 1, 1947.


First Kashmir War: British collusion


After the creation of Pakistan, Jammu and Kashmir was briefly independent. However, on October 22, 1947, tribal militias backed by Pakistan crossed the border and moved to take Srinagar, but me with resistance at Uri. Hari Singh urged India for assistance and signed the Instrument of Accession. In Gilgit region, Major William Brown, commander of Gilgit Scouts, mutinied on November 1, 1947, arrested Governor Ghansara Singh and his small group, and acceded to Pakistan. This bloodless coup was planned by Brown to the last detail under the code name “Datta Khel”; he was joined by a rebellious section of the Jammu and Kashmir 6th Infantry under Mirza Hassan Khan.


Brown ensured that the treasury was secured. Gilgit locals established a provisional government (Aburi Hakoomat) with Raja Shah Rais Khan as president and Mirza Hassan Khan as commander-in-chief., but Brown had already telegraphed Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan asking Pakistan to takeover. The Pakistani political agent, Khan Mohammad Alam Khan, arrived on November 16 and took over the administration of Gilgit. Brown outmaneuvered the pro-Independence group and secured the approval of the mirs and rajas for accession to Pakistan.


According to Brown, Alam told the locals, “you are a crowd of fools led astray by a madman. I shall not tolerate this nonsense for one instance... And when the Indian Army starts invading you there will be no use screaming to Pakistan for help, because you won’t get it.”... The provisional government faded away after this encounter with Alam Khan, clearly reflecting the flimsy and opportunistic nature of its basis and support.


The provisional government lasted merely 16 days and lacked sway over the population. The Gilgit rebellion did not have civilian involvement and was solely the work of military leaders, not all of whom wanted to join Pakistan, at least in the short term. Historian Ahmed Hasan Dani mentions that despite lack of public participation in the rebellion, pro-Pakistan sentiments existed. Some scholars believe that the people of Gilgit, Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Ishkoman, Yasin, Punial, Hunza and Nagar joined Pakistan by choice.


After taking control of Gilgit, the Gilgit Scouts and Azad irregulars moved towards Baltistan and Ladakh and captured Skardu by May 1948. They blocked Indian reinforcements and soon captured Dras and Kargil, cutting off Indian communications to Leh in Ladakh. The Indian forces mounted an offensive in autumn 1948 and recaptured all of Kargil district. However, Baltistan region came under Gilgit control. Nehru, guided by Mountbatten, had other plans. 


On January 1, 1948, India took the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council. In April 1948, the Council passed a resolution calling for Pakistan to withdraw from all of Jammu and Kashmir and India to reduce its forces to the minimum level, following which a plebiscite would be held to ascertain the people’s wishes. However, no withdrawal was ever carried out, India insisting that Pakistan withdraw first and Pakistan contending that there was no guarantee that India would withdraw afterwards. Gilgit-Baltistan and a western portion of the state called Azad Jammu and Kashmir have remained under the control of Pakistan since then.


Inside Pakistan


While the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan expressed a desire to join Pakistan after gaining independence from Maharaja Hari Singh, Pakistan declined to merge the region into itself because of the territory’s link to Jammu and Kashmir. There were two reasons why administration was transferred from Azad Kashmir to Pakistan: (1) the region was inaccessible to Azad Kashmir and (2) because both the governments of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan knew that the people of the region were in favour of joining Pakistan in a potential referendum over Kashmir’s final status.


According to the International Crisis Group, the Karachi Agreement is highly unpopular in Gilgit-Baltistan because Gilgit-Baltistan was not a party to it even while its fate was being decided upon. From then until 1990s, Gilgit-Baltistan was governed through the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, which treated tribal people as “barbaric and uncivilised,” levying collective fines and punishments. People had no right to legal representation or a right to appeal. Members of tribes had to obtain prior permission from the police to travel to any location and had to keep the police informed about their movements.


In the late 1990s, the President of Al-Jihad Trust filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to determine the legal status of Gilgit-Baltistan. In its judgment of May 28, 1999, the Court directed the Government of Pakistan to ensure the provision of equal rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, and gave it six months to do so. Following the Supreme Court decision, the government took several steps to devolve power to the local level. However, in several policy circles the point was raised that the Pakistani government was helpless to comply with the court verdict because of the strong political and sectarian divisions in Gilgit-Baltistan and also because of the territory’s historical connection with the still disputed Kashmir region, which prevented determination of Gilgit-Baltistan’s real status.


The real problem with Pakistan is the lack of a unifying figure like India’s Sardar Patel, and the plethora of opportunists and adventurers, both Pakistani and British (like Major Brown). Pakistan was pieced together like a jig-saw puzzle, piece by piece. It remains that way, ready to break apart. It appears the British still harbored illusions about maintaining a garrison in Gilgit as part of the Great Game. They did not realize that they were now a third rate power. Netaji Subhas had seen this truth, but Gandhi and Nehru continued to defer to the British, even begging Mountbatten to continue as Governor General of free India. This was the root of the Kashmir problem, created by Nehru and Gandhi.


But for Sardar Patel’s initiative in sending the army led by General Thimayya, all of J&K would have been lost in 1947. It is time to undo this damage and recover POK. It is now entirely within India’s reach. 


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