LETTER TO DURBAR

(A post received in my Whatsapp. Found a special piece of history interesting and thought to share with my readers.)

Sam & Turk

Brigadier John Randle’s personal reminiscences of Second World War in Burma in Durbar issue of Summer 2016 Volume 33, No. 2 was an interesting read.  He met Sam Manekshaw and Attiqur Rahman in Burma.  He notes that in India- Pakistan war, Sam Manekshaw was heading Indian army and Attiqur Rahman Pakistan army.  Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw called Sam was Chief of Army Staff of Indian army while Pakistan army was headed by General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan who was also Chief Martial Law Administrator.  Lieutenant General Muhammad Attiqur Rahman nick named ‘Turk’ was serving as Governor of Punjab during 1971 India-Pakistan war and didn’t command any military formation.

Sam joined the first regular course of Indian Military Academy (IMA) Dehra Dun known as ‘pioneers’ and commissioned in 1934. Turk was winner of sword of honor and commissioned in 1939.  Sam and Turk were commissioned in 4th Battalion of 12th Frontier Force Regiment (now 6 Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army).  Current Pakistan army Chief General Raheel Sharif also belongs to 6 FF. 4/12 FFR was old 54th Sikhs and part of the legendry Punjab Irregular Frontier Force and its members are nick named PIFFERS. 4/12 FFR was one of the Indianized battalion and Indian officers were posted to the battalion when Indians were allowed to hold the rank of commissioned officers.  A number of 4/12 FFR officers rose to general rank in Indian and Pakistan armies.  In addition to Sam, Suresh Misra, Harnarain Singh, Amreet Singh, Dewan Gupta and Naranjan Prasad rose to general rank in Indian army.  In Pakistan army, in addition to Turk, Mian Hayauddin, Khalid M. Shaikh, Altaf Qadir and Fazal Muqeem Khan rose to general rank.

In Second World War, Turk was the Adjutant of the battalion and Sam was commanding Sikh company when Brigadier Randle met them.  Turk did poorly at Staff College and Sam then instructor at Staff College helped him to pass the course.  In 1947, Sam opted for Indian army and Turk opted for Pakistan army although Turk’s younger brother Muhammad Attaur Rahman; also a PIFFER opted for Indian army.  In 1953, Turk was commanding a brigade that was moved to Lahore and Sam was commanding a brigade across the border in Ferozpur.  Sam invited Turk and another PIFFER then Brigadier (later Lieutenant General ) Bakhtiar Rana for coffee and they had a great meeting reminiscing about the past.  In 1971 war, Sam always asked about the performance of his old battalion that was now fighting against Indian army.  His Military Secretary Brigadier (later Lieutenant General) Depinder Singh noticed that ‘one could discern not a little pride when the briefing officer would recount some incident or action where the battalion had done well’.  When one of the battalion’s officer Major Shabbier Sharif (brother of General Raheel Sharif) won the highest gallantry award Nishan-e-Haider posthumously, Sam wrote to one of his old British commanding officer in England about the good show put by the battalion although it was now fighting against Indian army that Sam was commanding.

In 1973, Sam came to Pakistan for post-war negotiations and 4/12 FFR (6 FF) sent its silverware for the dinner hosted for Sam.  4/12 FFR (6 FF) was then stationed in Okara and cutlery of the battalion was carefully packed and sent to Lahore where Sam was entertained.  During his 1973 visit to Pakistan, Sam was given a lunch at Station Artillery Mess in Lahore.  Sam went around looking at the impressive array of trophies in the mess.  He stopped by a trophy and asked what a trophy of 54th Sikh (4/12 FFR) was doing in the artillery mess.  A Pakistani officer confided that the trophy was brought to the mess for the special occasion.

Sam and Turk considered battalion as their home and were attached to it throughout their lives. In 1947, when 4/12 FFR (6FF) was allotted to Pakistan, Sikhs and Dogras left for India while Pathans and Punjabi Muslims (PMs) remained in Pakistan.  When Sam was army chief, there was a standing order to all the staff, guards and sentries that whenever an ex-serviceman of 4/12 FFR came to the army headquarters, he should be brought to the chief no matter what chief was doing.  In Pakistan, Turk considered 4/12 FFR as his home and was involved in battalion’s affairs during his whole life.  He groomed many young officers of the battalion.  After retirement, he frequently visited his old battalion. Young officers would notice that after his usual rounds of the battalion, he would settle in a room in the mess.  Tea for two was served and old sweeper Charan walked into the room and the two spend some time together recalling old days of glory. Sam took care of Sikh and Dogra ex-serviceman of 4/12 FFR in India while Turk took care of Pathan and Punjabi ex-serviceman of 4/12 FFR in Pakistan.

Sam also had old association with Yahya.  In 1946-47, Sam and Yahya Khan had served together at Military Operations Directorate of army headquarters at Delhi.  Sam owned a red James motorcycle and Yahya fell in love with the motorcycle.  Sam agreed to sell it for 1000 Rupees.  In the chaos of partition, Yahya left for Pakistan promising to send the money but later forgot.  After 1971 war when East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh, Sam joked about the incident stating that “Yahya never paid Rupees 1000 for my motorbike but now has paid with half of his country’.  There is another interesting incident related to that time period.  Sam then Lieutenant Colonel was GSO-1 (Operations), Major Yahya Khan was GSO-2 (Frontier Defence) and Captain S. K. Sinha GSO-3 (Internal Security) at Military Operations directorate.  In 1971 Indo-Pak war, Sam was Indian army chief, Yahya Pakistan army chief and Sinha was head of pay and pension department at GHQ in Delhi.  Sinha sent a letter to Sam asking to be posted to a combat formation stating that “old G-1 is going to war with old G-2 and G-3 is being left out”.

Sam and Turk belonged to the last of the generation of young lads of India who were groomed in old British military traditions.  They emerged on the scene at the time of sunset of the Raj and sunrise of independence.  Their fathers fought First World War as comrades and they fought Second World War together as comrades under Union Jack. Later, fate brought them to represent two independent armies and got entangled in a prolonged conflict.  However, they maintained their professionalism serving proudly their nations while at the same time keeping old bonds of comradeship.


Hamid Hussain

Port Jefferson, New York


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About Shiv Rana

A veteran of the Indian Army.
This entry was posted in My years in Olive Green popularly kmown as OG and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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