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HOW PERCEPTIONS ARE DISTORTED IN CRISIS AND DANGERS MAGNIFIED

AGHA H AMIN

The Destroyed Rail and Road Bridge At Jassar-Dera Baba Nanak-India Pakistan Border

http://www.defencejournal.com/2001/mar/chawinda.htm

Jassar Bridge Crisis:- At 0315 hours on the night of 6th/7th September Indian artillery shelled the Pakistani 115 Brigades positions on both sides of the Jassar Bridge.It was ironical that both the 115 Pakistani Brigade (two infantry battalions,one R & S Company and one TDU tank regiment) and the 29 Indian Brigade(three infantry battalions and one tank squadron) opposing each other in Jassar area were commanded by two extremely

timid and highly nervous commanders. The task assigned to 29 Indian Brigade originally from 7 Division but now operating in an independent role directly under 11 Corps Headquarter was to capture the Pakistani enclave across river Ravi which was a potential Pakistani jump off point inside Indian territory. The Indians launched their attack at 0400 hours 6th September and by 0415 hours reached the southern end of the Jassar bridge which was a few hundred yards from the Indian border. 115 Brigade launched a counter attack using tanks and dislodged the Indians from the southern end of the bridge by 0800 hours. The Pakistani GHQ, influenced by nervousness at Headquarter 1 corps, took the situation opposite Jassar very seriously and ordered the 6 Armoured Division in dispersal in Gujranwala-Nandipur area to move to Pasrur on night 6/7 September.22 The Indian brigade commander sent exaggerated reports about Pakistani success to 11 Corps Headquarter and requested permission to withdraw. 11 Corps Headquarter instead sent their Chief Engineer Officer and another staff officer to revive the morale of 29 Infantry Brigade Commander. These two officers on arrival were able to put some spirit in the 29 Brigade and under their supervision the 29 Indian Brigade launched another attack on night 06/07 September 23. This attack was successful and the Indians recaptured the southern end of the bridge by 0800 hours 7th September 1965. In response to this development the 115 Brigade blew up a span of the Jassar bridge which was already prepared for demolition since 6th September at 0800 hours 07 September 1965. In reality the situation had stabilised now with river Ravi in between and both the brigades positioned north and south of the river. Brigadier Muzaffar

was unfortunately for Pakistan Army of a different stuff. At 1130 hours on the same day i.e. 7th September without reconfirming he sent a report to Headquarter 15 Division that an enemy infantry battalion had crossed the ravi river and established a foothold on the northern side of the river 24. All this was happening at a time when Headquarter 11 Indian Corps had ordered the 29 Brigade on 8th September to leave a battalion and revert to its parent formation 7 Infantry Division’s command in area Bhikiwind on the night of 8/9th September25, in response to the developments in 4 Mountain Division sector as a result of the 1st Armoured division’s offensive in Khem Karan. 115 Brigades alarming report naturally caused grave apprehensions in the Pakistani High Command from 15 Division onwards till the GHQ. Headquarter 15 Division despatched 24 Brigade less one battalion opposite Chobara-Phillora alongwith one tank regiment (25 Cavalry) to 115 Brigade area (Jassar). 25 Cavalry spearheading the fire brigade sent to extinguish the exaggerated fire at Jassar reached Jassar at 2200 hours on 7th September and found out that the situation was not a fraction as serious as reported by 115 Brigade and at 0200 hours on night 7/8 September to return to his original location Pasrur which 25 Cavalry reached at first light 8th September26. Meanwhile the 6 Armoured Division which had started moving from Gujranwala to Pasrur on 6th September evening and whose leading elements had reached Pasrur by 2345 hours was ordered to return to Gujranwala by 0500 hours 7th September!27 Contrary to the porevalent thinking in Pakistan Jassar was no Indian deception but a sheer defensive action aimed at eliminating a dangerous enclave from which the Pakistanis

could threaten Amritsar. It was the fog of war that made the Pakistani GHQ and 1 Corps imagine the shadow at Jassar as that of a giant ! Interestingly the Indian brigade commander at Jassar was as much afraid of the Pakistani troops opposite him as the Pakistani 1 Corps and GHQ were afraid of the Indian threat opposite Jassar. If Major Shamshad a direct participant who went to Narowal (Jassar) is to be believed then only one squadron of 25 Cavalry was sent to Jassar.28
22False Alarm at Jassar :--Page-147-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.According to Gul Hassan Headquarter 1 Corps was the main culprits responsible for the exaggerated reports sent toGHQ.Gul thinks that it was not Brigadier Muzaffaruddin i.e. 115 Brigade Commander who was unnerved but GOC 15 Division (Brigadier Sardar Ismail and his Colonel Staff Colonel S.G Mahdi known with the nickname of Killer Mahdi) and Commander 1 Corps.Shaukat Riza who had a better access to war diaries/records however maintains that it was Brigadier Muzaffaruddin who was the main reason for the false alarm at Jassar.(Page-191-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit and Page-147-Shaukat Riza-1965-Op Cit). Musa placed the entire blame for the Jassar false alarm on the shoulders of GOC 15 Division and his Colonel Staff Colonel S.G Mahdi.According to Musa ‘During this period,the headquarters of this division (15 Division) appeared to be in a state of delirium.Its Colonel Staff (a Military Cross from Burma) was sending messages to GHQ and its lower formations that enemy commandos had infiltrated and were operating behind Sialkot town....it regained sanity only after the acting Divisional Commander and the Colonel Staff were relieved of their jobs’ (Pages-65 & 66-Musa Khan-Op Cit) . It may be noted that HQ I Corps was commanded by one who was not famous for any intellectual prowess but owed longevity in his post as Corps Commander to proven loyalty,yesmanship and extreme lack of imagination.This was the opinion of about fifteen different

officers who had served with Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana in various capacities and who were interviewed by the author during the period 1985-99.In the opinion of Brigadier Amjad Chaudhry a relatively more reliable authority than both Gul and Shaukat, and one who was present on the spot as Commander 4 Corps Artillery Brigade Lieutenant General Bakhtiar Rana said ‘the Indians had established a bridgehead with one infantry battalion (a tribute to the level of thinking of Ayub’s handpicked and Pakistan Army’s only corps commander !!!!) and his assessment was that they would build it up to a brigade strength by next morning...he ordered me to get corps artillery into action to support the counterattack to be launched next morning to destroy the bridgehead...when I reached the brigade headquarter in Narowal I found Commander 15 Division (Brigadier Ismail) and Brigadier Abdul Ali commander 24 Brigade already there.We were all surprised to learn from the local brigade commander Brigadier Muzaffaruddin that the situation on his front was nothing like what it had been made out to be (Amjad does not explain who made it out,why and how on earth did GOC 15 Division was in 115 Brigade area if no alarming report was sent or why was General Bakhtiar convinced that the main Indian attack was coming from Jassar) and that after demolition of the bridge (only one span was demolished) only four or five Indian soldiers had managed to crawl up to the near end of the bridge and he was taking action to deal with them (!!!!)’ (Page-73September 65 -Before and After -Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Ferozesons Lahore-1977). Amjad Chaudhri and Musa Khan as late as 1976 and 1983 respectively, mistakenly thought that the Indian effort opposite Jassar was the part of some grand deception plan ans that the Indians were trying to ‘make us look towards Jassar while they crossed the international border at Charwa from the direction of Samba (Pages-73 & 74-Ibid) or that the Indian move at Jassar was a ‘Feint’ or ‘Diversionary Effort’ (Pages-65 & 66-Musa Khan-Op Cit).According to Harbaksh Singh no such grand strategic deception was intended but all that happened at Jassar was a figment of the 115 Brigade

Commander,15 Division Commander and 1 Corps Commander’s extremely disturbed and nervous imagination as on 6/7th September!Compare the comparative lethargy of Pakistani Commander 1 Corps with Harbaksh Singh. While Harbaksh personally went to revive the spirits of local commanders in face of perceived or real enemy threats Bakhtiar Rana preferred forwardly reports received from lower formations without moving out of his headquarter,to check the situation in person as Harbaksh Singh that indomitable Jat did!It must however be remembered that before the war the Pakistani GHQ had a preconceived notion that the Indians would go through the inconvenience of crossing the Ravi at Jassar and launch their main offensive from Jassar (Page-18-Ibid) . It is quite possible that both 15 Division acting GOC and Commander Pakistani 1 Corps were influenced by this preconceived notion in currency in the Pakistani GHQ and passed on this false report without rechecking.Later once the perceived threat petered out Brigadier Ismail was made a scapegoat while Rana escaped Scot free by virtue of having closer bonds with Ayub-Musa and his higher rank.Musa in his book (informed sources think that it was beyond Musa’s capability to write a single page without assisatnce!!!!) criticises GOC 15 Division for ‘demolishing the bridge (Jassar Bridge)’ on page- 65 of his book but also states on page-18 of the same book that before the war he as C in C had assessed that one of the two important aspects of the Indian invasion plan in case of war was to ‘Capture Jassar and the railway bridge intact’ (Page18-Ibid). Musa nowhere explains the royal lethargy of his handpicked man i.e. 1 Corps Commander Lieutenant General Rana who as per Musa ‘Ably Commanded’ I Corps (Page-64Ibid) in not personally checking the actual situation at Jassar or even sending a senior staff officer from Headquarter 1 Corps for doing so.