America’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln famously said that, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The memo probably didn’t reach a few people in Pakistan. In the preface of his book ‘Pakistan meets Indian Challenge’, Brigadier Gulzar Ahmad provided us the following pearls of wisdom: ‘It [the war of 1965] was not a war resulting from sudden differences. It was the result of centuries of differences in the way of life followed by Muslims and Hindus. These differences resulted in separation. This conflict could not have been initiated or engineered by Pakistan, which, at partition inherited 1/5th of area and highways, about 1/6th of the population, about 1/7th of the cultivated, 1/10th of the Army, a segment of big landlords, a minority of educated Middle Class and artisans and only a few thousand Industrial workers. With such meagre resources, it would be suicidal for Pakistan to have initiated such a conflict. History tells us that this war cannot end as long as Brahmins continue to rule India. It is not a war declared or desired by the common masses of India. It is a war declared and continued by Brahmins who are rulers of India and whose object is to perpetuate their domination of the dumb masses of India.” The book was published in 1967 and its second edition was published in 1986.

On 9th August 1965, Dawn reported: ‘Liberation War to be Waged, Announcement by Secret Radio’. Other reports from the same day mentioned an ‘out of control situation’ in Kashmir and a ‘Four-point code including no Taxes to puppet regime’. A ‘revolutionary council of the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir and Jammu’ was apparently set up. On 11th August, the same newspaper reported ‘Patriots cut Srinagar-Jammu Road, 9 Bridges Blasted: arms, food depots seized’. ‘Heavy Indian Casualties’ were also mentioned. The ‘revolutionary council’ unfolded a ‘Liberation Plan’. The next day, it was reported that a ‘Battalion’ was wiped cut and Srinagar was sealed off. Pakistan’s maverick Foreign Minister, Z.A. Bhutto told the newspaper that ‘Peace is our Aim’. On 15th August, Pakistani newspapers reported that ‘Oppressed Kashmiris have risen in revolt’ while Mr. Bhutto denied ‘any hand’ in this disturbance. A Dawn correspondent drew parallels with ‘Vietnam’. On 17th August, it was reported that ‘Last Resort to save Srinagar’ was underway by the Indians and they had ‘forcibly occupied position in Kargil’. The same day, ‘Free Kashmir Radio’ urged Pakistanis to join the ‘Crusade’.

Fifty years after these incidents were reported, we know for a fact that it was a complete hoax. Nothing of this sort actually happened. There was no ‘uprising’ in Kashmir and the ‘Sada-e-Kashmir’ radio was actually working from Rawalpindi. The revolutionary council didn’t exist, Indian army didn’t suffer so many casualties and there were absolutely no parallels with either the Crusades or the situation in Vietnam. One needs to glean what Shuja Nawaz, Brigadier A.R. Siddiqui, General Musa and Brian Cloughley mentioned about this episode in their respective books to learn some facts. Following is a summary of how this episode unfolded. It was called ‘Operation Gibraltar’.

In 1964, a ‘Kashmir Cell’ was established by the army to figure out a solution to the Kashmir issue. This ‘cell’ was headed by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik. In May-June 1965, instructors from Pakistan Army were deputed to train volunteers in Azad Kashmir. Almost ten thousand volunteers were trained [the number varies in different accounts]. This ‘Gibraltar Force’ was divided in Tariq, Ghaznavi, Salahuddin, Qasim, Nusrat and Khalid units. Their assignment was to urge Kashmiris to stage an uprising during the month of August. These volunteers led by trained commandoes crossed over to Indian side of Kashmir in the last week of July. On 8th August, the volunteers were supposed to take part in the Urs of PirDastagir in Srinagar and instigate an uprising the next day. During the uprising, they were supposed to take over Srinagar airport and Radio Station and ‘Nusrat’ unit was tasked with engaging the Indian forces deployed in the valley. The ‘revolutionary council’ and ‘Radio’ were established in Rawalpindi to provide a cover to these ‘Mujahideen’.

The plan failed gloriously as the ‘volunteers’ failed to instigate any sort of revolt. In fact, most of them were handed over to the Indian authorities by local Kashmiris. The commanders of these units didn’t even understand the local language. Most of the ‘volunteers’ were in Indian custody within two weeks of their arrival and a local Martial Law/Emergency was imposed in Kashmir by Indian authorities. The back-up plan called ‘Operation Grandslam’ was to cut off Srinagar from mainland India through Akhnur. It took the commanders more than a week to get approval of this plan. The Plan B achieved limited success because India decided to take the war to Pakistan by attacking across the International boundary. Indian forces marched on towards Sialkot and Lahore. Pakistan was caught off guard and scrambled forces from Kashmir front to save two vital cities.

Pakistan had received generous military aid from the US under the guise of ‘fighting communism’ after 1954 and the generals wanted to use the superior weaponry against India. However, by the fourth day of war, General Musa informed PreisdentAyub that Pakistan’s fuel reserves were diminishing real fast and would not survive for long. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was not taken into confidence before this ‘stunt’ and Air Marshal Nur Khan threatened to resign when he was informed about this ‘adventure’ in the first week of September. PAF had reserve fuel left for only two weeks and they had to restrict their flying missions. During the war, President Ayub and Mr. Bhutto went on a secret visit to China to gain support. They were advised by the Chinese authorities to buckle up and prepare for guerrilla warfare. The war ended in a stalemate.

On the PR front, Pakistan claimed glorious victory. Religious fervour was admixed with nationalist sentiments through radio broadcasts and nonstop propaganda. Pakistan didn’t achieve significant gains in the battlefield but came out shining in the war of propaganda. Most Indian generals of the time wrote comprehensive accounts of the war and admitted their mistakes. Pakistan’s accounts have been less honest (exceptions do exist) and a narrative of ‘victory’ has been spun as if India was the actual aggressor. India is also celebrating their ‘victory’ this year, after fifty years of the event, which is in line with the ideology of the current BJP government. Pakistanis are also celebrating war this month, a war that we started, lost and could have avoided. Maybe Lincoln was wrong, Maybe you can fool all the people all the time. But then, Lincoln wasn’t aware of ISPR.