COUP OF 1951:PART VI

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

Naveed Tajammal

Part I can be read at: https://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/the-coup-of-1951-part-1/

Part II can be read at: https://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/coup-of-1951part-ii/

Part III can be read at https://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/coup-of-1951part-iii/

Part IV can be read at https://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/coup-of-1951part-iv/

Part V can be read at https://pakpotpourri2.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/coup-of-1951part-v/

Maj_Gen_Akbar_khanThe Conspiracy to overthrow the Government of Liaqat Ali Khan had begun in the aftermath of the way he had handled our Kashmir Affairs. His ineptness to take the offer of Sardar Patel to take Kashmir in lieu of Nizam of Hyderabad’s State; which was trying to go independent by itself-Shows the lack of fore-sight or statesmanship on the part of Liaqat Ali Khan.

It is amazing the way he and his friends handled this conspiracy of traitors-as it was termed by the press or the statecraft. The State prosecution was extremely selective in nominating the Conspirators, a large number of senior army officers escaped prosecution and junior officers with a marginal connection were hounded in the criminal proceedings, all of these other senior officers who will be highlighted subsequently in other parts knew something about it and never reported the same as they were duty bound to the higher army authorities as per the Military law-Uniformed Men were tried by a Civil court ,whereas the Military Law is very clear-If you study all subsequent Conspiracies all were tried by FGCM’s or Field General Court Martial.

Gen. Akbar had rightly written on his dismissal order presented to him on 09 March 1951 by Gen. Hayauddin who had come to arrest him with a Police Force from the CGS House that the dismissal order issued by the Governor-General was illegal because Gen. Akbar was Not subject to the Indian Army Act-As he had been given a King’s Commission in 1933-thereby was subject to the British Army Act. The Governor-General had No authority to dismiss a King’s commissioned Officer as per the law and under no circumstances could be arrested by Civil Police and treated like a felon.

It was in the third week of February 1951 that Inspector Askar Ali Shah of CID-NWFP reported a imminent coup d’état, Askar Ali was allegedly a good friend of Gen. Akbar and both would discuss the rampart corruption and the sad way the Government was handling the National issues, he was a brother of Col. Sultan Ali Shah who was currently Director Weapons at GHQ and known to Gen. Akbar and belonged to Peshawar. Over the time, whenever Akbar wanted information on the movement or the security arrangements of the prime minister and the Governor General Askar Ali would procure them to Akbar, using his CID networking. On 19 Feb. Akbar had sent a telephonic message to Askar Ali in Peshawar, followed by a telegram through his brother Col. Sultan Ali shah to meet him at his office in GHQ on 20th Feb; if he reached Rawalpindi before 1 pm otherwise at the CGS House. By the time Askar Ali reached Rawalpindi, Akbar had left his office so Askar moved to CGS House and met Nasim Akbar. While they were talking Akbar also reached and told Askar that the Coup d’état had to be done and all necessary arrangements had  been worked out and planned-his team of  dedicated Army officers was ready-and turned around to Nasim Akbar-and remarked over some previous point, that, yes, almost all Officers are those who were in the Kashmir War with him in 1947/48.

Askar Ali now armed with this vital information was bursting to divulge it to his seniors-and saw a chance of a rapid rise in ranks on account of this information, however strangely it was only on the 23rd Feb that he told G.H. Kiani the Asst. Inspector General CID NWFP that he had met Gen. Akbar on the 20th Feb and that, he and some other Army officers were planning to overthrow the Government that detachments of troops would move to various predetermined strategic points, and arrest the prime minister of Pakistan, cabinet ministers and high civil and military officers and set up a new government. Askar Ali at this stage, deliberately did not disclose the names of other officers for reasons best known to him as most probably he wanted to prolong his nuisance value, as per the written report submitted by him to Kiani shown in the trial proceedings does not give details-but is a simple narration of his meeting with Akbar at the CGS house and what all was told to him by Akbar. Since the IG and the DIG as well the Chief Minister NWFP were all out of station, Kiani-forthwith called the Governor House seeking a urgent meeting with the I.I. Chundrigar. However he was told to come at 10 am the next day i.e 24th Feb. Kiani met the governor and told him verbally what all he had been reported to him by Askar Ali,and gave the Governor the written report of Askar Ali, however, Kiani was directed by Chundrigar to further probe Askar Ali on the subject matter-which he did on 24/25th Feb-during his interrogation of Askar Ali, he found out from him the whole list of the names of Officers involved in this proposed coup d’état s had been mentioned in part v of this article on the 26th Feb evening and the night; a joint session was held at the Governor house by Gen. Ayub Khan and Iskandar Mirza along with G,H. Kiani who all further interrogated Askar Ali Shah. As events were showing his own involvement in the proposed coup, over a period of time and he having withheld the information for so long, made him an equal suspect as he was now trying to save his own skin and trying hard to do so.

Askar Ali now suggested to the panel to raid the house of the CGS and that it would yield, all documents and plans as well names in the list and who was assigned with the task-as the conspiracy was deeply rooted since 1949,and so would prove his discloser with evidence.

On the day Askar ali had decided to disclose this conspiracy i.e 23 Feb-and he had a inkling that a pre-arranged meeting was being held at the CGS house-That can be a reason why he chose to delay the discloser to his senior-he may have thought that a raid could be conducted by CID NWFP just on his report as events unfolded even Kiani was helpless as Chundriga; -failed to see him on that evening, It was on 26th Feb. that a detailed in writing report under the signatures of Chundrigar, was sent through a special messenger to Liaqat Ali Khan in the morning as his special train reached Sargodha Railway Station in connection with the Punjab Assembly elections. After reading the report Liaqat spoke with Ayub and Iskandar Mirza directing them to come on a special plane to Sargodha, which they did. After this meeting both flew to Peshawar and by 8 pm, were interrogating Askar Ali and G.H. Kiani at the Governor house.

Ayub khan gives his own version of this meeting in his book, ‘he says that while he questioned Kiani, Iskandar Mirza interrogated the informer Askar Ali and according to him it soon became apparent that an uprising had been planned and that one of the conspirators was Brig. Siddique khan the Bannu Brigade Commander who had served in his unit at one time and a special plane was sent to call him in, on his arrival he was threatened by Ayub with these words,’Siddique, you tell me the truth or I shall string you upside down’.

However Hassan Zaheer, the author of the book ‘Rawalpindi conspiracy 1951’ states that as per his interview of Brig Siddique Khan on 18 Jan 1995, Siddique had this to say on that day’s proceedings-‘I was called at Peshawar by Ayub khan from Miran Shah by a special plane sent to collect me on the morning of 27 Feb when I reached the Governor House Ayub, Iskandar, Col. A.S.B Shah and G.H. Kiani were in a meeting. When I was called in, only Ayub and Iskandar were in the room. Iskandar started the questioning. However shortly Ayub stopped him and said, ‘I rely on this officer, he will do anything that I say’ and so he inquired about our Attock meeting-[these facets will be highlighted later in a different part]-to which I admitted, and further said that, ‘Akbar wanted to start a War'[with India on the Kashmir issue] and that he had also openly discussed the same with you too [Ayub Khan] very frequently”. what one can deduce here is that Brig. Siddique khan was trying to divert the conspiracy meetings in relation to a war being planned against India over Kashmir-and I had stated in my previous Part V that Akbar had grave doubts in inducting Siddique Khan. However the approver Siddique Raja was in league with Brig, Siddique both had served in Ayub khan’s unit during the Burma war.

Ayub khan and Iskandar after these meetings with the informer felt that Askar Ali was still trying to withhold and outsmart them, so it was decided that Askar Ali be sent to Lahore on a special plane for further interrogation on the afternoon of 27 Feb G.H. Kiani did not like this transfer of case unearthed by him to the Punjab Police, Askar Ali on reaching Lahore was examined by Abdul Qayyum AIG Police.

In yet another interview taken in 1995 by Hassan Zaheer of Brig. Ziauddin at Islamabad. According to Ziauddin,’Ayub khan concluding that there was a conspiracy ,did not know what to do, initially he wanted to put the entire 9 Division under arrest, but that was not possible and that it was Brig. Habibullah who was a earlier informer to Ayub and that when told by Liaqat Ali at Sargodha, Ayub acted surprised and that Habibullah had provided Ayub with all details as he had gleaned from Siddique Raja and that Ayub followed the advice of Habibullah to arrest only the so-called ring leaders ,leaving the rest aside.

As per the narration of Hassan Zaheer who had accessed all the CID daily reports as well the Tribunal proceedings from the Cabinet Division archives, which had been forwarded to the secretary Interior G.Ahmed, on return to Rawalpindi-Ayub Khan discussed the matter with Brig. Habibullah and appraised him about the investigation concluded so far-and asked Habibullah to prepare his version of a statement of this conspiracy case-

In his testimony before the Hyderabad Tribunal-the approver Siddique Raja had stated that, it was on 1st March 1951, that Brig. Habibullah rang him to inform that Akbar’s plan had leaked out and that the C in C Ayub khan would like to see him in his office at 5 pm. They both went to-gather to his office and Siddique told Ayub all the details that he knew of the conspiracy case, on that evening.

On 04th March Ayub khan told Brig Habibullah to submit a full narration of all events till the meeting of Siddique Raja with Ayub and latest up to date and entitle the said File as ‘Duffer’s Drift’. In the later Hyderabad Tribunal  proceedings the Judges made some harsh observations on the report and its compilation by Brig. Habibullah and the court remarked that, ”Habibullah was quite clearly trying to appear in the garb from the beginning which was not real and in order to not only protect himself, but to take credit for things which he had not done, he wrote the Duffer’s Drift’ in a strain as if he was trying to protect the State throughout and to curb the movement which was being set afoot by Akbar Khan and his colleagues to subvert the Government of Pakistan by force from the time he came to know of it”.

Meanwhile all these proceedings remained unknown to Akbar and he continued with his planning, while he was at Karachi-as per the evidence later presented in the court, a military plane was specially diverted to Quetta to bring in Brig. Latif Khan to Karachi to meet Akbar and Janjua for the final operational plans-on the 28th Feb. All three participated in a series of meetings at 52-intelligence school Karachi between 1.30 pm to 1.45 am on the night of 28 Feb/01 March 1951.Akbar returned by Air to Rawalpindi on the 1st March evening, as when Maj. Eusoph Sethi approver number two-who went to see him at his house found him perturbed as things in Karachi were not well organized. The next day at 11 am he got the call from the CGS [Akbar] to come to his house after lunch and bring along Brig. Ziauddin and Col Hassan Khan. On meeting he informed all that he had been informed by the C in C to proceed to East Pakistan[east Bengal] on an inspection tour on 04 March as Zahir Shah the King of Afghanistan in cahoots with Indians was creating problems on the Chaman border and that Indians would try and divert our attention in East Pakistan [East Bengal] ,and the GOC East Bengal Maj. Gen Yusuf was being sent to Iran along with Brig. Latif Khan on some mission- it was strange because Chaman border was part of operational area of Brig.Latif Khan. It was here that according to Maj. Sethi that Brig Ziauddin informed Gen Akbar of the earlier meeting of Brig Siddique at Peshawar Governor house with Ayub khan and Iskandar mirza  on the 27th Feb that Siddique had rung up Col Arbab on return to Bannu and told him that the cat was out from the bag.

According to the trial proceedings GHQ had decided to move out Akbar from West Pakistan as all the information given in parts by Askar Ali shah under investigation was confirmed by Col Siddique Raja in the 1st March meetings in full details, therefore on the recommendations of both C in C and the Secretary Defence, the Governor General had issued dismissal orders of Gen.Akbar and Brig Latif khan and their arrest under Bengal Regulations lll of 1818-subsequently all four[Akbar, Nasim Latif and Faiz Ahmed Faiz] arrested on 09 march 1951  were also detained under the Public safety Act and the search of their houses was also done under these orders. Qurban Ali Khan was now made in-charge of this case-he was the same IG of Police who had changed the Army 4000, .303 British made Rifles and ammunition  to be given to Kashmir freedom fighters by replacing them with Dara made .303 rifles along with local ammunition  which resulted in a series of loss of life in various battles fought in the Kashmir war between 1947/48.

An operational plan was made jointly Maj. Gen Hayaduddin, who was made the chief coordinator between Army and police. However Army was not to be involved in the Arrests-and additional police from outlying and near districts of Rawalpindi was called in. Malik Habibullah who was S.P Criminal investigation Lahore was made in charge of this operation, he was accompanied by Ch. Nazier Ahmed S.P Montgomery, DSP Sh. M. Zahid of CID Lahore & Ch. Sikandar Hyat DSP railway police Lahore, all reached the bungalow of SP Rawalpindi[Najaf khan] at 7 pm on 08 march. The SP Cambellpur [Attock] M. Ramzan too reached on the same time-the plan of morning arrests was organized and they all departed to meet at 4 am, at the same location, at 4.45 am the convey of police moved towards the CGS House, en route  Maj. Gen Hayauddin joined them in his car by 5.45 am they reached the CGS House and shortly surrounded the house and a number of them entered the inner house, while Hayauddin went to the back of the house and tapped on the window of Akbar khan’s room from outside, who inquired him of his visit Hayauddin told him to open come outside as the matter was very urgent-Akbar  opened his bedroom door and was overpowered by police and was whisked away to a unknown destination while he was in his sleeping-suit. Nasim Akbar was told to pack her bag and taken to the residence of DIG police Rawalpindi. Some 56 different documents were seized by the search party from the CGS house that day,later the house was sealed and put under a heavy guard. All seized matter was sent to DIG-CID Lahore.

Brig. Latif following his orders had flown in Karachi on 08 March en route to Iran was arrested from the house where he was staying and by nightfall was lodged in Hyderabad central jail.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz who was living at 41 Empress road Lahore, was again arrested from his house but he got time enough, as no warrant of address had been issued to the police, this gave him a chance to call Mazhar Ali Khan who was his colleague in the ‘Pakistan Times’ and told him of his arrest without a warrant, later he was handed his arrest warrant under the Bengal Regulation 1818, and taken the same day to Sargodha Jail.

But what is the most glaring aspect in this whole episode is that, even though Mazhar Ali Khan had been forewarned by Faiz Ahmad Faiz of his arrest, no one from the print media wrote in the support of these men. A Press Hate Campaign against them was started simultaneously with the announcement of this Conspiracy by the Liaqat Ali Khan. They were called Traitors. Eighteen editors representing the entire press of Pakistan had been flown in to Karachi in a pre-planned move from Dacca, Lahore, Peshawar and all were addressed by Altaf Hussain the Editor of Dawn on the evening of 09 March 1951-The meeting without waiting for, or demanding details, all agreed to pass a resolution there and then, to support the Government Action done in the morning and gave full assurance to the Government of an ‘unqualified’ support to any further measures adopted by the Government however severe they maybe. This resolution and the statement of the Prime-minster appeared side by side on the front page of Dawn on 10 March 1951.This action on part of the Press without even verifying facts amounted to giving the sitting Government a ‘carte blanche’.

On 12 March.it was announced in the press that Air Commodore M. K. Janjua Director Personnel Royal Pakistan Air force had been arrested in complicity of the conspiracy case.

To be continued

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Comments

  • naveed tajammal  On March 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Thank you Yasmeen,for the post.

  • Ajmal  On March 24, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Well narrated historical facts. Keep it up Naveed.

  • Shomu(Sameer)Bhattachariya  On March 25, 2014 at 4:53 am

    Dear Yasmeen
    Though I have included this in some detail in my epic book Nothing But! Part 3–What Price Freedom Chapter 8-“A Divided Pakistan”–But this is indeed very revealing
    Thanks again and warm regards
    Samir

  • Omar Nasarullah  On March 25, 2014 at 4:54 am

    many thanks for opening the window

    Interesting to me is the statement that Sardar Patel had offered

    Kashmir and that proposal was shelved

    presumably because Hyderabad was ALSO of value

    and none could IMAGINE that by trying to grab all these

    scattered parts of India,

    Pakistan would lose the game everywhere !

    looking back is now futile

    BUT look how we are being bought up by those with petrodollars NOW

    respectfully submitted , by your old friend

    omar [ who lived through it since the outset]

  • Umar Ali Shah  On February 28, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Askar Ali Shah was my uncle ,he disclosed the covert conspiracy plan because he was loyal to his country and you have written wrong statement about him that he unfolded all for his promotion chances…loyalty returned with Blame..

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