June 26, 2012
Some officers send me 'salad' from pages of Pakistan army history and then ask me to add the 'dressing' to make it more palatable. Following 'command' was from a respected cavalry officer and I lightly sprinkled the 'dressing'. Only for those interested in military history.
Nawab Major Khawaja Hasan Askari 1920-1984
Scion of Nawab of Dhaka family. He completed his early education from the maktab at the Ahsan Manzil Palace and later joined the Muslim High School. His mother died when he was only ten years old after which he was sent to study at the Aligarh School and College from where he completed his B.A in 1940. At Aligarh he was part of the cricket team and the captain of riding club and was also the recipient of the Quaid-e-Azam Award, an honor that bestowed upon him during Quaid-e-Azam's visit to Aligarh University. On completion of his academic career he joined the Army in 1942 and then went on to do an internship in the south of India. He then went on to join the 7th Cavalry Regiment Armored Corps and took part in action on the Burma Front against Japanese. It is said he was the first Indian Officer who carried out operation with tanks on the Burma Front and is also reported to have sustained injuries on his legs and head during the war.
In 1946 he left the British Indian army as his father required his assistance to campaign to gain the allegiance of most of Bengal for the newly emerging Pakistan. He rejoined the army after partition in 1948. In 1946 he was engaged to Bilquis Shehzadi, daughter of Nawab Hafeezuddin Khan of the State of Surat. He was married in 1948 in Hyderabad where they were the guests of the Nizam of Hyderabadand the bridal party stayed in one of their palaces. They have one daughter and four sons.
Nawab Hasan Askari served in the East Bengal Regiment. In 1949 he was transferred to the Nowshera Armored Corp and in 1950 joined Governor General's Body Guard as the First Adjutant when his uncle Khawaja Nazimuddin was the Governor General of Pakistan. In 1951 he returned to Dacca and served with the East Bengal Regiment in various parts of the country. In 1954 he was posted back to Rawalpindi and served with the famous 5th Regiment of the Armored Corp also known as the Probyns Horse regiment .He served between Rawalpindi and Manser Camp till 1959. Retired from army in 1961 and joined politics. In 1976, he moved to Pakistan.
Some princely family members were given honorary commissions and served at ceremonial positions. Example is Major Shahzada Ghulam Jilani from the princely family of Chitral state. He was given direct commission at the rank of Captain in East Bengal Regiment in 1953. He served as ADC to Governors of East Pakistan. He holds the world record of serving ADC to fifteen governors over eighteen year time period.
Askari was most likely an Emergency Commissioned Officer (ECO). He joined 7th Cavalry in 1942. At the start of Second World War, most senior Indian officers of 7th Cavalry were posted out to other regiments as more regiments were Indianized and new ones were raised (i.e. Mucchu Chaudhri, Gurbachan Singh, Ahmad Jan, Muhammad Yusuf, Iftikhar Khan, Russi Bilimoria, Masud Khan) . 2-I-C Major Sher Ali Khan Pataudi (later Major General whose son is also a serving Major General) was the senior most Indian officer. Pataudi's CO gave him an adverse report. This would have ended Pataudi's career but C-in-C Aukinleck nick named Auk saved Pataudi. Auk was instrumental in promoting Indian officers for combat and senior positions and fought on behalf of Indian officers. Indian officers loved him. Auk brought Pataudi to command his own 1/1 Punjab (first Indian to command the battalion). Pataudi erected a tablet in Auk's remembrance at St. John's Church in Peshawar.
Askari was one of five Lieutenants (some may be holding wartime Captain rank). In think Askari was wounded the same year he was commissioned in 1942, and spent rest of the war recuperating from his wounds and saw no more action. After war, strength of Indian army was markedly reduced and majority of ECOs were not given permanent commissions. I think combination of new avenue of politics and less likelihood of getting permanent commission contributed towards Askari decision.
He was re-commissioned in Pakistan army in 1948 and there seems to be confusion about shuttling between infantry and armor regiments that is quite unusual. In 1948, only 1 East Bengal Regiment (EBR), nick named 'Senior Tigers' was raised and one possibility (but not likely in my view) is that he was commissioned in 1EBR and later transferred to armored corps. This was not unusual and Lt. General Gul Hassan had done the same. Gul was an ECO and joined 9/13 Frontier Force Rifles but later transferred to 5th Probyn's Horse.
I think Askari's case is different and there is some mistake. From careful review of available information (if that is correct), he joined armored corps and first posted to Governor General's Bodyguards (GGB). Major Sahibzada Yaqub Khan had brought Punjabi Muslim half of Viceroy's Bodyguards to Pakistan and was its first commandant. When Askari joined GGB, Major Abbas Khan Durrani was commanding it. It makes sense to give Askari posting in GGB when his uncle is Governor General. It is likely that from 1951-53, he served with East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) and not EBR. EPR was a paramilitary organization similar to Frontier Corps and Rangers in West Pakistan and army officers were seconded to EPR for 2-3 years. After a stint at EPR, officers would revert to their parent arms. In 1954, Askari reverts back to Armored Corps and posted to 5th Probyn's Horse. Interesting coincidence that he was commissioned in 7th Cavalry and later served with 5th Probyn's Horse. These regiments were comrades and fought together in the battle of Imphal.
Askari's political career was in service of Ayub Khan and it was quite natural that rising Bengali nationalists resented any Bengali cooperating with West Pakistan. I think his house in Dhaka was burnt down during riots. In independent Bangladesh, lives of these Bengalis were miserable and that is the reason that he left for Pakistan. I think, he has some family connection with Ayub Khan through marriage. Ayub's daughter Nasim was married to Miangul Aurangzeb; son of Wali of Swat. I think Askari's son was married to Nasim's daughter.
These men were from an era that saw sunset of the Raj and sunrise of independent Pakistan and later independent Bangladesh. New boundaries drawn with blood are a painful process.
June 26, 2012
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