Muhammad Musa

For other uses, see Musa Khan (disambiguation).
Muhammad Musa

General Musa Khan (1908-1991) (right)
Governor of Balochistan
In office
17 December 1985  12 March 1991
President Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Prime Minister Muhammad Junejo
Benazir Bhutto
Navaz Sharif
Preceded by Gul Jogezai
Succeeded by Lieutenant General K. K. Afridi
Governor of West Pakistan
In office
18 September 1966  20 March 1969
President Ayub Khan
Preceded by Amir Mohammad
Succeeded by Yusuf Haroon
Army Commander in Chief
In office
27 October 1958  17 June 1966
Preceded by General Ayub Khan
Succeeded by General Yahya Khan
President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation
In office
Preceded by Naseer Ahmad
Succeeded by Air Mrshl Nur Khan
Personal details
Born Muhammad Musa Khan Hazara
(1908-10-20)20 October 1908
Quetta, Baluchistan, British India
Died 12 March 1991(1991-03-12) (aged 82)
Quetta, Balochistan Province, Pakistan
Resting place Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan, Iran
Citizenship British Subject (1908–1947)
Pakistan (1947–1991)
Nationality Pakistani
Political party Independent
Pakistan Muslim League (1985–91)
Alma mater Indian Military Academy
Command and Staff College
Imperial Defence College
Occupation Politician
Civilian awards Hilal-i-Quaid-e-Azam
Military service
Service/branch  British Indian Army (1935–1947)
 Pakistan Army (1947–1976)
Years of service 1926–1966
Rank General
Unit 4th Hazara Pioneers, FF Regiment
Commands Chief of Staff, Army GHQ
14th Infantry Division
8th Infantry Division

World War II

Indo-Pakistan War of 1947
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
Military awards Hilal-e-Imtiaz
Order of the British Empire

General Muhammad Musa Khan Hazara (Urdu:محمد موسى خان; October 20, 1908– March 12, 1991), HPk, HQA, HI, HJ, MBE, was a four-star rank army general, politician, and the Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army, serving under President Ayub Khan from 1958 until 1966.

Gaining commission as an officer in the British Indian Army, he served with distinction in the World War II on the side of United Kingdom and opted for Pakistan as an aftermath of partition of British India in 1947. He served to command the combat brigades in war with India over Kashmir in 1947 and eventually ascended as the Commander in Chief after the military martial law enforced in 1958. He earned notability and public fame when he commanded the Pakistan Army after the second war with India in 1965.

Musa Khan shortly retired after the war and embarked his career in national politics when he was appointed to serve as Governor of West-Pakistan from 1966 until 1969. In 1985, he was appointed as Governor of Balochistan and remained in office until he died in 1991.


Background, early life and career

Muhammad Musa Khan was born on 20 October 1908 in Quetta, Baluchistan, British India into a tribal Hazara family.[1] He was of the Persian-speaking Mongol descent who belonged to a Hazara tribal tradition.[2] His family roots have been said to be descendants of Genghis Khan.:35–36[3] His family was Sardar (lit. Chief) of Hazara Tribe and was the eldest son of Sardar Yazdan Khan who the local Tribal chief.[4]

After his schooling, he was recruited to the British Indian Army as a Jawan in 1926 and eventually joined the 4th Hazara Pioneers after being promoted as the Naik– a non-commissioned officer in the British Indian Army.[5] He was selected to join the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun as a cadet in October 1932.[1] In 1935, he graduated from the Indian Military Academy and gained commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1935.[6] He was said to be an excellent sportsman and had played Hockey as a Defender.:35[3]

In 1936, he was posted to the 6th Royal Battalion of the 13th Frontier Force Rifles as a Platoon Commander and saw actions in the violent Waziristan campaign in 1936 till 1938.[4] He participated well in the World War II on the side of the United Kingdom and served well in the Burma Campaign and North African theatre as part of the Norfolk Regiment of the British Indian Army.[1] In Middle East, he led the company and was listed in mentioned in despatches for "distinguished services in the Middle East during the period February to July 1941" and in the London Gazette 30 December 1941 as a Lieutenant and acting Major.[4]

In 1942, his heroic action for valor won him the praise and was appointed as Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for "gallant and distinguished services in the Middle East.[1] In 1945, he was promoted as army captain and major in 1946 and was serving with the Machine Gun battalion, 13th Frontier Force Rifles by October 1942.[7]

After the partition of British India that followed the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, he opted for Pakistan and joined the Pakistan Army as a staff officer.[1] In 1947, he, as Brigadier, commanded the 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Sialkot brigade in Kashmir and served as commander of military units in the first war with India.[1] In 1948, he went on to command the 52nd Infantry Brigade positioned in Quetta.[8]

After the war in 1948, General Musa studied and graduated from the Command and Staff College in Quetta and proceeded to attend the Imperial Defence College in United Kingdom prior to his graduation.[8]

Commander-in-Chief and 1965 war

In 1950s, Musa Khan earned reputation as being respected in the officer corps for professional competence, commanding the military formations throughout the country as officer commanding.[2] His commanding assignments included his role as the Chief of Staff of the East-Pakistan Army, and also having served as GOC of 14th Infantry Division in Dhaka, East Pakistan, in 1951.[4][8] In 1952, he last field assignment included his role as commander of 8th Infantry Division positioned in Quetta before stationed at the GHQ.[8] In 1957, he served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and later Chief of Staff at the Army GHQ.[8] His career progressed well in the army and was ascended as Commander-in-Chief by President Ayub Khan in 1958 when the latter disposed President Iskander Mirza who imposed martial law in 1958.[9]

Major-General Musa Khan never achieved the three-star appointment nor promotion as Lieutenant-General was approved at the time of his nomination towards appointed as the army chief of staff.[9] His promotion to the four-star appointment came with controversy in the country as many saw that his appointment was based on "dependability rather than merit."[9] There were three staff officers in line who were senior to Major-General Musa Khan that included: Major General Sher Ali Pataudi, Major General Latif Khan and Major General Adam Khan– all Sandhurst graduates of 1933.[10]

In October 1958, Musa Khan elevated as four-star general and appointed as Commander in Chief with Ayub Khan promoting himself as Field Marshal.[11] President Ayub delegated the military affairs to General Musa Khan when heading the civic government.:152[11] In 1960, he was appointed to serve as the President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation which he remained in the post until being retired in 1966.[12] It was during his stint as president when the Hockey Team won its first Gold Medallion against Indian Hockey Team in the Summer Olympics in Rome in 1960.:146[13]

In 1964, he became aware of covert operation studied by the Foreign ministry led by Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and presented views against the operation due to no linkage between the covert actions and the conventional backup.[14][15] General Musa Khan also had the support from President Ayub Khan on his views; however, the war began in 1965.[15] General Musa Khan did not order the Pakistan Army without the confirmation by President Ayub Khan despite Foreign Minister Bhutto's urging.:182–183[16] After the Indian Army moved to the Rann of Kutch, General Musa Khan ordered Army GHQ to responds back to Indian Army by moving the 12th Division.:183[16] After viewing the aerial view of the area, General Musa controversially relieved the GOC Akhtar Hussain Malik and handed over the command of the 12th Division to Major-General Yahya Khan, which resulted in time delays of troop movements and eventual failure of the operation.:25–27[17]

About the failure due to command change, General Musa Khan justified his actions that he had not had time to select a commander or staff despite the authority was given to him.[9] He lead and commanded the Pakistan Army in the largest tank battle, which earned him the public fame and nobility.[18] His strategy based on classical trench method supported by armory, artillery and airpower was tactically powerful and successful due it had stopped the advancing Indian Army but politically unsuccessful due to the country being party of peace treaty brokered by the USSR in 1965.[18]

General Musa's military service is unique due to the fact that he had received two extension as a Commander-in-chief from the period of 1958 till 1966.[19] Upon his retirement, General Musa did not recommend Yahya Khan's nomination as Commander-in-chief and Yahya's name was not included in the list of nomination sent to President Ayub Khan; nonetheless, General Musa was succeeded by General Yahya Khan as Commander in Chief.:725[20]

About the war with India in 1965, General Musa provided his views and testimonies in two books written on military history of Pakistan Army: first being the "My Version" and the second being the "Jawan to General".

Politics, governorship and death

At the time of his retirement in 1966, General Musa Khan was a famed and popular military figure which led President Ayub Khan appointed him as the Governor of West Pakistan.:50–51[18] Such news of appointment was met with great triumph and enthusiasm by the West Pakistani people.:50[18] In 1967, he became Governor of West Pakistan until submitting his resignation on 2 March 1969 when General Yahya Khan imposed martial law to takeover the presidency.:136[21]

From 1969–84, he remained quiet and settled in Karachi while receiving military pension.[1] In 1985, he became active in national politics on Pakistan Muslim League platform led by Prime Minister M. K. Junejo.[1] He was appointed as Governor of Balochistan by the President Zia-ul-Haq after the general elections held in 1985.[4] After the general elections held in 1988, Governor Musa Khan controversially dissolved the provincial assembly on the then-Chief Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali's advice.:xxxiv[22]

However, the Balochistan High Court restored the provincial assembly amid public condemnation of Governor's move.:xxxiv[22] The step towards dissolving the assembly was believed to have been taken with the consent of the President and Prime Minister.:xxxiv[22]

On 12 March 1991, General Musa Khan died while in office and per accordance to his wishes, he was buried in buried in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan, Iran.[4] In his honor, the provincial Balochistan government established a vocational school, the General Muhammad Musa Inter-College (GMMIC), in Quetta, Pakistan in 1987.[23]

Post-1965 war and views

About the war with India in 1965, General Musa provided his views and testimonies in two books written on military history of Pakistan Army: first being the "My Version" and the second being the "Jawan to General". General Mohammad Musa, who commanded the Army in the '65 War, gave his account of how the Indians surprised the GHQ, the C-in-C and the Supreme Commander Field Marshal Ayub Khan on 6 September 1965. Narrates Musa in his book "My Version":

India started the war at about 0330 hours on 6 September. The Supreme Commander was informed about the invasion by Air Commodore Akhtar of the Pakistan Air Force, who was on duty at the Air Defence Headquarters at Rawalpindi on night of 5–6 September. Indian troop movements cross the frontier had been reported to him by the border posts of the PAF Wireless Observer wing. The President then rang me up to ascertain whether or not GHQ had received any information about the Indian attack and the whereabouts of the field army that morning.

General Musa describes the genesis of the surprise Indian attack on 6 September in his own words: The then Foreign Minister Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and the Foreign Secretary, Aziz Ahmed spurred on by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, who was commander of our troops in Azad Kashmir, pressed the Government to take advantage of the disturbed situation in the valley and direct the Army to send raiders into Indian held Kashmir for conducting guerrilla activities there and to help, on a long term basis, the locals in organizing a movement with a view to eventually starting an uprising against the occupying power.

Continues the former C-in-C in his book, the sponsors and supporters of the raids had at last succeeded in persuading the President to take the plunge that led to an all-out armed conflict with India' .......

The concept of sending infiltrators in the Indian held Kashmir, code named Gibraltar was the brain-child of the ministry of Foreign Affairs but General Musa assumed full responsibility for the development of the concept, its planning and co-ordination of the entire operation. He says:

After the Government finally decided that deep raids should be launched in Indian-held Kashmir, I directed Commander 12 Division, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, to prepare a draft plan for the operation, code-named 'Gibraltar' in consultation with GHQ and within the broad concept we had specified. GHQ approved it after making certain changes in it. With the help of sand model, he went over the final plan in Murree before it was put into effect on 7 August 1965 under our overall control. The Supreme Commander and his Military Secretary were present. He also agreed with it. I was accompanied by the CGS (Major General Sher Bahadur) and the Directors of Military Operations and Intelligence Brigadiers Gul Hasan and Irshad Ahmed Khan respectively. No civil official attended this briefing.

Broadly the plan envisaged, on a short-term basis, sabotage of military targets, disruptions of communications, etc. and, as a long-term measure, distribution of arms to the people of occupied Kashmir and initiation of a guerrilla movement there with a view to starting an uprising in the valley eventually. The push towards Akhnur was not part of it. However, it was considered as one of the likely operations that we might have to undertake, as we felt our activities would have an escalating effect.

Nevertheless, when the Indians started attacking and capturing Azad Kashmir territory in Tithwal and Haji Pir Pass areas, we decided to hold them in these places and retaliate by threatening Akhnur through the Chamb valley to release the pressure in the north.

The simple truth emerging from the preceding statement of General Musa is clear in that, while the concept of 'Gibraltar' did originate from the ministry of Foreign Affairs, General Musa, whatever he might say after the event, went along with it in a half heartedly and non serious manner leading to the downfall of President of Pakistan General Ayub Khan via Tashkent Agreement.

The loser in the final analysis was Pakistan, described so feelingly by General K.M. Arif in an analysis carried by "Daily Dawn", 6 September 1990. How and why Pakistan blundered into war .......... At that time, the policy making in the country was highly personalized. The institutions were weak and by-passed. Pakistan's Foreign Office with Mr. Aziz Ahmed as the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Z.A. Bhutto as the Foreign Minister called the martial tunes. It had miscalculated that despite operation Gibraltar, the fighting was likely to remain confined inside the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Foreign Office is on record to have assessed that India was not in a position to risk a general war with Pakistan......for inexplicable reasons the General Headquarters based its operational plan in Kashmir on a wishful logic. The misplaced ego, the high ambition and the naive approach of a selected few, plunged Pakistan into an armed conflict. The outcome of the war, or the lack of it, eclipsed Ayub Khan's position.

At a briefing arranged at SSG Parachute Training School at Peshawar in the presence of two senior officers, Lt. Col. Abdul Matin, the Commander of No. 1 Commando Battalion, now retired and the brilliant Operations Staff Officer Maj. E. H. Dar, (Later Major General E. H. Dar) the Air Force Chief was told that only a pre-emptive operation like the Israeli crippling raids against the front line Arab states' air bases as in 1956 Arab-Israel War, could have probability of success. To this, the Air Chief observed that a decision to carry out pre-emptive operation as suggested could only be taken by the Government (meaning President Ayub Khan). Technically the observation made was correct but in that case the operation should have been based on the hypothesis of pre-emptive alone. There was also objection by the Military Operations experts to the dropping of para commandos in Kashmir with no equivalent of French Maquis to hide, feed and organise their escape and was tantamount to suicide.

General Musa Khan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan's C-in-C, was the archetype of the loyal commander. But after him Ayub appointed another favourite, Yahya Khan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up a 'Liberation Cell', which included people like:

General Musa, Commander in Chief of the Pakistan Army at that time, confirms the existence of this 'Cell', which was set up in August 1964. The majority of the members of this 'Cell' were from the 'Qadiani sect’, he pointed out.

When this ambitious plan was first sent to the GHQ, General Musa opposed it and wrote the following points to the President Ayub Khan:

General Musa asked for money to set up two more army divisions to face the challenge. General Ayub in principle agreed with this idea, but the Finance Minister Mr Shoaib persuaded him against this by saying that the Pakistan economy cannot afford it. And this idea was dropped. It is ironic that no such army was raised before the start of the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ or during its operations, but after the war, in the same month, two divisions were set up.

According to Brigadier (R) Farooq, General Musa was a simple man. He gave his opinion about the 'Operation' and then did not make it a matter of pride and remained quiet. If he and General Sher Bahadur who also opposed the idea, had resigned then there would have been no 'Operation Gibraltar'.

A top level meeting was held at the Headquarters of the 12th Division in May 1965. Once again, General Musa opposed the plan, and to this President Ayub Khan said: "Musa I have been assured by the Foreign Office that India would not be involved in a full scale war". When both General Musa and General Sher Bahadur said that if we are to start a guerrilla war at that level, it is very likely that India would react and attack Pakistan. President Ayub Khan reacted by saying: "We will have to take heart sometime".

Apart from the assurance to which President Ayub Khan made reference that India would not attack Pakistan, Pakistani planners of this ‘Operation’ were led to believe that India is not in a position to launch attack against Pakistan until 1966 or 1967. It was emphasised that we do not waste any more time, and start our action as soon as possible.

Musa says in his book, 'My Version' that the Kashmiris of the Valley were not taken into confidence about the ‘Operation’ that was to be started to liberate them. He wrote:

We had not even consulted the public leaders across the cease fire line about our aims and intentions, let alone associating them with our planning for the clandestine war...

The people of the area to be 'liberated' must have to be taken into confidence, if the people organising this gigantic task really meant business. Without the help of the local people outside army cannot win a war or even survive. Not only the people of Kashmir living on the other side of the cease fire line were not taken into confidence, also the people of Azad Kashmir, even the Azad Kashmir Government was not taken into confidence. When the ‘Operation’ was put into practice then the planners realised the need to have some Kashmiri support. They already had set up a Liberation Council, and compelled by circumstances they announced that Choudhry Ghulam Abbass was leading this Liberation Council.

Choudhry Ghulam Abbass was already very annoyed with this, he immediately rejected that in a news statement in the Daily Nawa E Waqat the following day:

"I have nothing to do with all this, and I did not know anything about an 'Operation'."

General Musa confirms the above position, he said:

"Because of the haste with which the ‘Operation’ was launched, even Azad Kashmir leaders were not taken into confidence by the advocates of Guerrilla raids. Helplessly they remained in the background. Their co-operation was also very necessary and would have been very helpful. They could have assisted the mujahideen in various ways by themselves."

K H Khurshid, who was the secretary to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and also Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Government commented:

"I firmly believe that Ayub Khan was not fully aware of the reasons for the war of 1965. Foreign Office, Home Ministry and some senior officers from the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs which included A B Awan, Nazir Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, prevailed on him and assured him that it is only a small programme which would not lead to a war with India. Ayub Khan who offered India ‘joint defence’ would not have agreed to a full-scale war with India.... These men wanted to weaken Ayub’s hold on the government, and this is the real reason why he was so angry with them after the war."

Ayub Khan was assured by his advisors and the Foreign Minister, Z.A. Bhutto, that India would not cross the international boundary to attack Pakistan. The Indian leaders and ministers were clearly saying that if Pakistan did not stop its adventure in Kashmir, then the conflict could spread to other areas. But Pakistani leaders did not take these threats seriously until the direct Indian attack on the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Sialkot to release the pressure on the retreating Indian forces in Kashmir.

Some critics say that the operation was "deliberately miss-planned to topple or weaken Ayub Khan". This has been very controversial, but whatever its real motives, it resulted in a full-scale war between India and Pakistan. The Security Council arranged a cease fire on 23 September 1965.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Staff writer. "Dignitaries buried in the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.)". Imam Reza (A.S.) Network. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  2. 1 2 Amin, Agha Humayun (November 2000). "The Pakistan Army From 1965 to 1971". A.H. Amin, Defence. Retrieved 17 October 2016. Ayub being a Hindko speaking Pathan, Musa being a Persian speaking Mongol-Hazara and Yahya being a Persian speaking Qizilbash. Tikka was the first Punjabi chief of the army.
  3. 1 2 Abbas, Hassan. Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror. Routledge. ISBN 9781317463283. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hazara The Best. "Great General Mussa Khan". Hazara The Best. Hazara The Best. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  5. Rahimullah Yusufzai (20 January 2013). "The first priority is security". The News. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  6. ISPR. "General Muhammad Musa". Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  7. October 1942 MS Army List
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Army Museum. "GENERAL MUHAMMAD MUSA". Army Museum. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Cloughley, Brian. A History of the Pakistan Army: Wars and Insurrections. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. ISBN 9781631440397. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  10. Brig A.R. Siddiqui. "Army's top slot: the seniority factor" Dawn, 25 April 2004
  11. 1 2 Shah, Aqil. The Army and Democracy. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674419773. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  12. PHF. "Pakistan Hockey Federation". Pakistan Hockey Federation. Pakistan Hockey Federation. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  13. Musa, Mohammed (1985). Jawan to General: Recollections of a Pakistani Soldier. ABC Publishing House. p. 240. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  14. Haider, Retired Air Commodore Sajjad (6 September 2015). "Straight shooting on the 1965 war". Dawn, Haider. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
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  18. 1 2 3 4 VSM, Brig Amar Cheema. The Crimson Chinar: The Kashmir Conflict: A Politico Military Perspective. Lancer Publishers. ISBN 9788170623014. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  19. Wiarda, Howard J. Comparative Politics: The politics of Asia. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415330954. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  20. Jalal, Ayesha. The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674744998. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  21. 1 2 3 Burki, Shahid Javed. Historical Dictionary of Pakistan. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442241480. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  22. Hussaini, Ali Aosat. "About College". Musa College. Retrieved 20 October 2016.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Ayub Khan
Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army
Succeeded by
Yahya Khan
Political offices
Preceded by
Mian Naseer Ahmed
President of the Pakistan Hockey Federation
Succeeded by
Nur Khan
Preceded by
Amir Mohammad Khan
Nawab of Kalabagh
Governor of West Pakistan
Succeeded by
Yusuf Haroon
Preceded by
Khushdil Khan Afridi
Governor of Balochistan
Succeeded by
Hazar Khan Khoso
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