Traditionally Pakistan had one infantry division of four brigades deployed in East Pakistan.
The artillery was limited to six field regiments and some independent mortar and field batteries which could be augmented from the artillery element left behind by the divisions hurriedly flown in from the western wing. Armour consisted mainly of about one regiment of Chaffee tanks, one independent Chaffee squadron, and one ad hoc squadron of Chaffee and PT-76 tanks. The few PT-76 tanks in service had been captured by the Pakistani Army in the conflict of 1965 in the Khemkaran sector, where India had destroyed or captured about a regiment worth of brand new Patton tanks.
As regards airpower, Pakistan had some 20 to 25 Sabrejet fighters in Bangladesh and a few helicopters for intercommunication flights. An unspecified, but substantially large, number of gun-boats, some of them improvised, were operating both in the coastal and inland waters.
An unspecified, but substantially large, number of gun-boats, some of them improvised, were operating both in the coastal and inland waters.
Initially, the Pakistani high command had develoyed its forces purely for internal security and counter-insurgency operations in widely sprea d penny packets. As the insurgency progressively intensified, the locations and groupings continued to alter to meet the changing circumstances. But in formulating the plan it was appreciated that in the event of a full-fledged war, the Pakistani Army’s sectorwise allocation of troops was likely to conform to the following pattern :
(a) Northwestern sector : the horn jutting out of this sector pointed towards Siliguri and provided easy access for closing the Siliguri-Gauhati corridor as well as a linkup with the Chinese. The ground was firmer than in the other sectors and would facilitate the use of armour. Pakistan was likely to allocate to it an infantry division with a regiment of armour and about two field regiments. One brigade was likely to cover the areas of Dinajpur and Rangpur, the second would look after the Hilli-Ghoraghat waistline and the third would guard Raj shahi and Naogaon. If the Chinese coalition was not forthcoming, Pakistan might consider thinning out this sector to one infantry group of four or five battalions and using the remainder of the division elsewhere for offensive or defensive tasks, particularly in the sector southwest of Dacca.
(b) Southwestern sector : This was likely to be held with one infantry division of three to four brigades, with a brigade each in the general areas of Khulna, Jessore, Kushtia, and Jhenida or Megura. From here Pakistan could develop a thrust towards Calcutta. Although such a move had no chance of success as India had already moved an infantry division to counter it, this area was close to Calcutta, and even a temporary intrusion could induce serious repercussions in India.
To make sure that India could not concentrate overwhelming superiority against East Pakistan, Yahya Khan had to ensure that any largescale operations by the Indian Army against that wing would be countered with an attack in the west.
(c) Eastern sector : We expected this area to be held with one or two divisions, with a brigade each at Sylhet, Brahmanbaria, Comilla, Feni and Chittagong. It was very thinly held by India, and if Pakistan struck northeast or east at the soft belly of Meghalaya or Assam, or the still softer flank of Tripura, it could disrupt the only road from Silchar to Agartala, running parallel to, and at places within field gun range of, the international border.
(d) Northern sector : One brigade was expected to be deployed in the general area of Jamalpur and Mymensingh.
We felt that Pakistan would initially have about a brigade defending Dacca, with a contingency plan for pulling back two or three brigades from any of these sectors to a depth defence of the city, depending upon the tactical situation.
The strategic options open to Pakistan were limited. To make sure that India could not concentrate overwhelming superiority against East Pakistan, Yahya Khan had to ensure that any largescale operations by the Indian Army against that wing would be countered with an attack in the west. Pakistan could not thus afford to reinforce the eastern wing more than had already been done. As it was, Yahya Khan had depleted his strike forces in the western wing to send two urgently needed divisions to the east. Although raising had started to make up the loss, it would take about six months to make the new division battleworthy. On the other hand, there was the possibility of raising a fourth division by using unaffiliated formations and units. This the Pakistani high command began to do.
Yahya Khan’s next best bet was to bring China openly into the conflict so that the Indian Army would be unable to attain the required superiority in East Pakistan. Pakistan strove hard to do this right up to the end of hostilities. Yahya Khan made full use of Bhutto’s diplomacy by rushing him to see Chou En-lai as late as November 1971. Evidently nothing substantial materialised except a promise for Pakistan and admonishment to India. But at the time our plans were being formulated collusion between Pakistan and China could not be ruled out. As such, borrowing formations from the holding force against China had to be very judiciously executed, both in terms of quantity and time.
Another option for Yahya Khan was to stabilise East Pakistan politically by creating even a faked normalcy so that India would find it difficult to justify military intervention. The refugee problem could be underplayed through suitable propaganda and adroit diplomacy, especially in international forums. But the ever-growing strength of the Mukti Bahini and the failure of Tikka Khan’s measures combined to thwart this design.