War & Heroes

Remembering Brigadier Mohammad Ahmed, SJ

The brave veteran of Indo-Pakistan Wars of 1965 and 1971 and one of the oldest and seniormost Armoured Corps officers, Brigadier Mohammad Ahmed, passed away on September 15, 2022. 
One can go on writing a book, which eventually is my resolve, but since it is a tribute that I have hurriedly managed to put together, my aim is to let the readers know about this great man in a few words. 
Muhammad Ahmed, son of Syed Muhammad Hasan, was born on May 5, 1929 in Kanpur, United Provinces/Uttar Pradesh, India. His father, being a civil servant, took Mohammad Ahmed to schools wherever he was posted. He passed his F.Sc from Government Inter College, Allahabad. 
With a keen desire to join the army, he had applied well before the partition of India and was selected. While the partition took place, Muslim boys from his batch were offered to stay in India or go to Pakistan. He opted for Pakistan and joined the first prestigious batch of 1st PMA Long Course in February 1948, from where he was commissioned on February 4, 1950 as PA 2719, 2nd Lieutenant Mohammad Ahmed. 
On his commissioning, he joined Guides Cavalry Regiment, (The Far Pavilions Regiment of the famed book by M. M. Kaye about the Corps of Guides). He was later posted to the Home of Armour, the Armoured Corps Centre, Nowshera from 1954 to 1955. 
He was selected for 1960 Staff Course after which he was posted as Brigade Major 5 Armoured Brigade from 1961 to 1962, under a well-known Cavalry officer, Brigadier R. G. Hyder. 
On raising of 25 Cavalry Regiment (June 9, 1962) at Kharian, he was amongst the pioneer officers to join the men of steel. While in the regiment, he was selected to attend the Tank Technology Course from the United Kingdom from 1964 to 1965.
On his return to Pakistan, he joined his regiment, 25 Cavalry and fought in the famous Battle of Chawinda, a battle that stands in the annals of Pakistan Army’s history as one of the fiercest battles of all times. The regiment performed outstandingly, with its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nisar Ahmed (Kaka Nisar), receiving Sitara-e-Jurat and several others as well. It was Major Mohammad Ahmed, while commanding B Squadron, who fought like a true cavalier, wherein the tanks he was fighting in were hit and he had to change his tank thrice. During the battle, he sustained another direct hit, due to which his hands and face were badly burnt and he was evacuated in a semi-unconscious state. He was awarded with a well-deserved Sitara-e-Jurat.  
He also served in the Tactical Wing of School of Armour at Nowshera, while he was nursing his wounds and injuries sustained during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. He finally got the ultimate dream of any cavalryman, that is to command his regiment, and he commanded 25 Cavalry from 1966 to 1967. He attended the Army War Course in 1968, where he did outstandingly only to be retained as an instructor in the faculty of War Wing from 1969 to 1971.
Just before the start of the Indo-Pakistan War 1971, he was given the command of a newly formed 8 Independent Armoured Brigade Group. I was a reconnaissance troop leader in 31 Cavalry, that was part of the same Brigade. It was here that I got to see the great man up close. In the first counterattack of 8 Armoured Brigade, I was the commander of the recce and layout group of 31 Cavalry Group and was responsible to get the regiment deployed in the Forming Up Place (FUP). Having deployed the regiment, I deployed my troop’s ack ack guns in the ack ack role and also anti-tank role (because of integral jeep mounted MGs and recoilless rifles) and was helping the regiment get into battle position. During this process, the Indian artillery let hell lose on us and during that time, the Indian Air Force (IAF) also entered the scene of the battle. Brigadier Ahmed was right up in the FUP and when the shelling got too intense and everyone was getting under cover, I saw Brig Ahmed standing in the Bien River bed, only to tell his driver, “Mir Janan, jeep ko darakht ke neechay le jao.” (Mir Janan, (driver from 13 Lancers), take the jeep under cover). Here was a man who had seen real action in the Battle of Chawinda and was undeterred. 

It was him leading the Brigade again in the Battle of Barapind (16 and 17 December), where he was ordered to take 180 degrees turn from the River Ravi/River Bien Corridor, that the Brigade had counterattacked on December 10 and was ordered to get the Brigade to counterattack the penetration near Lagwal and Ghazipur Reserve Forest, initially reported as a squadron of armour but later turned out to be an Indian Armoured Brigade. He was right on the front, with his Brigade Tactical Headquarters under a tree at Marara Wazirpur, near Zafarwal. 
Whatever happened to 8 Armoured Brigade was a sad and sordid affair, where it was like a Tariq Bin Zayad situation and there are many lessons to be learnt, but when Brig Mohammad Ahmed was called by the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, the brave commander said only these words, “Whatever happened in the Battle of Barapind, I am responsible for it”. I consider myself fortunate, because the GSO-3, Captain (later Colonel) Habib Akhtar got posted as Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Armoured Division and it was Brig Mohammad Ahmed who got me posted by name as GSO-3 (Ops and Int) of 8 Independent Armoured Brigade. 
The days following the ceasefire were hectic and tense and it was Brig Ahmed who sat down in the Operations Room for 4 days non-stop with his staff, on the conclusion of which, not having slept all that time, he ordered me to take the “top secret plans” to Gujranwala right away. Such was his professionalism. 
After commanding 8 Independent Armoured Brigade, he was posted as Chief Instructor at the Command and Staff College, Quetta from 1973 to 1976. This followed his posting as Commander of 7 Armoured Brigade from 1976 to 1977.
Having been passed over in 1977, in the most upright demeanour, he sought early retirement. After retirement, he went on to serve as the Managing Director, Punjab Urban Transport Company from 1978 to 1980, after which he served as the Resident Manager at the Fauji Fertilizer Company from 1982 to 1991.
In my 25 years of service, mostly in the Armoured Corps, I can say without any hesitation, that he was one of the finest commanders I have ever come across. The one important lesson that I learnt from him and followed all my life is, “The plans must be conceived and made by the commanders and the staff fills up the logistics”. How much is it truly followed or was followed in reality is a point worth pondering. 
I remember him for carrying his weights (for weight training) wherever he went. I remember seeing the weights in his sports car, when he came to see my friend S. M. Amjad (later Lieutenant General), at Lawrence College and he used to park his car in the school car park. He had his weights even in Pasrur after the war. He fancied taking a cold bath after breaking the ice, even during winters and not sleeping in his caravan but a 180-pounder tent. One day, he asked the DQ to send the caravan for a drive and the driver struck a branch of a tree on the Pasrur-Chawinda Road. 
He was truly one of his kind and I am blessed to have been under his shadow during those testing times in the post Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. 
May Allah bless his soul and rest him in peace and in heaven.

The writer is a military historian and biographer.
E-mail: [email protected]

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