“Good generalship is when you wreak more casualties on the enemy”

      A shattered pair of spectacles and green peak cap in a museum! Not exactly an art buff’s dream possession, but for those in the armed forces, they belong to a man whom everyone remembers for his distinguished service to the nation. Lt. Gen. Zaki, the erstwhile Commandant of the 15 Corps (Oct 1989 - June 1991), operating in J&K, and the Advisor to the State Government from Oct. 1991-Jun. 1995, earned the collector’s items during an encounter with the militants in 1991. “There were eight of us and the militants were entrenched in a house on top of a hill. We determinedly crawled 150 yards to reach the place,” recalls the General, who was then the Advisor to the J&K government.

      Not willing to risk the life of his troops, he took the hand grenade from his ADC and threw it at the bunker. “It was at this time, when I was standing up, that they fired at me. But with God’s grace, the bullet hit the door and a splinter grazed me at three places between the brows shattering the spectacles and going through my cap,” he recollects. The Pakistani press was full of screaming headlines about his death, but their nemesis was not over as yet. Zaki recovered and restored to his full health, helped in combating militancy in the Valley which was raising its head at that time.

      “If a soldier is serving in any part of the country, he should be familiar with the territory that he is defending. Only when he will know the area well that he will be able to defend it well,” he says of his formula for success in the Valley. Zaki can still rant off the entire LOC from Chamb Jourian (in Jammu) to NJ 9842 point (beyond Tortok) with all the points, military positions, and roads. Appointed as the Advisor because of his familiarity with the terrain, he brought in many changes into the administration. “Intelligence has to be provided to the soldier on the field because he is the one who takes the final action and if that is denied or is delayed in reaching him, he is helpless,” he says of his action plan for the Valley. Always the one for ground co-ordination and instant sharing of the facts among agencies, he feels that is missing in the present situation. “The system as such is not faulty, but the different parts of the system must cooperate and understand each other better, all in the name of national interest,” says the former Advisor.

      “Ultimately, wars can be won but good generalship is when you wreak more casualties on the enemy. Frontal attack is effective but good tact is when you lure the enemy out in the open,” says the man, who was lauded for his judicious deployment of the troops in the Valley. After his term was over in Jan. 1993, he was recalled in May 1993. From here, he went on to successfully handle the Hazratbal crisis in Nov. 1993, where he was injured. After two months convalescence, he returned to active service as the Advisor and it was from here that he bid goodbye to four decades of exemplary soldiering.

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