Floods in Pakistan continue to remain a national calamity. Army invariably is called upon in aid of civil power for undertaking relief rescue operations for protection of life and property during flood season. Over the period, army has developed a comprehensive organizational setup to fight any challenges resulting from floods in the country.
Army Flood Protection and Relief structure comprises following:
Before onset of flood season, certain precautionary and prep-measures are initiated which are described in ensuing paras:
Inspection of all flood protection works is carried out by the Corps Headquarters. Necessary contingency plans are also prepared after coordination with civil authorities for any unforeseen tasks. These actions are completed by 30 May each year. Necessary liaison/coordination is carried out with civil authorities in their area of responsibility by Commanders Corps Engineers to ensure that related actions have been completed before the onset of flood season. Major activities at this stage include:
Army Pre Flood Season Coordination Conference is held in Engineer Directorate every year to coordinate various aspects with civil agencies at Army level. The conference is chaired by the Engineer-in-Chief and attended by all Commanders Corps Engineers, Chairman Federal Flood Commission, Secretaries of Provincial Irrigation, Power Departments and representative of other concerned departments.
Army flood relief centre established at Engineers Directorate General Headquarters is functioning round the clock during flood period. The duties assigned are:
Daily weather forecast/flood situation report is obtained from Meteorological Department, Federal Flood Commission and a comprehensive situation report is forward to all concerned
Any significant change in weather forecast/flood situation received from Meteorological Officer is further communicated to respective Corps Headquarters through Fax and signal
Data on Historic peak floods and discharge capacity of different rivers at various hydraulic structures is kept as reckoner in flood relief centre and is monitored continuously to ensure timely action if needed
Equipment for flood relief operations is procured through Irrigation and Power Department according to the requirement of different formations. The equipment is repaired centrally under arrangements at Headquarters Engineers 4 Corps for the formations located within Punjab. Similarly repair for remaining formations equipment is undertaken by respective Provincial Governments
Breaching sections at different bunds and embankments have been planned to save hydraulic structures. Explosive for these breaching sections is provided by Irrigation and Power Departments/concerned department. Explosive is further issued to formations and is maintained by respective Army units on behalf of Provincial Governments
Post flood conference is held at the end of Flood Season during November/December at Engineer Directorate which is chaired by Engineer-in Chief and attended by all concerned military and civil authorities. Detailed postmortem of current year flood activities is carried out and appropriate actions are initiated to overcome shortfalls
Army has been always forthcoming in assisting civil administration with its own resources in all tasks which has a contributory effect towards nation building.
Army is already running some of the best education institutions in the country. National University of Science and Technology, Cadet Colleges and a large no of Army Public Schools/ Federal Government institutions are few visible examples. The beneficiaries include 57% civilians.
Since independence there have been numerous occasions where the services of the armed forces have been requisitioned by the civil authorities to enable them to cope with disasters or difficulties for which they found their own resources inadequate. These tasks have ranged from rescue and relief operations during natural calamities like earthquake and floods, occasional tasks like Anti-Locust Operations undertaken during the locust menace of 1951-53 in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan, to Anti Wild Boar Operations of 1961 carried out in Punjab and Sindh. Each formation of the Army in any part of the country has detailed plans prepared and duties well defined to deal with these contingencies at short notice. Some of the task Army employment in Aid of Civil Power are:
Army is always called in to restore law and order during sectarian, political and other incidents of violence.
Ever since Partition jute had been smuggled regularly from East Pakistan into India, and the quantity had increased steadily. According to the President of the Pakistan Jute Association, Narayanganj, no less than seven to eight hundred thousand bales of the 1951-52 jute crop, were smuggled across the border into India. As a result of this, India had refused to include jute as an item of trade in the trade agreement with Pakistan, negotiated in July-August of 1952. India made the excuse that Pakistan had imposed a duty of Rs. 2.50 per maund on the export of jute.
Pakistan was thus losing a considerable source of revenue, and the exchange value of her rupee was being adversely affected. This constituted a severe strain on the country’s economy, as well as affecting public morale.
The problem of smuggling had defied solution for the past years. As a last resort the Government decided that the army should take over the anti-smuggling operations. The East Pakistan Rifles were placed under the command of the army for this operation, and they were empowered by a special ordinance to arrest, detain or take into custody, any person engaged in smuggling. They were also authorized to seize any notified commodities being smuggled out of East Pakistan. Officers and junior commissioned officers were authorized by the same ordinance to use whatever force they considered necessary to make their mission successful. Any inquiries on the conduct of personnel engaged in the operation were to be held by a commissioned officer. The general control of the anti- smuggling operation remained in the hands of district magistrates. Civil liaison officers were appointed to all the army/E.P.R. detachments, and all searches and arrests were made in the presence of these officers, who later conducted all legal proceedings.
The province was divided into two sectors to facilitate the execution of the operation. Sector ‘A’ consisted of Khulna, Jessoie. Kushtia, Rajshahi, and Dinajpur Districts, and was the responsibility of the Commander of the Jessore Garrison ; Sector ‘B’ comprised the Districts of Rangpur, Mymensingh, Syihet, and Tipperah (now Comilla), and was con trolled by the Commander of the Comilla Garrison.
The army started operating all along the 1,000 mile border on 12 September 1952. The operation involved extensive patrolling by day and night on either side of pre-selected nodal points, which acted as firm vases for these patrols, A strict watch was kept on the main routes along which the bulk of the smuggling was done. A search was made of all country boats plying on the rivers and rivulets flowing into India, and of bullock carts and other means of conveyance moving towards the border. The searching of rail way trains and steamers was left to the combined efforts of the police and civil officials.
The soldiers are on a twenty-four hour duty, patrolling and watching the border in the hot sun and torrential rain. They are often seen patrolling on foot in knee-deep water and muddy fields with a modest morsel of food in their bags and rifles on their shoulders.Discipline, duty, a sense of patriotism, enthusiasm, and a real appreciation of the dangers that Pakistan has to face at the hands of the smugglers, have contributed to the undying spirit of these watchers of the borders.
Years later General Mohammad Musa summed up the army’s task in the following words:-
Army kept working almost neck-deep in water-logged areas to prevent the smuggling of jute into Calcutta. It meant going on hard-scale rations, working day and night in darkness in monsoon rains, moving in boats in the jungles and swamps and so on. We were given a blank cheque by the Government to shoot smugglers at sight. Not a single round was fired. Of course we stopped the smuggling.
The public helped the soldiers in their work, and treated any smugglers they caught in their own way. On 17 September, one army patrol came across an interesting sight in the Jamalpur sub division of District Mymensingh. A few smugglers with their heads shaved and the words ‘Black Marketeers’ painted on their backs were being paraded through the village with the local people shouting insults at them. There were also, however, a few attempts to malign the army work by those people, many of them influential, who stood to lose by anti-smuggling measures.
As soon as the army appeared on the scene, smuggling activities declined noticeably and eventually stopped altogether. About five hundred smugglers were caught in the first month. Most of them had either not known about the army’s take-over or hope-fully thought that it could be bribed. Within the first three weeks of ‘Operation Jute’, significant results were apparent. The prices of Pakistani jute began to show an upward trend and India re entered the jute market by the front door. In addition, numerous imported articles like crockery, fountain pens, watches, medicines, gold and silver bullion were seized. A number of currency frauds were also unearthed. The value of the Pakistani rupee started rising.
‘Operation Jute’ officially ended on 31 January 1953. The army had succeeded in another unusual and difficult task. It had learnt many lessons, including healthy co-operation with civil agencies, which were to prove extremely useful later on.