“The Shortest Operational Order ever in the Military History”

By Brig Saeed Ismat, Retd (31st PMA), Punjab/Avn

Saeed Ismat, Brig, Punjab/Aviation, 31st PMA Long CourseEditor: Brig Saeed Ismat (Retd) is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He joined his parent unit, 8 Punjab Regt, in 1965. He has also served in Avn and was awarded SJ in 1971 War as L-19 pilot. He was Pakistan’s first Ambassador to Azerbaijan. He is currently running a Think Tank in London.

After commissioning from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, I joined my battalion, 8 Punjab Regt, in June 1965. It was then stationed at Rawalpindi as President’s Guard Battalion. In early September the unit was ordered to move to Sialkot Sector.

Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the President of PakistanGeneral Yahya Khan, the C-in-CAfter the 1965 War the battalion returned back to Rawalpindi in the spring of 1966 and resumed its duty as President’s Guard Battalion. One day, the President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, and the C-in-C, Gen Yahya Khan, were our guests at a dinner in our regimental mess. It was a formal affair and I was designated Mr. Vice. While coffee was being served, Gen Yahya asked me, “Young man, you have been to Sandhurst and must have studied military history, tell me what is the shortest operational order you know?”

Hell, if I knew and started waffling and some other guest tried to help but Gen Yahya was not to be satisfied. To my great relief the Field Marshal intervened, “Yahya, stop harassing the young man. You tell us.”

Gen Yahya replied, “The shortest operational order ever in the military history was by C-in-C, Gen Musa, to his Corps Commander Lt Gen Bakhtiar Rana when on 6 September 1965 the Indians attacked across the International Border. It was — ‘Rana! Pai Ja, O’.

"The Shortest Operational Order ever in the Military History" during 1965 Indo Pakisatn War 1965

Field Marshal Ayub Khan and all other officers burst into laughter.

 Lt Gen Bakhtiar Rana and Gen Musa Khan

Gen Musa Khan, C-in-C, arrived at a landing strip in forward area

This photo was probably taken on 6 Dec 1965 when Gen Mohammad Musa Khan, C-in-C, Pakistan Army arrived at a landing strip during his extensive tour of forward areas.

Related Posts:
Humour in Uniform

Army Jokes (in Urdu/Punjabi)

Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. Maj Iltifat Ahmed Lone (r) says:

    Thanks for sharing such short and nice anecdotes. Just a few word about Gen Musa, he was my late father’s friend and I had been visiting his house in Defence Karachi.. He was a very nice, simple and a humble person. The strangest thing which I am sharing and can never forget, is that when you enter the house, their was a lobby: on the right was drawing room and on left was dining room. The lobby had a side board with two pictures, one standing as Mess havildar behind the dinning table and on the opposite side was the second picture dressed as C-in-C. I have never seen a person with such character, who always remembered his past. You can never find a person with such character and moral courage to show everyone that Allah has rewarded him. May Almighty Allah bless his soul in Jannat ul Firdous. Ameen.

  2. Col Faiz Muhammad Afridi (R) says:

    I by no means trying to refute the comments, however as for as I know Lt Gen Bukhtiar Rana the only Corps Comd of 1965 War was completely ignored and Div Comds were at the helm of affairs. These Ops Orders were never given. In fact Gen Rana came to know later.

  3. Maj Gen Waqar A. Kingravi (R), Avn (50 PMA) says:

    An excellent anecdote from our history. As pointed out earlier, Mess life was an important facet of grooming young officers. This is now missing to a great extent.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing, Col Cheema (Editor) and thanks to Brig Saeed Ismat for penning this little gem.

  4. Maj Khalid Saeed Shah (R), Arty says:

    Brig Saeed Ismat,
    Sir, thanks a lot for sharing this anecdote.
    Cheema Jee (Editor),
    You have a knack of creating RIPPLES in the memories of us all. This brief recollection of Brig Saeed Ismat and NOW many of that era have woken up and we wait and see what all is coming our way.

  5. Col Ayaz Malik (R), Avn says:

    Nice short order. Frankly speaking Gen Musa was not reputed to have such humorous attitude. On a serious note, the National outlook during 1965 War needs to be studied at the National level

  6. Maj Muhammad Javaid-ul-Hussan (R), Australia says:

    I think this was the shortest and so comprehensive Operational Order in vernacular, never repeated again.

  7. Col Irshad Ahmed (R), Sigs says:

    It was really enjoyable to read the small crisp anecdote narrated by Brig Saeed Ismat. It speaks of the character of our Historic Giants, Gen Yahya exploring a youngster and trying to make him frank while the President being so kind, trying to make things further easy for the young host and best of it is the relationship existing between Army Chief and the Supreme Commander that he’s cracking jokes in his presence. Wow, how nostalgic.
    Leave aside whether the sober and formal Gen Musa being Baluchi Hazara would give such an order in Punjabi or not, fact remains that the beauty of the joke are the words of Yahya Khan who was known for his creative words & wit. Such treasures would be lying dormant in so many bosoms of our veterans and we need to explore them and keep it as record for the next fighting generations.

  8. Col Hashmat Abbas (R) says:

    I had met Gen Muhammad Musa, former C-in-C Pak Army in his DHA residence in Karachi in 1979 and found one of the finest, humble and most pious person in him. At that time when I reached his house, he was reciting holy Qur’aan. He served me with a glass of fresh juice and a cup of tea. During our chat he said “I don’t claim that we had won the war or did wonders, but would only say that Allah was kind and we saved the honour and dignity of our country”. Pakistan was fortunate to have such a pious man as her Army Chief and it was probably for his piety, Tahajad-guzari and dedication that Pakistan Armed Forces performed excellent and Allah Pak helped Pakistan saved her honour and dignity.
    May Allah Pak be our Protector and rest the departed soul in eternal peace. Ameen!

  9. Raza Tiwana, AC (22 War Course) says:

    We need to revive that bonhomie between commanders and the soldiers by reviving unit messes.

  10. Col Azam Qadri (R), AC (40th PMA) says:

    Brig Saeed Ismat,
    Thanks you for sharing. I always respected you and it was always fun serving with you. Still remember days with you in 7 “Golden Arrow” Div, when we both served under the dynamic Gen Asif Nawaz. There has lot to be written about 1965 War, that has not come out. Whatever has been written is not enough as it also goes for 1971. My findings so far are:
    1. No Plans (everything ad-hoc and whimsical).
    2. Total collapse at the highest level. GHQ seemed the most confused.
    3. Both wars started with no heart and soul in the planning and division even within GHQ.
    4. Bravery and patriotic actions seen at tactical/junior levels, that saved the day for Pakistan and its gallant armed forces.
    5. The truth never came out and never even documented. I am having a hard time going to the bottom of events/history. Whatever I have gathered so far is through meeting people of that era.
    I personally feel some of us need to put the record straight before people of that vintage leave this world as a large number have already left.

    • M. Jalil Ahmed says:

      Well you are putting the record straight by degrading the morale through your findings listed above. Do we read such real facts from our enemies side, ever?? But we are so very liberal and kind so as to give them points on which they can dwell and squash us further in media and all. We already have enough animosity within the country which does not sympathize nor give moral support to the Pakistan Army, which is fighting an un-recorded war imposed on us since 1980. May Allah Help us through these very tough times.

  11. Lt Col Khalid Hasan Butt (R), Avn (44 PMA) says:

    A good write up.

  12. Lt Col Anwar Khan (R), Air Def (2nd SSC) says:

    A real enjoyable conversation narrated by Brig Saeed Ismat (Our ex BM 62 Bde).

  13. Maj Siraj Syed (R), Avn (17 PMA), USA says:

    I have a lot to talk about 1965 War. On 6 Sep 1965 I picked Gen Bakhtiar Rana up in my H-13 chopper from Lahore in the evening and flew him to Kasur and we watched the Lahore bridge which was congested with traffic with civilian cars and army vehicles going in opposite directions. We saw Indian aircraft being chased by the PAF just above us. I was flying very low, just above the ground along with the bridge. Later I dropped him in Gujranwala.
    Early next morning I was ordered to go to Khem Karan and assigned with 11 Div commanded by Gen Hameed. I was the only pilot with Gen Hameed throughout the 1965 War. The Div Command Post was just behind the city of Khem Karan which Pakistan had captured. I do have complete knowledge about the 1965 War in the Khem Karan Sector with dates which I have in my Flying Log Book.

    • M. Jalil Ahmed says:

      Please do not give any details that the enemy can use in one form or another at any time (even small details reveal a lot).
      These days it is a style to give out on open websites all that should be restricted or for your inner circle or very close associates (one of the aim of such websites is to entice you and inadvertently draw out some useful points from you).
      Can somebody (the custodian of these websites) advise our august audience which may have lot of detailed knowledge, to refrain from revealing any thing pertinent to our enemy(s), so easily and so freely on such websites.
      Kindly remain nationalistic and keep your secrets to yourself!!
      If you did not like this … I am sorry for the nation which is already having hard time.

  14. Col Sohail Qureshi (Retd) USA says:

    I wonder what General Robert E. Lee’s Operational Orders were for the famous “Pickett’s Charge” on the Union forces in The Battle of Gettysburg July 3, 1863 during the American Civil War?
    Later after Pickets Charge failed, a soldier remarked “We gained nothing but glory, and lost our bravest men”.
    Just wondering what was the result of the shortest Operational Order? ‘Rana! Pai Ja, O’!! Did it work?

    • M. Jalil Ahmed says:

      Does it need brains to ask or know, whether it worked.
      The point is when an enemy attacks you reply back and save the country to your best abilities. It is not that you are playing a win-win match. Both sides lose and win in different ways and have stories of your own. A war is not a battle, it is a war on borders and within. I suggest to the august audience and some of whom are very innocent like sheep: please remember you have a very treacherous and a cunning enemy. Do not reveal even small facts, your decision thought patterns or your blunder patterns that your enemy can use for its benefit anytime anywhere, even now. Remember such websites are well studied by your enemy to understand you better. Better keep the lid on, on your very courageous and very cowardice actions.

  15. Capt Naveed Akbar (Retd), 1 FF says:

    As a true “Piffer & Garbar” .., Gen. Rana obliged, saying “Ready Aye Ready”!

  16. Brig Saeed Ismat,
    Thank you so much for bringing this well-known totka inscribed in controlled penmanship to the attention of old soldiers. The number of comments and volume of opinion further validates Gen Musa’s order. Had an American Gen said something like “Git ‘em!’ it would have ended up as the title of a biography! NB: Gen Musa, born a Hazara, learned Urdu and English – why wouldn’t he have learned the language his troops spoke? The goras learned it. And look at us – nattering away in English even though our mothers were not Englishmen!

  17. Brig Naeem Salik, Retd (50 PMA) says:

    A wonderful anecdote. As pointed out by several other commentators the essence of mess life and camraderie amongst officers irrespective of rank has unfortunately been lost. We are now too encumbered by protocols and VIP/VVIP culture.
    I once read about a similar anecdote about a Sikh battalion fighting in Burma during WW-II. Despite very elaborate verbal orders by the British Commander the battalion failed to capture a hillock in two attempts. Then the Sikh Risaldar Major stepped out and requested the CO to let him try. He gathered the battalion in sight of the hillock and asked his soldiers, “khalsa ae paharri dekhde O?” They said yes. His order was simple and crisp, “Khalsa dekhde ki o pai jao” and they did capture the target.

  18. I never had or have any doubts ever on the quality and Integrity of our Officers and Jawans. I am really impressed by our preparedness and Professionalism. I am an ardent lover of my soil and Army for whatever it gave me, but then…
    I do wonder along the route, what happened later? Was it the filtering sieve? that instead of becoming finer may have become coarser?
    It is good to reflect…for that happens naturally to anyone who feels intimately about events…in search of the Doctors remedy?
    May Allah bless us with life and health to see even better days in our lifetime. Aameen!

  19. Qaiser Khalil says:

    A General from Baluchistan giving orders in Punjabi? It really is good humour. But I feel Gen Yahya might be joking.

    In military history the shortest message, not order, is attributed to Gen Napier who sacked Sind. It was “Peccavi”. But interesting fact is as follows:

    According to the Encyclopedia of Britain by Bamber Gascoigne (1993), It was Catherine Winkworth who, learning of General Charles James Napier’s ruthless, unauthorized and successful campaign to conquer the Indian province of Sindh, “remarked to her teacher that Napier’s dispatch to the Governor-General of India, after capturing Sindh, should have been Peccavi (Latin for ‘I have sinned’: a pun on ‘I have Sindh’). She sent her joke to the new humorous magazine Punch, which printed it in 1844.

    Source: Wikipedia

    • Dear Qaiser Khalil,
      In 1965, Gen Musa had 39 years of military service (he joined Army in 1926). Give him some allowance for learning “Pai Ja, O!” in that long period. 🙂

  20. Lt Col Tayyab Qazi (R), Arty (8th War Course) says:

    Imagine the degree of intimacy, ownership & warmth that exists between officers of Pak Army in a mess life. A FM & Chief coming to the rescue of baby of the battalian in lighter moments. As regard OP Orders, in Arty, after applying the data in the guns & after having loaded the guns, the gunners wait for the final orders” FIRE”. That was what Gen Musa did. The home work was complete. Nostalgia kills.

  21. Brig Riaz Toor (R), Arty says:

    When things are conveyed in the language one understands the most, its conclusive meanings are correctly understood and get responded. German Army called it Mission Type Order. Subordinates are told what is to be done. How it is to be done is left to the executor’s ability, will and motivation.

  22. Maj Mumtaz Bashir (R), 14 Punjab (40 PMA) says:

    The short crisp order shows the state of confidence and preparedness of the Army. Ayub Khan inspite of some shortcommings as head of the state, was an outstanding field commander. He had raised, organised, and trained Pakistan Army from a scratch to become a strong, well-equipped and effective fighting-force.
    Pakistan, ever since the 1st day after Independence was faced with a four times bigger hostile enemy right on its border, ever ready to destroy and finish the newly Independent State. It is only due to the great foresight of Ayub Khan to expeditiously organise and build a strong Army that we still have Pakistan on the World’s Map.
    The atmosphere in an army mess as depicted by the author shows the relaxed, confident and frankness as it existed between officers of the army, from a 2/Lt to the topmost rank of the C-in-C.

  23. Brig Shaukat Qadir (R), FF (42 PMA) says:

    I think the most important part of this anecdote is the atmosphere of the Mess life that no longer exists. The camaraderie of a Gen joshing a young officer, the rescue by the FM, and the fact that even the likes of Gen Yahya had a sense of humor. Thanks, Brig Ismat.

  24. Maj Jawed Chowdry (Malhi), Retd says:

    Regimental Mess life in Army has been a Culture by itself and forms and shapes our Mil Ldrship both at thier peace stations, Field Camps or War Deployments. This is a place where all learn and teach and enjoy togather. A great recollection by a worthy Veteran. The talk of shortest Operational Order is indeed hilarious. Here we find seniormost enjoying and entertaining all.
    Thanxks for sharing, Sir.

  25. Dear Brig Saeed Ismat,
    It is a wonderful anecdote. I wonder what Punjabi accent would have been used by Gen Musa who was from the Hazara tribe of Quetta!! Do Hazara people speak Persian or they have some other language?
    Sir, please share more anecdotes.

  26. Ahmed Pervaiz Cheema, Seattle, USA says:

    It was a spontaneous reaction of the C-in-C. You may call it a shortest Operational Order. The beauty of the order is, however, linked with its delivery in the Punjabi language which not only orders “Strike” but also contains an element of superiority. 🙂

  27. Lt Col Muhammad Shafiq (R) Air Def (48th PMA) says:

    And on other side of the border Shastari torted to his C-in-C:-
    چڑھ جا بییٹا سولی رام بهلی کرے گا

  28. Maj Farooq Rana (R) says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed description of olden days. A very nice and crisp narration of Army life then; especially around President Ayub khan and the top brass of that time. Would like to have more from Brig Saeed.
    Best wishes.

  29. Maj Zuha Saeed (R) says:

    Great anecdote indeed. It is always a pleasure to read about such events attributed to giants in our history. Best orders are always SHORT and CRISP..
    Like in a tank regt, the order to attack historically has beene, ALLAH-ho-AKBAR, it touches the soul and conveys the heartfelt desire of the under command to go to any extreme to comply, may it cost it his own life.
    Pak fauj zindabad!!

  30. Brig Zafar Ch. (R) says:

    Orders are generally short when there is open comm between commanders. I am also privy to orders so long and winding that the recipients (half asleep) were left thoroughly confused. Gen Musa’s orders were absolutely clear and concise.

  31. Dr. Khalid Saboor, Gujrat says:

    Shortest war cry was in shape of war operational order were ‘Tora, Tora, Tora’ by Japanese in 2nd World War.
    the Japanese code word used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved. Tora literally means “tiger”, but in this case was an acronym for “Totsugeki raigeki” (“lightning attack”).

    But the orders given to Gen Rana had the enthusiasm to utmost clarity and passion that has no match in any war, not even in 2nd WW. Depth and the magnitude of the orders were so high that won us the 65 War.

    Though the speech by Field Marshal Ayub Khan is still echoing in my ears, “das karor musalmano pr waqat-e-Jehad aan pohncha hai. Dushman ko nahi maloom kay us nay kis qoum ko lalkara hai”.

  32. Lt Col Waseem Rashid Hashmi (R), Air Def (53rd PMA) says:

    A nicely narrated anecdote by Brig Saeed. The shortest operational order ‘Pai Jao’ symbolizes a lot of aggressive spirit, but the actual conduct of 1965 War was merely an exchange of ‘Takh-tallies’ from both sides. India failed to achieve any worthwhile maneuver in Lahore and Sialkot Sectors, whereas we could not achieve significant penetration in Chhamb and Khem-kiran Sectors. Both sides failed to achieve even their initial objectives.
    Just two years later, Israel using B.H. Liddell Hart’s indirect approach made deep penetrations in Sinai Desert and West Bank. Therefore, ‘Pai Jao’ or ‘Bai Jao’ would have made no difference. 🙂

  33. Col Shahid Kureshi (R), AC/Avn (46 PMA) says:

    Speaks volumes of the close knit relationship and indicates that necessary details had already been issued / settled earlier and all it mean’t was a final go ahead. As reported in hindsight, Gen Yahya’s wit and humour polished the remark.

  34. Maj Zahid Aziz (R) Air Def (1st SSC) says:

    As is customary in Army, the orders are passed in “Clear” and the sort of understanding Gen Musa had with Gen Rana, he followed the clearest and most direct apch and the result is evident frm the actions taken by Gen Rana.
    Hope you are aware that Pak Army had just 18 Days for preparations thus such steps were taken as Doctor’s Order.

  35. Lt Col Kamran Gul Abdullah (R) , Engrs (2nd SSC) says:

    Good one. Its always an enjoyment to read anecdotes related to our army history. Thanks for sharing this one sir, Brig Saeed Ismat.

  36. Lt Col Azmat Hayat Malik (R) says:

    Looks like the C-in-C had issued this short Operational Order from under his ‘razai’. Seriously…

  37. Somehow in history, the greatest of orders, or the ones with the most significance, have always been short and crisp, definitely couched in sarcasm and often laced with wit. We have this beautiful story from Brig Saeed Ismat – remarkable in its own situation when you consider the Field Marshal himself giving breathing space to a young subaltern by asking Gen Yahya to ‘lay off’ in polite terms.
    Two other instances that come to mind are the immortal “Veni, Vidi, Vici”, Julius Caeser’s proud proclamation of his intentions to the impotent senate in Rome; and Gen Napier’s despatch to his superiors the short, caustic message, “Peccavi”, the Latin for “I have sinned” (which was a pun on I have Sindh … since he had been specifically told not to invade Sindh, the territory) …

    Thank you, kind Sir(s), Brig Saeed Ismat and Col Rashid Zia Cheema (Editor), for this superlative effort to bring lesson-learning stories to us who proudly donned the uniform of the greatest Army on earth.

  38. Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai says:

    Gen Yahya was well known for his jokes and wit but he was too unfortunate to witness the separation of East Pakistan during his tenure, which he was unable to handle properly.

  39. Saqib Mehboob Janjua (S/o Lt Col Mehboob Janjua, 48 PMA) Bahrain says:

    Hahahahahah…..”Rana! Pai Ja, O” …Epic…..Wah!! 🙂

  40. A short, crisp and focused article written about a short, crisp and focused “Op Order” given by the Commande-in-Chief to his one of Corps Commanders…. Thanks for sharing this event with us.
    As a student of Mil History, I am always amazed that how Indian Army achieved total surprise on the night of 6 Sep 1965 …… what our coveted Int Agencies were doing and why we failed to mobilize our Army in time… or was it willful oversight or negligence on the part of some decision maker?

  41. Maj Shahid Hameed (R) says:

    Rest of the details were already known so the little phrase meant a go ahead! 🙂

  42. Maj Farouk Hamid Khan (R), Avn (36 PMA) says:

    A display of confidence by the Chief viz-a-vis the offender.

  43. Lt Col Zafar Kayani (R), AC (47 PMA) says:

    Only Punjabi speaking would understand how comprehensive is this short order “Pai Ja”. It means swift and deadly attack/counter attack till total defeat.
    Anyway, it was most enjoyable conversation narrated by Brig Saeed Ismat. 🙂

  44. Col Shah Alam (R) Avn (34 PMA), Canada says:

    Thanks for sharing this nice anecdote.
    It was wit, Op Order and desire—all in one. Some phraseologies do not have a matching synonym in another language: between “Get them” and “Pai Ja”, I think the Chief opted for the right vernacular to convey his offensive spirit. 🙂

  45. Almas Tirmizi says:

    Wit and humour in uniform at its best!
    Enjoyed the little anecdote written by my late father’s fellow Aviator.

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