“How can I embellish this carnival of slaughter,
how decorate this massacre?”
“the bitterness now so clear that
I had to listen when my friends
told me to wash my eyes with blood.”
“We routinely discuss the tragedy of the separation of East Pakistan in December 1971, but it is only this year that some of us have told the truth about what happened. Appearing on private TV channels, Mr. Mehmood Ali held the martial law of 1958 responsible for what later transpired. He accused General Yahya Khan of having lost control of the Bengali bureaucracy which had all but deserted to Mujib ur Rehman. General (Retd) Zaidi accused West Pakistan of evolving a military strategy that pretended to defend East Pakistan by building up the military defence of only West Pakistan. General (Retd) Farman Ali accepted as true the Bengali accusation that most of the foreign exchange earned in East Pakistan was spent in West Pakistan. Raja Tridev Roy stated that West Pakistan ignored the linguistic nature of Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan and tried to impose Urdu there.
This is not what our textbooks say. Our ‘official version’ is that the Indians invaded East Pakistan and separated it in collaboration with the Hindus living there. Our ‘political version’ is that Z A Bhutto was responsible because of his ‘udhar tum idhar ham’ (you rule there and we rule here) slogan. It isn’t that the truth has not been told at all about what really happened or what led to the break-up of Pakistan.”
Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report
The War Inquiry Commission was appointed by the President of Pakistan in December 1971. In its secret report, never made public in Pakistan the commission, headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman, held widespread atrocities, other abuses of power by Pakistani generals and a complete failure in civilian and martial-law leadership responsible for the loss of East Pakistan. The report dwells on a range of sins: killing of thousands of Bangladeshis—both civilians and “Bengali” soldiers—rape, pan smuggling, looting of banks in East Pakistan, drunkenness by officers, even an instance of a Brigadier “entertaining” women while his troops were being shelled by Indian troops. It recommended a string of court-martials and trials against top officers . Nothing ever happened. The army’s role in splintering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments.
The Commission examined nearly 300 witnesses and hundreds of classified army signals between East and West Pakistan. The final report was submitted on October 23, 1974, detailing political, administrative, military and moral failings of then Pakistan.
Justice Hamoodur Rehman presents his famous report to Z. A. Bhutto
(Image credit: Doc Kazi from Flickr)
Because of the nature of the findings it was not declassified for decades until an Indian newspaper published the details (In 1999). All the copies of the Hamood ur Rehman Commission report were destroyed except the one with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. But its contents were declared classified, and the only reliable released parts of report were the excerpts of political correspondences.
A quote from the report:
“The excesses committed by the Pakistani Army fall into the following categories:- a) Excessive use of force and fire power in Dacca during the night of the 25th and 26th of March 1971 when the military operation was launched. b) Senseless and wanton arson and killings in the countryside during the course of the “sweeping operations” following the military action. c) Killing of intellectuals and professionals like doctors, engineers, etc and burying them in mass graves not only during early phases of the military action but also during the critical days of the war in December 1971. d) Killing of Bengali Officers and men of the units of the East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles and the East Pakistan Police Force in the process of disarming them, or on pretence of quelling their rebellion. e) Killing of East Pakistani civilian officers, businessmen and industrialists, or their mysterious disappearance from their homes by or at the instance of Army Officers performing Martial Law duties. f) Raping of a large number of East Pakistani women by the officers and men of the Pakistan army as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture. g) Deliberate killing of members of the Hindu minority.”
“It is Mujib-ur-Rahman’s home district. It is a hard area. Kill as many bastards as you can and make sure there is no Hindu left alive,” I was ordered.
“Sir, I do not kill unarmed civilians who do not fire at me,” I replied.
“Kill the Hindus. It is an order for everyone. Don’t show me your commando finesse!”
“What’s the score?” the Colonel asked.
“There was no resistance so we didn’t kill anyone,” he was informed.
He fired from his machine gun and some of the villagers who had brought us water, fell dead. “That is the way my boy,” the Colonel told this poor Major.
– Colonel Nadir Ali, retired Army Officer , Punjabi poet and short story writer
* Hamoodur Rahman Commission report surfaces again – MB Naqvi in Defence Journal Pakistan
* Lt Gen A A Khan Niazi – The Rediff Interview:
I approached my bosses through a letter dated April 15, 1971, informing them of the mess being created. I clearly wrote in my letter that there have been reports of rapes and even the West Pakistanis are not being spared. I informed my seniors that even officers have been suspected of indulging in this shameful activity.
“Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League had emerged victorious and he should have been handed over the government. Bhutto’s fiery speeches were not mere rhetoric, but the actions of a desperate man vying for power at any cost. Had power been transferred to Mujib, Pakistan would have remained united.
Tikka has not been mentioned in the report, although his barbaric action of March 25 earned him the name of butcher. The commission overlooked his heinous crimes.
To find out the truth about the 1971 debacle and punish the guilty, it is essential to appoint a new commission with wider terms of reference.”
* From the memory shelf -16 December, 1971 – Nusrat Nasarullah
* Regrets to Bangladesh – Dr Aftab Ahmed, Dawn, Friday 3 August 2002
* Dec 16, 1971: any lessons learned? – Ayaz Amir, Dawn, Friday December 16, 2005
* The Fall of Dhaka: Any Lessons Learnt? – Anwar Ahmad
* ‘Regrets’ for 1971 – Haroon Habib:
During his official visit to Dhaka, The President of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf expressed regrets over the events of 1971, which were no other than the excesses committed by the army on the civilian population of what was then a part of Pakistan.
* Women of Pakistan Apologize for War Crimes in 1971 – Adhunika
* Pakistan should apologize to BD for ’71 tragedy – Hasan Akhtar
* 1971 in Retrospective -Jamash in Karachi Metblogs
I had always been ashamed to meet the eyes with any Bengali, although I was not a part of the brutality which was unleashed upon the innocent people to favor just a handful few but still I feel the guilt. For these Crimes and incidents I do not blame the army, I do not blame the foreign elements, I don’t blame anyone else but my self. Me, and the people who took advantage of them, who never stood-up for them, who never raised their voice against the unjust, We never talked to our children about it, we never told the stories we should have been telling. Was this not our responsibility ?
* The Untold Story Of 1971 – Behind Pakistan’s Defeat – India Today Magazine feature
* Sheikh Mujib wanted a confederation: US papers – Anwar Iqbal
* ‘Indians are bastards anyway’ – Henry Kissinger
* Why the movement for Bangladesh Succeeded – A military appreciation – Mumtaz Iqbal
* Was Pakistan’s 1971 Dismemberment Inevitable? – Ahmad Faruqui, PhD, Danville, California
“If Pakistani leaders had successfully managed four conflicts, the break up of the country that took place in 1971 could have been averted. for Bhutto’s conceit and the army’s corporate greed, there was nothing inevitable about the breakup of Pakistan. Had it not occurred, Pakistan would be the world’s largest Muslim democracy today. Maybe even an economic tiger.”
* Did We Learn Anything from March 25, 1971? – Dr. Ahmad Faruqui, Danville, California
“The war caused perhaps as many as three million civilian causalities. Even if that number is an exaggeration, there is little doubt that causalities numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Yet no one was tried for genocide. Nor was anyone tried for military incompetence. The generals never apologized to the people of Bangladesh. In fact, they covered up their horrible exploits for 30 years until the Indian media published the judicial commission report.”
* Inside the Military Mind – II – Ahmad Faruqui, PhD, Danville, California
* The Fall (and Rise) of Dhaka – S.G. Jilanee
* Is it Taboo to Question the Two -Nation Theory? – Karamatullah K. Ghori (former ambassador of Pakistan)
“Religion had nothing to do with the birth of Bangladesh. However, the forced separation of the twins — East and West Pakistan — did prove beyond any shade of doubt that religion wasn’t a sufficient reason for disparate peoples to stick to each other and stand on one platform.
In other words, Bangladesh knocked the bottom from under the barrel of Pakistan, draining all its legitimacy, in the process, from the heady concoction of the two-nation theory.”
* Reliving the 1971 Debacle – M.H. Askari
“The emergence of Bangladesh was “the culmination of the struggle of Bengali nationalism.” This is all to do with political and economic issues and the broader question of democratic rights.”
* Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Revisited: Part II (1967 – 1971) – Siyasi Mubassir
* Ayub on Bhutto -Pakistan Link
“Well before the military action in East Pakistan, both President General Yahya Khan and Z.A. Bhutto had virtually agreed in principle to the break-up of the country. “Diaries of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan” edited by Craig Baxter testify to this tragic truth.”
* Operation Searchlight – Tariq Aqil (Chowk, November 19, 2003)
True story of the infamous operation that resulted in the bloody birth of Bangladesh
* 1971 in 2000 : Salman Akhtar (Chowk – August 20, 2000)
* When East Pakistan Became Bangladesh – Sultan Reza
* East Pakistan tragedy : Who was responsible? – Dr Irfan Zafar
* Editorial in Defence journal -Ikram-ul-Majeed Sehgal
“Gen AM Yahya Khan did a most honourable thing, as the nation’s leader during this catastrophe, he accepted full responsibility (and demanded punishment thereof), why was his request to be put on trial in public turned down at that time? Could it be that others more culpable had a profound stake in keeping him silent?”
* Sheikh Mujib wanted a confederation: US papers – Anwar Iqbal (The Dawn, July 7, 2005)
* East Pakistan debacle: To ‘bury’ or not to ‘bury’ – Cdr (Retd) Muhammad Azam Khan
“Military mistakes in any conflict are understandable, as also lack of strategic apprehension by a military commander but how and under what circumstances men in uniform may “cross” the barriers of morality, even in a state of civil war, defeats common imagination and is difficult to swallow.
In this gory drama, the involvement of other players like Bhutto described in the recently published collection of papers from American archives (compiled by one Roedad Khan) as an unprincipled, undemocratic and power-hungry demagogue, cannot be denied. The real story for end to a united Pakistan may also have been carved in Larkana and Bhutto may have been purposely absent from the United Nations General Assembly session when a Polish resolution, asking for immediate ceasefire, was moved much before the surrender.”
* The Last Days of Pakistan: Recollections of a Civil Servant -Azizul Jalil, USA
The military intelligence assessments were utterly wrong with regard to the Bengali people’s mood and the extent of their political alienation from Pakistan. In the seventy elections, the Awami League won overwhelmingly in East Pakistan and became the single largest party in parliament. However, the parliament was never convened by Yahya Khan. The ultimate result was the break up of Pakistan at the end of 1971.
* The Battle of Hilli – Col (Retd) GH Niaz TI(M)
* The Battle of Khulna (10-17 Dec. 1971) – Brig (Retd) Muhammad Hayat
* Comilla-Chittagong Axis (1971 War) – Maj (Retd) Shamshad Ali Khan
* The Battle of Sylhet Fortress (November – December 1971) – Maj (Retd) Mumtaz Hussain Shah
* Battle of Dhalai: The Bangladesh Campaign 1971 – Col (Retd) Ahmad Mukhtar Khan
* Tank Ambush at Kushtia – Maj (Retd) Agha Humayun Amin
* The angry sea – Malik Ayaz Hussain Tiwana
– Brig (Retd) ZA Khan
* Selection for command – Brig (Retd) ZA Khan
* Turning Moments in the History of Pakistan – Col (Retd) Masood Anwar
* How Pakistan Army moved into the Political Arena – M. Zafar
“Ahmad Salim, a former professor of the Karachi University Ahmad Selim, who suffered jail terms for writing against military atrocity in Bangladesh in 1971, said that in 1971 the people of West Pakistan were in the dark totally about what was really going on in the eastern part due to the false and malicious propaganda of the then military rulers of Pakistan.”
* People of Bangladeshi descent struggling to survive – Jan Khaskheli, (The News, September 06, 2008)
Bhutto announced an official pardon for Bengali speaking people and stated that those who want to stay should be provided a citizenship equally while those who want to migrate should be allowed to do so officially, there will be no restrictions for the Bengali-speaking people living here as they are innocent and our brethren.”
“Despite this we are being humiliated at our workplaces, homes and streets and being treated like aliens, behaviour which must be condemned”. – Mohammed Hussain Shaikh a Bengali settler in Pakistan
* Demons of December — Road from East Pakistan to Bangladesh – Hamid Hussain
East Pakistan: The Endgame – An Onlooker’s Journal, 1969–1971 (Oxford University Press, Pakistan)
by Brigadier A. R. Siddiqi
The 1971 East Pakistan tragedy was not just a failure of the military but also the collapse of the civil society in West Pakistan. The few voices raised against the military action were too feeble to make the army change the course it had set itself leading to a military defeat and the break up of the country. The author’s assessments and forecasting of happenings in East Pakistan are objective, constructive and without any prejudice or bias. This book will contribute much towards the much-needed bridge building between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
* Rearview mirror: four memoirs by Khalid Hasan, Alhamra Publishing (ISBN969-516-081-6)
Excerpts in the Dawn:
“What we need to remind ourselves, but don’t, is that there was hardly a voice raised in West Pakistan against the army action in East Pakistan. In fact, the overwhelming opinion in the Punjab was that Yahya had done the right thing, his only mistake being just one: he had moved too late and let the situation deteriorate. In Lahore, the only person who publicly spoke against the army crackdown was the journalist and lifelong communist Abdullah Malik who told a meeting of students at the Engineering University, “We are with the suppressed people of Bangladesh.” He had said in Urdu, “Hum Bangladesh ke mazloom awam ke saath hain.”
Malik was hauled up, produced before a summary martial law court and sentenced to a jail term and a fine. He was spared lashes because the major presiding over the court said he was being spared that particular punishment because of his “age”. The ever youthful Malik, then 51 years old, told us, “This offends me more than my sentence.”