“Qaiyum said MEA policy planning chairman DP Dhar in his latest visit to Calcutta had questioned BD “Foreign Minister” Mushtaq Ahmed about allegations that Mushtaq was negotiating with USG, saying that in so doing, Mushtaq was “traitor.” According Qaiyum, Mushtaq denied everything, but Dhar said he knew all about “negotiations” because State Department had told everything to Indian Embassy in Washington.
He told Indians BDG had not sold its soul to India and that as independent government, it could talk with any other government it wished.”
Memorandum from Kissinger to President Nixon on summary of the exchange between Prime Minister Gandhi and Ambassador Keating in New Delhi on November 29:
– Yahya’s problems had been self-created and “we are not in a position to make this easier for him.” That was one of the reasons why India could not withdraw its troops. India was being asked to allow the misdeeds of Yahya to stand and “we are not going to allow that.”
– No one in all of India was more opposed to war than she was. “I wouldn’t like to take this country to war”, but, added, “this war and this situation are/4/ not of our making.”
December 2: Memorandum from Kissinger to President Nixon:
“India-Pakistan Situation: there are indications that the situation is starting to deteriorate in the interior where the guerrilla forces are operating more freely now that most of the Pak forces have been drawn off to defend the frontiers. Some towns as close as 17 miles from Dacca reportedly have been abandoned to the guerrillas and there are reports of the Bangla Desh flag flying in a number of towns elsewhere in the interior. The Indians have also set up a “Mukti Bahini navy” with their own forces with the priority objective of blocking shipping into East Pakistan.
The disparity in manpower and supplies apparently is taking its toll on the Pak forces and they reportedly have abandoned a number of contested locations in the face of relentless pressure in the direction of several major provincial cities.”
Yahya’s letter to Nixon pleads for US support to resist aggression launched by India which has enormous superiority of arms and equipment over Pakistan.
December 3: The 3rd India Pakistan war broke out.
In a speech to the nation on December 3, 1971, Prime Minister Gandhi charged that Pakistan had launched a full-scale attack against India earlier in the day, shortly after 5:30 p.m. She said that Pakistan’s Air Force had struck at six Indian airfields in Kashmir and the Punjab and that Pakistani artillery was shelling Indian positions at several locations along the border between India and West Pakistan. India, Gandhi said, had no option but to adopt a war footing.
Pakistan responded to the Indian charges in a note conveyed to the United States Embassy in Islamabad on December 3. Pakistan alleged that the Indian Air Force had been carrying out aggressive reconnaissance over the territory of West Pakistan for 3 or 4 days as a prelude to attacks launched by the Indian army between 3:30 and 4 p.m. on December 3 at several points on a front that stretched from Kashmir in the north to Rahim Yar Kham in the south. Pakistan represented the attacks on Indian airfields as necessary countermeasures.
In Washington the question of responsibility for the initiation of warfare along the front between India and West Pakistan bore on policy considerations. The Central Intelligence Agency weighed the evidence on December 4 and concluded that it was not possible to determine with certainty which side had initiated hostilities on December 3. (Source)
It appears that West Pakistan has attacked because situation in East collapsing.
The (Indian) Foreign Secretary Kaul said that Pakistan had issued a proclamation that they were in a state of war against India at 0900 December 4. The government of India had not declared war. Furthermore, he said, the GOI had not yet recognized Bangla Desh, but would do so at the appropriate time and would keep us informed.
Helms briefed from notes that described a combined Indian-Mukti Bahini offensive in East Pakistan and the beginning stages of the fighting along the border between India and West Pakistan. Pakistani troops were being hard pressed in the east, but there was little beyond artillery exchanges in the west.
The CIA prepared a chronology and covering memorandum entitled, “India- Pakistan: Responsibility for Initiating Hostilities on 3 December 1971″ and the chronology runs through December 4. The covering memorandum concluded that it was difficult to determine conclusively which country initiated hostilities, but the weight of evidence tended to support Indian claims that Pakistan struck first in the west with air strikes.
On the afternoon of 3rd December 1971, the Government of Pakistan led by President Yahya Khan ordered a massive attack on India across its western frontiers. This has been followed by a gazette extraordinary published by the Government of Pakistan on the forenoon of the 4th December 1971, declaring that it is a state of war against India.
hat this aggression is premeditated and planned is evident from the fact that President Yahya Khan had declared on November 25 that he would be “off to fighting in ten days’ time”.
I am writing to you at a moment of grave peril and danger to my country and my people. The success of the freedom movement in Bangla Desh has now become a war on India due to the adventurism of the Pakistan military machine. It has imposed upon my people and my Government the imperative responsibility of safeguarding our security and territorial integrity. We are left with no other option but to put our country on a war footing.
May I request Your Excellency to exercise your undoubted influence with the Government of Pakistan to stop their aggressive activities against India and to deal immediately with the genesis of the problem of East Bengal which has caused so much trial and tribulations to the people not only of Pakistan but of the entire sub-continent.”
December 6: British Reaction to USG Position on Indo-Pak Conflict: America had been too critical to India.
British stance on South Asian crisis, is based on firm assumption that India will win and that Bangla Desh will be established as independent country.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Statement in Parliament recognizing Bangladesh:
“I am glad to inform the House that in the light of the existing situation and in response to the repeated requests of the Government of Bangla Desh, the Government of India have after the most careful consideration, decided to grant recognition to the GANA PRAJATANTRI BANGLA DESH.
Our thoughts at this moment are with the father of this new State-Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The Bangla Desh Government have reiterated their anxiety to organise the expeditious return of their citizens who have found temporary refuge in our country, and to restore their lands and belongings to them. We shall naturally help in every way in these arrangements.”
-In East Pakistan the Indian forces are making gradual progress on several fronts. They are pressing the outnumbered Pak forces on several strategic fronts and the Indian gains so far may be laying the basis for more dramatic successes in the near future. The Indian objective is to force a Pak surrender in East Pakistan within the next week, if at all possible.
-Ground action on the Indian-West Pakistan front has been increasing, but it is not yet as widespread as in the East and neither side appears to be making clear-cut major gains. The Indian strategy is to maintain an essentially defensive posture in the West until the battle is won in the East, but there are indications that the Paks may be preparing a major offensive thrust in Kashmir that would undoubtedly force an Indian counter.
“The Indian government is trying for a rapid and successful conclusion of the fighting in East Pakistan. Indian Premier Gandhi, on 3 December, stated that Indian objective was to complete action within 10 days and redeploy Indian troops to the borders with West Pakistan.
The West Pakistan objective is to overwhelm Indian forces in Kashmir. They feel Kashmir might be sufficient compensation for the loss of East Pakistan to India.”
“Director Helms (CIA) completed his briefing by noting that India’s recognition of Bangladesh provided a justification for intervention in East Pakistan. Helms felt that 10 days was a conservative estimate of how long it would be before the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan would be forced to surrender.”
“In accordance with the above the Soviet representative in the Security Council has been instructed to seek such a solution that would closely combine two questions: a proposal for an immediate cease-fire between Pakistan and India and a demand that the Government of Pakistan immediately recognize the will of the East Pakistani population as expressed in the December 1970 elections. The Soviet leaders express the hope that the President will give instructions to the U.S. representative in the Security Council to act in the same direction.”
Meeting between Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and Keating of USEmbassy:
“We are quite clear on what we are doing. India was making no territorial claims of any type.
The Indian army was being welcomed as liberators. Indian recognition of Bangla Desh also was an effort to curb local extremist elements.
In response to my question whether the Bangla Desh government would be led by the same people as were now in Mujibnagar, the Foreign Minister said that he didn’t know, but it was for them to decide. The GOI did not need to replace the existing administrative setup. It didn’t want to interfere.”
December 7: Jessore, Sylhet and Moulovi Bazar are liberated by the Indian troops with the help of Muktibahini.
Message from Yahya to Nixon:
If India should succeed in its objective, the loss of East Pakistan with a population of 70 million people dominated by Russia will also be a threat to the security of South Asia. It will bring under Soviet domination the region of Assam, Burma, Thailand and Malaysia.
On December 7th the General Assembly by a vote of 104 to 11 with 10 abstentions called on India and Pakistan to institute an immediate cease-fire and to withdraw troops from each other’s territory. Pakistan has accepted the resolution. India has refused.
December 8: General Manekshaw, chief of Army staff calls on Pakistani army in Bangladesh to surrender immediately to Indian army in view of the hopeless position they are situated.
Indian troops acting in concert with Mukti Bahini liberated Comilla and Bramhonbaria.
UN General Assembly votes a resolution calling upon India and Pakistan to cease fire immediately.
President Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s telephone discussion on the crisis on the Indian subcontinent:
“Kissinger pointed to the threat to West Pakistan: “At this stage, we have to prevent an Indian attack on West Pakistan.” Nixon agreed. Kissinger continued: “We have to maintain the position of withdrawal from all of Pakistan.” He concluded that if the United States held firm in its approach to India and the Soviet Union, the administration would achieve its overall goals, even if it failed to prevent India from dismembering Pakistan: “If they maintain their respect for us even if you lose, we still will come out all right.” For Kissinger, it was a question of preserving credibility and honor. By introducing United States military power into the equation, in the form of a carrier and other units from the Seventh Fleet, the United States was seeking to prevent “a Soviet stooge, supported by Soviet arms” from overrunning an ally.”
Yahya proceeding with his blueprint for transfer of power. Has sent Bhutto on short visit to UNGA. Yahya said that the emergency had brought about a greater unanimity of opinion among Pakistani politicians than had heretofore been in evidence, and that he was hopeful.
He said the GOP armed forces in East Pakistan would fight qte to the last Muslim, for not only their country but their faith is in jeopardy.
December 9: Indian troops acting in concert with Mukti Bahini liberated Chandpur and Daudkandi.
“Indian forces in East Pakistan are now making steady progress on several fronts and are at one point 22 miles from Dacca. At the UN, yesterday’s activity was highlighted by a strong appeal from U Thant for a Dacca area cease-fire to permit the evacuation of international community personnel there. Thant asked both the Indians and Paks to agree to a 24-hour stand-down to permit repair of runways for evacuation of foreigners.
Both India and Pakistan are preparing for another round of debate at the UN. Indian Foreign Minister Singh is on his way to New York as is Bhutto, the new Pakistani Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.”
People’s Party leader Z.A. BhuttoNewly designated by Yahya as vice Primin-said he will do utmost to bring about ceasefire and withdrawal of forces. He is also ready to do what he can to achieve satisfactory political accommodation with East Pakistan. Including active negotiation with Mujib.
Kissinger: Well, they will lose East Pakistan. There’s nothing to be done about that.
Nixon: We all know that.
Kissinger: The Brezhnev letter says the negotiations should start at the point at which they were interrupted on March 25, 1970. At that point, East Pakistan was part of Pakistan.
Kissinger: Now if we, if you and Brezhnev, could make a joint declaration. The way I see this thing evolving.
Kissinger: So then we’ve got the Indians at a disadvantage. And we’ll have separated the Soviets from the Indians to some extent.
Alleged US military assistance to Pakistan was not true.
An intelligence report says that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi has indicated that India’s war objectives are:
A. Liberation of Bangla Desh
B. The incorporation into India of the southern area of Azad (Pakistani-held) Kashmir
C. The destruction of Pakistani armored and air force strength so that Pakistan can never again threaten India.
“Bhutto has earlier received instructions to work for simple cease-fire resolution with the provision that the Security Council would later take up other aspects.
Latest reports from Dacca indicate that the Indians are preparing for a final all-out assault on the city that could begin in a few hours (down Dacca time) unless last minute efforts to obtain a cease-fire are successful. Yahya has confirmed, via his Foreign Secretary to Ambassador Farland, that General Niazi’s cease-fire formula from East Pakistan can be transmitted to the Indians.
Our carrier task force is transiting the Straits of Malacca and will arrive at a point near the center of the base of the Bay of Bengal tomorrow evening. Rumors about this move are already widespread in the area where they are being combined with stories that the US is considering military assistance to Pakistan.
The British are also moving some naval vessels into the area — a commando carrier and a frigate off the southern coast of Ceylon. Soviet task force, consisting of a guided missile cruiser, an oiler and diesel powered submarine continues to steam through the South China Sea toward the Indian Ocean where if it continues on that course it should arrive in about three days. The Soviets have 12 other naval ships in the Indian Ocean but none of these is in or known to be heading for areas near the Indo-Pakistani conflict.”
“Jha noted that India had recognized Bangla Desh, but there was no intention of annexation in the East or what he termed a protectorate relationship with Bangla Desh. With respect to Azad Kashmir, he could not give any answer totally free of uncertainty. Jha then asked what are the Pak aims? Under Secretary pointed out that Pak aims were made very clear today in note to Secretary General accepting General Assembly resolution calling for ceasefire and withdrawal.”
December 10: Laksham is liberated. The Pak commanding officer surrenders with his officers and 416 men.
The war in the East has reached its final stages. The Indian forces are encircling Dacca and preparing for the final assault if the Pak forces in the capital area refuse to surrender. Pak resistance elsewhere in the province appears on the verge of total collapse, although they continue to hold some isolated areas. Faced with this desperate situation, the top Pak military official in Dacca has called on the UN to arrange (a) peaceful transfer of power to the “elected representatives of East Pakistan,” (b) an immediate cease-fire, (c) repatriation of the Pak forces to West Pakistan, (d) repatriation of all other West Pak personnel who desire to leave, (e) the safety of the others settled in East Pakistan since 1947 and (f) a guarantee of no reprisals.
In the West, the Indians seem to be successfully repulsing Pak attacks in Kashmir, but show no signs yet of initiating a major offensive of their own. Repeated Indian air strikes and shellings from naval forces on Karachi have dealt a major blow to Pakistan’s POL supply.
The Indians have announced a bombing pause over both Dacca and Karachi for evacuation purposes. Evacuation planes will be given safe conduct into Karachi for four-hour periods today and tomorrow and the Dacca airport is to be free from attacks for 24 hours so that it can be repaired. Foreign evacuation planes bound for Dacca will then be given safe conduct for 10 hours on Saturday on the condition that they land at Calcutta before and after going to Dacca. UN personnel reportedly will remain behind in Dacca for possible assistance in arranging a cease-fire or surrender.”
I’m going to hand him a very tough note to Brezhnev and say this is it now, let’s settle the, let’s get a cease-fire now. That’s the best that can be done now. They’ll lose half of their country, but at least they preserve the other half.” Nixon agreed that “our desire is to save West Pakistan.”
Nixon asked for an assurance that the necessary steps were being taken to “keep those carriers [sic] moving.” Kissinger assured him that “everything is moving.” In addition to the carrier group, Kissinger reported that “four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, twenty-two more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis, the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five.”
Yahya proposes (a) India and Pakistan should agree to an immediate ceasefire with the separate armed forces “standing fast”; and that the United Nations or other international organization provide observers to see that the ceasefire is effective; (b) that India and Pakistan “at any effective level” immediately open negotiations aimed at a settlement of the war and troop withdrawal; and coincident therewith simultaneously enter into negotiations looking towards the political satisfaction of Bengali aspirations, i.e., a political settlement.
December 11: Indian troops acting in concert with Mukti Bahini liberated Hilli, Mymenshingh, Kushtia and Noakhali.
Maj. Gen Rao Forman Ali request U-Thant, UN secretary general for help in repatriating troops and West Pakistani civilians.
Sixteen Soviet naval units are now in the Indian Ocean area, including three space support ships. Communications intelligence indicates that most of the ships are near Ceylon and Socotra, although one space-related unit may be monitoring British naval units in the Arabian Sea. However, of the sixteen ships less than half are combatants.
Kissinger: Now after our original resolution is defeated, however, Mr. Minister, then I think you have to decide whether you want to go to a simple ceasefire resolution, because it isn’t that we don’t want to help you, it is that we want to preserve you. It is all very well to stand for principles, but finally we have to assure your survival. And that is the Chinese problem.
December 12: Indian Para-troopers arive in East Pakistan to mount an assault on Dhaka.
“Haig learned that the Chinese initiative did not mean that China had decided upon military action in support of Pakistan. Instead, Huang Hua indicated that China was prepared to support the United Nations procedure Kissinger had outlined in the December 10 meeting, which was to ask for a cease-fire and mutual troop withdrawal but to settle for a standstill cease-fire.”
Ambassador Bush introduced a resolution which, in its operative paragraphs, called for an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal by India and Pakistan of their armed forces from each other’s territory, and the creation of conditions necessary to safeguard the lives of civilians and to facilitate the safe return of the refugees to their homes. (UN doc. S/10446 and Rev. 1) The Security Council voted 11-2 in favor of the resolution, with 2 abstentions. The resolution was not adopted because of the negative vote of the Soviet Union. (Source)
On UN action: UN cannot take useful action at this time. Further debate will only harden positions and create additional frictions. UN tied to precedent and formalistic rites and cannot deal with such complex issues. If UN has to meet in future, Bangla Desh reps must be present; it is a reality.
Indian Aims in East. Indian aims are simple: Surrender of Pak forces with repatriation to follow; recognition of Bangla Desh. GOI very much aware need protect Biharis. Will establish safe areas under Indian control and assist in repatriation to West Pakistan if they desire. India had not attacked on ground in West.
US was still attempting to see whether UN action “could be useful”.
Memorandum from the Executive Secretary of the Department of State (Eliot) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger):
There are four classes of refugees/ displaced persons who will probably require assistance on an international basis following the termination of hostilities.
1. Up to 10 million refugees from East Pakistan who are now in India.
2. Over 600,000 non-Bengali Muslims in East Pakistan who may want to move to West Pakistan, as well as West Pakistani government officials and military in the East.
3. Some 50-100,000 Bengalis living in West Pakistan, most of whom will almost certainly wish to return to East Pakistan.
4. An undetermined number of persons who are being displaced by the fighting within East Pakistan.
December 13: General Manekshaw asks Rao Forman Ali to stand down to prevent shedding of innocent bloods. Dhaka is surrpounded by Indian troops.
We have attentively examined your message over the direct communications link. In accordance with the confidential exchange of opinions existing between us, we are advising you that at the present time, we are conducting a clarification of all the circumstances in India.
We will inform you of the results of the clarification without delay.
December 14: Top intellectuals of the country were were taken from homes by Razakars, Al Badr and Al Shams and slaughtered in killing fields with the vain objective of cripling the nation.
Bogra is liberated.
The Indian casualty figures of the 10 day war is announced by Indian defence minister in parliament:
Killed – 1978, Wounded 5025, Missing 1662.
Pakistani causalty figures are much higher, he claims.
Highest officers of the Pakistani administration in Bangladesh resigns fgrom their posts and seeks refuge to Red Crescent.
“It would be good if the American side on its part stressed to the Pakistani Government the necessity of embarking on the path towards political settlement in East Pakistan on the basis which is now rather clear.”
The Soviet Union vetoes for the 3rd time to block US resolution for an immediate Indo-Pakistani ceasefire.
Letter from Pakistani President Yahya to President Nixon:
“The Russian proposal about the cease-fire, withdrawal and negotiations has by now clearly been demonstrated to have been only a hoax….The passage of time is clearly playing into the hands of the Russians. We are convinced that, after acquiring East Pakistan, they would let the Indians turn their might single-mindedly against West Pakistan for which they have already begun to equip the Indians.
Time has come for the United States to go beyond warnings and démarches if its determination to punish aggression across international borders is to have any effect on the Soviet Union and India. The Seventh Fleet does not only have to come to our shores but also to relieve certain pressures which we by ourselves are not in a position to cope with.”
“President Yahya acknowledges that military situation in East Pakistan has hopelessly deteriorated. He provided me with Governor Malik’s Dec. 13 report of chaotic conditions. Because military situation now irretrievable and for over-riding humanitarian reasons, Yahya is giving Bhutto widest possible latitude at UN to effect ceasefire and troop withdrawal.”
Soviet first deputy foreign minister came to India on December 12 to discuss the political recognition of Bangladesh. Soviet Union continued to Veto any cease fire to give India time to liberate Bangladesh. However they were growing impatient by now. (CIA information)
December 15: Bhutto, on a diplomatic visit to the US since December 8, makes an agitated speech at the UN Security Council: (Full text and video of speech here)
Image credit: Doc Kazi
“So what if Dacca falls? So what if the whole of East Pakistan falls? So what if the whole of West Pakistan falls? We will build a new Pakistan. We will build a better Pakistan… We will fight for a thousand years.” Afterwards, he tears up his notes and walks out.
“Brezhnev said in a letter: “The Soviet Union guarantees there will be no military action against West Pakistan.”
“I have been informed by Governor Malik and General Farman Ali that President Yahya Khan strongly desires to put a end to hostilities in EP. For this purpose he wishes to arrange with the Indian Govt an immediate cease-fire period of at least two hours in which discussions for this purpose can take place between the military commanders concerned. The President desires honorable conditions for Pakistani troops and protection of civilians.”
“Foreign Minister Bhutto declined to pass General Niazi’s ceasefire proposal to the Indians in New York, so our UN mission was instructed to communicate it to Foreign Minister Singh, and subsequently Ambassador Keating was instructed to pass its text to Mrs. Gandhi’s secretary, Haksar. In this as in the negotiations on the Security Council resolution, Bhutto is apparently being careful to sidestep onus for the surrender of East Pakistan. Meanwhile, latest Indian reports indicate that Dacca is receiving heavy artillery fire, and three Indian columns have advanced to within a few miles of Dacca where they are preparing for attack.
Our carrier task force is transiting the Straits of Malacca and should arrive at a point near the center of the base of the Bay of Bengal this (15 Dec) evening. Rumors about this move are already widespread in the area where they are being combined with stories that the US is considering military assistance to Pakistan.”
“In order to save future loss of innocent human lives which would inevitably result from further hostilities in the major cities like Dacca, I request you to arrange for an immediate cease-fire under the following conditions:
(A) Regrouping of Pakistan armed forces in designated areas to be mutually agreed upon between the commanders of the opposing forces;
(B) To guarantee the safety of all military and paramilitary forces;
(C) Safety of all those who had settled in East Pakistan since 1947;
(D) No reprisals against those who helped the administration since March 1971.
In those conditions, the Pakistan armed forces and paramilitary forces would immediately cease all military operations.
Indian response to Niazi ceasefire proposal from General Manekshaw to General Niazi:
“I had previously informed General Farman Ali in two messages that I would guarantee (a) the safety of all your military and paramilitary forces who surrender to me in Bangla Desh. (b) Complete protection to foreign nations, ethnic minorities and personnel of West Pakistan no matter who they may be. Since you have indicated your desire to stop fighting I expect you to issue orders to all forces under your command in Bangla Desh to cease fire immediately and surrender to my advancing forces wherever they are located.
Immediately I receive a positive response from you I shall direct General Aurorea the commander of Indian and Bangla Desh forces in the Eastern theatre to refrain from all air and ground action against your forces. As a token of my good faith I have ordered that no air action shall take place over Dacca from 1700 hours today.
I assure you I have no desire to inflict unnecessary casualties on your troops as I abhor loss of human lives.”
“The tragic war, which is continuing, could have been averted if during the nine months prior to Pakistan’s attack on us on December 3, the great leaders of the world had paid some attention to the fact of revolt, tried to see the reality of the situation and searched for a genuine basis for reconciliation. Our earnest plea that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman should be released, or that, even if he were to be kept under detention, contact with him might be established, was not considered practical on the ground that the US could not urge policies which might lead to the overthrow of President Yahya Khan.
We are asked what we want. We seek nothing for ourselves. We do not want any territory of what was East Pakistan and now constitutes Bangla Desh. We do not want any territory of West Pakistan.”
The Pakistani commander Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi surrenders to Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora, the Commander of the Joint Forces, at the same Dhaka Racecourse where Sheikh Mujib had made his historic call for independence only nine months and nine days earlier.
More than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers are taken prisoner of war by Indian forces. The president of Bangladesh is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is still in prison somewhere in West Pakistan where he is denied all information about the outside world. He knows nothing of the bloodshed that has preceded the creation of his state.
People begin their search for the remains of the missing ones at the numersous execution grounds and mass gravesites around the country.
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi speking at Lok Sabha hailed Dacca as “the free capital of a free country.” At the same time, the Indian Government announced a cease-fire on the front between India and West Pakistan to take effect the following day. In making the announcement a government spokesman stated that India had no territorial ambitions in the conflict.
December 17: When US ambassador Farland saw President Yahya on the morning of December 17 and urged him to accept the Indian cease-fire offer, Yahya took the position that he had previously indicated his willingness to accept a cease-fire in accepting the resolution adopted by the General Assembly on December 7. He did not see the necessity to reiterate that position and respond to what he referred to as Mrs. Gandhi’s dictates. Upon further urging from Farland, he agreed to consider responding to the Indian offer. At 3 p.m. local time on December 17, Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan brought Farland the news that Yahya was prepared to accept the Indian offer publicly. (Source)
Indian Foregn Minister Singh said that in the east India planned to install a civilian government of officials elected in 1970. He asked whether the U.S. could get Mujib released to head it
December 18: Nixon meets Bhutto:
“The Deputy Prime Minister was critical of past policies in Pakistan which he claimed were the result of the will of a clique of military leaders who were no longer in touch with the people of Pakistan. All of this contributed in large measure to the calamity which befell his nation.”
Decembr 17-20: Pakistanis in general and young military officers in particular made it clear that they wanted Yahya Khan and his regime to go.
At one point, General Abdul Hamid Khan, chief of staff of the Pakistan army (the army was then headed by a commander-in-chief, in this case Yahya), called a meeting of army officers in Rawalpindi cantonment and attempted to explain the causes behind the debacle in Bangladesh.
He was greeted with expletives, one more profane than the next, and eventually was forced to leave the room. Hamid, who had after the Dhaka surrender begun nurturing ambitions of taking over from Yahya, now knew that the end was near. Officers like General Gul Hasan, in contact with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were already planning to dominate the new circumstances.
December 20: Bhutto arrived back in Rawalpindi around noon and was immediately whisked away to the president’s house for a meeting with General Yahya Khan. He emerged a few hours later as Pakistan’s new president and, incongruously, chief martial law administrator. Late in the evening, President Bhutto addressed the nation, and in a rambling speech promised his people that he would build a new Pakistan for them. He extolled the bravery of Pakistan’s soldiers in the just concluded war and asked forgiveness of his “brothers and sisters” in “East Pakistan.”
Yahya Khan hands over all power to Z A Bhutto
(Image credit: Doc Kazi from Flickr)
He showed absolutely no contrition over his role in the making of the crisis in Bangladesh but appeared keen to reassure Pakistanis that their future was safe in his hands. He placed Yahya Khan under house arrest and appointed new chiefs of staff for the army, air force and navy.
Meanwhile, there is still considerable public resentment about the way the war ended. In Karachi, for example, bands of demonstrators have been roving in and out of the major business and residential areas setting fires and causing disruptions. Many educated Pakistanis are still openly attacking Yahya and saying that the people will never allow the return of a military government under any circumstances. At the same time, even those who oppose and distrust Bhutto seem inclined to give him a chance.
The situation is still fluid in the East. The Indian Army seems to be gradually restoring a minimum of law and order in Dacca and reorganizing the administrative apparatus. The “Bangla Desh” cabinet, however, has still not arrived from Calcutta, although there are reports that it may proceed to Dacca by mid-week. The Bangla Desh “Prime Minister” is quoted by Dacca Radio as saying that there is a great need for foreign aid but that they will “not touch” any part of U.S. aid because of the “hateful and shameful” policy that the U.S. has followed toward the Bangla Desh “freedom struggle.
December 22: Bangladesh’s provisional government arrived in Dhaka from exile. Bhutto decreed that detained Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman be moved from solitary confinement in prison to house arrest.
At the UN, the Security Council was finally able to agree on a resolution last night by a vote of thirteen to nothing with the Soviet Union and Poland abstaining. The operative paragraph in effect formalizes the cease-fire and demands that it “remain in effect until withdrawals take place, as soon as practicable, of all armed forces to their respective territories and to the cease-fire line supervised by UNMOGIP.”
December 27: Memo from Kissinger to Nixon:
Bhutto is reported to have announced plans for a judicial inquiry into the causes for Pakistan’s defeat. It is not to submit its findings for three months and may be Bhutto’s effort to satisfy public opinion with a minimum move.
Bhutto arrived at the rest house where Mujib had been moved. Surprised Mujib
asked Bhutto: “Bhutto, how are you here?” Bhutto’s response did not fit the question: “I am president of Pakistan.” An even more surprised Mujib teased him: “But you know that position belongs to me.” He was evidently referring to the Awami League’s victory at the general
elections of a year earlier. This time Bhutto told him: “I am also chief martial law administrator.”
In the next hour or so, Bhutto gave Mujib to understand that the Indian army had occupied “East Pakistan” and that the two men needed to be together in the coming struggle to drive the Indians off. Mujib, ever the astute politician, knew better.
(Source: Distant Neighbours: A Tale of the Subcontinent – Kuldip Nayar)
November 1: Peking Policy in Indo-Pak Dispute
“China’s major operational goal at the present is to avoid an Indo-Pak war and to discourage the forcible detachment of East Pakistan from the west – the latter not because the Chinese have any vital interests in the unity of Pakistan but because they wish to avoid a Pak humiliation which would indirectly embarrass China, boost India’s confidence in its future dealings with the PRC, and make the Soviets appear to be the arbiter of events in South Asia.”
Yahya agreed to unilaterally withdrawing military units as first step in defusing explosive situation in subcontinent.
November 3: On a possible Yahya-Nurul Islam Meeting:
“Yahya agreed during the conversation to meet with Nurul Islam and his group of former Awami Leaguers to discuss Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s future and to explore means of effecting contacts with representatives of Bangladesh. Yahya said that he would welcome an opportunity to talk to Nurul Islam since the point of view of these “cleared” MNAs would be very interesting and, hopefully, useful. He also observed that Nurul Amin, President of Pakistan Democratic Party, would be calling upon him shortly with suggestions applicable to East Pakistan.”
“President Yahya Khan would be willing to withdraw Pakistani forces first from the border to varying distances, depending upon the terrain of different sectors, provided the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, gives an undertaking to President Nixon that the Indian forces will then also withdraw shortly afterwards.”
“Our research to date shows that the U.S. Army shipped 149 line items from its depots (to Pakistan) between 3 May 1971 and 30 June. The shipments represented spare parts for machine guns, tanks and artillery with a total value of $83,000. During the same time frame, the Air Force continued routinely to release spare parts for aircraft in two of its 89 then active sales cases for Pakistan. The two affected cases comprised the so-called depot supply support plan (DSSP) under which the purchaser was afforded direct automated access to the USAF logistical system. Under the DSSP some $2.4 million worth of lethal as well as non-lethal spares were shipped during the May-June period. This included parts for F-86 and F-104 fighters and B-57 bombers as well as Pakistani transport and trainer aircraft. Our analysis of inputs from the Navy is still incomplete, but we estimate that shipments amounting to about $61,000 in value have been made contrary to our directives. Releases of lethal spares constituted some $36,000 out of this total.”
Meeting Between President Nixon, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Mr. Parmeshwar Narain Haksar and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger:
The President asked the Prime Minister if she believed that President Yahya could really survive if Mujib were released at this point in time. The Prime Minister said that the crucial issue remained the future of Mujib who was a symbol of the imperative for autonomy.
The Pakistan Army in East Pakistan has achieved nearly autonomous control of the province, in many respects independent of the policies and direction of President Yahya Khan in Islamabad. Only foreign affairs affecting East Pakistan is firmly in the hands of Islamabad. The relative isolation of President Yahya Khan is probably the result of many factors. Indications of this isolation are that: (a) Army commanders in the East pursue independent military operations, (b) the Army governs the province behind the facade of the puppet civilian Governor Malik and his cabinet — who are completely dependent on the Army for their personal security — with limited reference to Islamabad,
(c) little but Pakistani successes and India’s perfidy is reported from Dacca to Islamabad, and (d) President Yahya Khan lacks independent means of observation, reporting and verification of events in the East.
Myth and Reality on Civilian Support in East Pakistan. President Yahya Khan told us October 28 that “civilianization” of government in East Pakistan, under Governor Malik and his Cabinet, is succeeding in stabilizing the political situation. The myth of growing political stability in East Pakistan is almost certainly fed to Yahya Khan by reports from his civilian Governor and his Army commanders.
The reality is that Army policies and operations — behind the facade of a civilian government — are progressively and seriously alienating the Bengali population in East. Pakistan, and that the seeds of rebellion are not only those sown by India. The wide gap between the myth of growing stability as seen by Yahya Khan, and the reality of political deterioration was most striking from comparing my recent visit to East Pakistan, October 21 – 26, to observations made during the earlier August 19 – 25 trip.
Civil Affairs Run by the Military Advisor to the Governor Major General Rao Farman Ali Khan. The are even selecting the men who would be elected in the next Provincial elections.
Army Policy is Selective Terror and Reprisal. General Farman Ali Khan described the level of Mukti guerrilla insurgency as some-what intensified but manageable because the newly trained Bengali guerrillas entering from India feared to take action.
Despite orders from Islamabad that the Army not engage in terrorist operations against the civilian population — and repeated assurances to U. S. officials to this effect — Pakistan Army commanders continue to carry out terror raids against the population and villages, even within the environs of Dacca and in sight of its large foreign community.
General Farman All Khan said the Army sought to leave the fighting of the Mukti guerrillas to the newly armed Bengali “Rasikars”, who now numbered 60,000. However, the “Rasikars” are a destabilizing element — living off the land, able to make life and death decisions by denouncing collaborators and openly pillaging and terrorizing villagers without apparent restraint from the Army. With villagers caught between the Rasikars and Mukti guerrillas, law and order is breaking down rapidly in rural East Pakistan.
Army Policy to Clear East Pakistan of Hindus. The Pakistan Army is ideologically anti-Hindu and their historic experience in West Pakistan, from the time of partition, has been that Hindus should go to India. Hence, reprisal operations naturally continue to focus against Hindus. Without law or order, except that sanctioned by the Army, Hindu lives and property are not safe in East Pakistan today. General Farman All Khan accepted the estimate that at least 80 percent of the Hindus had left East Pakistan. He, off-the-record, spoke of about six million refugees who had gone to India and he anticipated that a further 1, 500, 000 refugees would probably go to India “before the situation settles down.” (1,500,000 is a reasonable estimate of the number of Hindus still in East Pakistan.)”
Nixon: This is just the point when she is a bitch.
Kissinger: Well, the Indians are bastards anyway. They are starting a war there. It’s—to them East Pakistan is no longer the issue. Now, I found it very interesting how she carried on to you yesterday about West Pakistan.
November 8: Secretary’s Meeting with Prime Minister Gandhi; East Pakistan Problem: PriMin and other members Indian delegation stated doubts that Yahya actually desires political solution.
November 10: Journalist visits Mukti Bahini-held areas:
Mannan was at pains to make clear that Mukti Bahini (MB) not Marxists and that Bangladesh would not be a communist country, saying that Naxalites would bet their fair share of power but that their share would not be large as they were tiny minority. Mannan stated that MB’s war aim was simply to have Awami League’s victory honored.
De Borchgrave (The Daily Telegraph) dined with General Niazi. Niazi appeared to be misinformed about conditions in the province, showing no understanding of true situation. De Borchgrave was obviously impressed by extent of insurgency and stated belief that Bangladesh victory only a question of time.”
“East Pak problem was not of India’s making. There had been discrimination against East Pak. Use of force after March 25 responsible for refugee problem. US also sympathizes fully in regard to refugee burden. US view was that solution to East Pak problem could not be obtained by pursuing one course of action in isolation. We should not consider exclusively refugee relief, withdrawal of forces, third party involvement, or political accommodation. All these elements should be pursued together”
November 11: Telegram from Amconsul Dacca to Secretary State
“Given rate at which MB activity increasing inside province and apparently Growing organization and self-confidence of these forces, it begins to look as if India might achieve such possible major objectives as pressure on Islamabad govt, weakening of Pakistan, or even independent Bangla Desh by simply continuing its present activities without escalating them into actual warfare.”
November 12: Minutes of Washington Special Actions Group Meeting:
“Mukti Bahini guerrillas were increasingly effective in East Pakistan and Cushman estimated that up to 30 percent of rural East Pakistan was under guerrilla control. Tensions between India and Pakistan had increased as Indian border security forces and Indian army troops joined in the fighting along the border between Pakistan army forces and Mukti Bahini guerrillas. Cushman noted that on the border between India and West Pakistan both sides had made preparations in anticipation of war.
There are five or six (Pakistani army) casualties a day as opposed to three a day before October.”
“What was unthinkable six months ago in West Pakistan may have become acceptable today-regime could probably survive opening of negotiations with Shiekh Mujibur Rahman provided latter agreed to support unified Pakistan. Public opinion in West would now generally acquiesce in such development and some would welcome it. Reaction within army likely be more mixed, but with army discipline maintained. In East Pakistan, Mujib has become symbol of Bengali nationhood. However, to retain credibility with Bengalis Mujib in any negotiations probably could not settle for less than Awami League Six Points, certain of which are still anathema to Pak military and still carry with them seeds of eventual secession. Even if Six Points compromised, any negotiated settlement acceptable to Bengalis would probably require withdrawal of army at least to cantonments, again opening door to secession.”
Maury Williams’ Views on Pakistan: The Army’s policy is such that the running battle with guerrillas is likely to continue with little effect on the changing practices in a way that could restore genuine civilian government.
November 15: GOI May Be Prepared to Wait a Little Longer on War.
Conversation among Nixon, Kissinger and Sultan Khan: The Pak Foreign Secretary (Sultan Khan) noted that there had been considerable interest in how to launch a political process which in some way involved Mujibur Rahman within the limits which President Yahya felt constraining him.
November 16: Observers believe Mrs. Gandhi Trying Cool Political Temperature at Least Temporarily.
November 18: Statement by the Indian Delegate, Mr. Samar Sen, on UNHCR’s report In the third committee of the U.N. General Assembly:
“On October 26, the Special Consortium of the World Bank meeting in Paris announced that ” more than 9.5 million refugees have entered India by now and the influx is continuing “. The latest figure is 9,608,901 on November 5, the daily average influx in September was 27,000 and in October 17,000.
It is also noteworthy that Pakistan’s figure of 200,000 refugees having returned to their homes has remained unchanged over the last three months. And then the figure is nicely divided and rounded upto 140,000 muslims and 60,000 Hindus, at the same time as the High Commissioner has been informed that 640,001 passed through reception centres and 136,000 came back on their own. Here again is another instance of counting people who, no one knows, how they came; but then people, who first described all the refugees as “criminals”, who define all free voters as ” anti-state ” elements, who call all freedom-fighters as ” miscreants ” or now ” indian infiltrators “, cannot be expected to be too scrupulous about facts.”
Prince Sadruddin Agha Khan’s Statement in the third committee of the U. N. General Assembly echoes the same
Discussions on the report submitted by the U.N.H.C.R in the third committee of the U.N. General Assembly. The world leaders urged Pakistan to reduce use of force and try to solve East Pakistan problem through peaceful political means and thus creating an environment for the refugees to come back.
November 19: US Ambassador’s Conversation with President Yahya:
“Mujib was not the key to negotiations but rather Indira Gandhi held “both the key and the lock.” From this position Yahya expressed disinclination to permit Mujibur Rahman to designate a Bangla Desh representative who could speak on his behalf and negotiate for the Bangla Desh movement with the GOP. Said GOP would be happy to meet with Bangla Desh leaders as previously agreed (Only cleared Awami Leager).
He threatened: if India starts war, total resources of nation will be dedicated to effort of survival. Noted that Mujib will be first casualty.
To ease refugee problem, Yahya indicated he is contemplating asking UN to take over all facilities refugee centers in Pakistan and establish circumstances under which returning refugees would be accepted under care and protection of UN.
He sketched his scenario for a political settlement through promulgation of a constitution in mid-December, convening the National Assembly on December 27 and transfer of power “several weeks” thereafter. Then the new civilian government could, if it wished, deal with Mujib and Bangla Desh.”
“A frequent comment from Indian and foreign observers is that Mrs. Gandhi remains less hawkish than the country as a whole and that she apparently continues to work to avoid a major war.
Some official U.S. observers believe that the Indian and guerrilla pressures on the Pak forces could be gradually building up to a point at which the Paks could be goaded into counteractions which could precipitate a full-scale war.”
November 21: Resolution unanimously adopted by the third committee of the United Nations General Assembly:
“The only solution to this grave refugee problem is the safe return of the refugees to their homes, and that this requires a favourable climate which all persons of good will should work to bring about in a spirit of respect for the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
“We interpret Prime Minister Gandhi’s reply to UN Secretary General as (A) polite, firm rejection of international mediation between India and Pakistan, (B) renewed appeal for international pressure on GOP to move toward political settlement”
The French Government set forth its policy of neutrality regarding the India-Pakistan situation and urged the necessity of a political solution permitting the return of the refugees to East Pakistan.
November 22: The BDG contact’s views:
“Qaiyum said if Sheikh not released soon, communists would wrest BD leadership from moderates, which not in interest of BD, GOP, GOI or USG. Release, even if Sheikh restricted to West Pakistan, would cool situation considerably and allow peaceful solution to be found, since only Mujib has power to provide Yahya with face-saving way out of crisis.
He suggested that it in best interest of Pakistan for Yahya to step down and hand over power to another military figure saying Yahya ‘has no right to destroy both parts of Pakistan.’ Qaiyum warned that time is running out for GOP leadership. Mukti Bahini increasingly successful, getting ‘all help’ from India, and BD leaders expect military victory in east within next two months”.
Reports of Heavy Fighting in East Pakistan as Mukti Bahini strikes and Pakistan interprets it as Indian offensive:
“Mukti Bahini forces have launched major offensive in Kushtia, Khulna and Jessore districts. According these reports Mukti Bahini have captured Chougacha in Jessore district and Maheshpur in same district. Debhata, border town in Khulna district, also said to have been taken with Mukti Bahini forces advancing to Satkhira, northeast of Debhata. In Kushtia district Mukti Bahini also reported as moving toward towns of Jibannagar and Damurhuda under cover their own artillery, having established “liberated areas” near border towns of Banpur and Gede.
Karachi domestic service report in English at 1500 GMT, November 22: “India, without a formal declaration of war, has launched an all-out offensive against East Pakistan.” Broadcast adds that Indian army has concentrated all its might in Jessore area where attack has been launched by nine Indian infantry divisions, four Indian mountain divisions and two Indian tank regiments.
GOI official spokesman reportedly categorically denied Pakistan radio report that India had launched a big offensive in Jessore area. Spokesman referred to reports of increasing Mukti Bahini activities and said that Karachi radio report obviously mixing up Mukti Bahini activities with those of India.”
Mr. Kissinger: (to Mr. Irwin) What do you think?
Mr. Irwin: We think the Pakistanis are probably overplaying the situation and the Indians are underplaying it. We think increased participation by Indian regulars is designed either to put enough pressure on Yahya to get a more favorable political situation, or to try to provoke a Pakistani attack on India and thereby put Pakistan further in the wrong in the eyes of the world. We believe the first reason is more likely than the second.
November 23: Letter from President Yahya to President Nixon:
“Mr. President, as you are aware, Indian armed forces in the last few months have maintained pressure all along our eastern borders. Apart from training, equipping and launching rebels supported by Indian border security force personnel into Pakistan territory, Indian artillery units have been constant(y shelling areas in East Pakistan. But as I have pointed out above, in the last 3 or 4 days the Indian armed forces have turned from localized attacks to open and large scale warfare on so many fronts. They have further escalated the conflict by introducing armor and air force. Pakistan army and air force units in East Pakistan have been under strict order not to cross the frontiers and to exercise utmost restraint in the face of grave provocations. The present situation, however, is such that the offensive launched by Indian armed forces must be met by us with all the force at our command in the defense of our territorial integrity.
India continues to harp on the theme that the inroads into Pakistan are being made by the so-called “Mukti Bahini” – a rebel force created, maintained and sustained by India. No one will be deceived by the Indian claim which stands disproved by the scale of present operations and by the equipment including armor and air force elements now being used.
I would like to say unhesitatingly that I wish to avoid a senseless and destructive war with India. But the developing situation created by India may lead us to a point of no return.”
Yahya was hopeful that international mediation would somehow prevent a confrontation in the Subcontinent which could be an international disaster.
“-The military rulers of West Pakistan are not open to persuasion to return to the path of reason and face the realities of the situation.
– The so-called civilian government of East Pakistan are quislings who constitute the defeated candidates are sustained by a repressive martial law regime universally and hated by the people of Bangla Desh.
– Nearly five million citizens (in addition to 10 million refugee in India) of Bangla Desh are victim of systematic brutality of Pakistani army and wandering with no succour or relief. The military regime of Pakistan has embarked on a pre-meditated and planned extermination of our race.
– The military regime of West Pakistan still refuses negotiations with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Government of Bangla Desh.
– The people of the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan have expressed their dissatisfaction in a manner which has now compelled the Government of West Pakistan to ban the National Awami Party which had won a majority in the provincial elections in these two provinces of West Pakistan.
– The Mukti Bahini, with the universal support of the people of Bangla Desh, has achieved signal successes in regaining effective administrative control over large areas of our motherland against the military oppressor.
– The military regime of West Pakistan has sought to divert the attention of the world from the root cause of the problem by attempting to internationalise the issue by projecting it as an Indo-Pakistan dispute.
– Bangladesh has proclaimed independence and the basic principles of our State policy are democracy, socialism, secularism and the establishment of an egalitarian society, where there would be no discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or creed. We assure you of our Government’s full co-operation in organising the expeditious return of the refugees back to their home.
– We request that you accord immediate recognition to the sovereign People’s Republic of Bangla Desh.”
“Islam said he and other cleared Awami Leaguers sought no personal power in present crisis, but were only interested in seeing killing stopped in East Pakistan and dying of East Pakistanis in refugee camps in India brought to an end. Toward these ends he appealed to (1) seek to obtain Soviet agreement to stop arms supplies to Mukti Bahini and (2) halt Indian attacks on East Pakistan.
Zaman said that extremists on both the right and left in East Pakistan were supported by about 10 per cent each of East Pakistan population. Vast majority of East Pakistanis, including cleared Awami Leaguers, wanted united Pakistan on basis of six points and thereby an end to exploitation of the past. They did not seek, however, independence. Islam said he agreed with Yahya’s assessment that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be killed by East Pakistanis, i.e. Naxalites, if he agreed to anything short of independence. In any case, Mujib’s credibility would be very suspect among general public who are likely to believe that he had been brainwashed by Army during captivity.”
During his Nov 23 discussions with Yahya he proposed that in an effort to clarify current situation (1) he be permitted to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to ascertain Rahman’s personal views, i.e. whether he continued to support six points approach or complete independence for East Pakistan. Islam said Rahman would without question tell him that he had been out of touch for eight months and could not express his views until he had consulted with other members of the Awami League. (2) After discussion with Rahman, Islam would proceed to Calcutta for discussion with Tajuddin and other Awami Leaguers there or if government so desired, alternatively, go to other foreign countries where Bangladesh missions are maintained to meet with Awami Leaguers in those locations. Islam said President Yahya did not respond to these suggestions.
Washington Special Actions Group Meeting considers cut off of aid and military pipeline to India and Pakistan.
“He had feeling from his conversations (in New Delhi) that India did not want war and would accept whatever solution in East Pakistan was acceptable to Awami League. GOI leaders pressed Sadruddin to work for political solution in Islamabad.
He said he thought current Jessore operaton was limited GOI test of its ability to use Mukti Bahini with Indian support to put pressure on Yahya. Sadruddin said it was his assessment that Mujib might not want independent Bangla Desh. Even today he wants unified Pakistan. Although Yahya claims that he could not deal with Mujib because Mujib would be killed by his own people, Sadruddin said he thought Yahya was completely wrong. Sadruddin said he had ‘pleaded’ with Yahya for many hours to establish his credibility not by transfer of power but by starting dialogue with Mujib. Yahya in response argued there would be tremendous unrest in West Pakistan. Sadruddin said he thought Yahya was definitely exaggerating reaction.
Yahya’s solution however is to put pressure on Mrs. Gandhi to give up support of Mukti Bahini. He believes he could then clean up Mukti Bahini in matter of days and transfer power to elected representatives.
Sadruddin emphasized that Yahya must make sure that army recognizes that there can be no military solution in East Pakistan and that it must accept political solution.”
Sisco: I believe India would be willing to go along if Mujib were restored to power by peaceful means. India doesn’t want war. If Mujib were back in power, he would organize an East Pakistan Government and it wouldn’t be long before it was a separate entity or independent.
Kissinger: We got the military governor replaced with a civilian governor. We got them to admit UN observers. We got them to permit UN peace.
Rogers “agreed fully” that the United States should tilt toward Pakistan. The question was how to do it.
November 25: Telegram from Amconsul Calcutta to Secretary State:
Qaiyum said “war has already started on this side,” and claimed Mukti Bahini (MB) had ‘liberated’ great deal of territory. He believed MB tactics were to surround Pak troop contingents and wipe them out or drive them out. After that, Indian army could come in if it wanted to provide artillery support for next MB attack.
He denied that India army doing most of fighting “inside Bangladesh” saying, “we do not want Indian army in our country any more than we want Pak army.” He allowed that Indian army might venture into east behind MB, since there would then be no Pak army to keep them out.”
November 26: Message from the Ambassador to Pakistan (Farland) to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) on today’s discussion with Yahya:
Yahya is continuing to exercise maximum restraint, but expressed regretfully that there was limit thereto in event India renews attacks.
Roy stated that quote Pakistan has opened the door for the refugees to return to their homeland, but India is trying to discourage them from going home in order to increase tensions in the area.
Group calling itself Ceylon Committee for Human Rights in Bangla Desh was refused interview with Roy and promptly branded him “an outcast.. .who cannot reconcile the teachings of the compassionate Buddha with murder, rape and pillage by the military clique whose cause he had come here to espouse.”
November 27: Presidential Message to Mrs. Gandhi from Nixon:
“I note your Government has confirmed that your armed forces have been engaged on Pakistani territory. The situation has reached a critical stage and there is danger of all-out hostilities.
President Yahya would be willing to take the first step in disengaging his forces on the frontier with West Pakistan provided India were willing to take reciprocal action subsequently. I have not heard from you on the point, and I hope you would agree promptly to designate a representative who could discuss a limited disengagement with a representative named by President Yahya.”
November 29: Memorandum from the Kissinger to President Nixon:
India-Pakistan: Active fighting continues in the border areas of East Pakistan. Indian officials seem increasingly open about the fact that Indian troops have gone across the border, but they continue to maintain that the crossings are to quell Pakistani shelling or in some other act of self-defense.
“India had seven divisions massed along the border with East Pakistan, but Lt. Gen. Robert E. Cushman (CIA) noted that most of the fighting within East Pakistan was being done by the Mukti Bahini supported by Indian artillery, armor, and, on occasion, troops.”
November 30: A press release by Mujibnagar Bangla Desh Government on success of Mukti Bahini and Yahaya’s bogey of Indian attack to hide their success.
October 2: Discussion Between US Secretary Rogers and India FonMin Swaran Singh (India)-Bangla Desh-GOP Negotiations:
Secretary urged GOI initiate dialogue without insisting upon Mujib’s participation to see what could be accomplished. Swaran Singh replied that US has contacts with Bangla Desh people. It has greater influence, it should try bring about dialogue.
“Qaiyum met Political Officer October 3 to pass message from BD “Acting President” Islam requesting speedy USG response to BDG demarche presented to Poloff by “Fonmin” Mushtaq Ahmed September 28.
Qaiyum reported Mukti Bahini plans to inject 40 to 60 thousand armed men into East Pakistan by end of October in effort to wreck GOP administration.
He quoted Islam as saying only Mujib can negotiate anything less than independence for BD and that in Mujib’s absence BDG has no choice but to demand complete independence.
Later, Qaiyum said only he, Islam, Mushtaq and “two other members of Cabinet” were aware of substance and fact of Mushtaq’s meeting with Poloff.”
October 5: Statement by Shri G.S. Kahlon, Rehabilitation Secretary, Government of India In the 22nd session of the executive committee of UNHCR held in Geneva:
“Beginning from end of March, within a couple of months total influx of refugees into India had gone up to nearly four million, and today it has crossed 9 million already, without any signs of them returning to East Pakistan at all. Average inflow per day still continues to be between 30,000 to 50,000 persons, and if this rate continues at this scale we may well have not less than 12 million refugees on our hands by end of this year. “
“The State Department paper judges that the political steps taken so far by President Yahya, which exclude the Awami League, do not provide the basis of a settlement acceptable to the Bangla Desh leadership in Calcutta. To facilitate a political evolution, the paper suggests that “our next step should be designed to promote the beginning of a dialogue between the government of Pakistan and the Bangla Desh leadership.” The paper notes that we have two possible channels-the Government of India and the Bangla Desh representatives in Calcutta and elsewhere. State suggests that we say we believe President Yahya would be receptive to a dialogue. The problem with this is that as far as we know the Bangla Desh leadership only wants to negotiate on the basis of independence and the release of Mujib.”
“Senior Pakistani officials are convinced that Yahya will launch a pre-emptive attack in the next few weeks. Yahya himself has given the British the impression that he is considering such action, but he has assured our DCM he is not.
The secret treason trial of Mujibur Rahman has antagonized the East. A reliable source says he has been sentenced to life imprisonment. Yahya can uphold the sentence, commute it or let the matter lie. His decision will be an indication of how conciliatory he intends to be toward East Pakistan.”
October 8: Telegram from the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan US warns India to stop assisting Mukti Bahini:
“We have heard reports for some time of possible large-scale cross-border effort by Mukti Bahini to coincide with end monsoon season. We would, therefore, strongly urge that GOI act immediately to reduce these risks by efforts with MB to restrict cross-border operations. While we recognize that major responsibility for maintenance of India-Pak peace rests with GOP, GOI also bears major responsibility keep present situation from deteriorating into war or prolonged insurgency. Should such cross-border operations lead to conflict with Pakistan, this would have serious effect on US-India relations.”
Yahya’s letter to Nixon asking American support:
“Pakistan is considering to call a meeting of the Security Council to consider serious threat to peace in the sub-continent arising from India’s open and mounting interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and ever-increasing Indian military activities on Pakistan’s borders.”
“USG has no desire place itself between GOP and BD reps or to enter into merits of positions of either side. USG therefore has no substantive comment to make on points raised by Mushtaq. We would urge, rather, that the BD reps seek earliest opportunity to present views directly to GOP reps, in effort explore possibility of negotiated settlement.”
October 10: “Six month long ban on politics in Pakistan lifted, yet Awami League is Illegal. Following the ban on the Awami League, the biggest single faction in the Assembly became the People’s Party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.” ( Reuters )
October 11: Pakistan Peoples Party’s Karachi Secretary Meiraj Mohammad Khan admits Razakar terror.
Meiraj alleged that in East Bengal “power in effect has been transferred to those reactionary and anti-people political parties defeated in the elections and rejected by the people”.
He named one party-the Muslim Jammaat-e-Islami group-of indulging in wholesale massacre of political opponents for which they are using their Razakars.
Meiraj, who has influence among students, added: “Under the umbrella of a Government consisting of members of defeated and reactionary parties, elections cannot be free.”
The General secretary of NAP, Moshiur Rahman and Anwar Zahid (former joint secretary) who had left the NAP in 1970 met Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders in Dhaka who came to survey the situation in view of forthcoming by-elections for 78 seats formerly held by members of the Awami League. Maulana Kawser Niazi, publicity secretary of the PPP said that the talks had been fruitful. The PPP and Jamaat-i- Islami were against Bangladesh and directly supported the Pakistani army.
Telegram from the Consulate General in Karachi to the Department of State on discussion with Yahya:
“I referred specifically to possibility of Mujib’s serving as “trump card” and asked whether he might tell me anything further in that regard. Yahya noted that Mujib’s trial was still going on. If he were convicted, court would sentence him to punishment which would conceivably be death. Matter would then come before Yahya who had presidential power to modify court’s judgement. As he had already told us, he did not intend to permit any death sentence to be carried out.
Mujib’s role seemed to be a crucial issue, for example, with regard initiation any direct talks between GOP and BD leadership. We have recent indications that various pressures on BD leadership in Calcutta have inhibited any progress toward initiating talks, and one of their primary concerns seems to be that Mujib should have role.
Yahya responded that there were limits on his freedom of action. He pointed to predominant West Pak public opinion damning Mujib, and opined that not a single West Pak political leader would welcome an act to free Mujib and negotiate with him.”
October 12: Air Marshal (Retd.) Asghar Khan complains that there is no press freedom in Pakistan and he withdraws his party Tehrik-i-Istiqlal from the by-elactions. (The Dawn)
Telegram from the Embassy in India to the Department of State on discussion with Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh and Foreign Secretary Kaul:
“Foreign Minister (a) claimed East Pakistan insurgency profoundly rooted in Bengali alienation and has own dynamic, not dependent upon India; (b) argued insurgency exists deep within East Pakistan and significance of cross-border activities easily exaggerated and any event GOI cannot shoot down East Bengalis entering or departing India; (c) noted how long insurgency will be prolonged and whether it leads to Pak attack upon India depends upon GOP; (d) stressed insurgency is caused basically by Pak military repression to which Mukti Bahini (MB) is reaction.
Foreign Minister (a) expressed strong resentment at any suggestion East Pakistan insurgency being maintained by India; (d) charged US support to GOP strengthens Yahya regime determination to maintain military repression policy; and (e) concluded US has heavy responsibility to exercise its “great influence” with GOP. Foreign Minister asserted in event GOP agreed to withdraw military forces from Indo-Pak borders, GOI could reconsider situation in light circumstances at that time.”
October 13: Bangla Desh Government’s reaction to Yahya’s broadcast to the nation.
October 14: Abdul Monem Khan, former Governor of East Pakistan, died of gunshot wounds inflicted by two men who visited his home in Dacca.
In absence of BD “Foreign minister” Mushtaq Ahmed, Poloff met BD “High Commissioner” Hossain Ali and briefed US position:
“Ali said Yahya’s October 12 broadcast to nation showed Yahya still trying pull wool over world’s eyes. They had seen no glimmer of hope for change in Yahya’s remarks.
Ali noted that Mukti Bahini had worked hard to build itself up in past few months, was ready for battle and eager to fight for independence of BD. Poloff argued that continuation and escalation of violent method by MB might lead to death, destruction and suffering, which USG earnestly hoped could be avoided. It would be much better for BD to find peaceful solution to their problems so that energies of MB could be more constructively channeled to rebuild in East. While Ali agreed that this might be more desirable solution, he said he was not sure in his own mind that it would be possible for simple reason he did not believe Yahya would peacefully accord independence to BD.”
October 15: Letter from the Government of Bangla Desh to the Prime Minister of India requesting for recognition to the free and duly constituted Government of Bangla Desh.
“Since the formal proclamation of our Independence on April 10, our struggle for liberation has gained increased momentum and strength. Nearly 60,000 members of the former East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles and other para-military formations identified themselves with the struggle of the 75 million people of Bangla Desh and took up arms in defence of our motherland. They were joined by hundreds of thousands of young men whom they trained to defend the sovereignty and independence of their homeland, and to release it from the bonds of colonial oppression.
The policy of repression has continued with increasing brutality in the vain hope of liquidating the leadership and reducing the majority of the Bengalispeaking people to a minority. Members of the minority communities became special victims of the reign of terror. As a result of this policy of genocide, rape, arson and loot, nearly nine million of our men, women and children have been driven out in terror and have taken shelter in your country, and the exodus still continues.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, our undisputed leader and President, has been subjected to a secret military trial and has been reportedly condemned to death. The Awami League has been banned, which had won an unparalleled victory in the national elections held last December. The military regime of Pakistan has disqualified 79 duly elected representatives of the people and has imposed a so-called civilian regime consisting of defeated candidates and quislings which is now supported by the might of the military machine of Pakistan. These gestures have not deceived the 75 million people of Bangla Desh. They have only exposed the deception and insincerity of the military oppressors. All this has only made us more determined than ever to liberate Bangla Desh.
We are glad to inform you, Excellency, that this struggle has borne fruit. The liberation army of the People’s Republic of Bangla Desh, the Mukti Bahini, are in full control of half the territory of Bangla Desh. We also confirm that the Bangla Desh Government has established effective civil administration over this area which is functioning smoothly. This development has not merely been welcomed by the broad masses of the people, but the efforts of our Government have found spontaneous and overwhelming support in the areas under its control.”
October 18: Dhaka Guerillas start offensive: The Guardian
“She did not categorically deny that India was helping them. She said instead, ‘perhaps you know, they have many helpers, mostly their own people, all over the world. Also, many avenues are open to them’. She did not elaborate. ‘Whether they have arms or not, nobody can suppress the struggle’.
Mrs. Gandhi cited ‘threatening statements from Pakistan which, we feel, cannot be entirely ignored’. She mentioned, in particular, the speech last week of President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan in which he accused India of ‘feverish military preparations’ and called on his people to meet the threat as a nation of one hundred and twenty million mujahids or preachers of Islam ‘whose hearts are pulsating with love of the Holy Prophet’.
Mrs. Gandhi was asked if she felt there was a breaking point to the economic and social pressures placed on India by the refugees, a point beyond which India might feel compelled to take military action against Pakistan to halt the influx. “Well, actually, I would say, we have already reached it “, she replied. “But this does not mean that we are going to crack under it”.
“In an already tense situation India’s land, sea and air forces have been brought to a state of confrontation against Pakistan’s frontiers in both the wings. There are 7 divisions of the Indian army which are deployed against West Pakistan and additional forces have been put in a state of readiness to move to forward positions at short notice.
Mr. President, the inevitable conclusion that one can draw from this offensive posture of the Indian armed forces is that it is pointed in the direction of conflict and not of peace. May I urge you to impress upon the Government of India the need for urgent constructive steps with a view to arresting further deterioration of the situation in the sub-continent.”
October 20: An evaluation of East Pakistan insurgancy:
“Over past three months East Pakistan insurgency has increased in intensity and widened its geographic scope of operations. Concentrating in the rural areas, with only token activity in cities (exception has been systemic and repeated disruption of power supply to Chittagong), Mukti Bahini (MB) have stepped up their disruption of roads, bridges, railroad lines in most parts of the country. In some districts, notably Dacca, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Bakarganj, MB seems able move about almost at will and appears even to have set up parallel administration at some points. Evidence on hand suggests that insurgents are better armed than formerly, (automatic weapons, mortars, heavier explosives) and increasingly able undertake sophisticated operations (mining of ships, effective sabotage of bridges, etc.). In central and southern districts mentioned, MB has demonstrated aggressiveness and skill in ambush operations against Razakars (voluntary home guards) and army, occasionally inflicting significant casualties. Areas other than those cited above, MB activities largely confined destruction of bridges, culverts, railway lines, apparently avoiding contact with govt forces.
To extent that “civilianization” and general amnesty were intended damp insurgent activities, they have demonstrably failed. While weariness and desire for “peace at almost any price” apparent among middle class urban groups, we have impression that younger Bengalis, particularly those in countryside, are entrenched in their detestation of Islamabad Government and bitterness against Pak army. These attitudes reinforced by persisting reports atrocities and indiscriminate retaliation carried out by government forces, principally army or Razakars, to point where even many conservative Bengalis see no other outcome than to drive army out by force.”
October 23: Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s Broadcast to the Nation urges Indians to unite to uphold the freedom and integrity of the nation
October 26: A Bangla Desh Government press release on Bangladesh delegation in the UNO
“As a result of the tragic events in East Bengal, 9,000,000 people have poured into our territory, creating a situation which seems to surpass the convulsions of partition. The crisis in Pakistan is a deep one and the spectre which haunts that unhappy country cannot be exercised by the usual recourse to blaming India. Two questions arise: first, whether religion by itself can form the basis of a nation state, especially when the state machinery is impervious to the ordinary laws of political development and cultural aspirations, and secondly, whether some action other than that of the bayonet is not necessary to win loyalty. We in India are restrained and calm in the face of provocation but we are bound to protect the interests of our country….”
On October 26 the press in Pakistan printed the text of Yahya’s October 25 letter to U Thant welcoming his offer to mediate in the dispute between India and Pakistan. I know of the Secretary General’s very recent letter to you and Mrs. Gandhi, and I welcome the tenor of your response to that letter.
“It seems very strange to us how the situation can be normalised by suddenly declaring that some elected people are no longer there when they are very much in the world. You suddenly say that you are going to have new elections and that new elections are going to solve the problem. They cannot possibly solve the problem. The elections were not considered illegal when they were held, the programme put before the people was well known to the Government and the elections were presided over by the same governmental authority. They had a six-point programme on which they fought the elections and which was supported by the vast majority of the people of both sides of Pakistan. Nobody objected to it. The time to raise an objection was before the elections were fought. They could have said, ” well, we don’t approve of this programme, we are not going to accept the six points and, therefore, if you want to fight the elections you will have to re-think”. I do not know if it would have been proper, but certainly if any objection had to be raised, that was the time to raise it, not when the programme was accepted. The people thought it was accepted and they voted accordingly.”
TIME April 26, 1971; pp. 39-40
Radio Pakistan announced last week that Pakistan International Airlines has resumed its internal flight between the East Pakistan capital of Dacca and the town of Jessore, formerly a stronghold of rebel resistance. The broadcast failed to note that the PIA prop jets were carrying only soldiers, and that they were escorted into Jessore airport by air force Sabre jets.
It was true, however, that the army has taken the offensive in Pakistan’s savage civil war. In the early days of fighting, the troops had prudently preferred to remain in their garrison areas, for the most part, until additional men and supplies arrived. Last week they began to push toward the Indian border, hoping to secure the hardtop roads by the time the monsoon rains begin in late May. If they succeed, they will he able to block any sizable imports of arms and other equipment for the Bangla Desh (Bengal State) resistance fighters.
Naxalite Sympathizers. Despite the heavy cost of the operation (estimated at $1.3 million per day) and widespread international criticism, the government of President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan seems determined to press for a decisive victory. The U.S. and most other Western countries have thus far maintained a careful neutrality. Washington announced that it has furnished no arms to Pakistan since the fighting began March 25. Communist China, on the other hand, has strongly supported the Pakistan government, while India, Pakistan’s traditional adversary, has quietly sympathized with the rebels.
The Indians most deeply involved are the West Bengali insurgents. But West Bengali sympathy is tempered by a fear that a civil war in East Bengal will prove costly to themselves as well. For a generation, West Bengal has received a steady flow of refugees from across the border. Now the flow has greatly increased, with an added burden to the state’s economy. Among West Bengalis, the most enthusiastic supporters of the East Pakistani cause are Calcutta’s urban terrorists, the Maoist Naxalites. Some are said to have slipped across the border with homemade guns and bombs to help the rebels.
Strong Words. Officially, India has tried to maintain calm. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared earlier that India could hardly remain a “silent observer to the carnage in East Pakistan. But last week, when asked if she would describe the fighting as an “imperial war’. she replied sternly. .’the use of strong words will not help.”
From East Pakistan came reports that the destruction was continuing. Estimates of the number of dead ranged to 200,000 or more. In the port city of Chittagong, hundreds of bodies were dumped into the river to be carried away by the tide. Some observers reported a virtual pogrom against East Pakistan’s educated leadership, raising the specter of a region reduced to peasant serfdom. Even the modern jute mills, owned by West Pakistani businessmen, were reported destroyed.
Provisional Government. There was also savagery on the Bengali side. Rebels were reported to be paying off old scores against non-Bengali Moslems who settled in East Pakistan after the 1947 partition of British India into India and Pakistan. At the town of Dinajpur, most male members of this group were killed and the women taken to makeshift internment camps.
Despite the continued absence of their political leader, Sheikh Mlljibur (“Mujib”) Rahman who is thought to be in prison in West Pakistan. the rebels announced the formation of a Bangla Desh provisional government last week. They named Mlljib President. One of his colleagues, Tajuddin Ahmad, who is at large in East Pakistan, became Prime Minister. As their provisional capital, the rebels prudently chose the town of Meherpur, which lies a mere four miles from the Indian border.
The Bangla Desh forces are critically short of gasoline and diesel fuel and lack the field-communication equipment necessary for organized military activity. They have avoided any full-scale engagements, in which they would undoubtedly sustain heavy losses. Some observers believe, in fact, that the long guerrilla phase of the civil war has already begun, with the army holding most of the towns and the rebels controlling much of the countryside. Despite the apparent determination of the Pakistan government to maintain its hold on East Bengal, the sheer human arithmetic of the situation seemed to indicate that the Bengalis would ultimately win freedom or at least some form of regional autonomy. At the present time, the East Bengalis outnumber the West Pakistani soldiers in their midst by about 1,000 to 1.
Readers Digest, November 1971; pp.66-71
David Reed and John E. Frazer
Invaded and devastated by the army of its own government, this tortured land cries out for relief and for justice. If both are not granted still greater horrors may lie ahead
They come out of East Pakistan in endless columns, along trails stained with tears and blood. They are dressed in rags, robbed of everything they owned, the women raped, the children gaunt from hunger. They have been on the move for up to a month, hiding from Pakistan soldiers by day, slogging through flooded rice paddies at night. A vengeful army pursues them to the very border of India. Rifle and machine-gun fire crackles. The bedraggled columns scatter for cover. But soon they are moving again, streaming into India.
Sobbing violently, a middle-aged man says, “The soldiers took my two nephews. They kicked them with their boots, ducked them in an open sewer, then machine-gunned them. After that they took 50 to 60 young men of our village into a field and killed them with bayonets.” A woman who was shot in the leg clutches her daughter and says, “We were just about to cross the border when they started shooting at us. I don’t know what happened to my husband.” A ten-year-old boy, who lost an eye when an army patrol threw a grenade at him as he was tending cattle in a field, says, “Can anyone tell me what happened to my parents?”
Since late last March, when the Pakistan army launched this genocidal attack on the defenseless population of East Pakistan, more than eight million people have been driven from their native land. Millions more will surely follow. Moreover, the refugees have put grave strains on India, pushing India and West Pakistan to the brink of a war that could involve the two arch rivals of the communist world, the Soviet Union and China.
Return to Normal? While the horrors of the refugees are bad enough, something even more ghastIy is going on inside East Pakistan, also known as East Bengal. That land, scene of a devastating cyclone that claimed half a million lives last year,* is now being systematically ravaged by the Pakistan army. Diplomats and other foreigners in Dacca, East Pakistan’s capital, estimate that between a quarter- and a half-million civilians have been slaughtered since March. An American missionary in Dacca grits his teeth and says, “It’s murder-mass murder.”
The military junta that rules Pakistan has tried to cover up the atrocities, and maintains that East Bengal has largely returned to normal. But one of the authors of this article, who spent two weeks there last August, found evidence to the contrary on every hand. Touring three districts of East Bengal by car, he found not a single village or town that had not suffered at the hands of the troops. Many towns were half-empty, homes and shops looted’ and bummed, peopIe either dead, driven into exile or hiding in the countryside.
Perhaps a third of Dacca’s population is gone; its economy is crippled and its people are so terrified that no one ventures outdoors at night. Not far from Dacca, a missionary said, “The soldiers killed 249 people in our village. Fortunately for the wounded, high-powered bullets right through them, so the doctors didn’t have to probe.”
A farmer in a refugee camp along the Indian side of the border (?): “The headmaster of our school sitting on the veranda of his home, grading examination papers, when the soldiers dragged him out on the road and cut his throat.” Told (?) another refugee, “The soldiers found the doctor in our village to dig his own grave; then they shot him. The doctor in a border hospital pointed to a woman who had been raped repeatedly by the troops in the presence of her four children after the soldier had killed her husband.
Rule by Minority. The roo(?) disaster in Pakistan reach back (? Britain’s withdrawal from its Indian empire in 1947. Because India’s Muslim minority feared domination of the Hindu majority, a new IsIamic state called Pakistan was carved out of predominantly Muslim areas of Indian subcontinent. Muslims in the northwest became West Pakistan. Although East Bengal separated from West Pakistan by more than 1000 miles of Indian territory, it was included in the state, as East Pakistan, because people were mostly Muslims, there are profound differences between the two Pakistans. They have different languages. The people of the west, mostly Punjabis, are tall, light-skinned. Their land is (?) arid. East Pakistan, by contrast in tropical, peopled mostly by Bengalis, a small, dark-skinned people.
The Bengalis have long complained bitterly that the Punjabis in the west have treated them as colonial subjects. East Pakistan’s population before the massacres stood at 70 million, as compared with 58 million in the west, but the capital, Islamabad, is in West Pakistan. East Pakistan has accounted for 50 percent or more of Pakistan’s export earnings, chiefly from the production of jute, but the Bengalis claim that the west kept most of the money for its own development. West Pakistanis, moreover, took 80 percent of the jobs in the civil service, 90 percent of the posts in the armed forces.
Although efforts were made in the post-I947 years, democratic institutions never really took root in Pakistan, and in 1958 the military seized power .Then, last year, in a notable effort to return the country to civilian rule, Pakistan’s president, Gen. Yahya Khan, scheduled an election for December. Voters would select a national assembly that would frame a constitution and then assume the role of a parliament. That election set in motion the train of events leading to the present tragedy.
In the election campaign in East Pakistan, the Bengalis were electrified by the message of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a 51-year-old political moderate who was leader of the Awami, or People’s League. Mujib, as he was popularly known, had spent nearly ten years as a political prisoner of the West Pakistan authorities. Now he campaigned on a program of autonomy for East Bengal which, he told cheering crowds, would shake off the hated domination of Islamabad. The central government could continue to control foreign affairs and defense for all Pakistan, but East Pakistan would govern itself internally and the bulk of its money as it saw fit.
Mujib’s People’s League won a landslide victory, capturing a clear majority in the 313-seat assembly. It not only would play the key role in the drafting of the constitution, but would form the next government for all of Pakistan. Elation swept East Pakistan. Neighboring India rejoiced, too. Mujib was known to be friendly to India. If he took over as Prime Minister of all Pakistan, relations with India would, it was hoped, improve.
“Bomber of Baluchistan.” But on March 1, Yahya, under mounting pressure from politicians in West Pakistan, postponed the opening of the national assembly, which had been set for two days later. The Bengalis, feeling that they were being robbed of their legitimate victory, exploded in riots and demonstrations. Mujib calmed his people, cautioned them against violence; and though he still held out for autonomy, something like a parallel government now existed. On March 23-Pakistan’s Independence Day-Mujib flew a new flag, the green, red and yellow banner of Bangla Desh (the Bengal nation) from his home. The West Pakistanis feared that the East was about to secede, and warned that no government could tolerate such a move.
At this point, a cold-eyed general named Tikka Khan arrived in Dacca to take command of West Pakistan troops stationed there. Tikka had won for himself the nick name “Bomber of Baluchistan” for having suppressed a tribal revolt in Baluchistan province by indiscriminate air and artillery strikes against civilians. Shortly after Tikka’s arrival, Yahya flew to Dacca for talks with Mujib. All the while, West Pakistan soldiers in civilian clothing were being flown into Dacca. On the afternoon of March 25, Yahya, having broken off the talks with Mujib, returned to West Pakistan. At II o’clock that evening, Tikka Khan was unleashed.
Suddenly, all of Dacca rocked with explosions. Troops opened fire with artillery on the city; tanks rumbled through the streets, gunning down anything that moved. The dormitories of the university, a stronghold of Bengali nationalism, were riddled by machine-gun fire. The invading soldiers went on a rampage in the old city, a particular political stronghold of Mujib, breaking down doors, dragging people into the street and shooting them. Shops were looted and burned. The barracks of the pro-Mujib Bengali police were gutted by tank cannon Troops burst into a telephone exchange and killed 40 persons on duty.
Special West Pakistan army squads had lists of people-professors, doctors, businessmen and other community leaders-whom they dragged off to army headquarters. Most have never been seen again. Although Mujib’s follower urged him to go into hiding, Mujib refused. Tikka’s troops took him off to imprisonment and an uncertain fate in West Pakistan.
With Dacca in ruins, Tikka sent his troops into the countryside, in each town the ghastly pattern was repeated. Anyone associated with the People’s League was killed. Young men, Muslim and Hindu alike, were rounded up and murdered. In almost every town, refugees report, women were raped.
The Bengalis Strike Back. Meanwhile, from Islamabad, Yahya whipped off decrees banning the People’s League and postponing the national assembly indefinitely. The new constitution, he declared, would be drafted not by the assembly, but rather by a committee that would handpicked by him. Autonomy for East Bengal was rejected; Islamabad’s rule would continue.
Yahya also imposed strict censor ship on the press: even today the people of West Pakistan have little idea of what is going on in the East. Tikka Khan was appointed governor of East Pakistan, which he ruled with the grace of a Nazi gauleiter in Occupied Europe until he was replaced in August.
Bangla Desh, however, has not been crushed. Surviving Bengali troops and police have formed the nucleus of the Mukti Bahini, or Liberation Army. There is no dearth of volunteers, and it is an open secret that India, which surrounds East Pakistan on three sides, is giving arms, training and encouragement to the Mukti Bahini guerrillas. Operating all along the 1350-mile border, these irregulars stab deeply into East Pakistan. Bombs explode nightly in the capital, and West Pakistan army and patrols are ambushed on country roads. The railway that links Chittagong, the main port, with Dacca has been severed.
Bangla Desh is paying a fearsome price for resistance. After each Mukti Bahini raid, the West Pakistan army, now bolstered to around 70,000 men, levels surrounding villages as “collective punishment.” And each retaliation sets off another column of refugees for India.
The Indian government is making every effort to care for these piteous people, but the influx is so staggering that new miseries await them there. For instance, in one of more than a thousand squalid refugee camps in India, 150,000 people live in straw hovels surrounded by mud and *****. There are few latrines, and the stench is such that people cover their faces with cloth. Because of the vast numbers, refugees have to wait in line for as long as ten hours for their food rations – ¾ pound of rice a day per adult, plus some lentils, vegetables when available, and a little salt and cooking oil.
The children suffer the most. Many are beginning to look like the starving children of Biafra, their ribs protruding, their stomachs distended. Almost all suffer from malnutrition or dysentery. Life-giving milk and other protein foods are available in some of the camps, but the crush is so great that many children never get any. A doctor at a border hospital says, “The children die so quickly that we don’t have time to treat them.”
Anger in India. India, itself one of the poorest and most overcrowded countries on earth, groans – under the burden. Although she has made some important gains in population control in the past six years, her population has now increased enormously. The United States and other foreign governments have responded generously with cash and food (America has given $40 million in food, $30.5 million in cash); yet the cost of supporting the Pakistanis may run to more than a billion dollars a year-nearly a seventh of the annual budget of India’s central government. India cannot give the refugees jobs, because millions of her own people are unemployed. Even the meager rations of the refugees, which cost 13 cents a day, are a point of friction: some 50 million Indians subsist on substantially less.
Many Indians angrily point out that they are being forced to pick up the bill for Pakistan’s atrocities against its own people. Some are urging that India take East Pakistan by military force so as to enable the refugees to return. India’s Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, so far has resisted these pressures-yet danger of war runs high. Such a war might well assume beyond-the-borders proportions. India has a new alliance with the Soviet Union; the Pakistan government has grown increasingly close to China.
Within East Bengal itself, a new horror looms: an acute threat of mass starvation, Even in normal times, the area must import part of its rice supply. Now it will be difficult, if not impossible, to move the rice from the small river ports to all of the outlying areas. In 1943, two to three million Bengalis died in a famine. There is every reason to fear it will be worse this time.
What can be done about this festering disaster ? Many Bengalis see a solution in independence won by guerrilla warfare. There is a chance of success, but also the certainty of much more bloodshed. It would be far better for the United States and other nations to bring pressure to bear on Islamabad to work out a political solution acceptable to the Bengalis and thus to defuse the present explosive situation and stave off a major war in the subcontinent. This done, the refugee columns would be set in motion once more-on a peaceful journey back to their homeland.