Tikka Khan (b. 1915 d. March 28, 2002) was Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff from March 1972–March 1976).
Raja Tikka Khan was born in the village of Jochha Mamdot in Kahuta Tehsil near Rawalpindi, in 1915 (in what was then British India). He was a graduate of the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun, and was commissioned in 1939.
He fought in World War II as part of the Indian Army, and was injured on multiple occasions during the fighting. He was in action in numerous battles on both the Burmese and Italian fronts. He was also a prisoner of war for more than two years during the war, before he and his fellow troops escaped.
After his return from World War II, Khan was an instructor at the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun for some time. During the independence, Major Tikka Khan remained in what is now Pakistan, and became an officer in the Pakistan Army.
After Independence, he served in only one Artillery Regiment of Royal Pakistan Artillery, where he raised and commanded the first post partition Medium Regiment of Royal Pakistan Artillery, i.e., 12 Medium Regiment Artillery.
He was promoted to the rank of Major General in 1962.
Between the wars
Tikka Khan was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General in 1969. He was also the commander IV Corps at Lahore during the same time, a time when he earned a reputation of being a tough administrator and strict disciplinarian. Lahore’s Fortess Stadium was constructed under General Tikka Khan’s tenure as corps commander.
The 1970 elections in East Pakistan and West Pakistan resulted in a situation where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League won most of the seats (160 out of 300) whereas Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) won 81 seats. In the crisis that followed he was sent out by General Yahya Khan of Pakistan to put down unrest swelling in East Pakistan. Tikka took over Eastern Command (equivalent to a Corps) on 7 March 1971 after the previous commander Lt Gen Sahabzada Yaqub Khan resigned. Because of his role in the ensuing Operation Searchlight and Bangladesh Liberation War that began on 25 March 1971, Tikka is referred to as the “Butcher of Bengal” by Bangladeshis. He was the leading commander of the II Corps responsible for the defence on the Western front of the War in 1971. After a brief but notable stay at East Pakistan, he was then posted as the first commander II Corps at Multan and commanded through the actual Indo-Pakistan conflict in December.
Tikka was later superseded by Lt Gen Gul Hassan Khan, when he was selected as the Commander-in-Chief in December 1971.
Tikka Khan’s tenure ended in March 1976, and he was later appointed Defence Minister by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s July 1977 coup led to the arrest of both Bhutto and General Tikka Khan. Bhutto was executed in 1979, after which General Tikka Khan emerged as one of the leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), becoming its Secretary General, during a time when many party stalwarts abandoned it. General Tikka was imprisoned numerous times for his political activities during the late 1970s and 1980s, until Zia-ul-Haq died in August 1988 in an airplane explosion over Bahawalpur. General Tikka Khan was appointed the Governor of Pakistan’s largest province, the Punjab, in December 1988. His tenure as the Governor was cut short by the dismissal of the Benazir Bhutto government in August 1990, after which he retired from active politics. During his tenure as Chief he directly influenced an entire generation of military personnel, imbuing in them qualities of professionalism and military duty.
Later life and death
General Tikka Khan died on March 28, 2002 after several years of illness. He received a state burial with full military honors and his funeral was attended by thousands of people, including the entire top brass of the Pakistan Army. In a message to the General’s son, Col. Khalid M. Khan, Benazir Bhutto, who had spent many years campaigning with the General, remembered him as a person who, “rose to the highest offices of this country due to his hard work and respect for the rule of law.”
August 1: The “Concert For Bangla Desh” is held. Ravi Shankar conceived the idea of the concert to raise awareness and funds to help the victims of the jihadi Pakistani soldiers. He got together with George Harrison, an ex-Beetle and organised one of the biggest concerts at Madison Square Garden. Shankar, Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russel, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Badfinger, Pete Ham, Tom Evans, Joey Molland, Mike Gibbons, Allan Beutler, Jesse Ed Davis, Chuck Findly, Marlin Greene, Jeanne Greene, JD Green, Dolores Hall, Jim Horn, Kamala Chakravarty, Jackie Kelso, Jim Keltner, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Claudia Lennear, Lou McCreary, Ollie Mitchell, Don Nix, Don Preston, Carl Radle, Alla Rakah performed at this historic concert that brought the genocide to world attention. George Harrison wrote and sang the famous song, “Bangladesh” at the concert thus introducing the nation to the world.
“Kazi Zahirul Qaiyum MP of Awami League met consulate official on behalf of Khondkar Mustaque Ahmed to convey to the US government that ‘A.L. Leaders are anxious for political settlement with GOP and are prepared recede from total independence demand.’
When asked about Bangladesh plans, Qaiyum said there have been several long Cabinet meetings recently, and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed “is at a loss what to do.” He said that seizing and holding “liberated territory” was out of the question as two fully trained and equipped army divisions would be needed to hold significant portion of East Bengal. Rather, he thought Mukti Fouz would continue to emphasize guerrilla tactics in effort to erode West Pakistan’s economy and will. He said AL had some “friends” in West Pakistan who might eventually influence the situation to AL’s advantage. Pakistan might be compelled to change its policy towards East Bengal in six months.
Qaiyum emphasized that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman must play key role in any possible settlement as only Mujib is capable of holding East Bengal people together. If Mujib is tried and executed, all hope for resolution of current impasse will be lost. For this reason Qaiyum asked that US government do everything in its power to ensure Sheikh Mujib’s safety.”
Source: Bangladesh Liberation War and the Nixon White House 1971. p. 166 – 167
“Security situation has not improved. Some evidence non-cooperation. Persecution of Hindus declining in direct proportion to decline in size Hindu population. Latest estimate puts six million East Pakistan Hindus in India. Hindu monuments being destroyed some areas. Such destruction observed in Dacca and Chittagong and Hindu sculpture now very easy to obtain. Some Dacca streets with Hindu and English names renamed with Muslim names.”
“Cross-border shelling by both Indians and Pakistanis has increased as has tempo of guerilla activity which is shifting from sabotage to direct attacks on West Pakistani forces…”
“At a meeting with political officer of the Consulate A.L. M.N.A. Zahirul Qaiyum said
he was acting ‘under specific instruction of Bangladesh Minister who hopes to convince USG to initiate negotiations with GOP which will lead to a meeting of interested parties and peaceful settlement…
According Qaiyum, AL leaders think there is a good chance of war breaking out, perhaps in the next 15-20 days, which would be an enormous disaster for everyone on subcontinent. In long run, AL is confident that it can achieve military victory. East Bengal, however, is being devastated… Under any circumstances an enormous reconstruction job will be required. Qaiyum thought that US was only country capable of providing necessary assistance.”
The Consulate General in Dacca did an assessment of Qaiyum’s role in the Awami League and concluded that he was not prominent in the leadership but was probably a confidant of Khondkar Mushtaq Ahmad, the “Foreign Minister” of the Bangladesh independence movement, and a bona fide representative of Mushtaq. (Telegram 3057 from Dacca, August
August 7: President Nixon wrote (handwritten) personally thank Yahya for his assistance in arranging contacts between the U.S. and China.
August 9: A Press Note issued by the Headquarters of the Chief Martial Law Administrator said that sheikh Mujibur Rahman will be tried by a Special Military Court for “waging war against Pakistan” and other offences. The trial will commence on August 11 in camera and its proceedings will be secret. (THE DAWN, Karachi-August 10, 1971)
“What happened after the 25th of March this year is known to the whole world. The denial of the verdict of the people and letting loose of military oppression and trampling on the fundamental human rights of the people of Bangla Desh stand self-condemned. Instead of respecting the verdict of the people and acknowledging Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the elected and undisputed leader of Bangla Desh. the Pakistan Government has launched a reign of terror and carried out a calculated plan of genocide, the like of which has not been seen in recent times. To stage a farcical trial against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is a gross violation of human rights and deserves to be condemned by the whole world.”
Memorandum from Acting Secretary of State Irwin to President Nixon on the Indo-Soviet treaty:
“The essence of the Treaty is its provision that in the event of attack or the threat of attack there will be immediate mutual consultations. Each side also undertakes to refrain from giving assistance to any third party taking part in armed conflict with the other party. These clauses not only assure Soviet neutrality in the event of hostilities in South Asia but also the prospect of Soviet assistance and support in the event of war.”
“Gen. Hamid acknowledges insurgency activity in East Pakistan is continuing at fairly active pace. He admits to crucial importance of successful political reconciliation but declined to express opinion on prospects. He acknowledges uncertainty on number of persons elected under Awami League ticket last December who will actually come forward to claim their seats in National Assembly. A recent publication ahows a list of 88 Awami League MNAs-elect, who are now cleared to take their seats.
Hamid said he was rather pleased with performance of “Razakars”, recruits (mainly Bengalis) from local population who have been given brief training and then put on armed duty mainly in static defense of bridges and other key structures.”
“We apprehend that this so-called trial will be used only as a publicity to execute Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This will aggravate the situation in East Bengal and will create a serious situation in India because of the strong feelings of our people and all political parties. Hence our grave anxiety. We appeal to you to exercise your influence with President Yahya Khan to take a realistic view in the larger interest of the peace and stability of this region.”
“Both sides reiterated their firm conviction that….. Urgent steps be taken in East Pakistan for the achievement of political solution and for creation of conditions of safety for the return of the refugees to their homes which alone would answer the interests, of the entire people of Pakistan….”
“Bangla Desh representatives in India have recently sought out and made contact with middle ranking U.S. officials in New Delhi and Calcutta concerning a settlement with the West Pakistanis. It is not at all clear, however, what they are really fishing for. The approach in Calcutta (by Quayum), allegedly reflecting the Bangla Desh “Foreign Minister’s” wishes, was along the lines of a settlement on the basis of something less than full independence, while the approach by the ‘Foreign Secretary’ (M. Alam) in New Delhi was based on the opposite outcome of total independence.”
With the Bangladesh Guerillas – The New Statesman (Page 1, Page 2)
Bangladesh PM warns against fake trial of Mujib (Page 1, Page 2)
August 14: An officer from the Consulate General in Calcutta met with Bangladesh representative Qaiyum. Qaiyum reaffirmed that he was acting under instructions from his Foreign Minister (Khondoker Mushtaq) who was prepared to accept a negotiated settlement that provided for less than complete independence. Qaiyum emphasized that only Mujibur Rahman could negotiate on behalf of the people of East Bengal, and only he could get them to accept a political settlement. Qaiyum added, “if Sheikh is alive, there is hope for compromise, if he is killed, there is no hope.” (Telegram 2321 from USConsul Calcutta)
August 17: Vice Admiral S.M. Ahsan, the governor of East Pakistan until end of February 1971 on current situation:
“Ahsan recommended that special USG representative be sent to talk to Yahya before it is “too late” to explain absolute necessity of finding political solution in East Pakistan, which possible only through rehabilitation and use of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Prior to March at least, separation from Pakistan was not Mujib’s intention and hopefully his attitude has not significantly altered.
The source of power and voice of authority in Pakistan is President Yahya. He is first and last authority.
India’s position, has despite public outcry, been reasonably moderate and its hands before the events in March were relatively clean.”
The Washington Special Actions Group Meeting reiterated that ‘The basic (U.S.) policy is to be helpful in maintaining the integrity of Pakistan.’
– In East Pakistan, a serious insurgency movement is now underway in the countryside and is beginning to penetrate the major cities. This has been fed by the Indians in terms of logistics, training and some arms, but basically reflects a strong Bengali will to resist the West Pakistanis. This in turn provokes an army response which stimulates further refugee flow.
– The refugee flow to India continues. This has increased to a rate of some 50,000 per day after a drop in late July. This could be a temporary aberration; it could result from a new increase in violence; or it could reflect hunger in some pockets. Just maintaining the present number of refugees is projected to cost (Indians) $600 million in a year, a figure larger than the net flow of foreign aid from consortium donors.
Both your officials and ours recognize that the most immediate priority is to mount a major effort to avert famine in East Pakistan. This step is fundamental to progress in re-establishing normal conditions. I am confident that you also share our judgment that it would also be helpful in this task for you to continue your efforts to build on the program announced in your June 28 address for enlisting the support of the elected representatives of the East Pakistani people in the urgent work of national reconciliation.
Meeting with President Yahya, M.M. Ahmad and US Ambassador Farland:
“Yahya discussed his plans to associate Bengalis in administration of province by clearing 88 of former Awami League representatives to National Assembly. He said that only some 15 or 16 of the 88 were presently in Dacca and they were being protected by the government since they feared for their lives. The rest of 88 were either in the countryside or in India. He did not know how many of them would come forward to claim their seat.
After some discussion of this point from several angles it was quite clear that President Yahya refused to deal with any group however cleansed under name of Awami League. He said that he was severely criticized in West Pakistan for having cleared as many as 88 of former AL members to take their seats in next assembly if they came forward.”
He further said on trial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman “you can stops worrying because I am not going to execute the man even though he is a traitor.”
US Embassy’s telegram confirms that The US ambassador pressured Yahya not to execute Sheikh Mujib. Yahya further stated that because the charge carried the possibility of a death sentence, it was his plan that if such the verdict be, a request for mercy would be made in the Sheikh’s behalf, and he, Yahya, would accept the petition.
The Pakistani officer stood in one of the small villages of East Pakistan. And told the hungry public gathered around him “My men are wounded and I want some blood, I want volunteers.” Before waiting for a reply, the soldiers rushed forward, selected some young men, threw them on the ground and pricked their arteries. Blood began to flow and continued flowing until the young men died.
A meeting in Calcutta with a representative of the “Bangla Desh” Cabinet and a political officer from US consulate:
–”Any” agreement between Mujib and Yahya will be acceptable if arranged through `proper channels’ i.e. US participation in the arrangements, since “Mujib’s life is more important than independence”.
–Bangla Desh “Foreign Minister” (Kh. Mustaque) Ahmed would like to head a delegation to the US to discuss their problems with US officials, although they understand they could not be received “officially.”
–There is a split within the Bangla Desh movement between the “rightists” who are in control but want to save themselves and Mujib through a compromise settlement and “leftwing elements” who will quickly take over if Mujib dies.”
“Qaiyum said early August BD Cabinet meetings with GOI officials in New Delhi were mainly concerned with Mukti Bahini (MB) problems. GOI has now agreed MB may purchase arms from abroad and bring them into India. Only foreign arms received to date (other than those taken from Indian army inventory) was consignment of Yugoslav weapons channeled to MB through GOI. GOI also agreed greatly to step up MB training. In addition to training now given at youth camps and MB centers, Indian army agreed provide additional training for 14,000 men from the western zone and 10,000 from the eastern side of East Bengal each month. From 24,000 total, 5,000 recruits monthly will be selected for additional 4 weeks advanced training. Qaiyum said recently India has increased supply of arms for MB. GOI also now manufacturing ammunition for Chinese weapons taken from East Pakistan.
Qaiyum said that he and majority of his colleagues are anticommunists and “rightists.” They want ‘to save themselves,’ and only way they can envisage doing this is to work out compromise in near future.”
‘I asked Yahya if he saw any major obstacle to a select group of GOP members,
unpublicized and on neutral ground in a foreign country with a few of the key
people for whom Qaiyum indicated he spoke…. Yahya replied he would favour
such a development wholeheartedly, asking that in case such a contingency
developed, I keep closely in touch with him on this matter generally.
“General mood in Karachi is essentially one of xenophobic defiant support of government and its policies as necessary to preserve integrity of Pakistan. Dominant political figure, Z.A. Bhutto, while not basing complaints on regional bias, has made it quite clear that he believes that military is arbitrarily retaining power, dragging its feet in turning over power to elected representatives of people, and in general mismanaging country. Press has almost uniformly endorsed all policies of MLA whether support given in order to remain in print or out of true conviction.
MLA, as well as President, continue to hold considerable public support. Their position has been helped by relative prosperity of this area. To most people, MLA is still considered saviour and preserver of national unity and any criticisms or complaints levelled tend to be directed against “civilian bureaucrats”. On practical level, few see any workable alternative to military rule.
After India, Sheikh Mujib Rahman and his Awami League rank second in order of disapproval. To most the Sheikh is treacherous collaborator of India. To more generous, he willing dupe to wiles and anti-state plots of Indians and anti-state miscreants. Clearance of former Awami Leaguers MNA’s is acknowledged by most as not overly pleasant necessity and sign of magnanimity by MLA. Jamaat-i-Islam leaders have openly criticized MLA for recognizing traitors.
Small Bengali community in Karachi is generally silent. In security of discussions with foreigners, they express their resentment over government’s decision of putting the sole blame for the problems of day on Bengalis while ignoring the irresponsible action of Bhutto.”
“We will welcome continuing analysis and comments : ( a ) possibilities for negotiation between BD reps and GOP, (b) dynamics of possibly troublesome division within BD movement (including Mukti Bahini) over Quote independence vs accommodation UNQUOTE……”
At meeting with Qaiyum August 27 he showed us note from Bangladesh Fonmin urging Qaiyum to expedite his efforts. According Qaiyum, (US) Congen is ‘only pipeline’ for BD negotiation effort.
Qaiyum said Mukti Bahini guerrilla activity will be greatly stepped up during next month. He said very large number (15,000, he claimed) guerrillas sent into East Bengal August 10-15. The GOP announcement ‘clearing’ 88 MNA’s has caused difficulty for those cleared, who now vulnerable to charge of collaborating. Many of ‘cleared’ MNA’s are making effort to show loyalty to Awami League by making special trip to Calcutta from East Bengal to pledge allegiance, by joining Mukti Bahini.
He said special efforts were being made to disrupt maritime traffic to and from East Bengal, and added that effort would be made to destroy Pakistan ship ‘Padma’ currently enroute to Karachi from US carrying consignment of military equipment.”
Although the NAP (R) had disagreed with the Foreign Trade position in Mujib’s Six Points, surely acceptance of those six points, or whatever, would have been better than the situation that has resulted in East Pakistan.
“The general atmosphere in East Pakistan is one of sustained anxiety, uncertainty and in some cases real fear. Perhaps the most disturbing element in the East Pakistan situation is the public’s total lack of confidence in the future. Personal security and general well being are nonexistent for most people whether they support the idea of a united Pakistan or Bangla Desh. Without reason, citizens are killed, maimed and/or deprived of family and possessions.
The Mukti Bahini seeks refuge and food from the sympathetic local Bengalis, but their lives are endangered should the local Peace Committee and/or Army collaborators learn of their support.”
(i) The present struggle of the people of Bangla Desh is the culmination of their struggle for democracy and autonomy which they were conducting since 1948 against the reactionary ruling classes which had ruthlessly suppressed democracy and national rights of the various nationalities.
(ii) The people of Bangla Desh and their leaders had never wanted the secession of East Pakistan. But they had always tried to establish their democratic and national rights through democratic struggles and through the election held in 1970. Even after a sweeping victory in the election and securing an absolute majority in the National Assembly, the Awami League and its Chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had wanted nothing more than a constitution based on the six-point programme. Sheikh Mujib had also repeatedly tried to come to a political settlement with the ruling military junta.
(iii) But it was the ruling military junta, which had earlier held the election but had ultimately refused to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people, that launched a treacherous armed attack against the people. In fact, the military junta had no intention of transferring power. The Yahya-Mujib talks, etc., were nothing but ruse by the junta to gain time for preparation of the armed attack.
It was only after this armed attack by the ruling military junta that the popular struggle for democracy and autonomy had turned into an armed battle for the liberation of our motherland.
(iv) This liberation battle is fundamentally a battle for the just right of self-determination of the 75-million Bengalis waged against the reactionary ruling classes composed of the monopolists and feudalists who are backed and armed by the imperialists, especially the U.S. imperialists.
(v) In no case it is a struggle against the people of West Pakistan. Rather this liberation struggle of Bangla Desh against the reactionary ruling classes which are also suppressing and oppressing the people of West Pakistan will help their struggle for democracy and autonomy.
(vi) The liberation struggle is being carried on by the Mukti Fouz (Liberation Army) and the people of Bangla Desh. Therefore, the propaganda by the ruling military junta of Pakistan that it is an ” India-inspired struggle “, ” by Indian armed intruders ” and that ” India is interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan “, etc., is nothing but a canard. Similarly, the propaganda by some pro-Peking groups that this liberation struggle is inspired by the imperialists is a dire falsehood.
Judging all the above facts, all democrats of the world should be fully convinced that the present struggle for the liberation of our motherland is a just struggle against native and foreign reactionaries who are enemies of humanity and peace. The defeat of these reactionaries in Bangla Desh will strengthen the forces of democracy and peace in the South-east Asia region.”
“Foreign Secretary Kaul referred me to the reports of Frank Moraes in the Indian Express as well as to those of British and American journalists regarding the organization and training of the liberation forces inside East Pakistan. Kaul said the refugees were in no state to fight. They were hungry, sick and at times almost naked.”
“In the last ten days we have received through clandestine reports and journalists’ accounts increasing evidence of Indian involvement with the Bengali separatists and of India’s own contingency planning in the event of war. The Indian Government has reinforced Border Security Force units and has moved regular Indian Army units to within three kilometers of the border. The BSF has established camps at which 2,000 Bengalis are reportedly receiving training in guerilla and sabotage tactics. Limited quantities of arms and ammunition have been provided to the Bengali separatists and some Indian forces have infiltrated into East Bengal to provide assistance and training to the separatists.”
Nixon declared to a Pakistani delegation that “Yahya is a good friend.” Rather than express concern over the ongoing brutal military repression, Nixon explained that he “understands the anguish of the decisions which [Yahya] had to make.” He said that the US is not going to become involved.
May 13: The Indian Government requested that the United States make available four C-130 transport aircraft and the crews to fly them to help ferry refugees from East Pakistan from the over-burdened state of Tripura to Assam (Telegram 7325 from New Delhi)
“Until the 12th May, 1971, the number of fugitives who were registered on their crossing the border into India was 2,328,507. We believe that there is a fair number who have avoided registration. Refugees still continue to pour in at the rate of about fifty thousand a day. We are doing our utmost to look after them. But there is a limit to our capacity and resources. Apparently, Pakistan is trying to solve its internal problems by cutting down the size of its population in East Bengal and changing its communal composition through an organised and selective programme of eviction; but it is India that has to take the brunt of this.
It is our earnest hope that the Government of the United States of America will impress upon the rulers of Pakistan that they owe a duty towards their own citizens whom they have treated so callously and forced to seek refuge in a foreign country.”
May 14: The Embassy in Islamabad warned that Pakistan would react unfavorably to a United States decision to participate in an airlift of East Pakistani refugees.
(The Department of State announced on June 12 that the United States would participate in the airlift. The airlift exercise, which was code-named Bonny Jack, was terminated on July 14. source)
May 17:Memorandum to Henry A. Kissinger about halting military assistance to Pakistan. Kissinger responded with a handwritten comment in the margin that reads: “Al-See me. The end result of this will be to terminate the relationship.”
May 23: President Yahya said that he tended to disagree with GOI’s current estimate that there were now over two and one-half million East Pakistani refugees in India, but that the GOP was aware of the fact that a substantial number of people had crossed the border and that the problem was both real and substantial.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi, premier of India, with her popularity again elected as Prime Minister in March, 1971
“It is mischievous to suggest that India has had anything to do with what happened in Bangla Desh. This is an insult to the aspirations and spontaneous sacrifices of the people of Bangla Desh, and a calculated attempt by the rulers of Pakistan to make India a scapegoat for their own misdeeds. It is also a crude attempt to deceive the world community. The world press has seen through Pakistan’s deception. The majority of these so-called Indian infiltrators are women, children and the aged.
We are proud of our tradition of tolerance. Our nation, our people are dedicated to peace and are not given to talking in terms of war or threat of war.
We are convinced that there can be no military solution to the problem of East Bengal. A political solution must be brought about by those who have the power to do so.”
“The secessionist elements in East Pakistan were encouraged and assisted by India. The Indian Parliament, in an unprecedented move, officially extended sympathy and support to these elements. The question of “recognising” the rebellious movement has also been under consideration of the Indian Government. Infiltrators and saboteurs from across the border have violated our territory and indulged in activities to dislocate and destroy East Pakistan’s economic and industrial life, including the vital communications system.
It is most unfortunate that due to disturbed conditions and for other reasons, a large number of people left their homes in East Pakistan and crossed into India. I have, therefore, in a public statement urged the law abiding citizens of East Pakistan who were compelled to migrate, to return to their homes and resume their normal duties. I am afraid, however, that I cannot extend a welcome to those persons who committed murders, indulged in rape and arson, destroyed private and public properties and looted Government treasuries and food stores. No Government can condone such crimes against the people and the State.”
The following decisions were made:
a. Defer recognition of Bangla Dash for the immediate future.
b. Maintain constant military readiness.
c. Take every diplomatic step to force the major powers to take action to force the GOP to atop the refugee flow and to repatriate those who have crossed into India, including hints that Mia might bke unilateral military action.
d. Seek financial aid from all sources to temporarily support the refugees.
They also decided to release off-the-record press comments that India is reaching the point where some sort of action, possibly military, was possible if there is not immediate relief for the refugee problem.”
Nixon: But we don’t say anything against Yahya?
Kissinger: No, no. You just say you hope the refugees will soon be able to go back to East Pakistan. He will then reply to you that’s exactly what he wants.
I’ve got it all arranged with the—
Nixon: Good. Go ahead.
Kissinger: —Embassy. Then you can take credit. You can tell the Indians to pipe down—
Kissinger: And we’ll keep Yahya happy.
Nixon: The Indians need—what they need really is a—
Kissinger: They’re such bastards.
Nixon: A mass famine. But they aren’t going to get that. We’re going to feed them—a new kind of wheat. But if they’re not going to have a famine the last thing they need is another war. Let the goddamn Indians fight a war [unclear].
The total picture of what has been happening in East Bengal is clear to us without any shadow of doubt. There are scores of survivors of firing-squad line-ups. Hundreds of witnesses to the machine-gunning of political leaders, prefessors, doctors, teachers and students. Villages have been surrounded, at any time of day or night, and the frightened villagers have fled where they could, or been slaughtered where they have been found. or enticed out to the fields and mown down in heaps. Women have been raped, girls carried off to barracks, unarmed peasants battered or bayoneted by the thousands.
The pattern, after seven weeks, is still the same. Even the least credible stories, of babies thrown up to be caught on bayonets, of women stripped and bayoneted vertically, or of children sliced up like meat, are credible not only because they are told by so many people, but because they are told by people without sufficient sophistication to make up such stories for political motives. We saw the amputation of a mother’s arm and a child’s foot. These were too far from the border, and gangrene developed from their bullet-wounds. Many saw their daughters raped and the heads of their children smashed in. Some watched their husbands, sons, and grandsons tied up at the wrists and shot in more selective male elimination.
About 400 were killed at Chaudanga while on their way to India, surrounded and massacred. Why? Lest they take tales to India? Or because choosing a certain democratic system under Sheikh Mujib means forfeiting the right to live in any country?”
Mujib’s demands were much as President Yahya had spelled out in his address to the nation, except that Yahya had not detailed Mujib’s views on an interim central government. Mujib had wanted Yahya to remain as President with no political government at the Center. Mujib was not “particularly concerned” about the Six Points and was willing to accept an interim arrangement based on the 1962 Constitution. However, he envisaged that the President would allow the Awami League to exercise full control over the affairs of East Pakistan, while the President would perform a coordinating role for inter-provincial affairs of the West Wing. On the “two-Assembly” proposal, Daultana said Mujib had been rather vague as to whether he really envisaged two separate assemblies or two subcommittees of the National Assembly.
Mujib replied, and Daultana accepted his response as sincere, that while he was under great pressure to declare an independent Bangla Desh, he wanted to maintain Pakistan. Mujib was convinced the West Pakistan establishment as represented by Yahya and Bhutto would never permit Bengalis to rule Pakistan.
“From the evidence available one must conclude that the aim was so to wipeout the Awami League leadership that it could no longer provide an effective leadership for any resistance movement.”
April 6: Archer Blood, the US Consul General, officers of USAID and USIS sents the famous blood telegram to the Department of State condemning the failure of the US to denounce the suppression of democracy and the widespread attrocities.
“Two weeks after Yahya sent army into action, Pak military has control major cities in east, but Bengalis still hold major areas, especially in countryside. Bengali grievances now etched in blood. For present, Awami Leaguers leading resistance forces. If AL movement crumbles before it able consolidate position on ground, resistance movement likely to pass to more radical and left extremist groups such as Naxalites.
Bhutto is eager for power and he may be prepared make deal with military to play key, if not leading role, in new central government.”
“It is, in our opinion, a minor miracle that no American was killed or injured by trigger-happy Pak troops fresh from killing and looting during the delay caused by our accetance of Govt. of Pakistan arrangements.”
April 11: Radio adress by Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister, on behalf of the
Government of Bangla Desh headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, broadcast by Swadhin
Bangla Desh Betar Kendra to the people of Bangladesh.
“Today a mighty army is being formed around the nucleus of professional soldiers, from the Bengal Regiment and E.P.R. who have rallied to the cause of the liberation struggle. These have been joined by the Police, Ansars and Mujahids and now by thousands of Awami League and other volunteers and are being trained into a fighting force ready to use the captured weapons from the defeated West Pakistani mercenaries and fresh arms being purchased from funds collected by our Bengali Brothers overseas.
In Chittagong and Noakhali we have commissioned Major Zia Rahman of the Bengal Regiment to take full command of operations. His heroic defence of Chittagong City against overwhelming odds, which included attacks from the air and sea, will take its place with the defence of Stalingrad in the annals of warfare.”
April 13: “Chinese government holds that what is happening in Pakistan at present is purely internal affair of Pakistan, which can only be settled by Pakistan people themselves and which brooks no foreign interference whatsoever.” –Chou En Lai
“Nobody can tell precisely what Yahya’s strategists whispered in his ear three weeks ago. They appear to have thought that cutting off the head would kill Bengali nationalism: precisely the reverse. They appear to have forgotten about world opinion. They appear, most insanely of all, to have ruled India out of the military calculations, so that the uncontrolled border and aid seeping in has them as much by the throat as proliferatin- diplomatic complications.”
“If blood is the price of a people’s right to independence, Bangla Desh has overpaid. The Bengalis’ case for statehood may be hard to refute, but it is inconvenient to every one else. And yet, by an unusual combination of circumstances, Bangla Desh has managed to obey all the rules. So, this may be the moment to consider what we, and other countries, mean by those splendid words which recur like a chorus in the United Nations charter: `the right to self-determination of peoples’. Objectively or subjectively, in Chinese or English, in capitalist or socialist jargon, it is hard to fault the East Bengalis, or justify their abandonment by all the major powers.”
The First Bangladesh Government is Formed in exile. Awami League leaders convene in the district of Meherpur near the Indian border in Jessore, in the village of Baidyanathtala later renamed Mujibnagar, and affirm Sheikh Mujib’s March 26 proclamation for an independent Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is declared the President of the newly formed Republic, and Syed Nazrul Islam the Vice-President. Nazrul Islam assumes the reponsibilities of the Interim President, and appoints Tajuddin Ahmed as the Prime Minsiter to lead the provisional government.
Kissinger: “I agree I used to think that 30,000 men couldn’t possibly subdue 75 million, which I suppose is the Western way of looking at it. But if the 75 million don’t organize and don’t fight, the situation is different.”
April 20:Press Statement issued by Professor Muzaffar Ahamed, President of National Awami Party (NAP), Bangla Desh concerning full support to Bangla Desh Government:
“We declare in unequivocal terms that the government headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the only legally constituted government of Bangla Desh. And urge upon all the democratic and progressive nations of the world ‘to recognise the newly-born state and its government and to render all material help and moral support.”
“I appeal to you. Mr. Secretary-General (UN), in the name of humanity to issue an immediate appeal to stop these brutal massacres of innocent people and to extend all possible help for the relief of the victims of dictator General Yahya Khan against military rule in Bangla Desh. I would welcome sending your observers inside Bangla Desh to see the nature and volume of looting, arson, mass killings and molestation of women by West Pakistani Army so that they can reveal the true picture of the sordid tale of Bangla Desh to the people of the world through the United Nations.”
“The question is whether the people of the world and nation of the world will support the struggle of the 71 crore people of Bengal for independence or support the abominable conspiracy of the dictatorial exploiting ruling clique which is indulging in mass murder.
Yahya, who is a Muslim himself, in the name of religion is mercilessly killing lakhs of Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists. His soldiers who say that they are Muslims are raping women, including Muslim women. Though Muslims themselves, they are destroying mosques. They kill Muslims who are offering prayers. What will the Muslim world do about this ? Will they support the un-Islamic antihumanity abominable policy of Yahya ? Or will they support the cause of truth, justice and love as preached by Islam ?”
April 27: Maulana Abdul Mannan, General Secretary of Muslim League issued a statement saying that “patriotic” (by which he meant Islamic minded) people imbued with the zeal of crusading (Jihad) had come forward to welcome the (maurauding) army of West Pakistan.
April 28: Tajuddin pleas for arms aid and thus help a new-born country to free itself from the clutches of a murderous army. (The Times of India- New Delhi-April 29, 1971)
The Pakistani army was poised to “retake” physical control of the major towns and that the ressistance was too poorly organised. He also said that the West Pakistanis were afraid that their economy would crash without emergency foreign aid. Till this day the country survives on foreign aid, like Bangladesh. Kissinger feared that Yahya might be forced to let East Pakistan (Bangladesh) go if this news leaked out.
Kissinger recommended Give serious assistance to Yahya Khan to end the war and bring about an arrangement which would be transitional to autonomy in Bangladesh. He suggested sending aid to Pakistan so that later the US would be in a position to pressurize Pakistan into adhering to the arangement.
The feedback from Nixon was an instruction not to squeeze Yahya Khan at the moment.
According to the Indians, there are now over 500,000 East Pakistani refugees and they expect their numbers could eventually total one to two million. The magnitude of this problem-coming suddenly as it does-is beyond India’s limited resources.
It is recommended that you approve this $2.5 million modest program of assistance to East Pakistani refugees to be administered through appropriate international and voluntary agencies.*
* President Nixon initialed his approval of the recommendation on April 29. The Embassy in India was informed of the President’s decision in telegram 75479 to New Delhi, May 1.”
March 01: People tuned their radios and turned their TVs on because President Agha Yahiya Khan was supposed to address the nation. However, someone else read out a statement that President Yahya Khan has announced the postponement until “a later date” of the National Assembly. He termed it Pakistan’s “gravest political crisis.” Hundreds of thousands of enraged people took the streets.
Mujib reacts and calls for emancipation of Bengalees. Mujib held a press conference and said that this was not democracy but dictatorship and as a sign of revolt the people would observe a general strike on 2nd March in Dhaka and the whole country on the 3rd. He also said further announcements would be held on March 7th.
Mr. Shirajul Alam Khan (the man with the idea), ASM Rab and Shajahan Shiraj of Chhatra (Student) League believed that only an armed revolution to create an independent socialist Bangladesh was the way. They demanded the independence of Bangladesh right away.
For the first time in Bengali history, slogans demanding independence for Bangladesh were heard: “Bir Bangali ostro dhoro Bangladesh shwadhin koro (Courageous Bengalis, take up arms and free Bangladesh)”.
Governor East Pakistan Admiral S.M.Ahsan, who refuses to open fire on the Bengalis if they go on strike, is replaced by General Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan.
“In response to a request from the Government of Pakistan, a decision was reached in Washington on March 1 to divert to West Pakistan 150,000 tons of wheat intended for disaster relief in East Pakistan. The request was triggered by grain shortages and rising prices in West Pakistan.” –WSAG minutes
March 2: Curfew was clamped in Dhaka from 8 am to 7 pm. However, the indomitable Bangalees took to the streets. Many were gunned down by the Pakistani troops.
Defiant students (Central Students Action Committee) at Dhaka University led by A. S. M Abdur Rab (VP of the student government), Shajahan Siraj (GS of student govt), Nur-e-Alam Siddiqui, and Abdul Kuddus Makhan held a massive rally. Here for the first time the Independent Bangla Flag (currently Bangladesh flag is the same just without the golden map of Bangladesh inside the red circle) was raised by Rab at the historic Battala at the University of Dhaka.
March 3: Rab and Siraj read out the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh at a public rally in the presence of Sheikh Mujib fearing that since Mujib was in negotiations with Yahiya the revolutionary spirit was on the wane. But Mujib called for a non-violent non-cooperation movement instead of revolution. This day which was to have been the day for the sitting of the National Assembly was observed as a day of national mourning. Mujib demands in a meeting “Withdraw forces, transfer power“.
Curfew imposed in Sylhet, Rangpur, Chittagong, and Khulna. Angry mob burned the Pakistani flag angered by the decision to postpone the Assembly session.
Yahya Khan continues to posture for negotiations while non-bengali regiments of soldiers are surreptitiously flown into Dhaka from West Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman rejected the invitation of President Yahya Khan to attend the proposed meeting of the leaders of all the parliamentary groups in the national assembly on March 10.
“Mujib has admitted to several foreign correspondents “off the record” that he will announce the equivalent to independence for East Pakistan on Sunday (March 7). He did, however, go on to say that the East and West wings should write their respective constitutions and thereafter discussions over the form of linkage could take place.
At least one Pakistani air force C-130 has been seen flying into Dacca and there are recurrent reports of forces being flown into Dacca via the Pakistani commercial airline and of the movement of troops from the West via ship….It is known that there is pressure from some elements in the military to make a quick repressive strike against the East Pakistani leaders in hopes of cowing them and the rest of the province.”
General Khan resigns protesting Yahya’s refusal to visit East Pakistan; General Tikka Khan takes over as Governor East Pakistan.
Another reason for our not taking the lead is that West Pakistan is very suspicious that we are supporting a separate East Pakistan state. If we tell Yahya to call off the use of force, it will merely fuel this suspicion.
“It is only too clear to the people of the country and indeed the world that it is a minority group of Western Wing which has obstructed and is continuing to obstruct the transfer of power”.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced his decision to participate in the National Assembly session provided his four-point demand was accepted before the session. This negligence, he said, towards the leaders of the majority party was in fact a dishonour shown to the seven crore people of Bangla Desh.
“Mujib announced 4 preconditions for participating in the Assembly session. 1. Withdrawal of the martial law 2. Return of the troops back to their barracks. 3. Power handed back to the elected people’s representatives. 4. Proper investigation into the killings of unarmed civilians.
Finally, raising his fist Bangabandhu cried out at the top of his voice : “OUR STRUGGLE THIS TIME IS A STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM, OUR STRUGGLE THIS TIME IS A STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE. JOY BANGLA.”
He asked that every house become a fort and attack the enemy wherever they can.
March 8: “People’s rule” by Bangabandhu, became the order of the day. The Bangalis were supremely disciplined and dedicated in this matter. Every man, woman and child scrupulously following the dictates of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Mujib asked for black flags to be raised on roof-tops for a week. He again asked for total shutdown and that no money be transmitted from the East to the West for an indefinite period.
In the evening Tajuddin Ahmad issued several clarifications and exemptions to mitigate public hardship and to prevent damage to the East Bangla economy.
March 9: Maulana Bhasani held a mammoth rally at Paltan Maydan extending his support to Mujib. 2 Bhasani asked Yahiya Khan to acknowledge the independence of Bangladesh.
Tikka Khan had arrived in Dhaka a few days after the non-cooperation movement had started, to take up the dual role of Governor and Martial Law Administrator for the Eastern part. But he had not yet sworn it. Finally he decided to be formally sworn in as Governor and summoned the chief justice of East Bangla for the purpose of administering the oath. Justice Siddique very politely declined. So did the other judges of the Dhaka High Court. This proved that Bangabandhu’s directives were being obeyed even at that top level.
Leftist forces of Bangla in exile formed the Bangladesh Jatiyo Mukti Songram Somonnoy Committee (Bangladesh National Freedom Struggle Organizing Committee) with Bhasani as the leader at Beleghata, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India.
The Bangladesh government in exile also formed the All Party Advisory Committee under Bhasani’s leadership. The others were Moni Singh (Founder of the Communist Party of Bangladesh) and Muzaffar Ahmed (NAP), Monoranjan Dhar, Tajuddin Ahmed and Khondokar Mushtaq Ahmed.
March 10: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman sent a telegram to the UN Secretary General informing him that the human rights of the Bangalees (Bengalis) were being trampled. He asked for UN Secretary General’s help in stopping the flow of arms and ammunition from the west that were being used to kill the Bangalee civilians. Japanese, German and UN workers were withdrawn to their respective countries.
It is difficult to be completely objective in Dhaka in March when, out of discretion rather than valor, our cars and residences sport balck flags and we echo smiling greetings of ‘Joy Bangla’ as we move about the streets. Daily we lend our ears to the outpouring of the Bengali dream, a touching admixture of bravado, wishful thinking, idealism, animal cunning, anger and patriotic fervor. We hear on Radio Dacca and see on Dacca TV the impressive blossoming of Bengali nationalism and we watch the pitiful attempts of students and workers to play at soldiering.
March 12: Air Marshall Asgar Khan at Lahore said that if Bangladesh gains independence then, West Pakistan wont survive 5 years.
March 10-13: Pakistan International Airlines canceling most of it’s international services, concentrated all available aircraft of ferrying “Government Passengers” to Dhaka. But those were the troops in civilian dress.
Yahia gives explicit warning that force would be used against any move for separation.
Asked by a foreign journalist if he planned to go for a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), Mujib sounded ambiguous: “Independence? No, not yet.” At around the same time, when another foreign newsman questioned Mujib’s challenging of the authority of the Pakistan government in the province, the Awami League chief snapped: “What do mean by government? I am the government.”
Mian Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Daultana, Chief of the Council Muslim League said that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s demands were quite reasonable and should be accepted to end the present political crisis in Pakistan. (The Dawn, Karachi March 14, 1971)
Syed Siddiqul Hasan Gilani, Chief of the Parliamentary Affairs of the Jamaati Islami, said that the responsibility for the present crisis lay with Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, the People’s Party Chief, who had aggravated the situation by threatening to boycott the National Assembly session on March 3. (The Dawn, Karachi March 14, 1971)
“In spite of the disastrous gravity of the situation in East Pakistan, of the tremendous heat and pressure generated there and the scope thus given to disruptive forces, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has shown his stature and his firm commitment to the solidarity of Pakistan, by putting in the present crisis four demands that are not in the least parochial or regional, but exclusively based on a national approach.”
Mr. Zulfikar All Bhutto, Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party addressing a public meeting in Nishtar Park said there were two Wings of the country. The People’s Party was in majority in this Wing and the Awami League in East Pakistan. If power was to be transferred to the majority parties of the two Wings, it should be given to the Awami League in East Pakistan and to People’s Party in West Wing.
March 15: Mujib claims he has taken over administration of East Pakistan except for the cities of Dhaka, comilla and Jessore – Central Intelligence Bulletin
On the one hand, Mr. Bhutto has opposed the “grouping” of provinces in West Wing and on the other is suggesting the transfer of power to the “majority party in West Pakistan”. “Politically there is no West Pakistan. There are four provinces in this Wing of the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is at present “holding the Country together.” Because, if East Pakistan goes, West Pakistan will also disintegrate.
Professor Ghulam Azam, Amir of the Jama’at-i-Islami said that it had been crystal clear from the statement of Mr. Bhutto that he did not want to see Pakistan United. The Jama’at leader alleged that Mr. Bhutto had engaged himself in ” a conspiracy” immediately after the last general elections to divide the nation to fulfill his desire. He made an appeal to the President “not to help Mr. Bhutto in any way to break Pakistan”.
Prof. Azam said that immediate lifting of Martial Law and transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people could only save the nation from crisis.
March 18: Second day of “negotiations”. Mujib declines to accept probe body set up by the Martial Law Administrator Zone B “to go into the circumstances which led to the calling of the Army in aid of civil power in various parts of East Pakistan between March 2 and March 9″.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Mujib has sent Capt. Mansur Ali, leader of the Parliamentary party in the East Pakistan Assembly. Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, Vice-President, East Pakistan Awami League and Mr. Abidur Reza Khan, MNA-elect to Chittagong to make an on the spot inquiry into the recent firings and other incidents there.
No sacrifice would be considered enough to emancipate the people of “Bangla Desh”. Bangla Desh cannot be suppressed by force. If necessary we shall give the last drop of our blood to see that our posterity lived happily as a free citizen in a free country.
March 20: Mujib and Yahiya talked for 2 hours, this time with their advisors.
March 21: Mujib and Yahiya talked again as thousands agitated in the streets of Bangladesh. Pakistan People’s Party chief Z. A. Bhutto came to Dhaka for “talks” with Mujib. With Bangabandhu finally consenting to Bhutto’s joining the talks, Yahya Khan had him come over to Dhaka. Angry crowds of Bengalis dogged Bhutto and his team all the way to the Sheraton.
March 22: The concept of a united Pakistan had dwindled, owing to the stiff position adopted by the Awami League, to the issue of a confederal arrangement for the two wings of the country. After talks, Yahiya again postponed the session of the National Assembly.
In the message given on the occasion of bringing out of special supplements captioned, “Emancipation of Bangla Desh” by most dailies, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman described the present movement as the struggle for total emancipation of seven crores (70 million) Bengalees. This struggle will continue until the final goal is achieved, he said and added, the people of Bangla Desh could no more be silenced by bullets, guns, and bayonets because they are united today (THE DAWN, Karachi-March 23, 1971).
Bhutto said in a press conference he had a “satisfactory meeting” with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and hoped to meet him again. Bhutto said they were examining the broad agreement reached between the President and Awami League Chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and assured that his party would make every effort to reach an understanding to end the present crisis.
March 23: Mujib declared 23rd March as a holiday. At his residence in Dhanmondi, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman raised the Bangladesh flag, to the cheers of the crowd gathered on the road outside his gate. It was the Bangladesh flag that was displayed on his car as it wound its way through the streets and into the President’s House for a fresh round of negotiations with President Yahya Khan. The Awami League submitted a draft of what was considered its final proposals regarding a transfer of power to the Yahya Khan team on the day. General Peerzada promised to get back to the AL the next day.
“Whatever conspiracy you indulge in you will not succeed in suppressing the demands of the people. We would not bow our heads to any force. We will free the people of Bangla Desh”.
Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed, General Secretary of East Pakistan Awami League, urged the people to be vigilant and to be ready to make any sacrifice to defeat the conspiracies of anti-people forces.
Rumors abounded that Yahiya would hand over power on the 25th. Bhutto and his heavy bodyguard stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel (Sheraton Hotel).
Major Ziaur Rahman and M. R. Choudhury asked Major Rafiq to abandon his (Rafiq’s) plans of pre-emptive attack on the Pakistanis to disarm them before they got a chance to attack. Zia and Choudhury said that the Pakistanis would not do anything and Rafiq’s ill-conceived plans would result in all of their deaths.
The staff and employees of the Hotel Intercontinental ceremoniously hoisted a regular sized ‘Joy Bangla flag’ replacing the smaller one at the main mast. The new flag measuring 100 x 60 inches was unfurled in the presence of a large number of people including foreign journalists.
Rumors flew around of imminent military action against the Awami League, indeed against the population.
Mr. Z. A. Bhutto’s Press conference in Dacca on March 25, 1971: Mr. Bhutto said that the quantum of autonomy sought by the Awami League was something which could be termed as “more than autonomy “. It was bordering on sovereignty.
Yahiya and his generals secretly fled Dhaka by 6 pm. Three battalions took up position in Dhaka as per previous plans.
Around 11 PM the army pounced on sleeping citizens of Dhaka to execute operation searchlight. The goal was to “crush” Bengali resistance in which Bengali members of military services were disarmed and killed, students and the intelligentsia systematically liquidated and able-bodied Bengali males just picked up and gunned down. By midnight, Dhaka was literally burning, especially the Hindu dominated eastern part of the city. Although the violence focused on the provincial capital, Dhaka, the process of ethnic elimination was also carried out all around Bangladesh. Hindu areas all over Bangladesh suffered particularly heavy blows.
Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population.
Thus began the worst genocide in history… a genocide that many would like to forget and many would like that the new generation does not hear about. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly, from 5,000–35,000 in Dhaka, and 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole.
The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May.
These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in the same year.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistani Army late at night. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto watched from the window of his suite at the Sheraton and saw the offices of The People newspaper blazing.
March 26: The violence unleashed by the Pakistani forces on March 25, 1971, proved the last straw to the efforts to negotiate a settlement. Following these outrages, a declaration from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was distributed widely:
Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night, West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between E.P.R. and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pakistan on the other are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May Allah aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla. (source)
A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s declaration reached some students in Chittagong in 26th of March early hours.
Soon after the Pakistan army took over Dacca Betar Kendro in the early hours of March 26, 1971. The Pakistanis renamed the radio station as “Radio Pakistan Dacca” and used it to announce martial law orders. On the evening of that same day, a small radio station started broadcasting defiantly in the face of the Pakistan military’s bloody onslaught on the Bengalis. The clandestine radio station, located in Kalurghat north of the city of Chittagong called itself Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro -SBBK (Free Bengal Radio Station).
The first persons to broadcast that “Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has declared the 75 million people of East Pakistan as citizens of the sovereign independent Bangla Desh.” in the evening on March 26, 1971 from Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendro in English were Ashikul Islam, a WAPDA engineer, and in Bengali, Abul Kashem Sandwipi. Later in the evening M. A. Hannan also broadcast the declaration from the telegram in a speech. (Bangladesh Observer, April 23, 1972)
March 26, 1971 is considered the official Independence Day of Bangladesh.
As evening descended on March 26, Bhutto arrived back in Karachi, to tell waiting newsmen: “Thank God, Pakistan has been saved.” In the evening, General Yahya Khan addressed Pakistanis to announce an outlawing of the Awami League and a determination to punish Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for his “act of treason” in challenging the authority of the government of Pakistan.
“The West Pakistani army has moved to repress the East Pakistan secession movement. Our embassy believes that the military probably has sufficient strength to assert immediate control over Dacca and other major cities, but is not capable of maintaining control over an extended period.”
“After reviewing the situation in East Pakistan, the WSAG agreed that the U.S. should continue its policy of non-involvement in the dispute between West and East Pakistan. In particular, the U.S. should avoid being placed in a position where it could be accused of having encouraged the break-up of Pakistan. The WSAG agreed that the U.S. should delay action on any request that might be forthcoming for recognition of an independent East Pakistani regime.”
Excerpt from the Book – Shadhin Bangla Betar kendra, by Belal Mohammed. Published in 1983, Fuldol Publications.
March 27: The Kalurghat Bridge area was controlled by an East Bengal Regiment under Major Ziaur Rahman who revolted against the Pakistani army. Bengali soldiers were requested to guard the station. On request of Belal Mohammed of the Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast announcement of the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur:
I, Major Ziaur Rahman, on behalf of our great national leader Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, do hereby declare the Independence of Bangladesh.
Major Ziaur Rahman brodcasted the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which was a moral boosting impact to the nation that an army major is on the side of Sheikh Mujib. He was quoted in international media as the provisional Commander-in-Chief of the Liberation Army.
Shaheed Minar (Monument to commemorate the martyrs of the Language Movement) was blown up by the army with demolition charges.
Archer Blood, the American Consular General sent a telegram to different American consulate offices and embassies around the world expressing extreme horror at the systematic killing.
1. Here in Decca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak[istani] Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down.
2. Moreover, with the support of the Pak[istani] Military. non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus.
“We are interested in this matter for many reasons, firstly as one Member has said, that Shri Mujibur Rahman has stood for the values which we ourselves cherish the values of democracy, the values of secularism and the values of socialism. We are also concerned with the truly wonderful and unique way in which the people there had stood behind him and behind these values. We are no less full of sorrow and grave concern and even agony at what is happening there but I can only appeal to the Hon. Members that this is not a moment when the Government can say anything more and whatever the Government may or may not be able to do it would not be wise if this becomes a matter for public debate.”
March 28:Memorandum From Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger).
a. Tolerate privately provided cross-border assistance to the East Bengalis ; This assistance could range from propaganda support to weapons and explosives.
b. Permit East Bengal dissidents to use India as a refuge and to conduct crossborder activities from within India.
c. Covertly provide supplies, including weapons, and perhaps some training, to East Bengal dissidents.
American priests in old Dacca reports that army acted with no provocations on part of Bengalis except barricade erection. Army exclusively responsible for all fires. Technique was to set houses afire and then gun down people as they left their homes. Stated army looking for Awami Leaguers but more indiscriminate rather than selective in approach. Most army destructions on 25th and 26th night, lesser on March 27th and March 28th.
We have received reliable reports of troops engaged in looting homes. Military reportedly is standing by while non-Bengalis looting Bengali dwellings.
Police were simply executed in Mohammadpur and elsewhere as Army considered them as potential threat. 800 Police killed in surprise attacks. The East Pakistan Rifles camp in Peelkhana had 1000 EPRs present. 700 Killed, 200 overpowered and 100 escaped.
House to house searches underway with ex Bengali servicemen being special target and shot at site whenever found. “No police seen anywhere in Dhaka”.
The university professors believed they were subject to a pre-planned purge and the burning of university documents suggested that the army wanted to eliminate all traces of the current “trouble making” elements at the university.
Six naked female bodies were found with bits of rope dangling from the ceiling fans at Rokeya Hall. Apparently the girls were raped, shot and hung from the heels.
The army burned Hindu and Bengali (Bangalee) areas in the Old Dhaka and shot ocupants as they came out. Hindus undeniably were specual focus of military brutality. Large fires burned on 30 and 31 March mostly in Hindu predominant areas. There were steady gunfire (1 shot every 10 seconds) in those areas. Large number of prisoners were taken into the EPR (East Pakistan Rifles) base.
First signs of ressistance: A British report said that army unit faced ressistance was in a desparate situation near Pabna.
Dr. Kissinger: Does the government have Mujibur Rahman?
Mr. Blee: They captured him. Presumably he is in West Pakistan, perhaps in Quetta.
Dr. Kissinger: Will they execute him?
Lt. Gen. Cushman: Yahya accused him of treason. Possibly he has been shot already or was shot inadvertently.
Dr. Kissinger: Are we going to keep VOA quiet about reports coming from our Consul?
The United States, having played a major role in training and equipping Pakistanis armed forces, has a special obligation now to withhold any military aid to the Yahya Government. Economic assistance should be continued only on condition that u major portion be used to help bind up East Pakistan’s grievous wounds.
Ever since the Pakistani civil war broke out last March, President Mohammad Yahya Khan has done his utmost to prevent reports on the ruthless behavior Pakistani Army in putting down the Bengali fight for independence from reaching the outside world. Most foreign journalists have been barred from East Pakistan, and only those West Pakistani newsmen who might be expected to produce “friendly” accounts have been invited to tour East Pakistan and tell their countrymen about the rebellion. In at least one instance, however, that policy backfired. Anthony Mascarenhas, a Karachi newsman who also writes for London Sunday Times, was so horrified by that he and his family fled to London to publish the full story. Last week, in the Times, Mascarenhas wrote -that he was told repeatedly by Pakistani military and civil authorities in Dacca that the government intends “to cleanse East Pakistan once and for all of the threat of secession, even if it means killing off 2 million people.” And the federal army, concluded Mascarenhas, is doing exactly that with a terrifying thoroughness.”
That the Pakistan Army is visiting a dreadful blood bath upon the people of East Pakistan is also affirmed by newsmen and others who have witnessed the flight of 6 million terrified refugees into neighboring India. NEWSWEEK’s Tony Clifton recently visited India’s refugee-dogged border regions and cabled the following report:
Anyone who goes to the camps and hospitals along India’s border with Pakstan comes away believing the Punjabi Army capable of any atrocity. I have seen babies who’ve been shot, men who have had their backs whipped raw. I’ve seen people literally struck **** by the horror of seeing their children murdered in front of them or their daughters dragged off into sexual slavery. I have no doubt at all that there have been a hundred My Lais and Lidices in East Pakistan-and I think there will be more. My personal reaction is one of wonder more than anything else. I’ve seen too many bodies to be horrified by anything much any more. But I find myself standing still again and again, wondering how any man can work himself into such a murderous frenzy.
Slaughter: The story of one shy little girl in a torn pink dress with red and green Bowers has a peculiar horror. She could not have been a danger to anyone. Yet I met her in a hospital at Krishnanagar, hanging nervously back among the other patients, her hand covering the livid scar on her neck where a Pakistani soldier had cut her throat with his bayonet. “I am Ismatar, the daughter of the late Ishague Ali,” she told me formally. “My father was a businessman in Khustia.
About two months ago he left our house and went to his shop and I never saw him again. That same night after I went to bed I heard shouts and screaming, and when I went to see what was happening, the Punjabi soldiers were there. My four sisters were lying dead on the floor, and I saw that they had killed my mother. While I was there they shot my brother-he was a bachelor of science. Then a soldier saw me and stabbed me with his knife. I fell to the floor and played dead. When the soldiers left I ran and a man picked me up on his bicycle and I was brought here.”
Suddenly, as if she could no longer bear to think about her ordeal, the girl left the room. The hospital doctor was explaining to me that she was brought to the hospital literally soaked in her own blood, when she pushed her way back through the patients and stood directly in front of me. “What am I to do?” she asked. “Once I had five sisters and a brother and a father and a mother. Now I have no family. I am an orphan. Where can I go? What will happen to me?”
Victims: “You’ll be all right,” I said stupidly. “You’re safe here.” But what will happen to her and to the thousands of boys and girls and men and women who have managed to drag themselves away from the burning villages whose flames I saw lighting up the East Pakistani sky each night? The hospital in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura, is just half a mile from the border, and it is already overcrowded with the victims of the rampaging Pakistani Army. There is a boy of 4 who survived a bullet through his stomach, and a woman who listlessly relates how the soldiers murdered two of her children in front of her eyes, and then shot her as she held her youngest child in her alms. “The bullet passed through the baby’s buttocks and then through her left arm,” Dr. R. Datta, the medical superintendent, explains. “But she regained consciousness and dragged herself and the baby to the border.” Another woman, the bones in her upper leg shattered by bullets, cradles an infant in her arms. She had given birth prematurely in a paddy field alter she was shot. Yet, holding her newborn child in one hand and pulling herlelf along with the other, she finally reached the border.
“Although I know these people, I am continually amazed at how tough they are,” says Datta. Still, there are some who cannot cope. I step over two small boys lying on the floor, clinging to each other like monkeys. ..Refugees say their village was burned about a week ago and everyone in it was killed except these two,” the doctor says. “We have had them for three days and we don’t know who they are. They are so terrified— by what they saw they are unable to speak. They just lie there holding onto each other. It is almost impossible to get them apart even long enough to feed them. It is hard to say when they will regain their speech or be able to live normal lives again.”
New Jersey Congressman Cornelius Gallagher, who visited the Agartala hospital, says he came to india thinking the atrocity stories were exaggerated. But when he actually saw the wounded he began to believe that; if anything, the reports had been toned down. A much-decorated officer with Patton in Europe during World War II, Gallagher told me: “In the war, I saw the worst areas of France-the killing grounds in Normandy-but I never saw anything like that. It took all of my strength to keep from breaking down and crying.”
Rape: Other foreigners, too, were dubious about the atrocities at first, but the endless repetition of stories from different sources convinced them. “I am certain that troops have thrown babies into the air and caught them on their bayonets,” says Briton, John Hastings, a Methodist missionary who has lived in Bengal for twenty years. “I am certain that troops have raped girls repeatedly, then killed them by pushing their bayonets up between their legs.”
All this savagery suggests that the Pakistani Army is either crazed by blood or, more likely, is carrying out a calculated policy of terror amounting to genocide against the whole Bengali population.
The architect appears to be Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan, the military governor of East Pakistan. Presumably, Pakistan’s President knows something about what is going on, but he may not realize that babies are being burned alive, girls sold into virtual slavery and whole families murdered. He told the military governor to put down a rebellion, and Tikka Khan has done it efficiently and ruthlessly. As a result, East Pakistan is still nominally part of Pakistan. But the brutality inflicted by West on East in the last three months has made it certain that it will only be a matter of time before Pakistan becomes two countries. And those two countries will be irreparably split-at least until the last of today’s maimed and brutalized children grow old and die with their memories of what happened when Yahya Khan decided to preserve their country.