Tag Archives: Genocide and systematic Mass Rapes

Pakistan: Reign of Terror

Newsweek April 19, 1971; p. 52-54

Blealy-eyed from lack of sleep and emotionally drained by what they called their “ten days of terror,” hundreds of Americans who had been trapped in war-ravaged East Pakistan finally got out to safety last week. Nearly 500 of them were evacuated by air from the East Pakistani capital of Dacca. Another 119 foreign nationals, including 37 Americans, were brought out by a British freighter from the battered East Pakistani port city of Chittagong. Most of them begged off from interviews, fearful that anything they said might endanger some 200 Americans-consular officials, businessmen and missionaries-who chose to remain behind in East Pakistan. But a few, unable to contain their outrage at the wanton slaughter they had witnessed, talked guardedly to newsmen. And their harrowing accounts tended to confirm earlier reports of savage repressions by the Punjabi-Ied Pakistani Army in its attempt to stamp out the Bengali rebellion in East Pakistan.

The Americans evacuated from Chittagong told NEWSWEEK’S Tony Clifton that the bitter fighting there had reduced East Pakistan’s largest port to a ghost town. “In the first few days,” recalled Neil O’Toole, a New Yorker working for a private charitable organization, “I actually saw Awami League people [supporters of Bengali nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] patrolling the streets with bows and arrows, and I wondered how they could possibly hold off the army with things like that.” Four days later, the reinforced Pakistani Army gained full control of the city and launched a reign of terror. “Some Punjabi soldiers called a kid over and hit him around the head and in the groin and then forced him to his knees,” said Fritz Blankenship, a crane operator who had been employed by an American construction firm. “The kid was crying, begging and the soldiers just watched him for a minute.” Finally, according to Blankenship, “they just shot him out of hand and walked on.”

A similar wave of atrocities was reported by the Americans who had been in Dacca. As soon as the curfew was lifted, they said, at least a half-dozen Americans were met by nearly hysterical Bengali friends who told of a massacre at Dacca University. When three young Americans agreed to investigate the story, they found a staircase in a faculty building splattered with the bloodshed when five teachers were dragged out and coldly mowed down by gunfire. Still more shattering was the experience of Victor Chen, who had been visiting Dacca as a tourist when the war broke out and was led by a group of excited Bengalis to a shantytown set in the middle of Dacca’s sprawling racetrack. “The houses were burned down, and some were still smoldering,” he told NEWSWEEK’S Milan J. Kubic. “Literally dozens of dead bodies were strewn all over the place, many of them small kids, all of them riddled by bullets.” And another young American said in obvious disgust: “We just don’t see why the U.S. should go on supporting a regime that behaves in this fashion.”

Cautious: Indeed, Washington’s policy of calculated ambiguity on Pakistan has left the U.S. open to charges that official silence is tantamount to support for the martial-Iaw regime of President Mohammed Yahya Khan. Even touchier was the charge that U .S.-supplied Patton and Sabre jets were being used Pakistani Army to slaughter Bengalis. But State Department officials argued that the unsettled circumstances dictated a cautious policy. They also pointed out that no American weapons have been Delivered to the Pakistani Army since 1965. And last week, the department’s spokesman, Charles Bray 3rd, expressed “sympathy” to the “victims” and hoped that “it will be possible soon to alleviate the suffering caused by recent events” in East Pakistan. Though U .S. officials denied any implications beyond humanitarian concern, Bray’s use of the word “victims..struck some Pakistani Government officials as a slap at the Yahya Khan regime, which has never conceded that there was much suffering going on in East Pakistan.

Washington, of course, was hardly alone in this dilemma. Both the Soviet Union and Communist China, the principal purveyors of arms to Pakistan since 1965, have only begun to choose their rhetorical stance-with Moscow urging Yahya to find a way to end the fighting and Peking edging toward Yahya’s side. But by far the most difficult position was that facing the government of India, where popular sentiments remained overwhelmingly pro-Bengali and where pressures mounted for direct action. “It is neither proper nor possible for India to keep quiet [over the Pakistani situation),” said Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The watch-and-wait policy assumed by most foreign governments stemmed from a widely held belief that the Pakistani Army will ultimately fail in its attempt to subjugate 75 million East Pakistanis. Still, fears increased that the army was fully prepared to wreak bloody havoc even in a futile try. An American businessman who was evacuated from Dacca last week recalled asking a Punjabi major why the army was killing so many people. “There are millions of them, and only thousands of us,” the major replied. “The only way we can control these people is by making them scared stiff.” And from what he saw, the American said, “it looked as if the army went berserk. I can’t help feeling sorry about the poor Bengalis in that hell.”

Pakistan: Vultures and Wild Dogs

Newsweek April 26, 1971; pp. 35-36

For more than two weeks, the Pakistani Army of President Mohammed Yahya Khan had played a curious waiting game, Sitting tight in their well-fortified cantonments in the rebellious eastern wing of their divided country, the federal troops virtually ignored the taunts of the secessionist “liberation forces.” But then early last week, the lull came to a sudden end, Springing from their strongholds, the Punjabi regulars simultaneously staged more than a dozen devastating attacks from one end of beleaguered East Pakistan to the other, And when the blitzkrieg was over, it was clear that the less-than-one-month-old Republic of Bangla Desh (Bengal nation) had been delivered a stunning blow.

In a civil war already marked by brutality, the lightning attacks were notable for their savagery, In the port city of Chittagong, Pakistani troops reportedly forced Bengali prisoners to ride on the front of a truck, shouting “Victory for Bengal” – an independence slogan. When other Bengalis emerged from their hiding places, the Pakistanis opened fire with machine guns. And in the cities of Sylhet and Comilla along the eastern border, West Pakistani firepower routed the folIowers of nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and left the bodies of scores of dead peasants to be picked apart by vultures and wild dogs.

All in all, the bitter campaign seemed to suggest that the West Pakistanis had more than purely military objectives in mind. In city after city, in fact, the soldiers were apparently determined to shatter the economic base of East Pakistan in order to crush the independence movement. On orders from the Islamabad high command, troops systematically gunned down students, engineers, doctors and any other persons with a potential for leadership, whether they were nationalists or not. “They want to push us back to the eighteenth century,” said one Bengali soldier,” so that there will be famine and we will be reduced to eating grass. They want to make sure that no head will ever be raised against them again.”

Despite the devastating offensive, the Bengalis showed little inclination to throw in the towel. A group of Mujib’s Awami League colleagues announced the formation of a Bangla Desh war Cabinet, promising “freedom as long as there is sun over Bengal.” Beyond the rhetoric, the rebels were hoping that the approaching monsoon season would sever the West Pakistanis’ already strained logistical lifeline. “The supply lines are Yahya Khan’s Achilles’ heel,” said one pro-Bengali analyst. “By our calculations, the Pakistani Army is facing the monsoons without a supply margin. The commanders cannot be happy.”

Locked Up: Happy or not, the West Pakistani leaders had, most observers said, good reason for confidence. The Westerners claimed to have Mujib locked up and awaiting trial on charges of treason. And with the dynamic, 51-year-old symbol of the rebel movement seemingly out of the way, the new government appeared to be more shadow than substance. In the field, the Bengalis have suffered staggering casualties, losing as many as 25,000 men.

More important, the fighting disposition of the Bengalis was increasingly open to question. “I met a steady stream of refugees carrying their belongings in big bundles on their heads and driving small Hocks of scrawny goats or cattle,” cabled NEWSWEEK’S Milan I. Kubic after a trip into East Pakistan last week. “But I saw only one Toyota jeep of the ‘Mukti fouj,’ Bengal’s liberation army. Its unarmed driver, a young Bengali from Jhingergacha, had an idea that the enemy was just up the road, but neither he nor the two other soldiers with him seemed anxious to seek battle. ‘What would we fight with?’ he asked with a grin. ‘We haven’t got anything’.”

Neighbors: That let-someone-else-do-it attitude, combined with the absence of effective central leadership, did not augur well for Bangla Desh. But one big question mark remained: the reaction of the neighboring big powers-China and India. Almost from the beginning of the conflict, the West Pakistanis have charged that arch-rival India was an active participant on the side of East Pakistan. And last week Islamabad officials claimed to have wiped out two companies of Indian border-security forces allegedly operating within the eastern province.

For its part, New Delhi stoutly denied any direct involvement. And most observers on the scene supported that contention. Moreover, it seemed certain that President Yahya Khan was trumpeting the charges at least in part to unite his own people-many of whom had gotten queasy about the reports of full-scale slaughter in the east. But it was equally apparent that New Delhi had indeed gone out of its way to make friendly noises toward the rebel Bengalis-and to take a slap at Islamabad. Throughout the week, Indian newspapers gleefully carried accounts of purported Pakistani atrocities. And the Indian Cabinet met in a well-publicized but closed session to discuss recognition of Bangla Desh.

Chou’s Cable: In response, Peking seemed more than willing to weigh in with a tough statement in support of the West Pakistanis. In the most specific declaration since the fighting broke out late last month, Premier Chou En-Iai sent a cable to Yahya blasting “Indian expansionists” and adding that the Chinese would firmly back the Pakistanis “in their just struggle to safeguard their -state sovereignty and national independence.” On top of that, there were rumors throughout Asia last week that the West Pakistanis only instituted the military crackdown after extensive consultations with Peking.

Yet for all the ominous signs of a brewing confrontation on the subcontinent, most analysts doubted that the rhetoric would escalate to action, at least not in the near future. For one thing, China’s support for Islamabad-Peking’s ally in its long-haul competition with India-seemed to have been something of a pro-forma necessity. For another, the Indians are currently more than preoccupied with their own domestic problems. Still, the volatile brinkmanship of Yahya Khan and the highly emotional Indian response carried with them the threat of a major explosion. “If the fighting and the bloodshed simmer on,” said one observer, “then there’s always the possibility that any tiny spark may send the entire region up in flames-eventually engulfing all of Pakistan, India and maybe even China as well.”

The Terrible Blood Bath of Tikka Khan

Newsweek June 28, 1971; pp. 43-44

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.