Tag Archives: Pakistani Views


March: The Awami secured 293 out of the 300 Jatiya Sangsad (parliament) seats in the first general elections.

August 28: An agreement between India and Pakistan governments regarding repatriations of persons was signed. India agreed to repatriate POWs and civil detainees; terms for release of 195 military personnel wanted for war crimes to be decided later; Pakistanis living in Bengladesh and Bengalis living in Pakistan to be transferred.

September 3: The Awami League, CPB and NAP formed Oikya Front (United Front).

September 6: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman travelled to Algeria to attend the Non-aligned Movement Summit Conferrence.

September 19: First batch of Pakistani POWs return to Karachi.


shahid meenar

Ekushey February (21st February) – The International Mother Language Day:

“Politicians and students join their forces for a broader movement under the leadership of Maulana Bhashani of Awami League. As demonstrations and unrests seem to get out of control, the Government cracks down by imposing a curfew in Dhaka; a number of demonstrators are killed in front of the Dhaka Medical College over a period of one week (February 21-27, 1952). Hundreds and thousands of people took the streets to protests unanimously and the seeds of Bangladeshi nationalism was sown during that mobement.”

Pakistan:The Push toward the Borders

TIME April 26, 1971; pp. 39-40

Radio Pakistan announced last week that Pakistan International Airlines has resumed its internal flight between the East Pakistan capital of Dacca and the town of Jessore, formerly a stronghold of rebel resistance. The broadcast failed to note that the PIA prop jets were carrying only soldiers, and that they were escorted into Jessore airport by air force Sabre jets.

It was true, however, that the army has taken the offensive in Pakistan’s savage civil war. In the early days of fighting, the troops had prudently preferred to remain in their garrison areas, for the most part, until additional men and supplies arrived. Last week they began to push toward the Indian border, hoping to secure the hardtop roads by the time the monsoon rains begin in late May. If they succeed, they will he able to block any sizable imports of arms and other equipment for the Bangla Desh (Bengal State) resistance fighters.

Naxalite Sympathizers. Despite the heavy cost of the operation (estimated at $1.3 million per day) and widespread international criticism, the government of President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan seems determined to press for a decisive victory. The U.S. and most other Western countries have thus far maintained a careful neutrality. Washington announced that it has furnished no arms to Pakistan since the fighting began March 25. Communist China, on the other hand, has strongly supported the Pakistan government, while India, Pakistan’s traditional adversary, has quietly sympathized with the rebels.

The Indians most deeply involved are the West Bengali insurgents. But West Bengali sympathy is tempered by a fear that a civil war in East Bengal will prove costly to themselves as well. For a generation, West Bengal has received a steady flow of refugees from across the border. Now the flow has greatly increased, with an added burden to the state’s economy. Among West Bengalis, the most enthusiastic supporters of the East Pakistani cause are Calcutta’s urban terrorists, the Maoist Naxalites. Some are said to have slipped across the border with homemade guns and bombs to help the rebels.

Strong Words. Officially, India has tried to maintain calm. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared earlier that India could hardly remain a “silent observer to the carnage in East Pakistan. But last week, when asked if she would describe the fighting as an “imperial war’. she replied sternly. .’the use of strong words will not help.”

From East Pakistan came reports that the destruction was continuing. Estimates of the number of dead ranged to 200,000 or more. In the port city of Chittagong, hundreds of bodies were dumped into the river to be carried away by the tide. Some observers reported a virtual pogrom against East Pakistan’s educated leadership, raising the specter of a region reduced to peasant serfdom. Even the modern jute mills, owned by West Pakistani businessmen, were reported destroyed.

Provisional Government. There was also savagery on the Bengali side. Rebels were reported to be paying off old scores against non-Bengali Moslems who settled in East Pakistan after the 1947 partition of British India into India and Pakistan. At the town of Dinajpur, most male members of this group were killed and the women taken to makeshift internment camps.

Despite the continued absence of their political leader, Sheikh Mlljibur (“Mujib”) Rahman who is thought to be in prison in West Pakistan. the rebels announced the formation of a Bangla Desh provisional government last week. They named Mlljib President. One of his colleagues, Tajuddin Ahmad, who is at large in East Pakistan, became Prime Minister. As their provisional capital, the rebels prudently chose the town of Meherpur, which lies a mere four miles from the Indian border.

The Bangla Desh forces are critically short of gasoline and diesel fuel and lack the field-communication equipment necessary for organized military activity. They have avoided any full-scale engagements, in which they would undoubtedly sustain heavy losses. Some observers believe, in fact, that the long guerrilla phase of the civil war has already begun, with the army holding most of the towns and the rebels controlling much of the countryside. Despite the apparent determination of the Pakistan government to maintain its hold on East Bengal, the sheer human arithmetic of the situation seemed to indicate that the Bengalis would ultimately win freedom or at least some form of regional autonomy. At the present time, the East Bengalis outnumber the West Pakistani soldiers in their midst by about 1,000 to 1.

The Agony of East Pakistan

Readers Digest, November 1971; pp.66-71

David Reed and John E. Frazer

Invaded and devastated by the army of its own government, this tortured land cries out for relief and for justice. If both are not granted still greater horrors may lie ahead

They come out of East Pakistan in endless columns, along trails stained with tears and blood. They are dressed in rags, robbed of everything they owned, the women raped, the children gaunt from hunger. They have been on the move for up to a month, hiding from Pakistan soldiers by day, slogging through flooded rice paddies at night. A vengeful army pursues them to the very border of India. Rifle and machine-gun fire crackles. The bedraggled columns scatter for cover. But soon they are moving again, streaming into India.

Sobbing violently, a middle-aged man says, “The soldiers took my two nephews. They kicked them with their boots, ducked them in an open sewer, then machine-gunned them. After that they took 50 to 60 young men of our village into a field and killed them with bayonets.” A woman who was shot in the leg clutches her daughter and says, “We were just about to cross the border when they started shooting at us. I don’t know what happened to my husband.” A ten-year-old boy, who lost an eye when an army patrol threw a grenade at him as he was tending cattle in a field, says, “Can anyone tell me what happened to my parents?”

Since late last March, when the Pakistan army launched this genocidal attack on the defenseless population of East Pakistan, more than eight million people have been driven from their native land. Millions more will surely follow. Moreover, the refugees have put grave strains on India, pushing India and West Pakistan to the brink of a war that could involve the two arch rivals of the communist world, the Soviet Union and China.

Return to Normal? While the horrors of the refugees are bad enough, something even more ghastIy is going on inside East Pakistan, also known as East Bengal. That land, scene of a devastating cyclone that claimed half a million lives last year,* is now being systematically ravaged by the Pakistan army. Diplomats and other foreigners in Dacca, East Pakistan’s capital, estimate that between a quarter- and a half-million civilians have been slaughtered since March. An American missionary in Dacca grits his teeth and says, “It’s murder-mass murder.”

The military junta that rules Pakistan has tried to cover up the atrocities, and maintains that East Bengal has largely returned to normal. But one of the authors of this article, who spent two weeks there last August, found evidence to the contrary on every hand. Touring three districts of East Bengal by car, he found not a single village or town that had not suffered at the hands of the troops. Many towns were half-empty, homes and shops looted’ and bummed, peopIe either dead, driven into exile or hiding in the countryside.

Perhaps a third of Dacca’s population is gone; its economy is crippled and its people are so terrified that no one ventures outdoors at night. Not far from Dacca, a missionary said, “The soldiers killed 249 people in our village. Fortunately for the wounded, high-powered bullets right through them, so the doctors didn’t have to probe.”

A farmer in a refugee camp along the Indian side of the border (?): “The headmaster of our school sitting on the veranda of his home, grading examination papers, when the soldiers dragged him out on the road and cut his throat.” Told (?) another refugee, “The soldiers found the doctor in our village to dig his own grave; then they shot him. The doctor in a border hospital pointed to a woman who had been raped repeatedly by the troops in the presence of her four children after the soldier had killed her husband.

Rule by Minority. The roo(?) disaster in Pakistan reach back (? Britain’s withdrawal from its Indian empire in 1947. Because India’s Muslim minority feared domination of the Hindu majority, a new IsIamic state called Pakistan was carved out of predominantly Muslim areas of Indian subcontinent. Muslims in the northwest became West Pakistan. Although East Bengal separated from West Pakistan by more than 1000 miles of Indian territory, it was included in the state, as East Pakistan, because people were mostly Muslims, there are profound differences between the two Pakistans. They have different languages. The people of the west, mostly Punjabis, are tall, light-skinned. Their land is (?) arid. East Pakistan, by contrast in tropical, peopled mostly by Bengalis, a small, dark-skinned people.

The Bengalis have long complained bitterly that the Punjabis in the west have treated them as colonial subjects. East Pakistan’s population before the massacres stood at 70 million, as compared with 58 million in the west, but the capital, Islamabad, is in West Pakistan. East Pakistan has accounted for 50 percent or more of Pakistan’s export earnings, chiefly from the production of jute, but the Bengalis claim that the west kept most of the money for its own development. West Pakistanis, moreover, took 80 percent of the jobs in the civil service, 90 percent of the posts in the armed forces.

Although efforts were made in the post-I947 years, democratic institutions never really took root in Pakistan, and in 1958 the military seized power .Then, last year, in a notable effort to return the country to civilian rule, Pakistan’s president, Gen. Yahya Khan, scheduled an election for December. Voters would select a national assembly that would frame a constitution and then assume the role of a parliament. That election set in motion the train of events leading to the present tragedy.

In the election campaign in East Pakistan, the Bengalis were electrified by the message of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a 51-year-old political moderate who was leader of the Awami, or People’s League. Mujib, as he was popularly known, had spent nearly ten years as a political prisoner of the West Pakistan authorities. Now he campaigned on a program of autonomy for East Bengal which, he told cheering crowds, would shake off the hated domination of Islamabad. The central government could continue to control foreign affairs and defense for all Pakistan, but East Pakistan would govern itself internally and the bulk of its money as it saw fit.

Mujib’s People’s League won a landslide victory, capturing a clear majority in the 313-seat assembly. It not only would play the key role in the drafting of the constitution, but would form the next government for all of Pakistan. Elation swept East Pakistan. Neighboring India rejoiced, too. Mujib was known to be friendly to India. If he took over as Prime Minister of all Pakistan, relations with India would, it was hoped, improve.

“Bomber of Baluchistan.” But on March 1, Yahya, under mounting pressure from politicians in West Pakistan, postponed the opening of the national assembly, which had been set for two days later. The Bengalis, feeling that they were being robbed of their legitimate victory, exploded in riots and demonstrations. Mujib calmed his people, cautioned them against violence; and though he still held out for autonomy, something like a parallel government now existed. On March 23-Pakistan’s Independence Day-Mujib flew a new flag, the green, red and yellow banner of Bangla Desh (the Bengal nation) from his home. The West Pakistanis feared that the East was about to secede, and warned that no government could tolerate such a move.

At this point, a cold-eyed general named Tikka Khan arrived in Dacca to take command of West Pakistan troops stationed there. Tikka had won for himself the nick name “Bomber of Baluchistan” for having suppressed a tribal revolt in Baluchistan province by indiscriminate air and artillery strikes against civilians. Shortly after Tikka’s arrival, Yahya flew to Dacca for talks with Mujib. All the while, West Pakistan soldiers in civilian clothing were being flown into Dacca. On the afternoon of March 25, Yahya, having broken off the talks with Mujib, returned to West Pakistan. At II o’clock that evening, Tikka Khan was unleashed.

Suddenly, all of Dacca rocked with explosions. Troops opened fire with artillery on the city; tanks rumbled through the streets, gunning down anything that moved. The dormitories of the university, a stronghold of Bengali nationalism, were riddled by machine-gun fire. The invading soldiers went on a rampage in the old city, a particular political stronghold of Mujib, breaking down doors, dragging people into the street and shooting them. Shops were looted and burned. The barracks of the pro-Mujib Bengali police were gutted by tank cannon Troops burst into a telephone exchange and killed 40 persons on duty.

Special West Pakistan army squads had lists of people-professors, doctors, businessmen and other community leaders-whom they dragged off to army headquarters. Most have never been seen again. Although Mujib’s follower urged him to go into hiding, Mujib refused. Tikka’s troops took him off to imprisonment and an uncertain fate in West Pakistan.

With Dacca in ruins, Tikka sent his troops into the countryside, in each town the ghastly pattern was repeated. Anyone associated with the People’s League was killed. Young men, Muslim and Hindu alike, were rounded up and murdered. In almost every town, refugees report, women were raped.

The Bengalis Strike Back. Meanwhile, from Islamabad, Yahya whipped off decrees banning the People’s League and postponing the national assembly indefinitely. The new constitution, he declared, would be drafted not by the assembly, but rather by a committee that would handpicked by him. Autonomy for East Bengal was rejected; Islamabad’s rule would continue.

Yahya also imposed strict censor ship on the press: even today the people of West Pakistan have little idea of what is going on in the East. Tikka Khan was appointed governor of East Pakistan, which he ruled with the grace of a Nazi gauleiter in Occupied Europe until he was replaced in August.

Bangla Desh, however, has not been crushed. Surviving Bengali troops and police have formed the nucleus of the Mukti Bahini, or Liberation Army. There is no dearth of volunteers, and it is an open secret that India, which surrounds East Pakistan on three sides, is giving arms, training and encouragement to the Mukti Bahini guerrillas. Operating all along the 1350-mile border, these irregulars stab deeply into East Pakistan. Bombs explode nightly in the capital, and West Pakistan army and patrols are ambushed on country roads. The railway that links Chittagong, the main port, with Dacca has been severed.

Bangla Desh is paying a fearsome price for resistance. After each Mukti Bahini raid, the West Pakistan army, now bolstered to around 70,000 men, levels surrounding villages as “collective punishment.” And each retaliation sets off another column of refugees for India.

The Indian government is making every effort to care for these piteous people, but the influx is so staggering that new miseries await them there. For instance, in one of more than a thousand squalid refugee camps in India, 150,000 people live in straw hovels surrounded by mud and *****. There are few latrines, and the stench is such that people cover their faces with cloth. Because of the vast numbers, refugees have to wait in line for as long as ten hours for their food rations – ¾ pound of rice a day per adult, plus some lentils, vegetables when available, and a little salt and cooking oil.

The children suffer the most. Many are beginning to look like the starving children of Biafra, their ribs protruding, their stomachs distended. Almost all suffer from malnutrition or dysentery. Life-giving milk and other protein foods are available in some of the camps, but the crush is so great that many children never get any. A doctor at a border hospital says, “The children die so quickly that we don’t have time to treat them.”

Anger in India. India, itself one of the poorest and most overcrowded countries on earth, groans – under the burden. Although she has made some important gains in population control in the past six years, her population has now increased enormously. The United States and other foreign governments have responded generously with cash and food (America has given $40 million in food, $30.5 million in cash); yet the cost of supporting the Pakistanis may run to more than a billion dollars a year-nearly a seventh of the annual budget of India’s central government. India cannot give the refugees jobs, because millions of her own people are unemployed. Even the meager rations of the refugees, which cost 13 cents a day, are a point of friction: some 50 million Indians subsist on substantially less.

Many Indians angrily point out that they are being forced to pick up the bill for Pakistan’s atrocities against its own people. Some are urging that India take East Pakistan by military force so as to enable the refugees to return. India’s Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, so far has resisted these pressures-yet danger of war runs high. Such a war might well assume beyond-the-borders proportions. India has a new alliance with the Soviet Union; the Pakistan government has grown increasingly close to China.

Within East Bengal itself, a new horror looms: an acute threat of mass starvation, Even in normal times, the area must import part of its rice supply. Now it will be difficult, if not impossible, to move the rice from the small river ports to all of the outlying areas. In 1943, two to three million Bengalis died in a famine. There is every reason to fear it will be worse this time.

What can be done about this festering disaster ? Many Bengalis see a solution in independence won by guerrilla warfare. There is a chance of success, but also the certainty of much more bloodshed. It would be far better for the United States and other nations to bring pressure to bear on Islamabad to work out a political solution acceptable to the Bengalis and thus to defuse the present explosive situation and stave off a major war in the subcontinent. This done, the refugee columns would be set in motion once more-on a peaceful journey back to their homeland.

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.”

The second India-Pakistan War breaks out over Kashmir

September, 1965

The second India-Pakistan War breaks out over Kashmir.

Political discontent, especially in the much neglected East Pakistan, resurfaces in the aftermath of the war.

“East Pakistan contributed to the development of West Pakistan to the extent that, during the last fifteen years, East Pakistan has been drained out of one thousand crores of rupees of its solid assets by way of less imports and more exports. With that, Sir, West Pakistan was developed and these million acres have been created. These big people talk so loudly: ‘leave East Pakistan out, we can maintain ourselves…’ Today is the sixteenth year we have been reduced to paupers to build West Pakistan; we are told ‘get out boys, we have nothing for you, we do not require you.’” — Mahbubul Haq, a member of the National Assembly, c. 1964

New constitution adopted

February, 1956

The first constitution of Pakistan is adopted. Pakistan becomes an Islamic Republic, with a President replacing the position of the Governor General. Bangla is adopted as a state language along with Urdu. Nonetheless, East Pakistanis are prevented from any share of power in the central government through sufficient provisions in the new constitution.