An account of what actually happened
In the first part of this op-ed, carried on the same space the previous week, factors leading to the “Fall of Dhaka” were examined. The inevitability of the creation of Bangladesh was a reality, which should have been accepted wholeheartedly by the secessionists as well as the people and leaders of West Pakistan. As discussed earlier, since the severance of ties was so bloody that good sense was occluded by vindictiveness. It is a fact of recorded history that both the secessionists and the Pakistan Army carried out excesses. The secessionists targeted the non-Bengali population and the West Pakistani civilians and Armed Forces personnel while the Army, in its frenzy of retaliation, carried out a bloody carnage. The figures for genocide and rape being quoted by both sides are a gross exaggeration; the claim of three million Bengalis being massacred by Pakistani troops in 1971 is farfetched. Declassified US reports, Indian and Pakistani military officers’ accounts, General Niazi’s memoirs and a number of published books and articles like Subversion in East Pakistan, by AMK Maswani and Sarmila Bose’s Dead Reckoning specify that both Pakistani forces and Bengali insurgents were responsible for cold-blooded genocide of civilians and their military counterparts. Yet, taking advantage of a pro-India government in Bangladesh, macabre forces are bent upon raking up old scars in order to humiliate Pakistan and appease India.
Historical facts recorded by neutral observers shed light on the facts. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Hamoodur Rehman’s article ‘Ideology of Pakistan’, published in Supreme Court’s journal section of the All Pakistan Legal Decisions (referred to by lawyers and courts of Pakistan as) i.e., PLD 1976 S.C. (Pak) Vol. XXXVIII, pages 215-226, not only provides a clue but also an insight into proper understanding and background. He writes that as far back as 14 July, 1971, Morning News, Karachi, carried the banner headline on the front page captioned, ‘India prepares blue print for war on Pakistan’ quoting late Mr Yehia Syed’s report from London. Yehia Syed’s article titled ‘India fought the war on her published plan’ also carried by Morning News, Karachi (4 March, 1972), mentions what was known as India’s Subramaniam Plan—no more a secret—details of which were released in advance in London, according to which it was then the most opportune time to launch an attack and like a ripe plum (referring to East Pakistan), it would fall into India’s lap.
The book The Role of Big Powers in the East Pakistan Crisis of 1971 by Bengali author Matiur Rahman, published by Dr Razia Rahman (65 Alfriston Road, London, SW11) and reviewed in The Muslim World League Journal, Makah Al-Mukarramah Vol. 12, No. 4 Rabi al Thani/January 1985 (page 64) is highly revealing. Two more books by the same author, Bangladesh Today-An Indictment and a Lament (1978 Edition) and Second Thoughts on Bangla Desh (1979 Edition) shed ample light on the subject. It is equally tragic that these erudite and established authors have also focused on the fact that the irate insurgents of Mukti Bahini, in a spate of fury, massacred Pakistani troops as well as non-Bengalis citizens and committed unspeakable acts like rape and mutilation of dead bodies.
Mr H N Akhtar in his article captioned ‘After the Cassandras have spoken’ regarding the tragedy of 1971 has referred to a book, Pakistan Cut to Size, which reveals that Pakistan had fallen victim to a Communist and Zionist-inspired conspiracy. The Jewish Chronicle, London, disclosed that Major General Jacob who was second in command of the Indian forces in East Pakistan was a Jew. He was related to the famous family of the late Dr I S Fox who was Chairman of the British Zionist Federation. The paper said that there were a number of Jewish officers in Indian armed forces, among the better known were Rear Admiral Benjamin Abraham Samson and Naval Judge Advocate Elliz Thirad.
It has been widely proliferated that Pakistan Army killed over three million people in military action, and they all were innocent civilians. This baseless Indian and Awami League propaganda has been belied by independent researchers like Sarmila Bose, in her book Dead Reckoning, quoting Home Ministry of Bangladesh in 1972 that there were reports of only about 2,000 complaints of deaths due to military actions while the Mukti Bahini slaughtered thousands of Pakistani troops and non-Bengali civilians.
Even the Sylhet born, educated in Dhaka and Exeter Universities, Sociology Professor, Dr Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, a Bengali nationalist who actively participated in the separatist cause, came out with eye witness accounts. He states that the Pakistan Army carried out a limited counter-insurgency, not genocide in East Pakistan. Dr Chowdhury spoke out in 1996 to tell the true story of what went on during that war. In his book Behind the Myth of 3 Million he dispels many conjectural assumptions about Pakistani security forces’ action, stating that the allegations against Pakistan were entirely cooked up and the actual death toll was much lower than the falsely fabricated three million figure, and in order to arrive at this conclusion, Dr Chowdhury cites an extensive range of sources.
The sources maintain that the number of East Pakistanis who supported independence and were subsequently killed during the war was to glorify the movement against West Pakistan, but evidence points otherwise. The total strength of Pakistan Army was 40,000 in East Pakistan out of which 237 officers, 136 JCOs and 3,559 other ranks were killed and wounded in the counter insurgency operations between March-November 1971. It is not humanly possible to commit that level of genocide as being accused on Pakistan Army both for tactical and humanitarian reasons, the sources added. Even Colonel Akbar Hussain, a decorated ‘Mukti Juddha’ and Cabinet Member under both General Ziaur Rehman and Mrs Khaleda Zia told the National Assembly of Bangladesh during a debate on 15 June, 1993, that the Awami League had created the myth of ‘three million killed’.
In the third and last part of this op-ed, next week, the shibboleth regarding the heavy mandate of Awami League in the 1970 General Elections will be exposed.