By Dr Atique Ur Rehman
South Asia and Southeast Asia are increasingly coming to an important regions due to their peculiar characteristics and presence of the world’s most progressive economies and military prowess. Barry Buzan, a renowned professor of International Relations has predicted that there will be no superpower in the future and the existing superpower will also lose its influence. He predicts an enhanced role of great powers like China and regional powers like India in regional politics. The absence of superpowers and the enhanced role of great powers and regional powers will create hurdles for the establishment of a peaceful regional order.
Indian hegemonic designs have never been hidden. To fulfill her desire to have complete influence in the region, India has heavily relied on propaganda and deceit to defame Pakistan and try to glorify itself in the world. Partition of the sub-continent was a big blow to Hindu ideology. Since 1947, India has never given up its efforts to defame and weaken Pakistan through whatever means available. Propaganda has been a major tool of influence by Indian hawks. India has also been fuelling terrorism in the region through its proxies. Indian hegemonic designs came to the surface openly in 1970s. The defeat of the 1965 war was a serious blow to Indian designs of regional supremacy. Indian were burning to avenge the defeat they suffered at the hands of Pakistan.
Plan for the dismemberment of East Pakistan was in play for a long and India had invested very heavily in that. East Pakistan was 2207 KM away from west Pakistan. This geographic separation between two wings of the same country provided an ideal opportunity for subversive activities in India. Moreover, it was geographically away from west Pakistan but it was sharing its boundary with India. Pakistan had only deployed three divisions in east Pakistan. It required a long communication network from west Pakistan to reinforce and maintain the logistics of formations in East Pakistan. India had underhand established deep ties with Mujeeb ur Rehman and its cronies to hatch a conspiracy against Pakistan and developed a strong network of proxies in East Pakistan.
Since 1971, a plethora of lies and deceit has been occupying the pages of history. The digital era has provided an opportunity to unfold the truth of the 1971 war, particularly atrocities committed in Bangladesh.
In 2016, Dr Junaid Ahmed, a renowned writer authored a research piece on 1971 debacle. The book titled “Creation of Bangladesh; Myths exploded” has been acclaimed a flawless research account. He has worked on various themes to bring out the reality for the next generations. The writer has explored through his research the perception that East Pakistan was ignored / exploited by the Centre, that it was not true. He states that
Economic disparity between East and West Pakistan was a historical legacy. As Rome was not built in a day, the historical economic deprivation of East Pakistan could not have been eliminated in a short span of time. Nature, in the shape of annual cyclones and floods, also had not been friendly in the case of East Pakistan. Also, the food supply in East Pakistan couldn’t recover from the famine of 1943. Efforts for industrialization, development of infrastructure/airline, ports, oil fields/refinery, and hydroelectric projects, etc show that significant attention was paid to East Pakistan’s progress post-independence. The writer states that at the time of the partition of British India, East Bengal had a plantation economy.
Chittagong Tea Auction was established in 1949 as the region was home to the world’s largest tea plantations. In 1947, West Bengal was a more developed region that had gone to India, while East Bengal which became East Pakistan did not have even a single jute mill. Raw jute was exported to India for value addition. The development of the jute industry in East Pakistan was solely due to West Pakistani investment in the industry. By the 1950s, East Bengal surpassed West Bengal in having the largest jute industries in the world.
Adamjee Jute Mills was the largest jute processing plant located in Narayanganj. Bengalis were employed in large, capital-intensive jute mills set up by West Pakistani industrialists. Crescent, Isphani, and Adamjee jute mills had collectively employed 26,000 workers.
Investments were encouraged in East Pakistan by the government through the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation (PICIC), and the Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan (IDBP).
East Pakistan Stock Exchange Association was established in 1954. Ispahani family, Africawala brothers, and Adamjee family were pioneers of industrialization in the region.
Many of modern Bangladesh’s leading companies were born in the East Pakistan period. An airline founded in British Bengal, Orient Airways, launched the vital air link between East and West Pakistan with DC-3 aircraft on the Dacca-Calcutta-Delhi-Karachi route. Orient Airways later evolved into Pakistan International Airlines, whose first chairman was East Pakistan-based industrialist Mirza Ahmad Ispahani.
Natural gas was discovered in the northeastern part of East Pakistan in 1955 by the Burmah Oil Company. Industrial use of natural gas began in 1959. Shell Oil Company and Pakistan Petroleum tapped 7 gas fields in the 1960s. The industrial seaport city of Chittagong hosted the headquarters of Burmah Eastern and Pakistan National Oil. Iran assisted in establishing the Eastern Refinery in Chittagong.
Comilla Model of the Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (present-day Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development) was conceived by Akhtar Hameed Khan and replicated in many developing countries.
During President Ayub’s ‘industrialization period’ half of the cabinet members, including many secretaries were from East Pakistan, ensuing equal representation for the decision of allocation of development funds. Development of Chittagong Port, Chandraghona Paper Mills, railway, road, airline, and river networks all took place with the help of the central government.
In 1965, Kaptai Dam hydroelectric project was implemented with American assistance. Moreover, besides other cities, the centrally located metropolis Dacca witnessed significant urban growth/development.
Dilating upon another misperception that West Pakistan imposed Urdu as the national language. The writer has researched that Urdu being the lingua franca, was a unifying factor for the Muslims of the sub-continent and played a vital role in invigorating Pakistan Movement.
It was understood throughout the country and therefore, it was quite logical that Urdu would be the national language of Pakistan. Urdu was not the language of any of the four regions of West Pakistan as well. Bengali was a regional language like Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Brahvi, and Balochi, etc. Moreover, establishing Urdu as the national language did not, at all, mean that regional languages would cease to exist or flourish.
Another misperception explored by the writer is the Indian claim that their intervention was on humanitarian grounds. Research brings out startling facts about Indian deceit. It was not a humanitarian intervention; it was a vicious, planned attack on Pakistan’s territorial integrity. These plans were made with the consent of Awami League leadership in an infamous meeting known as the Agartala Conspiracy.
Indian intervention was egotistical, and by no means humanitarian, to accomplish the creation of the vassal state of Bangladesh to grant India hegemony in the region. Awami League leadership and Mukti Bahinis were mere pawns in India’s grand plan.
During 1971, even before the direct military intervention, Mukti Bahini was being provided military, logistic, and economic support by India. Once a reporter asked FM Sam Manekshaw – COAS from 1969 to 1973 – what would have happened if he had gone to Pakistan at the time of partition. Manekshaw replied, “Pakistan would’ve won in 1971,” indicating the dominating role played by the Indian Army during the 1971 war.
After the war, despite several requests from the newly-formed Bangladeshi government, the Indian military establishment was delaying its troop’s withdrawal from the newly-created country. This caused serious bitterness between India and Bangladesh that later led to the killing of Mujib by Bangladeshi Army personnel, who considered Mujib an Indian puppet. Pakistani forces were continuously ambushed by Indian forces and Mukti Bahinis internally while the Tibetan guerrilla force raised by RAW was constantly attacking border outposts. Indian artillery was used extensively in support of rebel operations in East Pakistan. Moreover, Indian military forces, including tanks and air power on many occasions, were also used to back up Mukti Bahini.
Moreover, to increase the lethal capabilities of Mukti Bahini, India equipped them with Italian howitzers, Dakota DC-3 aircraft, Otter DHC-3 fighter planes, and Allouette helicopters (Italian howitzers used by Mukti Bahini are now preserved at Bangladesh Military Museum in Dhaka).
According to Archer Blood, an American career diplomat – who served as last US Consul General to Dhaka – “Indian soil was made available for training camps, hospitals and supply depots for the Mukti Bahini and they had a safe haven to which they could retire for rest, food, medical supplies, and weapons.”
Mukti Bahini guerillas-along with RAW operatives and regulars from the Indian Army-operated training camps in the Indian states of West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Tripura. In Nagaland, the Indian Armed Forces established a jungle airstrip for Mukti Bahini from where Indian Air Force trained pilots conducted sorties by Otter DHC-3 aircraft. India’s Eastern Command trained more than 400 naval commandos and frogmen to drown vessels in Chittagong, Chandpur, and Narayanganj.
In Dehra Dun, Major-General Oban “selected the best personnel from Mukti Bahini” and gave them political and military training. One Mukti Bahini Sector Commander, Quazi Nooruzzaman, writes: “Having received training, political commandos found it embarrassing to identify themselves as products of Indian authorities. So they gave themselves the name of Bangladesh Liberation Force.”
India violated international conventions in a bid to disintegrate Pakistan in 1971. Ever since India’s and Awami League’s jingoism / hyper-nationalism has impeded the development of cordial relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Another exposure in the book is about Agartala Conspiracy. It is a misperception that the case was a fabrication. The writer establishes that Indian intellectuals, military officers, and intelligence officers have made revelations about the Indian roots of the infamous case.
The plot was delayed due to the Indo-China war of 1962 and later due to the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. By 1967, the Pakistani government became cognizant of this conspiracy resulting in the filing of the Agartala Conspiracy Case against 35 people including Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman.
Agartala Conspiracy had been hatched by Awami Leaguers and Indian intelligence agencies; with Pakistan bearing the entire burden of its blame. Sashenka Banerjee, an Indian diplomat, wrote that Mujib had handed him an envelope addressed to Nehru on 25th Dec 1962, requesting him for India’s support in Bangladesh’s liberation struggle.
Sheikh Hasina Wajid herself admitted that Agartala was a true event; saying: “He went to Agartala in 1962. This is a fact. He went to make preparations.”
The next theme researched in the book is most important. It is misperception and propaganda that Operation Searchlight (25th March 1971) was launched against innocent civilians
The writer states that After Yahya Khan’s announcement to postpone the National Assembly session, Awami Leaguers took to the roads. They were armed and started vandalism, arson, loot, and killings. From the National Assembly session postponement till the start of Operation Searchlight thousands of innocent people lost their lives, the national flag was desecrated every day, and jailbreaks occurred regularly.
The perpetrators of violence were Bengali mobs, who targeted non-Bengalis and exhibited such savagery that the army was ordered to remain in their barracks.
Before Operation Searchlight, the Bangladeshi flag was raised, firing practices ensued within Dhaka University, barricades were erected throughout Dhaka city, and checkpoints of Awami Leaguers were erected near the airport to search people.
Due to this lawlessness, operation Searchlight was launched against Awami League leadership and its militant supporters. With the start of the operation, the Bengal regiments and East Pakistan Regiments revolted. As a bloody display of their extreme abhorrence, defecting Bengali soldiers before leaving their barracks killed their counterpart West Pakistani soldiers and their families
The writer discus in-depth whether Sheikh Mujib was a Liberator for Bengalis? Dr. Junaid states that Mujib was consistently using the election hustle in his favour and creating agitation all over East Pakistan, generating volatile emotions. West Pakistan was reluctant to transfer power to Mujib because of his illicit, treason-like relationship with India and his involvement in Agartala Conspiracy.
In 1972, Mujib signed a treaty of peace and friendship with India for twenty-five years. Indian interests were well protected with Bangladesh playing puppet in its hands so as to maintain its hegemony/dominance in the region.
Sheikh Mujib assumed power in Bangladesh as President, then PM, and then again President until his assassination on 15th Aug 1975. Mujib’s era saw price hikes, smuggling, hoarding, corruption, and political killings. The prices rose 300 times higher than they were in East Pakistan.
Smuggling was rampant due to corrupt politicians of the Awami League, who granted licenses to their friends/relatives, whereas, hoarding had become persistent.
Smuggling was rampant due to corrupt politicians of the Awami League, who granted licenses to their friends/relatives, whereas, hoarding had become persistent.
Mujib couldn’t tolerate opposition. He amended the constitution of Bangladesh for his own benefit, introduced a presidential form of government / single-party rule. He built paramilitary forces to suppress opposition and, in most cases, kill opposition leaders. His oppressive and tyrannical rule led to his own assassination in the end.
The allegation of the Genocide of three Million Bengalis has been termed propaganda by India to defame Pakistan.
The figure of the genocide of three million Bengalis is an arbitrary one given out by the Indians without any empirical data to prove it. Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman announced this figure after he returned to Bangladesh after nine months of confinement in West Pakistan. Several investigative accounts have rejected these fictitious claims of Awami League. The Guardian exposed the gaps between the claimed figures and the actual figures in a report of June 1972, named ‘The Missing Millions’.
Renowned author Sarmila Bose in her book, Dead Reckoning – a long-overdue dispassionate study of 1971 war, after carrying out case-by-case arithmetic – concludes that between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in 1971 – vastly away from the figure of 3 million that is sacrosanct in Bangladesh. Describing 3 million figures as a “gigantic rumour,” she says it is “not based on any accounting or survey on the ground.” Bose also elaborates that “in the ethnic violence unleashed in the name of Bengali nationalism, non-Bengali men, women, and children were slaughtered.”
She argues that the indiscriminate massacre of Biharis certainly constitutes genocide.
Sarmila also logically nullifies the bogus claims of sexual abuse by the Pakistan Army. She exclaimed: “How can it be possible that 34000 Pakistan Army soldiers facing Indian Army and Mukti Bahini could rape two lac, Bengali women”.
Even the immediate government of the Awami League after the creation of Bangladesh failed to prove its own generated myth of 3 million. Mujib formed an inquiry committee in Jan 1972 to meet the figure of 3 million but failed, as the committee came with a figure of 56,753 and the report never got published.
Likewise, only 72,000 families came forward when Sheikh Mujib announced a compensation scheme for victims of war including the bogus claims.
Even the Editor of the Morning Sun – Dacca; Noor-ul-Islam wrote: “to kill 3 million people in 3 months, 11,000 were to be killed daily!”
Dr Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, a Bengali Journalist in his book “Behind the Myth of Three Million” rejected the allegations by giving valid attestations and evidence, the credibility of which can hardly be questioned.
The argument used to back the claim of genocide is that hundreds of mass graves were found in Bangladesh. But, the presence of bodies in a mass grave doesn’t mean that the person was targeted by Pakistan Army.
Sarmila Bose argues that “claims of the dead in various incidents wildly exceeding anything that can be reasonably supported by evidence on the ground – ‘killing fields’ and ‘mass graves’ were claimed to be everywhere, but none was forensically exhumed and examined in a transparent manner.”
Mukti Bahinis were the main perpetrators of violence. Even before Operation Searchlight, thousands of horrifying cases of loot, arson, rapes, and massacres were reported. There are petrifying accounts of whole colonies burnt to ashes with inmates locked inside and burnt alive. The entire violence was targeted at non-Bengalis (particularly Biharis).
Brig Dapinder Singh Staff Officer to Gen Manekshaw in his book “Soldiering with Dignity” wrote; “we prepared Mukti Bahini. Some of them were clad in Pak Army uniform and tasked to loot and rape in East Pakistan.”
As per the 1951 census, there were 671,000 Biharis in East Pakistan and up to 20 % of the entire Bihari population was massacred by the Mukti Bahini.
According to Yasmin Saikia’s ‘Women, War and the Making of Bangladesh’, thousands of Bihari women were raped and tortured by the Mukti Bahini.
More than 20,000 Biharis were massacred by Bengalis in Khulna jute mills – including men, women, and children. Some were burnt alive; others were guillotined.
Biharis were subjected to killing/rape and were driven out of their homes. Mukti Bahini killed from 100,000 Biharis (according to ‘Chronology for Biharis in Bangladesh’) to 150,000 Biharis (according to ‘Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict’).
Qutubuddin Aziz, in ‘Blood and Tears,’ has documented 170 eye-witness accounts of ‘atrocities committed on Biharis and other non-Bengalis,’ covering ‘110 places where the slaughter of innocents took place.’
According to Lawrence Lifschultz, South Asia correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review, Mukti Bahini leader, Abdul Kader Siddiqui, “personally bayoneted” non-Bengalis to death and the entire incident was filmed by foreign film crews whom Siddiqui had invited to witness the spectacle.
The writer also argues the number of soldiers who surrendered.
The number of soldiers is exaggerated and false. The actual number was 34,000 troops, 11,000 police, rangers, scouts, and militia. This made the total number of combatants 45,000.
Accordingly, the number of 93,000 as conjured by Indians including children, women, civilian administration officials and staff; non-combatant army personnel – nurses, doctors, barbers, cooks, and shoemakers is ill-founded.
Moreover, the political machinations of India and allies have been exposed by Indian Lt Gen J.F.R. Jacob in his book ‘Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation’ as he writes; “On 4 December 1971, the United States moved a draft resolution calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of Indian forces, which was vetoed by Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thereafter, another six resolutions including one by China were introduced calling for cease-fire and withdrawal of forces, some of which were accepted by Pakistan. However, due to behind the scene political machinations by India and her allies their passage and implementation were stalled till Dhaka fell on 16 December 1971 and the cease-fire had been perfidiously converted to surrender. “I took a careful look at the documents and was aghast to see the heading – which read Instrument of ‘Surrender’……”.
Nevertheless, Pakistan Army fought valiantly in tough conditions, Logistical problems faced by West Pakistan in the 1971 war need due consideration. East and West Pakistan were separated by over 1200 miles of territory of hostile India.
Pakistani troops gave heroic fight despite the enemy’s superiority in both numbers and firepower. There are numerous accounts of some astounding chivalry that testify the courage of Pakistani troops. The defence of Hilli and valour displayed by Major Muhammad Akram, actions of Fateh Saboona Maj Shabbir Sharif Shaheed, Lance Naik Muhammad Mahfuz, and Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed are a few examples. “Captain Arjumand Yar Khand was a young officer from an infantry unit. He was assigned the task of setting up a strong delaying position ahead of this defense position. The officer, along with a handful of men, held his ground against repeated Indian armor and infantry assaults, hours of air bombing and strafing for nearly three days during which some of his men were martyred and some seriously wounded. On the last day, Arjumand was the only one left in the delaying position.
On 5th Dec 1971, the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini forces broke the defence between Laksham and Comilla and were heading for the Divisional Headquarters and Chandpur Base. At this moment, Major Bilal Ahmed among half company of commandos fought the enemy columns for almost three days and nights. He successfully resisted the continued attacks of the enemies and kept them away from the Chandpur base.
Even Indian Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw praised the Pakistani Army while saying, “The Pakistan Army in East Pakistan fought very gallantly but they had no chance… They were a thousand miles away from their base; I had eight or nine months to make my preparations. I had the superiority of almost 50 to 1. They just had no chance but they fought very gallantly.”
Importantly, Pakistan Army’s formations baffled the Indian Army along the Eastern Border, and the capture of the strategic town of Chumb is one of the most serious reverses suffered by the Indian Army in 1971.
The writer undertakes the logic if Creation of Bangladesh is the negation of Two Nation Theory? He elaborated that The creation of Bangladesh did not happen on religious lines, it happened on the basis of divergent culture / political differences – exploited by a visible foreign hand.
Moreover, the negation of Two Nation Theory would mean that after seceding from Pakistan, Bangladesh had to merge with India as was in the pre- partition era, which it did not.
Two Nation Theory meant that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. Even after succeeding from Pakistan, Muslims in Bangladesh don’t consider themselves similar to Hindus.
The biggest evidence in support of Two Nation Theory is the chain of events triggered in India after Modi came to power. Muslims are being persecuted / further pushed to the wall. Several actions – abrogation of Article 370, construction of Ram Mandir, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) / National Register for Citizens (NRC) – have been instrumental in making Indian Muslims second-class citizens. Even pro-India Kashmiri leaders (Muftis and Abdullah) are questioning the decision of their forefathers to stay within the Union of India.
Modi inspired by RSS / toxic Hindutva ideology has successfully proven the Two-Nation Theory. Prophetic words of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah that “Muslims who are opposing Pakistan will spend rest of their lives proving loyalty to India,” stand vindicated.
Taking about Biharis, the writer maintains that Biharis were not abandoned by Pakistan. Biharis, as a distinct ethnic group, are the ones who faced the most brutal brunt of the 1971 episode of East Pakistan. Biharis supported the territorial integrity of Pakistan in 1971. Quite a few of them succeeded in reaching Pakistan from 1972 to 1980 and the majority settled in Karachi.
They are very loyal and patriotic citizens who volunteer to be enrolled in the armed forces and fight for defence of their motherland.
Hero of 1965 war, Air Commodore M.M Alam and the hero of Operation Swift Retort, Squadron Leader Hasan Siddiqui were Biharis.
They firmly believe in the two-nation theory. From 1947 to 1971, these Bihari’s were bonafide Pakistani citizens whose status never changed; therefore their legal status is exactly the same as other Pakistani citizens.
There is not a vestige of hostility against Bengalis amongst Pakistanis. From random literature to textbooks, there is no denouncing material against Bengalis. The separation of East and West Pakistan is largely remembered as a painful national tragedy warranting soul searching and self-accountability. Ever since separation, no malicious campaign has ever run in Pakistan to belittle or disregard Bangla Desh at any forum; rather it is considered as a Brother Muslim Sovereign State.
Overwhelming support for Pakistani cricketers in the recent matches in Bangladesh reflects the existing affinity between the two people which hostile forces have failed to defeat.
Factually speaking, there is adequate space for affecting conciliation and cordiality between Pakistan and Bangladesh based on mutual respect, trust, and interest. It’s better for the two countries to candidly revisit/forget the unpleasant past and look towards a shared prosperous future in the dawning era of geo-economics and regional integration.
Note: The writer is an Islamabad-based researcher and holds a Doctorate in International Relations having a background in the field of Defence and Strategic Affairs.