Saturday, March 19, 2011

Massacre At Pilkhana : Propaganda And The Truth

I have also read the Muhit Rahman article (The Daily Star – March 12, 2009) and it makes some interesting points. The most interesting is that while describing other commentators as mere arm-chair Generals he is himself only a banker. I wonder how much military knowledge and tactical experience is required to get a bank job these days. The follow-up article by Mr. Abdul Momen raises some further and important issues. He explains that in all the cases where military assaults have been allowed by the government in a hostage type situation there have usually been significant civilian casualties. He provides the examples of Lal Masjid, Kargil, Mumbai, Wako, the Russian Threatre and the Ossetia- Alania School takeovers. In all these cases probably the Kargil conflict is the least relevant as this involved a military operation of two countries and the issue of hostages never arose. In all the other scenarios the taking of hostages was an important element in the plan of the terrorists. However, there are other substantive differences between the above cited cases and the BDR Mutiny – 1. The commitment and morale of the BDR mutineers was questionable with the vast majority trying to escape and a small minority perpetrating the atrocities. If the army had been allowed to effectively cordon off the area and move in heavy weaponry outside the boundary walls it is possible that the mutiny would have folded early on - according to several eyewitnesses the killings only took place after 11 am on the first day of the revolt. It is also possible that the BDR soldiers would have turned on the hard core group but this theory was not tested because of the hesitancy of the PM and COAS to act in a timely and prompt fashion. 2. The BDR mutiny was strictly not a hostage type situation. The intent was to kill the officers within the compound. There were apparently no negotiations for release of the officers or their families. There was no sign of goodwill on the part of the hardcore mutineers to release the women and children. Inexplicably in this situation the PM gave a general amnesty without securing release of the captives inside the compound or verifying the extent of the carnage inside the BDR HQ. In these circumstances an immediate response may have saved lives. Only once the mutiny was nearing its end with the majority of perpetrators having already escaped were some officers released but clearly this was a ruse (indicating a wider and more sophisticated conspiracy) and not part of a negotiating strategy. 3. In all the other incidents terrorists had to be forcibly dislodged when negotiations failed. In the BDR mutiny the perpetrators had no intention of holding out within the compound as nearly all escaped during the second night. This point was proven when tanks were brought into position on the 3 rd day and the left-over mutineers submitted meekly. If a forced entry was considered then the surrounding area would have been evacuated (as was actually done on the last day) leaving the risk to civilians at a complete minimum. 4. That amongst the BDR soldiers were ‘outsiders’ who hid their faces throughout the mutiny and ultimately escaped. In none of the other situations described by Muhit or Momen were there any external groups within the hostage takers. With sufficient pressure and a show of force the BDR soldiers may have been convinced that continuing with the mutiny was not worth the trouble and surrendering was now the only viable option. The ‘outsiders’ numbering no more than 20 would have been left to their own devices. 5. In all the other cases there was no indication of government complicity. The arrest of an AL leader seems to suggest some connivance at higher levels of government if not outright assistance. The transfer of army officers out of the DGFI and NSI in the preceding weeks of the mutiny explains some of the intelligence failures but still requires an explanation from the government. On these four grounds I do not believe that the points expressed by Mr. Muhit Rahman or Mr. Abdul Momen hold much credibility or substance. During the 3 day mutiny the resolve of the mutineers was never tested. Every time the army wanted to move against the mutineers they were thwarted by the worthless and cowardly COAS and the perverse and mentally imbalanced Prime Minister. By not acting with courage and decisiveness the mutineers gained confidence and proceeded on their killing spree.