Monday, December 19, 2011

Coup against secularism : Pakistan's viewpoint

Spin doctors would like us to believe that the inception of the very idea of Pakistan was a theocratic land for the Muslims of India; a sort of core country which would serve as a launching pad for the renaissance of Islam. Islam in this view would be the binding force between the people of different ethnicities. What led to the dismemberment of Pakistan? It was largely the reaction of the majority of Pakistani citizens who were by then totally disenchanted with the two-nation-theory and the idea of defining national identity on the basis of religion.

There is a time gap of 92 years between the Battle of Plassey in Bengal (1757) and annexation of Western Punjab into British India (1849). Thus Bengal came into contact with the civilized democratic (hence secularized) world almost a century before the areas of the Sub-continent that now constitute Pakistan.

To draw analogy and contrast with the separatist movement of today’s Baloch nationalism; unlike the Balochs of Pakistan today, whose ultra-nationalism is to a great extent inspired by their tribal chiefs, the pre-1971 Bengali Pakistanis had a democratic and secular mindset, which was the result of the longer history of political awareness in that region.

In the early years of Pakistan, when its entire Civil-Military leadership was busy consolidating the country’s foundation on the bedrock of religion, the then most popular Muslim League leader from Bengal, Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy, was the only one to dispute the notion of an ‘ideological state’, proposing its substitution with the idea of a ‘nation state’.

He supported pro-West foreign policy, seeing little gain in pursuit of the utopian concept of Pan-Islamism. Like other Bengali leaders of Pakistan, however, Suharwardy was kicked out of the office of Prime Minister of Pakistan by West Pakistan’s Civil-Military nexus, after just one year in office (1956-1957). He was later barred from politics by Ayub Khan.

Succeeding military ruler of Pakistan Yahya Khan not only continued the emphasis on the ideological state; but also declared the Pak Army as the ultimate defender of country’s ‘ideological borders’, besides geographical boundaries - a phrase that has been echoing in Pakistan’s state affairs ever since.

Accordingly, the ‘Legal Framework Order’ (LFO), announced by Yahya Khan on March 28, 1970 - under which first general elections in Pakistan were to be held later that year - stipulated Islamic Ideology as the corner stone of the country’s future constitution.

The apparently free and fair elections of 1970 were intended to be an eyewash for the national and international observers. The political neutrality of military rulers was fallacious as it covertly backed religious parties, while Pakistan’s state media openly promoted Islamic political thought, to indirectly support the agenda of Islamic parties, whereby becoming a tool of their election campaign.

It was not by coincidence that several Islamic parties in Pakistan observed ‘Shaukat-e-Islam’ (Glory of Islam) day on May 31, 1970, which was the stock phrase of Yahya Khan, his Information commissar Sher Ali Khan and the entire military leadership. The mass rallies taken out by Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious parties that day convinced the intelligence agencies that Islamists were going to have a strong representation in the future constituent assembly, not only to uphold Islamic National Ideology; but also to enable the army to use democracy as a fa├žade of its mastery over the country.

However, the election results proved to be very anti-climatic for West Pakistan’s establishment. Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman’s Awami League swept the polls in East Pakistan, also emerging as the major political party of Pakistan, laying its claim to rule Pakistan as the First Democratically Elected Party. It won 160 out of 162 seats in the East Pakistan taking a total share of 53% in the Constituent Assembly. This was almost twice as much as 81 seats that Z.A. Bhutto’s PPP bagged in West Pakistan.

The establishment viewed Mujeeb as an Indian-backed secessionist and opposed to Pakistan’s ideology (read the establishment), although on June 28, 1970, in a huge public rally at Nishtar Park Karachi, Mujeeb had reaffirmed that East Pakistan would never separate itself from Pakistan. He had pointedly declared that his struggle was not against Pakistan or West Pakistan; but against “exploiters”.

Mujeeb was disliked by the establishment not only on account of his being an Ultra-Nationalist; but also a Secularist and a Socialist. It was unambiguously stated in Awami League’s manifesto that the Fundamentals of Pakistan’s constitution would be Secular, besides con-federal.

Secularism or ‘Dhormo Niropekhota’ in Bengali, was the fundamental principal that drove the Bengali Nationalist Movement. That is why the term Secularity was later induced into the First Constitution of Bangladesh in 1972 as one of the Four State Principles beside Democracy, Nationalism and Socialism (following Mujeeb’s assassination, the word Secularism was condemned by subsequent military regimes and eventually replaced in the constitution with the words “Absolute ….. faith in the Almighty Allah…..” by General Zia-ur-Rehman in 1977).

Whereas the Awami League was clear in its stance on Secularism, Bhutto’s PPP’s manifesto put Islam together with Socialism and democracy as one of the foundational bases of its politics. Utterly disappointed by the performance of Islamic parties, now the establishment decided to co-operate with Bhutto to undermine Awami League’s right to form the political government in Pakistan.

Earlier, Bhutto, serving as Foreign Minister in Ayub Khan’s Cabinet had promised a “Thousand-Year-War” with India. He maintained close personal relationship with several generals, including Yahya Khan. In fact the PPP’s founding document contained a reference to Jihad against India (Feldman, From Crisis to Crisis, p. 250 cited by Hussain Haqqani in, Pakistan-Between Mosque and Military, p67).

Earlier, in his LFO, Yahya Khan had announced that the new Constituent Assembly would be bound to formulate country’s Constitution within 120 days of its election, failing to which it would dissolve automatically. In February 1971, however, he belatedly scheduled the session of elected assembly as late as on March 3, 1971.

He later on postponed it indefinitely on the pretext of the demand of Bhutto, as a leader of Majority populace of West Pakistan. Bhutto, becoming the tool of the establishment, asserted that an agreement had to be reached between him and Mujeeb, before the First Session of Assembly was called.

After the humiliation of the fall of Dacca, both the military as well as the PPP blamed each other either directly or through their apologists for that debacle. But the fact is that the denial of the rights of the Majority Party which led to this eventuality was coordinated and jointly carried out by both in the so-called interest of West Pakistan (for details see: Hasan Zaheer’s The Separation of East Pakistan, Oxford University Press 1994).

Subsequent to indefinite postponement of the Assembly’s session, Awami League announced Civil Disobedience. The Civil and Military advisers of Yahya Khan suggested a Military Action against the Awami League. According to them an iron fist would fix the Bengalis.

However, the military officials, belonging to West Pakistan, who savvied the determination of the Bengalis opposed such action. These included the Military Governor of East Pakistan, Admiral S.M. Ahsan and Commandant-in-chief of Eastern Wing Lt. General Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan, both of whom resigned when they were pressured by the Federal Government to carry out a crackdown.

Lt. General Tikka Khan replaced Sahibzada Yaqub Khan - to defend ‘National Ideology’ and ‘Glory of Islam’ - and ‘Operation Searchlight’ started on March 25, 1971 with Tikka Khan’s following words manifesting its objectives: “…..Kill all the traitors and, if necessary, raze Dacca to the ground. There will be no one to rule; there will be nothing to rule” (Saddique Salik, Witness to Surrender, p. 53). Pakistani soldiers attacking Awami League activists were heard hollering “Allah ho Akbar”.

The Butcher of Bengalis General Tikka Khan was later on appointed Defence Minister by Z.A. Bhutto in 1976. He was accepted in PPP with open arms and went on to become its Secretary General, further underlining the fact that the differences that later developed between PPP and the security establishment were not ideological; but a result of power tussle.

Jamaat-e-Islami youth wing Al-Bader led by Khurram Murad - who went on to become JI’s General Secretary under Qazi Hussain – served as a spearhead of the army in its genocide of Bengalis. On December 14, 1971, just two days before Pakistan Army’s Surrender to India, many Bengali intellectuals and writers including Shaheed Qaiser were kidnapped and later slaughtered by Al-Bader. Every year Bangladesh observes this day as a ‘Day of Martyred Intellectuals’.

Pakistan’s establishment has always called Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman a secessionist. Secession by definition is an act in which a group withdraws itself from a larger political body. The separation of the East Pakistan was in a way unique because in this case the majority refused to be ruled by the minority - which was denying the formers right to choose a political system – and was still called defector.

The system that majority were opting for was also inter alia secularism. It was denied by the minority which was ruled by even a smaller group that had arms (Bengalis constituted less than 10% of the army in united Pakistan). This group has been adamant to sacrifice anything and everything for its ideological bigotry.

The fall of East Pakistan not only saw the loss of the Eastern half of Pakistan; but also the lost opportunity of making Pakistan a secular country - a potential development that would have not only saved it from the disaster that it is presently going through; but also the much bigger one foreseeable ahead, when the Taliban may finally take over Pakistan.

All they want is an apology : Pakistan's viewpoint

As Bangladesh is gearing up to celebrate its 4o years of independence on 16th December, young Bengalis, growing up with the haunting narratives of 1971, seek apology from Pakistan for the alleged war crimes committed by the Pakistan Army.

Twenty-nine years old journalist Zahidul Haq from Rajshahi District emphasizes: “Although the slaying of innocent Benaglis during military operation is beyond apology for the Bangladeshi people yet an official apology from Pakistan will console our suffering souls and aggrieved minds. We cannot bring back the departed but it is a matter of grave concern for us to seek justice for the hideous war crimes committed by Pakistani establishment. I think this is the least compensation for the criminal acts of Pakistan Army but it will make a huge difference to lessen the prevalent Bengali repugnance against Pakistanis”.

This repugnance as Deeba, 28, who hails from Natore tells us is against those who raped women, looted businesses and killed civilians during military operations. “It makes my blood boil when I think of those atrocities and feel nothing but disgust for those Pakistanis but it doesn’t mean I hate all Pakistanis as they can’t be blamed for their for past events. Yet as a common Bangladeshi woman I think an official apology is all that we need from Pakistan to mend our blood-tainted relationships”

Sabbir Ali, a Bangladeshi student living in Germany, said that “it is a concept of modern democracies to bury the past amiably and move ahead for future relationships. If Germany can express its regret over the Holocaust and international figures like Willy Brandt can kneel down before Poland then why can’t Pakistan admit its mistake and apologize to Bangladeshi people?”   

Recently in November 2011 Bangladeshi Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni in, a meeting with Pakistani officials demanded an official apology from Pakistan and stressed that resolving long standing issues is crucial for the bilateral relations in future. Moni’s demand echoes the feelings of Bengali people like Riazul Hasan, a post-graduate student of Media Studies at Bonn University Germany, who feel their friendly ties with Pakistan rely only on an honest confession of Pakistan of its army’s excesses. In Riazul’s opinion “Pakistan must admit the cruel treatment incurred upon us otherwise we cannot have good relations while having hatred and malice in our hearts”.

Ghosts of a bloody Past

Politically conscious and fully aware of their history Bangladeshis, especially the youth, don’t appear to have forgotten their history and insist that the world must acknowledge their claim of ‘genocide’ by the Pak Army.

Most of them believe that the linguistic and ethnic discrimination in the early years of Pakistan led to their demand for ultimate independence from suppressive Pakistani regime.  “Not a single significant step was ever taken by the Pakistani state for the welfare of Bangla people in the East Pakistan,” says Deeba in a bitter voice. “They were even deprived of speaking their own language right at the formation of Pakistan when Urdu was declared as national language by Mr. Jinnah,” she adds. Sharraf Ahmed a teacher from Rjshahi, however, views Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s decision of making Urdu a national language his political mistake not bad intention. “Mr. Jinnah was an enlightened leader but  could not judge the sensitive correlation between Bengali culture and identity”.  Riazul too believes that Mr. Jinnah’s decision was awful for Bengalis “he didn’t have the right to determine what should we speak it was our right to make Bangla our official language. Yet it is not fair to blame Jinnah solely for what Pakistani state and marshal law administrators did later”. According to Zahidul Haq, Mr. Jinnah was under the influence of elite leaders of Muslim League who wanted the domination of Urdu.

For Riazul, independence or separation of East Pakistan was somehow inevitable as Bangla people had very distinct culture, customs, language and history and it was only ‘religion’ that united them with Pakistan. “Perhaps it was bound to happen sooner or later since there was a willingness among Bengalis to be independent. In 1947 Bengalis actually wished a divided Bengal but it did not happen so they deemed it better to be part of Pakistan” . He adds: “Though there was a possibility that if the power was democratically handed over to Mujeeb he would not have declared independence but the alienation of Bengalis had brought them at a point of no return”.

Disagreeing with Riazul Hasan, Zahidul, Deeba and Ashraf, however, hold Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto responsible for the chaos that followed the Election of 1971. While Sabbir thinks that Bhutto had a personality clash with Mujeeb, Deeba accuses Bhutto of betraying Mujeeb: “The army operation was started right after the night Bhutto met Bagabandhu who was arrested afterwards. Bhutto in fact tried to manipulate Mujeeb’s influence but couldn’t succeed”.

“Awami League had stolen the 71s election from right under Bhutto’s nose,” tells Ashraf Ahmed,  “and the people had elected Sheikh Mujeeb with a heavy mandate. Bhutto and the military did not want a Bengali to rule Pakistan that is why they sabotaged the democracy. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto could have convinced Yahya Khan for transferring power to Mujeeb but he himself wanted to become the prime minister”. Ashraf Ahmed thinks, “Bhutto was hand in gloves with Yahya Khan who ordered Operation Searchlight and tried to quell the Bengali movement by butchering intellectuals and teachers”. 

While insisting on the Bangladesh’s official claim that Pakistan Army massacred 3 million people, they acknowledge the Pakistani allegations of Mukti Bahini’s involvement in target killing of pro-Pakistani Bengalis and Biharis.

“It is an open secret that Mukti Bahini was trained by Indian Army to fight against Pak Army during liberation movement but their activities were confined to the border areas not inside the city centres, however, it can by no means justify the massacring of Bengalis by Pak Army,” says Ashraf Ahmed. Riazul sees the reprisal of Mukti Bahini as a retributive justice: “When you are attacked and violently suppressed then you have no choice but violence. It was liberation war and in war everything is legitimate to get your freedom. It was Pak Army and its collaborators who initiated aggression against innocent Bengalis” .  

When asked who was the real villain of the Bangla movement, “all Pakistani leaders are equally responsible for the massacre of Bengalis” was the common response. As Zahidul Haq puts it: “Whether it was Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Gen Tikka Khan, Gen.Niazi or Z. A. Bhutto all the civil and military leaders of West Pakistan were our enemies and we still hate them”.  “Actually it was not just a few persons rather a whole system of injustice and discrimination which treated the Bengalis as second class citizens,” says Riazul. 

Bangladesh and Pakistan today

With an estimated growth rate of 6.3 percent e Bangladesh’s economy has seen significant rise since the days of its independence, however, with 40 percent of its population still living below poverty line Bangladesh has many challenges ahead.  

But the optimism of Bangalis is remarkable. “We are free now and we can do everything we want without any fear of economic or social domination,” says Deeba. Zahidul shares the same view: “Of course we are far better than Pakistan which has failed as a country and embroiled in terrorism. Bangladesh has no issue of Islamic extremism since it is a moderate and secular country. Bangladesh has tackled and nipped the Islamist terrorism which erupted in 2004 and 2005.”  

“40 years on Pakistan has a whole new generation which could not be blamed for the crimes it was not involved in,” thinks Sharraf Ahmed. “But we cannot forget those crimes against humanity committed 40 years ago,” says Riazul and explains: “I still feel terrible when I think of the war of liberation. I have met many Pakistanis who express their guilt and shame but there are those who don’t have the least idea what Bengalis have gone through”. For emotionally charged Deeba it is very important for the young Pakistanis to know the sufferings of Bengalis.

Zahidul Haq also feels the same: “Since Pakistan hasn’t apologized for its brutalities I feel a bit apprehensive when I hear the word ‘Pakistan or Pakistani’ but I think Pakistani youth acknowledges the inhuman treatment and plight of the (then) East Pakistanis”.

On India

Bengalis view India as their “savior and liberator who made it possible for us to win freedom. Most of the Mukti Bahini guerrillas were trained in Agartallha, India and without India we could not have made it,” says Zahidul.

Riazul also feels indebted to India for the liberation which “helped us achieving independence but we are not influenced by India rather have foreign relations based on equality”. Zahidul Haq says, “We don’t consider India a big brother since we don’t like to be taken as minnows of South Asia. Though India sometimes underestimates the state of Bangladesh for instance India is constructing dams like Tipaimokh without taking Bangladesh into confidence which is not acceptable to us”.  

On the defensive:  Pakistan

For Pakistanis discussions about the debacle of East Pakistan are very painful and upsetting since they lost their eastern wing and had to surrender the arch rival India which reached its defining moment by successfully segregating Pakistan. It is interesting to note that as compared to Bengalis, Pakistani youth don’t know much about the breakup of East Pakistan except the text book narrative, though some are even unable to recall schoolbook description of the 1971 war.

“Recollecting the debacle of 1971 is a shocking and depressing experience which leaves so many questions unanswered. I think it is the most horrific time in our history,” says 22- year-old Saira Zaman who teaches at a local school in Lahore. She blames Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for being stubborn and selfish at such a crucial time: “Actually Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto broke Pakistan up and let India take advantage of our internal anarchy. He was very proud Sindhi feudal lord who thought it was his right to be the next prime minister. He could not accept a Bengali as the head of state therefore he had had a power tussle with Mujeeb ur Rehman who was very popular in East Pakistan”.

Then there are those who believe it was a great international conspiracy against Pakistan spearheaded by none other than ‘our greatest enemy India’ who according to Tanveer Rizvi, a medical representative in Lahore, “wanted to take revenge of the ‘defeat in the war of 1965’ and eventually succeeded due to the inefficiency of a retarded and drunk general Yahiya Khan”. Some Pakistanis like Abid Ali,  who resides in Rawalpindi, rely more on facts than rhetoric for analyzing this great national catastrophe: “We never treated Bengalis equally and let me say that even today we think we are superior to them. You might have heard people making fun of a weak and poor person by calling him Bengali. What we reaped in 71 was just what we had sown.” 

History as told by text books

Restating the narrative presented by the course books, 19 years old Sana Tehrem says, “We lost one  of our province because of Hindus who entered from the neighboring India and provoked rage among the Bengalis”. Frarooq Khan,28,  thinks “geographical, cultural and ethnic divisions caused estrangement between the people of a same country and India took full advantage of it”. He laments the incompetence of “power-hungry politicians who were incapable of safeguarding national integrity in the aftermath of Bengali uprising”. Abid Ali discredits the information given in the books and highlights the fact that “What I studied about fall of Dhaka during school days was basically half-truth. The facts about the surrender were fudged by the inclusion of statement that UN intervened and a enforced a ceasefire”.   

Military vs Mukti Bahini

Abid Ali thinks that this kind of misleading information impedes the possibility of holding the military accountable of its alleged corruption and incompetence which led to the chaos. Others, however, think that it was Pakistan Army’s national duty to control the rebellion which was orchestrated by India. “When insurgents challenge the writ of state as Mukti Bahini and Mujeeb did, then all countries have only one option…crush the rebellion using all means,” justifies Farooq Khan. On Army’s accountability he says, “There was a massive infiltration of Indian guerillas in East Pakistan and it is really hard to say who killed whom in this situation. Besides, if Indian Army’s interference and military support to Bengalis was justified then India should also not bitch about Pakistan’s involvement in Kashmir as they also demand freedom,” he concludes.

Saira Zaman, too thinks similarly: “What Pak Army is often accused of is just disinformation. They were in a state of war when Agartallha Conspiracy was exposed. They might have killed some innocent people while hunting the traitors of Mukti Bahini so they should be tried but accusing them of genocide is totally sham propaganda”.

“It is very important to set up an international war tribunal which may judge objectively and independently  what actually happened during the separation of East Pakistan. There is evidence that both Pakistan Army and Mukti Bahini killed people but the figures presented by both are disputable,” argues Abid Ali.

On comparing Bangladesh and Pakistan Saira and Farooq believe its illogical since “we are Pakistanis and we think our country is best no matter how turbulent these days are”. Moreover,  “it is unfair to compare Bangladesh’s economic growth with Pakistan which is destroyed by the prolonged war on terror” Farooq says. “Bangladesh is growing it is good but you know they don’t have 3 million Afghan refugees scattered across their country,” he thinks. In Tanveer’s view: “Bangladesh is hugely dominated by political and social intervention of India”.

On Apology

It is interesting that all these Pakistanis this writer talked to dispute the allegations of war crimes yet feel for the Bengalis and regret this part of history deeply. Saira Zaman says: “If our apology can heal their wounds we must go ahead. I want to apologise for the loss of all those pro or anti-Pakistanis killed during the war even if I am not a culprit”.

Abid Ali and Tanveer Rizvi are also ready to reconcile with Benaglis because “we both are Muslim nations and Islam preaches that a Muslim shall not hurt another”. Abid Ali has his own reason: “Pakistan is already notorious for extremism and militant mindset it will help us improve our image as a tolerant and responsible society”.

Farooq Khan is an exception in this regard as he opposes the idea of apologizing: “They cannot ask for an apology without an inquiry rather we should urge Bengalis to apologize for betraying and dividing Pakistan. There is no single Pakistani who had not mourned the separation….it tore us apart. Can Bengalis undo the hurt and tragedy we have suffered after the fall of Dhaka? ”.

Getting rid of 'the nuisance' : Pakistan's viewpoint

“Why was Pakistan Created?” The issue remains controversial to date. Pakistan appears as a weird entity having none of its organs in proper form. Whoever looks at it defines it in the light of its own perspective. We also have the distinction of being the only nation in the world which is always obsessed with the fear of fragmentation and a horrible end.

Our security establishment presents itself as an indomitable force while all rights of the state are reserved for Pakistan army. Politics, the affairs of the state, the ideology and relations with neighboring countries and all other international players is a task religiously undertaken by the army. What is to be taught to school children and what has to be the media policy are areas determined by the army. Issuance of certificates of patriotism and treachery is also included in the job description of the army. So much so that all residents of a particular province can be declared traitors, while with the exception of Punjab, people from all other provinces have been declared traitors and Indian agents in the past. Presently the disloyalty of the Baluch people has reached the same proportions as that of the Bengalis and an identical military operation is underway in Baluchistan.

Pakistan, when created was configured in two geographical regions with a distance of 1000 miles in between. The hegemony of the security establishment could only have been established if India could be declared an eternal enemy. To further strengthen hostility towards India and establish a centralized rule, the concept of Islamic ideology was invented.

The basic tenet of a federation is the understanding that the provinces would join hands to create the federation and not the other way round. The federal system is based on the voluntary accession of all the federating units into a federation whereas in Pakistan the security apparatus retained the federal structure through coercion wherein Islam and animosity against India were used as weapons. East Pakistan was the majority province in terms of population. To usurp the rights of the Bengalis, who comprised the majority, one unit based on parity principle was instituted while Urdu was imposed on them replacing native Bengali.

Since the creation of Pakistan, provinces have been crying hoarse for their rights. For 64 years the “ridiculous” NWFP was not allowed to change its name while to counter demands for provincial autonomy the federating units were taught the lessons of Islam and the threat from India.

One thousand miles away, surrounded by the “arch enemy” the Bengalis were a nation who would take pride in their land, culture and nationality. The security establishment and its ally the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) kept working on the Bengalis to make them “better” Muslims and “better” Pakistanis; however the Bengalis refused to accept a certificate to qualify as the “true believers” and “true patriots”.

In 1971 the military ruled Pakistan and Yahya Khan was the all powerful President of the country. The JI was his ally and a part of his cabinet. Yahya was fond of wine and women while the whole nation was being taught the “message” of Islam. The JI in collusion with Yahya Khan was all set to come up with an “Islamic” 

constitution when elections were held in 1970 wherein Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman sweeped the elections from East Pakistan while Z.A Bhutto’s PPP emerged as the party with majority seats in West Pakistan. As per the election results, it was Sheikh Mujeeb-ur –Rahman who should have been invited to form the new government in the centre yet the military junta and Bhutto refused to accept the electoral results which were declared null and void. This caused the Bengalis to revolt against the establishment. The army retaliated by taking Mujeeb into custody and Awami League was banned. Later, “phony” elections were conducted in East Pakistan which resulted in the “victory” of JI and PPP.

While army crackdown was underway in East Pakistan, an armed conflict and guerilla warfare ensued between Mujeeb loyalists and Pakistan army belonging to West Pakistan. As a result of full scale insurgency, around 10 million Bengalis, in order to save their lives, crossed the border into India. All independent sources corroborate that Pak army was involved in the massacre of Bengalis. Since a direct war had erupted between the Bengali nationalists and Pak army and while 10 million Bengalis were occupying refugee camps in India, it was not possible for India to remain a silent spectator when the international public opinion was also in India’s favor.

While the situation was critical in the East, the Pakistani generals committed another blunder by launching an air assault on Indian air fields from the West. This led to the formal declaration of war between India and Pakistan on the 3rd of December 1971.

The East Pakistani populace which had turned against the establishment was being butchered by the Pak army as the whole world watched in shock. At the same time Bhutto was indulging in theatrics in the United Nations to “save” Pakistan. He tore down the Polish Resolution calling for ceasefire and left the Security Council.
While in West Pakistan, the military junta, JI and Bhutto were constantly befooling the entire nation, BBC was the only source of reliable information.

During the last days of the conflict in East Pakistan when preparations were underway for the surrender ceremony, the President, General Agha Mohammad Yahya khan was addressing the nation; fully drunk: “We will fight in the streets in the lands and in our houses and devastate the enemy which dared to attack us.”At the same time the nation was being comforted with the news of the arrival of the sixth US fleet.

And then BBC informed that 90,000 Pak army regulars, Para-military and others surrendered before General Jagjit Singh Arora of the Indian army.90000 was a huge number in terms of POW’s which surrendered ever to an enemy while Pakistan stood dismembered. The people of West Pakistan were in a state of shock and stricken with grief, yet Yahya Khan, despite defeat and dismemberment was shamelessly reluctant to quit the corridors of power. Most likely some middle order officers of Pak army forced Yahya to quit his seat.

A commission was constituted to investigate the East Pakistan debacle whose report was never made public. No army officer was ever court martialed thus strengthening the notion that blunders by the uniformed are not to be brought on record. Whatever they do to the country and its people was beyond accountability.

East Pakistan was a nuisance to our generals who got rid of it so that the remaining state could be made more manageable and fully controlled. Ironically, Baluchistan is treading the path once followed by East Pakistan. However, nothing has changed in the mindset of the generals who still think that they can save Pakistan by destroying it.