Admiral (R) Shahid Karimullah
(Former Chief of Naval Staff & Former Ambassador to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)
While reading the book under review “Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded” by Dr Junaid Ahmad, I went back into past and had nostalgic memories of my experience’s of 1971 debacle in which I not only participated as a young 20 years old Officer of the Pakistan Navy but am witness to many happenings of this period of Pakistan’s History. Much that I would like to forget many of our wrong doings and incorrect decisions but no one can eradicate history. History is there to learn lessons from but unfortunately this is not happening in Pakistan. This aspect has been brought out very loudly and clearly in his concluding remarks by the author is this book warning that the Indian Pattern of things in Baluchistan are very similar to what it followed during separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
I visited East Pakistan many times before it became Bangladesh in 1971. The visit in 1968 was a significant one and it was organized by Pakistan Navy for us Midshipmen undertraining in the Naval Academy. During this trip we visited Jute Mills, Tea Gardens and many major industries. We also availed a day/night cruise on board “Rocket Ferry “. My impressions of that visit were that majority of Jute Mills and Tea Gardens were owned and managed by West Pakistanis. Their management and lifestyle were based entirely on the British Colonial pattern. Their treatment of labour was quite abhorring. The National Language issue was yet unresolved and remained source of concern to the Bengalis. The education system was dominated by Hindu Bengalis. The dislike for West Pakistanis specially the Punjabis was glaringly apparent in all Bengali eyes. We could feel the uneasiness in the atmosphere.
In August I was transferred to East Pakistan as a young commissioned Sub Lieutenant of Pakistan Navy to assume command of a converted Gun Boat to fight against Mukti Bahini insurgents. This was the time when insurgency was at its peak. Indians were supporting the insurgents will material and funds. During this period till 3rd December when Indian Forces crossed our borders, at least I was not clear in my mind about the cause of our fighting. Our leaders had not been very clear themselves. I felt non-motivated and confused. However, once we faced the Indians we had a cause and we fought our hearts out. I could not witness the embarrassing surrender ceremony as I was admitted in Combined Military Hospital after having been seriously wounded in action. But from the hospital bed I had followed what all happened.
The last time I visited Bangladesh was in 2004 as Chief of Naval Staff on the invitation of CNS Bangladesh Navy. I was accorded full protocol and received warmly. Maybe because Khalda Zia was PM and not Hassina Wajid. However, on some occasions I found former CNS’S of Bangladesh Navy quite sarcastic and rude when speaking about Pakistan. Similarly, as per the programme I visited the monument of the unknown soldier where after the visit I declined to write my remarks in the Visitors book. Although the President of Bangladesh received my call, but my overall impression was that the general public of Bangladesh is not inclined towards rebuilding friendship with Pakistan nor were they very satisfied with their relations with India.
The Author has described the causes and pointed out those responsible for the tragedy in details. His comments in this respect are fair and factual. I agree with him that the major binding force between the two people was the common religion of Islam otherwise due to the vast difference in language, culture, traditions etc between West Pakistanis and East Pakistanis the separation appeared inevitable. If it would not happen in 1971 it would have happened a few years later.
In conclusion I would like to say that the book is impressive because of the vast data collected which as per my experience and knowledge is based on facts and not on hearsay, proven with authentic documents and above all the comments and views of the author are fair, unbiased and rational. The Author has highlighted the faults committed by both sides in a very honest and forthright I consider the book has done justice to the title and meets the aim and objective of the author in all respects. The myths that we Pakistanis are confronted with at both national and international forums have been dealt and countered with sound reasoning. The book is a valuable addition for correct perspective of the History of Pakistan. It is an ideal read and reference for our history scholars and researchers. I recommend it to be an essential reference book in all major libraries in Pakistan and International Institutes specially in all Armed Forces staff and war colleges, the National Defense University, Think Tanks and Institutes carrying out research.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate Dr. Junaid Ahmad for his superb effort, hard work and sincerity of purpose. I am sure that many of us will benefit from this book.
Amb. (R) Shahid Amin
(Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria & Libya)
From the tragedies we should learn. I think Napoleon said: “Those who do not learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat those mistakes over and over again.”
Forty-five years have passed since the Fall of Dhaka. It’s a time for emotions to subside, reason to prevail. Cool headed judgement made but unfortunately the tendency in our country has been, by and large, to pretend that the tragedy of Dhaka never happened. We have moved on to other subjects but as I said this can be a grave mistake because those very errors that led to the Fall of Dhaka could be repeated again. I think, Dr. Junaid has done a great service to the nation by writing this book which is objective, well researched and which tries to take up issues which are uncomfortable but must be raised. He has relied on good sources and quoted them at length so we can say that this is a balanced book, a very important contribution to the literature on the subject. The fact of the matter is that over the years the narrative on Bangladesh has come either from India or from Bangladesh or from Western sources which is highly prejudiced. It is very anti-Pakistan. It tries to paint Pakistan as a devil. We are accused of all kind of crimes and atrocities and one-sided picture is painted and it was high time that a narrative of our own should have come in place not based merely on emotions and flat statements but on facts and research and objective arguments and I think this is what Dr. Junaid has done for which I think we should all be grateful for his labour. His labour for this country, it is not for himself, it is something very valuable for this country. Yes, 45 years have passed there have been grave charges against Pakistan misrepresentations which he has rebutted. These accusations of three million being killed although some Bangladeshi sources say three lacs were killed and three million were an erroneous translation of three lacs; and hundreds and thousands of women raped. These have been rebutted with very good independent sources, not Pakistani sources but sources from different countries, scholars including Indian scholars, Indian sources and Bangladeshi sources and I think that carries much more weight than any flat statement that we can make.
It is true the narrative which is around myths/makes little or no mention about the atrocities committed by the Mukti Bahini, the most heinous atrocities that were committed and while it is extremely painful to go over those atrocities since there is only a one-sided version and in which the atrocities is squarely based on the Pakistani troops and Pakistan side or those who were pro Pakistan. It is time that the truth about the atrocities committed particularly by the Mukti Bahini which in many cases consisted of Indian soldiers masked as Mukti Bahini. So, this had been done very well and of course he has traced years of Indian intrigue. 1971didn’t happen suddenly but years of Indian intrigue subversion propaganda through which the minds of many in Bengal the then East Pakistan were affected and brainwashing went on over a period of time and the main point always was that West Pakistan is dominating you. West Pakistanis are stealing your resources which again I think with the help of facts and figures Dr. Junaid has rebutted and General Moin Sahib also has mentioned a number of things which were inherited in 1947.………………………
Mrs. Indira Ghandhi went to the Parliament, the day after 26th March 1971 and announced full support for the Bangladeshi secessionist. A government in exile was set-up. The Mukti Bahini was created openly, training offered, every kind of moral and material support was given. So, there is no doubt that India grossly interfered in Pakistan’s internal affairs and finally it came to the war of Dec 1971 in which the small number of Pakistani troops out flanked and surrendered but where India succeeded was that they created an environment internationally that the support for the secessionist was a righteous cause and that Pakistan was morally wrong and there we lost the battle.
The fact of the matter is that we made terrible mistakes and let us look at those mistakes. The mistakes were made both by the military government of General Yahya Khan but also by the political leadership in which the most prominent figure was Zulfiquar Ali Bhuto. They must all be blamed. I know there is a partisanship here but, on a time, and occasion like this the partisanship should be set aside and the historical facts must be stated. There was terrible military planning. General Niazi had a plan which was totally bankrupt and within three or four days of the fighting the whole plan had collapsed. Misrepresentation was made by the government that the Chinese help was around the corner which was utterly false. In the book of Sultan Mahmood Khan, the then foreign secretary, there are several statements that the Chinese leadership made it clear that they are not going to get involved in the war. False statements were made, false statement that the seventh fleet was on the way, whereas, the Americans had never made such a commitment. So, we were living in a world of make believe.
The military generals had all kind of exaggerated ideas about what Pakistan was capable of doing militarily. It was not understood that we were facing a practically hopeless situation trying to fight from one thousand mile away when the communications links had been broken. We had a very difficult air route and sea route via Sri Lanka and India had all the advantages. So, the military planning was awful and collapsed within a matter of days but how about the political leadership?
Once Mujibur Rehman had won a clear majority, the Parliament should have been called and he should have been allowed to become the Prime Minister. But who stopped that, mainly Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto who said: we will break the bones of those who will go there. So, the political leadership was also involved. There was such a jingoistic spirit going on here so, it is not only the military government which is responsible, the political leadership was also responsible, even the masses in general were responsible because a certain image was given to them that when the war came we will take care of India.
This was the narrative but what happened is known to all of us and then there was this fiasco at United Nation Security Council, a Polish draft resolution was moved when everything looked like collapsing militarily in East Pakistan. I think three or two days before the surrender took place, the Polish draft resolution was presented under which an honourable or at least a face-saving formula was offered that there will be a ceasefire and the Pakistani forces will be asked to withdraw from East Pakistan and the people of East Pakistan to decide their future. This was two or three days before the surrender which was the better alternative accepting the Polish resolution or the surrender of 16th December and who tore the resolution? Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto tore the resolution. He decided the fate of Pakistan in a melo-dramatic gesture. The way things happen and as I said partisanship but when it comes to history, facts remain facts.
All these events have been placed in Dr. Junaid’s book in their true perspective