1971 War: Myths & realities

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Hassam Ahmed Siddiqi

THE separation of East Pakistan in 1971 and APS Peshawar incident in 2014 extended the grief and misery of this nation one after another. Tragedy of 1971 marks failure of our divided politicians, self-centred diplomats and media who could not highlight the Indian propaganda for paving the basis to divide a united Pakistan. The pattern remains the same even today as divided politicians, passive diplomatic corp and biased media has cost Pakistan its national interest on multiple occasions. Calling the incident, a mare military failure will be an injustice to thousands of sacrifices laid by our country men during the war and hence an in-depth analysis needs to be carried out.
Several myths and propaganda were created by India to defame Pakistani institutions after the war. Some of these myths include killing of three million Bengalis and rape of Bengali women by Pakistan’s armed forces, fabrication of Agartala conspiracy case by West Pakistan, exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan in terms of its politico-economic decisions, 93,000 surrendered Pakistani forces as Indian POWs and spontaneous and unplanned intervention of India in the conflict without having any international support. These myths have not only damaged the repute and image of Pakistan globally, but has also spawned anger within the Pakistanis themselves; however, the realities are undoubtedly different.
Dr Junaid in his Book “Creation of Bangladesh: Exploding Myths” responds appropriately to each fable created regarding separation of East Pakistan. With reference to exploitation of East Pakistan by West Pakistan, it needs to be highlighted that except Punjab, the situation of all the other provinces of Pakistan was not very different than East Pakistan. Punjab was also primarily developed before the partition. Pakistan was a newly developed state with very least and minimum resources. Even then it was West Pakistan that initiated the Bangladeshi Parliament building during President Ayub’s era in 1961, capital-intensive jute mills were set-up by West Pakistani industrialists like the Isphani, the Crescent and the Adamjee.
More than 26,000 workers were employed in these projects and economic activity generated through these projects had a very optimistic impact in East Pakistan. Secondly, it is believed that Agartala conspiracy was a fabricated event by West Pakistani Establishment however, the leadership of Awami League was in close contact with the Indian intelligence of which the leadership’s escape on 25th March 1971 is a testimony. The Agartala Conspiracy had been shaded and implemented by the Awami Leaguers and Indian Intelligence while ultimately it was Pakistan bearing the burden of its blame proving that history sides with the victor. Thirdly, killing of three million Bengalis by Pakistan’s armed forces is another myth that could not be proved by an Inquiry Committee formed by Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman in 1972.
Independent observers like Sharmila Boss and Chaudhry Abdul Mumin have also denied the figure of three million. Pakistani security forces were only concerned in defeating the Indian trained Mukti Bahini forces irrespective of their religion, caste, colour or creed; causalities of which were not more than a few thousand. Moreover, accusations of horrifying cases of rape, murder, robberies and torcher were put on Pakistan’s security forces, however much of it had happened before 25 March 1971 and culpitrators of these incidents were Mukti Bahini forces and members of Awami League. Whole colonies were burnt to ashes with inmates locked inside and burnt alive. The entire violence was targeted at non-Bengalis, Biharis, foreigners and West Pakistanis, creating a merciless hell on earth forcing Pakistan Army to initiate Operation Searchlight. Moreover, after Pakistani forces surrendered, an exaggerated figure of 93,000 Pakistani soldiers becoming POWs is often propagated however, the actual number according to General Niazi was 34,000 in addition to 11,000 police, rangers, scouts and militias which makes a total figure of 45,000. Though it is a fact that Pakistan lost a part of its territory in 1971 war, however putting the entire blame on Pakistan’s armed forces is unjustified. Facts of 1971 war need to be set straight and be told to the nation, despite the fact that we lost the war. Pakistan needs to learn its lessons. The enemy is still the same and people with self-centred interests exist amongst us even today. Security forces of Pakistan are the defenders of this nation and their role in a highly volatile region has to be assertive. Unity amongst national stakeholders is the only way forward for Pakistan, else situation in neighbouring country Afghanistan is only because of disunity in its frontlines.
—The writer is PhD Scholar and Director Programmes PICSS.

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