I looked out of the window of my office in Comilla. The sky was red and they way events were unfolding I felt a deep depression. In worldly I prayed to Allah to help us to get out of this mess in which our leaders had thrust us after election. As soldier I could see the calamity unfolding. Elders denoted change of the colour to red in the sky a bad omen (sky was completely red in the afternoon of Feb 71). It was March 4, 1971, unwisely on the behest of Bhutto, President Yahya postponed convening of National Assembly.
All hell broke open in East Pakistan. People just came out on the roads chanting Jay Bangla and every one feared Mujib under the influence of hawks will now announce independence. But in the Paltan Ground on March 6, in front of furious crowd, he just stopped short of that. From 4th to 25th parlays went on between the Government, Bhutto and Mujib, s team headed by Kamal Hussein. There was eventually agreement on five out of six points, the 6th point related to raising Bangladesh force but it was neither agreed by Yahya nor Bhutto. The evening of 24 was extremely tense. Bhutto threatened to back out last minute; the room of Governor House was in complete depression and so was the mood outside in the streets of Dacca.
While reportedly Mujib had informed Kamal not to insist on the force issue but Bhutto’s stance of backing out made Kamal furious, and, telephoned Mujib that the talks have failed as Bhutto backed out. Secondly, Mujib wanted to announce the lifting of Martial Law before the commencement of assembly session. Legal experts were of the view if martial law is lifted before civil Government in place how the constitutional void will be covered. A K Brohi was summoned to Dacca to suggest legal solution. He suggested President should promulgate an ordinance in order to cover the intervening period later ratified by the assembly. But last minute glitch created by Bhutto had cast the die and fate of Pakistan was sealed at that moment.
Sitting in the regiment I rang up my wife that there may be civil war. We all felt deeply hurt. The most difficult task was to explain to soldiers the inaction by political leadership in West Pakistan who failed to see fault lines in the political and social order and the people of West Pakistan were equally ignorant and misled. They were appreciating the dangers ahead and frustration was mirrored on their faces. March 4 on wards East Pakistan was run by the goons of Awami league. Pakistan army was ordered by Dacca not to react. The supplies to the cantonments were cut by the supply contractors and soldiers were being issued canned vegetables and milk. Police and civil administration slipped in the hand of Awami League. There were reports of wanton killing all our East Pakistan of the Urdu, Punjabi and Pashto speaking population in thousands and thousands. The West Pakistan origin soldiers were mercilessly killed, unarmed soldiers in remote area were eliminated systematically, an officer of civil service, SDM , was killed by dragging behind a vehicle. And so were many army officers.
In short East Pakistan tragedy symbolizes the great political failure, ignoring the fault lines in politico social order in East Pakistan, a colossal judgment error, letting away the traitors in the guise of politicians, and mess of military planning knowing there were scarce resources. And above all East Pakistan Defence lay in West Pakistan was nonsense military strategy. The war of 1965 exposed this weakness to India and in the later years exploited by them. The political solution was the only answer but greed and incompetency of Yahya, power hungriness of Bhutto, short-sightedness of other politicians who even today are good to cut the branch on which they sit.
Also now proven there was no mass scale killing by Pakistan Army. No mass scale rapes by Pakistan army, rather it is the Mukti Bahni and Indian army was in guise responsible for that ( Moodi’s statement acknowledging their role as Mukti Bhani, and independent research even by Bangla Desh and international authors). And above all, Bangla Desh still would have been East Pakistan if Indian Army had not violated internal law and aggressed across international borders.
The greatest damage done to Pakistan is that the war of 1971 is still continuing in one form or the other, it exposed our weakness, enhance the status of India in the region and embolden her that they can get away with aggression by creating an environment of strategic compromise by the international powers due to their own global and strategic aims.
—The writer, a retired Brigadier, is decorated veteran of 65 & 71 wars and a defence analyst based in Lahore.