Khan Arif wrote:
For East Pakistan debacle the responsibility lies on ZAB and General Yahya who listened to people like Khar who said that anybody who goes to Dacca for NA, his legs would be broken by PPP. Had Yahya listened to Asghar Khan, there was chance of Pakistan remaining united as a confederation!
Arif N. Khan
Dear Arif Sahab,
Read some history before commenting on an issue! Single person cannot break a country but successive biased decisions do.. Read
How and Why Dhaka Fell?
Political Background (1947-1970)
The government machinery established at independence was similar to the viceregal system that had prevailed in the pre-independence period. When Quaid-e-Azam died in September 1948, the seat of power shifted from the governor general to the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. After the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan on October 16, 1951, Pakistan faced an unstable period that would be resolved by military and civil service intervention in political affairs. The Constituent Assembly was an ineffective body, which took almost nine years to draft a constitution, which for all practical purposes was never put into effect.
A conservative Bengali, Governor General Khwaja Nazimuddin, succeeded Liaquat Ali Khan as Prime Minister. Former finance minister Ghulam Mohammad, a career civil servant, became governor general.
In 1953 Ghulam Mohammad dismissed Prime Minister Nazimuddin, established martial law in Punjab, and imposed governor's rule (direct rule by the central government) in East Pakistan.
In 1954 He appointed his own "cabinet of talents." Mohammad Ali Bogra, another conservative Bengali and previously Pakistan's ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, was named prime minister. Also In East Pakistan, the Muslim League was overwhelmingly defeated in the provincial assembly elections by the United Front coalition of Bengali regional parties anchored by Fazlul Haq's, Krishak Sramik, Samajbadi Dal (Peasants and Workers Socialist Party) and the Awami League (People's League) led by Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy. Rejection of West Pakistan's dominance and the desire for Bengali provincial autonomy were the main ingredients of the coalition's twenty-one-point platform.
In September-October 1954 Prime Minister Bogra tried to limit the powers of Governor General Ghulam Mohammad. The governor general, however, enlisted the tacit support of the army and civil service, dissolved the Constituent Assembly, and then formed a new cabinet. Bogra, a man without a personal following, remained Prime Minister but without effective power. General Sikander Mirza, who had been a soldier and civil servant, became minister of the interior; General Mohammad Ayub Khan, the army commander, became minister of defense; and Choudhry Mohammad Ali, former head of the civil service, remained minister of finance.
In September, 1955 Bogra fell in August and was replaced by Choudhry; Ghulam Mohammad, plagued by poor health, was succeeded as governor general in by Mirza. In 1956 the four provinces of West Pakistan were amalgamated into one administrative unit. Provisions were made for an Islamic state as embodied in its Directive of Principles of State Policy, which defined methods of promoting Islamic morality. The national parliament was to comprise one house of 300 members with equal representation from both the west and east wings.
In September, 1956 Awami League's Suhrawardy succeeded Choudhry as Prime Minister in and formed a coalition cabinet. He failed to secure significant support from West Pakistani power brokers. Suhrawardy's thirteen months in office came to an end after he took a strong position against abrogation of the existing "One Unit" government for all of West Pakistan.
In 1957 the president used his considerable influence to out Suhrawardy from the office of Prime Minister. The drift toward economic decline and political chaos continued.
From 1954 to Ayub's assumption of power in 1958, the Krishak Sramik and the Awami League waged a ceaseless battle for control of East Pakistan's provincial government.
The Revolution of Ayub Khan (1958-66)
Because of the ongoing condition on October 7, 1958, Mirza issued a proclamation that abolished political parties, abrogated the two-year -old constitution, and placed the country under martial law. On October 27, he swore in a twelve-member cabinet that included four generals in ministerial positions and the eight civilians. Until 1962, martial law continued and Ayub purged a number of politicians and civil servants from the government and replaced them with army officers.
The new constitution promulgated by Ayub in March 1962 has following features: -
1. All executive authority of the republic lies with the president.
2. As chief executive, the president could appoint ministers without approval by the legislature.
3. There was no provision for a Prime Minister.
4. There was a provision for a National Assembly and two provincial assemblies, whose members were to be chosen by the "Basic Democrats.
5. Pakistan was declared a republic (without being specifically an Islamic republic) but, in deference to the religious scholars.
6. The president was required to be a Muslim, and no law could be passed that was contrary to the tenets of Islam.
The 1962 constitution made few concessions to Bengalis. Throughout the Ayub years, East Pakistan and West Pakistan grew farther apart. The death of the Awami League's Suhrawardy in 1963 gave the mercurial Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the leadership of East Pakistan's dominant party. Mujib, who as early as 1956 had advocated the "liberation" of East Pakistan and had been jailed in 1958 during the military coup, quickly and successfully brought the issue of East Pakistan's movement for autonomy to the forefront of the nation's politics. During the years between 1960 and 1965: -
1. The annual rate of growth of the gross domestic product per capita was 4.4 percent in West Pakistan versus a poor 2.6 percent in East Pakistan.
2. Bengali politicians complained that much of Pakistan's export earnings were generated in East Pakistan by the export of Bengali jute and tea.
3. As late as 1960, approximately 70 percent of Pakistan's export earnings originated in the East Wing.
4. By the mid-1960s, the East Wing was accounting for less than 60 percent of the nation's export earnings, and by the time of Bangladesh's independence in 1971, this percentage had dipped below 50 percent. Mujib demanded in 1966 that separate foreign exchange accounts be kept and that separate trade offices be opened overseas. Also West Pakistan was benefiting from Ayub's "Decade of Progress," with its successful "green revolution" in wheat, and from the expansion of markets for West Pakistani textiles, while the East Pakistani standard of living remained at an abysmally low level. Bengalis were also upset that West Pakistan, because it was the seat of government, was the major beneficiary of foreign aid.
Emerging Discontent (1966-70)
In 1966 Mujib announced his controversial six-point political and economic program for East Pakistani provincial autonomy. He demanded: -
1. The government be federal and parliamentary in nature, its members to be elected with legislative representation on the basis of population
2. The federal government have principal responsibility for foreign affairs and defense only
3. Each wing have its own currency and separate fiscal accounts
4. Taxation would occur at the provincial level, with a federal government funded by constitutionally guaranteed grants
5. Each federal unit could control its own earning of foreign exchange; and
6. Each unit could raise its own militia or paramilitary forces.
Mujib's six points ran directly counter to President Ayub's plan for greater national integration.
In January 1968 the government arrested Mujib.
On 1968 Ayub suffered a number of setbacks in. His health was poor, and he was almost assassinated at a ceremony marking ten years of his rule.
On February 21, 1969, Ayub announced that he would not run in the next presidential election in 1970. A state of near anarchy reigned with protests and strikes throughout the country.
On March 25,1969, Ayub resigned and handed over the administration to the commander in chief, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan. Yahya announced that he considered himself to be a transitional leader whose task would be to restore order and to conduct free elections for a new constituent assembly, which would then draft a new constitution.
On August 1969 Appointment of a largely civilian cabinet.
On November 12, 1970, a cyclone devastated an area of almost 8,000 square kilometers of East Pakistan's mid-coastal lowlands and its outlying islands in the Bay of Bengal.
On December 7, 1970 Yahya announced plans for a national election. The elections were the first in the history of Pakistan in which voters were able to elect members of the National Assembly directly. In the election that followed, the Awami League won a triumphant victory. The misfortune however was that the Awami League did not won a single seat in West Pakistan. Similarly, the Pakistan People's Party did not have a single seat in eastern wing. At the Bengal Assembly elections, the results were as follows:
Awami League 298
Other Parties 5
At the National Assembly elections, the Awami emerged as the majority party, as the table shows:
Awami League 167
Pakistan People's Party 88
Other Parties 5
The Awami League's electoral victory promised it control of the government, with Mujib as the country's prime minister, but the inaugural assembly never met.
Political Events of 1971
The military, bureaucracy, and business, all West Pakistani-dominated, were shocked at the results because they faced the prospect that the central government's power would be passed away to the Bengalis, if the Awami League were allowed to shape the constitution and form a government. The results of the election gave the Awami League the possibility of framing the constitution according to its 6-point program. The election put the Pakistani ruling elite in such a position that, if it allowed the democratic process to continue, then it would be unable to stop the Awami League from framing a constitution that would protect the Bengali interests.
The month of December passed and yet there was no sign of the calling of the assembly.
On the 3rd of January 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called a mammoth public meeting in which he administered an oath to the persons who had been elected to the national and provincial assemblies by which they swore allegiance to the party's programme for provincial autonomy. Between the election results and this meeting apparently no effort was made by General Yahya khan to bring the leaders together for consultations, though later when he made such efforts the Sheikh adopted hard attitude.
By and large most of the parties in the west did openly oppose the six points programme.
On the 7th of January 1971 with this background General Yahya went to East Pakistan. The evidence suggest that at this stage the presidential team did not have a copy of the six points programme and no serious efforts were done to convince Sheikh on his six points. Accordingly the meeting was held.
Mujib presented his six pints and asked General Yahya: -
"Sir you know what the six points programme is, please tell me what objections you have to this programme."
General Yahya said that he himself had nothing against the programme but the west Pakistanis does have some problems. However, the meeting ended with the reference from General Yahya to the Sheikh as his future prime minister.
On the 22nd of February 1971, the president convened a meeting of the governors and martial law administrators at, which were present also, some high ranking military and civilian officers. He gave a review of current situation and the stand of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It is also a fact that the president took the decision to postpone the national assembly as early as the 22nd February.
On the 1st of March General Yahya announced the postponement of the national assembly meeting. The East Pakistanis reacted violently to the postponement and the immediate results were the violent demonstrations and disturbances in Dacca. The army was called to cope with this situation. Also, on that day Yahya named General Tikka Khan, as East Pakistan's military governor.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the 7th of March 1971 announced a weeklong programme to continue non-cooperation movement starting on March 2nd.
General Yahya reached Dacca on 15th march and met Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the same date. The proposals of Sheikh were: -
1. Martial Law is lifted.
2. National Assembly will start functioning both as a Constituent assembly and the legislature.
3. Power transferred both at national and provincial levels.
The second and third rounds were held on the 17th and 21st of March 1971 respectively. Mr. Bhutto on an invitation from Dacca on the 19th reached Dacca on the afternoon of the 21st and met the president. The next three days were occupied with discussions of president aides with the Pakistan People's Party and the Awami League separately.
On the 23rd March 1971, General Yahya summoned a conference of the leaders at Dacca for the 10th. Again, Mujib refused to attend and there after General Yahya fixed the 25th for the meeting of the assembly. Bengalis following Mujib's lead defiantly celebrated "Resistance Day" in East Pakistan instead of the traditional all-Pakistan "Republic Day." The new flag of Bangladesh was hoisted on all government and private buildings.
On the 24th and 25th march, Mr. Bhutto met the president to discuss the proposals of Awami League. On the evening of the 25th the Pakistan's People's Party was informed about the final proposals of Awami League. At about midnight between the 25th and 26th Dacca was awakened to the nose of gunfire; military crackdown has started. General Yahya had already left Dacca.
On the 28th June 1971, General Yahya made a broad cast to the nation again in which he spoke with sorrow of the recent happenings and emphasized once again that his aim had been to restore democracy in the country.
Unfortunately due to the preplanned rebellious act of the Awami League situation as existed immediately after the military action was as follows: -
1. Major portion of the territory of East Pakistan was in rebels hands.
2. Civil servants were also actively associated with Awami League. A large fled to India or had left their work place.
3. Communications had been badly disrupted due to sabotage by the rebels.
4. Educational Institutions were the main centers of agitation and resistance.
5. It was difficult to apply normal laws of the country.
The military aspect of the Indo-Pakistan war is naturally the most important part of my report.
THE Military Concept of National Defence
In the war Directive No 4 issued by Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan on 9th August 1967 the National Aim is: -
"To preserve national security, integrity and the sovereignty of Pakistan, while promoting prosperity and well being of its people so as to enable the country to find an honorable place on the comity of nations. Within the context of this main aim and without prejudice to it, continue efforts to secure the rights of self determination for the people of Kashmir."
The directive lays down that the mission of the armed forces would be: -
"On commencement of hostilities or as soon as favorable conditions are created or offered, offensive operations will be undertaken to capture and hold as much enemy territory as possible whilst containing and neutralizing the enemy forces elsewhere by all means at our disposal in the west. In the East contain and neutralize as many enemy troops as possible, inflicting maximum casualties without running the risk of annihilation."
In this there I have tried to show some facts throughout the history of Pakistan. The province of Bengal had a greater population than all the other provinces of Pakistan combined, as the following table shows:
Province Population in millions
1951 1961 1971
East Pakistan 41.9 50.8 70
West Pakistan 33.7 42.9 60
East Pakistan was the world's largest producer of raw jute (a fiber), which was Pakistan's main foreign exchange earner. The foreign trade statistics in its first decade for Pakistan were as follows:
Foreign Trade Figures (millions of rupees)
5 Year Period East Pakistan West Pakistan
Exports Imports Exports Imports
1947-52 4582 2129 3786 4769
1952-57 3969 2159 3440 5105
In financial year 1948-49, the allocation for provincial development expenditure was as the following table indicates:
Province Amount Allocated (millions Rs)
East Pakistan 40
The Basic Principle Committee (BPC) of the National Constitutional Assembly published its report in February 1950. It called for the reorganization of Pakistan's provinces into two units: West Pakistan and East Pakistan. The legislature was to have two houses. In the upper house there would be equal numbers of members from the two constituting units, while the Lower House would be elected on the basis of population. Initially, it did not specify the number of seats in the houses. Later, the proposed distribution of seats were as follows:
Province Upper House Lower House Total
East Pakistan 10 165 175
Punjab 10 75 85
NWFP 10 24 34
Sind 10 20 30
Baluchistan 10 16 26
Total 50 300 500
The upper house was to be indirectly elected. The governmental mechanism would be a combination of presidential and parliamentary systems, with a substantial executive power and the choice of selecting the Prime Minister being retained with the President. The following tables reveal the distribution of civilian and military posts on the basis of nationalities.
Central Government Civil Service (1955)
Position East Pakistan West Pakistan
Secretary 0 19
Joint Secretary 3 38
Deputy Secretary 10 123
Assistant Secretary 38 510
The following table provides a breakdown of the development expenditure of the two wings.
Development Outlay for Pakistan from 1947-48 to 1960-61
East Pakistan West Pakistan
In millions of Rupees
Government Investment 1720 4300
Government Loans 184 2240
Aid 76 1010
The center's development expenditure was concentrated on the further advancing of economic infrastructure of West Pakistan. The table below demonstrates the increase in the disparity of Per Capita Income between the two wings:
Years The Per Capita Income Distribution in Pakistan
East Pakistan West Pakistan Difference
1959-60 269 355 32%
1964-65 285.5 419 46.7%
1968-69 291 473.4 62.6%
Economic Exploitation: 1948-1971
Plan West Pakistan East Pakistan Net Spending in terms of percentage of total expenditure
Rupees in crores
1950/51-54/55 1129 524 20
1955/56-59/60 1655 524 32
1960/61-64/65 3355 1404 42
1965/66-69/70 5195 2141 41
Total 12834 4300 34
• From 1948-60 East Pakistan's export earnings had been 70%, but its share of import earnings was only 25%.
• A sizable net transfer of resources had taken place from East to West Pakistan. The report states that, if allowance is made for the under valuation of foreign exchange in terms of Pakistan's domestic currency, the total transfer from East to West Pakistan over the period 1948/49-1968/69 was Rs 31,000,000,000 [1971 terms]. Using the then exchange rate of Rs 11.90 to the dollar, this worked out to 2.6 thousand million dollars in 1971 terms.
• In 1948 there were 11 textile mills in the East and only 9 in the West.
• In 1971 there were 26 in the East as opposed to 150 in the West.
• East Pakistan's economy transformed from a surplus one to a deficit one.
The mass killings in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971 vie with the annihilation of the Soviet POWs, the holocaust against the Jews, and the genocide in Rwanda as the most concentrated act of genocide in the twentieth century. In an attempt to crush forces seeking independence for East Pakistan, the West Pakistani military regime unleashed a systematic campaign of mass murder which aimed at killing millions of Bengalis, and likely succeeded in doing so.
East and West Pakistan were forged in the cauldron of independence for the Indian sub-continent, ruled for two hundred years by the British. Despite the attempts of Gandhi and others to prevent division along religious and ethnic lines, the departing British and various Indian politicians pressed for the creation of two states, one Hindu-dominated (India), the other Muslim-dominated (Pakistan). The partition of India in 1947 was one of the great tragedies of the century. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in sectarian violence and military clashes, as Hindus fled to India and Muslims to Pakistan -- though large minorities remained in each country.
The arrangement proved highly unstable, leading to three major wars between India and Pakistan, and very nearly a fourth fullscale conflict in 1998-99. (Kashmir, divided by a ceasefire line after the first war in 1947, became one of the world's most intractable trouble-spots.) Not the least of the difficulties was the fact that the new state of Pakistan consisted of two "wings," divided by hundreds of miles of Indian territory and a gulf of ethnic identification. Over the decades, particularly after Pakistani democracy was stifled by a military dictatorship (1958), the relationship between East and West became progressively more corrupt and neo-colonial in character, and opposition to West Pakistani domination grew among the Bengali population.
Catastrophic floods struck Bangladesh in August 1970, and the regime was widely seen as having botched (or ignored) its relief duties. The disaster gave further impetus to the Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The League demanded regional autonomy for East Pakistan, and an end to military rule. In national elections held in December, the League won an overwhelming victory across Bengali territory.
On February 22, 1971 the generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. It was recognized from the first that a campaign of genocide would be necessary to eradicate the threat: "Kill three million of them," said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, "and the rest will eat out of our hands." (Robert Payne, Massacre , p. 50.) On March 25 the genocide was launched. The university in Dacca was attacked and students exterminated in their hundreds. Death squads roamed the streets of Dacca, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. It was only the beginning. "Within a week, half the population of Dacca had fled, and at least 30,000 people had been killed. Chittagong, too, had lost half its population. All over East Pakistan people were taking flight, and it was estimated that in April some thirty million people [!] were wandering helplessly across East Pakistan to escape the grasp of the military." (Payne, Massacre, p. 48.) Ten million refugees fled to India, overwhelming that country's resources and spurring the eventual Indian military intervention. (The population of Bangladesh/East Pakistan at the outbreak of the genocide was about 75 million.)
On April 10, the surviving leadership of the Awami League declared Bangladesh independent. The Mukhta Bahini (liberation forces) were mobilized to confront the West Pakistani army. They did so with increasing skill and effectiveness, utilizing their knowledge of the terrain and ability to blend with the civilian population in classic guerrilla fashion. By the end of the war, the tide had turned, and vast areas of Bangladesh had been liberated by the popular resistance.
The gendercide against Bengali men
The war against the Bengali population proceeded in classic gendercidal fashion. According to Anthony Mascarenhas, "There is no doubt whatsoever about the targets of the genocide":
(1) The Bengali militarymen of the East Bengal Regiment, the East Pakistan Rifles, police and para-military Ansars and Mujahids.
(2) The Hindus -- "We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them ..." I was to hear in Comilla [site of a major military base] [Comments R.J. Rummel: "One would think that murdering an unarmed man was a heroic act" (Death By Government, p. 323)]
(3) The Awami Leaguers -- all office bearers and volunteers down to the lowest link in the chain of command.
(4) The students -- college and university boys and some of the more militant girls. (5) Bengali intellectuals such as professors and teachers whenever damned by the army as "militant." (Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh [Delhi: Vikas Publications, 1972(?)], pp. 116-17.)
Mascarenhas's summary makes clear the linkages between gender and social class
(the "intellectuals," "professors," "teachers," "office bearers," and -- obviously -- "militarymen" can all be expected to be overwhelmingly if not exclusively male, although in many cases their families died or fell victim to other atrocities alongside them). In this respect, the Bangladesh events can be classed as a combined gendercide and elitocide, with both strategies overwhelmingly targeting males for the most annihilatory excesses.
Younger men and adolescent boys, of whatever social class, were equally targets. According to Rounaq Jahan, "All through the liberation war, able-bodied young men were suspected of being actual or potential freedom fighters. Thousands were arrested, tortured, and killed. Eventually cities and towns became bereft of young males who either took refuge in India or joined the liberation war." Especially "during the first phase" of the genocide, he writes, "young able-bodied males were the victims of indiscriminate killings." ("Genocide in Bangladesh," in Totten et al., Century of Genocide, p. 298.) R.J. Rummel likewise writes that "the Pakistan army [sought] out those especially likely to join the resistance -- young boys. Sweeps were conducted of young men who were never seen again. Bodies of youths would be found in fields, floating down rivers, or near army camps. As can be imagined, this terrorized all young men and their families within reach of the army. Most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five began to flee from one village to another and toward India. Many of those reluctant to leave their homes were forced to flee by mothers and sisters concerned for their safety." (Death By Government, p. 329.) Rummel describes (p. 323) a chilling gendercidal ritual, reminiscent of Nazi procedure towards Jewish males: "In what became province-wide acts of genocide, Hindus were sought out and killed on the spot. As a matter of course, soldiers would check males for the obligated circumcision among Moslems. If circumcised, they might live; if not, sure death."
Robert Payne describes scenes of systematic mass slaughter around Dacca that, while not explicitly "gendered" in his account, bear every hallmark of classic gender-selective roundups and gendercidal slaughters of non-combatant men:
In the dead region surrounding Dacca, the military authorities conducted experiments in mass extermination in places unlikely to be seen by journalists. At Hariharpara, a once thriving village on the banks of the Buriganga River near Dacca, they found the three elements necessary for killing people in large numbers: a prison in which to hold the victims, a place for executing the prisoners, and a method for disposing of the bodies. The prison was a large riverside warehouse, or godown, belonging to the Pakistan National Oil Company, the place of execution was the river edge, or the shallows near the shore, and the bodies were disposed of by the simple means of permitting them to float downstream. The killing took place night after night. Usually the prisoners were roped together and made to wade out into the river. They were in batches of six or eight, and in the light of a powerful electric arc lamp, they were easy targets, black against the silvery water. The executioners stood on the pier, shooting down at the compact bunches of prisoners wading in the water. There were screams in the hot night air, and then silence. The prisoners fell on their sides and their bodies lapped against the shore. Then a new bunch of prisoners was brought out, and the process was repeated. In the morning the village boatmen hauled the bodies into midstream and the ropes binding the bodies were cut so that each body drifted separately downstream. (Payne, Massacre [Macmillan, 1973], p. 55.)
Strikingly similar and equally hellish scenes are described in the case-studies of genocide in Armenia and the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.
Atrocities against Bengali women
As was also the case in Armenia and Nanjing, Bengali women were targeted for gender-selective atrocities and abuses, notably gang sexual assault and rape/murder, from the earliest days of the Pakistani genocide. Indeed, despite (and in part because of) the overwhelming targeting of males for mass murder, it is for the systematic brutalization of women that the "Rape of Bangladesh" is best known to western observers.
In her ground-breaking book, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, Susan Brownmiller likened the 1971 events in Bangladesh to the Japanese rapes in Nanjing and German rapes in Russia during World War II. "... 200,000, 300,000 or possibly 400,000 women (three sets of statistics have been variously quoted) were raped. Eighty percent of the raped women were Moslems, reflecting the population of Bangladesh, but Hindu and Christian women were not exempt. ... Hit-and-run rape of large numbers of Bengali women was brutally simple in terms of logistics as the Pakistani regulars swept through and occupied the tiny, populous land ..." (p. 81).
Typical was the description offered by reporter Aubrey Menen of one such assault, which targeted a recently-married woman:
Two [Pakistani soldiers] went into the room that had been built for the bridal couple. The others stayed behind with the family, one of them covering them with his gun. They heard a barked order, and the bridegroom's voice protesting. Then there was silence until the bride screamed. Then there was silence again, except for some muffled cries that soon subsided. In a few minutes one of the soldiers came out, his uniform in disarray. He grinned to his companions. Another soldier took his place in the extra room. And so on, until all the six had raped the belle of the village. Then all six left, hurriedly. The father found his daughter lying on the string cot unconscious and bleeding. Her husband was crouched on the floor, kneeling over his vomit. (Quoted in Brownmiller, Against Our Will, p. 82.)
"Rape in Bangladesh had hardly been restricted to beauty," Brownmiller writes. "Girls of eight and grandmothers of seventy-five had been sexually assaulted ... Pakistani soldiers had not only violated Bengali women on the spot; they abducted tens of hundreds and held them by force in their military barracks for nightly use." Some women may have been raped as many as eighty times in a night (Brownmiller, p. 83). How many died from this atrocious treatment, and how many more women were murdered as part of the generalized campaign of destruction and slaughter, can only be guessed at (see below).
Despite government efforts at amelioration, the torment and persecution of the survivors continued long after Bangladesh had won its independence:
Rape, abduction and forcible prostitution during the nine-month war proved to be only the first round of humiliation for the Bengali women. Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman's declaration that victims of rape were national heroines was the opening shot of an ill-starred campaign to reintegrate them into society -- by smoothing the way for a return to their husbands or by finding bridegrooms for the unmarried [or widowed] ones from among his Mukti Bahini freedom fighters. Imaginative in concept for a country in which female chastity and purdah isolation are cardinal principles, the "marry them off" campaign never got off the ground. Few prospective bridegrooms stepped forward, and those who did made it plain that they expected the government, as father figure, to present them with handsome dowries. (Brownmiller, Against Our Will, p. 84.)
How many died?
The number of dead in Bangladesh in 1971 was almost certainly well into seven figures. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66). As R.J. Rummel writes,
The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel's "death by government"] are much lower -- one is of 300,000 dead -- but most range from 1 million to 3 million. ... The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)
The proportion of men versus women murdered is impossible to ascertain, but a speculation might be attempted. If we take the highest estimates for both women raped and Bengalis killed (400,000 and 3 million, respectively); if we accept that half as many women were killed as were raped; and if we double that number for murdered children of both sexes (total: 600,000), we are still left with a death-toll that is 80 percent adult male (2.4 million out of 3 million). Any such disproportion, which is almost certainly on the low side, would qualify Bangladesh as one of the worst gendercides against men in the last half-millennium.
Who was responsible?
"For month after month in all the regions of East Pakistan the massacres went on," writes Robert Payne. "They were not the small casual killings of young officers who wanted to demonstrate their efficiency, but organized massacres conducted by sophisticated staff officers, who knew exactly what they were doing. Muslim soldiers, sent out to kill Muslim peasants, went about their work mechanically and efficiently, until killing defenseless people became a habit like smoking cigarettes or drinking wine. ... Not since Hitler invaded Russia had there been so vast a massacre." (Payne, Massacre, p. 29.)
There is no doubt that the mass killing in Bangladesh was among the most carefully and centrally planned of modern genocides. A cabal of five Pakistani generals orchestrated the events: President Yahya Khan, General Tikka Khan, chief of staff General Pirzada, security chief General Umar Khan, and intelligence chief General Akbar Khan. The U.S. government, long supportive of military rule in Pakistan, supplied some \\$3.8 million in military equipment to the dictatorship after the onset of the genocide, "and after a government spokesman told Congress that all shipments to Yahya Khan's regime had ceased." (Payne, Massacre, p. 102.)
The genocide and gendercidal atrocities were also perpetrated by lower-ranking officers and ordinary soldiers. These "willing executioners" were fuelled by an abiding anti-Bengali racism, especially against the Hindu minority. "Bengalis were often compared with monkeys and chickens. Said Pakistan General Niazi, 'It was a low lying land of low lying people.' The Hindus among the Bengalis were as Jews to the Nazis: scum and vermin that [should] best be exterminated. As to the Moslem Bengalis, they were to live only on the sufferance of the soldiers: any infraction, any suspicion cast on them, any need for reprisal, could mean their death. And the soldiers were free to kill at will. The journalist Dan Coggin quoted one Punjabi captain as telling him, 'We can kill anyone for anything. We are accountable to no one.' This is the arrogance of Power." (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 335.)
On December 3, India under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, seeking to return the millions of Bengali refugees and seize an opportunity to weaken its perennial military rival, finally launched a fullscale intervention to crush West Pakistani forces and secure Bangladeshi independence. The Pakistani army, demoralized by long months of guerrilla warfare, quickly collapsed. On December 16, after a final genocidal outburst, the Pakistani regime agreed to an unconditional surrender. Awami leader Sheikh Mujib was released from detention and returned to a hero's welcome in Dacca on January 10, 1972, establishing Bangladesh's first independent parliament.
In a brutal bloodletting following the expulsion of the Pakistani army, perhaps 150,000 people were murdered by the vengeful victors. (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 334.) The trend is far too common in such post-genocidal circumstances (see the case-studies of Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Soviet POWs). Such largescale reprisal killings also tend to have a gendercidal character, which may have been the case in Bangladesh: Jahan writes that during the reprisal stage, "another group of Bengali men in the rural areas -- those who were coerced or bribed to collaborate with the Pakistanis -- fell victims to the attacks of Bengali freedom fighters." ("Genocide in Bangladesh," p. 298; emphasis added.)
None of the generals involved in the genocide has ever been brought to trial, and all remain at large in Pakistan and other countries. Several movements have arisen to try to bring them before an international tribunal (see Bangladesh links for further information).
Political and military upheaval did not end with Bangladeshi independence. Rummel notes that "the massive bloodletting by all parties in Bangladesh affected its politics for the following decades. The country has experienced military coup after military coup, some of them bloody." (Death By Government, p. 334.)
1. The direct and devastating effects of political situation during the military regime itself were the prolonged involvement of army in counter insurgency measures throughout the province and forces deployment along the borders. Due to these factors the army was fighting a losing battle from the very start.
2. The major role in the 1971 disaster had been that of the ground forces and the strategic concept required revision in the light of the situation but the army high command did not carried out the in-depth analysis.
3. The planning was hopelessly defective and there was no plan for some important areas like Dacca.
4. There was no order to surrender but that in view of the desperate picture painted by the commander eastern command the higher authorities only gave him permission to surrender.
5. The responsibility of these failures lies with the
commander eastern command the GHQ cannot escape its responsibility as the plan had been approved by it. It was also the responsibility of the GHQ to correct the mistakes of the eastern command.
6. There was a lack of moral character and courage in the senior army commanders.
The surrender in East Pakistan has indeed been a tragic blow to the nation. By the act of surrender the image of Pakistan army as an efficient and excellent fighting force stood shattered. The situation that resulted in the movement for independence was also responsible i-e the economic exploitation of East Pakistan in the hands of West. I can only hope that the nation has learnt the necessary lessons from these tragic events.
1- Genocide in East Pakistan/Bangladesh: A Horror Story (A. Ghosh Publishers, 1988). S. K. Bhattacharyya. [A passionate treatment of the West Pakistani atrocities during the secessionist war]
2- Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (Fawcett Books, 1993 [reprint edition]). Brownmiller's classic book includes extensive discussion of rape in wartime, including during the 1971 carnage in Bangladesh BY Susan Brownmiller.
3- Death By Government (Transaction Publishers, 1997). An idiosyncratic but very informative survey of mass killing, with one of the most detailed treatments of the genocide in Bangladesh BY R.J. Rummel.
4- War and Secession: Pakistan, India, and the Creation of Bangladesh (University of California Press, 1991). [One of the best recent pieces of scholarship on the war and genocide in East Pakistan/Bangladesh] BY Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose.
5- Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views (Garland Reference Library, 1997) A first-rate collection of readings on genocide, including the slaughter in Bangladesh BY Samuel Totten.