THIS newspaper of record did us a great service by publishing the full text of the 1974 Supplementary Report of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission the day after it was released in the Indian press. We subsequently read that our government intended to publish the 1972 Main Report of the HR Commission, but this was swiftly denied. End of story.

There were three men principally responsible for the loss, at the end of 1971, of half of Jinnah's Pakistan. Firstly, Yahya Khan, head of state, head of government, chief martial law administrator, C-in-C of the army and supreme commander of the armed forces, who was held in captivity by his successor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, denied an open trial, freed by Zia-ul-Haq, and died a sick and lonely man. Secondly, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who commissioned and then suppressed the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, and was deposed, tried, and hanged by his successor, Zia-ul-Haq. Thirdly, Mujibur Rahman, first prime minister of Bangladesh, assassinated by some rebel troops of his own army.

This month's issue of 'Newsline' has devoted pages to the HR Report and to the loss of East Pakistan. One article, 'A nation's shame', quotes from the statement made by that fine officer and gentleman, Admiral Syed Mohammed Ahsan. The general who surrendered to the Indians, A.A.K. Niazi, has been interviewed. And Brigadier F.B. Ali in his article, 'Conduct unbecoming' has written on the subsequent revolt during the Bhutto regime by a number of army officers, of which he was one.

From 'A nation's shame':

"But who was responsible for creating this hostile atmosphere and hatred among the people? The situation deteriorated further after General Yahya Khan postponed the first session of the newly elected constituent assembly. It became very clear immediately after the election results that the generals were not prepared to transfer power to the Awami League. First the delay in summoning the National Assembly session and later its postponement confirmed the Bengalis' worst fears, that the election results were not acceptable both to the generals and to the majority of West Pakistani politicians. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto publicly called for a boycott of the assembly session. Such a transgression was bound to further fuel public resentment.

"The anti-Bengali bias of the military leadership was very obvious. There was no representation from East Pakistan in the decision-making forums. In his statement before the Commission, Admiral Ahsan, the former governor of East Pakistan, aptly described the hostile mood of the military leadership when they decided to postpone the assembly session and launch a military operation in the eastern province. 'On arrival in Rawalpindi I was alarmed to notice the high tide of militarism flowing turbulently.... There was open talk of a military solution according to plan ', maintained Admiral Ahsan. 'I was caught quite unaware in this atmosphere for I know of no military solution which could possibly solve whatever crisis was supposed to be impending in the minds of the authorities.'

"It was evident from the statement that the decision to launch a military operation was taken without consulting the governor of East Pakistan who was the only sane voice in the government. Ahsan went on to describe the atmosphere at a crucial high-level meeting in Rawalpindi on February 22 1971.

" 'The president presided over the meeting of the governors and martial law administrators attended as usual by the military and the civilian officers of the intelligence agencies. It is relevant to record that among the tribe of governors and MLAs I was the only non-army governor and the only retired officer in the midst of active service men. I was the only person, though a non-Bengali, who had to represent the sentiments of seventy million Bengalis to a completely West Pakistani generalship,' said Admiral Ahsan. 'During the past 17 months, in meetings and conferences, my brief ran counter to the cut-and-dried solutions of West Pakistan representatives and civil servants. The president invariably gave decisions which accommodated East Pakistan's viewpoint, at least partially. This made me unpopular with my colleagues who probably thought I was 'difficult' at best and 'sold' to the Bengalis at worst.'

From the Niazi interview:

"Q. The Hamood Commission recommended that a coterie of generals - General Yahya Khan, General Abdul Hamid Khan, Lt General S.G.M.M. Pirzada, Lt General Gul Hasan, Major General Umar and Major General Mitha - be publicly tried for the 1971 debacle. However, General Tikka, Sahibzada Yakub Ali Khan and Rao Farman Ali have simply been exonerated. How would you respond? Do you think they were innocent?

"A. I don't agree with the Commission's exoneration of these three. It is surprising that no responsibility for the break-up of Pakistan has been apportioned on Tikka, Yaqub and Farman. In fact, Yaqub's inaction as Commander of the Eastern Command aggravated the situation in East Pakistan. Having messed up everything, Yaqub deemed it fit to desert his post and resign, while taking cover behind his conscience. I think he should have been sent to the gallows for betraying the nation. Yahya demoted him. However, Bhutto restored his rank and sent him as ambassador to the USA. What a prize for desertion! The Hamood Commission exculpated him, thus paving the ground for officers to resign instead of fighting the enemy whenever a difficult situation develops. Similarly, Tikka has not been mentioned in the Hamood report, although his barbaric action of March 25 earned him the name of the 'Butcher of Bengal'. The Commission has overlooked his heinous crimes. For his failure to disarm the East Pakistan Rifles and arrest the military brainpower, Tikka was removed from the command of Eastern Command. His expulsion of journalists from East Pakistan was a naive step that turned the international press against Pakistan. Tikka's biggest fault was his inability to launch a counter-offensive from the Western Theatre, which ultimately cost us the war.

"As far as Rao Farman is concerned, he was in charge of the Dhaka operations. According to authentic press reports, tanks, mortars and artillery were ruthlessly employed against the Dhaka University inmates, killing scores of them. Rao remained military adviser to five governors and had his finger in every pie."

From 'Conduct unbecoming':

"Matters had not gone beyond the serious discussion stage when a traitor in our midst, Lt Colonel Tariq Rafi, betrayed us to the generals. Early in 1973, a large number of army and air force officers were arrested in a particularly brutal fashion, confined under very harsh conditions, and tried by court martials in Attock and Badaber. Bhutto saw this as an excellent opportunity to teach a lasting lesson to anyone else in the armed forces who might think of acting against him.

"In spite of a superb defence led by Mr Manzur Qadir, the outcome was a foregone conclusion: all the accused were convicted and many of them were given long prison sentences, including life imprisonment for Aleem Afridi and me. Manzur Qadir was ill but continued to defend us, even though we could barely pay enough to cover his expenses (his normal fees were totally beyond our means), and lived for long periods in primitive conditions in the Attock rest house, as did his colleagues, Ijaz Hussain Batalvi, Aitzaz Ahsan and Wasim Sajjad.

"The emotions that drove these young officers to contemplate such a drastic step, involving grave risks, and then to stoically suffer such harsh consequences, were poignantly expressed by Major Saeed Akhtar Malik in his address to the Attock court martial trying him for his life. He said: 'When the war became imminent, I took leave from the PMA and joined my unit, ... thanks to the CO who requisitioned my services. The next day the war started. But instead of glory I found only disillusionment. The truth was that we were a defeated army even before a shot was fired. This was a very bitter truth. With each corpse that I saw, my revulsion increased for the men who had signed the death warrants of so many very fine men. Yes, fine men, but poor soldiers, who were never given the chance to fight back, because they were not trained to fight back. When they should have been training for war, they were performing the role of labourers, farmers or herdsmen, anything but the role of soldiers. This was not 'shahadat'. This was cold-blooded murder. Who was responsible for this? I was responsible ! But more than me were responsible. What were some of these men, these callous, inhuman degenerates, doing when their only job was to prepare the army for war? Were these men not grabbing lands and building houses? Did it not appear in foreign magazines that some of them were pimping for their bloated grandmaster? Yes, generals, wearing that uniform (he pointed at the court's president) pimping and whoremongering!' "

Having lost what we had, today we are trying to acquire territory we never had. Our sole ally is the destroyed and dying Talebanized Afghanistan. The weapons with which we threaten the world are the nuclear bombs combined with obscurantism. End of story?

(Concluded)

Updated Sep 17, 2000 12:00am

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