THIS is with reference to the editorial ‘1971 in retrospect’ (Nov 28), which ended with the words: “… the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report has never officially been released, and no one has been held responsible for the loss of the eastern wing”. This has also been the constant refrain of politicians and the media since the previous army chief touched the subject in his last public speech before leaving office (‘Army has resolved to shun politics, assures Bajwa’ [Nov 24]).
Actually, the report was made public on Dec 30, 2000, and a report to that effect featured on the front page of Dawn, titled “HRC blames generals for ’71 debacle” (Dec 31, 2000).
The commission’s report had earlier hit the headlines when India Today had carried excerpts from the supplementary report in August 2000, which were reprinted by Dawn as a stand-alone supplement, titled ‘Tragic events of 1971: Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report’ (Aug 14, 2000).
Gen Pervez Musharraf, the then chief executive, constituted a committee to study the report and recommend what action should be taken. The committee comprised interior minister Moinuddin Haider and foreign secretary Inamul Haq. As the cabinet secretary at the time, I was the third member of that committee. He accepted the recommendation that the report should be declassified, and this was communicated to the public in a press release by the cabinet division on Dec 19, 2000, which appeared in Dawn also, citing a long-standing demand that the report should be made available to the people (‘HRC report to be declassified on 30th’ [Dec 20, 2000]).
The report was declassified on the said date in the manner in which restricted records are made public in official archives all over the world. We took care to avoid declassification close to the Eid holidays and the first half of December when the war had been fought in East Pakistan, leading to the surrender on Dec 16, 1971.
The report was made public in its entirety except for some passages dealing with our relations with foreign countries. Copies of the report were placed in the cabinet division and its offices in Karachi and Lahore. They were consulted by the media and interested citizens and many newspapers, including Dawn, printed excerpts from both the main and supplementary reports.
The main report deals comprehensively with the political issues leading to the crisis in East Pakistan. It criticises the Awami League’s civil disobedience movement as ‘a reign of terror’, and Yahya Khan’s flawed military and political strategy. The supplementary report, which examines the war sector by sector, makes painful reading because it deals with the surrender itself.
The commission recommended trial by court martial for officers of different ranks. It also recommended that some generals should be tried for criminal neglect of duty in the conduct of war on both fronts. However, no trials were conducted.
This piece of correspondence is simply in the hope of clearing the existing confusion about the status of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report.
Dr Masuma Hasan
Former Cabinet Secretary
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022