Four decades on and where are we?

December 18, 2011


TWO days ago the nation ‘commemorated’ — or it should have even though to the majority it may have little significance — the 40th anniversary of the signing of the instrument of surrender by the commander of the Pakistan forces in East Pakistan and the commander of the Indian forces of Eastern Command at Ramna race course at one minute past five in the afternoon of Dec 16, 1971.

Thus died the Pakistan founded and made by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a mere 24 years previously. It had had a brief painful life with acrimony never absent between the two wings of the country separated by ‘enemy’ territory.

Writing elsewhere, a columnist last week suggested that “the first order of national business should be on the teaching of history. For this is a country with no use for history”. No, history plays no part in the national psyche nor in the thinking process (if there be one) of those who have over the years been put into or taken over the leadership of this nation divided unto itself.

It has been forgotten amidst the present-day hysteria of anti-Americanism that has overtaken both rulers and the ruled, fuelled by what is known coyly as the ‘establishment’ that in 1971 the breakaway of East Pakistan was the most traumatic event in the country’s short life.

The population of what was left of Pakistan was reduced by more than half (and, boy, have we now made up for that with an unwieldy population of 180 million that cannot be supported in far too many ways). Territory was lost as was the geopolitical role in Southeast Asia, plus a significant portion of the economy.

Arrogance battling with ignorance and a false sense of superiority led the west wing, whilst the east wing fretted and fumed.

When things came to a head after atrocities committed by both sides during the fraught year of 1971, and hostilities broke out — war with our large neighbour — it was the state-controlled media that covered up any and all truth — just as the free media, subject now to self-censorship, sensationalism and hysteria is fuelling a ‘crush USA’ campaign rather than as it was then a ‘crush India’ mode. This country never seems to have had an awareness of its own weight and strength.

Lest we all forget, and for those that just do not know, reproduced here is the instrument of surrender signed on that sad day long ago when perhaps, at a rough guess, two-thirds of our population were not even born. The people, plus the leadership, need to either remember or know:

“The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangla Desh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Indian and Bangla Desh forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, air and naval forces as also all para-military forces and civil armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora. “The Pakistan Eastern Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as the instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning or interpretation of the surrender terms.

“Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with provisions of the Geneva Convention and guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and para-military forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of West Pakistan origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.”

Signed by J.S. Aurora and A.A.K. Niazi on Dec 16, 1971.

So, 79,700 regular Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary troops were prisoners of war in Indian hands, together with 12,500 civilians. Thirteen hundred men were lost in battle — as opposed to how many thousands lost in today’s battle fighting the scourge of terrorism, mainly homegrown.

The army had told the nation it would fight to the last man. It failed in its promise. Military and civilian governments over 24 years, in their arrogance and incompetence, which had seeped down into the masses, had played their part in the loss of half a country.

Horrible things happen in war — that is what war is all about, killing. We are up in arms about the Salala tragedy quite forgetting about the thousands of other soldiers who have lost their lives battling with terrorism inflicted by our own people through circumstances of our own making. Pakistan does not stand tall and proud, despite what the establishment-geared government might tell us. And it cannot afford to stand alone for too long.

America is no pushover. The prime minister has made noises about soon reverting to what was ‘normal’, cooperation in an attempt to sort out the dangers posed by the Afghan situation. It will have to happen.

Pique over what may well have been an accident and dreams of ‘strategic depth’ are not going to get us far. The pity is that in the US we are now left sadly short on the diplomatic front. Voices of sanity are few, and to them no one listens. Skill is needed to ward off the isolation

now faced and any further humiliation.