THIS is with reference to the article ‘From behind the barbed wire’ (Dec 16). Narrating the experiences of one retired major who spent time in an Indian prisoner of war camp in 1972-73, the article states that the Fall of Dhaka “… resulted in the surrender of almost 93,000 Pakistani army men stationed there …”

The figure of 93,000 army troops is repeated in the same article later on. It is most unfortunate that this figure of 93,000 ‘soldiers/troops’ is repeated and published frequently without verification of the actual record.

The incorrect figure builds a completely misleading impression. Even an advertisement published a few months ago in Dawn by the Sindh government gave the wrong figure.

The fact is that the total strength of the Pakistan army troops posted in East Pakistan as of December 16, 1971, was only about 34,000. With the addition of Rangers, scouts, militia and civil police, the total strength of personnel deployed to defend East Pakistan was only 45,000.

Whereas arrayed against this relatively small force dispersed across East Pakistan, was the much larger Indian deployment of over 150,000 troops/forces in different formations encircling East Pakistan from three sides with the additional support of about tens of thousands of Mukti Bahni. They outnumbered Pakistani troops by more than 5:1. Pakistani troops were over 2,000 miles distant by air and sea from supply sources in West Pakistan with India having banned overland flights in February 1971. Pakistani troops were severely under-equipped and under-supported by small units of the air force and navy. But the military mismatch dimension is another story altogether, requiring separate reflection.

While it is correct that the total number of Pakistani PoWs held by India after December 16, 1971, was about 90,000 plus, about 55,000 of these PoWs were civilians from West Pakistan, both official and non-official, and included families, businessmen and others, who were not armed and did not enter into combat with Indian troops.

The accuracy of the figures can be verified by the data cited in several books on the 1971 tragedy published by reputed foreign and Pakistani scholars and writers, including first-hand accounts by army officers.


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