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14-16th Dec 1971 -Blow by Blow Account of Surrender in East Pakistan

MG is a senior air warrior who is an alumnus of the Staff College and a notable writer on military history.

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The 14th of December

The last two days before the surrender of the Pakistan Army on16 December 1971 at Dhaka are of great importance. This was the period that despite having a sufficient number of troops, the Pak Army led by Lt Gen Niazi and governor of East Pakistan Dr. AM Malik were completely demoralized and succumbed to the Indian pressure and surrendered. In the bargain, this has become the biggest surrender in the history of warfare after 1945, when almost 95,000 troops of the Pakistani and close to 100,000 Razakars surrendered.

On the night of 14 December, the Indian army 4 Corps was closing in on Dhaka the capital of East Pakistan. The Indian commander General Jagjit Singh Aurora had devised a strategy of bypassing the fortified positions of the Pakistan army and converging on the capital. Helped by the Mukti Bahini and Local Bengali fisherman Indian tanks were ferried across the Meghna river and were heading towards the capital with only sporadic resistance. General Niazi and his top commanders were holed up in Dhaka Cantonment and hoping for intervention from the United States and China so that a cease-fire could be affected. As per Siddique Sliks in his book Witness To Surrender, the all-around atmosphere at HQ was pervaded with gloom and disillusionment.

The mood in Peshwar was however different. Late-night on 14th December 1971, General Yahya Khan, then President of Pakistan was giving a party in his newly constructed house. This was an exclusive gathering and one of the guests was a Bengali lady by the name of Mrs. Shammim (also known as Black Pearl). She was was one of the close friends of Gen Yahya. This party shows the unreal atmosphere that existed in Peshawer and the total incompetence of the Pakistani president general Yahiya Khan.

As this party went on late into the night, three Indian Brigades (73, 301, and 311 – numbering about10000 troops) had crossed the mighty Meghna river in East Pakistan and were all set to attack Dhaka. The Indians had also ferried across75/24 Howitzer guns which fired regularly at different targets on Dhaka Cantonment.

General Yahiya Khan and top army commanders in Army headquarters Pakistan was living in a dream world and were convinced the defense of East Pakistan lay in the west.

As early as 22 February 1971, the Pakistani President General Yahya Khan said in a meeting, “Kill three million of them (Bengalis), and the rest will eat out of our hands.”

Since March 1971, when 'Operation Searchlight' the military crackdown on Pakistan was launched by the Pak army and the paramilitary force the Razakars who were mostly Bihari Muslims, a reign of terror had commenced.

The army killed many Bengalis and raped hundreds of women. Approximately 2500 got pregnant as a result. To avoid social turmoil international organizations like Red Cross had to set up Abortion camps.



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15 December 71


Much of what was happening during this crucial phase has been extensively written by eyewitnesses. General Niazi got up in the morning and was in a depressed mood. He had been promised that a cease-fire would be arranged and the Americans would enter the war on the Pakistan side. Pakistan had invoked the mutual defense pact. Back in America, President Nixon was playing his cards adroitly. He was known as 'tricky Dick' and he lived up to the name. The USA was already embroiled in the Vietnam war which Nixon was wishing to stop and he could ill afford to get into combat with the Indian army in East Pakistan. General Westmoreland the American commander had made this clear. There was also the factor of Soviet Russia which was backing India and in any resolution in the security council brought forth by Pakistan for a cease-fire was vetoed. Russians were not going to let the American ally off the hook.

Lt. Gen. Niazi was sore that his plan for the defense against an Indian attack had failed. He turned a number of major towns of East Pakistan into Fortresses, where Pak forces were instructed to fight the advancing Indian Army to a certain point and then fall back into Dacca.

The Pakistan plan failed because the Mukti Bahini now controlled the countryside and no Pakistani soldier dares venture out of the defence areas. In addition the Indian field commander of 4 Corps Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh and Maj. Gen. Gandharva Nagra (Commander 101 Communication Zone) bypassed and blocked Niazi’s fortresses. By 15th Dec, morning, India had enough troops around Dacca to beat Naizi.

Throughout the war, Niazi and Dr Malik kept updating West Pakistan about the fast deteriorating situation. On 10th Dec, Niazi informed Pak GHQ that India had heli-dropped a brigade-size force south of Narsingdi at 1630 hrs and also para-dropped a brigade in Tangail( close to Dhaka)

Niazi lost all hopes and became despondent and depressed. After 14 December he just shut himself in his bunker.

A day earlier on 14 December Dr. Malik the governor of East Pakistan called for a meeting at 12 noon to discuss the war situation at his residence. The Indian air force through intelligence sources came to know of this conference and exactly when the conference began MIG 21's attacked the governor's house with rockets with pinpoint accuracy. Dr. Malik hid under a table and wrote out his resignation after that he and his cabinet took refuge in the Hotel Intercontinental, which had been declared by the UN as a safe zone.

At that time the government of East Pakistan ceased to exist.

General Yahiya now did something extremely silly he sent a signal(G-0013) and asked Niazi to `take all necessary measures to stop the fighting.’ He also asked him to save the lives of the Pakistani soldiers. This signal was sent over the open and not encrypted and maybe the intention was that Indians should read it. Niazi was surprised when the signal came and he was not sure it was authentic, so he wasted some time in checking up with GHQ whether this was sent by them. After confirmation, a depressed Niazi contacted Mr. Spivac of the American Counsel General to arrange a ceasefire. A resolution came up in the security council which was again vetoed by Russia.



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16th December: surrender

16th December dawned. The Pakistan army was being attacked all over East Pakistan by the Mukti Bahini and any Pakistani soldier captured was bayoneted to death. Complete demoralization had set in. The Mukti Bahini were also taking revenge for the mass rapes of Bengali girls and murders which were committed by the Pakistani army. These are well documented in UN reports.

Niazi was hoping that a cease-fire will be arranged and he will not have to surrender. There was a signal sent from headquarters that promised that the Chinese would intervene from the north and the United States from the south and Niazi would be saved.

Very soon Niazi realized that this was not worth the paper on which it was written. China had no intention of getting involved in a conflict with India on behalf of Pakistan and "Tricky Dick" had played his cards very well and was not going to get involved in another Vietnam.

Niazi was depressed and demoralized and repeatedly said that the bastards in Peshawer had betrayed him.

On 16th Dec morning, Indian Army Chief Gen Manekshaw called Gen Jacob, a Jew and chief of staff to Gen Aurora and asked him to go to Dacca to take the surrender of Pak forces.

Gen Gandharva Nagra commanding the para brigades was outside Dacca. Early morning on 16 December he sent his ADC and two officers of 2 Para Battalion with a message for Niazi “My dear Abdullah, I am here. The game is up. I suggest you give yourself up to me, and I will look after you.” At around 9 AM, messengers drove in a white flagged jeep with the emissaries. They returned sometime later with Maj Gen Jamshed, with the message that Niazi had agreed.

In the afternoon a Pakistani Brigadier and two representatives from the UN – Mr. Kelly and Mr. Mark Henry received General Jacob when he landed in Dhaka by chopper.

Nagra and Gen Jacob went and met Gen Niazi in his HQ who was flanked by a Navy admiral and the Military Advisor to the Governor – Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali. When Jacob read out the surrender document, both Niazi and Ali refused to surrender initially. He took Niazi aside and told him that he had offered terms that he will be treated with respect as per the Geneva convention. He also darkly informed that if he refused he would wash his hands of the matter. Reportedly he gave 30 minutes to consider the proposal and walked out of the room with the dire warning that if he did not agree within the 30 minutes he would order the bombing of the Dhaka and the Pakistan army.

After half an hour general Jacob went back and asked General, whether he had accepted the surrender? Niazi did not respond. He asked the same question twice and Niazi kept sitting glumly. Jacob picked up the surrender document and said “I take it as accepted. You will surrender on the Race Course in front of the people of Dacca.”

Public surrender and guard of honor

Niazi had become emotional and could not speak. Jacob looked at him sternly and reportedly said, “You will. There is no question about it that you will surrender in public. You will also provide a guard of honor to Gen Aurora."

Niazi mumbled that he did not have an officer to command the Guard of honor. It was a tricky poser but general Jacob pointed towards Niazi's ADC and said," your ADC is here and he will bloody well command it."

Everything happened exactly as mentioned. General Aurora when he landed. in Dhaka racecourse was given a guard of honor by the Pakistan army. Niazi signed the surrender document before hundreds of thousands of cheering Bengalis. Such a public surrender has never taken place in world history. I also do not recollect any guard of honor being given by a defeated army to a victorious general in the military history of the world. The Pakistan army did it.

References


.1 Witness To Surrender by Siddique Salik

2. A Stranger in my own country by Major-General (retd) Khadim Hussain Raja

3. Hamoodur Rahman commission report

4. Pakistan’s drift into extremism by Hassan Abbas

5. Liberation: Bangladesh – 1971 by Maj Gen Dhruv C Katoch

6. A Talent for War: The Military Biography of Lt Gen Sagat Singh by RandhirSinh

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 18, 2021:

Devika, thanks, a pleasure to read your comment.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 18, 2021:

Bill, so nice you commented. It is always a pleasure to read your comment which is so erudite and interesting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 18, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, your info is welcome but I don't remember any surrender ceremony in a racecourse with lakhs witnessing.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 18, 2021:

emge It is an interesting hub. You share what you know and what we need enlightening on here. I have gained knowledge from your historical hubs since I noticed your work. Thank you

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 18, 2021:

My education continues, and I'm in the hands of a very capable teacher. Thank you, Sir!

tom on June 18, 2021:

only two surrender eermonies after ww2 one dacca ,the other falklands

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 18, 2021:

Tom, thank you for commenting. Jacob was a jew and did not migrate to Israel. I am not sure general Nagra really stole any car of Niazi, the idea was just to bypass him. Most of the protagonists of the 71 war are dead but they have left their stamp. Generals Sagat Singh, a Rajput was a real soldier and deserves our respect.

tom on June 17, 2021:

i have read all the books mentioned by you sir,jacob rtd as lt gen goc east,joined bjp governor of goa,governor of ut chandigarh ,wrote two books,sagat singh rathore died in 2001,ex jaipur stateforces ,infantryman ,led 5o th para bde in goa,1967 nathu la,197 4th corps but never became goc of a command,niazi uncle of imran khan died in 2004,2005 aurora dead ls mp in 1980s,general nagra allegedly stole niazis mercedes ,not promoted ,car preserved in eastern comand ,fake allegations against nagra,not made lt gen or given a medal ,avm bishnoi hit dacca govt house,nagras son rtd brigadier,salik pro of zia killed in crash,surrender ceremony present wing co sk sareen,major gen kv krishna rao,future chiefs,hc diwan dead ,admiral krishnan dead,major gen shahbeg singh present,he joined bhindran

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 17, 2021:

Major, so nice you commented. You are right many in the Pakistan army were opposed to what all was being done under the command of General Niazi. I have written about Bhutto in another article. This is a sad story and I hope it is never repeated and both India and Pakistan can smoke the peace pipe.

Major Shamsheer Alam on June 17, 2021:

Gp Capt, I have read your article and will say that it is fairly balanced. However, you should've brought out the fact that there were many people in the Pakistan army who were opposed to what was happening in East Pakistan among them was LT General Piirzada. He resigned after 30 days as governor as he did not approve of whatever the army was doing. Another factor was that ZA Bhutto who precipitated this crisis.

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