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50th Anniversary of Freedom for Bengali Muslims and the Men who Led the Pakistan Army to Defeat

A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.

Indian commander being received by Gen Niazi

Indian commander being received by Gen Niazi


2021 marks the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh. There is a need to commemorate the struggles of Bangladesh’s freedom for Independence as most of the western world does not know much about it.
The cause for the separation of the Bengali-speaking Muslims from Pakistan stemmed from the mentality of subjugating or colonizing the self-conscious Bengali population. This was done by imposing Urdu as the only language, draining wealth, and lack of development.
The battle commenced when general Yahiya Khan president of Pakistan launched 'Operation Searchlight' in March 1971 to crush Bengali resistance and break the will of the population to oppose Pakistan.The Bengali Muslims had to make a choice between seeking the help of India or facing dishonor and death, the Bengalis chose the former.
The course of the war is well known and despite promises of help by the United States, the UK, and Saudi Arabia not forgetting China nobody came to their help. The Pakistan president, general Yahiya Khan in a questionable telegram indicated to the Eastern Command C-in-C Lt General Abdullah Niazi to negotiate a surrender. It is now known that Niazi lost his nerve and surrendered 90,000 Pakistani troops on assurances from the Indians that they would be honorably treated as per the Geneva convention.

What followed reads like an unreal story because General Niazi surrendered to the Indian Eastern Command commander Lt Gen JS Aurora in a public ceremony in the racecourse at Dacca witnessed by thousands of cheering Bengalis. He also authorized a guard of honor to the Indian commander- General Jagjit Singh Aurora which was commanded by his ADC. In my study of Military History, I have not come across such an action by any army even one defeated.

signing the surrender

signing the surrender

Fate of the Pakistan leadership who lead the nation to disgrace and doom.

In this article, I am going to discuss the role and the fate of the men who were at the helm of affairs in Pakistan during that crucial period in 1971. The first name that comes up on the list is that of the President, General Yahiya Khan. He was the protege of General Ayub Khan who seized power in a military coup in 1958 but before leaving he invested the reins of Pakistan in the hands of his protege.

After the defeat of the Pakistan army in 1971, the Pakistan government constituted a commission headed by justice Hamadur Rehman to inquire into the causes of the Pakistan defeat. This is available on the net and anybody can read it. The problem was the general's fondness for drinks and fair company and even as late as 12 December when the Indian army was surrounding Dacca, he was holding a grand party to celebrate the opening of his new house in Rawalpindi. The general was a good man at heart who was basically fond of the good things of life but in the bargain he allowed himself to be manipulated by a scheming politician named Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Yahiya is notorious for sending an unencrypted message to General Niazi putting the onus on him to take a decision to surrender or not. Obviously, Niazi interpreted it as a direction to him to surrender, and later he mentioned that he had been betrayed by the bastards in Rawalpindi.

Yahiya had to resign and was put under house arrest. He lived a pathetic life and nobody associated with him. His failing health confined him to his house. He got a reprieve towards the end of his life when General Zia removed his restrictions but it was all over bar the shouting. He received no military honor or recognition when he passed away in 1978.

The next man on the list is Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This man was a megalomaniac and he had a big hand in the break-up of Pakistan. He was a man who opposed the handing over of power to the Awami League, led by Shiekh Mujibar Rehman who had won a majority in the 1970 election. He instigated Yahiya to order Martial Law in East Pakistan and reportedly made a statement " thank God Pakistan is saved."

He became president of Pakistan and then Prime Minister in a new constitution. The grapes of wrath caught up with him and he was overthrown and arrested by his protege General Zia-ul Haq, and tried for a murder he did not commit and was hanged in 1978.

The third man on the list is the army Eastern Command chief Lieutenant General Abdullah k Niazi. Just for the record, he is the uncle of the present Prime Minister Imran Khan. Niazi was misled by GHQ that help is coming and he should hold on. He was assured that China would attack from the north and the United States seventh fleet would intervene through the Bay of Bengal. These were only words and within two days he realized that this was not going to happen as the Soviet nuclear-powered fleet tacked along with the American fleet. India had signed the treaty of peace and friendship for 20 years with the USSR.

The reasons for surrendering publicly in the racecourse and giving a guard of honor to the Indian general Aurora have never been published but probably Niazi lost his nerve completely and became a POW. When he came back to Pakistan in 1974, he was not given any honor and remained confined to his house as nobody wanted to mix with him. He was lucky he was not arrested and tried for any crime but he lived in isolation and died unsung and nobody knows where his grave is.

The next man on the list is Air Marshal Raheem Khan. He was the chief of the Pakistan Air Force during that crucial period. He was the man who was supposed to execute the strike on the forward Indian bases on 3 December 1971 but his planning was very poor and the so-called surprise attack turned out to be a big zero. He also failed to bolster the Pakistan Air Force in the eastern region and his concept of defense to keep only one squadron in East Pakistan in the hope that he would obliterate the Indian Air Force in the western sector turned out to be absolutely hollow. After the war his daughter was in America and he left for the United States. He died in 1991 and nobody knows where his grave is except for his daughter. Nobody from the Pakistan attended his funeral and nobody knows where the air marshal is buried also; in other words, he died unsung and unheralded.

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The next man on the list is General Hamid Khan who was the chief of the Pakistan army and had been appointed by General Yahiya. He also had to leave the army and lived a life as a recluse till he died I thinking around 1978 he received no military honor, no recognition, nothing, and nobody knows where his grave is and what happened to him.

Another man whose name pops up is that general Gül Hassan. He was made the chief of the army general staff and after Yahiya had been removed he was made the chief of the army but Bhutto removed him and later reinstated him and sent him as an ambassador to Austria. He was a bachelor and married a girl working in a barbershop and tried to settle down there. He developed cancer came back to Pakistan and died in Rawalpindi in 1999.

These are the men who were at the helm of affairs at that crucial period When the Pakistan army suffered a catastrophic defeat. It's all part of history.


Last word

Half a century has elapsed and Bangladesh has now developed by leaps and bounds but Pakistan continues on the path of obscurantism and make-believe even now. They feel China is going to intervene and help them, not realizing that the so-called China- Pakistan economic corridor is a debt trap. The Pakistan economy is in shambles and no less a person than Imran Khan the Pakistan Prime Minister has admitted that Pakistan is facing a great economic crisis.

The break up of Pakistan to the present economic crisis and the thriving of terrorist organizations in Pakistan is because of the Pakistan army. Imran Khan is a fine man but he has cast his lot with the military and I wonder who will send the army back to the barracks.

Further reading

Memoirs of Lt Gen. Gul HASSAN KHAN: The last commander in chief of the Pakistan Army by Gul Hassan Khan.

Surrender at Dacca- Birth of A Nation by Lt Gen JFR Jacob

Special report on break up of Pakistan.

The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten GENOCIDE by Gary j Bass.

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