One has to wonder who is guiding Pakistan's Foreign ministry these days?
"rejected [the Bangladesh government's] insinuation of complicity in committing crimes or war atrocities [during the 1971 war]. Nothing could be further from the truth."This second statement came in response to the Bangladesh government's criticism of the Pakistan foreign ministry's first statement where it had criticized the executions of Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mujahid for crimes committed during the 1971 war.
Let us, for a moment, put to one side everything Bangladesh and the international community has said about Pakistan's role in committing atrocities during the 1971 war and just consider what Pakistan's own military and civilian officers told the Pakistan government's own inquiry, which was set up in July 1972 and chaired by the Chief Justice Hamoodor Rahman.
The inquiry committee produced an initial report, and in 1974 after the return of Pakistan military officers who had been held in India, a supplementary report was produced after taking further evidence. It was declassified in 2000
The report is primarily - if not solely - based on evidence from these officers, and therefore its conclusions are naturally limited. However, the statements given by these officers, some of which are extracted in chapter 2 of the supplementary report, make very clear that war crimes and atrocities were committed by the army officers. In summary, Pakistan army and civilian officers told the committee:
"Action was based on use of force primarily, and at many places indiscriminate use of force was resorted to"
"I addressed a letter to all formations located in the area and insisted that loot, rape, arson, killing of people at random must stop"
"Excessive force was used on that night [of 25th March 1971]"
"[Officers] took the law into their own hands to deal with the so called miscreants."
"Miscreants were killed by firing squads."
"Two officers and 30 men were disposed of without trial."
"Innocent people were killed by us during sweep operations"
"There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus. In Salda Nadi area about 500 persons were killed."
"When the army moved to clear the rural areas and small towns, it moved in a ruthless manner, destroying, burning and killing."
"People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary executions."
"Brigadier Arbbab also told me to destroy all houses in Joydepur. "
"In May, there was an order in writing to kill Hindus."
"A man had no remedy if he was on the wanted list of the Army"
The report also states:
"We are of the considered opinion that it is necessary for the Government of Pakistan to take effective action to punish this who were responsible for the commission of these alleged excesses and atrocities."
The purpose of the inquiry itself was to find out how Pakistan lost the war:
"the circumstances in which the Commander, Eastern command, surrendered and the members of the Armed Forces of Pakistan under his command laid down their arms and a cease-fire was ordered along the borders of West Pakistan and India and along the cease-fire line in the State of Jammu and Kashmir."
However, as part of that the final report, contained a chapter on 'Alleged Atrocities by the Pakistan Army'. Para 1 stated:
As is well known, the conduct of the Pakistani army, while engaged in counter-insurgency measures in East Pakistan since March 1971, has come in for a lot of criticism from several quarters.After setting out the nature of alleged atrocities committed by the 'Awami League militants' during the month leading up to the beginning of the war on 25/26 March 1971, it then set out the nature of the allegations against the Pakistan army (para 8).
According to the allegations generally made, the excesses committed by the Pakistani Army fall into the following categories:The report then says that
a) Excessive use of force and fire power in Dacca during the night of the 25th and 26th of March 1971 when the military operation was launched.
b) Senseless and wanton arson and killings in the countryside during the course of the “sweeping operations” following the military action.
c) Killing of intellectuals and professionals like doctors, engineers, etc and burying them in mass graves not only during early phases of the military action but also during the critical days of the war in December 1971.
d) Killing of Bengali Officers and men of the units of the East Bengal Regiment, East Pakistan Rifles and the East Pakistan Police Force in the process of disarming them, or on pretence of quelling their rebellion.
e) Killing of East Pakistani civilian officers, businessmen and industrialists, or their mysterious disappearance from their homes by or at the instance of Army Officers performing Martial Law duties.
f) Raping of a large number of East Pakistani women by the officers and men of the Pakistan army as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture.
g) Deliberate killing of members of the Hindu minority.
In view of the seriousness of the allegations, their persistence and their international impact as well as their fundamental importance from the point of view of moral and mental discipline of the Pakistan Army, we made it a point of questioning the repatriated officers at some length in this behalf.
The report then sets out "some typical statements made before us by responsible military and civil officers". Here are some of the relevant extracts:
The statement of army and civilian officers
The statement of army and civilian officers
The report refers to the evidence given by 12 officers
Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi: The report prefaces Niazi's comments by saying that the Lt Gen was probably seeking to place the blame on his predecessor, Tikka Khan. He is quoted as saying:
“military action was based on use of force primarily, and at many places indiscriminate use of force was resorted to which alienated the public against the Army. Damage done during those early days of the military action could never be repaired, and earned for the military leaders names such as “Changez Khan” and “Butcher of East Pakistan.” (emphasis added)
He then claims that such crimes came to an end when he came to power:
“on the assumption of command I was very much concerned with the discipline of troops, and on 15th of April, 1971, that is within four days of my command, I addressed a letter to all formations located in the area and insisted that loot, rape, arson, killing of people at random must stop and a high standard of discipline should be maintained. I had come to know that looted material had been sent to West Pakistan which included cars, refrigerators and air conditioners etc.” (emphasis added)
Maj. Gen. Rao Barman Ali. He was the Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan:
“Harrowing tales of rape, loot, arson, harassment, and of insulting and degrading behaviour were narrated in general terms. I wrote out an instruction to act as a guide for decent behaviour and recommended action required to be taken to win over the hearts of the people. This instruction under General Tikka Khan’s signature was sent to Eastern Command. I found that General Tikka’s position was also deliberately undermined and his instructions ignored...excesses were explained away by false and concocted stories and figures.” (emphasis added)Brigadier Shah Abdul Qasim. He gave a statement to the commission on "the use of excessive force on the night between the 25th and 26th March 1971". He is quoted as saying that:
“no pitched battle was fought on the 25th of March in Dacca. Excessive force was used on that night. Army personnel acted under the influence of revenge and anger during the military operation.” (emphasis added)
Brigadier Mian Taskeenuddin. The report quotes the Brigadier as saying:
“Many junior and other officers took the law into their own hands to deal with the so called miscreants. There have been cases of interrogation of miscreants which were far more severe in character than normal and in some cases blatantly in front of the public. The discipline of the Pakistani army as was generally understood had broken down. In a command area (Dhoom Ghat) between September and October miscreants were killed by firing squads. On coming to know about it I stopped the same forthwith.” (emphasis added)Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Division. He is reported as conceding that:
“there were rumours that Bengalis were disposed of without trial.” (emphasis added)
Brigadier Abdul Qadir Khan. He is also quoted as saying that:
“a number of instance of picking up Bengalis did take place.” (emphasis added)
Lt. Col. S.S.H. Bokhari, CO of 29 Cavalry: He is quoted as saying that:
“in Rangpur two officers and 30 men were disposed of without trial. It may have happened in other stations as well.” (emphasis added)Lt. Col. S.M. Naeem CO of 39 Baluch. He is quoted as saying that
“innocent people were killed by us during sweep operations and it created estrangement amongst the public.” (emphasis added)Lt Col. Mansoorul Haq, GSO-I, Division: He is quoted as making the following allegation:
“A Bengali, who was alleged to be a Mukti Bahini or Awami Leaguer, was being sent to Bangladesh—a code name for death without trial, without detailed investigations and without any written order by any authorised authority.
Indiscriminate killing and looting could only serve the cause of the enemies of Pakistan. In the harshness, we lost the support of the silent majority of the people of East Pakistan. The Comilla Cantonment massacre (on 27th/28th of March, 1971) under the orders of CO 53 Field Regiment, Lt. Gen. Yakub Malik, in which 17 Bengali Officers and 915 men were just slain by a flick of one Officer’s fingers should suffice as an example. There was a general feeling of hatred against Bengalis amongst the soldiers and officers, including Generals. There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus. In Salda Nadi area about 500 persons were killed. When the army moved to clear the rural areas and small towns, it moved in a ruthless manner, destroying, burning and killing. The rebels while retreating carried out reprisals against non-Bengalis."
Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Dacca. He is quoted as saying:
“after the military action the Bengalis were made aliens in their own homeland. The life, property, and honour of even the most highly placed among them were not safe. People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary executions. The victims included Army and Police Officers, businessmen, civilian officers, etc. There was no Rule of Law in East Pakistan. A man had no remedy if he was on the wanted list of the Army... Army Officers who were doing intelligence were raw hands, ignorant of the local language and callous of Bengali sensibilities.” (emphasis added)Brigadier Iqbalur Rehman Shariff. He alleged in his statement that during his visit to formations in East Pakistan General Gul Hassan used to ask the soldiers
“how many Bengalis have you shot”.Lt. Col. Aziz Ahmed Khan, Commanding Officer 8 Baluch, CO 86 Mujahid Battalion. He is quoted as saying:
“Brigadier Arbbab also told me to destroy all houses in Joydepur. To a great extent I executed this order. General Niazi visited my unit at Thakargaon and Bogra. He asked us how many Hindus we had killed. In May, there was an order in writing to kill Hindus. This order was from Brigadier Abdullah Malik of 23 Brigade.”
Responsibility and Trials
As to the issue of responsibility for these atrocities, the report stated:
"The direct responsibility of the alleged excesses and atrocities must, of course, rest on those officers and men who physically perpetuated them or knowingly and deliberately allowed them to be so perpetuated. These officers and men not only showed lack of discipline in disobeying the directives of the Eastern Command and Zonal Martial Law Administrator, but also indulged in criminal acts punishable under the Army Act as well as the ordinary law of the land.In its conclusion it stated at para 38:
From what we have said in the preceding paragraphs it is clear that there is substance in the allegations that during and after the military action excesses were indeed committed on the people of East Pakistan ...'
After stating that there were exaggerations and provocations in the Bangladesh allegations, it then goes onto state:
Nevertheless, inspite of all these factors we are of the view that the officers charged with the task of restoring law and order were under an obligation to act with restraint and to employ only the minimum force necessary for the purpose. No amount of provocation by the militants of the Awami League or other miscreants could justify retaliation by a disciplined army against its own people. The Pakistan Army was called upon to operate in Pakistan territory, and could not, therefore, be permitted to behave as if it was dealing with external aggression or operating on enemy soil. Irrespective, therefore, of the magnitude of the atrocities, we are of the considered opinion that it’s necessary for the Government of Pakistan to take effective action to punish this who were responsible for the commission of these alleged excesses and atrocities. (emphasis added)As to 'inquiries and trials', the report states:
"On the basis of the evidence coming before the Commission, we have been able to indicate only in general terms the direct and indirect responsibility of certain senior commanders and others, but the question of fixing individual responsibility and awarding punishment appropriate thereto need to be determined according to the prescribed procedures available under the Pakistan Army Act and other applicable laws of the land. We would, accordingly, reiterate the recommendation made by us in Paragraph 7 of Chapter III of Para V of the main report that the Government of Pakistan should set up a high-powered Court or Commission of Inquiry to investigate these allegations, and to hold trials of those who indulged in these atrocities, brought a bad name to the Pakistan Army and alienated the sympathies of the local population by their acts of wanton cruelty and immorality against our own people. The composition of the Court of Inquiry, if not its proceedings, should be publicly announced so as to satisfy national conscience and international opinion.
The Commission feels that sufficient evidence is now available in Pakistan for a fruitful inquiry to be undertaken in this regard. As the Government of Bangladesh has been recognised by Pakistan, it may be feasible to request the Dacca authorities to forward to this Court of Inquiry whatever evidence may be available with them".