The blueprint for massacre | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 06, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:41 PM, December 10, 2015


The blueprint for massacre

We have used Pakistani sources--books written by Pakistani military officers involved in the operations in East Pakistan in 1971 and the report of a chief justice of Pakistan--to compile these reports to show the extent and complicity of the Pakistan Government and its military in the genocide, destruction, and uprooting of more than a crore Bangalis in 1971. The facts speak for themselves.

Once the decision was made at Larkana by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the top military rulers not to hand over power to Bangabandhu who had won the 1970 elections, the Pakistani military got down to execute a scorched earth policy in the name of Operation Searchlight.

The Butcher of Baluchistan, General Tikka Khan, was made the chief of Eastern Command in East Pakistan. After all, he had quelled the Baluch rebels. Cruel and ruthless, he would now execute the annihilation of a people.

"I want the land and not the people, Tikka has issued orders to his troops,” General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi who later took over the war from Tikka wrote in his book "The Betrayal of East Pakistan".

“Tikka resorted to the killing of civilians and scorched-earth policy,” Niazi wrote. “These orders were carried out in letter and spirit by Major General Farman and Brigadier Janzeb Arbab in Dhaka.”

Niazi in his book mentions how Major Gen Rao Farman who was responsible to carry out killings in Dhaka city had envisioned his plan.

Niazi writes: “Major Gen Rao Farman had written in his table diary, 'Green land of East Pakistan will be painted red'. It was painted red by Bengali blood.”

The diary was found by the Bangali freedom fighters when they entered the Governor's House after the fall of Dhaka in December, 1971.

The genocide plan was set in motion with the Pakistani military starting a secret troops buildup mission in Dhaka. There were 10 battalions until then numbering around 10,000 troops. But the paramilitary border protection force, East Pakistan Rifles (EPR), mostly staffed with Bangali soldiers, had a strength of 12,000 troops.

The Pakistanis felt its troops were insufficient to face off the EPR, which they thought would revolt once the crackdown began.

The military planners arranged to fly in plain-clothes troops every night by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights into Tejgaon Airport so that no suspicion was raised among the Bangalis. This continued until March 1.

Salik writes: “The Bengali brigade major was kept out of this arrangement for reasons of security.”

But the sinister move soon raised suspicions. Why were loads of tough-looking guys arriving every night, asked the Bangali ground crew. The Bangali staff refused to handle these secret flights.

“The Bengali staffs of PIA, Dacca were the first to boycott their work,” Salik wrote. “They refused to handle the flights which brought troops (22 Baluch and 13 Frontier Force) from Karachi. Two Bengali youths even tried to blow up a Boeing but they were forestalled by the Pakistan Air Forces, which took over the flight handling and airport management from March 1.”

“The 9 Division from Quetta, under Major General Nazar Hussain Shah, and 17 Division from Kharian, under Major General Shaukat Raja, were being flown in. The troops arrived with personal or light weapons,” General Khadim Husain Raja, who spearheaded the genocide outside Dhaka, writes in his book “Stranger in my own country.”  

A separate ship brought their weapons and ammunitions. Seven thousand tons of ammunitions were brought in on the MV Swat.

The military had also planned to neutralize the EPR at Peelkhana, the headquarters of the paramilitary forces, and the police at Rajarbagh, the police HQ. These forces were manned by Bangalis. They were to be disarmed or killed.

The theatre was set by the Pakistan army. It was now a wait to raise the curtain, a wait for the signal.

“Major General Khadim Hussain was brooding over the possible outcome of political talks on March 25 when his green telephone rang at about 11am. Lt. Gen Tikka Khan was on the line. He said, 'Khadim, it is tonight,'” Brigadier General Siddik Salik, who served the as the public relations officer as a major in the Pakistan army, wrote in his book “Witness to Surrender.”

There was no written order, only a phone call to start the annihilation of a nation.

Immediately orders were passed down and troops got busy. Their preparation in no way was to quell any political unrest, it was a full-fledged preparation for war. War can be against an armed opposition. Here the opposition was sleeping civilians and so it turned out to be a preparation for genocide.

“I saw some junior officers hustling about mustering some extra recoilless rifles, getting additional ammunition issued, a defective mortar sight replaced,” Salik wrote about March 25 night. “The tank crew, brought from Rangpur (29 Cavalry) a few days earlier, hurried with their task to oil six rusty M-24s for use at night.”

But before that, President Yahya Khan had met General Tikka, Gen Hamid, Mitha, Iftekhar, Khuda Dad, and Omar at the residence of General Tikka Khan. “There we were instructed at around 6 pm to carry out the operation,” Rao Farman Ali wrote in his book "How Pakistan Got Divided."

The nature of the operation is evident in Farman Ali's writing: “The ensuing operation was not same as other usual army operation. A usual army operation is carried out in aid to civil government… There was a need to use the force to restore the government's authorities. It was necessary to suppress a mutiny.”

And force they used, blasting away a sleeping population, using flamethrowers and cannons and all other weapons at their disposal.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was chief political mastermind of this massacre, “remained behind to see what Tikka did,” Niazi wrote. “Bhutto saw Dhaka burning and heard the cries of the people, the crackle of burning material, the roar of tanks, the boom of guns and rockets and the rattle of machine guns.”

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