The dying moments of Jinnah's Pakistan
When Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah floated his 'Two Nation Theory' to create separate homelands for the Indian Muslims he did not realise that such an absurd theory would not be viable in the long run. India is a country with people of heterogeneous religious beliefs and culture. Nations cannot be formed based simply on religion. If that was possible all Muslim countries of the Arab world would be one country and so would be the Christian continent of Europe or Americas. But Jinnah perhaps realised the mistake he committed and that is why in his first speech before the constituent assembly of Pakistan he declared that 'in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state….we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.' It was sort of U-turn on his own 'Two Nation Theory.' Jinnah visited Dhaka in March, 1948 and declared in a public meeting 'given peaceful conditions and the fullest co-operation from all sections of the people, we shall make this province, i.e., East Pakistan, the most prosperous in Pakistan.' That never happened. Having said all these good things it was Jinnah who put the first nail in the coffin in his own Pakistan when he announced in Dhaka that Urdu, the language of 6% of the people of Pakistan shall be the state language of Pakistan.
Jinnah may have spearheaded the creation of Pakistan convincing the British with his 'Two Nation Theory' but he was a dictator and considered all other political leaders as dwarf and naïve. Jinnah during his short stint as the Governor General of Pakistan not only made the Prime Minister and his cabinet ineffective, he also encouraged the bureaucracy and the army to bypass the ministers and report directly to him on various national issues. These precedents established the pattern of an expanding dictatorship and subsequently proved disastrous for Pakistan. When Jinnah died in September 1948, others who succeeded him did not hesitate to impose the same autocratic authority, politically and administratively. For the next 11 years of the so-called parliamentary government, Prime Ministers were removed from office either violently or by military-bureaucratic nexus and not by electoral process. The first opportunity of transferring power to a properly elected government came in 1970 when under public pressure Pakistan's new dictator General Yahya Khan arranged for constituent and provincial assembly elections in December 1970.
Though by all accounts it was expected that Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sk. Mujib will sweep the elections because it was the only party that spoke for the deprived people of East Bengal and accepted Mujib as their undisputed leader. Much later, after the creation of Bangladesh and defeat of Pakistan in the hands of the joint forces of Mukti Bahini and Indian Armed Forces, Z.A. Bhutto constituted an enquiry commission led by Justice Hamoodor Rahman. This report never saw the light of the day though some excerpts of the depositions of the defeated Generals were made public in 1993. Later when General Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan he published a truncated version of the report on December 30, 2000. Justice Rahman also submitted a supplementary report later which was never made public till India Today published part of it in 2011. Brig. F B Ali (Retd) served in the Pakistan Army in 1971. On December 10, 2011 he published his feedback on this supplementary report in the monthly 'Newsline,' from Karachi titled 'Conduct Unbecoming.' About General Rao Farman Ali, he wrote 'General Farman was not in the inner circle of Yahya clique, but he was a key member of the regime's Election Cell, which used extortion, intimidation, and bribery to ensure a victory for the Jamaat-I-Islami and other religious parties in the 1970 election. Huge sums of money were illegally raised and channeled to these parties. Brig. Ali wrote 'he also became one of the principal architects of the plan to use force in East Pakistan.' Farman was also instrumental in forming the killing squad of Jamaat, the Al-Badar, and was responsible for the killing of the intellectuals just before the dawn of independence. Brig Ali (Retd) now lives in Canada.
After postponement of the scheduled sitting of the National Assembly in Dhaka on March 3, Yahya Khan arrived in Dhaka on March 15 along with all the top brass of the armed forces. It was clear from the composition of his entourage that his spending of next ten days in Dhaka on the pretext of dialogue with Mujib to break the constitutional stalemate was a hoax and in reality the days were used to plan the upcoming genocide in Bangladesh, code named 'Operation Search Light.' Some political naives accuse Mujib for joining Yahya for talks instead of unilaterally declaring independence. They forget that it was Mujib who won the majority seats in the parliament and he was entitled to form the government. He used the time to let the world know what was going in Pakistan and did not want to be blamed as a secessionist. Secessionists hardly find any sympathizers. Mujib was a statesman and not a revolutionary.
With the launching of 'Operation Search Light' on the night of March 25/26, 1971 the last nail in the coffin of Jinnah's Pakistan was struck and the next nine months were months of mayhem, atrocities, rape and genocide jointly executed by the Pakistan Army, the non-Bengali Biharis, the Al-Badars, Al-Shams. Three million innocent, unarmed Bengalis were killed, four hundred thousand women raped and the country devastated. Ten million people fled to neighbouring India and the world witnessed one of the worst human tragedies since the Second World War. US State Department was fully informed by their embassy in Dhaka of the situation in Bangladesh but President Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had other priorities.
Pakistan's thick-headed ruling Generals always believed in their armed forces invincibility over India but never realised that they were losing grounds fast in Bangladesh. They were just invaders in this land. On December 3, 1971 when India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was addressing a big public rally in Calcutta Pakistan air force launched a pre-emptive strike in Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Agra and other forward bases of India. But India was no fool. They had anticipated such an attack and dispersed their aircrafts to safer positions. Indira Gandhi rushed to Delhi, called a meeting of her War Council, convened the Lokh Sabah and declared a state of emergency and informed the world that India was at war with Pakistan. It was the D-day that the people of Bangladesh have been waiting for. In its Eastern front first the small Bangladesh Air Force launched air strike in Chittagong and Naryangonj oil depots to be followed by continued strikes by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Simultaneously the joint forces of Mukti Bahini and the Indian forces moved inside Bangladesh with swiftly and the battle for Dhaka was on. USA with its all through flawed foreign policy was on the back foot and called for a UN Security Council Meeting on December 4 and moved a resolution for ceasefire to be vetoed by Soviet Union. The Soviets vetoed two more of such resolutions.
On December 6, India recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign country. By day three of the war the supremacy of the Mukti Bahini and Indian forces in Bangladesh was established. Virtually the Pakistani forces were at the mercy not only of the fighting forces but also of the general people. To further demoralize the Pakistani forces the Indian Army Chief Gen. Manekshaw gave a call to the Pakistani Army from All India Radio to immediately surrender in the Eastern Front or face certain death. As a part of saber-rattling by the US, President Nixon ordered the USS Enterprise of the Seventh Fleet to move towards Bay of Bengal. But the joint forces were undeterred. The Pakistani forces were completely paralyzed. General Farman sent a SOS to UN Secretary General U Thant to arrange for their evacuation from Bangladesh to be warned by General Manikshaw that any attempt to flee from Bangladesh will be severely dealt with. By December 12 the fall of Dhaka seemed imminent when the Mukti Bahini were continuously ambushing the Pakistani forces on the outskirts of Dhaka and inside the city while IAF kept on bombarding the key military installations. The general people in Dhaka and around the country were overjoyed seeing the rays of the dawn of Independent Bangladesh. On December 14, East Pakistan Governor M.A. Malik called an emergency meeting of his cabinet at Governor House at 12.00 noon (now Bangabhavan) to assess the situation. While the meeting was on Governor House was bombed by IAF. Ending the meeting in a hurry the Governor sat down to say his prayers. According to the journalist Gavin Young of the Sunday Observer of London, 'that was the end of Government House of the last Government of East Pakistan.' On the night of the same day the Al-Badar's picked up the intellectuals from their residences and work places in Dhaka to be brutally murdered on that same night. While the sun was setting in Jinnah's Pakistan, Bhutto, Yahya Khan's Foreign Minister made angry speeches in the UN abusing everybody. After calling on Muslim Bengalis to revolt against Hindu army Bhutto tore a piece of paper to show his contempt for the Security Council and walked out with his delegation. Jinnah's Pakistan has crumbled and the Pakistan's Eastern Command under General Niazi announced that on December 16, 1971 he and his troops would surrender to the Chief of Joint Forces, General Arora in the Ramna Race Course (Currently Shishu Park, Suhrawardy Uddayn). The venue arranged was the same place from where on March 7, 1971 Bangabandhu Sk. Mujib announced in front of the one million people that 'this time the struggle is for liberation, this time the struggle is for independence.' At 4.31 the instrument of surrender was signed between Aurora and Niazi and this was seen as the biggest such act of submission after the Second World War. In matter of two weeks 93,000 strong Pakistan soldiers became Prisoner of Wars.
Looking back in 1971 the people of Bangladesh went to war to have a secular, prosperous and democratic Bangladesh. 43 years later the country is yet to achieve its full potential in any of these. The creation of Jinnah's Pakistan was flawed and its death is painful for those who still believed in Jinnah's theory.
The author is a former Vice-chancellor, University of Chittagong. Currently he teaches at ULAB, Dhaka.