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The Political Leaders in Disarray (Part-6)

This created a bit of tension in the minds of the Bengali military officers. The Bengali Army however ignored all these and fought gallantly under the leadership of Colonel MAG Osmani, who was later on promoted to the rank of a general.

The Government of India, on the other hand, had their own reasons for getting involved in the East Pakistan crisis. This was reflected in the statement of K.  Subrahmanyam, Director of India Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis. Onn 31 March 1971 he told in the meeting of the Indian Council of World Affairs in Delhi that “dismemberment of Pakistan was in India’s interest” and hence it would not be wise for India to waste the opportunity presented by East Pakistan crisis, an opportunity “the like of which will never come again” (Subrahmanyam, 1971).

While the Indian leadership was supportive of the Liberation War in East Pakista, it was equally keen to ascertain the nature of leadership of the Bangladesh military. Troubled as India was by the pro-Chinese militants in the state of West Bengal (Brown, 1972: 287), India did not want to encourage such armed resistance in East Pakistan as it could lead to similar situation and strengthen the left forces there. Conseque4ntly, it was not until the second week of April 1971 when the Government of India learnt that East Pakistan’s political leadership had sworn support to the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League and found that the Awami League was not left leaning political party, then they acquiesced in the formation of Bangladesh Government-in-exile.

That was not all. While advocating Indian military intervention in East Pakistan to help its separation from Pakistan, Indian leadership argued that “by such pre-emptory military moves India could ensure her security by preventing a radically left-oriented leadership from being installed in free Bangladesh (Peter Hazelhurt’s Report 1971; Subrahmanyam, 1971). With that end in view, the Government of India organized the Mujib Bahini, comprising the followers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

But the main battle was however conducted by the Bangladeshi armed forces and the freedom fighters. Not getting any support from the people of East Pakistan and being attacked from all sides in East Pakistan, which for all practical purposes was a distant foreign land to the soldiers of West Pakistan, the Pakistan Army became exhausted. Moreover, the objective before the Pakistan Army was not inspiring; it was merely to suppress the people of East Pakistan and keep East Pakistan as a captive and by force. The large-scale killing of the innocent people of East Pakistan, mainly to create an environment of fear all around for achieving their end, was also demoralizing to the Pakistani armed forces. At the beginning they underestimated the fighting capabilities of Bengali officers, soldiers and civilians. The Pakistan Army thought that a heavy onslaught against the Bengalis would destroy their power of resistance and they would be left helpless to submit to the wishes of Pakistani ruling elite. The high ideals of freedom and independence in the free state of Bangladesh began to motivate the Bengali armed forces as days passed by and they began to emerge as an indomitable force. Moreover, being supported by the entire nation, which underwent a revolutionary zeal during the nine-month long Liberation War, the Bangladesh armed forces became practically invincible. It became gradually clear that they could not suppress the nation’s desire and struggle for Independence. Ultimately, they had no option but to surrender and the Bangladesh Army won its War of Independence on 16 December 1971 (Appendix-7)

Zia and Oli started the war without knowing much of the possible consequences. They revolted in the midst of great uncertainties and in the absence of any clear political direction and guidance. They, however, knew well that victory comes form, courage, faith, patience and devotion to cause, as professed and suggested in the Holy Quran (Ali, Vol. – 2, 1390).

Victory and help go with calmness of mind, faith, fidelity, zeal, and earnestness; not with greed, lukewarmness or timidity. Discipline and obedience are essential for service. The rewards for service are not to be measured by immediate results, but accrue in countless hidden ways for patience and restraint. Be strong against evil, but kind and gentle amongst yourselves: the seed will grow and become strong to your wonder and delight.

The researcher wants to close this chapter by quoting the comments about his role in the revolution made by Major Zia and Major Shawkat – the two valiant freedom fighters – at a later date (Appencix-8).

“This officer played the main part which enabled 8th Battalion the East Bengal Regiment to revolt on the crucial night of 25/26 March 1971 at Chittagong” (remarks of Ziaur Rahman on 8 August 1973). It may be noted that Zia’s view was endorsed by the first Chief of Army Staff, Maj. Gen K.M. Safiullah.

This is corroborated by a statement of Bring. Mir Shawkat Ali.

He said: “this officer has an extraordinary ability to organize things. His services during war was commendable; he in fact was the first officer who took risk and on his own initiative informed Gen. Ziaur Rahman regarding Declaration of Independence on night 25/26 March 1971.” (Remarks of Mir Shawkat Ali on 8 March 1974). Kader Siddiqui, another freedom fighter, known as “Tiger Siddiqui” in the circle of famed fighters in the Liberation War of 1971, writes: “A large number of military officers served with remarkable heroism under the leadership of Zia. Among them Major Abu Taher, Major Shafaat Jamil, Major Khaleque, Major Zia Uddin and Capt. Salahuddin’s name are worth mentioning. Capt. Oli Ahmad’s contribution is the highest or hundred percent for the success, credit and fame of Zia. Oli remained with Zia from the beginning of the war to the end of his life with highest faithfulness, allegiance and love.” (Siddiqui, 1992: 420)

Did they consult their colleagues about joining?

The Bengali military officers, highly politicized as they were and fully informed of the political situation in East Pakistan, took the key decision to join the war, not individually but in consultation with their colleagues, thus making it a kind of collective decision. Mohammad Ainuddin, while responding to this query, said that he discussed this with his colleagues and in view of the call of Major Zia he took the momentous decision. Mir Shawkat Ali reported that he was in close touch with Captain Oli and Major Zia and revolted along with his Commanding Officer Major Zia. It is difficult to say what the respondents would have done if Major Zia had not revolted and declared independence of Bangladesh; but it is true that Zia’s action provided a solid support to their actions. Mohammad Abdul Halim has another story to tell. He was encouraged by his father who advised him to join the war. Shafaat Jamil said that he conferred with some battalion officers along with Khaled Mosharraf who was one of the Sector Commanders. Syed Mohammad Ibrahim has told that they were in a group and had been “consulting 24 hours round”. K M Safiullah has reported that though “we never discussed what we were going to do, but we knew Eachj other and knew what we were going to do”. Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury has also told that he consulted his colleagues and decided to take “the arms, ammunition, equipment and ration of the troops with the then Major Moinul Hossain Chowdhury, Alfa Company Commander of the battalion.”

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