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What motivated them to join the War? (Part-3)

Hafizuddin was even more emphatic when he said that “we had no other choice but to fight”, and “we knew what eventually was to come if we failed”. He said that his father was a member of Parliament of Pakistan at that time. “The Politicians”, he has said, “could sit around a round table and forget the past and make up the differences”, but for a soldier there would be no round table conference. For mutinous soldiers, a firing squad would have been ready. MD. Ainuddin has said that they were quite confident of the liberation of East Pakistan and the birth of independent Bangladesh because the entire population was with them. After the military crackdown of 25 March 1971, “we did not think of any consequence if we failed because the very existence of our homeland and our cultural heritage were at stake at that time”. General Shawkat has elaborately described how he took an oath of allegiance to Pakistan Army while he passed out from the Pakistan Military Academy and became committed to preserving “the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan”, yet he joined the war because “I had no option but to fight if I were to call myself a Bengali.” “If we failed,” it would be “a firing squad for me, it might be firing squad probably for most members of my family”, yet he joined the war.

In sum, these Bengali military officers, who were recruited in the Pakistan Army, trained and indoctrinated in the Pakistan Military Academy, knew very well the consequences which might follow if they did not succeed, but yet they joined the war because they were imbibed with a very high level of motivation, in the first place. Secondly, they were confident of success because they felt that the people of East Pakistan were behind them as the strongest support base. Their love for the people and the land, and probably their hatred for the atrocities committed by the Pakistani military junta to the people, and especially the Pakistani general’s hatred to the Bengalis prompted them to do what they did and sustained them in their struggle for independence of East Pakistan. Highly politicized as they were, they could have felt the pulse of the people, who were vociferous with the demand for autonomy at the beginning and that for full independence since 25 march 1971.

Did they understand the political situation that prevailed in East Pakistan?

As military officers, they were neither supporters of any political party nor preacher of any political slogan, yet they were fully aware of the political situation in East Pakistan at that time. As it has been already stated, the Bengali military officers were fully aware of the revolutionary situation prevailing in East Pakistan since 1 march 1971. The chief political leader of East Pakistan was expected to declare independence of Bangladesh on 7 March 1971 in the mammoth public meeting held at Paltan Maidan. Their inaction on this count, especially their useless on-going negotiation with the West Pakistani political leaders and generals, was strongly resented by the Bengali military officers. That they were disillusioned with the vacillating political leadership has been obvious in the statements of the respondents. General Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury stated that he was not a supporter of any political party though, yet he knew what was happening in East Pakistan. In his own words, “I was keeping myself abreast of day to day happenings in the country since February 1971”. K M Safiullah however confesses that though politics was banned for the military, yet they have been drawn into it, by default, through situational pressures. He said that political situation in East Pakistan deteriorated in March 1971 for several reasons. The West Pakistani leaders could not believe that Awami League would have been able to score such a “thumping” victory in the 1970 general election, so that it could turn out to be the majority party in Pakistan, practically on the threshold of political power. This is what the ruling elite in Pakistan disdained most and they began to hatch a conspiracy to keep the Awami League out of power. The postponement of the session of the National Assembly by President Yahya Khan on 1 March 1971 can be termed as the climax of that conspiratorial move. K M Safiullah stated that “the political situation at that time was so tense that nothing besides independence could have satisfied anybody”. General Ibrahim said in reply that they were aware of the political situation “through newspapers and contacts with the civilians”. Moreover, “our friends from Dhaka University” were also sources of manifold information. He however has said that “during the War of Liberation we were supporters of a political party which was guiding the war, though we were not, after the war”. It may be mentioned that General Ibrahim was a graduate of Dhaka University, and as such he was in touch with his friends in the university.

Shafaat Jamil however said in detail that he was quite aware of the political situation as a regular reader of newspapers, thought he was not actively connected with politics. He stated that “people went ahead, although the leaders lagged behind”. The Awami League, which won the majority of seats in the election, and its leaders also “did not know what to do”. The military officers observed the situation closely and wanted to hear the right kind of massage from the political leaders. Shafaat Jamil feels that even Sheikh Mujibur Rahman “failed to give proper leadership at that moment.” Mohammad Abdul Halim has said that he was not a supporter of any political party but he was aware of the political situation in East Pakistan from the date of postponement of session of the National Assembly. He was aware of the political situation in East Pakistan from the date of postponement of session of the National Assembly. He was fully conversant of the content of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic speech on 7 March 1971 in the Ramna race course and followed carefully the happenings since the beginning of the Non-Cooperation Movement since then. He was greatly disturbed by the chain of events that followed, especially the “shootings” by the Pakistan Army and “massacres” at various places caused by them.

Major Hafizuddin has also reported that he was not a supporter of any political party, but he was well aware of the political situation of the country for several reasons. His father was a member of the National Assembly, in the first place. Secondly, he was on duty in one of the polling centers on the Election Day and he was happy to see the East Pakistan-based Awami League winning the election and becoming the majority party in Pakistan. He thought that at last political power would be handed over to an East Pakistani political party, which might be able to rectify most of the ills connected with widespread deprivation of the Bengalis. Mohammad Ainuddin has also confessed that he was not a supporter of any political party, but he was deeply grieved to learn of the atrocities of the Pakistani soldiers after 1 March. They conspiratorial moves and vacillations of the ruling elite, especially in handing over power to the majority party became clear signals to many of them that situation in East Pakistan reached “a point of no return”. General Shawkat has been forthright on this point also. He has said that he was a soldier and “never bothered about politics”, but he was aware of the political conditions in East Pakistan through newspapers and radio.

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