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When did they think of joining the war?

When these officers were appraised of what had been happening in East Pakistan in those critical days and that they were so strongly committed to the welfare of the people In their homeland, their joining the war was only a matter of time. When asked this question, Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury has said that “though I was profoundly moved by the speech of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of 7 March 1971 when he said ‘Ebarer Shangram Shadhinatar Shangram’ [This struggle is the struggle for independence] and though I thought of joining the war of independence after the failure of dialogue between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and President Yahya Khan on 25 March 1971, yet in fact I did it at 1900 hours on 29 March 1971 after hearing the Declaration of Independence by Major Ziaur Rahman in the evening of 27 march 1971. It provided me direction to act.”

General K M Safiullah has answered in detail. He thought that “the change of government will take place after the election. A peaceful transition of power will take place”. But that did not happen. The West Pakistani authorities had a different plan. “In that plan the bringing of troops, massacre, everything was being devised in Dhaka”. Being threatened and enraged, “we revolted on 29 March 1971 and came to know that Major Zia declared independence from Chittagong on 27 March 1971. To General Ibrahim, 7th of March had been the key date. In his own words, “on that day we thought that something is (sic) going to happen and we are going in it, we are going to join it and after 19th of March our thought better crystallized. When we received a news of what happened in Dhaka on the 25th night, so we had no second thought”. He has also said that “we could hear the voice of Major Zia declaring independence; that moment, to be very formal, we said, we go in it”.

Shafaat Jamil reported that “an independent country for the Bengalis” had been “my childhood dream”, but he could not do anything till March 1971. When Major Zia made a Declaration of Independence over the radio, that inspired the entire nation to fight back. He joined the war after that. Mohammad Abdul Halim responded by saying that he was watching the situation since the Non-cooperation Movement was begun by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and remained mentally prepared. He further said that “at the very crucial moment I heard the voice of Major Zia declaring independence of Bangladesh on 27 March, although 8 East Bengal had already revolted on 26 March”. Then he joined and started fighting.

Major Hafizuddin joined the war in the morning of 30 March 1971a few hours after he was disarmed. Having discussions with his colleagues in the army, he took the step. He came to know after he revolted, that Major Ziaur Rahman had already declared independence from the Kalurghat Radio Transmission Centre in Chittagong. Mohammad Ainuddin has given out that he was mentally prepared for it from the beginning of March but “finally decided after hearing the call and announcement of Major Zia from Chittagong”. He has also said that Major Ziaur Rahman issued a call to all for joining the Liberation War- “to all Bengal regiment, police, BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) to join the Liberation War and to liberate the country”. General Shawkat has said plainly that he did not think of anythind. “My CO (Commanding Officer) was Major Ziaur Rahman. We revolted when he did it” – this is what he had to say in this regard.

Why did they think they would alter the state of affairs through war?

“How did you think you would alter the situation through war?” – this question was put to them with a view to ascertaining the level of their self-confidence and their sense of political efficacy, and their answers reflect much of the national psyche of the time. The entire nation was in the grip of revolutionary feelings. After the general election of 1970 the people of all strata in the society expected that political power would be transferred to the majority political party, the Awami League, of East Pakistan. When they were denied of the opportunity of wielding power, the East Pakistanis in general were prepared for extreme measures. They thought of nothing short of revolution, and began to think themselves as a nothing short of revolution, and began to think themselves as a nation. Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury narrated that the Liberation War was supported by all sections of the society, the womenfolk included. Their moral as well as logistical support to the trained troops of the army, East Pakistan Rifle. Police practically made them invincible. These were the reasons of “my conviction that we would be able to alter the situation” for independence. Ejaj Ahmed Chowdhury was wrong when he said that the Liberation War was supported by all; he was right however because those who opposed it constituted a bare miniscule group, only a handful of persons, hated by most of the Bengalis since then.

K M safiullah stated directly that “we had to make this country free from foreign domination by fighting”. He also said, “we knew we would be through”. Syed Mohammad Ibrahim has told that war was likely to generate “a new leadership, a new thinking and a different concept of patriotism”. He said: “it is through war that we could bring in democracy.” Shafaat Jamil’s answer was more interesting. The Liberation War of 1971 was “a people’s war- the people versus a whole body of invading army”. He has said that the “process of attrition would be able to neutralize them (Pakistanis), weaken them and destroy their morale to fight and I think we did it”. He has emphatically stated that our strategy was to “weaken them morally, physically and psychologically by a process of attrition and thereby making a final thrust and capture Dhaka and get our independence”.

Mohammad Abdul Halim said that it was a sheer good luck for Bangladesh that the military officers revolted and began the Liberation War. Their prompt actions, timely decisions and initiative were crucial. In his words, “Politicians joined the war much later; initially they were running here and there, looking for hideouts. The students, labourers and people from all walks of life gathered around us and we trained them to fight”. Mohammad Ainuddin has also said that he was quite optimistic about the outcome of the w3ar because such fighters as Major Zia, Major Khaled Mosharraf, Major Shawkat, Shafaat Jamil and so on took part in the war. “I was quite positive that we can (sic) get the independence of the country” – was his emphatic assertion. Here again the disillusion of the Bengali Bilitary officers with the vacillating political leadership has been expressed.

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