1971: War Inquiry Commission (Hamoodur Rahman), Supplementary Report: II
After the liberation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in 1971, the Government of Pakistan set up a War Inquiry Commission. The ‘Main Report’ of the said Commission “did not have the evidence of most of the persons taken as prisoners of war, including the major personalities.”
Professional Responsibilities of Certain Senior Army Commanders
In Chapters 1, 2 and 5 of Part 5 of the main report we have dealt with the moral and disciplinary aspects of the events and causes leading to the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war, and have also touched upon the individual responsibility of certain senior officers. In the preceding two chapters of the Supplementary Report, we have offered further observations on these aspects and have commented upon the conduct of certain Army Officers posted in East Pakistan. There, however, still remains the question of determining whether any disciplinary action is called for against certain senior army commanders for their failings in the discharge of their professional duties in the conduct ad prosecution of the war in East Pakistan.
Nature of Disciplinary Action
2. In view of the glaring weaknesses and negligence displayed by some of the senior officers operating in East Pakistan, we have anxiously considered the nature of the disciplinary action required in the case. We find that there are several provisions in the Pakistan Army Act 1952 having a direct bearing on this matter. In the first place, there is section 24 which is in the following terms:- "24. Offences in relation to enemy and punishable with death. Any person to this Act who commits any of the following offenses, that is to say,-
(a) Shamefully abandons or delivers up any garrison, fortress, airfield, place, post or guard committed to his charge or which it is his duty to defend, or uses any means to compel or induce any commanding officer or any other person to do any of the said acts; or
(b) in the presence of any enemy, shamefully casts away his arms, ammunition, tools or equipment, or misbehaves in such manner as to show cowardice; or
(c) intentionally uses word or any other means to compel or induce any person subject to this Act, or to the Indian Air Force Act, 1932 (XIV of 1932) or Pakistan Air Force Act 1953 or to the Pakistan Navy Ordinance, 1961, to abstain from acting against the enemy or to discourage such persons from acting against the enemy; or
(d) directly or indirectly, treacherously holds correspondence with or communicates intelligence to, the enemy or who coming to the knowledge of such correspondence or communication treacherously omits to discover it to his commanding or other superior officer; or
(e) directly or indirectly assists or relies the enemy with arm, ammunition, equipment, supplies or money or knowingly harbours or protects an enemy not being a prisoner; or
(f) treacherously or through cowardice sends a flag of truce to the enemy; or
(g) in time of war, of during any operation, intentionally occasions a false alarm in action, camp, garrison or quarters, or spreads reports calculated to create alarm or despondency; or
(h) in time of action, leaves his commanding officer, or quits his post, guard, piquet, patrol or party without being regularly relieved or without leave; or
(i) having being made a prisoner of war, voluntarily serves with or aids the enemy; or
(j) knowingly does when on active service any act calculated to imperil success of the Pakistan forces or any forces-operating therewith or of any part of such forces' shall, on conviction by court martial, be punished with death or with such less punishment as it is in this Act mentioned."
3. Section 25 is also relevant, and reads as under:-
25. Offences in relation to the enemy and not punishable with death. Any person subject to this Act who, on active service -
(a) without order from his superior officer leaves the ranks in order to secure prisoner, animals or materials, or on the pretence of taking wounded men to the rear; or
(b) without orders from his superior officer, willfully destroys or damages any property; or
(c) is taken prisoner for want of due precaution or through disobedience of orders or wilful neglect of duty, or, having been taken prisoner, fails to rejoin service when he is able to do so; or
(d) without due authority, either holds correspondence with, or communicates intelligence, or sends a flag of truce to the enemy; or
(e) by words of mouth, or in writing, or by signals, or otherwise spreads reports calculated to create alarm or despondency; or
(f) in action, or previously to going into action, uses words calculated to create alarm or despondency; shall on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to fourteen years, or with much less punishment as is in this Act mentioned."
4. Finally, there is section 55 which is of a general nature, and provides;- "55. Violation of good order and discipline-Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder and of military discipline shall , on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned."
5. We are fully cognizant of the fact that defeat in war, even entailing surrender, is not necessarily punishable as a military offence unless it has been occasioned by wilful neglect of the Commander concerned in the performance of his duties in respect of the appreciation of the situation regarding the enemy's intention, strength, own resources, terrain, etc; or in the planning and conduct of the operations; or a wilful failure to take action as required under the circumstances. A callous disregard of the recognised techniques and principles of warfare would clearly amount to culpable negligence, and could not be excused as an honest error of judgement. A deliberate failure to adopt the proper course of action to meet a certain contingency cannot be covered by taking shelter behind the plea that his superiors did not advise him properly in time. It further appears to us that every Commander must be presumed to possess the calibre and quality, appurtenant to his rank, and he must per force bear full responsibility for all the acts of omission and commission, leading to his defeat in war, which are clearly attributable to culpable negligence on his part to take the right action at the right time, as distinguished from (illegible) or circumstances beyond his control. He would also be liable to be punished if he shows a lack of will to fight and surrenders to the enemy at a juncture when he still had the resources and the capability to put up resistance. Such an act would appear to fall clearly under clause (a) of section 24 of the Pakistan Army Act.
Need and Justification for Trial and Punishment
6. Having heard the views of a large number of witnesses drawn from all sections of society, professions and services, the Commission feels that there is consensus on the imperative need to book these senior army commanders who have brought disgrace and defeat to Pakistan by their professional incompetence, culpable negligence and wilful neglect in the performance of their duties, and physical and moral cowardice in abandoning the fight when they had the capability and resources to resist the enemy. We are also of the view that proper and firm disciplinary action , and not merely retirement from service, is necessary to ensure against any future recurrence of the kind of shameful conduct displayed during the 1971 war. We believe that such action would not only satisfy the nations demand for punishment where it is deserved, but would also serve to emphasise the concept of professional accountability which appears to have been forgotten by senior army officers since their involvement in politics, civil administration and Martial Law duties.
Cases Requiring Action by Way of Court Martial
7. In Part III of the present report, we have discussed and analysed at some length the concept of defence of East Pakistan adopted by Lt. Gen Niazi, and the manner in which he and his Divisional and Brigade Commanders formulated their plans to implement that concept within the resources available to them in East Pakistan. We have then narrated the important events involving the surrender of well-defended strong points and fortresses without a fight , desertion of his area of responsibility by a Divisional Commander, disintegration of brigades and battalions in frantic and foolish efforts to withdraw from certain posts , and abandoning of the wounded and the sick is a callous disregard of all human and military values. We have also seen how the Eastern Command had failed to plan for an all out war with India and particularly to provide for the defence of Dacca which had been described as the political and military lynch-pin of East Pakistan. We have also described the painful events leading to the ultimate surrender of such a large body of men and materials to the Indian Army at juncture when, by all accounts, the Pakistan Army was still able to put up resistance for anything up to two weeks or more. In this context we have also taken note of the inexplicable orders issued by the Eastern Command to stop the destruction of war before material before the surrender , and the abject and shameful attitude adopted by the Commander, Eastern Command, at various stages of the surrender ceremonies in the presence of the Indian Generals. Finally, we have observed that during his period of captivity at Jabbalpur (India) Lt General Niazi made efforts to persuade, by threats and inducements, his subordinate Commanders to present a coordinated story so as to mitigate his responsibility for the debate.
8. Judged in the light of this analysis of the events leading to the surrender of our surrender of our Army in East Pakistan, and the relevant provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and the considerations thereto, as outlined in the preceding Paragraphs, we are of the considered opinion that the following senior officers ought to be tried by court martial on the charges listed against them , and we recommend accordingly.
(1) Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Commander, Eastern Command
(i) That he willfully failed to appreciate the imminence of all-out war with India, in spite of all indications to the contrary, namely the declarations of the Indian Prime Minister and other important Government leaders, the signing of the Indo-Soviet treaty in August, 1971, the amassing of eight divisions of the Indian Army, eleven squadrons of the Indian Air Force, and a large task force of the Indian Navy in and around East Pakistan , and the clear warning given to him by the GHQ on the basis of reliable intelligence regarding Indian plans of invasion of East Pakistan, with the n consequence that he continued to deploy his troops in a forward posture although that deployment had become entirely unsuited for defence against open Indian aggression;
(ii) That he displayed utter lack of professional competence, initiative and foresight, expected of an Army Commander of his ran, seniority and experience, in not realising that the parts of his mission concerning anti-insurgency operations and ensuring that "no chunk of territory" was to be allowed to be taken over by the rebels for establishing Bangladesh, had become irrelevant in the context of the imminence of all-out attack by India on or about the 21st of November ,1971, and that the mast important part of his mission from that juncture onwards was to "defend East Pakistan against external aggression"' and "keep the Corps in being and ensure the entity of East Pakistan"' with the result that he failed to concentrate his forces in time , which failure later led to fatal results;
(iii) That he displayed culpable negligence in adopting the concept of fortresses and strong points without fully understanding its technical implications as regards their ability to lend mutual support, availability of the necessary reserves to strike at the enemy in the event of his by passing any of the fortresses or overwhelming them with superior numbers , and the existence of a non-hostile population, with the disastrous consequence that was forced to surrender even though several of the fortresses and strong points were still intact on the 16th of December, 1971;
(iv) That he was guilty of criminal negligence in not including in his operational instruction No. 4 of 1971, issued on the 15th of July, 1971, any clear directive for a planned withdrawal of forces behind ?? river obstacles to face the Indian onslaught and to defend what may be described as the Dacca Triangle for the purpose of keeping East Pakistan in being by giving up non-vital territory;
(v) That he in fact showed wilful neglect and culpable negligence of the worst order in failing to make any positive plan for the defence of Dacca;
(vi) That he displayed lack of generalship and mature judgement in requiring his subordinate commanders to simultaneously maintain a forward defence posture, occupy unmanned fortresses, and yet not withdraw from any position without sustaining 75% casualties and obtaining clearance from two-up, a variation from the norm of one-up, with the result that several formation commanders felt confused and bewildered and acted in a manner prejudicial to the sound conduct of operations and resulting in unnecessary casualties, as well as disorder and chaos arising from haphazard and unplanned withdrawals under pressure from the enemy;
(vii) That he displayed culpable negligence and wilful disregard of established principles of warfare by denuding Dacca of all regular troops by moving out 53 Brigade, which had been previously held as Corps reserve, on the expectation that he would be getting more troops as agreed to by GHQ on the 19th of November, 1971;
(viii) That he was guilty of criminal negligence in not ensuring beforehand satisfactory arrangements for transport, ferries, etc., with the result that even his last minute desperate efforts to withdraw troops from forward positions for the defence of Dacca were unsuccessful, and whatever troops did manage to reach Dacca did so minus their heavy equipment, besides suffering unnecessary casualties en route.
(ix) That he willfully failed to defend Dacca, and agreed to a shameful and premature surrender in spite of his own assertion before the Commission that Indians would have required at least a period of seven days to mount the offensive and another week to reduce the defences of Dacca, notwithstanding the shortcomings of his concept and plans, inadequacies and handicaps in respect of men and materials as compared to the enemy, the absence of air support and the presence of Mukti Bahini in and around Dacca.
(x) That he deliberately and willfully sent unduly pessimistic and alarming reports to GHQ with a view to eliciting permission to surrender as he had lost the will to fight as early as the 6th or 7th of December, 1971, owing to his own mismanagement of the entire of war and his inability to influence , inspire and guide the subordinate Commanders;
(xi) That he willfully, and for motives and reasons difficult to understand and appreciate, stopped the implementation of denial plans, with the result that large quantities of valuable war materials wee handed over intact to the Indian forces after surrender, in spite of the fact that GHQ had specifically ordered by their Signal of the 10th December ,1971, to carry out denial plans;
(xii) That he displayed a shameful and abject attitude in agreeing too surrender when he had himself offered a cease-fire to the Indian Commander-in-Chief; in signing the surrender document agreeing to lay down arms to the joint command of the Indian forces and the Mukti Bahini; in being present at the Dacca Airport to receive the victorious Indian General Arora; in ordering his own ADC to present a guard of honour to the said General; and in accepting the Indian proposal for a public surrender ceremony which brought everlasting shame to the Pakistan Army.
(xiii) That he was guilty of conduct unbecoming a Officer and Commander of his rank and seniority in that he acquired a notorious reputation for sexual immorality and indulgence in the smuggling of Pan from East to West Pakistan, with the inevitable consequence that he failed to inspire respect and confidence in the mind of his subordinates impaired his qualities of leadership and determination, and also encouraged laxity in discipline and moral standards among the officers and men under his command;
(xiv) That during the period of his captivity as a prisoner of war in Jabbalpur (India) and on repatriation to the Pakistan he made efforts to subvert the truth by trying to exercise undue influence on his Divisional and Brigade Commanders by offering them threats and inducements , so as to persuade them to present before the GHQ Briefing Committee and the Commission of Inquiry , a coordinated and coloured version of the events in East Pakistan for the purpose of mitigating his own responsibility for the defeat; and
(xv) That, on repatriation to Pakistan, he deliberately adopted a false and dishonest stand to the effect that he was willing and able to fight but was ordered to surrender by General Yahya Khan, and that as a dutiful soldier he had no option but to obey the said order against his best judgement.
2. Maj Gen Mohammad Jamshed, ex-JOC 36 (ad hoc) Division, Dacca
(i) That having been appointed as GOC 36 (ad hoc) Division for the express purpose of taking over from 14 Div., major responsibility for the defence of Dacca, he willfully failed to plan for the same, in accordance with sound principles of warfare, and showed culpable lack of initiative in this behalf;
(ii) That in the aforesaid capacity he willfully neglected to point out to Lt Gen Niazi, during various conference, the inadequacy of the resources at his disposal for the defence of Dacca, pointing out after the 19th of Nov, 1971, when 53 Brigade was sent out of Dacca to Feni;
(iii) That he displayed gross neglect in ordering the abrupt withdrawal of 93 Brigade from Jamalpur to Dacca without planning for it, well knowing that it was defending Dacca by holding that fortress, and in consequence of this ill-planed move 93 Brigade got completely disintegrated en route owing to the capture by the enemy of the Brigade Commander and a considerable portion of the Brigade;
(iv) That he showed complete lack of courage and will to fight in that he acquiesced in the decision of the Commander, Eastern Command, to surrender to surrender to the Indian forces at a juncture when it was still possible, in spite of the paucity of resources, to hold the enemy for a period of two weeks or so;
(v) That he deliberately and willfully neglected to inform the authorities concerned, on his repatriation to Pakistan, about the facts that he had got distributed Rs 50,000 out of Pakistan currency notes and other funds at his disposal or under his control, amongst certain evacuated from Dacca on the morning of December, 1971, and the manner in which he did so.
(3) Maj Gen M. Rahim Khan, ex-GOC 3? (ad hoc) Division
(a) In Paragraphs 9 to 11 of Chapter III of P art V of the Main Report , we had occasion to comment upon the conduct of Maj. Gen. Rahim Khan, GOC 39 (ad hoc) Division, who abandoned his Division , and evacuated his Divisional HQ from Chandpur , of course, with the permission of the Commander, Eastern Commander, with no replacement, and with the consequence that his Division disintegrated and had to be replaced with another Headquarter called the Narayan Sector Headquarters under a Brigadier. We had then recounted that the conduct of Maj Gen Rahim Khan in abandoning his troops and shifting to a place outside his area of responsibility prima facie called for a proper inquiry to determine whether the General was guilty of dereliction of duty or/and cowardice. We also added some other points which needed to be looked into in this behalf.
(b) As Maj Gen Rahim Khan was one of the senior officers serving in East Pakistan during the war, he voluntarily appeared before the Commission during the present session, primarily for the purpose of clearing his position. As will be seen from a detailed discussion of the operation of the 39 (ad hoc) Division in the narration of the military events, the Commission is far from satisfied with the performance of this General Officer. In the light of the information now available we now consider that he should be tried by a court martial on the following charges:
(i) That he shameful cowardice and undue regard for his personal safety in seeking, and obtaining, permission from the Eastern Command to abandon his Division and vacate his Divisional Headquarters from Chandpur on the 8th of December 1971, simply because Chandpur was threatened by the enemy, with the result that he deserted his troops and his area of responsibility in the middle of the war with India;
(ii) That y his wilful insistence on moving by day against competent advise, owing to fear of Mukti Bahini, caused the death of fourteen Naval ratings and four officers of his own HQ, besides injuries to several others, and to himself due to strafing by Indian aircraft;
(iii) That in his anxiety to get away from Chandpur, he willfully abandoned valuable signal equipment with the result that the communication system of the Division disintegrated and his subordinate commanders and troops were left to their own fate;
(iv) That he on the 12th of December, 1971, by word of mouth, caused alarm and despondency by General Niazi, Jamshed and Farman Ali that "it is all over , let us call it a day"' and that the Mukti Bahini might resort to massacre'
(v) That he willfully avoided submitting a debriefing report to GHQ, on being specially evacuated to Pakistan in early 1971, so as to conceal the circumstances of his desertion from his Div HQ at Chandpur with the consequence that the authorities were persuaded to appoint hi as Chief of the General Staff without any knowledge of his performance in East Pakistan.
4. Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, former COS, Eastern Command, Dacca
(i) That as Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, he was guilty of wilful neglect in failing to advise the Commander , Eastern Commander, on sound professional lines in regard to the matters mentioned in charges (i) to (ix) framed against Lt. Gen Niazi;
(ii) That he willfully collaborated with, and assisted, the Commander, Eastern Command, in sending unduly pessimistic and alarming reports and signals to GHQ with a view to elicit permission to surrender, as he had also lost the will to fight owing to his culpable negligence and failure in the performance of his professional duties as the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command;
(iii) That he showed culpable disregard of sound principles of planning for the war in that he excluded the Commanders of the supporting arms like signals, engineers, logistics, medical, etc. from full participation before the plans of the Eastern Command were finalized, with the result that the full benefit of the advice of these Commanders was not available to Lt. Gen. Niazi at the proper time;
(iv) That he was guilty of culpable negligence in not properly advising the Commander, Eastern Command, of the imminence and enormity of the Indian threat even though he had been fully briefed in this behalf by the GHQ at a conference in Rawalpindi in October 1971, and he also similarly failed to advise the Commander on the imperative need of readjusting troops to meet this threat;
(v) That he was responsible for abrupt changes in command in the middle of the war , and also for giving orders to subordinate formations over the head of their superior commanders, thus resulting in uncertainty and confusion during the critical days of the war;
(vi) That he willfully, and for motives and reasons difficult to understand and appreciate stopped the implementation of denial plans with the result that large quantities of valuable war materials were handed over intact to the Indian forces after the surrender, in spite of the fact the GHQ had specifically ordered by their of the 10th December 1971 to carry out denial plans;
(vii) That in particular, he instructed the commander Signals to keep the inter-wing transmitter in operation even after the surrender, apparently for the purpose of conveying recommendations to GHQ for the grant of gallantry awards etc. with the result that this valuable equipment fell intact into the hands of the enemy;
(viii)That he was unduly friendly with the enemy during the period of his captivity, so much so that he was allowed to go out shopping in Calcutta, a facility not allowed to anyone else by the Indians;
(ix) that he acted against good order and the custom of the Service in being instrumental in conveying threats and inducements to formation commanders for the purpose of presenting a coordinated story before the GHQ and the Commission of Inquiry in regard to the events leading to surrender in East Pakistan.
5. Brig Mohammad Hayat, former Comd. 107 bde. (9 Div)
(i) That as Commander 107 Bde., he displayed neglect in not formulating a sound plan for the defence of the fortress of Jessore;
(ii) That while launching counter attack at Gharibpur (Gauripur?) he neglected to obtain full information about the enemy strength, and did not himself command this important Brigade counter attack, in consequence whereof he lost seven tanks, his men suffered heavy casualties, and the defence of Jessore fortress was seriously jeopardised;
(iii) That on a report that enemy tanks had broken through the defences of Jessore he, without even verifying the same, shamefully abandoned the fortress of Jessore without a fight on the 6th of December 1971, delivering intact to the enemy all supplies and ammunition dumps stocked in the fortress, and without issuing any orders to his unit in contact with the enemy, who had to fight their own way during the following night.
(iv) That after abandoning Jessore without contact with the enemy, he withdrew to Khulna in wilful and intentional violation of the clear orders of G.Q.C. 9 Division to withdraw to Magura in the event of a forced withdrawal fro Jessore, thus making it impossible for the Divisional Commander to give battle to the enemy across the Madhumati River.
6. Brig. Mohammad Asla Niazi, former Cod., 53 Bde (39Ad hoc Div.)
(i) That as Commander 53 Bde. he displayed culpable lack of initiative, determination and planning ability in that he failed to prepared defences of Mudafarganj as ordered by the G.O.C. 39 (Ad hoc) Division on the 4th of December 1971, with the result that the place was occupied by the enemy on or about the 6th of December 1971 , thus seriously endangering the line of communication between Tripura and Chandpur where the Divisional Headquarters was located;
(ii) That he showed culpable lack of courage, planning ability and determination in failing to eject the enemy fro Mudafarganj as ordered by the GOC on the 6th of December 1971, with the result that contingents of 23 Punjab and elements of 21 A.K. surrendered to an Indian unit on the 11th of December 1971 in highly adverse circumstances, without water or food and the ammunition having been nearly exhausted;
(iii) That he shamefully abandoned the Fortress of Laksham on or about the 9th of December 1971, which it was his duty to defend;
(iv) That he displayed wilful neglect in failing to properly organize ex-filtration of his troops fro the fortress at Laksham to Comilla on the 9th of December 1971, with the result that out of a strength of about 4000 men only about 500 or so, including the Brigade Commander himself and C.O. 39 Baluch with approximately 400 men surrendered to the enemy when he was barely three miles outside Comilla, and as a consequence 53 Bde and all its battalions thus disintegrated;
(v) That he willfully acted in callous disregard of military ethics in abandoning at Laksham 124 sick and wounded with two Medical Officers who were deliberately not informed about the proposed vacation of the fortress; and
(vi) That while vacating the fortress of Laksham he willfully and intentionally abandoned all heavy weapons, stocks of ammunition and supplies for the use of the enemy, without implementing the denial plan;
8. Cases Requiring Departmental Action
(1) Brig. S.A. Ansari, ex-Comd, 23 Bde, (Div)--
This officer assumed command of 23 Bde on the 14th of November 1971 and was responsible for the civil districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur, except the small area of Hilli which was under the control of 205 Bde. Right from the beginning he seems to have been losing ground, starting with the loss of Bhurungamari which was attacked by the Indians on the 14th or 15th of November 1971. His troops then lost the important position of Pachagarh mainly owing to Brig. Ansari's inability to readjust his position. He then abandoned Thakurgaon between 28th and 30th of November 1971 without offering any resistance to the enemy. As a result of these reverses he was relieved of his command on the 3rd of December 1971. His Divisional Commander, Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah formed a poor opinion of his performance in battle and we have no hesitation in endorsing the same fro evidence coming before us. We are of the view that he did not display qualities of courage, leadership and determination. The Commission feels that this Officer is not fit for further retention in service.
(2) Brig. Manzoor Ahmad, ex-Comd 57 Bde (9 Div)--
This Officer did not conduct the battle with sufficient grip and caused the loss of fortress of Jhenidah without a fight , owing to his inability to clear an enemy block at Kot Chandpur. Then, contrary to the Divisional concept and without orders he withdrew his Brigade out of the Divisional area and had to be placed under 16 Division. He became detached from his main Headquarters and remained so till the end. He could therefore make no contribution to the war and his performance created the impression that he was shaky in battle. He does not appear to be fit for further retention in service.
(3) Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Comd, 93 Bde. (36 Div)--
The work and the conduct of Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan has come to the notice of the Commission in two capacities, namely as the President of the Inter-Services Screening Committee at Dacca and later as Commander of 93 (Ad hoc) Brigade under 36 Division. In the former capacity, he was responsible for the screening of military and civilian personnel as well as non-officials who had either defected during the Awami League movement or had otherwise come to adverse notice. Allegations were made that some persons in his custody were eliminated without trial, or even without any ostensible cause. However, the allegations were not substantiated so as to fix personal responsibility on him. As Commander 93 (Ad hoc) Brigade, he was captured by the Indians while withdrawing to Dacca fro Mymensingh under the orders of Eastern Command. He sees to have reached his ceiling and the Commission formed the impression that his further retention in service would not be in the public interest. We were inferred by the GHQ representative that the Officer had since been retired.
Performance of Other Senior Officers
9. Besides Lt Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Maj Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, and Maj Gen M Rahim Khan, with whose cases we have already dealt in the preceding paragraphs, there were four other General Officers serving in the East Pakistan at the time of the surrender, namely, Maj. Gen. M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div., Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div., Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div., and Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali, Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan. Similarly, besides the Brigadiers, whom we have noticed in the preceding paragraphs, there were 19 other Brigadiers serving in various capacities as Brigade Commanders or Commanders of technical arms. Finally, there was a Rear Admiral of the Navy supported by three Commanders and one Air Commodore commanding the PAF in East Pakistan.
10. While we shall deal with the case of Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali separately, as he was not commanding any troops at the relevant time, we cannot help remarking that all the senior officers stationed in East Pakistan immediately before and during the war of 1971 must be held collectively responsible for the failings and weaknesses which led to the defeat of the Pakistan Army. However, while assessing their individual responsibility, the Commission was obliged to take note of the limitations imposed on them by the concepts and attitudes adopted by the Eastern Command, the admitted shortages and deficiencies in men and materials, faced by them as compared to the vast resources of the enemy and the general demoralisation which stemmed fro the culpable acts of commission and omission on the part of the Army High Command at Rawalpindi and the Commander Eastern Command, at Dacca. Finally, there was also the unfortunate over-riding factor of a long and inherited tradition of unquestioned obedience and loyalty to the superior commander, which prevented most of these officers from questioning the soundness of the critical decisions and actions taken by the High Command, including the final act of surrender. Apart from a few individuals, the large body of officers and men operating in East Pakistan accepted the final decision without any thought of disobedience, even though the majority of them were undoubtedly willing to fight to the last and lay down their lives for the glory of Pakistan.
11. Keeping in view these factors and circumstances we have examined the individual performance and conduct of these senior officers, as will be apparent from the relevant portions of the Main Report and this Supplement where we have narrated at some length the military events as they developed from day-to-day and we have come to the conclusion that adverse comment reflecting on theory (of) suitability for continued retention in military service would not be justified. We have also not thought it desirable to single out officers for special praise either, although it goes without saying that in several cases the officers did act with dedication and valour beyond the ordinary call of duty.
Performance and Conduct of Junior Officers
12. In the very nature of things, the Commission was not in a position to examine at any length the conduct and performance of officers below the Brigade level although some cases necessarily came to our notice where the performance of these officers had a direct bearing on the fate of important battles which were fought on various fronts, or where their conduct transgressed the norms of moral discipline. Such cases have found mention in the relevant portions of our report, but by and large cases of these junior officers must be left to be dealt with by the respective Service Headquarters who have ordained detailed briefing reports from all of them and are also in possession of their performance by their immediate superiors.
The Role of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali
13. Before we conclude this Chapter, brief remarks about the role of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali would not be out of place, for the reason that he has been conspicuously mentioned in several contexts by the international press as well as by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
14. This officer remained in East Pakistan continuously from the 28th of February 1967 to the 16th of December 1971. He was Commander, Artillery 14 Div., in the rank of Brigadier from the 28th of February, 1967 to the 25th of March 1969. On the promulgation of Martial Law by General Yahya Khan on the 25th of March 1969 he was appointed as Brigadier (Civil Affairs) in the office of the Zonal Administrator of Martial Law. He was later promoted as Major General in the same post. From the 4th of July 1971 to the 3rd of September 1971 he functioned under the designation of Maj. Gen. (Political Affairs), and from the latter date to the 14th of December 1971 he worked as Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan, ceasing to hold this appointment on the resignation of Dr. A.M.Malik.
15. It was inherent in the appointments held by him since the promulgation of General Yahya Khan's Martial Law on the 25th of March 1969 that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali should come into contact with civil officials and political leaders, besides being associated with Army Officers and Martial Law Administrators of various levels and grades. He frankly admitted before the Commission that he was associated with the planning of the military action of the 25th of March 1971, and also with the subsequent political steps taken by the military regime to noramlise the situation, including the proposed by-elections necessitated by the disqualification of a large number of Awami league members of the National and Provincial Assemblies. Nevertheless, as a result of our detailed study of the written statement, submitted by the General and the lengthy cross-examination to which we subjected him during his appearance before us, as well as the evidences from other witnesses from East Pakistan, we have formed the view that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali merely functioned as an intelligent, well-intentioned and sincere staff officer in the various appointments held by him, and at no stage could he be regarded as being a member of the inner military junta surrounding and supporting General Yahya Khan. We have also found that at no stage did he advise, or himself indulge in, actions opposed to public morality, sound political sense or humanitarian considerations. In this context, we have already commented at some length, in a previous Chapter of this Report, on the allegation made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at General Farman Ali was wanting to "paint the green of East Pakistan red," and have found that the entire incident has been deliberately distorted.
16. During the critical days of the war this officer had no direct responsibility for military operations, but he was, nevertheless, closely associated with the Governor of East Pakistan as well as the Commander Eastern Command. It was for this reason that he got involved in what has been called "the Farman Ali incident." As we have seen in the chapter dealing with the details of the surrender in East Pakistan, the message authenticated by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali for being dispatched to the United Nations on the 9th of December 1971 had been approved by the Governor of East Pakistan, who had obtained prior authority and clearance from the President of Pakistan, namely, General Yahya Khan, for the purpose of formulating proposals for a settlement and cessation of hostilities in East Pakistan. In these circumstances, the responsibility for its authorship and dispatch could not, therefore, be placed on this officer. In fact, he had, at the time, demanded trial by court martial to clear his position. In view of the facts, as they have now emerged before the Commission, there is no need for any such enquiry or trial.
17. Maj. Gen. Farman Ali was present at Headquarters Eastern Command, during the last phases of the events when Indian Officers came to meet Lt. Gen. Niazi for negotiating the details of the surrender. From the detailed accounts which have come before us of the behaviour and attitude of both these officers, we have no hesitation in recording the opinion that at all relevant times Maj. Gen. Farman Ali advised Lt. Gen. Niazi on correct lines, and if his advice had been accepted, some of the disgraceful episodes might have been avoided.
18. We have also examined the reason why the Indian Commander-in-Chief, General Masnekshaw, addressed certain leaflets to General Farman Ali by describing him as Commander of the Pakistan Army. It appears that on the 8th or 9th December 1971, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi had not been seen outside his command bunker, and there was a broadcast by the BBC that he had left East Pakistan and that General Farman Ali had taken over the command of the Pakistan Army. It was for this reason that the Indian Commander addressed General Farman Ali calling upon him to surrender. We are satisfied that at no time did Major General Farman Ali indulge in any communication with the Indian Generals. The situation was in any case rectified when Lt. Gen. Niazi made a public appearance at Hotel Intercontinental, Dacca, before foreign correspondents.
19. An allegation was made before the Commission by Lt. Gen. Niazi that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali had sent out of East Pakistan a large sum of money, approximately Rs 60,000, through his nephew who was a Helicopter Pilot in the Army and left Dacca in the early hours of the 16th of December, 1971. We reported Major General Farman Ali to seek his explanation regarding this allegation and some other matters. He has explained that a sum of Rs 60,000/- had been given by the President of Pakistan to the Governor of East Pakistan for expenditure at his discretion. After the Governor of East Pakistan resigned on or about the 14th December 1971, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali, as Advisor to the Governor, became responsible for this amount. He paid Rs 4000 to Islamia Press, Dacca, and this payment was within the knowledge of the Military Secretary to the Governor, who has also been repatriated to Pakistan. Out of the remaining amount of Rs 56,000/-, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali paid Rs 5000/- to Maj. Gen. Rahim Khan at the time of his evacuation from Dacca on the morning of the 16th of December 1971 to meet the expenses en route which may be required not only by Maj. Gen. Rahim Khan but also by the other persons who were being evacuated with him. It was stated by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali that Maj Gen Rahim Khan had rendered the necessary account of the sum of Rs. 5000/- given to him.
20. After deducting payments made to the Islamia Press, Dacca, and to Maj Gen Rahim Khan an amount of Rs. 51,000/- was left with Maj. Gen. Farman Ali which he physically handed over to his nephew Major Ali Jawaher at the time of his departure from Dacca on the 16th of December 1971. Since his arrival in Pakistan, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali has deposited Rs 46,000/- in the Government Treasury and handed over the treasury receipt to Brig. Qazi, Director Pay and Accounts, GHQ. He has claimed the remaining amount of Rs 5000/- on account of house rent allowance sanctioned by the Government of East Pakistan for the residence of his wife and family in West Pakistan. He has stated the sanctioned allowance was Rs 1400/ PM and the period involved was twelve months, so that he could claim Rs 15000/- but he has claimed only Rs 5000/-.
21. We are satisfied with the explanation rendered by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali, as the facts stated by him are easily verifiable and we do not think that he would have made incorrect statements in this behalf before the Commission.
22. For the foregoing reasons we are of the view that the performance and conduct of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali during the entire period of his service in East Pakistan does not call for any adverse comment.
1.This Commission of Inquiry was appointed by the President of Pakistan in Dec 1971. After examining 213 witnesses, we submitted the Main Report in July, 1972. However, at that time we did not have before us the evidence of the major personalities, except Major General M. Rahim Khan who had played a part in the final events culminating in the surrender in East Pakistan. Accordingly, we stated that "our observations and conclusions regarding the surrender in East Pakistan and other allied matters should be regarded as provisional and subject to modification in the light of the evidence of the Commander, Eastern Command, and other senior officers as and when such evidence becomes available."
2. After the repatriation of prisoners of war from India, the Commission was reactivated in May, 1974. At the resumed session, we have examined as many as 72 persons, including Lt Gen A.A.K. Niazi, Commander, Eastern Command, all the Major Generals and Brigadiers who had served in East Pakistan, Rear Admiral Sharif, Flag Officer Commanding the Pakistan Navy, Air Commodore Inam, the senior most Air Force Officer, and several civilian officers like the chief Secretary, the Inspector General of Police, two Divisional; Commissioners etc, Maj. Gen. M. Rahim Khan was re-examined at his own request.
3. As it appeared to us that the defeat suffered by the Armed Forces of Pakistan was not merely the result of military factors alone, but had been brought about as the cumulative result of political, international, moral and military factors, we examined all these aspects in our Main Report at some length. We have followed the same pattern of study in the present Supplementary Report. Although we are now naturally in possession of far more detailed information as to the events in East Pakistan, yet the main conclusions reached by us on the earlier occasion have remained unaffected by the fresh evidence now available. In the paragraphs that follow, we intend briefly to summarise our conclusions on these major aspects of the causes of surrender in East Pakistan, making reference, wherever necessary, to the conclusions already embodied in the Main Report.
4. In the Main Report, we have traced the genesis of the Pakistan movement, the events preceding the establishment of Pakistan, and the political developments which took place between 1947 and 1971, including a detailed study of the effects of the two Martial Law periods in hastening the process of political and emotional isolation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
5. We have also, in the Main Report, examined at length the role played by the two major political parties, namely, the Awami League in East Pakistan and the Pakistan Peoples party in West Pakistan, in bringing about the situation resulting in the postponement of the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dacca on the 3rd of March, 1971. We have then examined the events occurring between the 1st and the 25th of March, 1971, when the Awami League had seized power from the Government of General Yahya Khan, necessitating resort to the military action of the 25th of March, 1971. We have also touched upon the negotiations which Gen. Yahya Khan was pretending to hold during this period with Sk. Mujibur Rahman on the one hand and political leaders from West Pakistan on the other. Although he never formally declared these negotiations to have failed, yet he secretly left Dacca on the evening of the 25th of March, 1971, leaving instructions behind for military action to be initiated when his plane reached the Karachi area.
6. We have found, as a result of a detailed analysis of the events surrounding the imposition of the second Martial Law by General Yahya Khan on the 25th of March, 1969, that he did not take over the country in order merely to restore normal conditions and reintroduce the democratic process. He did so with a view to obtaining personal power and those who assisted him did so with full knowledge of his intentions. The fresh evidence recorded by us has only served to strengthen this conclusion as to the intentions of Gen. Yahya Khan.
7. All the Senior Army Commanders who were concerned with the administration of Martial Law in East Pakistan as well as the senior civil servants who were inducted into the civil administration in East Pakistan, have expressed the view that military action could not have been a substitute for a political settlement, which was feasible once law and order has been restored within a matter of few weeks after the military action. Most of these witnesses have stated that the most favourable time for a political settlement was between the months of May and September, 1971, during which a reasonable amount of normalcy had been restored and the authority of the Government had been re-established at least in most of the urban areas, if not throughout the countryside. However, no effort was made during these months to start a political dialogue with the elected representatives of the people of East Pakistan; instead fraudulent and useless measures were adopted.
8. The use of excessive force during the military action and the conduct of some of the officers and men of the Pakistan Army during the sweep operations had only served to alienate the sympathies of the people of East Pakistan. The practice of the troops living off the land, in the absence of a proper organisation of their own logistic arrangements during their operations in the countryside, encouraged the troops to indulge in looting. The arbitrary methods adopted by the Martial Law administration in dealing with respectable East Pakistanis, and then sudden disappearances by a process euphemistically called "being sent to Bangladesh" made matters worse. The attitude of the Army authorities towards the Hindu minority also resulted in large-scale exodus to India. The avowed intention of India to dismember Pakistan was only too well known, but even then the need for an early political settlement was not realised by General Yahya Khan. The general amnesty declared by him in August, 1971, proved ineffective, as it was declared too late, and left much to be desired in its implementation. It did not result in the return of any appreciable number of the elected representatives of the people, who were in any case valuable hostages in the hands of the Indian authorities who did not allow them to cross back into Pakistan.
9. Precious moments were thus wasted, during which the Indians mounted their training programme for the Mukti Bahini and started guerrilla raids into Pakistan territory. General Yahya Khan then embarked upon his scheme of by-elections in place of the disqualified Awami League representatives, but these by-elections were an exercise in futility, for the reason that they were supervised and controlled by the by the Martial Law administration, and even the selection of the candidates was being made by a Major General of the Pakistan Army. In these circumstances, these newly elected representatives did not have any authority to speak on behalf of the people.
10. Similarly, the appointment of Dr. Malik as the civilian Governor of East Pakistan, and the installation of his ministers, did not produce any impact. These gentlemen did not command the confidence of the people, although Dr. Malik was personally respected as a veteran statesman. These attempts at civilization of the Government of East Pakistan were, therefore, an utter failure in winning back the confidence of the people. Power continued to vest in the hands of the Zonal Martial Law Administrator, namely, Lt Gen A.A.K. Niazi. In any case, in view of the circumstances prevailing, namely, the overriding importance of maintaining law and order and keeping the lines of communication open, the role of the army continued to be predominant.
11. Apart, therefore, from the immorality and political expediency of the kind of military action taken by General Yahya Khan on the 25th of March, 1971, it was his culpable failure to arrive at a political settlement with the Awami League during the crucial months preceding the war that completely alienated the sympathies of the population of East Pakistanis, confirming their suspicion that the Generals were not prepared to part with political power in favour of the elected representatives of the people. The refusal of Gen. Yahya Khan to negotiate with the Awami League becomes all the more significant when we remember that two of its top leaders, Sk. Mujibur Rahman and Dr Kamal Hussain were in his custody in West Pakistan, and that almost all the friendly countries had advised him to arrive at a political settlement in view of the looming Indian threat of military action.
12. The two direct and devastating consequences of this political situation brought about by the military regime itself, since holding the elections of 1970, were the prolonged involvement of the Pakistan Army in counter-insurgency measures throughout the Province, and its forced deployment in penny-pockets all along the borders of East Pakistan to prevent infiltration of Mukti Bahini and Indian agents. In the presence of these two factors, the Pakistan Army was obviously fighting a losing battle from the very start.
13. After exhaustively reviewing the state of our international relations as they existed immediately preceding the war, we had expressed the opinion, in the Main Report, that in the background of our relations with India ever since 1947, it should not have been too difficult to appreciate that India would do every thing to precipitate a crisis in East Pakistan.
14. We also took note of the various efforts made by India to internationalise the refugee problem which had arisen as a result of the exodus of people from East Pakistan to India in the wake of the military action. The Indian propaganda was so successful that all efforts made by the military regime in Pakistan to defuse the situation in East Pakistan left the world unimpressed. The situation was further complicated by the mutual assistance treaty signed between India and USSR in Aug, 1971. All the Governments friendly to Pakistan, especially Iran, China and the USA, had made it clear to Gen Yahya that they would not be in a position to render any physical assistance to Pakistan in the event of an armed conflict with India. However, the significance of this international situation was unfortunately completely lost on Gen Yahya Khan and his associates. They blundered ahead, oblivious of the fatal consequences of their international isolation.
15. In the Main Report we also dealt with the activities at the United Nations during the critical days of the war, and came to the conclusion that there was no rational explanation why Gen Yahya Khan did not take the dispute to the Security Council immediately after the Indian invasion of East Pakistan on the 21st of November, 1971, nor was it possible to explain his refusal to accept the first Russian Resolution, if indeed the situation in East Pakistan had become militarily so critical that surrender was inevitable. In this context we also referred to the message which was handed over by Major General Farman Ali to Mr. Paul Mure Henry, Representative of the UN at Dacca for onward transmission to the Secretary General of the UN, offering certain proposals for a political settlement in East Pakistan. Finally, we expressed the opinion that if Gen Yahya Khan as Commander-in-Chief of the Army had shown greater determination and courage and directed the Eastern Command to hold on somewhat longer than the 16th of December, 1971, it was quite possible that a satisfactory solution ordering a cease-fire might have been obtained from the Security Council.
16. During the present phase of our enquiry nothing has been said by the witnesses about the state of our international relations and their impact on the 1971 war, nor about the moves in the United Nations except that Major Gen Farman Ali has clarified the position with regard to the message attributed to him. He had stated that the message was drafted under the instructions of the Governor of East Pakistan who had been authorised by the President of Pakistan to offer proposals for a political settlement with the Awami League, and that he handed over a copy of the same to Mr. Paul Mure Henry as directed by the Governor of East Pakistan. While this clarification removes the mystery surrounding the so-called "Farman Ali incident," it does not in any manner affect the conclusions already stated by us in the main Report as regards the international aspect.
The Military Aspect
17. While discussing the military aspect of the war in the Main Report we came to the conclusion that the major role in the 1971 disaster had been that of the ground forces, that the strategic concept embodied in war Directive No.4 of 1967, required a drastic revision in the light of the political and military situation developing as a result of the military action in East Pakistan in March 1971, but the Army High Command did not carry out any study in depth of the effect of these new factors, nor did it pay any attention to the growing disparity between the war preparedness and the capability of the armed forces of Pakistan and India as a result of the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Aug 1971. We dealt at length with the concepts of defence as well as the plans formulated by the General Headquarters both for East and West Pakistan, and pointed out the defects and deficiencies in those plans, apart from the inadequacy of resources available on both fronts as compared to those of the enemy. However, we observed that our study of the military aspect of the war in East Pakistan, both limited and total, was inconclusive on account of the non-availability of the evidence of the Commander, Eastern Command, and other senior officers then serving in East Pakistan.
18. Having now had the advantage of examining these commanders at considerable length we feel we are in a position to formulate our final conclusions as to the causes of surrender in East Pakistan.
19. There has been some controversy as to the exact status of Lt Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, namely, whether he was a Theatre Commander or merely a Corps Commander, although he has been officially described as Commander, Eastern Command. While a Corps Commander is merely a Commander of a number of divisions placed under his command, a Theatre Commander is not merely in command of all the forces in the area, including the Naval and the Air Forces. In case of East Pakistan the Flag Officer Commanding of the Navy and the Air Force Commanding of the Pakistan Air Force were directly under their own respective Commanders-in-chief, although they were instructed to liaise and coordinate with the Commander, Eastern Command. Technically speaking, therefore, Lt. Gen. Niazi was not a Theatre Commander and was never designated as such. Nevertheless, situated as he was, we consider that at least from the 3rd of Dec 1971 onwards, on which date war broke out on the Western Front as well, Lt Gen Niazi became, for all intents and purposes, an independent Corps Commander, possessing of necessity and by force of circumstances all the powers of a Theatre Commander, and even the General Headquarters expected him to act as such, for there was no possibility thereafter of replacing him by another Commander of equivalent rank. General Niazi's conduct of war , as also his final decision to surrender, have, therefore, to be judged in this light.
20. The traditional concept of defence adopted by Pakistan Army was that the defence of East Pakistan lies in West Pakistan. However Lt. Gen. Niazi contented before the Commission that the Indians would not have started an all-out war in East Pakistan if the Western Front had not been opened by Pakistan. It seems to us that this contention is based on a lack of proper appreciation of the enemy threat which was fast developing in the Eastern Theatre. It had become quite evident that the Mukti Bahini, on their own , even after their training in India would never be able to face a pitched battle with the Pakistan Army, and the Indians could not afford to prolong the war by proxy for an indefinite period. The plan of capturing a sizable chunk of territory for setting up Bangladesh has also been frustrated by the forward deployment of our troops. An all-out war had, therefore, become inevitable for India, and in such an event the only course open for Pakistan was to implement the traditional concept of defending East Pakistan from West Pakistan in an determined and effective manner. The concept, therefore, that the defence of East Pakistan lies in West Pakistan remained valid and if ever there was need to invoke this concept it was on the 21st of Nov 1971 when the Indian troops had crossed the East Pakistan borders in naked aggression. Unfortunately, the delay in opening the Western front and the half-hearted and hesitant manner in which it was ultimately opened only helped in precipitating the catastrophe in East Pakistan.
21. The Operational instructions issued by the Eastern Command as No.3 of 1971 on the 15th of July 1971, contemplated a forward defensive posture with strong points and fortresses which were to be made logistically self-sufficient to fight a battle lasting for at least 30 days, even if by-passed. They were also expected to act as firm bases or jumping-off points for actions against the enemy from the flanks or from behind. Dacca was to be defended at all costs by being made into a fortress, as it was the lynch-pin, both politically and militarily.
22. The plan envisaged as many as 25 fortresses and 9 strong points, consisting mainly of built up areas such as district or sub-divisional headquarters towns, large villages and cantonments. The paucity of troops did not permit them to be manned but it was expected that the troops deployed along the border and in counter insurgency operations would gradually fall back and take up defensive positions within the fortresses and strong points. His concept further contemplated that the fortresses would be defended to the last man and last round.
23. the fortress concept postulates 3 essential conditions for its success namely :
(a). that there must be adequate reserves to strike the enemy if bypasses the fortress, and to give mutual support to another fortress;
(b). that the fortress must be so located as to be able to mutually support each other and
(c). that the population in the areas in which such fortresses are located is not hostile. Gen. Niazi was fully aware that none of these conditions were fulfilled in East Pakistan as he did not have enough troops to man 34 fortress and strong points with his then 29 battalions; his fortress and strong points were so located that they were not in a position to mutually support each other, and he also knew that the local population was hostile and movement of his troops would be made impossible by the Mukti Bahini. We are at a loss to understand how he expected the concept to succeed in these circumstances.
24. The evidence clearly discloses that none of the fortresses were manned nor did they have protective defences capable of withstanding enemy attacks supported by armour. Troops were expected to man these fortresses after falling back from their forward: even such artillery or heavy weapons as the troops possessed were to the fortresses. The withdrawal of the troops to the fortresses was as was to be expected in these circumstances, by no means an orderly withdrawal , but in most cases it was a disorderly retreat, leaving even the heavy equipment behind. There were no reserves with any local Commanders, except for 16 Division, and the command reserve of only a brigade strength and also been committed in the Eastern sector, through which the main enemy thrust came. This soundness of the fortress concept thus stood throughly exposed by the end which it produced.
25. In our view, the concept was utterly inappropriate for achieving the mission assigned to the Commander, Eastern Command, of defending East Pakistan and maintaining his presence in East Pakistan in the changed situation created by the war launched by the enemy. The wisest course of action for Gen. Niazi would have been to concentrate his troops in a smaller area, protected by the major natural obstacles around the military and political lynch pin - Dacca.
26. At any rate, there should have been a contingency plan for a planned withdrawal into thew Dacca triangle to cater for fighting a all-out war with an enemy vastly superior in resources and capabilities both on the ground and in the air. The failure on part of the Eastern Command to so plan amounts to gross negligence for, in fact , what was done was merely to give battle in weakness and be forced to retreat in disorder. The fortress strategy might have been suitable for carrying out the counter insurgency operations, but after the 21st of Nov 1971, it became redundant. The net result of this strategy was to give the opposite advantage to the enemy, who at his leisure routed and dispersed our troops while himself concentratingly advanced in order towards Dacca.
27. The tragedy with Gen Niazi has been his obsession that he will not be called upon to fight any major battles with the Indians in East Pakistan, in spite of enormous Indian buildup around East Pakistan, the detailed briefing given by GHQ to his Chief of Staff about the Indian plans and the advice given to him by the chief of the General Staff and the Vice-chief of the General Staff, during their last visit to the Eastern Theatre, for the deployment of his troops. Gen. Niazi's only reaction to these warnings about the new threat was to hastily raise two ad hoc Divisions namely 36 Div in Sept 1971 and 39 Div on the 19th of Nov 1971 by committing his command reserves.
28. Lt Gen Niazi tried to justify the deployment of his reserves by saying that he had been promised 8 more battalions, and if these had been sent, he would have had enough troops to create a command reserve as also to meet then deficiencies of the new ad hoc formations. The evidence unfortunately does not disclose that any firm commitment was made by GHQ. We also find that even if the extra battalions had been sent the position would not have materially improved as there was no clear plan for their deployment. Gen. Niazi was thereforenot justified in denuding himself of his reserves before the actual arrival of the additional troops.
29. We are also not impressed by the excuse put forward by the Commander, Eastern Command for not modifying his plans, namely that the mission originally assigned to him hold every inch of territory in East Pakistan and to prevent the establishment of Bangladesh by the capture of any sizeable chunk of territory, was never changed by the High Command. As an independent Corps Commander, thousands of miles away from the GHQ, it should have been apparent to him that at least from the 21 Nov 1971 onwards the more important part of his mission was to defend East Pakistan and to keep the Corps in being, by giving up territory if necessary.
30. We also find that it is not correct to say that the mission given to the Eastern Command was never changed, because the GHQ had given him through more than one message a clear indication that territory had become less important, and that the Command should fight for time keeping in view only territories of strategic importance.
31. The detailed narrative of events as given by us in the Supplementary Report, clearly shows that the planning was hopelessly defective and there was no plan at all for the defence of Dacca, nor for any concerted effort to stem the enemy onslaught with a Division or a Brigade battle at any stage. It was only when the general found himself gradually being encircled by the enemy which had successfully managed to bypass his fortresses and reached Faridpur , Khulna, Daudkandi and Chandpur (the shortest route to Dacca) that he began to make frantic efforts to get the troops back for the defence of Dacca. It was unfortunate then too late, the ferries necessary for crossing the troops over the big Jamuna river from the area of 16 division had disappeared and the Mukti Bahini had invested the area behind, making vehicular movement impossible. Orderly withdrawal of troops in time for concentrated defence was also made impossible by the unfortunate orders issued by Lt. Gen. Niazi that no withdrawal was to take place unless cleared two up and without suffering 75% casualties.
32. In the absence of contingency plans for the withdrawal of troops into the Dacca triangle area behind the big rivers , to prevent the enemy breakthrough and to deal if need be with the known capability of the enemy to heli-drop troops behind our lines after it had acquired mastery of the air by either eliminating or neutralising our Air Force of only one squadron, it was not at all a matter of surprise that the defences should have collapsed immediately in thin lines in the forward positions were pierced by the enemy. On the fourth day of the all-out-war major fortresses were abandoned without a fight, namely, Jessore and Jhenidah the West and the Brahmanbaria in the East. On the next day the Comilla fortress was isolated by encirclement from all sides, and on the 9th of Dec 1971, even a divisional commander abandoned his area of responsibility with his headquarters, leaving his formation behind. On the same day 2 more fortresses Kushtia and Laksham were abandoned. At the latter fortress even the sick and the wounded were left behind. By 10 Dec 1971, even Hilli, where a determined battle had been fought for 16 days had to be abandoned. The Brigade returning from Mymensingh got entangled with heli dropped Indian troops, and the Brigade Commander and some of his troops were taken prisoner.
33. The painful story of the last few days immediately preceding the surrender on 16 dec 1971 has been narrated in Part 1V of the Supplementary Report. We have come to the conclusion that there was no order to surrender, but in view of the desperate picture painted by the Commander, Eastern Command, the higher authorities only gave him permission to surrender if he in his judgement thought it was necessary. Gen Niazi, could have disobeyed such an order if he thought he had the capability of defending Dacca. On his own estimate, he had 26,400 men at Dacca in uniform and he could have held out for at least another 2 weeks, because the enemy would have taken a week to build up its forces in the Dacca area and another week to reduce the fortress of Dacca. If Gen. Niazi had done so and lost his life in the process, he would have made history and would have been remembered by the coming generations as a great hero and a martyr, but the events show that he had already lost the will to fight after the 7th December 1971, when his major fortresses at Jessore and Brahmanbaria had fallen. The question of creating history, therefore, was never in his mind.
34. Even more painful than the military failures of lt. Gen Niazi is the story of the abject manner in which he agreed to sign the surrender document laying down arms to the so-called joint-command of India and Mukti Bahini, to be present at the Airport to receive the victorious Indian General Aurora, to present a guard of honour to the Indian General, and then to participate in the public surrender ceremony at the Race Course, to the everlasting shame of Pakistan and its Armed forces. Even if he had been obliged to surrender, by force of circumstances, it was not necessary for him to behave in this shameful manner at every step of the process of surrender. The detailed accounts which have been given before the commission by those who had the misfortune of witnessing these events, leave no doubt that Lt. Gen. Niazi had suffered a complete moral collapse during the closing phases of the war.
35. While undoubtedly the responsibility for these failures lies with the Commander, Eastern Command, GHQ cannot escape its responsibility, as the plan had been approved by it. It was also the responsibility of GHQ to correct the mistakes of the Eastern Command, as communications were open to the last. It was incumbent upon GHQ to guide, direct and influence the conduct of the war in the Eastern Theatre, if the Commander himself in that Theatre was incapable of doing so. But the GHQ failed in this important duty. The Commander-in-Chief remained indifferent.
36. While we have not specially condemned the performance of senior Officers other than Lt. Gen. A.A..K. Niazi, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, Maj. Gen. M. Rahim Khan and some of the Brigadiers, we cannot help remarking that all the Senior Officers stationed in East Pakistan immediately before and during the war of 1997 must be held collectively responsible for the failings and weaknesses which led to the defeat of the Pakistan Army. The only thing which goes in their favour is that while assessing their individual responsibility the Commission was obliged to take note of the limitations imposed upon them by the concepts and attitudes adopted by the Eastern Command, the admitted shortages and deficiencies in men and materials faced by them as compared to the vast resources of the enemy, and the general demoralization which stemmed from the culpable acts of commission and omission on the part of the Army High Command at Rawalpindi and the Commander, Eastern Command at Dacca. Finally, there was also the unfortunate overriding factor of a long and inherited tradition of unquestioned obedience and loyalty to the superior Commander which prevented most of these Officers from questioning the soundness of the critical decisions and actions taken by the High Command, including the final act of surrender.
37. Before we conclude this part of the discussion, we would like to place on record that, apart from a few individuals, the large body of officers and men operating in East Pakistan accepted the final decision without any thought of disobedience only owing to their ingrained sense of discipline, and the majority of them would have been undoubtedly willing to fight to the last and lay down their lives for the glory of Pakistan. The gallantry and determination with which some of the battles were fought in East Pakistan has been acknowledged even by the enemy.
Professional Responsibility of Certain Senior Army Commanders
40. From the conclusions outlined by us in the preceding paragraphs, particularly as regards the military aspect of the debacle it was have become clear that in our view several senior Army Commanders have been guilty of serious dereliction of duty in formulating and executing the defence plans, and since are even guilty of shamefully abandoning the fortresses which it was their duty to defend. We have also found that the Commander, Eastern Command, and his chief of Staff, Brig. Baqir Siddiqui displayed willful neglect in the matter of the execution of denial plans, with the result that large quantities of valuable war materials, equipment, installations, arms and ammunition were delivered intact to the Indians at the time of surrender. All these acts of omission and commission call for deterrent action by way of court materials wherever permissible under the law. Detailed recommendations in respect of all these matters are contained in the next Chapter.
41. It has come to the notice of the Commission that during his period of captivity, and even after repatriation to Pakistan, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi assisted by his Chief of Staff, Brig. Baqir Siddiqui, has been making efforts to influence his Divisional and Brigade Commanders, by threats and inducements, so as to persuade them to present a coordinated story of the events in East Pakistan with a view to mitigating his own responsibility for the debacle. This is a serious matter and calls for notice.
42. The surrender in East Pakistan has indeed been a tragic blow to the nation. By the act of surrender Pakistan stood dismembered, and the image of the Pakistan Army as an efficient and excellent fighting force stood shattered. We can only hope that the nation has learnt the necessary lessons from these tragic events and that effective and early action will be taken in the light of the conclusions reached in the report.
1971: War Inquiry Commission (Hamoodur Rahman), Supplementary Report: II