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Dr. Junaid Ahmad|

December 16, 1971, was an ominous day for Pakistan, because the Pakistani army’s scattered divisions sandwiched between an internal insurgency supported by Indian war machine and Indian  army columns finally decided to surrender. To this day popular imagination and rhetoric is that 93,000 soldiers of Pakistan surrendered to victorious India and were taken as POWs (Prisoners of War).

But the funny thing is: Pakistan, in December 1971, could not have more than 45,000 soldiers on ground in former east-Pakistan. So where the magical figure of 93,000 came from? 

This highly exaggerated figure is sustained by Indian, Bangladeshi, international and even Pakistani media. Many Pakistani politicians, out of spite for army, keep on repeating the cliched figure. Ironically, this propagated number has remained unchallenged and is also widely believed in Pakistan, as few accounts have been written to challenge it and today reportedly 65% of Pakistanis are younger than 35 years of age who have no idea of what happened, 45 years ago, in 1971.

But the funny thing is: Pakistan, in December 1971, could not have more than 45,000 soldiers on ground in former east-Pakistan. So where the magical figure of 93,000 came from?

How many Pakistani troops were in East Pakistan? 

The number of 93,000 soldiers that is talked about has been conflated with civilians. West Pakistani civilians who were present in large numbers in former East-Pakistan were taken over into custody by Indian army to protect them from revengeful Bengali crowds and Mukit Bahni.

Undisputed fact is that Pakistan had only one corps comprising three divisions in East Pakistan during 1971. In fact when operation search light began on 25th March, 1971, the total number of Pakistani troops on ground were around 27,000. More troops were sent from west Pakistan but they had to arrive through a long circuitous route since India had blocked air route over India taking advantage of the famous “Ganga Hijacking Case” (believed to be a false flag planned by RAW for this purpose)

The three divisions, of Pakistan army, by end November 1971, comprised a total force of 45,000, on books, including combatant and non-combatant troops. Out of these, there were 34,000 combatant troops and the remaining 11,000 were non-combatants, supporting men and CAF personnel. But between six to seven thousand Pakistani soldiers died in the war also.

It was also helpful in putting meat to the story of three million killed, hundreds and thousands of rapes and genocide. An army of less than 40,000, spread over a large theatre of conflict under attack from guerrillas supported by Indian army was hardly in a situation of doing what it was accused of. 

This one corp was pitched against three corps of Indian Army from the West and North West and another two corps from the North East and East, a total of five Indian Corps plus 175,000 Indian backed and trained Mukti Bahini and many thousands of Awami League miscreants. When the total number of Pakistan army troops ranged between 34,000 to 45,000 how could 93,000 soldiers surrender?

From time to time various officers and commentators have attempted clarifying the myth but the power of first narrative is such that still the figure of 93,000 POW’s sticks in popular imagination.

According to Lt Gen Naizi, Corps Commander of Eastern Command in 1971.

The total fighting strength available to me [Gen Naizi] was forty-five thousand – 34,000 from the army, plus 11,000 from CAF and West Pakistan civilian police and armed non-combatants”who were fighting against the insurgents. Even if the strength of HL, MLA, depots, training institutes, workshops, factories, nurses and lady doctors, non-combatants like barbers, cooks, shoemakers and sweepers are added, even then the total comes to only 55,000.

Air Marshal Rahim khan, CNC Pakistan Air Force (1969-1972), had stated:

The number of regular Pakistani troops in East Pakistan never exceeded 33,000-34,000. The rest is just propaganda by India and the Awami League, to magnify their success….”

Air Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who commended Eastern Wing of Pakistan Air Forces had asserted the same in these words:

At the maximum, our regular fighting force in East Pakistan in December 1971 stood at 34,000. This figure does not include paramilitary personnel, military police, etc. Even if you include the auxiliaries, the total does not cross 45,000”.

General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. Former Vice Chief of Army Staff, speaking on the 1971 conundrum stated

It was impossible for the 34,000 Pakistani troops in East Pakistan or for that matter any army in the world to fight against the combined strength of 200,000 Indian army and 170,000 Mukti Bahini, If not more, that too in a hostile environment 1200 miles away from West Pakistan …… Keeping into account all this, if the Indians still feel that they achieved a stunning military victory against Pakistan, I can only say they have fallen prey to their own propaganda”.

US congressman, Charles Wilson (famous for Charlie Wilson’s War) in a discussion with Pakistani diplomats in Washington DC remarked.

 “……In 1971, it was certainly not possible for the 35,000 Pakistani troops in Dhaka to fight against the combined strength of 200,000 Indian army and the more than 100,000 Indian-trained Bengali guerillas.”

Another US congressman, Stephen Solarz, commenting on the War of 1971 in June 1989, remarked,

Pakistanis are energetic, vibrant, and resilient. We must not be misled by 1971. It was certainly not possible for the 40,000 odd Pakistani army in Dhaka to fight against much larger Indian army and Indian-trained Bengali Bahinis in a hostile territory ….”

K C Pant, Indian former Defense Minister in September, 1994 during a discussion on Indo-Pak relations held in New Delhi, said

Peace is important between Pakistan and India. We respect the professional competence of the Pakistani soldier. Had democracy continued in Pakistan, Islamabad would not have suffered the debacle resulting in the surrender of its 40,000 military personnel to India in East Pakistan”.

Sarmila Bose, the famous Indian Bengali writer and Associate Researcher at Oxford University in her book Dead Reckoning published in 2011, asserts

“…… [I]t appears that while the total figure in Indian custody is about right, to state that 93,000 soldiers were taken prisoner is wrong, and creates confusions by greatly inflating the Pakistani fighting force in East Pakistan”.

Javed Jabbar, former Pakistani Minister of Information in his article, Estranged siblings-Pakistan and Bangladesh, 40 years later, wrote

Pakistan’s armed forces did not exceed 45,000 troops at optimal levels. The 90,000 prisoners-of-war held by India included over 50,000 non- combatant, unarmed West Pakistani civilians.”

S. M. Hali, a well-known Pakistani analyst in his article, Breaking myths of 1971 Pak-India war writes,

The total strength of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan (in 1971) was 40,000….”

All the aforementioned references point toward one fact that the number of total army personnel who surrendered were far less than 93,000. Whereas my research shows that they were only around 34,000 but in any case they could not have been more than 40,000. The number of 93,000 soldiers that is talked about has been conflated with civilians. West Pakistani civilians who were present in large numbers in former East-Pakistan were taken over into custody by Indian army to protect them from revengeful Bengali crowds and Mukit Bahni.

The figure of 93,000 also included children, women, civil administration officials and staff, non-combatant troops such as nurses, doctors, cooks, barbers, shoemakers, carpenters and others. The higher number talked about was a deliberate attempt to defame and demoralize Pakistani army, to demonstrate to the world extent of Indian victory. It was also helpful in putting meat to the story of three million killed, hundreds and thousands of rapes and genocide. An army of less than 40,000, spread over a large theatre of conflict under attack from guerrillas supported by Indian army was hardly in a situation of doing what it was accused of.

The total figure, a mix of soldiers and civilians was deliberately floated by Indians, and later by Bangladeshis to support their case for victimization. In Pakistan, a clever Bhutto used this for various reasons of his own politics. No one ever wanted to clarify. In reality, the actual number of Pakistani troops who surrendered on 16th December 1971 was only around 34,000.

Piece by Dr Junaid Ahmad, Author of ‘Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded.’ Additional comments and editing by Editorial Desk of Global Village Space.

29 COMMENTS

  1. If you are so Truthful …….. Why don’t you ask the Coward & Racist Punjabi Army & Agencies to just public the Hamood-ur-Rahman Commission Report !!!

    In that report, you may See how these Shameless Punjabi Army personnel had Surrendered & what Atrocities & Cruelties they had made with Muslim Bangali Men, Women & Children !!!

    They have the history of Torturing, Missing & Killings of Innocents unarmed citizens !!!

    We haven’t forgot yet …….. how they made the Fake Back Dated Diplomatic documents of Raymond Davis (killer of two Innocent Pakistanis) & arranged the Flight for him to sent back to US from Chaklala Airbase !!!

    • Just for your information, The General in-charge in East Pakistan was Tikka Khan (Pukhtoon), The Martial Law Administrator was General Yahya Khan (Pukhtoon). The president of Pakistan during Raymond Davis was Asif Ali Zardari (A Sindhi/Balochi). So take your racist rants and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.

      BTW i am also Pukhtoon.

      • Dear Imax tikka khan was not pashtoon. Please check the internet for further details. Yahya khan was also Persian speaking qazilbash who are not pashtoons. Yes niazi was pashtoon no doubt about that

      • Bravo…..in addition, the “claims” of Pak Army’s “atrocities” do not hold water when one reads Ms Sarmila Bose’s account who any prudent observer shall agree has given a non partisan account. Its time our generation wakes up to the truth. One senior retired army officer remarked that its a part of our history which no side can be proud of. instead of stoking lies, it should be understood that estrangement of our Bengali brethren came about over a prolonged period and had multifarious triggers. Looking back, higher politco-military leadership failed abysmally and we came to this pass. But lets also not forget that our men who fought out numbered did something extra ordinary under the circumstances and are in fact among the most traumatised lot in this entire sordid affair. If Bangladesh had become a reality, its creation should not have been actuated the way it did.
        Reading Col Nazir Ahmed’s (a POW) account “1971 Distortions and Lies” is also instructive and recommended reading
        Lastly, lets not put an ethnic coloring to our institution which remains the most representative in terms of ethnicity.

        • Dr. Sarmila Bose does not deny that the Pakistan army raped Bengali Muslimah or Dhimmiyah women or murdered Muslim or Dhimmi men without trial, she only disagrees with the final count

          It doesn’t matter of the number of people killed was 3 million or “only” 300,000
          It doesn’t matter if the number of Muslimat or Dhimmiyat raped was 70,000 or “just” 7000. Because Pakistan has not hanged even a single army officer or soldier for murder and no army officer of soldier has yet been stoned to death or whipped for Zina bil Jabr.

  2. Further FM Manik Shah told an Indian Joinalist with The strength with which India invaded even Rommel would have been defeated.
    Brig Tariq Khalil SJ, SI(m), Imtiazi Sanad Gallantry , BAR
    Refer
    My articles in Pakistan Observer
    Tragedy of Error , Lt Gen Kamal Matinuddin rtd
    Interview of Manik Shah
    History of Pakistan Army by Gen Shoukat Raza

  3. SAM Manekshaw’s statement to karan thapar in face to face program in 1999 that he had 15:1 superiority is enough. moreover hamud ur rehman comission report has several portions already in the market and read by so many people.

  4. The things is that pakistan govt. and pakistan army has never given their stance on 1971 incident to public specially to the generation after that considering it as a curse. While india, as we all know, is very active in exaggerating such things. so the only figure known to public (even pakistanis) is the one which is given by india.

  5. It is not important whether the number of Pakistani troops surrendering was 93,000 or 34,000 or any other lower figure,what difference would that make.It was great tragedy and humiliation for Pakistan and its armed forces.What is important is to find massive intelligence failure of army and other institutions to gauge revolt by Bengali army’s units,civil armed forces,police etc.Secondly,failure of Armed forces of Pakistan which was led by Gen Yahya Khan who was also the President of the country to realistically evaluate conditions in East Pakistan military,diplomatically (international environment),role of India and decide whether it was possible to hold on to East Pakistan against such heavy odds.Best solution in hindsight now appears that (West) Pakistan should have withdrawn from East Pakistan to avoid humiliation of surrender.

  6. The painful truth about the 1971 war we all as nation aware with this that the environment been plotted by so called mukti bhini and their helper Shiite Indian Army, What we did against it we just closed our eyes as like Pigeon do when he see the cat. He think that it would never hurt by the really is always known. It was joint negligence by all of us as Pakistani Nation. On the other hand India nowadays treated with Bangalies like trainer threat to his dog and obviously they deserve it…

  7. Except for the stab at Z.A. Bhutto this article is mostly true. But only M. Ali in his comments above has expressed interest in the truth. There are too many lies associated with 1971 and whoever expresses interest in the truth is ignored. Myths rule the roost.

  8. Dr. Junaid has done a great service by exposing this false propaganda by the Indian and Awami League lobby. It is indeed unfortunate that Pakistani government and other academics have not tried to correct this misconception that has been promoted by the Indians and Awami Leaguers.

    There are many other wrong perceptions that have been promoted about the incidents of 1971. There is no doubt that the Pakistan Army (and Yahya Khan in particular) made many mistakes. But the demonization done by the Indian lobby is totally false.

    Another huge fallacy is about the so-called massacre of 3 million people in East Pakistan by the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army was ill-equipped and it was not meant to fight a war. And there were over 65 million local population with a small army of around 35,000 spread out thin. It is impossible for this small army to perpetrate a massacre in that short a time without having used any weapons of mass destruction. And they didnt have any WMD.

    One can scour the length and breadth of Bangladesh and you will not find a single mass grave. If 3 million people had to be buried in that short a time, there must have been hundreds of mass graves. They dont exist.

    The saddest part is the revenge of the Awami League and Bangladesh Government against the nearly half a million non-Bengali population who have been trapped in Bangladesh for the past 46 years. Their condition is inhuman to say the least. And the Bangladesh government is least bothered. I would also put the blame on the Pakistan government for not taking action to move these people (who wanted to be Pakistanis) to Pakistan. This unfortunate saga of human misery continues against a people who did not take up arms against Bangladesh.

    I hope and pray that the Awami League government will finally realize some day that it is only through love and mending of hearts will they truly progress. Hate and vengeance will not get them anywhere. They need to reconcile with all people who live there and get rid of corruption that one finds everywhere in that country.

  9. But they did surrender to India , Didn’t they ? , forget 93 000 , lets trust these figures of 34,000 , Again is this is not Gen. Niazi signing the instrument of surrender.

    • Because they were encountered by our 200,000 Bengali brothers, who last not but the least were Muslims.
      It was Pakistan losing on both ends, and India had a win-win situation
      The Hatred between the Bengalis and Pakistanis should be brought to an end, once and for all

      I wish, Kaash,Kaash, Bangladesh came into being on 14/8/1947 only, as one of the two Muslim stated founded on the same day, alongside Pakistan on the basis of Two Nation Theory and the Geographical ground realty.

  10. I saw a video clip of an interview of Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw who was chief of the Indian army in 1971. In that interview he said that the Pakistan army fought very gallantly against the much larger Indian army but had no chance of succeeding because they were heavily outnumbered by the Indian army and the Bengali militia called Mukti Bahini.

  11. So if 93000 becomes 34000, you didn’t surrender? What is your logic mainly? Gangbanged by 10 is gangbang but ganganged by 5 is not? And why should we believe your “propaganda”?

  12. Our Armed forces have come a long way since then. Specially in joint warfare which wasnt there at that timr. But even then at that moment it was poor planning and strategy both politically and militarily rather than any cowardice or non willingness by the young guns to fight. I bet our political arm hasnt learnt a bit from that time. Kargil is a case in point for example.Water treaty is another. By the way i am talking apolitically and in my own analytical understanding.

    • You are right about politicians, they have not changed a bit rather gone from bad to worst, looking at Pakistan’s economy and mismanagement and having no foreign or domestic policies tells everything they are capable of, the only thing they have done Masters, is Corruption.

  13. Propaganda machine worked against Pakistan:even Pak friend USA betrayed them.In all war strategy if a powerful army ignored experienced politician the endresult of war is a disaster! It happened to Nepolian!Pak army made a mokery of themselves! At present Pak civilian Govt has done wonder for Pak and regional development.u wont find many armymen well educated with forciability!Its my opinion!regards.

  14. So 40,000 soldiers couldn’t fight 200,000 Indian soldiers but 8,000 Indian soldiers fought against 80,000 Chinese soldiers in 1962. Even though India lost that war (later won 1967 war against China) it showcased bravery of India.

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