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Debunking myths around Bangladesh’s creation

Dr. Junaid Ahmad, author of the book “Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded,” talks about the lack of narrative from the Pakistani side. In his interview with GVS, he asserts the need to come out with a counter story to the propagated and unchallenged Indian narrative on the creation of Bangladesh. Dr. Junaid Ahmad takes the myths of atrocities by the Pakistani army, and other stories and takes them apart one by one. He attributes the lack of political foresight for what happened in 1971 and fears that we might not have learned anything from the episode.

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GVS: What inspired you to research and write on this topic?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: The fact that so many allegations were being thrown at Pakistan for so long, and none of the government agencies, including the ISPR, the Ministry of Information, or anybody else had attempted to respond to these in any serious manner.

A simplest example that comes to mind was a continuous allegation on Pakistan and propaganda against Pakistan by India and Bangladesh that 93,000 soldiers surrendered. That hit me first. How can a Lieutenant General who has only 45,000 men under him; Out of which 11,000 are supporting troops, how could he have 93,000 soldiers, the maximum combatant soldiers would be 34,000.

Who are the rest? They were members of the civil armed forces, police, civilian officers, their wives, and children, who were all handed over to India so that the Mukti Bahini would not kill them. I started from there. This is one of the biggest propaganda against Pakistan. This really would bother me tremendously.

And when I found out that this is a propaganda and nobody is responding to this, I then started to see, well, somebody has to do this. And I’ve never waited in my life for anybody else to do anything. And that’s how this whole thing began to happen.

It was very simple, very easy to debunk the myth of the 3 million Bengalis having been killed by Pakistan Army and 200,000 women having been raped. If I take 3 million Bengalis killed and over a period of time, which was which started basically from the start of the Operation Searchlight, which started on March the 26th, and ended on December 16 1971 with the surrender documents, these are 262 days, 3 million divided by 262 gives you a figure of 11,480 that means you have to get hold of 11,500 plus Bengalis, bring them together, kill them, bury them, and do this again and keep doing it day after day for 262 days.

And you are only 34,000 people to do this. And these 34,000 combatant soldiers were all on the borders, which is about 1500 kilometer long border facing 15 division Indian army. Now, these 34,000, mind you, were three divisions. So three divisions Pakistan Army is facing 15 divisions Indian army outside on the borders plus 150,000 plus Mukti Bahini inside including 50,000 Indian soldiers.

So, how could this be possible? And of course, then in the end, at night, had to rape women as well – 200,000 women. It is arithmetically impossible; it is just not possible. Having done and debugged this then I went and did research on how the myth started.

I found Yes, the myth of 3 million had been started, and it had been propagated a great deal and that the myth of the 200,000 women [being raped] also was wrong, which I was able to prove using documents and a Commission which had been established by Sheikh Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman himself on January 26th 1972. I can go into much more great detail on this, but this is how this whole thing then unfolded to me.

Read more: Pakistan Embassy London Fooled us! 1971 War

GVS: Were there any events affecting the relationship between East and West Pakistan?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: I think the first one was in March 1948, when the father of the nation, Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, announced that Urdu would be the national language of Pakistan. Bengali had been a much older language than Urdu, and Bengalis were in the majority also. Bengali language movements immediately started but were put down very horrendously by the government.

A number of students were killed, and a lot of baton charge and beating-ups had taken place. It was sometime in 1956, eight years later, that the Government of Pakistan agreed to Bengali also being the national language of Pakistan; this could have easily happened in 1948 or 49. Had that happened that way, India would not have been able to take advantage of this eight years of mayhem following the Bengali language movement.

Then in 1958, the Agartala conspiracy started, and according to that conspiracy, East-Pakistan was to be separated in 1962, which did not happen because of the Indo-China War, and then, in 1965, it was again stopped because of the Indo-Pakistan war. In 1968, Indira Gandhi then decided to establish RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) of the Indian intelligence with a single objective of breaking up Pakistan.

‘Whatever money they needed was given to them,’ mind you, these are not my words, these are words of the director B. Raman, the first director of RAW. He has written a very comprehensive book, which describes in detail as to how RAW had organized the dismemberment of the country. So these are, in my opinion, the most critical events that are the most important.

Read more: India created Pakistan & Pakistan created Bangladesh

GVS: Reality behind Ganga hijacking?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: The Ganga hijacking, I think, is the start of the Indian direct interference in this war of 1971. Ganga was hijacked; it was an old Fokker plane, which had been decommissioned six years earlier. It had its last flight and the maiden flight after six years, which it did on January 30, 1971. It took off from Sri Lanka. It was hijacked reportedly by two Kashmiri Mujahideen, and India told this to the whole world that Kashmiri Mujahideen had hijacked this plane.

The plane landed in Lahore. Mr. Bhutto was asked to negotiate, and Mr. Bhutto, by the way, was a politician who had nothing to do with the government. These two hijackers asked that they would like to negotiate with Mr. Bhutto, so they negotiated with Mr. Bhutto. As a result of that negotiation. All the passengers were released, and the hijackers also came out and then blew up the plane.

These two hijackers, Ashraf Qureshi And Hashem Qureshi, both of them were later found out to be members of the border security force of India. In a Fokker, there are 54 passengers that can sit, but in this plane, there were only 26. And they were all Indian military officers and their wives. India blamed this on Pakistan and disrupted Pakistani overflights as a result.

Consequently, a flight from Karachi to Dhaka could not overfly India; it would normally take about three hours, but now as it had started going via Colombo, it took more than seven and a half hours. And those days, Sri Lanka was in very bad shape. We even had to send fuel from Pakistan for the plane to refuel in Colombo. So that’s how they had made it difficult for Pakistan, and so this is the starting point, in my opinion, of this direct intervention, which India had started.

Read more: Hasina Sheikh’s Politics: Where the fantastic Fig of Three Million came from?

GVS: Could we have avoided the military action of March 25, 1971?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: No, I don’t think we could have avoided that; the military action was like any surgical operation that has happened in Karachi, Swat, Buner, or in the South and North Waziristan. It was something very similar, nothing more than that. And the Pakistan army had been able to bring everything under control by June-July. In the next three, four months, it had been brought under control.

It was at this point in time that India couldn’t tolerate this; they had unleashed the Mukti Bahini on Pakistan on April 7, 1971 and then sent in 50,000 Indian soldiers dressed in Pakistani uniform to create mayhem in the country. And that all of that started happening from the end of July, August 1971 till December. In my opinion, along with the surgical operation, or the operation Searchlight, there should have been very serious political dialogues, which were needed to bring the situation under control, which we never did.

GVS: Responsibility: People vs Events?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: We shouldn’t put it that way; it has to be understood as a process. After the death of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1951, Muslim League was divided into many groups, as it is even divided now. And there was no political party except Jamaat e Islami, which had always remained a marginal party, which was present in both the wings.

As a consequence, there was a serious political vacuum, so that added a lot of problems. In addition, let’s move on to the bureaucracy. East Pakistan never had an East Bengali Chief Secretary or a Bengali Finance Secretary, a Bengali Planning Secretary, a Bengali Interior Secretary till 1971; they all came from West Pakistan.

There was a very serious vacuum at the level of the bureaucracy as well. In the case of the military, the Air-force and the Navy had started taking officers and men from 1948. But the army did so very reluctantly in 1962. There was a bias, not only in the civilian bureaucracy but also in the military bureaucracy.

We were already looking down upon them but above all of this was the Pakistani business community, the Industrialists, and the business community. More than 2500 industrial units were established by West Pakistani businessmen in East Pakistan. 50 plus jute mills, sugar mills, garment factories, textile factories, light engineering units, all kinds of things.

In all these businesses, the top management, the senior management, the middle management were all from West Pakistan. East Pakistanis were hired as a laborer, or as they say, as class four servants. As a nation, we all did our best to look down upon them, and we never paid heed to what they were saying.

And India took full advantage of this. Yes, there were mistakes by the West Pakistanis, maybe 25 percent, and the other 25 percent by the Bengalis, but the full advantage of 50 percent was taken by India, which was fueling all of this- was already funding all of this as well. So that’s a way I would clarify the situation as to what happened in East Pakistan; it’s not one event.

Read more: What happened to those who broke up Pakistan in 1971?

GVS: Should we have compromised over Mujib’s six points?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: Unfortunately, no serious effort was made to understand the six points; no serious effort was made to understand what East Pakistan was asking for was autonomy. The majority of the exports of Pakistan were coming at that time from jute, and they would land up in West Pakistan.

I have already talked about the civil and military bureaucracy. I’ve already told you regarding the politicians being all from West Pakistan or majority from West Pakistan, and they were not listening to the requirements. They had an economic disparity, and they were being ill-treated. So we never made any serious effort.

The political parties in West Pakistan, particularly the People’s Party, and Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, wanted to get rid of East Pakistan under any circumstances he could. He used his intelligence, he used his ability to argue and many things that he said at that time and not once but many times; slogans like “Idhr Hum, Udhr Tum (Us here, You there)”, “Jo Yahan se wahan jayega mein uski taangein tor dunga (Ill break the legs of anybody who goes to the East Pakistan)”.

It was Bhutto who got the first three National Assembly meetings postponed from President Yahya Khan. And as a consequence, the Bengalis became very unsure of themselves. ‘They understood that the West Pakistani politicians and the military Junta would not hand over power to us.’ Although they had an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, and Sheikh Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman should have become the Prime Minister, but Bhutto was not willing to become the leader of the opposition.

Under all circumstances, he wanted to get rid of East Pakistan, and there is a reason for that. As long as East Pakistan would have remained a part of Pakistan, Bengalis were in the majority. The Punjabis, the Pathans, knew that they could never form the government. It would always be a Bengali federal government. So they wanted to get rid of this, and so they all ganged up. That’s the reason.

Read more: From East Pakistan to Bangladesh: What went wrong?

GVS: Fact or Fiction: Agartala conspiracy?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: The Agartala conspiracy was basically started by India as they wanted to take advantage of the mayhem, which was already developing in East Pakistan because of this language riots. Subsequently, as I told you about the lack of representation and the bureaucracy, even their DIG’s, their IG’s were coming from West Pakistan.

You can imagine that bureaucrats knew nothing about East Pakistan, they knew nothing about Bengali culture, and they were treating the Bengalis like their subjects. So everybody was doing their best to make them demean them, to disrespect them. India took full advantage of that.

It started off in Agartala; is a small town in Assam, very close to the eastern side of East Pakistan, a few kilometers away from the border, where they gathered together a number of times. Sheikh Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman had many meetings with the Intelligence Bureau of India and other agencies, and they wanted to take full advantage of the situation.

This conspiracy was found out by Pakistan in 1967 because an Indian author wrote a book, “The Agartala Doctrine,” which talked in detail about the security threats that India felt because of East Pakistan and the Pakistan Army being present over there, and the NEFA states of India, etc.

The Indians were aware of this thing, and in order to resolve their Eastern frontier security issues, they wanted to separate East Pakistan from a security point of view, but there were other advantages as well that you at least cut Pakistan in half, cut Pakistan to size. This was discovered in 1967.

Eventually, a case was filed, and this case did continue for two years, but in 1969 it had to be withdrawn by the Pakistan government under immense pressure, and Mr. Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman and his 35 accomplices were let go. This is the same kind of thing that the government of Pakistan is superb at doing.

Whether it is the TLP or any other thing, which you are also seeing even now. So, as I’ve always said, and as Asghar Khan wrote his book, we have learned nothing from history. So we have learned nothing from history, and it continues in that manner even now.

Read more: Pakistan – Bangladesh diminishing hope for better ties?

GVS: Fact or Fiction: Army killed 3 million people & raped 200,000 women?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: This whole myth started off as a result of a newspaper article by the name of enemy occupation, which was printed in Pravda. Pravda was the major newspaper of the erstwhile Soviet Union. It was in December, I think 21, that they wrote this piece, in which Pravda said that we estimate that about 3 million people were killed in 1971. Not Bengalis. 3 million people were killed in East Pakistan in 1971.

So it started from there. Sheikh Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman was released by the Government of Pakistan on 8th January. He arrived in Dhaka on10th January. And as he came down the plane, he asked Mr. Tajuddin, who was then the Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Tajuddin, how many people died, because Mr. Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman was in Pakistan during all this period of time he was captured on March 25 and 26 night and he was brought to West Pakistan, and he stayed here.

He had no TV, no radio, no newspapers ever given to him at all. So he asked Tajuddin, Tajuddin, how many people died in East Pakistan in 1971? Tajuddin replied, I don’t know, but I think about three lacs. Mr. Siraj-Ur-Rehman, who was the head of BBC Bangla in Dhaka at that time, reported this in a BBC broadcast that same evening on January 10 1972. Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman was then interviewed on 18th of January 1972 by Mr. David Frost.

He was a very well-known journalist from BBC, and he asked the President Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman, in that interview, Sir, what do you think how many people died in East-Pakistan in last year in 1971? Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman looked left or right; he could not make up his mind; the PRAVDA reporter was sitting there who said sir 3 million and Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman then said 3 million and David Frost then reported this that evening on the BBC on January 18 1972. That is how this myth started.

Then from the very next day, a bickering started between Tajuddin and Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman; Tajuddin said, I told you three lacs. How can you make it 3 million; 3 lacs and 3 million are very different, and they kept on bickering with each other; to stop this bickering, Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman appointed a Commission on January 26, 1972, with 12 people, members coming from the army, border security forces, rangers, police and civil administration and gave them a task which was to figure out how many people died, and how many women were raped.

Till August 10, 1972, they could not find a single mass grave. And the commission was very concerned. They gave an advertisement in the newspaper. Anybody who can tell us as to how many people have died, we’ll give 1000 Taka.

For every victim whose details were given to this commission, they gave 1000 Taka and then a few days later they gave another advertisement that anybody who knows anybody or who can give us any information about any victim of rape we’ll give 3000 Taka; now 3000 Taka at that time was a lot of money I was studying in B.COM part 1 at that time, and I had bought a Honda 175 for 3000 rupees.

The total number of complaints they got was 2680. The total number of victims of killing that they got was 38,000, so they rounded that off to 50,000 killed and 2680 rounded off to 25,000 women raped, and when they presented this to Mujeeb ur Rehman on the 20th of August; he was blooming mad, he threw the report back at the commission and said I asked you to prove 3 million if not 3 million you could have done 300,000.

What is this bloody figure of 50,000? And I’d ask you to prove 200,000 rapes. You would have done 100,000, Maybe 50,000. What is this? So, Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman never referred to this report ever, till he died or was killed in 1975. And from then on, this report was never talked about.

This figure of 3 million and 200,000 women raped was never talked about till Sheikh Haseena Wajid’s government came in 2009-2008. 2009-10 She started off because this had been proved that there was no such thing, and India had taken full advantage of this and ad-nauseum said this to the whole world. So, this is the background is this whole episode.

Read more: How Pakistan was ‘Created & Lost’: A journey of ‘Blood & Tears’

GVS: Lessons in hindsight?

Mr. Junaid Ahmed: We could have appreciated the six-point program; we should have handed over the government to Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman, we should have allowed him to handle the situation. And I think he was a very competent person, and he could have done this in a much better way, but unfortunately, we did not do that.

By the way, we are doing something similar in Balochistan and also in Karachi. Karachi, by far, generates 65 to 70 percent of this country’s revenue. One building in Karachi generates more taxes than all of Lahore. And here is the Prime Minister of Pakistan who goes to Lahore every week and spends an evening or two days or whatever. He, the man, has come to power because of the support that he got from Karachi.

He has not spent a night in Karachi ever since he has come to power. He comes there in the morning or late morning and rushes back in the evening. I don’t know what’s wrong. They have allowed the People’s Party government to play havoc with Karachi. And this is going on and on. I’m glad that some people in Karachi are now beginning to realize this. Everything that the Prime Minister has promised has never been delivered.

But this is not only IK (Imran Khan); it was also MNS (Mian Nawaz Sharif), it was also AZ (Asif Zardari), it was only the Musharraf government that had done some things for Karachi. Before that, again, it will be BB (Benazir Bhutto) two, then NS two, then NS one, then BB one.

All of them have done nothing. So this is something which makes Karachite’s unhappy. You can also see shades of it in Balochistan. And I keep going to Balochistan very frequently; you will be surprised to hear that Gwadar has no water; for last 20 years, we’ve been hearing Gwadar, Gwadar, CPEC, CPEC, what nonsense. You get a tanker of water for 35,000 rupees in Gwadar.

Read more: CPEC Authority Chairman Gen. Asim Bajwa explains challenges ahead

I in DHA Karachi, get water same 3000-gallon water for about 5,500. Thirty-five thousand rupees. Then Gwadar has no electricity. Electricity comes from Iran. What kind of nonsense is this? You could not set up a single power plant and make arrangements for water.

Can you see as to how the federal government of Pakistan is still very Punjab-centric. And it is this hegemonic attitude of Punjab, which already did damage to Pakistan earlier, and this is what they’re doing even now. I have no hesitation in saying this.