CIA records: How Indira Gandhi began offensive against Pakistan in November 1971

Yahya-Indira_Time_December 6, 1971By November 21, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was pursuing a policy of gradually increasing support for the Bengalis. Indian troops had already entered East Pakistan in battalion strength. Her policy was designed to force Pakistani President Yahya to negotiate with the Bengalis on their terms by making his only alternative a military defeat in East Pakistan, ostensibly by the rebels,  but actually with enough Indian help so that the relebels’ success was guaranteed.

Mrs Gandhi was well aware that pursuing this policy would lead to an all-out war with Pakistan, but she was willing to accept this risk. [CIA document created on April 19, 1972]

November 21: The Indians escalated operations in East Pakistan with an attack in the Jessore area, which they later characterized as between brigade and division level.

November 22: Three Pakistani F-86s were shot down–apparently over India–during the Jessore operation.

November 23: President Yahya accused India of aggression and declared a state of emergency. Fighting continued in East Pakistan.


The Indians began attacking in the hill area of East Pakistan.

Indian announced that Indian troops and armor had participated in “defensive” actions inside East Pakistan.

The Pakistanis said they would welcome any big power initiative to end Indian aggression. Islamabad ordered a general military mobilization.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kuznetsov told Ambassador Mean that Moscow was making new efforts to prevent a war in the subcontinent.


Yahya said in a speech that he hoped to avoid a “conflagration” but added that the situation was moving toward “a point of no return.”

November 26: The Indians acknowledged a new “self-defense” thrust into East Pakistan.

Indian President Giri and Foreign Minister Ram said that Pakistan could restore normal relations with India only by releasing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and negotiating with him.

Swaran Singh told Ambassador Keating that he was optimistic that there would not be a full-scale war.

Moscow asked Pakistan to desist from escalating the conflict and come to terms with the bengalis.

Yahya banned the potentially separatist National Awami Party.

November 27: Mrs Gandhi began a series of tours to border areas.

The Indian cabinet turned down the negotiation proposal of JK Atal, the new Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad. In Islamabad, Atal had been encouraged by a talk with Yahya and had hopes of arranging Indo-Pakistani peace negotiations. When he returned to Pakistan, Atal minimized the difficulties he had in home.


November 28: Heavy fighting continued in East Pakistan.


November 29: The pace of fighting in East Pakistan picked up, and the Indians admitted another “defensive” ground strike. There also was considerable guerrilla activity.

Mrs Gandhi returned to New Delhi and expressed her opposition to submitting the Indo-Pakistani problem to the UN.

Chinese Vice Premier Li Hsien-nien accused India of subversive activities and of invading and occupying Pakistani territory. It was the strongest Chinese statement thus far.


Mrs Gandhi, in an address to Parliament, demanded the withdrawal of West Pakistani forces from East Pakistan. She indicated that India would continue to send troops across the border.


একাত্তরে পাকিস্তানকে সাহায্য করতে যুদ্ধবিমান পাঠাতে চেয়েছিল তুরস্ক

একাত্তরের ডিসেম্বরে পাকিস্তানকে সামরিক সহায়তা দিতে আমেরিকা কয়েকটি দেশকে রাজী করিয়েছিল। তাদের মধ্যে সৌদি আরব ও তুরস্ক অন্যতম। 

তাদের মধ্যে তুরস্ক ৬টি এফ-৫ যুদ্ধবিমান পাঠাতে প্রতিশ্রুতি দিয়েছিল। বিমানগুলোতে পাকিস্তানী পাইলট ও চিহ্ন দেওয়ার কথা ছিল। 

অন্যদিকে জর্ডান বলেছিল নিজস্ব ক্রুসহ ৪টি যুদ্ধবিমান দেবে। 

তাছাড়া ইরানের শাহ বলেছিলেন তিনি অস্ত্র ও গোলাবারুদ পাঠাতে পারবেন। [CIA CREST records]
উল্লেখ্য, ভারত ও পাকিস্তানের উপর নিজেদের আরোপিত সামরিক নিষেধাজ্ঞার কারনে পাকিস্তানকে সরাসরি অস্ত্র সহায়তা দিতে পারেনি আমেরিকা। আবার তৃতীয় কোন দেশের মাধ্যমে আমেরিকান অস্ত্র হাতবদল করায় আইনি জটিলতা ছিল। 
ভারত পূর্ব পাকিস্তানকে সাহায্য করায় এবং একই সময়ে কাশ্মীরে হামলা করার কারনে পাকিস্তান নাস্তানাবুদ হয়ে পড়েছিল। এই পরিস্থিতিকে “পাকিস্তানের ধর্ষণ” বলে আখ্যায়িত করে পাকিস্তানের উপর নিষেধাজ্ঞা আরোপের সিদ্ধান্তের ভুল ছিল বলে বারবার আক্ষেপ করছিল কিসিঞ্জার।
তবে রাশিয়া বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধে আমাদের সমর্থন দিয়ে ভারত মহাসাগরে যুদ্ধজাহাজ মোতায়েন করায় পাল্টা জবাব দিতে সপ্তম নৌবহর পাঠিয়েছিল আমেরিকা।

এই কিসিঞ্জারকে বিচারের কাঠগড়ায় দাঁড়াতে হয়নি এখনো, উল্টো নোবেল শান্তি পুরস্কার বাগিয়ে বসে আছে।

বলে রাখা ভালো, পঁচিশে মার্চ শুরু করা অপারেশন সার্চলাইটে স্বাধীনতাকামী বাঙালিদের উপর গণহত্যা চালাতে পাকিস্তানী সেনাবাহিনী আমেরিকান অস্ত্র ব্যবহার করেছিল।

Awami League: Before and after 1971 war, as observed by CIA

On January 17, 2017, the CIA published around 930,000 declassified documents to the standalone CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) system online, some of which are about Bangladesh and erstwhile East Pakistan. Earlier, the records were only accessible in person at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland and through four computer terminals.

Awami League before war:

• Mujib campaigned for six-point programme

• Mujib relied on own instincts, but listens to everyone

• Party’s upper echelon were seasoned politicians

• Well-organised but no successor in the party

• No alternative political force could replace AL

• Mujib favoured restoring ties with India

• India, Soviet Russia were ready to support AL

• Not sympathetic to communist China

• US held in high esteem by several senior leaders

CIA predictions:

• Bangladesh’s future under AL would not be smoother

• Extremist activities may rise

• Economic, social problems could give rise to political chaos

• AL’s unity may not endure due to slow economic progress

• Failure to solve economic problems may lead to Mujib’s ouster

Six months after independence:

• Mujib’s dream of socialist, secular society impeded

• Anti-Mujib sentiment started to grow

• Hunger, joblessness, bereavement and desolation

• Economic hardship tolerable but political stability fragile

• Massive donations by foreign countries, mainly India and USA

• Commodity shortages and inflation worsened

• Much of transport system were not restored

• Distribution of food, other basic supplies hampered

• Over 70 nations recognised in six months

• Main holdouts were Pakistan, China, most Muslim countries

• India and Soviet Union had the greatest influence in Dhaka

‘No leader, party could replace Mujib, AL’

After the 1970 election results, the West Pakistani rulers had been dillydallying to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League. Finding no option but to wage a massive movement for independence, the party supporters started working in the light of six-point charter of demands to garner support of the mass people and strengthen party’s grassroots.

And they succeeded – thanks to the charismatic leadership of Sheikh Mujib and his historic speech of March 7, 1971.Mujib had been campaigning for a constitution based on his six-point programme that would have curtailed the central government’s control over East Pakistan to only defence and foreign affairs.

Also read: Bangladesh before and after 1971 Liberation War

The party was also confident about getting foreign support, notably from India and erstwhile Soviet Russia, in declaring an independent East Pakistan if the West wing wanted to thwart the Awami League’s goal for provincial autonomy, according to a pre-war assessment by CIA published recently.

“Mujib appears for now to be the undisputed leader of East Pakistan. He is most probably the most effective Bengali leader at playing on the one theme uniting the masses of East Pakistan – Bengali nationalism,” the report prepared on March 1, 1971 said.

At that time, tension grew across East Pakistan as then the Pakistan president, Yahya Khan, postponed the assembly’s opening on March 1, only two days before its commencement. The CIA predicted that Bangladesh’s independence was inevitable.

“Today, an independent East Pakistan would begin its existence as essentially a one-party state, that of the AL and Mujibur Rahman,” it said.

But Bangladesh’s future under the rule of Awami League would not be a smoother journey than during the West Pakistan period, the CIA explained, due to years of exploitation and dominance, lack of resources, and burden of unskilled and mostly illiterate population.

The secret document was published six days before Mujib in his historic speech had asked the countrymen to prepare for the final struggle for independence at the Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan) on March 7.

The CIA record, an intelligence memorandum, gave an overview of East Pakistan’s strength and weakness in its economy, agriculture, military and law enforcement, society and politics.

The CIA observed that the economic and social problems were of such magnitude that Bangladesh “could disintegrate into continuing political chaos, the victim of the liabilities it inherited at its birth.”

In such case, the strong unity within Awami League would also collapse, the report said. “The AL would probably manage to maintain its basic unity in the early years of East Pakistani independence. It is not certain that this unity could long endure should the AL fail to solve rapidly East Pakistan’s considerable economic problems,” the CIA said.

Mujib: A man of action

The Awami League was a well-organised party incorporating many disparate groups – ranging from poor peasants to wealthy businessmen and industrialists.

“Mujib, a man of action, appears to rely more on his own instincts than on advice from others. He has numerous advisers and listens to them, but feels no compulsion to act counter to his own inclinations,” the CIA observed.

Mujib_london press
Mujibur Rahman popularly known as Sheikh Mujib gives a press conference at London’s Claridge’s Hotel after his release in January 1972

Most leaders of the Awami League’s upper echelon were lawyers aged around 50. “Generally they have been ‘seasoned’ by years in jail under previous regimes and have emerged as hard-bitten, professional politicians.”

He also had a close group “experts” who were called upon to give advice in areas of their professional competence. But “at present no one has been identified from within the leadership of the AL who could easily succeed Mujib,” the report said.

AL had no alternativeEven though the Awami League had no recent experience in governing, the existing alternatives were “dismal.” The conservative Islamist parties would be “totally incapable of guiding East Pakistan through the maze of problems it would face,” the CIA report said.

Other conservative and moderate political parties had failed in the past and “offer little to East Pakistanis.”

On the left was a “jumble of disunited Communist and other radical groups, split among themselves by their leaders’ personal differences and by different views on the timetable for violent revolution in East Pakistan.”

Nevertheless, it could be one of those groups that many Bangalis might turn in the event of dissatisfaction with the Awami League. The report also warned of rise in extremist activities if the “volatile Bangalees” became disenchanted with the rate of economic progress made under the AL, or “if Mujib were suddenly removed from the political scene.”

In that event “Communist China might find fertile ground for expanding its political influence in an area of considerable strategic significance.”

Mujib favoured restoring trade ties with India and peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes. But there was a growing concern in New Delhi that Mujib’s triumph may give rise to dreams of a greater Bengal, the CIA observed.

“The AL does not appear to be particularly sympathetic to communist China, and some AL leaders seem suspicious of Chinese intentions. The US is apparently held in high esteem by several senior AL leaders.

“At the same time, there have been frequent contacts between Soviet diplomats and AL leaders, and Soviet assistance after the cyclone of 1970 was substantial,” the CIA report said.

Anti-Mujib sentiment started growing soon

Bangabandhu was arrested in the wee hours of March 26, 1971, soon after he delivered the declaration of independence, taken to Pakistan and kept in jail until the end of the war.

He returned to independent Bangladesh on January 10, 1972, and took charges of the government and the party.

But the CIA observed that Bangladesh remained a land of hunger, joblessness, bereavement and desolation six months after the independence, according to an analysis prepared on June 27, 1972.

“The people’s long familiarity with pain and privation” together with “the euphoria of independence, the influence of Mujib, the presence of first Indian forces and now of growing domestic forces” had prevented economic hardship from spilling over uncontrollable disorder, read the intelligence memorandum released by the CIA online in mid-January.

“Political stability remains fragile, however. Anti-government sentiment is beginning to increase and will rise.

“Dominated by Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a charismatic and strong-willed man who commands wide national support, aided by massive donations by foreign countries led by India and the US, Bangladesh has slowly begun to revive, but monumental problems remain.”

But, the CIA found that efforts of the government to “create a functioning socialist, secular society” had been impeded due to lack of resources.

“Epidemic unemployment, commodity shortages and inflation are exacerbated by the scarcity of money, materials and equipment” needed for the revival of agriculture and industrial activity.

“Much of the transport system has yet to be restored to its pre-1971 condition, and the distribution of food and other basic supplies to many parts of the country is consequently badly impaired.”

Until June, Bangladesh was recognised by over 70 nations. “The main holdouts are countries friendly to Pakistan – China and other Asian Communist states, and most of the Muslim countries.”

India and erstwhile Soviet Union – the chief supporters of the independence movement – were the nations with the greatest influence in Dhaka. “India has been Bangladesh’s primary source of assistance and Dacca [Dhaka] is likely to remain heavily dependent on New Delhi for some time,” the report said.

Since the US was a major provider of economic assistance, Mujib’s government “toned down its criticism of American policy and is seeking to maintain as independent an international posture as circumstances allow.”

Though it opposed the birth of Bangladesh, the then US government of Richard Nixon made a U-turn at the fag-end of the war, and recognised Bangladesh on April 4, 1972.

Nixon also sent a message to Bangabandhu informing him that his government wished to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level. It was materialised on May 18 the same year.

Earlier, the US had limited contact with Bangladesh when it was a British colony, but established consular relations on August 29, 1949 after the formation of Pakistan.

CIA CREST records: Bangladesh before and after 1971 Liberation War

On January 17, 2017, the CIA published around 930,000 declassified documents to the standalone CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) system online, some of which are about Bangladesh and erstwhile East Pakistan. Earlier, the records were only accessible in person at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland and through four computer terminals.

Since 1999, the CIA has regularly released its historical declassified records to the CREST system.

The latest documents on Bangladesh – 1,937 posted in December last year and 95 in January – include views of the CIA and the US’ Dhaka embassy about events related to politics, economy and Bangladesh ties with India and other countries. On the other hand, the database includes 857 posts on erstwhile East Pakistan posted in December and 45 in January.

CIA sensed Bangladesh’s independence was inevitable

First published in the Dhaka Tribune on March 8, 2017

As the chances of East Pakistan getting separated from West Pakistan increased sharply following the December 1970 elections which reflected the people’s resistance against exploitation and dominance, the CIA observed in early March that Bangladesh’s future under the rule of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League would not be a smooth journey either.

CIA_logoThe report stated that an independent East Pakistan would begin with some assets, notably in the political realm but also including an ethnically homogenous population.
But it would “face economic problems of staggering proportions because of its dearth of natural resources, its burgeoning population, and its lack of capital, economic infrastructure, and entrepreneurial and technical skills.”

The dominant agricultural sector – mostly dependent on jute – could make little headway unless flood waters were controlled, the CIA said, adding that the process would require considerable capital.

The intelligence memorandum “East Pakistan: An Independent Nation?” dated March 1, 1971 and published online in January this year gives a glimpse of erstwhile East Pakistan’s strength and limitations, from agriculture to industrial growth and poor condition of the Bangalee army men.

The secret document was prepared by the Office of Current Intelligence and coordinated within the Directorate of Intelligence.

Pre-war East Pakistan:
• Population- around 73-75 million, with 90% living in rural areas
• Literacy rate 20%
• Average per capita income about $60 (far below that in West Pakistan and not much higher than the level in 1948)
• 4.3% engaged in small-scale manufacturing industry
• 45% of workforce in jute product manufacturing
• Agricultural sector mostly dependent on jute
• Flood, drought used to strike often
• Private investment 25% of national total
• Capital was in hands of a few wealthy families migrated from Pakistan, India and Myanmar
• Power shortages and frequent outages
• Until 1970, the country had only one gas field in Sylhet
• No easily exploitable coal fields
• Hydroelectric power possibilities were limited
• Rooppur nuclear plant was set to be constructed with the support of Belgium
• In 1965, there were 151 Bangalis in civil service out of 461
• In 1970, only 11 out of 53 Pakistani heads of missions were Bangalees

Economic situation
The rapid population growth was mentioned as the top economic factor in the report estimating the number of people to be 73-75 million in East Pakistan, a land area about the size of Florida or Arkansas, with 90% rural population and 20% literacy rate.

Based on a conservative growth rate, the CIA predicted that the population would be 115m in 1985 and 180m in 2000.

The average per capita income of East Pakistan was about $60, far below that in West Pakistan and not much higher than the level in 1948.

According to the 1961 census, only 4.3% of the East Pakistani labour force was engaged in manufacturing, almost entirely in small-scale industry.

Private enterprise was generally very inefficient in East Pakistan, where “numerous small, uneconomic shops produce similar products, using outdated methods and without sufficient capital for expansion,” the report said.

There had been little private investment in East Pakistan in comparison with the West wing, accounting to about 25% of the national total. Capital was largely in the hands of a few wealthy families who had migrated from Pakistan, India and Myanmar.

Much of the managerial class resident of East Pakistan was “composed of Urdu-speaking Muslim refugees [known as Biharis] from India, who have never been accepted by the Bangalis and who would probably move to West Pakistan if the East wing became independent.”

The CIA underscored the need for more workers with technical skills for the development of an independent East Pakistan.

Jute was the main cash crop at that time while 45% of the total industrial workforce was engaged in manufacturing jute products. But jute products had already started facing competition in the world markets from synthetics, the report said.

The agricultural sector used to face massive setback due to annual flooding and drought, while the country was also subject to high salinity and devastating cyclones. The November 1970 cyclone killed at least 500,000 people in coastal areas.

East Pakistan was also facing power shortages and frequent outages due to lack of mineral resources. Until 1970, the country had only one gas field in Sylhet for power generation and producing fertiliser.

“There are no easily exploitable coal fields in East Pakistan … hydroelectric power possibilities in East Pakistan are limited.” A nuclear power plant was set to be constructed at Rooppur of Pabna with the support of Belgium in five years.
Lack of adequate transport system was another reason behind sluggish growth in East Pakistan.

Civil service and foreign ties
In 1965, there were 151 Bangalees in the civil service out of a nationwide total of 461, the CIA report said, adding: “Under Mujibur Rahman, however, a civil service might not have as great a role to play.”

As of late 1970, only a few government agencies drew as many as half of their employees from East Pakistan. Many Bangalees had held lesser positions in the bureaucracy below the elite civil service level.

In 1970, only 11 out of 53 Pakistani heads of missions were Bangalees.

“Mujib is relatively well travelled and has expressed himself on certain foreign policy aspects. He favours the restoration of trade ties with India and the peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes.

The CIA anticipated that the independence of East Pakistan might give rise to dreams among Bangalees on both sides and concern in New Delhi over the formation of a “Greater Bengal.”

“The AL does not appear to be particularly sympathetic to communist China, and some AL leaders seem suspicious of Chinese intentions,” the CIA document reads.

The US is apparently held in high esteem by several senior AL leaders. At the same time, the report stated, “there have been frequent contacts between Soviet diplomats and AL leaders, and Soviet assistance after the cyclone of 1970 was substantial.”

East Pakistan had many pro-Pakistani army officers

First published in the  on March 9, 2017

The strength of the army posted in East Pakistan in early 1971 was dismal – largely disorganised and badly equipped, but the mindset of most of the officers being pro-Pakistani exacerbated the situation as the country was heading towards the final struggle for freedom at that time.

Less than 10% of the 350,000- strong military establishment were East Pakistanis, and without the resources to improve soon.

Only about 5% of the officers were East Pakistanis, “Many of them might well opt to stay with West Pakistan,” the CIA said in a report dated March 1, 1971, describing the strength and weakness of an independent Bangladesh.

The intelligence memorandum titled “East Pakistan: An Independent Nation?” was made public recently.

The CIA found that almost half of the East Pakistan army officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the East Bengal Regiment were not actually Bangalees.

They were “immigrants or descendants of immigrants from other parts of the subcontinent.”

The highest ranking East Pakistani army officer was Lt Gen Khwaja Wasiuddin, one of the very few to reach general officer or flag rank.

“General Wasiuddin, for example, is descended from Kashmiris,” the report said.

The CIA anticipated that in the regular army, only the battalions of the East Bengal Regiment would presumably revert to Bangladesh as complete units.

Retired army_Rashid Talukder_Muktijuddho E-Archive Trust
Retired army personnel gather at Outer Stadium in Dhaka in 1971. Photo: Rashid Talukder. Source: Muktijuddho E-Archive Trust

Khwaja Wasiuddin was born in Dhaka’s Nawab family on March 20, 1920. His mother Farhat Banu was a niece of Nawab Sir Salimullah.

According to Banglapedia, during the War of Liberation in 1971 Khwaja Wasiuddin was interned in West Pakistan. He returned to Bangladesh in 1974. He was initially appointed as the ambassador of Bangladesh to Kuwait and in 1976 as ambassador to France. He retired from the army in 1977.

He was appointed as permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and continued in this position till 1986.

Lack of equipment was another weakness, the CIA observed. “East Pakistan might end up with no more heavy equipment than five PT76 tanks, and even a distribution on current planned levels would give it a most two fighter squadrons, a few small patrol vessels, a minimum of armour.

“A system of STOL aircraft transport is presently in its infancy in East Pakistan,” the CIA document read.

On the other hand, independent Bangladesh was supposed to inherit the 10,000-men East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) which had internal security, anti-smuggling, and border patrol missions.

There was also an estimated 800,000-man Ansars (helpers) force that has helped the police when needed.

But of the Ansars, only 1 lakh had “received any training and only 50,000 participate in the activities regularly,” the CIA said.

Moreover, the East Pakistan provincial police had an almost entirely Bangalee force numbering about 32,000.

The Pakistani Army had attacked Peelkhana and Rajarbagh Police Lines simultaneously, as planned, at the beginning of the Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971, with an aim to disarming the EPR and the police since those were the key sources of armed strength of the Awami League.

‘The showdown cannot be put off much longer’

First published in the Dhaka Tribune on August 7, 2017

Awami League supremo Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made his most inspiring speech on March 7, 1971, demanded unconditional transfer of power and urged people to launch an all-out movement against the oppressive West Pakistan rulers, making his stance clear to the world – he wanted independence.

Bangabandhu’s speech, considered to be his unofficial proclamation of independence, came as a response to then president Yahya Khan’s announcement on March 6 of a new date of the national assembly.

Yahya’s U-turn apparently meant to tame down the Bangalis who had been aroused by his previous suspension order given a week ago and the army killings amid a countrywide curfew.

But Yahya had his evil plan: he appointed Punjabi General Tikka Khan as the governor of East Pakistan and started reinforcing military in the province.

The first major evacuation of foreigners from East Pakistan had already begun because of the fresh reinforcement and following press reports that clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Khulna resulted in 18 deaths and 86 wounded, according to a CIA intelligence memorandum prepared on March 7, 1971.

Although Dhaka was quiet and the dawn-to-dusk curfew had been lifted, curfews remained in effect in other East Pakistani cities.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Islamabad felt that the recent events – Mujib’s and Yahya’s speeches – had “averted an immediate shutdown, but that the next few days will tell whether the military decides it has had enough – which could mean a crackdown and the arrest of Mujib and others – or whether it still believes there is a chance to negotiate.”

The officials observed that the events of March 6-7 had not altered the basic elements.
“Bengalis appear bent on a degree of autonomy which the Pakistani military (and probably Bhutto) are unable to swallow. The question now is whether Yahya or Mujib will blink first – or whether neither will blink. The showdown cannot be put off much longer,” another declassified document prepared on March 8 reads.

Bangabandhu_March 7 speech_Syed Zakir Hossain
Portrait of Bangabandhu delivering his historic March 7 speech. Photo by Syed Zakir Hossain

“The embassy feels that Mujib’s goal – emancipation of East Pakistan – remains unchanged, but that Mujib may no longer believe this can be obtained through his programme of provincial autonomy.”

The officials predicted that Mujib might plan to achieve independence and “try to take over power gradually to avoid a direct confrontation with the military.”

Yahya tried to suppress speech

Mujib did not announce the secession of East Pakistan in his much-heralded speech before a large rally at the then Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Udyan), instead he demanded an end to martial law and the transfer of power to popularly elected representatives in East Pakistan – as a precondition – to consider attending the national assembly scheduled for March 25.

“He also demanded the return of troops to their barracks and inquiries in the East Wing during the recent period of violence,” reads the CIA memo dated March 7, 1971.

“East Pakistani leader Mujibur Rahman’s speech indicates his tone was tougher than previously reported,” it adds.

Mujib also criticised Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the largest party in West Pakistan – Pakistan People’s Party.

Meanwhile, the authorities of erstwhile East Pakistan initially tried to prevent widespread public knowledge of parts of his speech, the memo says. “But the martial law authorities later relented and permitted a recorded version to be broadcast.”

Around a half-million people attended the rally.

In addition to announcing a 10-point non-cooperation programme, Mujib made scathing attacks on West Pakistanis, particularly the army and the “Punjabi ruling coterie.”

Punjabis are the largest group in West Pakistan and have been accused of exploiting not only the Bangalis of East Pakistan but also non-Punjabi West Pakistanis, the CIA document says.

The CIA identified Lt Gen Tikka Khan, the new governor of East Pakistan, as a “highly respected” West Pakistani, who was considered a “tough but fair officer with a pragmatic approach to problems.”

Tikka Khan outranked the martial law administrator for the East Wing, Lt Gen Yaqub Khan.

Prominent West Pakistani political leaders welcomed Yahya’s call for the meeting of the national assembly on March 25.

On the other hand, Bhutto “reversed his previous position” and announced his willingness to attend the session. “His earlier refusal to attend the session originally scheduled for March 3 helped trigger the crisis of the past week,” the CIA had observed.

USAID fund was diverted to pay razakars

First published in the Dhaka Tribune on January 24, 2017

A CIA declassified document released online last week suggests that the then East Pakistan authorities were diverting USAID contributions to pay the salaries of razakars who collaborated with the Pakistani Army to commit crimes against humanity during the 1971 Liberation War.

The notorious razakar (volunteer in English) force was formed with the members of Jamaat-e-Islami, a religion-based party that opposed the birth of Bangladesh, across the country.

They assisted the Pakistani occupation forces in finding and killing freedom fighters, Awami League supporters and Hindus. The razakars also took Bangalee women to the army camps, and looted the houses and businesses before torching them during operations.

“A USAID officer reported overhearing a conversation between two East Pakistan officials, one of whom noted that public relief funds were being used to pay the salaries of the razakars – local individuals hired as police by the martial law administration,” according to a Central Intelligence Bulletin created on September 28, 1971.

“There have been unsupported allegations earlier to this effect,” the top secret document reads. The public relief programmes were heavily subsidised by the US; for example, some $10 million has been supplied to a “test” relief programme as part of the overall relief programme of $136m for East Pakistan, it adds.

In the eyes of the average Bangalee citizen, the bulletin states, the razakars and the Pakistani Army were the most unpopular elements in the East wing.

This photo from 1971 shows the identity card of a razakar named Hossain Ahmad based in Dhaka. Photo Collection Source: Muktijuddho e-Archive Trust

According to Bangladesh war crimes trial documents, the first unit of the razakar force was formed by Jamaat leader AKM Yusuf on May 5, 1971 with 96 members of Jamaat in Khulna.

He started gathering people for the force on April 18. The Pakistan government recognised the force through a gazette notification on August 2 that year. Yusuf was also the regional chief of anti-liberation force Peace Committee. The Jamaat leader died in the midway of the war crimes case against him in February 2014.

Apart from the razakar force, Jamaat formed peace committees across the country with its members and others from different Islamist parties, and the notorious militia forces al-Badr with the members of its student wing who carried out systematic abduction and murder of hundreds of intellectuals.

Most of the top Jamaat leaders have been convicted by special tribunals dealing with the 1971 war crimes, while five of them including al-Badr kingpin Motiur Rahman Nizami were hanged after the end of legal procedure.

Houses, rail-road were heavily hit by 1971 war

First published in the Dhaka Tribune on January 24, 2017

Apart from carrying out genocide and rape in a mass scale, the Pakistani Army also burnt to ashes most of the rural households and destroyed the country’s rail communications during the 1971 Liberation War, according to a declassified CIA document released Tuesday.

Damage from the nine-month-long war that claimed around 3 million lives and forced over 10 million people to take refuge in India was visible during the USA’s first photographic coverage of independent Bangladesh.

A damage observation report prepared by the National Photographic Interpretation Centre and published on May 1, 1972 also covers brief of the war-torn country’s surface transportation systems, power plants, airfields, airports and military installations.

Bridge Blown Away
A photo from Bangladesh war zone in 1971. Photographer unknown

The “top secret” report, however, describes December 1971 as the month of war and labels the period between March and November as “pre-war civil disturbances in East Pakistan.”

The war had greatest effect on transportation system while completely destroying some 20 railway bridges and 12 major highway bridges disrupting communication on the ground. The rail tracks between Dhaka and Chittagong were left unserviceable by the damage to five bridges.

“Access to major ports on the Passur River has possibly been restricted by the sinking of five merchant vessels near Chalna [a port in Khulna],” the report says.

The damage to residential establishments in Dhaka had been “very extensive since March 1971.” Some houses had been repaired in January 1972 in the newer sections of the city but the destroyed dwellings in the older part could not be rebuilt during the time of the observation.

“A considerable amount of civilian housing, especially in small villages and isolated settlements throughout East Pakistan, was apparently destroyed by fire with only charred foundations remaining,” according to the observers’ note.

Limited damage was observed at three major military installations, 13 airfields and the Dhaka airport, while the industrial and manufacturing facilities had suffered little structural damage. All utilities appeared externally undamaged, except for a small diesel-run power plant and a thermal power plant.

Pakistan has never apologised for the war-time atrocities, and also refrained from trying the 195 Army officials detained as prisoners of war as per the 1974 tri-nation treaty.

According to widely believed assessment, Bangladesh faced a loss of over $1 billion in terms of damages to properties in the war.

Moreover, according to government estimates, Pakistan owes Bangladesh Tk18,000 crore in various heads including $2.16bn – half of the wartime foreign reserve of undivided Pakistan – and $200m as relief for the coastal people hit by a deadly cyclone in November 1970 that killed around 500,000 people.

Where’s the list of martyred intellectuals?


Nearly 44 years after independence, we’ve no official list of the noted professionals who had been killed by the Pakistani military with the help of local collaborators, mainly al-Badr, for campaigning for the birth of Bangladesh. They were serving the freedom fighters and supporting the war staying in Dhaka through their professions.

We’ve witnessed trial of top collaborators behind the systematic killing of intellectuals and execution of one of the war criminals.


But two others are staying abroad and there has been no progress in the government’s effort to bring them back from the US and the UK.

We’ve built two memorials for the martyrs but failed to ensure proper atmosphere. There’s no museum or centre for research on the worst massacre during the nine-month-long war. We don’t have enough evidence on the killings in films and documentaries.

In 2015, We don’t have a vibrant, brave and patriot civil society to fight against the evils within and beyond border.

সাকা একটা জঘন্য দানবের নাম

সর্বশেষ বিএনপির নেতা সালাউদ্দীন কাদের চৌধুরী অনেক সাংবাদিক ও দলীয় সমর্থকের কাছে অত্যন্ত জনপ্রিয় ব্যক্তি ছিল। কারন তার কথা বলার ধরণ ও নানাবিধ শব্দের ব্যবহার যা প্রকাশ্যে উচ্চারণ করা আপত্তিকর। সেজন্যে সাংবাদিকরা তার হাত থেকে টাকা নিয়ে তার বাসায় বসে সংবাদ সম্মেলন কাভার করলেও, সেসব কথা/চিত্র পত্রিকা বা টিভিতে প্রকাশের আগে দশবার ভাবতে হতো সম্পাদকদের।

চট্টগ্রামে স্থানীয় নেতা-কর্মীদের মধ্যেও তার জনপ্রিয়তা অনেক, বিশেষ করে টাকার জন্য। টাকার সাপ্লাই থাকলে তারা রাস্তায় প্রতিবাদ সমাবেশ, মিছিল ও ভাংচুর চালাবে। এখন হয়তো টাকা নাই, তাই নেতাকে রক্ষা করতে কোন পদক্ষেপ দেখা যাচ্ছেনা।

এটা ঠিক যে সাকা ভয়ানক ধূর্ত একটা মানুষরূপী জানোয়ার। সুতরাং তার দ্বারা যেকোন কিছু করাই সম্ভব।

২০১০ সালে গ্রেপ্তারের আগে পর্যন্ত তার ধারণা ছিল তার বিচার কেউ করতে পারবেনা। যেহেতু এত বছর পারেনি। টাকা আর রাজনৈতিক ক্ষমতা ব্যবহার করে মিথ্যার চাদরে ১৯৭১ সালের কর্মকান্ড ঢেকে রেখেছিল বহু বছর।

আর যখন বিচার শুরু হয়েই গেলো তখন প্রতি পদে পদে বাধা সৃষ্টি করে জীবন রক্ষার চেষ্টা চালালো সাকা, তার পরিবার ও আইনজীবীরা। টাকার খেলা যে বেশ জমেছে তার একটা বড় প্রমান হলো যুদ্ধাপরাধের অভিযোগে সাকার বড় ভাই গিয়াসউদ্দীন কাদের চৌধুর্বীর বিরুদ্ধে আনীত অভিযোগের তদন্ত না করা। তার নাম তদন্ত দলের তালিকাতে থাকলেও তা নিয়ে কাজ করেনি ট্রাইব্যুনালের তদন্ত দল। এ বিষয়ে তদন্ত দল পুরোপুরি স্বাধীন। কোন আদালত বা আইনজীবী তাদেরকে আদেশ দিতে পারেনা। শুধু সরকার পারে।

নানা বাহানায় সাকার এই মামলার বিচার প্রক্রিয়া পেছানো হয়েছিল। চেষ্টা থেমে থাকেনি কখনো। সর্বশেষ আপীল বিভাগের রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে পূনর্বিবেচনার আবেদনের সাথে দেয়া পাঞ্জাব বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের সনদ ও প্রত্যয়ন পত্র ভুয়া বলে প্রমানিত হয়। এর আগে ৫জন পাকিস্তানীর লিখিত বক্তব্য জমা দেয় সাকার আইনজীবীরা। এদের বক্তব্যেও অনেক অসঙ্গতি ধরা পড়ে।

Hindu-hater SQ Chowdhury’s falsehood: I was in Pakistan

মামলার শুরু থেকেই নানাভাবে আদালত ও রাষ্ট্রপক্ষের আইনজীবীদের হেয় করাই ছিল সাকার প্রতিদিনকার মূল কাজ।

সে বিরক্ত করতে পেরেছিল। এমনকি বিভিন্ন সময়ে সাবধান করে দেবার পরেও তার আচরণে কোন পরিবর্তন আসেনি। হয়তো সে বুঝে গিয়েছিল যে পালাবার আর পথ নেই, সুতরাং নাটকীয়তাই অটুট থাকুক। পাবলিক এসব খুব খায়।

প্রথম সাক্ষী হিসেবে নিজে বক্তব্য দিলেও সাকা কখনো পাঞ্জাব বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের কোন সনদ বা প্রত্যয়ন পত্র দেখাতে পারেনি। এমনকি আপীল শুনানীতেও না। একদম শেষ পর্যায়ে দিলেও দেখা গেলো সেসব কাগজ-পত্র আসলে ভুয়া।

খারাপ মানুষের লজ্জা নাই, যেমন নাই সাকা কিংবা তার আইনজীবী খন্দকার মাহবুব হোসেনের।

দিন বদলায়, মানুষ বদলায়। কিন্তু তাই বলে চরিত্রের বড় পরিবর্তন এমনি এমনি আসেনা। সেটা হয় স্বদিচ্ছা থাকলেই।

বদলে গেছেন খন্দকার মাহবুব। তিনি ১৯৭২ সালে দালাল আইনের আওতায় গঠিত ৭২টি ট্রাইব্যুনালের একজন সরকারি আইনজীবী। এখন তিনি জামায়াত ও বিএনপির যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের পক্ষে আদালতে লড়ছেন এবং শতশত মিথ্যা দিয়ে সত্যকে ঢাকার চেষ্টা করছেন।

২০১৩ সালের পহেলা অক্টোবর ট্রাইব্যুনাল যখন সাকাকে মৃত্যুদন্ড দেয়, তখন সে এক সংবাদ সম্মেলনে যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিচার প্রক্রিয়ার সাথে সম্পৃক্ত সবার বিচার করা হবে মর্মে হুমকি দেন। পরে ক্ষমা চেয়ে আদালত অবমাননার দায় থেকে মুক্তি পান এই গিরগিটি সদৃশ আইনজীবী।

এমন আরেকজন ডেভিড বার্গম্যান, যিনি দুই যুগ আগে ব্রিটেনে পলাতক যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিচারের আওতায় আনার জন্য নির্মিত তথ্যচিত্রের পেছনে কাজ করেছেন। কিন্তু এই সময়ের মধ্যে পরিস্থিতি অনেক বদলে গেছে। ড. কামালের মেয়ের সাথে তার বিয়ে হয় এবং ২০০৭ থেকে তিনি বাংলাদেশে অবস্থান করে নিউ এজ-সহ বেশ কয়েকটি পত্রিকায় কাজ করেছেন।

আর তার প্রধান কাজ হলো যুদ্ধাপরাধের বিচারিক প্রক্রিয়া “নিরপেক্ষভাবে” পর্যালোচনা করা। মানে ট্রাইব্যুনাল ও দেশের বিচারিক ব্যবস্থার ব্যবচ্ছেদ করা। মানে দোষ ধরা। মানে সরকারবিরোধী অবস্থানে থেকে বিচার প্রক্রিয়াকে বাধাগ্রস্ত করা। তার সর্বশেষ বোমাটি ছিল পাকিস্তানি ৫জনের বক্তব্য নিলে আদালত হয়তো সাকাকে মুক্তি দিতো!

আগেই বলেছি সেইসব বক্তব্য অসামঞ্জস্যপূর্ণ। তাই আমি আসলে আলোচনা করবো সাকা যে আসলে বাংলাদেশেই ছিল এবং গনহত্যা, অপহরণ ও নির্যাতন করেছিল তা প্রমান করা।

“২৯শে মার্চ, ১৯৭১ থেকে ২০শে এপ্রিল, ১৯৭৪ পর্যন্ত আমি পাকিস্তান ছিলাম। আমার বিরুদ্ধে আনা সব অভিযোগ মিথ্যা,” ট্রাইব্যুনালে এমন দাবী করলেও প্রমাণ করতে পারেনি সাকা চৌধুরী।

অন্যদিকে সরকারপক্ষ কয়েকটা তথ্য-প্রমাণ হাজির করে এবং ১৪জন সাক্ষীর মাধ্যমে প্রমাণ করে যে সাকা আসলে পাকিস্তান গিয়েছিল সেপ্টেম্বরে, মার্চ মাসে নয়। সেইসব তথ্যের মধ্যে ছিল দৈনিক পাকিস্তানের ২৯শে সেপ্টেম্বর সংখ্যার একটি খবর ও ২রা অক্টোবরের স্পেশাল ব্রাঞ্চের একটি প্রতিবেদন, যেখানে বলা হয়েছে ২২শে সেপ্টেম্বর রাতে মুক্তিযোদ্ধাদের আক্রমনে সাকার গাড়ির ড্রাইভার নিহত হয় এবং সাকা মারাত্মক আহত হয়।

এসব তথ্য-প্রমাণের উপর ভিত্তি করে ট্রাইব্যুনাল এই সিদ্ধান্তে উপনীত হয় যে সাকা আসলে দেশেই ছিল এবং সেপ্টেম্বরের শেষে তার জন্মস্থান পাকিস্তানে চলে যায়।

সাকার লোক ট্রাইব্যুনালের কর্মচারীদের টাকা দিয়ে হাত করে আদালতের চেয়ারম্যানের কম্পিউটার থেকে রায়ের খসড়া কপি চুরি করে ধরা পড়েছে। আবার সাকার বন্ধু সৈয়দ ওয়াহিদুল আলমের আইনজীবী মেয়ে ধরা খেলো জঙ্গি গ্রুপ হামজা ব্রিগেডকে অর্থ দিতে গিয়ে।

কদিন পরে শুনবো সাকার পরিবারের লোকজন, বিশেষ করে ছেলে হুম্মাম কাদের, টাকা দিয়ে লোক ভাড়া করে বিদেশী ও পুলিশের উপর হামলা-খুন, তাজিয়া মিছিলে গ্রেনেড হামলা ইত্যাদি কর্মকান্ড করেছে।

অসম্ভব না। এই জানোয়ারটাকে দিয়ে সব খারাপ কাজই করা সম্ভব।

কিছুদিন আগে দুইটা মামলার অগ্রগতি জানতে জয়দেবপুর ও চট্টগ্রামের পুলিশের সাথে যোগাযোগ করেছিলাম। কাশিমপুর কারাগারে সাকার খেদমতে নিযুক্ত এক বন্দীকে যৌন নিগ্রহ করায় তার বাবা একটি মামলা করেন জয়দেবপুর আদালতে। থানার কর্মকর্তাদের মতে সাকার পরিবার সেই বিষয়টি আদালতের বাইরেই মিটমাট করে ফেলেছে।

আরেকটি ঘটনা হলো সাকার মামলার একজন সাক্ষীর রহস্যজনক মৃত্যু।তার নাম সৈয়দ ওয়াহিদুল আলম জুনু। চট্টগ্রামের খুলশী ও বায়েজিদ থানার কোন অফিসারই মামলাটির বিষয়ে কোন ধারণা দিতে পারেননি।

Hindu-hater SQ Chowdhury’s falsehood: I was in Pakistan

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He was very much present in Bangladesh

War criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury claimed at the International Crimes Tribunal that he had been in erstwhile West Pakistan during March 29, 1971–April 20, 1974 to dismiss all the charges brought against him by the prosecution. The three defence witnesses echoed him.

However, the tribunal in its verdict on October 1, 2013 mentioned that the defence had “miserably failed to prove its plea by documentary evidence that the accused stayed in West Pakistan during whole period of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.”

Despite this, Salauddin’s counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain mentioned about the same information during hearing on the appeal at the Supreme Court against the death penalty given by the tribunal to seek acquittal of his client.

An influential former BNP lawmaker from Raozan of Chittagong, Salauddin testified at the tribunal as the first defence witness and claimed that he had not been present at the time when the occurrences took place in Chittagong.

Salauddin said he had gone to West Pakistan to take higher education at Punjab University. To prove his statement, he placed three witnesses – Nizamuddin, his schoolfriend, Qaiyum Reza Chowdhury, his first cousin, and Abdul Momen Chowdhury, husband of Qaiyum’s wife’s sister. Salman F Rahman was also made a witness, but he avoided appearing before the tribunal by staying in Saudi Arabia at that time.

Qaiyum claimed that he had dropped Salauddin at Tejgaon Airport on March 29, 1971 for flying to Karachi. Momen stated that in 1971, he had met Salauddin at the office of his batch-mate Ashiqur Rahman for the first time.

But their statement was considered contradictory by the tribunal since Qaiyum said he had met Momen at Ashiqur’s office but Momen said he met Qaiyum at his residence. “The above contradiction as to place of meeting between the witnesses is not ignorable which has, at least, weakened the plea of alibi.

Moreover, the tribunal verdict states that the defence did not produce any travel or residential documents to show the date of so-called visit to West Pakistan and staying therein during the war.

It says that the defence submitted some documents before it, in violation of the law, at the fag end of defence argument and “intentionally refrained from proving those documents by recalling defence witnesses.”

On the other hand, the tribunal considered the prosecution documents placed to prove that Salauddin had all along present at his father’s residence named Goods Hill at Chittagong during the war.

The investigation officer of the case submitted a paper clipping of the daily Pakistan dated September 29, 1971 that says the son of Fazlul Quader sustained severe injury in an attack by miscreants on the car while the driver was killed. He was provided treatment in hospital.

Then deputy inspector general of Special Branch in East Pakistan in a fortnightly report of political situation, prepared on October 2, mentioned: “On September 20, 1971 evening, rebels fired at the car of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury…They also threw a hand grenade in front of the car. Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was injured and his driver was [sic] killed.”

To substantiate the occurrence, the prosecution examined one doctor who had been on duty at Chittagong Medical College Hospital in 1971. Dr AKM Shafiullah, then assistant registrar at Surgical Unit 1, said around 10/10:30pm in late September, on getting a call from his ward, he rushed to the hospital and saw there many people including army and police.

He also saw Salauddin sustaining severe injury in his leg was lying in a bed. He said Salauddin had been given proper treatment from their hospital and thereafter heard that he had been taken to Dhaka or abroad for better treatment. Dr Shafiullah also identified Salauddin in the dock.

The tribunal found the prosecution submissions as “most authenticated and reliable evidence to hold that accused Salauddin Quader Chowdhury was very much present in Bangladesh during the War of Liberation. Thus, the above mentioned unshaken evidence have totally destroyed the plea of alibi taken by the defence.”

Besides these evidence, 14 prosecution witnesses testified at the tribunal that they had seen Salauddin accompanied by the Pakistan Army and razakars.

In order to commit genocide, they had directed attacks upon the unarmed people of Hindu community of different villages of the locality while some of the witnesses had seen him at Goods Hill while they were abducted and tortured therein.

The People’s Inquiry Commission, formed in 1995 by Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee under the leadership of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam, also mentioned about the presence of Salauddin at Goods Hill based on a Dainik Bangla report published on January 8, 1972.

The report said: “Hundreds of students were tortured at Goods Hill and on July 17, 1971, student leader Faruq was killed by Salauddin Quader. From March 26 until December 16, there was always a platoon the occupation army deployed in the Goods Hill.”