Hilli-Bogra Sector: 205 Brigade: East Pakistan 1971 War

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Naveed Tajammal

AbbujanThis short article is dedicated to the everlasting memory of the men of 205 Brigade[ Hilli-Bogra Sector] Pakistan Army, who fought & fell fighting the Indians in East Pakistan, in the 1971 war.
Of late much has been written on the subject of the fall of Dacca,a grave misconception exists that Pakistan Army buckled under the Indian Invasion without putting up a fight,Hence it is to clear this, that this article has been written.
My father after remaining in Command of 54 Brigade in Sialkot for two years was in October 1971 posted to GHQ as the Director Staff Duties, a much coveted post in those days,In early November 1971 the War was imminent,new units were being raised and hectic preparations had started for an all out War with India,my father was never a chair-borne soldier and hated the uniformed babu’s,so he requested the CGS [Chief of General Staff] that he be given a command of a Brigade,in view of the looming war,CGS showed his helplessness,and said, that it was beyond his powers to do so,however the Chief of Staff could, should he so wished too,my father put in a request to seek a personal interview,which was arranged.General Hamid told my father that there was No vacancy on the Western Front however should he volunteer to go to East Pakistan,it was possible,as most of the officers being posted to East Pakistan were reporting sick or using their contacts to get their postings cancelled,and there was a queue of officers in East Pakistan awaiting to be sent back to West Pakistan,my father without any hesitation said he would like to volunteer to go to East Pakistan,shortly after the interview my father received a call from the staff officer to the Military Secretary [MS] that he was being posted to East Pakistan on his request,and his formal posting orders were being typed.
On 17th November 1971,my father reached Dacca,on 18th Nov,General Nazar hussain his new GOC [General Officer Commanding] 16 Division who was visiting the Corps HQ at Dacca took him to Bogra in his helicopter,soon after the same day General Niazi too arrived in Bogra as he was visiting all the new units which had been flown in from West Pakistan,and given their new locations,and met my father,who was to take over the 205 brigade,on 19th November my father started his first official visit of the units under his new command,but by mid-day orders from Corps HQ had been received that a helicopter was on its way to collect my father back to Dacca,he reached late in evening and met the COS eastern command Brig.Baqar Siddique and inquired the reason of his recall,who informed him that Commander Eastern Command,Would like to see him urgently,as he had some other task in mind which he wanted to entrust my father with.So my father went over to the Flag Staff House and met General Niazi,and asked him,why he had been called back,General Niazi told my father that they had intelligence reports that India was launching its offensive Tomorrow i.e 20th November,and so i have called you back to remain in reserve for some other operational task,my father told him,’Sir after having an interview with the Chief of Staff I have come as a volunteer to Command a fighting brigade and if Not required I be sent back forthwith to West Pakistan or be allowed to take command of the Brigade allotted to myself.General Niazi in his usual style remarked ‘Shera,I know you well, I wanted you for some other important Task,but If india does not attack tonight you can go back to Bogra and take over your command tomorrow morning,next day my father met General Niazi and reminded him of his words,so immediately a helicopter was put at my fathers disposal to take him to Bogra,it was around Mid-Day 20th November 1971 that my father took command of his 205 Brigade officially.The purpose of these dates and conversations given above was inform the reader that,what a short time my father had to prepare his units and plan his defences,on the same day he visited 4 FF forward defences ,at Hilli ,and subsequently other units of his command i.e  8 Balluch and 13 FF.
On the night 23/24 November 1971,20 Mountain Indian Division launched its first attack on my fathers Brigade positions.
It would be pertinent to note that under the command of Major-General.Lachhman Singh,who was the opposing Commander,fighting my fathers 205 Brigade,had Four indian Infantry Brigades 202,165,66 &340,one armoured brigade [3rd armour brigade] one engineer Brigade[471] and the 20 Mountain Division artillery augmented by 33 Corps reserves beside the  6 BSF[Indian border security forces] and Mukhti-Bahini battalions.
The ratio of manpower needs no further elaboration,General.Lachhman Singh writes in his book ‘Indian Sword Strikes in East Pakistan’-page 34,”On the other hand most of the senior officers took no risk and surrendered as soon as a threat developed to their Head Quarters or to their lives.Brigadier Tajammul was the sole exception,He showed fanatical will to fight,even at the cost of his life…..on page 143 of his book,General Lachhman states,..”by about 0830 hrs 16 December 1971,Commanding Officer 80 Field Regiment ,Brigade-Major 205 Brigade,GSO-3,and 50 jawans of the Brigade Head Quarter surrendered to our troops.The Brigade Major gave information that their Brigade Commander with his Orderly and a couple of Officers had decided to break out of encircled Bogra fortress,and join one of their Brigade units at Naogoan’.However He was caught by mukhti-Bahini a few kilo-meters  outside Bogra….He was in uniform with his badges of ranks and mukhti-bahini realized that he was a important man-He was badly beaten with his wrists broken along with fingers and his head was bandaged,when on 17 December 1971 he was brought before me.”
General Sukhwant Singh commenting on the performance of 205 Brigade wrote in his book,”The Liberation of Bangladesh” new dehli 1979.”It was the only battle Indian Army fought to reduce the Pakistani fortress in the entire Bangladesh operation,This operation demonstrated to the indians the futility of attacking Pakistani Fortresses…”
General Niazi commenting on the performance of 205 Brigade,has this to say in his book,’The Betrayal Of East Pakistan’ oxford press.1998-page 140;”…One Pakistani Brigade crippled 20 Mountain Division which was backed by tremendous Artillery and Air fire power,20 Division consisted of 5 brigades and one tank brigade,six BSF and the mukhti-bahini forces,they were supported by  divisional and corps artillery,and they had complete Air Supremacy,with No Pakistani aircraft to counter them,our positions were attacked by indian aircraft several times a day,Indian General Sukhwant singh admits that five of Lieut-General Thapan’s brigades were laying Siege to the Hilli Fortress”.
And lastly General Niazi adds in his book,page-145,with reference to the war performance of my father,that,”Brigadier.Tajammal Hussain Malik,had volunteered to fight in East Pakistan,I wanted to keep him for the Defence of Dacca,but he insisted on going to a front-line brigade.He was sent to 205 brigade under General Nazar.I had full faith in him as a good commander and a brave leader.He had proved his mettle in the 1965 War.He displayed the qualities of a true soldier of Islam and gave the toughest battle to the Indians.I Recommended him for the award of ,”Nishan e Haider”,but GHQ ignored him and his Heroic deeds as many chair-bound soldiers and sycophants had to be catered for.I insisted on his promotion to Major-General as some people were afraid of him,because of his unflinching faith in Islam.He was promoted and became the only Brigadier from East Pakistan to attain this rank’.
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  • Adeel  On December 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Too short an article to do justice to the bravery of these men of 205 Brigade, and their commander, who needs no introduction, to any serving or retired army officer.
    Unfortunately these epic tales of valour were and still are, eclipsed by the magnification of the surrender at Dacca.
    These are stories of military men doing and going beyond the call of duty, while the surrender was political. Something that coming generations need to to be able to differentiate between.


  • ahmad raza  On December 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    there are few other examples.. true soldiers of islam & pakistan.

    Brigadier Saadullah khan(gold medalist pakistan movement) had an outstanding military career.He passed out of the military academy with the Sword of Honor and was considered among the best officers of his generation.During the civil war in East Pakistan he had a policy of zero tolerance for those under his command charged with any offense having to do with harassing the civilian population.He was one of the few senior Pakistani officers to be genuinely respected by the Bengalis.For courage during a military operation he was recommended for Pakistan’s highest gallantry award,but because tradition has reserved this only for the dead,he had to be satisfied with second-highest.In Baluchistan he was most effecitive in dealing with the hostiles who had taken to the hills.It was his standard practice to have a vehicle full of rations follow him when traversing the countryside,to be distributed amoung the families of teh men who were fighting the Pakistan Army.He believed this wasa teh only way of winning the civil war.This gained him the respect and the confidence of the hostiles. who surrendered to him in increasing numbers.Unfortunately,this also gained him the envy of his peers,some of whom had good connections with General Headquarters(GHQ) of the army.One evening the brigadier received a signal terminating his service without assigning any reason.He was asked to hand over his command within twenty-four hours.It was Zia who had recommeneded this action to Bhutto on the grounds that the Brigadier was a deeply religious officer,and thereofore someone to be wary of.Brigadier Saadullah Khan was indeed deeply religious.He was a practicing Sufi.All his time was divided between prayers and the profession,but he sternly disallowed any discussion on any aspect of religion,believing this to be a matter strictly between man and his God.But for Zia,he was a dangerous man due to his religious convictions.

    Pakistan’s drift into extremism ,Allah,the Army,and America’s War on Terror –Hassan Abbas
    east gate book,
    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
    printed in usa

    • naveed tajammal  On December 20, 2013 at 3:26 am

      Ahmad Raza Sahib thankyou for your input,indeed Brigadier Sahib,was a good man,and did well,too,however i would beg to differ on the Zia and Brigadier sahibs rift,because Zia did make him the First Director-General of Fasilabad Development Authority,Unless he had good relations with Zia,only than could he,have been given this very important Assignment.

  • Amjid  On December 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    His was not the only bde to fight. Under Brig Manzoor his bde made a fighting retreat and at last call were intact minus a few coys of cas and ready to fight again. Manzoor appeared before the comission and was fully cleared in his actions but also recommended for awards .
    But thats another story.

    • naveed tajammal  On December 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      Dear Amjid sahib,the account of 57 bde[of the 9 division] under Brig.Manzoor,is very clear,by night 10/11 December his brigade location[jhenida-kushtia] had been over run,they crossed ganges,and came under 16 Div,however the GOC 16 Div did not assign them any task,thereafter they remained out of the actual war.Maybe that might be the reason they remained intact,and so surrendered without much losses.regards

  • Aleem Afridi  On December 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you very much, Naveed ! Some details I was not aware-of , have now been filled in. I have had the honour of knowing Gen Tajjamul personally. He was capable of all that you have narrated , and much more. May God-Almighty shower His blessings on Gen Tajjamul.

    Aleem Afridi

  • R. Chaudhry  On December 18, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    One of my relatives, a Lt Col, fought at the Hili sector. He told us that it was the only sector where Pak army could muster resistance. It was a brave one. Our ancestral house is around 200 kms from Hili. All who witnessed the war told dat it was a brave battle. Salute the brave heart!

    • naveed tajammal  On December 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you R.Chaudhry sahib,indeed the men fought well,hence they have praised by the Foe,as well.

  • shahbazthuthaal  On December 19, 2013 at 3:57 am


    Thanks for sharing; Brig Asif Haroon 4FF has written a book on this operation.

    regards Muhammad Shahbaz Thuthaal EME CHS Multan road,lahore. 0301-3667777

  • Ajmal  On December 19, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Battle of Hilli is a master piece of military history for which credit goes to all Commanders and all ranks of 205 Brigade. All of them deserve a special place in the hearts of all Pakistanies. Thanks Naveed for giving the heroic account of the Battle.

  • Freda  On December 20, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Profuse thanks to Mr. Naveed Tajammal for sharing his memories and information about the exemplary courage and patriotism of his father.
    The nation owes such heroes a great debt, but their example of selfless service to the nation is not being followed in earnest.
    In fact, a good number of those who used various excuses to avoid going to East Pakistan, were later appointed to important positions after the break-away of East Pakistan. How tragic for this country that opportunists found success on the shoulders of the Shaheeds and the brave who put their country before themselves.

    • naveed tajammal  On December 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      Thankyou Freda for the kind words,yes but that,unfortunately has been the story since ages.The uniformed Babu’s [staff officers] always ensure that the fighters,are the first to be sent home,after they have done their best.

  • P J Mir  On December 21, 2013 at 9:00 am

    I am so happy its been clarified, not many people know that the Pakistan army despite the fact that most of its nato calibre equipment was sent to E Pakistan replaced by chinese field guns, with TA’s Gunners, all working from manuals did a fantastic job in the western wing particularly the 10 and 11 divs and I dare say my own regiment 22 field, in Kasur.
    Do not blame the army for all and sundry, if Mujib ur Rahman was given his democratic right of 56% then we would have had an even stronger Pakistan, but alas we love to live in a world of perpetual denial, we cry for democracy, and when it did land the very same politicians turned a blind eye and went on the course of absolute power under the garb of this sham democracy we so eloquently promote.

    Get a life.

    P.J. Mir
    President ,CEO
    Din Media Group
    Head Office
    25 B Gulberg III
    Near Firdous Market
    Lahore, Pakistan
    0092 423 5716423-6
    UAN 111 101 775

    • naveed tajammal  On December 21, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Thank you P.J.Mir sahib for your comment,But do keep in mind that, The Crux of the Polish Resolution was;1] A cease-Fire and immediate mutual with drawl before the capture of Dacca.2]This would have deprived india of the clear victory it seeked.3]A quick return of the Pakistan Army under UN arrangements,would have greatly complicated india’s capacity to assist the Awami league in establishing a stable and moderate regime in East Pakistan,4] As once both indian & pakistani forces returned by virtue of the resolution the conglomeration of mukhti-bahini forces would have commenced their ‘own civil war’,in race to control the new country.5]This was a no-win situation for india which also disliked the ‘renunciation of occupied,kashmir clause in the resolution as that would have forced india to restore the strategic points in the pakistani side of cease-fire line in Kashmir,that the indians had seized at some cost in the 1971 WAR.to add further to above,Indra Gandhi knew that behind the Polish Resolution,really stood the Soviets,and in principle New Dehli had reluctantly conceded that it had No options but to accept the resolution that had been approved unanimously’.
      You should being in media,read Sultan Muhammad Khan,who too was from Army,he was commissioned in 4th indian grenadiers in 1941,served,in malaysia & indonesia during the war,and took release in 1946,joined indian political service,after 1947 he joined Pakistan foreign service,[was appointed the foreign secretary in Jan.1970 he handled the Pakistan’s foreign relations during the civil war in East Pakistan] his book,from which i quote was published in 1997,’memories & reflections’. pages-385-386,” The no less important apprehension that two or three army divisions with their formations and arms intact,returning to West Pakistan with a stigma of failure,would be a serious threat to the military and emerging political leadership.Questions would be raised by them to determine and assign responsibility for the political and military failure in East Pakistan.Things could take an unpredictable course and emergence of a new military leadership which would put an end to the prospect of civil rule,was a distinct possibility”.To conclude Had the Army come back,as stated in the remarks above,Yahya & his team,as well ZAB would have been jointly tried by a Army commission,and their fates sealed,a coup was definitely expected.
      lastly it is a pity that,in-spite,the fact that Army has twice ruled since 1971,and for a decade each time no efforts were made to bring home the remains of all those who fought and fell fighting for our flag.The first batch of the Army rulers -1977-1988,the ultimate class of the,” uniformed babu’s”, like Zia ul Haq and company will never be forgiven for this breach.

  • Col. Anwar  On December 22, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I knew personally Gen Tajjamul . He was a Grade 2 staff officer in Staff College Quetta in 1958 when I did my staff course, He gave an impression of an intense,totally dedicated professionall officer. I never saw him indulging in some nefarious conversation. He was reserve ,quiet and kept to himself even in Mess dinner nights.I see him in my group official photo graph.— a graceful officer. I was later in 60s and 70sin GHQ and remember him in GS branch doing some running around on his way to East Pakistan .–which became a topic of “Talk” of his insistence to be a part of action in East Pakistan. Major Anis of Engineers,if I recollect correctly, was his Brigade Major. Their performance and fight in “Hilli” became a legend. Later he fell in disfavor with Zia . That sad and distasteful chapter of our army is well narrated in his book.( another courageous act)— A must read , I am so delighted to know of Yasmeen’s relationship.I can see seeds of brilliance and integrity

    • naveed tajammal  On December 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Thankyou sir for the kind words,yes he was GSO-2 with the Commandant Staff College.Quetta, I too have the Group Photo,but that is,Of the departure of Gen.Jilani and take over by Gen.Latiff with all Lieut-Colonels,who were the D.S. regards.

  • Freda  On December 23, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Mujib-ur-Rehman had started to spread his views and build up his following for a breakaway movement from west Pakistan much earlier than 1971, with the willing help and collaboration of India.
    The 56% majority vote he won was not a cry for democracy by Bengalis within a united Pakistan, but a manifestation of their desire for independent nationhood based on language, culture and ethnicity, not religion.
    The Pakistan army was made a scapegoat by the politicians of both sides.

  • Shakir  On December 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    We have to tell the facts to the younger generation. My son (36 years old) always thought that there were 93,000 Pakistani soldiers facing only 4,000 Indians and Muktis. When I told him there were 45,000 Pakistanis versus 400,000 enemy soldiers he was shocked. There has been much adverse propaganda against the army after the 1971 debacle.

    • naveed tajammal  On December 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      Shakir sahib,unfortunately here even our Army has not even given the true facts to negate the indian propaganda,a job which should have been well publicized,by general Tikka khan himself,having served there before General Niazi.

  • K. Bajwa  On December 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Yasmeen Ji
    I served under him for a very short period. Indeed he was soldier with gigantic determination and self confidence. A man with nerves of steel.

    K. Bajwa

  • a m malik  On January 3, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Had the remaining of our senior officers the will,as of Brig Tajammal, our army would have done well indeed. Tearing up the polish resolution and earlier “breaking the legs of all who go to Dacca” was a clear manifest of the plan to ensure the break up of Pakistan, as otherwise ZAB would have never got a chance to be the PM of Pakistan. The surprising part is of the Mr Upright Asghar Khan, who had telegraphed o Shiekh Mujib – when Ayub had called for a round table conference and Agartala ws being tried – that “Do not accept attendance on parole but ask for a complete withdrawl of the case” did he not know that Agar tala was factual?
    But his dislike for Ayub,who had denied him the glory of 1965 war and which went to Noor Khan instead-by removing him shortly earlier(in fact he should have been court marshalled for suggesting Arjun singh that Both PAF and IAF remain neutral in 1965 war), was more than his love for the country.

  • M. Emad  On March 10, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won absolute mejority in Pakistan’s 1st general election in 23 years in 1970. (West) Pakistani Army, politicians and civil servants refused to hand over power to Mujib / Bengalis and planned a Genocide (Operation Searchlight or ‘Bangladesh Gencide’).

    All the above mentioned Pakistani soldiers are War Criminals. Since March 1971, the North Bengal (under 16 Division / 205 Brigade) was turned into a killing field by Pakistn Army, Bihari gangs and local Razakar/Al-Badr. So far, about 5000 killing fields are reported in Bangladesh. After the trial of local War Criminals, Bangladesh will try Pakistani War Criminals including Brigadier Tajammal Hussain Malik.

    • a m malik  On March 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Mr Emad
      u r expressing street sentiments which have been so brazenly and falsely propagated firstly by the Indians and followed by Mujib and his cronies. I wonder if you were at all born in 1971 to have seen the events with your own two eyes.
      There were killing grounds- No doubt -in fact slaughtering grounds – not by the Pakistan Army but the Mukti Bahanis where even during march 1971 onwards they had started slaughtering the non Bengalis- Kalu Ghat being the most famous of all.
      we all agree that power should have been handed over to Sh Mujib – But for this Army is not at fault. Yahya and Bhutto were the main players.
      In Dec 1967, once travelling in a Rickshaw with one of the Bengali officers – and listening to him of the the grievances from then East Pakistan people – and who later became one of your chiefs – I opined that it would be proper if the two wings stay under a confederation. This would have definitely provided strength to both the countries. He was surprised to hear this suggestion and said to me Are u suggesting that we separate? No Said I – but perhaps Epak may prosper with feelings of some level of Independence. The point to bring home is that a common Bangla Deshi never wanted to separate. But then we Muslims are our own best enemies.

  • US  On March 27, 2014 at 3:34 am

    Sir, in your opinion, how true is the account of Siddik Salik’s book (Witness to surrender) on 16th division’s battle in 1971 war?

  • Zafar Din  On March 28, 2014 at 3:07 am

    I wish that instead of quoting passages from already published books, there was more information written on this battle itself. There is so much dearth of truth out there when it comes to that particular event of Pakistan’s history. There needs to be more honest disclosure on what exactly occured.

    • naveed tajammal  On March 28, 2014 at 4:33 am

      Indeed Zafar Din Sahib-If only the testimonies of over 300-plus officers had been de-classified who had come before Hamood ur Rehman Commission,after their return from India as POW-Truth would have emerged-and If only Sahibzada Yaqub and Khadim Hussain Raja too had been asked to come before the Commission,and had been allowed to be cross-examined by witnesses- The truth would have emerged-Sadly with limited Books written one has No choice-but to quote them.regards

  • Major Mian Muzaffar Gul 4 FF(WAR TIME ADJUTANT:VETERAN OF HILLI:1970-74)  On December 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Naveed Tajjamal, please introduce your self. I have Come know from this article that you are son of Brig Tajjamal. Please intimate you are a civilian or Army Officer ? Thanks

  • M Ferdause Khan  On January 5, 2015 at 5:10 am

    Dear Naveed, you father indeed was a good comd & a valiant fighter & any one should take pride in soldierly attitude. We also remember with deep respet Maj Akram (shaheed), ‘C’ coy comd of 4 FF who repulsed an Indian Mtn div attk & compelled Lachman Singh’s 20 Mtn div to take a detour. Your father & Maj Gen Niazi bumped on the leading column of 20 Mtn div when it reached Pirganj (in between Rangpur-Bogra axis). It was the kind God fearing Bengalis who helped them to reach Bogra.

    Lastly, I would request you to kindly come out of the misconception you apparently seem to hold in your mind regarding brutalities lashed out by Pakistan army in the then East Pakistan. Pl do visit Bangladesh & be my guest for like you I too am a son of an Pak army offr.

    Warm warm regards

  • Battle of Hilli was fought only by 4 FF, bty ex: 80 Fd Regt Arty(OC Major Anwar Khan), Tp of tks ex 29 Cav( Lt Sher Jan Tajik,SJ), Section ex 34 Punjab R & S< Some Civs vehs with Dvrs-Who left during War:

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