Prosecuting Pak Army Officers in Bangladesh

Failure of Pakistan Government to launch protest

That Mukti Bahini played a pivotal role in the dismemberment of Pakistan is a recorded fact and reflected in the statement of Deputy Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Shawket Ali, “I would give hundred per cent credit to India for the liberation of Bangladesh.” (Bangladeshi Newspaper ‘The Independent” December 17, 2011)

Archer Blood, writes, “Indian soil was made available for training camps, hospitals and supply depots for the Mukti Bahini or “Liberation Force” of the Bengali resistance movement. The Mukti Bahini came to enjoy that great asset of a guerrilla army, a safe haven to which it could retire for rest food, medical supplies and weapons, safe from the pursuit of its conventionally operating and legally restricted foe. India was in fact waging a proxy war against Pakistan.” (Book: The Cruel Birth of Bangladesh – Memoirs of an American Diplomat” published by The University Press Limited, Dhaka in 2002: pg 304)

Martin Woollacott in a brilliant book review of “Dead Reckoning” by Sarmila Bose says, “Yet when she underlines how stretched the Pakistani forces were, how unready they were for the role of suppression that was thrust on them, and how perplexed they were in the face of a Bengali hostility that seemed to them so disproportionate, what she writes rings very true. The killings by Bengalis of non-Bengali minorities, of Bengalis who stuck with the idea of a united Pakistan, and even of some Hindu Bengalis – all of whose deaths were attributed at the time to the Pakistani army – needs to be reckoned in any fair balance.” (The Guardian July 1, 2011) Bose a senior research fellow at Oxford University – and a former BBC presenter – “says the Pakistani army has been “demonized” by the pro-liberation side and accused of “monstrous actions regardless of the evidence”, while Bengali people have been depicted as “victims”. Her book says the Bengali nationalist rebellion in what was then East Pakistan “turned into xenophobic violence against non-Bengalis” especially against West Pakistanis and mainly Urdu-speaking people who migrated to East Pakistan from India at the time of partition who were known as Biharis.” (BBC News June 16, 2011)

The facts are also well detailed in a book Blood and Tears (Published 1974) by historian Qutubuddin Aziz. It details 170 eyewitness accounts of atrocities on non-Bengalis and pro Pakistan Bengalis by Awami League militants and other rebels in 55 towns of then East Pakistan between March-April 1971 with photographs.

British Historian L. F Rushbrook Williams writes, “Whenever the troops (of the Pakistan Army) when into action, a minimum of force was used; they did not interfere with peaceful concessions or political meetings, but only with mobs engaged in looting and arson. But the fact is that there were far too few of them to maintain order effectively in an enormous city like Dacca and with the virtual breakdown of the machinery of civil government because of the campaign of non-cooperation-a campaign rigorously enforced by intimidation of every kind-the situation both in the capital and in many places throughout East Pakistan became chaotic. It was widely believed that nothing could break the hold of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Awami League over the county, and that the Army, scattered as it was in small groups except for larger bodies stationed clear of the Indian frontier, would be helpless in face of the Awami League’s determination to achieve full control.” (Book: The East Pakistan Tragedy published by Drake Publishers Inc. NY in 1972, pg: 54)

Reportedly, close to two hundred Mukti Bahini terrorists were incriminated in heinous crimes. This does not include another hundred give or take,  Mukti Bahini terrorists for fighting against the State and sedition. A list of those incriminated detail horrible nature of crimes against innocent civilians.

I could write a thesis on the research based data of the onslaught of atrocities on non-Bengalis. However, it is time to fast forward to present and to focus on some questions resulting from it. Sheikh Hasina Wajid, daughter of late Sheikh Mujeeb, has declared trying in abstentia, officers of Pakistan Army for war crimes of 1971. An International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh by 2012, indicted nine members of Jama’at’ e Islami  and two from Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Has the ICT followed transparency in trial? Not so records Al Jazeera, “Human Rights Watch and the International Bar Association are just two of a number of bodies that have formally criticized the ICT for being incompatible with international standards on matters of transparency and fairness, and for not following due process.” (October 29, 2014)

Bergman, David writes, “In January 2013, Brad Adams of HRW was deeply concerned regarding one Bali, who appeared as a witness in Delwar Hossain Sayeedi case. The defence wanted to give evidence reference to the case in November 2012. Bali was restrained by some police officers at the courthouse that day and some eye witnesses recorded his being whisked away in a police van. HRW has pointed out the government made no effort to find him while the attorney general rejected the accusation of abduction. Later in May 2013, Sayeedi and Bali were found to be in an Indian prison. He accused the state of abducting him and threatening to kill both him and Sayeedi. (New Age, ‘Witnesses allege State Abduction”, May 16, 2013)

Richard Sisson and Leo E Rose writing in 1990 in their book “War and Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh” stated that it remained impossible to obtain reliable estimates of how many ‘liberation fighters’ were killed in combat, how many Bihari (non-Bengali) Muslims and supporters of Pakistan were killed by Bengali Muslims, and how many people were killed by Pakistani, Indian or AL guerillas units (Mukhti Bahainis) fire and bombing during the war. In this case, the only credible source would have been the population census conducted before 1971 and after the war which Bangladesh did not do.

Haseena Shaikh’s government is therefore to be applauded to have determined the atrocities committed per person per Army Officerto the complete exclusion of those committed by Mukti Bahini. Opinion in Pakistan drawing rooms revolve around Bangladesh being used as a proxy for India aimed at raking coals and creating a front that not only opposes Pakistan but also aiming to besmirch her Army at a time when it is involved in a long drawn out battle against terrorism within her borders.  Not to forget the turmoil created by Panama Leaks involving the highest civilian office that has created a serious credibility issue for the incumbent Prime Minister.

Bangladesh has worked closely with India since its inception. Though Bangladesh can be forgiven for acting as it does for being no friend of Pakistan- my question is; why has the Pakistani government failed to launch a protest with the Bangladesh government? Can this be viewed as Pakistan civil leadership’s traditional acrimony? Can this be accepted as an excuse not to stand up for your countrymen?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is yasmeenali62@gmail.comtweets at @yasmeen_9

 

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