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Hamoodur Rahman commission report rekindles memories of Pak blunders

The debate on Pak debacle in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, in 1971 is again sure to hot up. With the publication of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission report is going to be a renewed humiliation for Pakistan, especially its army. The meek surrender of Pak army in Eastern Pakistan has not left its mark on the politics of the country even now. New and newer stories are a common phenomenon in today’s Pakistan regarding the laying down of arms before Indian soldiers by its 93000 strong army. Accusations and counter-accusations in this respects are also quite common.

The publication of Hamoodur Rahman Commission report in India Today, an Indian newsmagazine, has revived the controversy about the surrender. 

Hamoodur Rahman Commission was set up by the government of Pakistan to investigate the reasons and causes of its worst ever defeat by the Indian army and Mukti Bahini, a group that was involved in freeing of Bangladesh from the oppressive control of Pakistan. Pakistani soldiers whose numbers exceeded 90000 surrendered meekly before Indian soldiers in Bangladesh in 1971. The publication of the report that was supposed to be destroyed by Pakistan government has again opened a Pandora box especcially now that the army is again ruling Pakistan.

Abdullah Khan Niazi, the general who led Pakistan to its historical defeat and surrendered before the combined command of Mukti Bahini guerrillas and Indian Army, has asked to set up another commission to inquire into the causes and reasons of Pak defeat in the then Eastern Pakistan. He has accused that Hamoodur Rahman commission was a sheer drama. The Commission was set up by the then prime minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who is squarely blamed for the creation of Bangladesh. It was he who refused to give a chance to Mujeebur Rahman who emerged victorious after the elections held in 1970. 

The general has said that though he appeared before the commission after being released by India, but the Commission asked him only irrelevant questions. He said that if the causes are to be probed again he will be able to explain that how Pakistan was defeated in Bangladesh. General Niazi says that Bhutto himself was a party in this respect. The other two in his views were General Yahya, the then president of Pakistan and Shaikh Mujeebur Rahman the president of Awami League, who later on became the first president of free Bangladesh. According to Niazi, this commission was set up because Bhutto wanted a face saving formula, and it was a step in that direction. 

The Hamoodur Rahman commission had examined hundreds of classified documents and army signals and questioned some 300 witnesses including General Niazi who surrendered before the Indian Army. Now Pakistan is overwhelmed by this explosive commission of inquiry. Even after 29 years the ignominious surrender in Dhaka, it has become conventional wisdom to blame the separation of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh on an elaborate Indian conspiracy. No one can deny that India played a big role in training the Bangladeshi army of liberation, the Mukti Bahini and also that Indira Gandhi ordered General Manekshaw to liberate the Bangladesh from the reign of terror Pakistan had unleashed over it, but Pakistan is to be blamed totally for its oppressive rule there that forced people to come face to face with its army.

The commission headed by the then chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Hamoodur Rahman held widespread atrocities, serious acts of human rights violations, other abuses of power by Pakistani generals and complete failure in civilian and martial law leadership responsible for the loss of East Pakistan. The commission had recommended stringent punishment for top army officials including court-martial for a number of them. But no Pakistani government, be it martial law regime or a legally elected government that succeeded Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ever gave a thought to punish guilty and irresponsible officials of its armed forces. Everyone wants to forget this greatest folly of Pak rulers. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto ordered that each and every copy of the commission report be burnt. Fortunately a copy of the report was saved and so the world came to know what exactly happened and who was responsible for the creation of Bangladesh. 

The Commission that was constituted on 26 December 1971, by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto submitted its report on 23 October 1974. It gave complete details of how moral, political, administrative failings were responsible for the surrender of Pak army in East Pakistan. It also gives political reasons as to why the leaders in East Pakistan including the Mujeebur Rahman, who was the president of Awami League were forced to resort to military struggle for creation of Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League had apparently won the election of the united Pakistan held in 1970, but the anxiety of Pakistanis and especially of Zufikar Ali Bhutto to give government to East Pakistani was a great factor in disenchantment of East Pakistanis from Pakistan. 

The Commission has squarely blamed Pak army for the defeat in the East Pakistan. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report says that, "there is a consensus on the imperative need of bringing to book senior army commanders who have brought disgrace and defeat to Pakistan by their subversion of the Constitution, usurpation of political power by criminal conspiracy, their professional incompetence, culpable negligence and willful negligence in the performance of their duties and physical and moral cowardice in abandoning the fight when they had the capabilities to resist the enemy.’ 

The report holds Pak army officials totally responsible for this debacle. It has blamed Yahya Khan the marshal law administrator at that time, of trying to influence political parties by threats and bribes. He is also blamed for criminal neglect of duty and precipitating civil disobedience and allowing to surrender. The commission has charged Lt. General Gul Hasan and Major General Umar for the same crimes. It has given its verdict to try them publicly for criminal conspiracy. The commission has also indicted Major General M Rahim Khan charging him for desertion, and insisting on moving by day fearing the Mukti Bahini guerrillas, thus causing death of 14 naval ratings. It has also charged Brigadier Jahanzaeb Arbab, Major General Muhammad Jamshed, Major General Abid Zahid for looting, neglect of duty and surrendering without giving a tough fight. 

General Tikka Khan was also responsible for surrender in Bangladesh, but due to his proximity to Bhutto, he was left without any accusation. But General Niazi was not given any reprieve by the commission. It says that there is some evidence to suggest that the words and actions of Lt. General Niazi were calculated to encourage the killings and rape.
The report that was supposed to have been completely destroyed by Pak government is sure to give a new twist to the old controversy that who was responsible for Pak defeat in East Pakistan. But is it going to prove an eye opener for Pak army and common man? Pakistan has always suppressed civilian rights and is infamous for overthrowing legally elected governments. The army and political leadership of Pakistan should take a cue from it and refrain from creating similar conditions again in the country.
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