Tag Archives: Molla

The “genocide” in East Pakistan of 1971: Separating facts from fiction

15 Dec

Molla

Hussain Saqib

Recent executions of pro-Pakistan JI activists by Bangladeshi government of Hasina Wajid has opened up fresh controversies about who had perpetrated the so-called genocide in the events leading to cessation of eastern wing of Pakistan in 1971. History is the best judge though nations and groups try to justify their deeds and misdeeds on the strength of rhetoric for the time being. What Abdul Qadir Molla and others like him have done to earn this fate 42 later is what any patriotic citizen should have done; fighting a foreign force of insurgents to protect his own country. But the question of atrocities in East Pakistan in what has now turned out to be an India-funded separation movement is much wider and cannot be answered in Molla episode alone.  

There could be no denying the fact that there was political victimization of Bengalis, the largest ethnic group and by far more politically literate community. In the UP-dominated bureaucracy and Punjabi armed forces ruling the roost, Bengalis did not get a fair share of natural resources and political clout that they deserved. Their disappointment with the Central government was, therefore, justified and had there been a true constitutional democracy in vogue, it would right political wrongs. This is a fact borne-out by history; but rest is all fiction.

India had set its sights on East Pakistan from the very beginning and was looking for an opportunity to sow the seeds of discord between Bengalis and the rest of the country. The initial mandate of India’s Research and Analysis wing (RAW) was to work for separation of East Pakistan on the basis of perceived and doctored, largely exaggerated, accounts of maltreatment with Bengalis. Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh and father of incumbent prime minister was recruited by RAW as early as 1960s and he was the major player for dismemberment of Pakistan which took place a decade later.

Details of what happened to East Pakistan under the RAW and its so-called Mukti Bahini, claimed to be composed of freedom fighters, can be read in a blog post titled: Fall of East Pakistan and massacre of Bengalis and non-Bengalis by RAW and Mukti Bahini. Mukti Bahini was not all about “freedom fighters” alone. It was trained and led by RAW with RAW operatives manning this insurgent organization. It not only massacred non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis, it also killed and raped Bengali population. And they did all this while wearing the uniform of Pakistan army to drive a wedge between people and the armed forces.

The claim that three million Bengalis were massacred in 1971 has now been questioned through a very well researched book of a Bengali author, Sarmila Bose herself. In her book, Dead Reckoning, she has calculated the figure of dead between 50,000 to 100,000. This includes miscreants largely brought in from India, some Bengali non-combatants and non-Bengalis who had adopted East Pakistan as their home after 1947. This also included Pakistani soldiers and their families. Bose claimed that fewer, sometimes far fewer, died than claimed.

According to a review of the book by Martin Woollacott published in the Guardian, 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. According to this review, the wider revision of the conflict’s history she implies exonerates the Pakistani government of any plot to rule the east by force, suggests that the Bengali leader Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman let the genie of nationalism out of the bottle but could not control it, and insists that the conflict was a civil war within East Pakistan. 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.

A dispassionate analysis of history shows the facts in clear light four decades later; the movement to separate East Pakistan was not home-grown, it was funded, fanned and manned by India’s RAW, the figures of casualties were doctored and largely exaggerated, those killed and raped were both Bengalis and non-Bengalis and the killing was not perpetrated by Pakistan and its army. It is the verdict of history that massacre of 50,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis was carried out by the RAW. Patriotic Pakistanis who fought the foreign insurgents were in their national right to fight and the case of Molla and others like him stands vindicated by history. He has been executed 42 years later on trumped up charges and on political rhetoric by a kangaroo court. The motives of his killing are no more wrapped in mystery.