Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Kennedy, Bezenjo among Bangladesh freedom award winners

AHMAR MUSTIKHAN

LATE U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and Baba-i-Balochistan, the late Mir Ghous Baksh Bezenjo, will be recognized by the government of Bangladesh for their contribution for the independence of Bangladesh, according to Bangladesh's first online newspaper bdnews24.com.

The decision to award Kennedy and Bezenjo with the highest award was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni.
They are among 400 foreign nationals who supported the just struggle of the people of Bangladesh against the Pakistan military atrocities in 1971.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo, who is under fire of Baloch patriots for not helping the independence struggle in Balochistan, is likely to receive the award on behalf of his father.


Bezenjo's party called National Party was widely criticized in the media early this year after it inducted Imam Bheel, who was declared a drug kingpin by President Barack Obama, as its central leader.

A total of 40 Pakistanis and 226 Indians are among those who have won the award. Cuban leader Fidel Castro is one of the winners, while Indian premier Indira Gandhi, Yugoslav Joseph B. Tito and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev been given the award posthumously.

Other than Bezenjo, Sain GM Syed, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, Sindhi poet Shaikh Ayaz, and human rights activist and poet Ahmed Salim, Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan and lawyer Zaffar Malik have also be awarded.

Asghar Khan's son Omar Asghar Khan and Dr. Tariq Rahman who were conscientious objectors as military servicemen have also been selected for the highest Bangladesh award.


A total of 83 US nationals have been selected by the committee. Senator Edward M Kennedy and Edmond Mulky, diplomat Archer Kent Blood, who was consul general of the US embassy in Dhaka in 1971, singer Joan Baez, poet Allen Ginsenberg and Layer Levin, the maker of the film "Joy Bangla", are among the selected personalities
.
From India, the recipients include former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, former foreign minister Sarder Saran Singh, former foreign minister Krishna Menon, former Congress leader Sachindra Lal Singha, former defence minister Jagjiban Rai, diplomat D P Dhar, P N Dhar, ex-prime minister I J Gujral, Pranab Mukherjee, Field Marshal Manek Shaw, Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, Pandit Ravi Shankar, film maker Satyajit Roy, singer Manna Dey, artists Moqbul Fida Hussain and Bishnu Dey, and singer Mohammad Rafi.

According to bdnews24.com, the president or the prime minister will give the recipients or next of kin a 50 gram gold (18 carat) crest and honorary citizenship of Bangladesh on the fortieth anniversary of Bangladesh independence on March 26, 2011. #

First published in Baltimore Foreign Policy Examiner, December 13, 2010


Ahmar Mustikhan, is contributor with Baltimore Foreign Policy Examiner. He is a Balochistan freedom activist and writer based in the Washington DC area. He can be reached at ahmar_scribe@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WikiLeaks cables: Bangladeshi 'death squad' trained by UK government

Photo: Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have received training in 'investigative interviewing techniques'. Photograph: Abir Abdullah/EPA
Rapid Action Battalion, accused of hundreds of extra-judicial killings, received training from UK officers, cables reveal, writes the Guardian



FARIHA KARIM and IAN COBAIN

THE BRITISH government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a "government death squad", leaked US embassy cables have revealed.

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement".

Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as "crossfire" deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in "crossfire". In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.

The RAB's use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organisations. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out crossfire killings.

However, the cables reveal that both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the "RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade". In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the "enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation".

In another cable, Moriarty quotes British officials as saying they have been "training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement". Asked about the training assistance for the RAB, the Foreign Office said the UK government "provides a range of human rights assistance" in the country. However, the RAB's head of training, Mejbah Uddin, told the Guardian that he was unaware of any human rights training since he was appointed last summer.

The cables make clear that British training for RAB officers began three years ago under the last Labour government.

However, RAB officials confirmed independently of the cables that they had taken part in a series of courses and workshops as recently as October, five months after the formation of the coalition government. Asked whether ministers had approved the training programme, the Foreign Office said only that William Hague, the foreign secretary, and other ministers, had been briefed on counter-terrorism spending.

The US ambassador explains in the cables that the US government is "constrained by RAB's alleged human rights violations, which have rendered the organisation ineligible to receive training or assistance" under laws which prohibit American funding or training for overseas military units which abuse human rights with impunity.

Human rights organisations say the RAB cannot be reformed, noting that its human rights record has deterioriated still further in the last 12 months. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly described the RAB as a government death squad.

Brad Adams, the organisation's Asia director, said: "RAB is a Latin American-style death squad dressed up as an anti-crime force. The British government has let its desire for a functional counter-terrorism partner in Bangladesh blind it to the risks of working with RAB, and the legitimacy that it gives to RAB inside Bangladesh. Furthermore, it is not clear that the British government has ever made it a priority at the highest levels to tell RAB that if it doesn't change, it will not co-operate with it."

Amnesty International has also repeatedly condemned the RAB, while the Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odhikar has painstakingly documented the RAB's involvement in extra-judicial killings and torture since the creation of the force in March 2004.

Asked to comment on the rights groups' concern about the RAB, the Foreign Office said: "We do not discuss the detail of operational counter-terrorism cooperation. Counter-terrorism assistance is fully in line with our laws and values." At least some of the British training has been conducted by serving British police officers, working under the auspices of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), which was established in 2007 to build policing capacity and standards. Recent courses for RAB have been provided by officers from West Mercia and Humberside Police.

Asked whether it believed it was appropriate for British officers to be training members of an organisation condemned as "a government death squad", and whether courses in investigative interviewing techniques might not render torture more effective, an NPIA spokesman said the courses had been approved by the government and by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

"The NPIA has given limited support to the Bangladeshi Police and the RAB in technical areas of policing such as forensic awareness, management of crime scenes and recovery of evidence. Throughout the training we have emphasised the importance of respecting the human rights of witnesses, suspects and victims."The purpose of our sanctioned engagement is to support the development and improvement of professional policing that supports democratic, human rights-based practices linked to the rule of law in countries that may have different laws, faiths and policing practices from our own."

It is understood that there have been disagreements within the Foreign Office about the British government's involvement with the RAB. Some officials have argued that the partnership with the RAB is an essential component of the UK's counter-terrorism strategy in the region, while others have expressed concern that the relationship could prove damaging to Britain's reputation.

Successive Bangladeshi governments have promised to end the RAB's use of murder. The current government promised in its manifesto that it would end all extra-judicial killings, but they have continued following its election two years ago.In October last year, the shipping minister, Shahjahan Khan, speaking in a discussion organised by the BBC, said: "There are incidents of trials that are not possible under the laws of the land. The government will need to continue with extra-judicial killings, commonly called crossfire, until terrorist activities and extortion are uprooted."

In December last year the high court in Dhaka ruled that such killings must be brought to a halt following litigation by victims' familes and human rights groups, but they continue on an almost weekly basis. Most of the victims are young men, some are alleged to be petty criminals or are said to be left-wing activists, and the killings invariably take place in the middle of the night.

In the most recent "crossfire" killings, the RAB reported that it had shot dead Mohammad Mamun, 25, in the town of Tangail, shortly after midnight on Monday, and that 90 minutes later its officers in Dhaka, 50 miles to the south, had shot dead a second man, Taku Alam, 30. Today the RAB announced it had shot dead a 45-year-old man, Anisur Rahman, said to be a member of the Communist party in the west of the country. #

First published in Guardian, December 21, 2010


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A khaki dissident on 1971



Pakistan journalists in Islamabad seek apology of war crimes in Bangladesh
COLONEL NADIR ALI
“It is Mujib’s home district. Kill as many bastards as you can and make sure there is no Hindu left alive,” I was ordered. I frequently met Mr Fazlul Qadir Choudhury, Maulana Farid Ahmed and many other Muslim League and Jamaat leaders. In the Army, you wear no separate uniform. We all share the guilt. We may not have killed. But we connived and were part of the same force

During the fateful months preceding the dismemberment of Pakistan, I served as a young Captain, meantime promoted to the rank of the Major, in Dhaka as well as Chittagong. In my position as second-in-command and later as commander, I served with 3 Commando Battalion.

My first action was in mid April 1971. “It is Mujib-ur-Rahman’s home district. It is a hard area. Kill as many bastards as you can and make sure there is no Hindu left alive,” I was ordered.

“Sir, I do not kill unarmed civilians who do not fire at me,” I replied.

“Kill the Hindus. It is an order for everyone. Don’t show me your commando finesse!”.

I flew in for my first action. I was dropped behind Faridpur. I made a fire base and we fired all around. Luckily there was nobody to shoot at. Then suddenly I saw some civilians running towards us. They appeared unarmed.

I ordered “Stop firing!” and shouted at villagers, questioning them what did they want. “Sir we have brought you some water to drink,” was the brisk reply.

I ordered my subordinates to put the weapons away and ordered a tea-break. We remained there for hours. Somebody brought and hoisted a Pakistani flag. “Yesterday I saw all Awami League flags over your village” I told the villagers. That was indeed the fact. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Later the main army column caught up to make contact. They arrived firing with machine guns all around and I saw smoke columns rising in villages behind them. “What’s the score?” the Colonel asked.

“There was no resistance so we didn’t kill anyone,” he was informed.

He fired from his machine gun and some of the villagers who had brought us water, fell dead. “That is the way my boy,” the Colonel told this poor Major.

I was posted there from early April to early October. We were at the heart of events. A team from my unit had picked up Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman from his residence on 25th March, 1971. We were directly under the command of Eastern Command. As SSG battalion commander, I received direct orders from General Niazi, General Rahim and later Gen Qazi Majid of 14 Div Dhaka.

Ironically, the resistance was led by General Zia Ur Rehman (later to become Bangladesh’s military ruler) was a fellow instructor at Pakistan Military Academy. Similarly, General Khalid Musharaf, who overthrew Zia in a counter-coup, was my course mate as well as a room-mate at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). He was also a fellow officer in SSG. Brig Abu Taher, who brought General Zia back to power in a counter-counter coup, was also a friend and fellow officer in SSG. He was a leftist, jailed and later hanged by Gen Zia Ur Rehman whom he brought back to power in the fateful months in Bangladesh’s history, after the murder of founding father, Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman.

Another leftist friend was Major Zia Ud Din. He was a freedom fighter and as Naxalite remained under ground from 1971 to1989 when a general amnesty was declared.

I came back to West Pakistan for getting my promotion to Lt. Colonel, in my parent corp, Ordnance, in October 1971. From December 1971 onwards, I began to suffer memory loss till my retirement on medical grounds in 1973. I remained in the nut house for six months in 1973. As a Punjabi writer, I regained my memory and rebuilt my life. I remember every moment from the year 1971.

For operations and visits to my sub units, I travelled all over East Pakistan. I never killed anybody nor ever ordered any killing. I was fortunately not even witness to any massacre. But I knew what was going on in every sector.

Thousands were killed and millions rendered homeless. Over nine million went as refugees to India. An order was given to kill the Hindus. I received the same order many times and was reminded of it. The West Pakistani soldiery considered that Kosher. The Hamood Ur Rehman Commission Report mentions this order. Of the ninety-three lakh (9.3 million) refugees in India, ninety lakh were Hindus .That gave us, world-wide, a bad press and morally destroyed us. Military defeat was easy due to feckless military leader ship. Only couple of battalions in the north offered some resistance. For example, the unit of Major Akram, who was awarded highest military medal, Nishan-e-Haider, resisted and he lost his life.

East Pakistan, part of the country a thousand miles away, was "a geographical and political absurdity" as John Gunther said in "Inside Asia Today".

With federal capital in Islamabad, dominated by West Pakistani civil servants and what they called a Punjabi Army, East Pakistanis felt like subjects of a colony. They never liked it ever since 1947. In early sixties, my fellow Bengali officers called each other general, a rank they would have in an independent East Pakistan. We all took it in good humour. But 1971 was not a joke. Every single Bengali felt oppressed. Their life and death was now in the hands of what they called "Shala Punjabies".

I granted a long interview, recounting what I saw and felt in 1971, to BBC Urdu Service in December 2007. The Bangladesh Liberation Museum asked for a copy of the interview. It was too lengthy for me to transcribe, translate and type. Here, I attempt to re-collect bits and pieces yet again.

What drove me mad? Well I felt the collective guilt of the Army action which at worst should have stopped by late April 1971. Moreover, when I returned to West Pakistan, here nobody was pushed about what had happened or was happening in East Pakistan. Thousands of innocent fellow citizens had been killed, women were raped and millions were ejected from their homes in East Pakistan but West Pakistan was calm. It went on and on .The world outside did not know very much either. This owes to the fact that reporters were not there. General Tikka was branded as "Butcher Of Bengal". He hardly commanded for two weeks. Even during those two weeks, the real command was in the hands of General Mitha, his second-in-command.

General Mitha literally knew every inch of Bengal. He personally took charge of every operation till General Niazi reached at the helm. At this juncture, General Mitha returned to GHQ. General Tikka, as governor, was a good administrator and made sure that all services ran. Trains, ferries, postal services, telephone lines were functioning and offices were open. There was no shortage of food, anywhere by May 1971. All in all, a better administrative situation than Pakistan of today! But like Pakistan of today, nobody gave a damn about what happens to the poor and the minorities. My worry today is whether my granddaughter goes to Wisconsin University or Harvard. That nobody gets any education in my very large village or in the Urdu-medium schools of Lahore, where I have lived as for forty years so called concerned citizen, does not worry me or anyone else.

In Dhaka, where I served most of the time, there was a ghostly feeling until about mid April 1971. But gradually life returned to normal in the little circuit I moved: Cantonment, Dacca Club, Hotel Intercontinental, the Chinese restaurant near New Market. Like most human beings, I was not looking beyond my nose. I moved around a lot in the city. My brother-in-law, Riaz Ahmed Sipra was serving as SSP Dhaka. We met almost daily. But the site of rendezvous were officers’ mess, some club or a friend’s house in Dhanmondi.

Even if I could move everywhere, I did not peep into the hearts of the Bengalis. They were silent but felt oppressed and aware of the fact that the men in uniforms were masters of their lives and properties. I frequently met Mr Fazlul Qadir Choudhury, Maulana Farid Ahmed and many other Muslim League and Jamaat leaders in one government office or the other. Prof. Ghulam Azam and Chowdhury Rehmat Elahi also used to meet me to provide me volunteers to carry out sabotage across the Indian Border.

Dr Yasmin Sakia, an Indian scholar teaching in America, told me once an anecdote. When she asked why in the 1990s she could not find any cooperation in tracing rape-victims of 1971, she was told by a victim," Those who offered us to the Army are rulers now."

One can tell and twist the tale. The untold part also matters in history. Two Bengali soldiers whom I released from custody, were issued weapons and put back in uniform. They became POWs along 90 thousand Pakistani soldiers and spent three years in Indian jails. I discovered one of them serving as a cook in 1976 in Lahore. I had regained my memory. “Kamal-ud-Din you?” I exclaimed on sighting him. “Sir you got me into this!”

The Pakistani Army had thrown them out. The other guy teaches in Dhaka now.

The untold part of the story is that one day I enquired about one soldier from Cammandos unit. He used to be my favourite in 1962. “Sir, Aziz-ul–Haq was killed”, the Subedar told me rather sheepishly.

“How?” was not a relevant question in those days. Still I did ask.

“Sir! first they were put in a cell, later shot in the cell”.

My worst nightmare even forty years later is the sight of fellow soldiers being shot in a cell. “How many?” was my next question. “There were six sir, but two survived. They pretended to be dead but were alive,” came the reply.

“Where are they?”

“In Comilla sir, under custody”.

I flew from Dacca to Comilla. I saw two barely recognizable wraiths. Only if you know what that means to a fellow soldier! It is worse than suffering or causing a thousand deaths. I got them out, ordered their uniforms and weapons. “Go, take your salary and weapons and come back after ten days.”

They came back and fought alongside, were prisoners and then were with difficulty, repatriated in 1976. Such stories differ, depending on who reports.

All these incidents, often gone unreported, are not meant to boast about my innocence. I was guilty of having volunteered to go to East Pakistan. My brother-in-law Justice Sajjad Sipra was the only one who criticized my choice of posting. “You surely have no shame,” he said to my disconcert. My army friends celebrated my march from Kakul to Lahore. We drank and sang!

None of us were in two minds. We were single-mindedly murderous! In the Air Force Mess at Dacca, over Scotch, a friend who later rose to a high rank said, “I saw a gathering of Mukti Bahini in thousands. I made a

few runs and let them have it. A few hundred bastards must have been killed” My heart sank. “Dear! it is the weekly Haath  (Market) day and villagers gather there,” I informed him in horror. “Surely they were all Bingo Bastards!,” he added. There were friends who boasted about their score. I had gone on a visit to Comilla. I met my old friend, then Lt. Col. Mirza Aslam Beg and my teacher, Gen. Shaukat Raza. Both expressed their distaste for what was happening. Tony, a journalist working with state-owned news agency APP, escaped to London. He wrote about these atrocities that officers had committed and boasted about. It was all published by the ‘Times of London’.

The reading made me feel guilty as if I had been caught doing it myself! In the Army, you wear no separate uniform. We all share the guilt. We may not have killed. But we connived and were part of the same force. History does not forgive! #

First published in Viewpoint, Issue NO. 31, December 17, 2010

Colonel Nadir Ali is a retired Army Officer, Punjabi poet and short story writer

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hamood-ur-Rehaman Commission recommended punishment of scores of Pakistan military officers responsible for Fall of Dhaka

WASEEM ALTAF

Army’s role in splintering Pakistan was largely ignored by successive governments. Bhutto personally ordered that each and every copy of the Hamood ur Rehman Report be burnt. A copy of the final report was however saved, which was leaked and published in India Today in August 2000. Gen. Musharraf said calls for generals to be tried were not fair

The Report: AFTER THE fall of Dacca, eight days later, on Dec 24, 1971, the then President of Pakistan Mr.Zulfikar Ali Bhutto set up the War Inquiry Commission, commonly known as the Hamood-ur-Rehaman Commission. It examined 213 witnesses, mostly Pakistani army officers, hundreds of classified documents and army signals between East and West Pakistan. The final report was submitted in November 1974, detailing how political, administrative, military, and moral failings were responsible for the surrender in East Pakistan.

The Findings: The report said: “The process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the armed forces was set in motion by their involvement in martial law duties in 1958 that these tendencies reappeared and were, in fact intensified when martial law was imposed once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan.”

“Due to corruption arising out of the performance of martial law duties, lust for wine and woman, and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of the war, “the commission observed.

According to the commission, these perversions led to the army brass willfully subverting public life in Pakistan. “In furtherance of their common purpose they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements and even bribes to support their designs, both for bringing some of the political parties and the elected members of National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National Assembly scheduled to be held at Dacca on March 3, 1971.

"A fully civil government could not be formed in East Pakistan as had been announced by the ex-President. Dr. Malik an old man and politician had a weak personality. He could not annoy, the Martial Law Administrator (Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi) also because of the unsettled conditions obtaining in the Wing. Gen Niazi, on the other hand, cherished and liked power, but did not have the breadth of vision or ability to understand political implications. He did not display much respect for the civilian Governor; the Army virtually continued to control civil administration".

"The installation of a civilian governor in September 1971 was merely to hoodwink public opinion at home and abroad. Poor Dr. Malik and his ministers were figureheads only.

Real decisions in all important matters still lay with the army. In the first picture of the new Cabinet. Maj. Gen Farman Ali was prominently visible sitting on the right side of the Governor, although he was not a member of the Cabinet."

The rot began at the very top from the East Pakistan army’s commander, Lt-General A.A.K.Niazi, who the commission said acquired a “notorious reputation for sexual immorality and indulgence in the smuggling of paan from East to West Pakistan”. The inevitable consequence was that “he failed to inspire respect and confidence in the minds of his subordinates with absolute absence of leadership qualities and determination; he also encouraged laxity in discipline and moral standards among the officers and men under his command”.

The Recommendations:
The Commission recommended Public Trial of the following Officers:
(1) General Yahya Khan, Former Commander-in-chief
(2) General Abdul Hamid Khan, ex Chief of Staff to the President
(3) Lt. Gen. S.G.M.M. Pirzada, ex PSO to the President
(4) Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan ex Chief of General Staff
(5) Maj. Gen. Ghulam Umar ex Second-in -Command of NSC
(6) Maj Gen A O Mitha ex Deputy Corps Commander
(7) Lt. Gen. Irshad Ahmad Khan, ex Commander 1 Corps
(8) Maj Gen Abid Zahid, ex GOC 15 Div
(9) Maj. Gen B.M. Mustafa, ex GOC 18 Div

The Commission recommended Court Martial of the following officers:
(1) Lt Gen A.A.K. Niazi, ex Commander, Eastern Command
(2) Maj Gen Mohammad Jamshed, ex-GOC 36 (ad hoc) Division,
(3) Maj Gen M. Rahim Khan, ex-GOC 39 (ad hoc) Division.
(4) Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, ex COS, Eastern Command, Dacca
(5) Brig Mohammad Hayat, ex Comd. 107 bde. (9 Div)
(6) Brig. Mohammad Aslam Niazi, ex Comd 53 Bde (39 Ad hoc Div.)

The Commission recommended Departmental Action against the following officers:
(1) Brig. S.A. Ansari, ex-Comd, 23 Bde,
(2) Brig. Manzoor Ahmad, ex-Comd 57 Bde 9 Div
(3) Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Comd, 93 Bde. 36 Div

The Commission observed that the suitability of the following officers for continued retention in military service would not be justified:
(1) Maj Gen M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div.,
(2) MajGen Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div.,
(3) Maj Gen Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div
(4) Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali, ex Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan.
(5) Plus 19 brigadiers.

The Commission further recommended that Armed Services should devise ways and means to ensure: -
(a) That moral values are not allowed to be compromised by infamous behavior particularly at higher levels;
(b) That moral rectitude is given due weight along with professional qualities in the matter of promotion to higher ranks;
(c) That syllabi of academic studies at the military academics and other Service Institutions should include courses designed to inculcate in the young minds respect for religious democratic and political institutions;
(d) That use of alcoholic drinks should be banned in military messes and functions;
(e) That serious notice should be taken of notorious sexual behavior and other corrupt practices

The Action: Nothing ever happened. The army’s role in splintering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments and many of those indicted by the commission were instead rewarded with military and political sinecures. Bhutto, reportedly, as Prime Minister personally ordered that each and every copy of the report be burnt. A copy of the final report was however saved, which was leaked and published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day Pakistani Newspaper Dawn also published the supplementary report. General Pervez Musharraf said in October 2000 that the incidents in 1971 were a political as well as a military debacle, and that calls for generals to be tried were not fair.

The Aftermath: Had action been initiated against the accused, as recommended by the Commission, the nation could have averted the coup d’etat of Zia-ul-Haq, whose 11 year rule of infamy completely devastated the political as well as the socio-economic fabric of the state and society. Besides many irreversibles, it led to radicalization of the society, which is now clearly visible. The policies of that era invited foreign intervention which is so deep rooted now. And the role of intelligence agencies from media management to missing persons is so pervasive. We could have also averted the illegitimate takeover of Pervez Musharraf and whatever followed thereafter.

Fast Forward to 2010
• The military plays the most important overt and covert role in ruling this country.
• The military is in full control of our economic, defense and foreign policy.
• Actual annual defense budget amounting to 1000 billion (in 2001 it was 400 billion, with an annual increase of 10% it comes to 1000 billion) is allocated on direction from the military and there is no parliamentary oversight.

• According to human rights groups, 4500 persons are missing in Pakistan and nobody has any access to them.
• Wikileaks reports that in March 2009 the Chief of the Army Staff considered removing the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and replacing him with the leader of ANP.
• The Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces considered his possible assassination by the military and advised his son to name his sister as President, in case he is eliminated.

First published in View Point, Issue No. 31, December 17, 2010

Waseem Altaf is a Pakistan based human right activist.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joy Bangla from the bottom of a Baloch heart‏

AHMAR MUSTIKHAN

I WAS just 12 years old when he heroic people of Bangladesh defeated one of the world's most ruthless armies. Though many in Pakistan were weeping over the "fall of Dhaka" my family like most Baloch families were happy over the victory of the people of Bengal and creation of Bangladesh.

I remember just a year earlier, a Bengali domestic servant who was my age and who we used to call “Abdul” told me Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would make Pakistan jolt. Even though Pakistan was under the rule of General Yahya Khan, the blue-eyed boy of the Pakistan military establishment Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was acting like a soap opera “hero” in West Pakistan.

There was of course total self-denial in Pakistan about the Nazi-style atrocities being perpetrated on the Bengalis and all we could hear was that there was a war between Islam and Hinduism in East Pakistan; the Bengali freedom fighters were agents of India. Much like what is happening in my native, Texas-sized Balochistan today.

In Karachi, near the posh Hill Park area, I remember we used to play in the evenings with an excellent ballet dancer, who was the daughter of a prominent Bengali banker. I also remember vividly one day we heard the family had quietly left their home in the Pakistan Employees Cooperative Housing Society and escaped to Bangladesh, via Afghanistan.


Racial slurs against Bengalis were common; Bengalis were stereotyped as short, dark and thieves, in the backdrop of official silence on the political thievery and thuggery of more than two decades that had pushed

the Bengalis to the wall. Just like the Baloch are projected today, the Bengalis were said to be lazy and without ambition, good only at eating fish and producing offspring. This of course was the ploy of the military generals who were acting on the age-old premise: give the dog a bad name and hang it.

West Pakistan civil and military bureaucracy, notably Punjabi and mohajirs or Muslim immigrants from India, had devised the scam of One Unit to undermine the majority Bengalis enjoyed and to enable the West to steal the wealth of “East Pakistan.” I remember we heard how quality rice – the staple diet of most Bengalis-- was cheaper in West Pakistan than in East Pakistan.

Though Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman was portrayed as a traitor deserving death on Pakistan Television, there was some degree of support for Maulana Bhashani as his Maoist stress of social change rather than geographical change was favored by pro-China leftists.

The bloodbath that was be ing conducted by the so-called soldiers of Islam was never mentioned in West Pakistan; Al-Shams and Al-Badr were portrayed as patriotic, pro-Islam volunteers while the Mukti Bahini was projected as a pro-India mercenary force comprising uncircumcized Hindus. The same way Baloch resistance groups like Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Republican Army and Balochistan Liberation Front are presented by Islamabad today. Yesterday, it was Sheikh Mujib today it is Hyrbyair Marri, Brahumdagh Bugti, and Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch who are resolved the national emancipation of nearly 20 million Baloch people in an independent Balochistan.

I also had a personal connection with Bangladesh. In my childhood, I used to hear from my late dad about how he had trekked through Cox's Bazaar afoot in his early twenties, commandeering nearly 40 family members during World War Two from Rangoon to Karachi. I had also heard about the man-eating jungles that came in the way.
I finally got a chance to visit Bangladesh in 1997.

I was really elated and emotional when I landed in Dhaka in a free Bangladesh. The ting ting of the bell of thousands of rickshaw-pullers was to my ears romantic, music of freedom


In Dhaka I met my colleague from the Inter Press Service, Tabibul Islam, a veteran journalist. His office in Dhaka was the same building that used to be the state-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan, a propaganda arm of the Pakistani authorities. I asked Islam when was the day he realized that East Pakistan would gain independence and he told me March 25, 1971 when Pakistan troops went berserk and staged a bloodbath in Dhaka University and elsewhere, leaving countless Bengali patriots dead.

I was extremely impressed by the excellent bus service that connects Dhaka with Cox Bazar's, stopping in Chittagong. I was intentionally wearing the traditional baggy trouser shalwar-kamiz suit to see how people in the streets would react with me. About 20 miles short of Cox's Bazaar the bus tire got punctured. The young man who was sitting next to me asked me, “Are you from East Punjab.” I replied no I was from Pakistan. He again asked me whether I knew what happened in 1971 and when I said yes, he asked again, “Then why are you here?”

I told the young Bengali I was a Baloch. “The same Pakistan military has killed thousands of my Baloch people.”

The situation in Balochistan has nosedived since then. In just the last couple of months more than 50 Baloch who were forcibly abducted by the Pakistan Military Intelligence, were tortured, shot in their head and their bodies dumped in the open.

Bengalis had very friends in the USA, some notable exception being the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and the US consul general Archer Kent Blood, author of the Blood Telegram, who put his career on line to openly revolt against the U.S. apathy towards Pakistan's genocide in Bangladesh. Today, the WikiLeaks cables show nothing has changed since the U.S. administration is talking primarily with Pakistan military generals and Inter Services Intelligence, when it comes to matters pertaining to the future of Balochistan, in stead of talking directly with Baloch leaders and stakeholders.

However, the Baloch look upon the secular people and government of Bangladesh with great expectations, especially when the Awami League is in power. To do justice to the three million Bengalis who gave their lives for their homeland and to the 200,000 thousand Bengali sisters who were raped, we urge the government of Sheikh Hasina to help the people of Balochistan by asking Pakistan to respect their wishes for an independent homeland.

From the bottom of my heart please accept, Joy Bangla! #

First exclusive publication on December 16, 2010


Ahmar Mustikhan is a Balochistan freedom activist and writer based in the Washington DC area. He can be reached at ahmar_scribe@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Phantom Warriors of 1971: Unsung Tibetan Guerrillas

MANAS PAUL

FORTY YEARS ago in 1971 on a cool and scary November 14 night in Chittagong a Pakistani sniper of Special Service Group perched silently on his hidden location near his camp felt he saw a ‘phantom’. The days were then uncertain and nights were too risky. So, the Pakistani soldier did not take any chance and opened fire. And the shadowy creatures just melted away in the darkness. One among them was, however, dying. He was shot at fatally. The Pakistani soldier did not know that he had just killed one of the toughest and CIA trained Tibetan guerrilla leaders- Dhondup Gyatotsang. As Gyatotsang- a ‘Dapon’ or Brigadier in Tibetan language- died his comrades, all armed simply with a Bulgarian AK 47 and their Tibetan knives, made radio contact with a turbaned Sikh some kilometres away and across the border. The Sikh barked at them the order : carry on with the task you are assigned to. As the order came the Tibetan guerrillas once again spread in the darkness and coiled up behind the Pakistani barracks and posts .They remained as shadow as long as they wanted and when the right time came they just struck with a lightning speed raiding the Pak positions. One after another Pakistani posts fell as the Tibetans, who by this gained the title ‘Phantom of Chittagong’, swept the hills and valleys of the hilly district of East Pakistan and restrained the Pakistani military movement to only small pockets. Weeks before the real War actually broke on December 3 the Tibetan guerrillas turned Chittagong virtually a free zone with pre-emptive strikes for Indian army movement. On December 16, 1971 when Pakistan army surrendered, the Tibetan commandos were only 40 kms from the Chittagong Port. By this time they had successfully accomplished their task that their chief-Inspector General- Maj. Gen Sujan Singh Uban had assigned to them: The Operation Mountain Eagle. They had, however, lost 49 of their comrades and had 190 injured.

‘Operation Mountain Eagle’ launched by RAW in East Pakistan during 1971 Indo-Pak War was, perhaps, till date the most closely guarded and top most secret operation of Indian authorities in the eastern flank of the war areas. Officially the operation could not be recognised as the Tibetan guerrilla force- known as Special Frontier Force (SFF) or Establishment-22 or simply called ‘two-two’- does not officially exists. The name it got from the fact that their first commander ( at the rank of Inspector General) Maj. Gen Sujan Singh Uban had once commanded 22 Mountain brigade. Since their inception in November, 1962, the Establishment22’s direct engagement in Indo-Pak war is also significant for the mere fact that it was not their ‘war’ at all. They were fighting for the cause of their host country and for liberation of another country- not for Tibet. But never their sacrifice was officially or publicly recognized- neither by India nor by Bangladesh till today.

Formation of top secret force, Two-Two
At the end of the 1962 Indo-China war the then Intelligence Bureau chief Bholanath Mullick took the initiative to form a special guerrilla force from the Tibetan youths who had been sheltered in India. Some documents indicate that former Chief Minister of Orissa Biju Patnaik had first come up with the idea while he was closely working with the CIA at the behest of Indian authorities in setting up of air surveillance ARC in Charbatia in his home state. Patnaik, a daredevil pilot with vast experience in several covert operations, according to Kenneth Conboy who authored an authoritative book on CIA operations relating to Tibet, wanted to raise a resistance force by the Tibetans in Assam .However, the IB continued with the plan which ultimately materialized with the help of Chu Shi Gandruk, main organization of the Khampa rebels and CIA.

Following the green signal from the Cabinet secretariat the Special Frontier Force or Establishment 22 or was formed on November 14, 1962.

According to the plan the force would formed with the Khampa rebels from ‘Chu Shi Gandruk’ –and most of them would be brought from CIA run overflowing Mustang base in Nepal that housed as many as 2032 members. The force would be handled and trained by the IB at their Chakrata base near Dehra Dun. The CIA would provide all other supports for their training and related matters.

CIA had first trained the Khampa rebels in Saipan in 1957 March and then Camp Hale in Colorado for guerrilla warfare so that they could be dropped in Tibet for sabotage against the Chinese. The operation under the code name of 'ST Circus' was first headed by a US marine Roger McCarthy. They trained in several batches about 259 Tibetan guerrillas. The CIA had also dropped some of them inside Tibet for sabotage and intelligence gathering.

"A formation agreement was signed in 1962. The parties to this formation agreement were the Indian Intelligence Service, the CIA and Chushi Gangdruk. General Gonpo Tashi and Jago Namgyal Dorjee, signed this three-party joint formation agreement on behalf of Chushi Gangdruk. Our organization took main responsibility for recruiting, and an initial strength of 12,000 men, mostly Khampas, were recruited at Chakrata, Dehra-dun, UP. Chushi Gangdruk sent two of the commanders to this new outfit to be political leaders in the initial stage", said Dokham Chushi Gandruk, a Tibetan organization fighting for the Tibetan cause.

Gyalo Thondup, elder brother of the Dalai Lama met the Khampas in Mustang. Konboy said, 'Gyalo also sought four political leaders who could act as the force's indigenous officer cadre....an initial contingent of Tibetans, led by Jamba Kalden, was dispatched to the hill town of Dehra Dun'.

"Our organization took main responsibility for recruiting, and an initial strength of 12,000 men, mostly Khampas, were recruited at Chakrata, Dehra-dun, UP. Chushi Gangdruk sent two of the commanders to this new outfit to be political leaders in the initial stage. Established under the direct supervision of the prime minister, the unit was named the Special Frontier Force... the unit was meant to be air-dropped into Tibet in the event of another war in the Tibetan frontiers", wrote Dokham Chushi Gandruk.

Soon, the CIA, sent eight of its advisers on a six-month temporary duty assignment. The team was led by a veteran CIA operative in several covert and deadly campaigns Wayne Sanford who was recipient of two Purple Hearts. "He was acting undercover from US Embassy as special assistant to Ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith", wrote Konboy.

The USA provided all the weaponry to them mostly M-1, M-2 and M-3 machine guns. As the covert guerrilla force was raised Maj General Sujan Singh Uban was assigned the task to command them as their Inspector General. The SFF ultimately came to be known as 'Establishment 22' or simply 'Two-two'. The name it got from the fact that Maj. Gen Uban had once commanded 22 Mountain brigade. Interestingly, the guerrilla forces cap insignia was designed as if it was '12th Gorkha' regiment-crossed khukri with '12' on top. This was a deception tactics as at that time there were only 11 Gorkha regiments, seven regiments were with Indian army and four with the British after independence. It was so decided to confuse common people, in case of meeting the guerrillas, with Gorkhas as the facial features were same.

For next several years both Indian army, MARCOS, IB and CIA trained the guerrillas with special focus on para-trooping and sabotage as well as intelligence collection it was kept in mind that in case of another war with China they would be pressed into service. Some of the Camp Hale trained Tibetans were also included in the Establishment 22 and they held senior positions. They ultimately became one of best ever guerrilla forces of the world efficient in both land and water campaigns. While the 'Establishment 22' was commanded by Maj. Gen Uban, the guerrillas had their own political representatives and 'Dapon'- a position equivalent to 'Brigadier'- mostly held by first generation Camp Hale trained guerrillas.

The Dalai Lama was aware of the formation of the guerrilla force since the beginning but he and his Dharamshala officials always maintained a distance from them neither supporting nor opposing the Indian initiative. But according to some, Jawhar Lal Nehru had once visited the guerrillas in Charkatha and was impressed by their training and discipline. The Dalai lama also had visited them once but it was much later.

Until late 1960 the CIA officials had kept relations with the Establishment 22 at various levels, but since 1968 their connections with the Tibetan guerrillas both in Mustang and Charkatha started thinning. CIA link with Charkatha completely died out in 1970s. The USA under Richard Nixon tilted towards Pakistan and also developed secret negotiations with China as Indo-Pakistan war seemed imminent.

Operation Mountain Eagle
Since the RAW headed by R N Kau was created on 21 September, 1968 the responsibility of the Establishment 22 also went to the agency. But their chief Maj Gen Uban had been worried at the way the trained commandos -as many as 64 companies, divided into eight battalions having six companies each and including other support units- were gathering moss in their Charkatha camps. They were not used against China or Pakistan for any real armed combat and the IG was worried that inaction and absence of field operations might reduce the morale and capabilities.

It was at that time the East Pakistan went up in flames with Pakistan army resorting to large scale massacres and rape on March 25, 1971 as 'Operation Searchlight'. Two days later Major Zia Ur Rehman- a Bengali military officer with the Pakistan army announced 'independence' in Chittagong radio and attacked the Pakistani army cantonment. Within a day, many more military officers followed and millions of refugees poured into India to flee the Pakistani Army's massacres and rapes. India was playing the card well and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was successful in garnering massive international support, barring USA and China of course, for the brutalized East Pakistani Bengali population. By this time Mukti Bahini was formed from the refugee youths sheltered in Indian states for launching guerrilla wars and intelligence collections inside East Pakistan against the Pakistani forces. The idea was to create a pre-emptive strike force before the Indian regular army moved in after the rainy season was over.

Incidentally, Maj Gen Uban was entrusted with the overall task for training of the Bengali forces like Mukti Bahini, Mujib Bahini.

Maj Gen Uban did not miss the chance and moved New Delhi to send his Tibetan forces to East Pakistan who, according to him were already better trained and itching for an operation. After initial hesitation Indira Gandhi was agreed to use the Tibetans for a third country cause, but sent the ball to the court of the Tibetans only.

Writes Tashi Dhundup, in article titled ' Not their own Wars', " Indira Gandhi in the lead-up to the SFF's deployment, Indira Gandhi wired a message to the Tibetan fighters, conveyed through their Indian commander: "We cannot compel you to fight a war for us," Gandhi wrote, "but the fact is that General A A K Niazi (the Pakistan Army commander in East Pakistan) is treating the people of East Pakistan very badly. India has to do something about it. In a way, it is similar to the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans in Tibet, we are facing a similar situation. It would be appreciated if you could help us fight the war for liberating the people of Bangladesh."

Following the letter the senior commanders of the Establishment 22 guerrillas discussed and agreed to help the Bengalis of East Pakistan to achieve their new nation Bangladesh.

The Operation Mountain Eagle was launched in a second cool November night, apparently avoiding the Eastern Command directly by the RAW.

It was sometime in October third week of 1971 that one of the most top secret armed campaigns against the Pakistan army in East Pakistan the Operation Mountain Eagle was launched quietly launched. More than 3000 Tibetan commandos from Establishment- 22 were dropped at an obscure and extreme border village Demagiri in Mizoram. The Indian secret services used AN 12 plane from the ARC to bring the guerrillas by night sorties. Demagiri which was located across the river Karnafulli and Chittagong Hill Tracts in East Pakistan was by that time was crowded with refugees. The Tibetan stayed incognito with the refugees for sometimes and then began small hit-and-run raids in East Pakistan. They would cross the river and, strike a Pakistani force and return to Demagiri. In second week of November, 1971, the Tibetan guerrillas led by Dapon Dhondup Gyatotsang crossed the river using nine canoes went inside East Pakistan to launch a decisive guerrilla campaign. Since the Establishment 22 or SFF does not officially exist, Indian authorities to deny any complicity in any eventuality gave them Bulgarian AK 47s instead of Russian ones. On the very first night they ran over a Pakistani post. Within hours next morning they captured one more and they kept on sweeping and then stopped- for sometime- when their Dapon was shot dead. But again, they swung into action.

The task to Establishment 22 were clear: blow up Kaptai dam, damage the Pakistani military positions and kill as many as Pak soldiers- at that time popularly called as 'Khan Sena' possible, destroy the bridges, military infrastructures, and restrain the Pakistani military movement. Divided in three columns their hit and run modus operandi and the task specified were to create a situation that when the Indian army would move , they could march through the Chittagong hills and plains without much resistance from the Pakistanis.

According to the specialists on the subject the Establishment guerrillas were extremely successful in their campaign. It that time Pakistani 97th Independent Brigade and their 2nd commando battalion of SSG were positioned strategically in Chittagong. The guerrillas successfully restrained them in their respective positions and also cut off all the routes that the Pakistani soldiers thought of opening towards Burma. In fact the Pakistani soldiers were seeing ghosts in all the shadows and they were fighting against merciless ghosts who were always on the prowl, would swoop down from nowhere and mercilessly eliminate the humans and destroy the posts and would immediately vanish for their next target. Within one month of their operations, the Tibetan guerrillas virtually cleaned up the Chittagong and when the Indian army moved in they did not face much resistance at all.

"About one-third of its full strength was developed adjacent to the Chittagong Hill Tracts as Mukti Bahini. They captured many towns and garrisons in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in continuous fighting of about one month", according to Dhokma Chushi Gangdruk.

In fact Maj Gen Uban and his guerrillas were keen to capture the Chittagong Port. They were very close and Pakistan army were not at all in a position to stop them. But Indian military and other authorities were not ready to assign them with the task as , though it would have been easier for the guerrillas to capture the Port, to keep it under their control they would have needed heavy artillery weapons-which they did not have with them.

According to a document, when the Chittagong Port was captured by Indian military, the guerrillas were then asked to sit quiet at about 40 kms away. However, on December 16 when Pakistan army surrendered in Dhaka, the Phantoms of Establishment -22 for the first time in their history, came out in the open on the Chittagong road rejoicing the victory of India over Pakistan. Not the common people were stunned by their sudden appearance -happy and rejoicing- virtually from nowhere, even many of the Indian soldiers who were also not aware of their presence in the vicinity were taken by surprise. But soon Maj Gen Uban was informed about the public appearance of the Tibetans on Chittagong roads and he just barked them back to shadows once again. They were never seen again. Their happy moment in the public was only for some hours.

Though the Tibetan guerrillas were arguably the main force that played key role in Chittagong in 1971 war,- sacrificed 49 ( according to Tibetans' estimate 56) including one of their top leader and 190 injured, they could not be Officially awarded.

"The Indian government gave awards to 580 members of the force for their active involvement and bravery in the battles. The contribution made by Establishment 22 in liberating East Pakistan was great and the price paid by the force was also high", said Dokham Chusi Gandruk, the New York based organization.

It then added: (The fight and sacrifice) would have been of great value had it been used against communist China, the intended enemy....The SFF never had a chance of being used in operations against its intended enemy, Red China, but it was used against East Pakistan with the consent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1971".

It is, however, a different story that the Establishment 22 was later used in many Indian operations including in Operation Blue Star, Siachen, Kargil. They are also being used a main anti terrorist operators in many parts of the country. According to a report, in between Indira Gandhi's assassination and formation of SPG, it was these Establishment 22 commandos who were in charge of Gandhi family's close protection. But in all the cases down the decades they remained unsung heroes- the 'unknown' warriors from a different country who fought and sacrificed for others. #

First published in TripuraInfo.in, 13 Dec, 2010
Manas Paul is journalist and blogger is based in Agartala, Tripura, Northeast India. He could be reached at manaspaul@hotmail.com , manaspaul1965@gmail.com

Sources : Tibetan sources and blogs, Kenneth Conboy and Jim Morrison, Calude Arpi.


Post Script : PHATOM FIGHTERS OF 1971 : UNSUNG TIBETAN GUERRILLAS is virtually an untold story of a top secret mission. A very handful of people including some foreign journalists who were in touch with Tibetans are aware of the operations. Many of the military generals including Gen JFR Jacob or Maj Gen SS Uban who commanded the force did not dwell extensively on them but obliquely referred. So it is virtually revisiting a mission that was intended to be kept top secret. Picture is taken from internet

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Trigger Happy"

Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border


MEENAKSHI GANGULY


Summary
This report documents a pattern of grave abuses by India’s Border Security Force (BSF) against both Bangladeshi and Indian nationals in the border area along India’s 2,000 kilometer long international frontier with Bangladesh in West Bengal state. The abuses include cases of indiscriminate killing and torture.

Most of the abuses documented in this report are related to efforts by the Indian government to deal with cross-border smuggling, particularly cattle-rustling. However, as this report shows, the abusive methods used by the BSF are disproportionate to the problems that the Indian government faces on its eastern border. Numerous ordinary Indian and Bangladeshi citizens resident in the border area end up as the victims of BSF abuses, which range from verbal abuse and intimidation to torture, beatings, and killings. Furthermore, because of the near total absence of effective accountability mechanisms for abuses carried out by members of the BSF, even the most serious abuses by border guards go unpunished. This sends a clear message that the Indian government finds such abuses acceptable.

The border area between India and Bangladesh is heavily populated and acutely poor. Many farmers on both sides of the border have also lost their farms and livelihoods to river erosion. Illegal cross-border activities, such as cattle-rustling, and trafficking in persons and narcotics, have flourished. In several of the cases documented in this report, victims were beaten up or killed while smuggling cattle across the border at night. Others were tortured or killed merely on suspicion of being involved in cattle-rustling. Children, reportedly employed by smugglers to reduce the risk of detection, are among the victims whose cases are documented below.

Several survivors and eyewitnesses of attacks allege that the BSF engaged in indiscriminate shooting without warning. Seventeen-year-old Bangladeshi Shyamol Karmokar sneaked into India to visit relatives. On January 26, 2010, he decided to return to Bangladesh with the assistance of cattle-rustlers. Mohammad Zahid, who had agreed to bring Shyamol back to Bangladesh, said that they were detected by the BSF close to the border. Instead of attempting to arrest them, BSF officers immediately opened fire. Shyamol was killed.

Torture is also rife. On January 25, 2010, Motiar Rahman, a Bangladeshi national strayed across the border while cutting grass, a common mistake since there are no clear markers. According to Motiar Rahman, he was captured by two BSF soldiers:

They blindfolded me and took me to the BSF camp. I thought that the BSF were going to kill me. After reaching the camp, the BSF personnel removed the blindfold and tied me to a tree. They left me there for over 15 hours, until 11 p.m. at night. Then they gave me some food. But once I had had finished my meal, the BSF started torturing me. I was beaten severely with a bamboo stick on my back and feet by the same soldier who brought me the food. I was kicked several times and as a result started bleeding from my penis. Another soldier started beating me on my head with a bamboo stick. This went on for at least 45 minutes… The BSF men jumped on my chest, and kicked me on my head and face with their boots.

Indian villagers residing in the border areas also accuse the BSF of not just indiscriminate shooting, but unprovoked beatings. Indian national Halima Bibi said her 12-year-old daughter was slapped and beaten by three BSF personnel on September 5, 2009 outside their home close to the border with Bangladesh. When Halima Bibi protested, she was verbally abused with sexual insults.

Nirsingha Mondal, from India’s Murshidabad district, said that on May 10, 2009, he had gone out as usual in the morning to collect firewood for cooking. He was dragged into a nearby BSF camp by two soldiers, who beat him up and accused him of stealing flowers from their garden.

The Indian government says it is seeking to contain the smuggling and mass economic migration from Bangladesh. In recent years, India has also alleged that separatist militants in its northeastern states find sanctuary in Bangladesh and cross into India to perpetrate terrorist attacks. However few of those killed by the BSF have ever been shown to have been involved in terrorism. In an effort to secure the border the Indian government is constructing a large 3,200 kilometer fence. But in densely populated areas of the border, where land is cultivated right up to the international boundary, the border fence is already exacerbating the problems faced by residents of the border areas.

The BSF justifies the killing of suspected smugglers by claiming that they were evading arrest, or that its personnel had to fire in self-defense. But suspicion of a crime or evasion of arrest cannot alone justify the use of lethal force. In fact, even India’s domestic laws which allow “all means necessary” in case a person attempts to use force to resist arrest, specifically forbid causing the death of a person who is not accused of an offense punishable by death or a life term.

In all the cases we investigated, the alleged criminals were either unarmed or armed with only sickles, sticks, and knives, which suggest that in shooting victims, the border guards are likely to have used excessive force. In a number of cases, the victims were shot in the back, suggesting that they were running away. In others, injuries indicate the person was shot at close range, with witnesses often alleging that the person was tortured and killed in BSF custody. Other victims appear to have fallen victim to bullets because they were too close to the border.
When someone is killed during a BSF operation, the BSF is required to file a report with the police. In such cases the BSF usually justifies the killing by accusing the victim of obstructing a public servant while performing his duties, unlawful assembly, or attempted murder. In none of the cases investigated by Human Rights Watch did the BSF show that it had recovered lethal weapons or explosives that could pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury that might justify killings in self-defense.

The Bangladeshi authorities have repeatedly complained about the rampant killing of its nationals by the BSF, as have human rights groups in both countries. Odhikar has documented cases of nearly a 1000 Bangladeshi nationals that have been killed by BSF over the last decade. Describing the BSF as “trigger happy,” Bangladesh Home Minister, Sahara Khatun, said in May 2010 that she would again ask New Delhi to stop these incidents.

Despite these strong comments from Khatun, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), which is responsible for guarding the border from the Bangladeshi side and reports to the Bangladeshi Home Ministry, often fails to defend the rights of Bangladeshi citizens. The BDR is deployed to contain the smuggling of weapons, explosives, and narcotic substances including Phensedyl, a cough syrup that is banned in Bangladesh, but commonly used as a recreational drug. However, the Indian border authorities complain that their Bangladeshi counterparts do not do enough to prevent illegal cross-border smuggling.

In researching this report, the Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar and Human Rights Watch interviewed several BDR officials about Bangladeshi victims. In most cases, if the BSF presented evidence of smuggling, the BDR did not complain about Bangladeshi nationals being killed. For instance, with respect to the killing of Shyamol Karmokar, the BDR Camp Commander at Wahedpur border, Subedar Sirajul Islam, said that while his death was “unfortunate and sad,” the BSF had opened fire believing him to be a cattle trader because he was with a group of rustlers. “Thus there was nothing wrong with the fact that the BSF has shot him.”

In March 2010, BDR chief Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam, explaining that there was a history of “people and cattle trafficking during darkness,” said of the killings: “We should not be worried about such incidents…. We have discussed the matter and will ensure that no innocent people will be killed.” During an official visit to Bangladesh in September 2010, Raman Srivastava, Director General of the BSF, responded to Bandgladesh’s complaints that the BSF were killing “innocent, unarmed” Bangladeshi civilians by saying: “We fire at criminals who violate the border norms. The deaths have occurred in Indian territory and mostly during night, so how can they be innocent?”

These comments suggest that officials of both governments believe that it is legal to use lethal force against those suspected of being engaged in smuggling or other illegal activities. This amounts to a de facto shoot-to-kill policy for smugglers, and violates both national and international standards on the right to life and the presumption of innocence which are applicable in India and Bangladesh.

The BDR raises serious concerns with the BSF only when cases of indiscriminate firing lead to the death of villagers not involved in smuggling. For instance, on March 13, 2009, a BSF trooper got into an argument with a boy fishing in a lake, barely 20 meters from the international border. According to eyewitnesses, when the altercation became heated, the soldier opened fire, hitting two boys who were grazing their buffaloes nearby. Thirteen-year-old Abdur Rakib was shot in the chest and died instantly. Mohammad Omar Faruq, 15, was injured and later described the indiscriminate firing. A flag meeting was held between the BDR and the BSF the next day to discuss the incident. The BSF initially tried to insist that the victims were illegal cattle traders, but the BDR personnel presented witness accounts countering this version. Some villagers who were present during the flag meeting said that the BSF eventually apologized and promised that the soldier responsible would be punished. It is not clear if any disciplinary action was taken.

Members of the BSF are described by local residents as unsympathetic, aggressive, and violent. This may be explained by the fact that many are deployed to the region after difficult and tense tours of duty on the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir. Human Rights Watch researchers witnessed BSF troopers shouting at villagers, calling them names, and often making them wait for hours as each person was searched and signed as they crossed BSF outposts, to reach their fields or homes which adjoin the border.

To prevent the accidental shooting of villagers, an informal curfew is imposed on both sides of the border at night. But the restriction of movement after dark causes numerous difficulties. In India, the BSF patrols are deployed in posts a few kilometers inside Indian territory. They restrict access to areas beyond the outposts, effectively cutting people off from their farms or markets. To prevent infiltration by Bangladeshi nationals, the BSF require residents to surrender their identity or citizenship cards when they cross the border outposts and to claim them on return. Mithoo Sheikh, a young man in Murshidabad, said that there are long queues as the BSF checks each identity:

Sometimes by the time we get to the field it is noon. And we have stop work by 4 p.m. because they stop us from returning after dark. The BSF does not understand cultivation problems. We cannot water our fields at noon. Sometimes we only get water at night, but they will not let us remain in the field. If we disobey, we get beatings or they file false charges… We are treated as outsiders in our country.

The police are unwilling to lodge complaints against the BSF. When Tutan Sheikh, an Indian national, complained to the police that he and his brothers were subjected to unprovoked beatings by the BSF, he was told by the police officer on duty that the BSF trooper had committed no crime since the BSF was there to “beat the people.” In another case, after Indian national Noor Hossain was killed by the BSF, police told family members who wanted to lodge a complaint: “Why do you bother? What will happen to the BSF? Nothing can happen to the BSF. The BSF will say that the … border area is under their control.”

The Indian NGO Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), one of Human Rights Watch’s partners in researching this report, has repeatedly approached the courts, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the National Minorities Commission, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, to hold abusers accountable. None of the cases raised have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. According to Kirity Roy, who heads MASUM, “As the de facto complainant, we were never summoned to appear or depose before any inquiry conducted by the BSF. However, we are aware that in some cases, family members or victims did appear before the BSF court of inquiry.” No verdicts were made public.

According to the Bangladeshi authorities, India has never provided details of any BSF personnel who have been prosecuted for human rights violations. Until India ends its legal protection of security forces and civilian officials implicated in criminal offenses, a culture of impunity will prevail and abuses will continue.

The BSF, which has a long record of severe human rights abuses and members of India’s other security forces, are exempt from criminal prosecution unless specific approval is granted by the Indian government to undertake a prosecution in a particular case. This legally sanctioned impunity is even included in a new bill to prohibit torture under consideration in the Indian parliament. The bill, as presently drafted, will require approval from the central or a state government for a court to have jurisdiction over an offense committed by a public servant.

BSF personnel are in theory liable to be produced before an internal court for making false accusations, or for “disgraceful conduct of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind.” Although the BSF claims that these courts are routinely used to prosecute those that commit crimes or violate the Border Security Force Act, there are no publicly known cases in which a BSF member was convicted of a crime for a human rights abuse at the India-Bangladesh border. It is time for the Indian government, which claims to follow the rule of law and respect basic rights, to take strong steps to end abuses and hold those responsible to account.

Key Recommendations
• The Indian government should publicly order the Border Security Force (BSF) and other security forces to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. This requires officials to apply, as far as possible, non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Even in self-defense, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. International law also requires security forces to give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, and sufficient time to surrender.
• Given the continuing failure of the BSF’s internal justice system to prosecute its own members for human rights abuses, personnel of all ranks implicated in serious rights abuses should be investigated by civilian authorities and prosecuted in civilian courts. In cases of abuses against Indian and Bangladeshi nationals, the police must register complaints filed against the BSF. Guidelines as laid down by the National Human Rights Commission to investigate all cases of deaths in armed encounters should be applied to the BSF.
• The Indian government should establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry into serious violations of international human rights law by the BSF. The government should invite both Indian and Bangladeshi nationals to submit evidence and bring complaints to such a commission. The inquiry should be time bound and transparent, and should have the ability to provide protection to witnesses.
• The Indian government should repeal all legal provisions that require approval of the executive branch for prosecutions against members of the security forces to proceed, including in article 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Similar provisions in the Indian Prevention of Torture Bill currently in front of the Indian parliament should be deleted. Such provisions provide effective immunity to the security forces and violate the principles of equality under the law enshrined in both the Indian Constitution and international law.
• The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations should inform the Indian government that those BSF personnel responsible for human rights violations should be excluded from peacekeeping duties.
• The Government of India and Bangladesh should agree upon the request of the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions to visit the country, pending since 2000 for India and since 2006 for Bangladesh. The Special Rapporteur should also include in his program, visits the border areas between India and Bangladesh.

First published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), New York, December 9, 2010


Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for Human Rights Watch has written the document in collaboration with Henrik Alffram, consultant to the Asia division of Human Rights Watch; and two local organizations Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) based in Kolkata, and Odhikar based in Dhaka

Allah Hafiz to Khuda Hafiz

NADEEM F. PARACHA

The first time Allah Hafiz was used in public was in 1985 when a famous TV host, a frequent sight on PTV during the Zia era, signed off her otherwise secular show with a firm ‘Allah Hafiz.’
AS MOST Pakistanis over the ages of six and seven would remember, before the now ubiquitous ‘Allah Hafiz’ came ‘Khuda Hafiz’.

The immediate history of the demise of Khuda Hafiz can be traced back to a mere six to seven years in the past. It was in Karachi some time in 2002 when a series of banners started appearing across Sharea Faisal. Each banner had two messages. The first one advised Pakistani Muslims to stop addressing God by the informal ‘Tu’ and instead address him as ‘Aap’ (the respectful way of saying ‘you’ in Urdu). The second message advised Pakistanis to replace the term Khuda Hafiz with Allah Hafiz.
The banners were produced and installed by Islamic organisations associated with a famous mosque in Karachi. Ever since the 1980s, this institution had been a bastion of leading puritanical doctrines of Islam. Many of the institution’s scholars were, in one way or the other, also related to the Islamic intelligentsia sympathetic to the Taliban version of political Islam and of other similar fundamentalist outfits.

However, one just cannot study the Allah Hafiz phenomenon through what happened in 2002. This phenomenon has a direct link with the disastrous history of cultural casualties Pakistan has steadily been suffering for over thirty years now. Beyond the 2002 banner incident, whose two messages were then duly taken up by a series of Tableeghi Jamaat personnel and as well as trendsetting living room Islamic evangelists, a lot of groundwork had already taken place to culturally convert the largely pluralistic and religiously tolerant milieu of Pakistan into a singular concentration of Muslims following the “correct” version of Islam.

The overriding reasons for this were foremost political, as General Ziaul Haq and his politico-religious cohorts went about setting up madressahs in an attempt to harden the otherwise softer strain of faith that a majority of Pakistanis followed so they could be prepared for the grand ‘Afghan jihad’ against the atheistic Soviet Union with a somewhat literalist and highly politicised version of Islam. The above process not only politically radicalised sections of Pakistani society, its impact was apparent on culture at large as well.

For example, as bars and cinemas started closing down, young men and women, who had found space in these places to simply meet up, were forced to move to shady cafes, restaurants and parks which, by the mid-1980s, too started to be visited by cops and fanatical moral squads called the ‘Allah Tigers’, who ran around harassing couples in these spaces, scolding them for going against Islam, or, on most occasions, simply extorting money from the shaken couples through blackmail.
Then, getting a blanket ideological and judicial cover by the Zia dictatorship, the cops started to harass almost any couple riding a motorbike, a car or simply sitting at the beach. Without even asking whether the woman was the guy’s sister or mother (on many occasions they were!), the cops asked for the couples’ marriage certificate! Failing to produce one (which in most cases they couldn’t), hefty sums of money were extorted as the couples were threatened to be sent to jail under the dreadful Hudood Ordinances. The same one the Musharraf government eventually scrapped.
Some of these horrendous practices were duly stopped during the Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif governments in the 1990s, but the cat had long been set among the pigeons. Encouraged by their initial successes in the 1980s, Islamist culture-evangelists became a lot more aggressive in the 1990s. Drawing room and TV evangelists went about attempting to construct a “true” Islamic society, and at least one of their prescriptions was to replace the commonly used Khuda Hafiz with Allah Hafiz.

This was done because these crusading men and women believed that once they had convinced numerous Pakistanis to follow the faith by adorning a long beard and hijab, the words Khuda Hafiz would not seem appropriate coming out from the mouths of such Islamic-looking folks. They believed that Khuda can mean any God, whereas the Muslims’ God was Allah. Some observers suggest that since many non-Muslims residing in Pakistan too had started to use Khuda Hafiz, this incensed the crusaders who thought that non-Muslim Pakistanis were trying to adopt Islamic gestures only to pollute them. The first time Allah Hafiz was used in public was in 1985 when a famous TV host, a frequent sight on PTV during the Zia era, signed off her otherwise secular show with a firm ‘Allah Hafiz.’ However, even though some Islamic preachers continued the trend in the 1990s, it did not trickle down to the mainstream until the early 2000s. As society continued to collapse inwards — especially the urban middle class — the term Allah Hafiz started being used as if Pakistanis had always said Allah Hafiz.

So much so that today, if you are to bid farewell by saying Khuda Hafiz, you will either generate curious facial responses, or worse, get a short lecture on why you should always say Allah Hafiz instead — a clear case of glorified cultural isolationism to ‘protect’ one’s comfort zone of myopia from the influential and uncontrollable trends of universal pluralism?

I’m afraid this is the case. #

First published in the DAWN newspaper, Pakistan, Sunday, 24 May, 2009
Nadeem F. Paracha is a columnist with DAWN and political commentaror for many international print and electronic media

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