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Friday, December 16, 2022

How Long Can Pakistan Troops Hold In East Pakistan?


In a crucial meeting held in Washington DC, on the morning of December 6, 1971, was attended by senior officials of departments of State, Defence, Joint Chief of Staffs, CIA, USAID, and others.

The heavyweight US Secretary for State at the onset of the meeting asked Gen. Westmoreland: What is your military assessment? How long can Pakistan hold out in the east [Bangladesh]?

Gen. Westmoreland candidly said, up to three weeks. Once Pakistan Army runs out of supplies, all the troops in East Pakistan [Bangladesh] will become a hostage.

No doubt sly Kissinger was worried about the safety and security of marauding Pakistan’s troops battling in occupied Bangladesh.

The United States seriously wanted to stick with withdrawal and ceasefire not a humiliating surrender of Pakistan troops and Kissinger assured the Pakistan regime that they doing all the best they can do diplomatically.

The perturbed Kissinger believed that there would be a massacre of the disarmed troops in the hands of the Mukti Bahini (Bangladesh Liberation Forces) after enemy soldiers are disarmed.

Three days after a full-scale war between India-Pakistan on the eastern front and Bangladesh-India jointly against Pakistan in the eastern war theatre, Henry Kissinger asked how long Pakistan troops can hold in Bangladesh.

The officials discussed whether there were any possibilities of Pakistan troop evacuation. Gen. Westmoreland responded in negative.

A senior official of the State Department asked Gen. Westmoreland that assuming the Indians take over Bangladesh, how do you think it will happen.

Gen. Westmoreland: I think their primary thrust will be to cut off the seaport of Chittagong. This will virtually cut off any possibility of resupply. Then they will move to destroy Pakistan’s regular forces, in cooperation with the Mukti Bahini. They will then be faced with the major job of restoring some order to the country. I think there will be a revenge massacre — possibly the greatest in the twentieth century.

Kissinger asked shall the Indians withdraw their army once the Pakistan forces were disarmed.

Gen. Westmoreland replied that he thinks they [Indians] will leave three or four divisions to work with the Mukti Bahini and pull the remainder back to the West [Pakistan].

The officials expect that the Indians will pull out as quickly as they can. Once the Pakistan forces are disarmed, the Indians will have a friendly population. They can afford to move back to the border areas quickly.

Another official in the nerve-breaking meeting predicted that after the Indian Army has been in Bangladesh for two or three weeks, they will be accepted as a “Hindu army of occupation”.

Kissinger asked: What will India do with Bangladesh? Will they see it as an independent state or have them negotiate with Islamabad?

An official responded that India has already recognised Bangladesh as an independent country. Kissinger said then there is no hope for Pakistan to negotiate with Bangladesh.

The objective of the prudent Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government was to force a surrender of the Pakistani troops in Bangladesh within 10 days.

In a telegram from New Delhi on December 6, US Ambassador Kenneth Barnard Keating reported that Indian Foreign Secretary Triloki Nath Kaul had expressed “disappointment, shock and surprise” that the United States had tabled the resolution it did in the UNSC.

On December 5 the Soviet representative on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) vetoed an eight-power draft resolution that called for a ceasefire and mutual withdrawal of forces, as well as intensified efforts to create the conditions necessary for the return of refugees to their homes.

However, the UN Security Council accepted on December 6 that an impasse had been reached in its deliberations on the conflict in South Asia, and referred the issue to the General Assembly adopted by a vote of 11 to 0 with 4 abstentions.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s General Yahya Khan’s administration conveyed their intentions to retreat from their eastern wing to the United Nations on 10 December 1971, and a formal surrender was submitted and accepted when the Commander of Eastern Command and Governor of East Pakistan, General Niazi, signed an instrument of surrender with his counterpart, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Commander of Eastern Command.

An estimated 93,000 Pakistan troops and civilians including family members made an unconditional public surrender in Dhaka on December 16, 1971, which is observed each year as Victory Day both in Bangladesh and by Indian armed forces.

The surrender was indeed the largest surrender that the world had witnessed since the end of the Second World War.

Conclusion: Despite the growing anger among the Mukti Bahini commanders to avenge the extreme barbarity unleashed by Pakistan troops, fortunately, none of the disarmed enemy troops was killed or died for being held captive in military garrisons inside Bangladesh.

Soon after the Prisoners of War (POWs) were transferred to India, as newly born Bangladesh did not have the ability to the containment of such a huge number of POWs.

Under Tripartite Agreement in April 1974 between Bangladesh, India and Pakistan signed in New Delhi enabled the repatriation of all the 79,676 uniformed POWs and 13,324 civilians to Pakistan, including the 195 officers held for suspected war crimes.

First published in The News Times, December 16, 2022

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Peace on silver jubilee remains elusive for hill people


People of the hill forest, an abode of the Mongoloid ethnic Adivasis refuse to celebrate the historic signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord on December 2, which brought to an end a protracted autonomy-seeking insurgency for more than two decades.
However, the government is officially celebrating the silver jubilee of the Peace Accord. The government-sponsored supplements in mainstream newspapers failed to mention the implementation of the accord and instead runs a list of physical developments including how many solar-panel sets were distributed, roads and bridges were built and blah, blah.
On the other hand, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) in a paid supplement in Dainik Samakal stated that in 25 years the peace accord has not been fully implemented, which remains a bone of contention among the ethnic communities in the hills.
Out of 72 provisions of the accord, only 25 provisions and 18 clauses have been partially implemented, said PCJSS supremo Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma a.k.a. Shantu Larma on the occasion of the 25th anniversary at Liberation War Museum auditorium which was not a surprise for many.
On the eve of the accord’s silver jubilee, a full-fledged Hill District Council in Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban has not been formed through direct elections. The interim Hill District Councils were formed with hand-picked ruling party members, mostly Bangalee and a few Adivasis. This undemocratic and partisan path gives a wrong message to the hill people of a lack of political commitment.
The government remains silent when the implementation of the fundamental provisions of the accord was raised, which caused further complications.
Despite all odds, Shantu Larma seems hopeful that the accord will surely see the light of day before the ‘golden jubilee’ celebration. Then only the hill people will be able to celebrate the accord, he quipped.
Unless the peace accord, signed on 2 December 1997 during the first tenure of Sheikh Hasina’s government (1996-2001), peace will remain elusive for the Adivasis of the picturesque hills.
In the last quarter century, the CHT Peace Accord Implementation Committee has held its 6th meeting recently. This also gives an impression of the seriousness of the government’s will.
On the other side, the CHT Land Commission formed under the provision of the CHT Accord has not progressed at all.
Nevertheless, Shantu Larma seems to have faith in Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who he said has the sincere political will to get the peace deal signed and a bill passed in the parliament.
He argued that the responsibility to implement the peace accord lies with the state and nobody else, not PCJSS.
A road map to implement the accord to achieve peace was also agreed upon with the government. It was not understood what hindered the delay in the implementation of the accord.
The peace process for a solution with the government’s liaison committee had been initiated during the military junta of General H M Ershad. Later when Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) came to power, the dialogue with the government continued and the end result was zero.
Both regimes experienced hiccups as the liaison committees could not envisage a political solution to the crisis.
When Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996, a year later a rapid series of dialogues resulted in the CHT Peace Accord after the government recognised the crisis as a political problem.
The CHT Peace Accord was written with the supreme sacrifice of the blood of the Adivasis and the political vision of the Awami League government.
“We are continuing the dialogue to achieve peace,” PCJSS supremo said.
In frustration, Shantu Larma remarked that: “It does not take 25 years to implement a peace accord.”
Most people in Bangladesh, especially those visiting the hill forests as a tourist are not aware that martial law has long gone away with the fall of a dictator in 1990, a de facto military rule continues, and ‘Operation Uttaran’ has not been withdrawn, even though it was agreed in the accord to stop targeting the hill people.
The military dictator General Ziaur Rahman deliberately wanted to Islamise CHT and pushed tens of thousands of landless Bangalee Muslim settlers from the floodplains.
Presently, the authorities are systematically making efforts to “Bangalise” the region – further marginalising the Adivasis.
For the last 25 years, the Adivasi youths and student leaders launched a violent movement to pressure the government to realise the accord’s implementation but were frustrated.
The Adivasis will continue to suffer in pain and agony for non-compliance with the much talked about peace accord with the autonomy-seeking armed ethnic minorities of the CHT.

First published in The News Times, December 3, 2022
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad

Friday, December 02, 2022

White Paper uprising dents ego of the China’s leadership


It’s unusual for a Chinese to protest against the despotic regime of the Chinese Communist Party. Such incidents are immediately suppressed under draconian laws and repressive tools to neutralise the dissenting voice.
The pro-democracy student movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was cruelly crushed and threw thousands of protesters were in nauseating prisons after they were brutally tortured to sign cooked-up confessional statements.
Well, it is not normal for the Chinese to join street protests. The people are trained to remain silent against the tyrannical rule – in absence of freedom of expression and democracy.
Last week, an unprecedented protest against the Chinese hyped “dynamic zero-Covid” policy for weeks and months contributed to anger and frustration. The lockdown was so stringent that the apartment buildings were sealed and entrances were barricaded.
The flurry of videos of the fire incident in a high-rise apartment, lead to a public outcry which quickly spread across the country – in 17 major cities including Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Lanzhou, Nanjing, Shanghai, Urumqi, Wuhan and Xi’an.
In a bid to discourage participation in the uprising, the authorities of elite universities hung notices for closing the campus and shuttled the students to train stations and airports.
In most cities, the protests in China turned violent. The protesters showed a blank white paper to give a message of the lack of a free press, free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of faith – most importantly absence of democracy.
The protest sparked after a fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province, the home of Uyghur Muslims. The fire killed 10 residents as the emergency response team were unable to reach the inferno victims. The province was under a strict Coronavirus lockdown for more than 100 days.
The Uyghurs for several years are facing persecution and relocation in mainland China, while a huge number of the community remains captive in so-called internment camps for months.
Sinologist David Moser in a tweet writes: I’ve lived in China for 30 years, and I’ve never seen such a brazenly open and sustained expression of rage against the [People’s Republic of China] PRC govt. WeChat [a Chinese popular social media app] is exploding with protest videos and furious vitriol, and civil disobedience is becoming rampant. This is a serious test of CCP governance.
Filmmaker Rob Schneider writes: When tyranny pushes citizens to where they have nothing to lose because their government has crushed all their hopes and liberties to the point of starvation…people fight back!
The fresh demonstrations occurred weeks after securing a third term as the Communist Party’s general secretary, Chinese President Xi Jinping is presently facing widespread popular discontent seen in China since 1989. He spearheaded the extreme lockdown measures across the country.
Nevertheless, the street demonstration has yielded results. The Chinese authorities have hastily relaxed lockdown restrictions and lifted lockdowns in some cities which have been confined for weeks to more than a month.
A top health official acknowledges the changing nature of the virus as the country faces a ‘new situation’. The authority went a step further – allowing close contacts to isolate at home instead of spending five days in a quarantine facility.
As usual, heavily censored Chinese state media did not mention a word about the street protests, except for the relaxation of restrictions.
The award-winning Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini aptly said about state media that “censorship is advertising paid by the [Chinese] government.”
The Communist Party of China teaches millions of new-generation students in schools and through youth organisations not to challenge authorities, which is deemed as a sin. People are not trained not to talk or type or write anything – just obey and obey as slaves.
Selina Wang, CNN International Correspondent stationed in China says, protests in China are not rare. “This is an extraordinary, historic moment in China.”
In Wuhan, the anti-lockdown protesters are tearing down barricades shouting “It started in Wuhan and it ends in Wuhan!”
From Tokyo to New York to London to Paris, the Chinese people are protesting the COVID suppression by President Xi and showing solidarity and a call for freedom.
The repressive healthcare authority had fed the captive Chinese audience of the success of zero-Covid management. Almost three years later, the series of lockdowns is a reversal from an initial victory against Covid-19 which demonstrates the worse situation when there is a lack of transparency and accountability. Most importantly, the authorities lack a long-term strategy to attain zero-Covid.
To regain public confidence, the autocratic regime needs a timeline for ending zero-Covid when the country’s Covid-19 containment strategy relies on public cooperation, but after almost three years of the pandemic, frustrations are mounting, writes Andrei Lungu, South China Morning Post published from Hong Kong.
China’s “dynamic zero-Covid” policy narrative has centred on the efficiency of its political system, which is supposedly better suited than democratic governments to both identify the interests of the people and marshal the resources needed to advance them.
The “dynamic zero-Covid” policy was believed by millions to be a strategy based on scientific fact, but now it seems it was driven by political interests. Instead of an enlightened government that protects its people, Beijing is now pictured as an ideological zealot, concludes Lungu.

First published in The News Times, December 2, 2022
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad