1971 in retrospect
ONE key point in outgoing army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa’s farewell address at GHQ that has been lost amidst the intense developments of the past few days is the general’s comments on the East Pakistan debacle.
Gen Bajwa said that it was 34,000 soldiers — not 92,000 — who were fighting in the erstwhile eastern wing, while observing that “the fall of East Pakistan was not a military but a political failure”.
It is welcome that the general has clarified the record regarding the actual number of combat forces in the eastern wing. Without doubt, facing a numerically far larger adversary in the shape of combined Indian and Mukti Bahini forces, our troops were vastly outmanned and outgunned.
Yet Gen Bajwa’s laying the blame for the separation of East Pakistan at the door of political forces must be examined more closely, for while West Pakistan’s politicians certainly had a role to play, it was the military leadership at the time that was in control, and whose actions ultimately resulted in the break-up of united Pakistan.
Indeed, the West Pakistani elite — politicians, bureaucracy, military — all played a role in aggravating the crisis. There can be little argument that parties of the western wing, particularly Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s PPP, were reluctant to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s victorious Awami League after the 1970 general elections. And the postponement of the National Assembly session, under Gen Yahya’s watch, was a major catalyst for unrest in the eastern wing.
But arguably, the point of no return came when the military launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971. This move resulted in a political and constitutional crisis metastasising into a bloody civil war, with atrocities committed by both sides.
By December, India would enter the fray, leading up to Gen ‘Tiger’ Niazi signing the instrument of surrender, and resulting in the permanent rupture of innah’s Pakistan.
So for the outgoing chief to say that the fall of Dhaka was a political failure is highly debatable. Unfortunately, we as a nation have yet to come to terms with the bitter truths of 1971. For there to be full closure, we need to make peace with the truth.
There is an effort to rewrite history every day in Pakistan. Never seen it being done so blatantly.
The war was between two armies and not two political parties. How 93000 surrendered when only 34000 were fighting?
Mansur Ul Haque
Don't expect him to say it was military defeat. Yahyah Khan was army dr.
I fail to understand why Bajwa made such statements after 50 years. There is no point in Pakistan licking past wounds.
'1971 in retrospect' : 93,000 -vs- 34,000
回首1971：93000 还是 34000
It’s was 100% the military’s doing. You can read many books about it and Tiger Niazis book Betrayal of East Pakistan as well. Yahya Khan was a depraved man with an elated ego and he and his military compatriots are responsible.
A much needed rebuttal of the outgoing COAS' farewell speech. Thanks Dawn.
John the Baptist
"Gen Bajwa said that it was 34,000 soldiers — not 92,000" Actually it wasn't 34,000 and it wasn't 92,000 either. It was 93,000 soldiers who surrendered in the largest post-WW2 surrender.
A good general never accepts a battle which he can't win. Why did they try to bring the situation to a level where 34 thousand troops had to defend the whole East Pakistan? It was certainly a complete military failure in the end
Thanks for not blaming India at least once
The 71 debacle was a direct result of inequality and mistreatment of citizens. Same will happen to Pakistan if we are not careful!
if We as a Nation fails to understand the root cause of "Fall of Dhaka", there will more "FALLS" on the way. It is written on the wall.
@Azhar Jamil, Yes, how conveniently we forget the massive human rights violations especially against women and children and nobody brought to account for them. And as history would have it, the Indian army ended up protecting the surrendered Pakistani soldiers from the Mukti Bahini and ordinary Bangladeshis.
@Azhar Jamil，是的，我们这么轻易就忘记了大规模侵犯人 权行为，尤其是针对妇女和儿童的侵犯人 权行为，没有人对此负责。历史证明，最后印度军队护住了投降的巴基斯坦士兵免受穆克提·巴希尼和普通孟加拉国人的伤害。
After Yahya Khan Bajwa has become the most controversial army chief. Pak army didn't face so much criticism even after the fall of East Pakistan but after Bajwa doctrine's failure it is facing the extreme wrath of the people.
It is the mentality and false superiority complex of W Pak's pseudo elite, which pushed them away forever.
Very true, it is difficult to digest the bitter truth. High time the commission report on the debacle be made public and responsibility fixed.
Why did the army not fight till the bitter end? Clearly that did not believe that their case was just. Or was it cowardice?
No use complaining after 50 years. Whatever happened was good. Cannot even compare the progress between Pakistan and Bangladesh. One is begging while the other is progressing.
One part of pre-1971 Pakistan has taken the right decisions to uplift its citizens out of the morass of poverty and ignorance while the remaining part continues to gather momentum on its path to self-destruction.
High debatable? He is completely wrong!!!
This was the main point, to rake up Bangladesh's issue to fudge the issue of money made by him and his family. And if the war was lost, as he himself admitted, the medals on him are for what? For each crore made? Pathetic attempt to hide the truth.
He is just saying what is written in the books of 1971. Blame those original writers who fudged numbers and events to save their own face
Ayub Khan era to fall of Dhaka is not political, it is military role specific.
Unfortunately, Pakistani army has not won a single war. Its only the nuclear bomb that is assuring the security of the country, not its army.
Now we know, why DAWN is respected so much!
Why is he so rich? Public servants or defense personnel aren't supposed to be.
Finally DAWN gathered enough strength to put out an editorial like this.
Pakistanis, unfortunately only see 1971 through the lens of surrender. There is absolutely no way that even 93000 troops could have won this war let alone 34000. Just be glad that the surrender came quickly or else another 100,000 people would have died.
Pakistan would have never seen the shameful evening when Niazi was signing the surrender agreement. In crises those dictates who has gun in their hand and you had the gun.
We have been dishonest with innah's Pakistan from the day one. We destroyed the innah's vision of Pakistan with one stroke and continues with lies about the creator and his creation. Today we are paying a heavy price and the country is on the verge of destruction.