Sheikh Mujib and the Myths of 71’ War
Momin Iftikhar


Recent publication of an article by a well known TV anchor based upon the Unfinished Memoirs of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is an eye opener in underscoring as to how we can , out of sheer ignorance , lose balance and degrade ourselves and our nation without much thought. Manifestly basing his conclusions on Sheikh Mujib’s version , the author got piqued enough to ridicule our history books; lay the blame for refusal of transfer of political authority on Yahya Khan and validated the reports of ‘Bengalis being massacred and their women being raped’. Absolving Sheikh Mujib, Mukti Bahini, and berserk Bengali mobs of unleashing a tsunami of hate, intrigue and bloodshed, he commented ; “We forced Bengalis to take up arms against us. It is time now to apologize officially to the people of Bangladesh. Only brave people accept their mistakes”. Unmistakably woven in his thought process was an unexplained rancor for the Armed Forces of Pakistan. With scant regard for factual accuracy, it was manifest that the learned author had had no time to critically read the history of 71 events , as recorded by independent sources and had been lopsidedly influenced by the biography. It is sad chapter of Pakistan’s history but dancing to the tune of the now acknowledged and extensively recorded Indian intrigue, Sheikh Mujib played a very negative role in pushing things beyond edge of the precipice.

Back in late sixties, a strong realization had taken roots in Pakistan that the growing grievances of the Eastern Wing were genuine; calling for an immediate course correction. When Gen Yahya took over reins of power in Mar 69 he openly recognized legitimacy of East Pakistan’s economic grousing and also knocked down the principle of parity between East and West Pakistan held in the constitution, clearing the way for holding of direct elections based on universal franchise. This bold and well meaning constitutional correction provided more numerous East Pakistanis with a substantive long term democratic advantage. The Dec 70 elections were held as the first free and fair elections with universal adult franchise in Pakistan. It is a tragedy of errors that such a singular achievement which could have been a harbinger of democratic federalism in Pakistan , led inexorably on to civil war, war with India and the dismemberment of the country. It was a witches brew with contributions from many a quarter but Sheikh Mujib played a major role in shaping the turn of events leading to the break up of Pakistan.
As Pakistan prepared for elections, Sheikh Mujeeb and his Awami League unabashedly pursued a violence laced agenda of hate and division framed by his Six Points; deliberately ignoring the ground realities where all doors of opportunity had been opened up to accommodate the Bengali aspirations. The Sheikh didn’t even desist to harness the impact of mega natural calamities to sharpen the East West Divide. He refused to travel to West Pakistan to discuss the emerging post election scenarios and his position on implementation of Six Points only hardened . The postponement of the National Assembly due on 1st Mar 1970 by General Yahya was mainly the consequence of uncompromising political stances and unbridled ambitions of Mujib and Bhutto. The postponement hurled the fat in the fire as the charged up Bengalis went up into an open revolt including elements of Bengali officers and men serving in East Pakistan. No where Mujib tried to use his authoritative influence or his rhetoric to restrain the mutiny or used his influence to retain a united Pakistan; but recklessly worked towards separation of East and West Pakistan to fulfill his dream of a Bengali Nation. In this context it should be instructive how Sir Alec Douglas Home, then British Foreign Secretary , summed up the situation in the House of Commons; “The President of Pakistan , as we understand, was faced with a situation in which his country might have been divided in half. We must allow the Pakistan authorities to deal with this matter without our intervention... The ironic aspect of the situation was that for the first time it was possible for an East Pakistani to be Prime Minister of a united Pakistan , and this opportunity has slipped.”
The charges of genocide and rape by the Pakistani troops in East Pakistan by Indian and Bangladeshi quarters is a myth that, very strangely has remained unchallenged by Pakistan. This is a glaring failure of our intelligentsia and the media persons to investigate the highly damaging charges , essentially a mega propaganda ploy which unfortunately has been gulped down hook, line and sinker to the detriment of our national pride and honor. It is on account of this unsubstantiated lie that demands of an apology occasionally pop up ; as has been the central thread of the recent article by the renowned anchor. The subject merits a separate write up but it should be educative for Pakistan’s and Pak Army’s detractors to read spell binding incisive research work, perhaps one of its kind on the highly sensitive subject; Dead Reckoning by Sarmila Bose. The claims of mass graves was authoritatively laid to rest in a comment by Henry Kissinger in Apr 1971 when he observed that in a particular case where Bengalis claimed thousand bodies in graves, fewer than twenty could be actually found. A parallel observation of was made by William Drummond who wrote in his piece ‘The Missing Millions’ which appeared in the Guardian on Jun 6, 1972. “Of course there are mass graves all over Bangladesh. But nobody, not even the most rabid Pakistani hater , has yet asserted that all these mass graves account for more than about 1000 victims. Furthermore , because a body is found in a mass grave doesn’t necessarily mean that the victim was killed by the Pakistani Army,” he observed. The most brutal atrocities committed by the Bengalis on the West Pakistanis including a large number of women and children has remained a forbidden subject that has persistently remained as convincingly out of sight as the other side of the moon; a taboo simply never touched upon by any Bengali or Indian author, writer or a media person or even anchor.
It is sad that we, as a nation, have failed to face and exorcise the demons related to the break up of Pakistan. India and Bangladesh have been more than happy to fill the void based on myths and propaganda tarnishing the image of Pakistan and its Army. In 1971, under the given circumstances Pakistan Army, fought heroically in preventing a breakup of Pakistan. Charges of genocide and rape by Pakistani troops are largely the figments of imagination which occasionally resonate among anti-Pakistan elements in Bangladesh as well as in India. Self-flagellation wouldn’t do ; such farce can’t stand up to a transparent , methodical and incisive scrutiny; a process which we must welcome with open arms .