Very well written and distill lessons learned.A poster (@Baibars_1260) posted a thread for Pakistanis to discuss on How to beat the "1971Civil War " Psychological Syndrome ! here (https://defence.pk/pdf/threads/how-to-beat-the-1971civil-war-psychological-syndrome.702249/)
As usual the thread became a troll fest when certain Indian posters derailed the thread. I will pen my thoughts in this separate thread so that we Pakistanis can continue the debate about the lessons learned and our way forward.
Defeats or failures are nothing uncommon in either a person’s life or in the history of nations. The greatest were defeated and shiniest failed many a times. Alexander lost, Porus lost, Mughals lost, French lost, Spartans lost, Greeks lost and Germans lost like anyone else. In the words of Paulo Coelho, warriors of light views the life with tenderness and determination. Often, during combat, the warrior of light receives blows that he was not expecting. And he realizes that, during a war, his enemy is bound to win some of the battles. When this happens, the warrior of light weeps bitter tears and rests in order to recover his energies a little. But he immediately resumes the battle for his dreams.
There are two areas subdivided into further smaller areas where our lessons are present. My thoughts are based on my study of the events that led to 1971 and what happened in 1971 in east and West Pakistan.
- Internal Areas
- External Areas
Devolution of Power
This is no secret that different ethnic background with varying degree of cultural and linguistic differences came forward for a single idea of Pakistan. Each one of these ethnicity is proud owner of their history, their land and their traditions and wants to have an equal status in the eyes of constitution and state. The first seed of contention was sown between Bengalis and state of Pakistan in early 50s when simple demands of Bengalis were met with arrogance by no other than Muhammad Ali Bogra (Ironically a Bengali himself) and later by Iskandar Mirza (from Bengal) to a point where Bengalis felt betrayed by ruling elite and realized that they were nobody in their own land. (Further reading Prison Narratives by Akhtar Baluch and Conflict and Diplomacy by Maj. Gen SP Bhatia & Jaswant Singh)
It is simplistic to blame few characters for whatever happened, however the overall attitude of the ruling elite was full of arrogance and devoid of any empathy to fellow countrymen. The grievances could have been solved by simple devolution of power to the people of the land while central govt still had authority. 18th Amendment is a step in the right direction, where provincial governments hold most of the power over their people however there still remains areas of improvement and how to ensure accountability without snubbing the rights of the people. A successful state would devolve power (Albeit with accountability) to grass root level where people feel valued and equal.
Access to Justice
A state can only attain trust and loyalty from its inhabitants when state laws dispense justice to them and treat them equally. Any disparity in treatment of particular section of society (can be based on caste, creed and color) leads to grievances which if not addressed properly leads to hostility towards other people and state in the end. While urban areas of Pakistan have access to legal courts, the situation becomes worse for rural and tribal regions where infamous Jirgas and such settlements decide fate of people lives and property. Former FATA recently got rid of infamous FCR and is merging slowly with KPK now. State of Pakistan should by no means alienate her own citizens based on caste, creed and color to ensure that people can actually consider it a motherland.
Cheer the Diversity
Pakistan is blessed with diversity and it should be celebrated and protected. A person can be a Punjabi/Pashtun/Baluch/Sindhi/Shia/Ahmadi/Wahhabi/Sunni/Hindu/Jew but still a patriotic Pakistani. The sons and daughters of the soil are as much owners of the state as anyone else. We cannot/should not impose a single idea of patriotism to such diverse population. Bengalis were told that Bangla cannot be national language and a single language (Historically not the language of any major ethnicity of the land) will be national language. This may sound a rather harmless step to some however reader should keep this in mind that one problem compound another set of problems to a point where it becomes a snowball and destroys everything in the way.
Appropriate Use of Power
Every constitution has a provision of use of force against the own citizens if they fail to abide by the law and try to sabotage the law of the country by engaging in subversive activities in collaboration with hostile external elements. A Machiavellian state would be ruthless in her conduct to ensure that citizens are afraid of the state (king/Ruling Elite) however this should be understood by ruling elite that fear doesn’t work for eternity and people eventually revolt against excessive use of force.
In 1970 elections, Shaikh Mujib Ur Rehman achieved a clear victory in the country’s most transparent and fair elections and Bengalis were confident that a Bengali Prime Minister would be the best person to address their concerns. A general view among Pakistanis is that Shaikh Mujib presented his 6 points which were not acceptable to begin with and this is where the conflict started. However, many writers have pointed it out that 6 points only appeared when central government failed to transfer the power to Shaikh Mujib. Another truth which remains hidden from many Pakistanis is that Shaikh Mujib didn’t want a separate country until the very end and even mentioned it in front of US ambassador of that time. (Further reading: American Secret papers 1969-74)
The Bengali intellectuals and students staged country wise protests displaying their frustration and demanded their basic right to governance, while Gen Yahya was aware that India is closely monitoring this situation and would eventually utilize this opportunity to break Pakistan however failed to convince Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for a workable solution and allowed an infamous crackdown on protestors. There were many military men who advised Yahya against use of military against Bengalis but Yahya wanted a quick closure of this situation and in his arrogance authorized brutal use of force. The infamous operation searchlight which resulted in deaths of students and Bangali intellectual was the last nail in the coffin. The excessive use of force resulted in a renowned layer of militancy where every person who held the idea of united Pakistan became a target. It was a full-fledged civil war in East Pakistan. (Further Reading: Hammod Ur Rehman Commission report, An Airman remembers by CAS Zafar Chaudhry, Battle of Hussainiwala and Qaiser I Hind by Col. Habib Ahmed, Maj Gen Tajjamal Hussain Malik (Interview) by Maj Agha Amin)
A state should use force when absolutely necessary and should avoid collateral damage at all costs. A state should apply force on her citizens as a mother does to her children. Bangladesh was going to be sovereign country one way or the other due to obvious factors and it was understood by Gen Yahya however he failed to solve this issue without unnecessary bloodshed.
Right Man for the Right Job
You would never go to a top chef, no matter how good of a chef he is, for the cure of your dental problems Likewise, states are ran by statesmen who have relevant expertise to run a country. A military man can be a successful soldier however can be a bad ruler, as it turned out in the case of Gen Yahya who was described as a simple yet very brave soldier. Yahya was well liked among his colleagues and even was liked by Americans for his straight forwardness and Brit praised him for his two failed attempts to escape from a prisoner camp in WWII however despite all this Yahya was not the right man to rule the country. A fine soldier otherwise, turned into an oblivious ruler who couldn’t do the needful until it was too late. From a military perspective, Yahya and Chief of Staff Abdul Hamid khan delayed the offensive against India to relieve pressure to troops in East Pakistan. The offensive against India from Western side started when East Pakistan already had slipped from Yahya’s hands. (Further Reading: Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan: The Rise and Fall of a Soldier – 1947-1971 by retired Brig A.R. Siddiqui & Battle of Hussainiwala by Col. Habib Ahmed).
To fight a war with India, Pakistan was dependent on American weapons and it turned out that Americans were not ready to release much needed spares and weapons for Pakistan. The Chinese unwillingness to assist us in this crucial hour might be a reason why Yahya didn’t prolong the war and asked A.K Niazi to surrender.
This explains how self-reliance for defense needs is a must for Pakistan. Unfortunately, we are not there yet and we continue to look towards other to fulfil our critical needs.
Know Limits of Friend and/or Allies
Henry Kissinger in his famous statement “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests” explained American foreign policy toward the other countries in the world. This is simple yet powerful policy statement which almost every country realizes today however it seems we didn’t learn a lot from our past mistakes and continued to sacrifice our own interests for the others. In 1971, Pakistan had cordial relationships with both China and United states while most of the weapons were sourced from USA, Chinese were considered our true allies.
Gen Yahya knew about Indian plans in 1971 even when Indira categorically denied existence of any plan to dismember Pakistan in front of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, however despite consistent pleas from Yahya, US reduced supply of critical spares and military weapons to Pakistan. The Americans had started to tell Yahya that independent Bangladesh was a matter of time and American public wouldn’t want us to be part of a civil war because we learned our lesson in civil war of Vietnam. Even the much touted American task force 74 deployment to showcase tilt towards Pakistan was given vague instructions and only entered in the intended area two days after Pakistan surrendered in Dhaka.
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on a secret delegation sent by Gen Yahya, met with Chinese FM to secure help against potential Indian aggression in East Pakistan. While earlier, Chinese assured Pakistan of all help in case of war with India backed off from any military help and instead offered economic assistance. The Indian side was fearful of Chinese intervention in case of war and wanted to call off offensive if there was a slight chance that China would intervene however they found out this secret and went on with their original plan.
The important lesson for Pakistan here is to accept that all countries will act according to their interests and would not hesitate to move away or even act as an aggressors if their interests dictate so. In the end, Pakistan will have to fight her own wars be it internal or external and we would be better off if we can handle both without anyone’s help.
The battle in East Pakistan was lost not only because military failed but because the important pillars of the state like justice system, diplomats, Politicians, Police and common people failed to keep own citizens united. The only forward is our approach to our problems and our sincerity to resolve them.
May our flag flutter high, Pakistan Zindabad !
my favorite lesson here is that China may not help us in a war with India and we must Be self reliant in defending our own land.
I mean no disrespect to our Chinese Brethren, as China has her own interests to defend and can not be expected to fight Pakistani wars for us.