Bangladesh Liberation War

By: Joshua Remon

The Upbringing of the Rebellion

It all started with Operation Searchlight, a planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army started on 25 March, 1971 to curb the Bengali nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from Bangladesh. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid May.

The massacres actually began with five leaders who started it all: President Yahya Khan, General Tikka Khan, chief of staff General Pirzada, security chief General Umar Khan, and intelligence chief General Akbar Khan.

Quotes from the Soldiers

“…… we were told to kill the hindus and Kafirs (non-believer in God). One day in June, we cordoned a village and were ordered to kill the Kafirs in that area. We found all the village women reciting from the Holy Quran, and the men holding special congregational prayers seeking God’s mercy. But they were unlucky. Our commanding officer ordered us not to waste any time.” - Confession of a Pakistani soldier
“We are only killing the men; the women and children go free. We are soldiers not cowards to kill them …”
Many soldiers were not proud of the atrocities they committed. Young men and boys were targeted because they were able-bodied to fight back in the rebellion. With many women alive, they didn't need all of the men. Unlike the quote, not all children were let free. Many were killed in the crossfire or ambushed.

Effects on the People

Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed, while an official Pakistan Government investigation, known as the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, set the death census as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. Many people don't agree on the real death count, and there could be over seven theories of loss. It was one of the worst genocides of the World War II era, outstripping Rwanda (800,000 killed) and probably surpassing even Indonesia (1 million to 1.5 million killed in 1965-66).

"The human death toll over only 267 days was incredible. Just to give for five out of the eighteen districts some incomplete statistics published in Bangladesh newspapers or by an Inquiry Committee, the Pakistani army killed 100,000 Bengalis in Dacca, 150,000 in Khulna, 75,000 in Jessore, 95,000 in Comilla, and 100,000 in Chittagong. For eighteen districts the total is 1,247,000 killed. This was an incomplete toll, and to this day no one really knows the final toll. Some estimates of the democide [Rummel’s “death by government”] are much lower — one is of 300,000 dead — but most range from 1 million to 3 million. … The Pakistani army and allied paramilitary groups killed about one out of every sixty-one people in Pakistan overall; one out of every twenty-five Bengalis, Hindus, and others in East Pakistan. If the rate of killing for all of Pakistan is annualized over the years the Yahya martial law regime was in power (March 1969 to December 1971), then this one regime was more lethal than that of the Soviet Union, China under the communists, or Japan under the military (even through World War II). (Rummel, Death By Government, p. 331.)"

Although thousands of lives were lost, the entire country took a toll. Like any war will, it cost the country millions of dollars and downfall of economy. The people would have to get back up on their feet, and actually go back to work if they wanted their economy to continue. To add to the stressful 9 months and coming revival of the people, Bangladesh is known for flooding, cyclones, and famine. It has been pulling it's people out of poverty for the last few years.

Worst of all, women were treated the absolute worst. Left to live and see the massacres and be sexually assaulted themselves. Some say 200,000 women were assaulted, but Susan Brownmiller says there could have been up to 400,000! At the end of the war, when different places were surrendering, they say they released the women.

Interesting Parts of the Bangladesh War

While the war began in 1971, the war ended on December 16, 1971 after only 9 months, when India invaded the country and helped defeat Pakistani forces. Even after only 9 months passed, hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of lives were lost. More than 90,000 Pakistani troops surrendered at the end of the war. They included 195 officers accused of most of the war crimes. Surprisingly, they were sent away by 1974 following an Indo-Pakistani agreement and were never prosecuted.

In the fateful morning of May 10, in early day around 10 AM, two trucks carrying Paki troops arrived at Patkhola. The Pakis were not many in number, and definitely didn't outnumber the town. As soon as the Paki trucks stopped, though, the Pakis unleashed from the truck carrying light machine guns and semi automatic rifles. They opened fire on the public, and within a few minutes, a happy village turned dead cold.

Soldiers checked males for obligated circumcision among Muslims. If circumcised, they might live; if not, certain death.

Minorities of Bangladesh, mostly the Hindus, were the largest targets of the army. Both the women and men were horribly mistreated, and it is said "More than 60 percent of the Bengali refugees that fled to India were Hindus, and many never returned. It is not exactly known what percentage of the people killed by the Pakistan army were Hindus, but it is safe to say it was disproportionately high.