Professor Rehman Sobhan
My direct involvement with the Liberation struggle dates from after the election to the Pakistan National Assembly in December 1970. However prior to that, along with other economists from Bangladesh I had been drawn into the Bangladesh nationalist struggle as far back as a decade ago. The Bengali economists had been in the forefront in identifying the extent of the economic deprivation of Bangladesh as a result of the domination of the Pakistani state by a ruling elite based in West Pakistan. Throughout the 1960's I had occasion to articulate my views in various public forums and in professional and popular publications on the subject of regional disparity and the need to view Pakistan in terms of two economies. These views received widespread publicity and earned the writer, along with other of his colleagues, considerable notoriety in the eyes of the Pakistani ruling class.
The views of the Bengali economists were vigorously and directly communicated to policymakers in Pakistan through our involvement in various seminars and committees. The seminar on the Second Five Years Plan in Rawalpindi in 1960 in which I participated along with Prof. Nurul Islam, the East Pakistan panel of Economists on the Second Plan in the same year, where Professors Akhlaqur Rahman, Mosharaf Hossain and myself were associated ; the First Finance Commission in 1961, where Prof. Nurul Islam was a member and I was an adviser to the East Pakistan members; the panel of Economists on the Third Plan in 1965 where Mosharaf Hossain and myself were members; the Fourth Five Year Plan in 1970 where Professors Mazharul Haq, Nurul Islam Akhlaqur Rahman, Anisur Rahman and myself were members; these were all occasions where sharp contradictions on economic policy were evident and bitter exchanges took place. Between East wing economists and the planners and policymakers of Pakistan. In 1969-70 in my capacity as Executive Editor of the weekly Forum I had occasion to publicise my views to the public on the subject of the deprivation of Bangladesh and to also engage in a number of publicised confrontations with the CMLA of that time, General Yahya Khan, and with his principal economic advisor Mr. M.M. Ahmed.
The research and public position on the rights of Bangladesh taken up by the Bengali economists inevitably drew them into more active association with the political struggle for Bengali nationalism. Some of us were frequently consulted by the political leadership of the nationalist movement on economic issues. The 6 point programme of the Awami League was influenced, by our writings, though as far as I am aware no economists actually participated in its preparation. At the time of the Round Table Conference in Pindi in early 1969. Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibar Rahman, drew upon the services of Prof. Nurul Islam, Prof. Anisur Rahman and Prof. Wahidul Haq to advise him in the preparation of the memorandum he presented to the conference. In the summer of 1970, Prof. Nurul Islam, prof. Anisur Rahman Dr. A. R. Khan, Dr. Swadesh Bose, Dr. Hasan imam and myself met in Karachi with Dr. Kamal Hossain to draw up the Awami League election manifesto. Its radical orientation and analytical content owes in some measure to the efforts of this group.
Upto December 1970, however, our contribution was still spasmodic. However immediately after the massive electoral victory of the Awami League in December, 1970, Bangabandhu decided to move ahead with the task of framing a viable constitution which fully incorporated the provisions of the 6 point programme in which the Awami League had fought its election campaign. He wanted to discuss in detail the implications of putting such a constitution into operation so that the 6 point programme could be taken beyond the level of election rhetoric and be presented at the negotiating table and to the National Assembly as a seriously thought out and wrokable constitutional programme for the country.
In the months after the election a series of meetings were convened by Bangabandhu to discuss the constitution. These meetings were attended by the high command of the Awami League made up of the Tajuddin Ahmed, Nazrul Islam, Capt. Monsoor Ali, Qamruzzaman and Khondkar Mushtaq Ahmed and by Dr. Kamal Hossain, Prof. Nurul Islam, Prof. Muzaffar Ahmed Chowdhury, Prof. Sarwar Murshed, Prof. Anisur Rahman and myself. In these days long and intensive discussions, usually held in a house on the banks of the Buriganga, the academic participants, including Dr. Kamal Hossain played the most active role. However Tajuddin Ahmed was quite as fertile in his contribution as any of the academics demonstrating deep political insight dialectical skill and an extraordinary capacity to absorb and break down complicated technical issues to their basic essentials. Bangabandhu was himself an active participant giving us the benefit of his political experience and shrewd commonsense. By the time the group had finished their excercise, the Awami League had a constitutional, draft and a fully worked out negotiating; position for any future political dialogue which may have ensued.
In order to ascertain if any of the leading political parties in West Pakistan had given any serious thought to the constitution or had: decided to take the 6 points seriously I was requested by Bangabandhu and Tajuddin Ahmed to pay an informal visit to West Pakistan in January 1971. During this visit in Lahore I met separately with Dr. Mubasher Hasan and with Mian Mahmud Ali Qasuri of the PPP who were meant to be the leading brains of the party. Neither gave me the impression that they had given any serious thought to the task of constitution making and had little to offer but rhetorical posturing on the subject of national unity. I was interested to learn after liberation that some of my remarks made in conversation with Qasuri were subsequently passed on by him to Pakistan Military Intelligence who used them in their subsequent interrogation of Dr. Kamal Hossain when he was held in custody by them during the liberation war.
When I moved from Lahore to Karachi I had extensive discussions with Barrister Rafi Raza who was then functioning as the constitution adviser to Mr. Bhutto. From ray talks with Raja I learnt that he had been entrusted by Bhutto with formulating the constitutional position of the PPP for the forthcoming assembly session. In practice he had done little work on this largely because Bhutto was himself disinclined to go into the fine points of constitution making. Discussions with one of Bhutto's principal lieutenants, Abdul Hafeez Peerzada, confirmed this point. On my return to Dhaka I could this report to Bangabandhu that the PPP was far from prepared for serious constitutional discussions.
This point was fully confirmed when the Bhutto accompanied by PPP entourage visited Dhaka at the end of January 1971. From what I learnt of these talks from Tajuddin Ahmed, the PPP were more interested in their share of power rather than to discuss the implications of implementation a constitution based on 6 Points. During the PPP visit to Dhaka I had discussions with Rafi Raza and Mubasher Hasan and also with some of the PPP radicals such as Mehraj Mohammed Khan. Discussions tended to revolve around quasi philosophical issues rather than specifics. Others are better equipped than me to give the details of the PPP-Awami League talks though some of the principal protagonists have now been eternally silenced. My own impressions were that neither the PPP nor Yahya Khan had made any effort prior to March 1, 1971 to define a serious negotiating position on the subject of 6 Points. As far as I Know, no discussion ever took place between the Awami League and any of the political leadership of west Pakistan on the concrete problems involved in implementing 6 Points, when detailed discussions did get underway at 5 Minutes to midnight, in March of 1971, the constitutional issue had moved beyond 6 Points and the Generals had already decided to settle the issue by blood and fire.
In the tense period prior to March 1, I put some of the concerns indicated above into print in my writings for Forum. In this I tried to spell out in more explicit terms the implications implementing 6 Points and the issues at stake for the political leadership in West Pakistan. The universal theme of my writings in the columns of Forum was that the 6 Points were the last chance for a political resolution to the Pakistani crisis. Beyond this lay the path of mass struggle and independence for Bangladesh. Few Bengalis at that time retained any sentimental attachment to the Pakistan concept. The only question appeared to be whether the parting of the ways would emerge through a process of constitutional evolution or through armed confrontation.
The decision by President Yahya Khan on Mach 1st, 1971 to postpone the meeting of the Constituent Assembly in my mind marked the watershed which constitutes the political independence of Bangladesh. The non-cooperation movement which was initiated on that day throughout Bangladesh, at the call of Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibar Rahman, repudiated the political authority of the Pakistan government within the territory of Bangladesh. This political authority was never again restored. All subsequent attempts by the Pakistan government after March 26, 1971 to restore their authority were seen by the masses of Bangladesh as acts of usurpation by foreign military occupation power.
The totality of the success realised by the call for non-cooperation immediately created a crisis for maintaining essential civic and economic services within Bangladesh. Once the entire labour force, administration and law enforcing authorities had answered Bangabandhu's call for noncooperation the writ of the Pakistan government in Bangladesh quite literally ceased to run outside the military cantonments. This vacuum had to be filled if social life in the country was not to break down completely. Bangabandhu had therefore assumed both political and administrative authority throughout the country once Yahya had ordered the Pakistan army to withdraw into the cantonments on 6 March 1971. From this day on Bangladesh assumed self rule for the first time since the Battle of Plassey in 1757.
During this period some of the economists of Bangladesh were thrust into the peculiar position of looking into the problems of keeping the economy viable. Such questions as the enforcement of exchange controls on remittance, to West Pakistan, the limits on the stocks of Pakistani currency arising out of the cutoff of supplies of money from the mint in Pakistan, policies towards export consignments and modes of payment, import of essentials and raw materials had to be worked out.
The residence of Prof. Nurul Islam in Dhanmondi became a sort of economic secretariat for the government of Shaikh Mujibar Rahman centred in Road No. 32 Dhanmandi. Dr. Kamal Hossain's residence in Circuit House Row was the third centre of administration. Some of us met daily at Prof. Islam's residence with some of the Bengali civil servants and bankers to review specific problems. Those were then incorporated into decrees or instructions which were passed on to the civil servants, bankers and for press circulation every evening by Tajuddin Ahmed and Kamal Hossain either at Road 32 or at Kamal Hossain's residence.
Apart from reviewing; the state of the local economy, our other task was to brief the international press. Every day the elite of the foreign press crop came to these sessions. These included Tilman and Peggy Durdin of the New York Times, Sydney Schanberg of the New York Times whose coverage of the liberation war, had him expelled from Dhaka by the Pakistan military authorities and almost won him a Pulitzer Prize, Peter Preston, now Editor and, Martin Adeney of the Guardian, Peter Hazelharst of the Times, Stung Harrison for the Washington Post, Henry Bradsher of the Washington Star. All these experienced journalists were filling regular copy from Dhaka to their news papers so that their readers were kept abreast of the unfolding drama in Bangladesh.
It was Peter Hazelharst who told me that he had recently interviewed Bhutto in Larkana and had been told by him that this agitation in Bangladesh was a storm in a tea cup led by a few urban based politicians. A massive use of force by the army which killed and terrorised the demonstrators in Dhaka and jailed many of the leaders would lower the tempo of the agitation and create a climate for more reasonable negotiations. This piece of intelligence seemed to have a prophetic quality which Bhutto may have shared with Yahya Khan since it was this false assumption which appears to have drawn the army into military adventure on 25 March, 1971.
During this period Col. Yasin of the Pakistan
Army and Mr. S. Huda then in the T & T department both brothers-in-law to Prof.
Nurul Islam were regular visitors to his house. Col. Yasin was in charge of
supplies to the Pakistan forces in Dhaka.
He was therefore in a position to supply a list of the food suppliers to the Pak
army in Dhaka. This list was passed on to the party volunteers who then visited
these suppliers and persuaded some of them to cut off supplies to the
cantonment. There was a more sinister aftermath to these exchanges. After the
Army assault on 25 March, both Col. Yasin and Huda were picked up by the army.
Huda was kept in custody in Dhaka
where he was interrogated under torture and asked to confess to conspiring with
Prof. Islam and myself and acting on behalf of the Awami League to set up a
telecommunications link with India. This totally fabricated charge found its way
into the charge sheet for treason drawn up against Bangabandhu for which he was
put on trial for his life during 1971.
Col. Yasin faced a worse fate. He was taken into custody. But in his case he was transferred to Lahore where he was interrogated under torture with a view to forcing him to bear false witness against Bangabandhu in his trial. Both these Victims owed their fate to their chance encounters with Prof. Islam and myself in those days in March.
From the time that negotiations were begun between Yahya and Mujib, some of us were drawn in to back up the Awami League team which consisted of Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad and Kamal Hossain. The team was supposed to be negotiating an interim constitutional arrangement with Yahya's teams of experts which was made up by Major General Peerzada, Justice Cornelius and M. M. Ahmed. We would sit with the AL team after each session to take note of suggestions made by Yahya's team and to put forward our responses or our own substantive contribution. These involved long sessions including some with Bangabandhu. There was one climatic session which went on in the chamber of Dr. Kamal Hossain in Motijheel, where the AL high command and its advisers worked all night to formulate the final negotiating position for the talks the next day. Our last contribution was to sit over the handwritten amendments of M.M. Ahmed to the proposal prepared the night before. The final position taken by the Yahya team indicated that at least on economic issues an agreement could be reached. The expectation was that on the 24th March, General Peerzada would convene the final session of the negotiations, following which an announcement would be made to the press. The next 2 days were spent waiting for the convening of this session. It was only on 25th that we learnt that M.M. Ahmed had already left for West Pakistan the night before. Apparently he too had been waiting for the meeting but was abruptly told by Peerzada that his work had been concluded that along with Justice Cornelius he could leave Dhaka. The substance of the negotiations is not discussed here as I have given my own indication of what went on in my article, 'Negotiating for Bangladesh' which I wrote for South Asian Review later that year to put my knowledge, whilst still fresh, on the record. Dr. Kamal Hossain has separately given his own more authoritative version on the negotiations.
The negotiations were themselves going on against a progressively mounting environment of tension, created by the daily reinforcement of the Pakistani garrisons in Bangladesh and the growing political consciousness and militancy of the Bengali masses. Around the third week of March, a friend of ours, Muyeedul Hasan, told me he had an urgent message to deliver to Bangabandhu from sources within the Cantonment. He did not reveal this at the time but later told me that the source was Air vice Marshall Khondkar who was then a Group Captain in the Pakistan airforce. I took Muyeed to Bangabandhu's residence at around 10 p. m. one night where he passed on the message that the Pakistan army was preparing to strike and was going into a state of combat , readiness. Bangabandhu took note of this but said that he was already informed of these preparations.
During the period of the negotiations, I had occasion to meet with some of the National Awami Party (NAP) leaders from West Pakistan. If I recollect Abdul Wali Khan of NWFP and Ghous Bux Bizenjo of Baluchistan were staying with Ahmedul Kabir, the proprietor of Daily Sangbad. Both Wali Khan and Bezenjo conveyed their apprehensions to me that the talks between Yahya, Mujib and Bhutto were likely to override the interests of the smaller provinces of West Pakistan. The Pathan and Baluchi apprehension arose from the fact that Bhutto was in these discussions demanding a free hand in West Pakistan on the strength of his electoral majorities in Panjab and Sind. As a counterpoint to autonomy demanded by Mujib for the east wing, Bhutto wanted to be chief executive for all of West Pakistan rather than just Panjab or Sind. Since the Peoples Party had been defeated at the polls in both NWFP and Baluchistan, Bhutto feared that the Awami League majority in the parliament would side with the Pathans and Baluch to completely exclude the Peoples Party from power in the Centre and would push through autonomy for the provinces of West Pakistan which could emancipate them from Panjabi hegemony. The NAP leaders feared that in order to get a free hand in the East wing Mujib would be persuaded to cede a free hand to Bhutto, at the expense of autonomy for the smaller regions of West Pakistan. As it turned out however, their apprehension about the role of Mujib turns out to be academic. But the fear of losing out their autonomy to a Panjabi dominated West Pakistan, first under Bhutto and now the Pakistan Army, appear to have been fully justified by the passage of events.
I had some insight into the duplicity of the Pakistani Generals who, it appears, were conducting the negotiations to buy time to reinforce their garrisons in Bangladesh. On 24th March the NAP leaders and other political figures from the smaller West Pakistani parties left Dhaka. They indicated that they had been advised to do so by Yahya and that army action was imminent.
On the evening of 25th March, around 5-6 p. m, I took Mazhar Ali Khan, the father of Tariq Ali and a distinguished journalist in his right, who used to write a column for Forum, to meet Bangabandhu at Road 32. At that time the house was besieged by journalists, who had presumably sensed that the denouement with the Pak army was close,
Mazhar Ali Khan wanted to meet Bangabandhu so I took him in expecting to find a big crowd as there always was. Bangabandhu had known Mazhar from the days when he was the Editor of Pakistan Times in the days when it was owned by Mian Iftikharuddin. He greeted him warmly and emptied the room so that there were just two of us with him. Bangabandhu told us that the army had decided to go for a crackdown. He went on to say, I quote from memory, "Yahya thinks that he can crush the movement by killing me. But he is mistaken. An independent Bangladesh will be built on my grave". Bangabandhu appeared to have a rather fatalistic attitude to what he seemed to accept as his imminent death. He suggested that a new generation would carry on the Liberation struggle. After this meeting Mazhar Ali Khan wanted to find out what some of the PPP leaders had to say about the impending bloodbath. From Road 32 we went to the Hotel Intercontinental where we met Mahmud Ali Qasuri. In his usual rather blustering tone Qasuri immediately greeted me with the charge that, "It appears the Awami League do not wants a settlement". Since to my knowledge a draft agreement was already there waiting to be announced to the press, I asked him where he had received this confirmation. He told me that General Peerzada had told him this. Since again it was General Peerzada who had been a key figure in the negotiation, it was evident that they were feeding a different story to the West Pakistani political leaders and preparing the ground for a crackdown. Qasuri went on to say that the unity of the country was at stake and that if necessary blood would have to be shed in the same way as Lincoln bad fought a Civil War to preserve the integrity of the United States. I left Qasuri with the observation that he was a well known jurist who had served on the Bertrand Russel War Crimes Tribunal to expose U.S genocide in Vietnam. Since the Pakistan army was about to launch a genocide on the Bengali people I hoped that he would raise his voice in the same way that he did for the Vietnamese.
Following this confirmation of the duplicity of the Pakistani generals I went on to the house of Kamal Hossain in Circuit House Road to pass on the message that Peerzada had obviously fed a concocted version of the talks to the PPP and that the ground was now set for action. From there I went home to Gulshan. There were reports of army action which were given substance by the spectacle of some Awami League volunteers putting up make shift barricades on some of the roads. Sometime around 9-10 p.m. we heard the first sound of artillery fire which signaled that action by the Pakistan army against the EPR and Police barracks had begun. I phoned up a direct number I had to Road 32 to enquire after the welfare of Bargabandhu. I do not know who answered the phone but the voice at the phone indicated that he was there. Later calls went unanswered. After that all lines went dead.
For the next 36 hours we heard the sound of artillery and automatic weapons fire, could see the glow in the distance from fires started by the army action and listened on the 26th to Yahya's announcement it was clear to all of us that the Liberation war had began. It was less apparent when it would end.
For the next 36 hours, confined to our house in Gulshan and cut off from telephonic contact we could only hear the sounds of genocide. On the morning of 27th March the curfew was lifted. For some reason the first thing I did that same morning was to walk across to the Ford Foundation guest house in Gulshan where Daniel Thornier, who was a visiting scholar from Sorbonne at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, was staying. I asked him to immediately drive over to Dhanmondi to ascertain if the Nurul Islam were alright. When I returned home I found my friend Muyeedul Hasan and Mr. A Alam of Pakistan Tobacco waiting for me. Muyeed wanted me to leave the house immediately. According to him the army had already begun killing people on a large scale. He had contacted Kamal Hossain's house and had heard that the army had been there to pick him up, but that Kamal had not been in the house.
I had not myself appreciated that I would be a target for the army since till that time one had assumed that the army would go for those who were political activists. Muyeed however advised against taking chances on this and suggested I should move out of my house. I was reluctant to do this, feeling that this would leave my family exposed to danger but my wife felt that, if anything, my presence could be a danger to them and that she would in my case be freer to get out of the house and Dhaka to leave me free to contribute to the liberation war.
With much reluctance I therefore left my family and moved that morning to another house within Gulshan. Muyeed reported to me in the afternoon that he had been to the University quarters where there was evidence of a massacre. The block of flats occupied by Prof. Abdur Razzaque and Prof. Anisur Rahman, opposite Jagannath Hall, had a pool of blood on the floor and staircase and was deserted. There were reports that Prof. Razzaque had been killed by the army. This knowledge deeply disturbed me not only because he was one of our closest friends but that this indicated that the army had widened its target to include people who were not directly involved in current events.
I spent the night of 27th in my new refuge. The next morning Muyeed visited me and reported that the previous evening, just after curfew, the army had come to my house to pick me up. As I heard later from my wife two truckloads of Pakistani army troops, led by Col. Sayeeduddin, had come to our house. This colonel claimed the distinction of having led the assault party which took Bangabandhu into custody from his house on Road 32, Dhanmondi, on the night of 25th March.
My oldest son Taimur, who was then just 8 years old, was in our house when it was invaded by the troops of the Pakistan army. He was asked by Col. Sayeeduddin about my whereabouts and appears to have handled himself quite cooly in the face of these gun toting soldiers marauding around our house. My wife Salma, on hearing of the arrival of the troops and fearing for Taimur, had tried to rush back to the house but was prevented at gun point from entering it. Col. Sayeeduddin questioned our neighbours about my whereabouts. When he heard that I had only left the house this morning he wanted to take my wife and sons hostage to the cantonment in the hope that, 'this would flush me out'. Our neighbours however persuaded him to leave them behind.
The knowledge that the Pakistan army had paid me the compliment of wanting to pick me up within the first 48 hours of their operation indicated that I was now a designated target. Muyeed advised me that I should get out of Dhaka as there would be house to house search which would put into at risk anyone who gave me shelter. There was at that stage no foreknowledge of what course the war would take or our role in it. 1 sent a note to my wife asking her to get away from Dhaka and preferably abroad so that I could be more freely active in the cause of the Liberation struggle.
Preparatory to my getting out of Dhaka, Muyeed took me over to the residence of Moklesur Rahman (Shidu Mian) in Gulshan. From there I move across the river from Gulshan to the village of Baraid, to the house of Shidu Mian's father-in-law, Mr. Matin. Walking across the fields from Gulshan to the village of Baraid I merged with the vast exodus of the population of Dhaka fleeing the city and heading for the Village. In this exodus I ran into Anisur Rahman, from whom I heard of the horrors he had lived through on the night of 25/26 March. He narrated how the army had invaded their block of flats and shot dead Prof. Jotyrmoy Guha Thakurta of the English Department of Dhaka University who lived on the ground floor and Prof. Maniruzzaman of statistics who lived on the top floor of the building. Prof. Razzaque was spared only by providence. Some Pakistani soldiers had banged at the door to his flat on the first floor of the flat. He took some time to come to open it. They took this to mean that his flat was empty and moved on before he could open it. Anis, who lived opposite Prof. Razzaque, was spared by the fact that he had put a lock on one of the doors leading into his flat which again suggested from the outside that it was empty. Anis had spent two nights and a day on the floor of his flat with his wife and two daughters, with the army going up and downs the stairs carrying out the bodies of their victims.
At the village home of Mr. Matin in Baraid, we carne across a number of other friends such as Jamil Chowdhury and his family, Mokammel Haq who was son-in-law to Mr. Matin and his family and Mostafa Monwar of Dhaka Television. At Baraid it was decided that since I was a direct target of the army and so might Anis be, we should get across the border into India and then launch a campaign to seek international support for the cause of Bangladesh.
In the early morning of 29th March, Anisur Rahman, Mostafa Monwar and myself, guided by a relation of Mr. Matin, Mr, Rahmatullah and Mr. Rasheed, who was a school teacher in the area, set out for Agartala across the border. We were seen off at the river's edge by Shidu Mian and Muyeed.
From there we crossed the Sitalakhya by 'nauka' and headed for Narsingdi. All the way we came across people fleeing from Dhaka. At Narsinghdi we were to take a launch across the river to Brahmanbaria. Upto this point we had only seen a demoralised population fleeing army terror in Dhaka. We had heard rumours of resistance in Chittagong but nothing more to indicate that a full scale war of resistance had begun. The first direct signs of this appeared to us when we sighted the Bangladesh flag flown by the launch which came across the river Meghna to pick up passengers at Narsingdi.
After a while we found the launch pulling into the river bank across the river but a long way from Brhamanbaria. Here some students approached us and asked' us to accompany them off the launch. Since at that stage both Anis and myself were not anxious to reveal our identities lest Pakistani intelligence operatives had been moving in these crowds, we were hesitant to so expose ourselves but eventually went ashore. Here we found ourselves in an unanticipated situation because some of the people there seemed to be uncertain about our identity. Apprehending that this situation might get out of hand, Mustafa Monwar, with some presence of mind asked if there were any students of Dhaka University in the vicinity and if they were that they should be sent for immediately as they would be sure to establish the identity of their teachers.
Anis and myself asked that we be taken before the local leader of the Sangram Parishad so that we could reveal our identity in confidence rather than in the middle of a big mob. At that stage a peon at Oxford University Press, Dhaka who had recognised me from my visits there spoke up so that the crowd was willing to give us a hearing We were then taken into the local school by the head of the Sangram Parishad who was an Awami Leaguer and some others. There we sought to reveal our identity but still had no way of confirming that we were whom we claimed to be. Some of the people recognised my name but it took longer discourse for them finally to be convinced that we were the people we claimed to be. At that stage it was decided that we should go out and address the crowd now that our credentials had been established. As we went out we came across Muqtada, who had seen the direct student of Anis and myself in the Economics Department at Dhaka University and his cousin Mofakkher, a student of the History Department. They lived in the next village and when Mostafa Monwar's message to search out some Dhaka University students had finally reached them they ran all of several mites to get to us in order to proclaim our identity.
Once our bonafides had been established we became instant celebrities in the area. We moved to the house of the local Awami league leader. At that stage a rumour began to circulate in the village that large numbers of people from the area began descending on the place where we were staying. This rumour was eventually dispelled but any hope of retaining our anonymity had vanished and it was felt that we should move on.
We were told by the local leaders, that the village masses had been in a state of alert to apprehend Pakistani saboteurs and paratroopers. The local population had armed themselves with whatever weapons came to hand and were in a state of high vigilance. This again, albeit at our own expense, was reassuring first hand evidence that the village masses of Bangladesh had in these last four weeks been sufficiently mobilised to willingly participate in the aimed struggle against the Pakistan army. Under local leadership they had mobilised themselves all over the, country.
From this area Muqtada and Mofakkher took us to their village to the home of Mofakkher's brother Prof. Noman, now principal of Dhaka College, There it was decided that we should head for Brahmanbaria and should travel late at night by river as there was some apprehension the Pakistan army may be patrolling the rivers. We set out for Brahmanbaria by `nauka' in the early hours of 30th March accompanied by Muqtada, Mofakkher and his older brother Mohaddes who was in Radio Pakistan. We bid farewell there to Rashid and Rahmatullah and asked them to take messages back to our families.
We landed in Brahmanbaria early in the morning of 30 March. One of the first things we noticed patrolling the streets of the town was an army jeep flying the Bangladesh flag. At that time Brahmanbaria was part of liberated Bangladesh. It appeared that the town was in control of freedom fighters. We were given the opportunity to meet some of them. That same afternoon we were taken to the rest house of Titas Gas Company in Brahmanbaria. There for the first time I met Major Khaled Mosharaf of the Bengal Regiment. He told us how his units had arrested their Pakistani commanding officer and liberated Brahmanbaria which they were now planning to defend against attack by the Pakistani army.
Major Mosharaf took us on an inspection of the defenses of Brahmanbaria and then as night approached, took all three of us to his command post at the nearby Teliapara Tea Estate which he had taken over. The whole area was in darkness as a precaution against air attack by the Pakistan air force. In the garden manager's bunglow all lights were blacked out. There Major Mosharaf narrated the odyssey of his battalion and informed us of the massacre of those of his Bengali colleagues who had been in Comilla Cantonment where he had originally been based. He was not in close contact with other areas of the Resistance and appeared to have only some knowledge from his signals and the radio of the battle in Chittagong.
That night at the tea estate we heard together over the radio that overseas Bengalis were trying to collect money to buy arms for the Liberation struggle. Mosharaf suggested that we should go across the border and carry their request for the supply of more weaponry to the Indian authorities and should also help in the procurement of arms overseas from funds raised by the Probashi Bengalis. Mosharaf felt that whilst their resistance was strong the freedom fighters would be outgunned by the Pakistan army if they did not very soon get access to more arms and ammunition. He further told me that as of now he and his officers were in a state of insurgency. They wanted direction from civilian authority. He suggested to me that in the name of the sovereign government of Bangladesh all officers and men of the Bengal Regiment should be re-commissioned into the army of an independent Bangladesh. Khaled was in as much ignorance as I was over who could constitute such an authority but suggested that if I met with any of the elected political leaders I should communicate his message to them. We were all at that stage deeply impressed by the commitment of these soldiers who had pledged their lives and risked the safety of their families left behind in the cantonments to fight for the Liberation of Bangladesh.
Early next morning, on 31st March, Major Mosharaf provided us with a jeep to take us across the border to Agartala in Tripura State. It seemed that by then the border had become quite pourus and people were moving across it with impunity.
At Agartala we learnt that a large contingent of Bangladeshis were located at the sports stadium. There we met M.R. Siddiqui, Taheruddin Thakur and a number of other Awami league M. P.s, student and workers from the districts of Chittagong, Noakhali and Comilla. It appeared that M.R. Siddiqui and Thakur were flying that evening to Delhi with the Chief Minister of Tripura to put the facts of the genocide before the Indian government and to request help so that the resistance could be sustained. I learnt from Siddiqui that he had no knowledge whether other AL leaders were alive or their whereabouts. He himself had been involved in organising resistance at Chittagong and had only just come over to Tripura to seek Military assistance to enable the defense of Chittagong to survive.
At the meeting with Siddiqui and Thakur, it appeared that they themselves knew few people of consequence in Delhi. They felt that the contacts which Anis and myself had with some eminent Indian economists might help in securing an effective hearing for the Bangladesh cause. We were therefore persuaded to join M. R. Siddiqui on the flight to Delhi that same evening. To do so we had to be fitted out in borrowed panjabi and pyjamas which were the only assets we carried with us on the flight from Agartala to Delhi.
On landing in Delhi on the night of 31 March 1971, Anis and I phoned Amartya Sen who was at that time Professor at the Delhi School of Economics. He and his wife came over immediately and took us to their house in the Delhi University campus. The next morning Prof. Sen took us to the residence of Dr. Ashok Mitra now Finance Minister in the CPM government in West Bengal, but who was then Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Dr. Mitra immediately invited Prof. P. N. Dhar, another well known economists to come over. Prof. Dhar was then Secretary to the Prime Minister of India. To Prof. Dhar, Anis and myself provided a full narrative, as best known to us, of the background to the genocide, the accounts of the massacres in Dhaka and state of the resistance by the people of Bangladesh. Prof. Dhar took us to Mr. P. N. Hakser, then Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, to whom we repeated our narrative.
We are not sure if this was the first full account of the background to the liberation war which had been communicated to the upper reaches of the Government of India. It appears that round about the time that we reached Delhi, Tajuddin Ahmad, accompanied by barrister Ameerul Islam had also reached Delhi and established a more authoritative basis for communication with the Government of India. I was put in touch with Mr. Tajuddin Ahmad shortly after my arrival. He told me that he himself had no knowledge about which of his colleagues was alive. He told me how Ameerul Islam, Dr. Kamal Hossain and himself had gone to the residence of Bangabandhu on the night of 25th March, after the reports of imminent army movement had come in and had tried to persuade him to accompany them to a more secure place. But Bangabandhu had refused to accompany them and advised them to go underground. Tajuddin and Islam had then parted company with Kamal Hossain, who had gone to a hideaway in Dhanmondi, after which they had lost contact. Tajuddin and Islam had subsequently made their way across the border via Kushtia.
Whilst we were together in Delhi we were deeply disturbed to hear over the radio that Dr. Kamal Hossain had just been captured up by the Pakistan at my. However by then we were getting news that one by one members of the' Awami League high command had been getting across the border. Tajuddin Ahmed was anxious to fly immediately to the border to meet with his colleagues and with them constitute the government of an independent Bangladesh to give leadership to the liberation war.
In order to proclaim such a government we felt that a formal proclamation of independence should be drafted. The declaration of independence authorised by Bangabandhu which had been transmitted over the Radio at Chittagong, first by Abdul Hannan of the Awami League and then by Major Ziaur Rahman, now had to be incorporated into a formal proclamation of independence.
I was entrusted by Tajuddin Ahmed with the task of drafting the independence proclamation along with a separate statement setting out the background to the proclamation and the genocide launched by the Pakistani army on the people of Bangladesh. This task I undertook with some trepidation as these were likely to be historic documents. The proclamation of independence drafted by me incorporated the theme of the original declaration as well as Khaled Mosharaf's request that the Bengalis who had originally been with the armed services of Pakistan and had now decided to fight for Bangladesh after March 25, 1971 should be re-commissioned into the newly formed army of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh.
As I learnt later my original draft of the proclamation was amended to make it more in conformity with the juridical parlance of such documents but some elements of my original draft constituted the core of the proclamation. However my draft on the background to the events was kept intact and presented to the world by Tajuddin Ahmad as prime Minister of independent Bangladesh on 14 April, after the government of Bangladesh officially came into being at the swearing ceremony in a grove in Kushtia which is now known as Mujeebnagar. One of the phrases which has since been frequently quoted, 'Pakistan lies dead and buried under a mountain of corpses, reflected concisely my sentiments at that time and constituted the basis of all my subsequent actions.
Whilst I was with Tajuddin and Islam we heard over the BBC that M. M. Ahmed, Economic Adviser to Yahya Khan, was flying to Washington on an emergency mission to seek renewed aid from the consortium of aid donors to Pakistan. Tajuddin felt that any attempt to finance Pakistan's war machine through aid must be resisted with all the political resources at our disposal. I was commissioned by Tajuddin to proceed to London and Washington as fast as I could to initiate a campaign on behalf of the Bangladesh government to seek the stoppage of aid to Pakistan by its principal donors. My second brief was to persuade all Bengali officers serving in the diplomatic missions of Pakistan to defect and proclaim allegiance to the government of Bangladesh. My particular target was the mission in the United States, where some of the most able of the Bengali service holders were located. Their defection would be of tremendous propaganda value as well as service to the Bangladesh cause.
I managed to get to London by mid-April. When I got to London I learnt that my wife and three sons had managed to get out of Pakistan and that they were now in Jordan with her sister. This knowledge gave me a feeling of complete freedom to speak out openly on behalf of the liberation struggle. When in London I made contact with Justice Abu Sayed Chowdhury who was also Vice Chancellor, Dhaka University at the time. He had been in London at the time and was one of the first to proclaim his allegiance to the liberation struggle and to speak out against the genocide.
In London through my contacts with Brian Lapping, a journalist, I was put in touch with the British Labour Party and addressed a group of Labour M. P.,s in the House of Common's where I stressed the importance of putting pressure on the Conservative government to withhold further aid to Pakistan. I had a very sympathetic hearing and met subsequently with Denis Healy who was then Shadow spokesman for Foreign Affairs for the Labour Party in the House of Commons.
I sought to make contact with the Tory government though Sir Douglas Dodds Parker a senior Tory M, P. who was well known to my wife's family and who could put me in touch with Sir Alec Douglas Home, the them Tory Foreign Secretary, who was also well known to my wife's family. Dodds Parker said he would pass on the message of events in Bangladesh to the foreign secretary, which he did. But I could never quite get a direct hearing from the Foreign Secretary, who was reluctant to take the political risk of meeting with a spokesman for a `rebel' government. I tried later on, again without success, through his private secretary, Nicholas Barrington, who was also well known to me. Barrington however remained a most helpful conduct for all information on the Bangladesh case, to W passed on to the Foreign Secretary.
The real action was however building up in Washington, around M. M. Ahmed's visit. We had learnt that the external resources of the Pakistani Government were low and needed urgent replenishment from the donors. With the interruption of jute exports from Bangladesh and also of public revenues, new doses of aid were seen as essential to sustain the Pakistani war effort.
I arrived in the United States towards the end of April, where by chance, in New York, I ran into Prof. Nurul Islam and Prof. Anisur Rahman, both of whom had made their way there independently of me. Prof. Islam had himself had a dramatic journey out of Dhaka. He had met up with me Delhi before leaving for the United States.
I preceded from New York to Washington with Harun-ur-Rashid, a CSP officer who was then working with the World Bank. In Washington I was received at the airport by A.M A. Muhith who was then Economic Minister at the Pakistan Embassy. That same evening I met with the full component of the Bengalis in the Washington Embassy. They were an elite group led by the late Enayet Karim, Shamsul Kibria, who later became foreign secretary, Prof. Abu Rushd Matinuddin who was Educational Attaché there, Moazzem Ali who was I think Third Secretary, a number of non-PFS officers such as Rustam Ali, Razzaque Khan and Shariful. Alam At that stage none of these officers had defected. They all proclaimed their complete sympathy with the liberation struggle and had clandestinely been in touch with members of the U. S. Congress and even people in the State Department, to speak on behalf of the Bangladesh cause. I passed on to them Tajuddin Ahmad's message to defect. They all appeared to be willing to do so but needed to be convinced of the commitment of the people of Bangladesh to the goals of full independence and assurances about the practical problems arising out of their defection. Till then they were willing to go on speaking for Bangladesh but not openly.
During this period Razzaque Khan and Shariful Alam, along with a Bangladeshi student, Mohsin Siddiqui, came forward quite publicly to work with me in lining up contacts with the press and TV and with Congress so that I could get my message across to them to stop aid to Pakistan. I was given a number of prime time TV appearances which gave valuable publicity to the Bangladesh cause. Warren Una, a well known journalist and TV commentator, was particularly helpful in this respect. Razzaque and Alam functioned as a sort of secretariat for me notwithstanding the fact that they were still on the Pakistan Embassy staff.
On the press front I met Henry Bradshar of the Washington Star, Lewis Simons of the Washington Post, Adam Clymer of the Baltimore Post, Ben Wells of the New York Times and Gilbert Harrison, editor of the prestigious weekly, New Republic. These were the main papers read in Washington and these columnists and their leader writers exercised considerable influence on shaping Congressional opinion. It was therefore a major coup for the Bangladesh cause when, more or less simultaneously, all four papers came out with editorials, to coincide with the arrival of M. M. Ahmed in Washington, requesting the U.S. government to suspend their aid commitment to Pakistan as long as the genocide continued in Bangladesh.
I had also been active in the Congress. Here I had been put in touch with two of the most effective supporters of the Bangladesh cause during that period, Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Frank Church, who was a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Tom Dine, aide to Senator Church, along with Gerry Tinker and Dale Diehan, aides to Senator Kennedy, became close friends and active spokesman for the Bangladesh cause. Through them I met a number of other senators. At that time, led by Kennedy and Church, and Gallagher in the House of Representatives Congressman and Senators had begun to speak out on the floor of the house to denounce the genocide and to demand that U.S. aid to Pakistan be reviewed. Many of these statements, along with documents and letters sent by American's who had come out from Bangladesh, after 26 March, were entered into the Congressional Record.
At that stage I was informed that some old time friends of Pakistan, led by Senator Symington, were hosting a tea for M. M. Ahmed to put his views on the events in Pakistan to the Senators. He got a small turn out but it was felt by our friends on the Hill that we should match This. Since Church and Kennedy were leading figures of the Democratic Party it was felt that a less partisan figure in the Senate might be mobilised to host a lunch for me which could attract both Republicans and Democrats. Senator Saxby of Ohio agreed to host such a lunch. This turned out a bigger and more distinguished collection of Senators than had turned up to hear M. M. Ahmed. I had as my audience, amongst others, Senators Church, Fulbright, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Scott who was the Senate minority leader of the Republican Party. These distinguished figures of the American political establishment gave a patient hearing to the full facts behind the Pakistani genocide and the complicity of the U. S. government in this act as long as they remained the principal aid donors to Pakistan. Out of these early initiatives in the Senate emerged the Saxby-Church amendment to the U. S. Foreign Aid bill, which aimed to stop. U. S. aid to Pakistan as long as the genocide in Bangladesh continued. But this is a later part of the story and required a much larger mobilisation.
Following our success in the Senate we heard that M. M. Ahmed was scheduled to address a press conference at the National Press Club. We decided to beat him to it and managed, through the efforts of Razzaque Khan and his associates, to organise our own conference. This was well attended by the press, radio and TV media. Voice of America carried excerpts from my speech which were heard round the world. Nasim Ahmed correspondent of Dawn, who later became Information Secretary, under Bhutto, had been sent by Pakistan, along with another journalist, Qutubuddin Aziz, to counter my campaign. Nasim Ahmed was at my press conference but appeared more interested in monitoring who was there than in putting any serious questions to me. The success of the conference and the favourable publicity that Bangladesh was attracting in the media sufficiently discouraged M. M. Ahmed who subsequently cancelled his own press conference.
Whilst the U. S. Congress and media had given us a favourable hearing it was much more difficult to get through to the upper echelons of the Nixon administration. We had set our sight on making contact with Henry Kissinger who had taught a number of Bengalis in his International Seminar at Harvard and was thus thought likely to be more familiar with the background to the liberation struggle. We soon found that the U. S. administration was a closed door to Bangladeshis. I was advised to fly to Cambridge to meet with Kissinger's former colleagues to see if they could get me an audience with him. Apart from some of the ranking economists such as Prof. Dorfman, I met with a colleague of Kissinger in the Dept. of government, Prof. Samuel Huntington and with Prof. Lodge at the Harvard Business School, supposedly another close friend of Kissinger. None of these contacts proved particularly useful.
At the official level in Washington the best I could do was to meet at the home of Enayet Karim, Craig Baxter, who was then the Bangladesh desk officer at the State Department. I also met through the good offices of Tom Hexner, a consultant to the World Bank, with Maurice Williams, who was then Deputy Director, U. S. Aid. I remember this meeting for the message communicated by Williams, that if Bangladesh expected its cause to be taken more seriously in Washington, it must demonstrate its military capability. My other target in Washington was the World Bank who had till then been the leader of the Pakistan consortium and were indeed its principal spokesman in the international community.
My first contact in the Bank was with the Englishman, I. P. Cargill who was then a Vice President and the person who chaired the Pakistan Consortium. He was a close friend of M. M. Ahmed from their I. C. S. days and the most knowledgeable about affairs in Pakistan. In a recently concluded meeting of the Consortium in Paris, the members, under advice from Cargill had suspended further consideration of aid to Pakistan, till the Bank-Fund mission to Pakistan had reported on its findings on the situation in the East Wing. Cargill gave me along hearing and gave me the impression that new aid commitments were unlikely to be forthcoming until military activities in Bangladesh were stopped.
Beyond Cargil lay the Olympian figure of Robert McNamara, President of the World Bank. I was told that after much effort by friends within the Bank, McNamara had agreed to meet me. I was told that his computer oriented mind only absorbed facts which were to be presented as concisely as possible. To prepare for this, aided by other Bangladeshis in Washington, I put together a paper, arguing for the stoppage of aid to Pakistan. This paper was subsequently printed and widely circulated. I think paper was titled `Aid to Pakistan: Background and Options'. As it transpired, in our short meeting McNamara appeared to be more moved by the human dimensions of the problem and at least gave me the impression of having genuine concern for the nature of the crisis. It will be difficult to isolate the impact of McNamara’s response to the Bangladesh situation on the Banks role in the Pakistan aid consortium. All that can be observed is that the Bank did send out a mission to Pakistan and that this mission submitted a devastating report on the atrocities of the Pakistan army in Bangladesh and the complete breakdown of the development process in that area. The report of the mission, which was leaked by Harun-ur-Rashid to and published in the New York Times, was an important aide to lobbyist within the United States for the Saxby-Church amendment and in dissuading members of the Pakistan aid consortium from making fresh aid pledges in their meeting in Paris in June 1971.
Outside of my meetings with Congress, the World Bank and the media I was also in contact with some of the groups which had sprung up amongst the large Bangladeshi community resident in the United States. The main group amongst the Bangalis, chaired by the late F.R. Khan, was involved in mobilising public opinion within the United States in favour of the Bangladesh cause and in fund raising for supporting the liberation war.
One of the important tasks I had to face was to persuade the groups to make funds available to support the Bengalis in the Pakistan mission in Washington as well as the mission to the U. N. in New York once they had defected. There was some misunderstanding between the Bengali community and the mission members which I tried to mediate. My final task in Washington was to work out with all the members of the mission an estimate of the financial requirements to support them and an establishment to enable them to function as representatives for Bangladesh. A date was also agreed to, I think it was 1st July, when they would together publicly renounce their allegiance to Pakistan and proclaim their commitment to the cause of Bangladesh. From Washington I went on to New York where I met with representatives of the Bengali community and also spoke to F. R. Khan in Chicago to secure a pledge from them to fund the Bangladesh Mission in the US.
Apart from these major involvements I used whatever residual time I had meeting with individuals or groups who might in anyway be mobilised in support of the Bangladesh cause. In New York 1 met with Jim Brown of the New York Times who subsequently wrote some important pieces critical of the Pakistani actions in Bangladesh. I also made some further TV appearances. I had a very valuable visit to Philadelphia at the invitation of Sultana Alam where I addressed a group which she had formed to support Bangladesh. Other such groups either of Bengalis or American's who had been mobilised by Bengalis were a ready audience.
At the end of my stay in the U.S., I flew into Ottawa for a day at the request of a Bengali action group there who felt that my presence as a spokesman for the Bangladesh government may be of some value. On arrival in Ottawa I addressed a well attended Press conference. Following this I had lunch with some members of Parliament in Ottawa, chaired by the shadow foreign minister from the opposition bench. In the afternoon I was taken off to a private club for a clandestine rendezvous with a member of the Cabinet. As a Minister he was reluctant to meet me openly but gave me a sympathetic hearing. In the evening I met with the Bengali community in Ottawa. My one day visit to Ottawa was one of the most productive days I had spent on this campaign.
I returned to London at the end of May. During my short stay in London I found the climate of public opinion moving much more strongly in favour of Bangladesh. I met with Judith Hart in her home in Kew Gardens. She was the Labour Front bench spokesman on foreign aid and subsequently became Minister for Overseas Development in the next Labour government. Following our meeting she made a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Commons when she demanded, on behalf of the Labour opposition, that aid to Pakistan from the U. K, be suspended and that U. K. should pledge no further aid to Pakistan till the genocide in Bangladesh was stopped and a dialogue opened with the elected leaders of Bangladesh.
I also had occasion to communicate ray views to a number of Tory and Labour M.P.'s and to again use my acquaintance with Nicholas Barrington to get our views across to Sir Alec Douglas Home. I also spoke to some of the officials from the Ministry of Overseas Development in the U. K. delegation to the Consortium meeting in Paris and gave them our memorandum.
This same proposition to cut off aid to Pakistan, which had been argued in our presentation to McNamara in Washington and with the U. S. Congress, had become the main campaign theme amongst the Bengali community in U. K. The U. K. Bengalis were the most numerous of the 'Probashi' Bengali communities and were active in raising funds and mobilising public opinion in the U. K. against aid to Pakistan. Justice Abu Sayed Chowdhury had by then been officially designated as the chief spokesman for the cause and had set up offices for the movement near Liverpool Street station in East London.
During this and subsequent visits to London, Tasadduq Ahmad, proprietor of the Ganges Restaurant and his wife Rosemary, were very helpful in setting up meetings for me and letting me use their store room above their restaurant in Gerrad Street as a sort of London office. I had a number of interesting encounters there. One of these was with Phizo, the leader in exile of the Naga separatist movement. A meeting with him was set up for me on the assumption that he had some line to the Chinese regime in Beijing and might use his good offices to get the Chinese to be more receptive to the voice of the Bangladesh movement than they had been so far. Phizo came with his daughter to the meeting with me at the Ganges. He seemed more anxious to convert me to the cause of the Nagas than to contribute his services to speak to the Chinese. The meeting was thus interesting but rather unproductive.
I took the opportunity of my stay in the U. K. to do some writing on the Bangladesh issue. I renewed my old contacts with the left wing weekly, the New Statesman and offered them an article on the genocide in Bangladesh and the role of foreign aid in sustaining the Yahya regime. The Editor of the New Statesman ultimately decided to use the material from my article as the substance for a front page editorial in his weekly which demanded suspension of all U. K. aid to Pakistan. At the request of the editor John White, I also wrote a piece for South Asian Review which for the first time put on record a full account of the negotiations leading to the army crackdown. I also wrote a piece for the Guardian.
During my visit I participated in a large Teach-In at the Oxford University Union organised by two sympathetic Pakistanis, Akbar Noman and Tariq Abdullah. It was largely attended and addressed by Prof. Daniel Thorner who had been witness to the Pak army genocide whilst with PIDS in Dhaka and had on his return to the Sorbonne in Paris become a leading spokesman there for the Bangladesh cause. Apart from Daniel, another Pakistani, Tariq Ali was also bitterly critical of the Pakistani army action and spoke in support of an independent Bangladesh. He however saw this as a prelude to a revolutionary upsurge where the two Bengals may unite to form a socialist state. During his rather harsh remarks about the Pakistan army he was heckled from the gallery by someone who appeared to be a Pakistani military intelligence officer. The meeting was also addressed by a representative of Bhutto's Peoples Party. As may be expected the Pakistani cause did not get a very sympathetic hearing. I was the last speaker and received a fairly enthusiastic response from the audience. This was our general experience at all such public gatherings.
From London I moved on to Paris for the crucial meeting of the Pakistan Aid Consortium, scheduled if I remember, for 7 June. The Pakistanis were banking on this meeting to get a large new pledge of commodity aid, as their current import capacity had been seriously constrained by the war.
In Paris I stayed with Daniel and Alice Thorner. Also staying with the Thorners was Dr. Hasan Imam who had been with PIDE and had recently come over to Paris via India. Daniel, Hasan Imam and myself prepared a memorandum for the consortium based on my original memo presented to Macnamara. This was then distributed by us on the night before the meeting to the leader of every delegation to the Consortium. We also attempted to meet with the respective delegations. Some gave us a hearing. Others were inaccessible. I met with the deputy head of the World Bank delegation, an American by the name of Votaw the night before the meeting. He told me that it was unlikely the consortium would pledge any new aid. I spoke over the phone to Peter Cargil the Vice President of the World Bank. He had just returned from Pakistan. He confirmed the view of his deputy but asked me to see him after the meeting was over.
Apart from our three man effort to lobby the consortium, a group of Bengalis had come over to Paris and led a procession in front of the building where the meeting was held armed with placards demanding that aid to Pakistan be cut off.
On the morning after the Consortium concluded I met with Peter Cargil over breakfast at his 5 Star Hotel, the Royal Monceau. He told me the good news that the consortium had declined to make any new pledges until normalcy was restored in Bangladesh. They were influenced by Cargil's report of his visit to Dhaka and Islamabad. In the meeting he confirmed the highly unstable nature of the current situation in Pakistan. Some other members made stronger observations at the meeting. But most, reacting to mounting domestic public pressure at home against the atrocities of the Pak army, were happy to use the excuse of the prevailing inhospitable climate for development in Pakistan to withold new aid pledges. The U. S. delegate made a moderating plea for some support to Pakistan but did not argue the case very strongly and went along with the decision of the Consortium.
The Consortium meeting was a serious setback for Pakistan and a modest triumph for the international mobilisation which had taken place around the world in support of Bangladesh's liberation struggle.
Apart from our work with the Consortium, Daniel used my presence in Paris to present the Bangladesh cause to influential French intellectuals. I had some useful meetings with Journalists and some leading figures of the French intellectual establishment such as Raymond Arom, Louis Dumont the Social Anthropologist and the Arabist, Maxim Robinson. I also gave a seminar at the Sorbonne. We had learnt that the French Government had been an important source of arms supplies to Pakistan. Our target was to mobilise some influential opinion in France to get these sales suspended. As it turned out the more decisive influence on the French Government was the attempt of Pakistan to renew on their payment for the arms by seeking a rescheduling of their debt. This eventually led to a cut off in arms deliveries from France.
From Paris I moved in to Rome. During a short stay there I delivered a memo to the World Food Programme suggesting that Food aid to Pakistan, ostensibly meant for Bangladesh, should be diverted to the Bangladesh, government who would supply it across the border to inhabitants in that area. Apart from this objective I also met with officials in the three major Italian political parties, the Christina Democrats Communist and Socialists to seek their support in securing a cut off in Italian aid to Pakistan. This was meant more as a gesture, since the Italian's had never been particularly large aid donors to Pakistan or any other developing country.
From Rome I returned to base to report in the results of my campaign to the Mujibnagar government. Whilst I was there during the month of July 1971 1 found that a number of my friends and academic colleagues had surfaced. We felt it appropriate that some thought be given to the future direction of an independent Bangladesh. With this in view I submitted a proposal to the Bangladesh cabinet for the creation of a Bangladesh Planning Board. This was envisaged to have as members, Prof. Mosharaf Hossain, Prof. Sarwar Murshed, Dr. Anisuzzaman, Dr. Swadesh Bose and myself. The idea was eventually accepted but it took some time for the proposal to take off. When I returned to Europe after a month at base, the brunt of the work was left to Prof. Hossain. When Prof. Muzaffar Ahmed Chowdhury finally surfaced, he was designated as Chairman of the Board. The board finally secured some office space and research assistance and towards the end of the war had begun work on some policy papers for the Cabinet.
Whilst at base I had occasion to meet up again with Major Khaled Mosharraf who had by now been commissioned into the army of Bangladesh and was a Sector Commander. He gave me his account of the Battle of Belonia; for this he had as witness, a British Television journalist, Vanya Kewley who had been advised by me earlier in London to meet Khaled if she wanted to see some action, During this visit I met for the first time with Major Ziaur Rahman, who was another of the Sector Commanders. Zia was then a much more withdrawn personality than Khaled. From Zia I heard his account of the battle for Chittagong and his analysis of the present war. I also met with General Osmany the C-in-C of the Mukti Bahini and with Group Captain Khondkar, who was Deputy Chief of Staff.
All those whom I met with from the Mukti Bahini spoke of the impressive mobilisation of youths who were streaming in to join the Resistance. The Majors told me of the way in which the guerilla war was being organised. They were all unanimous in their complaints that inadequacy in the quantity and sophistication of arms was the only constraint in the buildup of the resistance, from what 1 learnt later it was only in August that the policy decision was taken by the Indian government to step up the flow of weapons to the Mukti Bahini and to improve their fire power.
Having made my reports to the Bangladesh cabinet and presented my proposal for a Planning Board to them I returned to the task of mobilising opinion in Europe and the U.S. for stopping aid to Pakistan. This time, when I set out I was equipped with official credentials by the cabinet who designated me as 'Envoie Extraordinaire in Charge of Economic Affairs'.
I returned to London in August to find that the campaign by the local Bengalis was in high tide. A mammoth rally had been organised by them in Trafalgar Square. Press support was strong, spokesman from all parties were vocal in Parliament against aid to Pakistan and the Tory government was compelled to confirm their refusal to pledge now aid.
I had been invited to address a meeting convened by the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London. This provided a rather prestigious audience. I could not return in time to meet this commitment so that my wife Salma, who had by now reached U.K. with my sons, spoke in my place along with the Labour M.P. Arthur Bottomley who had just returned from a visit to Pakistan as head of British Parliamentary delegation sent out to report on the situation. Salma gave a moving account of the situation and along with Bottomley's first hand report, the occasion proved a most effective forum for the Bangladesh cause. I subsequently was invited by Chatham House to address them in October.
From U.K. I moved back to Washington. Around September the entire Bengali contingent in the embassies at Washington and to the UN finally declared their allegiance to the Bangladesh government. It was a great diplomatic coup. Since they were a big group and had within their ranks some of the most able officers of the Pakistan foreign and civil service. S.A. Karim, who was Deputy Permanent Representative at Pakistan's mission to the U.N. and the senior most amongst them came in from New York and joined the group in a well attended press conference held to announce their decision. A conspicuous absentee from the press conference was Enayet Karim who a few days before had been hospitalised by a severe coronary attack. He had however, from his sick bed, declared his solidarity with the other Bengalis.
Earlier in June we have noted that the report of the World Bank-IMF fact mission to Pakistan had been leaked to the New York Times by some officials of the World Bank. The report had a significant impact not just on the Consortium but on the U.S. public, Congress and donors outside the United States.
By this time the Bangladesh movement in the United State had become more organised in their lobbying efforts. Support amongst the U S. public had crystallised in the form of a number of effective Volunteer organisations made up of committed and idealistic Americans who were willing to volunteer their time and energies to work for the Bangladesh cause. One of the most effective of these groups was the Bangladesh Information Center which was based in Washington. This group took on the task of coordinating the lobbying effort for the Saxby-Church amendment.
The availability of this sizeable body of Bengali diplomats and 1;6d more widespread support for the Bangladesh cause amongst the people and Congress in the United States pursuaded the Bangladesh government to establish a permanent mission in Washington. This was located in offices at Connecticut Avenue in downtown Washington. M.R. Siddiqui was sent out to head the mission which was manned by a distinguished collection of defected diplomats. S.A. Karim was entrusted with the tasks in the U N. and the New York area.
The newly formed mission in Washington and the Bangladesh Information Center became the focal point for the lobby effort in Washington for the Saxby-Church amendment. The amendment sought to attach a ryder on the U.S. Foreign Aid bill that all fresh commitments of U.S. aid to Pakistan be cut off till they stopped their genocide in Bangladesh and resumed a dialogue with the elected representatives of Bangladesh, This bi-partisan group in the U.S. Senate, led by a ranking Republican and a Democrat, had already attracted a large number of aherents within the Senate.
The political objective of the moment was to secure a majority vote for the amendment on the floor of the Senate. Whilst the amendment had attracted very strong support its supporters bad to contend with strong counter-pressures from the U.S. administration. They had moved to justify their support for the Yahya regime on the plea that they wished to retain coverage on the Yahya government and that any move to cut aid would prejudice their efforts to influence the Pakistanis. On this ground they had continued shipments of arms and spare parts to Pakistan, an exercise which had been exposed by Senator Kennedy on the floor of the Senate. An imaginative effort by a group of American supporters to organise a boat picket of the ship docked in an East Coast port for carrying the arms shipments to Pakistan, attracted much public attention.
My own efforts on my return to Washington were thus concentrated on working on the Hill to secure support for the Saxby-Church amendment. In this task I worked closely both with the Bangladesh Mission and the Bangladesh Information Center. The BIC had taken on the staff work for the lobbying. This consisted of a well researched file index on each Congressman, which spelt out their reputed political positions and phobias. An explicit lobbying instruction was prepared. Bengalis and sympathetic Americans both in Washington and the country at large were persuaded to come into Washington to contribute some time to the lobbying exercise: This mobilisation attracted quite extensive support. People took leave from their work to come into Washington and spent a few days in the task of lobbying. Americans were sent off to their respective state senators whilst Bengalis were each assigned specific members of the senate to approach.
Being closely involved in this lobbying exercise I came to squire some insight into the intricacies of U.S, politics and the ways in which political opinion is mobilised in the United States. The dedication with which some of the American friends in the group and our now widening circle of friends amongst the staff on the Hill, worked for the cause of Bangladesh will remain an abiding memory. From the Bangladesh group I will particularly remember the work of Joan Dine, wife of Tom Dine one of our staunchest supporters on the Hill, Dave Weisbro a young graduate student who became the full time secretary of the BIC. They were aided by a young Bengali, Kaiser Haq who did good work in the office. On the Hill, Tom Dine, Gerry Tinker and Dale Diehan who were friends from the early days, were joined by Mike Gertner, aide to Senator Saxby. Ever since the lunch he hosted for me in May, Senator Saxby had become one of the staunchest supporters of the Bangladesh cause, as was evident from his willingness to co-sponsor an amendment to his own Administration's Foreign Aid bill. In staying loyal to his commitment he faced up to a lot of pressure from the white House. During this phase his aide Mike Gestner was an indefatigable source of advice and support.
The lobbying effort behind the Saxby-Church amendment reached its denouncement at a debate on the floor of the Senate. Here a peculiar coalition emerged which bought together such liberal senators as Frank Church and the Southern conservatives. The liberals spoke of the misuse of U.S. Aid in supporting the genocide by Yahya Khan's hoards in Bangladesh. Virtually all liberal supporters of the amendment spoke in this vein. They were however now joined by the conservatives who had been outraged by the public enthusiasm on the floor of the General Assembly by some Third World countries over the admission of People's for China to the United Nations. 1971 was indeed the year when Communist China displaced Taiwan from its seat in the United Nations some 22 years after the victory of the Revolution. The whole episode in the U.N. rankled deeply amongst conservative Congressman who saw this as a display of political ingratitude by many U.S. aid dependant Third World countries. They were the mood to strike at them though a cut off in aid.
As it transpired then, the objective of securing passage for the Saxby-Church amendment ended in the defeat of the whole Aid bill on the floor of the Senate. This of course had more far reaching implications for the rest of the world. But it served as a victory of sorts for the Bangladesh lobbying effort since it effectively cut off all fresh commitments of U.S. aid to Pakistan, amongst other U.S. aid recipients.
This victory was however not enough to restrain the U.S, administration from finding other loopholes to get their aid through to Pakistan. By then the Nixon administration had amongst its NATO allies become the sole bulwark of support for the Yahya administration. The need to sustain our lobbying effort in Congress and amongst the U.S. public was thus an essential component of the strategy to at least contain the excesses of the U.S, administration on their commitment to the Pak junta.
Whilst the lobbying in Washington continued, the donors’ aid consortium to Pakistan still remained an important arena of influence. The annual World Bank IMF meeting held in October, 1971 in the Sheraton Hotel in Washington became another target for; our efforts. Although aid to Pakistan was not an item on the agenda of the meeting, we had been advised by friends that Pakistan would use the occasion to meet with the consortium to seek a rescheduling of its debts servicing obligations and seek once again to line up fresh commitments. A.M.A. Muhith and myself put together a fresh document spelling out Pakistan's circumstances and the case for, refraining from any fresh relief to Pakistan just when the liberation war was reaching a critical stage.
Muhith and myself took on the task of tackling the different delegations from the Consortium countries who were attending the meeting, to place our literature to them and to talk with them. Our efforts inside were on one day assisted by Prof. Nurul Islam who flew in from Yale where he was based. Outside the hotel BIC group had organised small demonstration. Amongst others Joan Dine, accompanied by her baby Amy, still in her pram, participated. On one occasion Muhith found himself linked with the demonstration outside the hotel and was evicted by the security guards from the premises of the Sheraton. Fortunately I was at a distance from these proceedings and managed to rescue the bundle of literature with Muhith to resume our lobbying efforts within the hotel.
It was again a peculiar experience for us, trying to buttonhole delegates in the rooms and lobbys of the hotel in order to press our case. Some gave as a hearing, others avoided us. We had some strange encounters. On one such occasion I ran into an old classmate from Cambridge after all of 18 years, Shahpour Shirazi who was then Governor of the Bank Markazi in Iran. I used the occasion to question him on the subject of the Shah of Iran's Military aid to Pakistan. Shahpour claimed that the Shah had interceded with Yahya to prevent the execution of Bangabandhu. I have no way of verifying the truth of this statement.
On another occasion we met through another friend from Cambridge, Lal Jaywardene, who was then Secretary, Economic Affairs in the Govt. of Sri Lanka. Lal arranged a meeting for Prof. Islam and myself with the Trotskyite, Finance Minister of Sri Lanka, N.M. Perera. We took him to task for Sri Lanka's provision of landing rights to PIA and the Pakistan Air Force to facilitate their carriage of arms and troops to Bangladesh. He denied this and promised to see that landing rights were not thus abused. Again I cannot vouch for his success in making good his promise.
The other main exercise with which I came to be associated at that time was the campaign at the United Nations. The Bangladesh government had nominated a delegation to the United Nations General Assembly session beginning in October 1971. The delegation was to be headed by Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury. I was nominated as a member of delegation along with Ambassador K.K. Panni who had defected from Manila, Ambassador A. Fateh who had defected from Iraq, and a number of other delegates such as Dr. A.R. Mallik who had come over to join the delegation. The lobbying exercise at the U.N. was more frustrating, since it aimed to generate support for a resolution in the General Assembly to stop the genocide in Bangladesh. This issue may have given occasion for some speeches in our favour on the floor of the Assembly and in some of the Committees, but not much more came of it largely because most U.N. members were reluctant to raise their voice against anything which appeared to interfere with the sovereignty of a member nation. Since at that stage none of the veto power states had sought to lend their public support to the cause of Bangladesh, the lobbying effort in the initial phase of the session tended to yield insubstantial results.
During this period I involved myself in a number of speaking engagements on behalf of Bangladesh. These included a well attended meeting at the University of Philadelphia another at the University of Syracuse, another at MIT in company with Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, and Dr. Mohiuddin Alamgir, one at Williams College organised for me by Prof. Anisur Rahman who was based there and one at Yale organised by Prof. Nurul Islam. In most of these functions the occasional group of Pakistanis would turn up perhaps to heckle but at the end to put a few plaintive questions more in sorrow than in anger.
I also continued to make some appearances and to write occasionally for periodicals. Two of my most interesting appearances on TV took place towards the end of my stay. The first of these was an appearance on Public Television in Boston. This programme is organised around a court case based on some highly topical public issue where two lawyers act as counsel for the prosecution and the defense. Each is permitted to bring three witnesses to speak in their cause. If I recollect correctly, on this occasion the issue was to discuss the case for the United States government extending support to the Bangladesh cause. I fail to remember the advocate for our cause. But the opposition was led by William Rusher the proprietor of the National Review one of the foremost conservative Weeklies in the United States, edited by the well known right wing figure William F. Buckley Jr. Rusher was well to the right of Buckly and possibly to the right of Gengis Khan as well. His view of the subcontinent was frozen around the time of John Foster Dulles. He appeared to have difficulty in distinguishing the India of Indira Gandhi from that of her father in the 1950's and still seemed to think that Krishan Menon was Foreign Minister of India.
The program did not have that a large TV audience but was interesting because it brought to the surface the various arguments for and against Bangladesh. Rusher had for his case sent out a television crew to Pakistan to interview Bhutto. This rather tendentious testimony was produced before us in the studio on a video screen. Rusher also lined up Congressman Freylinghausen from New Jersey and a former U. S. Ambassador to the U. S. who was the Pepsi-Cola magnate and had been sent out there in compensation for his financial contribution to Nixon's election campaign. On the Bangladesh side our advocate had lined by John Stonehouse, the Labour M. P. who had in England been one of the most eloquent campaigners for Bangladesh, who was specially flown in from London for the programme. There was in addition, Ambassador M. K. Rasgotra who was then number two to L. K. Jha in the Indian embassy in Washington and who is now Foreign Secretary in the government of India. Finally there was myself as the only Bangladeshi on the programme. There was a full studio audience and I am told an enthusiastic audience of TV viewers.
My second TV appearance was at a more historic moment. Prior to this all of us at the UN delegation had become more active as the Bangladesh issue finally came before the Security Council and General Assembly following the outbreak of open hostilities between India and Pakistan. The escalation in the liberation war and the growing tension on the Bangladesh border had culminated ,in the aggression by the Pakistan Airforce, through bombing attacks on targets in Northern India. Pakistan which had hitherto been fully committed to keep the Bangladesh issue off the UN agenda, now became active in internationalising it as part of an Indo-Pakistan threat to peace rather than as a liberation struggle. The successful advance of the Indian army into Bangladesh and the disintegration of the Pakistan army compelled Pakistan to seek international support for a cease fire and a withdrawal of the Indian army back across the border. In this task they were strongly supported by the United States and China. The latter's advocacy of the Pakiastni case was their first public action in the United Nations. The move to secure passage of a cease fire and withdrawal of forces resolution had irresistible support both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly. Apparently most members can be moved to unite behind such a resolution lest they one day find themselves at the receiving end of a war. As a result the relevant resolution, moved jointly by the United States and China seeking a cease fire secured a clear majority in the Security Council. Its passage was only frustrated by a Soviet veto.
To circumvent the veto a similar resolution was brought before the General Assembly where the members are even more forthcoming in support of any resolution seeking a cease fire. Such a resolution was thus assured an overwhelming majority. I subsequently analysed all the speeches made on this debate on the floor of the Assembly, and found that very few of the countries who voted for the resolution did so out of positive support for Pakistan, but voted more as supporters of peace as a general principle of conduct in international affairs.
We Bangladeshis were spectators to this drama in the UN which we witnessed from the galleries. Our efforts in the lobbies of the United Nations brought us much private Sympathy for the cause of Bangladesh but little support on the floor of the Assembly. There most speakers were inclined to forget the 9-month aggression and genocide by the Pakistan army on the People and land of Bangladesh and were inclined to concentrate on the immediate outbreak of war between India and Pakistan.
Apart from my shared efforts at lobbying the delegates to the Security Council I was invited to appear in New York public television, a channel which is distinguished by the fact that it is the only one to feature the proceedings of the General Assembly and Security Council. Our programme was designed to coincide with the debate on the General Assembly. There were two panels, one was made up of Americans. If I remember this included Tom Dine, Arnold de Borchgrave of Newsweek Magazine and one other well known personality. They were followed by what was meant to be a three-cornered discussion between the Consul-General for Pakistan in New York, Najmus Saqib Khan, the Consul General for India, and myself speaking for Bangladesh. The Pakistani Consul-General was instructed to decline to appear on the same platform with me so that he and his Indian counterpart went on the screen together ahead of me. Thus when I came on screen it turned out to be a solo appearance. By a strange coincidence I came on screen just as the counting of the vote at the General Assembly was being announced. Just as I had launched myself into my statement the cameras switched from the studio to the General Assembly to report on the massive vote there in favour of an immediate cease fire and withdrawal of' forces across national boundaries. The cameras then switched back to me and the interviewer invited me to give an instant reaction to what was clearly an event which did no service to the cause of a liberated Bangladesh. To my recollection, I had to improvise very rapidly and state that 'Bangladesh which was the centre of this war as a result of the genocidal action of the Pakistan army, was not invited to participate in this debate in the General Assembly. The people and government of Bangladesh were therefore not party to these resolutions and would continue our war of liberation until such time as the Pakistani aggression on the people of Bangladesh had been defeated.' My statement and subsequent observations on the situation arising out of the U. N. debate and the situation in Bangladesh appeared to be well received. For days after that I was stopped on the streets of New York by strangers who had heard my piece on the subject and complimented for my forthright statement.
The role of TV celebrity was however ephemeral. The real drama was going on in Bangladesh and more peripherally in the United Nations. We had learnt that Mr. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, who had at the eleventh hour been inducted into the government by Yahya Khan, was coming to New York to argue the Pakistani case before the Security Council. ` However Bhutto's flight to New York was being overtaken by events on the ground in Bangladesh. The spectacular advance of the Indian and Bangladesh forces and the imminent collapse of Pakistani defenses, were setting their own seal on the debate in the U.N. From a Bengali cypher clerk, who had on instructions stayed on in the Pakistan U. N. Mission, we learnt that top secret cyphers had come in reporting that General Niazi had sought permission o surrender to the advancing forces. We also learnt that Paul Marc Henri the U. N. representative in Dhaka had relayed a message from Rao Farman Ali to the Secretary General seeking his good offices in securing a surrender which guaranteed the safe withdrawal of Pakistani forces from Bangladesh.
Bhutto was greeted at the airport with this, for him, alarming piece of news. His promised coup de theatre in the Security Council was thus immediately in danger of being upstaged. Being quite unprepared for this development Bhutto went to ground and spent the next few days in close confabulation with the United States Representative to the U. N. George Bush, now Vice-President in the Reagan administration and with the newly designated Chinese representative to the U. N., Huan Huang. It is not clear what was discussed by them in these conclaves but for a while we heard no more of talks of surrender. It appears that Niazi and Farman Ali had been overruled by Islamabad and were advised that new help was on the way. This suggested that China from the north and the U.S. from the sea may have held out promise to Yahya and Bhutto of such an intervention, Suddenly we found that another session of the Security Council had been convened which was to be addressed by Bhutto.
Again the Bangladesh U. N, delegation remained spectators in the galleries of the Security Council to Bhutto's antics in the Security Council. We spent our time trying to get through to delegates from the member countries of the Security Council, to pursuade them to moderate their position against demanding a cease fire and impressing them with the inevitability of Bangladesh. In the lobbies most of the spokesman conceded that Bangladesh was a fact and that the best solution was the rapid victory of the allied forces leading to the early surrender of the Pakistan army. They conceded that the Security Council was a sideshow staged by the Americans and Chinese to create the impression that they were doing all they could in support of their friend Yahya Khan. In these meetings, another Oxford contemporary of mine from the Japanese delegation, regularly met me and kept us informed of the mood and developments within the Security Council.
I witnessed the debate in the Council on the eye of the surrender of the Pak army. Whilst Bhutto was putting on his act in the Security Council there were reports that the U. S. Seventh Fleet had been ordered by Nixon to move to the Bay of Bengal for as yet unspecified objectives. The U. S. administration had become more strident in its denunciations of India and it was not beyond imagination to visualise a last minute intervention by the United States to bolster the fast depreciating position of the Pakistani forces in Bangladesh. The assumption was that had Niazi held out long enough such al intervention could have been engineered and used as a basis for enforcing a cease fire and settlement which preserved 'the integrity of Pakistan, The Security Council drama was thus a sideshow to the bigger drama around Bangladesh.
The possibility of an intervention or a diversion by the Chinese in the North Eastern sector of India was also held out as an ancillary hope.. We had heard of Bhutto's airdash to Peking with a number of leading Generals of the Pakistan army to solicit such an intervention, I myself had been given some insight into this possibility. In late October I had held secret rendezvous in Paris with K M. Kaiser who was Pakistan's ambassador to Beijing. Kaiser had come to Geneva for a conference of Pakistani Ambassadors convene,, by the Pakistani Foreign Minister. He had secretly flown to Paris to meet me and pass on the intelligence that China was not going to intervene militarily to save Pakistan. They would give them arms and diplomatic support but had secretly counselled for a political settlement with the Awami League whatever bluster they may make publicly in support of Pakistan. I was asked to convey all this information to the Bangladesh government. I duty did this. As I gathered later I was not the only channel of such information since some of the Bengalis in the Pakistan embassy in Beijing had also been asked to pass on this information via the Indian embassy there. To what extent subsequent military strategies in the region were planned on this intelligence I cannot say.
Given these tactics both within and without the Security Council concerted by the U. S., China and Pakistan, the resolution of the tension rested on the capacity of the allied forces to secure a rapid surrender of the Pakistan army. This had been imminent around 10 December but had at the last minute been countermanded on orders from Islamabad in order to buy time for the outside manouvres to be played out. When I left New York for London on my way home, the atmosphere was surcharged with high tension. The possibility of a new dimension to the war being opened up by the U. S. Seventh Fleet was no longer in the realm of fantasy.
I was in Oxford when we heard the exhilarating news of the surrender of the Pakistan army and witnessed on television the spectacle of General Niazi laying down his arms before Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora at the Dhaka race course. It is as yet unrevealed whether the U. S. Seventh fleet would have intervened had the armies of Gen. Niazi held out a bit longer or this was arnother exercise in public relations by Nixon to impress upon Pakistan that he was their true ally. Certainly domestic political support within the United States for such an intervention was totally lacking. The media had been quite vocal on this issue and Jack Anderson had already published his much quoted expose of the leaked minutes of the National Security Council where Kissinger had reported on Nixon's instructions for the U. S. State Department to take a strong stand against India, Members of Congress, led by Church, Kennedy and other friends of Bangladesh, had of course been active in mobilising Congressional opinion against such an intervention. It may thus be speculated that had the U. S. public, media and Congressional opinion been less sympathetic or even indifferent to the Bangladesh cause the Nixon administration may well have gone much further in their support of Pakistan. To this extent the intensive campaign to go over the head of the unsympathetic Nixon administration to the American people was not without significance to the Bangladesh cause.
We had to the end maintained communication with the donors to see
that they did not reopen the question of fresh aid pledges to Pakistan. This had meant a final visit by me to Paris in early November for a meeting of the Pakistan Consortium. Another breakfast meeting with Cargill had confirmed that inspite of considerable U. S. pressure the members of the Consortium were neither inclined to extend new pledges of aid or to commit themselves to a rescheduling of Pakistan's debt servicing ability. This stand had elicited a threat from Pakistan to declare a unilateral default on their debt service obligations. Such a development would ofcourse have immediately invoked a total cut off in aid in the pipeline by such countries as Japan who were bound by strong legislative constraints in responding to the threat of default. The World Bank at this stage felt that they may have gone too far and were active in trying to work out a compromise between Pakistan and the Consortium which would have averted any overt default by Pakistan.
Here again an assessment of the campaign to pursuade donors to cut off aid to Pakistan must be viewed as a moderate gain for Bangladesh. From the initiation of the campaign by me in May, to the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, none of the members of the Consortium actually pledged any new aid to Pakistan. There were however pledges of relief supplies in the way of food and transport equipment which was presented by donors as a humanitarian gesture to avert famine in Bangladesh. In actual practise however, Pakistan had a full pipeline of aid, its current import programme into the Bangladesh area had been drastically cut down, it had been eating into its foreign exchange reserves and it had slowed, down on its debt service payments even before it had threatened an over default. With resort to these expedients it was clear if Pakistan had as yet come to the point where their capacity to sustain an acceptable level of current imports and consumption at least into West Pakistan had indeed addressed itself to blocking the pipeline as well as witholding new aid pledges. But our attempts to convince donors to cut off already pledged aid was less successful since it was claimed by donors that this raised various legal problems with potential suppliers.
Thus the impact of our campaign on Pakistan was more political and psychological than a tangible restraint on their actions. But they were all along kept on a fairly tight leash on the economic front and made to feel that the noose around their neck was drawing tight as the days went by without any further aid 'pledges. Had the liberation war been further prolonged there is little doubt that Pakistan would have faced a sufficiently severe economic crisis to have had a direct impact on the economy and people of West Pakistan.
In my last visit to Paris in November to monitor the final consortium meeting held there to service the 'old' Pakistan, I had the special privilege of meeting with the distinguished French Nobel Laureate, Andre Malraux. We had earlier on read in the press that Malraux had publicly proclaimed his support for the Bangladesh cause and had pledged that he would mobilise some of his former colleagues from the French war of resistance against the Germans, to join him in extending their services to the Mukti Bahini. Malraux was himself over 70 and not in good health so it was not clear how far this offer had any practical possibilities. But Daniel Thorner felt that as an official representative of the Bangladesh government I should at least call on him to communicate our appreciation for his gesture.
Daniel took me to Malraux's residence on the outskirts of Paris where I had the privilege of meeting this great man for the first time. Malraux spoke with great passion, He indicated that since the Spanish civil war, where he was a pilot who flew in the service of the Republic, he had never been so strongly moved over the affairs of a country other than his own. He felt so committed to the justice of the Bangladesh cause that inspite of his advanced years and ill health he was willing to draw upon the services of ex resistance fighters who had responded to his call to join him in fighting for Bangladesh. He indicated that they could provide valuable skills in matters of explosives and communications which were an essential element in any guerilla war. He was willing to take out such a team, fully equipped with explosives and communications equipment, to serve with the Mukti Bahini. He then involved me in an extensive down to earth technical discussion on the needs of the Mukti Bahini in this area and the practical problem, of his involvement in the war. In this area I was regretably somewhat underqualified to advise him. But I extended the sincere gratitude of the people and government of Bangladesh for his gesture and promised to convey his commitment to the Bangladesh government. Apart from his pledge to irtervene directly he also promised to speak with his former colleagues in the Gaullist cabinet to use his influence in seeing that France supplied no further arms to Pakistan. This had indeed been suspended because of Pakistan's failure to service its debt. It would appear that in the matter of arms sales the French were more likely to be moved by pressure on their pocket book rather than on political grounds.
As indicated earlier, I was in Oxford when the news of the surrender of the Pakistan army on 16 December came through. I had earlier in the year been awarded a fellowship by Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford, which was quite helpful in supporting my family in Oxford. I had myself done very little academic work in the service of this fellowship, having spent my entire time in the service of the Bangladesh liberation struggle. I therefore gave some thought to staying on in Oxford with my family and using the fellowship to write a book on the background and events leading to the liberation of Bangladesh. However the sense of exhilaration and anticipation of the new dawn which had been ushered in for Bangladesh on its liberation made it inconceivable for me to stay back. I therefore set off home for Bangladesh via Calcutta since as yet no flights were going into Dhaka.
In to Calcutta I met up with Prof. Mosharaf Hossain, Dr. Swadesh Bose and Dr. Anisuzzaman who had in the last months been much more active in drawing up policy papers on the rehabilitation of the refugees and reconstruction of the war devastated economy of Bangladesh.
Mosharaf hid already been into Dhaka with the Bangladesh Cabinet and had come back to organise the return of his family. On 31st December 1971, Mosharaf and myself, in the company of Mr. Qamruzzaman and his family and Begum Zohra Tajuddin and her family, flew into Dhaka airport in an ancient DC-3 of the Indian airforce. We were met at the airport by Tajuddin Ahmed, the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh. I had last seen him in April in those critical days when I had drafted his historic statement to the world. It was a cold winter's morning but the sun was shining. At that stage it seemed to us that the new year held out promise for a new world of hope and opportunity for the long deprived and war devastated people of Bangladesh.
Source: Reprinted from "History of Bangladesh War of Independence: Documents, Vol-15", published by Ministry of Information, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.