Monday 10 November 2014

A massacre an American president ignored (Part 1)            

Actually there were six massacres that American presidents ignored. The first one was the Armenian genocide in which the Turks killed millions. Then there was the Holocaust in which the Nazis killed more millions. After that, was the massacre of millions in Cambodia followed by the massacre of 7,000 men and boys in Bosnia. And later came the slaughter of almost a million in Rwanda.

It is the sixth massacre that is the subject of this article. I am writing about the massacre that took place in Pakistan during its 1971 civil war.                    

Pakistan was an odd creation with two parts, East and West Pakistan separated from one another by more than 1,000 miles. The two parts of Pakistan shared few cultural and social traditions other than Islam. The lack of common bonds was accentuated when political figures in the West part of Pakistan seized control of the new state, dominating both political and economic power. This causes resentment in Eastern part of Pakistan that gradually grew. East Pakistan's Awami League, led by the Bengali leader Sheik Mujibur Rahman, won a majority of the seats in the National Assembly (1970). President Yahya Khan in West Pakistan responded by postponing the opening of the National Assembly to prevent the Awami League from pursuing greater autonomy for East Pakistan. The result was civil war.

Begali nationalists in East Pakistan declared independence on March 26, 1971. Meanwhile the Pakistani Army in the west attempted to regain control in East Pakistan and committed terrible atrocities against the people in what later became Bangladesh.  Indian troops entered the war and quickly defeated the Pakistani Army. The Pakistanis conceded defeat on December 16, 1971. President Yahya Khan of Pakistan resigned. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over Pakistan and recognized Bangladesh as an independent country. Formal diplomatic relations were later initiated in 1976. 

It is the atrocities by the Pakistani army that I am writing about in this article.  
During the nine-month long Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Pakistani military and supporting militias killed between 300,000 and 3,000,000 men, women and children and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. The real figures are unknown since records weren’t kept then of everyone living in Bangladesh at that time. However, even the murder of 300,000 and the rape of 200,000 are bad enough.

Many of those killed were the victims of militias who fought with the West Pakistan Army, the  Razakars, (collaborators)  Al-Shamsand Al-Badr  forces,  at the instruction of the Pakistani Army. There are many mass graves in Bangladesh, and more are continually being discovered (such as one in an old well near a mosque in Dhaka, located in the Mirpur region of the city, which was discovered in August 1999.

The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams from the American Consulate in Dhaka to the United States State Department, saw indiscriminate killing  of 500 students of Dhaka University along with other civilians. There was significant sectarian violence not only perpetrated by the West Pakistani army, but also by Bengali nationalists against non-Bengali minorities, especially the Biharis
Pakistan’s secret service, in conjunction with the political party Jamaat-e-Islami, formed militias such as Al-Badr (the moon) and the Al-Shams (the sun) to conduct operations against the nationalist movement. These militias targeted noncombatants and committed rapes as well as other crimes.  Local  collaborators  also took part in the atrocities. The term has since become a pejorative akin to the western term “Judas 
Members of the Muslim league such as Nizam-e-Islam, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, who had lost the election, collaborated with the military and acted as an intelligence organization for them. Jamaat-e-Islami members and some of its leaders collaborated with the Pakistani forces in rapes and targeted killings. The atrocities by Al-Badr and the Al-Shams garnered worldwide attention from news agencies; accounts of massacres and rapes that were widely reported.
During the war, the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators, mainly Jamaat e Islami carried out a systematic execution of the leading Bengali intellectuals. A number of professors from Dhaka University were killed during the first few days of the war.

However, the most extreme cases of targeted killing of intellectuals took place during the last few days of the war. Professors, journalists, doctors, artists, engineers and writers were rounded up by Pakistan Army and the Razakar militia in Dhaka, blindfolded, taken to torture cells in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Nakhalpara, Rajarbagh and other locations in different sections of the city to be executed en-masse, most notably at Rayerbazar and Mirpur.

During the nine-month duration of the war, the Pakistani army, with the assistance of local collaborators systematically executed an estimated 991 teachers, 13 journalists, 49 physicians, 42 lawyers, and 16 writers, artists and engineers. Even after the official ending of the war on December 16 there were reports of killings being committed by either the armed Pakistani soldiers or by their collaborators. In one such incident, notable film-maker Jahir Raihan was killed on January 30, 1972 in Mirpur allegedly by the armed Beharis. In memory of the persons who were killed, December 14 is observed in Bangladesh as Shaheed Buddhijibi Dibosh (Day of the Martyred Intellectuals) Several notable intellectuals who were killed from the time period of March 25 to 16 December 16, 1971 in different parts of the country include Dhaka University professors.  It is obvious that West Pakistan wanted to bankrupt Bangladesh of its intellectuals.       
The generally accepted figure for the mass rapes during the nine-month long conflict is 200,000. Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war. Again, exact numbers are not known and are a subject of debate. Bangladeshi sources cite a figure of 200,000 women raped, giving birth to thousands of war-babies. The Pakistani Army also kept numerous Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Dhaka Cantonment. Most of the girls were captured from Dhaka University and private homes.
The licentious conduct of the soldiers, although generally supported by their superiors, alarmed the regional high command of the Pakistani army.

Many people in Bangladesh, especially the Hindus, were specific targets of the Pakistani army. There was widespread killing of Hindu males, and rapes of women. Documented incidents in which Hindus were massacred in large numbers include the Chuknagar massacre, (8,000 to 10,000 men) theJathibhanga massacre, (3,000 to 3,500 men) and the Shankharipara massacre   (a few dozen men and women). 

President Nixon was in power then. What did he do to stop the massacres? Nothing. He certainly knew about them. Archer Blood was the American consul general in Dacca in Easter Pakistan who tried to get the president and Henry Kissinger who was at that time the White House national security advisor to do something.

So why did Nixon sit on his royal ass and do nothing to stop the West Pakistanis from murdering the people in Eastern Pakistan?  The reason was that the United States and Pakistan were allies in their fight with the Soviets. The US were selling Pakistan millions of dollars in armaments.  Nixon, the ass he was didn’t want to interfere with his ally’s fight with the people in East Pakistan notwithstanding that hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children were being slaughtered with the weapons sold to Pakistan by the Americans. That useless bum could have at least told the Pakistan army to cease otherwise no more armaments would be sold to them. He could have put an end to the massacres but chose to twiddle his thumbs. While he twiddled, women and girls were raped and men, women and children were slaughtered. That is not only his legacy; it is also the legacy of the United States.

In later articles, I will explain why the presidents of the United States didn’t try to stop the massacres I mentioned in the beginning of this article. 

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