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 Home > BangladeshIndependence War > Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report > Chapter 1

 
 

Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report

Chapter 1

The Moral Aspect

Introductory

In Chapter I of Part V of the Main Report, we have dealt at some length with the moral aspect of the causes of our defeat in the 1971 War.  This became necessary in view of the vehement assertions made before the Commission by a large number of respectable witnesses drawn from various sections of society, including highly placed and responsible Service Officers, to the effect that due to corruption arising out of the performance of Martial Law duties, lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior Army Officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had not only lost the will to fight but also the professional competence necessary for taking the vital and critical decisions demanded of them for the successful prosecution of the war.  It was asserted by these witnesses that men given to a disreputable way of life could hardly be expected to lead the Pakistan Army to victory.

2. After analysing the evidence brought before the Commission, we came to the conclusion that the process of moral degeneration among the senior ranks of the Armed Forces was set in motion by their involvement in Martial Law duties in 1958, that these tendencies reappeared and were, in fact, intensified when Martial Law was imposed in the country once again in March 1969 by General Yahya Khan, and that there was indeed substance in the allegations that a considerable number of senior Army Officers had not only indulged in large scale acquisition of lands and houses and other commercial activities, but had also adopted highly immoral and licentious ways of life which seriously affected their professional capabilities and their qualities of leadership.

3. We then offered specific comments on the conduct of certain high officers including the Commander, Eastern Command, Lt. Gen A.A.K. Niazi.  However, we observed, in Paragraph 35 of that Chapter, that "as we have not had the opportunity of putting these allegations to Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi any finding in this behalf must await his return from India where he is at present held as a prisoner of war".  We have now examined not only Lt. Gen. Niazi but certain other witnesses as well in relation to his personal conduct, and the general allegations made against the Pakistan Army during its operations in the former East Pakistan, and are accordingly in a position to formulate our final conclusions in the matter.

Effect of Martial Law Duties

4. In the situation that developed after the military action of the 25th of March 1971, the civil administration in East Pakistan practically came to a standstill, and the burden of running the Province fell heavily upon the Army Officers. Their involvement in civil administration continued unabated even after the induction of a sizable number of senior civil servants from West Pakistan, including the Chief Secretary, the Inspector General of Police and at least two Division Commissioners.

5. According to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. M.A.K Chaudhry  (Witness No. 219), "after the disturbances of March-April 1971, there was a Military Governor with a Major General as his adviser at the head of the civil administration.  There was a parallel Martial Law administration at all levels. All wings of administration, relating to law and order were under the control of Martial Law Authorities. A West Pakistan Deputy Inspector General of Police in the field was not permitted by the local Martial Law Authorities to come to the Provincial Headquarters" for a conference with the Inspector General of Police. In the view of Syed Alamdar Raza (Witness No. 226), Commissioner of Dacca Division, "efforts were made to make civilian officers responsible or at least routine matters within the general supervision and control of the Army Officers, but no substantial results could be achieved.  Those Bengali Officers who had been restored lacked confidence and were not sure if their loyalties were not suspected.  Action was taken against them, even their arrests were ordered without any body knowing about it, including their superiors or the Government of East Pakistan."

6. The Army's involvement in civil administration did not come to an end even with the installation of a civilian governor (viz. Dr. A.M Malik), and the ministers appointed by him.  The observations made in this behalf by Maj Gen. Rao Farman Ali (Witness No. 284), who held the appointment of Maj General (Civil Affairs) in the governor's Secretariat are worth quoting:

"A fully civil government could not be formed in East Pakistan as had been announced by the ex-President. Dr. Malik an old man and politician, had a weak personality.  He could not annoy, the Martial Law Administrator (Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi) also because of the unsettled conditions obtaining in the Wing.  Gen Niazi, on the other hand, cherished and liked power, but did not have the breadth of vision or ability to understand political implications.  He did not display much respect for the civilian Governor,..... The Army virtually continued to control civil administration".

7. The impression created on the mind of the West Pakistani civilian officials, then serving in East Pakistan, has been stated thus by Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, (Witness No. 275), former Additional Deputy Commissioner, Dacca: "The installation of a civilian governor in September 1971 was merely to hoodwink public opinion at home and abroad.  Poor Dr. Malik and his ministers were figureheads only.  Real decisions in all important matters still lay with the Army.  I remember the first picture of the new Cabinet. Maj. Gen Farman Ali was prominently visible sitting on the right side of the Governor, although he was not a member of the Cabinet."

8. This impression is fortified by the fact that at a later stage even the selection of candidates for the by-elections ordered by General Yahya Khan was made by Maj Gen Farman Ali. Lt. Gen Niazi and some of his subordinate Martial Law Administrators have no doubt claimed that they allowed full liberty of action to the civilian officials at various levels, but even they have conceded that in the peculiar situation prevailing in East Pakistan after the military action the Army necessarily continued to be deeply concerned with the maintenance of law and order, the restoration of communications and the revival of economic activity in the Province.

9. The evidence of Officers repatriated from India leaves no doubt that this extensive and prolonged involvement of the Pakistan Army in Martial Law duties and civil administration had a disastrous effect on its professional and moral standards.  According to Brig. M. Saleemullah, who was commanding 203 (A) Brigade in East Pakistan, "prolonged commitment on Martial Law duties and interment security roles had affected the professional standards of the Army."  According to Rear Admiral M. Sharif (Witness No. 283) who was the Flag Officer Commanding the Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan, "the foundation of this defeat was laid way back in 1958 when the Armed Forces took over the country ..."  While learning the art of politics in this newly assigned role to themselves, they gradually abandoned their primary function of the art of soldiering, they also started amassing wealth and usurping status for themselves.  Similar views were expressed before us by Commodore I.H. Malik (Witness No. 272) who was the Chairman of the Chittagong Port Trust until the day of surrender, Brigadier S.S.A Qasim, former Commander Artillery, Eastern Command, Col. Mansoorul Haw Malik, former GS-I, 9 division, East Pakistan, and Col. Ijaz Ahmad (Witness No. 247) former Colonel Staff (GS) Eastern Command, to mention only a few.

10. The fresh evidence coming before the Commission has thus served only to reinforce the conclusions reached by us in the Main Report that the involvement of the Pakistan Army in Martial Law duties and civil administration had a highly corrupting influence, seriously detracting from the professional duties of the Army and affecting the quality of training which the Officers could impart to their units and formations, for the obvious reason that they did not have enough time available for this purpose, and many of them also lost the inclination to do so.

Living off the Land

11. A new aggravating factor made its appearance in East Pakistan in the wake of the military action of the 25th of March 1971, when units of the Pakistan Army undertook "sweep operations" throughout the Province to deal with the Awami League insurgents.  The Army had to go out into the countryside without adequate logistic arrangements, and was compelled, at least in the early stages of its operations to take its requirements of foodgrains and other essential supplies from civilian sources.  Unfortunately, however, the practice appears to have persisted even when it became possible to make proper logistic arrangements. There is evidence to the effect that civilian shops and stores were broken into by the troops without preparing any record of what was taken and from where.  The need for commandeering vehicles, foodstuffs, medicines and other essential supplies can certainly be appreciated, but this should have been done under a proper method of accounting so that compensation could be paid on return of normal conditions. As no such procedure was adopted, it led to a general feeling among the troops, including their officers that they were entitled to take whatever they wanted from wherever they liked. This appears to us to be the genesis of the looting alleged to have been indulged in by the Army in East Pakistan.

12. In the early stages this method of procurement seems to have been encouraged by senior commanders, including Lt. Gen Niazi, whose remarks on the very first day of his taking over command from Lt. Gen Tikka Khan have already been quoted by us in an earlier chapter, viz: "what have I been hearing about shortage of rations?  Are not there any cows and goats in this country?  This is enemy territory.  Get what you want. This is what we used to do in Burma."  (vide Maj Gen Farman Ali's Evidence).  Gen Niazi did not, of course, accept having made any such statement and asserted that "whatever we took we gave a chit so that civil government should pay for that."   This assertion is not supported by other officers. On the contrary, some officers like Lt. Col. Bukhori, (Witness No. 244) have made a positive statement that even written orders were received by them emanating from the Eastern Command to live of the land during sweep operations.

13. However, at a later stage the Eastern Command and the divisional Commanders issued strict instructions in an effort to stop such practices, and some Commanders caused searches to be carried out of the barracks occupied by the troops for the recovery of looted material which included television sets, refrigerators, typewriters, watches, gold, air conditioners and other attractive items.  We were informed that in several cases disciplinary action by way of Courts of Inquiries was initiated but the cases could not be finalised for one reasons or the other before the surrender on the 16th of December 1971.

Glaring Cases of Moral Lapses Amongst

Officers Posted in East Pakistan

(1) Lt. Gen A.A.K. Niazi

14. In the Main Report we have mentioned the allegations, and the evidence relating thereto as regards the personal conduct of Gen. Yahya Khan, Gen. Abdul Hamid Khan the late Maj Gen (Retd) Khuda Dad Khan, Lt. Gen A.A.K. Niazi, Maj Gen. Jehanzeb and Brig Hayatullah.  We wish to supplement those observations as regards Lt. Gen Niazi.

15. From a perusal of Paragraphs 30 to 34 of Chapter 1 of Part V of the Main Report, it will be seen that the graveness of the allegations made against Lt. Gen. Niazi is that he was making money in the handling of Martial Law cases while posted as G.O.C Sialkot and  later as G.O.C and Martial Law Administrator at Lahore; that he was on intimate terms with one Mrs. Saeeda Bukhari of Gulberg, Lahore, who was running a brothel under the name of Senorita Home, and was also acting as the General's tout for receiving bribes and getting things done; that he was also friendly with another woman called Shamini Firdaus of Sialkot who was said to be playing the same role as Mrs. Saeeda Bukhari of Lahore; that during his stay in East Pakistan he came to acquire a stinking reputation owing to his association with women of bad repute, and his nocturnal visits to places also frequented by several junior officers under his command; and that he indulged in the smuggling of Pan from East Pakistan to West Pakistan.  These allegations were made before the Commission by Abdul Qayyum Arif (witness No. 6), Munawar Hussain, Advocate of Sialkot (Witness No. 13), Abdul Hafiz Kardar (Witness No. 25), Maj Sajjadul Haq (Witness No. 164), Squadron Leader C.A Wahid (Witness No. 57) and Lt. Col Haliz Ahmad (Witness NO. 147).

16. During the present phase of our inquiry damaging evidence has come on the record regarding the ill repute of General Niazi in sex matters, and his indulgence in the smuggling of Pan. A mention may be made in this behalf of the statements made before us by Lt. Col. Mansoorul Haq (Witness No. 260), ex GSO-I, 9 div. Lt Cdr. A.A. Khan (Witness No. 262), of Pakistan navy, Brig I.R Shariff (Witness No. 269) former Comd. Engrs. Eastern Command, Mr. Mohammad Ashraf (Witness No. 275) former Addl. D.C. Dacca, and Lt. Col. Aziz Ahmad Khan (Witness No. 276).  The remarks made by this last witness are highly significant: "The troops used to say that when the Commander (Lt. Gen. Niazi) was himself a raper, how could they be stopped. Gen. Niazi enjoyed the same reputation at Sialkot and Lahore."

17. Maj Gen Qazi Abdul Majid Khan (Witness No. 254) and Maj Gen. Farman Ali (Witness No. 284) have also spoken of Gen Niazi's indulgence in the export of Pan.  According to Maj Gen Abdul Majid, Brig Aslam Niazi, commanding 53 Bde, and Senior Superintendent of Police Diljan, who was residing with Gen. Niazi in the Flag Staff House at Dacca, were helping Gen Niazi in the export of Pan.  Maj. Gen. Farman Ali has gone to the extent of stating that "Gen Niazi was annoyed with me because I had not helped him in Pan business. Brig Hamiduddin of PIA had complained to me that Corps Headquarter was interfering in transportation of Pan to West Pakistan by placing limitation on poundage. I told ADC to Gen. Niazi, who visited me in my office, that this was a commercial matter and should be left to the arrangements arrived at between PIA and Pan exporters."  We understand that the insinuation is that a son of Gen. Niazi was engaged in the export of Pan from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. According to Major S.S. Haider (Witness NO. 259) and Brig Atta Mohammed (Witness No. 257) even Brig Baqir Siddiqui, Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, was a partner of Gen Niazi in the export of Pan.

18. The allegations mentioned in the preceding Paragraphs were put to Lt. Gen. Niazi during his appearance before us, and he naturally denied them. When asked about his weakness for the fair sex, he replied, "I say no.  I have been doing Martial Law duties.  I never stopped anybody coming to see me. I became very religious during the East Pakistan trouble.  I was not so before.  I thought more of death than these things."

19. As regards the allegation that he was indulging in the export of Pan, he stated that he had ordered an enquiry into the matter on the complaint of a man called Bhuiyan who was aggrieved by the monopoly position occupied by the Pan exporters.  He alleged that in fact Brig Hamiduddin and PIA staff were themselves involved in the smuggling of Pan.

20. From the mass of evidence coming before the Commission from witnesses, both civil and military, there is little doubt that Gen. Niazi unfortunately came to acquire a bad reputation in sex matters, and this reputation has been consistent during his postings in Sialkot, Lahore and East Pakistan. The allegations regarding his indulgence in the export of Pan by using or abusing his position in the Eastern Command and as Zonal Martial Law Administrator also prima facie appear to be well-founded, although it was not our function to hold a detailed inquiry into the matter. It is for the Government to decide whether these matters should also form the subject of any inquiry or trial which may have to be ultimately held against this officer.

(2) Maj Gen Mohammad Jamshed, former GOC 36 (A) Division, East Pakistan
21. Col. Bashir Ahmad Khan (Witness No. 263) who was posted as DDML, Eastern Command, stated before the Commission that the wife of Maj Gen Jamshed Khan had brought some currency with her while being evacuated from Dacca on the morning of 16th of December 1971. He further alleged that Lt. Col Rashid, Col. Staff of the East Pakistan Civil Armed Forces, commanded by Maj Gen. Jamshed Khan, was also reported to have been involved in the misappropriation of currency.  It further came to our notice that the General had distributed some money among persons who left East Pakistan by helicopters on the morning of 15th or 16th of December 1971.

22. An inquiry was made from Maj Gen.  Jamshed Khan in this behalf, and his reply is as under. :
The total sum involved was Rs. 50,000 which I had ordered to be drawn from the currency that was being destroyed under Government instructions and the total amount was distributed by the officers detailed by me and strictly according to the instruction/rules and regulations to the Binaries and Bengalis, informers, and to the needy on night 15/16th December 1971.

A secret fund was placed at my disposal by the Government of East Pakistan for the purpose of payment of rewards and purchase of information and in this case the expenditure was from the secret fund at my disposal. This fund was non-auditable.  The money given to the needy families who were dispatched by helicopters on night 15th/16th December, 1971 was from the EPCAF Director General's Fund.  I was the sole authority to sanction from this fund and considering the circumstances under which this expenditure was made I had no intention to recommend recovery from persons concerned.

From the above clarification it will be appreciated that there was no requirement to furnish details of the above expenditure to any accounts department."

23. We regret we cannot regard the reply given by Maj. Gen.  Jamshed as satisfactory.  Even though the funds disbursed by him may not be auditable in ordinary circumstances, it would have been appropriate and advisable for him to supply such information as was possible for him to do in the circumstances once the question of the disposal of these funds had arisen on the basis of information supplied to the Commission by officers who heard of these transactions in East Pakistan and later in the prisoners of war camps. We suggest, therefore, without necessarily implying any dereliction on the part of the general, that the matter should be inquired into further so that the suspicion surrounding the same is cleared in the General's own interest.
 

(3) Brig. Jehanzeb Arbab, former Commander 57 Brigade.
(4) Lt. Col. (Now Brig) Muzaffar Ali Khan Zahid, former CO 31 field Regiment.
(5) Lt. Col. Basharat Ahmad, former CO 18 Punjab
(6) Lt. Col. Mohammad Taj, CO 32 Punjab
(7) Lt. Col Mohammad Tufail, Col 55 Field Regiment
(8) Major Madad Hussain Shah, 18 Punjab

24. The evidence of Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah (Witness No. 242 GOC 16 Div, Maj. Gen. M.H Ansari (Witness NO. 233) GOC, 9 Div, as well as of Brig. Baqir Siddiqui (Witness No. 218) Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, disclosed that these officers and their units were involved in large scale looting, including the theft of Rs. 1,35,00,000 from the National Bank Treasury at Siraj Ganj.  This amount was intercepted by a JCO at the Paksi Bridge crossing when it was being carried in the lower part of the body of a truck.  The driver of the truck produced a chit reading "released by Major Maddad."  We were informed that a Court o Inquiry was conveyed under the Chairmanship of Maj. Gen. M.H Ansari who had recorded some evidence, but could not complete the inquiry owing to the outbreak of war.

25. The GHQ representative was not able to inform us as to what action had ultimately been taken by GIIQ in respect of these officers, except that Brig. Jehanzeb Arabab had been appointed to officiate as GOC of a Division. The Commission feels that this appointment, before the completion of the inquiry and exoneration of the officer from any blame, was highly inadvisable on the part of the GHQ.  We recommend that action should now be taken without delay to finalise the proceedings of the inquiry commenced by Maj Gen Ansari in East Pakistan.  There should be no difficulty in reconstructing the record, if necessary as the material witness appear to be now available in Pakistan.

26. Before we conclude this Chapter, we would like to state that we had no desire to embark on any inquiry into personal allegations of immorality an dishonestly against senior Army Commanders, but were persuaded to examine these matters owing to the universal belief that such infamous conduct had a direct hearing on the qualities of determination and leadership displayed by these officers in the 1971 war.  We have regretfully found that this was indeed so.  It is, therefore, imperative that deterrent action should be taken by the Government, wherever it is justified by the facts, in order to maintain the high moral standards and traditions for which the Muslim Army of Pakistan was justly proud before degeneration set in.

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