Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report
Professional Responsibilities of Certain Senior Army Commanders
In Chapters 1, 2 and 5 of Part 5 of the main report we have dealt with the moral and disciplinary aspects of the events and causes leading to the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the 1971 war, and have also touched upon the individual responsibility of certain senior officers. In the preceding two chapters of the Supplementary Report, we have offered further observations on these aspects and have commented upon the conduct of certain Army Officers posted in East Pakistan. There, however, still remains the question of determining whether any disciplinary action is called for against certain senior army commanders for their failings in the discharge of their professional duties in the conduct ad prosecution of the war in East Pakistan.
Nature of Disciplinary Action
2. In view of the glaring weaknesses and negligence displayed by some of the senior officers operating in East Pakistan, we have anxiously considered the nature of the disciplinary action required in the case. We find that there are several provisions in the Pakistan Army Act 1952 having a direct bearing on this matter. In the first place, there is section 24 which is in the following terms:- "24. Offences in relation to enemy and punishable with death. Any person to this Act who commits any of the following offenses, that is to say,-
(a) Shamefully abandons or delivers up any garrison, fortress, airfield, place, post or guard committed to his charge or which it is his duty to defend, or uses any means to compel or induce any commanding officer or any other person to do any of the said acts; or
(b) in the
presence of any enemy, shamefully casts away his arms, ammunition, tools or
equipment, or misbehaves in such manner as to show cowardice;
3. Section 25 is
also relevant, and reads as under:-
order from his superior officer leaves the ranks in order to secure prisoner,
animals or materials, or on the pretence of taking wounded men to the rear;
4. Finally, there is section 55 which is of a general nature, and provides;- "55. Violation of good order and discipline-Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act, conduct, disorder and of military discipline shall , on conviction by court martial, be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned."
5. We are fully cognizant of the fact that defeat in war, even entailing surrender, is not necessarily punishable as a military offence unless it has been occasioned by wilful neglect of the Commander concerned in the performance of his duties in respect of the appreciation of the situation regarding the enemy's intention, strength, own resources, terrain, etc; or in the planning and conduct of the operations; or a wilful failure to take action as required under the circumstances. A callous disregard of the recognised techniques and principles of warfare would clearly amount to culpable negligence, and could not be excused as an honest error of judgement. A deliberate failure to adopt the proper course of action to meet a certain contingency cannot be covered by taking shelter behind the plea that his superiors did not advise him properly in time. It further appears to us that every Commander must be presumed to possess the calibre and quality, appurtenant to his rank, and he must per force bear full responsibility for all the acts of omission and commission, leading to his defeat in war, which are clearly attributable to culpable negligence on his part to take the right action at the right time, as distinguished from (illegible) or circumstances beyond his control. He would also be liable to be punished if he shows a lack of will to fight and surrenders to the enemy at a juncture when he still had the resources and the capability to put up resistance. Such an act would appear to fall clearly under clause (a) of section 24 of the Pakistan Army Act.
Need and Justification for Trial and Punishment
6. Having heard the views of a large number of witnesses drawn from all sections of society, professions and services, the Commission feels that there is consensus on the imperative need to book these senior army commanders who have brought disgrace and defeat to Pakistan by their professional incompetence, culpable negligence and wilful neglect in the performance of their duties, and physical and moral cowardice in abandoning the fight when they had the capability and resources to resist the enemy. We are also of the view that proper and firm disciplinary action , and not merely retirement from service, is necessary to ensure against any future recurrence of the kind of shameful conduct displayed during the 1971 war. We believe that such action would not only satisfy the nations demand for punishment where it is deserved, but would also serve to emphasise the concept of professional accountability which appears to have been forgotten by senior army officers since their involvement in politics, civil administration and Martial Law duties.
Cases Requiring Action by Way of Court Martial
7. In Part III of the present report, we have discussed and analysed at some length the concept of defence of East Pakistan adopted by Lt. Gen Niazi, and the manner in which he and his Divisional and Brigade Commanders formulated their plans to implement that concept within the resources available to them in East Pakistan. We have then narrated the important events involving the surrender of well-defended strong points and fortresses without a fight , desertion of his area of responsibility by a Divisional Commander, disintegration of brigades and battalions in frantic and foolish efforts to withdraw from certain posts , and abandoning of the wounded and the sick is a callous disregard of all human and military values. We have also seen how the Eastern Command had failed to plan for an all out war with India and particularly to provide for the defence of Dacca which had been described as the political and military lynch-pin of East Pakistan. We have also described the painful events leading to the ultimate surrender of such a large body of men and materials to the Indian Army at juncture when, by all accounts, the Pakistan Army was still able to put up resistance for anything up to two weeks or more. In this context we have also taken note of the inexplicable orders issued by the Eastern Command to stop the destruction of war before material before the surrender , and the abject and shameful attitude adopted by the Commander, Eastern Command, at various stages of the surrender ceremonies in the presence of the Indian Generals. Finally, we have observed that during his period of captivity at Jabbalpur (India) Lt General Niazi made efforts to persuade, by threats and inducements, his subordinate Commanders to present a coordinated story so as to mitigate his responsibility for the debate.
8. Judged in the light of this analysis of the events leading to the surrender of our surrender of our Army in East Pakistan, and the relevant provisions of the Pakistan Army Act and the considerations thereto, as outlined in the preceding Paragraphs, we are of the considered opinion that the following senior officers ought to be tried by court martial on the charges listed against them , and we recommend accordingly.
(1) Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Commander, Eastern Command
(i) That he willfully
failed to appreciate the imminence of all-out war with India, in spite of all
indications to the contrary, namely the declarations of the Indian Prime
Minister and other important Government leaders, the signing of the Indo-Soviet
treaty in August, 1971, the amassing of eight divisions of the Indian Army,
eleven squadrons of the Indian Air Force, and a large task force of the Indian
Navy in and around East Pakistan , and the clear warning given to him by the GHQ
on the basis of reliable intelligence regarding Indian plans of invasion of East
Pakistan, with the n consequence that he continued to deploy his troops in a
forward posture although that deployment had become entirely unsuited for
defence against open Indian aggression;
2. Maj Gen Mohammad
Jamshed, ex-JOC 36 (ad hoc) Division, Dacca
(3) Maj Gen M. Rahim
Khan, ex-GOC 3? (ad hoc) Division
4. Brig. G.M. Baqir Siddiqui, former COS, Eastern Command, Dacca
(i) That as Chief of
Staff, Eastern Command, he was guilty of wilful neglect in failing to advise the
Commander , Eastern Commander, on sound professional lines in regard to the
matters mentioned in charges (i) to (ix) framed against Lt. Gen Niazi;
5. Brig Mohammad
Hayat, former Comd. 107 bde. (9 Div)
6. Brig. Mohammad Asla
Niazi, former Cod., 53 Bde (39Ad hoc Div.)
8. Cases Requiring Departmental Action
(1) Brig. S.A. Ansari, ex-Comd, 23 Bde, (Div)--
This officer assumed command of 23 Bde on the 14th of November 1971 and was responsible for the civil districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur, except the small area of Hilli which was under the control of 205 Bde. Right from the beginning he seems to have been losing ground, starting with the loss of Bhurungamari which was attacked by the Indians on the 14th or 15th of November 1971. His troops then lost the important position of Pachagarh mainly owing to Brig. Ansari's inability to readjust his position. He then abandoned Thakurgaon between 28th and 30th of November 1971 without offering any resistance to the enemy. As a result of these reverses he was relieved of his command on the 3rd of December 1971. His Divisional Commander, Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah formed a poor opinion of his performance in battle and we have no hesitation in endorsing the same fro evidence coming before us. We are of the view that he did not display qualities of courage, leadership and determination. The Commission feels that this Officer is not fit for further retention in service.
(2) Brig. Manzoor Ahmad, ex-Comd 57 Bde (9 Div)--
This Officer did not conduct the battle with sufficient grip and caused the loss of fortress of Jhenidah without a fight , owing to his inability to clear an enemy block at Kot Chandpur. Then, contrary to the Divisional concept and without orders he withdrew his Brigade out of the Divisional area and had to be placed under 16 Division. He became detached from his main Headquarters and remained so till the end. He could therefore make no contribution to the war and his performance created the impression that he was shaky in battle. He does not appear to be fit for further retention in service.
(3) Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan, ex-Comd, 93 Bde. (36 Div)--
The work and the conduct of Brig. Abdul Qadir Khan has come to the notice of the Commission in two capacities, namely as the President of the Inter-Services Screening Committee at Dacca and later as Commander of 93 (Ad hoc) Brigade under 36 Division. In the former capacity, he was responsible for the screening of military and civilian personnel as well as non-officials who had either defected during the Awami League movement or had otherwise come to adverse notice. Allegations were made that some persons in his custody were eliminated without trial, or even without any ostensible cause. However, the allegations were not substantiated so as to fix personal responsibility on him. As Commander 93 (Ad hoc) Brigade, he was captured by the Indians while withdrawing to Dacca fro Mymensingh under the orders of Eastern Command. He sees to have reached his ceiling and the Commission formed the impression that his further retention in service would not be in the public interest. We were inferred by the GHQ representative that the Officer had since been retired.
Performance of Other Senior Officers
9. Besides Lt Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, Maj Gen. Mohammad Jamshed, and Maj Gen M Rahim Khan, with whose cases we have already dealt in the preceding paragraphs, there were four other General Officers serving in the East Pakistan at the time of the surrender, namely, Maj. Gen. M.H. Ansari, GOC 9 Div., Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid, GOC 14 Div., Maj. Gen. Nazar Hussain Shah, GOC 16 Div., and Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali, Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan. Similarly, besides the Brigadiers, whom we have noticed in the preceding paragraphs, there were 19 other Brigadiers serving in various capacities as Brigade Commanders or Commanders of technical arms. Finally, there was a Rear Admiral of the Navy supported by three Commanders and one Air Commodore commanding the PAF in East Pakistan.
10. While we shall deal with the case of Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali separately, as he was not commanding any troops at the relevant time, we cannot help remarking that all the senior officers stationed in East Pakistan immediately before and during the war of 1971 must be held collectively responsible for the failings and weaknesses which led to the defeat of the Pakistan Army. However, while assessing their individual responsibility, the Commission was obliged to take note of the limitations imposed on them by the concepts and attitudes adopted by the Eastern Command, the admitted shortages and deficiencies in men and materials, faced by them as compared to the vast resources of the enemy and the general demoralisation which stemmed fro the culpable acts of commission and omission on the part of the Army High Command at Rawalpindi and the Commander Eastern Command, at Dacca. Finally, there was also the unfortunate over-riding factor of a long and inherited tradition of unquestioned obedience and loyalty to the superior commander, which prevented most of these officers from questioning the soundness of the critical decisions and actions taken by the High Command, including the final act of surrender. Apart from a few individuals, the large body of officers and men operating in East Pakistan accepted the final decision without any thought of disobedience, even though the majority of them were undoubtedly willing to fight to the last and lay down their lives for the glory of Pakistan.
11. Keeping in view these factors and circumstances we have examined the individual performance and conduct of these senior officers, as will be apparent from the relevant portions of the Main Report and this Supplement where we have narrated at some length the military events as they developed from day-to-day and we have come to the conclusion that adverse comment reflecting on theory (of) suitability for continued retention in military service would not be justified. We have also not thought it desirable to single out officers for special praise either, although it goes without saying that in several cases the officers did act with dedication and valour beyond the ordinary call of duty.
Performance and Conduct of Junior Officers
12. In the very nature of things, the Commission was not in a position to examine at any length the conduct and performance of officers below the Brigade level although some cases necessarily came to our notice where the performance of these officers had a direct bearing on the fate of important battles which were fought on various fronts, or where their conduct transgressed the norms of moral discipline. Such cases have found mention in the relevant portions of our report, but by and large cases of these junior officers must be left to be dealt with by the respective Service Headquarters who have ordained detailed briefing reports from all of them and are also in possession of their performance by their immediate superiors.
The Role of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali
13. Before we conclude this Chapter, brief remarks about the role of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali would not be out of place, for the reason that he has been conspicuously mentioned in several contexts by the international press as well as by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
14. This officer remained in East Pakistan continuously from the 28th of February 1967 to the 16th of December 1971. He was Commander, Artillery 14 Div., in the rank of Brigadier from the 28th of February, 1967 to the 25th of March 1969. On the promulgation of Martial Law by General Yahya Khan on the 25th of March 1969 he was appointed as Brigadier (Civil Affairs) in the office of the Zonal Administrator of Martial Law. He was later promoted as Major General in the same post. From the 4th of July 1971 to the 3rd of September 1971 he functioned under the designation of Maj. Gen. (Political Affairs), and from the latter date to the 14th of December 1971 he worked as Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan, ceasing to hold this appointment on the resignation of Dr. A.M.Malik.
15. It was inherent in the appointments held by him since the promulgation of General Yahya Khan's Martial Law on the 25th of March 1969 that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali should come into contact with civil officials and political leaders, besides being associated with Army Officers and Martial Law Administrators of various levels and grades. He frankly admitted before the Commission that he was associated with the planning of the military action of the 25th of March 1971, and also with the subsequent political steps taken by the military regime to noramlise the situation, including the proposed by-elections necessitated by the disqualification of a large number of Awami league members of the National and Provincial Assemblies. Nevertheless, as a result of our detailed study of the written statement, submitted by the General and the lengthy cross-examination to which we subjected him during his appearance before us, as well as the evidences from other witnesses from East Pakistan, we have formed the view that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali merely functioned as an intelligent, well-intentioned and sincere staff officer in the various appointments held by him, and at no stage could he be regarded as being a member of the inner military junta surrounding and supporting General Yahya Khan. We have also found that at no stage did he advise, or himself indulge in, actions opposed to public morality, sound political sense or humanitarian considerations. In this context, we have already commented at some length, in a previous Chapter of this Report, on the allegation made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at General Farman Ali was wanting to "paint the green of East Pakistan red," and have found that the entire incident has been deliberately distorted.
16. During the critical days of the war this officer had no direct responsibility for military operations, but he was, nevertheless, closely associated with the Governor of East Pakistan as well as the Commander Eastern Command. It was for this reason that he got involved in what has been called "the Farman Ali incident." As we have seen in the chapter dealing with the details of the surrender in East Pakistan, the message authenticated by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali for being dispatched to the United Nations on the 9th of December 1971 had been approved by the Governor of East Pakistan, who had obtained prior authority and clearance from the President of Pakistan, namely, General Yahya Khan, for the purpose of formulating proposals for a settlement and cessation of hostilities in East Pakistan. In these circumstances, the responsibility for its authorship and dispatch could not, therefore, be placed on this officer. In fact, he had, at the time, demanded trial by court martial to clear his position. In view of the facts, as they have now emerged before the Commission, there is no need for any such enquiry or trial.
17. Maj. Gen. Farman Ali was present at Headquarters Eastern Command, during the last phases of the events when Indian Officers came to meet Lt. Gen. Niazi for negotiating the details of the surrender. From the detailed accounts which have come before us of the behaviour and attitude of both these officers, we have no hesitation in recording the opinion that at all relevant times Maj. Gen. Farman Ali advised Lt. Gen. Niazi on correct lines, and if his advice had been accepted, some of the disgraceful episodes might have been avoided.
18. We have also examined the reason why the Indian Commander-in-Chief, General Masnekshaw, addressed certain leaflets to General Farman Ali by describing him as Commander of the Pakistan Army. It appears that on the 8th or 9th December 1971, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi had not been seen outside his command bunker, and there was a broadcast by the BBC that he had left East Pakistan and that General Farman Ali had taken over the command of the Pakistan Army. It was for this reason that the Indian Commander addressed General Farman Ali calling upon him to surrender. We are satisfied that at no time did Major General Farman Ali indulge in any communication with the Indian Generals. The situation was in any case rectified when Lt. Gen. Niazi made a public appearance at Hotel Intercontinental, Dacca, before foreign correspondents.
19. An allegation was made before the Commission by Lt. Gen. Niazi that Maj. Gen. Farman Ali had sent out of East Pakistan a large sum of money, approximately Rs 60,000, through his nephew who was a Helicopter Pilot in the Army and left Dacca in the early hours of the 16th of December, 1971. We reported Major General Farman Ali to seek his explanation regarding this allegation and some other matters. He has explained that a sum of Rs 60,000/- had been given by the President of Pakistan to the Governor of East Pakistan for expenditure at his discretion. After the Governor of East Pakistan resigned on or about the 14th December 1971, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali, as Advisor to the Governor, became responsible for this amount. He paid Rs 4000 to Islamia Press, Dacca, and this payment was within the knowledge of the Military Secretary to the Governor, who has also been repatriated to Pakistan. Out of the remaining amount of Rs 56,000/-, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali paid Rs 5000/- to Maj. Gen. Rahim Khan at the time of his evacuation from Dacca on the morning of the 16th of December 1971 to meet the expenses en route which may be required not only by Maj. Gen. Rahim Khan but also by the other persons who were being evacuated with him. It was stated by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali that Maj Gen Rahim Khan had rendered the necessary account of the sum of Rs. 5000/- given to him.
20. After deducting payments made to the Islamia Press, Dacca, and to Maj Gen Rahim Khan an amount of Rs. 51,000/- was left with Maj. Gen. Farman Ali which he physically handed over to his nephew Major Ali Jawaher at the time of his departure from Dacca on the 16th of December 1971. Since his arrival in Pakistan, Maj. Gen. Farman Ali has deposited Rs 46,000/- in the Government Treasury and handed over the treasury receipt to Brig. Qazi, Director Pay and Accounts, GHQ. He has claimed the remaining amount of Rs 5000/- on account of house rent allowance sanctioned by the Government of East Pakistan for the residence of his wife and family in West Pakistan. He has stated the sanctioned allowance was Rs 1400/ PM and the period involved was twelve months, so that he could claim Rs 15000/- but he has claimed only Rs 5000/-.
21. We are satisfied with the explanation rendered by Maj. Gen. Farman Ali, as the facts stated by him are easily verifiable and we do not think that he would have made incorrect statements in this behalf before the Commission.
22. For the foregoing reasons we are of the view that the performance and conduct of Maj. Gen. Farman Ali during the entire period of his service in East Pakistan does not call for any adverse comment.