Pakistan’s name has been blackened by just one man: General AAK ‘Tiger’ Niazi. According to a new book by Oxford University Press, he is supposed to have pronounced the words that even Genghis Khan would have hesitated to use: that he would let loose his soldiers on the women of East Pakistan till the lineage/ethnicity of the Bengali race was changed.
The account has come from a true son of Pakistan, late Major-General (retd) Khadim Hussain Raja in his recently published book A Stranger in My Own Country: East Pakistan, 1969-1971 (OUP, 2012). The book is posthumously published probably because it was a hot potato in the times it was actually written. He was General Officer Commanding 14 Division in East Pakistan.
General Ayub Khan, whose decade of rule caused the jurisprudence of separatism to evolve, gets the treatment he deserved through the testimony of another not-too-civilised general named Gul Hassan:
“Gul Hassan openly criticised Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s sons who, according to him, were letting their father down by amassing wealth by unfair means. Gul Hassan blurted out that ‘I have told the old cock that this time we will impose Martial Law and take control ourselves but not protect Ayub and his henchmen’. The reference [old cock] was to General Yahya Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army” (p.8).
General Yahya Khan, who took over from Ayub was not what the doctor would have ordered for East Pakistan. The only leadership criterion was brutality riding on low IQ. The exception was General Yaqub Khan, the commander who insisted that General Yahya not postpone the session of the National Assembly elected after the 1970 election.
The author writes: “All of a sudden, General Yaqub Khan was bundled off as a student on the Imperial Defence College course. This clumsy and unceremonious action was obviously taken to get him out of the way” (p.7).
Commander East Pakistan, General Tikka Khan, disagreed with Raja that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman be secretly despatched to West Pakistan. He wanted to “publicly try Sheikh Mujib in Dhaka and hang him” (p.93).
Major-General Rahim Khan was the other officer Pakistan can’t be proud of: “Rahim started to criticise the senior commanders in Dhaka, especially me, although I happened to be a friend of his. He was of the opinion that the Bengalis were timid people and should have been subdued long ago. The reader can judge for himself the ignorance and lack of understanding of the East Pakistan situation among the hawks in the armed forces” (p.97). Rahim ran away from East Pakistan when things became too hot.
We come to the climax: “[Enter] Commander East Pakistan General Niazi, wearing a pistol holster on his web belt. Niazi became abusive and started raving. Breaking into Urdu, he said: Main iss haramzadi qaum ki nasal badal doon ga. Yeh mujhe kiya samajhtey hain. He threatened that he would let his soldiers loose on their womenfolk. There was pin drop silence at these remarks. The next morning, we were given the sad news. A Bengali officer Major Mushtaq went into a bathroom at the Command Headquarters and shot himself in the head” (p.98).
Niazi also asked Raja for phone numbers of his Bengali girlfriends: “Abhi tau mujhey Bengali girlfriends kay phone number day do” (p.99). Niazi surrendered to Indian General JFR Jacob in 1971. ‘Tiger’ Niazi handed over his personal pistol at the famous Race Course ceremony. Jacob examined the weapon: the lanyard was greasy and frayed, and the pistol was full of muck as if it hadn’t been cleaned in a long while. (Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation; by Lt. Gen JFR Jacob; Manohar Publishers 1997).
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2012.