Page 2 of 13
In the first week of March 1971, when the Awami League had fired the first salvo of revolt in East Pakistan and it triggered off a forest fire of lawlessness, arson, loot and wanton murder all over the province, a senior official of the federal Information Ministry instructed me that my news service should not put out any story about the atrocities that were being committed on non-Bengalis by the rebels in the eastern half of the country. All other press services and news¬papers in West Pakistan were given similar instruction.
When I remonstrated with the Information Ministry official that it was unethical to damp a blackout on the news, he explained that press reporting of the killing of non-Bengalis in East Pakistan would unleash a serious repercussions in West Pakistan and provoke reprisals against the Bengalis residing in the western wing of the country. “It would exacerbate the current tension in the relations between the two Wings", he argued, "and it would also undermine the prospects of a negotiated settlement with the Awami League". The argument had an element of sound logic and a humanitarian veneer. Conse¬quently, the news media in West Pakistan faithfully followed the federal government’s instructions to suppress all news pertaining to the genocidal frenzy unloosed by the Awami League against the hapless West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis in rebellion-hit East Pakistan.
The Awami League militants had gained control over the telecommunications network in East Pakistan during the first few days of their uprising and they showed meticulous care in excising even the haziest mention of the massacre of non-Bengalis in press and private telegrams to West Pakistan and overseas world. Word of the mushrooming, organised violence against non-Bengalis in East Pakistan reached West Pakistan through the West Pakistanis who fled from the Awami League's terror regime in planes and ships. But no newspaper in the Western Wing of the country dared report it in print.
Early in the third week of March, a shipload of some 5,000 terror-stricken West Pakistanis and other non-Bengalis reached Karachi from Chittagong. Not a word of their plight filtered into the daily press in West Pakistan. In fact one of the local newspapers had the audacity to report that the arrivals from Chittagong said that the situation in the province was normal -as if this broken mass of humanity had run away from an idyllic state of blissful normalcy.
For days on end all through the troubled month of March 1971, swarms of terrorised non-Bengalis lay at the Army-controlled Dacca Airport, awaiting their turn to be wafted to the safety of West Pakistan. But neither the world press nor the press in West Pakistan reported the gory carnage of the innocents which had made them fugitives from the Awami Leagues grisly terror. Caskets containing the mutilated dead bodies of West Pakistani military personnel and civilians reached Karachi with the planeloads of non-Bengali refugees from Dacca and their bereaved families milled and wailed at the Karachi Airport. But these heart-rending scenes went unreported in the West Pakistan news-papers because of the federal government’s order to the Press not to mention the slaughter of the non-Bengalis in East Pakistan.
The Bengali Secretary, who headed the federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting at Islamabad, threatened to punish those newspapers which at one time felt impelled to violate his Ministry's fiat. Responding to my plea, retired Justice Z. H. Lari, a Karachi leader of the Council Muslim League, who had migrated to Pakistan from India in the 1947 Partition and whose party was toying with the idea of a political alliance with the Awami League in the National Assembly, issued a mildly-worded press statement, in the second week of March 1971, in which he appealed to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to protect the non-Bengalis in East Pakistan.
Looking at the tragic events of March, 1971 in retrospect, I must confess that even I, although my press service commanded a sizeable network of district correspondents in the interior of East Pakistan, was not fully aware of the scale, ferocity and dimension of the province-wide massacre of the non-Bengalis. Dacca and Chittagong were the only two cities from where sketchy reports of the slayings of non-Bengalis had trickled to me in Karachi, mostly through the escapees I met at the Karachi Airport on their arrival from East Pakistan. I had practically no news of the mass butchery which was being conducted by the Awami League militants and their accomplices from the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment in many scores of other cities and towns which were caught in the sweep of a cyclone of fire and death.
In my dispatch on the deepening East Pakistan crises published in the Daily Christian Science Monitor and reprinted in the Daily Milwaukee Journal of March 14, 1971, I wrote:
“..........Dacca reports say widespread mob violence, arson, looting and murders mushroomed in the wake of the Awami League's protest strike call. Destruction by Bengali militants of property owned by West Pakistanis in some East Pakistan towns has been heavy.........”
“....The telephone link between East and West Pakistan remains nearly unusable and only a skeleton air service is being operated between Karachi and Dacca......”
Skimpy references to the blood-letting of untold proportions, undergone by the non-Bengalis during the Awami League’s March 1971 uprising in East Pakistan, percolated into the columns of some newspapers in Western Europe and India in the first week of April 1971. The Times of London reported on April 6th, 1971:
“Thousands of helpless Muslim refugees settled in Bengal at the time of Partition, are reported to have been massacred by angry Bengalis in East Pakistan during the past week..........”
The Daily Statesman of New Delhi reported in its issue of April 4, 1971:
“The millions of non-Bengali Muslims now trapped in the Eastern Wing have always felt the repercussions of the East-West tensions, and it is now feared that the Bengalis have turned on this vast minority community to take their revenge.....”
The hundreds of eye-witnesses from nearly three score towns and cities of East Pakistan, whose testimonies are documented in this book, are unanimous in reporting that the slaughter of West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis and of some pro-Pakistan Bengalis had begun in the early days of the murderous month of March 1971. There were some 35 foreign newsmen on the prowl in Dacca right up to March 26, 1971. But strangely their newspapers and news agencies reported barely a word or two about the spiralling pogrom against the non-Bengalis all over East Pakistan. Many of the American journalists in this motley crowd of foreign reporters (whose souls were saturated with compassion for the Bengali victims of the November 1970 cyclone tragedy) were so charmed by the public relations operatives of the Awami League that they were just not prepared to believe that their darlings in this fascist organization could commit or instigate the murder of the non-Bengalis.
Peggy Durdin, a writer for the Magazine Section of the New York Times and her husband, also a reporter for the NYT, were attached in the first week of March 1971 by Bengali demonstrators “with iron bars and long poles” in the heart of Dacca when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had just triggered the Awami League’s rebellion. But she wrote not a word about their manhandling by the Bengalis in any issue of her great newspaper either in March or April 1971. It was in her article of May 2, 1971, in the Magazine section of the New York Times, about the Pakistan Army’s alleged atrocities on the Bengali rebels that Peggy Durdin referred to the xenophobia unloosed by the Awami League’s agitation and admitted for the first time that she and her husband were attacked by Bengali demonstrators in Dacca in the first few days of March 1971.
Some Biharis in Dacca, whose relatives had been murdered in the city and at other places in the province, tried to contact foreign press reporters based at the Hotel Intercontinental. Awami League toughs who controlled all the access routes to the Hotel prevented their meeting. Conversation over the telephone had become a hazard for the non-Bengalis because of the Awami League's seizure of the Telephone Exchange and the tapping of telephone lines. A British press correspondent, who was in Dacca in March 1971, told me that a Bengali telephone operator cut off his long-distance conversation with his newspaper colleague in New Delhi in the third week of the month the moment he made mention of the blood-chilling massacre of non-Bengalis all over the province.
The Pakistan Government paid very dearly for its folly of banishing from Dacca some 35 foreign newsmen on March 26, 1971, a day after the federal Army had gone into action against the Awami League militants and other Bengali rebels. Amongst them were quite a few American journalists of eminence and influence. They bore a deep grouse against the military regime in Pakistan, and all through 1971, no good word about Pakistan flowed from their powerful pens. They inundated the American press with grisly, highly exaggerated accounts of the Army’s toughness towards the rebels and ignored the virtual annihilation of a massive segment of the non-Bengali population by the Bengali rebels in March-April, 1971.
For millions of gullible Americans and West Europeans the printed word in the daily press is like gospel truth and they readily believed the many fibs about the Pakistan Army's conduct in East Pakistan which surged across the columns of their newspapers.
The forced exit of the foreign news corps from Dacca, the ire and anger of these articulate newsmen over their banishment from East Pakistan and the reluctance of the American and the British newspapers to give credence to the censored despatches from Karachi on the military operations in the eastern half of the country prevented, to a great extent, the world-wide publication of the harrowing details of the bloodbath undergone by the non-Bengali population in the Awami League's March 1971 uprising. Thus one of the bloodiest slaughters of modern times went largely unreported in the international press.
Late in the first week of April 1971, the federal Information Ministry took a group of Pakistani press correspondents on a conducted tour of the rebel-devastated parts of East Pakistan. I was invited to go with the group but just then I was busy completing the Report of the Sind Government's Social Welfare Evaluation Committee (of which I was the Chairman). As I was keen to submit it to the provincial administration before the deadline of April, 12, 1971. I politely declined the invitation.
One of the Pakistani newsmen who went on this tour of East Pakistan was Anthony Mascarenhas, Assistant Editor of Karachi's English Daily Morning News and Pakistan Correspondent of the Sunday Times of London. On May 2, 1971, the Sunday Times published, though belatedly, his write-up on the Awami League's March-April, 1971 revolt and the trail of devastation it left behind. It shed at least a kink of light on the vast dimension of the widespread and sadistic massacre of some 100,000 non-Bengalis in East Pakistan by the Bengali rebels. But a month later, its impact was neutralised and its authenticity was eroded by his second article entitled “Why the Refugees Fled?”, which was prominently displayed in the Sunday Times of June 13, 1971 and reproduced, through Indian manipulation, in many newspapers in the United States and Canada. Seduced and tempted by the Indians, Mascarenhas and his family arrived in London early in June from Karachi and the Sunday Times published in a score of columns his venomous blast at the Pakistan Army for its alleged genocide against the Hindus of East Pakistan.
In a bid to give his June 13 article the veneer of objectivity, Mascarenhas made this cursory reference to the slaughter of the non-Bengalis by the Bengali rebels:
“Thousands of families of unfortunate Muslims, many of them refugees from Bihar who chose Pakistan at the time of the partition riots in 1947, were mercilessly wiped out. Women were raped or had their breasts torn out with specially fashioned knives. Children did not escape the horror: the lucky ones were killed with their parents; but many thousands of others must go through what life remains for them with eyes gouged out and limbs roughly amputated. More than 20,000 bodies of the non-Bengalis have been found in the main towns such as Chittagong, Khulna and Jessore. The real toll, I was told every-where in East Bengal, may have been as high as 100,000; for thousands of non-Bengalis have vanished without a trace......”
The reportage of the Pakistani newsmen, who toured East Pakistan in the first fortnight of April 1971, as published in the West Pakistan press, bared no details of the gruesome extermination of a large segment of the non-Bengali population in the Awami League’s genocide. The reason was the federal Government’s anxiety to prevent retributive reprisals against the Bengali populace in West Pakistan.
I was stupefied when I heard blood-chilling accounts of the butchery practised by the Awami League rebels on their non-Bengali victims in Chittagong from friends who escaped to Karachi in mid-April. I was shocked beyond words because I rather like the Bengalis for their gentle and artistic traits and it was very hard for me to believe that any Bengali would indulge in the savagery which my informants from Chittagong attributed to the Awami League militants such as M. R. Siddiki, a high-ranking member of the party’s hierarchy. I counted amongst my esteemed Bengali friends his illustrious father-in-law, Mr. Abul Kasem Khan, a former federal Minister and legislator, and was impressed by his sartorial perfection and his amiable manners. As I browsed last month in the heaps of harrowing eye-witness accounts from Chittagong of the rebels' savagery in March 2971, I became aware of the reasons which made the non-Bengali victims nickname M. R. Siddiki as the “Butcher of Chittagong”. He gave a new dimension of cold-blooded violence to the Awami League’s terror apparatus.
In the third week of April, the federal Information Ministry (whose Bengali head had been replaced by a West Pakistani) requested me to proceed post haste to the United States on deputation to the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington D. C. and to project before the American public the rationale for the federal military intervention in East Pakistan. India's well-organized propaganda machinery and the liberally-financed India Lobby in the United States were working in top gear to malign Pakistan and to smear the name of the Pakistan Army by purveying yarns of its alleged brutality in East Pakistan.
Pakistan's Public Relations difficulties in the United States were compounded by the unremitting hostility of the American press correspondent who were bundled out of Dacca on March 26. When I spoke to a friendly Senator at Capitol Hill about the massive burst of violence let loose all over East Pakistan by the Awami Leaguers on West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis during the murderous month of March 1971 and told him that more than 100,000 non-Bengalis had perished in this dreadful carnage, he looked at me in disbelief “Why was not the massacre reported in the press in March?” was his logical query.
Late in April, 1971, the Pakistan Embassy in Washington published a booklet containing a chronology of the federal intervention in East Pakistan. It highlighted the Awami League's pogrom against West Pakistanis, Biharis and other non-Bengalis which was waged in March 1971. The immediate impact of its mass distribution in the United States was that many legislators and academicians sought information from the Embassy about the genesis of the word Bihari and the ethnic background of the Biharis.
On May 6, 1971, a group of six foreign correspondents representing the New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press of America, TIME Magazine, the Financial Times of London and the New China News Agency (Xinhua) flew to Dacca and made a fairly comprehensive tour of the rebellion-damaged areas of the province. Their uncensored despatches from East Pakistan spoke of the widespread killing of the Biharis by the Bengali rebels in March-April 1971 and gave harrowing accounts of the rebels' brutality narrated by eye-witnesses and victims of the pogrom. The Embassy of Pakistan promptly published and widely distributed a booklet containing excerpts from “on-the-spot despatches" of the foreign newsmen who had toured East Pakistan in the second week of May, 1971.
American, Indian and Bengali protagonists of the secessionist cause cast aspersions on the integrity of these foreign newsmen by charging that they were duped into believing that the mass graves they were shown were of non-Bengalis although, according to the phony claim of the secessionists, they were of Bengalis liquidated by the Army. Indian propagandists dished out to foreign correspondents in New Delhi pictures of burnt houses and razed market places as evidence of the devastation caused by the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan although in reality most of the destruction was caused by the well-armed Bengali rebels when they went on the rampage against the non-Bengalis in a bloody and flaming spree of loot, arson and murder. Some pictures were claimed to be of the Bengali female victims of the Pakistan Army's alleged atrocity; a close look at the physical features and dresses of the pictured females disclosed that they were West Pakistanis, not Bengalis.
India's official propaganda outfit and its front organizations in the United States and Western Europe unleashed a spate of books and pamphlets in which the Pakistan Army was accused of the wanton slaughter of millions of Bengalis, of waging genocide against the Bengali Hindus and of ravishing 200,000 Bengali girls. West Pakistanis were branded in these Indian propaganda books as worse than the Huns and the Nazis. This miasma of lies and fibs, innovated by Indian publicists, was so ingeniously purveyed and sustained that the massive abridgement of the non-Bengali population by the Bengali rebels in March-April 1971 faded into the background and lay on the dust-heap of forgotten history.
The White Paper on the East Pakistan crisis, published by the Government of Pakistan in August 1971, failed to make any significant international impact. It was inordinately delayed and gave a disappointingly sketchy account of the massacres of the non-Bengalis by the Awami Leaguers and other rebels. Dozens of places where, it now appears, non-Bengalis were slaughtered by the thousands in March-April 1971 were not mentioned in the White Paper.
The Government failed to give this belated post mortem report of the Awami League's genocidal campaign against the Biharis adequate and effective international publicity. The White Paper -would have made more impact, in spite of its inadequacy of details, and its foreign readers would have reacted in horror over the Awami League's racist pogrom if it had been published before the end of April 1971.
In psychological warfare, the element of time is often of crucial importance, especially when one is pitted against an unscrupulous enemy with scant regard for truth and ethics. By August 1971, India had so virulently poisoned a large segment of public opinion in the West by blatantly magnifying the refugee influx and blaming the Pakistan Army for this exodus that our White Paper neither set the record straight nor did it counter the many scores of books and pamphlets with which India flooded the world to malign Pakistan and its Army.
The federal Information Ministry's film documentary on the restoration of normalcy in East Pakistan was a timely effort. Although shot in the second half of April 1971 and despatched to Pakistan's overseas missions in May, it was viewed by small audiences abroad. If adequate funds were available, it could have been shown on important television networks in the United States by buying time. It showed the rubble of homes and shopping blocks shot up or put to the torch by the rebels but it gave very little evidence of the infernal slaughter-houses and torture chambers set up by the rebels in March 1971 to liquidate many thousands of their non-Bengali victims. The blood-chilling savagery of the Awami League's genocide and the colossal wreckage of human lives it had left in its trail were not fully exposed.
“The Great Tragedy”, written by Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party and published in September 1971, shed revealing light on the genesis of the East Pakistan crisis, the secessionist ambitions of the Awami League's leadership. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's obdurate and uncompromising stance in the constitutional talks in Dacca in the third week of March 1971 and the Pakistan People's Party’s efforts for forging “a Grand Coalition of the majority parties of the two Wings” within the framework of a single, united Pakistan. Mr. Bhutto's vindication of the constitutional stand and role of his Party was forceful and logical. “The Great Tragedy” deserved global circulation on a mass scale -which, to our loss, was then denied to it.
After my return to Pakistan from the United States late in November 1971, I spoke to one of the ruling Generals at Islamabad about the urgent need for the publication and mass distribution of a book based on eyewitness accounts of the survivors of the Awami League's holocaust of March-April 1971. I learnt that some reliable evidence had been collected from eye-witnesses but the Generals were then too busy with India's virtual invasion of East Pakistan and the preparations for a full-scale military showdown with India.
Early in 1972, I met a number of non-Bengali war-displaced persons from East Pakistan who had taken up abode in shacks in the shanty township of Orangi in Karachi. I was horrified by the accounts they narrated of their suffering in East Pakistan during the Awami League's bloody rebellion and the gaping vacuum this genocide had caused in the non-Bengali population in the country's eastern half. Their testimony showed that the Awami Leaguers and the rebels from the East Pakistan Rifles and the East Bengal Regiment were the first to massacre the non-Bengali innocents and that the tornado of violence and death which swept the province in March-April 1971 stemmed from the Awami League's lust for power. I thought of writing a book based on their testimony but I did not have eye-witnesses from all of the many scores of towns in East Pakistan where non-Bengali communities were wholly or partially exterminated.
In the meantime, I started work on “Mission to Washington” which was an expose of India's intrigues in the United States to bring about the dismemberment of Pakistan. On the basis of my personal knowledge and experiences, I detailed in this book the diabolic work of the India Lobby in the United States and its collaborators to turn American public opinion against Pakistan and to block American military supplies to Pakistan's Armed forces preparatory to India's armed grab of East Pakistan in December 1971. It was published in January 1973.
In “The East Pakistan Tragedy”, written by Prof. Rushbrook Williams, a well-known British journalist and author, and published in 1973, the political aspect of the East Pakistan crisis was lucidly discussed and Pakistan's case was cogently explained.
Major-General Fazal Muqeem's book, “Leadership in Crisis”, which also appeared in 1973, dealt at length with the politico-military aspect of the East Pakistan crisis, India's military and financial help to the Bengali secessionist rebels and the disastrous war with India in December 1971.
Pakistan's rejoinder to the flood of anti-Pakistan literature which has gushed from India's propaganda mills since the Ides of March 1971 has been tragically weak and inadequate. In the summer and autumn of 1973, when I travelled extensively in the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States, I saw a number of books derogatory to Pakistan and its fine army in bookshops, especially those which sell foreign publications. Two books which I read and which provoked my ire are Indian Major-General D.K. Palit's “The Lightning Campaign” in which he has heaped invectives and abuses on the Pakistan Army units stationed in East Pakistan, and Olga Olson's “Doktor” in which she has exaggerated the suffering of the Bengali population during the Army operations in 1971. I also glanced over two fat volumes of the Bangladesh documents, mass distributed by the Indian Government in the United States, in which India is projected as an angel of peace who showed Job-like patience in the face of Pakistan's alleged villainy and barbarity in East Pakistan. I did not see in these overseas bookstalls a single book about the gruesome atrocities perpetrated by the Bengali rebels on the hapless Biharis and other non-Bengalis in East Pakistan in March 1971.
The general impression in the United States and Western Europe, at least until the autumn of 1973, was that the Biharis had joined hands with the Pakistan Army in its 1971 operations in East Pakistan and that after the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the third week of December 1971, the Bengalis had a lawful right to inflict retributive justice and violence on the Biharis.
In the Middle East, some politicians and journalists, although sincere in their friendship for Pakistan, asked me whether the stories they had read about the Pakistan Army's alleged brutality in East Pakistan were correct and whether ruthlessness was an ingrained quality in the Pakistani psyche and temperament. I was appalled by the doubts which India's smear campaign against Pakistan had created about us as a nation even in the minds of our brothers-in-faith and friends.
Late in September 1973, the exchange of Bengalis in Pakistan with Pakistanis in Bangladesh and the repatriation of the Pakistani prisoners of war and civilian internees from India was commenced under the previous month’s New Delhi Agreement. As the Chairman of an official Committee for the relief and rehabilitation of war-displaced persons from East Pakistan in the Orangi township in Karachi, I met many hundreds of non-Bengali repatriates—men, women and children. Their evidence gave me the impression that the non-Bengali death toll in the murderous period of March-April 1971 was in the vicinity of 500,000. I was profoundly touched and moved by their heart-rending accounts of the terrible suffering they had undergone during the Awami League's insurrection in March 1971 and in the months after India's armed seizure of East Pakistan in December 1971. It was then that I decided that the full story of this horrifying pogrom and the atrocities committed on the hapless non-Bengalis and other patriotic Pakistanis in East Pakistan (breakaway Bangladesh) should be unravelled before the world. Hence this book.
The 170 eye-witnesses, whose testimonies or interviews are contained in this book in abridged form have been chosen from a universe of more than 5,000 repatriated non-Bengali families. I had identified, after some considerable research, 55 towns and cities in East Pakistan where the abridgement of the non-Bengali population in March and early April 1971 was conspicuously heavy. The collection and compilation of these eyewitness accounts was started in January 1974 and completed in twelve weeks. A team of four reporters, commissioned for interviewing the witnesses from all these 55 towns and cities of East Pakistan, worked with intense devotion to secure their testimony. Many of the interviews were prolonged because the witnesses broke down in a flurry of sobs and tears as they related the agonising stories of their wrecked lives. I had issued in February 1974 an appeal in the newspapers for such eye-witness accounts, and I am grateful to the many hundreds of witnesses who promptly responded to my call.
The statements and interviews of the witnesses were recorded on a fairly comprehensive proforma, along with their signatures. In selecting a witness, I exercised utmost care in assessing his background, his reliability and his suitability for narrating faithfully the details of the massacre he had witnessed or the suffering he had borne in March-April 1971. I have also pored over mounds of records, documents and foreign and Pakistani press clippings of that period.
Although the eye-witness accounts contained in this book put the focus on the largely-unreported horror and beastiality of the murderous months of March and April 1971, I have, in many a case, incorporated the brutality suffered by the witnesses after India’s occupation of East Pakistan and the unleashing of the Mukti Bahini’s campaign of terror and death against the helpless non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis from the third week of December 1971 onwards. For their full exposure, another book is needed.
I regret that it was not possible for me to accommodate in this book the many hundreds of other testimonies that I received. Aside from the overriding consideration of space, another reason was my keenness that the witnesses, whose evidence is recorded in this book, should be the parents who saw their children slaughtered, the wives who were forced to see the ruthless slaying of their husbands, the girls who were kidnapped and raped by their captors and the escapees from the fiendish human slaughter-houses operated by the rebels. I was also anxious that the witnesses I select should have no relatives left in Bangladesh.
I have incorporated in this book the acts of heroism and courage of those brave and patriotic Bengalis who sheltered and protected, at great peril to themselves, their terror-stricken non-Bengali friends and neighbours. On the basis of the heaps of eye-witness accounts, which I have carefully read, sifted and analysed, I do make bold to say that the vast majority of Bengalis disapproved of and was not a party to the barbaric atrocities inflicted on the hapless non-Bengalis by the Awami League’s terror machine and the Frankenstein’s and vampires it unloosed. This silent majority, it seemed, was awed, immobilised and neutralised by the terrifying power, weapons and ruthlessness of a misguided minority hell-bent on accomplishing the secession of East Pakistan.
I must stress, with all the force and sincerity at my command, that this bock is not intended to be a racist indictment of the Bengalis as a nation. In writing and publishing this book, I am not motivated by any revanchist obsession or a wish to condemn my erstwhile Bengali compatriots as a nation. Even today there are vast numbers of them who are braving the pain and agony of endless incarceration in hundreds of jails in Bangladesh because of their loyalty to Pakistan — a country in whose creation their noble forebears played a leading role. Just as it is stupid to condemn the great German people for the sins of the Nazis, it would be foolish to blame the Bengali people as a whole for the dark deeds of the Awami League militants and their accomplices.
As a people, I hold the Bengalis in high esteem. In the winter of 1970-71, I had dedicatedly laboured for months, as the Secretary of the Sind Government’s Relief Committee for the Cyclone sufferers of East Pakistan, to rush succour of more than ten million rupees, in cash and kind, to the victims of this cataclysmic tragedy.
Time is a great healer of wounds and I hope and pray that God, in his benign mercy, will reunite the Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh, if not physically, at least in mind and soul. Knowing a little of the Bengali Muslims' psyche and social milieu, I devoutly believe that no power on earth can snap permanently their Islamic moorings and that, in spite of the trauma of 1971 and its painful aftermath, they remain an inseparable part of the mainstream of the globe-girdling Muslim fraternity. “Blood and Tears” is being published at a time when all the Bengalis in Pakistan who opted for Bangladesh have been repatriated to that country and the danger of any reprisal against them has been totally eliminated.
The succour and rehabilitation of the multitudes of Biharis and other non-Bengalis, now repatriated to Pakistan, is our moral and social responsibility. They have suffered because they and their parents or children were devoted to the ideology of Pakistan and many shed their blood for it. Even as the victims of a catastrophe, not of their own making, they are entitled to the fullest measure of our sympathy, empathy and support in restoring the splintered planks of their tragedy-stricken lives. In projecting their suffering and of those who are sadly no more and in depicting the poignance and pain of their scarred memories in “Blood and Tears”, I have been motivated by humane considerations and by a humanitarian impulse. Theirs is, indeed, a very sad story, largely untold, and this book mirrors, in part, the agony and trauma they suffered in the not-too-distant past, and the raw wounds they still carry in their tormented hearts. “Blood and Tears” is the story of the rivers of blood that flowed in East Pakistan in the infernal month of March 1971, when the Awami League’s genocide against the non-Bengalis was unleashed, and also of the tears that we shall shed for many a year to come over the massacre of the innocents and India’s amputation of our eastern wing.
May 30, 1974 Qutubuddin Aziz