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The Wastes of Time: Reflections on the Decline and Fall of East Pakistan
Preface PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
As I have explained in the text of the book, these memoirs were written in 1973 in the Dhaka Central Jail where I was being held as a 'collaborator' for not supporting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his campaign against Pakistan. I was not a politician; had never been a member of any political party; but I had agreed at the request of the Yahya government in July 1971 to visit London and the USA to explain to those whom I might meet that the struggle in East Pakistan was a struggle between those who were determined to wreck Pakistan and those whose loyalty to its ideology would not let them align themselves with a movement against its integrity.

The mood that dominated me in prison was one of outrage, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. Physically disabled by an abortive attempt to assassinate me, tortured by the feeling that all I had believed in had crashed in ruins around me, and that we had suffered a defeat from which it would be impossible to recover in the foreseeable future, convinced that the change of 1971 could bode no good to my people, oppressed by the thought that could see no ray of hope, I sat down to record my reflections on the whole series of events which had culminated in the disaster of December 1971.
Postscript PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
A few hours after I concluded writing the above preface I came across one of the latest publications on the tragedy of 1971. My immediate reaction was that it called for some notice. The author is Hasan Zaheer and the title of his work: The Separation of East Pakistan. Published from Karachi by the Oxford University Press in 1994. the book purports to give a survey of the causes which led to Pakistan's disintegration and provides interesting details about behind-the-scenes deliberations which preluded General Yahya's decision to suppress the Awami League revolt by recourse to force.

What surprised me, rather painfully, is that Mr Hasan Zaheer, an ex-member of the Central Superior Service of Pakistan who claims to have spent some of the happiest years of his life in the Eastern Wing concludes his Prologue in the following terms. ' ....it was a verdict against the twenty-four year history of repression, obscurantism, and disregard of the people's will, and on the futility of the use of force in resolving national issues.

An unhappy chapter in the history of the Muslims of South Asia had ended. A new one had begun, redeeming the covenant entered into by the Muslims of the subcontinent at the Lahore Session of the All-India Muslim League on 24 March 1940, and reiterated in 1941 at the Madras Session, to create separate "Muslim Free National Homelands". On this day the second Muslim Homeland had emerged: 'a new nation was born.'
Chapter II: I Return Home A Wreck PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Tell me, mine own,
Where hast thou been preserved? Where lived?
how found
Thy father’s court
- Shakespeare

My family who had given me up for dead, were of course overjoyed to see me back home. But as I was lifted down from the rickshaw and carried in, they were alarmed to notice that I was a complete wreck. My chest and back (I had received six stab wounds) were still bleeding. My legs dangled like a couple of attachments not properly fixed. I was laid down on a mattress on the floor, given a warm drink, and covered with a blanket. People rushed in from an around to have a look. Strangers who would never have thought of entering our house, unasked, came in and gazed at me.

In the meantime Indian army officers who had been informed of the abduction the previous evening and had sent out search parties to trace me, arrived on learning that I had got back. The local hospital doctor was sent for; but he began vacillating and came only when he heard of the presence of the Indians.
Chapter IV: Interior Of The Inferno PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
'I had not thought death had undone so many' - T.S. Eliot

The interior of the Dacca Central Jail exceeded my worst fears. The primitive lavatories with their low standard of sanitation combined with an unimaginable lack of privacy were the greatest shock.

I was placed in a block called Seven Cells with five others of whom four turned out to be old acquaintances. Two were from the University. That was some comfort. The others were Division One prisoners; I was not granted this status until five days later through the instrumentality of my wife who had written to the Home Department. Normally, it is the Inspector-General of Prisons who decides whether a prisoner is to be placed in Division one or Division two, but in the case of the class of prisoners that I represented, stigmatised as 'Collaborators', the new Government reserved to itself the right to classify the detained. A few, a very limited few, had the good luck to achieve the privilege of Division One right from the beginning, but in the majority of cases, whatever tile prisoner's social status, he was made to live the life of an ordinary prisoner for periods varying from a few days to a few months before promotion to Division One. I was lucky to be assigned on the first day to a cell rather than a common dormitory, known in the jail as Khata.
Chapter I: How I Survived On December 20 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
‘When in disgrace with fortune’- Shakespeare

I confess that as I embark upon what is going to be an exploration into my present and past I have no clear idea what I really intend. I certainly do not wish to attempt an autobiography. It is no use concealing from myself at this age- (I shall be fifty four next January 1974)- that nothing in my life deserves the importance of a record such as in my view an autobiography should be. I have been a witness to great events, but in the events which I have observed, mine has been by and large a passive, unimportant role. Not only do I have an innate horror of the limelight; I feel honestly that I have not on my own initiated or executed any major move in the drama in which I have often found myself entangled, and what could such a person as myself record by way of autobiography which would thrill, enchant, absorb or even deeply interest a reader?

As a matter of fact I am not thinking of any readers at all. How really could I? I write this in prison in 1973 under circumstances which make it extremely improbable that this manuscript would ever reach a publisher who would venture to print what I write. I know that no publisher in my own country would dare touch it. As for publishers abroad, in what was till yesterday the western wing of my country, how could they possibly be interested in such a personal record as mine, particularly when I cannot lay claim to any degree of political eminence?
Chapter III: Betrayal and Sycophancy All Around PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
About the middle of January, the intellectuals, teachers, doctors and engineers who had run off to India during the Civil War began returning. Among them were Professor Ali Ahsan, head of the department of Bengali at Chittagong University and Dr A. R. Mallik. Both were my personal friends, the first a cousin who had grown up with me. Neither of course cared to call or to make an inquiry. I had not expected anything of the kind. After all we had been on opposite sides in the Civil War. Professor Ahsan was reported to have attacked me personally in his broadcasts from Calcutta. What hurt me now was the attitude he adopted on his return to Dacca. One informant said he had, quite without justification,- for no one had approached him---made it clear that he won't lift his little finger to help a 'collaborator' like me out of my present difficulties. This was malicious malignity. Another person who saw me soon after a meeting with him suggestively hinted that I owed my downfall to the counsels of certain friends who had misguided me. The friends named were people who were as close to Mr Ali Ahsan as to myself. Of course, the whole story was a figment of his imagination, and if I had swallowed the bait, those people would be in prison now.
Chapter V: A Crowd is not Company PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Oscar Wilde says in De Profundis, a book I translated into Bengali later, that the worst thing about jail life is not that it hurts the emotions, but that it kills them turning the heart to stone. The exact words would be worth quoting if I had the book with me. The more I saw of this Central Jail the deeper my fear that the multitude detained as ‘collaborators’, most of them splendid young men, would gradually be turned into real criminals by the coarseness, brutality, vileness and deceit which they daily experienced. Everyone I talked to said that he was fairly resolved to take revenge against his captors, against those who had betrayed him. They made no secret of what they meant to do. Some said that the first task they would undertake upon their release would be to eliminate the man or men who had got them arrested. After what they had gone through and seen, the instinctive horror and distaste with which normal human beings recoil from thoughts of violence were no longer operating as a brake upon their desire for vengeance. And what advice could an old man like myself offer? Unlike ourselves they had given no hostages to fortune; they had no wives and children to think of; many of them had lost their parents in the turmoil following 16 December. Those whose parents were alive did not care what happened to them. Their own desire was revenge, revenge at any cost however long it might take.

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