Does Mr. Zardari Want to Replay the Events of 1971 in Pakistan?

Pakistani-American Mansoor Ijaz's confidential memo to retired US Admiral Mike Mullen on behalf of former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani makes a reference to the 1971 war where it says "this is a 1971 moment in Pakistan’s history". What does it really mean? Does it mean there is another India-Pakistan war in the offing? Or an expansion of US Afghan war into Pakistan? Or further splintering of Pakistan?

Let me try and interpret it by explaining it in the context of civilian-military relations in Pakistan in 1971.

The key result of the 1971 India-Pakistan war was the creation of the independent state of Bangladesh after a humiliating defeat of Pakistani military and Gen Nizai's surrender on December 16, 1971. This military defeat discredited, demoralized and sidelined Pakistani generals and paved the way for the Pakistan Peoples' Party leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to become an all-powerful civilian dictator and Chief Martial Law Administrator of what remained of Pakistan.

It can be reasonably argued that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a key architect of the tragic events that unfolded in 1971. Many analysts agree with late Governor Salman Taseer of the PPP who said that "the lion's share of the blame" for 1971 goes to Mr. Bhutto. Here's what Mr. Taseer wrote in his book "Bhutto: A Political Biography":

"Blame can never be satisfactorily or finally apportioned to the major players in this grisly drama, but that Bhutto, Mujibur Rahman and Yahya Khan share responsibility there can be no doubt. Many, indeed, are inclined to the view that Bhutto, as the most sure-footed politician of the three and thus the best equipped to assess the consequences of his actions, must accept the lion's share of the blame. Argument on this point will remain one of the central themes of Pakistani politics, perhaps for decades."

A number of actions and pronouncements by Mr. Bhutto support Gov Taseer's conclusion. Some of these are:

1. While the rest of the political parties winning two-thirds of the National Assembly seats agreed to attend the 1971 post-election session in Dacca, Mr. Bhutto refused to do so.

2. Not only did Mr. Bhutto announce his PPP's boycott of the assembly, he also threatened to "break the legs" of any one from West Pakistan who agreed to attend.

3. Mr. Bhutto urged the military to act against Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman's Awami Leage which had absolute majority in the National Assembly elected in 1971.

4. After General Yahya Khan was persuaded by Bhutto to act against the Awami League, Mr. Bhutto welcomed the army operation in East Pakistan by saying "Thank God, Pakistan is saved" on the day the military started its action in East Pakistan....knowing full well that it would invite an Indian invasion as it did.

5. There was wide support for a Polish ceasefire resolution in the UN Security Council to end the 1971 India-Pakistan war before Dhaka fell. But Mr. Bhutto, as General Yahya Khan's special envoy, refused to go along and walked out of the UN meeting.

All of the above facts lead to only one conclusion: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto engineered the defeat of Pakistani military in East Pakistan in 1971 to discredit and marginalize the generals and consolidate his own power at the expense of the unity of Pakistan.

Is today's PPP inviting the US military to defeat, demoralize and destroy Pakistan's military in 2011? Are Abbottabad and Mehmend part of this strategy? Are US and Pakistan heading towards a dangerous military confrontation in the near future?

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Comment by Riaz Haq on January 11, 2012 at 9:45am

Sunni Ittehad Council, the group supporting Taseer's killer, received funds from the US embassy in Islamabad, according to AP:

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The U.S. gave money to a Pakistani Muslim group that organized anti-Taliban rallies, but which later demonstrated in support of an extremist who killed a leading liberal politician, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan said Wednesday.

The grant highlights the difficulties facing Washington as it seeks partners to support religious moderation in Pakistan. Last month, The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Embassy had created a counter-extremism unit to perform that mission.

U.S. government website shows that the group, the Sunni Ittehad Council, received $36,607 from Washington in 2009.

A U.S. diplomat said that the embassy had given money to the group to organize the rallies, but that it had since changed direction and leadership. He said it was a one-off grant, and wouldn't be repeated. He didn't give his name because he wasn't authorized to speak about the issue on the record.

The grant was first reported by the Council of Foreign Relations on its website.

The Ittehad council was formed in 2009 to counter extremism. It groups politicians and clerics from Pakistan's traditionalist Barelvi Muslim movement, often referred to as theological moderates in the Pakistani context.

The American money was used to organize nationwide rallies against militants and suicide bombings, the embassy official said. The demonstrations received widespread media coverage, and were some of the first against extremism in the country.

The rhetoric at the rallies was mostly focused on opposing militant attacks on shrines, which Barelvis frequent but are opposed by Deobandi Muslims, Pakistan's other main Muslim sect. Deobandis dominate the ranks of the Taliban and other extremists. Some view Barelvis as heretics.

In 2011 and also this month, however, the council led demonstrations in support of the killer of Salman Taseer, a governor who was killed a year ago for his criticism of anti-blasphemy laws used to persecute religious minorities. The displays have appalled Pakistani liberals and stoked international fears that the country is buckling under the weight of extremism.

Taseer's assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, is a Barelvi. He claimed he acted to defend the honor of the prophet Mohammed, a cause that is especially dear to Barelvis.

At its rallies, the group maintains its criticism of the Taliban even as it supports Qadri — a seemingly contradictory stance that suggests its leaders may be more interested in harnessing the political support and street power of Barelvis than in genuinely countering militancy.

Two leading members of the council who have been with the group from the beginning of its existence denied receiving any American funds. The apparent discrepancy could be explained by lack of transparency within the organization. However, given the current anti-American climate, owning up to receiving funds from the United States would invite criticism.

"This propaganda is being unleashed against us because we are strongly opposed to Western democracy and American policies in the region and in the world," said Sahibzada Fazal Karim, the head of the council, before reiterating the group's support for Qadri.

"We are against extremism, but we support Qadri because he did a right thing," he said.

Muslim groups and clerics in Pakistan have a long history of receiving money from foreign countries. Deobandi clerics have received millions of dollars over the last 20 years from Gulf nations to promote their austere brand of Islam and an anti-Shiite agenda. Iran has in turn funded Shiite groups

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 20, 2014 at 7:51am

Here's Michael Krepon on Husain Haqqani in

Husain Haqqani has many detractors in Pakistan due to his shifting political allegiances and book publications. The thesis of Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military (2005) is about a longstanding alliance of convenience between the Army and Pakistan’s religious parties “to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan and to put pressure on India,” which cemented the Army’s domestic dominance and policies with dire consequences. Husain treads lightly on the failings of Pakistan’s political class, which bid for the Army’s favors while accumulating wealth. Washington comes in for heavy criticism for backing military strongmen and for not making assistance conditional on behavioral change. Pakistan comes across as a “rentier state” – one that “lives off the rents of its strategic location” — yet another reason why this book did not receive rave reviews in Rawalpindi.

Payback came when Husain was forced out of his post as President Asif Zadari’s emissary to Washington. After the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, an orchestrated media campaign charged him of conspiring with a Pakistani-American living in Monaco to seek the Obama administration’s help to prevent an imaginary military coup attempt. Pakistan’s judicial system, which has difficulty prosecuting the perpetrators of mass-casualty attacks, quickly found sufficient evidence to launch judicial proceedings of treasonous behavior.

Husain is now back in the United States writing books. His latest, Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding, will add Pakistan’s diplomatic corps to his list of detractors. He has burned another bridge, this time with a historical narrative of Pakistan’s play book to secure US economic and military assistance. “Since 1947,” he argues, “dependence, deception, and defiance have characterized US-Pakistan relations. We sought US aid in return for promises we did not keep.” His sources – US archival material providing direct quotes and summaries of high-level exchanges, as well as personal recollections – are too detailed to be dismissed as anti-Pakistan propaganda.

Husain’s bottom line: “Pakistan and the United States have few shared interests and very different political needs… If $40 billion in US aid has not won Pakistani hearts and minds, billions more will not do the trick… The US-Pakistan alliance is only a mirage.” Not exactly your standard, dispassionate diplomatic history....

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 2, 2014 at 11:01am

From BBC:

A court in Bangladesh has found a British journalist guilty of contempt of court for questioning the official version of the number of people who died in the country's war of independence in 1971.
The judges said a 2011 blog post by David Bergman had deliberately distorted history.
He was ordered him to pay a fine of $65 or go to prison for seven days.
According to the official account, three million people died in the war of independence from Pakistan, but Mr Bergman said there was no evidence to support that.

From Bergman's blog:

There have been a number of other estimates on the number of people who died in 1971.

(i) The Peace Research Institute in Norway along with Uppsala University in Sweden, have collected information on the numbers of 'battle deaths' in all wars since 1900. Apparently, on the basis of eye-witness and media reports as well as other data, they have estimated that about 58,000 people died in battle in 1971 in Bangladesh.

However, it has proven difficult to clarify the methodology upon which they came to this figure and relying on press reports (if this is what they have done) is clearly a far from accurate method of ascertaining the number of deaths. It should be noted that this figure does not seem to include the numbers of deaths of civilians.*

(ii) More recent research conducted by academics at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington in Seattle, and published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal, analysed World Health Organisation population surveys, looking at sibling deaths, to estimate the number of 'direct violent deaths' in different wars in different countries. Their calculation suggest that the number of 'deaths from war injuries' in 1971 was closer to 269,000 – five times the number of the Scandinavian researchers which involved only 'battle deaths'. Their figures range from 125,000 to 505,000. It should be noted this does not include other war related deaths.

The reports also says that the 'estimates presented here should be viewed as conservative', pointing out that the surveys were unable to capture 'families with no survivors'. ****
(iii) Perhaps the most reliable estimate of number of deaths as a result of the war in 1971 is found in a little known study published in 1976 by the Cholera Hospital (now the ICDDRB) in a prestigious journal called 'Population Studies'. One of the article's three authors was Lincoln Chen who subsequently became a very noted public health specialist and is due, I understand, to be honored by the Bangladesh government for his contribution to independence in 1971.

The article looked at changes in population numbers in the rural area of Matlab Bazaar Thana. The Cholera hospital had collected detailed population data, including details of birth and deaths, on this area since 1963, and so was able to compare the population figures collected in 1972 with those collected during the war and prior to it to make an estimate of the number of 'excess' deaths.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 31, 2015 at 1:14pm

I suggest the following material on the events of 1971 for my readers:

Dead Reckoning by Dr. Sarmila Bose (Research Scholar, Hindu Bengali grandniece of Subash Chandar Bose)

The Myth of 3 Million by Dr. Abdul Mumin Chaudhry (Bengali Nationalist who fought for Bangladesh independence)

Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal by David Bergman (British Blogger)

Mission R&AW by RK Yadav (Ex RAW officer involved in creating Mukti Bahini in 1971) 

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 22, 2016 at 9:11am

Let’s have quick look of Mr Hussain Haqqani’s [Nowadays an American Scholar who lecture on Democracy] dirty and filthy past while he was part and parcel of Army-Jamat-e-Islami Axis which is riddled witch scandals and corruption. A detailed CV of Husaain Haqqani is at the end to corroborate the comment.

With brainwashing on the one hand and erosion of academic freedom on the other, the campuses (once temples of learning and enlightenment) have been turned into centres of rowdyism and repositories of deadly weapon. Students belonging to various schools of religious thought, regional and ethnic groups, particularly the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba (the student wing of Jamat-e-Islami) , have played havoc with educational institutions. Professors were another target of the victimization carried out in this period. Members of the IJT launched a concerted campaign against professors known for their liberal views. In Punjab University, particularly, many professors were forced to resign, others were sacked.

The situation was no different in the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, which had in the 70s attracted many brilliant Pakistanis who were teaching abroad. As the harassment became unbearable, most of these professors went back. To what extent fundamentalists blocked scientific knowledge can be assessed by one incident at the Karachi University, where a zoology lecturer was stopped from teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Similar incidents occurred frequently in the philosophy and the economics department. The situation has worsened wit the passage of time. During that period, a policy of appeasement towards the IJT made matter worse. Guns boomed at the Karachi University Campus for the first time in 1979 when, according to Imran Shirvanee, Raja Javed, a supporter of IJT, used a sten gun ‘to tackle the opposition.’ When the pen and free expression are throttled, the only means open to tackle opposition is a firearm. At that time, the IJT was the ruling party in Karachi University politics with Hussain Haqqani, Raja Javed was his close aide.

Haqqani is a man of many roles. The former Far Eastern Economic Review correspondent was the media advisor to Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif when Benazir Bhutto was at the centre {1988-1990}. He switched to serve caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi in 1990, and then switched back again to serve Sharif when he was elected Prime Minister. In 1992, he was sent to Sri Lanka as Pakistan’s High Commissioner. On the eve of Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal on 18 April 1993, he jumped the sinking ship and joined President Ghulam Ishaq Khan bandwagon. Immediately, he was rewarded by being made a special assistant to the caretaker Prime Minister Mir Balakh Sher Mazari with the rank of Minister of State. Asked by BBC if he now deserved a mention in the Guinness Book of Records for switching loyalties so often, his reply was classic: I was always with the President.’” 

Mr Haqqani. Right from this student politics with the Jamaat’s student wing, the dreaded Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba, at Karachi University there is much that Mr Haqqani is answerable for. The violence at the university and the brutal suppression of free speech that the IJT imposed on the campus in those days was done with Mr Haqqani very much an active player. Many still say that he was the architect of the IJT’s policy of using brute force to suppress opposition opinion. We next saw him on PTV – which was a kind of a launching pad for him -during the 1985 partyless elections. It was an election which destroyed Pakistan’s politics in more ways than one and much that we see wrong with Pakistan’s politics today dates back to that election. It was because of the destructive potential of the election that every liberal and progressive party in the country boycotted those elections. Yet there was Mr Haqqani at his most articulate, lauding the farcical exercise as if it was the best thing that had happened to the country since its birth.

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 22, 2016 at 10:44am

From Indian Defense Review on 1971 ground war on western front:

The major Indian gains claimed in terms of area were about 3,200 square kilometres in the Ladakh region under Lt Gen Sartaj Singh and 1,200 square kilometres. under Lt Gen G G Bewoor in the Rajasthan Desert. In both regions these gains lay in farflung, desolate, uninhabited and difficult areas of negligible economic, strategic and political value which could hurt the rulers of Pakistan only in their prestige. 

On the other hand, Sartaj Singh lost the area of Chhamb, where the aftermath of the refugee problem still haunts the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The loss of the Kasowala bulge, the Hussainiwala enclave and the Fazilka agricultural belt in Punjab could not be equated with marginal gains in the Sehjra bulge and the Mamdot enclave in economic, military or political terms. The Indian occupation of the major portion of the Shakargarh bulge was somewhat embarrassing to the Bhutto government in v .. 

Rawlley lost more than he gained in Punjab. The loss of Hussainiwala, the Fazilka cotton track and Chhina Bidhi Chand were inexcusable. The battle in this sector was a peripheral loss and gain of border outposts and nothing more. 

Read more at:

Comment by Riaz Haq on June 25, 2016 at 4:16pm

PPP and Zardari now recognize Husain Haqqani is toxic. Unfortunately it's too late. A lot of damage has already been done and continues to done to Pakistan by this Benedict Arnold. I think Iqbal's lines about Mir Jaafar and Mir Sadiq apply to this guy more than anyone else "Jaafar uz Bangal Sadiq uz Dakan/ Nang e Millat Nang e Deen Nange Watan"

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 24, 2016 at 5:01pm

On Hussain Haqqani by Haider Mehdi.
My considered view is that HH was turned by the Indians in the early 80's, when he was in Hong Kong as a rabid Islamist, writing for the now defunct, Far Eastern Economic Review.
And this is where his journey started, to embed himself as an Indian mole, in Pakistan's governance structures.
And because of his radical Islamist views, he also caught Gen. Zia's fancy, the then Pakistani military dictator, who himself was a dyed in the wool, radical fundamentalist.
I don't have any evidence to substantiate my hypothesis, except Haqqani's subsequent actions, behaviors and career moves.
Incredibly, he's changed more political ideologies than a kid's diapers, to suit his masters, both Indian and Pakistani, and the needs of the times.
From a rabid Islamist Taliban like activist, to a right wing democrat, to a supporter of military intervention, to left wing secularist, he's been to pretty much every base!
Working for the enemy is not uncommon. Personal and political biases, political philosophy, ego, greed, power, privilege, position, money, anger, bitterness, all contribute in creating a Kim Philby, the British MI6 mole embedded by the Russians, or a Gunter Guillaume, the East German spy, working as West German Chancellor Willy Brandt's assistant, or our very own Hussain Haqqani.
Here's why I think HH is or was an Indian mole.
1. He has known anti Pakistan views which he has held for a long time. Believes that partition was a very bad idea, and also holds very uncharitable views about the Quaid.
2. He managed to wrangle himself into both the PMLN and PPP governments. And willing to work in any role which gave him access and proximity, to power centers.
He was Ambassador to Sri Lanka under Nawaz. Secretary Information under BB. Then, Chairman, House Building Finance Corporation (imagine HBFC) again under her.
He desperately tried to join Gen. Musharraf's government. Offered his unconditional services to do "anything". Wanted to become Musharraf's media advisor. I know this from several horses.
And remember, this offer to Gen. Musharraf, from a man, who now presents himself to the world as the great upholder of democracy in Pakistan and virulently against military intervention.
Finally, he becomes the Pakistani Ambassador to the USA, under Asif Zardari, where he probably caused the most damage.
If his Memogate ploy had been successful, he was well on his way to National Security advisor with the ISI under him. God knows what the Army would have done to him. But that's another story. And then it was a short walk to either Interior or Defence Minister, and finally the ultimate prize. PM of Pakistan.
An Indian mole as a Pakistani PM!
He is unbelievably brilliant and masterfully cunning. Smooth as a snake and vicious as a viper. Can mesmerize anyone with his Lukhnawi charm, destroy you with his devastating intellect and make Lucifer look like Gabriel, especially in his writings.
Now that he stands exposed, at least to most Pakistanis, he now presents himself to the West, as their poster boy of democracy and anti militarism.
He has perhaps been one of the biggest factors in arming the anti Pakistan and pro Indian lobbies in the US, with information and evidence acquired through the very sensitive positions he occupied in the "service" of Pakistan.
He now works for the Hudson Institute, in Washington D.C. a known pro Israeli and pro Indian think tank, and makes himself relevant by espousing anti Pakistan narratives, cunningly presented as liberal and anti militarism views.
They liberally fund his research and his books and writings. In addition, he is actively supported and indirectly funded by staunchly anti-Pakistani and pro-Indian lobbies in the USA. And he gets himself invited or is invited to major anti Pakistan forums such as the one pictured below.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 2, 2020 at 12:19pm

BBC's Owen Bennet Jones has detailed #Bhutto's role in getting #Pakistan in 1965 & 1971 wars to blame & weaken #PakistanArmy for his own political ambitions. ZAB was "so convinced of his own greatness and indispensability that he did not believe the generals would dare hang him"

"On 12 May 1965, Zulfikar wrote to Ayub about the ‘relative superiority of the military forces of Pakistan in terms of quality and equipment’ and warned that India’s capacity was increasing with every passing day.64 The military balance, in other words, was bound to tilt ever further in Delhi’s favour. Zulfikar also insisted that after its defeat by China in 1962 the Indian military was demoralised and in no position to open a general war against Pakistan – any military action would be restricted to Kashmir.65 It was now or never. In July 1965, Ayub decided to act. Bhutto had advocated it, but Ayub decided to do it. The infiltration of Kashmir outlined in Operation GIBRALTAR began, and, on 10 August, a body that no Kashmiri had previously heard of, the Revolutionary Council, called on the people people to rise up against their Indian occupiers. However, when the militants contacted supposedly sympathetic clerics, they found that most were reluctant to help.66 From Pakistan’s point of view, the initial results of Operation GIBRALTAR were disappointing. But they were about to get a lot worse: the Indian prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, launched an offensive crossing the 1947 ceasefire line in Kashmir, preventing further infiltration and cutting off the militants’ supply lines. Zulfikar urged Ayub to carry on fighting, arguing that failure to do so ‘would amount to a debacle which could threaten the existence of Pakistan’.67 His anti-Indian rhetoric reached new heights"

GIBRALTAR was followed inexorably by GRANDSLAM. Initially the Pakistani Army offensive went well, but the military leadership in Rawalpindi was relying on its extraordinarily complacent assumption that India would not extend the fighting beyond Kashmir. But that is exactly what India did, opening up a 50-mile-wide front near Lahore, launching an offensive in Sindh and making a drive for the Pakistani city of Sialkot. Ludicrously, Pakistan’s planners were taken by surprise. In a matter of hours all thoughts of offence were abandoned as the priority became saving Lahore.

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 65-66). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Comment by Riaz Haq on December 2, 2020 at 12:58pm

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (p. 78). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

It was at this stage that Zulfikar played a significant role in the unfolding events. At a duck shoot in Larkana, Zulfikar complained to Yahya that he had named Mujib as prime minister without first consulting him. Yahya not unreasonably replied that Mujib would be prime minister......

If Mujib stuck to the Six Points, the military would be left with only one democratically elected leader whom they could that their legs would be broken.108 Increasingly, it seemed that Zulfikar wanted to create a situation in which he was supreme in West Pakistan and Mujib was supreme in East Pakistan. He hardly helped dispel that perception by reportedly saying at one rally, ‘udhar tum, idhar hum’, literally, ‘you there, we here’. Many took that to mean he envisaged two countries, although Zulfikar and his supporters insist to this day that he was only making the less controversial point that Mujib had a majority in the east and he had one in the west. Others claim he never said it at all,109 although that has been contradicted by one eyewitness, who insisted that he did say it but that the remark was taken out of context.110 As attitudes hardened, Zulfikar could now see that his route to power once again was through the military. If Mujib stuck to the Six Points, the military would be left with only one democratically elected leader whom they could consider acceptable: Zulfikar himself. In other words, he could rely on the military to propel him to power. Unwilling to have a National Assembly with the PPP absent, Yahya decided to postpone the session. Many of his advisers thought it was a mistake and predicted a ferocious backlash in East Pakistan – which did indeed come to pass. On 2 March the US Consulate General in Dhaka reported on the popular reaction in East Pakistan: ‘It would be impossible to over-estimate sense of anger, shock and frustration which has gripped people of east wing. They cannot but interpret postponement as act of collusion between Yahya and Bhutto to deny fruit of electoral victory to Bengali majority.’111 Yahya, however, believed that a whiff of grapeshot would bring the East Pakistanis back into line,112 a view which showed how little he understood of the state of public opinion there.

Had he (ZAB) won an overall majority, Zulfikar would not have hesitated to form a government. But he considered Mujibur Rahman’s insistence that he be allowed to do just that ‘intolerably rigid’. As Yahya failed to find a way to reconcile the two politicians, military action became ever more likely. Zulfikar could not be sure what the military would do and feared that the army might try to put together an alliance of religious and right-wing parties and tempt some PPP National Assembly members to join them.

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 78-79). Yal


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