Dr. Susmit Kumar

When the British left India in 1947, Pakistan was created based on the theory that Hindus and Muslims were unable to live together. But this theory collapsed when the Urdu-speaking, West Pakistani Muslim army massacred more than three million Bengali-speaking, East Pakistani Muslims from March to December 1971. This genocide was brought to a halt only when India invaded East Pakistan and liberated it from the West Pakistani military dictators, resulting in the formation of the new nation called Bangladesh.

The genocide started when Pakistani dictator Yahya Khan arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and refused to allow him any political authority, nullifying the results of the December 1970 general election. East Pakistan’s Awami League led by Sheikh Rahman had won 167 seats, compared to just 82 seats for West Pakistan’s Pakistan People’s Party, out of a total of 313 seats in the National Assembly.[1] This was in fact the first democratic election ever held in the history of Pakistan. Prior to this, the country had been ruled by military dictators. Throughout the Cold War, instead of supporting the democratic process, the U.S. had supported dictatorships with money and weapons. The slaughter of three million people in East Pakistan in 1971 is considered to be one of the worst genocides in human history.[2] Also, despite receiving cables from American Consul General Archer Blood in Dacca, now the capital of Bangladesh, who called the massacre a genocide [3]i, the U.S. administration supported the West Pakistani dictator throughout the bloodshed.[4] The consul general sent cables to Washington urging a public American stand against West Pakistani repression; other members of the consulate staff signed a similar message. Kenneth Keating, the U.S. ambassador in New Delhi, reported to Washington that he was “deeply shocked at the massacre” and was “greatly concerned at the United States’ vulnerability to damaging association with a reign of military terror.”[5] In response, however, President Nixon ordered the transfer of Blood from Dacca and ridiculed Keating for having been “taken over by the Indians.”[6] The recommendation, presented at the Senior Review Group (a U.S. presidential advisory body) meeting on July 23, 1971, was to extend American military assistance to India in the event of Chinese intervention in an India-Pakistan war, and to coordinate its actions with the Soviet Union and Great Britain.[7]

After taking in more than 10 million refugees from East Pakistan when India invaded Pakistan and liberated East Pakistan in a war lasting just two weeks, according to newly declassified papers National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger encouraged China to invade India so as to ease the pressure on Pakistan.[8] The U.S. even threatened India by rushing its Seventh Fleet to its shores. The demoralized West Pakistani army collapsed on the eastern front within two weeks, however, before the Seventh Fleet could even enter the Bay of Bengal. In a recent article in Harvard International Review, ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who took over the reins of Pakistan after the 1971 Indo-Pak war, demanded that the military officers responsible for the genocide stand trial.[9]

In his book The Betrayal of East Pakistan, Lt. General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, head of the Pakistani Eastern Command who surrendered to the Indian forces on December 16, 1971, wrote,

On the night of March 25-26, 1971, General Tikka Khan [of the Pakistani Eastern Command] turned the peaceful night into a time of wailing, crying and burning…. The military action was a display of stark cruelty, more merciless than the massacres at Bukhara and Baghdad by Changez Khan and Halaku Khan, or at Jallianwala Bagh by the British General Dyer.[10]

According to William Burr:

With the U.S. public generally supporting India and the cause of Bangladeshi independence, Nixon and Kissinger secretly and deceptively tilted policy toward Pakistan, in part because of Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan’s important role in facilitating communications with Beijing during 1970 and 1971… Secretary of State Rogers was furious with White House policy toward Pakistan, although he failed to realize that Nixon was as much its architect as Kissinger. Nixon and Kissinger continued to make key decisions in secret. [11]

After losing half of the country in a bitter military defeat at the hands of its archrival India, which captured more than 90,000 Pakistani troops after their unconditional surrender in Dacca, the military generals left the reins of whatever was left of West Pakistan to a civilian leader, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan experienced only five-and-a-half years of civilian rule by Bhutto, who was then ousted by General Zia ul-Haq in 1977. In April 1979, after a controversial trial, Bhutto was hung by the Zia government. In her scathing attack on the Islamic Pakistan army, Benazir Bhutto wrote in 2002:

The direction of the Pakistani armed forces changed under the military rule of General Zia, a protégé of the Muslim Brotherhood. For his own survival, Zia, at odds with the democratic forces, created an anti-democratic class of officers by resorting to the policies to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Afghan holy war against Soviet occupation enabled him to develop the concept of the holy role of the armed forces, which translated into guarding Pakistan’s ideological frontiers in addition to its geographical borders. In light of its new relationship with the United States, Pakistan will face pressure to crack down on the militant teachings in the maddrassas, but this may be difficult. Ultimately, the power of the private militias, the militant maddrassas, and the political-religious parties depends on the support they receive from the military-security apparatus. [12]

It is worth noting that it was the Pakistan’s army that created and supported the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the mid 1990s.

After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. tried its best to close down the training camps it had founded to train Afghan mujahideen. In 1996, the U.S. even sold up-to-date arms and ammunition worth $368 million in a one-time waiver of the 1985 non-proliferation law known as the Pressler Amendment, which prohibited arms supplies to Pakistan due to its refusal to cap its nuclear program. However, the Pakistan government had no control over these training camps, as they were run by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s equivalent of the CIA, which was outside governmental control. The ISI earned billions of dollars each year in drug deals and was independent of the government for its finances.

The ISI had an indirect, longstanding relationship with al-Qaeda. They even used al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train their own covert operatives to serve as terrorists against India. In the year 2000, due to American anxiety over the link between the ISI and various militant groups in Kashmir as well as with the Taliban, President Clinton was surrounded by extraordinary security on his trip to Pakistan.[13] Air Force One arrived in Pakistan empty while another small, unmarked plane carrying the president arrived separately, after which his motorcade stopped under an overpass and Clinton changed cars.[14]

Pakistan, which had served as a conduit for billions of dollars in arms from the U.S. government to the mujahideen, has today become a victim of its own complicity. While the Soviet-backed Najibullah government did indeed collapse in 1992, modern American weaponry pervades Afghan cities like Karachi and Lahore, making them battlegrounds for gang wars. Poor Afghans sold this weaponry, including rapid-fire rifles, AK-47s, grenades, landmines, rockets, rocket launchers, and rocket-propelled grenades to the indigenous, independent tribals living along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The U.S. made no attempt to collect these weapons and so both Afghanistan and Pakistan were deluged with them. As a retired Pakistani army lieutenant general said, “Pakistan developed a sort of Kalashnikov culture. Weapons became a power symbol for politicians and others.” [15]

In Pakistan, sectarian groups possess a good variety of sophisticated weaponry. In rural Sindh province, bandits with light machine guns rob and kill people at random, and even in the capital, Islamabad, it is standard practice for businessmen, political leaders, and bureaucrats to have a pistol or rifle handy. Tribals living in the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan provinces likewise are immersed in weaponry. The town of Darra Adamkhel in western Pakistan is perhaps the largest gun market in the world, with some 2,600 arms shops and five gun factories. In that region alone, there are up to 7 million Chinese and Soviet-made Kalashnikovs, hand grenades, and antiaircraft guns. [16]

In a September 2001 interview, Haji Ahmad Khan Kukikhel, chief of the 100,000-strong Kikikhel tribe in the North-West Frontier Province, said, “The Americans are to blame for all these weapons of terror. We used to have single shot rifles. Now we have automatics and 10,000 people have died in the tribal areas as a result. In this province we can get everything except the atomic bomb.” [17] It is said that Osama bin Ladin and his number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri, are hiding in this same area.

Although Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf supports the U.S. in its war against terrorism, his country has in fact become the primary base for al-Qaeda. Of course, Musharraf only gave this support after receiving an ultimatum from the U.S. to do so. Despite his apparent cooperation, however, rogue army officers continue to support top al-Qaeda leaders. The highest ranking al-Qaeda fugitive arrested thus far, Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, was apprehended in March 2003 in a posh locality of Rawalpindi where retired army generals reside. The financier of the 9/11 attack was finally traced by the FBI to Karachi. In December 2001, before he boarded a plane to the U.S., the notorious shoe bomber, Richard Reid, was receiving orders in Paris via e-mails from Pakistan. In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah, once bin Laden’s top terror coordinator, was caught in the city of Faisalabad. In September 2002, Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected planner of the terrorist attack in the United States, was captured after a gun battle in the southern port of Karachi. Then again in July 2004, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian and major al-Qaeda figure with a $25-million American bounty on his head for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed more than 200 people, was arrested in Pakistan. He had been living there for the past six years. U.S. intelligence agencies have not captured a single senior al-Qaeda member related to the 9/11 attacks except in Pakistan. This clearly demonstrates that Pakistan is now the base, or “Ground Zero,” of global Islamic terrorism.

1 The Tilt: The U.S. and the South Asian Crisis of 1971, National Security Archive Electronics Briefing Book No. 79, ed. Sajit Gandhi, December 16, 2002.

2 Ibid.; William, Sarah T., “Definition of genocide in being clarified by U.N. war crime trails,” Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN, November 5, 2000.

3 The Tilt, op. cit.

4 Schanberg, Sydney H., “The Pakistani Slaughter that Nixon Ignored,” Newsday, April 29, 1994.

5 Kissinger, Henry, White House Years, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1st Ed., 1979, p. 853.

6 Ibid. p. 854.

7 Ibid. p. 865.

8 The Tilt, op. cit.; The Kissinger Transcripts—The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow, edited by William Burr, The New Press, New York, 1998, p. 55.

9 Bhutto, Benazir, “Pakistan’s dilemma: Breaking links with the past,” Harvard International Review, March 22, 2002.

10 Niazi, A.A.K, The Betrayal of East Pakistan, Oxford University Press, USA, 1998, p. 44.

11 The Kissinger Transcripts—The Top Secret Talks with Beijing and Moscow, edited by William Burr, The New Press, New York, 1998, p. 47.

12 Bhutto, Benazir, op. cit.

13 Risen, James and Miller, Judith, “Pakistani Intelligence had links to al-Qaeda, U.S. Officials Say,” The New York Times, October 29, 2001.

14 Ibid.; Clinton, Bill, My Life, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2004, p. 902.

15 Joseph, Ralph, “Pakistan fights to end ‘Kalashnikov culture’; Afghan arms find way into terrorists’ hands,” The Washington Times, August 20, 2002.

16 LeVine, Steve, “We all fear for our lives,” Newsweek International, March 27, 2000.

17 Pendlebury, Richard, “Get out fast, Britons told; ‘We can get any weapon except an atomic bomb’ Tibal chief Haji Ahmad Khan Kukikhel,” The Daily Mail, September 17, 2001.