Exploding Myths About 1971 – Part 2: Surrender of 93,000 Pakistani Soldiers Never Happened
by Dr. Junaid Ahmad
The book Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded busts most of the myths revolving arround the episode of 1971 insurgency in East Pakistan proving the falsehood of the number of Pakistani Soldiers who surrendered on Dec 16, 1971. Since the above mentioned fateful day, it has been widely believed, published and propagated that 93,000 Pakistani army personnel surrendered and were later taken by India as Prisoners of War (PoWs). To this day, this highly exaggerated figure is sustained by Indian, Bangladeshi and defunct Soviet propagandists. Ironically, this propagated number has remained unchallenged and also widely believed in Pakistan, as until now few accounts have been written which have endeavored to show the reality.
It is a well known and recognized fact that Pakistan had only one corps comprising three divisions in East Pakistan during 1971. The three divisions comprised a total force of 45,000 including combatant and non-combatant troops. Out of these, there were 34,000 combatant troops and the remaining 11,000 were non-combatant / supporting men and CAF personnel. This one corps was pitched against three corps of Indian Army from the West and North West and another two corps from the North East and East, a total of five Indian Corps plus 175,000 Indian backed and trained Mukti Bahini and many thousands of Awami League miscreants and terrorists. When there were only 34,000 fighting troops, how could 93,000 soldiers surrender? The preposterous Indian claim is bogus at the outset.
Let us now quote some credible sources to back the above claim. According to Lt Gen Naizi, Corps Commander of Eastern Command in 1971. “The total fighting strength available to me [Gen Naizi] was forty-five thousand – 34,000 from the army, plus 11,000 from CAF and West Pakistan civilian police and armed non-combatants” who were fighting against the insurgents. Even if the strength of HL, MLA, depots, training institutes, workshops, factories, nurses and lady doctors, non-combatants like barbers, cooks, shoemakers and sweepers are added, even then the total comes to only 55,000.
Air Marshal Rahim khan, CNC Pakistan Air Force (1969-1972), stated; “The number of regular Pakistani troops in East Pakistan never exceeded 33,000-34,000. The rest is just propaganda by India and the Awami League, to magnify their success….” Air Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan, who commended Eastern Wing of Pakistan Air Forces asserted; “At the maximum, our regular fighting force in East Pakistan in December 1971 stood at 34,000. This figure does not include paramilitary personnel, military police, etc. Even if you include the auxiliaries, the total does not cross 45,000”.
General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. Former Vice Chief of Army Staff, speaking on the 1971 conundrum stated; “It was impossible for the 34,000 Pakistani troops in East Pakistan or for that matter any army in the world to fight against the combined strength of 200,000 Indian army and 170,000 Mukti Bahini, If not more, that too in a hostile environment 1200 miles away from West Pakistan …… Keeping into account all this, if the Indians still feel that they achieved a stunning military victory against Pakistan, I can only say they have fallen prey to their own propaganda”.
US congressman, Charles Wilson in a discussion with Pakistani diplomats in Washington DC remarked; “……In 1971, it was certainly not possible for the 35,000 Pakistani troops in Dhaka to fight against the combined strength of 200,000 Indian army and the more than 100,000 Indian-trained Bengali guerillas.” Another US congressman, Stephen Solarz, commenting on the War of 1971 in June 1989, remarked: “Pakistanis are energetic, vibrant, and resilient. We must not be misled by 1971. It was certainly not possible for the 40,000 odd Pakistani army in Dhaka to fight against much larger Indian army and Indian-trained Bengali Bahinis in a hostile territory ….”
K C Pant, Indian former Defense Minister in September, 1994 during a discussion on Indo-Pak relations held in New Delhi, remarked; “Peace is important between Pakistan and India. We respect the professional competence of the Pakistani soldier. Had democracy continued in Pakistan, Islamabad would not have suffered the debacle resulting in the surrender of its 40,000 military personnel to India in East Pakistan”. Sarmila Bose, the famous Bengali Indian writer and Associate Researcher at Oxford University in her book Dead Reckoning published in 2011, asserts: “…… [I]t appears that while the total figure in Indian custody is about right, to state that’93,000 soldiers were taken prisoner is wrong, and creates confusions by greatly inflating the Pakistani fighting force in East Pakistan”.
Javed Jabbar, former Pakistani Minister of Information in his article, Estranged siblings-Pakistan and Bangladesh, 40 years later’ wrote; “Pakistan’s armed forces did not exceed 45,000 troops at optimal levels. The 90,000 prisoners-of-war held by India included over 50,000 non- combatant, unarmed West Pakistani civilians.” S. M. Hali, a well-known Pakistani analyst in his article, Breaking myths of 1971 Pak-India war wrote; “The total strength of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan (in 1971) was 40,000….”
All the aforementioned references point toward one fact that the number of total army personnel who surrendered were far less than 93,000. Thus, the number of 93,000 soldiers was conjured and floated by Indians which was later also parroted by Bangladeshi propagandists. Whereas, in reality the actual number of Pakistani troops who surrendered was only 34,000, after the insurgency of 1971. Subsequently, the figure of 93,000 was conjured by Indians and it also included children, women, civil administration officials and staff, non-combatant troops such as nurses, doctors, cooks, barbers, shoemakers, carpenters and others. This exaggerated figure floated by Indians and Bangladeshi propagandists is only to defame and demoralize Pakistani army and to show the World their exaggerated success. Obviously, they fool no one but themselves because any rational person would deny it.