1971 East Pakistan debacle a political one, not military: Gen QJ Bajwa


NEW DELHI: Just days before his retirement, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday said that the East Pakistan debacle of 1971 was a political failure and not a military one.
The army chief rejected the commonly held notion that 92,000 soldiers surrendered in the 1971 war and claimed that there were just 34,000 combatants, while the others were part of different government departments.
The outgoing army chief said that he wanted to “correct” some facts regarding the events of 1971. “1971 was not a military, but a political failure. Our army fought courageously in East Pakistan,” Bajwa said. He was addressing the Defence and Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Rawalpindi to pay tribute to martyrs.
Pakistan suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of India in the 1971 was that saw East Pakistan secede to form a new nation Bangladesh. The conflict ended with Pakistan’s Commander in the Eastern theatre Lt Gen AK Niazi signing the Instrument of Surrender in Dhaka and his troops laying down arms.
Gen Bajwa, 61, is scheduled to retire on November 29 after a three-year extension.
He also extended an olive branch to those targeting the army by saying that “I want to move forward by forgetting it”. He urged all stakeholders to move ahead by learning lessons from the past mistakes.
“I can assure you that there was no foreign conspiracy; the army would not have sat idle to let it happen if there was such a conspiracy,” he said, referring to allegations levelled by former Prime Minister Imran Khan of a plot to oust him from power.
He added that a “fake and false narrative was built to malign the army” and those behind the narrative were trying to escape from it.
The Defence and Martyrs’ Day is observed annually in Pakistan on September 6 but it was delayed this year due to the devastating floods that hit the country around that time.