In conversation with Lt. Gen. Amjad Shoaib - My unit was engaging the Indian army at Rajisthan sector when the news of surrender reached the eastern border. It was a moment of great sorrow. We would talk less and did not eat much for many days.

We had some Bangali officers and soldiers fighting from our side against the Indians. As the war intensified and there were reports about possible separation of East Pakistan, the Bengali soldiers led by Major Abdul Mannan crossed the border in the night to join the Indian army. They were around 14 in number also including a Captain.

It was a great setback for our troops as Major Mannan was holding vital information with him which could place our forces in the disadvantageous position. It was he who supervised the whole operation of laying the land mines inside the border. He knew their exact location and the safe passages to avoid them.  Those who were fighting against the Indians along with us a day before were fighting against us the next day. It was a strange feeling and quite depressing for us. We suspected this to happen but just could not disengage them as we were short of troops.

There were around 10 per cent Bengali soldiers in the Western Command and 20 per cent in the Eastern Command at the time of unrest in East Pakistan. Nonetheless, the East Bengal Regiment comprised 80 per cent Bengalis and 20 per cent non-Bengalis.

The Indians occupied one of our positions but later vacated it on their own after cessation of war. There was no use holding it because the place had no water.   

Many factors led to the separation of East Pakistan and the consequent humiliating defeat at the hands of India. Our treatment of Bengalis on the whole had not been fair since independence. They were regarded as second-rate citizens though conditions for Bengali soldiers and officers in the Pakistan army were somewhat better. In the beginning, they had only desired provincial autonomy within the constitution. The rebellion however started when the session of the newly elected National Assembly was called off. They took it as a sign of confirmation that West Pakistan was not willing to accede to their six-points.

It was failure of negotiations between Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman and Z.A Bhutto which incited rebellion in the eastern wing. It also happened due to apathy of both military and political leadership in West Pakistan to realize the severity of the situation and resolve the issue through negotiations. 

The Eastern Command was left with no option but to take military action to save its soldiers and other non-Bengalis from Mukti Bahini attacks. When the army had quelled the rebellion in Dhaka, it should have been followed by negotiations for a political patch-up between the two sides. But it did not happen yet again.

Yahya Khan, who was holding real power in West Pakistan at the time, should have invited Sheikh Mujeeb to form the government. Had we agreed to form a confederation with East Pakistan, the separation could have been avoided.

Yahya Khan was in fact under the influence of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who played a dubious role in the whole episode. As a matter of fact, Yahya Khan called off the session under pressure from Bhutto who was also acting as country’s foreign minister at the time under an interim arrangement.  The ANP leadership in the frontier province was also not sincere with the country. They were seeking help from India for creation of Pakhtunistan.

The surrender decision of General Niazi is also questionable. Being in-charge of the Eastern Command, it was his responsibility to protect his soldiers and the non-Bengali population there. He could have moved his forces towards Burma as a last resort to save the army.  

Lack of democracy was another reason for the debacle. Had there been democracy in the country from the very beginning, the situation would have been different. As he told Mubashir Hassan