The strength of the army posted in East Pakistan in early 1971 was dismal – largely disorganised and badly equipped, but the mindset of most of the officers being pro-Pakistani exacerbated the situation as the country was heading towards the final struggle for freedom at that time.
Less than 10% of the 350,000- strong military establishment were East Pakistanis, and without the resources to improve soon.
Only about 5% of the officers were East Pakistanis, “Many of them might well opt to stay with West Pakistan,” the CIA said in a report dated March 1, 1971, describing the strength and weakness of an independent Bangladesh.
[caption id="attachment_52034" align="alignleft" width="796"] An assemblage of retired army personnel under the leadership of Col MAG Osmani at Baitul Mukarram, Dhaka, East Pakistan on March 22, 1971
Photo: Jalaluddin Haider Source: Muktijuddho E-Archive Trust[/caption]
The intelligence memorandum titled “East Pakistan: An Independent Nation?” was made public recently.
The CIA found that almost half of the East Pakistan army officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the East Bengal Regiment were not actually Bangalis.
They were “immigrants or descendants of immigrants from other parts of the subcontinent.”
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The highest ranking East Pakistani army officer was Lt Gen Khwaja Wasiuddin, one of the very few to reach general officer or flag rank.
“General Wasiuddin, for example, is descended from Kashmiris,” the report said.
The CIA anticipated that in the regular army, only the battalions of the East Bengal Regiment would presumably revert to Bangladesh as complete units.
Khwaja Wasiuddin was born in Dhaka's Nawab family on March 20, 1920. His mother Farhat Banu was a niece of Nawab Sir Salimullah.
[caption id="attachment_51352" align="alignleft" width="405"] Khwaja Wasiuddin, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, addresses the 37th regular session of the General Assembly, at UN Headquarters in New York on October 7, 1982. He was the highest ranking army officer from East Pakistan in 1971
According to Banglapedia, during the War of Liberation in 1971 Khwaja Wasiuddin was interned in West Pakistan. He returned to Bangladesh in 1974. He was initially appointed as the ambassador of Bangladesh to Kuwait and in 1976 as ambassador to France. He retired from the army in 1977.
He was appointed as permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and continued in this position till 1986.
Lack of equipment was another weakness, the CIA observed. “East Pakistan might end up with no more heavy equipment than five PT76 tanks, and even a distribution on current planned levels would give it a most two fighter squadrons, a few small patrol vessels, a minimum of armour.
“A system of STOL aircraft transport is presently in its infancy in East Pakistan,” the CIA document read.
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On the other hand, independent Bangladesh was supposed to inherit the 10,000-men East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) which had internal security, anti-smuggling, and border patrol missions.
There was also an estimated 800,000-man Ansars (helpers) force that has helped the police when needed.
But of the Ansars, only 1 lakh had “received any training and only 50,000 participate in the activities regularly,” the CIA said.
Moreover, the East Pakistan provincial police had an almost entirely Bangali force numbering about 32,000.
The Pakistani Army had attacked Peelkhana and Rajarbagh Police Lines simultaneously, as planned, at the beginning of the Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971, with an aim to disarming the EPR and the police since those were the key sources of armed strength of the Awami League.
Previous stories on the CIA CREST records:
CIA CREST records:
On January 17, the CIA published around 930,000 declassified documents to the standalone CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) system online, around 2,000 of which are about Bangladesh and erstwhile East Pakistan. Earlier, the records were only accessible in person at the National Archives Records Administration (NARA) in College Park, Maryland and through four computer terminals.
Since 1999, the CIA has regularly released its historical declassified records to the CREST system.
The documents on Bangladesh – 1,937 posted in December last year and 95 in January – include views of the CIA and the US’ Dhaka embassy about events related to politics, economy and Bangladesh ties with India and other countries.
On the other hand, the database includes 857 posts on erstwhile East Pakistan posted in December and 45 in January.