Month of Victory: Pakistan decides to surrender

Bhutto walks out of UN Security Council

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December 15, 1971, marked a critical point in the Liberation War of Bangladesh as it was on this day that Pakistan decided to surrender.

The allied forces of India and Bangladesh were on the verge of capturing Dhaka, while then-Pakistan Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto walked out of the UN Security Council after Pakistan suffered setbacks over two crucial draft resolutions on the war.

One of the draft resolutions was on the comprehensive settlement of the crisis and helping to bring about an end to humanitarian problems, while the other called for a peaceful transfer of power to the lawfully elected representatives of the people in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and the withdrawal of troops. 

The day before Bhutto was set to address the Security Council, US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had warned him that the next 48 hours would be decisive. On the day of the speech, Bhutto was visibly flustered and in complete denial of Bangabandhu’s landslide victory in the 1970 general election.

"So what if Dhaka falls? So what if the whole of East Pakistan falls? So what if the whole of West Pakistan falls? We will build a new Pakistan. We will build a better Pakistan. I am talking as the authentic leader of the people of West Pakistan, who elected me at the polls in a more impressive victory than the victory of Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan, but he did not take cognizance of it,” Bhutto said.

“Why should I waste my time here, I will go back to my country and fight. We will fight for a thousand years,” he added.

He claimed India had been “intoxicated” by its military successes and that the UN Security Council was “legalizing aggression,” before tearing up his notes in a dramatic manner and leaving the chamber.

A supplementary report by the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, which was formed to identify the reasons behind Pakistan’s defeat in the Liberation War, was made public in 2002. The full report has never been published.

According to the supplementary report, the Pakistan military high command and President Yahya Khan were at a loss over what to do on December 15. The fate of the war had been all but decided, and Pakistan’s impending defeat was abundantly clear.

Although no official surrender order was issued, General Abdul Hamid Khan, Chief of General Staff of the Pakistan army and based in Rawalpindi, sent a message to Chief of Eastern Command General AK Niazi that said: “You are free to take a decision on your own, but my advice would be to accept the terms and conditions given by the Indian force.”

Indian army chief General SHFJ Manekshaw was himself keen to end the hostilities and had been repeatedly urging the Pakistan occupation forces in Bangladesh to surrender.

He also provided the radio frequencies on which the Pakistani command could contact General Jagjit Singh Aurora’s headquarters to coordinate the surrender.

Manekshaw also assured Niazi that all action over Dhaka would cease from 5pm on December 15 till 9am on December 16. At General Niazi’s request, the deadline for surrender was later extended till 3pm on December 16.

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