At What Point Was East Pakistan Lost?
By Ali Hassnain
It is said, people who do not learn from history are condemned to relive it. Studying history reminds one of another saying: biggest lesson that one can learn from history is that no one learns from history.
Research into the loss of East Pakistan has been deficient. But leave aside East Pakistan, there is no consensus among historians even about the exact time India was lost to the East India Company, or even at what point defeat became inevitable for the Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
At what point Hitler lost the war? Attack on Soviet Union? Turning to Leningrad instead of Moscow or Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour instead of the Soviets? It’s a historical debate but I think the turning towards Stalingrad can be termed the decisive point. From then on it became a different story; even the capture of Moscow might or might not have averted the victory of the Allies.
And, for us, the million dollar question is: At what point was East Pakistan lost?
I believe it was the point when President Ayub was forced (mostly by the West Pakistan political leadership) to pardon Agartala Conspiracy accused in the name of supposed civilian supremacy. It happened due to the unelected political leadership’s ego and short sightedness.
India was trying to make inroads into East Pakistan to stir up unrest since 1965. From 1966-67 they conspired. One day all the major leadership which included all of the top Indian intelligence agents in the East Pakistan met in the city of Agartala in the Indian State of Tripura. They planned a rebellion where in one swift move pro-Pakistani leaders and forces would be butchered and East Pakistan would secede.
Pakistani intelligence promptly reported that meeting right down to petty details. President Ayub immediately ordered an arrest and military trial of the accused.
It would have been the end of it. All the Indian intelligence agents and KGB working in East Pakistan for decades would turn to dust. Unfortunately when the trial started in 1968, President Ayub was weak, both physically and (especially) politically.
Politicians had a score to settle with him. Looking at Ayub’s old speeches one can see a dignified man trying to reason in vain. To settle their own scores they must degrade. What better way than to have a slogan of “No Mujib No Talk” (on democracy and elections) by politicians of West Pakistan. It was led by Nawabzada Nasrullah in name, Z. A. Bhutto in field and EBDO effected politicians like Doltana and company. Ayub tried to reason with them in vain. To his horror it turned out he had to pardon all the accused. After 1971 all of them proudly admitted to the conspiracy.
A deputy speaker of Bangladesh’s parliament, Shoukat Karim proudly admitted everything and bragged about it in 2010, that too in Bangladeshi parliament.
Another accused and later Bangladesh parliamentarian confessed that had the conspiracy become a success, East Pakistan would have instantly seceded.
That was one change where all the traitors could have been taken out in one sweeping military trial. That summary trial would have saved tens of thousands of life. It was the point where we lost the chance to save a united Pakistan.