Niazi forced to surrender ‘before people of Dhaka’: Jacob

March 29th, 2008 - 1:53 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, March 29 (IANS) The Pakistani general whose surrender signalled the liberation of Bangladesh, did so, much against his wishes, “before the people of Dhaka”, says the Indian officer who organised in 1971 modern history’s only public surrender by a vanquished force. Pakistan’s Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi was reluctant and wanted to discuss “only a ceasefire under the UN”. Later, he agreed to surrender, but in his office.

Niazi later claimed that he had been “blackmailed” into surrendering at a public ceremony, watched by thousands, at Dhaka’s Race Course (now Suhrawardy Udyan).

“But I did not blackmail him,” insists Lt. Gen. (retd.) J.F.R Jacob of the Indian Army to whom instructions from New Delhi were merely: “Go and get surrender”.

Jacob narrated the events of Dec 16, 1971, over 36 years after they happened, during his current visit at the invitation of Bangladesh Army Chief Gen. Moin U. Ahmed.

Niazi, unwilling to surrender and that too in public, relented after prolonged talks when told that there could be retaliation from angry people of Dhaka, The Daily Star said Saturday.

Giving Niazi 30 minutes to make up his mind, Jacob walked out. “Going back, I put the paper on his table and asked him, ‘Do you accept this document?’ For three times he didn’t answer and I picked it up and said (it’s) taken as accepted,” he went on.

During the negotiations, he also asked the Pakistani general to surrender his revolver. “He put a dirty little revolver. The lanyard was dirty and frayed in parts.”

In his book “Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation”, Jacob said he realised only later that the pistol was not Niazi’s. It was a normal army issue .38 revolver.

“The barrel was choked with muck and apparently had not been cleaned for some considerable time… More likely, Niazi had taken it from one of his military policemen and surrendered it as his personal weapon. I could not help feeling that in his own way, Niazi had got a little of his own back,” he wrote.

The surrender was before joint India-Bangladesh forces, to which Major General Rao Farman Ali of the Pakistan Army objected. Pakistanis, 93,000 officers and men, would surrender only to Indians, he said.

Jacob said the Pakistani officers were livid at the “humiliation” and swore that they would take “badla” (revenge).

In holding a public ceremony, the Indians were taking a risk too, with not many troops mobilised yet.

“I knew we had hardly any troops outside Dhaka and it was problematic for public surrender…But had it been better to be in safety and make him surrender in his office? No. I wanted him to face the people.”

Recollecting those historic moments, the architect of surrender ceremony said, “Niazi retorted, ‘Dhaka would fall over my dead body’. But I did it the way I thought it should be. I didn’t have any directives or instructions for it. Was it wrong, I ask you?”

Gen. M.A.G. Osmani, chief of Bangladeshi forces, could not be present at the surrender ceremony, a point that has rankled the Bangladeshis.

Jacob said Osmani was far away in Sylhet. A helicopter was sent, but he could not reach on time as the helicopter was shot at.

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