May 5, 1971
The Pakistani government said today that news of slaughter carried out by Awami League members in East Pakistan before March 25 “has been kept strictly secret for fear of reprisals in West Pakistan”.
An official statement said “thousands of bodies have so far been found in Chittagong and Khulna alone”. It added that “a large number of casualties” has also been reported from three other areas.
The eight-page statement recapitulated the official government version of the East Pakistan crisis.
‘WAR WITH INDIA POSSIBLE’
The chief of Pakistan’s military intelligence service portrayed his nation today as facing large Indian military forces along the frontiers and said he could not discount the possibility of war.
Maj Gen Mohammad Akbar Khan told a group of foreign news correspondents that India had moved two and a half divisions of men (a division has about 30,000 men), mountain and airborne brigades, fighter, bomber and air transport units and her navy to supplement Indian forces already close to Pakistan’s border.
He said with the Indian Army’s regular strength around East Pakistan’s borders, India’s total army strength there was more than five divisions with a sixth in readiness nearby.
Yesterday, General Akbar Khan said the Indian Air Force placed six fields near East Pakistan on war alert, to which Pakistan responded by ordering an alert of her own.
General Akbar Khan commented, “Short of open war, India has taken everything possible available to it against us. We cannot rule out the possibility of war now, although we have no wish for it. In any case, we are ready.”
The general regretted the inconvenience caused to newsmen by censorship but he sharply criticised foreign reporting of events in East Pakistan. He said censorship was necessary to preserve internal security.
General Akbar said he felt that many articles by foreign newsmen had distorted facts and “maligned our wonderful army tradition”.
On March 26, as the Operation Searchlight began, foreign newsmen were expelled to West Pakistan and their notes and film were seized. Newsmen had since entered East Pakistan by crossing the Indian frontier.
General Akbar Khan denied that large numbers of civilian Pakistani refugees had fled to India.
“According to signals we intercepted two days ago, about 37,000 refugees, nearly all of whom are miscreants and common criminals, have crossed into India. India, which has a great many hungry people, claims there are one million refugees over there in order to get international help in feeding them.”
DISAGREEMENT ON PLAN TO RETURN DIPLOMATIC STAFF
A tentative agreement between India and Pakistan on repatriation of their diplomatic staffs in Dhaka and Kolkata had bogged down over a Pakistani demand that India considers unreasonable.
Under the agreement two days ago, Pakistani diplomats in Kolkata and Indian diplomats in Dhaka would have been flown to their home countries at 11:00am today.
Two Soviet planes were standing by at Tashkent to airlift the Indian diplomats back to New Delhi, and an Iranian plane was reportedly standing by at an unknown airport to carry the Pakistani diplomats to Karachi.
But Pakistan said today that the repatriation could not take place until a Pakistani representative had interviewed individually “each and every member” of Pakistan’s former deputy high commission in Kolkata to ascertain which ones did not wish to return to Pakistan
RECOGNITION: SMALL NATIONS MAY TAKE THE LEAD
Sir S Ramgoolam, prime minister of Mauritius who was visiting London, gave sympathetic hearing to the plight of Bangladesh. But the question of the recognition of Bangladesh by Mauritius depended on the lead from the big powers although some small countries were consulting each other as well as the big powers on whether the latter would help the situation if they took the lead.
Shamsuddoza Sajen is a journalist and researcher. He can be contacted at email@example.com