170. Telegram From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State 1
Dacca, October 20, 1971, 1400Z.
4498. Subj: East Pakistan Insurgency—Evaluation.
- Summary. East Pakistan insurgency has increased in tempo and geographic scope in last three months. Still unable challenge Pakistan army in urban areas, but shows increasing capability carry out ambushes and hit-and-run attacks in certain areas, while limited to minor sabotage elsewhere. Govt efforts reduce popular support by “civilianization” and general amnesty unsuccessful, except possibly among middle class in cities. Future course of insurgency will depend heavily on (a) Indian support, (b) tenacity of Islamabad Govt, (c) quality of Bengali leadership (Sheikh Mujib or other emerging leader). In meantime insurgency successfully disrupting major economic activities especially exports.
- Over past three months East Pakistan insurgency has increased in intensity and widened its geographic scope of operations. Concentrating in the rural areas, with only token activity in cities (exception [Page 474] has been systemic and repeated disruption of power supply to Chittagong), Mukti Bahini (MB) have stepped up their disruption of roads, bridges, railroad lines in most parts of the country. In some districts, notably Dacca, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Bakarganj, MB seems able move about almost at will and appears even to have set up parallel administration at some points. Evidence on hand suggests that insurgents are better armed than formerly, (automatic weapons, mortars, heavier explosives) and increasingly able undertake sophisticated operations (mining of ships, effective sabotage of bridges, etc.). In central and southern districts mentioned, MB has demonstrated aggressiveness and skill in ambush operations against Razakars (voluntary home guards) and army, occasionally inflicting significant casualties. Areas other than those cited above, MB activities largely confined destruction of bridges, culverts, railway lines, apparently avoiding contact with govt forces.
- Critical factor in increased insurgent capability up to now has been Indian support in form of training on Indian territory, supply, and assistance in infiltration into East Pakistan. Moreover, by adopting forward military posture on East Pak borders, Indians have pinned bulk of Pak army regular troops in border areas, so that internal defense against MB operations has devolved principally upon Razakars, police, and other para-military or semi-volunteer organizations which are less efficient than regular army and considerably less reliable. (Several reports received of defections, both individually and en masse, of Razakars to MB, taking their weapons with them; one report received that group of Razakars suspected of collaborating with MB were summarily executed by military [garble] explanation frequently cited by GOEP officials for alleged recent intensification Indian shelling border areas is provision of cover for large scale infiltrations of newly-trained MB into EP.) EP press regularly carries accounts massive captures Indian-origin weapons and ammunition from infiltrating “Indian agents” allegedly intercepted after crossing border. While virtually overt and acknowledged support of India by MB is undoubtedly important factor in sustaining latter and making possible its increased activity, we believe MB now sufficiently established in many areas of country and has sufficient cohesion to sustain itself even if India cut down its support to level which could be maintained by truly covert means. Continued Indian support at present levels will inevitably further extend MB range of operations.
- Up to now and for reasonably foreseeable future MB not likely present dangerous threat to Pak army, despite probable increases in numbers and scope of activity. In contrast with situation in Viet-Nam, MB does not possess redoubt in which it can concentrate masses of supplies and weapons, nor are there protected trails through which large quantities heavy equipment can reach them from easily accessible [Page 475] seaport. For many months to come Pak army will certainly retain advantage in equipment and training on other hand, even at present level of activity, MB is serious thorn in armyʼs side. We have no means of accurate assessment of army casualties, but indications are that figure may run as high as 10 to 12 killed daily, with corresponding number of wounded. While not in itself crippling to Pak army contingent in EP, these figures over extended period of time could create serious morale problem among troops far from home, living among unfriendly people and in difficult and wearing climate. Concern felt by MLA authorities in Dacca is evidenced by precautions being taken to protect vulnerable points in city. Brick walls with rifle or machine gun ports being constructed entirely around airport, electric power stations, etc., while sandbagged strong points set up at many places along principal streets. Security check points maintained along main roads, and occasionally set up unexpectedly at other places. Series of pillboxes and fortifications have been installed along northern rim of Gulshan residential area.
- Economy of EP slowly but surely declining as MB keep up pressure on roads, bridges, railroads, powerlines and fuel supplies. Dacca 40322 presents latest overall picture with no improvement noted since.
- To extent that “civilianization” and general amnesty were intended damp insurgent activities, they have demonstrably failed. While weariness and desire for “peace at almost any price” apparent among middle class urban groups, we have impression that younger Bengalis, particularly those in countryside, are entrenched in their detestation of Islamabad Government and bitterness against Pak army. These attitudes reinforced by persisting reports atrocities and indiscriminate retaliation carried out by government forces, principally army or Razakars, to point where even many conservative Bengalis see no other outcome than to drive army out by force.
- Such slim evidence as we possess indicates greater overall organization among MB, including recently-reported (Dacca 4374)3 setting up of Mukti Bahini as kind of civil defense force. Problems of coordination and communication persist, with some units apparently following different lines of action and policy. Recent CAS reports indicate awareness on part of MB of danger of such radical insurgent groups as Naxalites to overall unity of movement. On other hand there have also been reports of differences of opinion between MB and group of Bangla Desh politicians at Calcutta. While we still believe that Sheikh [Page 476] Mujib, released and allowed freedom of action, could assert control over MB and use it as disciplined instrument of his policy, longer he is restrained more likely we consider it that new leadership will emerge from among MB which, tempered by fighting and action-oriented, might one day challenge both Mujib and old Awami League leadership for primacy in independent or largely autonomous East Bengal. Orientation such eventual leadership on right—left spectrum impossible to predict at present.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–9 PAK. Confidential. Repeated to Islamabad, New Delhi, Calcutta, and Karachi.↩
- Telegram 4032 from Dacca, September 27, summarized the economic disruption occurring in East Pakistan as a result of the insurgency. (Ibid., E 8 PAK)↩
- Dated October 13. (Ibid., POL 23–9 PAK)↩