|Participant in the Bangladesh Liberation War|
The Bangladeshi nationalist flag in 1971, widely used by the Mukti Bahini guerillas
|Groups||Bangladesh Armed Forces, Z Force, K Force, S Force, Mujib Bahini, Kader Bahini, Hemayet Bahini|
|Leaders||M. A. G. Osmani, Commander-in-Chief
M Abdur Rob, Chief of Staff
A K Khandker, Deputy Chief of Staff
|Area of operations||Bangladesh|
|Battles and wars||Battle of Gazipur, Battle of Goalhati, Battle of Garibpur, Battle of Dhalai, Battle of Rangamati, Battle of Kushtia, Battle of Daruin, Operation Barisal, Operation Jackpot (partial list)|
The Mukti Bahini (Bengali: মুক্তি বাহিনী meaning Liberation Army) were the guerilla and regular armed forces of Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan. It was compromised of defecting Bengali regiments from the Pakistani military, paramilitary and police; as well as thousands of Bengali civilians, particularly students and political activists. Its members are known in Bangladesh as Freedom Fighters.
The Mukti Bahini divided the war zone into eleven sectors. It was an effective and successful guerilla force, conducting numerous offensive campaigns, including regular ambush and sabotage operations. It achieved significant military gains in the initial months of the war, when Pakistan struggled to assert authority over the region. The Mukti Bahini controlled much of the countryside, where Pakistani forces were unable to venture out from their barracks and cities at night. It continued a sustained assault on Pakistani military and government installations. It became part of the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces in the December campaign, being instrumental in securing the spectacular allied victory over Pakistan.
The Mukti Bahini has been compared with the French Maquis and the Vietnamese Viet Cong for its style of guerilla warfare. It received support and training from the neighboring India's armed forces, with bases in the Indian states of Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Tripura. After the war, the force was succeeded by the Bangladesh Armed Forces.
The Mukti Bahini consisted of Bengali military and paramilitary personnel (including entire regiments which defected from the Pakistan Armed Forces) and thousands of Bengali civilians (including people from a cross section of society, especially youth) in response to the Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971.
When the Pakistan Army started the military crackdown on the Bengali population, they did not expect a prolonged resistance. But a large number of Bengali members of the East Bengal Regiments (EBR), East Pakistan Rifles (EPR, later BDR, BGB), police, other paramilitary forces, students and other civilians started resistance against the Pakistan Army. With the formation of Bangladesh government on 17 April 1971, Colonel M. A. G. Osmani (later General) was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of all Bangladesh Forces. The members of EBR, EPR, police and other paramilitary forces were later called "regular force" or "niomito bahini".
During a conference of sector commanders held from 11 to 17 July 1971 held at Kolkata, the forces were further organized and the command was set up with Col. Abdullah as the commander-in-chief (C-in-C) with the status of a cabinet minister, Lt. Col., Mubariz Ali(ex-SSG Commando Pakistan Army) as the Chief of Staff (COS), Group Captain A K Khandker as the Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) and Major A R Chowdhury as the Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS). Bangladesh was divided into eleven sectors. Sector commanders were in charge of conducting guerrilla operations and training fighters. The 10th Sector was under the command of C-in-C Osmany and included the Naval Commandos and C-in-C's special force.
During this conference some major initiatives were taken to organize the Mukti Bahini. This meeting was focused to discuss different problems and future course of action. In this conference Lt. Col. M A Rabb was appointed the Chief-of-staff and Group Captain A K Khandaker was appointed the Deputy Chief-of-staff. The important issues that were discussed during this conference are:
- Define the boundary of different sectors
- Organize guerrilla warfare by the following ways:
- A group of 5-10 trained fighters would be sent inside Bangladesh with specific instructions
- Guerrilla fighters will be classified as:
- Guerrilla base: each base would provide food, medicine and accommodation of the guerrilla fighters.
- Action group: members of this group would take part in frontal attacks, 50~100% of them would carry arms
- Intelligence: members of this group would gather enemy information, they would not take part in frontal attacks, 30% of them would carry arms
- The regular force would be immediately organized as battalion force and sector troops.
- Military attacks against the enemy would be carried out by the following ways:
- A large number of guerrilla fighters would be sent inside Bangladesh to carry out raid and ambush at every convenient places
- Industries would be shut down by disrupting electric supply
- Pakistanis would not be allowed to export any raw materials or manufactured goods and the warehouse would be destroyed
- The railways and boats used to carry enemy soldiers and enemy military instruments would be destroyed
- The war strategy should be to force the enemy to disperse
- After dispersing the enemy the smaller groups would be attacked by the guerrilla fighters
Besides the eleven sectors, the combatants were also divided and reorganized into several groups:
- Regular army battalion ("niomito bahini", নিয়মিত বাহিনী)
- Sector troops
- Irregular force or freedom fighters ("oniomito bahini", অনিয়মিত বাহিনী)
In addition, some independent forces fought in various regions of Bangladesh. These included the Mujib Bahini, organized by Major General Oban of the Indian Army and Student League leaders Serajul Alam Khan, Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani, Kazi Arif Ahmed, Abdur Razzak, Tofael Ahmed, A. S. M. Abdur Rab, Shahjahan Siraj, Nur E Alam Siddiqi, and Abdul Quddus Makhon and the Kaderia Bahini under Kader Siddique of Tangail. Kaderia Bahini also created a volunteer group to help his Bahini. Some other groups of freedom fighters were controlled by the Leftist parties and groups including the NAP and Communist Parties. A strong guerrilla force led by Siraj Sikder fought several battles with the Pakistani soldiers in Payarabagan, Barisal. Three brigades were created by Ziaur Rahman, Khaled Mosharraf and K M Shafiullah by the name of Z-force, K-force and S-force. A young guerrilla group named "Crack Platoon" did some courageous guerrilla attacks in the Dhaka city that attracted several international media at that time.
List of Sectors and Subsectors
During the Liberation war, Bangladesh was geographically divided into eleven areas known as sectors. Each sector had sector commander who coordinated the military operations through sub-sector commanders. The sector commanders were officers of Pakistan army who joined Mukti Bahini. Table below lists all the sectors and sector commanders with their sub-commanders and geographical locations.
|Sectors of Bangladesh Liberation War|
|Sector||Area||Sector Commander||Sub Sectors (Commanders)|
|1||Chittagong District, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the entire eastern area of the Noakhali District on the banks of the river Muhuri. The headquarters of the sector was at Harina.||• Major Ziaur Rahman (April 10, 1971 – June 25, 1971)
• Captain Rafiqul Islam (June 28, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
|2||Districts of Dhaka, Comilla, and Faridpur, and part of Noakhali District.||• Major Khaled Mosharraf (April 10, 1971 – September 22, 1971)
• Major ATM Haider (Sector Commander September 22, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
|3||Area between Churaman Kathi (near Sreemangal) and Sylhet in the north and Singerbil of Brahmanbaria in the south.||• Major K. M. Shafiullah (April 10, 1971 – July 21, 1971)
• Captain ANM Nuruzzaman (July 23, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
|4||Area from Habiganj District on the north to Kanaighat Police Station on the south along the 100 mile long border with India. The headquarters of the sector was initially at Karimganj and later at Masimpur.||• Major Chittarajan Datta (April 10, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
• Captain A Rab
|5||Area from Durgapur to Dawki (Tamabil) of Sylhet District and the entire area up to the eastern borders of the district. The headquarters of the sector was at Banshtala.||• Major Mir Shawkat Ali (April 10, 1971 – February 14, 1972)||
|6||Rangpur District and part of Dinajpur District. The headquarters of the sector was at Burimari near Patgram.||• Wing Commander M Khademul Bashar (April 1971 – February 14, 1972)||
|7'||Rajshahi, Pabna, Bogra and part of Dinajpur District. The headquarters of the sector was at Taranngapur.||• Major Nazmul Huq (April 10 – August 20, 1971)
• Major Quazi nooruzzaman (August 21 – February 14, 1972)
• Subedar Major A Rab
|8||In April 1971, the operational area of the sector comprised the districts of Kushtia, Jessore, Khulna, Barisal, Faridpur and Patuakhali. At the end of May the sector was reconstituted and comprised the districts of Kuhstia, Jessore, Khulna, Satkhira and the northern part of Faridpur district. The headquarters of the sector was at Benapole.||• Major Abu Osman Chowdhury (April 10 – July 17, 1971)
• Major Abul Manzoor (August 14, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
|9||Barisal, Patuakhali, and parts of the district of Khulna and Faridpur.||• Major M A Jalil (July 17 – December 24, 1971)
• Major MA Manzur
• Major Joynal Abedin
|10||This sector was constituted with the naval commandos.||• Commander HQ BD Forces (December 3–16, 1971)||None.|
|11||Mymensingh and Tangail along with parts of Rangpur - Gaibandha, Ulipur, Kamalpur and Chilmari. The headquarters of the sector was at Teldhala until October 10, then transferred to Mahendraganj.||• Major Ziaur Rahman (June 26, 1971 – October 10, 1971;
• Major Abu Taher (October 10, 1971 – November 2, 1971;
• Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan) (November 2, 1971 – February 14, 1972)
From October 10 until November 2, 1971, Major Abu Taher was temporarily appointed to this Sector as Major Zia was abruptly ordered to move with his Brigade to Sylhet Region. Due to accidental injury he suffered in his leg, he was transferred to Pune, India for treatment)
Awards given to Mukti Bahini sepoys
The Bir Sreshtho (Bengali: বীরশ্রেষ্ঠ) (The Most Valiant Hero), is the highest award given to those who show utmost bravery and die in action for their nation. It was awarded to seven Mukti Bahini fighters. They were:
- Ruhul Amin
- Mohiuddin Jahangir
- Mostafa Kamal
- Hamidur Rahman
- Munshi Abdur Rouf
- Nur Mohammad Sheikh
- Matiur Rahman
The Mukti Bahini's central command were annoyed at the formation of militias like the Mujib Bahini and Kader Bahini, which were supported by Indian intelligence services. These militias consisted of radical left-wing cadres. They became a parallel force and operated outside the command of the provisional government and the military leadership. These militias were also responsible for ruthless revenge attacks against Urdu-speaking civilians. For example, members of the Kader Bahini, led by Abdul Kader Sidique, attacked Biharis in Dhaka after the Pakistani surrender on 16 December.
On 16 December 1971, the allied forces of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army defeated the Pakistan Army deployed in the East. The resulting surrender was the largest in number of prisoners of war since World War II. Mukti Bahini was succeeded by the Bangladesh Armed Forces.
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Ayub, Muhammad (2005). An Army, its Role and Rule: A History of the Pakistan Army from Independence to Kargil 1947–1999. Pittsburgh: RoseDog Books. ISBN 0-8059-9594-3.