Hamoodur Rahman Commission
The Hamoodur Rahman Commission (otherwise known as "War Enquiry Commission"), was a judicial inquiry commission that assessed Pakistan's political–military involvement in East-Pakistan from 1947 to 1971. The Commission was set up on 26 December 1971 by the Government of Pakistan and chaired under the Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman.
Constituted "to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the atrocities and 1971 war", including the "circumstances in which the commander of the Eastern High Command, surrendered the Eastern contingent forces under his command laid down their arms."
The commission's final report was very lengthy and provided an analysis based extensive interviews and testimonies. Its primary conclusion was very critical of the role of Pakistan's military interference, the misconduct of politicians as well as the intelligence failures of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which permitted the infiltration of Indian agents all along the borders of East Pakistan.
Originally, there were 12 copies of the Report. These were all destroyed; except the one that was handed over to Government who disallowed its publication at the time. In 2000, parts of the commission report were leaked to Indian and Pakistani newspapers.
The full report was thought to be declassified by the government in 2000, along with other reports concerning the year of 1971. However, it was reported that the supplementary report based on testimonies of POWs was published, and the key portion of the report concerning the political and military issues remained classified and marked as "Top secret."
Formation of Commission
Upon consolidating the power, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announced to form the Commission under the Supreme Court's senior justices in December 1971. Constituted upon the request from the President, the Commission conducted evaluated and analytical studies to inquire into and find out "the circumstances in which the Commander, Eastern Command, surrendered and the members of the Armed Forces of Pakistan under his command laid down their arms and a ceasefire was ordered along the borders of West Pakistan and India and along the ceasefire line in the State of Jammu and Kashmir."
Initially, the commission was known as War Enquiry Commission but gained notability as "Hamoodur Rehman Commission" across the country. The Commission was led by its Chairman, Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman (a Bengali jurist), aided with the senior justices of the Supreme Court, and military officials as its advisers.
The Commission had consisted of both civilian and military officials that investigated the political and military failures based on the interviews and testimonies provided by the POWs, politicians, activists, military leaders, and journalists for two years. The Commission submitted its final Report in 1974.
- Supreme Court of Pakistan
Interviewees and testimonies (1972–74)
The Commission interviews and stored testimonies in both First and Supplementary Reports. In 1972, it was reported that around 213 officials were interviewed and testified that including Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In 1974, the Commission again resumed its work and interviewed 300 freed POWs and recorded 73 more bureaucrats' testimonies that served on government assignments in East Pakistan.
- Yahya Khan (1972)
- Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1972)
- Abdul Hamid Khan(1972)
- Gul Hasan (1972)
- A.O. Mitha(1972)
- Nurul Amin (1972)
- Abdul Rahim Khan (1972)
- Leslie Mungavin (1972)
- Tikka Khan (1972)
- Muzaffar Hassan (1972)
- Mitty Masud(1972)
- Syed Mohammad Ahsan(1972)
- Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (1974)
- Rao Farman Ali (1974)
- Mohammad Shariff (1974)
- Patrick Desmond Callaghan (1974)
- K.M. Arif (1972)
- Siddique Salik (1974)
- Rahimuddin Khan (1974)
- Mansurul Haq (1974)
In July 1972, the First Report was submitted to the Presidency by the Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman, which President Bhutto reviewed the First report. The Commission interviewed 213 persons of interest that included former president Yahya Khan, Nurul Amin, Abdul Hamid Khan (Chief of Army), Abdul Rahim Khan (Chief of Air Force), Muzaffar Hassan (Chief of Navy), Zulfikar Bhutto, senior commanders, activists, journalists, and various political leaders.
The Commission considered this initial report as "tentative" as it had not been able to interview many key people who were at that time POWs in India. The Commission stated: "our observations and conclusions regarding the surrender in East Pakistan and other allied matters should be regarded as provisional and subject to modification in the light of the evidence of the Commander, Eastern Command, and his senior officers as and when such evidence becomes available." Initially, the Commission interviewed 213 people involved in the debacle and made 12 copies of First Report. The First Report is said to be very lengthy and long since its evaluated and analyzed the political and military history of the country that encompasses from 1947 till 1971.
It is theorized that the First Report is very critical of Pakistan military's interference in politics and misconduct of politicians in country's political atmosphere. The First report also made many insightful recommendations for reorganizing the military physicals, tradition, and their syllabus and training agenda, educating the civil society on human rights as well as promoting the sense of democratization environment in the political system of the country.
When the First Report was submitted to the then-President Bhutto, the President wrote to the Chairman of War Enquiry Commission Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman, that the Commission has exceeded its limits. The Commission was appointed to look into the military "aspect of debacle", not the aspect of political failure; therefore, Bhutto classified the publications of the Commission and marked its report as "Top Secret". Out of 12 copies of the First Report, one of the copies was given to President Bhutto Bhutto and the rest were either destroyed or were stolen. The First Report recognized the atrocities and systematic massacre at the Dhaka University which eventually led to reccommendations of holding public trials for civilian bureaucrats and field courts-martial for the senior staff officers.
The First Report is never published and kept as highly classified documents because of its potentially adverse effects on military's (at that time) low-institutional morale and fear of a backlash. The Government and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself maintained that the First Report was classified to "save its [military's] honor."
In 1974, the Commission reopened its enquiry offering an opportunity to the prisoners of war who had been freed by India and Bangladesh by then and others repatriated from East Pakistan to furnish such information as might be within their knowledge and relevant to the purposes of the Commission. Commission held an informal meeting at Lahore on 3 June 1974 to consider various preliminary matters and then decided to resume proceedings at Abbottabad from 16 July 1974. After the investigation resumed in 1974 the commission interviewed with 73 more bureaucrats and high-ranked military personnel. The Commission examined nearly 300 witnesses in total, hundreds of classified documents and military signals between East and West Pakistan. The Supplementary Report is heavily based on testimonies provided by the returning POWs and their families but held the military responsible for the atrocities committed in East Pakistan in 1971.
The Commission endorsed the Pakistan's claim that: Families of West Pakistani officials in East Pakistan were subjected to inhumane treatment by their Bengali colleagues. The Final Report, also called Supplementary Report, was submitted on 23 October 1974, showed how political, administrative, military and moral failings were responsible for the surrender of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan. It remained classified and it contents were guessed from the revealing of different military officers. The report was organized into Five Chapters and an annexure.
- Chapter One – The Moral Aspect
- Chapter Two – Alleged atrocities by the Pakistan Army
- Chapter Three – Professional Responsibilities of Certain Senior Army Commanders
- Chapter Four – Conclusions
- Chapter Five – Recommendations
The commission challenged the claims by Bangladesh authorities that 3 million Bengalis had been killed by Pakistan army and 200,000 women were raped. The commission, put the casualty figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties.
Volume I of the main report dealt with political background, international relations, and military aspects of the events of 1971. Volume I of the supplementary report discussed political events of 1971, military aspect, surrender in East Pakistan and the moral aspect.
The Report's findings accuse the Pakistani Army of carrying out senseless and wanton arson, killings in the countryside, killing of intellectuals and professionals and burying them in mass graves, killing of Bengali Officers and soldiers on the pretence of quelling their rebellion, killing East Pakistani civilian officers, businessmen and industrialists, raping a large number of East Pakistani women as a deliberate act of revenge, retaliation and torture, and deliberate killing of members of the Hindu minority. The report accused the generals of what it called a premature surrender and said the military's continued involvement in running the government after 1958 was one reason for the corruption and ineffectiveness of senior officers. 'Even responsible service officers,' the report said, 'have asserted before us that because of corruption resulting from such involvement, the lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior army officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions, had lost not only their will to fight but also their professional competence.' The report said Pakistan's military ruler at the time, General Yahya Khan, who stepped down after Pakistan's defeat in December 1971, 'permitted and even instigated' the surrender, and it recommended that he be publicly tried along with other senior military colleagues.
The report accused General Yahya Khan, of being a womanizer and an alcoholic. According to the report "Firm and proper action would not only satisfy the nation's demand for punishment where it is deserved, but would also ensure against any future recurrence of the kind of shameful conduct displayed during the 1971 war".
The commission recommended that General Yahya Khan, Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army and Chief Martial Law Administrator that time, General Abdul Hamid Khan, Lieutenant General S.G.M.M. Pirzada, Lieutenant General Gul Hasan, Major-General Umar and Major General Mitha, commandant of Army SS Group, should be publicly tried for being party to a criminal conspiracy to illegally usurp power from Mohammad Ayub Khan in power if necessary by the use of force. Five other Lieutenant-Generals and three Brigadier-Generals were recommended to be tried for willful neglect of duty. These were Lieutenant-Generals included A.A.K. Nazi, Mohammad Jamshed, M. Rahim Khan, Irshad Ahmad Khan, B.M. Mustafa and Brigadier-Generals G.M. Baquir Siddiqui, Mohammad Hayat and Mohammad Aslam Niazi.
According to the commission General Mustafa's offensive plan aimed at the capture of the Indian position of Ramgarh in the Rajasthan area (Western Front) was militarily unsound and haphazardly planned, and its execution resulted in severe loss of vehicles and equipment in the desert.
The final report was submitted on 23 October 1974 by Chief Justice Hamood Rahman to the Prime minister Secretariat to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Following its submission, Bhutto classified the entire report as he was afraid that the report, which was highly critical to the role of Pakistan Defence Forces (especially Army) in politics, would contribute furthermore demoralization and humiliation in Pakistan Armed Forces. However, in 1975, Bhutto told Chief Justice Rahman that the report was either lost or stolen from the Prime minister Secretariat's record section, and it was nowhere to be found. Chief Justice Rehman then turned to Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq for the apprehension of the report to make it published in public. General Zia-ul-Haq also commented that the original report is nowhere to be found, and nobody knows where the report actually went missing. It was in 2000, when Pakistan Media on aired the news that the report was actually stored at the Generals Headquarter (GHQ), the Combatant headquarter of Pakistan Army. The report was later found in Army's report and records section by the Chief of Staff of the office. The media also quoted it was General Zia-ul-Haq who had given standing orders to the members of the Naval Intelligence who stole the report and submitted the report to him.
No action was ever taken based on this report, the report was classified and its publication disallowed at the time. General Yahya Khan died in 1980, but some of his key colleagues were living in retirement on pensions as of 2000. Parts of the report were leaked and published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day Pakistan's leading English language newspaper Dawn Newspapers also published the supplementary report. General Pervez Musharraf said in October 2000 that the incidents in 1971 were a political as well as a military debacle, and that calls for generals to be tried were not fair. Subsequently Bangladesh requested a copy of the report. In December 2000, 29 years after the inquiry was completed, the full commission report was finally declassified in Pakistan by President Musharraf's Military government.
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