Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi

Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi HJ, MC ,(Urdu: ); c. 1915 - 2 February 2004), was a 3-Star rank army general officer in the Pakistan Army, and a commander of Pakistan Armed Forces in the East Pakistan who, in 1971, as a Lieutenant General, was in charge of Eastern contingent of the Pakistani Army during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.

He is held responsible by some within the Pakistan Military for having surrendered his forces of nearly 93,000 men to the joint forces of India and Mukti Bahini (Bangladesh Forces) at a time when joint forces were preparing to lay siege on Dhaka and thus, bringing to close the Liberation War. General Niazi had, however, always insisted that he had acted according to the orders of the West-Pakistan Military High Command. Following the war, Niazi was made a scapegoat and blamed for much of Pakistan's massive human rights violations in Bangladesh (he was personally indicted of smuggling and rape by the Hamoodur-Rehman commission) as well as the military and strategic losses during the war. He was subsequently relieved of his position in the army. Throughout the remainder of his life, Niazi had sought court-martial to prove his innocence, but was never charged. Before his death, he authored the book "The Betrayal of East Pakistan".

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Early life

Born to a family in the Punjab province, British India, Niazi enlisted in the British Indian Army as a junior officer, and fought well during World War II. During this conflict, the young Niazi would win a Military Cross and be given the nickname "Tiger" by his superior officer due to his prowess in battle against Japanese forces. His Military Cross was earned for actions along the border with Burma, in which he showed great leadership, judgement, quick-thinking, and calmness under pressure.

He joined the newly-formed Pakistani Army after the partition of India in 1947 and quickly rose through the ranks, earning various awards including the Hilal-i-Jurat twice. He commanded 5 Punjab during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, 14 Para Brigade during operations in Kashmir and Sialkot, and martial law administrator of Karachi and Lahore.[1] By 1971 he had reached the rank of Lieutenant-General.

East Pakistan

He was sent in April 1971 to East Pakistan, following a Pakistani military crackdown on Bengali intellectuals. Niazi himself volunteered for the job of military commander of East Pakistan, when many other officers of Pakistan Army were cautious on the posting. The army leader in East Pakistan at that time, Tikka Khan, was thought to be behind the implementation of the crackdown. Despite this, the situation in East Pakistan was difficult, as Bengali forces in the Pakistani Army had gone into mutiny, large segments of the population were hostile, and an independence movement was gaining steam among the Bengalis. Despite this, Niazi was able to reaffirm Pakistani control over wide parts of East Pakistani territory, opening the window for a political solution to the turmoil - this would not come to fruition.

There is no evidence that Niazi really condemned the crackdown of 25 March 1971, dubbed Operation Searchlight ordered by Tikka Khan. It was only after returning to Pakistan as empty-handed prisoner of war did Niazi criticize Tikka and Rao Farman. Niazi himself admitted that he raised the Razakar forces, who were employed against the Mukti Bahini (guerilla forces) and were used to kill, terrorize people and destroy rural villages. His vows against the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini were notorious. The crackdown against the Bengalis had gone too far, and the result saw Pakistani forces involved in a guerrilla war with the Bengali Mukti Bahini, who were aided by India. After a preemptive strike on the Indian territories in the western front, a full-scale invasion of East Pakistan by India resulted in isolation for Niazi's forces being ambushed by the Mukti Bahini, and with the absence of external aid, eventual surrender.

Surrender

On 16 December 1971, General Niazi surrendered the 93,000 Pakistani forces in East Pakistan to General Jagjit Singh Aurora General-Officer-Commanding In-Chief of the Indian and Mukti Bahini Allied Forces just after 1300 casualties from the Pakistani side. Niazi signed the instrument of surrender resulting in his surrender along with a sizeable number of Pakistani soldiers and civilians who were taken prisoners (upwards of 93,000 including about 34000 regular army soldiers). This was the largest number of POWs since World War II and included some government officials. Most would remain in captivity for more than three years after the conflict ended as they were to be tried for crimes such as rape and murder of the Bengali populace. Niazi was symbolically the last prisoner of war to cross back to Pakistan. Such actions symbolized his reputation as a "soldier's general" but did not shield him from the scorn he faced upon his return to Pakistan, where he was made a scapegoat for the surrender. Niazi was stripped of his military rank, and the pension usually accorded to retired soldiers.

The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report revealed that Niazi was guilty of several misconducts during his tenure as martial law administrator in East Pakistan. It confirmed that the General was indulging in paan (chewing tobacco) smuggling from East to West Pakistan and sexual excesses, including, possibly rape as stated by witnesses.[2] In order to clear his name, Niazi sought a court martial, but it was never granted. The former general would try to take up politics in order to clear himself, but he was jailed in order to quell such actions. In 1998 he released The Betrayal of East Pakistan where he blamed Yahya Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for the separation of East Pakistan. Niazi did not accept Hamoodur Rahman report as he believed that it was prepared by one of the guilty parties (Bhutto) and that it was no alternative to a court-martial, where accused persons are allowed to defend themselves, bring in witnesses, cross examine etc. Niazi claimed that a court-martial would have brought out the names of those who later rose to unthinkable heights, as it is easier to find one scapegoat who would help spare dozens (just as others have made similar claims in relation to the treatment of Dr. A.Q. Khan.) Niazi lived out his life in Lahore, his wife predeceasing him.

Legacy

Niazi was a mixture of the foolhardy and the ruthless. He was also noted for making audacious statements like "Dacca will fall only over my dead body".http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/1971/Dec12/index.html According to Pakistani author, Akbar S. Ahmed, he had even hatched a far-fetched plan to "cross into India and march up the Ganges and capture Delhi and thus link up with Pakistan."http://www.pakistan-facts.com/staticpages/index.php?page=20030403171005709 This he called the "Niazi corridor theory" explaining "It was a corridor that the Quaid-e-Azam demanded and I will obtain it by force of arms".[3] In a plan he presented to the central government in June 1971, he stated in his own words that "I would capture Agartala and a big chunk of Assam, and develop multiple thrusts into Indian Bengal. We would cripple the economy of Calcutta by blowing up bridges and sinking boats and ships in Hooghly River and create panic amongst the civilians. One air raid on Calcutta would set a sea of humanity in motion to get out of Calcutta”.[3][4] A journalist from Dawn had observed him thus: When I last met him on 30 September 1971, at his force headquarters in Kurmitola, he was full of beans.[5]

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