General AKM Shafiullah was the Second in
Command of Seceond East Bengal Regiment
that revolted on the night of March 25,
1971. He talks about the days of December
1971 just before Pakistan Army surrendered.
around end Sept-ember/early October, we
began to feel that we were gaining ground
in Bangladesh. The Freedom Fighters we sent
inside Bangladesh were making their presence
felt inside the country -- although they
did not occupy any territory.
was tremendous response from the people
who came in thousands to participate in
the War. They were so enthusiastic that
they needed only 2-3 weeks training before
induction in the operation zone.
decided, in the context of the changed situation,
to go for capture and occupation of territory,
by launching classical offensive to enter
Bangladesh and capture territory from early
November. This commenced with the capture
of territories along the border. My sector
troops were deployed in an area extending
from Sylhet/Karimganj, Akhaura, Brahmanbaria,
Narshingdi, Raipura right upto Bhaluka.
We had our links and informers based on
whose information we used to infiltrate
our troops inside Bangladesh through the
Pakistan army had not begun to withdraw
till then, but only after we had started
hitting them in certain places. One of the
major offensives in our sector was to capture
Akhaura. On December 3, when we were fighting
almost hand-to-hand with the enemy, Pakistan
declared war on India. By then we had entered
into collaboration with India. It was called
Joint Command Force. I was then commanding
a force called the 'S" Force, S' stood
for the first letter of my name. Akhaura
was captured on Dec 4. The Banglaees were
rejoicing and came out on the streets in
droves and welcomed us with relief. It is
difficult to describe the feelings of the
local people at that time.
the capture of Akhaura our plan was to proceed
to Dhaka. The route we decided to take was
Bhairab-Ashuganj across the Meghna to Narshingdi
and on to Dhaka. This was the easiest way
to get to Dhaka. We started from Akhaura
on December 6, all on foot since we had
we started for Dhaka there were enemy troops
in Sylhet and we did not know their exact
dispositions. As I was moving along Sylhet,
our rear was exposed and we risked being
attacked by the enemy. In fact we were not
attacked but encountered them as they were
running away from Sylhet. While moving towards
Brahmanbaria when I reached Paikpara, my
leading battalion, under Major Nasim, had
placed a blocking position on the road at
our back to prevent any one approaching
from our rear from Sylhet. On the 6th of
December, India recognised Bangladesh. We
were rejoicing the event.
our way, we found the villages to be deserted,
whoever were still there had terrified looks.
I ma not sure if they had any idea that
their country was going to be independent
soon, but they seemed worried. That is because
at the initial stage of the war when we
are resisting the Pakistan Army, but had
to fall back, these people were subjected
to severe oppression by the Pak army. So,
when we entered again they were not sure
whether we would be successful this time.
They were very guarded in their reaction.
we were proceeding we found a vehicle approaching
from our rear, which looked like one belonging
to Nasim's battalion. We thought perhaps
Teliapara axis was clear and the vehicle
belonged to these elements. We waived at
it to stop but found that it was full of
Pak troops. They were fleeing Sylhet. We
asked them to put their hands up. But they
suddenly started firing and the person sitting
on the front of the truck got out and grabbed
me. We started jostling. Neither of us could
bring out our weapon. My runner was holding
my sten gun while his own rifle was slung
on his shoulder. He was trying to get the
Pak JCO with the sten gun. But due to the
jostling at one time I came in front of
my runner's sten gun and at another time
one time I hit the JCO on the groin and
he loosened his grip. At this point I gave
him a blow and knocked him over. I hit him
once again with my runner's rifle. The JCO
rolled over and ran behind my runner, used
him as a shield and started firing with
the sten at me. At this point I saw another
truck approaching us. Thinking it to be
belonging to the enemy I tried to fire with
the rifle but it gave away. When I tried
to use my pistol, I found that it was also
damaged. What had happened was that two
bullets from the sten that the Pak JCO had
fired at me struck the pistol. As Providence
would have it, only two of the bullets that
he fired from the sten hit my pistol that
was slung against my waist. It was a miraculous
escape. When I found that I was left with
no weapon, I jumped into a nearby ditch.
There were Pak soldiers in that ruck, I
saw them alighting and tried to shoot.
saw from the ditch the Pak troops taking
up positions. I was desperate. I got up
from the ditch drenched in mud, and my dress
being of olive green appeared to be khaki,
the dress the Pakistanis were wearing. So
I got up and proceeded in a manner as if
I was a commander inspecting their deployment.
I was carrying a small Holy Quran and praying
to Allah for a weapon and beseeched Him
that I should not be killed without a fight.
I walked about 150 yards and entered the
the action of my troops 27 Pak soldiers
were killed and 13 injured. I evacuated
the wounded to a village nearby for treatment.
Since I had no vehicle, I used the Pak vehicle
which was still running to evacuate the
wounded. Nasim was seriously wounded at
reached Ashuganj on the 8th. The Pakistani
troops, who had withdrawn from Brahmanbaria,
fell back on Ashuganj. The Indians and we
launched an attack on the Pakistani forces
on the 9th. The Pakistani destroyed the
Bhairab Bridge on the Ashuganj side with
explosives on 9th. On 11th morning they
destroyed the Bhairab side of the span and
withdrew to Bhairab. The Indians meanwhile
sent a battalion to encircle the Pakistanis.
We went down south to Lalpur, crossed the
Meghna and reached Raipura on the 12th.
On the 13th we reached Narshingdi, and crossed
Demra on the evening of the 14th.
did not know much of what was happening
in Dhaka, but as we were approaching Dhaka
we heard the call to the Pakistanis on the
radio to surrender.
we reached Demra we knew that it was all
over. We faced no resistance along the way.
We were just walking. As the area was familiar
to me I crossed the river, went on the other
side and started probe in to Demra from
the north i.e. the west of the Sitalakhya
and took surrender of one of the Pakistani
battalions, whose Commanding Officer was
was ordered to be present at the airport
to receive General Arora at the Race Course
for the surrender ceremony. There could
not have been a more exhilarating news for
us. I planned to move but had no transport
to go to Dhaka. As you can imagine, we were
moving all this while on foot. I asked Col
Khilji to reach me to the airport in his
jeep. We had an Indian Brigadier Sabek Singh
I was moving towards Dhaka I had to move
through the ranks of the Pakistani soldiers
who had not surrendered till then and were
fired upon even though we were traveling
in a Pak jeep. We had to get Khilji to tell
the Pakistanis not to fire. We reached the
airport by 1530 and found Niazi and Rao
Farman Ali. I knew Niazi when he was a Lt
was also Brig Baker Siddiqui, COS, Eastern
Command. He was once commanding an East
Bengal Regiment. And when I was doing my
staff college he was my instructor. He said,
"Hello Shafiullah, how are you? You
fought well". And I replied, "It
was all your teaching sir".
asked, "How are you Tiger?" I
found him to be lacking a commander's charisma.
He was heartbroken. We rushed to the Race
Course from the airport. I was a member
of Bangladesh delegation. But we were not
sure what we were supposed to do. I was
standing in front of the signing table.
That's why I do not appear in any photographs.
There was rejoicing all around. We put Niazi
on a jeep and sent him away. That night
I did not come across anyone.
Genral Shafiullah spoke to Kaushik Sankar
would rather die than sign any false statement'
Kamal, one of the leading poets and pioneer
in establishing women's rights in Bangladesh,
was confined to her residence in Dhanmondi
during the whole nine months of Bangladesh's
liberation war in 1971.
the news of the 'killings' of Sufia Kamal
and Dr Nilima Ibrahim by Pak Army after
the crack down on March 25, 1971 was broadcast
on Akashbani, a radio station of the Indian
state West Bengal, it drew criticism internationally
and countries across the world put diplomatic
pressure on the then Pakistani military
government for clarification. The Pakistani
government was forced to broadcast an interview
of the poet on radio only to prove that
Sufia Kamal was still alive.
an interview with now defunct 'Weekly Bichitra'
on December 7, 1991, Sufia Kamal recalled
her memories of 1971. We publish excerpts
of that interview taken by Selim Omrao Khan.
Bichitra:How did you pass
the nine months of house arrest during liberation
Sufia Kamal: I was confined
in my house during the whole liberation
war. Nobody was able to come to my house
on 26, 27, 28th March due to military presence
in front of my house. One night Pakistani
army came to the residence of Wing Commander
Hamidullah, which was close to my house.
Immediately after I heard that Pakistani
army arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and
seized the belongings of his house.
At the beginning of April,
I heard liberation war had started. I tried
to gather news about the war in many ways.
Pakistani army kept strong watch on my house
by setting up a permanent camp in front
of it. Everybody used to visit my house
through the back door. Pakistani army started
arresting people from the month of April.
An unknown silence gripped the whole Dhaka
city. Borhan Uddin Khan Jahangir, now a
professor of Dhaka University, came to my
house through back door. He told me, "They
(army) are torturing the women. Where can
we keep them?" Though I couldn't go
out but we tried to make arrangements to
keep some girls in a safer place.
In May, Shahadat Chowdhuy,
now editor of the 'Weekly Bichitra', Jewel
and Rumi came to my house. Rumi used to
call me mother. He hugged me and said, "Ma,
I will go to the war." I told Rumi's
mother Jahanara Imam that his son wanted
to join the war. She replied, "Since
he wants to, let him go."
In the month of May, many
families around my house left Dhaka in search
of a safer place. They gave me their ration
cards and I collected food from shops with
those cards. Prof. Giasuddin and Shahidullah
Kaiser would come to my house through the
back door and take those food for the freedom
Pakistani army continued
their atrocities in the month of June. I
made an arrangement to send Lulu and Tulu,
my two daughters, to Agartola. I was not
getting any information about them. One
evening, a rickshaw puller came to my house
and gave me a small letter. It said, "They
have safely crossed the border". I
I started going out from
July. I would go to the hospital with food
and medicine for the injured people. At
that time there was an acute crisis of food
and medicine in the hospital. I used to
give those food and medicine to certain
rickshaw pullers at Science Laboratory.
They would take the food and medicine to
the freedom fighters.
I was able to establish
closer contact with the freedom fighters
in August. As Pakistani army kept their
strong watch on me, I would try to help
the freedom fighters in different ways ignoring
Many freedom fighters were
caught in the hand of Pakistani army in
August. They arrested Shaheed Altaf Mahmud
and some of his relative and artist Abul
Barak Alvi. Shafi Imam Rumi, Masud Sadek
Chullu and Jwel were also arrested. After
four days Alvi was released from concentration
camp and came to my house. He had marks
of atrocious tortures all over his body.
I became emotional and hugged Alvi tightly.
But Altaf Mahmud, Jewel and Rumi never came
The rest of the three months
I heard only the news of freedom fighters
taking control of many parts. I spent the
whole October in anxiety.
In the month of November
We came to know that Al-Badar and Razakars
were killing many people. Pakistani army
increased their vigilant on my house. On
November 15, I heard a sad news from Chittagong
that Pakistani army killed Kahar Chowdhury,
my son-in-law. They killed him because they
were very angry with me.
At the beginning of December,
I heard that many parts of the country were
freed from the grip of Pakistani army. After
hearing these news, I had mixed feelings.
I was excited and at the same time filled
with sorrow. We were getting freedom at
the cost of blood shed by so many people.
On December 13, freedom fighters began to
gather at my resident.
On December 15 Pakistani
forces fled from many parts of the city
and took shelter inside the cantonment.
Pakistani army encircled the house of Shiekh
Mujibur Rahman till the morning of December
On December 16, Dr. Dora
was shot dead while passing a house of Dhanmondi
where Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana and
Mujib's wife Fazilatunnesa were kept under
house arrest for the nine months. I rushed
to her house after hearing the news. After
few hours we received information that Pakistani
occupation forces would surrender at the
then Racecourse Maidan at 3 pm. I was filled
with emotions. Thousands of people took
to the streets after hearing the news. Freedom
fighters shot blank shots in the sky to
celebrate the freedom.
What was the most memorable event in those
Sufia Kamal: On December 7, Shahidullah
Kaiser came to my house. I asked him to
leave immediately because there were rumours
that Pakistani military was killing the
intellectuals in Dhaka. They had prepared
a list of intellectuals and other important
persons. Shahidullah Kaiser said, "I
would not leave Dhaka. If I leave Dhaka
then who would work?" At that time
Dr. Fazle Rabbi told me over the phone,
"I heard that the Pakistani army will
kill us and your name is also that list.
Why are you not leaving Dhaka?" At
that time Dhaka was a city of rumours. After
few days I heard that many of my acquaintances
were missing. I heard that Pakistani army
and their collaborators picked up many noted
persons including Shahidullah Kaiser, Munir
Chowdhury and Dr. Fazle Rabbi from their
houses. They cautioned me to leave Dhaka
but they themselves did not leave and got
caught. They proved their patriotism to
their motherland by sacrificing their lives.
All of them helped the freedom fighters
during the liberation war in different ways
by taking risks. And that's why they became
the target of Pakistani army.
Bichitra: "In 1971
no massacre took place in Bangladesh."
Some intellectuals in Dhaka signed a statement
of the then Iaheya government which contained
the above title. How did you refrain from
signing the statement?
Sufia Kamal: I could never
sign a statement which was not true. Zillur
Rahman, the then regional director of Radio
East Pakistan, came to my house and forwarded
a paper to me to sign. I got angry after
reading the paper. I refused to sign it
because it said that the Pakistani army
committed no crime in the then East Pakistan.
I got furious with Zillur Rahman and asked
him how I could he expect me to sign something
which was a lie. Zillur Rahman became angry
too and said, "If you don't give your
signature then it might create a problem
both for you and your son-in-law Kahar Chowdhury."
I told him that I didn't care for my life.
I said, "I would rather die than put
my signature on the a false statement."
Translated by Akbar Hussain