Witness to Surrender: A Book Review
Witness to Surrender by Siddiq Salik is a book that narrates the events of the 1971 war between Pakistan and India that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. The author was a Pakistani army officer who was stationed in Dhaka during the war and was captured by the Indian forces after the surrender. He spent two years as a prisoner of war in India before being released in 1973.
The book is a first-hand account of the political and military situation in East Pakistan before and during the war, as well as the human suffering and atrocities that took place. Salik writes with honesty and objectivity, without hiding his own biases or emotions. He describes the failures of the Pakistani leadership, the rebellions of the Bengali population, the intervention of India, and the final surrender of the Pakistani army.
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The book is not only a historical document, but also a literary work that captures the drama and tragedy of the war. Salik uses vivid language and imagery to portray the scenes of violence, chaos, and despair. He also injects humor and irony into his narration, showing his resilience and wit in the face of adversity.
Witness to Surrender is a valuable source of information and insight into one of the most significant events in South Asian history. It is also a compelling story of courage, loyalty, and survival. The book is available on Amazon[^1^] and other online platforms.
The war escalated when India launched a full-scale invasion of East Pakistan on December 3, 1971. India had already been providing covert support to the Mukti Bahini and had signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union, which deterred any intervention by China or the United States on Pakistan's behalf. India's superior military and diplomatic strategy quickly overwhelmed Pakistan's defenses and isolated its forces in East Pakistan.
The war ended with the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dhaka on December 16, 1971. The Instrument of Surrender was signed by Lt. Gen. A. A. K. Niazi, the commander of the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan, and Lt. Gen. J. S. Arora, the commander of the Indian and Bangladeshi forces in East Pakistan. The ceremony was witnessed by representatives of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh, which had declared independence on March 26, 1971.
The war resulted in the creation of Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent nation. It also marked a decisive victory for India over Pakistan and a major setback for its allies, China and the United States. The war also exposed the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army and its collaborators against the Bengali population, which included mass killings, rapes, and displacements. The exact number of casualties is disputed, but estimates range from 300,000 to 3 million deaths.
The independence of Bangladesh was not the end of the challenges faced by the new nation. It had to deal with the aftermath of the war, which included the rehabilitation of millions of refugees, the reconstruction of the war-torn infrastructure, and the prosecution of the war criminals. It also had to establish a stable and democratic political system, which was hampered by coups, assassinations, and military rule.
One of the first tasks of the Provisional Government of Bangladesh was to seek international recognition and support. It received diplomatic recognition from India and the Soviet Union immediately after its declaration of independence, and from most other countries after the surrender of Pakistan. However, it faced opposition from China and some Islamic countries, which considered it a secessionist movement. It also faced difficulties in joining the United Nations, due to China's veto power in the Security Council.
Another major challenge for Bangladesh was to address the issue of justice and accountability for the atrocities committed during the war. The Provisional Government set up a special tribunal to try the Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. However, due to political pressure and lack of resources, only a few trials were conducted and sentences were carried out. Many of the accused were repatriated to Pakistan or granted amnesty by subsequent governments. The issue of war crimes trials remains controversial and unresolved in Bangladesh and Pakistan. 29c81ba772