The Civil War March to Sep 1971
The myth Mukti Bahani won the war is false and far from truth.
It was a naked Indian aggression .
In my earlier scribe I had cleared , it is no place for description of battles . I am just giving birds eye view from personal experience .
As I had mentioned road to Lkasham was blocked by Major Zia of EBR , and Indian support through mortar fire from across the border. Around a company supported by Mukti Bahani was blocking the road. Midway we were stuck due to heavy fire. I asked my gun position officer , Capt Khalid Kidwai ( later rose to Lt Gen) to engage Mukti Bahani with direct gun fire as forward observers support was not available. Kidwai did a marvellous job and under fire covered our advance and , Maj Khattak , 12 FF, manoeuvred from the flank and made rebels to flee. By evening we had taken over Laksham Town .It is important railway junction , as branch line go to Chanpore.
Brahman Baria was hub of rebellion by 4 EB . 2IC Major Khalid Musharaf arrested his Commanding Officer , Lt Col Khyzer . As I mentioned earlier Lt Col Khizer was a fatherly figure in the unit . This saved his life and Maj Shafat Jamel (later Maj Gen in BD, and was Ambassoder in Turkey) was asked to arrest him . Shafat was my batch mate and we belonged to same Training Platoon in PMA. He was a sharp and intelligent officer. A day before , when they were moved to Brahman Baria , we had tea in his office in Comilla. He was visibly disturbed the way events were drifting. Later Col Khyzer narrated when he came to his room with guards and informed him he was under arrest , he had tears in his eyes. Khyzer then was shifted to Agartala Jail and later to Calcutta. An Indian Brigadier of that sector was overseeing and guiding rebels . After Lakxham was restored to Government writ , GOC 9 Div ( Maj Gen Shoukat Raza) decided to restore the writ of the Governant up to Sylhet. By then most of infantry units of 9 Division had arrived. GSO I , Lt Col Aslam Baig (later years Gen and COAS) called us for Operational Briefing . Two units of 117 Brigade , 12 FF under Lt Col KK Afridi (in later years Lt Gen and Governer Baluchistan) , 22 Baluch under Lt Col Sultan who embraced Shadat in December in Khulna Jessore Sector – the valour he displayed is a shining chapter in Military warfare earned him the distinction of Sultan of Sultans by Indians who gave him full military honour , was to carry out the advance. My Battery of Guns was to give them direct support and also to guide the leading battalion 12 FF. since it was a long haul and we expected tough resistance . I asked my Gun Position Officer Capt Khalild Kidwai ( later Lt Gen and Chairman SPD ) to have extra ammunition. Short of Brahman Baria advance was held up near town of Modhabpur . Col Afridi asked for artillery fire. Initial fire did not have desired result . We decided to change pattern of fire. We then fired airbrust mixed with High Explosive and Phosphorous shells. Modhabpur had mixed housing , mostly wood and Bamboo. The concrete tallest building was NBP which was in the centre of town . It was being used by rebels as Observation Post . Surprisingly they were firing on us with Mortar fire. ( later learnt supplied by Indians). Kidwai fire was accurate. But some of the phosphorus fire landed in wooden houses . They caught fire. Within few hours the town was in flames . The flames were hundreds of metre high. It was awe struck sight and the fire was visible from Agartala. This gave Indians propaganda tool. It forced rebels to vacate the defences and soon we occupied Modhabpur and advance to Bahaman Baria resumed. When we entered Brahman Baria it was a horrible sight. Railway line embankment Bahrib Bazar- Akhora – Comilla -Chittagong was full of dead bodies killed by Mukti Bahani and rebels .They were mostly Bihari population. They had to be buried in mass graves, later Indian blamed it also on Pak Army.
Once Town was brought under government control , civil Administration restored and element 12 FF stayed to clear area of Akhora and Qasba. Akhora is just at stones throw from Agartala . Once ,before civil war started , we sneaked into Agartala and slipped back safely . This area in later months had to become a bloody battle ground. Advance was resumed towards Sylhet . From Brahman Baria road go straight up Shahbazpur and then turn right at around 15 km and cross Tittas River. Titas flow along Brahman Baria and used for river transportation. At the bend Mukti had laid ambush and resistance but they were quickly overpowered. However
, later we lost many officers and men in this area. The Ferry on Titas river was damaged by EB with the support of Indians . River Titas originate from India and fall in Meghna . It has vary large span . Infantry crossed the river in boats but we had to take guns across. I asked Kidwai to collect some boats and we made make shift ferry and crossed our guns and joined 22 Baluch , they were advancing towards Shaista Gunj . Indians helped Mukti Bahni to destroy bridge on river Surma . It is important to note rivers in East Pakistan has very large spans and are deep . Rebels laid series of ambushes but were over powered. Advance was resumed by crossing river by boats but again we had no way to cross guns the river as Road Bridge was destroyed . Kidwai carried out recce up and down to find any bridge in tact. Down stream we found railway bridge in tact. But it had to be made passable for vehicles and guns . We collected dozens of railway line slippers and tied these over the gaps in the bridge. It was pitch dark , raining and fire was coming from rebels. . But there was another hurdle , the railway embankment was about 25 ft high . Thus we had to cut it and a track was made to take vehicles up on to bridge . It was a gigantic effort by gunners in rain and fire coming from across. In the process one gun slipped over the bridge and was dangling with toe hook . Our valiant Jawans managed to pull it up
. By morning we crossed the guns and gun fire supported the assault of 22 Baluch . The road to Sari Mangal passes through thick jungle and tea gardens. Control over Sri Mangal was restored by evening in 3rd week of May and troops quickly seized Sylhet town and , with this main towns were clear of Mukti Bahni . Rebel units and Mukti Bahani mostly crossed over to India , their erstwhile enemy , leaving behind trail of destruction , loot and killing of Bihari brothers .
It was then decided to fan out in smaller towns in Sylhet , Comilla and Chittagong districts and clear these from Mukti Bahani . At Sri Mangal , I was informed the Wife of West Pakistan manager of Langlay Tea Estate is in hiding from last one month in a hide out and her husband was taken away by Muktis to Agartala( a Rtd Major of Pak Army ). I went over to Langlay Tea Estate and recovered her . She was trembling with fear. She turned out to be sister of Lt Gen Mujib , then Governor of West Pakistan . We sent her to Dacca from where she was flown to West Pakistan . I then I went over to Choudry Tea Garden on learning Begum Rashid Ch is in refuge there . Bugum Rashid was old Muslim Leager and had been member of Bengal legislative Assembly before partition . Her son Rashid Ch was a friend of mine when I was posted in Murree in 1967/8. Her elder son Qaiser was in Pakistan Foreign Service, probably first Secretary in Beijing . He defected to Bangladesh cause. She was immensely happy to see me but distressed on the turn of events . She was a true Pakistani . Her daughter in law , Qaiser wife was also there. She was a foreign lady , probably British . She was quite worried since Qaiser had defected. Having consoled the ladies we told the troops there to keep a watch.
Troops were deployed in major towns and all border posts were secured . 12 FF under Col Afridi was responsible for Brahman Baria and border area of Akhora and Qasba. Akhora was cleared by 6 Punjab , newly arrived , it was commanded by Lt Col Atif , later Brigadier famous hockey player, it was supported by my Battery and a platoon of Commondos under Maj TM, Tariq Mahmood , later Brigadier and embraced Shadatat in eighties on 23 Mar Parade while jumping with parachute . Tariq was a superb Officer and with unmatched courage . ( in 1986 he and myself raided Pan AM aircraft which flew from Bombay to New York at Karachi Airport , arresting all hijackers but had large number of casualties.
By middle of June order of battle was changed and 33 Baluch was deployed between Comilla and Brahma Baria under Lt Col Qayum , another son of soil and brave Officer . My regiment ( 53 Field )was supporting operations from Chittagong to Sylhet, till Sep being the only artillery regiment except a mortar battery , then available.
Area of Akhora Railway Station and up to Qasba in letter months saw some intense anti rebel operations. The Akhora town and Qasba town are only few kilometre from Agartala . It was here that Maj Khalid Musharraf of 4EB crossed over to India . During same period AL leadership was contacted courtesy Indians and they crossed over back to Qasba Area and declared Govt in Exile of Bangladesh . It was picked up by international media courtesy India. They quickly retreated to Agartala when Pak troops occupied the area.
By now Western border of East Pakistan was also secured by Pakistani troops.
To be Continued…