Defeat in 1971 war was a political failure, not of Pakistan’s military, says Gen Bajwa

Amid volatile political climate in Pakistan due to impending appointment of new Chief of Army Staff, country’s current army chief General Qamar Bajwa said on Wednesday that the country’s defeat in 1971 war was a political failure and not a military one as is widely said. In his Defence Day speech, which could be his last one as army chief, Bajwa warned country’s politicians by asserting that army’s “patience has a limit”, adding that the country must do enough to remember the soldiers who died in the 1971 war.

Pakistan, upon its formation in 1947 following British India’s partition, was divided in two parts: West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) and East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). Bangladesh became independent 1971 after Pakistan’s authorities dominated by the West launched an operation to counter a freedom movement in the region, following 1970 elections that gave powers to govern to parties from East that the West deemed unacceptable. Scholars estimate up to 3 million deaths in Bangladesh during ethnic cleansing that complemented the military operation by Pakistani army. 

Wednesday’s statement is the latest in the series of attempts by Pakistani Army to whitewash its history of killing unarmed civilians in Bangladesh during the events that led to the formation of an independent Bangladesh in December 1971. 

Respect Pakistani soldiers who died in 1971: Pak’s General Bajwa

Bajwa said that he was of the view that the army was targeted recently by some political forces with a “false and made-up narrative” and the institution, despite being in capacity to respond to it by all manner, stayed calm but “patience has a limit”.

Earlier this month, former prime minister Imran Khan had alleged that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal Naseer were part of a plot to assassinate him. 

“I came to the conclusion that it is because of army’s involvement in politics (that it is criticised so much). So, in February last year, the institution decided that it will no longer interfere in politics,” he said. 

“Everyone has right to criticism, but the language (used) should be careful,” he added.

Bajwa said that leaving the mistakes of the past behind, the army has decided to move forward and will urge the political forces to do the same in the larger national interest.

“People come and go but Pakistan is there to stay,” said army chief.

Bajwa said that political parties much learn to co-exist.

“It is time political parties promote democratic culture in Pakistan, learn to co-exist and keep aside their differences to put Pakistan on the path of progress,” he said, adding that personalities and personal interests do not matter when the state’s interest is at stake.

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