March 25, 1971: Hamidoor Rehman Commission’s report on the state of preparedness of Pak armed forces

Hamidoor Rahman Commission’s report on the state of preparedness of the
armed forces.

THE STATE OF PREPAREDNESS OF
THE ARMED FORCES

In our main report we have dealt with this subject in general at some length and examined the question of the preparedness of the forces of the Pakistan Army as a whole both on the material side as also on the training side. So far as the Eastern Theatre is concerned, the picture that now emerges is far more gloomy and deplorable.

 

  1. Before 25th March, 1971, the Eastern Theatre, although designated as the Eastern Command and placed under a corps commander of the rank of Lt. General, was garrisoned with only one division but hurriedly the strength was attempted to be build up by the transport of troops by air via Cylon and within a month or so the strength was raised to nearly 3 divisions– a remarkable feat in itself– but it could only be achieved by carrying the men with only their light weapons. Some medium heavy weapons were transported by sea later but that was all.

 

  1. The position of troops before the 25th March, 1971, was as follows:­

 

  • Headquarter Eastern Command.
  • 14 division headquarters.
  • 4 brigade headquarters.
  • 12 infantry battalions.
  • One armoured regiment (mixed with East Pakistanis and West Pakistanis with obsolete M-24 tanks).
  • One commando battalion of two companies (mixed East Pakistanis and West Pakistanis).
  • 5 artillery regiments (mixed East Pakistanis and West Pakistanis).
  • One light anti-aircraft regiment (mixed East Pakistanis and West Pakistanis).
  • 2 mortar batteries (mixed East and West Pakistanis)
  • One squadron PAF (mixed East and West Pakistanis).
  • Services 80 to 90 per cent East Pakistanis.

 

  1. Even after the increase of the manpower to 3 divisions, the armour and artillery and air strength remained grossly under strength. It appears that only one artillery field regiment, three independent mortar batteries, four engineering battalions less heavy equipment and five signal battalions were added (these figures are from the GHQ records vide staff studies No. 1, page 60).

 

  1. In the circumstances, Lt-Gen Niazi has bitterly complained that although “by early April two more infantry divisions, without their heavy equipment and artillery and with limited communications, were flown to East Pakistan— a remarkable feat indeed— they were equipped only with light weapons and came for internal security duties only Till the end, neither formation had its complete organic artillery and anti­ tank guns Headquarters eastern command did not have a single regiment of corps artillery of its own  How can one expect an ill-equipped and ill-clothed army to win a war when it was mostly equipped for police duties in internal security roles”.

 

  1. There is a great deal of justification in the general’s final summing up that it was evident from the above that the eastern command “was more of a martial law and internal security force than a force equipped to fight successful conventional operations against an army which was well-equipped and far superior in number”. It would appear that even on the basis of figures, furnished by GHQ, they were short of three medium artillery regiments, three field regiments, two armoured regiments and an R&S regiment.

 

  1. So far as the air force was concerned, it had only one squadron of 16, F-86 planes and only one operational airfield with one low-looking radar. A high-looking radz’r, which was located at Dacca, was taken away and the radio equipment of mobile observer units, which had already been rendered unoperational by the Mukti Bahini, was sent back for re-equipment. Thus there was no means of getting any early warning of enemy raiders.

 

  1. So far as the navy is concerned, it started out with four gunboats and a destroyer. The destroyer was, however, sent back to West Pakistan in October, 1971, but to deal with the insurgency, the navy had improvised locally available and abandoned river craft belonging to the IWTA (Inland Water Transport Authority), and private owners into gunboats for river patrolling after fitting them with Bofor guns brought from Karachi.

 

  1. To these inadequacies and deficiencies must be added the fact that the troops had been continuously involved in counter- insurgency operations throughout the theatre for early 8 months not only along the borders where the Indians were constantly shelling their positions but also behind where the Mukti Bahini and Indian trained guerillas were seriously hindering movement by interfering with the lines of communication.

 

  1. Reliable information has come before us from the evidence of senior military officers posted at the combined military hospital in East Pakistan that the forces were definitely showing signs of fatigue and discipline was getting more and more difficult to maintain. Efforts were no doubt made to remove the imbalance by the recruitment of civil armed forces, Razakars, Mujahids, industrial security forces, vulnerable points forces -and even trained police personnel recruited from West Pakistan to perform military duties but these again were only equipped with 303 rifles and perhaps only one submachine gun to a platoon/company. They were. however, no match against regular Indian troops. They were used mostly for counter insurgency duties but even in such duties, they fought only “when they had the back-up support of the Army, otherwise they abandoned their positions on first contact”.

 

The evidence further discloses that when they saw Indian troops advancing, they just disappeared, some with their weapons, others leaving their weapons behind and, for their own safety, mingled with the civil population.

 

  1. In this state of affairs, we fell that it would be no exaggeration to say that so far as the army in East Pakistan was concerned, it was, by no means, in a state of preparedness to fight an all-out war with the eight Indian divisions advancing against them from all directions, fully supported by armour and an airforce capable of flying 200 sorties per day.