Grand commander’s conference

On 8th July 1971 the conference is scheduled to start. Many commanders had already reached Calcutta. We were still trying to persuade Col Osmani to withdraw his resignation.

All those who knew him well will bear me out that he was a man of principles and a hard nut to crack. He is a man of self-respect and pride. Nothing could ever make him compromise on principles. Some how he loved Nur and me very much. For that we could take lot of indulgence and liberties. But in return we also at times took lot of unwarranted scolding from him. At this point I must confess, the love and affection that I got from Col. Osmani till his last day cannot be expressed in words. I shall remember those fond memories with great respect till I live. While in service and even when I was out of service, I and Nur used to exchange our views with him on various issues personal and national very frankly without any reservation. There was a complete trust between him and us. When I recollect his kind and affectionate advice that he always gave me from time to time on various matters including personal ones, I feel heavy at my heart. Col. Osmani was a great hero and a staunch nationalist. He is not with us anymore, may Allah bless and rest his soul in eternal peace. I feel honored that I could get an opportunity to know this great son of the soil not merely from outside but from within. From his outer appearance he looked arrogant and crude but inside he was a very loving and affectionate person.

Col. Osmani was not saying anything clearly whether he would withdraw his resignation or not. We all were in suspense. However, in such a uncertainty the grand commander’s meeting started at the Theatre Road on 11th July 1971. When all these happenings were taking place just before the conference, I was injured for the first time in an operation at Boyra sub-sector. The injury was not very serious. An enemy bullet fractured the middle finger of my right hand. Due to share mercy of Allah Sobhanatalla I narrowly got saved in that operation. I was working as usual. I was moving up and down the sectors with a bandage on my right arm. As the wound did not get rest and proper care, it got a bad infection. Due to heavy commitments and that unfortunate infection I was unable to visit Theatre Road for a few days. But I was in touch with Nur. Although till then the communication between the C-in-C’s headquarters and the sectors were not up to the mark, I did manage a wireless set to connect me with the sectors and sub sectors as well as 8 Theatre Road. All the commanders have arrived to attend the conference. On 11th morning suddenly Lt. Nur came and told me that Col. Osmani will not attend the conference, as he has not yet received any befitting answer from the Prime Minster. Under such circumstances he feels humiliating to attend the conference. Beside, attending commanders could enquire about his resignation for which he must have an answer. He further said Col. Osmani was waiting to see the final reaction of the Prime Minister before deciding his next move. Lt. Nur requested me to keep this to myself. We became apprehensive about the duality of the Prime Minister. He is up to some thing. We have to wait to know his game.

The conference began at the appointed time. All of us were present. Mr. Tajuddin came in as the Prime Minister. He was invited as the chief guest and Col. Osmani as the C-in-C was scheduled to give the inaugural keynote speech. But Col. Osmani was not present. He sent a message that due to some reasons it would not be possible for him to attend the conference. This was a bombshell. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Behini and the convener of this conference his presence was a must. The message created a commotion in the conference hall. However, the Prime Minister in an attempt to bring the situation under control started his speech. In his speech he said Col. Osmani has resigned as the commanders had expressed lack of confidence in him. Every one present was shocked at this statement of the Prime Minister. The next moment there was an emotional out burst and uproar. Some even said the whole thing was un believable and concocted by the Mujibnagar Awami League government and Indian authorities just to get rid of Col. Osmani as the Commander-in-Chief of the Mukti Fauj. Many demanded that Prime Minister must reveal how he has come to know that the commanders do not have confidence on Col. Osmani as the C-in-C? Against such a commotion and charged atmosphere the Prime Minister just fumbled and hurriedly left the hall just to get him saved from further embarrassment. Decision was taken to stop the proceedings of the meeting any further. Col. Osmani enjoyed respect from all, in that case how the Prime Minister could say such a thing! Until this mystery is unfolded and the names of those commanders who told the Prime Minister or the government that they do not have confidence in the C-in-Care revealed by the Prime Minister this conference will be kept in abeyance. The whole of Theatre Road was very hot and tense. I and Lt. Nur revealed to Maj. Ziaur Rahman, Capt. Jalil, Maj. Khaled Mosharaff, Wing Comdr. Bashar and Capt. Taher and few others the truth about Col. Osmani’s resignation. It was clear to all that the Mujibnagar government and Indian authorities considered Col. Osmani a stumbling block on their way and therefore, very cleverly they were trying to get rid of him taking advantage of his resignation. We also apprised them in details about our Delhi experience and the creation of BLF/ Mujib Bahini. We explained to them that we must keep Col. Osmani as the C-in-Cat any cost. Otherwise it would be almost impossible to resist the ‘grand design’. Thus the nation would suffer. They all agreed and decided to meet Col. Osmani on behalf of the all commanders and request him to take back his resignation. They will also assure him that needful would be done so that Col. Osmani could gracefully take back his resignation. The meeting was arranged. Col. Osmani repeated what we had already revealed. His words made the conspiracy even more clear. The commanders after hearing every thing urged him to remain in his post to lead the struggle and safeguard the national interest from the conspiratorial moves. They also reiterated total allegiance to him on behalf of all the freedom fighters. It is only he who could keep the Mukti Fauj united. Without an iron like unity it would not be possible to fight against the conspirators. On such insistence Col. Osmani finally agreed to withdraw his resignation. After having the meeting with Col. Osmani we all went straight to Mr. Tajuddin and Mr. Nazrul Islam. They both met us together. They were feeling uneasy to face us and Mr. Tajuddin was already worried noticing the angry reaction of the freedom fighter commanders in the morning. We wanted to know on what basis The Prime Minister could say that the commanders did not have any confidence on Col. Osmani. Mr. Tajuddin was fumbling and replied,

"I got information through my own sources that some commanders are not happy with Col. Osmani as the C-in-C." Major Ziaur Rahman gave reply to the Prime Minister,

"Honorable Prime Minister we want to inform you in clear terms not only on behalf of the commanders but also on behalf of the entire Mukti Bahini that we not only have total confidence on Col. Osmani as our C-in-Cbut he also commands immense respect from the entire rank and file. If you are thinking to remove him from the post of C-in-Cand put someone else in that post then I am compelled to say in no uncertain terms that choice of yours may not be accepted to most of the freedom fighters. As the head of the provisional government you may have the privilege to nominate any one as the C-in-C, but before taking any decision please think it over carefully". Maj. Zia’s straight talk made both Mr. Tajuddin and Mr. Nazrul Islam unnerved. Mr. Tajuddin thought for a while and said,

"Well Col. Osmani had himself submitted the resignation. If he takes it back the government would have no objection." After the Prime Minister finished Major Zia replied again,

"It is true that he had resigned himself. But the reason you gave in the morning we believe is not true. We shall ofcourse know from him why did he submit his resignation. But we request you Sir, tomorrow in the conference you will say that the reports which came to you about the no-confidence later had been found to be baseless and in-correct. Not only that as you now know that all the commanders and the freedom fighters want Col. Osmani to be their C-in-Cand no one else, you as the Prime Minister on our behalf have to request Col. Osmani to take back his resignation. This is the best way out of the present impasse. We can assure you Sir that on your such approach he will take back his resignation".

From the talks Mr. Tajuddin being an intelligent man must have realized that we had already come to know every details. He thought that we might have also come to know about the behind the scene game on this issue. So he did not want to dwell on any further and agreed to do what ever was told to him to be done. During the meeting Mr. Nazrul Islam, the acting President sat as a silent spectator. The whole thing about this meeting was communicated to Col. Osmani through Lt. Nur. Next day the Prime Minister kept his words and Col. Osmani withdrew his resignation and decided to preside over the conference in midst of a standing ovation and hearty applause. We all thanked him and congratulated from the bottom of our hearts. We could successfully foil the evil conspiracy of the Chanakkyas and retain him as our beloved C-in-Cand thus could return his pride which he so well deserved. From this encounter the Awami League government understood that the daring freedom fighters would not accept any unfair and anti national move laying. In the conference threadbare discussions took place about the different aspects of the war, problems, solutions, future strategy and tactics. We already knew Col. Osmani’s mind. The discussions took place on the basis of his thoughts and ideas. In that conference Lt. Col. M.A. Rab and Gp Capt. AK Khandakar were appointed as Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff respectively. The two most important decisions were:-

1. Demarcation of the sectors.

2. Policy decisions and the strategy of the guerrilla war.

(a) Group of 5 to 10 guerrillas each will be inducted inside with a definite assignment after training through the sectors.

(b) Guerrillas will be divided into following categories:-

Action Group: This group will engage the enemy directly. They will be armed 50 to 100 %.

Intelligence Group: These groups will work under the command of the intelligence cell of the C-in-C’s secretariat in the Mujibnagar headquarters.

They will not confront the enemy directly. Their task is to gather information about the enemy. They will not carry arms more then 30% to 50%.

Guerrilla base: Each base would be established and maintained by the sector troops. Arrangement for the food lodging and training would be available at the base. There will be a medical team in the base to provide basic medical cover. There will be a commissar to provide political motivation. The commissar will be responsible to teach measures by which the guerrillas can break the moral of the enemy or make them psychologically weak, at the same time keep the morals of the guerrillas high and heighten their self-confidence. The base must have arrangements to accommodate additional forces that may have to be brought in for any particular operation. The commissars were supposed to be appointed by the Mujibnagar government. But till the end of the war no such commissars were ever sent by the government. The sector and sub Sector Commanders had to fill up the gaps themselves.

3. Members of the regular armed forces were to be organized into battalions and

sector troops.

4. Objectives of the guerrilla war:

(a) Arrangements would have to be made to induct large number of guerrillas inside Bangladesh through every favorable ways and routs to fight the enemy from all directions.

(b) No industry will be allowed to function. By destroying the power stations, sub stations and demolishing the pylons electric supply systems have to be disrupted.

(c) Export of any raw materials or finished products to be totally stopped. All the go downs to be destroyed.

(d) All means of communication such as transports, rail communication, riverine communication, roads, bridges etc. to be destroyed so that the enemy cannot maintain their line of supply.

(e) Tactical operations should be so planed that the enemy is forced to disperse into isolated pockets.

(f) The guerrilla bands should be trained to live among the people like fish in water and fight the enemy from all directions to annihilate them completely.

(g) The whole Theatre of war was divided into 11sectors. Each sector was further divided into sub-sectors. Each sector would have a Sector Commander and a sector headquarters.

No.1 Sector: Chittagong, Hill tracts and part of Noakhali up to the eastern bank of the river Fein formed this sector. The sector was divided into 5 sub sectors. Major Ziaur Rahman was designated Sector Commander. Later when Major Zia was made commander Z force, Capt. Rafiq took over as the Sector Commander. Total number of soldiers were 21 hundred. Out of them 15 hundred were from EPR. 2 hundred from police, 3 hundred from the army and 1 hundred from the navy and air force. Total strength of the guerrillas was 20 thousand. Out of that 8 thousand were organized into action groups. 35% of these groups were armed.

No.2 Sector: Cornilla, Faridpur, Noakhali and part of Dhaka formed this sector. Sector Commander was Maj. Khaled Mosharaff. The sector was divided into 6 sub sectors. Strength of soldiers were about 4 thousand. Guerrillas were about 30 thousand. Later when Maj. Khalid as the K force commander got seriously injured Capt. Hyder took over as the Sector Commander.

No.3 Sector: Maulavibazar, Brahmanbaria, Narayanganj and Keraniganj formed this sector. The sector was divided into 10 sub sectors. Strength: 10 thousand Guerrillas. Sector Commander Maj. Shafiullah. After Major Shafiullah was made the commander of the S force Maj. Nusruzzaman became the Sector Commander.

No.4 Sector: Sylhet Sadar at the north and Hobiganj at the south were the boundaries of this sector. Sector also included Patharia range at the eastern border. Sector Commander was Maj. Chitta Ranjan Dutta. The sector was divided into 6 sub sectors. Regular troops numbered 3 thousand.12 thousands Guerrillas.

No.5 Sector: This sector comprised the northern parts of Sylhet district. Sector Commander was Maj. Mir Shawka Ali, regular soldiers were 8 hundred and guerrillas 5 thousand. The Sector was divided into 6 sub sectors.

No.6 Sector: This sector comprised of Rangpur and Dinajpur districts. Wing Comdr. M.K. Bashar was the Sector Commander. The sector was divided into 5 sub sectors, Regular troops numbered 12 hundreds. Guerrillas: 6 thousand.

No.7 Sector: Rajshahi, Pabna, Bogra and part of Dinajpur formed this sector. Sector Commander was Maj. Nazamul Haq. He died in a road accident and Maj. Q.N. Zamman took over as the commander after his sad demise. The sector was divided into 8 sub sectors. Regular troops numbered 2 thousand. Guerrillas: 4 thousand.

No.8 Sector: Kushtia, Jessore and a part of Khulna formed this sector. Up to 15th July Sector Commander was Maj. M.A. Osman Choudhury. After Maj. Manzoor escaped from Pakistan and joined the war he was made the commander of No.8 sector. Maj. Osman later was attached to the C-in-C’s headquarters. Regular troops numbered 3 thousand. Guerrillas: 8 thousand. It was divided in to 7 sub sectors.

No.9 Sector: Barishal, Patuakhali, A part of Khulna and Faridpur and Sunderban made this sector. Sector Commander was Capt. M. A. Jalil. It had 8 sub sectors. Regular troops were 15 hundred, guerrillas 15 thousand.

No.10 Sector: This sector had no geographical boundary. Naval commandos were under this sector. They used to be sent as required to different sectors to destroy enemy’s naval strength and marrytime shipping vessels. They used to be detached in groups. They operated under the Sector Commanders. They always returned back to sector 10 after executing their specific mission.

No.11 Sector: It comprised of North Western areas of Bangladesh, Tura and Garo Hills formed this sector. Commander was Maj. Abu Taher. He was one of the escape from West Pakistan who also planned with the author to escape from Quetta. On 15th November in an operation he was severely injured and lost his right leg. Numbers of sub-sector were 8. Guerrillas: 25 thousand.

A decision was also taken to reorganize the freedom fighters in the following categories:-

Regular Troops:- After the crackdown of the 25/26th March night, all members of the army, EPR, police, ansars, mujahid corps who revolted and joined to organize resistance struggle were termed as regular troops or Niyomito Bahini.

Army Battalions and formation of Z, S and K Forces:- Decision was taken to start organizing the neucleus of the Bangladesh army with the available 5 regular East Bengal Regiments. Most of these battalions were depleted in numbers. Additional recruitment from amongst the freedom fighters were carried out to supplement these regiments at the same time to raise new infantry battalions. They were then divided in to three brigade groups called Z, S and K forces.

Sector Troops:- The regular troops who opted to stay in the sectors and fight were termed as sector troops. They mostly functioned as sub-Sector Commanders, guerrilla commanders or instructors. Although Mujibnagar government had arranged for a meager subsistence allowances there were no provision for salaries. However, in most cases the freedom fighters refused to accept any such allowances and donated those amounts to the Prime Minister’s relief fund.

Irregular troops:- The young ones who were recruited to be trained as guerrillas to fight the enemy were known as irregular troops or Gono Bahaini. Initially this force lacked discipline but we were confidant that proper motivation and hardship of guerrilla life would make them disciplined and efficient guerrillas. These guerrillas used to be given some ‘induction money’. Inside Bangladesh they had to be at their own. The commanders were asked by the C-in-C’s secretariat to prepare their demand lists. The lists included, arms, ammunitions, wireless sets, tele communication equipment, compasses, binoculars, explosive and other necessary items. These were to be compiled at the C-in-C’s secretariat and submitted to the Indian authorities by the provisional government for the supply. Although demands were asked quite regularly the supply situation remained deplorable. Supply never matched the demand. They were never received in time and quality was poor. Due to such precarious situation initially the freedom fighters suffered tremendously at the war front. As the forces were getting organized the commanders had to work very hard to secure supplies at their own initiatives. Captured equipments, arms, ammunitions were the mainstay of supplies. Thus we had to manage with assorted arms and equipments. That was again a big problem. Transport remained a continuous deficiency. Most of our vehicles were captured from Bangladesh. Maintenance of those vehicles became a problem initially due to non-availability of spare parts. Later ofcourse, chain of supply were developed by the sectors and the sub sectors through the operating guerrillas. Medical facilities were scarce. Most of the Indian government hospitals were located far away from the battlefronts and the bases. More over the refugees over crowded them.

Hence a decision was taken to establish a few field hospitals for the freedom fighters at various locations. The commanders within their operational areas also established medical centres. The largest field hospital was established in No. 2 sector at Bisramganj. Dr. Zafrullah, Dr. Mobin and a few other colleagues of them came over from London and established this field hospital with the help of the sector troops, medical students and some locally trained doctors and personnel. Their efforts were tremendous. They could manage assistance from various quarters including some foreign charitable organizations. Bisramganj hospital very soon became a symbol of selfless dedication and provided tremendous service to all particularly the freedom fighters.

In the conference Col. Osmani informed that many Bengali officers were trying escape from Pakistan and other countries to join the liberation war. He formally introduced me, Lt. Nur Choudhury, Lt. Motiur Rahman being the first batch of officers to join the war of independence escaping from West Pakistan. We received warm ovation from the gathering. He also revealed that steps are being taken by his secretariat to encourage others to escape and join the freedom fight.

The participants were very happy to known about these developments and thanked Col. Osmani for his encouraging initiatives. In July came Maj. Manzoor and his family, Capt. Taher, Capt. Ziauddin, Capt. Patwari and two other soldiers. They crossed through Sialkot border. Capt. Khairul Anam, Capt. Abdul Aziz Pasha, Capt. Shahrier Rashid Khan, Lt. Bazlul Huda, Lt. Sajjad, Capt. Farooq Rahman, Capt. Abdur Rashid, Capt. Jahangir, Flt Lt. Qader and many others followed them. During the conference we had opportunities to exchange views about our experiences and the Indian blue print with the like-minded commanders and comrades. We discussed about the long-term implications and affects of the evil design. With Maj. Ziaur Rahman, Maj. Khaled Mosharaff, Capt. Taher, Capt. Ziauddin, Capt. Jalil and Wing Comd. Bashar, Lt. Bazlul Huda, Capt. Salahuddin, Capt. Jahangir, Capt. Hafeez, Maj. Manzoor, Capt. Pasha Capt. Shahriar, Lt. Mahaboob amongst others. After threadbare discussions and analysis of the different aspects of the war, the attitude of the provisional government and the behind the scene machinations of the Indian government and its agencies, their ulterior motives we reached to a consensus about our future course of action. We decided that at the initial stage we shall not be very vocal about the Indian maneuvering and the incompetence of the Mujibnagar government in exile, but shall remain vigilant about their activities and shall exchange our notes whenever it is necessary. Simultaneously we shall motivate the freedom fighters in nationalistic ideology while reorganizing them. Tactfully we have to educate the freedom fighters about the different aspects of this heinous anti national design of enslavement and motivate them to fight against it.

We have to tell them that the only way we could frustrate this blue print was by achieving the independence through our own efforts and scarifies without any outside interferences. We are not fighting merely to shift the capital from Islamabad to Delhi. While fighting against the Pakistani occupation forces, the freedom fighters shall have to remain prepared to fight against any kind of India hegemony or expansionism. We are fighting to have a homeland for 8 cores Bengalis, where we shall enjoy a genuine political and economic freedom. We shall never accept the status of a vassal state. Every commander must work to earn respect among the freedom fighters and the people within the liberated areas demonstrating his ability, valor and courage, organizational skill, self sacrifice, political conscientiousness, patriotism, battle worthiness, honor, dignity and morality. Each one of us must present ourselves as an example. And only by doing so we shall be able to develop ourselves as to be the natural leaders of the freedom fighters and the people during the war as well as after the war to resist this design. We shall also be in a position to muster the trust and confidence of the people. We must transform every freedom fighter as a vanguard. This is how we shall have a solid foundation of our strength. If we succeed, we shall be able to lead the people to fight against any force that might try to sabotage our national interests and undermine our sovereignty and independence in future. The tested freedom fighters so organized would also be a force to fight the self seeking and corrupt politicians and ruling elites should they try to betray the nation.