Friday, March 25, 2011

Operation Searchlight (The Dark Night of Bangladesh) - March 25

Operation Search Light is a dark night of Bangladesh. It was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement East Pakistan in March 1971. This operation ordered by the central government in West Pakistan and it was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been launched in November 1970. The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by
the Pakistani planners. The operation also precipitated the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities and caused roughly 10 million refugees to flee to India.

These systematic killings enraged the Bengalis, who declared independence from Pakistan, to achieve the new state of Bangladesh with Indo-Soviet backing. The violence resulting from Operation Searchlight led to the war of liberation by the Mukti Bahini against Pakistani Army and Pakistani Rajakar forces in Bangladesh. Following the ill fated Operation Chengiz Khan, Indian intervention resulted in the Pakistani Army's unconditional surrender to the joint command of the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini on December 16, 1971.

In the 1970 Pakistan parliamentary elections, when the Awami League had won a decisive majority (167 seats out of 300 seats), the Bengali people expected a swift transfer of power to the Awami League based on the Six Point Programme. On February 28, 1971, Yahya Khan (the President of Pakistan), under the pressure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, postponed the national assembly meeting scheduled for March. The PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party) has already started lobbying to weaken the stand of Sheikh Mujeeb, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was heard saying that he wanted the Bengalis to stay away. The Awami League, in response to the adjournment, launched a program of non-cooperation (largely outlined in the March 7th Awami League rally) which was so successful that the authority of the Pakistan government became limited to the cantonments and government institutions in East Pakistan.

Clashes between the Bengali people and the Pakistani Army, and between Bengali and Bihari communities erupted and became commonplace. President Yahya Khan flew to Dhaka in March to hold talks with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (leader of the Awami League) and was later joined by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, after the leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, which had secured the second largest share of seats in the elections. Unwilling to transfer power to the Awami League (fearing a transfer of power would erode the dominance of the Pakistan Peoples Party in the west), or to lose face by backing down in face of the non-cooperation movement, the Pakistani generals, most of which including Gul Hassan Khan supported the Pakistan Peoples Party, finally decided on a military crackdown.

The plan was drawn up in March 1971 by Major General Khadim Hussain Raza and Major General Rao Farman Ali, as a follow-up of decisions taken at a meeting of the Pakistani army staff on 22 February. The 16th infantry division from Quetta and the 9th division from Kharian, West Pakistan, were ordered to prepare to move to East Pakistan in mid-February also as a result of that meeting. The Operation was to start on the night of March 25, 1971 in Dacca, and other garrisons were to be alerted via phone about their zero hour to start their activities. General Farman Ali commanded the forces in Dhaka, while the rest of the province was commanded by General Khadim. Lt. General Tikka Khan and his staff were present in the 31st field command center, to supervise and support the command staff of the 14th division.

As outlined by the Pakistani planners, the operation aimed to eliminate the Awami League apparatus and any civilians and personnel of the armed forces supporting the Awami League movement in defiance of martial law. Cunning, surprise, deception and speed were emphasized as crucial for success. Use of free and greater force was authorized. Search and assault of civilian areas and Hindu areas also were authorized. So, they have some requirements for their success. The requirements are given below:

1.    Operation to be launched simultaneously all across East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh).
2.    Maximum number of political and student leaders and those among cultural organizations and teaching staff to be arrested or fired.
3.    Operation must achieve 100% success in Dhaka. (Dhaka University would be occupied and searched).
4.    Free and greater use of fire authorized for securing cantonments.
5.    All internal and international communications to be cut off, including telephone, television, radio and telegraph.
6.    All Bengali (East Pakistani) troops to be neutralized by seizing weapons and ammunition.
7.    To deceive the Awami League, President Yahiya Khan to pretend to continue dialogue, even if Mr. Bhutto disagrees, and to agree to Awami League demands.

The planned and designated centers of offensive operations under that plan were Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Saidpur and Sylhet areas, where West Pakistani army units were concentrated. Pakistani Army units and paramilitary elements in other areas of East Pakistan were to maintain control of their respective areas and await reinforcements during the initial phase of the operation. Once Dhaka had been secured, the 9th and 16th divisions from Pakistan were to be airlifted into East Pakistan as reinforcements. Cities with airfields (Chittagong, Sylhet, Jessore, Rangpur, and Comilla) would be reinforced via C-130 airplanes or heliborne troops directly from Dhaka. Although the plan did not specify the time needed to subdue East Pakistan, it was assumed that after the arrest of the political leadership and disarming of the Bengali military and paramilitary units, civilians could be terrorized into submitting to martial law within a week. Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan estimated that no resistance would remain after April 10.

After that, when the Operation Search Light was started on the mid night of March 25, 1971 in East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh), the Pakistani Army and Pakistani Rajakar forces were killed many innocent public, students, civilians, children, political leader, political member, old people and many others and they were raped many Bengali girls and women. They were killed thousands of unarmed Bengali people in only one night. As a result of this night Bangladesh Liberation War was started with Mukti Bahini and which concluded with the unconditional surrender of Pakistan forces on December 16, 1971.

You can also see the details information of Operation Searchlight in Dhaka, Chittagong, Mymensingh-Joydevpur and Comilla, Sylhet-Jessore, Khulna-Kushtia and Rajshahi, Rangpur-Saidpur.


  1. On this night Pakistani Hanader Bahani killed a lot of Bengali people.

  2. It is a remember able day for all Bengali.

  3. Operation Searchlight is a darkness night in the Bangladesh's history.