Saturday, April 9, 2011

Operation Searchlight In Mymensingh-Joydevpur & Comilla

Operation Searchlight was a historical planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement East Pakistan in March 1971. It is known as “The Dark Night of Bangladesh”. This operation ordered by the central government of West Pakistan (present Pakistan). The original plan of Operation Searchlight envisioned taking control of the major cities on March 26, and then eliminating all opposition, political and military within one month. Prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by the Pakistani
planners. 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.

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 so much concentrated. Some details of Operation Searchlight in Mymenshingh-Joydevpur & Comilla are given below:


Pakistani planners had feared 2nd EBR unit could launch attacks on Dhaka Airport or the cantonment itself and disrupt the operation during the early hours of March 25/26, when Dhaka garrison had no reserve forces to spare. Because The 2nd EBR was posted in Joydevpur to the north of Dhaka and had detachments posted in the Gazipur Ordnance factory (which had a small arsenal) and Rajendrapur Munitions factory (also housed an ammunition depot). Although Lt. Col. Masudul Hasan had informed via telephone Maj. K M Shafiullah of the Pakistani crackdown on March 26, the unit did not take any action until March 27. Pakistani squads took control of the Rajendrapur factory on March 26 and began to replenish munitions from that depot.

EPR 2nd wing was at Mymensingh, along with a company of 2 EBR and a mixed company of West Pakistani soldiers. On March 27 the Pakistani unit attacked the EPR company but was wiped out on March 28, while other 2nd Wing companies neutralized Pakistani soldiers (either arrested them and sent them across the border or killed them) and spread out  in towns to the east and west of Mymensingh by March 29.

Commanded by Major Shafiullah, the 2nd EBR revolted on 27 March, partially looted the Gazipur armory and regrouped at Mymensingh on 30 March. Shafiullah took command of 2nd EBR and 7 EPR squads (4 from 2nd wing and 3 made out of EPR, police, Mujahid and Answer personnel) and spread out his forces at Gaffargaon, Sirajgaung, Bahadurabad, and Tangail by March 30. 3 EPR squads were sent to Dhaka to conduct sneak attacks, while the 2nd EBR moved via Kishorgaung and Narshindi to attack Dhaka. Major Shafiullah canceled this plan on 31 March and joined the forces of Khaled Mosharraf north of Comilla with the 2nd EBR squads. Major Shafiullah spread out his forces as follows: 1 squad sent Chittagong to help Major Zia, 1 squad each at Narshindi, Azabpur, Brahmanbaria, Ashuganj, Taliapara, Sarail, 2 EBR squads at Taliapara, and 1 squad sent to Saidpur in Sylhet.

Pakistani forces (27th Brigade) moved north from Dhaka on April 1, one column headed for Tangail while the other for Narshindi. EPR forces ambushed them near Tangail, but Pakistanis broke through despite heavy casualties and Tangail fell on April 9. Despite being repeatedly ambushed by Bengali forces, Jamalpur fell on April 14 and Mymensingh by April 22. Pakistani forces bombed Narshindi on April 6, dispersing the EPR forces, and the army column (31st Baluch) attacked EPR positions near Narshindi on 8 April. This was repulsed, but the next attack, aided by artillery and Saber jets, broke through on April 9 and Narshindi fell on April 12. Mopping up action was conducted by the 27th Brigade, which secured Mymensingh, Sylhet and part of Comilla division by June.


Comilla is strategically important Dhaka - Chittagong highway and a crucial road link. So, Pakistani squads in Comilla had the following objectives:

1.    Disarm EPR, 4 EBR and Police.
2.    Secure telephone exchange and the whole town.
3.    Arrest all Awami League leaders.

EPR Wing Number 1 (4 companies, Commanded by Major Karab Ali-West Pakistani), part of EPR Sylhet sector was at Courtbari near Comilla city with its companies spread out at the Headquarter, at Akhaura, Nayanpur in Comilla district and at Parshuran near Belonia in Noakhali District. There were no Bengali officers attached to this wing.

Company under Major Khaled Mosharraf was sent to Shamshernagar in Sylhet on March 25. Another 2 companies of the 4th EBR (Lt. Col. Khijir Hayat - Pakistani) was at Brahmanbaria (50 miles north of Comilla), one under the command of Major Shafat Jamil. Col. Hayat left the EBR rear party at Comilla and joined the rest of his troops at Brahmanbaria on March 25, and ordered Shaffat Jamil to move to Shahbazpur with his company, where he remained until being recalled on March 26 evening back to Brahmanbaria.

31st Punjab was in Sylhet while the Chittagong area squads (20 Baluch, 8 EBR) were detached from the brigade and placed under the command of Brig. Mozumdar in mid March. 40th Field Ambulance (Commanded by Lt. Col. A.N.M Jahangir – Bengali), Brigade workshop and Field intelligence unit, The 24th Frontier Force (Commanded by Lt Col. Shahpur Khan – W. Pakistani), 3rd Commando Battalion (Commanded by Lt. Col. Z.A. Khan – W. Pakistani) and the 53rd Field Regiment (Commanded by Lt. Col. Yakub Malik), along with the 88th and 171st mortar (120mm) batteries, the brigade signal company (under of Major Bahar – Bengali) was situated in the base. 53rd brigade (Commanded by Brig. Iqbal Shaffi-W. Pakistani) was also situated at Mainamati cantonment (5 miles away from Comilla city).

The Pakistani squads easily arrested and imprisoned or executed Bengali squads in Comilla cantonment and then the Pakistani troops wiped out the police in Comilla city on 26 March. The EPR headquarter wing was warned of the attack and most EPR personnel managed to escape. A convoy of 80 to 100 vehicles bearing the 24th Frontier Force, the mortar batteries, commando squads and the engineers started for Chittagong after Comilla was secured. On March 25 an engineering company had been sent to Feni for secure the road. On March 26 near evening, this column was ambushed by the EPR 12 miles from Chittagong. On 29 March, the 3rd Commando battalion attacked and eliminated the 4th EBR rear party in the cantonment.

Pakistani planners plan was one 31 Punjab squad ambush Major Khaled’s detachment as it moved to Shamshernagar while another squad neutralized the remainder of the 4 EBR at Brahmanbaria. This plan was foiled because Major Khaled took an alternative rout to Shamshernagar, thus avoiding the ambush and the other squad was delayed because of barricades on the road. Major Shafat learned of the Pakistani crackdown on March 26 mornings from people fleeing Dhaka and managed to warn Major Khaled, who ordered Jamil to remain vigilant until Khaled arrived in Brahmanbari to lead the revolt. An unknown person warned Major Jamil of the approach of the 31st Punjab detachment on March 27 early hours and Major Jamil managed to arrest all Pakistani personnel prior to the scheduled 10:00 P.M. meeting. Major Khaled arrived later that day and spread out his squads to the north and east of Comilla.

On March 30 in Comilla, nearly thousand of Bengali soldiers, people and their families (including doctors posted at the CMH) were killed on the orders of Lt. Col. Malik. Pakistanis maintained their control of the city and the airfield throughout the operation. On April 10, Bengali squads still controlled major cities in Comilla, Noakhali and Sylhet. Pakistani 117th, 313th, and 27th Brigades were attacking these areas. Comilla was reinforced by helicopter squads from April 2, but their efforts to breakout from the city were foiled by Bengali fighters. The first major success of the Pakistani forces Comilla contingent came on April 19, when Akhaura fell to them.

Operation Searchlight is an unbelievable and horrible night of Bangladesh. If you want to know more about Operation Searchlight, you can also see details information of Operation Searchlight in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet-Jessore, Khulna-Kushtia and Rajshahi, Rangpur-Saidpur.


  1. That's really a very important article about Operation Searchlight in Bangladesh

  2. This is an excellent information about Comilla, when Operation Searchlight was running.

  3. I am so curious about this website because it is really an awesome website. Thanks for your excellent hard working.