Thursday, April 28, 2011

Operation Searchlight In Sylhet & Jessore

Operation Searchlight was an unbelievable darkness military operation in Bangladesh’s history, which was carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement East Pakistan in March 1971. It is generally known as “The Dark Night of Bangladesh”. This Operation Searchlight 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 concentrated. Some details of Operation Searchlight in Sylhet & Jessore are given below:


Pakistani squads were given the following objectives in Sylhet:

1.    Secure Kean Bridge.
2.    Secure the Airport.
3.    Secure Radio station.
4.    Secure the telephone exchange.
5.    Disarm EPR and police.
6.    Arrest all Awami league leaders.

The 1st EPR wing with 4 companies was at Courtbari near Comilla. EPR sector No: 2 (Commanded by Sekendar Khan –W. Pakistani) in Sylhet contained 3 wings, the 1st, 3rd and 12th and only 1 Bengali officer. EPR 3rd wing (Commanded by Major Javed Barkat Chowdhury - W. Pakistani) with 4 companies was in the Sylhet city, and its all companies were deployed in Sylhet and along the border to the north of the city. The 12th Wing (Commanded by Major Shawkat Hayat Khan - W. Pakistani) with 3 companies was in Khadimnagar (north of Sylhet city) and its companies were deployed to the east of Sylhet.

The 31st Punjab battalion (Commanded by: Lt Col. Yakub- Pakistani) posted in Sylhet was attached to the 53rd Brigade in Comilla. Two companies from 31 Punjab had been sent to neutralize the 4 EBR, one company was at Shamshernagar, presumably to ambush the 4th Bengal Company (Commanded by Khaled Mosharraf). Another company from 31st Punjab was at Maulavibazar, presumably moving to Brahmanbaria to subdue the rest of 4th Bengal but these companies were delayed enroot by barricades thrown up on the roads by Bengalis. The remnant of 31st Punjab was in Sylhet.

Pakistani squads took over Sylhet city on March 26 without resistance, while Bengali EPR troops from 3rd wing and EPR Sector Headquarter managed to escape capture because Major Javed Barkat aided them. EPR 12th wing squads began to gather at Sunamganj while 3rd wing squads began taking over the Bangladesh police officers after learning of the Pakistani crackdown from March 27 onward. The 31st Punjab companies sent to neutralize 4 EBR took up platoon size defensive position at Sherpur, Saidpur and Shamshernagar after being foiled by the 4 EBR revolt in Brahmanbaria.

On 27 March, an EPR company attacked Samshernagar and drove back the Pakistani platoon towards Sylhet and also at Maulavibazar on March 27, another EPR company attacked by 2 Pakistani platoons. On March 29, EPR squads also repulsed a Pakistani platoon sized attacked on Sunamganj, while remaining 12th wing companies imprisoned West Pakistani personnel of the wing and joined the resistance, some joining Major CR Dutta in Habiganj while others joined Major Khaled Musharraf near Comilla. On March 31, a 31st Punjab Company attacked and captured Shamshernagar in the early morning with PAF assistance from the EPR forces and some EPR squads took up position at Khadimnagar by March 31.


Pakistani squads in Jessore had the following objectives:

1. Secure town and telephone exchange.
2. Disarm 1st EBR, EPR sector Headquarter and police.
3. Maintain control of cantonment and airfield.
4. Arrest Awami League leaders.
5. Reinforce Khulna if required.

The 1st EBR (Commanded by Lt. Col. Rezaul Jalil - Bengali) was at least 50% strength and it was in winter training away from the cantonment. This unit was also preparing to move to West Pakistan. Other than support and supply troops in the cantonment, there were armed police in the city where EPR sector Headquarter was located nearby. 7th Field ambulance was in the cantonment. EPR sector Headquarter squads and a platoon from EPR 5th wing was in the city.

The 107th Brigade Headquarter was in Jessore and it had the 26th Baluch regiment. The 27th Baluch regiment minus a company, elements of the 22nd Frontier Force, the 55th Field Artillery Regiment and elements of the 24th Field Artillery Regiment and various support and supply formations attached to the brigade.

On March 25 near of 11:30 PM, when the Operation Searchlight was started in the whole Bangladesh, Pakistani soldiers took up positions on several locations and began patrolling the city. A few shots were exchanged between the Bengali soldiers and Pakistani army near the EPR Headquarter but no major clash took place that night. On March 26, ERP Bengali squads took up arms and began patrolling inside the Headquarter. But Major Osman (Commanded by EPR 4 Wing at Chuadanga) tried to contact Bengali officers of the wing but the officers refused to talk to him. The situation in Jessore remained calm until March 30. On March 27 and 28 Major Osman had requested Col. Jalil to join the resistance but he had refused and warned Major Osman not to bother him further. On March 30, around 08:00 AM, Brig. Durrani himself came to 1 EBR barracks and ordered all arms to be surrendered and took away the keys of the armory. Bengali soldiers then revolted, broke arms out of the knots and began firing at the nearby Baluch barracks around 9:00 AM. The EBR line immediately came under mortar and automatic weapons fire from entrenched Pakistani soldiers from 3 sides.

On March 30, EPR squads received news of the cantonment clash and readied their defenses by around 9:30 AM. All Pakistani personnel were imprisoned, but the Bengali officers left the Headquarter after the revolt started, leaving command to the JCOs. The city police also joined the revolt and began attacking army positions all around the city, while arms kept in government installations were distributed among civilian volunteers. On March 30 evening, EPR squads ambushed a Pakistani convoy coming from Khulna, despite suffering heavy losses, surviving Pakistani squads managed to reach Jessore cantonment.

The Pakistan army simultaneously attacked all Bengali position near Jessore and recaptured the city on April 6. On April 9, Bengali troops regrouped at Narail and moved towards Jessore, but were scattered by Pakistani air attacks. Several Pakistani army columns left Jessore, one heading for Jhenida, one towards Khulna, and one towards Benapol on April 11.

In the Bangladesh, Operation Searchlight ended a liberation war in 1971. If you want to know more about Operation Searchlight, you can also see the details information of Operation Searchlight in Dhaka, Chittagong, Mymensingh-Joydevpur and Comilla, Khulna-Kushtia and Rajshahi, Rangpur-Saidpur.


  1. Operation Searchlight is a real "Darklight" for all Bangladeshi and Bangladesh's history.

  2. Really Bangladeshi Freedom fighters are very brave.