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Birth of Bangladesh



By Jayantha Somasundaram

“My greatest strength is the love for my people,

My greatest weakness is that I love them too much.”

– Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

On December 16, 1971, Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, Pakistan’s Eastern Commander, surrendered to India’s Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, bringing to an end the war that completed the bifurcation of Pakistan, in order to create the new state of Bangladesh. This war of independence had been a brutally bitter conflict that had lasted almost a year.

When dominion status was granted in August 1947, Pakistan was made up of two enclaves, separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory. Muslim-majority East Bengal made up East Pakistan while the other Muslim-majority areas in the west comprised West Pakistan. In 1971 East Pakistan with 73 million had a larger population than West Pakistan which had 57 million.

At the end of over a decade of military rule in Pakistan, General Yahya Khan held parliamentary elections in December 1970. The poll resulted in the Awami League securing nearly all the seats in East Pakistan. The All Pakistan Awami (People’s) League was founded in 1949 by Bengali nationalists as a counter to the Muslim League which sought centralisation of political power and the imposition of Urdu as the national language. The Awami League had gone to the election on a Six Point Plan to gain Bengali control of everything except defence and foreign affairs.

However, overlooking the claims of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League, President Yahya Khan appointed Zulficar Ali Bhutto as Prime Minister, and refused to summon the newly elected parliament, the National Assembly of Pakistan.

In response, Mujibur Rahman on March 7, 1971 at a public rally in Dacca, attended by two million Bengalis, called for civil disobedience, armed resistance and Bengali independence. The result was a civil disobedience campaign which took the form of a general strike, non-payment of taxes, closure of schools and courts; and for the next three weeks East Bengal was a de facto independent state ruled by the Awami League.

Sahabzada Lieutenant General Yaqub Ali Khan was commander of the Pakistan Army’s Eastern Command in Dacca and Governor of East Pakistan. He opposed the use of military force to settle the Bengali issue and when ordered to do so, he refused and resigned his position. He was replaced by Lieutenant General Tikka Khan. His use of force led to criticism even in West Pakistan and in August he was recalled.

Independence declared

On March 25 Mujibur declared Bangladesh independent. That night the West Pakistani armed forces attacked the police barracks at Rajarbagh and the East Pakistan Rifles, a 15,000 strong paramilitary force based in Dacca. Debasish Roy Chowdhury in The Asia Times (23/6/05) claims that, “The military now decided enough was enough. At a meeting of the military top brass, Yahya declared: Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands.” Islamabad responded with Operation Searchlight on 26, a lightning military move aimed at taking all major Eastern cities. It included the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur who was thereafter imprisoned in Karachi in the West.

In addition, Islamabad banned the Awami League and arrested its leaders. The Awami League described it as genocide, targeting in particular their leadership and supporters as well as Bengali intellectuals and the destruction of their economy.

The New York Times

reported on March 30, “In two days and nights of shelling by the Pakistan Army perhaps seven thousand Bengalis died in Dacca alone. The Army which attacked without warning with American-supplied M24 Chaffee tanks destroyed large parts of the City.” A subsequent report published in the Times on April 14 said, “The Central Government forces killed East PakistanArmy officers and soldiers who were unable to break out and join the guerrillas when the Army offensive began on 25th March.”

Responding to the claim that Ceylon provided refuelling facilities for Pakistani military planes carrying troops to the East to suppress the uprising, Leslie Goonewardena, Minister of Communications stated, “in March 1971 sixteen east-bound and fifteen west-bound Pakistan Air Force planes touched down at the Bandaranaike International Airport.”

Provisional Government established

The Provisional Government of Bangladesh was established on April 17 when the 469 Bengali parliamentarians elected in December 1970, to the National and Provincial assemblies, formed the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh and drew up an interim constitution. In the absence of Mujibur, Syed Nazrul Islam was appointed Acting President. In the months that followed it is alleged that anything up to three million Bengalis were killed, including students, intellectuals, politicians and Hindus in what is referred to as the 1971 Bangladesh Genocide. The post war Hamoodur Rahman Commission appointed by Islamabad concluded that there were only 26,000 civilian deaths.

Anthony Mascarenhas was a Karachi-based reporter who was one of eight Pakistani journalists given a tour of the East by the Government. Appalled by what he learnt he fled to London with his family and broke his story in an article published in The Sunday Times on June 13. Under the headline ‘Genocide’ it began with: “Abdul Bari had run out of luck. Like thousands of other people in East Bengal, he had made the mistake – the fatal mistake – of running within sight of a Pakistani patrol. He was 24 years old, a slight man surrounded by soldiers. He was trembling because he was about to be shot.”

“…I have heard the screams of men bludgeoned to death in the compound of the Circuit House (civil administrative headquarters) in Comilla. I have seen truckloads of other human targets and those who had the humanity to try to help them hauled off ‘for disposal’ under the cover of darkness and curfew…I have witnessed the brutality of ‘kill and burn missions’ as the army units, after clearing out the rebels, pursued the pogrom in the towns and villages. I have seen whole villages devastated by ‘punitive action’. And in the officer’s mess at night I have listened incredulously as otherwise brave and honourable men proudly chewed over the day’s kill. ‘How many did you get?’ The answers are seared in my memory.”

Ten years ago on the anniversary of these events the BBC said: “There is little doubt that Mascarenhas’ reportage played its part in ending the war. It helped turn world opinion against Pakistan and encouraged India to play a decisive role….In the first of many notorious war crimes, soldiers attacked Dhaka University, lining up and executing students and professors….Their campaign of terror then moved into the countryside, where they battled local troops who had mutinied.”

In an article titled ‘Pakistan: The Ravaging of Golden Bengal’ on August 2, Time reported that “In Dacca, where soldiers set sections of the Old City ablaze with flamethrowers and then machine-gunned thousands as they tried to escape the cordon of fire, nearly 25 blocks have been bulldozed clear, leaving open areas set incongruously amid jam-packed slums.” It quoted a senior US official as saying, “It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.”

Archer Blood, US Consul-General in Dacca criticised Washington for supporting Islamabad, in an official cable subsequently known as the Blood Telegram. “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy,” the telegram said. “Our government has failed to denounce atrocities….Our government has evidenced what many will consider moral bankruptcy.”

By April 10, the West Pakistani Army had control of Dacca and Operation Searchlight, and the military control of all of Bangladesh by Pakistan was successfully completed in less than two months. In the civil war that ensued 300,000 Bengalis died. And by August there were seven million Bangladeshi refugees in India.

(To be continued)


ICC arrest warrant; a setback for authoritarian rule



‘All-weather allies’: President Xi Jinping meets President Vladimir Putin.

As should be expected, the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Russian President Vladimir Putin on war crimes allegations has given rise to a widespread debate on how effective it would be as an instrument of justice. What compounds the issue is the fact that Russia is not obliged to cooperate with the ICC, given that it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which outlaws the crimes in question and envisages punitive action for signatory state representatives who act in violation of its provisions.

Predictably, the Russian side has rubbished the ICC allegations and its arrest warrant on the basis that they are totally irrelevant to Russia, considering that it does not recognize the ICC or its rulings. However, the fact remains that important sections of the international community would be viewing Putin and his regime as war criminals who should be shunned and outlawed.

The possibility is great of the Putin regime steadily alienating itself from enlightened opinion the world over from now on. In other words, Putin and his cohorts have incurred a heavy moral defeat as a consequence of the ICC’s arrest warrant and its strictures.

Morality may not count much for the Putin regime and its supporters, locally and internationally, but the long term consequences growing out of this dismissive stance on moral standards could be grave. They would need to take their minds back to the white supremacist regimes of South Africa of decades past which were relentlessly outlawed by the world community, incurring in the process wide-ranging sanctions that steadily weakened apartheid South Africa and forced it to negotiate with its opponents. Moreover, the ICC measures against Putin are bound to strengthen his opponents and critics at home, thereby boosting Russia’s pro-democracy movement.

However, the Putin administration could earn for itself some ‘breathing space’ at present by proving the ICC’s allegations wrong. That is, it would need to establish beyond doubt that it is not guilty of the crime of deporting Ukrainian children to Russia and other war-linked offences. It could liaise with UNICEF and other relevant UN agencies for this purpose since it does not recognize the ICC.

A wise course of action for President Putin would be to pick up this gauntlet rather than ignore the grave allegations levelled against him, in view of the long term consequences of such evasive behavior.

Besides, the Russian President would need to restrict his movements from now on. For, he is liable to be arrested and produced before the ICC by those governmental authorities who are signatories to the Rome Statute in the event of Putin entering their countries. That is, Putin’s head is likely to be increasingly restless as time goes by.

However, the gravest consequence flowing from Putin and his regime ignoring the ICC and its strictures is that later, if not sooner, they could find themselves being hauled up before the ICC. There is ample evidence from recent history that this could be so. All the alleged offenders need to do is take their minds back to the convulsive and bloody Balkan wars of the nineties to see for themselves how the ICC process, though slow and laborious, finally delivered justice to the victims of war crimes in that tempestuous theatre.

All those war criminals who have lulled themselves into believing that it is possible to escape being brought to justice before the world’s tribunals, need to recollect how former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevik and his partners in crime Rodovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic were brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the early years of this century and required to pay the price for their criminality. So confident were they initially that they would never be brought to justice that they agreed, tongue-in-cheek, to fully cooperate with the ICTY.

It is pertinent to also remember that the criminals mentioned were notorious for their ‘ethnic cleansing’ operations and other war-time excesses. Accordingly, those accused of war crimes the world over would be only indulging in wishful thinking if they consider themselves above the law and safe from being held accountable for their offences. Justice would catch-up with them; if not sooner, then later. This is the singular lesson from Bosnia.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has considered it timely to call on President Putin in Russia. He did so close on the heels of being elected President for a third straight term recently. This is a clear message to the world that Russia could always depend on China to be a close and trusted ally. It is a question of two of the biggest authoritarian states uniting. And the world they see as big enough for both of them.

Interestingly, China is having the world believe that it has a peace plan for Ukraine. While in Russia, though, XI did not spell out in any detail how the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved with China’s assistance. However, China has drafted what is termed its ‘Position on the Ukraine Crisis’. It contains 12 points which are more in the nature of a set of principles.

Seen against the backdrop of the developments in Ukraine, some of these principles merit close scrutiny. For instance, the first principle lays out that the sovereignty of all countries must be respected. Besides, International Law must be universally recognized, including the ‘purposes and principles of the UN Charter’. However, ‘double standards’ must be rejected. Hopefully, the West got the hint.

Principle 4 has it that ‘Dialogue and negotiations are the only viable solution to the Ukraine crisis.’ Principle 8 points out that, ‘Nuclear weapons must not be used and nuclear wars must not be fought’.

Needless to say, all the above principles are acceptable to the international community. What is required of China is to evolve a peace plan for Ukraine, based on these principles, if it is in earnest when it speaks of being a peace maker. The onus is on China to prove its credibility.

However, China could be said to be characteristically pragmatic in making these moves. While further cementing its alliance with Russia, China is placing the latter on notice, though in a subtle way, that its war in Ukraine is proving highly counter-productive and costly, both for the states concerned and the world. The costly economic consequences for the world from the war speak for themselves. Accordingly, nudging Russia in the direction of a negotiated settlement is the wisest course in the circumstances.

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In the limelight again…Miss Super Model Globe 2020



Those who are familiar with the fashion and beauty pageant setup, in Sri Lanka, would certainly remember Shashi Kaluarachchi.

Three years ago, she was crowned Miss Super Model Globe Sri Lanka 2020 and then represented Sri Lanka at the Miss Super Model Globe International, held in India.

Shashi won two titles at this big event; she was placed second in the finals (1st Runner-up) and took the title of Best National Costume.

Very active in the modelling scene, in the not too distant past, Shashi went silent, after dazzling the audience at the Super Model Globe contest.

Obviously, those who are aware of her talents were kept guessing, and many were wondering whether she had prematurely quit the fashion scene!

Not quite so…and I had a surprise call from Shashi to say that she is ready to do it again.

The silence is due to the fact that she is now employed in Dubai and is concentrating on her office work.

1st Runner-up at Miss Super Model Globe International

“When I came to Dubai, I was new to this scene but now I do have some free time, coming my way, and I want to get back to what I love doing the most – modelling, fashion and beauty pageants,” she said.

Shashi indicated that she plans to participate in an upcoming beauty pageant, to be held in Dubai, and also do some fashion shoots, and modelling assignments.

“Dubai is now buzzing with excitement and I want to be a part of that scene, as well,” said Shashi, who had her early beginnings, as a model, at the Walk with Brian Kerkoven modelling academy.

“I owe my success to Brian. He made me what I’m today – a top model.”

Shashi, who 5’7″ tall, says she loves wearing the sari for all important occasions.

“The sari is so elegant, so graceful, and, I believe, my height, and figure, does justice to a sari,”

Shashi has plans to visit Sri Lanka, in April, for a short vacation, adding that if the opportunity comes her way, she would love to do some photo shoots, and a walk on the ramp, as well.

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Dry Skin



Shorter Showers

If you have dry skin, do not take long showers, or baths. Staying in the water for a longer time can dry it out more. You should also use warm, instead of hot, water, when you wash. Hot water can strip your skin of the fatty substances that give it hydration. As soon as you finish cleansing yourself, apply a body lotion, all over your body, to moisturize. Don’t wash yourself more than once a day


Applying a daily moisturizer can do wonders for dry skin, and there are products in your kitchen you can use which are natural and effective. Try coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, or sunflower seed oil


Olive oil and brown sugar have amazing properties for the skin. Both of these substances deeply hydrate. Olive oil is also a known wound-healer, while sugar contains glycolic acid, which allows it to have anti-aging. You can make a natural scrub, using these ingredients which can be as good as the best anti-wrinkle creams.

*  Mix one tablespoon of brown sugar with a teaspoon of olive oil.

*  Blend them, and spread the mixture on your face, and neck, using a circular motion, for a few minutes.

*  Then leave it to sit for another couple of minutes, and wash it off with warm water.

You can do this twice a week for amazing results


Taking care of your lips is important. Lips can also get dry and chapped, which is why you need to keep them hydrated, daily. If you’re looking for a natural balm, try sugar and lemon, or honey, sugar, and butter.

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