By Anisur Rahman
DHAKA, Dec 14, 2020 (BSS) – Dhaka emerged as the free capital of independent Bangladesh on December 16, 1971 but records suggest, two days ahead of ceremonial enemy surrender, an air raid on the then Governor House marked the dissolution of the Pakistani administration, in a dramatic manner.
“All morning, (Governor) Dr. Malik and his regional cabinet had been unable to decide to resign or hang on. The Indian air raids finally resolved the issue,” read a Reuters report on December 14, 1971 from Dhaka.
The UK-based global news agency sketched the scene on that day at the highest seat of the then civil administration when the Indian air attack prompted so-called East Pakistan’s last Governor to hurriedly draft and sign his resignation.
“Dr. A. M. Malik, Governor of East Pakistan, wrote the draft of the resignation letter for his cabinet to President Yahya Khan with a ‘shaking ballpoint pen’ on a scrap of office paper as Indian MIG-21’s destroyed his official residence, Governor House,” read the report.
Defeated Pakistani military personnel, familiar with the scene, as well gave nearly identical description of the dramatic event.
But famous British journalist Gavin David Young who was inside the Governor House, now Bangabhaban, had a more vivid description of the last moments of East Pakistan government as an eye witness .
Young, a reporter of British daily The Observer at that time, years later his book Worlds Apart, wrote as the initial air raid started UN official John Kelly, who also was inside the Governor House, told him that Malik was meeting with his cabinet and his military adviser Major General Rao Farman Ali was also present there.
Young then accompanied Kelly to see the governor when a frightened Malik asked Kelly “should we give up now do you think?” but the UN representative evaded a direct answer.
He recalled just at that moment the second air raid began prompting the head of the Pakistani administration to write out his resignation addressed to President Yahya Khan.
“While the raid was still in progress Malik, a devout Muslim, took off his shoes and socks, carefully washed his feet, spread a white handkerchief over his head, and knelt down in the bunker and said his prayers,” Young wrote.
“That was the end of the last government of East Pakistan.”
Pakistani military spokesman Major Siddiq Salik in his much known Witness to Surrender wrote, on December 13 the governor and his principal aides waited for orders from Rawalpindi “but the President seemed too busy to take a decision”.
On the next day Malik called a high level meeting when three Indian MIGs attacked Governor House at 11.15 a.m. and ripped the massive roof of the main hall prompting the governor to rush to the air-raid shelter where he “scribbled out his resignation”.
“Almost all the inmates of this seat of power survived the raid, except for some fishes in a decorative glass case. They restlessly tossed on the hot rubble and breathed their last,” Salik wrote adding “the debris of the Government and Governor House were scattered”.
“14 December was the last day of the East Pakistan Government.
The then chief of general staff of Indian army’s Eastern Command Lieutenant General JRF Jacob in his Surrender at Dacca wrote that on receipt of military intelligence information he came to know that Malik called the meeting for 1200 hours.
Jacob said he then asked the air force to attack the governor house thinking “a disruption of the meeting would spur the governor to accept the surrender calls”.
“The attack was carried out accurately by our aircraft,” his ‘Surrender at Dacca’ read.