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Major Flaws in Hamoodur

Rehman Commission Report 

By Nasim Yousaf 

The Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report (HRCR) is missing many crucial pieces of the puzzle with regards to the factors that led to the division of Pakistan (into Pakistan and Bangladesh) in 1971. A fresh inquiry is needed to fill this major gap.


On December 16, 1971, Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) achieved its independence, following a most humiliating surrender by nearly 90,000 soldiers of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Ten days after the emergence of Bangladesh, the Government of Pakistan (through notification Number: SRO [I] 71, dated December 26, 1971) appointed the Hamoodur Rehman Commission to investigate the events leading up to the surrender of the armed forces of Pakistan in East Pakistan and the ceasefire on the borders of West Pakistan. The Commission was comprised of three senior judges: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Hamoodur Rehman, Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court Anwarul Haq, and Chief Justice of the Sind and Baluchistan High Court Justice Tufail Ali Abdul Rehman Zubedi. However, when the Commission completed its inquiry, the final report was promptly shelved in order to keep its findings hidden.


In August of 2000, extracts from the Commission’s final report were leaked and published by “India Today.” Thereafter, the HRC report was printed in book form by a Pakistani publisher under the title The Report of the Hamoodur Rehman Commission of Inquiry into the 1971 War [Declassified by the Government of Pakistan]. As per the contents of this book, the original HRC report had “4000 typed pages” and “374 exhibits.” However, the published version of the report included only 545 pages (the full version does not appear to have been published).


I am currently doing research on the late Air Commodore M. Zafar Masud (recipient of the Hilal-e-Jurat and Sitara-i-Basalat awards), who was the Air Officer Commanding, East Pakistan (1970-1971), and considered to be the future Chief of Staff of the Pakistan Air Force. I have reviewed the published (545 page) Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report (HRCR) and found that the HRCR has many inadequacies. More specifically, below are some major items that were excluded from the report:


1)      Air Commodore Masud’s briefing to the late President of Pakistan, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, at a conference held on March 16, 1971 in Dhaka (a copy of this briefing was also sent to then Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistani Air Force, Air Marshal Abdur Rahim Khan). This conference, attended by many Army Generals, took place only ten days prior to the military action in East Pakistan.

2)      Details of Air Commodore Masud’s resignation and his dispute with the President of Pakistan and Air Marshal Rahim Khan over the use of force (Commodore Masud sacrificed his bright military career to try and save the country from breaking up).

3)      A recorded interview of Air Commodore Masud by the Hamoodur Rehman Commission. The commission recorded interviews with members of the armed forces. However, Air Commodore Masud’s statement is not included in the HRCR interviews that were released. It is unknown whether Air Commodore Masud’s statement was recorded and omitted from the published report or if it was not recorded at all. If it was not recorded, then one must question why the Commission did not document such an important point of view (Air Commodore Masud was still alive when the HRCR was prepared; he died in 2003).


In addition to the omission of vital details regarding Air Commodore Masud, the HRCR also ignores crucial mistakes by Pakistan’s founding fathers and the Pakistani establishment in the years leading up to the division of the country in 1971. Key pieces of information overlooked by the report in this regard include:


1)      The intolerance and suppression of opposition leaders (including Allama Mashriqi in West Pakistan and Maulana Bhashani in East Pakistan) from 1947 onwards. This type of treatment destroyed democracy from the very birth of Pakistan.

2)      Allama Mashriqi’s warning regarding the break-up of Pakistan during his speech at a public meeting at Iqbal Park (Lahore) in 1956. Mashriqi stated, “Ye Muslims! Today from this platform I sound you a warning…In 1970 — I see it clearly — the nation will be stormed from all sides. The internal situation would have deteriorated gravely. A panic of widespread bloodshed will sweep the nation. The frenzy of racial and provincial prejudices will grip the whole country. Zindabad and murdabad will defean your ears. Plans will be initiated to dismember the country. Take it from me that in 1970, Pakistan will be plagued with a grave threat to its sovereignty. You might actually lose it if the reigns of the country were not in the hands of courageous and unrelenting leadership.” This forewarning was based on the mishandling of political affairs in the East wing.

3)      Mashriqi’s various suggestions to the top leadership of Pakistan to keep the two wings of Pakistan united.

4)      The Bengalis’ resentment of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) as a result of disagreements over issues such as his failure to accept Bengali as a national language (see Jinnah’s speech in Dhaka on March 21, 1948).

5)      The discrimination against East Pakistan that led to the total collapse of Jinnah’s Muslim League in the first provincial elections held in 1954 in East Pakistan.


Given these gross oversights, it seems that the true intention of the HRCR was not to actually study the circumstances that led to the debacle of East Pakistan; rather, it was to shift blame away from the political leadership and toward other groups, including the Armed Forces, India, and the Hindus of East Pakistan. In doing so, the report completely overlooked the most unfortunate actions of the Pakistani political leadership and the establishment from the time that the country was formed in 1947. It is clear that the HRC report, as it stands, is incomplete and cannot be viewed as an objective account of the reasons for the break-up of the country in 1971.


The recent general elections provide some hope for a new Pakistan. But a new Pakistan requires a fundamental rethinking of every major institution in the country and a correction of the nation’s flawed educational syllabus and concocted history books. This massive overhaul can take place only when the masses are provided with unbiased knowledge of the nation’s history, the mistakes of its founding fathers, the opposing views of Jinnah’s contemporaries (including Allama Mashriqi), and how the country’s democratic institutions were eroded from the very outset. Therefore, the new Government must reopen the inquiry and appoint a new commission to look into the break-up of the nation in 1971. It should empower this commission to write openly without reservation and examine all issues comprehensively (including the points mentioned in this article), from 1947 to 1971. This new report would enable the nation to turn the page on a deplorable and depressing period in its history and serve as an extremely important step towards avoiding another break-up of the nation.


Note: The author invites information and photos from the public about Air Commodore Zafar Masud and his role as the Air Officer Commanding, East Pakistan (1970-1971). The author can be reached via Facebook or by sending a message to


Nasim Yousaf, a scholar and historian, is committed to uncovering the true facts in South Asian history. Thus far, he has written ten books along with many articles. His works are a valuable contribution to the historiography of the Indian sub-continent and have provided new dimensions to India’s partition episode. Currently, he is working on additional books and articles, including one on Air Commodore Zafar Masud.


Copyright © 2013 Nasim Yousaf

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