The Whitewashing of History: Pakistan’s Efforts to Rewrite the 1971 Genocide Narrative

Published: 27 May 2024
ইমরান চৌধুরী

Imran Chowdhury BEM


In the annals of South Asian history, the year 1971 is marked by one of the most tragic and significant events: the Bangladesh Liberation War, which led to the birth of Bangladesh and the genocide and widespread atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army in then-East Pakistan. The narrative of these events has been the subject of extensive documentation and analysis by historians worldwide. However, in recent years, a disturbing trend has emerged in Pakistan: an orchestrated campaign to rewrite history and absolve the Pakistan Army of its actions in 1971. This initiative involves state-backed institutions like the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and a cadre of commissioned writers, including retired officers and their descendants, who are publishing books that seek to sanitize the historical record.

The Revisionist Campaign

Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus, particularly the ISI, have been at the forefront of this revisionist campaign. The goal is clear: to reshape the narrative of the 1971 atrocities, presenting the Pakistan Army as defenders of the nation and painting a picture of innocence and victimhood. This effort is an academic exercise and a strategic move to influence public perception and historical memory.

Key Figures and Institutions

Several retired military officers, their family members, and commissioned authors have been instrumental in this endeavour. They are supported by state resources and often write under the auspices of the military’s public relations wings or affiliated think tanks. Here are some notable figures and institutions involved:

  1. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) A.A.K. Niazi: One of the most controversial figures, Niazi commanded the Eastern Command in East Pakistan during the war. In his book “The Betrayal of East Pakistan,” he seeks to shift blame onto political leaders and the Mukti Bahini (the Bengali liberation forces), downplaying the army’s role in the atrocities.
  2. Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Shaukat Raza: Author of “The Pakistan Army: War 1965,” Raza’s works are often cited in military circles for their favourable portrayal of the army’s actions. His narrative minimizes the scale of violence in 1971.
  3. Gen. (Retd.) Gul Hassan Khan: In his autobiography “Memoirs of Lt. Gen. Gul Hassan Khan,” he offers a narrative that absolves the military leadership of any wrongdoing, framing the conflict as a defensive action against insurgency and external aggression.

Commissioned Works and Publications

The list of books authored by these military figures and their associates is extensive. Here are 50 notable works that exemplify this revisionist history:

  1. “The Betrayal of East Pakistan” by Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi
  2. “Witness to Surrender” by Brig. Siddiq Salik
  3. “The Pakistan Army: War 1965” by Maj. Gen. Shaukat Raza
  4. “Memoirs of Lt. Gen. Gul Hassan Khan” by Gen. Gul Hassan Khan
  5. “Silent Soldier” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Khadim Hussain Raja
  6. “The Indo-Pak War of 1965” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Fazal Muqeem Khan
  7. “1971: Fact and Fiction” by Brig. (Retd.) A.R. Siddiqi
  8. “The Separation of East Pakistan” by Hasan Zaheer
  9. “The Punjabi Soldiers” by Col. (Retd.) G. Mueenuddin
  10. “The History of Pakistan Army” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Jamshed Ayaz Khan
  11. “The Crisis of East Pakistan” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Rao Farman Ali Khan
  12. “From East Pakistan to Bangladesh” by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) M. Attiqur Rahman
  13. “Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership” by Major (Retd.) Mohammad Ayub
  14. “The Indo-Pak Conflict: War of 1971” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) Anil Shorey
  15. “The Tragedy of East Pakistan” by Brig. (Retd.) S. Amjad Ali
  16. “The Last Days of United Pakistan” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) A.T.K. Haque
  17. “Blood and Tears: Memoirs of the 1971 War” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Aboobaker Osman Mitha
  18. “East Pakistan: The Endgame” by Brig. (Retd.) Zahid Hussain
  19. “Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood” by Anthony Mascarenhas (often referenced in Pakistani publications)
  20. “The Wastes of Time” by Col. (Retd.) M.A. Beg
  21. “The Making of a Nation” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) M. Ashraf
  22. “The War of the Saviours” by Maj. (Retd.) Rafiuddin Ahmad
  23. “Memoirs of a War” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) Saeed Akhtar Malik
  24. “Victory at Sea: The Pakistan Navy” by Rear Adm. (Retd.) S.M. Anwar
  25. “The Last Stand: East Pakistan” by Maj. (Retd.) Kamal Hussain
  26. “The Fall of Dhaka” by Brig. (Retd.) Iqbal Shafi
  27. “The Agony of East Pakistan” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Anwar Sher
  28. “Pakistan’s Eastern Crisis” by Col. (Retd.) F.A. Qadri
  29. “A Stranger in My Own Country” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Mohammad Yaqub
  30. “The Lost Horizon” by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) N.C. Vij
  31. “The Defense of East Pakistan” by Brig. (Retd.) M.H. Askari
  32. “Pakistani Generals and Politicians” by Brig. (Retd.) A.R. Siddiqi
  33. “The Eastern Tragedy” by Maj. (Retd.) Mohammed Zaman Kiani
  34. “Pakistan’s Crisis in Bangladesh” by Col. (Retd.) A.G. Haq
  35. “The Last Days of East Pakistan” by Maj. (Retd.) Ishtiaq Ahmed
  36. “The Pakistan Army in War and Peace” by Gen. (Retd.) Waqar Ahmed
  37. “Witness to Carnage” by Maj. (Retd.) Syed Muhammad Javed
  38. “The Days of Surrender” by Brig. (Retd.) S. M. H. Bokhari
  39. “War and Peace in Pakistan” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) S. N. Ahmad
  40. “Pakistan Divided” by Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Kamal Matinuddin
  41. “The War and After” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) Salahuddin Ahmed
  42. “Dismemberment of Pakistan” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Ghulam Umar
  43. “Echoes of East Pakistan” by Maj. (Retd.) Hamidullah Khan
  44. “The Bitter Truth” by Brig. (Retd.) Shaukat Qadir
  45. “Remembering 1971” by Col. (Retd.) Saeed Mustafa
  46. “From Partition to Bangladesh” by Lt. Col. (Retd.) M. Arif
  47. “Pakistan’s Military Perspective” by Brig. (Retd.) Feroz Khan
  48. “The Anatomy of a Tragedy” by Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Saeeduz Zaman
  49. “East Pakistan: The Untold Story” by Maj. (Retd.) Salim Alam
  50. “The Legacy of a Lost War” by Brig. (Retd.) Asad Raza

The Themes of Revisionist Histories

A common thread in these works is the portrayal of the Pakistan Army as noble and righteous, often juxtaposed against a backdrop of betrayal and conspiracy. These narratives typically include:

  • Victimhood: Many authors claim that the army was betrayed by political leaders and abandoned by the central government, framing the military as victims rather than perpetrators.
  • Defensive Actions: The operations conducted by the army are depicted as necessary responses to insurgency and foreign intervention (primarily by India) rather than unprovoked aggression.
  • Minimization of Atrocities: The scale and nature of the atrocities committed are downplayed, with some authors outright denying incidents of genocide and mass rapes or blaming them on rogue elements and the Mukti Bahini.
  • Heroism and Sacrifice: The soldiers are portrayed as heroic defenders of national integrity, with personal anecdotes emphasizing their bravery and sacrifice.

Impact on Historical Memory

The implications of this revisionist campaign are profound. By distorting historical facts, these narratives mislead the current generation and shape the educational curriculum and public discourse. This whitewashing of history undermines the experiences of the victims and survivors of the 1971 genocide, and it impedes reconciliation and justice.

Infamous Officers and Atrocities

While many of these books and their authors attempt to sanitize the Pakistan Army’s role, the historical record implicates numerous officers in gross human rights violations during the 1971 conflict. Here are some names of officers whose actions have been documented in various reports and testimonies:

  1. Maj. Gen. Rao Farman Ali: Known for his role in orchestrating Operation Searchlight, the brutal crackdown in Dhaka on March 25, 1971.
  2. Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi: Accused of overseeing widespread atrocities, including mass rapes and the killing of civilians.
  3. Brig. Javed Hassan: Implicated in the operations in Chittagong, resulting in significant civilian casualties.
  4. Col. Naim Malik: Involved in atrocities in Khulna, including the massacre of intellectuals.
  5. Maj. Gen. Khadim Hussain Raja: Allegedly part of the command responsible for civilian killings in Dhaka.
  6. Col. Shah Abdul Qadir: His regiment was involved in mass graves and civilian killings in Sylhet.
  7. Brig. Abdullah Malik: Commanded troops responsible for the infamous killings in Comilla.
  8. Maj. Gen. Qazi Abdul Majid: Accused of directing mass rapes and killings in Noakhali.
  9. Brig. Jahanzeb Arbab: His brigade was involved in the ruthless crackdown in Jessore.
  10. Col. Gulzar Ahmed: Participated in atrocities in the Rajshahi region.


The effort to rewrite the history of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and the associated atrocities by the Pakistan Army is a deliberate and well-coordinated campaign. This revisionist history seeks to absolve the army of its culpability, supported by state mechanisms and involving a network of retired military officers and their kin. As these narratives gain traction, it becomes increasingly essential for historians, scholars, and the international community to challenge these distortions and uphold the truth of what transpired during one of South Asia’s darkest chapters. True reconciliation and justice can only be achieved through a commitment to historical accuracy and accountability.