India honours ex-Pakistan’s Para Brigade member for liberating Bangladesh

Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir
Bangladeshi Lt. Col. Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir

New Delhi, Nov 11 : India has honoured a former Pakistan’s elite para-brigade member in Sialkot and now a Bangladeshi Lt. Col. Qazi Sajjad Ali Zahir (retd) for his contribution in liberating Bangladesh from atrocities of Pakistan.

Lt. Col. (retd) Zahir, a Pakistan Army officer — who went on to serve the Bangladesh Army — is a highly decorated officer. Interestingly, there is a death sentence for him for the last 50 years in Pakistan for showcasing his bravery.

Incidentally Lt. Col. (retd) Zahir has turned 71, when India and Bangladesh celebrate 50 years of the war.

He was conferred with Bir Protik, the Indian equivalent to a Vir Chakra for gallantry and Bangladesh’s highest civil honour Swadhinata Padak.

India now conferred him with Padma Shri — one of the highest civilian awards recognizing his sacrifices and contribution to India’s success in the 1971 war against Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh.

He came to India when he was 20-year-old with documents and maps about Pakistan plans.

He was an young officer in the Pakistan army posted in the Sialkot sector and thereafter managed to cross over to India in March 1971 seeing brutality and genocide in East Pakistan.

He has just Rs 20 in his pocket when he crossed the border. Initially, he was suspected as a Pakistani spy but later on he gained trust.

Once he landed in India, he was taken to Pathankot where military officers grilled him and about Pakistan army deployments.

He was taken to a safe house for months before moving to East Pakistan training the Mukti Bahini in guerilla warfare to take on the Pakistani Army.

He had cited that the reasons for his escape from Pakistan was that Jinnah’s Pakistan became a Kabristan (graveyard).

They were treated like second class citizens, with no rights.

They were a deprived population. They never got a democracy as was promised.

They only got a martial law.

“Jinnah said we will have equal rights but we didn’t have any. We were treated as servants of Pakistan,” he stated.

He is a a second generation military officer he is proud of all those who serve their country. His father was an officer in the British Army and was part of the Burma (Myanmar) action in the second world war. His teenage brother was part of Mukti Bahini that fought for the freedom of Bangladesh.

Lt. Col. Sajjad was master of map reading and night navigations.

Lt. Col. Sajjad claims that because of his information Indian Army penetrated 56 miles into Pakistani territory in the Battle of Shakargarh.

From Delhi, he was sent to East Pakistan where he served at a camp adjacent to Tripura and Assam border in a hilly area where there were 850 ‘mukti bahini’ men and trained them in guerilla warfare.

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