In the same sitting, General Farman wrote down the new plan on a light blue office pad, using an ordinary school pencil. 1 saw the original plan in General Farman's immaculate hand. General Khadim wrote its second part, which dealt with distribution of resources and the allocation of tasks to brigades and units.
The plan, christened 'Operation SEARCHLIGHT', consisted of sixteen paragraphs spread over five pages (See Appendix' III). It presumed that all Bengali troops, including regular East Bengal battalions, would revolt in reaction to its execution. They should therefore, be disarmed. Secondly, the 'non?cooperation' movement launched by Mujib should be deprived of its leadership by arresting all the prominent Awami League leaders while they were in conference with the President. The plan also listed, as an annexure, sixteen prominent persons whose houses were to be visited for their arrest.
The hand-written plan was read out to General Hamid and Lieutenant?General Tikka Khan at Flagstaff House on the afternoon of 20 March. Both of them approved the main contents of the plan but General Hamid struck out the clause pertaining to disarming the Bengali troops as `it would destroy one of the finest armies in the world'. He, however, approved the disarming of paramilitary forces like the East Pakistan Rifles and the Police. He asked only one question, 'After distribution of these troops for various tasks, are you left with any reserves?' 'No, Sir,' was the prompt reply from the G.O.C.
Page # 63
The wireless set fitted in the jeep groaned for the first time at about 11.30 p.m. The local commander (Dacca) asked permission to advance the H?hour because 'the other side' was hectically preparing for resistance. Everybody looked at his watch. The President was still halfway between Colombo (Sri Lanka) and Karachi. General Tikka gave the decision. `Tell Bobby (Arbab) to hold on as long as he can.'
At the given hour, Brigadier Arbab's brigade was to act as follows:
13 Frontier Force was to stay in Dacca cantonment as reserve and defend the cantonment, if necessary.
43 Light Anti?Aircraft (LAA) Regiment, deployed at the airport in an anti?aircraft role since the banning of over flights by India, was to look after the airport area.
22 Baluch, already in East Pakistan Rifles Lines at Pilkhana, was to disarm approximately 5,000 E.P.R. personnel and seize their wireless exchange.
32 Punjab was to disarm 1,000 'highly motivated' policemen, a prime possible source of armed manpower for the Awami League, at Rajarbagh Police Lines.
18 Punjab was to fan out in the Nawabpur area and the old city where many Hindu houses were said to have been converted into armouries.
Field Regiment was to control the Second Capital and the adjoining Bihari localities (Mohammadpur, Mirpur).
A composite force consisting of one company each of 18 Punjab, 22 Baluch and 32 Punjab, was to `flush' the University Campus particularly Iqbal Hall and Jagan Nath Hall which were reported to be the strong points of the Awami League rebels.
A platoon of Special Service Group (Commandos) was to raid Mujib's house and capture him alive.
A skeleton squadron of M?24 tanks was to make an appearance before first light, mainly as a show of force. They could fire for effect if required.
These troops, in their respective areas, were to guard the key points, break resistance (if offered) and arrest the listed political leaders from their residences.
The troops were to be in their target areas before 1 a.m. but some of them, anticipating delay on the way, had started moving from the cantonment at about 11.30 p.m. Those who were already in the city to guard the radio and television stations, telephone exchange, power house and State Bank etc., had also taken their posts much before the H?hour.
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Lieutenant?Colonel Z.A. Khan, the commanding officer, and Major Bilal, the company commander, themselves had accompanied the raiding platoon.
As the commandos approached Mujib's house, they drew fire from the armed guard posted at his gate. The guards were quickly neutralized. Then up raced the fifty tough soldiers to climb the four-foot high compound wall.
Page # 75
Brigadier M. H. Ansari, who had flown from Dacca, had mustered all available resources?an infantry platoon, a few mortars and two tank sand formed a task force. The Navy had lent the support of a destroyer and a few gunboats. He had achieved this success with marvellous skill. Later an additional battalion was also flown from Dacca to Chittagong.
Although the situation with regard to the availability of resources
had improved, the main battle for Chittagong had yet to be fought.
The radio transmitters, East Pakistan Rifles Sector Headquarters
and the Reserve Police Lines in the District Courts area (the concentration
point for the policemen, ex-servicemen and armed volunteers) remained
to be cleared before the general flushing out of the area could
General Mitha was the first to have a go at the transmitter building. He sent a commando detachment to blow it up. His troops approached the target from the flank, following the river?route. They soon came under fire while still? in country boats. Sixteen of them were killed. Mitha's second attempt too proved abortive and highly expensive.
Major?General Khadim then sent a column of 20 Baluch under Lieutenant?Colonel
Fatimi. Once again, Fatimi managed to involve himself in some sort
of engagement with the rebels on the way and, never reached the
transmitters. Finally, two F?86s (Sabres) from Dacca had to knock
them out. I visited the sight a few days later and found the building
well fortified with pillboxes and foxholes - all interconnected
with a fine network of trenches. The building was intact.