DACCA Diary from InterContinental Hotel by Wall Street Journal’s Peter R Kann

Wednesday, Dec 15, 1971

Indian air strike during breakfast. Dining room empties in 10 seconds. Whole roomful of half-eaten instant scrambled eggs.

The chairman of the Dacca Peace Committee, a key collaborator with the West Pakistanis, arrives at hotel gate and is turned away. He argues for a while, finally walks off as if in a trance, like a man walking to his death.

Gen. Farman arrives at about 9 a.m.. Will the Pakistani army surrender? “Why should we surrender?” The question of surrender does not arise.” Farman is riding around in a Mercedes camouflaged with mud, two general stars on its licence plate. No armed escort.

A few minutes after 10, a British journalist runs by, yelling that Farman is coming to hotel to surrender within the hour. Great excitement. TV types pleading with one another to get organized, form a line. “For once,” they say, “let’s not have to photograph each other.”

Farman enters gate on schedule but turns corner and gives TV cameras nothing but long shots. Rumor is that President Yahya gave approval to surrender plan last night but Gen. Niazi may be balking.

Pak army doctor, a colonel, arrives at hotel. Sad conversation. “What is honor?” he says. “How much sacrifice must be made for honor’s sake” In the old days we fought duels for our honor. Now a million men must die to satisfy honor.” He says Pak army has taken terrible casualties.

Gen. Farman leaves the hotel. Many surrender rumors still floating. Too many.

Lee Lescaze of Washington Post and I now doing four-hour guard duty at gate. Lee stops a mongoose trying to scurry under the gate into neutral zone. We suggest mongoose get Iranian passport.

Evening radio news says dollar being devalued. Seems like distant crisis from here. Japanese consul general remarks that Pak army must surrender “like Japan at the end of World War II.”

Staggering rush of events these past days. Like watching a pro football team play its whole season in one week.

 

Peter R Kann


Peter R Kann joined the staff of The Wall Street Journal in 1964 to become its publisher eventually. In 1972, he earned a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

Julian Francishas been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. In 2019, Julian has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.