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Kushtia looking "like a World War-II German town":WB official

By Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju

DHAKA, March 23,2015(BSS) - After visiting the then war-ravaged East Pakistan, as a top World Bank (WB) economist termed Kushtia town as looking "like a world war-II German town--."

An eyewitness account of the situation in the western section of East Pakistan, written by the economist and the mission member, Hendrik van der Heijden, described the town of Kushtia as looking "like a world war-II German town having undergone strategic bombing attacks" as a result of 12 days of "punitive action" undertaken by the West Pakistani army.

Headed by a Briton, I.P.M. Cargill, director of the World Bank's South Asia department, a special World Bank mission, visited the then East Pakistan between May 30 and June 11 to assess the effects of the central Government's repression of the Bengalis.

The New York Times on July 13, 1971 carried out news items titled "World Bank Unit Says Pakistan Aid Is Pointless Now" written by Tad Szulc on the basis of the report. Describing the situation of Kushtia town, Mr van der Heijden reported that "90 per cent of the houses, shops, banks, and other buildings were totally destroyed" and that the population was down from 40,000 to 5,000."

"Kushtia, as someone told me, is the Mylai of the West Pakistani Army," he wrote. "There was only one reaction: to confirm that impression."

He reported that in Jessore, another East Pakistani town, some 20,000 people were killed and the city center was destroyed.
"Virtually all economic activity has come to a halt," he added.

"Generally, the army terrorizes the population, particularly aiming at the Hindus and suspected members of the Awami League," Mr. van der Heijden said. The Awami League, which was East Pakistan's dominant political party, was banned when the military action began.

In the firm community of Khulna, the World Bank official wrote, "agriculture was in shambles, the people demoralized."

Mr. van der Heijden noted that on the level of the farm communities, known as Thana, "the shock waves of the army action hit the hardest; it was at his level where the hope for agriculture development was." The hope has received set back by at least five years," he added.

"It is doubtful whether any government can effectively deal with these people in the near future," he said of the communities' residents.

The over-all report, drawn from accounts by the mission members who toured East Pakistan, described the disruption of the economic social activity and said, "The situation is very far indeed from normal: nor are there any signs that normality is being approached or that matters are even moving in that direction.

Since the army crackdown began on March 25, at least 2,00,000 people many of them Hindus, are reported to have been killed and in excess of 2.5 million people became refugees in India.

The special World Bank mission has concluded that East Pakistan had been so ravaged by the West Pakistani military crackdown that no international development efforts "will have to remain in a state of suspension for at least the next year or so."

Authoritative bank officials said that this represented, in effect, a recommendation by the mission that additional international economic assistance to Pakistan be withheld.

The view taken by high World Bank officials was reported to be that the Pakaistani Government would divert the funds originally earmarked for the eastern province to bolster the economy of the western part, which has also suffered seriously.