REPORTS OF THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION

Text of the agreed report released to Press by members of Canadian Parliamentary
Delegation, M/s.
Lachance, Macquarrie and Brewin in Ottawa, after their return on July 19, 1971

 

Following is text of agreed report released to Press by members of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation, M/s Lachance, Macquarrie and Brewin in Ottawa, after their return on July 19, 1971.

 

Major reason for going to India was to see at first hand plight of East Pakistan refugees who have been moving in such vast numbers across border into India. It was our belief that immense task of coping with great influx of people should not be borne by India alone. We return more than every convinced that humani­tarian issue is one of international concern and that generous effective assistance in looking after these unfortunate millions should be provided by world community without delay.

 

While Canadian Government and non-Governmental agencies have helped it is our fervent hope that a much greater measure of assistance will be forth­coming. We shall so recommend to our Government, our parties and people of Canada having seen at first hand immensity of tragedy and magnitude of prob­lem we could not do otherwise. From our visits to camps our interviews with refugees and discussions with those bearing responsibility of caring for these millions of people we developed a high regard for manner- in which Indian Government is coping with this immense problem. Considering magnitude of task India's Efforts have indeed been remarkable and deserving of highest commendation.

 

Under any circumstances provision of food and shelter for six million people would be an almost insuperable challenge to any country. Against background of difficulties created by terrain, weather and general climatic conditions, problem now faced by India is monumental in its immensity.

 

One matter very much in dispute was as to whether, flow of refugees had ceased or whether, as we were told in India, flow continued albeit on a somewhat reduced level.

 

On this point all that we are able to say is that near borders between East Pakistan and West Bengal, we oursrselves saw and spoke to people trudging along the road who told us that they had walked for ten days to get across the border which they had crossed within last 24 hours.

 

Indians told us that number of refugees who had crossed had increased, while we were there from 6.4 million to 6.8 million. In West Bengal we toured many individual camps each with a population of 10,000 to 100,000, larger than many Canadian towns and cities. To provide on short notice basic necessities, shelter, food, medical and sanitary services is a strain on the administrative capacity of any country. While in two busy days in Calcutta and North Bengal regions we saw many camps and thousands of people, we realise that time permit­ted us to view only a small portion of refugee population. Considering extent of burden upon India's economy, it is not surprising that her leaders affirm Chat their country cannot for long sustain or retain these millions of people and that their return to their homeland must be brought about.

 

Initially, when number of refugees in India was between one and two million, -the Indian Government estimated that total requirement to keep refugees on a minimal standard of existence and shelter for six months would be 150 million dollars. It was at this time that Canadian Government pledged an initial amount of two million dollars.

 

We are now told a revised figure has been prepared and approved by the authorities. This figure estimates six months expenditure for now nearly seven million refugees at 400 million dollars.

 

It is obvious that Canadian and other nations will have to increase scale of their giving if burden on India is to be relieved. We recommend that Canada should now increase provisional figure of its commitment to five million dollars.

 

From our inquiries of many of the refugees it is clear that the great exodus ,of people was prompted by fear. We were given many sad and depressing accounts -of violent actions by the West Pakistani military forces and other groups -many reported their homes burned, members of their families put to death and other incidents which led them to flee in terror to sanctuary across Indian border. Although mindful of dangers of any effort to over-simplify a complex situation it would appear that unless there is established in East Pakistan an administration which the refugees do not regard with fear they will not voluntarily return to their homes. It would be unthinkable that India or any other authority should force them back at gun point. Therefore the political and administrative situa­tion within Pakistan becomes germane to the situation.

 

While it has been a long-held contention that a nation's political structure is an internal matter, the massive outflow of Pakistan citizens upon the soil of ano­ther State gives question an international dimension which cannot be gainsayed.

 

Already, some members of world community have sought to put pressure upon Pakistan to withdraw Martial Law in East Pakistan and to make accommodation with political party which won such an overwhelming electoral victory in recent elections. Consideration is also being given to terminating all economic aid to Pakistan, and as in case of Canada, shipment of arms to Pakistan is being stopped.

 

Whether these and other such acts of pressure will be effective is not certain. History records some significant and painful failures of such techniques of international persuasion.

 

In India, one is overborne and traumatized by the magnitude of the sorrow and suffering of so many people. In Pakistan there are also elements of the tragic which are almost equally painful and depressing. President's call for democratic elections and a popularly constituted constitution a few months ago, opened great new opportunities for democratic growth, in Pakistan. By all accounts election was conducted properly and efficiently with a high degree of popular participation. That all the bright prospects for democracy throughout Pakistan and of the possi­bilities of adjustment of East Pakistan grievances should wither just before fruition is a source of profound regret to all who wish well to Pakistan.

At present time in aftermath of collapse of planned constitutional changes there are obviously great strains upon Pakistan economy, not to mention its social structure.

 

While recognising that recent events may well prompt reconsideration of question of overall aid programmes it is not our view that a total cessation of aid to Pakistan by Canada would be an appropriate or useful response to present situation. Although still affirming that immediate effective aid to millions of refugees must be our highest priority, we must not forget the needs of the many East Pak. residents who remain in that troubled land. The prospects of serious economics problems and food shortages in near future are serious, enough to prompt us to look with compassion upon needs of these people. It would seem realistic and commendable if Canadian aid could be channelled to people of East Pakistan who are victims of existing situation. Great emphasis has been naturally put on immense tragedy of refugees who left Pakistan and have gone to West Bengal. This has occupied centre of attention on world stage. It is our view, however, that a tragedy of comparable proportions is building up in East Pakistan. Inter Agency Committee of Relief and Rehabilitation Depart­ment of the Government of Pakistan has furnished a report to U.N., dated July 4. This emphasised that there would be a food gap in East Pakistan in 1971 and 1972 of two million tons. What was urgently needed was an international commit­ment of 250 thousand tons of foodgrains. In addition report urged necessity for gift of 100 thousand tons of edible oil.

 

External funds would also be required for medical supplies to rehabilitate citizens returning from India. One of the most urgent needs is 15 coasters to repair damage to transportation system to enable food to be taken from ports to where it was needed.

Recently, Senator E. Kennedy released a U.S.A. AID report following a field study made from June three to June twenty-one in East Bengal which expected serious food shortages in many areas by August.

 

As Senator Edward Kennedy said, "Unless emergency measures are taken immediately, millions of innocent people will die of hunger." For this reason we recommend an immediate commitment by Canada of substantial sums to meet this need in East Pakistan.

 

In our discussions with President Yahya Khan he indicated his readiness to talk at any time or any place with Prime Minister of India. Believing that consultation is generally preferable to confrontation, we transmitted President's indication to Indian Government representatives. It would appear, however, that there is little prospect of such a meeting. Several Indian officials and Parlia­mentarians observed that essential dialogue was not between heads of Government in Pakistan and India but between President Yahya Khan and Leader of Awami League, Sheikh Mujib.

 

While in Pakistan we visited a reception centre established to meet returning refugees. It was our impression that this centre was well managed with competent persons. Regrettably only a small trickle of people have returned and com­parison with massive flow which moved outward is all too obvious.

 

In discussing with President Yahya Khan the need for creating an atmosphere of trust in refugees as a prerequisite to their return, he expressed his willingness to have U.N, persons in his country to assist in establishing such a climate of confidence. We regard this as a positive factor and one which should be reported to world community.

 

We return with renewed conviction of need for immediate and greatly increased action on humanitarian side. We also feel seriousness of political situation with many potentially explosive possibilities cannot be overemphasised. Throughout our visit we heard of threat of war between India and Pakistan arising out of disasters which have occurred in East Pakistan and movement of refugees to West Bengal. We emphasised wherever we want that eventually of war could not possibly be a solution and would indeed aggravate the problems of people of both countries including the refugees.

 

As observers anxious to find out as much as we could we did not regard our mission as one of passing judgment. Nor had we or have we any solution for grim and gripping human tragedy. It is our hope that all nations will use every means to bring about an amelioration of problems and avoid any­thing which would exacerbate an already dangerous situation.

 

Although it was a strenuous and difficult trip we are glad that we made it and would like to pay tribute to both Governments of Pakistan and India for invitations to their countries. Without exception we were treated with kind­ness, graciousness and every consideration and to all those responsible w.- express our grateful thanks.

 

Summary of recommendations.-(i) We recommend to Canadian people, and specifically the Canadian Government, that Canadian commitment to "relief of refugees" be increased immediately from two million to five million dollars. We call upon Canadian people through their voluntary organisations headed by "Combined Appeal for Pak. Relief" to give generously.

 

(ii) We urge the setting aside of substantial funds for provision of needed supplies of foodgrains, edible oil and transportation facilities to prevent famine in East Pakistan.

 

(iii) We ask the Canadian Government, either by itself or in collaboration with other nations, to bring question to attention of U.N. as conscience of mankind stressing (a) the right of humanitarian intervention on behalf of world community and (b) willingness of U.N. to make available observers to supervise and encourage ... refugees from West Bengal to East Pakistan.

 

(iv) We urge upon parties concerned namely Government of Pakistan and repre­sentatives of East Pakistan that a political settlement be reached reflecting clear expression of opinion in election of last December for greater autonomy and a role in their own affairs.

 

 

 

Source: Bangladesh Documents, Vol – 1, Page no – 571 - 575