HistoryPakistan Studies

Important Events preceding Separation of East Pakistan

Disintegration of Pakistan

The separation of East Pakistan took place in 1971 after two decades of independence. I have already discussed reasons for the disintegration of Pakistan i.e. unfairness in the representation at the center, unfair distribution of wealth, denial of due participation in the administration, exclusion of East Pakistanis in armed forces.

In this article, I will discuss important events that led to the separation of East Pakistan in 1971:

Elections of 1970

In 1970 Elections East Pakistan-based Awami League won majority seats for National Assembly. Awami League was in a position to form a federal government without support from any other party. The election results were shocking and unexpected for West Pakistani politicians and military ruler Yahya Khan.

As per democratic principles and values, the Awami League deserved the right to form its government at the center. Yahya Khan, then president of Pakistan did not call the national assembly session. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s party had won majority seats in West Pakistan also opposed the formation of the central government by the Awami League without any power-sharing with him. He even threatened to break the legs of his party members if they attended the session.

Denial of the right to form the government at the center annoyed and angered the Awami League in Particular and the people of East Pakistan in general. For them, it was a defining time whether to succumb to the pressure of West Pakistani politicians or take a different course of action. The leader of Awami League, Sheikh Mujib, in a desperate reaction called his people to get ready for supreme sacrifice to get freedom from West Pakistan. With this call for sacrifice, revolt against Pakistan and armed forces kicked provoking Yahya Khan to launch a military operation to quell the revolt.

Rejection of six points

Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, the leader of the Awami League had presented a Six-Point formula in 1966, in collaboration with his party.  He demanded the acceptance and implementation of six points unconditionally. The government at the center did not like the Six Points Formula which would make the center extremely weak and the provinces almost independent. They accused Mujib of hatching a conspiracy against the state and attempting to pave way for the separation of East Pakistan.

Demonstration of rigidity on both sides made further discussion or negotiation impossible. Shaikh Mujeeb committed to showing flexibility before the 1970 election but denial to form the government in the wake of the 1970 election results made things more complicated. Shaikh Mujeeb and his party members swore an oath to sacrifice their lives in pursuit of the goals enshrined in the Six Points Formula.

War with India in 1971

India was keeping an eye on the events in East Pakistan waiting for the right time to act and dismember Pakistan. For this purpose, the Indian army trained young East Pakistanis in the name of Mukti Bahini, provided them with modern arms and ammunition to fight the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan.

Mukti Bahani carried out attacks provoking the army to launch an operation against them. As the operation was underway, the Indian Army attacked East Pakistan from air, water, and ground. Within two weeks Dhaka was under the siege of Indian forces. Pakistan army could not resist anymore and after two weeks of the siege, Yahya Khan ordered the Pakistani army in East Pakistan to surrender. Pakistani Army surrendered and with that East Pakistan emerged as an independent country, Bangladesh, on the world map.

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