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31. Pakistan/East Pakistan/Bangladesh (1947-1971)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (August 14, 1947-January 5, 1968):  The Dominion of Pakistan, including West Pakistan and East Pakistan (Province of East Bengal), was formally established on August 14, 1947.  Sir Frederick Chalmers Bourne was appointed as Governor of East Bengal and Khawaja Nazimudin of the Muslim League (ML) was appointed as Chief Minister of the Province of East Bengal on August 14, 1947.  On December 8, 1947, students at the University of Dhaka demanded that Bengali be made an official language of Pakistan.  Students at the University of Dhaka organized a general strike on March 11, 1948.  Governor-General and President of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared that Urdi would be the only official language of Pakistan during a speech in Dhaka (Dacca), East Pakistan on March 24, 1948.  Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah died on September 11, 1948, and Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin took over as Governor-General of Pakistan on September 14, 1948.  Nurul Amin of the ML was appointed as Chief Minister on East Bengal on September 15, 1948.

The Awami Muslim League (AML) was established in Dhaka (Dacca), East Pakistan by Maulana Bhashani, Shamsul Huq, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on June 23, 1949.  Sir Feroz Khan Noon was appointed as Governor of East Bengal on March 31, 1950.  On January 26, 1952, a committee of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly recommended that Urdi be the only official language of Pakistan.  On January 30, 1952, Bengali students and others established the Bhasha Andolon (Bengali language) movement in favor of the recognition of Bengali as a national language in Pakistan.  Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin, who was of Bengali origin, spoke out in favor of Urdu as the national language on February 21, 1952.  Government police and student demonstrators clashed in Dhaka (Dacca) on February 21-23, 1952, resulting in the deaths of ten individuals.  Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman was appointed as Governor of East Bengal on March 31, 1953.  The United Front (UF) coalition, including the Awami Muslim League (AML), Krishak Sramik Party (KSP), Nezam-e-Islam (NI), and Ganatantri Dal (GD), was established on December 4, 1953.  Legislative elections were held in East Bengal on March 12, 1954, and the UF coalition won 223 out of 309 seats in the Provincial Assembly.  Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq of the UF coalition was appointed as Chief Minister of East Bengal on April 3, 1954.  Iskandar Ali Mizra was appointed as Governor of East Bengal on May 29, 1954.  Abu Hussain Sarkar of the Krishak Sramik Party (KSP) was appointed as Chief Minister of East Bengal in August 1955.  The Province of East Bengal was dissolved on October 14, 1955.  On February 29, 1956, the Pakistan Constituent Assembly approved a new constitution establishing a Pakistani republic with both Urdi and Bengali as official languages.  The Islamic Republic of Pakistan  was formally established on March 23, 1956.  Government police fired on Awami League (AL) demonstrators in Dhaka (Dacca) on August 4, 1956, resulting in the deaths of three individuals.  On October 7 1958, President Iskandar Ali Mizra abrograted the 1956 Constitution and imposed martial law with General Muhammad Ayub Khan appointed as Chief Marital Law Administrator.  On October 27, 1958, General Muhammad Ayub Khan deposed President Iskandar Ali Mizra and assumed the presidency.  President Muhammad Ayub Khan promulgated a new constitution, which went into effect on June 8, 1962.  The AL and other political parties established the National Democratic Front (NDF) on October 4, 1962.  President Muhammad Ayub Khan denounced the autonomy movement in East Pakistan on March 20, 1966, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested on April 18, 1966. Government police and demonstrators clashed in Dhaka (Dacca) and Narayanganj on June 7, 1966, resulting in the deaths of ten individuals. Some 100 individuals were killed in political violence between June 1949 and January 1968.

Crisis Phase (January 6, 1968-March 25, 1971): The West Pakistan government announced the discovery of a secessionist conspiracy in East Pakistan on January 6, 1968.  Government police arrested Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, president of the Awami League (AL), on January 18, 1968. Thirty-four other individuals were also arrested by government police, and three of these individuals were killed in prison. Government police fired on demonstrators in Dhaka (Dacca), East Pakistan on December 7, 1968, resulting in the deaths of two individuals.  Eight opposition political parties established the Democratic Action Committee (DAC) in Dhaka (Dacca) on January 8, 1969. Sixteen individuals were killed during demonstrations in East Pakistan on January 24-30, 1969.  Some 675 individuals were killed in political violence in East Pakistan from December 7, 1968 to January 30, 1969.  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from police custody on February 22, 1969.  President Muhammad Ayub Khan abrogated the 1962 Constitution, imposed martial law, and handed over power to General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan on March 25, 1969.  Legislative elections were held on December 7, 1970, and the Awami League (AL) won 167 out of 313 seats in the Pakistani National Assembly.  The AL also won 288 out of 300 seats in the Legislative Assembly of East Pakistan.  The AL proposed transferring powers from the federal government to the state governments. Some 170 individuals were killed in political violence in Dhaka (Dacca) on March 1-3, 1971.  West Pakistani troops fired on Bengali demonstrators in Jaydevpur on March 19, 1971, resulting in the deaths of some 50 individuals.  West Pakistani troops fired on Bengali demonstrators in Syedpur, Rangpur, and Chittagong on March 24, 1971, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 individuals.  President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan declared a state-of-emergency in East Pakistan on March 25, 1971.

Conflict Phase (March 26, 1971-December 16, 1971):  Government troops from West Pakistan launched a military offensive against Bengali nationalists, including Bengali troops and policemen, in East Pakistan beginning on March 26, 1971.  President Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan formally banned the Awami League (AL) on March 26, 1971.  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by West Pakistani soldiers on March 26, 1971.  The government of Indonesia and Iran expressed support for West Pakistan on March 28, 1971.  The government of India expressed support for East Bengali rebels on March 31, 1971, and provided military assistance (weapons and training) beginning in June 1971.  East Bengali nationalists formed a liberation army (Mukti Bahini) to fight West Pakistani government troops commanded by General Tikka Khan.  Pakistani troops killed more than 1,000 civilians in Jinjira and other towns near Dhaka (Dacca) on April 1, 1971.  The government of the Soviet Union appealed to the West Pakistan government for a ceasefire on April 2, 1971.  The governments of Malaysia and Turkey expressed support for the West Pakistani government on April 3, 1971.  West Pakistani government troops captured Jessore from East Bengali rebels on April 6, 1971.  The U.S. government appealed to the West Pakistan government for a ceasefire on April 7, 1971.  Prime Minister Chou En-lai of China expressed support for the West Pakistani government on April 12, 1971.  East Bengali nationalists declared East Pakistan’s independence from West Pakistan on April 14, 1971.  West Pakistani government troops captured Chuadanga, provision capital of East Bengali nationalists, on April 18, 1971.  West Pakistani troops killed members and supporters of Mukti Bahini in Gopalpur on May 5, 1971.  On May 6, 1971, the government of India announced that some 1.2 million Bengalis had fled as refugees to India.  Some 153 personnel from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Food Program (WFP) provided humanitarian assistance to refugees in India and internally-displaced individuals beginning on May 19, 1971.  At least 8,000 individuals, mostly Bengali Hindus, were massacred by West Pakistani troops in Chuknagar on May 20, 1971.  The British government sent a four member fact-finding mission to the region on June 21-28, 1971.  The British government imposed military sanctions (suspension of military assistance) against the West Pakistani government on June 23, 1971.  The U.S. government imposed military sanctions (cancellation of arms sales) against the West Pakistani government on November 8, 1971.  India referred the matter to the UN Security Council on November 18, 1971.  Mukti Bahini rebels launched a military offensive against West Pakistani government troops on November 21, 1971, and the West Pakistani government declared a state-of-emergency on November 23, 1971.  West Pakistan received military assistance from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, and Iran.  Some 150,000 Indian troops intervened in support of the East Bengalis beginning on November 27, 1971.  Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India appealed for the withdrawal of West Pakistani government troops from East Pakistan on November 30, 1971.  West Pakistani government troops launched a military offensive against East Pakistan on December 3, 1971.  The U.S. government referred the matter to the UN Security Council on December 4, 1971.  The Soviet Union vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on December 6, 1971, which would have appealed to the parties for a ceasefire.  The government of India provided diplomatic assistance (diplomatic recognition) to the provision government of Bangladesh on December 6, 1971.  The UN General Assembly appealed for a ceasefire and troop withdrawal on December 7, 1971 and demanded a ceasefire on December 15, 1971.  Some 90,000 West Pakistani government troops and civilians surrendered to Indian troops in East Pakistan on December 16, 1971. Some 500,000 Bengalis, 5,000 West Pakistani government troops, and 1,050 Indian troops were killed during the conflict.  Some ten million refugees fled from East Pakistan to India during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (December 17, 1971):  East Pakistan (Bangladesh) formally achieved its independence from West Pakistan on December 17, 1971.

[Sources: Brecher and Wilkenfeld, 1997, 172-174; Brogan, 1992, 222-229; Butterworth, 1976, 455-458; Clodfelter, 1992, 1095-1096; Facts on File, February 22-28, 1952, June 23-29, 1966, March 4-10, 1971, March 25-31, 1971, April 1-7, 1971, April 8-14, 1971, August 5-11, 1971, March 12-18, 1972; Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), April 24, 1971; Gupta 1074; Jackson 1975; Keesing’s Record of World Events, March 1-8, 1969, May 1-8, 1971, May 29-June 5, 1971, July 3-10, 1971, August 7-14, 1971, December 18-25, 1971, January 22-29, 1972, January 29-February 5, 1972, April 8-15, 1972, August 19-26, 1972, August 26-September 2, 1972, February October 22-28, 1973; New York Times (NYT), February 26, 1952, February 18, 1962, April 21, 1966, March 13, 1970, November 27, 1970, March 9, 1971, March 10, 1971, March 27, 1971, March 29 1971; Sahni, 1969, 53-69; Tillema, 1991, 235-236; Yusuf, 1980, 93-119.]

 

Selected Bibliography

Baxter, Craig. 1997. Bangladesh: From a Nation to a State. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Gupta, Jyoti Sen. 1974. History of Freedom Movement in Bangladesh, 1943-1973. Calcutta: Naya Prokash.

Jackson, Robert. 1975. South Asian Crisis: India-Pakistan-Bangladesh. London: Chatto & Windus.

Sahni, Naresh Chander. 1969. Political Struggle in Pakistan. Jullundur City: New Academic Publishing Co.

Yusuf, Hamid. 1980. Pakistan in Search of Democracy, 1947-1977. Lahore, Pakistan: Afrasia Publications.