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Power in 7: From December ‘70 to March ‘71

  • Published at 01:41 am March 5th, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:13 pm March 6th, 2018
Power in 7: From December ‘70 to March ‘71

December 7, 1970: Pakistan’s forgotten fairest

The first general election of Pakistan was held on December 7, 1970. The two Pakistans – East and West – had 300 seats in the National Assembly.

In a landslide victory, partially due to the lacklustre efforts of the government to tackle the devastating cyclone, and largely to the burning desire of Bangalis for autonomy, the Awami League alone won 160 seats among the 24 contesting parties.

December 18, 1970: Riding the waves

The State Assembly election for East Pakistan took place with Awami League sweeping 298 of the 310 seats in East Pakistan. But President Yahya Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, chairman of Pakistan People’s Party, refused to accept the people’s demand. The Pakistanis refused to transfer power to the Bangalis, wearing thin the patience and planting the seeds of dissent.

March 1, 1971 : Yahya’s gamble

Millions turned on the radio only to hear a generic radioman announce the National Assembly was postponed. President Yahya Khan replaced the East Pakistan governor with a military figure. The government petitioned the United States to divert 150,000 tons of wheat from the East to the West. The outraged people took to the streets.

Processions were brought out all over Dhaka. Slogans like “Tomar Amar Thikana, Padma-Meghna-Jamuna,” “Jaago Jaago Bengali Jaago”, “Bir Bengali Ostro Dhoro Bangladesh Shadhin Koro”, and “Joy Bangla” echoed in the spring air of Dhaka. Offices were shut down, employees walked out. The people looked to Sheikh Mujib to respond.

 March 2, 1971 : Curfew casualties

The military regime was deluding itself when they believed an 11-hour-curfew would restraint the determination of Bangalis. The brave Bangalis who marched risked their lives, and indeed 23 of the motherland’s finest children were gunned down without mercy, without remorse by the Pakistani Army. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman condemned the attack and announced successive nationwide strikes up until March 6. In the Dhaka University campus , one of the top student leaders, ASM Abdur Rab, raised the first flag of independent Bangladesh to great public appreciation. The flag would fly over an independent Bangladesh soon in the coming months.

March 3, 1971: Haste and caution

Concerned that Bangabandhu might be lenient and negotiate with Yahya, Abdur Rab and Shajahan Siraj read out the declaration of independence of Bangladesh at a public rally in the presence of Sheikh Mujib. But he called for a non-violent, non-cooperation movement instead of a revolution. The National Assembly would have convened on this day, instead it was mourned nationally. Bangabandhu declared: “Withdraw forces, transfer power” and rejected Yahya’s invitation to a future National Assembly meeting. Flags of Pakistan were burned all over the country. The wily Pakistanis began flying in non-Bangali regiments into Dhaka.

March 4, 1971: Charisma of non-cooperation

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman praise people for the non-cooperation movement. A US embassy wire to Washington DC revealed that Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech could just as well declare independence for East Pakistan while maintaining the provision for cooperation and continued relationship between East and West Pakistan.

East Pakistan Governor General Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, resigned from his post, refusing to condone the military action to neutralize the civil disobedience.

March 5, 1971: 300 lives lost to Pakistani Army’s march towards massacre

Public demonstrations against West Pakistan preventing Bangalis from forming a government are brutally suppressed. Over 300 are killed in army actions on protesters. The army is withdrawn to the barracks even as protests continue.

March 6, 1971: Butcher of Bengal

Yahya Khan appointed General Tikka Khan as the governor of East Pakistan. Tikka’s savagery in East Pakistan earned him the accolade “Butcher of Bengal” soon. He repeated his monstrosity once more in 1974 for yet another accolade “Butcher of Balochistan.”

March 7, 1971: The speech in the heart of Bangladesh

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spoke in front of around a million people, listing four conditions to take part in the parliament. He condemned the massacre of hundreds of Bangalis, and in a thunderous voice, uttered the words which would be etched into the hearts and minds of every Bangali: “Our struggle this time is a struggle for freedom, our struggle this time is a struggle for independence. Joy Bangla.”