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.
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.
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.
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.
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 The army is withdrawn to the barracks even as protests continue.