Tragedy of politics — Creation of Bangladesh
26 March Bangladesh celebrated as Independence Day, but this time Modi, the chief guest, was greeted with violent protests.
The people of Bangladesh demonstrated their inner feelings and national pride. Yes, it pains us when we remember that day.
Pakistan forces had to lay down arms in front of an enemy who attacked with forty time superiority.
They, the Indians, conspired and stabbed Pakistan in the back. RAW made brothers to fight against each other. They were made to quarrel on rights, property and political power.
It be remembered the beginning was made in 1906 when East Bengal Muslims succeeded to get partition of Bengal. They failed to exploit it.
This division was annulled in 1912 under Hindu pressure. It shattered their hope to get their rights. They believed in solo struggle. It was in their nature and they have strong sense of nationalism. It was the turning point.
Bengali leadership then rallied behind Jinnah. They understood, solo, they could not face Hindus and Congress. Hard work made them successful in 1937 elections in Bengal.
Bengali leadership worked very hard and was in the forefront to develop Pakistan resolution in 1940, now commonly known as 23rd March Pakistan resolution.
In 1946 elections Muslim League won majority seats in Punjab, when electable sensing the change of wind joined Muslim League. Muslim League victory in Punjab was thus a turning point.
Pakistan came into being on 14 August 1947. Jinnah did not live long. It was a great blow for the new born country. Muslim League quickly was divided in three factions. Till 1956 Constitution could not be drafted due to lack of consensus.
Nearest was Bogra formula with two houses upper and lower, the Senate with 50 seats and lower house on population basis.
It was scuttled by civil and military bureaucracy culminating in 1958 Martial Law.
Frustrated, Jugto (five parties) Front was first formed in 1953 in East Pakistan.
They swept East Pakistan Provincial Assembly elections. Up to 1956, Pakistan was in the grip of civil bureaucracy, who later inducted Gen Ayub as Defence Minister.
Among themselves they made the politicians puppets. From Khawaja Nazimuddin onwards all Bengali PMs were dismissed on flimsy grounds.
Leading stalwarts were branded traitors. Nevertheless they were successful in adopting 1956 Constitution. Ayub turned the tables at the instigation of Iskander Mirza and Martial Law was imposed.
The country developed in next ten years under his rule but its political foundations were weakened.
East Bengal felt not only isolated but also a perception developed they would never get their share of power. It was a fault line fully exploited by India.
Agartala Conspiracy was a reality. Mujibur Rehman became a hero once released courtesy short-sightedness of West Pakistani politicians.
He toured East Pakistan and announced Awami League Charter of six points. By 1969 frenzy of East Pakistanis was fully aroused.
(the author was in Noakkhli). The West Pakistan politicians failed to see the writing on the wall. Or they purposely allowed East Pakistan to drift apart. Yahya announced elections to be governed under legal frame work order.
It was never imposed effectively. Barring Muslim League and a few splinter parties of left and right, few candidates contested against Awami League. People’s Party under Bhutto did not put up a single candidate in East Pakistan.
Thus Awami league was allowed a free run in East Pakistan. Contrary to perception of fair elections, the Awami league brazenly rigged the elections.
Barring a few, Awami League won all 162 seats and became majority. In West Pakistan People’s Party won around 87 seats and rest were others parties.
Mujib’s tone changed and he announced to form government on the basis of six points. He declared six points are now people’s trust.
Still he was willing to take other parties with him but it was not acceptable to Bhutto.
He wanted to be a coalition partner with Awami League. Mujib refused. Bhutto had cultivated a few Generals and had their support.
Yahya tried in vain Mujib Bhutto to reach some arrangement. A boat trip was arranged outside Dacca (Dhaka) and both leaders held discussions for an hour in the middle of March 1971.
Over one hour they were alone. When they alighted back from the boat, they smiled and their followers on the steamer understood fate of Pakistan is sealed. Both stood to their positions.
Earlier an NA session was already delayed. Yayha asked Gen Peerzada to check from Bhutto and call the session in early March but Bhutto was evasive.
President Yayha announced the session be held on 03 March 1971 at Dacca as Mujib was getting restive.
Prior to that President met Bhutto in Karachi on 27 Feb 1971 in Circuit House to convince him but failed.
It was in this meeting Bhutto first opened his heart and told President he has majority in West Pakistan and Mujib in East Pakistan. Let him be PM there and I will be in West Pakistan. President was taken aback.
When session was announced, Bhutto was in Peshawar to address a rally. He was furious when he learnt the date of calling session on March 3. He rang up Gen Peerzada that 3rd March is not acceptable to him. The phone was picked up by a Colonel, head of JAG ,who informed Peerzada.
President’s initial reaction was that he would not change the date. Tempers in East Pakistan were very high and Awami League was practically in control of the province.
General Sahibzada Yaqub, Admiral Ehsan and General Farman were cautioning the adverse impact if session was postponed. They were on ground and were aware of the sentiments of East Pakistani population.
They were aware of Indra Ghandi Feb 1971 statement in Parliament that she will support Bengalis. Still Bhutto was adamant even though other parties wanted session to be held on time.
President Yayha yielded to Bhutto’s pressure and postponed the session when Bhutto announced he will not allow anyone to proceed to Dacca.
In East Pakistan all hell broke out. Units and formations were cautioning Eastern Command about the nerve wrecking stress on Bengali officers and troops. Postponement of elections created storm in East Pakistan.
Mujib was furious and called for civil disobedience. Civil Administration was fully obeying Awami League.
Civil war erupted due to the judgment error on the part of General Yahya, Mujib’s nationalism and Bhutto’s ambition to be part of power structure at all costs.
Military solution was a disaster with troop to ground ratio extremely thin and knowing well what India was up to. With eight infantry battalions and some artillery Yahya opted for military action.
General Sahibzada’s warning to Yahya that military action will lead to the disintegration of country went unheeded.
Fifty years down, our politicians of day have not changed nor learnt any lesson. Their personal agenda and lust for power is still is the norm. A new element, corruption is added. It has politically fractured not only the people of Pakistan but put the state at stake.
Having waded through bloodbath in the river of terrorism in last twenty years, the lessons are still not learnt. The strategic position of Pakistan is such, it is a target of big powers strategic games.
The turmoil in Middle East, China Iran strategic agreement , apparent US position not to honour Taliban US agreement about US Forces and to withdraw in Sep has increased the complexities and will generate immense pressure on Pakistan.
Taliban has announced to go for spring offensive. All parties April meeting in Turkey at the behest of US stand meaningless.
Taliban has refused to attend. Regret, the changing strategic milieu is not causing any worry to our politicians.
Time, the internal chaos is settled and political parties show some sense of maturity, serenity and patience.
—The writer, a retired Brigadier, a veteran of 1965, 1971 wars with SJ, SI, and IS Bar Gallantry. A senior Defence and Industry analyst.