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March 2, 1971: In response to the postponement Awami League called for a hartal

The US Consulate General in Dacca reported on March 2 on the popular reaction in East Pakistan to the announcement that the meeting of the General Assembly would be postponed indefinitely: “It would be impossible to over-estimate sense of anger, shock and frustration which has gripped people of east wing. They cannot but interpret postponement as act of collusion between Yahya and Bhutto to deny fruit of electoral victory to Bengali majority.” (Telegram 567 from Dacca; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL PAK) In response to the postponement, the Awami League on March 2 called for a hartal, or general strike in Dacca. (Telegram 564 from Dacca, March 2; ibid., POL 15-2 PAK)

It is impossible to predict what Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League will do at this point. They are most unlikely, however, to back down from their six-point program calling for virtual autonomy. It has the strong emotional and popular backing in East Pakistan and is adamantly opposed by West Pakistani leader Z.A. Bhutto, important elements of the military and many politically aware West Pakistanis.

Rahman’s six points are:

-The constitution should provide a federal and parliamentary form of government based on direct elections and universal suffrage.
-The central government would have authority only for defense and foreign affairs with all residual and other powers residing in the federating states.
-Two separate currencies which would be freely convertible should be created, although one currency would be acceptable provided that there would be adequate protection against the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan.
-Responsibility for fiscal policy should rest with the federating units and taxes would be collected by the states rather than by the central government.
-The states should maintain separate accounts for foreign exchange and would be free to conduct their own trade and aid negotiations.
-The federating units would be empowered to raise and maintain their own militia and paramilitary forces.

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