Tag Archives: Bangladesh


January – February: Violence breaks out between people demonstrating against Ayub Khan’s martial law regime and the police. Bhutto announces a hunger strike protesting against Ayub Khan’s draconian laws.


The Agartala Conspiracy Case is withdrawn, and Sheikh Mujib is released, at the insistence of some of the West Pakistani leaders meeting with Ayub Khan in a round table discussion for restoring peace.

The deaths of student leader Asad and a high-school student Matiur Rahman give rise to the Mass Uprising of 1969 (gana-abhyuththaan) in East Pakistan.

Sergeant Zahurul Haq, one of the 35 accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, is shot dead while in military custody at the Dhaka Cantonment (February 15).”

February 6: CIA’s confidential report on political situation of Pakistan:

“Daily disorders throughout Pakistan culminated in a massive general strike on 24 January. On that date and in the days immediately following, pitched battles were fought with the police; pro-government newspaper offices, government buildings, and even the homes of officials were attacked and some were gutted by fire. Eventually the government was forced to impose curfews on most of the nation’s cities, and the army was called in to restore order and enforce the curfew in Dacca, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and several smaller communities. Over 30 deaths were directly attributable to the violence.

Ayub’s political party, the PML–never a particularly effective organization–appears to have virtually collapsed.”

February 12: The Radical Wing in East Pakistan Politics: A report by A. Hailliley:

The radical wing has three components:
(a) Students
(b) Workers
(c) Peasants

February 20: Pakistan on the Brink:

“Ayub mistakenly discounted the ability of the new militant leaders to catalyze mass urban and East Pakistani hatred of his regime. Politically isolated over the years by Ayub and overtaken by extremists, the moderates have been at least temporarily neutralized.

Events in Pakistan are being forced by mobs in the streets — comprised largely of students and the urban discontented. It is to the uncompromising leadership of Z.A. Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Maulana Abdul Hamid Bhashani of the left wing of the National Awami Party, and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of the Six-Point Awami League (who articulates East Pakistan’s demand for autonomy) that the mobs respond.”

February 23: Sheikh Mujib was given the tiltle, ‘Bangabandhu’ (Friend of Bengal) in a rally in Race Course Field.


March 13: Sheikh Mujib’s Address to the round table conference again demands for the establishment of a Federation providing for full regional autonomy to East Pakistan.

March 25: There was a hidden coup d’etat in which Yahya forced Ayub Khan to hand over his powers and resign. Memorandum from Kissinger on Ayub Khan’s resignation.

Closing Phase of Ayub regime : From the report of the Commission of Inquiry – 1971 War, as declassified by the Government of Pakistan.

March 25: Text of President Yahya Khan’s address to the nation. Martial Law who’s who.

March 31: General Yahya immediately declared martial law. On the 31st of March, he assumed the title of President. More on the martial law.

April 11: Roy Fox’s talks with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman:

“Ayub had offered to make him (Mujib) Prime Minister of Pakistan but he refused saying he wanted to be elected, not appointed. Mujib said he still wanted one Pakistan. He had been vilified as a Hindu supporter because he supported the use of Bengali language and because of Agartala. He was ready to compromise on parity instead of 56% of representation for East Pakistan but he wanted the capital to be Dacca. The Bengalis were not cowards and were not afraid to die. Probably some would die but the rest would fight on. Autonomy was inevitable.”

April 30: A note on political development in Pakistan:

“Probably very few East Pakistanis want anything which would be called complete secession, but there is always a risk that the vehemence of their own demands may force them to go further than they wish, or that if East Pakistan’s demands were excessive.”

May 31: Martial Law Administration – An Interim Assessment:

“The basis of his dilemma is the fact that the demands of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for greater autonomy for East Pakistan, which are unacceptable to him as they were to Ayub, still command majority support in East Pakistan . Faced with this dilemma, General Yahva could try to risk imposing a constitutional solution unacceptable to Mujib. There is a danger_ likely to grow with time, that General Yahya might be tempted to resolve his difficulties by staying on as President.”

August 20: Conversation with Pir Syed Sikander Shah, Shah Mardan Sani, PIR SAHIB PAGARO, one of Sind’s key religious figures whose temporal role is central to Sind politics.

“He was giving serious consideration to the wisdom-and suitability–of joining forces with Mujib. Following discussions with Mujib during the latter’s August 7-14 visit to Karachi, he came to the conclusion that there is something to be gained by supporting the Awami League”

November 7: Current Pakistani scene – comment:

“Bengali accusations that the GOP is not doing enough to try to narrow the disparity are increasingly countered by privately expressed West Pak views that the deficiencies on the East Pakistani side play the greater role in hampering development-the chronically unfavorable weather, inefficiencies in the public sector, absence of an adequate entrepreneurial class, lack of investor interest, etc. Thus, indignation of the Bengalis over allegedly insufficient GOP interest clashes with West Pakistan feelings that Bengali demands are unreasonable.”

November 28: Excerpts from President Yahya Khan’s Address to the nation declares election in 1970.

December 5: Sheikh Mujib declared at a discussion meeting that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh. He added:

“There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word ‘Bangla’ from this land and its map . The existence of the word ‘Bangla’ was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bengal. I, on be half of Pakistan, announce today that this land will be called ‘Bangladesh’ instead of ‘East Pakistan’.”

December 8: Demand to rename East Wing as Bangladesh Hailed

“Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, Chief of National Awami Party, welcomed the demand for renaming East Pakistan as Bangla Desh and said it was a genuine demand from the historical pint of view.

Maulana Bhasani said the nomenclature of Bangla Desh was not a new thing. He said this region of the country populated by the Bengali speaking people was known as Bangla Desh (Bengal) for long. The NAP leader said that ill the regions of West Pakistan were known by their own names before One Unit. Only the name of Bangla Desh was snatched away and the name of East Pakistan was forcibly imposed.”

Although the media remains silent on the issue, the grapevine was buzzing with stories about Yayha Khan’s private life. With his penchant for the bottle and attractive women, the general’s private life was increasingly becoming entangled with his public persona. A number of starlets, as well as the mysterious ‘General’ Rani, were the subject of gossip.

Text of the tri-patriate agreement of Bangladesh-Pakistan-India

Following is the full text of tripartite agreement signed in New Delhi on 9 April 1974.

1. On 2 July 1972, the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India signed an historic agreement at Simla under which they resolved that “the two countries put an end to the conflict and confrontation that have hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of durable peace in the subcontinent.” The agreement also provided for the settlement of “their differences by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon”.

2. Bangladesh welcomed the Simla Agreement. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh strongly supported its objective of reconciliation, good neighborliness and establishment of durable peace in the subcontinent.

3. The humanitarian problems arising in the wake of the tragic event of 1971 constituted a major obstacle in the way of reconciliation and normalization among the countries of the subcontinent. In the absence of recognition, it was not possible to have tripartite talks to settle the humanitarian problems, as Bangladesh could not participate in such a meeting except on the basis of sovereign equality.

4. On 17 April 1973, India and Bangladesh took a major step forward to break the deadlock on the humanitarian issues by setting aside the political problem of recognition. In a declaration issued on that date, they said that they “are resolved to continue their efforts to reduce tension, promote friendly and harmonious relationship in the sub-continent and work together towards the establishment of a durable peace.”

Inspired by this vision and “in the larger interest of reconciliation, peace and stability in the subcontinent”, they jointly proposed that the problem of the detained and stranded persons should be resolved on humanitarian considerations through simultaneous repatriation of all such persons except those Pakistani prisoners of war who might be required by the Government of Bangladesh for trial on certain charges.

5. Following the declaration, there were a series of talks between India and Bangladesh and India and Pakistan. These talks resulted in an agreement at Delhi on 28 august 1973, between India and Pakistan with the concurrence of Bangladesh, which provided for a solution of the outstanding humanitarian problems.

6. In pursuance of this agreement, the process of three-way repatriation commenced on 19 September 1973. So far nearly three lakh persons have been repatriated which has generated an atmosphere of reconciliation and paved the way for normalization of relations in the sub-continent.

7. In February 1974, recognition took place thus facilitating the participation of Bangladesh in the tripartite meeting envisaged in the Delhi Agreement, on the basis of sovereign equality. Accordingly, Dr. Kamal Hossain, Foreign Minister of Government of Bangladesh, Mr. Swaran Singh, Minister of External affairs, Government of India, and Mr. Aziz Ahmed, Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan, met in New Delhi from 5 April to 9 April 1974 and discussed the various issues mentioned in the Delhi Agreement, in particular the question of the 195 prisoners of war and the completion of the three-way process of repatriation involving Bangladesh and Pakistani prisoners of war in India.

8. The Ministers reviewed the progress of the three-way repatriation under the Delhi Agreement of 28 August 1973. They were gratified that such a large number of persons detained or stranded in the three countries had since reached their destinations.

9. The Ministers also considered steps that needed to be taken in order expeditiously to bring the process of three-way repatriation to a satisfactory conclusion.

10. The Indian side stated that the remaining Pakistani prisoners of war and civilian internees in India to be repatriated under the Delhi Agreement, numbering approximately 6,500, would be repatriated at the usual pace of a train on alternate days and the likely shortfall due to suspension of trains from 10 April to 19 April 1974, on account of the Kumbh mela, would be made up by running additional trains after April 19. It was thus hoped that the repatriation of prisoners of war would be completed by the end of April 1974.

11. The Pakistan side stated that the repatriation of Bangladesh nationals from Pakistan was approaching completion. The remaining Bangladesh nationals in Pakistan would also be repatriated without let or hindrance.

12. In respect of non-Bengalis in Bangladesh, the Pakistan side stated that the Government of Pakistan had already issued clearances for movement of Pakistanis in favour of those non-Bengalis who were either domiciled in former West Pakistan, were employees of the Central Government and their families or were members of the divided families, irrespective of their original domicile. The issuance of clearances to 25,000 persons who constitute hardship cases was also in progress.

The Pakistan side also reiterated that all those who fall under the first three categories would be received by Pakistan without any limit to numbers. In respect of persons whose applications had been rejected, the Government of Pakistan would, upon request, provide reasons why any particular case was rejected. Any aggrieved applicant could at a time, seek a review of his application provided he was able to supply new facts or further information to the Government of Pakistan in support of his contention that he qualified in one or other of the three categories. The claim of such persons would not be time-barred. In the event of the decision of review of a case being adverse, the Government of Pakistan and Bangladesh might seek to resolve it by mutual consultation.

13. The question of 195 Pakistani prisoners of war was discussed by the three Ministers in the context of the earnest desire of the Governments for reconciliation, peace and friendship in the sub-continent. The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the excesses and manifold crimes committed by those prisoners of war constituted, according to the relevant provisions of the UN General Assembly resolutions and international law, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and that there was universal consensus that persons charged with such crimes as 195 Pakistani prisons of war should be held to account and subjected to the due process of law. The Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan said that his Government condemned and deeply regretted any crimes that may have been committed.

14. In this connection, the three Ministers noted that the matter should be viewed in the context of the determination of the three countries to continue resolutely to work for reconciliation. The Ministers further noted that following recognition, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had declared that he would visit Bangladesh in response to the invitation of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and appealed to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past in order to promote reconciliation. Similarly, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared with regard to the atrocities and destruction committed in Bangladesh in 1971, that he wanted the people to forget the past and to make a fresh start, stating that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive.

15. In the light of the foregoing and, in particular, having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war might be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement.

16. The Ministers expressed their conviction that the above agreements provide a firm basis for the resolution of the humanitarian problems arising out of the conflict of 1971. They reaffirmed the vital stake the 700 million people of the three countries have in peace and progress and reiterated the resolve of their Governments to work for the promotion of normalization of relations and the establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent.

Signed in New Delhi on 9 April 1974, in three originals, each of which is equally authentic.

(Kamal Hossain)
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Bangladesh
(Swaran Singh)
Minister of External Affairs, Government of India
(Aziz Ahmed) Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan.

Mujibnagar Day: A milestone in our liberation war

Mujibnagar, April 17, 1971: C-in-C Col. Osmany, Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed at the swearing in ceremony of the first Bangladesh government.

The Daily Star: Point-Counterpoint
Vol. 5 Num 316 – Sun. April 17, 2005

By Zahid Hossain

Today is April 17 — Mujibnagar Day. On this day in 1971, the Mujibnagar government was formed by the elected leaders of Bangladesh as the rightful constitutional, logical, and realistic step forward towards the full realization of our dream of an independent country of our own.

The observance of Mujibnagar Day in a befitting manner now warrants a special significance, specially in the backdrop of a sinister and ominous move by a certain quarter to distort our history of the war of independence. On this day the country and the people of Bangladesh should always gratefully cherish the memories of the freedom fighters and those political leaders who led them with deep affection and profound regard as well as with their firm determination and conviction.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government and its pronouncement to the world at large on April 17, 1971 is really a red-letter event in our national history, specially after the thumping victory of the Awami League in the elections of 1970 under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The 167 MNAs and 293 MPs who composed the Constituent Assembly fulfilling their constitutional obligation to the electors, gave a true shape and constitutional perspective on this day, making the dream of an independent Bangladesh a reality. From this point of view, Mujibnagar day (April 17) is a landmark in our struggle for independence as well as in our national history.

The Mujibnagar government was formed at the Baidyanathtala mango grove of Meherpur, a former Subdivision of Kustia district following the April 10 proclamation of independence order of Bangladesh. The oath taking was witnessed by hundreds of foreign journalists who had assembled there to hail the birth of a new nation.

The president of the new nation was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; Syed Nazrul Islam became the acting president in the absence of Bangabandhu; Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister; M. Mansur Ali, the Finance Minister; M. Quamruz Zaman, the Home, Relief and Rehabilitation Minister; and Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed, Foreign Affairs and Law Minister. General M. A. G. Osmani who was then a retired colonel and MNA elected from Awami League was made the C-in-C of the Bangladesh armed forces.

Herculean task
It was a Herculean task. Organizing civil administration and the freedom fighters, securing arms for the latter and training them, mobilizing international support for the liberation war through intense diplomatic action, ensuring speedy communication and effective coordination of various activities at hundred different levels, above all, keeping the morale of the freedom fighters high throughout the dark, difficult, and strenuous days of the war, called for extraordinary wisdom, dedication, patience, foresight, courage, and tenacity on the part of the Mujibnagar government and all those connected with it.

The formation of the Mujibnagar government had great significance for the fact that the great men who gave leadership to this great event in the absence of our supreme leader and continued the armed struggle for the following eight months, having allowed no breach in the unity of their people, which was one of the cornerstones of our total liberation war, fought valiantly involving everyone, and above all kept our leader alive in the minds of every freedom fighters as if he was fighting side by side with them.

The creation of April 17 in fact, gave the total war effort a fuller meaning. It cemented the unity of the people, brought the world closer to the existence of freedom fighters, made the war efforts bloom in its full focus, and realized the presence of Bangladesh in the comity of nations. It was in effect a formal introduction to the rest of the world of the nature of the political leadership that was set to guide the nation into a concerted and organized war of national independence.

That Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the paramount leader of the country, both in its struggle for constitutional legitimacy and military triumph, was given political and moral sanction by everything that happened on April 17, 1971 in a spot of territory that was to be forever transformed in the annals of politics.

Bangabandhu never preached revolution
Bangabandhu had never preached revolution and political terrorism had never been part of his platform. Therefore, when the assault of the Pakistani military machine came, it remained for him to inform his associates that a long and hard struggle on the battlefield had become necessary. The declaration of independence he made moments before his arrest by the Pakistani military forces forced upon his associates the need for armed struggle. And that was proof that while he awaited uncertain and terrible incarceration, he had briefed his associates on what needed to be done. The dispersal of the leadership out of Dhaka as the army went into action was a sign that there was to be no turning back from the course Bengalis had set for themselves. And thus the formation of Mujibnagar government was undoubtedly a rightful constitutional as well as logical and realistic step by the trusted and capable associates of the great leader.

The establishment of the Mujibnagar government was an absolute necessity for another reason. Had it not been put in place, it is reasonably certain that diffuse guerilla movements would have spawned all over the country without any form of central control. The danger inherent in such politics lies in an absence of legitimacy. And in Bangladesh’s politics at that point in time, the absence of the Mujibnagar government would only have given the freedom struggle a clearly secessionist hue, to the immense delight of the Pakistanis and to the consternation of a Bengali population directly in the military’s line of fire. Seen in such light, the presence of Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed with their colleagues deep in Meherpur in April 1971 was a clear, unequivocal statement of intent: that the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh had taken it upon themselves to give shape and substance to an independent statehood for them.

It was thus that the global community was left with hardly a choice. The initiation of the war of national liberation, given the fact that it was being waged by a leadership privy to the electorally acknowledged support of the nation, could not be dismissed as an insurrection or a secessionist enterprise. Moreover, the military’s misadventure (swooping upon Bengali political aspirations through an exercise of brazenness) assisted the cause not a little.

Flight to India
The killing of unarmed civilians, the razing of villages and townships, and the atrocities against women only strengthened the cause of the provisional government. In the months between March and December 1971, the flight of ten million to India convinced the global community of the necessity and the righteousness of the Bengali cause, and helped the Mujibnagar government to inform the world that there was no alternative to an independent Bangladesh.

The provisional government undertook the onerous responsibility of moulding international opinion in Bangladesh’s favour: the effort was assisted a great deal by the momentum of declaration of allegiance to the national struggle by Bengali diplomats stationed in Pakistani missions abroad. Placing the entire diplomatic efforts in the hands of a well-respected personality like Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was yet another factor for the success of the efforts of Mujibnagar government in mobilizing world opinion in our favour.

The speeches and statements made by the Acting President, late Syed Nazrul Islam, Prime Minister late Tajuddin Ahmed and other leaders of the exiled Mujibnagar government at the formal oath taking ceremony and other subsequent occasions were widely appreciated world over as those reflected really democratic and progressive principles of the new government. The guiding principles and the state policies announced time to time by the exiled government were all fully democratic based on universal human rights principles and other widely accepted international norms and protocols.

Finally, the formation of the Mujibnagar government was the real birth of a new nation — a nation imbued with the spirit of democratic values, nationalism, secularism, and socialism, obtained from the call of a man whose stature as a statesman had surpassed any of his time and most of his predecessors, who united the Bengali speaking people of a piece of land to one man and raised a nation of indomitable courage and splendour, so powerful and splendid in its commitment that it went head on to face a fiercely equipped army of Pakistan, bare-handed bred with the courage of conviction and valour and strength of insurmountable will of head, heart and unity to be independent and ready to shed the last drop of blood of every individual born on this soil then called East Pakistan.

Dr. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury BB who as the Sub-Divisional officer (SDO) of the then Meherpur Sub-Division, under Kustia district played the most critical role in organizing the Mujibnagar Ceremony has termed it as a “Milestone of our national history” saying that it gave “life and legitimacy” to the national liberation movement both internally and internationally.

Talking to me recently Dr. Chowdhury expressed his extreme annoyance at the recent trend of distorting the history of the our liberation war aiming to divide and confuse the new generation: “I am sure the new generation will go back to the sources of history and find out the real history and the truth shall prevail,” he expressed his firm conviction.

Almost similar sentiment has been expressed by Mr. Mahbubuddin Ahmed, BB who led the guard of honour given to the members of the Mujibnagar Cabinet on that auspicious day. Mr. Mahbub who was Sub-Division Police office of Jhenaidah (SDPO) at that time talking to me recently was very critical of the recent move by a section of our so-called intellectuals to distort the history of our liberation war.

However, the nation should gratefully remember the heroic courage, conviction, and determination of the politicians, the freedom fighters, and the people in general who sacrificed their everything for the cause of an independent country of our own. Equally firm determination, selfless sacrifice, and deep sense of patriotism are now also needed for the protection and proper implementation of the spirit of our liberation war against the designs of a section of our people who are engaged in doing everything possible to reestablish the so-called nationalism based on religion. Reaffirmation of strong conviction and united endeavour, as in 1971, are possibly the real need of the hour.
Zahid Hossain served with the Mujibnagar Government as Chief of Psychological Warfare, Ministry of Defense. The above article appeared in the Daily Star on Mujibnagar Dibash (Apr 17), 2005.