Bangladesh Liberation War

Bangladesh Liberation War

Overview
The Bangladesh Liberation War ( Muktijuddho) was an armed conflict pitting East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 against West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

. The war resulted in the secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

.

The war broke out on 26 March 1971 as army units directed by West Pakistan launched a military operation in East Pakistan against Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 civilians, students, intelligentsia, and armed personnel who were demanding separation of the East from West Pakistan.
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Encyclopedia
The Bangladesh Liberation War ( Muktijuddho) was an armed conflict pitting East Pakistan
East Pakistan
East Pakistan was a provincial state of Pakistan established in 14 August 1947. The provincial state existed until its declaration of independence on 26 March 1971 as the independent nation of Bangladesh. Pakistan recognized the new nation on 16 December 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal...

 and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 against West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

. The war resulted in the secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 of East Pakistan, which became the independent nation of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

.

The war broke out on 26 March 1971 as army units directed by West Pakistan launched a military operation in East Pakistan against Bengali
Bengali people
The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

 civilians, students, intelligentsia, and armed personnel who were demanding separation of the East from West Pakistan. Bengali military, paramilitary, and civilians formed the Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

 ( "Liberation Army") and used guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 tactics to fight against the West Pakistan army. India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 provided economic, military and diplomatic support to the Mukti Bahini rebels, leading Pakistan to launch Operation Chengiz Khan
Operation Chengiz Khan
Operation Chengiz Khan was the code name assigned to the pre-emptive strikes carried out by the Pakistani Air Force on the forward airbases and radar installations of the Indian Air Force on the evening of 3 December 1971, and marked the formal initiation of hostilities of the Indo-Pakistani war...

, a pre-emptive attack on the western border of India which started the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

.

On 16 December 1971, the allied forces of the Indian army
Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service and about 1,150,000 reserve troops, the Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army...

 and the Mukti Bahini defeated the West Pakistani forces deployed in the East. The resulting surrender
Instrument of Surrender (1971)
The Instrument of Surrender was signed at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at one past five in the evening , local time, on December 16, 1971, by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army and Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan...

 was the largest in number of prisoners of war since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Background


In August 1947, the Partition of British India
Partition of India
The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India on 14 and 15...

 gave birth to two new states; a secular state named India and an Islamic state
Islamic State
An Islamic state is a type of government, in which the primary basis for government is Islamic religious law...

 named Pakistan. But Pakistan comprised two geographically and culturally separate areas to the east and the west of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. The western zone was popularly (and for a period of time, also officially) termed West Pakistan and the eastern zone (modern-day Bangladesh) was initially termed East Bengal
East Bengal
East Bengal was the name used during two periods in the 20th century for a territory that roughly corresponded to the modern state of Bangladesh. Both instances involved a violent partition of Bengal....

 and later, East Pakistan. Although the population of the two zones was close to equal, political power was concentrated in West Pakistan and it was widely perceived that East Pakistan was being exploited economically, leading to many grievances.

On 25 March 1971, rising political discontent and cultural nationalism in East Pakistan was met by brutal suppressive force from the ruling elite of the West Pakistan establishment in what came to be termed Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been...

.

The violent crackdown by West Pakistan forces
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

 led to East Pakistan declaring its independence as the state of Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 and to the start of civil war. The war led to a sea of refugees (estimated at the time to be about 10 million) flooding into the eastern provinces of India
East India
East India is a region of India consisting of the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Orissa. The states of Orissa and West Bengal share some cultural and linguistic characteristics with Bangladesh and with the state of Assam. Together with Bangladesh, West Bengal formed the...

. Facing a mounting humanitarian and economic crisis, India started actively aiding and organising the Bangladeshi resistance army known as the Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

.

Economic disparities


Although East Pakistan had a larger population, West Pakistan dominated the divided country politically and received more money from the common budget.
Year Spending on West Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupee
Pakistani rupee
The rupee is the currency of Pakistan. The issuance of the currency is controlled by the State Bank of Pakistan, the central bank of the country. The most commonly used symbol for the rupee is Rs, used on receipts when purchasing goods and services. In Pakistan, the rupee is referred to as the...

s)
Spending on East Pakistan (in millions of Pakistani rupees) Amount spent on East as percentage of West
1950–55 11,290 5,240 46.4
1955–60 16,550 5,240 31.7
1960–65 33,550 14,040 41.8
1965–70 51,950 21,410 41.2
Total 113,340 45,930 40.5
Source: Reports of the Advisory Panels for the Fourth Five Year Plan 1970–75, Vol. I, published by the planning commission of Pakistan.

Political differences


Although East Pakistan accounted for a slight majority of the country's population, political power remained firmly in the hands of West Pakistanis. Since a straightforward system of representation based on population would have concentrated political power in East Pakistan, the West Pakistani establishment came up with the "One Unit
One Unit
One-Unit was the title of a scheme launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four provinces of West Pakistan into one homogenous unit, as a counterbalance against the numerical domination of the ethnic Bengalis of East Pakistan...

" scheme, where all of West Pakistan was considered one province. This was solely to counterbalance the East wing's votes.

After the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan
Liaquat Ali Khan
For other people with the same or similar name, see Liaqat Ali Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was a Pakistani statesman who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Defence minister and Commonwealth, Kashmir Affairs...

, Pakistan's first prime minister, in 1951, political power began to be devolved to the President of Pakistan
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...

, and eventually, the military. The nominal elected chief executive, the Prime Minister, was frequently sacked by the establishment, acting through the President.

East Pakistanis noticed that whenever one of them, such as Khawaja Nazimuddin
Khawaja Nazimuddin
Hajji Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin, KCIE , was the second Governor-General of Pakistan, and later the second Prime Minister of Pakistan as well.-Early life:...

, Muhammad Ali Bogra
Muhammad Ali Bogra
Nawabzada Mohammed Ali Bogra was a Pakistani statesman of Bengali origin, who served as the third Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1953 until 1955.-Early life:...

, or Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was a Pakistani-Bengali politician and statesman who served as 5th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1956 till 1957, and a close associate of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, first Prime minister of Pakistan...

 was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, he were swiftly deposed by the largely West Pakistani establishment. The military dictatorships of Ayub Khan (27 October 1958 – 25 March 1969) and Yahya Khan
Yahya Khan
General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan Qizilbash, H.Pk, HJ, S.Pk, psc was the third President of Pakistan from 1969 to 1971, following the resignation of Ayub Khan...

 (25 March 1969 – 20 December 1971), both West Pakistanis, only heightened such feelings.
The situation reached a climax when in 1970 the Awami League, the largest East Pakistani political party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bengali nationalist politician and the founder of Bangladesh. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its Prime Minister. He headed the Awami League, served as the first President of Bangladesh and later became its...

, won a landslide victory in the national elections. The party won 167 of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan, and thus a majority of the 313 seats in the National Assembly. This gave the Awami League the constitutional right to form a government. However, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party — the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan— and served as its chairman until his...

 (a Sindhi and former professor), the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Peoples Party
The Pakistan Peoples Party , is a democratic socialist political party in Pakistan affiliated with Socialist International. Pakistan People's Party is the largest political party of Pakistan...

, refused to allow Rahman to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Instead, he proposed the idea of having two Prime Ministers, one for each wing. The proposal elicited outrage in the east wing, already chafing under the other constitutional innovation, the "one unit scheme". Bhutto also refused to accept Rahman's Six Points. On 3 March 1971, the two leaders of the two wings along with the President General Yahya Khan met in Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

 to decide the fate of the country. Talks failed and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for a nationwide strike. Bhutto feared a civil war, therefore, he sent his most trusted companion, dr. Mubashir Hassan
Mubashir Hassan
Mubashir Hassan PhD, is a Pakistani civil engineer and science administrator known for his work in Hydraulics and his political role in the development of the atom bomb project....

. A message was convened and Mujib decided to meet Bhutto. Upon his arrival, Mujib met with Bhutto and both agreed to form a coalition government with Mujib as Premier and Bhutto as President. However, these developments were unaware to military, and Bhutto increased his pressure on Mujib to reached a decision.

On 7 March 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (soon to be the prime minister) delivered a speech at the Racecourse Ground (now called the Suhrawardy Udyan
Suhrawardy Udyan
Suhrawardy Udyan formerly known as Ramna Racecourse ground is a national memorial located in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Once known as ‘‘Bagh-e-Badshahi’’ during the Mughal rule, it is named after Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Originally it served as the military club of the British soldiers stationed in Dhaka...

). In this speech he mentioned a further four-point condition to consider the National Assembly Meeting on 25 March:
  1. The immediate lifting of martial law
    Martial law
    Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

    .
  2. Immediate withdrawal of all military personnel to their barracks.
  3. An inquiry into the loss of life.
  4. Immediate transfer of power to the elected representative of the people before the assembly meeting 25 March.


He urged "his people" to turn every house into a fort of resistance. He closed his speech saying, "Our struggle is for our freedom. Our struggle is for our independence." This speech is considered the main event that inspired the nation to fight for its independence. General Tikka Khan
Tikka Khan
General Tikka Khan, HJ, HQA, SPk, was a senior four-star general in the Pakistan Army who served as the first Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army from 3 March 1972 to 1 March 1976. Before his four-star assignment, Khan was a Martial Law Administrator of erstwhile East-Pakistan...

 was flown in to Dhaka to become Governor of East Bengal. East-Pakistani judges, including Justice Siddique, refused to swear him in.

Between 10 and 13 March, Pakistan International Airlines
Pakistan International Airlines
Pakistan International Airlines Corporation commonly known as PIA, is the flag carrier airline of Pakistan. The airline has its head office on the grounds of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. and operates scheduled services to 24 domestic destinations and 38 international destinations in 27...

 cancelled all their international routes to urgently fly "Government Passengers" to Dhaka. These "Government Passengers" were almost all Pakistani soldiers in civilian dress. MV Swat, a ship of the Pakistan Navy, carrying ammunition and soldiers, was harboured in Chittagong
Chittagong
Chittagong ) is a city in southeastern Bangladesh and the capital of an eponymous district and division. Built on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, the city is home to Bangladesh's busiest seaport and has a population of over 4.5 million, making it the second largest city in the country.A trading...

 Port and the Bengali workers and sailors at the port refused to unload the ship. A unit of East Pakistan Rifles refused to obey commands to fire on Bengali demonstrators, beginning a mutiny of Bengali soldiers.

Military imbalance


Bengalis were underrepresented in the Pakistan military. Officers of Bengali origin in the different wings of the armed forces made up just 5% of overall force by 1965; of these, only a few were in command positions, with the majority in technical or administrative posts. West Pakistanis believed that Bengalis were not "martially inclined" unlike Pashtuns
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 and Punjabis
Punjabi people
The Punjabi people , ਪੰਜਾਬੀ ), also Panjabi people, are an Indo-Aryan group from South Asia. They are the second largest of the many ethnic groups in South Asia. They originate in the Punjab region, which has been been the location of some of the oldest civilizations in the world including, the...

; the "martial races
Martial Race
Martial Race was a designation created by Army officials of British India, where they classified each ethnic group into one of two categories: 'Martial' and 'Non-Martial'. A 'martial race' was typically considered brave and well built for fighting. The 'non-martial races' were those whom the...

" notion was dismissed as ridiculous and humiliating by Bengalis. Moreover, despite huge defence spending, East Pakistan received none of the benefits, such as contracts, purchasing and military support jobs. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was a culmination of skirmishes that took place between April 1965 and September 1965 between Pakistan and India. This conflict became known as the Second Kashmir War fought by India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir, the first having been fought in 1947...

 over Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

 also highlighted the sense of military insecurity among Bengalis as only an under-strength infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 division and 15 combat aircraft without tank support were in East Pakistan to thwart any Indian retaliations during the conflict.

Language controversy



In 1948, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's first Governor-General, declared in Dhaka (then usually spelled Dacca in English) that "Urdu
Urdu
Urdu is a register of the Hindustani language that is identified with Muslims in South Asia. It belongs to the Indo-European family. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan. It is also widely spoken in some regions of India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and an...

, and only Urdu" would be the common language for all of Pakistan. This proved highly controversial, since Urdu was a language that was only spoken in the West by Muhajirs and in the East by Biharis, although the Urdu language had been promoted as the lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 of Indian Muslims
Islam in India
Islam is the second-most practiced religion in the Republic of India after Hinduism, with more than 13.4% of the country's population ....

 by political and religious leaders such as Sir Khwaja Salimullah
Khwaja Salimullah
Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah Bahadur, GCIE, KCSI was the fourth Nawab of Dhaka and one of the leading Muslim politicians during the British Raj. It was he who, in the wake of partition of Bengal in 1905, made correspondance and discussed with Nawab Muhsinul Mulk at Aligarh over the issue of...

, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk
Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk
Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulk Kamboh or Nawab Waqar-ul-Mulq Maulvi also known as Mushtaq Hussain a Muslim born in the Meerut in 24 March 1841 was a Muslim politician and one of the founders of All India Muslim League.-Early life:...

 and Maulvi Abdul Haq
Maulvi Abdul Haq
Maulvi Abdul Haq was a scholar and linguist, who is also regarded as Baba-e-Urdu . He was a champion of the Urdu language and the demand for it to be made the national language of Pakistan.-Early life:...

. The language was considered a vital element of the Islamic culture for Indian Muslims; Hindi
Hindi
Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

 and the Devanagari script were seen as fundamentals of Hindu culture
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

. The majority groups in West Pakistan spoke Punjabi, while the Bengali language
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 was spoken by the vast majority of East Pakistanis. The language controversy eventually reached a point where East Pakistan revolted while the other part of Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 remained calm even though Punjabi was spoken by the majority groups of West Pakistan. Several students and civilians lost their lives in a police crackdown on 21 February 1952. The day is revered in Bangladesh and in West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 as the Language Martyrs' Day. Later, in memory of the 1952 killings, UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 declared 21 February as the International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day
International Mother Language Day is an observance held annually on 21 February worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999...

 in 1999.

In West Pakistan, the movement was seen as a sectional uprising against Pakistani national interests and the founding ideology of Pakistan, the Two-Nation Theory
Two-Nation Theory
The Two-Nation Theory proposed by Allama Iqbal is the ideology that the primary identity of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent is their religion, rather than their language or ethnicity, and therefore Indian Hindus and Muslims are two distinct nationalities, regardless of ethnic or other...

. West Pakistani politicians considered Urdu a product of Indian Islamic culture, as Ayub Khan said, as late as 1967, "East Bengalis... still are under considerable Hindu culture and influence." But, the deaths led to bitter feelings among East Pakistanis, and they were a major factor in the push for independence.

Response to the 1970 cyclone


The 1970 Bhola cyclone
1970 Bhola cyclone
The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan and India's West Bengal on November 12, 1970. It was the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times...

 made landfall
Landfall (meteorology)
Landfall is the event of a tropical cyclone or a waterspout coming onto land after being over water. When a waterspout makes landfall it is reclassified as a tornado, which can then cause damage inland...

 on the East Pakistan coastline during the evening of 12 November, around the same time as a local high tide
High Tide
High Tide was a band formed in 1969 by Tony Hill , Simon House , Peter Pavli and Roger Hadden .-History:...

, killing an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people. Though the exact death toll is not known, it is considered the deadliest tropical cyclone
Tropical cyclone
A tropical cyclone is a storm system characterized by a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Tropical cyclones strengthen when water evaporated from the ocean is released as the saturated air rises, resulting in condensation of water vapor...

 on record. A week after the landfall, President Khan conceded that his government had made "slips" and "mistakes" in its handling of the relief efforts due to a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the disaster.

A statement released by eleven political leaders in East Pakistan ten days after the cyclone hit charged the government with "gross neglect, callous and utter indifference". They also accused the president of playing down the magnitude of the problem in news coverage. On 19 November, students held a march in Dhaka protesting the slowness of the government response. Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was a popular political leader in Pakistan and Bangladesh, a rural based self-educated person.Abdu Hamid Khan Bhashani, born in 1880 in Dhangara, Bangladesh), was the son of Haji Sharafat Ali Khan. He gained immense popularity among peasants...

 addressed a rally of 50,000 people on 24 November, where he accused the president of inefficiency and demanded his resignation.

As the conflict between East and West Pakistan developed in March, the Dhaka offices of the two government organisations directly involved in relief efforts were closed for at least two weeks, first by a general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

 and then by a ban on government work in East Pakistan by the Awami League. With this increase in tension, foreign personnel were evacuated over fears of violence. Relief work continued in the field, but long-term planning was curtailed. This conflict widened into the Bangladesh Liberation War in December and concluded with the creation of Bangladesh. This is one of the first times that a natural event helped to trigger a civil war.

Operation Searchlight



A planned military pacification carried out by the Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

 – codenamed Operation Searchlight – started on 25 March to curb the Bengal
Bengal
Bengal is a historical and geographical region in the northeast region of the Indian Subcontinent at the apex of the Bay of Bengal. Today, it is mainly divided between the sovereign land of People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal, although some regions of the previous...

i nationalist movement by taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. Before the beginning of the operation, all foreign journalists were systematically deported from East Pakistan.

The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May. The operation also began the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities
1971 Bangladesh atrocities
Beginning with the start of Operation Searchlight on 25 March 1971 and continuing throughout the Bangladesh Liberation War, there were widespread violations of human rights in East Pakistan perpetrated by the Pakistan Army, with support from local political and religious militias, especially...

. These systematic killings served only to enrage the Bengalis, which ultimately resulted in the secession of East Pakistan later in the same year. The international media and reference books in English have published casualty figures which vary greatly, from 5,000–35,000 in Dhaka, and 200,000–3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole, and the atrocities have been referred to as acts of genocide.

According to the Asia Times,

At a meeting of the military top brass, Yahya Khan
Yahya Khan
General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan Qizilbash, H.Pk, HJ, S.Pk, psc was the third President of Pakistan from 1969 to 1971, following the resignation of Ayub Khan...

 declared: "Kill 3 million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." Accordingly, on the night of 25 March, the Pakistani Army launched Operation Searchlight to "crush" Bengali resistance in which Bengali members of military services were disarmed and killed, students and the intelligentsia systematically liquidated and able-bodied Bengali males just picked up and gunned down.


Although the violence focused on the provincial capital, Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

, it also affected all parts of East Pakistan. Residential halls of the University of Dhaka
University of Dhaka
The University of Dhaka is the oldest university in Bangladesh. It is a multi-disciplinary research university and is among the top universities in the region. Established on July 21, 1921, as per the Government of India Act, 1920, it was modelled on the Universities in England and soon gained...

 were particularly targeted. The only Hindu residential hall – the Jagannath Hall – was destroyed by the Pakistani armed forces, and an estimated 600 to 700 of its residents were murdered. The Pakistani army denies any cold blooded killings at the university, though the Hamood-ur-Rehman commission in Pakistan concluded that overwhelming force was used at the university. This fact and the massacre at Jagannath Hall and nearby student dormitories of Dhaka University are corroborated by a videotape secretly filmed by Prof. Nurul Ullah of the East Pakistan Engineering University, whose residence was directly opposite the student dormitories.

Hindu areas suffered particularly heavy blows. By midnight, Dhaka was burning, especially the Hindu dominated eastern part of the city. Time magazine reported on 2 August 1971, "The Hindus, who account for three-fourths of the refugees and a majority of the dead, have borne the brunt of the Pakistani military hatred."

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistani Army. Yahya Khan appointed Brigadier (later General) Rahimuddin Khan
Rahimuddin Khan
Rahimuddin Khan Afridi is a retired four-star general of the Pakistan Army who was the fourth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee from 1984 to 1987. He was also the longest-serving Governor and martial law administrator of Balochistan, from 1978 to when he resigned in 1984...

 to preside over a special tribunal prosecuting Mujib with multiple charges. The tribunal's sentence was never made public, but Yahya caused the verdict to be held in abeyance in any case. Other Awami League leaders were arrested as well, while a few fled Dhaka to avoid arrest. The Awami League was banned by General Yahya Khan.

Declaration of independence


The violence unleashed by the Pakistani forces on 25 March 1971, proved the last straw to the efforts to negotiate a settlement. Following these outrages, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed an official declaration that read:

Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night, West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between E.P.R. and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pakistan on the other, are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May Allah aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla.


Sheikh Mujib also called upon the people to resist the occupation forces through a radio message. Mujib was arrested on the night of 25–26 March 1971 at about 1:30 am (as per Radio Pakistan's news on 29 March 1971).

A telegram containing the text of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration reached some students in Chittagong. The message was translated to Bangla
Bengali language
Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

 by Dr. Manjula Anwar
Manjula Anwar
Dr. Manjula Anwar is a prominent Bengali linguist. She translated the famous independence telegram in Chittagong declaring the independence of East Pakistan from Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971.-References:...

. The students failed to secure permission from higher authorities to broadcast the message from the nearby Agrabad Station of Radio Pakistan. They crossed Kalurghat Bridge into an area controlled by an East Bengal Regiment under Major Ziaur Rahman
Ziaur Rahman
President Ziaur Rahman, Bir Uttam, was a Bangladeshi politician and general, who read the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971 on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He later became the seventh President of Bangladesh from 1977 until 1981...

. Bengali soldiers guarded the station as engineers prepared for transmission. At 19:45 hrs on 27 March 1971, Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast the announcement of the declaration of independence on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur. On 28 March Major Ziaur Rahman made another announcement, which was as follows:

This is Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendro. I, Major Ziaur Rahman, at the direction of Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, hereby declare that the independent People's Republic of Bangladesh has been established. At his direction, I have taken command as the temporary Head of the Republic. In the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, I call upon all Bengalis to rise against the attack by the West Pakistani Army. We shall fight to the last to free our Motherland. By the grace of Allah, victory is ours. Joy Bangla. Audio of Zia's announcement (interview – Belal Mohammed)


The Kalurghat
Kalurghat
Kalurghat is located several miles north of the port city of Chittagong, Bangladesh, and is mostly famous for several heavy industries located there...

 Radio Station's transmission capability was limited. The message was picked up by a Japanese ship in Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

. It was then re-transmitted by Radio Australia
Radio Australia
Radio Australia is the international broadcasting and online service operated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation , Australia's public broadcaster.- History :...

 and later by the British Broadcasting Corporation.

M A Hannan
M A Hannan
M. A. Hannan or Abdul Hannan is cited by many as the first person to read over radio the Bangladeshi declaration of independence, written by the leader of East Pakistan and Chief of Awami League Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from the Kalurghat Betar Kendra, Chittagong on March 26, 1971.During...

, an Awami League leader from Chittagong
Chittagong
Chittagong ) is a city in southeastern Bangladesh and the capital of an eponymous district and division. Built on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, the city is home to Bangladesh's busiest seaport and has a population of over 4.5 million, making it the second largest city in the country.A trading...

, is said to have made the first announcement of the declaration of independence over the radio on 26 March 1971. There is controversy now as to when Major Zia gave his speech. BNP sources maintain that it was 26 March, and there was no message regarding declaration of independence from Mujibur Rahman. Pakistani sources, like Siddiq Salik in Witness to Surrender had written that he heard about Mujibor Rahman's message on the Radio while Operation Searchlight was going on, and Maj. Gen. Hakeem A. Qureshi in his book The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier's Narrative, gives the date of Zia's speech as 27 March 1971.

26 March 1971 is considered the official Independence Day of Bangladesh
Independence Day Of Bangladesh
The Independence Day of Bangladesh , also referred as 26 March is a national holiday. It commemorates the country's declaration of independence from Pakistan on late hours of 25 March 1971...

, and the name Bangladesh was in effect henceforth. In July 1971, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi openly referred to the former East Pakistan as Bangladesh. Some Pakistani and Indian officials continued to use the name "East Pakistan" until 16 December 1971.

March to June




At first resistance was spontaneous and disorganised, and was not expected to be prolonged. But when the Pakistani Army cracked down upon the population, resistance grew. The Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

 became increasingly active. The Pakistani military sought to quell them, but increasing numbers of Bengali soldiers defected to the underground "Bangladesh army". These Bengali units slowly merged into the Mukti Bahini and bolstered their weaponry with supplies from India. Pakistan responded by airlifting in two infantry divisions and reorganising their forces. They also raised paramilitary forces of Razakars
Razakars (Pakistan)
The Razakar was the paramilitary force organized by the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.The Urdu word razakar literally means "volunteer". The Razakar force was composed of mostly pro-Pakistani Bengalis and Urdu-speaking migrants living in erstwhile East Pakistan...

, Al-Badrs
Al-Badr (East Pakistan)
The Al-Badr was the paramilitary wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh that collaborated with the Pakistan Army against the Bengali nationalist movement in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The present chief of the Jamaat, Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami headed the Al-Badr organisation as the...

 and Al-Shams (who were mostly members of the Muslim League, the then government party and other Islamist groups), as well as other Bengalis who opposed independence, and Bihar
Bihar
Bihar is a state in eastern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India....

i Muslims who had settled during the time of partition
Partition of India
The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India on 14 and 15...

.

On 17 April 1971, a provisional government was formed in Meherpur district in western Bangladesh bordering India with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was in prison in Pakistan, as President, Syed Nazrul Islam as Acting President, Tajuddin Ahmed as Prime Minister, and General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani as Commander-in-Chief, Bangladesh Forces. As fighting grew between the occupation army and the Bengali Mukti Bahini an estimated 10 million Bengalis, sought refuge in the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.

June – September




Bangladesh forces command was set up on 11 July, with Col. M. A. G. Osmani
M. A. G. Osmani
General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmany, popularly referred to as Bangabir General M.A.G. Osmany was the Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971...

 as commander-in-chief (C-in-C) with the status of Cabinet Minister, Lt. Col. Abdur Rabb as chief of Staff (COS), Group Captain A K Khandker as Deputy Chief of Staff (DCOS) and Major A R Chowdhury as Assistant Chief of Staff (ACOS). Bangladesh was divided into Eleven Sectors each with a commander chosen from defected officers of the Pakistani army who joined the Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

 to conduct guerrilla operations and train fighters. Most of their training camps were situated near the border area and were operated with assistance from India. The 10th Sector was directly placed under the Commander in Chief (C-in-C) General M. A. G. Osmani
M. A. G. Osmani
General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmany, popularly referred to as Bangabir General M.A.G. Osmany was the Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971...

 and included the Naval Commandos and C-in-C's special force. Three brigades (11 Battalions) were raised for conventional warfare; a large guerrilla force (estimated at 100,000) was trained.

Guerrilla operations, which slackened during the training phase, picked up after August. Economic and military targets in Dhaka were attacked. The major success story was Operation Jackpot
Operation Jackpot
For the 1983–1986 South Carolina drug investigation see Operation Jackpot Operation Jackpot was the codename assigned to several different operations during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. The original "Operation Jackpot" was the logistical and training operation set up under the Indian Army...

, in which naval commandos mined and blew up berthed ships in Chittagong
Chittagong
Chittagong ) is a city in southeastern Bangladesh and the capital of an eponymous district and division. Built on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, the city is home to Bangladesh's busiest seaport and has a population of over 4.5 million, making it the second largest city in the country.A trading...

 on 16 August 1971. Pakistani reprisals claimed lives of thousands of civilians. The Indian army took over supplying the Mukti Bahini from the BSF. They organised six sectors for supplying the Bangladesh forces.

October – December


Also See: Evolution of Pakistan Eastern Command plan
Evolution of Pakistan Eastern Command plan
The Eastern Military High Command of the Pakistan Armed Forces was a field-level military command headed by an appointed senior 3-star officer, who was designated the Unified Commander of the Eastern Military High Command...

, Bangladesh 1971: Opposing Plans
Bangladesh 1971: Opposing Plans
Prior to Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, India had no plans for large scale military action in East Pakistan. Since the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the primary objective of the Indian Army Eastern Command was the defense of the Indian northern and eastern borders, defending the “Shiliguri...

, Pakistan Army Order of Battle December 1971
Pakistan Army Order of Battle December 1971
The Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight on March 25th, 1971, to pacify which led to a prolonged conflict with the Bengali Mukti Bahini. Although conventional in nature during March–May 1971, it soon turned into an insurgency from June of that year. Indian army had not directly supported...

 and Mitro Bahini Order of Battle December 1971
Mitro Bahini Order of Battle December 1971
The Indian Army had no standby force ready in 1971 with the specific task of attacking East Pakistan, one of the many reasons why India did not immediately intervene after Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight in March 1971...



Bangladesh conventional forces attacked border outposts. Kamalpur, Belonia and Battle of Boyra
Battle of Boyra
The Battle of Boyra, on 22 November 1971, was the first engagement between the Air Forces of India and Pakistan of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971...

 are a few examples. 90 out of 370 BOPs fell to Bengali forces. Guerrilla attacks intensified, as did Pakistani and Razakar reprisals on civilian populations. Pakistani forces were reinforced by eight battalions from West Pakistan. The Bangladeshi independence fighters even managed to temporarily capture airstrips at Lalmonirhat
Lalmonirhat District
The district of Lalmonirhat consists 3038 mosques, 512 temples, 43 Buddhist temples and 12 churches.-Tourism:There are a number of tourist attractions and archaeological sites in Lalmonirhat...

 and Shalutikar. Both of these were used for flying in supplies and arms from India. Pakistan sent another 5 battalions from West Pakistan as reinforcements.

Indian involvement




Major battles
  • Battle of Boyra
    Battle of Boyra
    The Battle of Boyra, on 22 November 1971, was the first engagement between the Air Forces of India and Pakistan of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971...

  • Battle of Garibpur
    Battle of Garibpur
    The Battle of Garibpur fought on 20–21 November 1971 was one of the first engagements of between Indian and Pakistani troops during the Bangladesh Liberation War prior to the initiation of hostilities on 3 December 1971...

  • Battle of Dhalai
    Battle of Dhalai
    The Battle of Dhalai was a battle in the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was an Indian attack from Tripura into East Pakistan to stop Pakistani cross-border shelling.It ended in a major Indian victory....

  • Battle of Hilli
    Battle of Hilli
    The Battle of Hilli or the Battle of Bogra was a major battle fought in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and Bangladesh Liberation War. It is generally regarded as the most pitched battle that took place in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh...

  • Battle of Kushtia
    Battle of Kushtia
    The battle of Kushtia can mean two incidents, both in what is now Bangladesh:-*A battle on 19 April 1971 between East Bengali rebels and Pakistani forces. See http://www.time.com/time/archive/printout/0,23657,905021,00.html ....



Wary of the growing involvement of India, the Pakistan Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

 (PAF) launched a pre-emptive strike on Indian Air Force bases
Operation Chengiz Khan
Operation Chengiz Khan was the code name assigned to the pre-emptive strikes carried out by the Pakistani Air Force on the forward airbases and radar installations of the Indian Air Force on the evening of 3 December 1971, and marked the formal initiation of hostilities of the Indo-Pakistani war...

 on 3 December 1971. The attack was modelled on the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

's Operation Focus
Operation Focus
Operation Focus was the opening airstrike by Israel at the start of the Six-Day War in 1967. It is sometimes referred to as "Sinai Air Strike" since the focus was primarily on airfields around the Sinai Peninsula. At 07:45 on June 5, 1967, the Israeli Air Force under Maj. Gen...

 during the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, and intended to neutralize the Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 planes on the ground. However, the plan failed to achieve the desired success since India had anticipated such an action. The strike was however seen by India as an open act of unprovoked aggression. This marked the official start of the Indo-Pakistani War
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. Indian, Bangladeshi and international sources consider the beginning of the war to be Operation Chengiz Khan, Pakistan's December 3, 1971 pre-emptive strike on 11 Indian airbases...

.

As a response to the attack, both India and Pakistan formally acknowledged the existence of a state of war between the two countries, even though neither government had formally issued a Declaration of War
Declaration of war
A declaration of war is a formal act by which one nation goes to war against another. The declaration is a performative speech act by an authorized party of a national government in order to create a state of war between two or more states.The legality of who is competent to declare war varies...

.

Three Indian corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 were involved in the invasion of East Pakistan. They were supported by nearly three brigades of Mukti Bahini fighting alongside them, and many more fighting irregularly. This was far superior to the Pakistani army of three divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

. The Indians quickly overran the country, selectively engaging or bypassing heavily defended strongholds. Pakistani forces were unable to effectively counter the Indian attack, as they had been deployed in small units around the border to counter guerrilla attacks by the Mukti Bahini. Unable to defend Dhaka, the Pakistanis surrendered on 16 December 1971.

The speed of the Indian strategy can be gauged by the fact that one of the regiments of Indian army (7 Punjab now 8 Mechanised Inf Regiment) fought the liberation war along the Jessore and Khulna axis. They were newly converted to a mechanised regiment and it took them just 1 week to reach Khulna after capturing Jessore. Their losses were limited to just 2 newly acquired APCs
Armoured personnel carrier
An armoured personnel carrier is an armoured fighting vehicle designed to transport infantry to the battlefield.APCs are usually armed with only a machine gun although variants carry recoilless rifles, anti-tank guided missiles , or mortars...

 (SKOT) from the Russians.

India's external intelligence agency, the RAW
Research and Analysis Wing
The Research and Analysis Wing is India's external intelligence agency. It was formed in September 1968 after the poor performance of the Intelligence Bureau in the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the India-Pakistani war of 1965 convinced the then government of India that a specialized, independent...

, played a crucial role in providing logistic support to the Mukti Bahini during the initial stages of the war. RAW's operations, in then East Pakistan, was the largest covert operation in the history of South Asia.

Pakistani response


Pakistan launched a number of armoured thrusts along India's western front in attempts to force Indian troops away from East Pakistan. Pakistan tried to fight back and boost the sagging morale by incorporating the Special Services Group
Special Services Group
The Special Service Group , also known as Black Storks, because of their distinctive headgear, the unit is also known as Maroon Beret, are a special operations military unit of the Pakistan Army mandated with fourteen primary and special missions: Asymmetric warfare,Anti piracy,Special...

 commandos in sabotage
Sabotage
Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening another entity through subversion, obstruction, disruption, or destruction. In a workplace setting, sabotage is the conscious withdrawal of efficiency generally directed at causing some change in workplace conditions. One who engages in sabotage is...

 and rescue missions.

The air and naval war


The Indian Air Force
Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. Its primary responsibility is to secure Indian airspace and to conduct aerial warfare during a conflict...

 carried out several sorties against Pakistan, and within a week, IAF aircraft dominated the skies of East Pakistan. It achieved near-total air supremacy
Air supremacy
Air supremacy is the complete dominance of the air power of one side's air forces over the other side's, during a military campaign. It is the most favorable state of control of the air...

 by the end of the first week as the entire Pakistani air contingent in the east, PAF No.14 Squadron, was grounded because of Indian airstrikes at Tejgaon, Kurmitolla, Lal Munir Hat and Shamsher Nagar. Sea Hawks
Hawker Sea Hawk
The Hawker Sea Hawk was a British single-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm , the air branch of the Royal Navy , built by Hawker Aircraft and its sister company, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although its origins stemmed from earlier Hawker piston-engined fighters, the Sea Hawk became the...

 from INS Vikrant
INS Vikrant
INS Vikrant was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.Her keel was laid down on 12 November 1943 by Vickers-Armstrong on the Tyne and she was launched on 22 September 1945....

 also struck Chittagong
Chittagong
Chittagong ) is a city in southeastern Bangladesh and the capital of an eponymous district and division. Built on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, the city is home to Bangladesh's busiest seaport and has a population of over 4.5 million, making it the second largest city in the country.A trading...

, Barisal and Cox's Bazar
Cox's Bazar
Cox's Bazar is a town, a fishing port and district headquarters in Bangladesh. It is known for its wide sandy beach which is the world's longest natural sandy sea beach. It is an unbroken 125 km sandy sea beach with a gentle slope. It is located 150 km south of Chittagong. Cox’s Bazar...

, destroying the eastern wing of the Pakistan Navy
Pakistan Navy
The Pakistan Navy is the naval warfare/service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces. Pakistan's Navy is responsible for Pakistan's coastline along the Arabian Sea and the defense of important civilian harbors and military bases...

 and effectively blockading the East Pakistan ports, thereby cutting off any escape routes for the stranded Pakistani soldiers. The nascent Bangladesh Navy
Bangladesh Navy
The Bangladesh Navy is the naval arm of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. At present the navy is mostly limited to coastal patrolling, however it is implementing an ambitious procurement and expansion program to ensure the security of Bangladesh's maritime boundary...

 (comprising officers and sailors who defected from the Pakistani Navy) aided the Indians in the marine warfare, carrying out attacks, most notably Operation Jackpot.

United Nations Security Council involvement


Though the United Nations condemned the human rights violations during and following Operation Searchlight, it failed to defuse the situation politically before the start of the war.

Following Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration of independence in March 1971, India undertook a world-wide campaign to drum up political, democratic and humanitarian support for the people of Bangladesh for their liberation struggle. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made a whirlwind tour of a large number of countries in a bid to create awareness of the Pakistani atrocities against Bengalis. This effort was to prove vital later during the war, in framing the world's context of the war and to justify military action by India. Also, following Pakistan's defeat, it ensured prompt recognition of the newly independent state of Bangladesh.

Following India's entry into the war, Pakistan fearing certain defeat, made urgent appeals to the United Nations to intervene and force India to agree to a cease fire. The UN Security Council assembled on 4 December 1971 to discuss the hostilities in South Asia. After lengthy discussions on 7 December, the United States made a resolution for "immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops." While supported by the majority, the USSR vetoed the resolution twice. In light of the Pakistani atrocities against Bengalis, the United Kingdom and France abstained on the resolution.

On 12 December, with Pakistan facing imminent defeat, the United States requested that the Security Council be reconvened. Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was rushed to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to make the case for a resolution on the cease fire. The council continued deliberations for four days. By the time proposals were finalised, Pakistan's forces in the East had surrendered and the war had ended, making the measures merely academic. Bhutto, frustrated by the failure of the resolution and the inaction of the United Nations, ripped up his speech and left the council.

Most UN member nations were quick to recognize Bangladesh within months of its liberation.

Surrender and aftermath


On 16 December 1971, Lt. Gen A. A. K. Niazi
A. A. K. Niazi
Lieutenant-General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi HJ, MC,; c. 1915 - 2 February 2004), was a former three-star general in the Pakistan Army who was the last unified commander of Pakistan Armed Forces's Eastern Military High Command in East-Pakistan...

, CO
Commanding officer
The commanding officer is the officer in command of a military unit. Typically, the commanding officer has ultimate authority over the unit, and is usually given wide latitude to run the unit as he sees fit, within the bounds of military law...

 of Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender
Instrument of Surrender (1971)
The Instrument of Surrender was signed at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at one past five in the evening , local time, on December 16, 1971, by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army and Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan...

. At the time of surrender only a few countries had provided diplomatic recognition
Diplomatic recognition
Diplomatic recognition in international law is a unilateral political act with domestic and international legal consequences, whereby a state acknowledges an act or status of another state or government in control of a state...

 to the new nation. Over 90,000 Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces making it the largest surrender since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Bangladesh sought admission in the UN with most voting in its favour, but China vetoed this as Pakistan was its key ally. The United States, also a key ally of Pakistan, was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition. To ensure a smooth transition, in 1972 the Simla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan. The treaty ensured that Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani PoWs. India treated all the PoWs in strict accordance with the Geneva Convention, rule 1925. It released more than 93,000 Pakistani PoWs in five months.

Further, as a gesture of goodwill, nearly 200 soldiers who were sought for war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s by Bengalis were also pardoned by India. The accord also gave back more than 13000 km² (5,019 sq mi) of land that Indian troops had seized in West Pakistan during the war, though India retained a few strategic areas; most notably Kargil
Kargil District
Kargil is a district of Ladakh, Kashmir, India. Kargil lies near the Line of Control facing Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's Baltistan to the west, and Kashmir valley to the south. Zanskar is part of Kargil district along with Suru, Wakha and Dras valleys...

 (which would in turn again be the focal point for a war
Kargil War
The Kargil War ,, also known as the Kargil conflict, was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July 1999 in the Kargil district of Kashmir and elsewhere along the Line of Control...

 between the two nations in 1999). This was done as a measure of promoting "lasting peace" and was acknowledged by many observers as a sign of maturity by India. But some in India felt that the treaty had been too lenient to Bhutto, who had pleaded for leniency, arguing that the fragile democracy in Pakistan would crumble if the accord was perceived as being overly harsh by Pakistanis.

Reaction in West Pakistan to the war


Reaction to the defeat and dismemberment of half the nation was a shocking loss to top military and civilians alike. No one had expected that they would lose the formal war in under a fortnight and there was also anger at what was perceived as a meek surrender of the army in East Pakistan. Yahya Khan
Yahya Khan
General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan Qizilbash, H.Pk, HJ, S.Pk, psc was the third President of Pakistan from 1969 to 1971, following the resignation of Ayub Khan...

's dictatorship collapsed and gave way to Bhutto who took the opportunity to rise to power. General Niazi
A. A. K. Niazi
Lieutenant-General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi HJ, MC,; c. 1915 - 2 February 2004), was a former three-star general in the Pakistan Army who was the last unified commander of Pakistan Armed Forces's Eastern Military High Command in East-Pakistan...

, who surrendered along with 93,000 troops, was viewed with suspicion and hatred upon his return to Pakistan. He was shunned and branded a traitor. The war also exposed the shortcomings of Pakistan's declared strategic doctrine that the "defence of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan". Pakistan also failed to gather international support, and found itself fighting a lone battle with only the USA providing any external help. This further embittered the Pakistanis who had faced the worst military defeat of an army in decades.

The debacle immediately prompted an enquiry headed by Justice Hamoodur Rahman. Called the Hamoodur Rahman
Hamoodur Rahman
Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman, Urdu: حمود الرحمن) was Pakistan-Bengali jurist and academia, a legal educator, who formerly served as the 7th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University as well as Professor of Law and Justice at the Karachi University...

 Commission, it was initially suppressed by Bhutto as it put the military in a poor light. When it was declassified, it showed many failings from the strategic to the tactical levels. It also condemned the atrocities and the war crime
War crime
War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

s committed by the armed forces. It confirmed the looting, rapes and the killings by the Pakistan Army and their local agents although the figures are far lower than the ones quoted by Bangladesh. According to Bangladeshi sources, 200,000 women were raped and over 3 million people were killed, while the Rahman Commission report in Pakistan claimed 26,000 died and the rapes were in the hundreds. However, the army's role in splintering Pakistan after its greatest military debacle was largely ignored by successive Pakistani governments.

Atrocities



During the war there were widespread killings and other atrocities – including the displacement of civilians in Bangladesh (East Pakistan at the time) and widespread violations of human rights – carried out by the Pakistan Army with support from political and religious militias, beginning with the start of Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight
Operation Searchlight was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan in March 1971. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz" which had been...

 on 25 March 1971. Bangladeshi authorities claim that three million people were killed, while the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, an official Pakistan Government investigation, put the figure as low as 26,000 civilian casualties. The international media and reference books in English have also published figures which vary greatly from 200,000 to 3,000,000 for Bangladesh as a whole. A further eight to ten million people fled the country to seek safety in India.
A large section of the intellectual community of Bangladesh were murdered, mostly by the Al-Shams and Al-Badr
Al-Badr (East Pakistan)
The Al-Badr was the paramilitary wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh that collaborated with the Pakistan Army against the Bengali nationalist movement in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The present chief of the Jamaat, Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami headed the Al-Badr organisation as the...

 forces, at the instruction of the Pakistani Army. Just 2 days before the surrender, on 14 December 1971, Pakistan Army and Razakar militia (local collaborators) picked up at least 100 physicians, professors, writers and engineers in Dhaka, and murdered them, leaving the dead bodies in a mass grave.
There are many mass graves in Bangladesh, and as years pass, more are being discovered (such as one in an old well near a mosque in Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

, located in the non-Bengali region of the city, which was discovered in August 1999). The first night of war on Bengalis, which is documented in telegrams from the American Consulate in Dhaka to the United States State Department, saw indiscriminate killings of students of Dhaka University and other civilians. Numerous women were tortured, raped and killed during the war; the exact numbers are not known and are a subject of debate. Bangladeshi sources cite a figure of 200,000 women raped, giving birth to thousands of war babies
War Babies
War Babies is the third album by Hall & Oates, released in 1974, and their last of three albums for Atlantic Records before moving to the RCA label...

. The Pakistan Army also kept numerous Bengali women as sex-slaves inside the Dhaka Cantonment. Most of the girls were captured from Dhaka University and private homes. There was significant sectarian violence not only perpetrated and encouraged by the Pakistani army, but also by Bengali nationalists against non-Bengali minorities, especially Bihari
Bihari people
The Biharis are an ethnic group originating from the present state of Bihar with a history going back three millennia...

s.

On 16 December 2002, the George Washington University's
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

 National Security Archive
National Security Archive
The National Security Archive is a 501 non-governmental, non-profit research and archival institution located in the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.. Founded in 1985 by Scott Armstrong, it archives and publishes declassified U.S. government files concerning selected topics of US...

 published a collection of declassified documents, consisting mostly of communications between US embassy officials and United States Information Service centres in Dhaka and India, and officials in Washington DC. name=sajit-gandhi>Gandhi, Sajit, ed. (16 December 2002), The Tilt: The U.S. and the South Asian Crisis of 1971: National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 79 These documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within Bangladesh used the terms selective genocide name="SelectiveGenocide">U.S. Consulate in Dacca (27 March 1971), Selective genocide, Cable (PDF) and genocide (see The Blood Telegram) to describe events they had knowledge of at the time. Genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 is the term that is still used to describe the event in almost every major publication and newspaper in Bangladesh, although elsewhere, particularly in Pakistan, the actual death toll, motives, extent, and destructive impact of the actions of the Pakistani forces are disputed.

USA and USSR


The United States supported Pakistan both politically and materially. U.S. President Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

 denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan. But when Pakistan's defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
USS Enterprise (CVN-65)
USS Enterprise , formerly CVA-65, is the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the eighth US naval vessel to bear the name. Like her predecessor of World War II fame, she is nicknamed the "Big E". At , she is the longest naval vessel in the world...

 to the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

, a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 and 13 December, the Soviet Navy
Soviet Navy
The Soviet Navy was the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy would have played an instrumental role in a Warsaw Pact war with NATO, where it would have attempted to prevent naval convoys from bringing reinforcements across the Atlantic Ocean...

 dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok
Vladivostok
The city is located in the southern extremity of Muravyov-Amursky Peninsula, which is about 30 km long and approximately 12 km wide.The highest point is Mount Kholodilnik, the height of which is 257 m...

; they trailed U.S. Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.

Nixon and Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

 feared Soviet expansion into South and Southeast Asia. Pakistan was a close ally of the People's Republic of China, with whom Nixon had been negotiating a rapprochement and which he intended to visit in February 1972. Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan
West Pakistan
West Pakistan , common name West-Pakistan , in the period between its establishment on 22 November 1955 to disintegration on December 16, 1971. This period, during which, Pakistan was divided, ended when East-Pakistan was disintegrated and succeeded to become which is now what is known as Bangladesh...

 would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America's new tacit ally, China. In order to demonstrate to China the bona fides of the United States as an ally, and in direct violation of the US Congress-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan and routed them through Jordan and Iran, while also encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan.

The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the genocidal activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram
Archer Blood
Archer Kent Blood was an American diplomat in Bangladesh. He served as the last American Consul General to Dhaka, East Pakistan. He is famous for sending the strongly worded Blood telegram protesting against the atrocities committed in the Bangladesh Liberation War.-Biography:Archer Blood was...

.

The Soviet Union supported Bangladesh and Indian armies, as well as the Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini
Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

 during the war, recognising that the independence of Bangladesh would weaken the position of its rivals – the United States and China. It gave assurances to India that if a confrontation with the United States or China developed, the USSR would take countermeasures. This was enshrined in the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty
Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation
The Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation was a treaty signed between India and the Soviet Union in August 1971 that specified mutual strategic cooperation...

 signed in August 1971. The Soviets also sent a nuclear submarine to ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean.

At the end of the war, the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 countries were among the first to recognize Bangladesh. The Soviet Union accorded recognition to Bangladesh on 25 January 1972. The United States delayed recognition for some months, before according it in April 1972.

China


As a long-standing ally of Pakistan, the People's Republic of China reacted with alarm to the evolving situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir
Kashmir
Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

. Believing that just such an Indian attack was imminent, Nixon encouraged China to mobilise its armed forces along its border with India to discourage it. The Chinese did not, however, respond to this encouragement, because unlike the 1962 Sino-Indian War when India was caught entirely unaware, this time the Indian Army was prepared and had deployed eight mountain divisions to the Sino-Indian border to guard against such an eventuality. China instead threw its weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire.

China was also among the last countries to recognize independent Bangladesh, refusing to do so until 8 October 1975.

See also

  • Recipients of Bangladeshi military awards in 1971
  • Artistic depictions of Bangladesh Liberation War
    Artistic depictions of Bangladesh Liberation War
    There has been numerous works of art that depicted the Bangladesh Liberation War during and since the War both at Bangladesh and abroad. The concert for Bangladesh organized by members of the Beatles was a major happening in 1971 for protest music...

  • Timeline of the Bangladesh War
  • Mukti Bahini
    Mukti Bahini
    Mukti Bahini , also termed as the "Freedom Fighters" or FFs, collectively refers to the armed organizations who fought against the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It was dynamically formed by Bengali regulars and civilians after the proclamation of Bangladesh's independence on...

  • Liberation War Museum
    Liberation War Museum
    The Liberation War Museum is a museum in Segunbagicha, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh that commemorates the Bangladesh Liberation War, which led to the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan....


External links