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Pakistan Affairs Notes

“Separation of East Pakistan, though a tragic part of History of Pakistan, was not the negation of two nation theory”. (CSS Pakistan Affairs Paper 2015)

"Separation of East Pakistan, though a tragic part of History of Pakistan, was not the negation of two nation theory". (CSS Pakistan Affairs Paper 2015)
Written by CSS Times

History of Pakistan

Pakistan Affairs CSS Paper 2015

Question: “Separation of East Pakistan, though a tragic part of History of Pakistan, was not the negation of two nation theory”.


Separation of East Pakistan was not “The Negation of Two Nation Theory”


Pakistan came into being on 14 August 1947. Pakistan had two parts: East Pakistan and West Pakistan until 1971 when East Pakistan got independence and became Bangla Desh. Following are the causes of the fall of East Pakistan. Pakistan came into being with a shattered economy and no fabric of social, political and cultural organisations. After the death of Quaid-e-Azam on 11th September, 1948, the sudden assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan on 16th October, 1951 was a severe blow to a newly born country. These two major causes which hampered the progress of the country were; History of Pakistan

1. Leadership vacuum,

2. The political and administrative disagreements

Bengali Muslims never wanted separation but they were forcibly separated from Pakistan under an international conspiracy hatched by the big powers in collusion with India.
(Raja Afrasiab Khan, Former Judge Supreme Court of Pakistan)

As a result of international intrigues and conspiracies, Pakistan was dismembered on December 16, 1971. The above-mentioned two lacunae disrupted the cohesion of the country and ultimately gave birth to regional and centrifugal forces. The debacle of 1971 was the direct result of all these circumstances. History of Pakistan

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1. Different Social Structure and Lack of Unity

People of East & West Pakistan belonged to different social systems and they could not develop understanding with each other. Officers of East Pakistan were more friendly towards people whereas, the officers from West Pakistan had different attitude towards the people of East Pakistan. This created a sense of hatred against West Pakistan. History of Pakistan

By 1970, sentiments for national unity had weakened in East Pakistan to the extent that constant conflict between the two Wings dramatically erupted into mass civil disorder. This tragically resulted in the dismal and violent amputation of Pakistan’s Eastern Wing

History of Pakistan

2. Conflict between Two Wings | History of Pakistan

The physical separation of a thousand miles between the two wings without a common border and being surrounded by Indian territory and influences, led to constant political, economic and social conflicts between the two wings. The political system of Pakistan broke down in 1971 that was the output failure, arising out of the dissension and conflicts between East and West Pakistan. The ruling elite formulated certain policies that provoked high opposition and resentment of the East.

3. Language Issue | History of Pakistan

The people of East Pakistan opposed the govt. policy on language issue. People protested against the govt. policy and many Bengali students lost their lives in these protests. Language Issue

The first rift in the relationships appeared on the issue of the official language. Urdu was declared as the only national language. This had very severe repercussions in East Pakistan where the Bangla language was almost like a living being, to be cherished or nurtured. Language riots took place in the early 1950s and eventually Bangla was declared the second official language.

Read also: The National Action Plan: An Overview

4. Elites of East Bengal | History of Pakistan

The principal leaders and groups of the East Bengal belonged to the upper class, land-owning, Urdu-speaking families of Dhaka or the mercantile groups of Calcutta. Soon after the formation of Pakistan, the race/conflict between those who claimed themselves as the main political and radical forces and these of the conservative groups began.

History of Pakistan

5. Inferiority Complex of East Pakistan

While a significant reason for the alienation of the Bengalis was rooted in the perceived exploitation of the resources of their land by the then West Pakistani’s, an equally important irritant was the second class citizens status accorded to them by the bureaucracy and the army. The bureaucracy , especially members of the then Central Superior Services , treated East Pakistan as a colony, with no solid efforts being made to induct a reasonable number of Bengali’s in the upper tiers. The attitude of the army was equally bad–branding Bengalis as a non-martial race, only bare minimum units were raised comprising native East Pakistanis.

6. Presidential Form of Government

When the Army established its ascendancy in Ayub’s rule, a highly centralised and autocratic presidential system was imposed on the country. It was obvious that this system would arouse the antagonism and deep-seated hostilities among East Pakistanis. A parliamentary system could have partially offset the dominance of West Pakistanis but in spite of opting for a looser co-federal type of government and consociation sort of executive, the power elites were in favour of a centralised presidential form of government.

Check also: List of Founders and activists of the Pakistan Movement

7. Provincial Autonomy

There was an incessant increase in the demand of autonomy from East Pakistani. The demand was unique in that it was not merely a demand for maintaining a cultural entity. The physical separation had always meant an economic separation in the sense that there was no free and easy mobility of capital and labour. The East Pakistanis described their trade with West Pakistan as a negative covariance. They agreed that the dominance and determination of vital policy areas such as currency, taxation, utilisation, of foreign exchange earned by the centre and the foreign trade to the regional governments; had resulted in the increasing economic deprivation of the East Pakistan. Such policies had embittered unabridged differences between the two flanks. Moreover, some certain unitary cultural – religious concepts and a highly centralised constitution were the attempts that brought Pakistan at the verge of disintegration.

8. Recruitment to Army

With respect to the strength of Army, it is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan Army was almost entirely recruited from the four districts of the Northern Punjab (Rawalpindi, Campbellpur (Now Attock), Jhelum and Gujrat) and two districts of NWFP (Peshawar and Kohat). 60% of the army comprised Punjabis and nearly 35% were Pakhtoons. Thus Pakistan’s bureaucratic elites were not only separated from the majority population of their East part but their regional exclusiveness was such that they were separated in both social and regional terms even from people of regions like Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP.

History of Pakistan

9. East Pakistan’s Interests Neglected

To East Pakistanis, it seemed that their interests had been neglected systematically by a government dominated by West Pakistani policy makers. Regional economic disparity provoked bitterness and resentment towards the government. The problem of regional inequality was further accentuated by a commitment of the West Pakistan to a doctrine that economic disparity was necessary for the rapid economic development of the country. According to Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq,

“66% of the nation’s industrial assets, 80% of the banking interests and 79% of the insurance assets were controlled by only 22 families.”

10. Election 1970

In the elections, held in December 1970 after a long martial law, Awami League had participated on the basis of six-points and secured majority in the National Assembly. After the elections, the Awami League won almost all the seats in East Pakistan. They captured 167 seats, the highest number in East Pakistan and overall. In the West, the Pakistan Peoples Party had won 85 seats. But, power was not transferred to the majority party leader Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman for the fear that he would transfer all the national assets to East Pakistan, and that implementation of Mujib’s six points would weaken the country.

Asghar Khan in his book ‘We Have Learnt Nothing from History’ aptly remarks,

“The verdict of the electorate (1970 elections) was unexpected and baffled not only the political pundits but also the contesting parties. The Bengalis had been known for their massive support to a single political organisation, once they believed, it deserved their confidence. Amongst the provinces that later formed a part of Pakistan their contribution to the battle of the ballot was most valuable and their sense of patriotism probably the most developed”.

11. Ganga Hijacking Incident

On January 30, 1971, Ganga Hijacking incident took place. Two Kashmiris, Hashim and Ashraf Qureshi, hijacked an Indian plane from Delhi to Lahore and burnt it before the very eyes of Pakistan Security Forces. Taking advantage of the incident, which had been staged by India as exposed later, the air links between Lahore-Dhaka and Karachi-Dhaka were cut off by India. The only contact/link between the two wings left was a long sea route via Colombo.

“More infamous was the 1971 hijacking incident of the Indian Airline plane Ganga to Lahore. Actually, it was an operation planned and executed by Indian Intelligence with the preconceived purpose of fabricating pretence in order to ban Pakistani flights between East and West Pakistan preparatory to Indian military intervention in East Pakistan.”

12. Operation Searchlight

This led to the military action ‘Operation Searchlight’ to restore order. On the night of March 25, 1971, the action began in former East Pakistan. The operation was aimed at both Dhaka and the rest of the province and included the arrest of political leaders, disarming of potentially disloyal Bengali personnel in the police and army and crushing the militant rebellion by force.

A famous historian Ms Rubina Saigol writes in her article ‘We have failed the Lahore Resolution’:

‘Operation Searchlight’ was a complete negation of the independence and sovereignty embedded in the Lahore Resolution. The West Pakistani rulers, both military and civilian, refused to hand over power to the duly elected Awami League, which resulted in a resistance movement that culminated with the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971. The unit of the federation in which the Muslim League was established in 1906 seceded from the federation!

13. War with India

In 1971, the nation stood divided due to the contradictions as a result of economic disparity and social injustices. The Indians started an all-out war on 20th November 1971 using their own air force where necessary. It was unfortunate that in 1971 the UN and the big powers acted as silent spectators when an independent country with recognised international boundaries was being envisaged upon with an intention to dismember it, and they virtually did nothing to stop India from direct intervention because they wished to benefit from a large population and big a market.

On December 16, 1971, the most disgraced defeat of Pakistan was witnessed when the Pak Army surrendered before the Indian General. After the breakup of Pakistan, India declared that the ‘Two Nation Theory’ had been sunk in the Bay of Bengal, but eidetic reality was that Bangladesh became an independent country with Muslim identity, and refused to accept Indian hegemony.

History of Pakistan

14. Analysis

Separation of East Pakistan, though a tragic part of History of Pakistan, was not the negation of two nation theory.

Pakistan was dismembered as a result of an international intrigue. Pakistan’s archenemy India and Russia were hand in glove to implement the insidious plan to disintegrate Pakistan. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s so-called friends America and the West acted as silent spectators. Later it was, however, revealed through classified US papers that America was not against the idea of separation of former East Pakistan but did not agree with the manner in which it was done i.e. under the former USSR watch.

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