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Unrest in Bangladesh
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Did the world support the announcement by Bangladesh of its independence?

When Pakistan achieved independence in 1947, Bangladesh (then called East Bengal and called East Pakistan after 1955) became an eastern province of Pakistan, from which it is separated by more than one thousand miles. A movement for greater autonomy was spearheaded by Sheikh Mujibar Rahman and the Awami League, which had been founded in 1949 to pursue the political interests of East Pakistan.
In 1970 the League won a majority in the federal Pakistani assembly, but the government postponed assembly sessions.  As a result, on 26 March 1971 the Awami League declared the province independent as Bangladesh. Civil war ensued, and an estimated one million Bengalis died before India intervened on Bangladesh's behalf and defeated Pakistan in December 1971.
The country's initial government formed in 1972 under Mujibur Rahman, who became prime minister.  Although Mujib tried to rebuild the war-torn nation, he had little success. In 1974 floods devastated the country, political disorder increased and a national state of emergency was declared. In early 1975 Mujib acquired virtually dictatorial power, but he was killed in a military coup later that year.
Martial law ensued, and eventually General Ziaur Rahman assumed the presidency in 1977.  After parliamentary elections and the lifting of martial law, the nation made some economic progress in 1980 and 1981, but Rahman was assassinated in 1981 in an abortive military coup.

  • December 1969, the elections held after political parties had been re-established in Pakistan emphasized a growing rift between east and west.  In West Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Pakistan People's Party emerged victorious; in the east 160 of 162 seats were won by the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  The League wanted complete internal autonomy for Bangladesh with a central Pakistan government controlling foreign affairs and defense.
  • 25 March 1971, Pakistan's president Yahya Khan declared a state of emergency in East Pakistan. Sheikh Rahman and other leaders of the Awami League were arrested, while Pakistani troops began a brutal suppression.
  • 14 April 1971, the leaders of the Awami league, in refuge in India, declared Bangladesh to be independent.
  • 21 November 1971, Indian troops clashed with Pakistani forces in Bengal as Indians crossed the border.
  • 3 December 1971, Pakistan attacked Indian air bases.
  • 4 December 1971, India invaded Pakistan.
  • 17 December 1971, Pakistan accepted cease-fire terms.
  • 12 January 1972, Mujibur Rahman became prime minister of Bangladesh.
  • 3 July 1972, peace terms agreed between India and Pakistan at Simla.
  • February 1974, Bangladesh independence recognized by Pakistan.
  • 15 August 1975, Rahman killed in military coup.
  • 1977, General Ziaur Rahman assumed the presidency (assassinated in 1981).

WWW sites
For biographies of the principles involved, see biography.com:  Sheikh Mujibar Rahman (1920-75), Ziaur Rahman (1935-81) and Hussain Muhammad Ershad (1929-).
You should first examine some basic facts about Bangladesh (CIA Factbook) and check a historical overview of the country. You might also wish to try a virtual tour of the Bangladesh National Museum.
There are only a few sites with information about the independence of Bangladesh in 1971:  the Bangladesh Liberation War Museum; Dhaka '71, an on-line exhibition; the War for Bangladesh Independence is a brief essay from the US country fact book as is the Birth of Bangladesh and the India-Pakistan War.  The India-Pakistan war of 1971--another site on the war is available--beginning in early December 1971, was the decisive factor in the independence of Bangladesh.

The best site for the history of Bangladesh and the events of 1971 is Virtual Bangladesh.

Other websites:


Recommended Books
George Harrison, et al. The Concert for Bangladesh  is a recording of the 1971 concert to raise funds for Unicef's war relief effort in Bangladesh.  Some scattered accounts of the independence exist: S. R. Chakravarti, ed., Bangladesh Under Mujib Zia and Ershad Dilemma of a New Nation (1995); Hasan Zaheer, The Separation of East Pakistan:  The Rise and Realization of Bengali Muslim Nationalism (1994); Kamal Matinuddin, Tragedy of Errors: East Pakistan Crisis, 1968-1971 (1994); A. Muhith, Bangladesh, Emergence of a Nation (1992);  L. Ziring, Bangladesh: A Political Analysis (Macmillan, 1992); Moudad Ahmed, Bangladesh, Era of Sheikh Mujibar Rahman (1984); Mizanur Rahman, Emergence of a New Nation in a Multi-Polar World, Bangladesh (1979); Thomas Oliver, The United Nations in Bangladesh (Harvard, 1978).

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Indo-Pakistani Wars



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