You can't call a crow white. But come statecraft, everything becomes possible. —Illustration by Tahir Mehdi
You can't call a crow white. But come statecraft, everything becomes possible. —Illustration by Tahir Mehdi

Most Pakistanis feel uneasy coming to terms with the reality that is Bangladesh. They hide themselves behind a shoddy narrative of 1971, and neatly categorise the whole thing as a 'conspiracy'. It might well have been one. But who conspired against whom and when? What were the Bengalis up to? And how did they reach breaking point?

This article is the first of a four-part series that looks back at the events of 1971 in Pakistan from the perspective of the development of democracy in this country.

The political picture in 1947

The areas that constituted Pakistan in 1947 were ruled by the British under different arrangements. Bengal, Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then 'NWFP') were provinces with elected assemblies.

Balochistan was governed by an appointed Commissioner; tribal areas by Political Agents; and a number of so-called princely states by Rajas under the paramountcy of the British Crown.

These states came in all sizes. The princely state of Amb was so tiny that it drowned in the Tarbela Dam Lake in the 1970s. The Bahawalpur state was one of the largest princely states of India and its area now forms three large districts of Punjab. The Baloch states were very thinly populated, while Punjab was quite crowded.

But every one of these entities had a standing as a 'state', however rudimentary its stage might be.

When the 'Bengali problem' arose

It had begun in 1947 already. The people who were handed over the reigns of the new country on August 14 were tasked with working out a system which allowed all the above-mentioned entities to coexist peacefully and prosper together.

But when they sat down to figure out this formula for an equal distribution of power, every option they considered led to the same concern: the Bengalis were more in number than all the rest put together, and under a democracy, nothing could bar them from getting a majority share in the new state.

Now that did not sit well at all with the infant country's larger, grander designs of spearheading a new Islamic renaissance and hoisting its flag on every other building in South Asia.

The dark-skinned Bengalis, who shared their language and culture with their Hindu compatriots did not cut a figure to fit the coveted slot. This glorious feat could only be performed by the blue-blooded Muslim elite that had migrated from India, with a few others playing second fiddle and the rest serving as foot soldiers.

So, that was the first crossroad that our nation found itself at; that if the simple democratic path was to be taken, we would miss the golden opportunity to revive all of our lost glories (by losing the government to a Bengali majority). And if we stuck to this cherished goal, we would need to get around democracy and find some undemocratic solution to 'the Bengal problem'. At the end, it didn't turn out to be very difficult.

First draft — how an impasse was created

The ruling elite unearthed a trove of edicts, historical references and quotable quotes that allowed them to bend the rules to serve 'the larger national interest' and avoid rigidly following democracy, which was anyway a 'Western concept quite unsuitable to our kind of polity'.

One of our visionaries had forewarned us about the pitfalls of democracy, which counted everyone as one without distinguishing them on the basis of their piety.

When the first draft of the Constitution (Interim Report of the Basic Principles Committee) was presented to the Constituent Assembly in September 1950, it provided for two elected houses: the House of Units where all provinces would have equal representation (as provinces have in the Senate these days) and the House of People.

The Committee did not forward any suggestion about how the provinces would be represented in the latter House, whose members were supposed to be directly elected by the people. The Bengalis, who were being offered half the seats (when population-wise, their proportionate share was more than that), were not ready to surrender their right.

Thus evolved the impasse.

Second draft — Nazimuddin's partial 'Principle of Parity'

Prime Minister Nazimuddin was, however, able to make clear suggestions. When he presented the second draft in the Assembly, it provided for 120 seats in the House of Units and 400 in House of People.

Half of both of these were given to Bengal in the east and the other half was divided among the nine units of western Pakistan (the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, what is now Fata, Bahawalpur, Balochistan, Balochistan States, Khairpur State and Federal Capital), roughly according to their share in population. But this principle — share proportionate to population — was not adopted in the division of seats between east and west Pakistan.

This blatant imparity and injustice was given the name, 'Principle of Parity'.

This is how the narrative went: Pakistan comprises of two wings, East Pakistan, consisting of East Bengal and West Pakistan, constituted by nine units; and the two wings must get equal representation.

The Bengalis did not accept this and the draft was rejected.

Third draft — Bogra's mathematical masterstroke

The next Prime Minister, Mohammad Ali Bogra, came up with an uber-complex equation to resolve the impasse.

In October 1954, he presented the third draft, which clubbed the nine units of western Pakistan into four groups and gave them and the fifth unit — Bengal — equal seats (10 each) in the House of Units. The 300 seats of the House of People were roughly accorded to each unit according to their share in the population.

In this way, East Bengal got a majority in the House of People (with 165 out of 300 seats), but not in the House of Units where it had just 10 of the 50 seats.

All the laws had to be approved by both the Houses and in a joint sitting (of 350 members). East Pakistan (with 165+10=175 seats) was in parity with the West. In a way, it offered a win-win solution to both the Bengali nationalists and the Pakistani establishment.

But a solution was not what the ruling elite was looking for. The draft was approved by the Constituent Assembly and a team was tasked to write the constitution. Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, however, dismissed the government and dissolved the Assembly the same month.

The One-Unit Scheme

The undemocratic step was sanctioned by the judiciary that innovated and employed the 'Law of Necessity' for the first time.

It took the Governor General a year to put in place the second Constituent Assembly. Unlike the first one, it followed the 'Principle of Parity', that is, only half of the members of the second Constituent Assembly (40 out of 80) were taken from East Bengal, while in the first one they had 44 of 69 seats.

The first important thing that the new Constituent Assembly did was to 'unify' the nine units of the western wing into one province — the amalgam was called West Pakistan, and the initiative the One-Unit scheme. That gave the parity narrative some legal and moral grounds as the country now comprised of two provinces being treated equally, instead of 10 units with one being less equal than the other nine.

The ruling elite — or 'the establishment' as we know it now — made it known, loud and clear, that it would not accept anything more than 'parity' for East Bengal. There is no surprise then, that the Constitution that this Assembly finally passed in March 1956 provided for one elected House —National Assembly — comprising of 300 members elected directly by the people with half coming from East Pakistan and half from the West.

Bengalis held faith in democracy and lost in Pakistan.

The first Assembly could not dare hold general elections. Everybody knew that given the vast disagreements, elections under the prescribed system would be disruptive. General Ayub thought that the blatant use of force was a viable alternative and jumped in. He was wrong. He held the country together at gun point.

A decade later, when he finally had to withdraw the gun, General Yahya agreed to hold direct elections under adult franchise to a National Assembly that would formulate the country's constitution. His Legal Framework Order (since there was no constitution in place at that time) conceived a 300 member National Assembly with 162 elected from East Bengal, accepting the old Bengali demand. But perhaps, it was already too late.

An earlier version of this article was published on this website on December 10, 2012.

DAWN_VIDEO - /1029551/DAWN-RM-1x1

Tahir Mehdi works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group that has a primary interest in understanding governance and democracy.

He tweets @TahirMehdiZ

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (142) Closed

Dec 11, 2012 12:16pm
Specially, in karachi the same situation is observed everytime
Dec 12, 2012 08:46pm
Dec 11, 2012 09:37am
Mr.Jinnah was not a democrat. He grabbed the power at the earliest. His descendants are doing the same till today.
Dec 11, 2012 07:30am
The article has not pointed out the existing cultural tension between the two erstwhile wings of Pakistan in terms of language and the riots that it led to in Dhaka. The imposition of the culture and language associated with West Pakistan had a direct role in convincing the Bengali population that their rights would not be protected in Pakistan. Added to this was the economic disparity between the two wings as the majority of forex earned and revenue generated in Bangladesh was disbursed in a discriminatory manner with West Pakistan being the principal beneficiary.
Dec 11, 2012 03:08pm
AA You are 100% right. Democracy today, comes in only 1 flavour - British. We are a Republic, not a Democracy. To understand this technical point one must learn the difference between Republic and Democracy, ideas that are 2,500 year old (Google Republic vs Democracy). Democracy is the rule of the few, the Demos, the 5% moneyed males. Republic is the rule of the public through learned men. Socrates pushed for Republic and was murdered by Democracy. Democracy is for stratified societies (India, UK, Canada), Republic for egalitarian ones (France, USA, China, Muslim world). USA was founded as a Republic in revolt against the Democracy of British PM Frederick Lord North, and Pakistan was founded in revolt against the Democracy of Nehru/Gandhi. We should not trying to go back to becoming a Democracy like India unless we believe that the 2-nation theory is bunk.
Dec 11, 2012 05:33am
West Pakistani elite and the powerful army never appreciate that the Pakistan movement was started in Dhaka in 1905 by Sir, Salimullah, the nwab of Dhaka.The real discontent between the two wings of Pakistan was the language. In his maidan visit in 1948, Jinnah's decleration of Isngle National language of Urdu was the flash point. Though Bengalis were majority and sole foreign exchange erner, they never treated well. Like British, West Pakistan amass wealth looting from East Pakistan.
Dec 11, 2012 05:05am
"His Legal Framework Order (since there was no constitution in place at that time) conceived a 300 member National Assembly with 162 elected from East Bengal, accepting the old Bengali demand. But perhaps, it was already too late." Can't help but wonder, were the Bengalis Nationalists every serious about not breaking up with Pakistan? Why, when they were given parity (and even majority) did they not stay with Pakistan? There were no so called atrocities against them at that period in time. I hope Parts II, III and IV touch on this subject and not just plain old Pakistan bashing.
Dec 11, 2012 05:00am
nice and informative article based on facts. Eagerly waiting for the next in series.
Dec 13, 2012 04:26am
Mustafa Kemal bin Ali Reza Effendi was not a Muslim of the type of his times, he was an Alevi, and he was a Believer. He carried Quran in his pocket all the times. The Islam of his times had become thoroughly corrupted, with debasement of both god and prophet. So his criticism is justified.
Dec 13, 2012 04:33am
Moreover, Jinnah was an admirer of Ataturk. Dina Jinnah nicknamed her father "Grey Wolf" after the 1932 biography of Ataturk.
Dec 11, 2012 04:37am
Incoherent and confused. Don't try to get smart. You are only showing the world what a great fool you are. You can't affect them at all
Dec 11, 2012 03:17pm
Nat: No. The Kaliphate was not secular. It was theocratic.The non-Muslims lost all rights they had under the Covenant of Medina. The loss of secular character of the Medinan Republic after our Prophet died is the beginning of the Islamic tragedy that continued until Mustafa Kemal bin Ali Reza Effendi (Ataturk) and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, both staunchly anti-Kaliphate and secular founded the Turkish Republic and Pakistani Republic copying the Medinan Republic of our Prophet. Today, forces both in Turkey and Pakistan are trying to turn them into theocratic Kaliphates, a coup that must be resisted with all our might.
Dec 11, 2012 04:04am
The main point which is missing ... none of the states which came to become Pakistan could have got independence on their own. Bengalis realized that in 1905 and formed Muslim League. Thus, muslims from all over India were mobilized for independence. When independence was achieved, each ethnic group strived for its own interest. For Bengalis, all non-Bengalis were West Pakistanis and thus outsiders. They just wanted to be rich overnight by plundering whatever wealth was generated on their own perceived land. They had no regard for 'foreign' investment that came from Muslim migrants from all over India. Such is the mentality of Sindh and Baloch separatists. Punjabis and Mohajirs have their own caste and creed issues. Pushtuns have been overwhelmed by Afghan refugees. The main culprit is not undemocratic process. But it is lack of insight, conscience, and respect for fellow human beings. This is not merely lack of literacy. But this is 'jahalat'. Bengalis held powerful posts in Pakistan but failed to deliver. During 1971, Bengalis destroyed their own country. After gaining independence, they killed their own people... corruption prevailed. So is that what Bengalis longed for? Alas, other separatists in Pakistan do not learn from Bengal. In the US, all skilled immigrants are welcomed and absorbed. All citizen work hard. No body says I am born in America so this is my land only and I should get dollars for free.
Dec 11, 2012 03:29am
This is a brilliant article, sadly our politicians will still not listen and I blame the people for still not rising up and removing current incompetent leadership.
Dec 11, 2012 03:31am
US model of Congress and Senate makes complete 100% sense. The British style democracy is total failure for a country like Pakistan.
Dec 13, 2012 11:20am
No he is not just talking about the corrupted or debased Islam of those days as you say. He is challenging the authenticity of god's revelation itself. Read the quote again.
Dec 11, 2012 01:40am
I am already looking forward to the next three parts . This appears to be an unbiased objective research. Hope it will bring home some lessons for all stake holders.
Dec 10, 2012 09:14pm
I also feel that quality of articles as well as pakistani comments are improving with each passing day or may Dawn sensor board is allowing only sensible comments and articles. I am not sure.
Dec 11, 2012 12:34am
Mr. Abbas: There is an interesting twist to your correct observation that East pakistan had considerable Hindu population (about 20% upto 1971). After Mujibur Rahman was killed Bangladesh adopted a state religion and today the Hindus in independent Bangladesh constitute 7% or less of the population.
Dec 11, 2012 11:04am
Have we learned any thing from that episode? Aren
Do Good
Dec 10, 2012 11:28pm
There are lot of dark skinned people in Punjab and Sindh. What is the point? The point is Bhutto didn't want to give up and used Yahiya. Again due to the act of tribal lords Pakistan has been suffering since its creation.
Dec 10, 2012 11:06pm
State of Medina founded by our Prophet (AS) was a secular Republc. That's why we see a lots of non Muslim caliphs in the state after him, as they were in majority.
Dec 11, 2012 01:45pm
Bravo, Tahir. Meticulous mathematical analysis of history. But I am at a loss to comprehend the title of the article and making crow white with Bengal as Pakistan?
Dec 10, 2012 10:51pm
I find it interesting that the author says "The dark skinned Bengalis, sharing culture and language with their Hindu compatriots did not cut a figure to fit the coveted slot.". Did the light skinned Muslims from north India not share culture and language with Hindus (and Sikhs) in the Punjab??? Another hugs factor not discussed is that some north Indian communities came to believe that they were part of the "martial races" of India. [The British used the martial races theory to great effect during their rule.]
Dec 11, 2012 10:39am
Pakistan itself was founded on a fear of democracy and the one man-one vote principle. The disregard for democratic norms was again apparent after the 1970 election results, where the majority party was not allowed to rule. To make democracy successful, a democratic temperament is needed, which has never existed in Pakistan since its formation.Maybe it is best that Pakistan adopts a system, that suits it, rather then hankering after democracy.
Dec 11, 2012 01:40pm
I only hope you knew the opinion that Ataturk held about all these Islamik laws and culture which he ridiculed as being primitive.
Abdul j Sheikh
Dec 10, 2012 07:42pm
Anything can be proved by history.
Soul of Manto
Dec 17, 2012 06:46pm
What is 'Bogra'?
Nabarun Dey
Dec 12, 2012 03:41pm
The greatest thing about Jinnah's legacy is that, he could snatch away a country from the imperialists without ever being beaten by them or served prison terms.He just required a typewriter and Sohrawordy.
Dec 13, 2012 01:50pm
We have still not learnt the lesson from history now we are pursing an other bizarre goal to make Afghanistan our fifth Province in the name of strategic depth
Dec 11, 2012 05:43pm
You can blame the Pakistani rulers (civilian and military) from 1947 onwards for failing to provide a coherent, positive vision for Pakistanis and for lusting after power like bees after honey. But the people of Pakistan have always demonstrated sound common sense whenever they were permitted to vote by voting in those most likely to deal with economic issues and not being misled by religious or nationalistic or anti-western rhetoric. So, the solution to Pakistan's problems is the one-man one-vote. Not legalizing the criminal disregard of the electoral process by past rulers, whether it was Bhutto or any military dictator.
Dec 10, 2012 06:39pm
Thank you for explaining the situation and history so clearly. At least there is something to think about in here. I think the quality of journalism and writing is very high in here and some other authors on Dawn, and a pleasure to read.
Dr. Manmohan Zardari
Dec 11, 2012 06:01pm
brother don't take this in a wrong way. this is not Pakistan bashing rather this is introspection. this article never said that the general people of Pakistan were biased or something. it just said the decisions taken by the leaders was was some what biased and why do you think some one is bashing Pakistan when none of the leaders were directly elected. When we say Kim jong is jar head we certainly don't mean all north Koreans are jar head. so keep things in perspective 1 + 2 is not equal 5
Dec 11, 2012 02:19pm
@abbastoronto Here I quote Ataturk. "For nearly five hundred years, these rules and theories of an Arab Shaikh and the interpretations of generations of lazy and good-for-nothing priests have decided the civil and criminal law of Turkey. They have decided the form of the Constitution, the details of the lives of each Turk, his food, his hours of rising and sleeping the shape of his clothes, the routine of the midwife who produced his children, what he learned in his schools, his customs, his thoughts-even his most intimate habits. Islam
Maarij Syed
Dec 10, 2012 05:48pm
Realizing the extent of the horror and injustics of the "Fall of Dhaka" may be a useful step in getting rid of the scales that cover our collective eyes that only see conspiracy theories as explanations for any and all ills.
Dec 10, 2012 05:37pm
Well balanced article and also thought provoking, One should understand India was also left with similar choices at the same time, even more complicated with different languages religion and culture, Pakistan should allow their next generation to study unbiased history of India and understand how India co-existed with diverisified culture. In Movie Gandhi by Richard Attenborough, there is a scene in Jinnah residence where Gandhi takes tea pot from maid servant and serves tea to everyone and makes his point that British will only be replaced by rich lawyers from Bombay if you try to achieve freedom without proper plan. It is unfortunate for Pakistan that Jinnah died shortly after its inception and no other Pakistan leader never had clear vision or plan that could work for entire Pakistani people that includes (Baloch's Mohajirs, hindus christians,bengalis,Ahamadis and Muslims). Most of the leaders where short sighted and Power mongers and did anything to rule.
Soul of Manto
Dec 17, 2012 06:32pm
Don't you dare blame Mr Jinnah. He is above all else. He was always right. He was the greatest Muslim, greatest Pakistani, greatest human being ever walked on this planet.
Dec 12, 2012 01:05am
Yes, the crow is definitely white.
Dec 13, 2012 09:15pm
Bravo !!!!!! Aabdul sahab. I just spotted a white crow. :)
Nabarun Dey
Dec 12, 2012 03:46pm
Why forget Moududi ?
Dec 12, 2012 01:06am
Lots of nonmuslim caliphs. Yes the crow is white.
Dec 12, 2012 01:09am
Tribal nature combined with intense obsession with religion has caused untold miseries.
Dec 18, 2012 03:52am
Unfortunately, there is no way except to agree
Dec 10, 2012 12:28pm
Thank you Mr.Author for a very informative article.
mir aftab
Dec 12, 2012 12:58pm
it is part of an evolutionary process and the boundaries we see now will change according to aspirations of people who will become more and more conscious about their economic well being as they develop.
Basudeb Dey
Dec 10, 2012 01:31pm
Thanks Mr Tahir for you unbiased and informative article. New generation of Pakistani journalist are much bolder and different then what I saw during 70s. Can't wait to read your remaining articles.
Dec 12, 2012 02:47pm
I don't agree that Jinnah was not a democrat. He was all for democracy when he was among the the majority.
Dec 11, 2012 11:44am
Funny.... Please wake up.
Dec 10, 2012 11:36am
The idea that non-Muslims should have a lesser say in Pakistan affairs had already begun to infest Pakistan, despite clear declaration by Mr. Jinnah to the equality of all citizens irrespective of race, colour, sect, religion, or origin. Because East Pakistan had considerable Hindu population, the West had more Muslims than the East. it was therefore argued that the West should have a larger say in governance. It may be worthwhile to remind readers that the State of Medina founded by our Prophet (AS) was a secular Republic whose constitution was the Covenant of Medina, a secular document. Both Turkey of Ataturk and Pakistan of Jinnah were founded on that secular Principle of Medina.
Aftab Siddiqi
Dec 12, 2012 01:35pm
Both Dawn and Indian Papers writes the TRUTH.
Dec 12, 2012 06:00am
You see a lot of non Muslim caliphs in Medina. Please name one. Educate me please.
Dec 12, 2012 01:50pm
Have you read The Hindu newspaper? It's equally good if not better than for your other we can't accommodate a neighbor if he keep sending terrorists..Live and let live charity must start at home..
Dec 12, 2012 05:10am
Great analysis... Thats why I like the Dawn and The Hindu newspaper (from Pakistan and India respectively) Both newspaper are best in content and even readers are matured.
Dec 10, 2012 11:07am
Bogra was inspired by the US model of Congress and Senate. It made sense then, and it makes now.
Dr. M A Jabbar
Dec 13, 2012 08:43pm
Bengali Muslims never wanted to destroy Pakistan, we were forced to separate after years of denial of our rightful democratic rights. In 1948 our Language were being taken away, in 1954 our democracy was take away, in 1958 all our rights as citizens were take away, in 1971 we were denied to form a democratic Government and we were being killed as they wished. What could we have done?
Dec 12, 2012 07:01am
Please show me any healthy and open comment column in an Indian daily. Except for foul langauge, nothing of substance is ever discussed about matters relating to Pakistan. There is no need to say we are coming of age. As a matter of fact Pakistani journalism is better the India's any day. Dawn is a world class paper.It never writes derogatory stories or comments related to India, Indian papers do that all the time. To be neighbors we have to be accommodating, let's try and do that it will go a long way to solve issue between us. Feeling complacent will not cut it.
Dec 18, 2012 04:21am
I always failed to comprehend a fact that Pakistan movement was based on two nations theory - the Hindu and the Muslim. How can one expect that on August 14 the Muslim nation would overnight convert into a state nation? Could Bengali leaders not foresee what would happen due to this flawed two nations theory? Once you start playing on ambiguous religious ground, you lose the fairness. Always the one who can exploit better, wins. On the one hand, I see Muslims were (and perhaps are) marginalized in India but on the other hand we the Pakistanis are still at loss by playing religious card. Not sure about Bengali's. Perhaps their separation from Pakistan based on Bengali nationalism was a right decision. By any definition they are a nation regardless they find their destiny or not.
Dec 10, 2012 11:17am
Indeed it makes a lot of sense but sense has never prevailed in Pakistan. How unfortunate but that is the fact
Dec 13, 2012 04:54pm
Dec 13, 2014 05:58pm

It was a conspiracy of Agartalla.

Dec 13, 2014 06:03pm

@george a senseless babbling comment.

Dec 13, 2014 06:07pm

To this day Bangladeshi's are unsure why they had no autonomy instead of total independence. And still we pakistanis respect their independence as a nation state. Others in the region should learn from us.

Red Dawn
Dec 13, 2014 06:24pm

Awesome-Dawn staff and people are courageous! Please tell us more of our history!

Red Dawn
Dec 13, 2014 06:25pm

@Kunal Tell us more about it. references and books- Its awesome that you brought it up!

Tranquil Aisha
Dec 13, 2014 06:34pm

and I am going to See Indians Commenting here and would not be able to see my comment.. But those who claim they don't have interest in Pakistan.

Dec 13, 2014 06:39pm

@waseem So you are saying that West Pakistan is not to blame. East Pakistanis were the villains And they deserved to be treated bad?

Dec 13, 2014 06:50pm

@Zak As if you had a choice of the contrary, beggars cannot be choosers

Dec 13, 2014 07:00pm

we Pakistanis need to read the report of the Hamood-ur-Rehman commision, it opened my eyes to what the army did, and I have been wary of them since.

Javed Ali Hasrat
Dec 13, 2014 07:05pm

The same situation with Gilgit Baltistan now a days.either part of Pakistan or not.

fida sayani USA
Dec 13, 2014 07:15pm

The establishment consisting of two P's, Punjabi and Panahgir are the root cause of all the ills in Jinnah's Pakistan. From day one they conspired to take control of Pakistan and did a great damage to the nation which resulted in division and creation of Bangladesh. But the establishment has not learned the lesson, the conspiracies continue, the next one is to destroy the Baluch to control their mineral wealth and the Sindhis to make them minorities in their own province with the influx of Panahgirs/MQM, Pathans, and Punjabis, this time the 3 P"s. This will definitely put a final nail in the coffin of Pakistan. The only remedy is that all the provinces should be independent under the Federation of Pakistan.

Dec 13, 2014 07:18pm

A simple question - can you really form a country with two units that are not even joined together- is their another country like this in the world? Even Alaska longed to be separated up until 90s. This creation was flawed from the beginning, rest is all sound reasoning but it just did not make sense from get go

Dec 13, 2014 07:46pm

India took just less than 3 years (between 15-Aug-1947 and 26-Jan-1950) to frame and adopt her constitution, while Pakistan took many decades, civil war, and dismemberment of the state to arrive at a junk system, what they call now as Constitution.

Dec 13, 2014 07:52pm

General Ayub Khan’s mantra: “Parliamentary democracy does not suit the genius of the people of Pakistan.” The word 'GENIUS" here is very sarcastic, meaning they are unfit for Parliament Democracy, and they are still in "Armed Mobocracy".

Javed Ali
Dec 13, 2014 07:57pm

same situation in Karachi & also in GB.

Dec 13, 2014 09:24pm

Economic and political disparity is the key concern of the people and even today poor people in Baluchistan are suffering. May Allah grant our leaders a vision that could help them reducing the gap.

Dec 13, 2014 09:30pm

An insightful article from an introspective author. I look forward to reading the remain three parts of this four-part series.

@Author: You are right, the genesis of 1971 began in 1947, something which I had missed out on. I imagine what a Pakistan would have been like if it had actual democracy from day 1. There is no doubt it would have been a moderate nation and it would have progressed more than India.

We Indians did not always celebrate democracy the way we do these days. I remember most of my childhood and youth when we would look at totalitarian regimes such as the one in Singapore and wonder why India couldn't be like that. But 67 years after independence, we now wear this badge like we always believed in it, but the good news now is that all of us have unshakable faith in it. Just imagine what democracy has done for us. 10 years ago, no one had heard of Modi and without democracy, no one could have imagined that a Chief Minister from a state of 60 million would rule a country of 1.25 billion people. That is the beauty of democracy. A Punjabi could have been in power so long as he was moving the country forward. But the powers that be in Pakistan did not want to leave matters to chance.

Dec 13, 2014 09:34pm

@sraz45 definitely Dawn is superb, but look your text books. Children learn from text books and not from Dawn

Dec 13, 2014 09:38pm

Doing research studies and writing a sort of research study, but it is very much different to be there at that time or on that tragic occasion and feel it.

Mohammad Jamir Haider Babla
Dec 13, 2014 09:46pm

Creation of Bangladesh has been an uneasy term for for every Pakistani. I hope this series articles will shade light on what really happened in the then East Pakistan. The creation of Bangladesh resulted not only from political failure but also from military failure. The two wings of Pakistan had nothing in common except the word Muslims. Dress, food, behaviour and traditions are still different. Inequality in economy and power sharing fueled the Bangalis. To ease their agitation , ruler brutally staged worst genocide in South Asian history which ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh. I find nothing wrong in accepting the truth and learning lesson from that.

Raja Islam
Dec 13, 2014 10:32pm

@Owais Don't understand your logic. We are talking about provinces that constituted Pakistan and you talking about a city that is dominated and controlled by refugees from another country.

Raja Islam
Dec 13, 2014 10:41pm

@Soul of Manto By the way if you are serious then I would beg to disagree with you. Jinnah was human and had a lot of failings.

Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali
Dec 13, 2014 10:58pm

@Owais : The same elites today are in power. They got Pakistan to rule without any effort and will destroy every one who challenges them.

Krish Chennai
Dec 13, 2014 11:06pm

Perhaps the writer should have looked into earlier history too, where the Lord Curzon administration did the partition of Bengal into East and West Bengal in 1905, and by 1911, this partition was rescinded and it became one again, as even the gubernatorial rulers of the time did not find it feasible ! Till of course, in 1947, it became East Pakistan, from which time the writer narrates. Great writing by Tahir Mehdi though. Provides food for thought

Dec 13, 2014 11:12pm

It is refreshing to find an article in Dawn that is historically accurate.

Samad Chaudhry
Dec 14, 2014 12:13am

A superb article that Pakistanis and Bengalis should read. we west Pakistanis thought ourselves superior and did not justice East Pakistan. Then Muslim world is hardly ever united.

Dec 14, 2014 12:14am

This article should have begun with situation pre 1947 politics. Muslim League started in Bengal in 1905. At the time of independence, ML did not control majority of provincial governments on western wing but they did controll the eastern wing! Bengalis should have used that clout at the time of independence and the history could have been quite different today. Still when you look at all the differences and the geographical distance between the two sides, sooner or later the split was bound to happen.

khan saheb
Dec 14, 2014 01:46am

By the way Baluchistan was NOT a part of Pakistan at Independence. It was Kalat State and in February 48 M. A Jinnah send a forceful letter to Khan of Kalat for accession of his state to Pakistan and with some push and pull and arms twisting finally State of Kalat merged in Pakistan with an agreement signed between Jinnah and Khan of Kalat a copy of which is in Quetta Mirri Museum. Baluchis are waiting for the agreement to be honored and the first person who welcomed Jinnah and shook hand was Akbar Bugti...... and so on

Yasir Khan
Dec 14, 2014 02:33am

Finally someone is talking openly about this issue. Thank you! I am a Pakistani and I think it is necessary to bring the facts to light so these things do not happen again.

Stop labeling everything as a conspiracy theory. It was our fault and we had to bear the burden of it.

Ilyas Khan
Dec 14, 2014 02:54am

For the record it is worth noting that the population of East Bengal/East Pakistan was never 56%. Proof is that Bangladesh has now 150 million, while Pakistan has 180 million population. How has this 56% become 45% now cannot be explained away by 1971 'genocide' ( of 3 million? But the gap is 30 million now, in fact 40 million if we go back to 1971 estimates!) There are lies, white lies, and statistics! The census figures of 1940 and 1950 were massively inflated, for political reasons, in Bengal. The bengali politicians, and others, were aware of that. So the long wrangling about seats.

Dec 14, 2014 03:39am

Even during mughal times, the Muslim kings were fighting their family members more than the others.

Dec 14, 2014 04:19am

@Waseem There was no "Pakistani movement." It was all a plan by the British to dismember India just like the colonists have done everywhere, before being forced to leave. There was no two nation theory. There were just as many or more muslims left in India at the time of forming of Pakistan.

Dec 14, 2014 05:17am

I would like to write a few words before go through the article. You should know that religious sentiment can make a nation but it can not hold it if they suppressed the mother tongue of the people. All languages are important, no languages is unholy. Muslims of Bangladesh are good people, they are good Muslim and they are good Bengalis too. It would be very unnatural if Bangladesh would controlled by the minority people of west Pakistan which is thousand miles away, drainage the economy of Bengal and top of that imposed a new language on their mother tongue. Hope to see the true fact of the history in the article.

Dec 14, 2014 05:18am

@Zak Lol. Thats why they are not in the grip of Taliban and living peacefully comparing their counterparts in the west!!!

Subramanyam Sridharan
Dec 14, 2014 06:03am

@ram, Jinnah too had no plan. All he wanted was Pakistan and he felt that his British friends and masters would somehow enable it to survive and prosper. Of course, they have not disappointed though the weakening British empire gave way to the three-and-a-half friends of Pakistan later.

Dec 14, 2014 07:36am

LOL! But never mind, India has divided us brothers.. :)

Dec 14, 2014 08:21am

I congratulate the author for condensing the first Part I of the series in a short space and yet boiling the complex history without losing the correctness. Of course, the author cannot and should not deal with all the other things that were happening as a result of what historically happened in Pakistan, as many commentators have referenced. There are a few commentators like @ abbastoronto, who though they appear to be well-read but are emotionally unobjective and therefore not true to what happened in 1971. Many other commentators, like @ Dr. M A Jabbar, @ ram, and @ Khanm have very valid, relevant, and enlightening comments that were true to history. I agree with every sentence that the author wrote about the bigoted and racist behavior toward the “dark-skinned” Bengali East Pakistanis by the elite establishment of the time in the Western wing and the less than equal representation that was being offered on the Bengalis and yet the Eastern wing contributed more to the total economy of Pakistan as well as comprising more 55 percent of the total population. The 160 of the 162 seats won by Mujib Rehman and his Bengali Awami League was twice as many seats (82) won by PPP and Mr. Bhutto who was eventually called upon to form a government in total contradiction of democratic norms, justice, and franchisement. One thing for younger readers to note is that the father of the famous human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, who was active in politics, Mr. Malik Ghulam Jilani, was in favor of making Mr. Mujib Rehman the PM and handing over the government to Bengali Awami League. However, it dindn’t happen that way and all these injustice and many criminal behavior by West Pakistanis towards the Bengali Muslims lead to the creation of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971. I hope that Dawn would publish my comment for the sake of education and also for the correct depiction of history.

Dec 14, 2014 09:08am

@sraz45 : Let's check your assertions out! I bet Dawn will not like this challenge to you!

Dec 14, 2014 10:01am

@kafirmusafir : Interesting comments. Don't you think Mr. Bhutto's behavior was inspired by Mr. Jinnah's behavior. Mr. Jinnah couldn't reconcile to Nehru becoming prime minister and instead went for a separate country, Mr. Bhutto also got a country for himself. Had India not been partitioned, who knows, Muslims would have been ruling united-India.

Dec 14, 2014 10:37am

@vb :: Thanks for your comment. I think what Mr. Bhutto did to Mr. Mujib Rehman was not all done by Mr. Bhutto but it was the total reflection of how the West Pak establishment saw Bengalis in a much lesser and lower light. Exactly, what the author is positing, We Indian know that Indian Bengalis are respected and admired by Indians for their culture, education, etc. and I am certain the Muslim Bengalis felt the same by the slight shown by West Pak. As far as the second part of the comment; hind sight tells me that Muslims would have never ruled India and that is what Mr. Jinnah feared and took selfish advantage of by breaking the country into two; one for the Hindus and one for the Muslims. He was less concerned for the Muslims as Mr. Jinnah by any standard was just a nominal Muslims and more out of his personal ambition. Too sad for Pakistan and for his own reputation that Mr. Jinnah didn't live very long after Pakistan's creation.

Adam K
Dec 14, 2014 11:08am

@AA Either model (Presidential versus Parliamentary) is becoming wrong for Pakistan as people seek an Islamic Caliphate (i.e. theocracy) ruled by Sharia laws. Like the evolution of all Muslim majority countries (including Pakistan), minorities are first marginalized and then eliminated (via conversion, death, or exile) until only "true" believing Muslims remain. When people are indifferent between Military coups and a representative democracy (see Irfan Husain's perceptive op-ed in Saturday's DAWN), means that the preference for democracy is not there and may be restricted to a secular elite few. Why fight it? Be happy and hope for a benign and pious dictatorship.

Dec 14, 2014 11:13am

@pakistani Right on the money!

feeling the grey
Dec 14, 2014 11:17am

Your school text books and all the urban legends is not History. (this goes most of my friends here). Pls start READING good credible authors.

and for the RECORD, Urdu was adopted by the elected constituent assembly of Bengal by VOTE. there was no bigger democrat then Jinnah.

Adam K
Dec 14, 2014 11:46am

@vb Even after "one man, one vote" ground rules for a representative democracy?

Dec 14, 2014 11:59am

South asia lacks one thing, taking ownership and responsibility together. We still follow hero worship and wish to have gifted solution for all problems. We never took politics responsibly but follow the crowd. Our reactions are more impulsive and we clearly lacks vision. What we need to take up is the local issues , formulate a sensible action plan and have united goal.

Dec 14, 2014 12:05pm

they could be together if they had made some arrangement like a loose federation

Dec 14, 2014 12:06pm

@rob so its not your policy ? Please be honest some time..!!

Dec 14, 2014 12:08pm

@AA but west pakistan would never have accepted mujib as president?

Dec 14, 2014 12:23pm

It was Bengali Vs. Punjabi/Sindhi all along. At the end Bengalis went their way.

Ihtesham Kayani
Dec 14, 2014 12:23pm

We need to read Book by RK Yadav titled 'Mission R&AW'. A senior R&AW official recalls how the Mukti Bahini was created and how India conspired and invaded a newly born sovereign country, called "cross border terrorism" in present times. Sharmila Bose book 'Dead Reckoning' can also prove handy to negate the exaggerated claims of accesses and high handedness by west Pakistan forces.

Dec 14, 2014 12:27pm

Let us stop dwelling on 1971, and move on. We wish our erstwhile compatriots,the Bangladeshis, best of everything and wish them prosperity and true independence.

Dec 14, 2014 12:36pm

@sraz45 wake up buddy...the pot of problems that India and Pakistan share has been filled by your side of the border...and yes we say stuff about it, you want us to stop even doing that...

M. Jan
Dec 14, 2014 12:49pm

It was naïve on part of the Muslim leadership at the time to think that they could lump together vastly diverse peoples, bound only by the thread of shared religious faith, and make them into a 'nation'. This strategy to make religion as the overriding factor in the nation building has had serious detrimental effects on the fabric of the Pakistani society. It is time to accept the diversity of the people of Pakistan. We need to learn to respect the differences and cherish the similarities. An inclusive and transparent political system that guarantees the fairness and equality of rights of all the citizens will do much more to keep the peoples together than the social engineering based on brainwashing everyone that they ought to be the followers of their religious faith and nothing more.

Dec 14, 2014 01:10pm

@sraz45 Totally agree. The quality of Dawn is any day better of the main stream Indian dailies. The comments section also is quite healthy.

Dec 14, 2014 01:18pm

@atheist: "taking ownership and responsibility together"


altaf hussain
Dec 14, 2014 02:39pm

well being a Bengali Muslim myself, I don't want to say much about it. We lost so many lives (don't want to mention those also). Just for your knowledge, if you think Mr. Yahya Khan or Mr. Ayub Khan or Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is solely responsible for Muktijuddho, you are making a huge mistake. Problem may be elsewhere (may be with someone who has much greater influence than them). Try to find it and please fix it.

Dec 14, 2014 02:41pm

@Ihtesham Kayani

Kayani Sahib,

You need to read the Homoodur Rehman Commission Report.

Here it is.

altaf hussain
Dec 14, 2014 02:47pm

@Malone you can't take 1971 Govt. Reports as authenticated documents. Because, in 1969-71 many things happened which may have reduced Hindu population from 20% to 5%, and is not depicted properly in reports.

Awais Ali
Dec 14, 2014 04:55pm

I always thought what happened to East Pakistan. Our politician did not learn a lesson from this. That is a point of sadness on my behalf.

Dec 14, 2014 05:02pm

@Dr. M A Jabbar I don't think there would be many in Pakistan today who would disagree with you Dr. sahib... It is us as Pakistanis till to-date regret... We have a lot to change in our self-proclaimed culture.. And things are changing with new generation more aware and not shy of admitting mistakes...

zak the supreme
Dec 14, 2014 06:10pm

@pankajdehlavi where is ZAK with his two cents those are the kind of comments most appreciated here,

Dec 14, 2014 10:26pm

One might debate the issue of separation of the Eastern wing of Pakistan till the cows come home. But it should have been obvious to MAJ that it was too much to expect that two parts of a country so far apart physically, geographically, culturally, linguistically and demographically would stay together. Even if West Pakistan had been more well-behaved and considerate to their Bengali brethren, and even if India had not intervened, the division of Pakistan was a foregone conclusion from the day Pakistan came into being. So, in hindsight, the blacking out the mention of Pakistan's misfortunes of 1971 in official media and reducing the historical severance of its entire wing to just a paragraph in Pakistani history books was a right thing.

Dec 15, 2014 01:40am

The only way parity could have worked was if Bengalis had special autonomy where they ran all the affairs of the state themselves other than perhaps a strong alliance between the two wings. The demand for parity was unjust and unfair.

Dec 15, 2014 02:44am

@Nabarun Dey Jinnah was never beaten or Jailed because British wanted to partition India in such a way that they could come back in 25 years after they would recover from the devasting WWII.

Dec 15, 2014 04:58am

@altaf hussain

I am a Hindu, born 1960, and an eyewitness to all the events of the period you have mentioned, through 1971 and beyond. Jhinaidah then part of Jasohar, Nadia, Petrapole crossing, etc. should offer a clue to what I am speaking about. Sharmila Bose has never seen that land, nor that period. I spoke to some Bangladeshi women writers who have won Rabindra awards at Cornell, yet cannot even speak Bangla with any degree of fluency, but who are writing about the war. So, I, who come from a farming background, keep quiet. A Brigadier who writes in the Daily Times, Lahore, wrote about Kushtia, Khulna etc, and his commanding officer with great admiration. For a long time I used to keep a list of company commanders, units and so forth, but now I have let all that go. Lots of details, who did what and how and to whom and why. I sent him a list of the names I had and what I knew had happened but did not hear back at all! You may find confirmation at the SriSri Jashoreshwari Mandir, and at so many other places.
Dec 15, 2014 06:33am

@Ihtesham Kayani This article is what I called standard masala stuff. To begin with urdu was the native language of Nawab of Dhaka as well as the only language that connected Muslims across sub-continent. Both Nazimuddin and bogra were Bengalis and the parity principle was introduced to provide access to Bengalis who were unable to compete with urdu speaking and punjabis. Contribution in tax receipts of east pakistan was 30 PC yet 57 PC of the of resources were diverted between 1947 and 1971. Mujib and hihis cronies were on the payroll of India as early as 1966. He promised Yahya that six points are up for negotiation post elections and Yahyha even held elections on his insistence. Post elections Yahya called him future prime minister of pakistan. When mujib and his cronies sat down to negotiate, he kept on changing the goal post and even came up with suggestion that both assemblies in east and west pakistan should decide if the country is needed in the first place. The atrocities in east pakistan started in early 1970 after which the west Pakistanis made a bee line for way back. Bose and others estimate 250000 west Pakistanis were killed by Mukti Bahni out of total 500000. As for crimes against women, read Yasmin Saika, an Indian Bengali, what she has to say about Mukti Bahni. If you have no command on history, stop it's murder.

amir ali
Dec 15, 2014 08:35am

@Nabarun Dey Another great thing was that he could start a revolution based on religion and still claim to be secular. He could drink alcohol and eat anything and still make millions of his co-religionists believe that he was a sincere about his faith and that he cared about fellow human beings on the basis of their faith.

Dec 15, 2014 08:51am

Tahir Mehdi: Excellent narration of historical events.

krishna prasad
Dec 15, 2014 09:09am

Totally confusing and incongruous with no answers. Somehow, the narrative lost the logic and sequence intoto.Couldn't make out what the author intended to bring out to reinforce his argument- end result, if any.

Dec 15, 2014 09:14am

Excellent article based on facts but why is this in news paper? Is n't all these learned in History lessons in schools? So that the children grow up and take the mantle of nation tomorrow doesn't repeat such mistakes?

Ch Hassan Riaz
Dec 15, 2014 03:08pm

@george Mr Jinnah was a democrat . His party laid the foundation of Pakistan through a democratic process by winning 1946 election .

Ayesha Kabir
Dec 15, 2014 03:09pm

This is an interesting piece on the complex matrix of events that gave us an independent Bangladesh

Dec 15, 2014 03:11pm - For a moment, I thought you were talking about Jinnah not Mujibur Rehman... because all the stuff you said applies to him as well.

Ayesha Kabir
Dec 15, 2014 03:11pm

@Malone Not correct. Hindus constitute nearly 20% of the population in Bangldesh.

Dec 15, 2014 03:55pm

why didnt they accepted urdu as the national language back in 1947, when Jinnah announced it to be a common language for unity ?

Dec 16, 2014 12:36am

@#randompakistanicitizan ...Why the majority people of the country will admit a totaly different language as their national language......If majority is the main focus in democracy, Bengali should be the chosen National language not urdu..

Dec 16, 2014 06:44am

British model is bad but not for the reasons stated by many in this forum. British model that is used in India does not have the proper checks and balances that are present in the American model. Imagine the MPs from the majority party who get elected chose their leader who becomes the PM and elects his own cabinet ministers, the Executive branch. There is no seperation of Executive and the Legislative branch. Compare this to US. Here, the Presidential nominee is elected by a process that is complex but once elected, the President can pick up his own team which does not have to be from the elected members of Congress. The latter is the Legislative which keeps the President and his team (Executive) in check. Corruption starts where there are no or few checks and balances.

Dec 16, 2014 08:36am

@#randompakistanicitizan :-Jinnah himself was not so fluent in Urdu.He spoke English mostly.Creation of Pakistan was his reaction to the race for power between him and Nehru.When he found that he could not become the Prime Minister of India,he chose to teach a lesson to Nehru and pressed for Pakistan,saying that rivers of blood will flow if Pakistan was not conceded.Mahatma GANDHI had to yield to Jinnah.Let it not be said that Partition was meant for the greater good of MUSLIMS of the Sub-Continent.Why then did East Pakistan separate,and Baluchistan is persecuted,why Shias and Ahmediyas are slaughtered,they too are MUSLIMS created by same ALLAH !

Dec 16, 2014 09:36am

@Nabarun Dey He waited for the steak to get fully cooked and then came with his plate.

Dec 16, 2014 10:17am

@caramelizedonion Please do not forget the operation Search Light it was nothing short of German Holocaust,

Dec 16, 2014 03:07pm

Just before partition there an emotional wave among the Muslim population of India energized by the firebrand leadership of Jinnah to have a separate country for the Muslims but once that dream came true the reality begin to sink in among the majority of the population (Bengalis) that they are not compatible with the culturally more inferior fellow countrymen from the Western flank. Bengalis have always taken pride in their language, their script their literature and their rich artistic traditions and disliked the people of feudal mindset specially the Punjabi's who always pushed for dominance and control of the governance for their narrow selfish interests rather than for national interest. What happened was inevitable but sadly but true the saga still continues in Pakistan. Now its the Punjabi dominated army and the civilian leadership vs the rest.

Waltaire Joseph
Dec 16, 2014 06:46pm

I am from India. A great fan of this newspaper along with "The Hindu" from India.

Please continue the great work your team is doing. In the world we need sane voices like yours to know truth, unbiased opinion.


Waltaire Joseph

Baljit Singh
Dec 17, 2014 12:56am

@atheist To take ownership one has to have clear vision. One has to be a good thinker. A leader should be a visionary. Not everyone can be a good rational thinker. So there is a lack of ownership.