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
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
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
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
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
21 November 1971, Indian troops
clashed with Pakistani forces in Bengal as Indians crossed the
3 December 1971, Pakistan attacked
Indian air bases.
4 December 1971, India invaded
17 December 1971, Pakistan accepted
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).
For biographies of the principles involved,
Mujibar Rahman (1920-75),
Rahman (1935-81) and Hussain Muhammad
You should first examine some
facts about Bangladesh (CIA Factbook) and check a historical
overview of the country. You might also wish to try a
virtual tour of the
There are only a few sites with information
about the independence of Bangladesh in 1971: the
Liberation War Museum;
'71, an on-line exhibition; the
for Bangladesh Independence is a brief essay from the US country fact
book as is the
of Bangladesh and the
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
- Great index of information at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Bangladesh National News Agency (BSS)
- Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971
- Photos of the 1971 war
- US Department of State Profile of Bangladesh
Time Magazine ran a series of articles on the 1971 war between December 1971 and February 1972, including
The World: India and Pakistan: Poised for War, A Letter From The
Publisher, The World: Hindu and Moslem: The Gospel of Hate, The World: India and Pakistan: Over the Edge, The U.S.: A Policy in Shambles, The World: Bangladesh: Out of War, a Nation is Born, The World: India: Easy Victory, Uneasy Peace, South Asia: Painful Adjustment, Bangladesh: Vengeance in Victory
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).