Pakistan—Divided by election
Bangladesh is in turmoil before and after the recently held elections. The roots of this turbulence goes back to another elections held in 1970. Seshadri Chari puts the 1970 election in historical perspective….
The two nation theory of Muhammad Ali Jinnah was buried deep under the sands of history in Bangladesh in December 1971. But it was a gruesome burial accompanied by over five million people whose only fault was that they loved their freedom, language and culture more than their faith.
Pakistan’s tryst with elections and democracy began in 1970 when the first election was held. Ironically this very first election tore the Pakistani society apart socially and geographically.
The election results clearly demonstrated the conflicting character of the two sides of Pakistan. The Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Mujibur Rehman posted a landslide victory winning 160 out of 169 seats (and 7 out of 13 seats reserved for women) allotted for the then East Pakistan by the Legal Framework Order giving them a simple majority in the National Assembly. The AL insisted on a Constitution strictly in accordance with its Six-Point formula. Incidentally, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto won 81 out of 138 seats allotted to West Pakistan. The PPP also put forward its own demands for the Constitution. The military government led by General Yahya Khan refused to hand over power to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman or concede to AL’s Six-point Formula and decided to postpone the National Assembly session of the Assembly.
The resounding victories of the PPP and AL in the 1970 elections effected drastic changes in the political setup and the map of Pakistan. Though Pakistan was founded on Islam, in 1970 election the fundamentalist religious parties were totally rejected by the public who were more concerned about better standards of living and strongly protested state’s attempts to govern according to the dictates of Islam. The election results also proved beyond doubt the fallacy of one Pakistan, and challenged the very foundation of Pakistan.
The PPP and AL challenged Gen. Yahya Khan who invited Sheikh Mujib for talks little realising the deep discontent and distrust of the Bengali population. Spurned by Mujib, the President Gen. Yahya Khan himself went to Dhaka to convince Mujib to visit Islamabad and later sent Bhutto as his emissary. But the chasm between the two sides of Pakistan had, by now, widened far beyond repair.
In order to break the political deadlock, Yahya Khan announced holding of National Assembly session in Dhaka on 3 March 1971 to discuss the Constitution. After the announcement, elected members of the PPP took oath on Quran to quit if their demands are not met. Similarly the AL members insisted on Six-Point Program and refused to yield. Yahya Khan, caught literally between the devil and the deep blue sea, postponed the NA session, only to face more protests and opposition. On March 03 East Pakistan province went on strike against the postponement of the National Assembly session.
Yahya Khan’s military council decided to crack the whip and ordered direct military action to curb the rebellion once and for all. Thus, “Operation Searchlight” was launched at midnight of March 25, 1971 under Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan, the newly appointed Martial Law Administrator and governor of the Eastern wing. The army came into action and within no time killed lakhs of protesting students and also raided police headquarters and East Pakistan Rifles to ensure peace in the province. The West Pakistan under Martial Law muzzled the media and kept the brutal genocide a total secret, only for some time. The result of the army assault on civilians and mass killings of over five million and half that number of rapes and mass graves fuelled greater resistance and violence. Nearly seven million Bengalis had migrated to India. Every one of them was received with open arms and looked after. On 17th April a Bangladeshi government-in-exile was formed in Kolkata (then Calcutta) of which Mujib was named the president. Mujib was arrested at the orders of the President while those who managed to be free joined the government-in-exile.
The displaced persons slowly organised themselves into combat groups and soon “Mukti Bahini” was launched and swelled to over a lakh combatants getting trained in about hundred camps. India provided logistic support and the Indian army was kept in readiness to swing into action if necessary. The situation turned with Pakistan declaring war on India on the Western sector and Gen. Tikka Khan’s army attacked Indian border posts in the Eastern sector. As if waiting for the signal Indian army met the Pakistani army in full strength.
Pakistan lost the November-December war to India and Pakistani troops surrendered to India in East Pakistan on December 16. The cease-fire on West Pakistan-India border was enforced on December 17. On 16 December 1971, Lt. Gen A. A. K. Niazi, CO of Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender and Bangla Desh was finally established the following day. Three days later, on December 20, General Yahya Khan resigned and power handed over to Bhutto who headed the first civilian government. At the time of surrender only a few countries had provided diplomatic recognition to the new nation. The new country changed its name to Bangladesh on January 11, 1972 and became a parliamentary democracy under a new Constitution. On March 19 Bangladesh signed a friendship treaty with India and sought admission to the UN. While all countries voted in favour, China vetoed in opposition to favour Pakistan, its key ally. The United States, also a key ally of Pakistan, was one of the last nations to accord Bangladesh recognition.
Shimla Agreement signed between India and Pakistan ensured that Pakistan recognised the independence of Bangladesh in exchange for the return of the Pakistani PoWs.
Further, as a goodwill gesture, nearly 200 soldiers who were booked for war crimes by Bangladesh were also pardoned by India. In another historic blunder, probably under international pressure, India returned more than 13,000 km2 (5,019 sq miles) of territory that Indian troops had seized in West Pakistan during the war, though India retained a few strategic areas in Kargil. The peace overtures were a measure of promoting “lasting peace” and many in the international community acknowledged India’s maturity. The Simla accord was seen as being too lenient to Bhutto, who had pleaded for leniency, arguing that the state of Pakistan would disintegrate and democracy will be in danger in Pakistan. India made another historic blunder and strengthened the hands of Bhutto thereby giving Pakistan another lease of life. Thus, the 1970 elections and subsequent incidents nullified the idea of Pak as an Islamic State.
In the post lections Bangladesh, Jamaat-Shibir cadres and BNP activist are inflicting barbaric attacks on Hindus in the different parts of Bangladesh .They launched despicable attacks on Hindu communities in four districts the day after the 10th parliamentary elections. Hundreds of houses of the minority community were torched and looted since January 5,2014 night in Dinjapur, Jessore, Satkhira and Thakurgaon. A large number of Hindus took shelter in the temples, while others have fled to other villages. They are too scared to return even after assurances from local administration. Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM) has put forth 6-point demands before the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, elected members of parliament and to all political parties of Bangladesh as follows:
1. The Government of Bangladesh should reestablish constitution of Bangladesh as framed in 1972 by Scraping “Islam as State Religion” and “Bismill-hir Rahamanir Rahim” from the Constitution of Bangladesh to ensure equal rights of Hind us of Bangladesh to make it secular Constitution as depicted in spirit of War of Liberation in 1971.
2. Judicial Commission for investigation is recommended for atrocities on minority Hindus in Bangladesh including continuous repression, conversions, abductions, rape, and vandalising, looting and setting fire on temples, business firms and houses of Hindu communities
3. The Government of Bangladesh should have to rehabilitate the displacement of houses, temples, on state responsibility.
4. The Government of Bangladesh should take necessary steps relating to the vandalised and burnt houses, temples of Hindus have to be rebuilt and adequate compensation must be provided to them.
5. Bangladesh is second largest Hindu populated country in the World. Hindus would be ensured in Bangladesh if due representation of the community in the field of all decision –making institutions of the Republic. i.e. representation of minority in the Administration ,Army, Police, Judicial and Foreign services as well as public offices at all level is effectively ensured.
6. The Government of Bangladesh, should show respect to those obligations uphold the ideas in the constitution of Bangladesh as ratified so far the “Universal Declaration on Human Rights” to protect and fulfill the right to equality before law and equal protection of law by imposing duties on the government, to exercise their power in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner to prevent and control targeted violence .
While giving the details of atrocities in Dinajpur, Jessor, Thakurgaon and Sathira, a press release of HRCBM, jointly signed by Professor Ajoy Roy, President and Rabindranath Trivedi, General Secretary has expressed deep deep anguish and concern over the recent atrocities.