East Pakistan

Key Question 13: Why did East Pakistan seek and then form the independent state of Bangladesh?

Tensions Between East Pakistan and West Pakistan


• East Pakistan and West Pakistan were separated by 1000 miles of Indian territory.

• The language difference made things unpleasant as Urdu was declared the national language.

• The Governments made things worse by their actions.

Economic Tensions:

• Pakistan's largest export Jute was produced in East Pakistan yet most of the budget was spent on West Pakistan.

• During the rule of Ayub Khan, it was revealed that only 22 families were handling all the industrial and banking assets of Pakistan and all of them were from West Pakistan. 

Social Tensions:

• The language issue was proved to be significant as Urdu became the official language even though Bengal had a population of almost 4 million.

• There were cultural differences between East and West Pakistan and West Pakistan started considering themselves superior by insulting the Bengali dress code.

Military & Political Tensions:

• In 1970, Yahya Khan held elections but was reluctant to transfer powers to the elected Mujib-ur-Rahman because he was from East Pakistan.

• The reluctance of Yahya fired the agitation among the people of East Pakistan and a rebellion was started.

• To suppress the rebellion, Yahya used military action against the Bengali people and thousands were killed.

• Yahya’s action made this worse and it became impossible for East Pakistan to accept rule from Islamabad.

• East Pakistan felt betrayed by the Government of Yahya Khan and their biased nature was became apparent.

• In 1966, demands of Awani League famously known as the ‘6 points’ were rejected by Ayub Khan.

• The leader of the Awami League, Mujib-ur-Rahman was arrested.

• East Pakistan encountered severe flooding, but they did not receive relief in time.

• In 1970, the 6 points were accepted, and Bengalis were hopeful that they will be allowed to form the Government.

• In 1971 war, India intervened, and West Pakistan faced defeat and partition of Bengal became eminent.

Awami League


• In 1948, the Bengalis were disappointed when the Bengali script was removed from the stamps, government exams, and coins.

• In 1949, after a couple of years of the formation of Pakistan, the Bengali nationalists in the Muslim League parted their ways and formed the Awami League.

The Rise of the Awami League:

• Initially, the party was established to represent the Bengali people and fight for their rights in the newly formed country of Pakistan.

• Its first president was Abdul Hamid Khan.

• A.K Rafiqul Hussain, Mujib-ur-Rahman and Khondaker Mushtaq Ahmed became the Awami League’ joint secretariat.

• In 1952, many students involved in the Awami League started a movement for the Bengali Language to be declared the official language, but the forces retaliated, and many students were killed. 

• This event changed everything for West Pakistan and its East Wings' People as a bitter realization hit them and after facing continuous discrimination, they eventually fought a war for their freedom and independence.

• In 1957, a movement for the removal of One Unit Scheme was started.

• In 1958, Ayub Khan demonstrated martial law and banned all political parties including the Awami League.

• During the rule of Ayub Khan, the Bengalis faced extreme discrimination in Pakistan in almost every sector.

• The Awami League and its leader Mujib-ur-Rahman gained popularity after Ayub Khan’s rule came to an end.

• In 1970, Yahya Khan started an election in which the Awami League came out victories.

• They won 167 seats in East Wing and none in West Wing of Pakistan.

• Their victory led them in a position to form Government on their own which made political parties in West Pakistan fearful.

• As a result, Yahya Khan delayed the power handover indefinitely which further promoted the agitation.



• He was born in Faridpur, Bengal in 1922.

• He was an active member of the All India Muslim League before the partition of Pakistan in 1947.

• In 1948, he carried a black flag against Jinnah’s decision to make Urdu the official language throughout West Pakistan and East Pakistan and was arrested.

• In 1949, following the discrimination faced by West Pakistan and the government entities, he became a joint secretariat of the Awami League.

Role of Mujib-ur-Rahman:

• In 1949, he became a member of the Provincial Assembly and later elected as a member of the National Assembly.

• He became the minister in the government of East Pakistan twice.

• He was arrested again in 1958 and then in 1962 and imprisoned for one and a half years and 6-month respectively.

• In 1965, after the demise of Suhrawardy, he made the Awami League stand out as a political party.

• In the war of 1965 against India, Awami League under his leadership supported the government.

• In 1966 at Lahore, he presented his 6 points at an All-Party National Convention Meeting.

• His six points were as follows:

- The constitution should make Pakistan a federation in a true sense as presented in the Lahore Resolution.

- The Federal Government should be responsible for Foreign Affairs and Defense Matters only.

- There should be either ‘two separate state banks for both the wings' else ‘two separate currencies' to prevent an inter-wing flight of the financial assets.

- The federating units should be responsible for the collection of revenue and taxation and the Federation Government will be given a share from this collection to meet its obligations.

- A series of legal, fiscal and economic reforms should be introduced to remove the economic disparities among the two wings.

- A military force should be created in East Pakistan because the East wing of Pakistan has no defense of its own.

• In 1970, elections were conducted, and two parties were prominent, People Party from West Pakistan and Awami League from East Pakistan.

• The Awami League contested in the elections based on Mujib-ur-Rahman’s six points.

• The National Assembly was delayed in reflection to the six points and Bhutto and Mujib showed disagreement on foreign trade and taxation.

• Military action was taken in East Pakistan against the Awami League and its leader Mujib-ur-Rahman, thousands died.

• On 7 March 1971, he announced a separate government for East Pakistan.

• On 17 December 1971, with the intervention of India, East Pakistan became an independent country known as Bangladesh.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971 – 1977)


• In 1971, Pakistan experienced a terrible defeat that not only made Pakistan lost the glory of winning but also made it lose the East Wing that comprises 56% of the total population.

• The country was left with only the four provinces of West Wing namely, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and NWFP.

• The East Wing’s area was nearly 54501 square miles and the war left with thousands of prisoners in India and Bangladesh.

• By that time, the creditability of the military became questionable.

• On December 6, 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who won elections in West Pakistan with a majority, became President received the power by Yahya Khan.

• Nurul Amin, a Bengali politician was made the Prime Minister but he remained on that position till December 20, 1971, only. 

• Because on that day Bhutto not only became the President but also acquired the power of Chief Martial Law Administrator by Yahya Khan upon request. 

Ousted of Bhutto:

• In 1977, elections were held, and the success of Bhutto was clear, yet he rigged it.

• This rigging made his credibility questionable and made the opposition agitated.

• Pakistan National Assembly demonstrated strikes nationwide.

• In 1977, this rebellion against Bhutto gave a way to Zia-ul-Haq to demonstrate Martial law.

• Zia-ul-Haq released Bhutto but he was threatened when Bhutto tried to gain support from the people.

• Soon after, Bhutto along with three others was charged with a murder case.

• The trial lasted for two years. 

• The Supreme court passed its verdict of the death sentence against Bhutto on charges of murdering his political opponent, Ahmad Khan Kasuri.

• In 1979, Bhutto was hanged.

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