Freedom of consciousness

India and Pakistan emerged as two independent dominions as per the India Independence Act passed by the British Parliament on 18 July 1947. By the same stroke, the province of Bengal was divided into East Bengal and West Bengal. East Bengal became a part of Pakistan and West Bengal became that of India. The province of ‘East Bengal’ was born on 14 August 1947 and its nomenclature was changed to ‘East Pakistan’ on 8 September 1955.A decision was taken at a national education summit in Karachi which stated that Urdu would be the sole state language of Pakistan and the Government would ensure its exclusive use in the media and in schools. But the people of East Bengal started to protest this decision and later it was transformed into a movement.


1948 March 21
The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah declared in a civic reception in Dhaka that Urdu and only Urdu will remain as the state language of Pakistan. The students of Dhaka University instantly protested this declaration in front of Jinnah.

1952 February 21: Language Movement
On 23rd February 1948, the Government of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Pakistan. Facing rising sectarian tensions and mass discontent with the new law, the government outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organized a protest on 21st February 1952. The movement reached its climax when police killed student demonstrators on that day.

1953, 21st February

1953 was a defining moment in history when the first anniversary of language movement was observed with strong cultural content.



1954 March
The United Front of Awami League and the Krishak Sramik Party won most of the seats in the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. Sheikh Mujib was elected in this assembly and serving briefly as the minister for agriculture. Muslim League got only 9 seats out of 310.

1954 May 30
The Bengali dominated United Front Government had been deposed by the Governor General of Pakistan, Ghulam Mohammad. The Governor General imposed his direct rule in East Pakistan.


1955 October 14
The ‘East Bengal’ was renamed as ‘East Pakistan’. The ‘West Pakistan Bill’ had been passed and according to this bill, the provinces of the west wing, the Punjab, Baluchistan, Sindh and North Western Frontier of Pakistan (NWFP) were regrouped into one unit called ‘West Pakistan’.

1956 February 29
A constitution had been adopted to make Pakistan as an ‘Islamic Republic’; “Bengali” became a state language along with “Urdu”. Awami League leaders demanded that the subject of provincial autonomy would be included in the draft constitution of Pakistan.

1956 September
The seasoned politician of East Pakistan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy replaced Chaudhry Mohammad Ali as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined the coalition government as the Minister of Industries, Commerce, Labor, Anti-corruption and Village-Aid.


1957 March
Governor General Gurmani declared Presidential rule in West Pakistan.

1957 October
After losing support in the National Assembly, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was forced to resign; Chundrigar became the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

1957 December
Malik Feroz Khan Noon became the Prime Minister by replacing Chundrigar.

1958 September
Shahid Ali, Deputy Speaker of East Pakistan Assembly succumbed to death from the injuries which he received 2 days ago from the disorder inside the assembly.

1958 October 7
Field Marshal Ayub Khan captured the power, sent President Iskander Mirza in exile and abrogated the constitution of Pakistan. Ayub Khan declared his cabinet, in which he included 3 military officials, including Lt. General Azam Khan and eight civilians including Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from Sindh. All political parties and their activities had been banned, meetings and demonstrations became forbidden. Popular politicians were either imprisoned — including Sheikh Mujib, Maulana Bhashani of East Pakistan, and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan (NWFP) — or their activities were restricted. Sheikh Mujib had been continuously harassed through one false case after another.


1959 October
President Ayub Khan promulgated an ordinance for setting up “Basic Democracies” in Pakistan to confine the state power permanently in the hands of the Army and the West Pakistan’s establishment.

1960 February
Ayub Khan was elected as President for a five-year term by his so called 80,000 elected ‘Basic Democrats’ (BD).

1960 April
Lt. General Azam Khan had been appointed as governor of East Pakistan.

1962 February
Sheikh Mujib had been arrested again under the Public Security Act. Later, he got released on 10th September, 1962.


1962 June
Ayub Khan lifted the martial law. He lifted the ban from political parties, Sheikh Mujib was freed. Pakistan Muslim League had been split in to two groups – Council and Convention. Ayub Khan joined the Convention Muslim League.

Combined Opposition Parties (COP) of Pakistan had been formed and nominated Miss Fatima Jinnah (sister of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, popularly called her “the Mother of the Nation”) as the candidate in Presidential Election against Ayub Khan for the forthcoming election of January 1965. COP raised their 9 points demands including ‘restoration of direct elections’, ‘adult franchise’ and ‘democratization of the Constitution of 1962’.

Sheikh Mujib had been charged by the government with sedition and making objectionable statements. He got one year jail termed by the court, and he was released later on following an order of the High Court.

1965 January
Ayub Khan became the President again for the second term by defeating Fatima Jinnah. By observing the election system under ‘Basic Democracy’, Miss Jinnah told: “The system under which these elections were fought was initially devised to perpetuate the… incumbent of the Presidential Office. Neither does it provide room for the free expression of the popular will, nor does it conform to the known and established principles of democracy in the civilized world… There is no doubt that the elections have been rigged”.

1965 August-September
India-Pakistan fought the 2nd war over the border issue of Kashmir. But firstly it was the hidden conflict and the Pakistan authority hid away it from the people. In September, Ayub Khan revealed it publicly by declaring that, “We are at war”. The soldiers from East Pakistan fought fiercely in the war to protect the border of West Pakistan. But, Ayub Khan showed utmost negligence to give proper attention on the protection of the East Pakistan’s border. It created resentment among the mass people of East Pakistan.


1965 December
Ayub Khan offered Nurul Amin to be the Vice President of Pakistan. Nurul Amin then raised the demands to form regional autonomy for East Pakistan, extended franchise, and to end the disparity between 2 provinces, including fair shares of foreign exchange.

1966 February
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as the party President. The Awami League, under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib, formulated the “Six Points” demand in front of the people.

1966 March 23
The Awami League demanded that changes would be made in regard to East Pakistan. These changes were embodied in Mujib’s Six Points Plan, which he presented at a meeting of opposition parties in Lahore in 1966.These 6-points program was for the greater autonomy of East Pakistan and would reduce the supremacy of West Pakistanis over the East Pakistan. But West Pakistanis, specifically saying, the then military regime and the establishment of West Pakistan, meant those 6-points program as the declaration of independence for East Pakistan and took drastic reaction to it.



Six Points
1.The Constitution should provide for a Federation of Pakistan in its true sense on the Lahore Resolution, and the parliamentary form of government with supremacy of a Legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.

2.The federal government should deal with only two subjects: Defence and Foreign Affairs, and all other residuary subjects shall be vested in the federating states.

3.Two separate, but freely convertible currencies for two wings should be introduced; or if this is not feasible, there should be one currency for the whole country, but effective constitutional provisions should be introduced to stop the flight of capital from East to West Pakistan. Furthermore, a separate Banking Reserve should be established, and separate fiscal and monetary policy be adopted for East Pakistan.

4.The power of taxation and revenue collection shall be vested in the federating units and the federal centre will have no such power on the issue. The federation will be entitled to a share in the state taxes to meet its expenditures.

5.There should be two separate accounts for the foreign exchange earnings of the two wings; the foreign exchange requirements of the federal government should be met by the two wings equally or in a ratio to be fixed; indigenous products should move free of duty between the two wings, and the Constitution should empower the units to establish trade links with foreign countries.

6.East Pakistan should have a separate militia or paramilitary force.

1966 March 24
President Ayub Khan burst out on those ‘six points demands’, they believed them as secessionist demands – the West Pakistani establishment and their military regime could not receive those as the demands of justice and honor of the East Pakistanis. Rather they evaluated it as the conspiracy of India and the Hindus of East Pakistan. But the East Pakistanis could not receive his talk of resorting to weapons and civil war, they judged it badly and almost all East Pakistanis resented his talks. Government of Pakistan lost its patience with Mujibur Rahman and arrested him on 18 April, released on bail, re-arrested on another charge and finally again released on bail.

1966 April 28
The left wing National Awami Party (NAP – Bhasani) gave considerable support; they admitted that Sheikh Mujib’s Six Points Program is necessary for further autonomy of East Pakistan.

1967 December
The Ayub government invented a strange allegation against a comparatively small number of Bengali civil servants, ex-military officers, military officers and politicians, who jointly planned to assassinate President Ayub Khan during his recent visit to East Pakistan. They also demanded that after the assassination, they would depose the Government with a coup aimed at establishing an independent state in East Pakistan. According to their invention, they foiled the conspiracy and subsequently arrested between 50 and 60 Bengalis.

1968 January
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested again on the charge of the Agartala Conspiracy Case. This case turned the sentiments of the Bengalis of the East Pakistan against discrimination of the ruler class. They started to believe that the establishment of West Pakistan and their military regime would keep continuing the exploitation of the East Pakistanis in all fronts, they did not pay any honor to the Bengalis and by hook or crook, the West Pakistanis would dominate and keep the state power in their hands to suck East Pakistanis as usual.
“…it evoked a totally unexpected Bengali reaction. While the prosecution wanted to dub Mujib a traitor, Bengalis made a hero out of him. The trial conferred such popularity on Mujib that would otherwise have taken him a lifetime to acquire.” — Siddiq Salik, in his book: ‘A Witness to Surrender’

1968 August
The trial of the alleged Conspirators in East Pakistan ruined the image of the Government of Pakistan. The Government of Pakistan produced the accused 36 politicians, Bengali CSP Officers, army / ex-army Offices in the Trial, but it became farce when the prosecution witness broke down in the court and asserted that he had been tortured and threatened with death by military officers who wished him to testify falsely against the alleged conspirators.

1968 November
The economic report which was published in that time exposed the disparity between two provinces that widens, not lessen. So, the “Six Points” demands of Awami League got deep rooted status among the East Pakistanis again.

1969 January – February
In the whole Pakistan, violence had been broken out between people demonstrating against Ayub Khan’s martial law regime and the police. To restore peace, the ‘Agartala Conspiracy Case’ had been dismissed and Sheikh Mujib had been released by the Government of Pakistan.In Dhaka, police opened fire on a procession against the rule of Ayub Khan, Asad (a student leader) and a high-school student Matiur Rahman had been killed. It created resentments among the Bengali people, gave rise to the Mass Uprising of 1969 (gono-abhyuththaan) in East Pakistan.

1969 February 15
The Army killed Sergeant Zahurul Haq, one of the 35 accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, while he was in the military custody at Dhaka Cantonment. This incident ignited the mass uprising in East Pakistan too.

1969 February 20
According to the CIA’s report, the popularity of Ayub khan was almost ‘zero’. His political party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) – never became an effective organization, it appeared to be virtually collapsed and they (CIA) started to believe that Pakistan was standing on the brink.

1969 March 13
Sheikh Mujib raised his demands again to establish the full regional autonomy in the round table conference to make the federation successful in East Pakistan.

1969 March 25
General Yahya Khan captured the power by a hidden coup in which Yahya forced Ayub Khan to hand over his powers and resign.

1969 March 31
General Yahya Khan immediately imposed the martial law in Pakistan. On the 31st March, he declared himself as the President of Pakistan.

1969 April 11
Roy Fox’s talked with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the issue of autonomy of East Pakistan. Mujib urged to realize the demand of the Bengali by the West Pakistani establishment and military regime to make the justifications between the two wings. He insisted that he would still want to stay in one Pakistan, but the West Pakistani establishment and military regime could not realize it. Even they tried to spoil the situation by making false propaganda against the Bengali leaders of East Pakistan.

1969 November 7
The Bengali accused the Government of Pakistan that it did nothing to try to narrow the disparity between the two provinces, which were increasingly countered by privately expressed West Pakistan views that the deficiencies on the East Pakistani side played the greater role in hampering development -the chronically unfavorable weather, inefficiencies in the public sector, absence of an adequate entrepreneurial class, lack of investors interest, etc. Thus, the resentment of the Bengalis over allegedly insufficient Government of Pakistan clashed with West Pakistani feelings that the demands of Bengali people were unreasonable.

1969 November 28
Yahya declared through his address to the nation that general election would be held in 1970.

1969 December
At a discussion meeting, Sheikh Mujib declared that from now on the East Pakistan would be called Bangla Desh. He added:
“There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word ‘Bangla’ from this land and its map. The existence of the word ‘Bangla’ was found nowhere except in the term ‘Bay of Bengal’. I, on behalf of Pakistan, announce today that this land will be called ‘Bangla Desh’ instead of ‘East Pakistan’.”

1969 December 8
From every corner of the East Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib’s demand to rename East Wing as Bangla Desh had been hailed. Among them, Chief of NAP, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani supported this demand as genuine. He termed that the name of East Pakistan was forcibly imposed on the Bengali nation.

Bhola Cyclone
1970 Bhola Cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) and India’s West Bengal on November 12, 1970. It remains the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded and one of the deadliest natural disasters. Up to 500,000 people lost their lives in the storm, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta. This cyclone was the sixth cyclonic storm of the 1970 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and also the season’s strongest.

The Pakistani government led by junta leader General Yahya Khan was criticized for its delayed handling of the relief operations following the storm, both by local political leaders in East Pakistan and in the international media. During the election that took place a month later, the opposition Awami League gained a landslide victory in the province, and continuing unrest between East Pakistan and the central government triggered the Bangladesh Liberation War, which led to widespread atrocities and eventually concluded with the creation of the country of Bangladesh.

1970 December
In 1970, Awami League, the largest East Pakistani political party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a landslide victory in the national elections. The party won 167 out of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan, and thus a majority of the 313 seats in the National Assembly. This gave Awami League the constitutional right to form a government.The nearest contender was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of PPP, with a total of 81 seats in the National Assembly, and with a two-third majority from Sind.

National Council Election 1970
The election was held on 7 December 1970. Total voters were 29,479,386 and the casting votes were 17,005,163 (57.68%), the valid casting votes were 16,454,278.

After this election, Sheikh Mujib emerged as an undisputed leader of the Bengali people with 268 of the 279 seats in the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly going to the Awami League. However, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, refused to allow Mujib to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Instead, he proposed the idea of having two Prime Ministers, one for each wing. The proposal elicited outrage in the east wing, already chafing under the other constitutional innovation, the “one unit scheme”.