Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ekushey February: A Timeline -- 13

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1970 (January 1):
Political activities in Pakistan are revived.

1970 (January 6):
Maulana Bhasani asks Yahya Khan to settle the issue of 'regional autonomy' before the election.

1970 (March 7):
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announces that he will launch a mass movement after the election to achieve the autonomy of East Pakistan.

1970 (March 21):
Jamaat-e-Islami Party chief Maulana Moududi asks Yahya Khan to give the autonomy to East Pakistan before the election.

1970 (August 2):
East Pakistan experiences severe floods over 15,000 square miles where about 10 million people are affected. Due to the flood situation, the government of Yahya Khan postpones the holding of the elections -- to December 7, 1970 for the National Assembly and December 19 for the provincial assemblies.

1970 (November 11):
A destructive cyclone with unusually high tidal waves hits the coastal areas of East Pakistan where more than a half-million people were dead, many more injured and houses, livestock and crops washed away. The response of the government of Yahya Khan was not only pathetically inadequate in relation to the needs, but it was slow and delayed. This apathy of the government alienated most of the East Pakistanis.

1970 (November 23):
In a public meeting, Maulana Bhasani, in a rage and anger, called for an "independent East Pakistan." He also announced that his party would not participate in the coming elections.

1970 (November 27):
At a press conference in Dhaka, General Yahya Khan announces: "East Pakistan must have maximum autonomy to run her own affairs within the overall framework of Pakistan." It should have "full charge of their destiny, planning and utilization of its resources within the concept of Pakistan."

1970 (December 7):
The free and fair election is held all over Pakistan. Even retired President Ayub Khan also attested to that. This election was held after 23 years! It should be noted that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, during his election campaigns, had openly advocated for political and economic autonmy of East Pakistan.

The Awami League, headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won 167 of the 313 seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan, whereas, Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) won only 88 seats. In East Pakistan, out of a total of 169 seats of the National Assembly, the Awami League won 167 seats. Out of the two remaining seats, former Chief Minister Nurul Amin won one, and the "Raja" of the Chakma tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts bagged the other. Bhutto's People's Party won only bare majority seats of the National Assembly in West Pakistan (88 out of the total of 144).

1970 (December 9):
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, at a press conference, said that the people of East Pakistan treated the general election as "a referendum on the vital issue of full regional autonomy on the basis of the Six-Point/Eleven-Point Formula."

1970 (December 12):
The government of Pakistan and the leaders of the West Pakistani ruling class became really scared of the unprecedented landslide victory of the Awami League. It's the first time that they came to the realization that East Pakistan was slipping out of their grip.

Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto also strongly felt that he might be excluded from the new Central government, to be formed by the Awami League. In a speech in Lahore on this day, he threatened Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that his People's Party would not allow the new government to function without his cooperation.

1970 (December 17):
Provincial Assemblies' elections were held, but these were boycotted by Maulana Bhasani, the National Progressive League, and the Krishak Sramik Party. The Awami League in East Pakistan won 298 of the total 310 seats (including 10 women's seats). The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in West Pakistan won majority in the Punjab Assembly (113 of the 180 seats) and Sind Assembly (28 out of 60 seats).

1970 (December 20):
Bhutto proclaimed that "the PPP is not prepared to occupy the Opposition benches in the National Assembly." He wanted equal status in the new government to be formed. He said: "The authority at the Centre would have to be shared between the Awami League and the People's Party." This way, he was not only undemocratic in his behaviour, but also totally sabotaging, although Sheikh Mujib, with the absolute majority seats in the National Assembly, had the right to form the new government.

(Continued)
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