East Pakistan

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Coat of arms of Pakistan

East Pakistan (Bengali: পূর্ব পাকিস্তান Purbo Pakistan, Urdu: مشرقی پاکستان Mashriqī Pākistān) was a province of Pakistan between 1947 and 1971; it is now the independent nation of Bangladesh.

East Pakistan was created from Bengal Province based on a plebiscite in what was then British India in 1947. Eastern Bengal chose to join the Dominion of Pakistan and became a province of Pakistan by the name East Bengal. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan in 1956 and later became the country of Bangladesh after the bloody Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, which took place after the General Elections of 1970.




The tension between East and West Pakistan reached a climax when in 1970 the Awami League, the largest East Pakistani political party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won a landslide victory in the national elections in East Pakistan. The party won 167 of the 169 seats allotted to East Pakistan, and thus a majority of the 300 seats in the National Assembly. This gave the Awami League the constitutional right to form a government. However, Yahya Khan, the leader of Pakistan, refused to allow Rahman to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. This increased agitation for greater autonomy in the East.

On 26 March 1971, the day after the military crackdown on civilians in East Pakistan, Sk. Mujibur Rahman declared the independence of Bangladesh just after midnight of March 25, 1971 before he was arrested by Pakistan army. All major Awami League leaders including elected leaders of national Assembly and Provincial Assembly fled to neighboring India and an exile government was formed headed by Sk. Mujibur Rahman. While he was in Pakistan Prison, Syed Nazrul Islam was the acting President with Tazuddin Ahmed as the Prime Minister. The exile government took oath on April 17, 1971 at Mujib Nagar, within East Pakistan territory of Kustia district and formally formed the government. Col (retd) MAG Osmani was appointed the commander in chief of liberation forces and whole East Pakistan was divided into eleven sectors headed by eleven sector commanders. All sector commanders were Bengali officers from Pakistan army. This started the Bangladesh Liberation War in which the freedom fighters, joined in December 1971 by 400,000 Indian soldiers, faced the Pakistani Army of 100,000 plus paramilitary and collaborationist forces. An additional approximately 25,000 ill-equipped civilian volunteers and police forces also sided with the Pakistan army. On 16 December 1971, the Pakistani Army surrendered to the joint liberation forces of Bangladesh freedom fighters and Indian army Headed by Lt. Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora. Air Vice Marshall AK Khondoker represented the Bangladesh freedom fighters. Pakistan General AAK Niazi signed the surrender letter. Bangladesh quickly gained recognition from most countries and with the signing of the Shimla Accord, most of the countries accepted the new state. Bangladesh joined the United Nations in 1974. Sk. Mujib returned to free Bangladesh on January 10, 1972. Upon his request, India withdrew all of its forces. 40,000 Pakistan soldiers and 45,000 civilians were transferred to India as prisoners of war.[citation needed]

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