Pakistan Part II

Many scholars ask whether the partition of Bangladesh from Pakistan inevitable. I address this question in the following essay:



In 1971, East Pakistan broke away from West Pakistan after a bloody civil war. The separation of West and East Pakistan could, at first blush, seem unlikely after 24 years of unity but, in retrospect appears to be the most inevitable development in a very unstable administration. The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 reflected the Pakistani government’s structural fissures, which had worsened since independence in 1947. The Muslim League’s consistent policy of Bengali suppression predestined the split, in addition to the great distance between the West and East, but many other factors were at play.


Geography & Climate

Obviously, the geographic horror story of a West and East Pakistan should have been the first sign of separation. Though countries like the Netherlands and France were able to have colonies around the world, separated by massive oceans and different languages, the ability to have a country split in half by its greatest enemy and not fall apart is nearly impossible. It is also important to note that eventually all Dutch and French colonies could not be held, as the cost of suppression and colonization was too high. East Pakistan was, in many ways, treated like the West’s colony. West Pakistan attempted to impose Urdu as the official and superiour language in the East, and the East only received a fraction of its exporting earnings[1]. The “captive market” of East Pakistan’s agricultural industry allowed for structural development in West Pakistan but economic disputes with India regarding the jute trade caused the East to suffer recessions while the West continued to grow[2]. This distance between the two countries allowed for this type of colonial treatment; the East and West had slowed and infrequent communication between the other. If Bengalis had the physical proximity to the capital, it would have been more likely for their demands to be met but the sheer characterization of a separated state really made that impossible. The separation also allowed for Indian influence and the ability for the Awami League to arise in Pakistan because had the army been closer, the Awami League would have been crushed earlier.

The Bhola cyclone that hit East Pakistan in 1970 also had major economic effects, and resulted in nearly 225,000 deaths[3]. West Pakistan’s lack of response to the environmental disaster further estranged the Western government from its Eastern counterpart. The cyclone’s timing definitely played a part in Eastern insurrections and eventual independence as the Awami League profited off the government’s disaffection of the environmental tragedy.



The East also suffered limited representation in the Pakistani government and had very few Bengali officers in the Pakistani army[4]. The lack of military inclusion is very important, as it not only represented governmental segregation but also the lack of social mobility for the Bengali people within Pakistan. The lack of political, economic, cultural, and military inclusion was only possible for so long because of the physical distance between the two halves of Pakistan, but not sustainable due to the colonial-like treatment, martial law, and the promise of autonomy during partition and constitutional drafting[5].



Adeney argues that secession was not inevitable because Bengalis were not rallied until Operation Searchlight, which involved the mass use of violence by the West Pakistani military[6]. Yet this argument is invalid as the 1947 Separatist Movement in East Pakistan lobbied for “full autonomy for East Pakistan in all spheres except Defence and Foreign Affairs”[7]. It was nearly the movement’s entire platform and its legacy continued strongly into the 50s, as the East Pakistan Muslim League protested in Victoria Park in 1950, the Dhaka Bar Associations advocated maximum autonomy in 1953, and the Bengali political reaction to the Bogra Formula[8].

East Pakistan after partition had become the centre of anti-governmental parties, where parties like the United Front[9] formed and grew in Dhaka. Talbot argues that the passing of the Mohammad Ali Bogra formula would have allowed the East Pakistanis some political power but after politician Nazimuddin was forced out of government, the Bengalis of the east only had implementation-less laws[10]. Yet Fazal-ul-Huq described the Bogra formula as “a colossal hoax on an obliging group of party members”[11]. There was no way that the Bogra formula would have been supported by the East, and Kokrab argues that the formula caused for more political centralization of East Pakistani parties and a great shift towards Eastern autonomy (granted without Nazimuddin’s support but on a local and state level more so)[12].

After the 1958 coup, East Pakistanis still pushed for greater representation, and the Six Point Plan and Rahman’s following jailing forced the Awami League politicians towards radical measures. The jailing and the typhoon definitely were the collective climax of the East’s struggle and brought the inevitable separation to actualization by an angry, exasperated Eastern population with 24 years of suppression fueling their fight.



The role of India was also very important in East Pakistan’s inevitable partition from its western counterpart. The Western half’s neo-colonial[13] treatment of East Pakistan caused the East to look towards its neighbour, India, whose inclusive language policy rudely contrasted the harsh and imposing Urdu policy of Pakistan. India also had its own base of amicable relations with the Hindu minority in East Pakistan, who made up 20% of the East Pakistani population[14]. The East Pakistani Awami League also received Indian financial and military backing, which also influenced the independence movement[15].



East Pakistan’s separation from the West was inevitable. The influence and proximity of India definitely played a role in East Pakistan’s independence, in addition to the neo-colonial treatment from the West. The conglomeration of geographic, climate, political, cultural, and socio-economic grief over 24 years definitely took its toll on the East Pakistani people and caused the eventual partition. Bangladesh’s independence would later reveal the subversive and corrupt structure of Pakistan’s paramilitary government, and engender political turmoil in Pakistan.


[1] The New World Encylopedia. Bangladesh War of Independence.

[2] Talbot. Pakistan: A History. Pg. 138.

[3] Sommer, Alfred. Mosley, Wiley. East Bengal Cyclone of 1970: Epidemiological Approach to Disaster Assessment. Pg. 1.

[4] K. Adeney. Federalism and Ethnic Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan. Pg 155.

[5] Kokab, Rizwan Ullah. Constitution Making in Pakistan and East Bengal’s Demand for Autonomy (1947-58). Pg 166.

[6] K. Adeney. Pg. 157.

[7] Kokab. Pg. 166.

[8] Kokab. Pg. 169-171.

[9] K. Adeney. Pg. 156.

[10] Talbot. Pakistan: A History. Pg 142.

[11] Kokab. Pg. 171.

[12] Kokab. Pg. 172.

[13] Nanda, Ved. Self-Determination in International Law: The Tragic Tale of Two Cities–Islamabad (West Pakistan) and Dacca (East Pakistan). Pg 361.

[14] Cohen, Stephen. The Idea of Pakistan. Pg. 43.

[15] Heath, Deana. Mathur, Chandana. Communalism and Globalization in South Asia and Its Diaspora. Pg. 99.


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