December 16th marks the day that Pakistani troops laid down their arms and surrendered East Pakistan to India. In remembrance of the historic separation which took place 48 years ago, we take a look at the events which led to the partition.

Geographical Issues

East Pakistan was separated from West Pakistan by a thousand miles with no common border. East Pakistan was surrounded by Indian territory and influences, making it easier for India to take over the territory. Constant political, economic and social conflicts between the two Pakistani wings led to a worsening of relations bringing the country on the verge of collapse.

Issues from 1947

After the inception of Pakistan in 1947, issues between the two wings rose immediately. Due to the fact that the population of East Pakistan was larger than that of the West (55 million as compared to 45 million), the East claimed that it made democratic sense for the Federal capital to be in Dhaka not Karachi. As Karachi was the seat of the National Government; ministers, government officials and industrialists where able to exert immense influence on regional and national affairs bringing them many benefits. East Pakistan, however, could not reap the same benefits due to it’s location from the capital.

Disagreements over the jute profits

Bengali’s were resentful about the way that profits from the sale of jute in East Pakistan were being used on defence. In particular, they were upset about the large amount of expenditure on the Kashmir cause which they believed could have been used in building dams and barriers to control floods, eradicate poverty and illiteracy and supply food and shelter for the ever-growing population in East Pakistan.

Awami League

The Awami League was formed in 1951 and headed by Sheikh Mujib-Ur-Rehman, a Bengali nationalist. He was able to attract immense support from Bengali’s in East Pakistan. He put forward his Six Points where he urged for increased autonomy for Provinces and for East Pakistan in particular. He was arrested in April 1966 after which he was languished in prison until February 1969. Sheikh Mujib-Ur-Rehman was able to portray himself as a victim of West Pakistan’s indifference and mistreatment of Bengali’s which contributed to feelings of resentment from the East.

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