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East and West Pakistan conflicts

   
The combination of East and West Pakistan (modernly known as Bangladesh and Pakistan, respectively) by the Partition of India was one of the worst mistakes made in history. East and West Pakistan had almost nothing in common; in fact, when Sir Muhammad Iqbal first stated his idea for the nation of Pakistan in his Allahabad 
Address in 1930, he did not even mention Bangladesh as being a part of Pakistan.  The Bengalis of East Pakistan, who had more in common with India than Pakistan, were considered “inferior Muslims” by most Pakistanis. The Bengalis did not fit the “tall, handsome, and martial” characteristics that those in West Pakistan consideredessential to be a “proper Muslim” (Hussain). East Pakistan held more than half the population of Pakistan, yet they only had ten percent of the military and fifteen percent of the government services, and their needs were generally ignored by the central government, which lay in West Pakistan (Malik).   In the 1950’s, things became tense between the two nations. In 1950, Pakistan created their Muslim Electorate system with 237 Muslim seats and, because East Pakistan had a ten percent Hindu Population,additional seats for non-Muslims (Malik). By 1954, only four years later, nearly all the Muslim seats in the East Pakistan Legislative Assembly were won by Bengalis. At this time, Bengali was not considered one of the state’s official languages, but protests rose so high that year that Pakistan was forced to recognize Bengali as an official national language. This was the first of many victories for Bangladesh. In 1955, the United States made a Mutual Defense Agreement with Pakistan against the spread of communism. This decision went directly against East Bengal’s socialist leader, Bhanshani, causing great protests across the region. West Pakistan feared that this would break their treaty with the United States (Hussain).

   Tensions came to a climax in the 1970’s. Natural disasters are horribly common in Bangladesh, and in 1970 they had a massive cyclone in which 226 thousand people died. Relief began to pour into Pakistan, but the government, headquartered in the west, did little to send this aid to the east. Furious about the apathy displayed, riots began to break out across East     Tensions cameto a climax in the 1970’s. Natural disasters are horribly common in Bangladesh, and in 1970 they had a massive cyclone in which 226 thousand people died. Relief began to pour into Pakistan, but the government, headquartered in the west, did little to send this aid to the east. Furious about the apathy displayed, riots began to break out across East Pakistan, calling for complete separation from West Pakistan. Coincidently, at this time the majority of the seats in the National Assembly were held by Bangalis. President Yahya Khan, nervous that East Pakistan would demand their independence, delayed the National Assembly meeting in March of 1971. Demonstrations continued, and on March 26, 1971, East Pakistan declared their independence as Bangladesh. West Pakistan sent troops into the newly-created Bangladesh, thus beginning a civil war. In December, India joined Bangladesh’s side, and they defeated Pakistan in only a matter of two weeks (LaPorte).

   It wasn't until July of 1972 that India agreed to remove the rest of their troops from Pakistan. Pakistan could not afford to mull over their loss of Bangladesh, though, as they had an unstable government to mend. After the civil war they continued to go through many military coups and one leader after another was replaced. They continue to face problems with India and militant Muslims within their own country (Beck).

    Bangladesh has also faced many problems. Their first leader as an independent nation showed very little interest in restoring the nation; he put importance only in gaining political power. Over the years Bangladesh has strived for democracy, and corruption has become less and less common. Still, they are very poor, with an average income of a measly $360 per year (Beck). To make matters worse, they are constantly prone to natural disasters of every type, particularly earthquakes and floods.

    Over all, both Pakistan and Bangladesh struggled to cooperate under one government, and both suffered great losses in their struggle. This area of the world is not the only one suffering because of poorly drawn borders; there are many areas in Africa and other parts of the world where people continue to die because multiple ethnic groups are forced to live under the same government. The story of East and West Pakistan should not be just another story in history. We must realize the mistakes made when combining separate cultures into one country, and strive to create future nations where a single people may live in peace in their own government.


George Harrison focused the world's attention on the plight of Bangladesh by organizing the 1971 benefit "Concert for Bangladesh" in New York. Here you can listen to his headlining song, "Bangladesh".


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