The Pakistani Civil War (1971)

Before the Civil War

The Pakistani civil war was fought in an attempt to thwart the secession of East Pakistan. West Pakistan was however unable to prevent the secession and Bangladesh (East Pakistan) achieved independence.

This war broke out nearly a decade after the independence movement in East Pakistan became prominent. Discontent in East Pakistan was largely due to unequal distribution of economic and political power. While the East represented 75% of Pakistan’s foreign trade, the West remained dominant in the political sphere and, moreover, retained greater economic benefits. Growing issues in East Pakistan prompted the current president, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan to call for a vote. When Sheikh Mujib Rahman, representing the independence movement, was elected to this national assembly, Yahya Khan refused to honor the elections. It was at this point that the civil war began with East Pakistan’s economic secession. A large strike pervaded soon-to-be Bangladesh and taxes were withheld. In response, Yahya Khan declared martial law and sent 60,000 troops into East Pakistan.

These troops were not able to quell the riots, and on March 25, 1971 killed many East Pakistani civilians. In response Bangladesh declared independence, only heightening the death toll incurred from subsequent massacres. Approximately 10 million refugees fled to the Indian-controlled West Bengal (this was the basis for the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971).

In 1972, Bangladesh established its own government, but it was not until a prisoner-of-war exchange in 1973 that Pakistan acknowledged Bangladesh in any way.

After the Civil War

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