Losing East Pakistan: Lessons we didn’t learn

Published: December 17, 2011

Forty years ago, Pakistan and Bangladesh became separate countries, but it seems as though no lessons have been learnt.

Forty years ago, Pakistan and Bangladesh became separate countries. They may enjoy good relations with each other today, but it seems that Pakistan has not learnt any lessons from the East Pakistan debacle.

After the separation, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto formed the Hamoodur Rehman commission, headed by the then Chief Justice of Pakistan. It was given the mandate to investigate all circumstances and events which led to the disintegration of the eastern wing. The commission submitted its report to Bhutto in October 1974, but the report was not made public. In august 2000, parts of this report were leaked out and published in the Indian and Pakistani press.

In December 2000, however, this report was declassified and made public by Pervez Musharraf’s government. It clearly held the military elite of Yahya’s regime responsible for the separation of East Pakistan and recommended action against Yahya Khan and his deputies.Unfortunately, no action has been taken against anyone to date. This encouraged Generals like Ziaul Haq and Musharraf to carry out coups against civilian governments.

The main factors which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh were a sense of deprivation and military action in East Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that we have not learned any lessons from this, as the same can be seen in the deprivation amongst the people of Balochistan today. Not surprisingly, the excuses for the operation are starkly similar to the ones in 1971 – Indian conspiracies in these areas. People of West Pakistan were unaware of the atrocities carried out by the military in the eastern wing and the same situation exists today. Most Pakistanis are completely oblivious to the suffering of their countrymen and how they are being treated by their own forces.

It is of vital important, thus, that those in the corridors of power accept their mistakes. This is the only way to ensure that they won’t be repeated. However, if we continue in our current state of ‘eyes wide shut’, then we will fall deep down in to an endless pit from where there is no hope of return.

All I can say in conclusion is that we should hope for the best and try to play our individual parts in preventing another East Pakistan debacle from happening ever again.


Adnan Amir

An Accounting student who has a passion for reading and web designing.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    the report doesn’t mention bhutto .. democracy not so fair and square .. .Bhutto was the biggest reason for the divideRecommend

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/PakistaniHindus?feature=guide Pakistani Hindu

    “The main factors which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh were a sense of deprivation and military action in East Pakistan.”

    Bangladesh was separated in 1971, Bhutto was newly appointed President at that time. He was Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977. Where was his involvement in the separation?Recommend

  • Yo boy

    We should rise against establishment. They have done wrong. Now they’re supporting terrorism. What is surprising is no politician has taken up a stance against estabilishment. Everyone is afraid of them. The youth has to step up.Recommend

  • mind control


    .Bhutto was the biggest reason for the divide

    Do refresh my memory. What position was Bhutto occupying at the time? President? Prime Minister? CMLA? Dictator at Large? Butcher of Dacca? What???

    Did Bhutto order Operation Searchlight? Or did Bhutto arrest Mujib and put him in jail? Or did Bhutto sign the instrument of surrender?

    And if Bhutto was so powerful that he compelled the innocent Pakistan Army to do all that while not in office, how come he could not save his own life while he was the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan?Recommend

  • narayana murthy

    Where can I find this report online? So eager to read it.Recommend

  • Ali

    @Ovais I disagree. Bhutto certainly didn’t help matters by declaring after the elections that he would break the legs of any members of the ppp who attended the new assembly but Yahya Khan held power and he could easily have made Mujib PM and handed over govt to his party. Bhutto would’ve had to accept it or boycott but he couldn’t have started a rebellion in West Pakistan. Only legitimate power in the hands of the democratically elected Awami National Party could’ve made up for their legitimate grievances of East Pakistan which had compounded over two decades of misgovernment.Recommend

  • R.N.Kiani

    I agree on one point that the Balochistanis are also being discreminated today same as Bhutoo or administration of western pakistan had treated Bengalis that time]…Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com Anoop

    This was predicted to happen within 2 years of Pakistan’s birth by Nehru, Azad and such, but took 22 years longer.

    When you create a nation based on the ideology of division among Humans, this is bound to happen. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely written. We should learn from history. The irony is that all we learn from history, is that no one really learns from history. Recommend

  • Ali Hasan

    Well said. Factual nitty gritties aside, the overall message is resoundingly clear and true. We are a nation blinded by ourselves in the face of our own faslehoods. Recommend

  • Mohd Bin Qassim

    I am not sure why we need to learn lessons from history. We have had a good run of more than 60 years. How has anyone in Pakistan been affected because East Pakistan is Bangladesh how? Our lives go on, please spare us these unnecessary lessons.Recommend

  • Munir Ahmad Saeed

    Bhutto did play a spoiler’s role. He opposed national assembly session in Dhakkah and openly said I will break the legs of those who will go to attend Dhakkah session of the assembly, where it had to decide about the prime minister. Further, When Yahya ordered military operation, Bhutto said at the the Dhakkah VIP airport that Pakistan has been saved because of the operation. Infact united Pakistan was lost the day military operation was ordered. It is because Bhutto was not ready to play the role of the opposition [email protected] control: Recommend

  • http://lahore K. Salim Jahangir

    We are being reminded every day about dichotomy of Pakistan & shaheed so & so.Stop it please.Let the nation move ahead.They did not want to live with us,we should wish them good luck.Our media,if do not have any thing to discuss they start delving into two nation theory instead of motivating the new generation & showing them the path to success .If nothing else,the politicians start threatening the nation at large that if we do not agree with what they say Pakistan will break.Recommend

  • Alshadiq

    Everything people suffer and endure is very usually of their own making. How many people among the over 100 million living this this part of the world are working to make it truly a Pak sitan? How many? Hardly anyone. So how can we have Pak sitan without working for it?
    So why not blame ourselves for every calamity we bring upon ourselves through our own misdeeds than laying it on the shoulders of others.
    Either we want this part of the world to become Pak sitan or a country where Justice and Compassion is a very commonly found commodity, the work has to be done by allof us. Us the people at large. If we do not work for what we want, will we ever get it? No never.
    Those Arabs who 1400 years made a place for themselves in the history of mankind were successful in bringing the welcome change by changing their habits for the better.
    So if we want to bring the welcome change in our conditions we all will have to be prepared to work for it. Work for it starting from bringing welcome change into our utterly spoiled and disgusting habits and characteristics. This will help us in comming together to create our most fundamental base of peoples’ involvement in bring improvement in our material and moral conditions. The base for the people to participate in their affairs has to be the “co-operative collectives” of the people in every locality of the country. From thereone people can come to work to bring progress in every sphere of their life.Recommend

  • aayush

    “The Pakistan Eastern Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangla Desh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Indian and Bangla Desh forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, air and naval forces as also all para-military forces and civil armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora. “The Pakistan Eastern Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as the instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning or interpretation of the surrender terms.

    “Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with provisions of the Geneva Convention and guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and para-military forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of West Pakistan origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.”

    Signed by J.S. Aurora and A.A.K. Niazi on Dec 16, 1971.Recommend

  • Parvez

    When you reads a comment like the one made by Mohd Bin Qassim it disturbs you.
    You are forced to think that possibly ignorance is bliss and possibly the majority think like this and that is why we are in the abject state we are in. Recommend

  • ana

    @Mohd bin Qasim

    we need to learn from history because it is repeating itself in Balochistan…if our establishment continues to rape balochistan then we living in cities will face a backlash from baloch insurgents coming and killing us.

    and u say that losing bangladesh did us no harm..well it disproved the two-nation theory…derailed a social democratic progress that was the epitome of bengali intellect, and would have spread into West Pakistan, made us lose all the jute exports,apart from mental torture of those who lived through the bloodshed and terror…Recommend

  • Deb


    You owe a congratulatory message to ET for the freedom of expression they allow to the contributors on the comments section.I doubt if any other (with the possible exception of DAWN) Pakistani newspaper would have entertained your opinion.
    Though personally I second your opinion. Recommend

  • Cynical

    It is difficult to learn anything, if one is mentally challenged.Recommend

  • nouman

    my friend this is a very old story in those days we used to take dictation from super power!!!Recommend

  • Zaki Khalid

    Go read the truth by Sarmila Bose.Recommend

  • malik

    We believe that we are the only country in the world with an unique geographical advantage. On top of it, we are the custodians of Islam and protectors of Islamic interests all over the world. In fact, we are the chosen people, destined to make our Land of the Pure the showpiece of the greatest religion of the world. We also believe in our strength, our nukes and natural resources. We are so great that every country in the world wants to destabilize us.

    Lessons are for lesser mortals, not for people with supremacist beliefs.Recommend

  • malik

    Gen Yahya Khan in 1971, called for a Parliament session on March 3 in Dhaka.

    It was Bhutto who said he would break the legs of any of his party member if attended that session. This was on Feb 28, 71.

    March 1, Yahya Khan postponed the session. East Bengal erupted and the Pak army moved in and started the killing spree.

    March 3: Mujib announced the Independence of Bangladesh.

    Unlike Punjabis, Bengalis are gentle, cultured, and peace loving people and it is easy to placate them. If Bhutto had graciously agreed to go to Dhaka, much could have been achieved then.

    With the call to break the legs of his party members, it was Bhutto who precipitated this. He is principally responsible for the break up of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Kafka

    Mark Tully (a BBC Journalist in East Pakistan), has said that military operation started after the unrest started in East Pakistan. He also holds Bhutto accountable for the separation as he wanted to form a government of his own while it was not possible as Awami League was poised to make the government had the assembly session been held. Thus Bhutto made sure that legislators from East Pakistan do not come to West Pakistan. Recommend

  • http://www.pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    The sad day when bhutto couldnt do consensus … with mujeeb who was the clear winner.. and if bhutto wasnt part of the elite so called establishment.. then who was …:P … sad at distortion of our history because PPP is incharge… I liked bhuttos governance but for heavens sake the way he came to power was disgusting … The name Zulfiqar … one broke Pakistan … one killed 1000 in karachi .. senseless individuals … and same hypocritical party Recommend

  • gp65

    @Pakistani Hindu: “Bangladesh was separated in 1971, Bhutto was newly appointed President at that time. He was Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977. Where was his involvement in the separation?”

    In the 1970 election, Mujibur had the majority seats in the whole Pakistan including East and West. But Bhutto who had the majority for West Pakistan alone but would have to sit in opposition if the entire mandate was concerned refused to acknowledge the mandate and let Mujib become the PM. He said ‘Udhar Tum , Idhar Hum’ and this action of Bhutto made it clear to the Bengalis that they would never be treated fairly in Pakistan. So Bhutto definitely has a major role to play. Recommend

  • rp

    Balochistan…willb another Bangladesh in offing……pak army and govt at tenterhooksRecommend

  • Raj

    I met a school teacher from Hyderadad ( Sind), he told me that History books in Pakistan profess that Pakistan won the 1971 war.Recommend