The following notes on the Fall of East Pakistan have been taken from Idea of Pakistan by Stephen Cohen.
The leadership of the Pakistan movement had difficulty accepting the democratic norm of one man, one vote. Jinnah and others tirelessly argued that without some restraint on majority power, Muslims would always be outvoted.
Sarcastically, Jinnah threw back Gandhi’s claim that the two men were brothers, that Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Harijans are all alike: “The only difference is this, that brother Gandhi has three votes and I have only one vote.”
Majoritarian democracy had no attractions for a minority divided by language and sect, and with many coreligionists in the Congress Party itself.
This fundamental structural objection to democratic politics explains why many Pakistanis of an older generation have strong reservations about democracy and democratic politics as an end in itself.
Democracy threatened the minority Muslim community, forcing it to establish its own political order, Pakistan.
But proponents of the idea of Pakistan had not looked too closely at the contradiction between the educated, Westernized leadership of the Pakistan movement (many of whom claimed descent from the original Muslim invaders) and the much larger numbers of the poor and the converted.
Pakistan’s leadership eventually split on the question of democracy—guided, basic, and otherwise—when the poorer (but more populous) half of Pakistan claimed its right to rule the whole state.
Of all the schemes that had been discussed over the years, the plan to create a single Muslim state with two wings, separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, was perhaps the most problematic to implement and certainly unprecedented. This kind of geography required perfect Indian cooperation to make the idea work, but many Indian leaders were all too eager to ensure that the new state of Pakistan would have a short life.
Ayub Khan’s dismissal of the defense of East Pakistan became a major Bengali grievance after the 1965 war with India. If Pakistani generals thought that East Pakistan could be sacrificed to India to save West Pakistan, why should Bengalis stay in the Pakistani federation? It was a question ultimately answered by the creation of Bangladesh.
The rapid economic growth under Ayub was responsible for the regional imbalance between the eastern and western wings of the country, which in turn contributed to the breakup of 1971.
Consequences of fall of East Pakistan:
First, the political balance shifted within Pakistan, leaving Punjab the overwhelmingly dominant province (see chapter 6). From 1972 onward, the most populous province in Pakistan was also its economically strongest and the major contributor of manpower to the politically important army.
Second, the loss of East Pakistan dramatically narrowed Pakistan’s cultural and social diversity, to its ultimate disadvantage. They were especially important in parliamentary debate, where they were among the “most bold, outspoken and non-conformist”. One of Pakistan’s early qualities was its cultural diversity, which had strengthened the country, not weakened it.
Third, the balance of power subtly shifted away from secular, “mainstream” forces toward the Islamists. The Islam of East Pakistan was on balance far more moderate than that of the Northwest Frontier Province or Baluchistan. The breakup of the country merely empowered the most regressive and conservative Islam.
For complete Pakistan Affairs notes click here.