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December 16, 2012

Mujeeb wanted settlement not separation

 
December 16, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Awami League leader Sheikh Mujeebur Rahman was willing for a political settlement with the army leadership 10 months before the break-up of Pakistan. He met US Ambassador in Pakistan Joseph Farland on February 28 in Dhaka and favoured a confederation with West Pakistan rather than the complete separation of East Pakistan.
He again sent a secret message to Archor Blood, the then US Consul General in Dhaka, on March 1971 to ask if the US would be willing to convey to President General Yahya Khan that the Awami League was ready for talks but an army operation began on March 25, 1971 and provided an opportunity to India for interfering in East Pakistan. Finally, the Pakistan Army surrendered on Dec 16 after a 13-day war.
Bangladeshi writer BZ Khasru uncovered some secrets behind the creation of Bangladesh in his recent book “Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation War”. Khasru revealed some hidden truths with the help of US government documents declassified and obtained under the freedom information act. He claimed that Sheikh Mujeeb of the Awami League was even ready for a political settlement in November 1971 but the India-Pakistan war destroyed the possibility of a political settlement. According to a cable sent from the US Embassy in Pakistan to the State Department in Washington Sheikh Mujeebur Rahman sought American support for an independent East Pakistan on February 11th 1971. US officials never encouraged Mujeeb but started making a contingency plan in case of a break-up.
US Ambassador Farland informed Washington on February 28th 1971 about his detailed meeting with Mujeeb in which the Awami League leader changed his earlier stance and suggested a confederation between East and West Pakistan. Slowly and gradually, Mujeeb agreed for talks with General Yahya Khan and communicated to the US Consul General in Dhaka on March 10th 1971 for a political solution to the crisis of East Pakistan. Awami League leaders in India were also in touch

with US officials and were ready for talks even after the military operation. Qazi Zahirrul Quaiyum, elected member of the national assembly from Commila, met US officials in Kolkata on 31st July 1971 and informed them that the Awami League anxiously wanted a political settlement with Pakistan because they feared consequences of an Indo-Pak war and a leftist takeover of the guerilla movement if the Bangladesh Liberation war was prolonged. Another exiled Awami League leader Khandkar Mushtaque informed US officials in Kolkata on September 28 1971 that his party was ready for talks with General Yahya but there was no breakthrough.
The situation in East Pakistan deteriorated after the victory of General Ayub Khan against Fatima Jinnah in 1965 in the rigged presidential election. The Awami League supported sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah but her defeat disappointed the Sheikh Mujeeb. He demanded provincial autonomy through his famous six points. The Ayub regime tried to silence his voice by involving him in Agartala Conspiracy Case but nothing was proved against him in any court of law. the Awami League participated in the first ever general election of Pakistan held on December 7 1970. The voters’ age at that time was 21 years. Total number of registered voters was 56,941,500.Voters turnout in the first general election was 63%. The Awami League emerged as the majority party by securing 160 seats in a house of 300.
The Pakistan People’s Party won 81 seats in the National Assembly, the Jamaat-e-Islami got 4, PML-Council 2, PML-Qayyum Group 9, JUI 7, JUP 7, PML-Convention 7, National Awami Party 6, PDP 1 and 16 independents were also elected. The Awami League failed to win a single seat in West Pakistan and the PPP failed to win a single seat in East Pakistan but NAP, headed by Wali Khan, and the Council Muslim League, headed by Mumtaz Daultana, were ready to work with the Awami League from West Pakistan.
The PPP emerged as the largest party of West Pakistan overall and emerged as the biggest party of Punjab and Sindh. NAP and JUI got a majority in the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Balochistan. The military regime of General Yahya Khan failed to transfer power to the majority party in one year.
An interesting incident took place on March 14 1971. According to Khasru’s book Wali Khan and Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo reached Dhaka on March 13 and met Mujeeb on March 14. Bizenj0 straightaway asked Mujeeb whether he wanted to make a unilateral declaration of independence. Mujeeb became very emotional. He asked: “who is asking whom not to break up Pakistan? You, who were associated with Congress, telling me, who was a hardcore Muslim Leaguer and rendered sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan. What an irony!”
Bizenjo convinced Mujeeb to meet Yahya in Dhaka on March 15. Talks started but General Yahya was reluctant to transfer power to the majority party. Yahya told Bizenjo that if Mujeeb did not behave, his army knew how to shoot their way through. Mujeeb informed Bizenjo on March 24 to leave Dhaka because the army would move in two days. Stunned and speechless. Bizenjo and Wali Khan left Dhaka the same day.
Khasru claimed in his book that the Americans remained convinced till the end that Mujeeb did not want to break up Pakistan. He would have possibly opted for a confederation if given an option even in November 1971. The Americans blamed ZA Bhutto for the collapse of talks. Bhutto told the Americans that much of the tragedy since March could have been avoided by a swift transfer of power but what happened thereafter was unjustified. Bhutto was ready to work with Mujeeb in a confederation. He released Mujeeb unconditionally on January 8 1972 from West Pakistan but Moscow and Delhi never encouraged Mujeeb to remain part of Pakistan.