HISTORY 1971

Published:  12:24 AM, 15 March 2019

15 March ... Yahya Khan arrives in Dhaka

15 March ... Yahya Khan arrives in Dhaka Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Gen Yahya Khan

The crisis precipitated by the arbitrary decision of the regime to call off the projected session of the newly elected National Assembly showed no signs of abatement.

On 15 March, General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, President of Pakistan, Chief Martial Law Administrator and Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan army, arrived in Dhaka from Rawalpindi for talks with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was escorted from Tejgaon airport to the President's House at Ramna under heavy guard by soldiers of the Pakistan army.

The President was accompanied by senior military officers who would assist him in his negotiations with the Awami League leadership. Among the civilians who would be with him was Justice A.R. Cornelius, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Earlier, when asked by journalists for his response to Yahya Khan's plan to visit Dhaka, Bangabandhu pointedly said the President would be welcomed as a guest by Bengalis. It was as good as suggesting that the central government's writ had ceased to run in East Pakistan.

The authority of the Pakistan government in the province was conspicuous by its absence. It was only in the cantonment and at the President's House as well as the Governor's House that the flag of Pakistan could be observed. Everywhere else, it was the Bangladesh flag that had been raised by a people clearly unwilling to remain part of Pakistan any longer.

In Peshawar, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, chief of the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal and former commander-in-chief of the Pakistan air force, maintained that only Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could keep the country together despite great odds and therefore it was essential, he asserted, that power be handed over to him immediately.

He condemned PPP Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's call for a transfer of power to his party in West Pakistan and to the Awami League in East Pakistan.Not to be deterred, Z.A. Bhutto repeated in Karachi his earlier position that the rule of the majority did not apply to Pakistan.

He noted that the on-going deadlock in constitution-making could not be resolved 'by ignoring the wishes of the people of West Pakistan as represented by the majority party in the West Wing.' All across the western part of the country, he drew flak from politicians over his demand for a transfer of power on his terms. Some even criticized him for advocating what they considered a new two-nation theory.

In Dhaka, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced a new series of measures aimed at continuing the non-cooperation movement in East Pakistan. In a statement, the Awami League chief said: "The heroic struggle of the people marches forward.

All those who cherish freedom and are struggling for it the world over should regard our cause as their own. Our people have proved how a determined and united people can be a bulwark of freedom against those who conspire to rule by force.

The people of Bangladesh, civil servants, office and factory workers, peasants and students have demonstrated in no uncertain terms that they will rather die than surrender."


The writer is Editor-in-Charge,
The Asian Age

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