March 5, 1971: Bangabandhu in command
Even without the declaration of independence of Bangladesh, the authority of Pakistan and the central government of General Yahya Khan had not only virtually lost all control over East Pakistan, except in the cantonments, but was on the brink of paralysis due to the non-cooperation movement led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
It had become apparent that amid the movement, offices, businesses, educational institutions and other establishments conducted themselves according to Bangabandhu's directives. To show their support for the democratic cause, citizens of all categories came together at the residence of the Awami League chief, on Dhanmondi Road-32, which had by then become the centre of political influence.
The instructions given by the AL on a regular basis were voiced by Tajuddin Ahmed, the party's general secretary. There was no way out of this crisis for the Pakistan government, except declaring Bangladesh an independent state.
Dhaka city was further aggravated when, on the fifth day of the hartal, a curfew was imposed in Rangpur, while security forces and army resorted to gunfire in Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Tongi.
In Tongi, four labourers were killed while 25 were injured.
It was then that the National Awami Party, led by Prof Muzaffar Ahmed, pledged its full support for Awami League's movement.
The government had then decided to order its soldiers back to the barracks, and this announcement was made in Dhaka.
Retired Air Marshall Asghar Khan reached Dhaka from Karachi in the evening to hold a meeting with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, while on the other hand, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan People's Party Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto spoke to President Yahya, in the latter's residence, for more than five hours.
After Bhutto and Yahya's meeting, the spokesperson for People's Party had stated that Awami League's reaction to the suspension of the National Committee meeting was utterly without reason.
Even then, all of West Pakistan's political quarters, except for a handful of rightwing politicians, were demanding a fast transfer of power to the Awami League to prevent political division in the country.
But there was no sign whatsoever of the Pakistani regime taking a step back in favour of a discussed settlement with Bangabandhu.
Instead, Yahya Khan was clear about what should be done -- provide necessary force, buy time for preparations, and then strike hard at the appropriate moment. To make that happen, General Tikka Khan arrived in Dhaka on this very day, 47 years ago, to be sworn in as Governor of East Pakistan on March 6.
On this end, Tofail Ahmed urged Dhaka Betar to directly transmit the speech to be delivered by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the March-7 rally on the Race Course ground (now Suhrawardy Udyan).
What the speech would be, the public knew not. But a vast majority of Bangalees, however, expected Bangabandhu to declare independence.
While the suspense kept growing, what everybody did know was that the days to come would not be easy. For anyone.