March 5, 1971: Bangabandhu in command | Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 05, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:50 AM, March 05, 2019

MARCH 5, 1971: Bangabandhu in command

The Pakistan authorities and Yahya Khan's central government had virtually lost all control over East Pakistan, except in the cantonments, even without the declaration of independence.

The regime was on the brink of paralysis due to the non-cooperation movement led by Bangabandhu.

It had become apparent that amid the movement, offices, businesses, banks, educational institutions and other establishments operated themselves as per Bangabandhu's directives.

People from all walks of life 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 but accepting Bangladesh as an independent country.

On March 5, 1971, Dhaka city was further aggravated when, on the fifth day of hartal, curfew was imposed in Rangpur. Elsewhere, security forces and army resorted to gunfire in Chattogram (then Chittagong), Rajshahi, Khulna and Tongi.

In Tongi, four labourers were killed and 25 were injured.

In the evening, the government announced that soldiers had returned to the barracks.

That night, Bangabandhu completely denied a news broadcasted on a foreign radio that “Sheikh Mujib is willing to share power with Bhutto”, terming the news “ill motivated and Bhutto's imagination.”

Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan reached Dhaka from Karachi in the evening to hold a meeting with Bangabandhu. In Rawalpindi's Presidential Palace, Pakistan People's Party Chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke to President Yahya for more than five hours.

After the meeting, People's Party spokesperson said that the reaction and response of the AL to the suspension of the National Committee meeting was utterly baseless and had no validity.

Even then, most West Pakistan political quarters stressed on fast transfer of power to the AL to prevent any political division. There was, however, no sign whatsoever from the regime of making that happen.

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, Gen Tikka Khan arrived in Dhaka on this very day, 48 years ago, to be sworn in as the Governor of East Pakistan.

On the other hand, Tofail Ahmed, a key leader of 11-Point Movement, 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 countrymen knew not. But a vast majority of Bangalees expected Bangabandhu to declare independence.

[Sources: websites of Liberation War Museum, Bangladesh Genocide Archive]

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