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March USA chronicles

In his book (2002), 'The cruel birth of Bangladesh', Archer K Blood, the American Consul General in the former East Pakistan (today's Bangladesh) in 1970-71 makes use of reports that his Dhaka office dispatched to Washington and Islamabad. He had to wait until December 1998 for the documents to be declassified by the State Department before he could use them; therefore there is a degree of authenticity attached to them. Here are some extracts to throw light on the events.

USA Embassy's report on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's election address on radio and TV (a sub-continent first) 1970 October 28: In a half-hour address, the East Pakistan Leader (Mujib) reiterated his catalogue of Bengali grievances and called for their remedy through the adoption of Awami League's Six Points (demands).

In the 1970 December 7 elections, Awami League secured 160 out of 162 National Assembly seats in East Pakistan. West Pakistan had 138 national seats, where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) bagged 81. The Awami League also won 288 out of the 300 Provincial (East Pakistan) Assembly seats. Three days after elections, US Ambassador Farland sent the following instruction to Dhaka: ... we must take care to avoid any indication of US government dismay because of Bhutto's success, or of official gratification because of Mujib's.

Bhutto of PPP refused to join 1971 March 3 National Assembly in Dhaka saying that the new constitution (its objective) based on Awami League's Six Points was unworkable for the whole of Pakistan.

USA Embassy's report on 1971 February 24 AL press conference: Mujib defended provincial control of foreign aid and foreign trade envisaged by the Six Points as necessary to remove from control by centre (located in Islamabad) of “principal instruments required for colonial exploitation of Bangla Desh”. Bangla Desh must have autonomy as spelled out in the Six Points, and its representatives have been elected on this basis... Mujib reiterated. Blood goes on to comment: Upon reading this report after a gap of many years, I was struck by Mujib's frequent reference to Bangla Desh instead of East Pakistan. I do not recall any earlier public use of the term Bangla Desh... Mujib may have done so in order to convey a subtle hint to a West Pakistani audience that there was an alternative to the continual union of East Pakistan and West Pakistan.

A report filed 1971 end February by the US Consul General contained the following comment: While we remain convinced that ultimate goal of Awami League is independence, we do not believe that Mujib sees separation now in his own interest except as somewhat desperate last effort.

US Ambassador's report following 1971 February 28 meeting with Mujib: He (Mujib) dramatically pointed out that he was unafraid of being jailed or “hacked to pieces”, and that he would not deviate from the mandate (for East Pakistan's autonomy based on Six Points) which had been the will of his people.

Consul General office's report following Yahya's 1971 March 1 speech that postponed indefinitely the first session of the National Assembly scheduled for March 3: It would be difficult to overestimate the sense of anger and shock and frustration which has gripped people of East Pakistan. They cannot but interpret postponement as act of collusion between Yahya and Bhutto to deny fruit of electoral victory to majority. Underlying their resentment we also sense elation that Yahya's action has brought moment of independence much closer. Note: USA sniffing our Swadhinata on 1971 March 1.

Non-cooperation, hartal followed. Every office, business-house and transportation system in East Pakistan were operating as per the directive of Bangabandhu. Yahya announced 1971 March 6 in a strongly worded statement that no matter what Pakistan shall be preserved. He also declared that the inaugural session of National Assembly shall be on 1971 March 25. This was the modern Helen of Troy.

After Yahya's 1971 March 6 speech, US State Department sent the following 'Secret' instruction: We have undertaken high-level review of options open to USG (USA government) on assumption (a) Mujibur Rahman announces unilateral declaration of independence March 7; (b) Yahya implements clearly implied threat in his March 6 statement to use armed forces to defend integrity of Pakistan...

Dhaka Consul General's assessment (early March): Little by little the Sheikh and the Awami League become the de facto authority in East Pakistan. Meanwhile the concept of Pakistan continues to erode.

After Bangabandhu's 1971 March 7 speech US Embassy in Islamabad assessed thusly: ... his (Mujib's) goal remains unchanged “Emancipation” of Bangla Desh from West Pakistan domination. This could mean “full provincial autonomy” as under six points. It could also mean Mujib has come to believe that freedom he seeks is attainable only by outright independence.

On 1971 March 23 (Pakistan Day) the new Bangla Desh flags were flying all over Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.

On the night of the promised National Assembly, the Pakistan Army unleashed one of the most cowardly and dastardly acts in human history on the civilian population of Bangladesh. Blood calls it the “night of infamy”.

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