Tension increases as political cat-and-mouse game ensues

As the year 1971 started, the relationship took a turn for the worse.

The 1970's General Election had a profound impact on Pakistan's political scene. It cemented Awami League's position as the party of East Pakistan and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the voice of Bengalis. The east has long complained that their impoverished region has been exploited by what they call the big business of the wealthier and much more industrialised western wing. Now, through the Awami League victory, they were ready to stand up and take a share of their legitimate right.

The General Election also projected the newly founded Pakistan People's Party, and in particular, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as the symbol of patriotism. In the political games and formal negotiations that followed, each of the players was committed at the outset to reaching a constitutional consensus and a transfer of power under the rules set forth in the Legal Framework Order (LFO). For Pakistan to revert back to civilian rule and end military dominance, one of these power had to concede defeat.

East Pakistan's elected member's oath of allegiance

Before Yahya could make another move, Sheikh Mujib addressed a huge public meeting at the Ramna Race Course ground, Dhaka, on 3 January 1971. The people gave him the absolute mandate in favour of his Six-Point doctrine, now it was his turn to implement it. Sheikh Mujib conducted a solemn ceremony in which all elected MNAs (members of the National Assembly) from East Pakistan took an oath never to deviate from the 6-Dafa idea when framing the constitution for Pakistan. Though Sheikh Mujib would seek the cooperation of the western wing, he warned the people that they should not be complacent and be prepared for any sacrifice, which might be needed to achieve their rights.

The next day, Sheikh Mujib said that the Six-Point Programme would provide equal quantum of autonomy to the people of the west wing as well. He was also unanimously elected the leader of Awami League in Parliament.

On 8 January 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced at a press conference that an attempt had been made on his life. He warned that conspiracies were being hatched to frustrate the verdict of the people and that he would start a mass movement if the anti-people elements persisted in such activities.

Nitish K. Sengupta, author of "Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib" (2011)

Strong independence stance of Maulana Bhashani, students and others

On 9 January 1971, Maulana Bhashani called a conference of all those "persons [who were] in favour of independence". Newspapers reported that Maulana Bhashani, Mashiur Rahman (General Secretary of the East Pakistan National Awami Party), Ataur Rahman Khan and Commander Moazzam Hussain (a leader of the Lahore Resolution Implementation Committee) had met at Santosh in Tangail district to discuss implementation of a 5-Point Programme which essentially vowed to accept no less than Bangladesh.

The 5-Point programme envisaged:

  1. The establishment of a sovereign East Pakistan on the basis of the 1940 Lahore Resolution.
  2. Boycotting of imported goods including those from the western wing.
  3. A gradual socialisation of the means of production.
  4. Adherence to the principles of anti-imperialism and anti-Fascism.
  5. Launching of a mass movement for pressing a referendum on these issues.

Sheikh Mujib started feeling the political pressure mounted on him by the Maulana on the one hand, and the student community, including those loyal to his own party, on the other.

Two years earlier, on 1 December 1968, Siraj Sikder, the leader of the East Bengal Workers Movement, had announced his thesis for the country's independence through an armed guerrilla warfare. Several months later, in April 1969, the coordination committee of the communist revolutionaries of East Bengal had also announced its programme of national independence through armed struggle. And finally in the year of the general election, the Bangladesh Students Union (Menon group), the most influential student body of the time, announced the political programme for establishing an 'Independent People’s Democratic East Bengal' from a public rally at the historic Paltan Maidan on 22 February 1970. People cheered and roared as former leaders of the group, Kazi Zafar Ahmed and Rashed Khan Menon publicly argued for independence through an armed struggle by peasants, workers and people.

Clearly they were going beyond Mujib, who was till then trying desperately to retain the facade of one Pakistan based on two independent units.

Nitish K. Sengupta, author of "Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib" (2011)

The first major talks over Pakistan's political future took place between General Yahya and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman three days after the pro-independence conference in Santosh.

President Yahya meets Sheikh Mujib, "the future Prime Minister of Pakistan"

On 12 January 1971 General Yahya arrived in Dhaka to hold in-depth talks with Sheikh Mujib with the aim of breaking the political impasse. The General wanted to gauge Awami League's commitment to its program and was assured that they were fully aware of its implications.

But contrary to expectation, General Yahya did not fully spell out his own ideas about the constitution. He gave the impression of not finding anything seriously objectionable in Six Points but emphasized the need for coming to an understanding with the PPP in Western Pakistan.

Muktadhara website

The meeting lasted over three hours. Sheikh Mujib categorically told General Yahya that unless the National Assembly was convened immediately the electorate of East Pakistan would develop serious doubts about the willingness of the central government to honour the results of the election. However, this strong stance by Sheikh Mujib was viewed by some Pakistanis in the western quarter as an attempt to eventually break away from Pakistan.

A strong showing at the polls had turned Mujib's head and he was no longer in a mood for compromise. Yahya invited Mujib and Bhutto to the capital, but Mujib turned down the invitation. Yahya swallowed this and instead traveled to Dhaka himself to meet him on 12 January 1971. The postballot Mujib was a different man. He went back on every point of understanding he had reached with the President during their months of talks, on the basis of which Yahya had sought to accommodate him. The intransigence [stubbornness] of Mujib was an invitation to Bhutto to harden his position as well, which was in consonance with the views of the majority in the army junta. Though Mujib had a standing offer to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan, his terms of acceptance had steadily grown unreasonable, to the extent of being unacceptable. It was becoming clear that he was only for secession.

Hassan Abbas, author of "Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, The Army, And America's War On Terror" (2005)

When General Yahya returned to Karachi he described the talks as satisfactory. He referred to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the future prime minister of Pakistan and expressed the hope that the conditions in the country would improve after the new government was installed (i.e. he was not there). Five days later he traveled to Larkana, Sindh, to meet Bhutto.

Relationship between General Yahya, Bhutto and military top brass grows closer

Larkana Conspiracy - mysterious meeting between President Yahya and Bhutto at Bhutto's hometown

On 17 January 1971 President Yahya visited Bhutto at his baronial family estate, Al-Murtaza, in Larkana, Sindh, accompanied by Lt. General S. G. M. Pirzada, Principal Staff Officer to President Yahya, and General Abdul Hamid Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army and Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator. Ghulam Mustafa Khar and Mumtaz Bhutto, the PPP leaders from the Punjab and Sind respectively, were also present in the talks.

Till date, a full account of what took place during this trip remains a secret. It is claimed that General Yahya and the other generals went to Bhutto's home on a duck-shooting trip at nearby Drigh Lake. However, the gathering of such high profile personalities aroused suspicion in the Awami League circles, especially since General Hamid had not participated in the Yahya-Mujib talks few days earlier. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman saw this visit as a conspiracy against him and hardened his position.

Yahya's willingness to travel to Bhutto's estate raised further doubts in the minds of the Bengali leadership about the president's impartiality. Not surprisingly, when Bhutto and a delegation from the PPP visited Dhaka on 27 January 1971, Mujib proved to be utterly unmovable on the matter of the Six-Point Programme.

Šumit Ganguly, author of "Conflict unending: India-Pakistan tensions since 1947" (2001)

It is alleged that during the meeting President Yahya told Bhutto that both Pakistan People's Party and Awami League should come to an understanding and, if it became necessary, a meeting between himself, Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib could be held. Bhutto for his part notified President Yahya about the misgivings that the Pakistani army had about Sheikh Mujib and the Awami League. More to the point, he emphasised that the degree of autonomy that Mujib was seeking for the East would amount to virtual secession.

At this [Larkana] meeting, Bhutto called Mujib a "clever bastard" who could not "really be trusted" and wanted to "bulldoze" his constitution through the National Assembly. He also played on the army's beliefs about the fundamental nature of East Pakistan, when he questioned whether Mujib was a "true Pakistani". All this was reflected in Yahya's later comments about Mujib and needing to "sort this bastard out" and "test his loyalty".

Richard Sisson & Leo Rose, authors of "War and Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh" (1990)

Various options for the situation was also discussed, such as the formation of a coalition government with smaller parties. Some have even suggested that the potential 'military solution' if Sheikh Mujib did not change his attitude was also framed here.

Bhutto entertained his guests lavishly. There at Bhutto’s lush palace, through the 'Larkana Conspiracy', the blueprint of Operation Search Light was taking shape. While the homework was being done by Bhutto and the top generals, the president mostly remained busy with what he liked the most—the two 'W's [i.e. women & whisky]. Then on, the president was said to be reduced to a signatory or front man only, the real authority rested on the military junta headed by General Hamid and General S. G. M. Peerzada, chief of the general staff to the president and a close friend of Bhutto.

Major Dalim website

Bhutto, the runner-up in this contest, was an Oxford-educated lawyer from an aristocratic family. He was at the forefront of pro-democracy protests in West Pakistan against President Yahya. He would not let his dreams of becoming the Prime Minister slip away quite so easily.

That Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was no great respecter of democracy is evident from his attitude towards the Awami League, which had secured majority in the 1970 elections.

Ravi Shekhar Narain Singh, author of "The Military Factor in Pakistan" (2008)

Bhutto: "I have the key of the Punjab Assembly in one pocket and that of Sindh in the other"

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto believed that his victory in Sindh and in particular in the powerful Punjab - the two most populous provinces in West Pakistan - made him the chief spokesman of West Pakistan, and without the support of these provinces no credible government could be formed in Pakistan. He was not going to be denied his 'right' to play a, if not the, central role in the changes that lay ahead - not by the Awami League, and not by the military.

Punjab and Sindh are bastions of power in Pakistan. Majority alone does not count in national politics. No government at the centre could be run without the co-operation of the PPP...I have the key of the Punjab Assembly in one pocket and that of Sindh in the other...The rightist presss is saying I should sit in the opposition benches. I am not Clement Attlee [a former Prime Minister of UK and longest-ever serving Leader of the Labour Party].

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on his powerful backing

This veiled threat further jeopardised the chances of reconciliation between the two key parties post the general election.

The other parties of West Pakistan were more willing to work with Awami League. Jamaat-i-Islami had already called on General Yahya to hand over power to the Awami League and the Muslim League and National Awami Party (NAP), which questioned Bhutto's right to speak for all of West Pakistan, would in time show willingness to work with the Awami League.

PPP won most of its seats in rural Sindh - but not in the provincial capital Karachi where Muhajirs denied Bhutto victory - and in Punjab, only two of Pakistan's four provinces. Thus, Bhutto could not lay claim to represent all of West Pakistan, at least not in the manner that the Awami League could in East Pakistan.

Possible reasons why West Pakistani power elite were not enthusiastic about handing over power to the Awami League and East Pakistan:

  • Pakistani power elite viewed the Six-Point Programme as secessionist. Sheikh Mujib was viewed as challenging the institutional frameworks of the state in order to address ethnic grievances, whereas Bhutto was viewed as working within the frameworks, similar to Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.
  • The military was wary of the Awami League's ultimate objectives, and the strategic and military implications of the Six-Point plan. Bengali nationalism had become both more strident and vociferous soon after the Indo-Pak war of 1965, leading the military to suspect 'the Indian hand'.
  • The military was also concerned with the Six-Point plan's impact on its budget. The Awami League was not likely to support spending upwards of 60% of public expenditures on an institution which included no more than a token number of Bengalis, and, for all intents and purposes, was not defending East Pakistan.
  • The powerful West Pakistani commercial concerns that controlled industrial production and jute exports in East Pakistan feared loss of their property and influence if the Six-Point plan were to be implemented. West Pakistan's industrial producers, who sold half of their products in the captive East Pakistan market, were also unlikely to support either reshaping or resizing. To the contrary, they were likely to push for maintaining the status quo.
  • Bhutto's success in Punjab province showed the military that he was more than a Sindhi nationalist and had incentives to work through the political centre.
  • Bhutto's based in Punjab, from where the military recruited most of its soldiers, made the PPP and the military tacit allies. Bhutto avoided criticising the military in public pronouncements, and went out of his way to point out to the generals that they needed him and the PPP to protect Pakistan.
  • Class interests too, tied Bhutto to the centre. Sindhi landlords had always relied on central authority - British as well as Pakistani - to keep feudalism in place. By contrast, Awami League was largely middle class and peasant based, and Sheikh Mujib was not a member of the oligarchy. Class interests did not tie the spokesmen of Bengali nationalism to the oligarchy in West Pakistan, nor was there a need for state power to enforce feudal rights.
  • Military believed Bhutto could govern (West) Pakistan, but Sheikh Mujib could not. Bhutto posed as champion of West Pakistani rights and shown he could rise above Sindhi nationalism, especially after a strong performance in Punjab in the general election. In contrast, Sheikh Mujib would have lost his hold over East Pakistani nationalists had he chosen such a course of action.
  • Bhutto argued Awami League had no representation in West Pakistan it was not a national party and required PPP, or another West Pakistani party, to rule 'effectively' and 'speak for Pakistan as a whole'.
  • The smaller parties of West Pakistan were too divided and weak to serve as the basis for a viable government.
  • Bhutto's province of Sindh provides West Pakistan with its only access to the sea, and as such is of critical economic and strategic value to Punjab. East Pakistan had no such direct value for West Pakistan. Thus, Bhutto had greater bargaining position than Sheikh Mujib.
  • Karachi, Sindh's provincial capital, had been the premier commercial and industrial centre of Pakistan. East Pakistan's urban and commercial centres did not have the same status.

Bhutto manipulated these apprehensions to alter the balance of power to his own advantage, conducting a war of manoeuvre over borders that would help him win an incumbent struggle within the existing Pakistan regime. He successfully depicted his own position to be in concert with the interests of the West Pakistani establishment. He emphasised that the Awami League's demand for reshaping Pakistan was tantamount to resizing it, which allowed him to assume the patriotic high ground. In essence, he adroitly tied his own political fortunes to perceptions of the Awami League's secessionist aims. In this, Bhutto followed in the footsteps of Randolph Churchill, the Marquess of Salisbury, and Joseph Chamberlain in Britain in the 1880s, and Charles de Gaulle in France before 1958, all of whom used the spectre of contraction to advance their political careers just as they opposed it publicly.

...Bhutto may have guessed that, face with a zero-sum choice, the military would choose Sindh, but he left nothing to chance. He downplayed Sindhi nationalism at the height of the crisis, and focused the limelight on East Pakistan. He was so successful in this, that, for instance, West Pakistani commercial interests looked to Bhutto to protect their property from the Six-Point plan, although Bhutto planned to deal with their interests in Sindh and Punjab in like manner. Bhutto crafted his position to reflect the views and goals of those who rejected negotiations with East Pakistan, and accepted Mujib as Prime Minister as a prelude to meaningful talks. His posturing as defender of West Pakistan was overt, while his role as champion of Sindh was implicit. The military, therefore saw in Bhutto the opportunity to institutionalise a workable arrangement with Sindh, which could be left to Bhutto to control, and to suppress East Pakistan, all in the same breath.

...At the height of the crisis, Bhutto would secretly offer Mujib that if he became the Prime Minister of East Pakistan, and Bhutto that of West Pakistan, that they would leave each other alone, a de facto contraction of the state from its eastern wing. Championing Pakistani nationalism while in practice manipulating the cleavages that prevented it from integrating all Pakistanis, would thenceforth become a hallmark of West Pakistani politics, and a primary cause of the state's continual struggle to consolidate.

Brendan O'Leary, Ian S. Lustick & Thomas Callaghy, editors of "Right-sizing the State: The Politics of Moving Borders" (2001)

This sense of concealed distrust cast a dark shadow over the impending talks between Sheikh Mujib and Bhutto.

Bhutto arrives in Dhaka to negotiate a settlement

On 27 January 1971 Bhutto visited Dhaka, his first since the General Election defeat, to work out a compromise with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The meeting between the two leaders was arranged by Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a 33-year-old close ally of Bhutto (whom Bhutto considered to be his 'son') and one of PPP's founding member who was also present during the Yahya-Bhutto meeting in Larkana.

  • Ghulam Mustafa Khar ()

Bhutto arrived with a large entourage of 15 political leaders for a series of meetings lasting three days.

During the meeting it was decided that if the currency was not separated efforts would be made to prevent flight of wealth from East Pakistan,every federating unit would get a fair share from export earnings, defence, foreign affairs and taxation departments would stay with centre and Yahya Khan would continue to act as president.

The talks mostly centred on Sheikh Mujib’s six-point plan and division of powers between the two wings, and finding an agreed format of the federal government. Bhutto wanted more talks to conclude outstanding issues, namely taxation, external trade and foreign aid. During the talks Sheikh Mujib termed the issue of keeping foreign trade and aid centred in West Pakistan as a "continuation of the East Pakistan’s exploitation" .

But the talks ultimately failed because for Sheikh Mujib and his party the Six-Point programme was not negotiable, whereas for Bhutto it was not acceptable in total.

Mr. Bhutto did not bring any concrete proposals of his own about the nature of the constitution. He and is advisors were mainly interested in discussing the implications of Six Points. Since their responses were essentially negative and they had no prepared brief of their own it was not possible for the talks to develop into serious negotiations where attempts could be made to bridge the gap between the two parties. It was evident that as yet Mr. Bhutto had no formal position of his own from which to negotiate.

Muktadhara website

After the talks, Bhutto said at a press conference that the talks had neither failed, nor had reached a deadlock. He said he had agreed to two points of the Awami League pertaining to the question of federation and the right of the provinces to maintain paramilitary forces and that, for the remaining points, he would have to consult his colleagues.

Bhutto provided a political cover for the military's rejection of the Six-Point plan - it became Bhutto's rejection rather than the military's, and this provided a legitimate pretext for dealing with East Pakistan. Bhutto played a central role in the successful war of manoeuvre that was unfolding. That success, however, was but a battle in a larger war of position that had already begun, and that Bhutto would eventually lose.

Brendan O'Leary, Ian S. Lustick & Thomas Callaghy, editors of "Right-sizing the State: The Politics of Moving Borders" (2001)

At this crucial moment, an unexpected incident took place, indirectly influencing the course of events and which was to later have substantial effect once war commenced.

Bhutto meets Pakistani hijackers of Indian plane

On 30 January 1971, an Indian Airline plane was hijacked by some pro-Pakistan Kashmiri militants to Lahore. Bhutto had exhibited his immaturity and anti-Indian stance which made him popular before the election by flying to Lahore from Dhaka to applaud the hijackers.

While the whole world condemned the hijacking, Bhutto said Pakistan was not responsible for the act since the hijackers were Kashmiris. This incident hardened India's attitude.

Nitish K. Sengupta, author of "Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib" (2011)

The plane was blown up after two days.

In retaliation, India banned overflights by Pakistan planes over Indian airspace. This created great difficulty in communication between the eastern and western wings of Pakistan, as overnight air traffic between Dhaka and Rawalpindi had to be conducted by the long route via Colombo, Sri Lanka. On 3 February 1971, Sheikh Mujib condemned the blowing up of the Indian plane and called for a thorough probe. His reaction to the hijacking - which Pakistan later claimed was fake and inspired by Indian intelligent - was interpreted by the military junta as further confirmation of their belief that 'Sheikh Mujib was not entirely his own master and was following a course that had been charted out for him by New Delhi'.

Bhutto threatens to "break legs" of members as President Yahya announces National Assembly to sit in Dhaka on 3 March 1971

On 13 February 1971, General Yahya fixed 3 March 1971 for the National Assembly session to be held in Dhaka. Three days later, on 16 February 1971, Bhutto, at a press conference, expressed his party's decision to boycott the National Assembly unless it was given an understanding that there was scope for adjustment and compromise on the Six-Point Programme.

Bhutto refused to accept Sheikh Mujib's Six Points, quoting them to be 'unworkable for the whole of Pakistan'.

We cannot go there only to endorse a constitution already prepared by a party, and return humiliated... We have a duty to those millions who elected us.

Bhutto responding to President Yahya Khan that the New Assembly will meet in Dhaka on 3 March 1971

Bhutto's game plan was not to allow the National Assembly to convene, and hence prevent the formal honouring ceremony of an Awami League government.

It must be made clear that when the PPP left Dhaka there was no indication from their part that a deadlock had been reached with the Awami League. Rather they confirmed that all doors were open and that following a round of talks with the West Pakistani leaders the PPP would either have a second and more substantive round of talks with the Awami League or would meet in the National Assembly whose committees provided ample opportunity for detailed discussion on the constitution.

Mr. Bhutto's announcement to boycott the National Assembly, therefore, came as a complete surprise. The boycott decision was surprising because Mr. Bhutto had already been accommodated once by the President when he refused Sheikh Mujib's plea for an early session of the Assembly on the 15th of February and fixed it, in line with Mr. Bhutto's preference, for 3rd March.

Following his decision to boycott the Assembly, Mr. Bhutto Launched a campaign of intimidation against all other parties in West Pakistan to prevent them from attending the session. In this task there is evidence that Lt. General Umer, Chairman of the National Security Council and close associate of, with a view to strengthening Mr. Bhutto's hand, personally pressured various West Wing leaders not to attend the Assembly. In spite of this display of pressure tactics by Mr. Bhutto and Lt. General Umer, all members of the National Assembly from West Pakistan, except the PPP and the Muslim League (Qayyum), had booked their seats to East Pakistan, for the session on 3rd March.

Within the Muslim League (Qayyum) itself, half their members had booked their seats and there were signs of revolt within the PPP where many members were wanting to come to Dhaka.

Muktadhara website

At one point, he even openly threatened to break the legs of any member of his own party who dared to attend the inaugural session of the National Assembly of Pakistan.

I will break their legs...

Bhutto responding to being asked what he would do to those MP's who attended the first session of the assembly. He later retracted his words by saying he meant this in the political sense

Two Prime Ministers for one country: "Udhar tum - idhar hum"

Capitalizing on West Pakistan fears of East Pakistan separatism, Bhutto demanded that Sheikh Mujib form a coalition with his party. Instead of handing Sheikh Mujib the premiership as was his right, Bhutto proposed the idea of having two Prime Ministers, one for each wing.

If power is to be transferred to the people before a constitutional settlement, then it is only fair that in East Pakistan, it should go to the Awami League and in the West to the Pakistan People’s Party, because while the former is the majority party in that wing, we have been returned by the people of this side.

Bhutto recommends two Prime Ministers for Pakistan

Bhutto infamously remarked 'udhar tum - idhar hum' (you there, we here). However, this statement is wrongly attributed to him. These words were in fact the headline created for the Lahore Urdu daily newspaper Azad on 15 March 1971 by editor Abbas Athar who ran Bhutto's speech at a Nishtar Park, Karachi, meeting under this misleading headline.

Abbas Athar later explained that the headline encapsulated many meaning. For example, it was used to refer to the election victory ('you won there, I won here'), denote the distribution of power ('you are powerful there, I'm powerful here'), and other such observation.

Bhutto's proposal provoked outrage in the east wing, already suffocating under the other constitutional innovation, the "one unit scheme". Awami League viewed itself as a national party and insisted that it had no reason to bargain with PPP when it had a clear parliamentary majority. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman responded the next day by stating that the people of 'Bangla Desh' could no longer be suppressed.

The demand of Bhutto saheb [sir] is totally illogical. Power is to be handed over to the majority party, the Awami League. The power now lies with the people of East Bengal.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the new 'masters' of Pakistan

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman also started referring to the region as 'Bangla Desh' vis-a-vis 'Pakistan' in his public statements.

For the Pakistani generals the choice was between East Pakistan and Sindh. To allow Sheikh Mujib to rise to the helm - that is, pacify East Pakistan - must mean to deny Bhutto power - that is, inflame Sindh - and vice versa. And it was not possible to pacify both as East Pakistan's numerical strength would have placed Sheikh Mujib at the helm. Sindh would not make common cause with East Pakistan, and the political centre would not be allowed to accommodate both.

Bhutto resigned from Ayub Khan's government in 1966 over the Tashkent agreement. Having depicted the agreement as a sell-out he had assumed the posture of a champion of Pakistani nationalism. He used this to pressure the military, which had signed the agreement, not to sign another 'sell-out', with the Awami League now replacing the Indians.

The military would not be able to contend with two serious separatist movements at once, least of all because it would not have been able to protect both provinces from Indian intervention. The state would likely have responded more effectively to a Sindhi demand for secession had it ever been put forward. Indeed, had Sindh demanded separatism, it is conceivable that the political centre would have quickly contracted out of East Pakistan to crack down on Sindh. Bhutto understood this. To him, making common cause with East Pakistan would only help East Pakistani separatism. Helping the centre crack down on East Pakistan would help him and Sindh.

Brendan O'Leary, Ian S. Lustick & Thomas Callaghy, editros of "Right-sizing the State: The Politics of Moving Borders" (2001)

Both Awami League and Pakistan People's Party threatened to make governance difficult for General Yahya, if not impossible, were its claim to power not honoured.

At the moment, I shall not touch on the current constitutional crisis because I plan to make a detailed speech on this subject tomorrow. I would, however, not like you to raise slogans of Six Points Zindabad or Six Points Murdabad. I have often said in my speeches, ever since the Six Points were presented at the Lahore national conference of opposition parties in 1965 that these Points should be debated, but even at the National Confer­ence itself leaders from West Pakistan did not debate them. They rejected any political dialogue on the Six Points. On my part I had even advised Ayub Khan's Government to consider all points; twenty-two, eleven or six, and to hold political talks'. I had told them that any delay in considering these questions will further complicate the problem...The Six Points are the result of the exploitation of the people of East Pakistan. It would have been better if these Points had been debated when they were first raised.

In politics, time and circumstances must always be kept in view. Politics should be viewed in the context of external influences rather than internal considerations...The country is passing through a critical and dangerous crisis. There are people here who hold a monopoly on politics. It is they who have been opposing the Six Points.

When I went to East Pakistan, I told Sheikh Mujib that it was his Awami League that had been elected on Six Points, not the People's Party. I told him that we had been elected on the basis of our stand on revolution­ary changes in the economic system and on evolving an independent foreign policy, that we would try our utmost to co-operate with him and come as close to the Awami League as possible. However, there was a limit. If we went too far it would lead the country to disaster. It was no time for slogans. The need of the hour was to find a solution which should satisfy both our Bengali brothers and the people of West Pakistan. If all of us join hands there is no reason why we should not be able to find this solution.

Pakistan was not created for us to remain perpetually involved in a constitutional crisis. It is a pity that we have not been able to frame a consti­tution in 23 years. We cannot claim to have resolved our basic problems during this period. We have neither framed a constitution nor ended exploita­tion. Those who want to end exploitation are dubbed as infidels.

Since the Awami League calls the Six Points the basis of the constitution, no room is left for any compromise whatsoever on that stand. On top of it, a time limit of 120 days has been fixed for constitution-making. It would not be helpful if a deadlock was created in the Assembly on account of these two factors. Is it not better not to hold the National Assembly session until these problems are resolved outside the Assembly?

Sheikh Mujib quotes me as saying that if need be I would again go to Dhaka for talks. Well, I am prepared for two, three or even ten rounds of talks. I am prepared to go to Dhaka, to Chittagong. Or anywhere Sheikh Sahib wants me to go. There is still time for a rapprochement [reconciliation]. Had there been a clean slate, a clean paper, an unwritten document before us, we would certainly have participated in the Assembly. But now, as things stand today, if we attend the Assembly and there is a deadlock, what explanation will we have for the people of West Pakistan? You yourselves will criticize us for attending the Assembly in the absence of an understanding on Six Points. If the majority party frames a constitution, to the exclusion of our views, you will accuse us of betrayal.

The People's Party is on record as having recognized the fact that the people of East Pakistan have been exploited. It is enshrined in our manifesto. The poor are incapable of exploiting others. Both East and West Pakistan have been the victims of exploitation. If we have the same destiny, then why this rigidity in our stands? The interests of East Pakistan are ours also, be­cause East Pakistan is the majority province of our country. A great majority of Pakistanis live there. If they say "Joi Bangla" we also say "Joi Bangla," for that is a part of Pakistan. We have great respect for the people of East Pakistan just as we have for the people of the Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan' and Sind. Their interests are our interests. But it is painful that slogans based on provincial prejudices are raised. Why do they not raise slogans for the whole of Pakistan?

We want a constitution, not a deadlock. We would have participated in the framing of the constitution had it not been already written on the basis of Six Points and had there been no limit of 120 days. It would have been another matter if this one were the first Constituent Assembly. But the mutual mistrust of the past 23 years coupled with the atmosphere in which the year­long electioneering was conducted has generated extremism. It has led to the Playing up of the Six Points. We won the elections on the basis of a new eco­nomic system and an independent foreign policy. They had the Six Points as their prime problem while economic deterioration and independent foreign Policy were the issues we raised. If we are to serve our country, our nation and our religion, we will have to strike off the shackles of exploitation. The success of the People's Party here and the Awami League there has been made possible by the people. Had we opposed the Six Points at the time of elec­tions, there would have been a confrontation and the country would have gone to pieces.

In both parts of the country only the people have emerged victorious. That is why we avoided a confrontation. In fact, we kept retreating. It is necessary for one of the two sides to do so in order to avoid a confrontation. We did not play up our differences. We went to East Pakistan to explain our stand. I met all political leaders in Lahore, Peshawar and Utmanzai.

I held conferences with my colleagues in Lahore, Multan and Karachi. We retreated so much that people began to ask what had happened to Bhutto. But it is regrettable that Sheikh Mujib remained rigid. Those politicians who had lost even their securities in the elections made a beeline for Dhaka. The Sheikh then thought that he had succeeded in his mission. The President of Pakistan went to Dhakaa and announced that Mujib would be the Prime Minis­ter of the country. Both said they had had satisfactory talks, so it was presumed that the constitution had virtually been framed. But we have a duty to those millions who elected us. Their views on the constitution have to be heard and taken into account before it is finalised. We shall try our best to live up to the expectations of the people.

Bhutto speaking on the deadlock on the Constitution at the Punjab University New Campus, Lahore, on 22 February 1971