East Pakistan: The Myth of Inequality And Economic Disparity
By Ali Hassnain
Our generation, Millennials of Pakistan have been taught a history of East Pakistan which is beyond the point of fabrication. It is historical revisionism.
Let’s start with World Bank Figures of GDP and changes in it since 1947 to analyse the myth of Economic disparity and exploitation of East Pakistan/Bangladesh (pre and post 1971) and Pakistan.
Figures speak for themselves and not much commentary is required. For the sake of argument I am quoting till 2013:
GDP of West Pakistan in 1965 — 5.8 Billion US$
GDP of East Pakistan in 1965 — 5.99 Billion US$
GDP of Pakistan In 1970
East Pakistan — 8.9$
West Pakistan —10.02 Billion$
2013: Pakistan’s GDP stood at 236.62 Billion$
2013: Bangladesh’s GDP stood at 129.85 Billion $
GDP Growth rates in Pakistan and Bangladesh were 6.07% and 6.03% respectively for year 2013.
In 2020 certainly the gap in overall GDP has narrowed but the argument here is of the supposed economic disparity and inequality.
There are many factors to take into account but for the sake of simplicity I am using GDP growth and World Bank Figures till 2013. Did the Bengali economy benefit from separation or suffer?
It’s difficult to be objective after a lost war but the fact is what Yahya inherited was American embargo on arms that was hurting us badly. We needed spare parts for the military equipment we had and in 1960s we didn’t have many options. Add General Yahya to the disaster in the making and you get separation of East Pakistan.
After 1965 and 1967 we had hurriedly inducted Chinese and French hardware in our arsenal. He had Soviet Union on his border which was looking to expand. He was not capable of handling the situation as it turned out but Soviet Union could not obliterate Pakistan nor India could “sink” the two nation theory in Indian Ocean. That being said, it happened despite Yahya’s leadership not because of it.
Anti Muslim League forces in East Pakistan were heavily “infiltrated’ by communists and sponsored by Soviets. In 1950s Soviets were Giants; they were really a big deal. Bengal had communist influence even before 1947 and West Bengal has actually been ruled by Communists for decades.
It’s a recently declassified CIA report from the 1950s, totally worth a read:
Elections were held on 7 December 1970 (25 thousand regular troops (light infantry) were available at the time for the whole country) and Mukti Bahini declared independence on 7th March 1971, practically taking over the country except for Dhaka Cantt, airport and a hand full of other strategic locations.
We all know ISI and Pakistan Army, we know them well, they fight with vigour, be it 48, 65, Siachen, Kargil war, War on Terror, their conduct is exemplary. It is not possible to launch a complete armed rebellion in 3 months against such a military. It took one blunder after another for it to succeed. In my humble opinion East Pakistan was already lost in 1966 when President Ayub was unable to execute the people involved in Agartala Conspiracy case (for whatever reason).
The fact is that Mukti Bahini was heavily armed before elections. There can be no free and fair elections when a political party is heavily armed and others are not. 1970 Elections were not free and fair in East Pakistan, maybe, just maybe we can assume the actual polling (people who managed to enter) had a fair chance but that has never been challenged in any reasonable forum. The common sense dictates that they were not free and fair by a long shot.
Inaction persisted in high command and the infamous political tension and stalemate. In the meantime, from early March, Mukti Bahini carried out massive massacres of Non-Bengalis and Pro-Pakistan Bengalis. East Pakistan Rifles Bengal regiment section defected.
On the night of 25th some events occurred which are not properly recorded in history, Gen. Sahibzada Yaqub Ali probably recommended East Pakistan cannot be defended and recommended a surrender of some kind. Gen Yahya replaced Eastern Garrison with Gen Tikka and somewhere around that time further 20,000 regular army troops were mobilized to East Pakistan by Air.
Before that Pakistan Army had no permission to engage rebels, stay in barracks and watch Pakistan burn. In all probability the infamous Gen Yahya was playing both sides.
45 thousand troops (many of them non-combatants), light infantry scattered over East Pakistan with little to no air support or heavy artillery or armoured core. It took 7 months to suppress the rebellion but that left the already ill equipped light infantry with fewer options and depleted ammunition. It was scattered all over East Pakistan. Most of the combatants which probably were around 35000 in all were deployed around Dhaka for a last stand. Why it didn’t happen is probably another sad chapter with lots of theories, opinions and possible explanations.