Courtesy Reuters

Pakistan Divided

History geopolitical forces, power balances and election results all helped shape the crisis in East Pakistan; but only in terms of "the pathology of the subcontinent," as one diplomat described it, can this bloody upheaval be adequately explained. From the night of March 25, when the Pakistani army launched its surprise offensive in East Pakistan in an attempt to crush the Bengali autonomy movement, normal standards of logic and reason stopped applying. The mindless brutality of the West Pakistani troops demonstrates the military régime's irrational determination to hold on to East Pakistan at whatever cost and by whatever tactics are necessary. In turn, this brutality has fired and fed an increasingly effective and popularly supported guerrilla counteroffensive that keeps East Pakistan in chaos. Every army reprisal against the civilian population produces new Bengali freedom-fighters. The Bengalis-now sullen, bitter, hating-seem ready for a long fight for full independence. Talk of anything less, such as the old goal of East Pakistani autonomy within Pakistan, is considered heresy.

Most Western diplomats regard Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the jailed leader of East Pakistan, as the key to any real settlement. But Pakistan's President, Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan, has announced that Sheikh Mujib, who headed the now-banned Awami League and who was arrested on the first night of the army attack, will be tried for treason in camera and will face the death penalty. As this is written, no decision has been announced.

By now, more than seven million of East Pakistan's 71 million people have fled across the border to India to escape the army terror, and many more will flee if the chaos produces famine in the late fall. The refugees are not only a crushing economic burden on India, but they present a grim political specter as well-thrusting millions of jobless and homeless people into India's already unstable and disorderly eastern region, which the national government in Delhi lost effective control over some years ago. And since most of the refugees have been from East

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.