Ever since the creation of the state of Pakistan in 1947, consisting of two parts separated by a thousand miles of indian territory, the unity of East and West Pakistan has been threatened by a series of crises.
Ever since the creation of the state of Pakistan in 1947, consisting of two parts separated by a thousand miles of indian territory, the unity of East and West Pakistan has been threatened by a series of crises. Now, following the country's first ever one-man-one vote General Election, a constitutional crisis threatens to split the country for good.
Although the Bengalis of East Pakistan outnumber the predominantly Punjabi population of the West by nearly five million, they have always been poorer. Consequently, the West has been dominant. However, last December's democratic election resulted in a majority for the East Pakistan Awami League, who seek full financial and administrative autonomy. As the Awami League won a majority in a freely conducted election over the whole of Pakistan, the Awami League leaders expected to exercise leadership over the whole country.
This was strongly opposed by the leaders of West Pakistan. Mr Zilfikar Ali Bhutto, Chairman of the People's party, won a majority in the West and saw no reason why a minority government in that region should rule it. In addition the President of Pakistan, Yahya Khan, had misgivings about an Awami League majority. He has always had two main aims in domestic politics. To bring democracy to his people - and to preserve the unity of the state. Now, he saw, democracy had given power to a party whose political aim was autonomy for the East. The result of the dilemma - postponement of the meeting of the National Assembly, due to meet on the third of March.
This increased the clamour for secession, for the government troops based in Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, clashed repeatedly with the Bengalis, ending in up to 300 deaths. Peace was only restor by a volunteer Awami League "peace force", thus giving support to the Bengali claim to be in effective control of their own region. Now, there is a frenzy of diplomatic activity involving the President, Yahya Khan, and the country's leaders, aimed at reaching a compromise.
This production shows the background to this latest flare-up between the two wings of Pakistan. It was precipitated by the claim of the Bengalis that the West had delayed relief to the island area devastated by the tidal wave and floods of last November. And the decision of President Yahya Khan to go ahead with the election.