Was the separation of East Pakistan a negation of “Two Nation Theory?”

saddam hussain samo
Saddam Hussain Samo on was the separation of East Pakistan a negation of Two Nation Theory?

After the fall of Dhaka, Indira Gandhi boasted: “We have taken the revenge of a thousand years” and “we have drowned the two-nation theory in the Bay of Bengal.” However, the separation of East Pakistan was, in no way, the negation of “Two Nation Theory,” as claimed by Indira because it was not based on the ideology that Bengali were a separate nation and thus should be disintegrated to form a independent country. Actually, the separation was caused by four factors and none of them involved the “Two Nation Theory.” These factors included: negligence of East Pakistan by West Pakistan, unwillingness of the military to share power with East Pakistan, failure, between the leaders of two wings, to reach on an agreed constitution for the country and direct involvement of India.

Why the separation of East Pakistan was not a negation of “Two Nation Theory?”

Since the partition of East Pakistan involved other factors instead of “Two Nation Theory,” it cannot be regarded as its negation. Had West Pakistan treated its Eastern wing equally, addressed the sentiments of the people and even accepted the six points of Mujibur Rehman, it would have never been separated.

The factors, responsible for the splitting of East Pakistan are mentioned below in details that make it crystal clear that the formation of Bangladesh was not the negation of the “Two Nation Theory.”

Negligence of East Pakistan:

Although, East Pakistan contributed to around 70 per cent in Pakistan’s overall economy due to its production and export of Jute, it was ignored to a larger extent by West Pakistan in the following ways:

  • Almost all the heads of army, navy and air force were from West Pakistan.
  • The foreign aid received by the country was mostly used in West Pakistan. The Eastern wing was almost ignored.
  • Bengali constituted only 1 per cent in Pakistan’s army in 1947 and by 1960s their number went up to only 7 per cent, although their population was more than West Pakistan.1
  • Bengali constituted only 24 per cent of Pakistan’s total bureaucracy. In 1966, only 27,648 government officials out of a total 114,302 belonged to East Pakistan.2
  • In 1969-70, West Pakistan’s per capita income was 61 per cent higher than East Pakistan’s per capita income.3
  • During the war of 1965, East Pakistan was left unprotected. Similarly, the funds for 1970 cyclone in East Pakistan were diverted to West Pakistan.

Unwillingness of the military to share power with Bengali:

Pakistan’s military was not willing to share power with Bengali because it would have reduced their influence keeping in view the huge population of East Pakistan. The following events describe the reluctance of army to share power.

  • The military abrogated the constitution of 1956 because it would have brought East Pakistan’s rule in the country. General Ayub Khan occupied the rein of the country and prevented holding the general elections based on 1956 constitutions of Pakistan.
  • General Ayub khan handed over the government to General Yahya khan because the speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan at that time was from East Pakistan and he did not wish to transfer him the powers as per constitutional obligations.
  • Two groups of non-Bengali residents of East Pakistan were formed namely Al-Shams and Al-Badr to silence the “Non-Obedience Movement” of local people. These groups contributed to grave human rights abuses and further created hatred among Bengali towards the leadership of West Pakistan.
  • Instead of accepting the demands of East Pakistan, General Yahya Khan launched operation “Search Light” to suppress the “Non-Obedience Movement”, which failed owing to the direct intervention of India and resulted in the independence of East Pakistan.

Unable to reach on an agreed constitution:

The elections of 1970 were held under Legal Framework Order (LFO) for the total 313 parliamentary constituencies, of which 169 were in East Pakistan and 144 in West Pakistan. It was the first general elections held in Pakistan. The Awami League under Mujibur Rehman won 167 out of 169 seats and Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) under Zulifqar Ali Bhutto won majority of seats from West Pakistan and emerged as the second largest party in Pakistan. According to LFO, the National Assembly had to frame a new constitution for Pakistan within 120 days. Mujibur Rehman put forwarded his six demands to be included in the constitution. Both the leaders failed to reach on an agreement. As a result, Mujib launched a “Non-Obedience Movement” in East Pakistan, which turned into a separatist movement. After the failure of military operation to suppress the movement, the new country, carved out of Pakistan, appeared on the map of the world. Had the civilian leaders reached an agreement on the constitution, East Pakistan would have not disintegrated.

Intervention of India:

India directly and indirectly involved in the East Pakistan crisis to divide the country into two parts in the following ways:

  • India closed the airspace for Pakistan’s airlines to cut off the movement of soldiers in East Pakistan and isolate the military, which was busy in the operation “Search Light” inside Dhaka.
  • India concluded a treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with Soviet in Aug. 1971, which asked for mutual consultation in the event of an attack or threat of attack. It made New Delhi overconfidence and pushed it to directly involve in the East Pakistan crisis to disintegrate Pakistan.4
  • India supported Mukti Bahini translates as freedom fighters, to launch a resistance movement against Pakistan’s military. Indian forces also intervened and targeted Pakistan’s army. Mukti Bahini assisted them. Pakistan protested on 21 November that India “without a declaration of war, has launched an all out offensive.”5 the intervention of India led to the surrender of Pakistan’s military and separation of East Pakistan.

Thus, the separation of East Pakistan was because of above mentioned factors. Bengali wanted rights as per the constitution. Had they been given their equitable share in the government, they would have not launched Non-Obedience Movement. It is now clear that the independence of Bangladesh had nothing to do with the “Two Nation Theory.” They got separation because they were not provided autonomy.

List of References:

  1. Matinuddin Kamal, 1994. Tragedy of Errors: East Pakistan crisis 1968-1971: Wajidalis, p.75-76.
  2. Mazari Sherbaz Khan, 1999, The Journey to Disillusionment, Karachi: Oxford University Press, p.136.
  3. Jackson Robert, 1975, South Asian Crisis: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, New York: Praeger, p.20.
  4. Abdul Sattar, Pakistan’s Foreign Policy 1947-2016, Oxford University Press, p.131.
  5. Ibid,p.133.


  1. On what grounds bengalis were not provided autonomy and constitutional rights? Why the military discriminated them? If the matter is seen in depth, isn’t it pointing towards negation of two nation theory?


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