On this day in history in 1970, the Pakistan army surrenders in Bangladesh. This mass surrender ended a bloody war and it saw the birth of the nation of Bangladesh. In 1947 after the partition of India, the sub-continent was divided between India and West and East Pakistan.
In 1947 after the partition of India, the sub-continent was divided between India and West and East Pakistan. East and West Pakistan were separated by 1000 miles and they had very different cultures even though both were Muslim societies. West Pakistan was the dominant region and in particular, it dominated the army. Many in East Pakistan began to resent this and they at first demanded more autonomy from the 1960s.
The West Pakistan government which was dominated by the military refused to make any concessions. East Pakistan was rocked by unrest as some sought more autonomy and others opposed it. In March 1971, the independence of East Pakistan was proclaimed and it was renamed Bangladesh. The Pakistan army was sent into the region to end the push for independence. Soon there was a full-scale revolt in Bangladesh.
The fighting was brutal and the Pakistan army carried out many atrocities. There was also fighting between those who wanted independence and those who wanted to stay part of Pakistan. The Bangladeshi independence movement was supported by the Bengali majority. The Pakistani army launched a brutal campaign against this group. It is estimated that they killed some 200-300,000 men, women and children. Countless women were raped. The campaign by the army against the Bengali population has often been seen as genocide.
Within weeks of the Pakistan army arriving in East Pakistan or Bangladesh, there were food shortages and soon there was a famine in many areas.
Soon there was a humanitarian disaster and an estimated ten million Bangladeshis fled into India seeking food and protection. India had backed the Bangladeshi independence movement secretly and wanted to see an independent Bangladesh in order to weaken their old enemy Pakistan. As more refugees poured into India with tales of atrocities, the Indian premier Indira Gandhi was forced to act. She ordered an invasion of Bangladesh and soon they had overwhelmed the Pakistan army. There was also some fighting on the Indian border with West Pakistan.
The Indian army was massive and soon had forced the Pakistan army to surrender, in total it is estimated that almost 100,000 Pakistani soldiers were captured. In the aftermath of the Pakistani surrender, there were reports of atrocities committed by Bangladeshi fighters against those deemed to be collaborators and members of ethnic minorities. The nation of Bangladesh was declared soon after. In 1974, the Pakistani government in Islamabad recognized the independence of the country.