Proclamation of Bangladeshi Independence

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The first Bangladeshi flag used during the Liberation War

The independence of Bangladesh was declared on 26 March 1971 at the onset of the Bangladesh Liberation War, when the Pakistan Army launched a genocide against the people of East Pakistan. The declaration was made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; and widely circulated in the international press in late March 1971. On 17 April, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh issued a proclamation on the basis of the previous declaration and established an interim constitution for the independence movement.

First declarations[edit]

On 25 March 1971, negotiations between Pakistani President Yahya Khan and Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman broke down after Khan refused to accept Rahman’s plan for a new federal constitution in Pakistan. Rahman’s party won an absolute majority in the National Assembly during Pakistan’s first free election in 1970. However, the newly elected parliament was barred from taking power due to objections from the Pakistani military and the West Pakistan establishment. The Awami League’s 6 points proposal for a Pakistani federation was strongly opposed by bureaucrats and senior politicians like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in West Pakistan. The League initiated a civil disobedience campaign in East Pakistan to press for convening the parliament, amid rising Bengali aspirations for self-determination and independence. On 7 March 1971, Rahman addressed a huge pro-independence rally in Dhaka. Yahya Khan and Bhutto were in the city throughout March for negotiations. The political process was abruptly ended by President Khan, who faced pressure from the military for a crackdown.[1]

In the evening of 25 March, Mujib convened a meeting of senior Bengali nationalist leaders, including Tajuddin Ahmad and Colonel M A G Osmani, at his residence in Dhanmondi. They were briefed by Bengali insiders within the military of an impending crackdown. The nationalist leaders decided to form a provisional government in exile in India and launch an armed struggle for independence. However, Mujib decided to remain in Dhaka and brave the looming crackdown, despite pleas by the others to join them in India. Bidding farewell to the leaders, Mujib said “I have given you independence. Now go and preserve it “.[1]

At 10 pm on 25 March, the Pakistan Armed Forces launched Operation Searchlight in the capital of East Pakistan. Tanks rolled out on the streets of Dhaka.[2] The Pakistan Army massacred students and intellectuals in Dhaka University, as well as many civilians in other parts of the city.[3] It set Hindu neighborhoods ablaze and crushed resistance from the police and the East Pakistan Rifles. At midnight, Mujib sent a wireless telegram to Chittagong instructing Awami League leaders to declare independence. The text of his telegram read:-[4]

Message to the people of Bangladesh and the world. The Pakistan Armed Forces suddenly attacked the East Pakistan Rifles base at Pilkhana and Rajarbagh police station in Dacca at 0000 hours on March 26, killing a number of unarmed people. Fierce fighting is going on with East Pakistan Rifles at Dacca. People are fighting gallantly with the enemy for the cause of freedom of Bangla Desh. Every section of the people of Bangla Desh are asked to resist the enemy forces at any cost in every corner of Bangla Desh. May Allah bless you and help in your struggle for freedom from the enemy. Joy Bangla

The Pakistani military proceeded to arrest Mujib from his residence around 1 am.[1]

At 2.30 pm on 26 March 1971, Awami League leader M A Hannan began broadcasting Mujib's declaration of independence over the Independent Bangladesh Radio Station in Chittagong, which was widely reported in the international press.[5][6] The text of the declaration read:-[7]

Today Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent country. On Thursday night West Pakistani armed forces suddenly attacked the police barracks at Razarbagh and the EPR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka. Many innocent and unarmed have been killed in Dhaka city and other places of Bangladesh. Violent clashes between EPR and Police on the one hand and the armed forces of Pindi on the other, are going on. The Bengalis are fighting the enemy with great courage for an independent Bangladesh. May God aid us in our fight for freedom. Joy Bangla.

On 27 March, Major Ziaur Rahman, the commander of the East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong, broadcast two declarations on behalf of Sheikh Mujib.[8] In the first one, he declared himself as temporary Head of the Republic. A K Khan intervened and drafted a second declaration for Zia, which was read again over Independent Bangladesh Radio.[8] It read the following:-[9]

The Government of the Sovereign State of Bangladesh, on behalf of our great national leader, the supreme commander of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, do hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh. It is further proclaimed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the sole leader of the elected representatives of the 75 million people of Bangladesh. I therefore appeal on behalf of our great leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the governments of the all the democratic countries of the world, especially the big world powers, and the neighboring countries, to take effective steps to stop immediately the awful genocide that has been carried out by the army of occupation from Pakistan. To dub us, the legally elected representatives of the majority of the people as repressionist is a cruel joke and contradiction in terms which should befool none. The guiding principle of the new state will be first, neutrality, second, peace, and third, friendship to all and enmity to none. May Allah help us. Joy Bangla.

Zia's broadcasts were picked by a Japanese ship anchored in Chittagong Port and transmitted to Radio Australia.[7]

Constituent Assembly[edit]

On 17 April 1971, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh was formed in Mujibnagar. It converted the elected Bengali members of the national and provincial assemblies of Pakistan into the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh. The constituent assembly issued a second proclamation of independence, which also served as the fundamental law of Bangladesh until the adoption of the constitution in 1972. The text is given in the following:-[10]

Declaration by the Constituent Assembly
Mujibnagar, Bangladesh
Dated 10th day of April, 1971.

Whereas free elections were held in Bangladesh from 7th December, 1970 to 17th January, 1971, to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a Constitution,


Whereas at these elections the people of Bangladesh elected 167 out of 169 representatives belonging to the Awami League,


Whereas General Yahya Khan summoned the elected representatives of the people to meet on the 3rd March, 1971, for the purpose of framing a Constitution,


Whereas the Assembly so summoned was arbitrarily and illegally postponed for indefinite period,


Whereas instead of fulfilling their promise and while still conferring with the representatives of the people of Bangladesh, Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war,


Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of the 75 million people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh, duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971, and urged the people of Bangladesh to defend the honour and integrity of Bangladesh,


Whereas in the conduct of a ruthless and savage war the Pakistani authorities committed and are still continuously committing numerous acts of genocide and unprecedented tortures, amongst others on the civilian and unarmed people of Bangladesh,


Whereas the Pakistan Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a Constitution, and give to themselves a Government,


Whereas the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervour have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh,

We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh whose will is supreme duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and

having held mutual consultations, and

in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice,

declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign Peoples' Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and

do hereby affirm and resolve that till such time as a Constitution is framed, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Nazrul Islam shall be the Vice President of the Republic, and

that the President shall be the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic,

shall exercise all the Executive and Legislative powers of the Republic including the power to grant pardon,

shall have the power to appoint a Prime Minister and such other Ministers as he considers necessary,

shall have the power to levy taxes and expend monies [sic],

shall have the power to summon and adjourn the Constituent Assembly, and

do all other things that may be necessary to give to the people of Bangladesh an orderly and just Government,

We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh do further resolve that in the event of there being no President or the President being unable to enter upon his office or being unable to exercise his powers and duties, due to any reason whatsoever, the Vice-President shall have and exercise all the powers, duties and responsibilities herein conferred on the President,

We further resolve that we undertake to observe and give effect to all duties and obligations that devolve upon us as a member of the family of nations and under the Charter of United Nations,

We further resolve that this proclamation of independence shall be deemed to have come into effect from 26th day of March, 1971.

We further resolve that in order to give effect to this instrument we appoint Prof. Yusuf Ali our duly Constituted Potentiary and to give to the President and the Vice-President oaths of office.

Duly Constituted Potentiary
By and under the authority
of the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh

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