was a planned military operation carried out by the Pakistan Army
to curb the Bengali
nationalist movement in the erstwhile East Pakistan
in March 1971, which the Pakistani state justified on the basis of anti-Bihari violence
by Bengalis in early March. Ordered by the central government in West Pakistan
, this was seen as the sequel to "Operation Blitz
" which had been launched in November 1970. The original plan envisioned taking control of the major cities on 26 March, and then eliminating all opposition, political or military, within one month. President Yahya Khan
at a conference in February 1971 said "Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." Prolonged Bengali resistance was not anticipated by the Pakistani military leaders. The main phase of Operation Searchlight ended with the fall of the last major town in Bengali hands in mid-May. The operation also precipitated the 1971 Bangladesh genocide
and caused roughly 10 million refugees to flee to India
while the civilian dead estimates range from 300,000-3,000,000. Bengali intelligentsia, academics and Hindus were targeted for the harshest treatment, with significant indiscriminate killing taking place. These systematic killings enraged the Bengalis, who declared independence from Pakistan, to establish the new state of Bangladesh.
The violence resulting from Operation Searchlight led to the war of liberation by the Mukti Bahini
against Pakistani "occupation" forces in Bangladesh. Following the ill-fated Operation Chengiz Khan
, Indian intervention resulted in the Pakistani Army's unconditional surrender
to the joint command of the Indian Army
and Mukti Bahini
on 16 December 1971. Read more...