East Pakistan

by Bryan

So this 1970 atlas is really a treasure trove, and I found something I never knew about just now: East Pakistan. Now it’s Bangladesh, but when this book came out it fell under the government of Pakistan, many, many miles to the west. From Wikipedia:

East Pakistan was a former province of Pakistan which existed between 1947 and 1971. East Pakistan was created from Bengal Province based on a plebiscite in what was then British India in 1947. Eastern Bengal chose to join the Dominion of Pakistan and became a province of Pakistan by the name East Bengal. East Bengal, also comprised East Pakistan in 1956 and later became the independent country of Bangladesh after the bloody Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, which took place after General Elections of 1970. Large sections of East Pakistan’s people felt that they were colonised and suppressed by the West Pakistanis.

It’s things like this that I have trouble wrapping my head around. How were these places supposed to be the same place? I realize that this isn’t a unique situation, as I only need to look as far as Alaska to find a modern equivalent. I have, however, always considered Alaska a special case because its terrain relatively inhospitable compared to most places on Earth, and I understand how the land would once be considered “available” to some group or nation. (Thanks, Seward!) I’m not saying all of Pakistan is hospitable, just that the band of terrain that stretches from Pakistan to East Pakistan seems like a much more traditionally forgiving landscape than that beyond the Great White North—as many of India’s more than 1 billion people, including 16 million in greater Kolkota (Calcutta) can attest.

It’s  likely that my edition of the atlas is the second-to-last one that features East Pakistan. This is from the Bangladesh Liberation War Wikipedia entry:

The Bangladesh Liberation War was an armed conflict pitting West Pakistan against East Pakistan (two halves of one country) and India, that resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the independent nation of Bangladesh.

The war broke out on 26 March 1971 as army units directed by West Pakistan launched a military operation in East Pakistan against Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, and armed personnel who were demanding separation from West Pakistan. Bengali military, paramilitary and civilians formed the Mukti Bahini (or liberation army) and used guerrilla warfare tactics to fight against the West Pakistan army. India provided economic, military and diplomatic support to the Mukti Bahini rebels leading Pakistan to launch Operation Chengiz Khan, a pre-emptive attack on the western border of India which started the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

On 16 December 1971, the allied forces of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini decisively defeated the West Pakistani forces deployed in the East, resulting in the largest surrender, in terms of the number of prisoners of war, since World War II.

After watching six episodes of Jersey Shore tonight, I needed something like this to get the brain working again.