Was there any scope for Pakistan to have remained unbroken?
When the Awami League team delivered Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s final proposal on a settlement to the crisis.
To General Yahya Khan’s advisors, the offer ought to have been taken up in earnest.
Of course, General SGMM Peerzada and the other men in the Yahya delegation hit the roof when Dr Kamal Hossain.
And others of Bangabandhu’s inner circle informed them.
That a way out of the crisis could be through redefining Pakistan as a confederation.
That suggestion was a radical departure from the Awami League’s position thus far.
Which was that it was willing to work out the modalities regarding a framing of the constitution of Pakistan on the basis of the Six Points.
Given that the army and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s People’s Party had precipitated the crisis.
It was a wonder that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman yet believed that a political solution could be worked out.
It remains part of historical objectivity that while the Awami League remained focused on constitution-making,
Neither Yahya Khan nor Bhutto had anything to offer on their own.
It was a bad hint of bad intentions, made manifest by the influx of increasing numbers.
Of Pakistan army personnel in what had become a de facto Bangladesh.
The regime, as one was later to understand only too well.
Was never serious about a transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.
But it was deadly serious about suppressing the restive province with all its might.
And that was where Operation Searchlight was a horrific mistake.
It was more. It was a clear sign of the state of Pakistan giving itself a deep self-inflicted wound in the foot.
Through giving short shrift to the putative negotiations that had been going on.
Would Pakistan have remained unbroken even if a political settlement were arrived at?
Here’s the response: The negotiations should and could have worked out a formula.
Whereby the image of Bengalis peacefully opting out of Pakistan over a period of time would be the reality.
The army and its allies thought otherwise. It remains a matter of deep embarrassment for the Pakistan army.
That it misjudged the popular mood in Bangladesh so badly.
It worked on the naïve belief that a few thousand deaths, of political leaders and citizens, would quell the rebellion.
It seriously believed that placing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman under arrest and, for the first time in his life.
Flying him out to West Pakistan from his native Bengal to face trial would restore the central government’s authority in Dhaka.
That was sheer political folly resting on malice.
And it was made worse by General Yahya Khan’s surreptitious way out of Dhaka and back to Rawalpindi.