• Wednesday, Feb 01, 2023
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

March 6, 1971: Tension mounted as nation waited for March 7 rally

  • Published at 05:13 pm March 5th, 2021

Pakistani President Yahya Khan in a radio address called a session of the National Assembly on March 25

The day before Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered his historic speech on March 7, 1971, tension was mounting across Bangladesh as the people wondered what was to come.

Over the previous week, pressure on the Pakistan government had been ramped up and their control was clearly slipping. On the sixth day of the strike in Dhaka, crowds from all walks of life took to the streets. 

Prisoners broke the Central Jail’s gate around 11am and a total 341 people escaped. During the escape, six prisoners were killed and 30 others sustained injuries in police firing.

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Yahya Khan in a radio address called a session of the National Assembly on March 25.

He said: "No matter what happens, as long as the Pakistan army is under my command and I am the head of state of Pakistan, I will ensure full and absolute unity of Pakistan."

In the speech, he refused to address the sentiment of Bangladeshis. Instead, he criticized Bangabandhu, his party Awami League, and blamed the Father of the Nation for the situation in then-East Pakistan.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then chairman of Pakistan People's Party (PPP), welcomed Yahya Khan's speech and said his party wanted to work out a rough structure of the constitution through talks before the inaugural session of the National Assembly.

Following Yahya Khan's radio address, several protest rallies broke out in Dhaka and Narayanganj. A joint emergency meeting of the central working committee and provincial committees of the Awami League was held at Bangabandhu's residence. The closed-door meeting, which lasted several hours, discussed in detail the political situation of the country in light of the president’s radio address.

Despite discussing the issue the entire night, Awami League was still undecided on whether or not to make the declaration of independence in the morning of March 7. Bangabandhu then decided to speak out on the issue during the much awaited March 7 rally at the RaceCourse ground.

Meanwhile, President and Chief Martial Law Administrator General Yahya Khan appointed Lt General Tikka Khan as the governor of East Pakistan.

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