David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.
Bangladesh Liberation War Origins
There are no shortages of times in history when a group of people decide they've had it with their government and are willing to fight for freedom. It's a very American story, but the United States is just one of dozens of peoples who have fought a war for independence.
One recent conflict was the Bangladesh Liberation War, which took place from March to December in 1971, when the nation of what is now Bangladesh fought to liberate itself from Pakistan, who had controlled the area for the previous 25 years.
Prior to being an independent nation, Bangladesh was referred to as 'East Pakistan'. It was created after the British Empire awarded freedom to the former colony, splitting southern Asia between the two nations of India and Pakistan.
While both parts of Pakistan were (and still are) majority Muslim, cultural and ethnic differences meant that many people in East Pakistan desired independence and their own sovereign nation. Pakistan, of course, wanted to remain one country with its traditional power structure.
In March of 1971, Bangladeshi rebels under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman finally declared that they would fight for independence. In response, Pakistan sent a military unit to put down the rebellion, officially beginning the conflict of the Bangladesh Liberation War.
One major factor in the Bangladesh Liberation War was the participation of next-door India. India had been fighting directly and indirectly with Pakistan since their own independence, a reflection of their cultural differences (India is majority Hindu, while Pakistan is majority Muslim) as well as questions about their borders. India was quite pleased to see Pakistan weakened by the liberation attempt and provided support and funding to the Bangladeshi freedom fighters, called the Mukti Bahini.
The Bangladeshi rebels needed this help because Pakistan's army was both strong and fierce. Within the first 24 hours of fighting, the Pakistani military had killed thousands of people, targeting anyone involved in the liberation movement, including teachers, police, and just ordinary people, using tanks, artillery, and rockets against the rebels.
They also encouraged Islamic radical groups to fight against the independence movement, even using terrorism to put it down. Pakistan's use of force not only galvanized more opposition to their rule in Bangladesh, but brought criticism throughout the world for their heavy-handed approach.
Winning the War
Unable to defeat the Pakistan army directly, the Mukti Bahini fought a guerrilla war, using hit-and-run tactics rather than standing and fighting. The cost was extremely high for Bangladesh: at least 30,000 rebels were killed, while anywhere from half a million to three million civilians died as well. However, the reason for victory was India entering the war directly, bringing their powerful air force to attack Pakistan, making it impossible for the Pakistanis to win against both foes.
Pakistan surrendered two weeks after India joined the war - nine months after the start of fighting itself. Bangladesh became a newly independent nation, the seventh most populous nation in the world, and today has better relations with India than it does with Pakistan.
The United States almost played a role in the liberation war because of their military ties to Pakistan, but ultimately did little other than voice support. China attempted to block the entry of Bangladesh to the United Nations, as they are also an ally of Pakistan, but failed.
The Bangladesh Liberation War took place in 1971 when Bangladesh fought for independence from Pakistan who had ruled for 25 years. Bangladeshi freedom fighters called the Mukti Bahini declared themselves independent and sovereign. Pakistan used heavy force to put down the rebellion, which only galvanized a greater opposition to them.
The rebels fought a guerrilla war (using hit-and-run tactics rather than standing and fighting) for months, as the Pakistan army was larger and stronger. However, India entering the conflict proved to be the tipping point, and Bangladesh gained its independence.
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