The root cause of why today’s photograph was taken lies in the partition of India in 1947 and the entire story feels like a movie script. After a long struggle for freedom, the Partition divided landmass into India, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Although it was much brain-stormed but I, personally, find this formula of partition utterly ridiculous. I wonder how come a scholar like Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned governance of two-part Pakistan with the vast Indian territory spread in between! Whatever his thoughts were —he insisted and two-part Pakistan was created. However, soon it became clear to the people of East Pakistan that the West Pakistan was not giving it any attention, importance or resources.
During 1970 General Elections in Pakistan, the East Pakistani Awami League won 167 of 169 seats in East Pakistan and also secured a simple majority in the 313-seat lower house of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament of Pakistan). The Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman claimed the right to form the government in Pakistan but the then Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, refused to yield the premiership to Mujibur. This made the President Yahya Khan to call the military, dominated by West Pakistanis, to suppress dissent. West Pakistani leaders did not want Mujibur Rahaman to become Prime Minister and there were concerns about rebellion by the East Pakistani soldiers in the Army. Therefore, attempts were made to disarm East Pakistani soldiers and police. Mujibur Rahman was arrested on 26 March 1971 and taken to West Pakistan. By now the East Pakistani people had suffered enough and they declared their independence from Pakistan. East Pakistan declared itself to be a separate country named Bangladesh.
The Pakistani Army conducted a widespread genocide against the Bengali population of East Pakistan. Bangladeshi authorities claim that 3 million people were killed. General Tikka Khan, the leader of the Pakistani forces, earned the nick name of “Butcher of Bengal” because he used all his resources in killing the people of Bangladesh. More than 10 million refugees came to take shelter in neighboring states of India. The Indian government opened its borders to allow impoverished refugees to come in. But it created a great pressure on already strained Indian economy.
The Indian leadership under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi decided that to end the genocide it is better to take armed action against Pakistan than to just give shelter to the refugees. By November 1971, Indian armed forces began to build up on Indian border with Bangladesh. On 3 December 1971 at about 5:40 p.m. Pakistani Air Force launched a preemptive strike on eleven airfields of India, including Agra which was 300 miles (480 km) from the border. Addressing the nation on radio on the same evening, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi held that the air strikes were a declaration of war against India and that India will respond. The Indian Air Force retaliated soon after the Prime Minister’s address.
The Pakistani forces could not withstand the Indian attack even for a fortnight and they surrendered on the Eastern front. The chief reasons behind Pakistan’s defeat included unavailability of non-Bengali technical personnel and badly planned air strikes.
Today’s iconic photograph shows Lieutenant General A. A. K. Niazi, Commander of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan, signing the Instrument of Surrender. He surrendered to the Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora of the Indian Army. The surrender took place on 16 December 1971 at 16.31 IST in Dhaka.
I have written an article about another iconic photograph that came from the Battle of Longewala, which took place as part of the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Did you know?
- During Pakistan’s preemptive air strike on Agra, the Taj Mahal was camouflaged with a forest of twigs and leaves and draped with burlap because its marble glowed like a white beacon in the moonlight.
- India took approximately 90,000 prisoners of war after Pakistan’s surrender.
- Unable to handle this massive and complete defeat General Yahya Khan surrendered power to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
- Pakistan lost half its navy, a quarter of its air force and a third of its army.
Here is a video that will shows some real footage of what happened in 1971. Enjoy and stay tuned for the next photograph!
What do you think of this photograph and the story behind it? Please comment and give your feedback as it helps me in writing better content for my readers. Thank you for reading and stay connected with my website as I will continue to bring stories on more iconic photographs for you.