Strategy: Hindu Genocide
In my opinion there is a hidden crime at the heart of Pakistani operations in the East in 1971: a systemic pogrom against Hindus residing in East Pakistan. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh all have their own reasons for downplaying this element, but the evidence is pretty persuasive that a key objective of the Pakistan military during its prolonged security operations in the East was “Partition 2.0”, a campaign of terror to drive Hindus out of Pakistan. I lay out my premise in my Asia Times piece, Balochistan Is Not Bangladesh, so you might want to read that first. I flesh out the story in this section.
Geostrategy:The China Non-Factor
Politics: The "Larkana Conspiracy"
Well, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, hurriedly appointed as Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and tasked with trying to salvage something from the wreckage at the UN, had a chance to conclude the ceasefire on December 15 based on a resolution submitted by Poland (i.e. with the backing of the USSR) but dramatically rejected it and walked out of the chamber instead.
According to the recollections of a Baloch leader, Sherbaz Khan Mazari, Bhutto had, while serving in the Ayub Khan regime, bribed Bhashani to the tune of 500,000 rupees not to support Fatima Jinnah in her 1965 election bid against General Ayub.
Bhutto had originally considered joining the NAP before he founded the PPP in 1970 as a more suitable and malleable vehicle for his personal ambition. Bhutto also explored the possibility of an alliance between his newly minted PPP and Bhashani before deciding the PPP would go its own way and in the process gut the support of the NAP in the West (which as it happens was controlled by a pro-Soviet faction at odds with Bhashani).
The NAP might have won enough seats in the East to undercut the Awami League’s claim to exclusively embody the aspirations of Bengalis and put in play General Yahya’s dream of playing kingmaker on a fragmented political battlefield, as well as feeding Bhutto’s ambitions to form a political bloc that could credibly claim to speak for both Wings.
The only significant force in the East interested in negotiating with the West was, ironically, that voice of Bangla aspirations, the Awami League.
With Bhutto as well as Yahya seeing no advantage in exploring political compromise, any scenarios that Sheik Mujib might have had in mind for negotiation, accommodation, modulated defiance and principled or unprincipled footsie between the Awami League and the generals and politicians in the West—or for that matter, keeping the East within Pakistan--went by the wayside.
With the obvious routes to power blocked, Bhutto was apparently seduced by the more extreme options.
At Larkana, I expect Bhutto supported Yahya’s plan to intervene, because he regarded its most likely outcome-- losing East Pakistan—preferable to the alternatives, especially the alternative of a negotiated settlement that accommodated the Awami League and would leave Bhutto playing second fiddle.
How the East Was Lost (4)
or...What's Jute Got to Do With It?
To illustrate the economic issues surrounding East Pakistan and the events of 1971, let’s look at a fascinating imperial artifact: jute.
Sacking was a big deal especially in olden times, when agricultural and mineral commodities were moved from Point A to Point B in sacks. But from the point of view of the anxious businessperson, loading and moving stuff by bags shuffled between godowns on the backs of coolies and longshoremen was a cost nightmare. For some low value commodities, the cost of bagging is more than the cost of what’s in the bag.
The move came after millers started selling rice in 19.5kg plastic bags or lower to circumvent the jute packaging law, industry stakeholders said.