Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose. War and Secession: Pakistan,India and the Creation of Bangladesh. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications.1990. 338 pp.Price Rs 225.00 (Hardbound).

Author: Ziaul Haque

After thirteen long years of military dictatorship, nationalelections on the basis of adult franchise were held in Pakistan inDecember 1970. The Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and thePakistan Peoples Party, under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, emerged as the twomajority political parties in East Pakistan and West Pakistanrespectively. The political party commanding a majority in one wing ofthe country had almost no following in the other. This ended in apolitical and constitutional deadlock, since this split mandate andpolitical exclusiveness gradually led to the parting of ways andpolitical polarization. Power was not transferred to the majority party(that is, the Awami League) within the legally prescribed time; instead,in the wake of the political/ constitutional crisis, a civil war brokeout in East Pakistan which soon led to an open war between India andPakistan in December 1971. This ultimately resulted in the dismembermentof Pakistan, and in the creation of Bangladesh as a sovereign country.The book under review is a political study of the causes andconsequences of this crisis and the war, based on a reconstruction ofthe real facts, historical events, political processes and developments.It candidly recapitulates the respective roles of the political elites(both of India and Pakistan), their leaders and governments, andassesses their perceptions of the real situation. It is an absorbingnarrative of almost thirteen months, from 7 December, 1970, whenelections were held in Pakistan, to 17 December, 1971 when the war endedafter the Pakistani army’s surrender to the Indian army in Dhaka (onDecember 16, 1971). The authors, who are trained political scientists,give fresh interpretations of these historical events and processes andrelate them to the broader regional and global issues, thus assessingthe crisis in a broader perspective. This change of perspective enhancesour understanding of the problems the authors discuss. Their focus onthe problems under discussion is sharp, cogent, enlightening, andcircumspect, whether or not the reader agrees with their conclusions.The grasp of the source material is masterly; their narration offast-moving political events is superbly anchored in their scientificmethodology and political philosophy.

Ziaul Haque

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