March 26, 1971: Yahya’s broadcast


Yahya’s broadcast justifying his action of 25-26 March.




Following is the text of the broadcast to the nation by President Yahya Khan:


My dear countrymen.




On the 6th of this month I announced the 25th of March as the new date for the inaugural session of the National Assembly hoping that conditions would permit the holding of the session on the appointed date. Events have, however, not justified that hope. The nation continued to face a grave crisis.


In East Pakistan a non-co-operation and disobedience movement was launched by the Awami League and matters took a very serious turn. Events were moving very fast and it became absolutely imperative that the situation was brought under control as soon as possible. With this aim in view, I had a series of discussions with political leaders in West Pakistan and subsequently on the 15th of March I went to Dacca.


As you are aware I had a number of meetings with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in order to resolve the political impasse. Having consulted West Pakistani leaders it was necessary for me to do the same over there so that areas of agreement could be identified and an amicable settlement arrived at.


As has been reported in the Press and other news media from time to time, my talks with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman showed some progress. Having reached a certain stage in my negotiations with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman I considered it necessary to have another round of talks with West Pakistani leaders in Dacca.

Mr. Z. A. Bhutto reached there on 21st March and I had a number of meetings with him.


As you are aware, the leader of the Awami League had asked for the with­drawal of Martial Law and transfer of power prior to the meeting of the National Assembly. In our discussions he proposed that this interim period could be covered by a proclamation by me whereby Martial Law would be withdrawn, Provincial Governments set up and the National Assembly would ab initio, sit in two committees-one composed of members from East Pakistan and the other composed of members from West Pakistan.


One Condition


Despite some serious flaws in the scheme in its legal as well as other aspects, I was prepared to agree in principle to his plan in the interest of peaceful transfer of power but on one condition. The condition which I clearly explained to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was that I must first have unequivocal agreement of all political leaders to the scheme.


I thereupon discussed the proposal with other political leaders. I found them unanimously of the view that the proposed proclamation by me would have no legal sanction. It will neither have the cover of Martial Law nor could it claim to be based on the will of the people. Thus a vacuum would be created and chaotic conditions will ensue. They also considered that splitting of the National Assembly into two parts through a proclamation would encourage divisive tendencies that may exist. They therefore expressed the opinion that if it is intended to lift Martial Law and transfer power in the interim period, the National Assembly should meet, pass an appropriate interim Constitution Bill and present it for my assent. I entirely agreed with their view and requested them to tell Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to take a reasonable attitude on this issue.


I told the leaders to explain their views to him that a scheme whereby, on the one hand, you extinguish all source of power namely Martial Law and on the other fail to replace it by the will of the people through a proper session of the National Assembly, will merely result in chaos. They agreed to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, explain the position and try to obtain his agreement to the interim arrangement for transfer of power to emanate from the National Assembly.


The political leaders were also very much perturbed over Sheikh Mujib’s idea of dividing the National Assembly into two parts right from the start. Such a move, they felt, would be totally against the interest of Pakistan’s integrity.


The Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, during the meeting between myself, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and him, had also expressed similar views to Mujib.


On the evening of the 23rd of March the political leaders, who had gone to talk to Mujib on this issue, called on me and informed me that he was not agreeable to any changes in his scheme. All he really wanted was for me to make a proclamation, whereby I should withdraw Martial Law and transfer power.


Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s action of starting his non-co-operation movement is an act of treason. He and his party have defied the lawful authority for over three weeks. They have insulted Pakistan‘s flag and defiled the photograph of the Father of the Nation. They have tried to run a parallel Government. They have created turmoil, terror and insecurity.


A number of murders have been committed in the name of movement. Millions of our Bengali brethren and those who have settled in East Pakistan are living in a state of panic, and a very large number had to leave that Wing out of fear for their lives.


The Armed Forces, located in East Pakistan, have been subjected to taunts and insults of all kinds, I wish to complement them on the tremendous restraint that they have shown in the face of grave provocation. Their sense of discipline is indeed praiseworthy. I am proud of them.
                                      Reasonable Solution


I should have taken action against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his collaborators weeks ago but I had to try my utmost to handle the situation in such a manner as not to jeopardise my plan of peaceful transfer of power. In my keenness to achieve this aim I kept on tolerating one illegal act after another. And at the same time I explored every possible avenue for arriving at some reasonable solution. I have already mentioned the efforts made by me and by various political leaders in getting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to see reason. We have left no stone unturned. But he has failed to respond in any constructive manner; on the other hand, he and his followers kept on flouting the authority of the Government even during my presence in Dacca. The proclamation that he proposed was nothing but a trap. He knew that it would not have been worth the paper it was written on and in the vacuum created by the lifting of Martial Law he could have done anything with impunity. His obstinacy, obduracy and absolute refusal to talk sense can lead to but one conclusion-the man and his party are enemies of Pakistan and they want East Pakistan to break away completely from the country. He has attacked the solidarity and integrity of this country-this crime will not go unpunished.


We will not allow some power hungry and unpatriotic people to destroy this country and play with the destiny of 120 million people.


In my address to the nation of 6th March I had told you that it is the duty of the Pakistan Armed Forces to ensure the integrity, solidarity and security of Pakistan. I have ordered them to do their duty and fully restore the authority of the Government.


In view of the grave situation that exists in the country today I have decided to ban all political activities throughout the country. As for the Awami League it is completely banned as a political party. I have also decided to impose complete Press censorship. Martial Law regulations will very shortly be issued in pursuance of these decisions.

Aim Remains Same


In the end let me assure you that my main aim remains the same, namely, transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people. As soon as situation permits I will take fresh steps towards the achievement of this objective.


It is my hope that the law and order situation will soon return to normal in East Pakistan and we can again move forward towards our cherished goal.


I appeal to my countrymen to appreciate the gravity of the situation for which the blame rests entirely on the anti-Pakistan and secessionist elements and to act as reasonable citizens of the country because therein lies the security and salvation of Pakistan.

God be with you. God bless you.

Pakistan Paindabad.-APP.

(THE DAWN, Karachi – March 27, 1971)



Source: Bangladesh Documents, vol – 1, page no. 275 – 277