In 1970, Pakistan’s first general election produced a split verdict — Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s party emerged a winner in West Pakistan, while the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib- ur Rahman swept through East Pakistan.
The population of East Pakistan had voted to protest against years of being treated as second class citizens by the rulers based in West Pakistan. The Pakistani rulers were not willing to accept the democratic verdict, nor were they ready to accept the Awami League’s demand for a federation.
In 1971, the Pakistani army arrested Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman and unleashed a reign of terror on the people of East Pakistan. In response to this, the people started a struggle to liberate ‘Bangladesh’ from Pakistan. Throughout 1971, India had to bear the burden of about 80 lakh refugees who fled East Pakistan and took shelter in the neighbouring areas in India. India extended moral and material support to the freedom struggle in Bangladesh. Pakistan accused India of a conspiracy to break it up.
After months of diplomatic tension and military build-up, a full-scale war between India and Pakistan broke out in 1971, but with the support of the local population, the Indian army made rapid progress in East Pakistan. Within ten days the Indian army had srfrrounded Dhaka from three sides and the Pakistani army of about 90,000 had to surrender. With Bangladesh as an independent country, India declared a unilateral ceasefire. Later, the signing of the Shimla Agreement between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 formalised the return of peace.