December 16, 1971: Bangladesh Comes Into Being

Bangladesh Observer, December 18, 1971

Bangladesh Observer, December 18, 1971

Bangladesh Observer, December 18, 1971

Bangladesh Observer, December 18, 1971

[Click any of the images above for a PDF of the complete 4 page issue of The Observer (Bangladesh Observer) from December 18, 1971]

The erstwhile Pakistan Observer newspaper, renamed The Observer, published its first issue in independent Bangladesh on December 18, 1971, two days after the Pakistan army surrendered to the joint forces of the Indian army and the Mukti Bahini. The banner headline read "Bangladesh comes into being".

The hurriedly published front page report read:

The sovereign state of Bangladesh, the dream of 75 million of people has come into being. The barbarous Pakistan Army which had let loose a reign of terror in the fertile soil of Bangladesh for the last nine months unconditionally surrendered to the allied forces of India and Mukti Bahini in Dacca on Thursday thus bringing to an end of a chapter of this deltaic region by West Pakistan cliques.

The flag of Bangladesh was hoisted on housetops and business concerns soon after the news of surrender of the Pakistan Army was spread.

The new state which has already received recognition from its great neighbour and friendly state of India and the mountain kingdom of Bhutan is expected to get similar recognition from other countries who believe in the right of humanity and the oppressed people.

The full cost of the war in lives lost and destroyed was not apparent on the first day of publication. Over the next months, as news began to come in from all corners of Bangladesh – of mass graves, of rapes, of razed villages, of slaughterhouses – did the full magnitude of the genocide become apparent. Even the murders of the Bengali intellectuals just two days before liberation was not yet known. However, a small item on the last page of the newspaper raised a question whose answer we now unfortunately know. The item asked "Where are they?":

The Al-Badar, the collaborating student political wing of the occupation forces in Bangladesh took into their custody a number of persons mostly journalist and university lecturers last week by raiding their houses. The Al-Badar students, mostly affiliated with the extreme rightist political party Jamat-e-Islam, a boot-licking political force of the occupation army.

The arrested persons are Mr. Shahidullah Kaiser, Joint Editor of the Daily Sangbad, Mr. Nizamuddin Ahmed, former Bureau Chief of PPI and a Correspondent of BBC, Mr. Syeed Abdul Mannan, a Senior Sub-editor of the former Pakistan Observer, Mr. Serajuddin Hossain, News Editor of the Ittefaq, Mr. Gholam Mustofa, a Senior Sub editor of Purbodesh, Prof. Munier Chowdhury, Head of the Dept. of Bengali, Dacca University and Prof. Santosh Banerjee of the Dept. of History, Dacca University, Dr. Rabbi, a Professor of the Dacca Medical College.


Thirty six years ago Bangladesh emerged after a bloody confrontation with the Pakistan army and its Islamist allies. At the cost of three million lives Bangladesh earned its birth as a secular democracy. The Pakistan army is long gone, but the Islamists remain. They have festered in the Bangladeshi body politic like an untended wound. Today with the collapse of democracy in Bangladesh, the Islamists once again are ascendant.

Last year, on the 35th anniversary of Bangladesh’s liberation, I had written that the future of secular Bangladesh hung in the balance. After the military takeover of Bangladesh last January, it appears the scales have tipped in favor of the Islamists. Sadly, more than three decades after independence Bangladesh is still fighting for its secular dream against ever increasing odds.

The dream of Shonar Bangla remains illusive and under threat.

This entry was posted in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Liberation War. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to December 16, 1971: Bangladesh Comes Into Being

  1. MMR Jalal says:

    wonderful job.
    many many thanks.

  2. pakistani says:

    Bangalis are fortunate to get liberation from this brutal army , we are not *sigh*

    A Pakistani
    on 16th december 2007

  3. Yohay says:

    Just a small sidenote: According to Haaretz, Israel was the first country that recognized Bangladesh:
    The article implies that the Pkistani ISI is highly involved in Bangladesh nowadays. I didn’t find the article in the English edition of Haaretz.

  4. DhakaShohor says:

    A paper published in 1971 called it “the extreme rightist political party Jamat-e-Islam, a boot-licking political force of the occupation army”, and these b*****s nowadays try to make us believe that they are “just another political party”, persecuted “because of Islam” as part of some sort of global backlash! As if we need more, fresher reasons to condemn them.

    After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

  5. khanna says:

    We r celebrating the 36th birthday anniversary of our country. But unfortunate that still we r fighting for trial of war criminals. More unfortunate is, the way our politicians and intellectuals are shouting and pressing hard to this government for trial of war criminals in the same way they r not asking to bring those politicians into justice who didn’t perform this duty in their tenure? Why this uneven? Should we not ask tofael, surunjit, hafiz like many others for the answer? Should we not boycott them from politics for betraying with our mother land? I feel at time that our intellectuals even biased? Lot of questions but no answer.

  6. Mash says:

    Khanna, am I misunderstanding you?

    Are you saying that we should go after politicians who did not govern properly with the same zeal as going after those people who committed genocide of 3 million people???

    I am sure you would agree that bad governance is not even remotely in the same universe of criminality as committing genocide, dont you think?

  7. khanna says:


    i dont agree its a fault of bad governance.i want the trial of war criminals badly but not leaving those who suppose to do it much early.

  8. Mash says:

    Yohay, I believe Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh (I was trying to track down the exact date), but not the first. The first was India who recognized Bangladesh on December 9, 1971 before Bangladesh was liberated (I may be off by a day or two – this is from memory). Bangladesh however does not have diplomatic relations with Israel because of the issue of Palestine.

    Throughout 1971, one of the favorite propaganda attacks by the Pakistani military against Bengalis was that Bengalis were, surprise surprise, “Zionist agents”. The geopolitics in 1971 made strange bedfellows, including the Americans and the Chinese finding themselves on the side of supporting Pakistani military and the Islamists, with the Nixon administration funnelling weapons to Pakistan in defiance of a Congressional ban.

    According to a number of credible sources, including the American Congressional Research Service, the ISI is active in Bangladesh.

    That article you linked to seems to be quite a big article on Bangladesh. If you find the English version please post the link. Otherwise I’ll try to get my friend who reads Hebrew to translate it for me.

  9. Pingback: In the footsteps of Musharraf: Moeen U Ahmed to become president | E-Bangladesh

  10. I am not celebrating anything. I thinks it’s too soon to do so. As a post-independence child of a Bengali mother I live with the memories of her own struggle and the death of a maternal uncle at the hands of war criminals.

  11. yasir from pakistan says:


  12. tommy says:

    Just wanted to say I enjoyed the post. You have really put a lot of time into your article and it is just great!

  13. Zaid Hamid says:

    What Pakis did to you Bangladeshi brothers is deplorable and congrats on winning victory. I can just understand what you had to go through — We in Balochistan are victim of pakistani atrocities ourselves. Unfortunately we don’t have a great neighbor like you to help out, though there is no lack of courage and willingness to fight in us.
    — A Baloch

Comments are closed.