On December 16, 1971 the Pakistan army in Bangladesh unconditionally surrendered to the joint Indian and Bangladeshi forces. With the signing of the Instrument of Surrender, Bangladesh came into being and united Pakistan was at an end.
However, in Pakistan the state-controlled and censored media was in denial. The day after General Niazi of Pakistan had surrendered all 93,000 soldiers and paramilitary units under his command in Bangladesh and the guns had fallen silent in the East, the Dawn newspaper, published from Karachi, declared: "WAR TILL VICTORY". The story of the Pakistani surrender was contained in one sentence of an article entitled "Fighting ends in East Wing: PAF hits in West". The surrender was spun as follows:
Latest reports indicate that following an arrangement between the local commanders of India and Pakistan in the Eastern theatre, fighting has ceased in East Pakistan and Indian troops have entered Dacca.
While newspaper headlines around the world announced the surrender of the Pakistani army and the creation of Bangladesh, the Pakistani population were presented with an alternate reality. This alternate reality would continue for four more days until the collapse of the military regime of Yahya Khan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the man who failed to win the prime ministership of a united Pakistan a year ago at the ballot box, would now take over as leader of the remaining wing of Pakistan.
Below are the front pages of the Dawn newspaper from December 4, 1971 to December 20, 1971. The headlines chronicle the unraveling of the false reality created by the military regime in the last days of united Pakistan. [Click the images for a PDF of the front page.]
December 4, 1971
India enters the war on December 3, 1971 to stop the genocide in Bangladesh.
December 5, 1971
December 6, 1971
December 7, 1971
December 8, 1971
December 9, 1971
December 10, 1971
December 11, 1971
December 12, 1971
December 13, 1971
December 14, 1971
December 15, 1971
The tone of the reporting changes, indicating for the first time that the war is not going well.
December 16, 1971
December 17, 1971
Pakistan army in Bangladesh unconditionally surrenders.
December 18, 1971
December 19, 1971
December 20, 1971
Yahya Khan’s government collapses and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto takes over in Pakistan.