|Pakistan Table of Contents
Although Yahya Khan established a semimilitary state, he also introduced changes that led to the return of parliamentary democracy. These changes ultimately resulted in the division of the country in two. Yahya held national elections in December 1970 for the purpose of choosing members of the new National Assembly who were to be elected directly by the people. However, the results of these elections, which brought the politicians once more to the fore, led to the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of an independent Bangladesh in 1971.
Yahya accepted the demand of East Pakistan for representation in the new assembly on the basis of population. As a result, Bengali leader Sheikh Mujibur ("Mujib") Rahman's Awami League won all but two of the 162 seats allotted East Pakistan out of the 300 directly elected seats in the assembly (thirteen indirectly elected women were added), and Mujib wanted considerable regional autonomy for East Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People's Party (PPP) emerged as the political victors in West Pakistan in the 1970 elections. Bhutto's intransigence--he refused to participate in the discussions to frame the new constitution--led to the continuation of martial law and the eventual political and military confrontation between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, which precipitated civil war and the country's dismemberment in December 1971. With Pakistan's military in disarray, Yahya resigned, and Bhutto was appointed president and civilian chief martial law administrator of a truncated Pakistan.
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Source: U.S. Library of Congress