Proclamation of Independence
Proclamation of Independence official announcement declaring independence of Bangladesh by the Bangladesh government-in-exile on 17 April 1971. The Proclamation so announced in effect provided the fundamental instrument of law as well as an interim Constitution of the mujibnagar government during the war of liberation, including that of the government in liberated Bangladesh until the adoption of the Constitution, made effective from 16 December 1972.
The Proclamation of Independence was made to tackle a serious situation. On the night of 25 March 1971, immediately before the military crackdown and moments before Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was arrested by the Pakistan Army, he made a Declaration of Independence. Bangabandhu's declaration was as follows:
This may be my last message: From today Bangladesh is independent. I call upon the people of Bangladesh wherever you may be and with whatever you have, to resist the army of occupation to the last. Your fight must go on until the last soldier of the Pakistan occupation army is expelled from the soil of Bangladesh and final victory is achieved.
The message of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's declaration of independence was reportedly sent to Chittagong shortly after mid night for transmission throughout Bangladesh over the transmitter of the East Pakistan Rifles. On 26 and 27 March two declarations of independence was made in the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from Chittagong Radio Station (later named as Swadin Bangla Betar Kendra) one by MA Hannan, general secretary of the Chittagong Awami League and the other by Major Ziaur Rahman.
Following the military crackdown by the Pakistan army in Dhaka and elsewhere on 25 March 1971, top awami league leaders including some elected members of both National Assembly (MNA) and Provincial Assembly (MPA) crossed over to India for safety. By 30 March 1971, most of them were able to assemble in Kolkata. On 10 April 1971, the MNAs and MPAs who were able to meet together in Kolkata formed themselves into a constituent assembly in exile and drafted the Proclamation of Independence. The formal meeting of the constituent assembly was held on 17 April 1971 at Baidyanathtala (re-named Mujibnagar after the proclamation), a border area in the present Meherpur district, where Professor M Yusuf Ali, an MNA formally read out the Proclamation of Independence at a simple ceremony. With this declaration the newly formed Constituent Assembly was proclaimed supreme and sovereign authority of Bangladesh. The proclamation of Independence confirmed the Declaration of Independence made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 25 March 1971. The Proclamation declared that the independence of Bangladesh be deemed to have come into effect from 26 March 1971. It also legalised the Mujibnagar government and gave direction to all involved in the War of Liberation for establishing the chain of command.
The full text of the Proclamation of Independence runs as follows:
Dated 10th day of April, 1971
Whereas free elections were held in Bangladesh from 7th December, 1970 to 17th January, 1971 to elect representatives for the purpose of framing a Constitution,
Whereas at these elections the people of Bangladesh elected 167 out of 169 representatives belonging to the Awami League,
Whereas General Yahya Khan summoned the elected representatives of the people to meet on the 3rd March, 1971, for the purpose of framing a Constitution,
Whereas the Assembly so summoned was arbitrarily and illegally postponed for indefinite period,
Whereas instead of fulfilling their promise and while still conferring with the representatives of the people of Bangladesh, Pakistan authorities declared an unjust and treacherous war,
Whereas in the facts and circumstances of such treacherous conduct Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of the 75 million people of Bangladesh, in due fulfillment of the legitimate right of self-determination of the people of Bangladesh, duly made a declaration of independence at Dacca on March 26, 1971, and urged upon the people of Bangladesh to defend the honour and integrity of Bangladesh,
Whereas in the conduct of a ruthless and savage war the Pakistani authorities committed and are still continuously committing numerous acts of genocide and unprecedented tortures, amongst others on the civilian and unarmed people of Bangladesh,
Whereas the Pakistan Government by levying an unjust war and committing genocide and by other repressive measures made it impossible for the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh to meet and frame a Constitution, and give to themselves a Government,
Whereas the people of Bangladesh by their heroism, bravery and revolutionary fervour have established effective control over the territories of Bangladesh,
We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh, as honour bound by the mandate given to us by the people of Bangladesh whose will is supreme duly constituted ourselves into a Constituent Assembly, and having held mutual consultations, and in order to ensure for the people of Bangladesh equality, human dignity and social justice,
Declare and constitute Bangladesh to be sovereign Peoples' Republic and thereby confirm the declaration of independence already made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,
do hereby affirm and resolve that till such time as a Constitution is framed, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shall be the President of the Republic and that Syed Nazrul Islam shall be the Vice President of the Republic,
that the President shall be the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces of the Republic,
shall exercise all the Executive and Legislative powers of the Republic including the power to grant pardon,
shall have the power to appoint a Prime Minister and such other Ministers as he' considers necessary,
shall have the power to levy taxes and expend monies [sic],
shall have the power to summon and adjourn the Constituent Assembly,
do all other things that may be necessary to give to the people of Bangladesh an orderly and just Government.
We the elected representatives of the people of Bangladesh do further resolve that in the event of there being no President or the President being unable to enter upon his office or being unable to exercise his powers and duties, due to any reason whatsoever, the Vice President shall have and exercise all the powers, duties and responsibilities herein conferred on the President,
We further resolve that we undertake to observe and give effect to all duties and obligations that devolve upon us as a member of the family of nations and under the Charter of United Nations,
We further resolve that this proclamation of independence shall be deemed to have come into effect from 26th day of March, 1971.
We further resolve that in order to give effect to this instrument we appoint Professor Yusuf Ali our duly Constituted Potentiary and to give to the President and the Vice-President oaths of office.
Sd/ Professor M Yusuf Ali
Duly Constituted Potentiary
By and under the authority of the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh
Laws Continuance Enforcement Order
In the exercise of power conferred by the Proclamation, the Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam issued the Laws Continuance Enforcement Order to ensure continuity of all the existing laws. Following is the full text of the Order:
Dated 10th day of April, 1971
I, Syed Nazrul Islam, the Vice President and Acting President of Bangladesh, in exercise of the powers conferred on me by the Proclamation of Independence dated tenth day of April, 1971 do hereby order that all laws that were in force in Bangladesh on 25th March, 1971, shall subject to the Proclamation aforesaid continue to be so in force with such consequential changes as may be necessary on account of the creation of the sovereign independent State of Bangladesh formed by the will of the people of Bangladesh and that all government officials, civil, military, judicial and diplomatic who take the oath of allegiance to Bangladesh shall continue in their offices on terms and conditions of service so long enjoyed by them and that all District Judges and District Magistrates, in the territory of Bangladesh and all diplomatic representatives elsewhere shall arrange to administer the oath of allegiance to all government officials within their jurisdiction.
This order shall be deemed to have come into effect from 26th day of March, 1971.
Signed: Syed Nazrul Islam
Bibliography বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধ: দলিলপত্র, তৃতীয় খণ্ড, গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী বাংলাদেশ সরকার, তথ্য মন্ত্রণালয়, ঢাকা, ১৯৮২, পৃষ্ঠা ৪-৭,, History of Bangladesh War of Independence: Documents, Vol. 3, Ministry of Information, Government of the Peoples' Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1982, pp. 4-7.