Source 3

In 1970, the Bhola cyclone struck East Pakistan, killing an estimated 3-500,000 people. This is a British report on how the Pakistan government responded to the disaster.


Letter from the British High Commission in West Pakistan to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. 24 November 1970. Catalogue ref: FCO 37/719


British High Commission,


24 November, 1970.


Dear Webb,


Political Aspects of the Cyclone Disaster


Criticisms of the Pakistan Government’s handling of the relief work after the cyclone is now world-wide news. You might therefore like to have our first impressions of the political aspects of the situation. A more considered report will be in order later.

  1. Several East Wing politicians have accused the Central Government of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in bringing relief to the areas affected by the cyclone. Bhashani has been characteristically outspoken, Mujib complained of delays on 22 November, and Professor Ghulam Azam, Amir of the Jama’at-i-Islami in East Pakistan spoke in a similar vein the following day. The only West Wing political leader who has criticised the government in this way is Wali Khan. (He is now touring the affected areas and should be improving his standing in East Pakistan in so doing). These criticisms are reported in all the Pakistan press, and repeated editorially in the East Wing press. The “Pakistan Observer” has been critical of the government’s relief measures from the very beginning.
  2. We have no doubt that such criticisms are justified. The President toured the area on 16 November on his return from Peking. He is going to Dacca today to supervise relief operations, but apart from declaring 20 November as a day of national mourning he has not visibly done anything in between. Officials here in the West Wing have shown us very clearly their attitude to their Bengali compatriots by acting with a notable lack of urgency.
  3. In short, quite apart from the appalling human tragedy of it all, the cyclone has hardly been a common problem which has made the country pull together. Indeed, it has proved to be a practical example of all East Pakistan’s complaints against the West. The probable consequences for the “Joy Bangla” [‘Victory to Bengal’] vote in East Pakistan, and for the much needed spirit of cooperation in the National Assembly seem clear.


« Return to The Independence of Bangladesh in 1971
  • Why is the Pakistan government being criticised for how they handled this disaster? Which groups are criticising them?
  • Who is the author of this document and what is his view?
  • Read the last paragraph of the source. What does the author think will happen because of the cyclone response?