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Bangabandhu smiles, wryly, apprehending fire, brimstone

DHAKA, March 18, 2015 (BSS) -- After the acrimonious meeting of the day before talks were again held between Bangabandhu and Yahya Khan on March 20, 1971, the administration announced a withdrawal of the curfew in Joydevpur that had been imposed, earlier.

Yahya was extremely accommodative and promised that the Joydevpur "disaster" would not be repeated again.

He also said that a probe would be ordered with people acceptable to both sides.

As for the number of casualties, it was decided that the inquiry committee would determine it. Popular Bengali perception was, at least, 50 people had been killed, while the official version was three people had died.

The discussion between Bangabandhu and Yahya went on for two hours. For the first time without any advisors, as Bangabandhu had objected, particularly to the presence of M M Ahmed, the deputy chief of the Pakistan Planning Commission, who was widely considered to be Yahya's "evil genius".

Reports said that Bangabandhu and Yahya had agreed, on principle, about the modalities of framing the constitution. Yahya agreed to Bangabandhu's proposal to have two constitutional committees for the two wings of Pakistan and once they had finalized their work they would meet to coordinate the two legislations.

Yahya also agreed to an immediate transfer of power to the representatives of the people, in this case, meaning the Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which commanded an absolute majority in the Pakistan National Assembly (parliament).

Awami League would also form the provincial government in East Pakistan where, once again, it commanded an absolute majority, while the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led by Major General Iskander Mirza and later Ayub Khan's prot,g,, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, would form the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh, where PPP had an absolute majority.

Similarly, the National Awami Party, NAP in short, led by Wali Khan, as the single largest party in the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhawa) assembly would get the first chance of proving its majority in the assembly to form government, while the NAP (Achakzai) in Baluchistan would get the first opportunity to form the government there proving required majority.

For a day, things seemed to work out properly and Pakistan seemed headed for a peaceful transfer of power to a political party after its first general election, 23 years after the country was carved out of British India.

Emerging from the meeting, when eager newsmen wanted to know if talks were "progressing", Bangabandhu answered in the affirmative. But when pressed for details he refused to divulge anything further.

Asked by a foreign journalist that he must be a very happy man now and that the smile on his face showed that, Bangabandhu retorted "I can laugh, like a child, even when the fires of Hell devour me."

That said it all.