Grassroots Solidarity Forces Nixon to cut off aid to oppressive Pakistani Dictator
During the summer and fall of 1971, the Pakistan military dictator General Yahya Khan strafed East Pakistani villages and his troops slaughtered Bengali political opponents. The Bengalis had just experienced the first democratic election in years, and their main opposition party had garnered more votes than Khan's party. The dictator ordered a reign of terror, and within a few months a million Bengalis were dead and nine million refugees had fled to India. The Nixon administration claimed that the United States had cut off all aid to Pakistan.
Thousands of miles away, activists from the Philadelphia Life Center found that the Nixon administration was lying, and that Pakistani freighters were picking up military hardware at U.S. ports. On July 14, 1971, a small group from the Center paddled canoes and kayaks into the oily waters of Baltimore harbor and in front of the towering freighters. The object was to create a drama that would both inform and mobilize the public to change Nixon's deadly policy.
The daring Baltimore harbor action sparked a movement involving blockades of Pakistani freighters in other ports, arrests, marches, picketing, rallies, vigils, and lobbying. Protesters camped for 10 days in mock sewer pipes across from the White House, symbolizing Bengali refugees who lived in real sewer pipes in the Calcutta airport. The longshoremen's union agreed not to load military goods onto Pakistani ships.
Within months, embarrassing media exposure and public pressure forced the Nixon administration to cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan. East Pakistan achieved not just autonomy, but complete freedom. It became the new nation of Bangladesh.
From War Resistors League 2002 Peace Calendar, Fifty-Two True Stories of Nonviolent Success.
|Extent of Action:||Multi-Country|
|Issues:||Human Rights, Peace/Conflict Resolution|
|Source:||War Resistors League 2002 Peace Calendar, Dec2001-Jan2002|
|Prepared By:||rja, 1/02|