Amar Jaleel on History
I came across this article by famous Sindhi author and columnist Amar Jaleel in Dawn magazine. It speaks truth about how the central leadership did not gave rights to Bengali brothers in pre-1971 Pakistan. It is though provoking article and we see much of its effects even now.
United Front Against Bengalis
The wise learns lessons from past mistakes, the fool just repeats them
To understand the gravity of the problems between Eastern and the Western wings of Pakistan, we must take into account the huge difference in the population of East Pakistan and West Pakistan. At the time of the coming into being of Pakistan, the population of East Pakistan was 45 million and the population of West Pakistan was 30 million. This reality was always ignored by the successive rulers of Pakistan from 1947 to 1971.
The heat of the language controversy in 1948 was still smouldering in East Pakistan when Liaquat Ali Khan came up with his constitutional proposals. He proposed 200 seats each for East Pakistan and the West Pakistan in the Lower House, and 60 seats each for the two wings in the Upper House. Ignoring the uprising of the Bengalis on language issue in the recent past, Liaquat Ali Khan again recommended Urdu as the state language of Pakistan.
If we do not doubt the intention of Pakistan Muslim League – baptised nomenclature of All India Muslim League – we are left with no other option but to believe that the leadership of the Muslim League was naive and incompetent. They were ignorant of the rich language, literature, culture, arts and the performing arts of the East Pakistanis. The Muslim League rulers, while dealing with Bengalis, did not give any importance to the highly developed political consciousness of the Bengali people. Bengal had remained home to major political movements in undivided India. During the language controversy of 1948 they had given clear indication to the rulers that the Bengalis can’t be taken for a ride.
The proposed 200 seats each in the National Assembly for East Pakistan and West Pakistan appeared ridiculous. It ignored the huge difference in the population between the two wings of Pakistan. On the basis of population, 225 seats ought to have gone to East Pakistan and 175 seats to West Pakistan. The Bengalis were denied their rightful claim.
Another glaring omission on the part of the rulers was their apathy towards the formation of Pakistan. East Pakistan was one of the five provinces of Pakistan, and other provinces being Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, and Balochistan. Two hundred seats were allotted to East Pakistan without giving any importance to their numerical superiority. To make a mockery of their own formula, the rulers proposed distribution of the remaining 200 seats on the basis of population amongst the four provinces of West Pakistan – Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan, the recipient of the least number of seats. The highest number of seats was earmarked for Punjab.
To bludgeon the controversial constitutional proposals of Liaquat Ali Khan, a national convention of opposition parties was held in Dhaka. The convention rejected the controversial constitutional proposals. The embarrassed central government withdrew the constitutional proposals.
The Muslim League rulers, whether civilian or military, were so obsessed with equal representation of East and West Pakistan in the National Assembly that they remained adamant on their illogical stand till the break-up of Jinnah’s Pakistan in 1971. After the death of Liaquat Ali Khan, the phoney constitution of 1955 upheld the formula of equal number of seats for the majority and minority wings of Pakistan in the National Assembly.
The Government of Chaudhry Mohammed Ali in 1955 merged the four provinces of West Pakistan, Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan into One Unit. It was declared the United Front of West Pakistan politicians against East Pakistan. MNA Fazlur Rahman had earlier warned the rulers on the floor of the assembly that the One Unit would ultimately result in the disintegration of Pakistan. However, on September 30, 1955, the assembly passed the One Unit bill. Prime Minister Chaudhry Mohammed Ali in his speech said, “Move for the unification of West Pakistan (One Unit) is an act of faith, faith in the unity of our people, in their oneness, in their feeling of brotherhood.”
Bengalis did not accept the One Unit lying down. They rose in revolt. When the uprising in East Pakistan went out of control of the civilian government, General Ayub Khan grabbed the opportunity and stepped in with his Martial Law in 1958 and became the self-appointed President of Pakistan. He maintained the formula of equal representation of the two wings in the assembly devised by the former rulers. The general inducted more troops in East Pakistan to quash the Bengalis. Then began the drop scene.
Bengalis launched a 10-year sustained struggle against the United Front (One Unit) protected by the Martial Law regime. The more brute force the Muslim League rulers applied, the more resolute became the Bengalis. Ultimately their struggle turned into an armed struggle. It is a separate chapter of valour and resistance against the brute oppressive forces in the history of the movements for honourable survival. The incompetent rulers were always apprehensive of competition and avoided it at any cost. The feudal leaders knew it straightaway that they were no match to the refined and scholarly Bengalis. Numerical superiority of the Bengalis robbed them of their sleep. In the beginning the rulers thought that they could browbeat the Bengalis, thus stuck to their coercive measures against them. But, the rulers were sadly mistaken. Each of their oppressive action against the Bengalis was met with equally forceful reaction. The Bengalis opted for parting of the ways in 1971. This was exactly what the incompetent rulers had aimed at right from the day Pakistan was created.