The UnitÂed Front
Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia
However, on the eve of the elections, the United Front was formed under the leadership of Haque-Bhashani-Suhrawardy on the basis of 21-point programme. Muslim League rulers too appeared in the election field with their full strength.
Big capitalists of East and West Pakistan financed the ruling party openly. Ispahani was the treasurer of the League and basically with his influence Miss Jinnah was brought to East Pakistan for election propaganda.
She used to stay at the house of Mr. Ispahani in East Pakistan. Huge amount of money was collected for the League election fund from the industrialists with the help and co-operation of Mr. Golam Farukh, the then Chairman of Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation. Prime Minister Mohammed Ali of Bogra started election campaign by special train and chartered steamer along with the eminent leaders of Pakistan. Newspapers also started to support Muslim League exclusively.
Then the age of daily 'Ittefaq' was merely one month. Daily Millat, a small newspaper of four pages was supporter of Muslim League before the election. But this paper started to support United Front after Mohan Mia was expelled from Muslim League for joining the United Front. After creation of the United Front huge enthusiasm and solid unity was seen among the people of East Pakistan in favour of it; Muslim League could do nothing any where to counter these. As a result, the fall of Muslim League became inevitable. Understanding the adverse situation Prime Minister Mohammad Ali of Bogra tried secretly to make a secret deal with Sher-e-Bangla. His proposal was, election would be postponed for one year, Sher-e-Bangla would be the Chief Minister of East Pakistan and 50% of the Cabinet Members would be from the party of Mr Haque. But this conspiracy failed for two reasons. First, Chief Minister Mr Nurul Amin opposed their proposal. His logic was, he became unpopular in this province because he tried to implement the orders and directions of the Central Ruling Circle, not because of his personal fault. So why would he be removed from the post of Chief Minister in such a humiliating way? Secondly, this conspiracy was exposed in the United Front circle. My friend Mr Jahur Hossain Chowdhury, the editor of Daily Sangbad one night disclosed to me about this secret conversation over telephone. At that time Daily Sangbad was the newspaper of Muslim League.
Any way, this conspiracy was nipped in the bud.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, a high level meeting was held with the Prime Minister in the chair at the Governor House in the name of reviewing law and order situation. GOC, IG of Police and many more high officials of the government were present in the meeting. The meeting decided to postpone the date of voting by around three weeks; indiscriminate arrests started throughout the province under the pretext of law and order situation. Thus around seven to eight hundred workers of opposition parties were arrested on the eve of the election.
In the context of these mass-arrests Mr Shaheed Suhrawardy called upon the youths to come forward and in place of vacuum created by one arrest by the government offer ten instead. He also said that answer to this provocation of the government should be given by ballot, not by bullet; violence should not be met by violence. Students and youths of the province responded with great alacrity to this appeal and they started election propaganda whole-heartedly. In the election United Front created a new record in the sub-continental electoral race by winning 97% seats. This election took place in the month of March 1954.
Any one could understand that the victory of the United Front was inevitable in this election, if the pre-election difference between Muslim League and United Front was considered. First: In comparison of leadership of the parties it would be found that the United Front was led by Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Haque, Mr Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani; on the other hand leadership of Muslim league was provided by Mr Nurul Amin and his followers. It is to be mentioned that Mr. Nurul Amin had already got bad reputation in the country on the issue of State Language. Second: the United Front presented a distinct election manifesto to the public consisting 21 points. Among these points there were clear promises about release of political prisoners, to make an end of indiscriminate arrests and to make Bangla language as one of the State Languages. On the other hand Muslim League had no programme except the fake slogans of Islam was in danger and Pakistan was in danger. Third: Muslim League had to face the disgrace for their seven years' misrule and arrest of hundreds of opposition political workers. Apart from this there were no complaint against the United Front for failure or oppression; rather leaders and workers of the associated parties of the United Front had to suffer during League regime.
During election campaign ruling Muslim League started malicious propaganda against the United Front. Even such propaganda was spread that the United Front received huge amount of money from India for election-expenditure; but it did not affect the results of the election.
Having deployed all their strength the miserable defeat that the Muslim League suffered should have served as a lesson for the central leaders. In fact, Mr Nurul Amin and other league leaders accepted this in good grace and considered it as a well-thought-out verdict of the people. But the vested interest of the central coterie had firmly established their grip on the administrative and power structure of the country.
They started propaganda in West Pakistan that the United Front won the election by creating hatred and malice towards West Pakistan. To cover up the disgrace of defeat they started to publicise false and made-up stories which spread hatred and malice in West Pakistan against East Pakistanis. This is the way of the vested interest everywhere. Any attack on their vested interest makes them stark mad. Whether that goes against national interest and solidarity is not deemed any of their concerns. To them the only meaning of national interest, solidarity and stability is their own interest and stability.
As a result of this motivated propaganda misunderstanding and dissention were created throughout Pakistan. Many of my West Pakistani friends still feel that in the election of 1954 provincialism was the key factor and main campaign of the United Front was propaganda against West Pakistan. Mr ZA Sulery was one of those friends. I told these friends firmly that there was nothing against West Pakistan in 21 point programme of the United Front. Even there was no mention of the two words, 'West Pakistan' in that manifesto. I asked them whether they went through the 21 point programme; their answer was in the negative.
Their answer and mentality have both surprised and saddened me. Using this ignorance as capital one section of politicians and journalists in West Pakistan succeeded to make the West Pakistanis hostile to the East Pakistanis by spraying poisonous propaganda. I do not know whether they did this despicable thing out of ignorance or intentional malignity; but there is no doubt the poisonous effect of their propaganda was not limited only within the politicians, rather it spread far and wide in other fields too.
In his book My Chief Brig. Mahmud Ahmed focused on the thinking of the then commander-in-chief of Pakistan General Muhammed Ayub Khan who while staying in Dorchester Hotel in London drew up a plan for the future politics of this country. Along with this the research he did on the past and present politics of Muslims of Bengal is, I believe, the result of this false propaganda.
Rise of evil force in the politics of Pakistan could never have happened if they had the real and correct picture in front of them about the role of Bengali Muslims in Pakistan movement, resistance organised by Bengalees against British rule and above all the situation of East Pakistan at election-time.
Bengali Muslims were never coward and timid. They never gladly welcomed the alien conquerors. They never surrendered to tyranny, rather they created resistance vehemently against the victors. Indigo uprising, revolt of Titumeer, Faraezi uprising, Wahabi movement etc are the testimony of Bengali ethos. It is true that in the British period Bengali Muslims were compelled to take shelter in rural areas leaving their urban habitat and became a community of 'hewers of wood and drawers of water'.
This misery of the Muslims is proof enough that they did not surrender to foreign rulers. But gradually Bengali Muslims gained strength and established their own rights and supremacy. At this time those who united the Bengali Muslims and created confidence and consciousness in them were leaders like Sher-e-Bangla Fazlul Haque, Sir Abdur Rahim, who were wise, bold and Muslim-loving intellectuals. Khawaja Nazimuddin had great contribution in the awakening of the Muslims in his own way though he could not claim to be a mass leader. Today those who are trying to erase the names of these personalities of everlasting fame and claiming that Sir Salimullah was the only leader of Muslim Bengal, they are distorting history. Muslim league created by Sir Salimullah was the Muslim League of Nawabs and Kinghts. That was a cohort of the Congress-British. At the time of division of Bengal British power used this Muslim league for their own interest. But Muslim League of Sir Salimullah fell silent when division of Bengal (1904) was annulled (1911) due to opposition of the Hindus. Before annulment of division of Bengal British Government honoured him with a K-C-S-I (Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India) and he gladly accepted it.
As a result of ceaseless struggle of Muslim Bengal, League coalition ministry was formed in Bengal under the leadership of Sher-e-Bangla A K Fazlul Haque in the year 1937. Once upon a time the Hindu community of Bengal was enjoying prominence in wealth and honour in trade and commerce, in employment, in education all over Bangladesh by the grace of British. As a result of Muslim awakening and establishment of Muslim-prominence, prominent leaders of that Hindu community felt proud being included in Haque ministry. Sir Bijoy Prasad Singha Roy, Mr Nalini Ranjan Sarkar, Moharaja of Kashim Bazar Mr. Srish Chandra Nondi etc, joined in the cabinet of Mr Haque. In the tenure of this cabinet oppression of land lords and exploitation of money lenders on tenants of Bengal were stopped by amending tenant ownership law and money lending law and tenants' right on their land was established. Debt-arbitration law was passed in Governor's Executive Council in the year 1935 by the insistence of Sir Nazimuddin when he was a Member of that council. That law became effective in the era of Haque cabinet. Thus indebted rural people of Bengal were liberated from the burden of debt. In government employment fifty-fifty quota was fixed for Hindus and Muslims though the Muslims were much behind the Hindus in education at that time also. Later prominent Hindu leaders felt obliged after getting ministry in Khawaja Nazimuddin and Shaheed Suhrawardy's cabinet.
In sum, Bengali Muslims of Bengal captured important positions in administration, employment and other fields before the creation of Pakistan. Only those who kept no information about the struggle and advancement achieved by the struggle of Bengali Muslims, can say that Bengalees are backward, so they need a hand to be uplifted. Today I am sure that this misconception about Bengali Muslims helped to create regional hatred and political turmoil in Pakistan. This is the most dangerous ill-effect of the false propaganda of the vested interest circle. God forbid, but Pakistan may have to pay for this some time in the future.
(The article has been taken from the book titled 'Two decades of Pakistan' by eminent journalist Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia, where the readers will find brief analysis of his contemporary Pakistani politics from 50 to 60)
Translated by Sanjeeb Chowdhury