Political Mobilization and Events Leading to Independence of Bangladesh

Let’s know the political mobilization and events leading to independence of Bangladesh. During the 1950s, political organizations developed in East Pakistan in response to discrimination from central government. Despite harsh measures from the government, demands for independence began to grow.

Following the mass uprising of 1969 ad the victory of the Awami League in the 1970 elections, troops were sent from West Pakistan to deprive Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of his rightful victory.

This led to the Liberation War of 1971 and the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent country. Detail about political mobilization and events leading to independence of Bangladesh are discussed below:

Timeline of important events

  • 1949 23 June: formation of Awami Muslim League-12 Programme
  • 1952 Language Movement
  • 1953 4 December: formation of Jukto Front- 21 Point Programme
  • 1956 Framing of the first Constitution of Pakistan
  • 1957 27 July: formation of national Awami Party
  • 1958 27 October: Ayub Khan becomes President
  • 1965 Second Indo-Pak War
  • 1966 2 February: 6 Point Programme
  • 1968 6 January: Announcement of Agartala Conspiracy Case
  • 1969 Maa uprising: Ayub Resigns. Yahya assumes power
  • 1970 General election
  • 1971 26-28 March: east Pakistan attempts to secede; beginning of Civil War; Mujib arrested
  • 1971 17 Aprill: Formal declaration of independence of Bangladesh; Mujib named President
  • 1971 3-4 December: Pakistan and India at war
  • 1971 16 December: Pakistan Military Forces in East Pakistan surrender to Indian Armed Forces. Marking Bangladeshi Independence

Formation of the Awami Muslim League: 1949

In June 1949, the Awami Muslim League was formed in Dhaka. It was formed partly to support the Language Movement but also in protest against the undemocratic and seemingly biased attitude of the Pakistan Government.

Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was the first President and Shamsul Haq was appointed the general Secretary of the Awami Muslim League. In 1955, this party dropped the word “Muslim” from its name and came to be known as the “Awami League”. It adopted the path of secularism and non-communalism.

Bashanai (Source: Banglapedia, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh)

Formation of the United Front and its victory in the provincial election of 1954

Four opposition political parties of East Pakistan-the Awami League, Krishak Praja Party, Nezam-e-Islam and the Leftist Ganatantri Dal (Democratic Party)- Formed the Jukto Front (United Front) on 4 December 1953 in order to jointly take part in the forthcoming provincial elections. Its election manifesto was formulated on the basis of its 21 point demands.

The United Front

The Front campaigned on an election manifesto that incorporated a Twenty One Point Programme adopted by the Front in November 1953. In addition to full regional autonomy, the manifesto demanded that the central government should delegate to the eastern province all subjects except defense, foreign and currency. It also called for:

  • Recognition of Bangla as a state language;
  • Release of political prisoners;
  • Transformation of the then official residence (Burdwan House) of east Bengal’s chief minister into Bangla Academy;
  • Construction of Shaheed Minar at the site of the police firing in 1952;
  • Declaration of 21 February as a public holiday;
  • More autonomy for Dhaka and Rajshahi universities;
  • Introduction of economic and social rights for industrial workers in keeping with the principles of ILO;
  • Nationalization of Jute production
  • Guarantee of fair prices for commodities and
  • Public support for cooperatives and cottage industries

In the election, held in March 1954, the ruling Muslim League was comprehensively defeated by the Jukto-front, which was led by Sher-E-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq. Maulana Bahashani and Hossain Shaheed Suhrawardy.

The united Front won 223 seats out of 309 Muslim seats in the Assembly, whereas the ruling Muslim League managed to capture only 9 seats, After the election, Chowdhury Khaliquzzaman, the Governor of East Bengal invited A.K. Fazlul Huq to form the government of 3 April. The new government was formed with Fazlul Huq a Chief Minister on 15 May.

However, the cabinet lasted for only a few weeks, and on 29 May 1954, it was dismissed by the central Government. The reason was that  a riot in Adamjee Jute Mills and Chandragona Paper Mills showed that the government could not maintain law and order. The Defense Secretary.

Iskander Mirza was sent over to rule as Governor of the Province by the Central Government. A new cabinet was formed and the province was brought under the rule of the central government. In the new government.

Fazlul Huq, however, was appointed the central Home Minister, and on 5 March 1956, he was made the Governor of East Pakistan. Although the United Front had won a landslide victory in the elections, it was now virtually redundant.

Political development from 1956 to 1966

Between the fall of the United front government in 1954 and the introduction of Marital Law in 1958, various parties, including the Awami League, formed short-lived governments.

On 12 September 1956, the Awami League Republican Coalition Ministry was formed. headed by shaheed Suhrawardy. This Ministry undertook measures for developing East Pakistan.

Which included the establishment of a permanent office of the Controller of Dhaka city, the CDA for the development of Chittagong city, the Inland Water Transport Authority, the Jute Marketing Corporation and the Film Development Corporation.

However, Maulana Bhasani differed with Suhrawardy on the question of foreign policy. As a result, Maulana Bahasani left the party and formed the national Awami Party on 27 July 1957.

Finally, on 10 October 1957, the Muslim League Republican Ministry was formed under the leadership of Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigar. After a few days, Firoz Khan Noon of the Republican Party became the Prime Minister. He declared that on the basis of the 1956 Constitution, the first general election of Pakistan would be held on 16 February 1959.

Meanwhile, both at the Centre and in the Provinces, the politicians were mostly preoccupied with self-interest. It was a period of intrigues and uncertainties. In East Pakistan, a political crisis occurred on 31 March 1958 when Ataur Rahman Khan’s Ministry was dismissed by the then Governor A.K. Fazul Haq. Later that night President Iskander Mirza removed the Governor from his office.

On the dismissal of Ataur Rahman Khan’s Ministry, Abu Hossain Sarkar again became Chief Minster of the Province. He was soon dismissed and Atatur Rahman Khan again became the Prime Minister of East Pakistan and held this office for two months.

In August 1958, Ataur Rahman Khan was appointed for the third time after the temporary stay of the Abu Hossain Ministry and he held the office till Martial Law was promulgated in the country.

Meanwhile, in 1956, the first constitution of Pakistan was framed. On the basis of this constitution. Pakistan assumed the name of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The provinces of the Western region was grouped under one unit and called “West Pakistan”, and East Bengal was renamed “East Pakistan”.

At this time, Ghulam Mohammed resigned, and on 23 March 1956. Iskander Mirza became the first president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Introduction of Marital Law

On 23 September 1958, an unfortunate incident occurred in the Provincial Assembly of East Pakistan. A serious altercation and scuffle took place inside the Assembly in which the Deputy Speaker Shahed Ali was severely injured and later died. This incident is regarded as the severe blow for the democratic rule in Pakistan.

Chaos in the Provincial assembly of East Pakistan and the death of the Deputy Speaker provided the Pakistani ruling clique an excuse for political interference in this region. After this incident, on 7 October 1958. President Iskander Mirza introduced Martial law by a declaration. He suspended the Constitution, Legislative Assembly, Central and Provincial Ministries.

He also prohibited all political activities by banning all political parties. Commander-in-Chief General Mohammed Ayub Khan was appointed Chief Martial Law Administrator and Pakistan was divided into a number of military zones. Major General Umrao Khan was appointed Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan. This was how military rule began in Pakistan.

Basic democracy

On 27 October 1958, General Ayub Khan removed Iskander Mirza and himself assumed supreme power as the President of Pakistan. Ayob Khan remained Commander-in-Chief and the Chief Martial law administrator, thus becoming immensely powerful. Ayub Khan took certain political steps as soon as he assumed power:

  • An Elective Bodies Disqualification Ordinance (EBDO) was introduced and many politicians were Endued for misuse of power.
  • In different stages of the administration, screening committees were set up with a view to removing corrupt and inefficient officials from Government services. These committees finished their takes in March 1959. Most of the corrupt and inefficient Government officers were moved from their posts and the rest of them were made to retire.
  • One of the controversial measures of the Ayub government was the introduction of basic Democracy. It was considered virtually a dictatorship under the disguise of democracy. He issued the basic Democracies order in October 1959. It introduced a five-tier structure of representative bodies, but in 1962 the Provincial Development advisory council was abolished leaving four tiers:
  • Union Council
  • Thana Council
  • District Council
  • Divisional Council

The first elections of the Basic Democrats were held in January 1960. Forty thousand Basic Democrats in each province were basically members of Union Councils who were given the right to elect members of Provincial and National Assemblies and the President.

A Referendum was held in 1960, in which these Basic Democrats made Ayub Khan the first elected President of Pakistan by means of a confidence vote.

Martial law lifted

In 1962 President Ayub Khan lifted martial law and introduced a new constitution. In the same year. Abdul Monem Khan, a Central Minister of Health, was made the Governor of East Pakistan.

During his governorship there were many problems in East Pakistan, though some developmental measures were taken, including the building the off:

  • Parliament Building
  • Dhaka (later Zia) International Airport
  • Sadarghat Launch Terminal
  • Kamlapur Railway Station
  • Rampura TV Centre
  • New High Court Building (now the Supreme Court of Bangladesh)
  • Ashuganj Power Station
  • Bangladesh Agriculture University
  • Institute of Post Graduate Medicine and Research (IPGMR-now the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital)
  • Atomic Energy Centre, Science Laboratory
  • Chittagong University

Several Medical and Engineering Colleges, as well as Polytechnic and Vocational Institutes, were also established.

In 1964, Presidential elections and elections to the Basic Democracies were held. Mohammed Ayub Khan contested the presidential election and in January 1965 won the election against Ms. Fatima Jinnah, daughter of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the candidate of the combined opposition parties.

Abdul Monem Khan, as the Governor of East Pakistan, remained steadfastly loyal to Ayub regime and this made him extremely unpopular. When Ayub Khan was forced to resign in 1969. Monem Khan’s rule also came to an end.

The Six Points Movement: 1966

Despite the many development efforts during the Ayub regime, the essential disparity between the two wings of Pakistan was not properly addressed. As a result, the feeling of discrimination continued to grow among the people of East Pakistan.

The Six Points Movement, an anti-Ayub political movement gathered momentum and was the popular reflection of this discontent.

After the death of H.S. Suhrawardy in 1963, the leadership of the Awami League was taken over by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Under his leadership, the Awami League soon became one of the most popular and strongest political Parties in East Pakistan.

On 5 February 1966, at the Lahore conference, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced his six-point political and economic program for East Pakistan provincial autonomy. The Six Points Programme, in brief, is as follows:

  1. A truer federal type of constitution should be framed for Pakistan on the basis of the Lahore Resolution. The constitution will be Parliamentary, with elections held on the basis of the universal adult franchise.
  2. Central Government shall only deal with defense and Foreign Affairs; all other power will rest with the provinces
  3. There will be two separate freely convertible currencies in the two regions of the country, or one single currency for the whole country with the provision of two reserve banks in two provinces under a federal reserve bank.
  4. Control of taxation and revenue collection shall have to be invested in the federal units. The Federal units to meet financial obligations.
  5. There should be separate accounts for the foreign exchange of the two regions. If necessary. The requirement of the center will be met by the two regions on the basis of equal rate or as specified in the constitution.
  6. The federal states should have the authority to form regional armed forces or militia or para-militia forces to protect the territories.

The people of East Pakistan welcomed the Six Points Programme and in gained widespread support for a variety of reasons:

  • It threatened the political and economic monopoly of West Pakistan
  • East Pakistan’s export earnings would no longer be manipulated for industrialization of West Pakistan.
  • Foreign assistance would no longer be monopolized for West Pakistan only.
  • East Pakistan would no longer remain a captive market for West Pakistani Products.
  • East Pakistan would no longer be exploited for maintaining the vast war machine of West Pakistan.
  • Economic priorities would no longer be determined for the advantage of West Pakistan.
  • It would end the dominance of West Pakistani Bureaucrats.
  • It became more popular following the “Agartala Conspiracy Case” (see below).

The Agartala Conspiracy Case 1968

Ayub interpreted Sheikh Mujib’s demands as tantamount to a call for independence. After Sheikh Mujib’s supporters voted for a general strike in Dhaka, the government arrested Mujib in January 1968, along with other civil and military officials.

They were accused of conspiring at Agartala in India to separate East Pakistan from Pakistan through an armed revolution with India’s help.

A special tribunal was constituted to try the case. But before the case could be heard. the people of East Pakistan rose in a mass uprising against Ayub Khan. The movement was led by the All Party Student Action Committee and such was the strength of opposition that the government was forced to back down and withdraw the case.

The mass uprising of 1969

As the Pakistan Government and the leaders of West Pakistan did not accept Sheikh Mujub’s Six Point Programme, the attempt to remove the differences between the two wings was foiled. The government tried to bring the situating under control by massive repression. The students of East Pakistan were united against this repressive policy.

They formed an All-Party Struggle council, that later came to be known as the Student’s Action Committee (SAC). They started movements based on an Eleven-Points plan which called, among other things, regional autonomy, freedom of speech and the nationalization of big mills and factories including banks and insurances companies. Mas discontent with Ayub Khan’s rule increased.

Maulana Bahashani, meanwhile, was the first to lend his support to the 11 point demand of the students. He took recourse to the “Gherao” movement to realize the demands of the various interests, particularly workers and peasants. His call for a “Demand Day” on December 17, 1968, was a tremendous success. In January 1969, there were numerous clashes between police and students.

During these clashes, Assaduzzaman, a student of the Law department of the Dhaka University, was killed. The police shot dead 6 students from Naakumar School. This led to a broader anti-government, and violent mob agitation gradually spread throughout East and West Pakistan.

Meanwhile, two incidents added fuel to the fire.  These were the unfortunate deaths of Sergeant Zahirul Haq an accused of the Agartala Case on 15 February 1969, and of Dr. Shamsuzzoha. a so intense that a curfew was imposed in Dhaka.

With almost all sections of society-students, laborers, peasants, educationists, thinkers and artists opposing his rule, Ayub Khan was forced to make concessions:

  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released on 22 February
  • On the same day, the Agartala Conspiracy Case was dropped.
  • On 10th March 1969, Ayub Khan invited all political leaders to a round table conference at Rawalpindi to discuss the constitutional and political problems.

At the round table conference, Sheikh Mujiobur Rahman demanded autonomy for East Pakistan, as set out in his 6 points (and the 11 points of the Students Action Committee). Ayub Khan would not accept this demand and the talks, in failure.

After the failure of the talks, the situation in East Pakistan deteriorated to such an extent that law and order began to break down. Production dropped to dangerously low levels and the economy began to suffer.

Political Mobilization and Events Leading to Independence of Bangladesh

On 25 March 1969, Ayub Khan was forced to resign and hand over power to General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan. commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army.

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