Problems of National Integration between East and West Pakistan

Between 1947 and 1956, the language issue created tension between the people of East and West Pakistan. But it was only one example of the many injustices which the people of East Pakistan had to suffer at the time. All of the problems of national integration between East and West Pakistan are mention below:

Timeline showing the problems of national integration between east and west Pakistan

  • 1947 October: Formation of Rashtra Bhasha Sangram Parishad
  • 1948 21 and 24 March: Announcements by Jinnah-Urdu alone should be the state language –Leading to protests.
  • 1949 9 March: Formation of the Purbo Bangla Bahasa committee
  • 1952 21 February: Language Movement- Protests and killings
  • 1956 Bangla given the status of one of the state languages in the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan

The Language Movement

As you read in Section A, when the new nation of Pakistan come into being, the question of language became one of the most important national issues for the new government. Bengalis believed that the West Pakistani leadership was showing an irrational bias in favor of Urdu at eh expense of Bangla.

This section looks in detail at how the people in East Pakistan became politically active to resist attempts to establish Urdu as the national language.

September 1947: conference supporting Bangla

Perhaps the first significant event in the language Movement was tin September 1947 when youth workers in East Pakistan held a conference in Dhaka with Tasadduk Hossain as President. This conference passed a resolution calling for Bangla to be accepted as the language of the offices and the law courts and as the medium of instruction in East Pakistan.

Shortly afterward, a cultural organization called Tamuddin Majlis called for Bangla to be made one of the state languages alongside Urdu. This call came in a booklet written by Professor Abul Kashem, who asked for all citizens of East Pakistan to join the Language Movement.

October 1947: an organized structure

In October 1947, Tamuddun Majlish formed a Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad to give the movement an organized structure. Nurul Haq Bhuyan was appointed convener of this Sangram Parishad and a number of meetings held, such as that at the Fazlul Haq Hall, which was addressed by the poet Jasimuddin, Mr. Habubullah Bahar, Dr. Qazi Motahar Hossain, Professor Abul Kashem and others.

December 1947: protest at Urdu being the only state language

Despite these moves, in December 1947, the education Conference held in Karachi sponsored by the government of Pakistan decided to make only Urdu the state language of Pakistan. In protest, on 6 December, students held a meeting at the Dhaka University campus under the chairmanship of Professor Abul Kashem and followed this meeting with a procession.

The students also met with some of the provincial ministers, including Syed Afzal, and obtained a promise of support for Bangla to be a state language.

January 1948: demands made

In January 1948, the Rashtra Bhasha Sangram Parishad made the following demands relating to the question of language:

  1. Bangla should be the medium of instruction and language of the offices and law courts of East Bengal (East Pakistan)
  2. There should be two state languages of Pakistan-Bangla and Urdu.

February 1948: protests at the use of Urdu and English only

Another important step came in February 1948. The first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan started to record its proceedings in Urdu side by side with English. Dhirendra Nath Dutta of Comilla, a member of the Constituent Assembly from East Pakistan, protested about this and demanded that Bangla should be seen as one of the official languages and the proceedings recorded in that language.

The demand was rejected by the Constituent Assembly and, in protest, students, teachers, and intelligentsia of East Pakistan called a general strike in Dhaka on 26 February.

March 1948: strikes

A few days later, on 2 March 1948, supporters of the Bangla language met at the Fazlul Haq Hall of Dhaka University. They agreed to form an all-party Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad. The Sangram Parishad called a general meeting on 11 March 1948, to show its opposition to the government’s decision to impose Urdu as the official language. The police took firm measures.

Many of the protestors were arrested or injured at this meeting. In protest, a further strike was organized for 13 March. This strike was extended up to 15 March. A general strike was also observed in all districts of the country.

Such was the discontent that Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin was forced to meet the Sangram Parishad on 15 March. He agreed to free the arrested students, investigate police excesses, table a bill in the Assembly for making Bengal a state language and to lift restrictions imposed on newspapers.

March 1948: inflammatory speech by Jinnah

But the difficulties involved in changing the government’s mind were clearly sent in March 1948 when Jinnah visited Dhaka. ON 21 March, he addressed a public meeting at the then Race Course Ground and declared:

“Urdu and only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan.”One week later, he repeated this statement at Dhaka University Convocation on 24 March at eh Curzon Hall. The students present protested strongly and on the same day, the Rastarabhasha Parishad submitted a memorandum to Jinnah demanding that Bangla should be made a state language of Pakistan.

1949 to 1952: Pakistan Prime Ministers ignore demands

The pressure was kept up despite government opposition. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited Dhaka towards the end of 1949. The students of Dhaka University again called for Bangla to be given official status.

But Liaquat Ali Khan ignored their demands and did not make any comment Khwaja Nizamuddin succeeded Liaquat Ali Khan as a Prime Minister of Pakistan on 26 January 1952. But he, too, did not support raising the status of Bangla. At a public meeting in Dhaka, he reiterated that Urdu would be the only state language of Pakistan.

February 1952: State Language Day

Once again, as a mark of protest, a call for hartal throughout the province was given and an All Paty Rashtrabhasha Sangram Committee was formed under the presidency of Ataur Rahman Khan, with Qazi Gholam Mahboob as convener.

This Sangram Committee resolved to carry on the movement until the demand for Bangla as a state language was accepted by the government. It called further students to strike on 4 February and decided to observe 21 February as the State Language Day on which there would be a country-wide hartal.

On 20 February, the Government of Nurul Amin tried to stop the protests by banning processions and meetings. But of 21 February, students of Dhaka University defied the order and marched from Dhaka University campus to the Provincial Assembly which was in session, chanting the slogan, “Rashtrabhasha Bangla Chai.” The police used tear gas to disperse the students who had assembled on the campus of the present-day including Jabbar, Rafiq, Barkat, and Salam. Many others were injured in the firing.

News of the violence spread quickly over Dhaka and reaction was quick. Two days later, on 22 February, a protest rally was held at which large numbers of protesters were present. Once again, the police opened fire and Shafiur Rahman was killed.

On the same day, in a meeting of the students held at the Medical College hostel, it was decided to build a Shaheed Minar in memory of those who had died. A 12 feet high shaheed Minar was erected by students in front of Dhaka Medical College. The next day, the police tore it down. But another Shaheed Minar was built on the same site, which is the present Central Shaheed Minar.

Shaheed Mina (source: Banglapedia, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh)

1956 constitution: Bangla made a state language

Finally, the government of Nurul Amin passed a resolution in the Provincial Assembly that the proposal to make Bangla a state language should be raised at the Constituent Assembly.

In the face of continuous students, and people’s, movements, the Pakistan Government was compelled to give Bengal the status of one of the state languages in the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan.

21 February-international importance

21 February is now observed as Language Day. In honor of the martyrs who their lives, the central Shahid Minar has been constructed in front of the Dhaka Medical College. As proclaimed at UNESCO’s general conference in November 1999, 21 February has been recognized as International Mother Language Day.

Since February 2000, it is being observed worldwide as International Mother Language Day to promote linguistic and cultural unity.

The Language Movement was the first organized expression of the mass consciousness of the people of Bangladesh, who felt that their views were to being listened to. The protest was to be an important stepping stone in splitting the opposition to discrimination and bringing about independence.

Emerging disparities between the two wings of Pakistan


In chapter 4, we read about the Lahore Resolution of 1940, when Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Haq had explained the need for different autonomous political units in India for the Muslim majority areas. He based his belief on the geographical incongruity, the economic problems and the linguistic can cultural differences among the people of different regions’.

But in course of time, the Muslim leaders felt that politically isolated Muslim Majority territories would be weak and insecure vis-à-vis India. Therefore, the original idea of an autonomous statehood (as mentioned in the original draft of the Lahore Resolution) was replaced by an idea of a single “State”.

The revised proposal was moved by Hossain Shahid Suhruwardy, seconded by Chowdhury Khalikuzzaman and supported by Malik Khan Noon and others.

The subsequent history of Pakistan proved that the merger of two widely different regions could not exist for long. East Bengal or East Pakistan and West Pakistan and West Pakistan were separated by about one thousand miles by the Indian Territory.

No unity could be developed between the distinctive languages, culture tradition, and livelihood of the people of these two parts of Pakistan. As time went by, alongside the geographical, social, and cultural differences, there also developed gradual disparity between the two wings in economic and other institutional levels such as military, educational and political representations.

The disparity in economic development

The provincial government in the east did not have any control over its own economy as everything was controlled by the center. Trading bodies and foreign missions were established in West  Pakistan. A greater proportion of foreign aid and the national development budget was allocated for the west wing.

Whereas between 1947-48 and 1960-61, capital investment for development purpose amounted to 172 crore rupees for East Pakistan, it was 430 crore Rupees for West Pakistan. At the same time, the earning of East Pakistan from foreign trade, of jute, for instance, was differed to West Pakistan.

As a result, the economic gap which existed between the two wings in 1947-48 increased substantially over the years. Per capita income increased in West Pakistan from Rs. 330 n 1949-50 to Rs.373 in 1959-60; whereas in East Pakistan it declined from Rs. 305 to Rs. 288.

After coming to power in 1958, Ayub Khan promised to address the disparity that existed between the two wings. At first, there were some immurements. In East Pakistan in 1948-49, private investment had been worth 547 million rupees, in 1963-64 it had almost doubled to 1038 million rupees.

But still, it was only 22% of the total investment in entire Pakistan. At the same time, the per capita income of West Pakistan rose to 464 rupees in 1963-64, while in East Pakistan it rose to only Rs. 327.

Disparities in defense

The people of East Pakistan were not represented proportionately in important posts led the defense and civil services according to the population ratio. While the security of East Pakistan was uncertain and the province was also subjected to discrimination in military matters, the headquarters of the three defense services, i.e., army, Navy, and Air Force was established in West Pakistan. Ordnance factories were also established in West Pakistan.

Of the total Commissioned Officers in the army and Air Force, only 5% and 17% respectively were from East Pakistan. Similar was the case in the Many in Which the percentage of superior officers ranged from 5 to 17%.

The administrative and political disparity

Pakistan had a severe shortage of trained administrative personnel, as most members of the pre-independent Indian Civil Service were Hindus or Sikhs who opted to belong to India at the time of partition.

Rarer still were Muslims who had any past administrative experience As a result, high-level posts in Dhaka, including that of Governor-General, were usually filled by West Pakistanis or by refugees from India who had adopted Pakistani citizenship. Although the representatives of East Bengal were in a majority in the first Constituent Assembly, both Governor-General and Prime Minister were appointed from West Pakistan. The capital of the new country was established in West Pakistan too.

Disparity in education

The disparity of the development of education between the two wings of Pakistan also rises to resentment. There was not an adequate number of educational institutions to meet the requirements of a large number of students.

The development of scientific and professional education was also lacking. the students and professionals were deprived of the facilities of scholarships, training grants, and other forms of aid.

During the period 1947-58, enrollment in primary schools increased by 163% in West Pakistan and by 38% in east Pakistan. Enrollment in secondary schools increased by 64% in West Pakistan but dropped by 6.6% in east Pakistan. University enrollment increased by 38% in West Pakistan, but by only 11% in East Pakistan.

It was such a lack of equality in various sectors of public life which was to provide the stimulus for the move towards indecencies.

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