Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Pakistani Leaders' Response to the Challenge of Power Politics by Bengali Separatism

Academic journal article Journal of Political Studies

Pakistani Leaders' Response to the Challenge of Power Politics by Bengali Separatism

Article excerpt

Bengali Participation in Ruling Leadership

On the governmental side where participation of the Bengalis could affect the separatist movement to a large extent the leaders until the dissolution of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP) in 1954 did not give Bengalis due and proper share in power. Sometimes power was shared with Bengali leaders but the real power vested with the leaders who were either non-Bengalis or did not actually represent East Pakistan. These leaders did not enjoy popular support. G. W. Choudhury maintains that there was a cabinet and a parliament but the political order in Pakistan could be called an oligarchy under a democratic constitution. It was a modernising oligarchy in which Bengalis had no share. (Choudhury, 1972: 243)

The leaders of Pakistan did not care for the Bengali representation in first CAP, which with seventy-nine members had the majority from East Pakistan with forty-four seats. As a result of the political settlement, Nazimuddin and other Bengali leaders agreed to give about half a dozen more seats to the West Pakistani or refugees leaders thus rendering East Pakistan's representation to a minority in the CAP. This compromise of Nazimuddin damaged his position in the Bengalis and when he was appointed Governor General (GG) it was common talk in East Bengal that he had been rewarded for his treachery to the cause of Bengalis. (Mahmood, 1989, p. 18) (Dil, 2000: 76-77) Bengalis were not represented adequately in the committees of Basic Principles Committee (BPC). Of the 25 members of the BPC only 6 were from East Bengal. Further, its subcommittee for Federal and Provincial Constitutions and Distribution of powers (which was to prepare the list or principles upon which the federal structure of Pakistan would be made) had 20 members, of which only 9 were Bengalis. (Islam, 1990:118)

PM Liaquat Ali Khan's decision, agreed unanimously by his Cabinet, to nominate Khawaja Nazimuddin as GG on the death of Jinnah (UKHC, 1948) gave the Bengalis representation in the highest position of Pakistan. The Bengali representative, however, was not ideal choice because he had record of never been able to get elected but always being brought into positions of power from the backdoor. (Dil, 2000:76) Moreover real power remained with PM Liaquat Ali Khan. After his death, Nazimuddin became PM and Ghulam Muhammad GG, an arrangement in which Bengalis, had to indulge in a tussle to hold real power in their hands.

After the dismissal of Nazimuddin, the position of East Pakistan at the centre was sensibly weekend and the scale and nature of East Pakistani representation in the new cabinet was decreased. Though Dr. Malik was retained in the Cabinet no Bengali was immediately appointed to replace Fazlur Rehman. The East Bengal Muslim League were annoyed that they were not consulted about the appointments to the new Cabinet. (UKHC K., 1953) Rounaq Jahan observes that Bengali PM Bogra was captive of the West Pakistan group that provided the main strength of his government. (Jahan, 1972:27) The Bengalis shared the power in his cabinet to such an extent that they could make an effort what was called by US a constitutional coup to diminish the power of the GG, which was countered by GG and his supporter.

After dissolution of first CAP until the resignation of Suhrawardy in 1957 Bengalis had substantial share in government. Second CAP also accorded a greater number of seats to East Bengal. There were 44 members from the eastern wing out of a total of 79 seats. As CAP was dissolved due to the coup of PML Bengali group led by Nazimuddin and Fazlur Rehman, the ruling leaders definitely had to look towards other Bengali political entities that represented real Bengali elements like United Front (UF) and Awami League (AL). Thus participation in the main stream Central politics changed from nominal to substantially real. They also showed the interest in participation and accepted posts in Cabinet of Talent. …

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