Khawaja Nazimuddin retreats 8-Point pledge

Last updated: 5 October 2017 From the section 1952 Bhasha Andolon

Muhammad Ali Jinnah's firm stance on the position of Bangla and stubborn refusal to comprise emboldened Chief Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin to an extent that had earlier not been noticed. A few days after Jinnah returned to West Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin broke most of his promises which he had made only three weeks earlier (15 March 1948) with the Shorbodolio Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad.

At the East Bengal Legislative Assembly session on 6 April 1948, the Chief Minister moved a resolution to grant Bangla the status of an official language only within the province and then only once it had been decided to drop English, contrary to his earlier commitment to the 8-point plan he had signed with the Sangram Parishad. This was designed to postpone the matter to an uncertain future and was a hint of troubled times ahead.

Two days later, the resolution was adopted.

On 8 April 1948, the East Bengal Legislative Assembly adopted Khawaja Nazimuddin's following proposals:

  • Bengali shall be adopted as the official language for replacing English in the province of East Bengal; and it will be implemented as soon as the practical difficulties are resolved.
  • The medium of instruction in educational institutions in East Bengal shall, as far as possible, be Bengali, or the mother tongue of the majority of scholars in the institutions.

Naturally this 'watered down' version fell much short of the normal expectations of the people of the eastern region who felt it failed to recognise their ethnic and cultural diversity. They criticised the Muslim League, the leaders of Pakistan, for not accepting the reality that Pakistan was a multilingual and multi-national state.

More than two dozen (27) amendments to Khwaja Nazimuddin's lean proposal were submitted by the members of both the treasury bench and opposition. Of those amendments, Dhirendranath Datta's multiple proposals were of great significance. He carefully crafted the language of those amendments in such a way so that the EBLA was at least convinced to recommend to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan (CAP) for adopting Bengali as one of the State languages of Pakistan. Yet, Khwaja Nazimuddin had refused to lend any support to such a pro-Bengali proposal. At the behest of the Urdu-speaking Prime Minister of the then East Bengal, most of the Muslim Leaguers in the EBLA had defeated Dhirendranath Datta's multiple amendments. Finally, Khwaja Nazimuddin's meager proposal on Bengali language with minor modification was adopted by the EBLA.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

First anniversary of Pakistan's independence

On 14 August 1948 Pakistan celebrated it's first anniversary.

We have faced the year with courage, determination and imagination, and the record of our achievements has been a wonderful one in warding off the blows of the enemy which have been so often referred to before, especially the pre-planned genocide and pushing on with real constructive work internally. The result of our constructive and ameliorative work has gone far beyond the expectations of our best friends.

...But that is not enough: Remember, that the establishment of Pakistan is a fact of which there is no parallel in the history of the world. It is one of the largest Muslim States in the world, and it is destined to play its magnificent part year after year, as we go on, provided we serve Pakistan honestly, earnestly and selflessly.

...Disappointed in their efforts by other means to strangle the new State at its very birth, our enemies yet hoped that economic manoeuvres would achieve the object they had at heart. With all the wealth of argument and detail, which malice could invent or ill-will devise, they prophesied that Pakistan would be left bankrupt. And what the fire and sword of the enemy could not achieve, would be brought about by the ruined finances of the State. But these prophets of evil have been thoroughly discredited. Our first budget was a surplus one; there is a favourable balance of trade, and a steady and all-round improvement in the economic field.

One year is a brief period in the history of a State for finally assessing its progress or predicting its future. But the way in which tremendous difficulties have been overcome, and solid progress recorded during the last twelve months, gives a firm basis for optimism.

Nature has given you everything: you have got unlimited resources. The foundations of your State have been laid, and it is now for you to build, and build as quickly and as well as you can. So go ahead and I wish you God speed.

Pakistan Zindabad.

A message by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the nation on the occasion of the first anniversary of Pakistan on 14 August 1948

Jinnah's death results in promotion for Khawaja Nazimuddin and Nurul Amin

On 11 September 1948, just over a year after Pakistan's creation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah passed away in Karachi, West Pakistan, after suffering from ill health (he then weighed just over 36 kilograms or 79 lb). This was testing time for the new nation as Jinnah had combined in himself the powers of governor general, president of the constituent assembly and president of the ruling Muslim League.

Three days later, on 14 September 1948, Khwaja Nazimuddin took over Jinnah's role as Governor-General of Pakistan, and the following day, Nurul Amin took over Nazimuddin's old role of Chief Minister of East Bengal. The decision to appoint Nurul Amin was based on Prime Minister Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan's advise, but proved to be controversial as it was against the wishes of the ruling Muslim League party and resulted in a split in the party.

Though Khwaja Nazimuddin became governor general, real power, however, passed into the hands of PM Liaquat Ali Khan who soon made it clear that he was in charge.

The controversy over language issue remained dormant between mid-1948 and 1951 due to the fact that the ruling elite of Pakistan was pre-occupied with other burning issues. Certain changes in the political leadership of the new nation also had impact on the language issue. The death of Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 11 September 1948 had delayed the full implementation of Urdu language policy throughout Pakistan. After Jinnah died, Khwaja Nazimuddin, the Urdu speaking Chief Minister of East Bengal, became the Governor General of Pakistan. His elevation to such a coveted position in the power structure of Pakistan could be treated as the ultimate price for his life-long collaboration with the non-Bengali and anti-Bengali coterie of the Muslim League. Yet Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, had dwarfed the role and powers of the office of the Governor General of Pakistan immediately before and after Jinnah's death. The real power actually was exercised by the Prime Minister. On the other hand, Khwaja Nazimuddin's tenure as the Governor General of Pakistan was characterized by dismal failures, timidity, and vacillation. Having the experience of dealing with the volatile and committed Bengali language activists as the Chief Minister of East Bengal, Khwaja Nazimuddin was too weak either to revisit or deal with the language issue. Therefore, he was in favor of maintaining a status quo. His sole goal was to survive in the Karachi-anchored Punjabi-Mohajir controlled power structure of Pakistan.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

As for Nazimuddin, he showed not the slightest trace of taking Pakistan to a new direction, but he did make it clear that under him Pakistan would remain firmly on the course its founder had set for it. That included the late founder's position on the language question.

Meanwhile, despite the political change in the country, the people of East Bengal showed little inclination toward softening their stance on the demand for Bangla being the state language of Pakistan.

'Historic Memorandum' presented by Golam Azam to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited the eastern province for ten days from 18 - 28 November 1948.

He was accorded a reception on behalf of the Dhaka University Central Student’s Union (DUCSU) at Dhaka University Gymnasium ground on 27 November 1948. A young Golam Azam (also spelt Ghulam Azam), then General Secretary of DUCSU and a member of Tamaddun Majlish, read out the Address of Welcome and presented the 'Historic Memorandum' to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on behalf of the Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad demanding provincial autonomy and Bangla as a state language. Ghulam Azam would later be the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and gain notoriety for his alleged role in war crimes during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

The memorandum was written by Abdur Rahman Chowdhury, vice-president of Salimullah Muslim Hall in Dhaka University whose previous notable contributions, amongst others, include speaking on the first student protest on 6 December 1947, meeting with Khwaja Nazimuddin to agree the 8-Point agreement, meeting with the late Quaid-i-Azam as a member of the student delegation, and leading the student delegation to the South-East Asian Students Conference (1948) and delivering his address in Bangla, one of the first speeches made in Bangla in any international forum. A meritorious student and a brilliant orator, Abdur Rahman Chowdhury would later rise to the position of a judge of the Bangladesh High Court.

The vice president of DUCSU at that time was Aurobindo Basu, a Hindu. The Sangram Parishad felt it was not appropriate for Aurobindu Basu to present the memorandum since he was part of a religious community already under suspicion by the authorities.

In November 1948, when Pakistan's prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan travelled down to Dhaka on a ten-day visit to a pretty restive East Bengal, the students felt that in view of the hostility of the authorities to the language question, it would be proper for a Muslim rather than a Hindu to read out a memorandum before the prime minister. And thus it was that Ghulam Azam and not Aurobindo Basu presented the memorandum listing the students' demands for Bangla to the prime minister.

It will not do to erase or look away from such realities. And if Ghulam Azam's name is not on Dhaka University's list of language activists, someone should see to it that a correction is made.

The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

  • Abdur Rahman Chowdhury (1926 - ) Judge at Bangladesh High Court. One of the pioneers of Bhasha Andolon. Vice President of Salimullah Muslim Hall of Dhaka University (1948) and member of East Pakistan Muslim Students League (Barisal). Elected twice as the secretary of the then Dhaka High Court Bar Association. Elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh (1973 - 1983). Represented Bangladesh in UN General Assembly in 1977 and played crucial role in Bangladesh’s election to the Security Council for the first time. Appointed as an Arbitrator of the International Court in Paris in 1993. Chairman of Bangla Academy. Founder president of Liberty Forum and Institute of Human Rights & Legal Affairs. Father Alhaj Khan Bahadur Abdul Latif Chowdhury, an elected member of the Bengal Legislative Council at Delhi, came from an illustrious Zamindar family of undivided Bengal.
  • Golam Azam (Born 1922) Amir (President) of Jamaat-e-Islam Bangladesh. Attended Madrasah in his village of Birgaon (Comilla district) and completed his secondary school education in Dhaka. A scout leader and a sportsman in his early schooling. Completed BA and MA degrees in Political Science at Dhaka University. Popular student leader in his student life. Assistant secretary to East Pakistan Cultural Union (1945 - 1946), secretary general to the Hall Union of famous Fazlul Haque Muslim Hall of Dhaka University (1946 - 47) and secretary general to Dhaka University Central Students Union for two consecutive terms ( 1947-49). Arrested multiple time during Bhasha Andolon (such as 1948, 1952, 1955). Notable contribution include submitting a memorandum to prime minister of Pakistan on behalf of DU students on 27 Noveber 1948. Early career as teacher of Political Science in Rangpur Kermichle College, where he established a branch of Tamaddun Majlish (1952). Became member of Syed Abul Ala Maududi's Jamaat-e-Islami party in 1955 whilst in jail. Became Amir in 1969. Alleged to have collaborated with Pakistan Army during 1971 Muktijuddho and settled temporarily in Pakistan. Allowed to return to Bangladesh seven years later in 1978. Contained Pakistani passport until granted Bangladeshi citizenship in 1994. Retired from active politics in 2000. The 89-year-old was arrested on 11 January 2012 for alleged war crimes during Muktijuddho, over 40 years ago. Born in nana's (maternal grandfather) home in Lakxmi Bazar Shah Shaheb Bari in Dhaka.

Sir, It is with a heart, throbbing with joy and emotion that, we, the students of the University of Dacca, welcome you in our midst as the first Prime Minister of our new, free and sovereign State of Pakistan. Even in the midst of these joyful surrounding, our thoughts naturally go back to the day when only a few months back we had the honour and privilege of welcoming the beloved Quaid-e-Azam in our midst. Though he is no more with us his message and his work are our most precious heritage which shall continue to guide and inspire us in future. The most fitting homage that we can pay to his memory is to build up our State in accordance with the Islamic ideals of equality, brotherhood and justice.

Sir, with the dawn of independence a great responsibility has developed on us. We can assure you that, we, who have contributed our mite to the national cause, are quite alive to the fact that the future wellbeing and stability of the state rest on us. Hence, the task of building up those, who will build up the state, should be given the utmost importance. We must revolutionise our outlook and reconstruct our thought to shape ourselves in the new order of life. The present system of education, which was introduced by the Britishers to suit their requirements, should be thoroughly reorganized in the light of the altered circumstances. The lamentable failure of our Provincial Government to give any lead in this matter till now and the present pitiable plight of primary, secondary and university education in our province have compelled us to draw your kind attention to the matter. The exodus of non-Muslim teachers, who formed the bulk of the teaching staff in pre-partition period in the secondary and the university stages, coupled with the dirth of efficient substitutes, has been a serious blow. The technical branches of education, viz, the Engineering, the Medical and the Agricultural, which should be given the utmost care are also badly suffering for want of efficient teachers and technical equipment. Steps should be taken to secure efficient teachers and technical employment, if necessary, from abroad, and more students from East Pakistan should be sent overseas for higher education and training. Female education is another subject which is also not receiving its due attention. More facilities and encouragement should be given to our sisters who are now coming forward in increasing number to avail themselves of every opportunity of education and serving the country. We also urge on you, Sir, to introduce compulsory free military training in all the colleges and the universities with facilities for our sisters too. The problem of accommodation is getting more and more acute since the partition. Both students and teachers are greatly suffering on this account and the authorities are also experiencing great difficulties in accommodating the growing number of students in different educational institution. We therefore appeal to you to use your good offices to remedy the present deplorable state of affairs affecting the growth and future wellbeing of the nation...

Sir, the food problem is causing us a great concern. The prices of essential commodities and cloth have gone beyond the purchasing power of the average citizen and perhaps the cost of living here in East Pakistan is the highest in the world except in China. Steps should be taken to increase our food production to make ourselves self sufficient. This can only be made possible by abolishing the Permanent Settlement without compensation and thoroughly re-organizing our land tenure system and by the introduction of co-operative farming on a scientific basis...

Sir, though the two parts of our state happen to be separated by nearly one thousand miles we are one with our brethren of West Pakistan in their joys and sorrows, happiness and tribulations. Provincialism is a word unknown to us and quite foreign to our sentiment. We take this opportunity of conveying through you our best wishes and most sincere greetings to your brethren in West Pakistan and the youth in particular.

Sir, the policy of the Britishers to impart education through the medium of a foreign language accounts for the poor percentage of literacy amongst our people. The best way to impart education is through the medium of the mother tongue, and we are glad that our Provincial Government has already accepted this principle. The introduction of Bengali as the medium of instruction and as the official language has opened before us a great opportunity of educating our people and developing ourselves according to our own genius, We are happy to note that out Central Government, under your wise guidance, has given Bengali an honoured place. This is a step in the right direction which shall go a long way to further strengthen our cultural ties, with our brethren in West Pakistan. Interchange of thoughts and ideas and mutual understanding are essential if we have to develop a homogeneous and healthy national outlook. We have accepted Urdu as our Lingua Franca but we also feel very strongly that, Bengali by virtue of its being the official language of the premier province and also the language of the 62% of the population of the state should be given its rightful place as one of the state languages together with Urdu. Otherwise, we in East Pakistan shall always be under a permanent handicap and disadvantage. Thus alone we shall have full scope of development and forge closer affinity with our brethren of the other part and march forward hand in hand.

Sir, you are aware of the pitiable plight of the people of East Bengal and Muslims in particular, who were victims of the worst kind of political oppression and economic exploitations. We are confident, Sir, that our legitimate claim in our Armed Forces and the Central Services, on the basis of population-percentage shall be given effect to immediately...

Sir, we have been watching, with increasing grief and concern, the repressions to which nor student friends, most of who are tried Muslim League workers with admirable record of service and sacrifice, are being subjected. Many of us are being harassed and even put under detention without trial in our attempt to fight out corruption and injustice and bring them to the notice of the Government. The bogey of communism is raised to justify these injustices but we assure you most sincerely that, all other "isms" excepting Islamic message of peace, equality and social justice are quite foreign to our outlook.

We hope, Sir, and we are confident that the points we have raised shall receive your earnest attention and sympathetic consideration...

Pakistan zindabad.

Excerpt from the memorandum of the students of the University of Dhaka as read out by Golam Azam to PM Liaquat Ali Khan on 27 November 1948

However, to his discredit, prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan remained unmoved by it all and clearly showed little interest in accommodating the demand for Bangla as a state language. In his address, the prime minister condemned the demand for provincial autonomy as provincialism but kept silent on the state language issue.