Khwaja Hassan Askari
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|Nawab Khwaja Hassan Askari Bahadur|
|Nawab of Dhaka|
|Reign||1958 - 1984|
|Birthplace||Ahsan Manzil, Dhaka|
|Place of death||Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan|
|Predecessor||Nawab Khwaja Habibullah|
|Successor||Nawab Khwaja Habibullah Askari|
|Royal House||Dhaka Nawab Family|
|Father||Nawab Khwaja Habibullah|
Nawab Major Khawaja Hasan Askari (21 August 1921 - 9 August 1984), the last Nawab of Dacca was born at the Ahsan Manzil Palace in Dacca. The eldest son of Nawab Habibullah Bahadur of Dacca and Shahryar Begum (the granddaughter of Nawab Sir Ahsanullah), he became the Nawab of Dacca after his father’s death in 1958.
Nawab Hasan Askari completed his early education from the maktab at the Ahsan Manzil Palace and later joined the Muslim High School. His mother died when he was only ten years old after which he was sent to study at the Aligarh School and College from where he completed his B.A in 1940. At Aligarh he was part of the cricket team and the captain of riding club and was also the recipient of the Quaid-e-Azam Award, an honor that bestowed upon him during Quaid-e-Azam’s visit to Aligarh University. On completion of his academic career he joined the Army in 1942 and then went on to do an internship in the south of India. He then went on to join the 7th Cavalry Regiment Armored Corps and took part in action on the Burma Front against Japanese. It is said he was the first Indian Officer who carried out operations with tanks on the Burma Front and is also reported to have sustained injuries on his legs and head during the war.
In 1946 he left the British Indian army as his father required his assistance to campaign to gain the allegiance of most of Bengal for the newly emerging Pakistan. He rejoined the army after partition in 1948. In 1946 he was engaged to Bilquis Shehzadi, daughter of Nawab Hafeezuddin Khan of the State of Surat. He was married in 1948 in Hyderabad where they were the guests of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the bridal party stayed in one of their palaces. They have one daughter and four sons.
Nawab Hasan Askari served in the East Bengal Regiment. In 1949 he was transferred to the Nowshera Armored Corp and in 1950 joined Governor General’s Body Guard as the First Adjutant when his uncle Khawaja Nazimuddin was the Governor General of Pakistan. In 1951 he returned to Dacca and served with the East Bengal Regiment in various parts of the country. In 1954 he was posted back to Rawalpindi and served with the 5th Regiment of the Armored Corp also known as the Probyns Horse regiment. He served between Rawalpindi and Manser Camp until 1959.
The last Nawab
His father Nawab Habibullah Bahadur died on the 21st of November 1958 and Nawab Hasan Askari became the last Nawab of Dacca on the 22nd of November 1958. The army then transferred him to East Pakistan and he simultaneously served at the army’s recruiting office in Dacca. Due to a heart problem in 1961, Nawab Hasan Askari requested to resign from the Army. During this period there was tremendous pressure on him by the people of Dacca and Pakistan to participate in politics. He contested the 1962 Elections and won a seat in the National Assembly with the support of people of Dacca and its surrounding areas. He was appointed minister of the provincial cabinet in East Pakistan with portfolios of communications, waterways and railways. He started the first rail car service in East Pakistan which was then followed in West Pakistan and is credited with having had started the work of the new railway system in Dacca.
During the 1965 war he the Chief Warden of Dacca and was later appointed Warden General of East Pakistan, a post at which he remained till the liberation of the city in 1971. He was awarded the Hilal-e-Khidmat by the President Major General Ayub Khan in the 1960s for his services to the nation. He was the President of East Pakistan Muslim League till the fall of Dacca.
He was the bearer of family traditions and interacted with people from all classes. His house was open to anyone seeking any kind of help: monetary or legal assistance or the settlement of disputes. He maintained links with people who were involved with the political, military, academic, spiritual happenings in East Pakistan and West Pakistan as well as with foreign diplomats to be able to provide support for his people.
He also maintained links with the army, industrialists and political figures of West Pakistan to ensure that the policies of state supported the interests, the aspirations and the welfare of the people of East Pakistan. He was the arbitrator of communal issues and problems and used his status of the Nawab of Dacca and his personal qualities to provide assistance and support to the young nation. Nawab Hasan Askari was greatly respected for his kindness and support. It is said that he was a true prince and was almost always accessible to the common man. He believed in the ideals of and served the Muslim League devotedly and always remained a committed leader.
Khawaja Hasan Askari was the guardian of the various philanthropic institutions like the Nawab Salimullah Orphanage, madrassah’s supported by his family, Sir Salimullah Medical College, Ahsanullah Engineering College also supported by Nawab of Dacca family. He was the director of P.I.A, I.D.B.P and various Banks, P.I.D.C, President of Pakistan Jute Mills Association, Dacca Club and Dacca Race Club, East Pakistan Cricket Board. He was also member of the chamber of commerce.
Liberation of Bangladesh and aftermath
At the time of Bangladesh’s creation, Nawab Hasan Askari went through very difficult times. He remained in Dacca till 1975.Towards the end of 1974 at the request of then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was visiting Dacca, Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman agreed upon Nawab Hasan Askari leaving Dacca for Karachi. Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman was of the opinion that the Nawab of Dacca must stay in Bangladesh: in his country and with his people. In January 1975 Nawab Hassan Askari left Bangladesh for Karachi. He left behind a cause for which he and his family had strived for with great commitment, provided financial and political support for and had been part of the struggle for human rights and self-determination of the Muslims of the subcontinent.
Nawab Hassan Askari lived in Karachi for the remainder of his life. During the remaining years of his life till 1984 his health deteriorated - he never overcame the grief of leaving his home country and his people and felt distort over the breakup of Pakistan, a cause for which he and his family had strived. He died in Karachi on the 9th of August 1984 and has been laid to rest in Karachi at the Defence Army Graveyard where his wife Begum Bilquis Askari was also laid to rest in 1995.
- Family of Nawab Khawaja Hasan Askari