Khawaja Nazimuddin

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Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin

খাজা নাজিমুদ্দীন
خواجہ ناظِمُ الدّین
Khawaja Nazimuddin.jpg
2nd Governor-General of Pakistan
In office
14 September 1948 – 17 October 1951
MonarchGeorge VI
Prime MinisterLiaquat Ali Khan
Preceded byMuhammad Ali Jinnah
Succeeded bySir Malik Ghulam Muhammad
2nd Prime Minister of Pakistan
In office
17 October 1951 – 17 April 1953
MonarchGeorge VI
Elizabeth II
Governor GeneralSir Malik Ghulam Muhammad
Preceded byLiaquat Ali Khan
Succeeded byMohammad Ali Bogra
Chief Minister of East Bengal
In office
15 August 1947 – 14 September 1948
MonarchGeorge VI
Governor GeneralMuhammad Ali Jinnah
Prime MinisterLiaquat Ali Khan
GovernorSir Fredrick Chalmers Bourne
Preceded byHuseyn Suhrawardy (as Prime minister of Bengal)
Succeeded byNurul Amin
Prime Minister of Bengal
In office
29 April 1943 – 31 March 1945
MonarchGeorge VI
Governor GeneralLord Mountbatten
GovernorRichard Casey, Baron Casey
Preceded byFazlul Haq
Succeeded byHuseyn Suhrawardy
President of Muslim League
In office
17 October 1951 – 17 April 1953
Preceded byLiaquat Ali Khan
Succeeded byMohammad Ali of Bogra
Personal details
Khawaja Nazimuddin

(1894-07-19)19 July 1894
Dacca, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died22 October 1964(1964-10-22) (aged 70)
Dacca, East Bengal, East Pakistan
Resting placeMausoleum of three leaders
CitizenshipBritish Indian (1894–1947)
Pakistani (1947–1964)
Political partyMuslim League
Other political
All-India Muslim League
Pakistan Muslim League
Spouse(s)Shah Bano Ashraf
RelationsKhwaja Shahabuddin
(Younger brother)
MotherNawabzadi Bilqis Banu
FatherKhawaja Nizamuddin
Alma materCambridge University
(MA in Eng.)
Aligarh Muslim University
(BA in Soci.)
ProfessionBarrister, politician
AwardsOrder of the Indian Empire Ribbon.svgOrder of the Indian Empire

Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin (Urdu: خواجہ ناظِمُ الدّین‎; Bengali: খাজা নাজিমুদ্দীন; 19 July 1894 – 22 October 1964) KCIE was a Bengali conservative politician and one of the leading founding fathers of Pakistan.[1] He is noted as being the first Bengali leader of Pakistan who ruled the country first as the governor-general (1948–51), and later as the second prime minister (1951–53).[2][3]

Born into an aristocratic Nawab family in Bengal in 1894, he was educated at the Aligarh Muslim University before pursuing his post-graduation studies at the Cambridge University. Upon returning, he emabarked on his journey as a politician on the platform of All-India Muslim League. Initially, his political career revolved around advocating for reforms and development regarding education in Bengal. However, later on he started supporting the cause for a separate Muslim homeland under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He held the office of Prime Minister of Bengal from 1943 to 1945.His tenure saw the Bengal famine of 1943 which his administration disastrously handled.[4] After Partition he became the first Chief Minister of East Bengal, an office he held until his ascension to Governor-General in 1948, following the death of Jinnah. In 1951, he relinquished the post of Governor-General to Sir Malik Ghulam and took control of the Federal Government as Prime Minister after the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan.[5]

As prime minister, he struggled to run the government effectively on the internal and foreign fronts, and thus his tenure was short-lived. On the home front, he struggled to maintain law and order in the country and instructed the military to impose martial law in Lahore due to religious riots and stagnation. He also faced a populist language movement in his native Bengal that eventually led to the shutdown of its provincial government. On the foreign front, diplomatic relations with the United States, Soviet Union, Afghanistan, and India soured as republicanism and socialism gained popularity at home. Eventually, he was forced to step down in favor of diplomat Mohammad Ali Bogra by his own appointed Governor-General Sir Malik Ghulam in 1953 and conceded defeat in elections held in 1954. Shortly after retirement from national politics, he suffered a brief illness and died in 1964. He was buried at a Mausoleum in Dhaka.[6]


Family background, early life and education[edit]

Nazimuddin was born into the aristocratic and wealthy family of the Nawabs of Dhaka, (Dacca), Bengal, on 19 July 1894.[7][8][9]: 1895[10]: xxx His father was Khwaja Nizamuddin and paternal grandfather was Khwaja Fakhruddin. His family hailed from Kashmir and was long settled in Dhaka.[11] He was the maternal grandson of Nawab Bahadur Sir Khwaja Ahsanullah and his mother, Nawabzadi Bilqis Banu, was notable for her own statue.[12] Nazimuddin had a younger brother, Khwaja Shahabuddin, who would later play a vital role in national politics onwards.[13]: 76[12]: xxx Being of Kashmiri descent, his family spoke Persian, Urdu, and Bengali.[14] They were the first cousin of Nawab Khwaja Habibullah son of Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah Bahadur who helped laid foundation of Muslim League in 1906.[15]

He was educated at the Dunstable Grammar School in England but returned to India following his matriculation where he enrolled to attend the MAO College of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in Uttar Pradesh, India.[16] Nazimuddin secured his graduation with a BA degree in sociology from AMU and was sent back to England to pursue higher education.[17] During his time at AMU, he was known to be an avid tennis player and excelled in this sport when he represented his university in collegiate games.[13]: 76

After AMU, Nazimuddin went to England and attended Trinity Hall at Cambridge University. He was granted his MA degree in English by Cambridge University.[18]: 449–450 His training in England enabled him to practice law and become a Barrister-at-Law in England.[16] He was knighted in 1934.[19] In 1947–49, Nazimuddin was granted the degree of Doctor of Laws by the vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, Dr. Mahmud Hasan.[20]: 161


Public service and independence movement[edit]

Nazimuddin returned to India to join his brother Khwaja Shahbuddin from England, taking interest in civil and public affairs that led him to join the Bengali politics.[21] Both brother joined the Muslim League, and Nazimuddin successfully ran for the municipality election and elected as Chairman of Dhaka Municipality from 1922 until 1929.[9] During this time, he was appointed as Education minister of Bengal. He remained minister of Education till 1934. Later he was appointed in Viceroy's Executive Council in 1934 which he served until 1937.[22] In the former capacity he successfully piloted the Compulsory Primary Education Bill; removing disparity that existed in education between the Hindus and the Muslims. As Minister for Agriculture in 1935, he piloted the Agriculture Debtors Bill and the Bengal Rural Development Bill which freed poor Muslim cultivators from the clutches of Hindu moneylenders.[citation needed]

He participated in regional elections held in 1937 on a Muslim League's platform but conceded his defeat in favor of Fazlul Haq of Krishak Praja Part (KPP) who was appointed as Prime Minister of Bengal, while assuming his personal role as member of the legislative assembly.[23][24]: 69

In the India Office Records, Political and Secret Department Records (1756–1950), Category L/P&S, Record 5/250, 3/79, one comes across the Fortnightly Report (February 1947) to the Viceroy by the then Governor of Punjab Sir Evan Jenkins. According to this report when inquired about the Pakistan project, Khwaja Nazimuddin candidly told him that ″he did not know what Pakistan means and that nobody in the Muslim League knew.″ This remark clearly shows that so few as six months before the creation of Pakistan, even senior Muslim League leaders had no clarity as to the basic features of the State they were asking for.[a]

Home and Prime Minister of Bengal and Chief Minister of East Bengal (1940–47)[edit]

Upon the formation of the coalition government in an agreement facilitated between Muslim League and the Krishak Praja Party, Nazimuddin was appointed as the home minister under Haq's premiership., which he continued until 1943.[25]: 331

Due to his conservative elite position, he became close associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, then-president of the Muslim League, who appointed him as a member of the executive committee to successfully promote Muslim League' party agenda and program that gained popularity in East Bengal.[25]: 332[26] In 1940–41, Nazimuddin broke away from the coalition led by Premier Fazlul Haq and decided to become a leader of the opposition, leading campaign against Haq's premiership and primarily focused on Bengali nationalism issues.[25]: 332 In 1943, Nazimuddin took over the government from Premier Haq when the latter was dismissed by the governor, John Herbert, amid controversies surrounding in his political campaigns.[27] During this time, Nazimuddin played a crucial political role for the cause for the separate Muslim homeland, Pakistan.[25]: 332 About his role, he was asked about the "Pakistan question" by British Governor Richard Casey in 1945 but he showed very little and no interests in discussing the existence of the movement and reportedly quoting: he did not know what Pakistan means and nobody in Muslim League knew."[28]

His premiership lasted until 1945 when a motion of no confidence and faced with defeat in the assembly hall by 160 to 97 votes that effectively ended his premiership.[29]: 106 He relinquished the office to Nausher Ali, an Indian nationalist Muslim and a prominent member of Congress Party who the speaker of the assembly, but the administration was taken over by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.[29]: 106[30]

From 1945 to 1947, Nazimuddin continued to be served as the chairman of the Muslim League in Bengal, ardently supporting the political cause for Pakistan against the Congress Party.[25]: 333 During this time, he had been in brief conflict with Premier Suhrawardy and strongly opposed the United Bengal Movement and led a strong parliamentary opposition in the assembly against Suhrawardy's administration in April 1947. The conflict between two men mainly existed because Suhrawardy had represented the middle class while Nazimuddin was representing the aristocracy in the assembly.[31]

In 1947, he again contested in the party elections in the Muslim League against Suhrawardy's platform and securing his nomination as the party chairman for the Muslim League's East Bengal chapter.[32]: 49–50 His success in the party election eventually led him to the appointed as the first Chief Minister of East Bengal after the Partition of India in 1947 and effectively gained controlled of the Muslim League in the province.[32]: 50

As the Chief Minister, he led the motion of confidence that ultimately voted in favor of joining the Federation of Pakistan and reorganized the Government of East Pakistan by delegating conservative members in his administration.[32]: 49–50

Era of Khwaja Nazimuddin[edit]

Governor-General of Pakistan (1948–51)[edit]

On 14 August of 1947, Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah relinquished the party presidency of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) to Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin who took over the party of the President of Pakistan Muslim League (PML), due to his party electoral performance.[32]: 50–51 On 1 November 1947, he was appointed as acting Governor-General in the absence of Governor-General Jinnah due to worsening health, and eventually appointed as Governor-General after passing of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in a crucial support provided by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on 14 September 1948 to Nazimuddin.[33] His oath of office was supervised by Chief Justice Sir Abdul Rashid of the Federal Court of Pakistan, in attendance with Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.[9]

As Governor-General, Nazimuddin set a precedent of neutrality and non-interference in the government, and provided his political support to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan's government, which was seen as essential to the working of the responsible government at that time.[34]: 102

His role as Governor-General reflected a conservative mind-set and he spoke against secularism in the country.[35]

I do not agree that religion is a private affair of the individual nor do I agree that in an Islamic state every citizen has identical rights, no matter what his caste, creed or faith be ...

— Governor-General Khawaja Nazimuddin, 1948–49, [35]

In 1949, Governor-General Nazimuddin established the parliamentary committee, the Basic Principles Committee, on the advice of Prime Minister Ali Khan to underlying basic principles that would lay foundation of Constitution of Pakistan.[36]

In 1950, Nazimuddin released an official policy statement and declared that: "Pakistan would remain incomplete until the whole of Kashmir is liberated."[37]

Prime Ministership (1951–53)[edit]

Nazimuddin, with M.G. Muhammad in New York City, 1946.

After the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1951, the Muslim League leaders asked Governor-General Nazimuddin to take over the business of the government as well as the party's presidency as there was no other person found suitable for the post.[38][9]: 233 He appointed Finance Minister Sir Malik Ghulam as Governor-General's post.[9] Nazimuddin's government focused towards promoting the political programs aimed towards conservative ideas.[39] During his time in office, a framework was begun for a constitution that would allow Pakistan to become a republic, and end its British Dominion status under the Crown.

Nazimuddin's administration took place during a poor economy and the rise of provincial nationalism in four provinces and East Bengal which made him unable to run the country's affairs effectively.[40]: 121–122 By 1951–52, the Muslim League had split into two different factions dominated by the Bengali chapter and Punjab-Sindh chapter, as those were the two largest ethnic demographics, but were separated by India.[38]: 235

In 1951, Prime Minister Nazimuddin's government conducted the country's first nationwide census where it was noted that 57% population of the country was Indian immigrants, mostly residing in Karachi that further complicated the situation in the country.[41]: xxx In January 1952, Prime Minister Nazimuddin publicly announced in Dacca's meeting that: Jinnah had been right: for the sake of Pakistan's national unity, Urdu must be the official language of Pakistan–East and West.[42]: 153 On 21 February 1952, a demonstration in the Bengali Language movement demanding equal and official status to the Bengali language turned bloody, with many fatalities caused by police firings.[43]: 137 This demonstration was held when he declared Urdu the National Language of Pakistan, following the previous statement of Muhammad Ali Jinnah that Urdu shall be 'one and only' language of Pakistan.[44]

In 1953, a violent religious movement led by far-right Jamaat-e-Islami began to agitate for the removal of the Ahmadi religious minority from power positions, and demanded a declaration of this minority as non-Muslims.[45]: 60

Nazimuddin was held morally responsible for riots being spread and resisted such pressures;[45]: 60 but mass rioting broke out in Punjab against both the government and followers of this religious minority.[45]: 60–61 Prime Minister Nazimuddin responded to the violence by dismissing the Chief Minister of Punjab, Mumtaz Daultana, to Feroze Khan, but the decision came late.[46]: 17 He declared martial law, with approval coming from Governor-General Malik Ghulam, and enforced through Lieutenant General Azam Khan who successfully quelled the agitation.[46]: 17–18[47]: 158


The agitations and violence spread through the successful Bengali language movement and the riots in Lahore proved the inability of Prime Minister Nazimuddin's government as he was widely seen as weak in running the government administration.[48]: 288

In a view of attempting to improve the economy and internal security, Governor-General Malik Ghulam asked Prime Minister Nazimuddin to step down in the wider interest of the country.[48]: 289 Prime Minister Nazimuddin refused to oblige and Governor-General Malik Ghulam used reserve powers granted in the Government of India Act 1935, dismissed Prime Minister Nazimuddin.[48]: 289

Nazimuddin then requested the Federal Court of Pakistan's intervention against this action but the Chief Justice, Muh'd Munir did not rule on the legality of the dismissal, but instead forced new elections to be held in 1954.[49] Governor-General Malik Ghulam appointed another Bengali politician, Muhammad Ali Bogra who was then tenuring as the Pakistan ambassador to the United States, as the new prime minister until the new elections to be held in 1954.[48]: 289 The dismissal of Sir Khwaja Nazimuddin's administration, the prime minister, by the governor-general, Malik Ghulam, signalled a troubling trend in political history of the country.[48]: 289[50]: 132

Death and legacy[edit]

Later life and death[edit]

Mausoleum of three leaders at Dhaka

Even after his dismissal, he and his family remained active in parliamentary politics; his nephew, Khwaja Wasiuddin, an army general serving as GOC-in-C II Corps and later repatriated to Bangladesh in 1974.

His younger brother, Shahabuddin, remained active in the politics and eventually ascended as Information minister in the President Ayub Khan's administration.[51]: 559

Sir Khwaja died in 1964, aged 70. He was buried at Mausoleum of three leaders in his hometown of Dhaka.[52][53]

Wealth and honours[edit]

Nazimuddin and his brother, Shahabuddin, belonged to an aristocratic family who were known for their wealth. In thesis written by Joya Chatterji, Nazimuddin was described for unquestionable loyalty to British administration in India:

Short statured with a bulging pear-like figure, he was known for his insatiable appetite and his unfailing submission to the ... Britishers ... Dressed in British-styled Sherwani and breechers-like Churidar pajamas with a Fez cap and wearing little shoes, he carried a... cane of knob and represented an age and tradition.

— Joya Chatterji, Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, Reference[22]: 80

By 1934, the family had estates that covered almost 200,000 acres and was well spread over different districts of Eastern Bengal, together with properties in Shillong, Assam and Kolkata, had a yearly rent of £120,000 ($2,736,497.94 in 2017).[22]: 80 By the 1960s, the majority of estate was relocated from East Pakistan to the different areas of Pakistan, leaving very little of his estate in East.[22]: 80

He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1926, and was knighted in 1934 by the King-Emperor, George V, when he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE).[54]

In 1958 he was awarded the highest civilian award titled Nishan-e-Pakistan. Later by the Government of Pakistan, Nazimuddin has been honoured from time to time after his death. In Karachi, the residential areas, Nazimabad and North Nazimabad in suburbs of Karachi, had been named after his name. In Islamabad, there is a road intersection, Nazimuddin Road, that has been named in his honor; while in Dhaka, there is also a road after his namesake.[citation needed]

In his honour, the Pakistan Post issued a commemorative stamp in accordance to his respect.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Further on this: Husain Haqqani, ″Magnificent Delusions,″ New York: Public Affairs, 2013, p. 17


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  54. ^
  55. ^ "Stamp of Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin".

Current Events Biography, 1949

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
A.K. Fazlul Haque
Prime Minister of Bengal
Succeeded by
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Preceded by
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Chief Minister of East Bengal
Succeeded by
Nurul Amin
Preceded by
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
Governor-General of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Malik Ghulam Muhammad
Preceded by
Liaquat Ali Khan
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Muhammad Ali Bogra
Minister of Defence