United Front (East Pakistan)

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The United Front was A coalition of political parties in East Pakistan which contested the 1954 East Bengal legislative elections. The coalition consisted of the Awami Muslim League, the Krishak Praja Party, the Ganatantri Dal (Democratic Party) and Nizam-e-Islam. The coalition was led by three major Bengali populist leaders- A K Fazlul Huq, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulana Bhashani. The election resulted in a crushing defeat for the Muslim League, with United Front parties securing a landslide victory and gaining 223 seats in the 309-member assembly. The Awami League emerged as the majority party, with 143 seats.[1][2]

A K Fazlul Huq of the Krishak Praja Party became Chief Minister of East Pakistan upon the victory of the United Front. The election propelled popular Bengali leaders into the Pakistani federal government, with leaders such as Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Abul Mansur Ahmed becoming key federal ministers. In the provincial government, young leaders such as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Huq and Yusuf Ali Chowdhury rose to prominence.

The United Front demanded greater provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. It passed a landmark order for the establishment of the Bangla Academy in Dhaka. However, within months of assuming power, the newly elected government was dismissed by Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad, upon of accusations against A K Fazlul Huq of attempting secession.[3] The dismissal of the United Front was a key turning point in aggravating East Pakistan's grievances in the Pakistani union, and lead Maulana Bhashani to openly call for separation and independence in 1957, in his Salaam, Pakistan (Farewell, Pakistan) speech.[4]

Twenty One Point Programme[edit]

Twenty One Point Programme objectives incorporated in the election manifesto of the united front, an alliance of the opposition political parties, to contest elections of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1954 against the then party in power, Muslim league. The United Front was composed of four political parties of East Bengal, namely Awami Muslim League, Krishak Sramik Party, Nezam-e-Islam and Ganatantri Dal. The Front was formed on 4 December 1953 by the initiative of AK Fazlul Huq of Krishak Sramik Party, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy of Awami Muslim League.

The 21-point package programme in the election manifesto adopted by the United Front runs as follows:

1. To recognise Bangla as one of the State Languages of Pakistan;

2. To abolish without compensation zamindari and all rent receiving interest in land, and to distribute the surplus lands amongst the cultivators; to reduce rent to a fair level and abolish the certificate system of realising rent;

3. To nationalise the jute trade and bring it under the direct control of the government of East Bengal, secure fair price of jute to the growers and to investigate into the jute-bungling during the Muslim League regime to punish those found responsible for it;

4. To introduce co-operative farming in agriculture and to develop cottage industries with full government subsidies;

5. To start salt industry (both small and large scale) to make East Bengal self-sufficient in the supply of salt, and to investigate into the salt-bungling during the Muslim League regime to punish the offenders;

6. To rehabilitate immediately all the poor refugees belonging to the artisan and technician class;

7. To protect the country from flood and famine by means of digging canals and improving irrigation system;

8. To make the country self-sufficient by modernising the method of cultivation and industrialisation, and to ensure the rights of the labourer as per ILO Convention;

9. To introduce free and compulsory primary education throughout the country and to arrange for just pay and allowances to the teachers;

10. To restructure the entire education system, introduce mother tongue as the medium of instruction, remove discrimination between government and private schools and to turn all the schools into government aided institutions;

11. To repeal all reactionary laws including those of the Dhaka and Rajshahi Universities and to make them autonomous institutions; to make education cheaper and easily available to the people;

12. To curtail the cost of administration and to rationalise the pay scale of high and low paid government servants. The ministers shall not receive more than 1000 taka as monthly salary;

13. To take steps to eradicate corruption, nepotism and bribery, and with this end in view, to take stocks of the properties of all government officers and businessmen from 1940 onward and forfeit all properties the acquisition of which is not satisfactorily accounted for;

14. To repeal all Safety and Preventive Detention Acts and release all prisoners detained without trial, and try in open court persons involved in anti-state activities; to safeguard the rights of the press and of holding meetings;

15. To separate the judiciary from the executive;

16. To locate the residence of the chief minister of the United Front at a less costly house, and to convert Burdwan House into a students hostel now, and later, into an institute for research on Bangla language and literature;

17. To erect a monument in memory of the martyrs of the Language Movement on the spot where they were shot dead, and to pay compensation to the families of the martyrs;

18. To declare 21 February as ‘Shaheed Day’ and a public y;

19. The Lahore Resolution proposed full autonomy of East Bengal leaving defence, foreign affairs and currency under the central government. In the matter of defence, arrangements shall be made to set the headquarters of the army in West Pakistan and the naval headquarters in East Bengal and to establish ordnance factories in East Bengal, and to transform Ansar force into a full-fledged militia equipped with arms;

20. The United Front Ministry shall on no account extend the tenure of the Legislature and shall resign six months before the general elections to facilitate free and fair elections under an Election Commission;

21. All casual vacancies in the Legislature shall be filled up through by-elections within three months of the vacancies, and if the nominees of the Front are defeated in three successive by-elections, ministry shall resign from office.

In the elections of East Bengal Legislative Assembly held in March 1954, the United Front won 223 seats out of 237 Muslim seats, whereas the ruling Muslim League managed to bag only 9 seats.

References[edit]