Pakistan gained independence following immense sacrifices by Muslims under the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
However, the first step to attain a separate homeland for Muslims of the Subcontinent, so they could live according to their religion and cultural traditions, was taken by the Muslims of Bengal much before the Partition of 1947. Due to their sustained struggle and untiring efforts, Bengal was divided as Muslim-majority East Bengal and Hindu-majority West Bengal in 1905. That achievement could not have been possible without the efforts of prominent Bengali leaders like Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy, the chief minister of United Bengal at the time of independence. Being the general secretary of the Muslim League Bengal, he played a pivotal role for promoting the activities of Muslim League all over United Bengal after founding the office of All India Muslim League in 1906 in Dacca.
He also took up the matter of Bengal in the Legislative Convention of Undivided India where he worked hard for the passage of a resolution through which annexation of East Bengal as an integral part of Pakistan was made possible. Moreover, it is only due to his leadership qualities that in the 1946 General Elections, Muslim League Bengal was overwhelmingly victorious by winning 113 out of 119 seats fixed for Muslims in the Bengal Assembly. Later, these members proved helpful by voting for representatives of All India Muslim League who were contesting in the Central Assembly of British India for establishing constitutional legislation as well as the future political framework in India. The support by these Bengali members of Bengal Assembly helped the All India Muslim League win 32 out of 33 seats in the Central Assembly of India. Thus, the whole scenario changed in favour of All India Muslim League. Prominent Muslim League leaders including Liaquat Ali Khan, the first prime minister of Pakistan, Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, IH Qureshi, Khan Abdul Qayum of then-North West Frontier Province and eight other national figures were elected courtesy of the Bengali Muslim members of Bengal Assembly. Resultantly, All India Muslim League emerged as the second biggest political party representing Muslims.
It can thus be said with near-certainty that without the crucial role played by Suharwardy, there may not have been a Pakistan. Unfortunately, instead of recognition of his services, he was not allowed to enter Pakistan after Independence and once he appealed in court the injustice of the ruling government, he was allowed to do so after six months. Furthermore, he was nominated as the fifth prime minister of Pakistan on September 12, 1956 but his government was dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad on October 18, 1957.
Similarly, the role of AK Fazalul Haque cannot be ignored in the struggle for Pakistan. He played a critical role for Muslim unity in Undivided Bengal when he was mayor of Calcutta, the capital of Bengal province during 1935 to 1937. Later, from 1937 to 1943, he remained the chief minister of United Bengal. Due to his untiring efforts, the Pakistan Resolution was passed under his president-ship at Lahore’s Minto Park in 1940. Later, Haque worked on the Lucknow Pact between Congress and All India Muslim League for removing differences between Hindus and Muslims and streamlining the political process in India at the time. In 1935, he also participated in the Round Table Conferences and successfully fought the case of the Muslim community in Bengal which had fruitful results in strengthening the Pakistan Movement in Bengal. Unfortunately, after Partition, Haque was also victimised with the government declaring him a traitor.
The second prime minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin of Bengal, also faced similar discrimination at the hands of the country’s elite. Nazimuddin had struggled for the creation of Pakistan by selling all his property and spending it on the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims. Instead of recognising his sacrifice, he was dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad. After his dismissal, Nazimuddin left the PM House and moved to his friend’s home in a taxi as he had did not have his own residence anywhere.
Similarly, Muhammad Ali Bogra, the third prime minister of Pakistan, also faced similar treatment and was later dismissed by the ruling regime and stepped down in 1955 in favour of finance minister Muhammad Ali.
It is unfortunate that the country’s ruling elite did not honour the sacrifices by Bengali leaders of the Pakistan Movement and continued their discriminatory behaviour against Bengalis, which eventually led to the tragic separation of East Pakistan in 1971.