Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

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Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
হোসেন শহীদ সোহরাওয়ার্দী
حسین شہید سہروردی
5th Prime Minister of Pakistan
In office
12 September 1956 – 17 October 1957
PresidentIskandar Ali Mirza
Preceded byChaudhry Mohammad Ali
Succeeded byI. I. Chundrigar
3rd Prime Minister of Bengal
In office
23 April 1946 – 14 August 1947
MonarchGeorge VI
Governors GeneralEarl Wavell
Earl Mountbatten
Preceded bySir Khawaja Nazimuddin
Succeeded byPosition abolished
(Khawaja Nazimuddin as Chief Minister of East Bengal)
(Prafulla Chandra Ghosh as Premier of West Bengal)
2nd President of Awami League
In office
27 July 1956 – 10 October 1957
General SecretarySheikh Mujibur Rahman
Preceded byAbdul Hamid Khan Bhashani
Succeeded byAbdur Rashid Tarkabagish
Personal details
Born(1892-09-08)8 September 1892
Midnapore, Bengal, British India (now West Bengal, India)
Died5 December 1963(1963-12-05) (aged 71)
Beirut, Lebanon
Cause of deathCardiac arrest
Resting placeThree Leaders Mausoleum, Dhaka, Bangladesh
CitizenshipBritish India (1892–47)
Indian (1947–49)
Pakistani (1949–63)
Political partyAll India Muslim League, Bengal Provincial Muslim League, Awami League
Other political
Swaraj Party
Spouse(s)Begum Niaz Fatima
(m. 1920; died. 1922)
Vera Alexandrovna Tiscenko Calder
(m. 1940; div. 1951)
ChildrenBegum Akhtar Sulaiman (daughter), Rashid Suhrawardy (son)
RelativesSuhrawardy family, Hasan Shaheed Suhrawardy (brother)
Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah (cousin)
Salma Sobhan (niece)
Princess Sarvath al-Hassan (niece)
Shahida Jamil (granddaughter)
Residence(s)Calcutta, Karachi and Dhaka
Alma materCalcutta University
(BS in Maths, MA in Arabic lang.)
St Catherine's College, Oxford
(MA in Polysci and BCL)
ProfessionLawyer, politician

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (Bengali: হোসেন শহীদ সোহ্‌রাওয়ার্দী; Urdu: حسین شہید سہروردی; 8 September 1892 – 5 December 1963) was a Pakistani Bengali barrister and politician. In Bangladesh, Suhrawardy is remembered as a pioneer of Bengali civil rights movements, later turned into Bangladesh independence movement, and the mentor of Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He is also remembered for his performance as the Minister for Civil Supply during the Bengal famine of 1943.[1][2] In India, he is seen as a controversial figure; directly responsible for the 1946 Calcutta Killings,[3][4][5] for which he is often referred as the "Butcher of Bengal" in West Bengal.[6]

He served as the Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1956 to 1957 and before that as the Prime Minister of Bengal from 1946 to 1947 in British India. In both Pakistan and Bangladesh, Suhrawardy is regarded as a patron of separate homeland for the Muslims, especially for Bengali Muslims, for which he is revered as one of the founding statesmen of Pakistan.

Suhrawardy was a scion of one of British Bengal's most prominent Muslim families, the Suhrawardy family. His father Sir Zahid Suhrawardy was a judge of the high court in Bengal. Suhrawardy studied law in Oxford. After returning to India, he joined the Indian independence movement during the 1920s as a trade union leader in Calcutta. He was initially associated with the Swaraj Party. He joined the All-India Muslim League and became one of the leaders of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League (BPML). Suhrawardy was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1937. In 1946, Suhrawardy led the BPML to decisively win the provincial general election. He served as Bengal's last premier until the Partition of India. His premiership was notable for his proposal to create a Free State of Bengal and failing to prevent the Great Calcutta Killings.[6] Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, supported an independent Bengal; this was strongly opposed by the Congress Party.[7][1][2] In 1947, the Bengal Assembly voted to partition the territory. Suhrawardy briefly remained in India after partition to attend to his ailing father and manage his family's property. He eventually moved to Pakistan and divided his time between Karachi (Pakistan's federal capital) and Dhaka (capital of East Pakistan).

In Dhaka, Suhrawardy emerged as the leader of the Bengali-dominated Awami League which became the principal opposition party to the Pakistan Muslim League. In 1956, the centre-left Awami League formed a coalition government with the military-backed Republican Party to unseat the Muslim League. Suhrawardy became Prime Minister in the coalition government. He forged stronger ties with the United States by leading Pakistan's diplomacy in SEATO and CENTO. He also became the first Pakistani premier to travel to Communist China. His pro-US foreign policy caused a split in the Awami League in East Pakistan, with Maulana Bhashani forming the break-away pro-Maoist National Awami Party. Suhrawardy's premiership lasted for a year. His central cabinet included figures like Sir Feroz Khan Noon as Foreign Minister and Abul Mansur Ahmad as Trade Minister. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was considered Suhrawardy's chief political protégé.[8]

Suhrawardy was premier under Pakistan's first republican constitution which ended dominion status and the monarchy of Queen Elizabeth. During the 1958 military coup, Suhrawardy was arrested by the martial law government. He missed the wedding of his niece, Salma Sobhan (Pakistan's first woman barrister), because of his detention.[9] In 1963, Suhrawardy died in Beirut due to a heart attack. After his death, the Awami League veered towards Bengali nationalism, the 6-point movement, East Pakistani secession and ultimately Bangladeshi independence in 1971. According to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, "Bengalis had initially failed to appreciate a leader of Mr. Suhrawardy's stature. By the time they learned to value him, they had run out of time".[8][10] Suhrawardy's only daughter Begum Akhtar Sulaiman was a social worker and activist in Pakistan; his son, Rashid Suhrawardy, from his second marriage to Vera Alexandrovna Tiscenko Calder; was a British Bangladeshi actor known for his role in the film Jinnah. His brother Hasan Shaheed Suhrawardy was a diplomat, writer and art-critic. Many places in South Asia bear his name, including an avenue in Islamabad; a large park near his mausoleum in Dhaka; and streets, dormitories and memorials across Bangladesh. The Suhrawardy family home in modern-day Kolkata has been leased as a Library and Information Centre of the Bangladesh High Commission in India by the city's Waqf board.

Family and early life[edit]

Suhrawardy was called to the Bar of England and Wales at Gray's Inn

The Suhrawardy family are regarded as one of the illustrious families of the Indian subcontinent. Claiming themselves as descendants of the first caliph of Islam,[11]: 81 [12] the Suhrawardy lineage is traced to Shihab al-Din 'Umar al-Suhrawardi, a Sufi who lived in Baghdad during the 12th century. The Suhrawardiyya order is one of the major Sunni orders of Sufism. His grandfather, Ubaidullah Al Ubaidi Suhrawardy, was a Dhaka-based Sufi leader of the Bengali Renaissance and buried beside the Lalbagh Fort.[13] His father Justice Sir Zahid Suhrawardy was a Judge of the Calcutta High Court. His brother Hasan Shaheed Suhrawardy was a linguist, poet, art-critic and diplomat. His uncles included Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Suhrawardy and Sir Abdullah Al-Mamun Suhrawardy. His cousin Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah was one of South Asia's pioneering women in public service. His first wife was Begum Niaz Fatima, the daughter of Justice Sir Abdur Rahim, a member of the Governor's Executive Council and Speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly. Begum Niaz Fatima died in 1922.[14] His second wife was Begum Veera Suhrawardy, a Russian actress of Polish descent.

A young Huseyn studied in Calcutta Madrasa and attended St. Xavier's College, Kolkata where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.[15][16] Both Huseyn and his elder brother Hasan studied in St Catherine's College, Oxford. They entertained themselves with D. H. Lawrence, Robert Trevelyn, Bertrand Russell, Hugh Kingsmill, Basanta Kumar Mullick, Kiran Shankar Roy, Apurba Chanda, Sri Prakash, S K Gupta, Surendra Kumar Sen, and Syud Hossain.[13] The elder Suhrawardy (Hasan) was in Oxford when Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize in 1913. His brother Hasan later recounted that "it is difficult now for me to recapture the elation and the ecstasy of those days, but I remember distinctly that look of awe which was in my landlady's eyes when she brought in the breakfast with the morning newspaper containing the scoop".[13] Suhrawardy obtained further degrees, including a Bachelor of Civil Law from Oxford and a Master of Arts in Arabic from Calcutta. Suhrawardy became a barrister. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales through Gray's Inn in 1922–23.[17]

His first son Shahab died of pneumonia.[14] His second son Rashid Suhrawardy was a British theatre actor. Rashid starred in the film Jinnah along with Christopher Lee.[18] His granddaughter Shahida Jamil served as Pakistan's law minister. His nieces include Princess Sarvath al-Hassan of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; the late Bangladeshi barrister Salma Sobhan; and the film-maker Naz Ikramullah.

Political career[edit]

Political organizer[edit]

Suhrawardy was credited as a pioneering modern political organizer in Bengal. He created 36 trade unions among sailors, railway employees, jute and cotton mills workers, rickshaw pullers, cart drivers and other working class groups dominated by Bengali Muslims.[19]

Deputy Mayor of Calcutta (1924-1926)[edit]

Suhrawardy joined the Swaraj Party led by Bengali Hindu secularist C. R. Das in 1923. He became the Deputy Mayor of Calcutta in 1924.[19] After the death of Das, Suhrawardy turned to Indian Muslim nationalism.[14] He emerged as a leader of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League (BPML), the provincial wing of the Muslim League which his father Zahid had earlier helped create in 1912.

Bengali Muslim groups[edit]

Suhrawardy formed several Bengali Muslim political groups, including the Calcutta Khilafat Committee during the 1920s amid the dissolution of the Ottoman caliphate and the Turkish War of Independence;[20] the Bengal Muslim Election Board; the United Muslim Party; and the Independent Muslim Party.[19]

Bengal Legislative Assembly and WWII[edit]

In 1937, Suhrawardy was elected to the newly formed Bengal Legislative Assembly. He was appointed as Minister of Commerce and Labor in the cabinet of the 1st Prime Minister of Bengal A. K. Fazlul Huq. In 1940, the Lahore Resolution was adopted by Indian Muslim leaders calling for the creation of independent states in eastern and northwestern India; it was unclear if the resolution implied a single state covering the two Muslim-majority regions of India or multiple states. Suhrawardy served as Minister of Civil Supplies in the cabinet of the 2nd Prime Minister of Bengal Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin. According to author Thomas Keneally, Suhrawardy blamed black marketers and the central government in New Delhi for the Bengal famine of 1943 during World War II, and claimed he worked tirelessly on relief. Viceroy Lord Wavell, however, believed that Suhrawardy was corrupt, that he "siphoned money from every project that was undertaken to ease the famine, and awarded to his associates contracts for warehousing, the sale of grain to governments, and transportation."[21] On the other hand, Indian author, Madhushree Mukherjee, laid major responsibility of this famine to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who wanted the ration for war efforts only and had refrained the U.S. aid to Bengal.[22] Suhrawardy was further accused of practising a Scorched-Earth Policy to counter the Japanese Army's advances in the East and supervised to burn thousand fishing boats to block any potential movement of invading Japanese Army troops.[23]: 533–535  These measures aggravated starvation and famine and the relief was only ordered when Lord Wavell became the Viceroy, using the Indian Army to organise relief.[23] However, by that time, the winter crop had arrived and famine conditions had already eased, after millions had earlier perished.[23]: 534  Calcutta's Hindu-owned newspapers had become very critical of his role and the Bengali Hindus held him directly responsible for the famine.[24]

Prime Minister of Bengal (1946-1947)[edit]

Suhrawardy and Mahatma Gandhi in Noakhali before the partition of India. A young Sheikh Mujib looks on
Suhrawardy and Jinnah at a rally in Calcutta, 1946

During the 1946 general election, Suhrawardy led the Bengal Provincial Muslim League (BPML) to a decisive victory. The Muslim League's biggest success was in Bengal where out of 119 seats for Muslims, the BPML won 113. Suhrawardy was supported by the League's chief Muhammad Ali Jinnah to assume the premiership of Bengal. Suhrawardy's cabinet included himself as home minister; Mohammad Ali of Bogra as finance, health and local government minister; Syed Muazzemuddin Hossain as education minister; Ahmed Hossain as agriculture, forest and fisheries minister; Nagendra Nath Roy as judicial and legislative minister; Abul Fazal Muhammad Abdur Rahman as cooperatives and irrigation Minister; Abul Gofran as civil supplies minister; Tarak Nath Mukherjee as waterways minister; Fazlur Rahman as land minister; and Dwarka Nath Barury as works minister.

Suhrawardy and Gandhi

Direct Action riots[edit]

Suhrawardy's tenure as premier saw the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946. The Muslim League called a strike to press its demand for the creation of Pakistan. The strike degenerated into brutal and widespread Hindu-Muslim riots in which thousands were killed on both sides. The riots were seen by some as the last nail in the coffin for Hindu-Muslim unity in British India.

The crowd at the Muslim League rally at the Maidan.

Troubles started on the morning of 16 August. Even before 10 o'clock Police Headquarters at Lalbazar had reported that there was excitement throughout the city, that shops were being forced to close, and that there were many reports of brawls, stabbing and throwing of stones and brickbats. These were mainly concentrated in the North-central parts of the city like Rajabazar, Kelabagan, College Street, Harrison Road, Colootolla and Burrabazar. In these areas the Hindus were in a majority and were also in a superior and powerful economic position. The trouble had assumed the communal character which it was to retain throughout.[25]

The meeting began around 2 pm though processions of Muslims from all parts of Calcutta had started assembling since the midday prayers. A large number of the participants were reported to have been armed with iron bars and lathis (bamboo sticks). The numbers attending were estimated by a Central Intelligence Officer's reporter at 30,000 and by a Special Branch Inspector of Calcutta Police at 500,000. The latter figure is impossibly high and the Star of India reporter put it at about 100,000. The main speakers were Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin and Chief Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Khwaja Nazimuddin in his speech preached peacefulness and restraint but spoilt the effect and flared up the tensions by stating that till 11 o'clock that morning all the injured persons were Muslims, and the Muslim community had only retaliated in self-defence.[25]

The Special Branch of Calcutta Police had sent only one shorthand reporter to the meeting, with the result that no transcript of the Chief Minister's speech is available. But the Central Intelligence Officer and a reporter, who Frederick Burrows believed was reliable, deputed by the military authorities agree on one statement (not reported at all by the Calcutta Police). The version in the former's report was—"He [the Chief Minister] had seen to police and military arrangements who would not interfere".[25] The version of the latter's was—"He had been able to restrain the military and the police".[25] However, the police did not receive any specific order to "hold back". So, whatever Suhrawardy may have meant to convey by this, the impression of such a statement on a largely uneducated audience is construed by some to be an open invitation to disorder[25] indeed, many of the listeners are reported to have started attacking Hindus and looting Hindu shops as soon as they left the meeting.[25][26] Subsequently, there were reports of lorries (trucks) that came down Harrison Road in Calcutta, carrying hardline Muslim gangsters armed with brickbats and bottles as weapons and attacking Hindu-owned shops.[27]

More than 300 Oriya labourers of Kesoram Cotton Mills were massacred in the slums of Lichubagan, Metiabruz.

A 6 pm curfew was imposed in the parts of the city where there had been rioting. At 8 pm forces were deployed to secure main routes and conduct patrols from those arteries, thereby freeing up police for work in the slums and the other underdeveloped sections.[28]

United Bengal[edit]

In New Delhi on 27 April 1947, Suhrawardy called a press conference to demand an undivided, independent Bengal. Suhrawardy made an impassioned plea for setting aside religious differences in order to create an "independent, undivided, and sovereign Bengal".[29] He opposed the British government's plan to partition India's most populous province; he was supported by the Governor of Bengal Frederick Burrows, Sarat Chandra Bose of the Indian National Congress, Kiran Shankar Roy of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Satya Ranjan Bakshi, Secretary of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League Abul Hashim, Bengal Finance Minister Mohammad Ali Chaudhury, Bengal Revenue Minister Fazlur Rahman and Tippera politician Ashrafuddin Chowdhury. Suhrawardy stated the following:-

Let us pause for a moment to consider what Bengal can be if it remains united. It will be a great country, indeed the richest and the most prosperous in India capable of giving to its people a high standard of living, where a great people will be able to rise to the fullest height of their stature, a land that will truly be plentiful. It will be rich in agriculture, rich in industry and commerce and in course of time it will be one of the powerful and progressive states of the world. If Bengal remains united this will be no dream, no fantasy.[29]

On 20 May 1947, a five-point plan was outlined for a "Free State of Bengal", echoing the legacy of the name of the Irish Free State. The plan was based on a confessionalist structure with power-sharing between Hindus and Muslims. It mirrored some of the confessionalist practices adopted in French Lebanon in 1926, where the positions of President and Prime Minister rotated among Muslims and Christians. The five-point plan stated that "On the announcement by His Majesty's Government that the proposal of the Free State of Bengal had been accepted and that Bengal would not be partitioned, the present Bengal Ministry would be dissolved. A new interim Ministry would be brought into being, consisting of an equal number of Muslims and Hindus (including Scheduled Caste Hindus) but excluding the Prime Minister. In this Ministry, the Prime Minister would be a Muslim and the Home Minister a Hindu. Pending the final emergence of a Legislature and a Ministry under the new constitutions, Hindus (including Scheduled Caste Hindus) and Muslims would have an equal share in the Services, including military and police. The Services would be manned by Bengalis. A Constituent Assembly composed of 30 persons, 16 Muslims and 14 non-Muslims, would be elected by Muslim and non-Muslim members of the Legislature respectively, excluding Europeans".[30] The British government seriously considered of the option of an independent Bengal. British commercial interests in Bengal required safeguards. The United States was also briefed on the possibility of three countries emerging out of partition, including Pakistan, India, and Bengal. On 2 June 1947, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee informed the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Lewis Williams Douglas that there was a "distinct possibility Bengal might decide against partition and against joining either Hindustan or Pakistan".[31] Douglas cabled the State Department about the matter.[31]

Partition of India[edit]

Suhrawardy's interview on Partition of India and Bengal.

On 20 June 1947, the Bengal Legislative Assembly met to vote on the partition of Bengal. At the preliminary joint session, the assembly decided by 126 votes to 90 that if it remained united it should join the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Later, a separate meeting of legislators from West Bengal decided by 58 votes to 21 that the province should be partitioned and that West Bengal should join the Constituent Assembly of India. In another separate meeting of legislators from East Bengal, it was decided by 106 votes to 35 that the province should not be partitioned and 107 votes to 34 that East Bengal should join Pakistan in the event of partition.[32] Communal violence broke out across India, especially in the Punjab and Bengal's Noakhali district. Suhrawardy traveled to Noakhali with Mahatma Gandhi to restore order; Gandhi and Suhrawardy also had deliberations in Calcutta. After the transfer of power on 14–15 August 1947, Suhrawardy continued to remain in India for a few years where he attended to ailing members of his family. He eventually settled down in the Dominion of Pakistan, with residences in the federal capital Karachi and the provincial capital Dhaka. His cousin Begum Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah called for Pakistan's constituent assembly to convene in Dacca as East Bengal was home to the majority of Pakistan's population.[33]

Awami League[edit]

Suhrawardy joined the Awami League, a party formed in 1949 to counter the erstwhile ruling Muslim League. Suhrawardy emerged as the centrist leader of the Awami League; while Maulana Bhashani represented more radical leftist factions. The Awami League was often allied with the centre-left Krishak Praja Party of A. K. Fazlul Huq. Suhrawardy's chief protégé in East Bengal was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to whom Suhrawardy delegated political responsibilities.

Suhrawardy and Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin in Karachi, 1950s

Law Minister of Pakistan[edit]

Suhrawardy was appointed law minister in 1953 in the cabinet of Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra. He was in charge of drafting Pakistan's constitution.[34]

United Front[edit]

One of the highlights of Suhrawardy's political career was leading the United Front campaign during the 1954 East Bengali election which booted the Muslim League out of power.

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

At the federal level, Suhrawardy served as Leader of the Opposition in the parliament of Pakistan in 1955. His position was bolstered by the landslide victory in East Bengal in 1954.

Prime Minister of Pakistan (1956-1957)[edit]

Suhrawardy being received by Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House
Suhrawardy with Iskander Mirza and Zhou Enlai

In 1956, the Awami League formed a coalition with Pakistan's Republican Party to unseat the previous government. Suhrawardy became the fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan and the second premier under the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan. Suhrawardy was known as a pro-American politician. He also cultivated pragmatic ties with Communist China. Suhrawardy supported the American-led Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). He was not keen on nonalignment which was strongly pursued by neighboring India. Suhrawardy toured the United States, was hosted by President Eisenhower at the White House, and met with American movie stars in Hollywood. In domestic policy, Suhrawardy addressed issues of nuclear energy, foreign aid utilization, food policy, the One Unit framework, and building up the military. His staunchly pro-Western foreign policy was opposed by Bengali radicals led by Maulana Bhashani who caused a split in the Awami League. However, Suhrawardy was elected as President of the Awami League. His cabinet included Feroz Khan Noon and Abul Mansur Ahmed among others.

One Unit[edit]

Initially promising to review the One Unit framework in the 1956 constitution, Prime Minister Suhrwardy later backtracked.[35] At the National Assembly, Prime Minister Suhrawardy faced pressure from provincialists over the One Unit.[36] West Pakistani provincialists wanted to restore the previous four provinces of Sind, Balochistan, Punjab and the North West Frontier Province. Large rallies were held in West Pakistan against the One Unit.[37][36] Prime Minister Suhrawardy, however, did not pay attention to the issue.[35] While East Pakistanis also objected to the One Unit for renaming East Bengal as East Pakistan, opposition among ethnic groups to the One Unit was stronger in West Pakistan.[35][36]

Joint electorate[edit]

Suhrawardy's one-year tenure was unable to introduce the joint electorate. Since 1932, elections in Pakistan's provinces were held under the "separate electorate" system of dividing seats in parliament among religious groups in accordance with the colonial-era Communal Award. Abolishing the joint electorate was a key demand of the Awami League. At the National Assembly, the Awami League initiated constitutional reforms to restore the joint electorate system but faced opposition from the Muslim League.[37]

Suhrawardy as PM

Nuclear energy[edit]

Suhrawardy established the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). He appointed Dr. Nazir Ahmad as its chairman.[38] Suhrawardy supported the Atoms for Peace initiative.[38] Suhrawardy also released funds to import a nuclear swimming pool reactor from America in 1956.[38]

Economic policy and foreign aid[edit]

In 1956, Prime Minister Suhrawardy halted the National Finance Commission (NFC) programme to allocate taxed revenue equally between East and West Pakistan.[citation needed] A poor harvest led to heavy imports that year, mostly in the form of foreign aid, to meet food shortages. The United States agreed to sell $46.4 million in rice, wheat, and other farm products, about 80% of which was covered by aid grants or loans.[39]

The central government led by Suhrawardy focused on the implementation of the planned economy.[37] His relations with the stock exchange and the business community deteriorated when he announced distribution of the US$10 million ICA aid between West and East, and establishing the shipping corporation at the expense of West Pakistan's revenues.[40]: 149  Massive labour strikes broke out in West Pakistan against his economic policy in major cities of Pakistan. Eventually leaders of the stock exchange met with President Mirza to address their concerns and issues.[37]

Foreign policy[edit]

Suhrawardy in 1957 described Pakistan's foreign policy as "friendship towards all and malice towards none", a phrase which was later adopted as Bangladesh's foreign policy.[41][42] Suhrawardy is also considered to be one of the pioneers of Pakistan's foreign policy aimed, directed, and set towards excessively supporting the United States and their cause, a policy that was pursued by the successive administrations.[43] On 10 July 1957, Prime Minister Suhrawardy paid an official visit to the United States where he met with President Dwight Eisenhower and accepted his request to lease out an air force base to the United States Air Force that would be in use for the signals intelligence purposes against the Soviet Union. The 1960 U-2 incident severely compromised the national security of Pakistan when Soviet Union eventually discovered the base through interrogating its pilot. In return, the United States distributed ~US$ 2.142 billion in shape of giving the supersonic F-104 Starfighter and M48 Patton tanks and dispatching the assistance group to the Pakistan's military.[44] Suhrawardy's party, the Awami League, split over his signing of the US-Pakistan military pact, with Maulana Bhasani leaving to form the National Awami Party (NAP).[45]

Prime Minister Suhrawardy was invited by the Soviet Union for an informal visit but he declined.[46] In 1956, Prime Minister Suhrawardy became the Pakistan's first Prime Minister to visit China.[47] Suhrawardy's India policy was at times critical.[48] He demanded a fair share of water sharing on transboundary rivers.[49] Suhrawardy visited Afghanistan and pledged to work for regional peace, decolonization and stability. Suhrawardy also visited Japan and felt the East Asian country was model to emulate in development. He addressed a joint sitting of the Philippines Congress during which he expressed support for SEATO and continued to call for decolonization.[49]


Suhrawardy's short-lived premiership came to an end when he resigned under pressure from President Iskander Mirza in 1957.[50]

Post-coup life[edit]

Suhrawardy was arrested by the martial law government after the 1958 military coup in Pakistan. While in jail, he wrote to his niece Salma Sobhan on the occasion of her wedding to Rehman Sobhan, calling Salma "preternaturally transcendentally intelligent".[9]


Suhrawardy is often subjected to criticism by in India for failing to prevent the Direct Action Day riots. According to them, Suhrawardy and other Muslim League leaders reportedly delivered provocative speeches reminding the Bengali Muslims of the historical Islamic victory and urged them to follow the same way on 16 August. The historian Devendra Panigrahi, in his book India's Partition: The Story of Imperialism in Retreat,[51] quotes from 13 August 1946 issue of Muslim League mouthpiece The Star of India, "Muslims must remember that ... it was in Ramazan that the permission for jehad was granted by Allah. It was in Ramazan that the Battle of Badr, the first open conflict between Islam and Heathenism, was fought and won by 313 Muslims and again it was in Ramazan that 10,000 Muslims under the Holy Prophet conquered Mecca and established the kingdom of Heaven and the commonwealth of Islam in Arabia. The Muslim League is fortunate that it is starting its action in this holy month". On 16 August 1946, the massive bloody riots erupted in Calcutta, killings scores of Hindus at the hands of rioters.[52] However, there is no other claim or evidence have been found. Suhrawardy attempted to control the situation by unsuccessfully calling for peace and deployment of the Indian Army in Calcutta with no success.[52] The riots ended with thousand deaths and the Indian press blaming Suhrawardy of obstructing the police work, which is well documented by several authors and eyewitnesses.[53][54] According to authorities, the riots were instigated by members of the Muslim League and its affiliate Volunteer Corps after listening to the speeches made by Khwaja Nazimuddin and Suhrawardy,[25][55][56][57] in the city in order to enforce the declaration by the Muslim League that Muslims were to 'suspend all business' to support their demand for an independent Pakistan.[25][55][58][59] However, supporters of the Muslim League believed that the Congress Party was behind the violence[60] in an effort to weaken the fragile Muslim League government in Bengal, further generating the controversy about the real culprits.[25] Historian Joya Chatterji allocates much of the responsibility to Suhrawardy, for setting up the confrontation and failing to stop the rioting, but points out that Hindu leaders were also culpable.[61] A senior intelligence operative wrote to a senior British officer based at Fort William after the 'Great Calcutta Killings' after the Calcutta riots: "There is hardly a person in Calcutta who has a good word for Suhrawardy, respectable Muslims included. For years he has been known as "The king of the goondas" and my own private opinion is that he fully anticipated what was going to happen, and allowed it to work itself up, and probably organised the disturbance with his goonda gangs as this type of individual has to receive compensation every now and again."[62] According to Tathagata Roy, Suhrawardy had pre-planned the riot long back, evident from the fact that demographic changes were being made in the Calcutta Police constabulary.[63] Recently, Polish scholar Tomasz Flasiński expressed another opinion about Suhrawardy. His research proved, inter alia, that Suhrawardy's famous speech during the first day of Calcutta Riot urged Muslims to come back to their homes instead of (as it was often suggested) encouraging them to riot, and in fact the Prime Minister asked the British Army to intervene against hooligans even before that speech. Making use of recently disclosed or hitherto unused sources, he also revealed that Suhrawardy was at odds with Muslim League's radical fraction also after Noakhali riots; however, in some other cases of the Hindu-Muslim armed fights (primarily in Calcutta during Spring 1947) he did less to stop the acts of violence than he could, what made him - according to Flasiński - guilty by negligence.[64]


Large processions following the funeral of Suhrawardy at Ramna Racecourse Ground (now Suhrawardy Udyan)
Suhrawardy is buried at this mausoleum in Dhaka, Bangladesh alongside A. K. Fazlul Huq and Khawaja Nazimuddin

Suhrawardy died in Beirut, Lebanon in 1963 due to a heart attack.[65] Many Bengalis were - and some still are - convinced that he was killed on Ayub Khan's order, as his popularity may have made him a powerful rival to Ayub in the upcoming presidential elections.[66] He was buried in Dhaka beside Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin and A. K. Fazlul Huq, signifying his towering stature in Bengali politics as one of the three leading Bengali statesmen of the early 20th century.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pranab Chatterjee (2010). A Story of Ambivalent Modernization in Bangladesh and West Bengal: The Rise and Fall of Bengali Elitism in South Asia. Peter Lang. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-4331-0820-4. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b Krishna Dutta (2003). Calcutta: A Cultural and Literary History. Signal Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-902669-59-5. Retrieved 10 August 2021.
  3. ^ Y.G. Bhave (1995). The First Prime Minister of India. Northern Book Centre. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-81-7211-061-1.
  4. ^ Tomasz Flasinski. "Dr. Jekyll, Mr Hyde or Bengali Hamlet? Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy as the last Prime Minister of undivided Bengal*" (PDF). Journals PAS.
  5. ^ M K K Nayar (24 February 2014). Story of an Era Told Without Ill-will. DC Books. p. 113. ISBN 978-93-81699-33-1. Retrieved 9 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b Neha Banka (7 February 2020). "Streetwise Kolkata: Suhrawardy Avenue... no, not named after the 'Butcher Of Bengal'". The Indian Express.
  7. ^ Ayesha Jalal (1994). The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan. Cambridge University Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-521-45850-4. The Hindu Mahasabha's demand for partition ... Suhrawardy's only hope was ... asking for an united and independent Bengal. Paradoxically he had a greater chance of getting Jinnah's endorsement for this scheme than of getting it ratified by the Congress High Command ... Jinnah told Mountbatten ... 'What is the use of Bengal without Calcutta; they had better remain united and independent.'
  8. ^ a b "An unlikely partnership: Bangabandhu and Suhrawardy". Dhaka Tribune (opinion). 6 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Remembering Salma Sobhan". The Daily Star. 29 December 2014.
  10. ^ Unfinished Memoirs. University Press Limited ,Bangladesh. November 2013. ISBN 978-984-506-111-7.
  11. ^ Chatterji, Joya (2002). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-52328-8. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy–Former Prime Minister of Pakistan". Story of Pakistan. Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan: Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust. 22 October 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "The Unforgettable Suhrawardys of Bengal". The Daily Star. 9 November 2020.
  14. ^ a b c "Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy | Making Britain".
  15. ^ Talukdar, Mohammad Habibur Rahman, ed. (2009) [First published 1987]. Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-19-547722-1. Later he entered the Calcutta Aliya Madrasah and graduated with honours in science from St Xavier's College.
  16. ^ Shibly, Atful Hye (2011). Abdul Matin Chaudhury (1895–1948): Trusted Lieutenant of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Juned Ahmed Choudhury. p. 90. ISBN 9789843323231. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  17. ^ Chakrabarti, Bidyut (1990). Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle Class Radicalism: A Study in Indian Nationalism, 1928–1940. New Delhi, India: I.B.Tauris. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-85043-149-7. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  18. ^ "The curtain falls for Rashid Suhrawardy". Dhaka Tribune (opinion). 11 February 2019.
  19. ^ a b c "Suhrawardy, Huseyn Shaheed". Banglapedia.
  20. ^ "Turkey-Bangladesh Relations: A Growing Partnership between Two Friendly Nations". Middle East Institute.
  21. ^ Keneally, Thomas (2011). Three Famines: Starvation and Politics. PublicAffairs. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-61039-065-1.
  22. ^ Mukerjee, Madhusree (2011). Churchill's Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II. Edington, UK: Basic Books. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-465-02481-0. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  23. ^ a b c Prasad, Rajendra (2010) [First published 1946]. Autobiography. Delhi, India: Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-306881-5. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  24. ^ Chatterji, Joya (2002). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-521-52328-8. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burrows, Frederick (1946). Report to Viceroy Lord Wavell. The British Library IOR: L/P&J/8/655 f.f. 95, 96–107.
  26. ^ Keay, John (2000). India: A history. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 505. ISBN 978-0-87113-800-2. Suhrawardy ... proclaimed a public holiday. The police too, he implied, would take the day off. Muslims, rallying en masse for speeches and processions, saw this as an invitation; they began looting and burning such Hindu shops as remained open. Arson gave way to murder, and the victims struck back ... In October the riots spread to parts of East Bengal and also to UP and Bihar ... Nehru wrung his hands in horror ... Gandhi rushed to the scene, heroically progressing through the devastated communities to preach reconciliation.
  27. ^ Bourke-White, Margaret (1949). Halfway to Freedom: A Report on the New India in the Words and Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White. Simon and Schuster. p. 17. ... Seven lorries that came thundering down Harrison Road. Men armed with brickbats and bottles began leaping out of the lorries—Muslim 'goondas,' or gangsters, Nanda Lal decided, since they immediately fell to tearing up Hindu shops.
  28. ^ Tuker, Francis (1950). While Memory Serves. Cassell. pp. 159–160. OCLC 937426955. At 6 p.m. curfew was clamped down all over the riot-affected districts. At 8 p.m. the Area Commander ... brought in the 7th Worcesters and the Green Howards from their barracks ... [troops] cleared the main routes ... and threw out patrols to free the police for work in the bustees.
  29. ^ a b Shoaib Daniyal (6 January 2019). "Why did British prime minister Attlee think Bengal was going to be an independent country in 1947?". Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  30. ^ Misra, Chitta Ranjan. "United Bengal Movement". Banglapedia. Bangladesh Asiatic Society. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  31. ^ a b "UK PM Attlee believed Bengal may opt to be a separate country - Newspaper". Dawn. 28 December 2018. Retrieved 31 March 2020.
  32. ^ Bose, Sugata (1986). Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics. Cambridge University Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-0-521-30448-1.
  33. ^ "International relations, Foreign Affairs & policy , Benazir Bhutto - PIIA".
  34. ^ Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present (1st ed.). Delhi, India: APH Publishing. ISBN 9788176484695. Retrieved 1 February 2018
  35. ^ a b c Jaffrelot, Christophe (2015). The Pakistan Paradox: Instability and Resilience. Oxford University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-19023-518-5. Bengalis were not above factional battles motivated by personal interest. Suhrawardy thus backed the One-Unit Scheme to ... become prime minister at the expense of his province's [East Pakistan's] interests ... Suhrawardy thus tried to break free from Mirza's control by seeking a vote of confidence from the Assembly. Mirza, unwilling to acknowledge the Assembly's power to approve and dismiss governments, refused to convoke it.
  36. ^ a b c "West Pakistan Established through One Unit". Story of Pakistan. June 2003. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  37. ^ a b c d "The H.S. Suhrawardy government". Story of Pakistan. July 2003. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  38. ^ a b c Mir, Hamid (9 June 2011). "A Hope is still alive..." Hamid Mir.... Penmanship. Hamid Mir. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  39. ^ Comstock, Alzada (1957). "Pakistan, Islamic Republic of". In Vizetelly, Henry E. (ed.). The New International Year Book: A Compendium of the World's Progress for the Year 1956. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 375. OCLC 02410019.
  40. ^ Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present (1st ed.). Delhi, India: APH Publishing. ISBN 9788176484695. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  41. ^ Harun, Shamsul Huda (2001). The Making of the Prime Minister H.S. Suhrawardy: In an Anagram Polity, 1947-1958. The Institute of Liberation Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Studies, National University. p. 30. ISBN 984-783-012-6.
  42. ^ Matin, Muhammad Abdul (2005). "East Asian Security: A Bangladesh Perspective". In N. S. Sisodia; G. V. C. Naidu (eds.). Changing Security Dynamic in Eastern Asia: Focus on Japan. 7th Asian Security Conference. Bibliophile South Asia. p. 520. ISBN 978-81-86019-52-8. Retrieved 3 December 2015.
  43. ^ General Survey (2002). Far East and Australasia: Pakistan. Berlin, Germany: Europa Publications. pp. 1657 onwards. ISBN 978-1-85743-133-9.
  44. ^ Hiro, Dilip (2015). The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India and Pakistan (1st ed.). New York City: PublicAffairs. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-56858-734-9.
  45. ^ Banerjee, Sumanta (7 August 1982). "Bangladesh's Marxist-Leninists: I". Economic and Political Weekly. 17 (32): 1267–1268. JSTOR 4371213.
  46. ^ Ram, Raghunath (1985). Super Powers and Indo-Pakistani Sub-continent: Perceptions and Policies. New Delhi: Raaj Prakashan. p. 196. OCLC 461951628.
  47. ^ Balouch, Akhtar (21 July 2015). "The political victimisation of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy". Dawn. Pakistan. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  48. ^ Burke, S. M. (1974). Mainsprings of Indian and Pakistani Foreign Policies. U of Minnesota Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-1-4529-1071-0.
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  50. ^ Balouch, Akhtar (21 July 2015). "The political victimisation of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy". Dawn.
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  52. ^ a b "Programme for Direct Action Day". Star of India. 13 August 1946.
  53. ^ Chatterji, Joya (1994). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 239. ISBN 978-0-521-41128-8. Hindu culpability was never acknowledged. The Hindu press laid the blame for the violence upon the Suhrawardy Government and the Muslim League.
  54. ^ Sengupta, Debjani (2006). "A City Feeding on Itself: Testimonies and Histories of 'Direct Action' Day" (PDF). In Narula, Monica (ed.). Turbulence. Serai Reader. Vol. 6. The Sarai Programme, Center for the Study of Developing Societies. pp. 288–295. OCLC 607413832.
  55. ^ a b Das, Suranjan (2012). "Calcutta Riot, 1946". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  56. ^ Das, Suranjan (May 2000). "The 1992 Calcutta Riot in Historical Continuum: A Relapse into 'Communal Fury'?". Modern Asian Studies. 34 (2): 281–306. doi:10.1017/S0026749X0000336X. JSTOR 313064. S2CID 144646764.
  57. ^ Chakrabarty, Bidyut (2004). The Partition of Bengal and Assam, 1932–1947: Contour of Freedom. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-415-32889-0. The immediate provocation of a mass scale riot was certainly the afternoon League meeting at the Ochterlony Monument ... Major J. Sim of the Eastern Command wrote, 'there must have [been] 100,000 of them ... with green uniform of the Muslim National Guard' ... Suhrawardy appeared to have incited the mob ... As the Governor also mentioned, 'the violence on a wider scale broke out as soon as the meeting was over', and most of those who indulged in attacking Hindus ... were returning from [it].
  58. ^ Nariaki, Nakazato (2000). "The Politics of a Partition Riot: Calcutta in August 1946". In Tsugitaka, Sato (ed.). Muslim Societies: Historical and Comparative Aspects. Routledge. pp. 112–113. ISBN 978-0-415-33254-5.
  59. ^ "Direct Action". Time. 26 August 1946. p. 34. Archived from the original on 14 November 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2008. Moslem League Boss Mohamed Ali Jinnah had picked the 18th day of Ramadan for "Direct Action Day" against Britain's plan for Indian independence (which does not satisfy the Moslems' old demand for a separate Pakistan).
  60. ^ Chakrabarty, Bidyut (2004). The Partition of Bengal and Assam, 1932–1947: Contour of Freedom. RoutledgeCurzon. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-415-32889-0. Having seen the reports from his own sources, he [Jinnah] was persuaded later, however, to accept that the 'communal riots in Calcutta were mainly started by Hindus and ... were of Hindu origin.'
  61. ^ Chatterji, Joya (1994). Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932–1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 232–233. ISBN 978-0-521-41128-8. Both sides in the confrontation came well-prepared for it ... Suhrawardy himself bears much of the responsibility for this blood-letting since he issued an open challenge to the Hindus and was grossly negligent ... in his failure to quell the rioting ... But Hindu leaders were also deeply implicated.
  62. ^ "National Archives of the UK".
  63. ^ Roy, Tathagata (25 June 2014). The Life & Times of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee. Prabhat Prakashan. ISBN 9789350488812.
  64. ^ Flasiński, Tomasz (2020). "Dr. Jekyll, Mr Hyde, or Bengali Hamlet? Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy as the last Prime Minister of undivided Bengal". Rocznik Orientalistyczny. 2/2020.
  65. ^ "Huseyn S. Suhrawardy Is Dead; Ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan; Holder of Post in '56–57 Was Jailed in 1962 as Security Risk—Opposed to Ayub A Link With the West Visited the U.S. Toured With Gandhi". The New York Times. 6 December 1963. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  66. ^ Ahsan, Syed Badrul (7 December 2018). "What if Suhrawardy had not died?". Dhaka Courier. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  67. ^ "Khayaban-e-Suhrwardy". Google Maps. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  68. ^ "Listeners name 'greatest Bengali'". BBC News. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 19 August 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography by Begum Shaista Ikramullah (Oxford University Press, 1991)
  • Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins
  • Gandhi's Passion by Stanley Wolpert (Oxford University Press)
  • The Last Guardian: Memoirs of Hatch-Barnwell, ICS of Bengal by Stephen Hatch-Barnwell (University Press Limited, 2012)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by