History of Bangladesh 1958-1971

East Pakistan, 1947-1958

East Bengal within Pakistan . When India and Pakistan separated in 1947, East Bengal was included in the new state of Pakistan, a geographical phenomenon, as West Pakistan (Punjab, Kashmir, Sind) and East Pakistan (East Bengal) were separated by more than 1000 km of Indian territory. East and West Pakistan shared a common religion, but differences were numerous - the languages, even the script (the dominant languages of West Pakistan are based on the Arab alphabet, Bengali on Devanagari). Urdu was declared state language for all of Pakistan. Pakistan was dominated politically by West Pakistan, where the country's various capitals all were located, but the majority of the population dwelled in East Pakistan.

The Situation Arising from Partition . The politicians who had envisioned Pakistan had expected all of Bengal, with Assam, to form Pakistan. Yet by 1948, Bengal had been split in two. West Bengal, with the provincial capital and major port of Calcutta, formed a part of this Republic of India. East Bengal, with the district of Sylhet (hitherto Assam), formed East Pakistan.
During and immediately after the First Indo-Pakistani War, 3.3 million of East Bengalis, mostly Hindus, fled into India, while 1.3 million Muslims from the adjacent states of India, mainly Biharis, fled into East Bengal.
East Pakistan had to establish a new capital at Dacca.

Domestic Politics . Bengalis resented the fact that Urdu had been declared official language, a fact which resulted in Urdu-speaking Biharis being given preferential treatment by many employers. Bengali intellectuals responded by founding the Language Movement (1948). In 1949 the Awami League was founded in East Pakistan, aiming at establishing autonomy for East Bengal.
From 1951 to 1953, Bengali Khawaja Nazimuddin served as PM of Pakistan; when he declared that individual provinces could decide over official languages in their province, but Urdu was to remain the sole national language, many Bengalis were disappointed.
Elections for the East Bengal Assembly, originally scheduled for 1951, were only held in 1954, when the Muslim League suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of the United Front, an alliance of opposition parties the most important of which was the Awami League. Bengali was declared, next to Urdu, official language in East Bengal. Following riots in Dacca, a state of emergency was declared, the cabinet dismissed and General Iskander Mirza appointed governor. In 1955, East Bengal was renamed as East Pakistan. In 1956 civil rule was restored; cabinets were short-lived.

The Economy . The partition of Bengal had separated East Pakistan from her traditional port of Calcutta. The Pakistani government thus made the development of the port of Chittagong a high priority. In 1949, Indian authorities declared Pakistan a foreign state; thus cross-border trade was subjected to import tariffs. East Pakistan produced the bulk of the world's jute production. Jute exports were adversely affected by both the Indian import tariffs and by Pakistan's policy of maintaining the value of the Rupee, when Britain and India devalued their respective currencies in 1951.
Pakistan's economic policy (five year plans) emphasized the establishment of hydroelectic dams, as the headways of all of the country's major rivers were located in India, which claimed control over these. The economic plans aimed at developing the infrastructure and economy of both West and East Pakistan; however the bulk of investments was made in West Pakistan, while East Pakistan provided c.70 % of the export revenues.

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Bangladesh
History of Bangladesh, from Banglapedia
Articles United Front, Twenty-One Point Programme, Dhaka, Language Movement, from Banglapedia
Article Khawaja Nazimuddin, Language Movement, History of Dhaka, Government of East Bengal, Government of East Pakistan, from Wikipedia
REFERENCE Article : Pakistan, Dominion of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1948 pp.565-566, 1949 pp.501-502, 1950 pp.529-530 [G]
Article : Pakistan, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1951 pp.538-539, 1952 pp.542-544, 1953 pp.545-547, 1954 pp.546-547, 1955 pp.593-595, 1956 pp.529-531, 1957 pp.594-595, 1958 pp.528-530, 1959 pp.527-529 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on November 10th 2006, last revised on April 28th 2007

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