Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

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Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy (September 8, 1892 - December 5, 1963) was a Pakistani politician of Bengali origin who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1956 until 1957, also known for his controversial role in the Direct Action day, and following riots in Bengal during the last days of India's freedom struggle.

Suhrawardy was born to a prominent Bengali family in the town of Mindapore, West Bengal. He completed his undergraduate studies at St. Caviares College, and completed a masters degree at Calcutta University. Afterwards, he moved to the United Kingdom to attend Oxford University from where he became a lawyer and was called to bar at Gray's Inn.

He returned to the subcontinent in 1921 where he became involved in politics in Bengal. Suhrawardy served as deputy mayor of Calcutta, Minister of Labor, and Minister of Civil Supplies under Khawaja Nazimuddin among other positions. In 1946, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy established a Muslim League government in Bengal, being the only Muslim League government in India at the time.

The Muslim League Bengal Government declared August 16, 1946 to be a public holiday throughout Bengal, to celebrate the “Direct Action Day”. Mobs rioted throughout Bengal resulting in huge loss of life and property. Most of those killed in these riots were Hindus. In Noakhali it was estimated that 40,000 hindus had lost their lives. Suhrawardy was directly and widely blamed for not preventing this huge carnage and trying to suppress the news of the same from the media. In 1947 power was transferred from the Muslim League to Congress,and Suhrawardy stepped down from Chief Ministership. Fearing revenge of Hindus against Muslims in Calcutta, Suhrawardy sought help from Mahatma Gandhi, who was much respected by the Calcutta population. Mahatma was persuaded to stay and pacify tempers in Calcutta, but he agreed to do so, on one condition—that Shaheed Suhrawardy share the same roof with him so that they could appeal to Muslims and Hindus alike to live in peace in this greatest of all Indian cities. "Adversity makes strange bed-fellows," Gandhi remarked about this strange request in his prayer meeting.

Upon formation of Pakistan, Suhrawardy maintained his work in politics, continuing to focus on the Bengal, now East Pakistan. In 1949 he formed the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, which would develop into the Awami League.

In the 1950s, Suhrawardy worked to consolidate political parties in East Pakistan to balance the politics of West Pakistan. Under Muhammad Ali Bogra, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy would serve as Law Minister and later become the head of opposition parties.

In 1956, he was made Prime Minister by President of Pakistan Iskander Mirza after the resignation of Chaudhry Muhammad Ali. Suhrawardy inherited a political schism that was forming in Pakistan between the Muslim League and newer parties, such as the Republican party. The schism was fed by the attempt to consolidate the four provinces of West Pakistan into one province, so as to balance the fact that East Pakistan existed as only one province. Despite this attempt at equality, the plan was opposed in West Pakistan, and the cause was taken up by The Muslim League and religious parties. Suhrawardy supported the plan, but the vast opposition to it stalled its progress.

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Premiers of Nations of The Common Wealth,Suhrawardy sitting in the extreme right

In order to divert attention from the controversy over the "One Unit" plan as it was called, Suhrawardy tried to ease economic differences between East and West Pakistan. However, despite his intentions, such moves only led to more political friction, and was worsened when Suhrawardy tried to give more money to East Pakistan than West Pakistan from aid received. Such moves led to a threat of dismissal looming over Shurwardy's head, and he resigned in 1957.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy died in 1963 due to complications from heart problems.


See also


  • Freedom at midnight by Dominique lapierre and larry collins
  • Gandhi's Passion by Stanley Wolpert (Oxford University Press)

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