Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was a Pakistani left-wing statesman of Bengali origin, and one of the principal of modern-day Pakistan. Appointed as the fifth Prime minister of Pakistan in 1956, Suhrawardy headed Pakistan until 1957, and was a close associate of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, first Prime minister of Pakistan.
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  • 1963
    He had been a chronic heart patient and died in Lebanon in 1963 due to a cardiac arrest.
    More Details Hide Details His death was officially due to complications from heart problems, though some have alleged he was poisoned, gassed or subjected to blunt-trauma in his bedroom, although is no proof of this.
  • 1957
    His tenure saw the enhancement of the relations with the United States in July 1957, when President Dwight Eisenhower requested prime minister Suhrawardy to allow the US to establish a secret intelligence facility in Pakistan and for the U-2 spyplane to fly from Pakistan.
    More Details Hide Details A facility established in Badaber (Peshawar Air Station), from Peshawar, was a cover for a major communications intercept operation run by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). The base was finally closed by the military government in 1970, later by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who installed the ISI as in charge of the base in 1971. His pro-western policy helped dismantle the foreign support for the leftist alliance in Pakistan, most notable of them were Maulana Bhashani and Yar Mohammad Khan who challenged him for the party's chairmanship. Although Maulana Bhashani and Yar Mohammad Khan managed to consolidate the Awami League, they failed to carry the party mass with them.
  • 1956
    Just within a year of assuming the government, Suhrawardy was in a middle confrontation with the business community and the private-sector in 1956.
    More Details Hide Details The business community leaders were meeting with the President Iskandar Mirza to discuss the removal of Prime Minister Suhrawardy. The Awami League's close interaction with Pakistan Muslim League, who at that time was re-organizing itself, threatened another Bengali President Iskandar Mirza. President Mirza wanted to control the democracy in the country, which Suhrawardy had always resisted. President Mirza refused Prime Minister Suhrawardy's request to convene a meeting of Parliament for seeking a vote of confidenc movement. Amid pressure to resign from his position and given vital threats to be removed by the President Mirza, Prime Minister Suhrawardy submitted his resignation letter after losing the considerable party support from the junior leadership.
    It was Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy's premiership when Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established by a Parliamentary Act of 1956.
    More Details Hide Details Suhrawardy renounced to develop the nuclear weapons, and disassociated scientific research on the nuclear weapons, after signing the Atoms for Peace programme. Suhrawardy approved the appointment of Dr. Nazir Ahmad, an experimental physicist, as the first Chairman. Suhrawardy asked the PAEC to survey the site to establish the commercial nuclear power plants. Suhrawardy upgraded the government rank, and extended the appointment of Salimuzzaman Siddiqui as his government's Science Advisor. Under Dr. Nazir Ahmad's scientific direction, Pakistan started its nuclear energy programme and Prime Minister Suhrawardy also allotted PAEC to set up its new pilot-nuclear labs. As Prime minister, he played an important role in establishing of Nuclear research institutes in West Pakistan, working to build the nuclear power infrastructure. The PAEC brought the role of Raziuddin Siddiqui, a theoretical physicist, but refrained him to work on the atomic bombs, instead asking him to constitute research on theoretical physics and alternative use of nuclear energy. Suhrawardy made extremely critical decision on nuclear power expansion, and denied the request of PAEC Chairman dr. Nazir Ahmad to acquiring the NRX reactor from Canada. Instead approved the recommendation of Raziuddin Siddiqui after authorizing an agreement to acquire the Pool-type reactor from the United States in 1956.
    In 1956, Suhrawardy announced the nation's first ever nuclear policy, but only benefiting the West-Pakistan, and adpoted the parliamentary act of 1956.
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    He was also the first Pakistani Prime Minister to visit China in 1956 and the delegation included Professor Ahmed Ali, Pakistan's First Envoy to China (1951–52) who had established the Pakistani embassy in Peking and formed Pak-China friendship and strengthened the official diplomatic friendship between Pakistan and China, a friendship that Henry Kissinger would later use to make his now-famous secret trip to China in July 1971.
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    His contribution in formulating the 1956 constitution of Pakistan was substantial as he played a vital role in incorporating provisions for civil liberties and universal adult franchise in line with his adherence to parliamentary form of liberal democracy.
    More Details Hide Details In the foreign policy arena, Suhrawardy wasted no time announcing his foreign policy in first session of the parliament of Pakistan. Suhrawardy advocated a pronounced pro-western policy, supporting a strong support to United States. Suhrawardy is considered to be one of the pioneers of Pakistan's pro-United States stand, a policy that is presently continued by the present government.
    The constitutionally obliged, the National Finance Commission Program (NFC Program), was immediately suspended by Prime Minister Suhrawardy despite the reserves of the four provinces of the West Pakistan in 1956.
    More Details Hide Details Suhrawardy advocated for the USSR-based Five-Year Plans to centralize the national economy. In this view, the East Pakistan's economy was quickly centralized and all major economic planning shifted to West Pakistan. Efforts leading to centralizing the economy was met with great resistance in West Pakistan when the elite monopolist and the business community angrily refused to oblige to his policies. The business community in Karachi began its political struggle to undermine any attempts of financial distribution of the US$10 million ICA aid to the better part of the East Pakistan and to set up a consolidated national shipping corporation. In the financial cities of West Pakistan, such as Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, and Peshawar, there were series of major labour strikes against the economic policies of Suhrawardy supported by the elite business community and the private sector. Furthermore, in order to divert attention from the controversial One Unit Program, Prime Minister Suhrawardy tried to end the crises by calling a small group of investors to set up small business in the country. Despite many initiatives and holding off the NFC Award Program, Suhrawardy's political position and image was worsen and deteriorated in the four provinces in West Pakistan. Many nationalist leaders and activists of the Muslim League were dismayed with the suspension of the constitutionally obliged NFC Program while nationalists. His critics and Muslim League leaders observed that with the suspension of NFC Award Program, Suhrawardy tried to give more financial allocations, aids, grants, and opportunity to East-Pakistan than West Pakistan, including West Pakistan's four provinces.
    Amid political disturbances, massive labour strikes, and civil disorder instigated at the behest of right-wing and left-wing parties, Suhrawardy was forced to halt the One Unit and finally abandoning the controversial sections of One Unit in 1956.
    More Details Hide Details The four provinces successfully retained their geographical status while the East-Pakistan was evolved into one single large province with overwhelming Bengali population.
    In 1956, Suhrawardy won the slot of Prime minister and was hastily appointed as fifth Prime Minister by President Iskander Mirza after the surprise resignation of Chaudhry Muhammad Ali.
    More Details Hide Details As Prime minister, Suhrawardy took the nation on confidence on national radio, promising to resolve the energy crises, economical disparity and promised the nation to build a massive military in an arms race with India.
  • 1954
    The One Unit was a controversial geopolitical programme implemented to consolidate the political authority, retained by four provinces, to federal capital in 1954. By the time Suhrawardy was the Prime Minister, an intense political competition between rightist Muslim League and the centrist Republican Party was forming regarding this issue. The politics over this issue was chaotic when the four provinces engaged in a political struggle to the reversal of the One Unit which established West Pakistan in 1955.
    More Details Hide Details The right-wing and left-wing parties in West were opposing the One Unit, and the cause was taken up by the rightist Muslim League and religious parties. Prime Minister Suhrawardy supported the One Unit plan to establish the federalism but the vast opposition paralyzed Suhrawardy's progress to oversee the program properly. Politically, the One Unit failed to progress and suffered with many set backs in West; it did not produce any geopolitical results and achievements for Suhrawardy's government. On the other hand, the One Unit was quite a success in East Pakistan.
  • 1951
    The couple divorced in 1951 and had one child, Rashid Suhrawardy (aka Robert Ashby), who is an actor living in London (he played Jawaharlal Nehru in film Jinnah).
    More Details Hide Details Vera later settled in America.
  • 1947
    In 1947, the balance of power in Calcutta shifted from the Muslim League to the Indian National Congress, and Suhrawardy stepped down from the Chief Ministership.
    More Details Hide Details Unlike other Muslim League stalwarts of India, he did not leave his hometown immediately for the newly established Pakistan. Anticipating revenge of Hindus against Muslims in Calcutta after the transfer of power, Suhrawardy sought help from Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was persuaded to stay and pacify tempers in Calcutta with the intention that Suhrawardy share the same roof with him so that they could appeal to Muslims and Hindus alike to live in peace. "Adversity makes strange bed-fellows," Gandhi remarked in his prayer meeting. Upon the formation of Pakistan, Suhrawardy maintained his work in politics, continuing to focus on East Bengal as it became after the independence of Pakistan. On return to Dhaka he joined Awami Muslim League that Maulana Bhashai formed. In the 1950s, Suhrawardy worked to consolidate political parties in East Pakistan to balance the politics of West Pakistan. He, along with other leading Bengali leaders A.K. Fazlul Huq and Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, formed a political alliance in the name of Jukta Front which won a landslide victory in 1954 general election of East Pakistan. Under Muhammad Ali Bogra, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy would serve as Law Minister and later become the head of opposition parties.
  • 1946
    Suhrawardy has left a controversial legacy in post-independent India. He is perceived as responsible for unleashing, at Jinnah's behest, the Direct Action Day in August 1946 which killed thousands.
    More Details Hide Details However, it is unlikely that either Jinnah or Suhhrawardy organized or directly encouraged the violence. Although Jinnah suggested failure to accede to Muslim League demands would lead to civil war, no one reliably controlled the various League factions. Ultimately, Jinnah wanted a united India, but with power parity between the Muslim League and Congress Party. Direct Action Day complicated Suhrawardy and Jinnah's efforts to wrest power from the Congress party.
    In 1946, Suhrawardy established and headed a Muslim League government in Bengal.
    More Details Hide Details It was the only Muslim League government in India at that time. As the demand for a separate Muslim state of Pakistan became popular amongst Indian Muslims, the independence of Pakistan on communal lines was deemed inevitable by mid-1947. To prevent the inclusion of Hindu-majority districts of Punjab and Bengal in a Muslim Pakistan, the Indian National Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha sought the division of these provinces on communal lines. Bengali nationalists such as Sarat Chandra Bose, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Kiran Shankar Roy, Abul Hashim, Satya Ranjan Bakshi and Mohammad Ali Chaudhury sought to counter division proposals with the demand for a united and independent state of Bengal. Suhrawardy and Bose sought the formation of a coalition government between Bengali Congress and the Bengal Provincial Muslim League. Proponents of the plan urged the masses to reject communal divisions and uphold the vision of a united Bengal. In a press conference held in Delhi on 27 April 1947 Suhrawardy presented his plan for a united and independent Bengal and Abul Hashim issued a similar statement in Calcutta on 29 April.
  • 1943
    He was the Minister responsible during the Midnapore (Bengal) famine of 1943, but did little to relieve it.
    More Details Hide Details Madhushree Mukherjee's 2010 book, "Churchill's secret War" places the responsibility mainly on Churchill, then wartime premier of Britain for actively blocking relief to Bengal, even when the Americans offered it in their ships, in the context of Churchill's unceasing refrain of a "scarcity of shipping" in the Atlantic. (The alleged scarcity is seriously questioned by Mukherjee based on documents available recently). Suhrawardy's government did implement British scorched earth policies designed to counter Japanese invasion threats, policies like burning over a thousand fishing boats to block any potential movement of invading troops. These measures aggravated starvation and famine. Relief, it was said, only arrived after Wavell became Viceroy, who used the Indian Army to organise relief. However, by that time, the winter crop had arrived and famine conditions had already eased, after millions had earlier perished. In the Bengal Muslim League, Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim led a progressive line against the conservative stream led by Nazimuddin and Akram Khan.
  • 1940
    In 1940 Suhrawardy married Vera Alexandrovna Tiscenko Calder, who, after her conversion to Islam had changed her name to Begum Noor Jehan.
    More Details Hide Details She was a Russian actress of Polish descent from the Moscow Art Theatre and protege of Olga Knipper.
    Ahmed Suhrawardy died from pneumonia whilst he was a student in London in 1940.
    More Details Hide Details Begum Akhtar Sulaiman was married to Shah Ahmed Sulaiman (son of Justice Sir Shah Sulaiman) and had one child, Shahida Jamil (who later became the first female Pakistani Federal Minister for Law). Shahida Jamil has two sons, Zahid Jamil (a lawyer in Pakistan) and Shahid Jamil (a solicitor in London). His first wife, Begum Niaz Fatima, died in 1922.
  • 1925
    However, following the death of Chittaranjan Das in 1925, he began to disassociate himself with the Swaraj Party and eventually joined Muslim League.
    More Details Hide Details He served as Minister of Labour, and Minister of Civil Supplies under Khawaja Nazimuddin among other positions.
  • 1924
    Suhrawardy became the Deputy Mayor of the Calcutta Corporation at the age of 31 in 1924, and the Deputy Leader of the Swaraj Party in the Provincial Assembly.
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  • 1923
    He played a major role in signing the Bengal Pact in 1923.
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  • 1921
    Suhrawardy returned to the subcontinent in 1921 as a practising barrister of the Calcutta High Court.
    More Details Hide Details He became involved in politics in Bengal. Initially, he joined the Swaraj Party, a group within the Indian National Congress, and became an ardent follower of Chittaranjan Das.
  • 1920
    In 1920, Suhrawardy married Begum Niaz Fatima, daughter of Sir Abdur Rahim, the then home minister of the Bengal Province of British India and later President of India's Central Legislative Assembly.
    More Details Hide Details Suhrawardy had two children from this marriage; Ahmed Shahab Suhrawardy and Begum Akhtar Sulaiman (née Akhtar Jahan Suhrawardy).
  • 1913
    In 1913, he gained MA in Arabic language and won a scholarship to proceed his education abroad.
    More Details Hide Details Afterwards, he moved to the United Kingdom to attend St Catherine's College, Oxford from where he obtained a BCL degree in civil law and justice. Upon leaving Oxford, he was called to the bar at Gray's Inn and later started his practice at Calcutta High Court.
  • 1910
    Suhrawardy attended the St. Xavier's College, where he obtained BS in Mathematics in 1910, later he was admitted at the department of arts of the University of Calcutta.
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  • 1892
    Suhrawardy was born on 8 September 1892 to a Bengali Muslim family in the town of Midnapore, now in West Bengal.
    More Details Hide Details He was the younger son of Justice Sir Zahid Suhrawardy, a prominent judge of the Calcutta High Court and of Khujastha Akhtar Banu (c. 1874–1919) a noted name in Urdu literature and scholar of Persian. Banu was the daughter of Maulana Ubaidullah Al Ubaidi Suhrawardy and sister of British Army officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Hassan Suhrawardy, OBE and Sir Abdullah Al-Mamun Suhrawardy. Suhrawardy had an elder brother Shahid Suhrawardy, the co-founder of Pakistan PEN Miscellenay with Professor Ahmed Ali.
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