72 years of Awami League: Achievements and expectations

27 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The 72nd founding anniversary of the subcontinent's oldest democratically born political party, currently the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, was celebrated on June 23. It is a special day for the Bangladesh Awami League, as this traditional political party was established on this auspicious day.

In 1947, the Indian subcontinent was divided into two states, India and Pakistan. From 1948 onwards, Maulana Akram Khan and Khwaja Nazimuddin controlled the politics of the Muslim League in Dhaka. The progressive leaders who followed the Bengal Provincial Muslim League, led by Suhrawardy and Abul Hashem, felt neglected there at the time. They then set up a workers' camp at a house at 150 Mughaltuli Lane. There they were thinking of forming a new political party. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman came from Calcutta and joined them. In Tangail, Maulana Bhashani and Shamsul Haque lost to Muslim League candidates twice in a by-election which became void due to the resignation of Principal Ibrahim Khan. But the Election Commission declared both the election results invalid.

Then they also came and started thinking of forming a new political party together with these Muslim League activists. They called a meeting. Maulana Bhashani was the chairman of the preparatory committee for the meeting and Yar Mohammad Khan was the general secretary.  But no auditorium was available for that meeting. Then Kazi Humayun Rashid of KM Das Lane, Tikatuli, Dhaka, offered to hold the meeting at the Rose Garden.

On the afternoon of June 23, 1949, in the presence of 250-300 people, decision to form a new political party was taken. According to the proposal of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, the party was renamed as 'East Pakistan Awami Muslim League'. At the same time, in the case of the whole of Pakistan, the name of the organisation was 'All Pakistan Awami Muslim League', the president of which was Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy.

Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was the president of the newly formed 'East Pakistan Awami Muslim League'. The vice-presidents were Ataur Rahman Khan, Ali Amjad Khan, Ahmed Ali Khan, Shakhawat Hossain and Abdus Salam Khan. The general secretary was Shamsul Haque. The treasurer was Yar Mohammad Khan, who owned Rose Garden, venue of the first meeting. Although the young leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in jail at that time, he was made the joint general secretary. Thus the first committee of 40 people was formed. But many of them did not stay with the Awami League later.

Some later objected to having the word 'Muslim' with the name of the party. There was a lot of controversy in the party over whether the word Muslim would exist or not. At that time Hindu and Muslim constituencies were elected separately. During the 1954 general election, an agreement was reached that the party would be a non-communal party. The Jukto Front party won 223 of the 237 seats in the election, which was made up of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, the Krishak Sramik Party, the Pakistan Democratic Party, the Pakistan Khilafah Party and the Nezami Islami Party. The Awami Muslim League got 143 seats.

The three main leaders of the Jukto Front were Maulana Bhashani, AK Fazlul Haque and Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy. Although Maulana Bhashani was insisting on omitting the word Muslim to make the party secular, Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy wanted the word Muslim to remain. Because he feared that if it was dropped, the party's popularity in West Pakistan would decline.

After the victory of the 1954 election, the word 'Muslim' was dropped from the name of the party in the 1955 council of the Awami Muslim League. As a result, non-Muslims also got a chance to join this party. However, the two words 'East' and 'Pakistan' were omitted after the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971. After the declaration of independence in Bangladesh, the name Bangladesh Awami League started to be used in all the papers of the expatriate government.

History of Awami League breakup:

When Shamsul Haque, the general secretary of the Awami Muslim League, fell ill in 1952, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became the acting general secretary. The following year, he was elected general secretary at the general conference of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League at Mukul Cinema Hall in Dhaka. He later served as the General Secretary till 1966. However, due to differences of opinion on foreign policy, the party split in 1957.

At that time Awami League was in the government of Pakistan. Pakistan had several military agreements with the United States. Pakistani was member of the military alliances SEATO and SENTO. Maulana Bhashani and the leftists in the party were pressuring the Awami League to pull Pakistan out of the US military alliances. Suhrawardy was considered a supporter of the US agreement. Maulana Bhashani was demanding the cancellation of the Pak-US military agreement, but Prime Minister Suhrawardy did not agree.

At one stage of the dispute, Maulana Bhashani's proposal was defeated in a vote at the party's conference in Kagmari, Tangail. Then on March 18, Maulana Bhashani resigned from the post of President of the East Pakistan Awami League. On July 25 of that year, he formed the National Awami Party (NAP) at the Rupmahal Cinema Hall in Dhaka. Many leaders left the Awami League and joined his new party, including founding member Yar Mohammad Khan. Then Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish became the acting president of Awami League. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the General Secretary.

After the death of Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1964, the Awami League was reorganised. Then Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman requested Tofazzal Hossain Manik Miah to become the President of Awami League. But Manik Mia did not agree because he wanted to stay with his writing. A former minister named Justice Mohammad Ibrahim was also requested, but he too refused to take over the presidency. Then in the council meeting of 1964 Maulana Abdur Rashid Tarkbagish was elected as the full president.

But after the announcement of the Six-Points program in 1966, many people, including Maulana Tarkabagish, opposed it. In March of that year, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected the first Awami League president at the Awami League council meeting. Tajuddin Ahmed became the general secretary. Many of the leaders who opposed the Six-Points left the Awami League. Under that leadership, Bangladesh became independent through all kinds of movements and struggles later.

The role of Awami League in every movement and struggle of this country is glorious. The language movement of 1952, the student movement of 1962, the Six-Point movement of 1966, the mass uprising of 1969, the landmark elections of 1970 and the great independence movement of 1971, at every instance the Awami League played an active role.

Since its inception, the political party has survived many ups and downs for a long 72 years in its glory. One of the reasons for this is qualified leadership. Leadership is the main tool for a party to exist. And a party can survive from age to age by gaining the trust and love of the masses through competent and proper leadership. Bangladesh Awami League is a shining example of this. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is an example of that worthy leadership. The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, is holding the helm of the Awami League currently.

It is a matter of great pride for the party that Bangladesh Awami League, the main leader of the movement for independence, has been able to sustain its existence till the time of the country's golden jubilee of independence. The current leader of the ancient and traditional party is Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Her prudence in leadership, like that of her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, certainly deserves praise. As Bangabandhu has won the trust and love of the people by fighting against injustice, irregularities, exploitation, torture, corruption and malpractice with a strong voice for democracy and good governance, that his daughter will follow in her father's footsteps is our expectation. Moreover, she has to be vocal against the infiltrators in the party. It must be remembered that, "Ghorer Shotru Bivishon". Greetings and best wishes to Awami League on its 72nd founding anniversary.


Emran Emon, a researcher