A brief (alternative) history of Pakistan 3

Posted in fantasy by jrahman on March 1, 2012

Previously, Pakistan is created as a ‘moth nibbled basket case’, with its first prime minister MA Jinnah dying after merely 13 months in office.  Subsequently, the Muslim League splinters into two parties, each vying to win the country’s first general election in December 1950.

Pakistan held its first general elections in December 1950.  Prime Minister HS Suhrawardy’s National League was seeking re-election at the centre, while the Awami League — led by Liaquat Ali Khan in Maghrebistan and Khawaja Nazimuddin in Purbadesh — was trying to stay in office at the provinces.  There were very little ideological differences between the two main parties.  Rather, it was a contest of personalities, and patronage and campaign tactics largely determined the result.  Accordingly, Pakistan’s democracy got off to a decidedly mixed start.

Suhrawardy’s party romped home in the centre, but the provinces were a different matter.  In the East, Awami League eked out a plurality, with surprisingly strong showings from the Communist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami of Maolana Maududi.  Neither of the ideological parties did well in the West, but half a dozen ethnic or minority parties and a dozen or so feudal chiefs jointly took a third of the seats there, with the two major parties equally taking the rest.  AL formed minority governments in both provinces, but neither proved stable.

The western province was the first to experience political crisis over the language issue.  Awami League leaders preferred Urdu to be the official language, generating strong reaction among the ethnic communities of the province.  Not only were there rioting in Lahore and Peshawar, but a number of provincial governments fell in quick order.  Eventually President Huq dissolved the provincial assembly in 1953 and imposed central rule to be administered by Chaudhury Muhammad Ali.

Meanwhile, Suhrawardy moved quickly to settle the language issue before it escalated further.  A constitutional amendment was adopted, recognising all the major languages of the country as ‘national languages’.  Meanwhile, English continued as the language of administration, higher education and other civic life.  And that has continued to this day.

While the language issue didn’t play a major role in the eastern province, Purbadesh experienced a different kind of crisis.  Population exchange during partition resulted in severe dislocation of social fabric.  Then, in the early 1950s, the economy boomed on the back of the Korean War, which boosted the demand for jute.  Within half a decade of partition, Chittagong saw its population increase five fold to a million.  As industry and commerce flourished, so did urban misery of all sorts.  This proved a hot bed for radical politics of both leftist and rightist kind.

Indeed, radicalism and its suppression has been the recurring theme in the province’s politics.  And the first crisis of radicalism was in 1953-54, when Chittagong experienced major labour unrest.  As in the West, central rule was imposed. But unlike West, elections were allowed quickly.  National League won a majority, and Ataur Rahman Khan became the chief minister.

In the centre, Suhrawardy governed with pragmatism.  A comprehensive treaty was signed with Pundit Nehru, keeping the subcontinent free of inter-state tension.  But whereas Nehru pursued neutrality with respect to the big powers, Suhrawardy firmly put Pakistan in the western alliance.  In return, Pakistan received five times as much in American aid (on a per capita basis) than India.

By 1954, with his party in power (through election or otherwise) in both provinces as well as the centre, Suhrawardy was widely acclaimed as a successful leader at both home and abroad.

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  1. Bengal undivided « Mukti said, on August 15, 2012 at 12:01 am

    […] alternate histories, one with a Pakistan where Bengal, not Punjab, experienced communal cleansing (latest post) and the other is an India that was never partitioned (latest post).  As it happens, even in the […]

  2. Alternate history « Mukti said, on January 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    […] Bengal, or India, had never been partitioned, or where partition had meant a different kind of Pakistan.  There was even a post about had there been a battle in Plassey.  But when it comes to the […]

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