Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
(Bengali: হোসেন শহীদ
সোহ্রাওয়ার্দী, Urdu: حسین شہید
سہروردی; September 8, 1892 - December 5, 1963) was a politician from Bengal in undivided
India, and later in East Bengal, who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from
1956 until 1957. He is also known for his controversial role
in the Direct Action Day of
August 16, 1946,
following riots in Bengal on that
He was considered a favourite of Muhammad Ali Jinnah
. He is also considered
to be the first populist leader in Pakistan's
He joined Awami League that Maulana Bashani formed
and finally took ovrt the leadership from the Maulana. Awami League
was the first opposition party in Pakistan those days agaist the
Early life and family
was born on 8 September 1892 to a Muslim family in the town of Midnapore, now in West Bengal.
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. Kujastha was the daughter of
Maulana Ubaidullah Al
and sister of, amongst others, Lt. Col. Dr.
, OBE and Sir
Suhrawardy had an elder brother Shahid
Education and marriage
Suhrawardy completed his undergraduate studies at St. Xavier's College
completed a masters degree at the University of Calcutta
. Afterwards, he moved
to the United
Kingdom to attend St
Catherine's College, Oxford University from where he obtained a BCL degree.
Oxford, he was called to the bar at Gray's Inn.
He then started his practice at Calcutta
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
. Suhrawardy had two children from this marriage; Ahmed
Shahab Suhrawardy and Begum Akhtar Sulaiman (née Akhtar Jahan
Suhrawardy). Ahmed Suhrawardy died from pneumonia whilst he was a
student in London in 1940. Begum Akhtar Sulaiman was married to
Shah Ahmed Sulaiman (son of Justice Sir Shah Sulaiman
) and had one child,
(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).
Begum Niaz Fatima passed away in 1922. In 1940 Suhrawardy married
Vera Tiscenko (a Russian emigre who had American citizenship). The
couple divorced in 1946 and had one child, Rashid Suhrawardy (aka
Robert Ashby), who is an actor living in London.
Return to India
Suhrawardy returned to the subcontinent
in 1921 as a practising barrister of the Calcutta High Court.
involved in politics in Bengal.
Initially, he joined the Swaraj Party
a group within the Indian
, and became an ardent follower of Chittaranjan Das
. He played a major role in
signing the Bengal Pact in 1923.
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. However, following the death of
Chittaranjan Das in 1925, he began to disassociate himself with the
Swaraj Party and eventually joined Muslim
. He served as Minister of Labour, and Minister of Civil
Supplies under Khawaja Nazimuddin
among other positions. In the Bengal Muslim League, Suhrawardy and
led a progressive line
against the conservative stream led by Nazimuddin and Akram Khan
In 1946, Suhrawardy established and headed a Muslim League
government in Bengal. It was the
only Muslim League government in India at that time.
Direct Action Day
Under Suhrawardy's direction, the Bengal Government declared August
16, 1946 to be a public holiday to enact the Direct Action Day
called by Jinnah to
terrorise and murder Hindus and Sikhs and protest against the
Cabinet Mission plan for the independence of India.
intensity of Direct Action Day was at its worst in the capital
was also a genocide of Bengali Hindus in the Noakhali
Suhrawardy was widely and correctly blamed for both orchestrating
and not taking steps to prevent the carnage and for trying to
suppress the news of the same from the media. The physical and
emotional scars of Direct Action Day linger among millions of
Bengalis even today.
In 1947, the balance of power in Bengal shifted from the Muslim League
to the Indian National Congress
Suhrawardy stepped down from the Chief Ministership. 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 Gandhi.
Gandhi was persuaded to stay and pacify
tempers in Calcutta, but he agreed to do so on the condition 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.
Political life in East Bengal
formation of Pakistan, Suhrawardy maintained his work in politics,
continuing to focus on East Bengal as it became after partition of
by the British colonialist.
In 1949 he formed the 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
. He, along with other leading
Bengali leaders A.K.Fazlul Huq
and Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan
, formed a political alliance in the name of Jukta
which won a landslide victory in 1954 general election of
East Pakistan. Under Muhammad Ali
, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy would serve as Law Minister
and later become the head of opposition parties.
Prime Minister of Pakistan
In 1956, he was made Prime Minister by President of PakistanIskander 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
schism was fed by the attempt to consolidate the four provinces of
into one province, so as
to balance the fact that East Pakistan existed as only one
province. 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
In order to divert attention from the controversy over the
" plan as it was called,
Suhrawardy tried to ease economic differences between East and West
Pakistan. However, despite his intentions, these initiatives only
led to more political frictions, and was worsened when Suhrawardy
tried to give more financial allocations to East Pakistan than West
Pakistan from aids and grants. Such moves led to a threat of
dismissal looming over Suhrawardy's head, and he resigned in
His contribution in formulating 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.
In the foreign policy arena, he is considered to be one of the
pioneers of Pakistan's pro-United States stand. He was also the
first Pakistani Prime Minister to visit China and establish an
official diplomatic friendship between Pakistan and China(a
friendship that Henry Kissinger
later use to make his now-famous secret trip to China in July
Atomic Policy and Civilian Nuclear Program
1950s, Pakistan was suffering from severe energy crises.
It was Huseyn Shaheed
Suhrawardy's Prime Ministerial term when Pakistan Atomic Energy
(PAEC) was established by a Parliamentary
Act of 1956. He also appointed
Dr. Nazir Ahmad
, a noted physicist
to be its first Chairman. Under dr. Nazir Ahmad's direction,
Pakistan started its civilian nuclear program. Prime Minister
Suhrawadry also alloted PAEC to sat up its new pilot-nuclear labs.
He played an important role in establishing of Nuclearresearch institutes
in West Pakistan
. He also allowed PAEC
to established the firstnuclear
power plant in Karachi.
However, after his removal from office. The
Nuclear Power Plant Project was undermined by a political turmoil
in the country. The Pakistani Civilian Nuclear Programme was also
freezed by Ayub Khan
's military regime for
more than a decade.
Post-political life and death
Disqualified from politics under the
military regime of Ayub Khan, Huseyn
Shaheed Suhrawardy died in Lebanon in 1963.
Tomb of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy at
His death was officially due to
complications from heart problems, though some have alleged he was
poisoned. After a befitting funeral attended by a huge
crowd, he was buried at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka.
- Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy: A Biography by Begum Shaista Ikramullah (Oxford
- Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry
- Gandhi's Passion by Stanley Wolpert (Oxford University