The Symphony of our Times
The tumultuous year of 1962
During 1962 and 1963 as students of the Dhaka University we watched an actively participated in the movement for restoration of democracy and open society. In the then East Pakistan the movement became increasingly geared to the aspirations of the Bengalees for self assertion and autonomy. The Bengali autonomist leadership attempted initially to effect transformation of the State from within the system. The last attempt was manifest in supporting Fatima Jinnah the opponent of Dictator Ayub in the Presidential polls of 1965.
The statement of 24th June 1962 by nine leaders practically set the stage for all out movement by rejecting the dictatorial Ayub Constitution of 1962. The movement was there. The leader (or leaders) who could mould it was not; Suhrawardy was not released till mid-August. Once released, however, he was the one person to whom everybody looked forward for leadership and active guidance. He did not belie the hope and trust placed on him.
By the time of October approached he succeeded in giving the movement for democracy, what it had been lacking so long coherence, unity and organization. On the 4th of October, at Karachi, Suhrawardy announced the formation of the National Democratic Front (NDF). Fifty four leaders from the two wings of Pakistan including Late Fazlur Rahman, Moulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, Yusuf Khattak, Sarder Bahadur Khan, Main Mumtaz Daulatana, Z H Lari, Talpur and Khuro lent their support to the formation of a national platform in the NDF.
While making the announcement Suhrawardy said, "It must� be a matter of gratification� to find� all significance and important elements in our society support the desirability of educating and mobilizing public opinions by means of a platform which some of us have designated as the NDF and which that individuals as well as parties formed or in the making have given unequivocal support � We� have invited people to press for democratization of the constitution as early as possible.
Parties, as much as individuals, "Parties already formed or in the making" did extend their support to the NDF. Within a fortnight of the creation of the NDF the Muslim League (Council) pledged cooperation to it. Other parties and groups did the same. Some political parties including Awami League of which Suhrawardy was the leader, did not revive themselves at all. There was a spirit of cooperation and unity pervading the entire political arena so far as the opposition was concerned.
The whole of Pakistan throbbed with the pulsation of a new awakening. In East and West Pakistan massive and impressive demonstrations and meeting were held. Suhrawardy and other leaders travelled throughout the country and successfully generated and sustained mass participation in the movement for democracy, fundamental rights and universal adult franchise.
It appeared to be a question of time before success for the NDF- led struggle could come. But time itself was not allowed, not enough of it. Suhrawrdy's days were numbered and so was the strength and in fact the active life of the NDF as a national platform. Before 1963 closed Suhrawardy fell ill, went abroad to recuperate and breathed his last in distant and alien land, Lebanon on 5 December 1963. He could not see his last assignment carried to its successful last.
Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research (CDRB), and former technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh, died on August 12, 2019. He contributed his writeups to the Daily Observer which are being published regularly as "The Symphony of Our Times".