Brief bio of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy


Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy was born on September 8, 1892, in an illustrious Muslim family from Midnapore in West Bengal, India. His father, Barrister Zahid Suhrawardy, was knighted after his retirement from the Bar. His mother, Begum Khozesta Akhter Banu, was the first Muslim woman to pass the Senior Cambridge Examination and having graduated with honours in Persian Literature from the Indian Board of Examinations, appointed as an examiner for Urdu literature at the University of Calcutta — the only Indian lady at the time to have received this honour. Shaista Suhrawardy Ikramullah, his first cousin, was a celebrated intellectual and diplomat.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy received his early education from his mother and his uncle, Sir Abdullah al-Mamun (who had studied at Oxford University and been a founder-member of the Pan Islamic Society in London), before he entered the Calcutta Aliya Madrasah and graduated with honours in science from St. Xavier's College. He obtained an MA degree in Arabic Calcutta University in 1913 before leaving for England later that year.

In England he enrolled at Oxford University, where he graduated in science with honours and received his BCL degree. His elder (and only) brother, Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy, graduated from Oxford as well, and both were involved with the Oxford Majlis. Huseyn was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1918 and returned to Calcutta in 1920 where he started practising as a barrister.

Soon after returning to India, Suhrawardy married Begum Naiz Fatima, the daughter of Sir Abdur Rahim, who was a judge of the Calcutta High Court, a member of the Governor's Executive Council and president of the Indian Legislative Assembly. God blessed Suhrawardy two children from this marriage; Ahmed Shahab Suhrawardy and Begum Akhtar Sulaiman. Ahmed Suhrawardy died from pneumonia, in 1940, when he was a student in London. Suhrawardy’s first wife, Begum Niaz Fatima, died in 1932; he then married Vera Alexandrovna Tiscenko Calder, who, after her marriage converted to Islam and changed her name to Begum Noor Jehan. His new wife, Vera, was a Russian actress of Polish descent from the Moscow Art Theatre and protégé of Olga Knipper. In 1951, Suhrawardy divorced her and she later settled in America. He had one child, Rashid Suhrawardy, from her.

Suhrwardy entered active politics in Bengal, from the platform of Swaraj Party in 1923, a group within the Indian National Congress, and became a keen follower of Chittaranjan. He played an important role in the formulation of the Bengal Pact in 1923. At the age of 31, in 1924, he became the Deputy Mayor of the Calcutta Corporation, and the Deputy Leader of the Swaraj Party in the Provincial Assembly.  After the death of Das, Suhrawardy turned to separatist policies and eventually joined the All India Muslim League. He served as Minister of Labour, and Minister of Civil Supplies, among other positions, during Khawaja Nazimuddin’s Government.

Suhrawardy led a progressive line, in the Bengal Muslim League, against the conservative stream led by Nazimuddin and Akram Khan. In the light of 1946’s elections, he established and headed a Muslim League government in Bengal, which was the only League government in British India at the time. When the demand for a separate Muslim state became popular among Indian Muslims and the partition of India on communal lines was very much expected by mid-1947; Suhrawardy presented his plan in a press conference, on 27th April 1947, for a united and independent Bengal to prevent the partition of Hindu-majority districts of Punjab and Bengal on communal lines. Suhrawardy’s plan, unfortunately, gained no popularity, and partition of sub-continent was made on communal basis. In 1949, he formed the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League and was elected as a Member of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, and in 1953 he renamed East Pakistan Awami Muslim League as the Awami League.

In 1953, Suhrawardy teamed up with A K Fazl-ul-Haq and Maulana Bhashani to establish the United Front in Dhaka. Their party won the 1954 general elections. The same year he joined Muhammad Ali Bogra’s Ministry as Law Minister.

He became Minister for Law, during the reign of second Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, in December 1954, and after one year, in 1955 he became the Leader of the Opposition to a coalition Government. Although he was anti-communist, he was appointed to head a coalition government of Pakistan and became the fifth Prime Minister of Pakistan on September 12, 1956. His initial targets were to resolve the energy crises, to remove economical disparity, and to build a massive military. At very first, he took initiatives to re-build and reform the military forces, to expand the defense infrastructure, to establish the plan of nuclear power against India, and to develop supply-side economics polices. Suhrawardy was the first Prime Minister to visit China to strengthen Sino-Pak relations, and Pakistan-US’s long associated ties were the pioneer of his foreign policy. Despite his achievements, he was forced to resign under threat of dismissal by the President Iskander Mirza, after his failure to control the economic disparity, to initiate One Unit Program, and to control the influence of business monopoly in politics. Suhrawardy resigned from his post on 10th October 1957. He died because of a chronic heart attack in Beirut, Lebanon, on 5th December 1963; his tomb is in Dhaka.

Source: Internet