Ayub Khan’s Reforms in former East Pakistan 

By Brig Asif Haroon Raja

Notwithstanding the shortcomings of one-unit scheme which came into being in 1955, it was the merger of four provinces of West Pakistan into a single province that the sensitive issue of autonomy was set aside and the 1956 Constitution finalized. This Constitution was abrogated by President Iskandar Mirza after he dissolved the assemblies and declared martial law on October 7, 1958. Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan’s presidential form of government under the 1962 Constitution brought in unitary system, which could not be digested by centrifugal forces in East Pakistan as well as in other smaller provinces having tendencies of detachment from the federation of Pakistan. The disillusionment in East Pakistan (EP) radical leaders was not actually related to lack of sharing power, but shattering of their dreams of gaining full autonomy and eventually independence.

Ayub Khan made concerted efforts to remove all the grievances of the Bengalis. From 1958 onwards, the question of inter-wing economic disparity was accorded high priority. The pace of development of EP was put in high speed to redress the situation at the earliest. EP was allocated Rs. 27,000 million out of the total outlay of Rs, 52,000 million for public and private uplift programs. Other objectives included increase of GNP by 37%, provide 5.5 million new job opportunities, strengthen balance of payment, develop basic industries, arrest population growth and to provide better health and education facilities. He boosted industrial sector of EP. A newsprint factory at Khulna was opened in 1959. Fertilizer factory was constructed in Fenchuganj in 1960.

By 1970, the Karnaphuli paper mill and Khulna newsprint factory produced paper and newsprint to the tune of 82000 tons. Chittagong Port that had been totally neglected by the British prior to partition was developed into one of the most modern ports of South Asia. Khulna shipyard in 1957 and Chittagong dockyard in 1960 were also developed. Chalna anchorage was developed to handle 23 lakh ton of goods. The budget of EP that stood at Rs. 17 crore in 1948-49 rose to Rs. 40 crore in 1959-60. In 1969-70 it was 169 crore. The 1962 Constitution laid down the share of central revenue for EP as 56% and 46% for West Pakistan.

His third five-year plan (1965-70) aimed at achieving parity in the per capita income of the two wings of Pakistan in the long-term perspective.  His ambitious plan to reduce parity dampened due to the 1965 War when the US stopped economic and military aid to Pakistan. Still, lot of ground was covered and many development works were commissioned. During that period, 27 factories at the cost of Rs. 89 crores were constructed. These included an iron and steel mill at Chittagong in 1967, technical institute at Kaptia and industrial research laboratories at Dacca and Rajshahi. All told EP had one large and seven small steel mills, petroleum refinery, small arms factory, 53 jute mills, 30 tanneries and six oil & gas refineries. As a result, the industrial goods produced in EP increased from 300 to 2000%. Art and silk cloth production shot up from 1.50 lakh sq. yd. in 1965-66 to 68 lakh in 1969-70. Road mileage increased to 1,083 while a vast network of unmetalled roads was developed to connect villages with the main roads. Besides, 11000 bridges and culverts were made.

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Rs. 40.02 crore were spent to lay new railway line Narsingdi-Mandiganj sector and to upgrade some narrow gauge railway lines to broad gauge lines. River ports of Dacca, Narayanganj, Chandpur, Barisal and Khulna were made fully functional for river traffic. Rs. 11.5 crores was spent on procurement of inland river transport. Consequent to development of Teista Barrage, Tipper-Chittagong and Dacca-Narayanganj irrigation projects, the irrigation water supply increased by 400%. Energy plants were established at Dacca and Mymensingh. The electric energy increased from 17000 mw to 30,000 mw in 1964-65 and to 83000 in 1969-70. A modern airport at Tejgaon was built. A television station was opened at Dacca and Dacca converted from a district town to a cosmopolitan city throbbing with life.

The exports from EP to West Pakistan worth 4879 crores in 1964-65 were further enhanced by Rs. 76 crores in 1968-70. In terms of unfavorable balance of trade between the two wings in primary commodities, the ratio was narrowed down from 13:1 in 1948-49 to 1.5:1 in 1969-70. In the education sector, one Cadet College, number of schools, colleges and universities were established. Between 1947 and 1971, 67000 schools, 225 colleges and five universities were built. 40% seats were reserved for the Bengalis in the civil service to rectify the disparity. This hpw was over and above the 20% on merit. Subramanian also admits that Bengali representation in all the government posts ascended from 1 in 1947 to 36% in 1968. Their number rose from one in 1947 to 40.9% in 1969. About the disparity in armed forces representation, apart from historical reasons, the Bengalis disinterest and reluctance to serve away from their home province was the major factor in bridging the gap. Opening of Cadet College, lowering of recruitment standards and raising of EBR units were all aimed at reducing the gap.

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The developmental expenditure shot up from Rs. 336 crore in the first five-year plan to Rs. 1707 crore in the third five-year plan. Of this, 70% was consumed by public sector.  In the field of foreign exchange loans and grants, Rs. 21.23 crore in the first five-year plan, Rs. 61.05 crore in the second and Rs. 182.49 crore in the third plan was allocated to EP. In the last plan, the share of EP exceeded that of West Pakistan by 11%. The Rupee loans and grants jumped from Rs. 148.70 crore in the first plan to 663.79 crore in the third plan. In case of the western wing, the increase was from Rs. 187.16 crore to Rs. 433.87 crore. 

The investment in private sector in West Pakistan in the third five-year plan was Rs. 1590 crore while in EP it had been increased from Rs. 73 crore to Rs. 544 crore. In order to boost private investment in that wing, far too many concessions were given by the central government in fiscal, monetary and import policies. Differential in rate of import duty on machinery was raised from 28.6% to 40% in favor of EP. To encourage rubber plantation, a concessional tax treatment to profits of rubber estates was accorded. In case of jute industry, duty on home clearance of jute manufacturers was radically reduced. Excise duty on mineral oil for bathing of jute was reduced from 20% to 6.25%. Rate of import duty on aluminum tubing and millboard needed for manufacture of bobbins for jute industry was brought down from 50% to 36%.

Likewise, rate of import duty on nylon yarn required for fishing nets mostly used in EP was reduced from 260% to 50%. Import of phosphate and sulphur used in manufacture of super phosphate fertilizer mostly produced in EP was made free of custom duty and sales tax. Sales taxes on tarpaulins and imported coal extensively used in EP were reduced to 10% and 5% respectively. Rate of import duty on sago seeds, mostly consumed in EP was reduced from 40% to 15%. Steel ingots were exempted from excise duty of Rs. 50 per ton. In order to bring down the cost of production of cement in EP, import duty on clinkers was slashed from 75% to 20%. Duty on dyed umbrella was cut down from 125% to 35% and duty on iron steel castings and forging as well as on electroplated anodes was reduced.    

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During Ayub’s ten year eventful rule from October 1958 to March 1969, two important personalities emerged on the political landscape, ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. The two later on played a distinct role in adding fuel to the inferno of EP and ultimate dismantling of Pakistan into two. The after effects of the 1965 war led to downfall of Ayub Khan. All that was achieved during the golden phase of our history during Ayub Khan’s rule was lost by the rising tide of agitation sponsored by the politicians hungering to enter into the power of corridors and to recommence their era of mis-governance, incompetence and plunder. Despite Ayub Khan ceding to all demands, agitation in EP continued unabated since by then RAW had penetrated every political party and government department of eastern wing. Successful conclusion of Round Table Conference held in March 1969 could have paved the way for smooth transfer of power from military to parliamentary system and could thus avert 1971 tragedy. ZA Bhutto and Maulana Bhashani torpedoed it by boycotting the conference. Ayub Khan resigned saying he couldn’t preside over the breakup of Pakistan and handed over power to Gen Yahya Khan.

From the above, I leave it to the readers to judge whether Ayub Khan hated Bengalis and whether he sowed the seeds of alienation of Bengalis. Between 1947 and 1958, there were three prime ministers from East Pakistan (Khawaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra and Suhrawardy). President Iskandar Mirza was a Bengali from Calcutta. None could do what Ayub did for East Pakistan. Lt Gen Azam Khan was appointed Governor East Pakistan by Ayub Khan and he was loved by Bengalis.

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