One Unit Formula 1955 – The Foundation of Bengal Debacle

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One Unit Formula 1955 – The Foundation of Bengal Debacle

One Unit Formula 1955 - The Foundation of Bengal Debacle

One Unit Formula 1955 - The Foundation of Bengal Debacle


When Pakistan came into existence the geography of Pakistan was completely confusing in a sense of divisional land. The land of Pakistan was geographically divided into two parts which were known as East Pakistan (now current Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (Islamic republic of Pakistan). It is crystal clear that East Pakistan was 1000s of KM far from West Pakistan. On the other hand, West Pakistan was itself divided into four provinces. The East Pakistan was considered one province. The One Unit formula came into existence after the realization of many administrative difficulties in two wings. It was difficult for east Pakistani to be prosperous with privileges which it had. So there were a lot of hurdles between east and west. Such as language issue, sharing of powers etc. additionally West Pakistan was more developed and it had a strong military and bureaucracy. However, this formula did not prove the right choice for administering the newly created state of Pakistan.

Background of The One Unit Formula

As administrative divisions formed a basic tier of the government at independence in 1947, the new nation of Pakistan was comprised by two wings-the eastern and western, separated by India. At the time three of the provinces of Pakistan were subdivided into ten administrative divisions. The single area in the east wing called East Bengal had four divisions-Chittagong, Dacca, Khulna and Rajshahi. The province of West Punjab had four divisions – Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, and Sargodha. The North-West Frontier Province had two divisions-Dera Ismail Khan and Peshawar. The hasty partition of the Indian subcontinent in August 1947 not only intensified the existing mutual suspicions and fears but also gave birth to many new complex problems. Compared to India, these problems were far more numerous and onerous for Pakistan as India was not only an ‘ongoing concern’ but also inherited a well-developed administrative setup (Cheema, 1990). In the circumstances, Pakistan, the new state, was not only confronted with the important task of setting up an administrative structure but also faced almost chaotic conditions in those areas that formed Pakistan. Also, the August and September of 1947 had given the worst possible start to these two Dominions who faced the massive problem of resettling the refugees and resolving the question of migrants’ property.

Reasons and Objectives of the One Unit Formula

Iskander Mirza who put forward the bill in the Assembly also gave following reasons;

It would end the curse of provincial prejudices.

It would allow the development of backward areas.

It would reduce administrative expenses.

It would make it easier to draw up a new constitution.

It would give East and West Pakistan maximum autonomy.

One Unite Formula

Initially, in 1930, Sir Mohammad Iqbal conceived the idea of Pakistan by uniting the four states of the northwestern British Empire, the partition of the subcontinent was the result of Pakistan movement led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and came into existence on 14 August 1947. Since then, the country had been without a consolidated written constitution, and all Pakistani state affairs had been run under constitutional acts of British Indian empire enacted in 1935 and 1947. The Government had prolonged difficulty in administrating East Bengal, with its border with Eastern India, and the four provinces, which border Western India, Iran, China, and Afghanistan. Thus keeping in view the administrative difficulties the idea of ‘One Unit System’ was conceived by Malik Ghulam, the then Governor General of Pakistan, whose drafting was completed by Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra who had made the first official announcement on 22 November 1954. The National Assembly of Pakistan passed a bill merging of all West Pakistan into a single province on 30 September 1955, and finally, it was implemented on 14 October 1955. Earlier in 1954, Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra praised the idea and said, ‘There will be no Bengalis, no Punjabis, no Sindhis, no Pathan, no Balochis, no Bahawalpuris, no Khairpuris. The disappearance of these groups will strengthen the integrity of Pakistan.


Dr. Khan Sahib was appointed as the first Chief Minister of the One Unit, while Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani was appointed as the first Governor of West Pakistan. Dr. Khan Sahib’s Ministry, however, came to an end when the President himself took over the administration. Subsequently, Sardar Abdur Rashid and Muzzaffar Ali Qazilbash were appointed Chief Ministers of that province in succession.

Critical Analysis of The One Unit

The question arises here whether the merging of all West Pakistan provinces was the consent of all the units of the provinces or not. The answer would be “NO” because when the campaign of one unit was initiated, firstly it was opposed by Sind assembly. It is clear as day that the center or federal has been strong all the time. The then chief minister was dismissed Pirzada Abdul Sattar was dismissed by Ghulam Muhammad.

After the dismissal of Pirzada, Muhammad Ayub Khuro was installed as the new chief minister of Sind. The Sind assembly started supporting one unit campaign. Sad to as that Ayub Khuro was dismissed in the case of corruption PRODA (public and representative officer disqualified act) “under the Act 1949, the government could start legal proceedings against ministers and members of the assembly on the charges of misconduct or corruption.’ But after three years he was appointed as chief minister. After few months again he was dismissed. But in 1954 PRODA was lifted and Mr. Khuro was again made the chief minister of Sindh. Besides Sind and West Pakistan, East Pakistan was fully against one unit campaign because they had threat of demographic change. But passing through great hurdles one unit came into existence.

The fact cannot be denied that merging of the provinces created further troubles and tribulations. The circumstances of one unit could not bring prosperity and development in the country. Due to that the West Pakistan legislature passed a bill in October recommending the dissolution of one unit. This led to the downfall of Suhrwardy’s cabinet. The central government dismissed the ministries in Punjab, Sind and NWFP. One unit continued until general Yahya khan dissolved it on July 1st 1970.

The objectives mentioned as a cause of the “One Unit” were not met. Expenditures were not controlled and limited. Additionally, some related issues were aroused. Remote areas of the country were ignored, and some local problems emerged with high intensity. The objectives of One Unit could not be achieved. Instead, the power concentrated in few hands; hence the demand for the restoration of small provinces came up through various movements. In East Pakistan, many political parties and groups questioned the principle of parity between the two wings and perceived that the whole of West Pakistan is together against East Pakistan. These facts increased the sense of alienation among them.


At the juncture, it was wrong to suggest that the entire Muslim League was in favor of an active center, but actually, the gang of four comprising Ghulam Mohammad, Major General Iskander Mirza, General Ayub Khan and Chaudhary Mohammad Ali was adamant to have an active center in Pakistan. Those who tried to stand firm for the protection of provincial rights were shown the door and declared as traitors working against the national interest. In a nutshell, the scheme was a campaign of a few against the will and interest of general public which cast a dark shadow over the administrative setup of the then infant nation called Pakistan.

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