Pakistan was mainly made up of five different groups:
- The Pakhtuns in the north
- the Balochs in the west
- the Sindhis in the south
- the Punjabis in the north-east
- the Bengalis in the east
These people had different traditions, cultures, languages, and lifestyles. The British system of government had given these diverse people a very little opportunity to participate in government.
In 1947, some of them, particularly the Balochs and the Bengalis, were sure they now wanted to transfer allegiance to a new Pakistan.
Issue of national language
One of the issues which highlighted this national diversity was the status of the Bangla language. Bangla was the mother tongue of about 56 percent of the people of Pakistan. On the other hand, Urdu was the mother tongue of only 6 percent people of the whole of Pakistan.
Bangla was naturally entitled to be the state language of East Pakistan, if not entire Pakistan. But the Pakistani ruling clique ignored this reality and planned to Introduce Urdu as the state language of entire Pakistan.
In March 1948 Jinnah came on a tour to Dhaka. He addressed the people of east Bengal at a public meeting and in the course of his speech declared “Urdu and only Urdu shall be the State Language of Pakistan.” It was bitterly opposed by the Bengali Muslims, especially the student community.
They demanded that both Urdu and Bangla should be the State Languages of Pakistan on the ground that the Majority of the People of Pakistan lived in east Bengal and spoke Bangla. Despite being the majority in Pakistan, they did not demand that Bangla alone be the state language of Pakistan.
The undemocratic comments of Jinnah offended them greatly and it gave birth to a strong regional movement for greater autonomy. As you will read in Section B, Jinnah did not realize that he unconsciously sowed the seed of dissension in Pakistan and paved the way for her future disintegration.
Other social issues
East Bengal inherited a number of social issues from the colonial period. One of the issues affecting the general well-being of the people was poverty. In the course of the colonial period, many peasants became landless.
Most of the three million people who died during the great famine of Bengal of 1943 were from the landless population. The new state of Pakistan has to tackle the question of landlessness and agrarian poverty in general.
Another problem was that of public health. In the last few decades of the colonial period, cholera, malaria and a number of other water-borne diseases affected a large section of the people of the region.
Though immediate pressing issues of communalism and refugees were high on the agenda, the problem of public health lurked behind and became evident soon after the emergence of East Pakistan.
In 1948, there were only 211 doctors and 2,825 hospital beds in east Bengal. During the colonial period, most educational institutions were established in Kolkata at the expense of East Bengal. When the new nation of Pakistan emerged, There wer4e only a few district-level secondary schools.
In higher education, there was only one University, the University of Dhaka, and a few colleges and madrasahs. In terms of producing skilled manpower, the lack of opportunities for mass educations appeared to be another important social issue before the new state.