950Published on June 6, 2020
Barrister Imtiaz Uddin Ahmad Asif:
The six point program or demand headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a call for “maximum autonomy” for the people of the then East Pakistan with his underlying objective of making a sovereign state for the Bangalees. Widely regarded as the “charter of freedom” for Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the historic six point program placed by Sheikh Mujib in early February 1966 acted as a catalyst for Bangladesh’s independence in 1971.
The six-point program not only shows Bangabandhu’s political prowess but also his superior administrative ability to organize and garner mass support for his vision for the then East Pakistan and its people. His demands were based on the Bangalee’s right of self-determination and the right to choose their own destiny. The people came out from every corner of East Pakistan in support of Mujib’s six-point demand. The Awami League and the East Pakistan Student’s League were working directly under his guidance to communicate Banganbadhu’s message which led to his arrest on 7 June 1966. After the declaration of six-point demand, he was to be arrested nine times as the West Pakistan government tried to prevent him from delivering his message (Karagarer Rojonmocha, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Dhaka, Bangla Academy, 2017). It had shaken the very core of West Pakistan’s oppressive regime who had no way of stopping Sheikh Mujib except by keeping him locked up.
The six points as placed by Sheikh Mujib were:
1. The Constitution was to provide for a Federation of Pakistan based on the Lahore Resolution with a parliamentary form of government with supremacy of legislature directly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise.
2. The Federal Government would only be in charge of defense and foreign affairs with all other matters to be decided by federating states.
3. East Pakistan and West Pakistan would have two separate freely convertible currencies and effective measures would be imposed to stop the flight of capital from the East. Moreover, East Pakistan would have a separate fiscal and monetary policy as well as separate banking reserve.
4. East Pakistan would be in charge of its own taxation and revenue collection and the federation would only be entitled to a share of the revenue.
5. East and West Pakistan would have two separate foreign exchange earnings accounts with each wing having the power to establish trade links with foreign countries.
6. East Pakistan would have a separate military or paramilitary force, with Navy headquarters established in Pakistan.
An analysis of each of the six point demands placed by Sheikh Mujib demonstrates the definitive manner in which he had concluded that freedom from the West Pakistani oppressive regime was the only option available for the Bangalees and he was preparing them for the same.
The Lahore Resolution had envisaged that constituent units would be autonomous and this was the basis on which Sheikh Mujib had placed his first demand. His demand was also a direct attack on Ayub Khan’s basic democracy which had prevented universal adult franchise. By demanding this, Sheikh Mujib was essentially seeking not only to bring power to East Pakistan but also to empower every single person living in East Pakistan. His utmost commitment to democracy and to the empowerment of masses is clearly visible from this demand.
Moreover, by taking charge of all matters including taxation, foreign reserve, currency and even military, Mujib was essentially making a fully autonomous state where the people of that state would decide on its destiny. He had also demanded that East Pakistan would be able to establish trade links with foreign countries without having to refer to West Pakistan. If we were to compare with modern day politics, not even in the devolution of Scotland or Wales was such extensive autonomy demanded. By demanding the maximum autonomy possible he had actually placed his underlying demand – that of independence of Bangladesh.
Sheikh Mujib had essentially sought independence in the guise of the fullest possible provincial autonomy and by doing so was looking to secure the long term future of all Bangalees. Simultaneously, he had prepared his nation for what was to come. By personally visiting every district and articulating the demands he had persuaded the Bangalees that he would be their friend and leader to a better future - he was to be their “Bangabandhu”. Having suffered from continued political, economic and cultural oppression since the founding of Pakistan in 1947, the general public extended their fullest support for Sheikh Mujib’s six point demand and the police violence against Sheikh Mujib and his followers only made their resolve stronger.
The impact of the Sheikh Mujib’s six point demand was far and wide. As Dr. MB Nair states the six point program “…was the harbinger of the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign state in 1971” (Politics in Bangladesh: A study of Awami League:1949-58, New Delhi, Northern Book Center 1990, p 257). The six point demand had ignited a domino of events: his repeated arrest, Agartala Conspiracy case in 1968, the emergence of Sheikh Mujib as Bangabandhu in the student movement of 1969, the landslide win in the 1970 election, his speech at Ramna Race Course on 7 March 1971 and the final independence of the Bangladesh in 1971.
In his inimitable manner, Bangabandhu had placed the 6 point program before his people, persuaded and made them believe and then, through sustained national movement, guided his people to independence.
Writer: Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh