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Volume 1 Issue 1 | November 2006


Month in Review: Bangladesh
Month in Review: International
Promises to Keep -- Rehman Sobhan
Original Forum Editorial
In the Beginning -- Hameeda Hossain
The Election Conundrum -- Mahfuz Anam
The Big Bang -- Afsan Choudhury
Time to Play the Long Game -- Farid Bakht
Struggling for Democracy -- Kamal Hossain
How Did We Get Here?-- Zafar Sobhan
Should I Swing? -- Inam Ahmed
Photo Feature
Pirates of the Caribbean -- Tariq Ali
Broken Promises -- Ahmed Rashid
Thailand's Silk Revolution -- Larry Jagan
Evolution of Bush Doctrine -- Martin Woollacott
Support for Democracy? -- Yogendra Yadav
Feet of Clay -- FS Aijazuddin
Militarization of Politics -- Syed Badrul Ahsan
Roll Play -- Badiul Alam Majumdar
Shamsur Rahman, In Retrospect -- Kaiser Haq
Arguing with Amartya Sen -- Yasmeen Murshed


Forum Home


In search of freedom

It is now twenty two years since Pakistan achieved its independence. After twenty-two years its people have yet to achieve freedom. The first ten years since independence made available the formal trappings of freedom: an elected parliament, an ostensibly free press, a functioning opposition. Yet the substance of freedom was denied to the people by a narrow class of vested interests drawn from the ranks of the feudal elite, big business, and bureaucracy. Since, by historical circumstances, this class was based in West Pakistan, its narrow predatory concerns perpetuated the image of a West Pakistani dominated elite and subscribed to the sense of alienation from decision making felt by all classes of East Pakistanis.

Whenever the popular will promised to assert itself, this class intervened to frustrate the workings of the democratic process. Thus the Ayup coup of 1958 must be seen as the culmination of forces within society which had already substantially corroded the essence of a free society. For it was only when a genuine transfer of power to the people was imminent that the power elite had to intervene directly to save its privileged position.

The Ayub years accentuated all the tensions which had been straining the institutional structure of the nation since 1947. The uprising which erupted just a year ago marked the surfacing of a whole nation. The movement may have initially asked for a return to direct elections and parliamentary democracy, but as it grew in intensity, it brought to the surface the festering ills inflicted on the people by two decades of suppression and exploitation.

In East Pakistan, this feeling focused on the demand for autonomy. Two decades of exclusion from power, the latter of which did not even conceal the concentration of power in Islamabad with the pretension of democratic processes, fired a mood within East Pakistan which wanted nothing short of the full regional autonomy which it had aspired for all along and which it had so long been denied. This mood was echoed in West Pakistan where Sind, Baluchistan, and NWFP felt that the one unit system had concentrated power within the region in the hands of this same class of vested interests to the detriment of the conditions of life in these regions.

However, as the movement gained momentum, a new and elemental force began to surface for the first time in the nation's history. The forgotten millions of Pakistan, the urban poor and eventually the villagers of Pakistan began to be drawn into the struggle and in the process transformed a conventional movement for bourgeois freedoms into a popular uprising. Their act of defiance has given notice to the world that the people of Pakistan are now awake and a political power in their own right. No longer is it possible for the traditional ruling groups to barter away the destiny of Pakistan over their heads. The awakened people are now conscious of their stake in the future of our society and can be ignored by the leaders only at their peril.

Forum will seek justification for its existence by articulating the concerns not only of East Pakistan but of all those millions of Pakistanis who have been excluded from the privileges of power and its resultant benefits. In this process it hopes to lay bare the mechanics of exploitation and suppression as practised by this narrow power group within the country. In so doing it will seek to emancipate itself from the regime of rhetorical slogans which has clouded the national imagination and will aim to get beneath the surface of the problems and workings of our society. This will provide the basis for initiating a serious and informed discussion on the specific policies which are immediately required in order to resolve the myriad problems which consume society today.

We believe that the people can no longer be excluded from the fruits of their independence. We believe that a return to democratic processes must involve a genuine liberation of the people from the exploitation and neglect which have characterised their condition since independence. We believe this will involve a major re-structuring of our society. It will have to re-define relations between the centre and the provinces, so that the people of East Pakistan and the component regions of West Pakistan can enjoy genuine power through control over their resources and development.

We believe this freedom will involve a re-defining of relations on the land where the peasants and the village poor are to be liberated from the shackles of feudalism so that they can exercise political power within their communities with a view to improving their sub-human conditions of life. We believe that property relations in industry will have to be so re-structured that workers are not only given the full rewards for their labour but will acquire a genuine sense of participation in the affairs of their enterprise. We believe that only through fundamental changes in our institutions will it be possible to liberate the energies of our people and give them a stake in society. Only then can Pakistan gain the real strength to resist the pressures of foreign powers who seek to manipulate our national affairs in pursuance of their global designs.

Vol. 1, No. 1 22 November, 1969
22 November, 1969
Political Scene: Muyeedul Hasan 4
Quest for Consensus: Kamal Hossain 5
Autonomy & Social Change: Rehman Sobhan 6
Disparity Ascendant: Anisur Rahman 7
The Spectre of Famine: FRU 8
Pakistan and Islam: MB Naqvi 11
American Freedom Fight in Vietnam: Badruddin Umar 12
Good Bye Harvard: Correspondent 13
Diplomat's Story: Neville Maxwell 16
Election Fever: Salma Altaf 16
Cover: A 1942 famine sketch reprinted
by kind permission of the artist,
Mr Zainul Abedin.
Views expressed by contributors in these columns are not necessarily shared by the journal.
Editor: Hameeda Hossain
Executive Editor: Rehman Sobhan
Published by Dr Kamal Hossain for Forum Publications Ltd., 41 Hatkhola Road, Dacca 2, and printed at the East Pakistan Press (The National Publishers Ltd.), Bangshal Road Dacca.
Surface Mail:
Pakistan & Asia
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All other countries
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Air Mail:  
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Middle East
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Africa, Far East & Europe
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Canada & USA
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We believe that the choice is no longer between the status quo and social change but between a peaceable change in our social institutions and the total anarchy which threatens to engulf organised society if basic problems are deferred any further. In the last days of the uprising the world was given a foretaste of things to come if we continued to drift along oblivious of the tensions accumulated beneath the surface. If this preview is not to become the scenario of our future then all those who care for this country and share our commitment to social change must participate in our enterprise both as readers and contributors.
We cannot even begin to fulfil the task we have set ourselves except on the assumption that freedom of the press is not altogether dead. We shall have to take the President at his word that, "Almost unprecedented freedom of the press is enjoyed by the press today." Only on this premise is it possible to present a meaningful analysis of the state of our society or to articulate the aspirations and concerns of the people.

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