One Unit (1955-1970) | A threat to Federalism and the reaction of Sindh

One Unit 1955-1970 East Pakistan West Pakistan


Pakistan has been a multiethnic state with varieties of languages, cultures and living styles since its inception. In this perplexing nature, federalism was only optioned to keep people united. But that too was not acceptable to the ruling oligarchy, for a true form of federalism would pave the way for Bengali supremacy owing to their large population which consisted 55% of the whole population. So, in order to suppress them (Bengalis), the scheme of One Unit was proposed. The story of One Unit is known as dark pages in the political history of Pakistan. It created hatred in the hearts of the people of smaller provinces of West Pakistan, for the central government claimed, it was formed in order to promote national unity within the country and to discourage provincialism. Moreover, it was also claimed that through this, the rights of people would be ensured and secured in a better way. But the central government failed to water their promises which were done. Consequently, the people of the smaller province started agitations against One Unit. This scheme was initiated in 1955 and lasted till 1970. These years are full of grievances for all three small provinces i.e. Sindh, NWFP (present-day KPK) and Balochistan. It might be considered as one of the reasons behind the fall of Dhaka because parity could not be followed on which One Unit was formed. In this regard, this paper attempts to unveil the interest of the central government behind the scheme of One Unit and it also concentrates on the role of Sindh in this scheme.

Keywords: Constituent Assembly, Sindh Assembly, Federation, West Pakistan, East Pakistan, Provincialism, Patriotism, Unification, One Unit


After independence, Pakistan faced ethnic political problems throughout the country owing to ethnicity and geographical differences. Geographically, it was divided into two portions, about 1600 kilometres distant from each other. One portion was famous as East Wing (Bengali) and another one as West Wing (Punjab, Sindh, NWFP (Present-day KPK), Balochistan). When Muslim League was defeated in the provincial elections of East Pakistan in 1954 then West Wing politicians decided to bring all four provinces (Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, Balochistan) under one umbrella and unified all four provinces as a single province to encounter the East Pakistanis (Bengalis).

Thus, they launched ‘’One Unit Scheme’’, through the leadership of Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra on 22 November 1954. Finally, on 5 October 1955, Acting Governor-General of Pakistan Iskandar Mirza passed an order for the unification of the Western Wing as a single province, known as West Pakistan and policy is called the ‘’One Unit Scheme’’. It is established that the suggestions to amalgamate West Pakistan into One Unit were made before 1954.

As early as November 1947, Sir Archibold Rowlands, M.A. Jinnah’s adviser on economic matters, recommended the unification of western wing, but although the Father of Pakistan approved the proposal in principle, he considered it premature and postponed the scheme. Punjabi interests representatives pleaded that the integration of the provinces into West Pakistan is the supreme national interest.

The idea of unification of the western wing put a new argument on the eradicating of ‘provincialism’, decreased the administration expenses and also powering the efficient administration. In the Constituent Assembly in March 1949, Malik Feroze Khan Noon made a plea for the merger of the four western provinces into a single unit in the interest of ‘efficient administration.

The merger proposal was also supported by Khan Muhammad Yusuf Khattak, General Secretary, Pakistan Muslim League, who remarked that the merger would not only eradicate the poisonous mentality of narrow provincialism but inculcate the undying spirit of unified Pakistani nationality. But the Muslim League President, Chaudhary Khaliquzzaman, was hesitant in supporting the proposal. He, therefore, emphasized that the willing consent of different provinces should be the sine qua non for any action in regard to the amalgamation of provinces of West Pakistan into a single unit.

Thus, the idea of unification of West Pakistan formed by Muslim League was not only a pre-requisite for the creation of the single unit but also as to overcome the increasing ethnicity of small provinces of West Pakistan.

Initiation of One Unit Plan

Pakistan came into being on 14 August 1947, and geographically into two portions separated by each other by thousands of kilometres. Thus, the Government had faced long difficulty in administrating East Pakistan with its border with Eastern India, and the four provinces of West Pakistan linked the border with Western India, Iran, China, and Afghanistan. Therefore, keeping in view the administrative difficulties in the idea of ‘One Unit System’ was conceived by Malik Ghulam Muhammad 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 all West Pakistan into a single province on 30 September 1955. 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’’.

Iskander Mirza (He held the office of President of Pakistan from 23rd March to 27th October 1958) had also forwarded the bill in the Assembly which had the 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.

As a follow to the plan after the general election of 1954, the four provinces and Tribal areas were merged in the western wing. The region was composed of twelve divisions, and the provincial capital was established at Lahore and the capital of East Pakistan located at Dacca. The federal government moved the country’s capital in 1958 from Karachi to Rawalpindi while the national legislature moved to Dacca.

West Pakistan formed a single and united political entity but with marked linguistic and ethnic distinctions. The One Unit policy was regarded as an administrative reform that would reduce expenditure and help to eliminate racial prejudices. However, with the military coup of 1958, trouble loomed for the province when the office of Chief Minister was abolished, and the President claimed executive power over West Pakistan.

Dismissal of Pirzada’s Cabinet

The scheme of the ‘’One Unit’’ was enforced to Abdul Sattar Pirzada (He was a member of Pakistan Muslim League and was also CM of Sindh from May 22nd, 1953 to November 8th 1954) by the federal government, but he refused to do so. Thus, the meeting was called by the top-level for the approval of the scheme and dismissal of Pirzada’s Cabinet. The meeting was attended by Ayub Khuhro, Mumtaz Daultana, Qurban Ali Khan, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and Sardar Rashid.

Pirzada was aware of his fate so he sought the support of Bengali and Pashtun allies and also got support from the members of the Sindh Legislative Assembly. Resultantly, 76 out of 110 members in a signed statement fully endorsed the Constituent Assembly and expressed full confidence in the Pirzada ministry. During the session of the Sindh Assembly on 15 November, he considered a resolution against the ‘’One Unit’’ and forwarded it to Governor. Before passing of it, there was a surprise for Pirzada that his ministry was dismissed immediately on the ground of maladministration of the affairs in the province. So, he reacted quickly and claimed that his removal was just because of rejection of the ‘’One Unit’’ not because of any other reason.

G.M. Syed was convinced that the dismissal of Pirzada cabinet was for no other reason except for his fair stand against the formation of One Unit. Sain GM Syed paid congratulation to Pirzada and his Cabinet for their boldness and he appreciated his steadfastness. On the other hand, Pirzada preferred to be dismissed rather than surrender himself and his cabinet. Imam Bakhsh Talpur, a former minister of Sindh also congratulated Pirzada on his gallant stand over One Unit.

On the other hand, Bahawalpur state also rejected the scheme of unification of western wing into a single unit. But Sardar Abdul Rashid, Chief Minister of North-West Frontier Province and Khairpur state was in favour of the ‘’One Unit” scheme.

Formation of Khuhro’s Cabinet

After the dismissal of Pirzada’s ministry, Sindh Governor asked Muhammad Ayoub Khuhro to form a new cabinet. G.M. Syed (he was a pioneer of Sindhu Desh separatist movement) foresaw that the arrival of Khuhro’s cabinet was only for the approval of the ‘’One Unit” scheme not for any other reason. Ayub Khuhro was the same man who had played a very important part in the separation of Sindh from the Bombay Presidency. Calamity was, Ayub Khuhro who was neither member of the provincial legislature nor of the Sindh Muslim League parliamentary party had sworn as chief minister of Sindh on 10 November 1954. Pir Ali Muhammad Rashadi and Haji Moula Bux Soomro were made ministers. The circumstances themselves witnessed the brutal attitude of the central government for the unification of the provinces by dismissing the cabinets of Sindh and Bahawalpur Assemblies.

On the attitude and behaviour of Ayub Khuhro; (CM of Sindh) people and students of Sindh came into the roads by the call for “Sindh Day” on 22 November 1954 by Sindhi Awami Mahaz headed by G.M Syed and Hari Committee headed by Haider Bux Jatoi. Owing to these situations, Ayub Khuhru and Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi gave public impression that we would pass the “One Unit Bill” only if when the central government accepted our following eleven conditions:

  1. Sindh gets (following) rights statutorily safeguarded and that judicial apparatus is provided to adjudicate upon cases of the breach of these guarantees.
  2. Whatever is earned out of the Sindh shall be spent on the people of the Sindh.
  3. Sindh’s provincial services shall be wholly managed and manned by the people of the Sindh.
  4. Sindh’s land shall be distributed among the landless population of the Sindh – refugees and non-refugees after fixing a certain economic unit.
  5. Any land found in excess of these requirements shall be open for purchase by anybody possessing land below the ceiling to be fixed by government.
  6. In all central services and in all superior services, Sindh shall have fixed quota.
  7. One Unit must leave nothing with the center except the three departments: i.e. defense, foreign relations and currency.
  8. Sindh’s share of Indus water should not be interfered with.
  9. The present expenditure on the development of Sindhi language and literature must not be reduced.
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  11. Sindh must have due share in the army.
  12. No major legislation shall be deemed valid for Sindh unless the majority of Sindhi legislators in the One Unit legislature accept it.

Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi explained these conditions to the people of Sindh that central government is ready to accept these conditions which were already demanded by G.M. Syed in the Sindh Legislative Assembly in March 1954. He further claimed that the capital of West Pakistan should be situated at Abbottabad, Mansehra or Haripur (District of Ayub Khan) in NWFP and it was also promised that the Chief Minister of West Pakistan would be selected from small provinces for the first 10 years.

But these promises and proclamations could not satisfy the Sindhi public and politicians. They stood steadfast in their stance of opposing One Unit Scheme.

Sindh Assembly endorses the One Unit:

The protests grew day by day and the police used force to stop them. ‘Laathi charging’ and imprisoning the opponents had become routine which continued from November 8, 1954, till the passage of the One Unit bill on December 11, 1954. Khuhro did not want the Sindh Assembly to take up the bill in the assembly building in Karachi so he decided that the session be held in Darbar Hall, Hyderabad. This was the first time the assembly met outside its building. Khuhro thought that unwanted people could be stopped there easily. Before summoning the session, Khuhro talked to every parliamentary group in the Sindh Assembly and used all kinds of tactics to ensure the passage of the bill without any opposition. Some were offered positions in the government and others were assured for the fulfilment of their interests. Thus, December 11, 1954, was the darkest day in the history of Sindh and Pakistan. This was the day on which the elected representatives of Sindh surrendered their will and provincial autonomy and submitted their resources all along.

Police were stationed outside the Darbar Hall to prevent entry of any unwanted person. When Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur reached the session, he was picked up and put into jail in the case of sodomy.

Khuhro did not find time to register a case against Ghulam Mustafa Bhurgri and was unsure of Abdul Hamid Jatoi’s approach towards the bill. He had doubts about Mir Ali Ahmed Khan Talpur too but those were unfounded as he voted for the bill. G. M. Syed was already imprisoned. In all, Muhammad Ayoub Khuhro was supported by 100 votes to 4 against the One Unit resolution. The four members who voted against the bill were: Abdul Hamid Khan Jatoi, Ghulam Mustafa Khan Bhurgri, Pir Illahi Bakhsh and Shaikh Khursheed Ahmed.

The resolution stated:

The Sindh Assembly gave its considerable thoughts to the constitutional problem and it feels that the only solution to this problem is the merger of all four provinces into one; west Pakistan which is outlined by then Prime Minister. This arrangement will not only accord with the basic economic and social relations of the situation, will not only promote substantial improvements in economy and administration: will not only fortify the unity and solidarity of the nation but will facilitate an agreement between East and West Pakistan on a future pattern of government, based on equality, interdependence and cordial comradeship. The Assembly recommends to the government of Pakistan that in the implementation of its considered opinion as expressed in the resolution speedy steps should be taken to achieve the unification of West Pakistan to arrive at a just and cordial settlement between the representatives of East Pakistan on their future constitutional relationship and to hold new election throughout the country according to that plan agreed.

After successful endorsement of the unification of the Western Wing by provincial assemblies, the Governor Central issued an order for its administration on 17 December 1954 and finally second order was issued by the Governor General on 27 March 1954 for the establishment of a single province. A week later, Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani, was appointed as its Governor and Dr Khan Sahib was appointed as Chief Minister of a new province known as West Pakistan. It clearly showed the hegemony of the Punjabi elite class and its supporter who celebrated their victory on the achievement of big provinces. The central claimed that the unification of provinces was to create parity between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, However, it did not happen so rather it further created differences in east and west Pakistan.

Reaction of Politicians towards One Unit:

On 24 August 1955, the One Unit bill was presented by Sardar Amir Azam Khan in the Constituent Assembly by the coalition adoption of the Muslim League and United Front. However, the bill was opposed by the Noon group, Mian Iftikharuddin, Sardar Rashid and Mian Jaffar Shah from Pakistan and Awami League from East Pakistan. Initially, who were supporters bur owing to being ignored by government at the centre level and reaction of papulation forced the members to oppose the bill.

The bill was opposed for the following two reasons:

  • The real motive of bill was to diminish the power of Bengal.
  • The origin and its contents marked bill as illogical and undemocratic. (Tahir, 2010).

Following were remarks of Politicians of that time:

  • Mian Jaffer Shah expressed that the bill might cause for the separation of the country.
  • Fazul ur Rehman emphasized that it might be caused for division of the country because it will bring distinction in Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch and Pashton.
  • Abul Mansur Ahmed also rejected it by saying that plan is to encounter the Bengali majority.
  • Mian Iftikhar Uddin strongly criticized on United Front for the acceptance of the bill. They supported it due to opportunism and factionalism as to come into government.
  • Mian Mumtaz Muhammad Khan Doltana, who was completely supporter of One Unit, he made speech at Constituent Assembly. He cleared that Punjabi’s be dominant in One Unit, it will be never happening. However, plan was presented for the safe of true patriotism and removal of provincialism.

It was noticed in the Constituent Assembly during the presentation of the One Unit bill that no Sindhi representative spoke against the bill rather they presented their own grievances. Mir Ghulam Ali Talpur narrated that for the misconception of One Unit rejection, Khuhro arrested me on 21 March 1955. However, he appealed for judicial inquiry against Khuhro. He further said that he had cordially accepted the One Unit Bill.

By the establishment of West Pakistan once again Sindh lost its separate provincial identity which he got in1935 from Bombay Presidency.

Anti One Unit Front:

After, dismal of Pirzada’s cabinet and endorsement of the One Unit Bill by Sindh Assembly in the shape of Khuhro’s cabinet. Sindhi politicians started agitations against unification by inviting leaders of the other small provinces who were also against it. Following this cause,

Sheikh Abdul Majeed Sindhi called a meeting of Consultative Committee of the Anti-One Unit Front at Karachi which was presided over by  Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan and attended by Pir Sahib of Manki Sharif, Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai, G. M. Syed, Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi and others were also the part of the meeting.

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Khan Abdul Ghattar Khan and Pir Sahib of Manki Sharif had initiated the strongest agitation against One Unit Plan in NWFP. Thus, central government assured them about their interests and 20 percent of representation in the secretariat had been given to Pashton in West Pakistan.

In Sindh, on 26-27 August, a convention was called by Sindhi leaders of Sindh Awam Mahaz, Sindhi Hari Committee, Sindh Youth Front and parliamentary opposition in Sindh Assembly at Karachi. The convention was presided over by Sardar Amir Azam Khan of Red Shirt and attended by Khan Abdul Samad Achakzai, Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi, Sheikh Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Arbab Sikander Khan Khalil, Attaullah Khan Sameen Jaan, Pir Ilahi Bakhsh, Khan Abdul Wali and Mir Muhammad Khan.

A deputation had formed in the convention, consisting of twelve men, under the leadership of Khan Abdul Samad Khan as to debate with members of the Constituent Assembly. The convention also decided to form a powerful Consultative Committee to suppress the government regarded One Unit Plan. G. M. Syed, Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi, Sheikh Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Shahzada Abdul Karim, Khan Abdul Samad Achakzai, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Pir Sahib of Manki Sharif were selected as secretary of the committee.

The members of the Sindh Assembly belonging to Syed’s group such as Mir Jaffer Khan Jamali, Syed Khair Shah, Syed Ghulam Hyder Shah, Ghulam Rasul Jatoi, Muhammad Yusuf Chandio, Sardar Ali Gohar Khan and Mir Ali Nawaz Dharijo, demanded that One Unit Bill should be redrafted, as there should be assured of the Sindhi’s rights which were before promised.

The governor of Sindh, Khan Iftikhar Hussain Mamdot expressed that: The power is now shifting from our hands to the hands of the services. When we have failed, the services have taken the rein of the government into their hands


In the viewpoint of Sindh, it can be concluded that the formation of the One Unit was injustice with Sindh province. Its formation was undemocratic and was designed to serve the interest of the influential. Actually, Sindh Assembly had rejected the bill, but the dismal of Pirzada’s Cabinet weakened this step. Furthermore, the formation of Khuhro’s Cabinet paved the way in its favour. Thus, it further fired the Sindhi’s by saying that it was pre-planned by the central government for the acceptance of the scheme. However, endorse and cleverly, Khuhro passed the bill from Sindh Assembly. This action of Khuhro further flamed up the Sindhi public and politicians. They came onto roads and started agitations against the scheme. But the central government made many promises and ensured their rights and interests. Resultantly, no promise was filled. Thus, we can say that it was a bad year for Sindh province in the political history of Pakistan.


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