Birth of AL: Funds from sale of pens, watches paved the way
There was an announcement that the by-election to south Tangail constituency would be held in April 1949.
A group of young leaders, mostly from then Muslim League, decided to request former party leader Shamsul Hoque to contest the election against the then ruling party candidate.
Hoque agreed to run the election, but the problem was managing funds. He went to Tangail from Dhaka while his supporters started collecting whatever amount they could.
They collected several hundred taka. Students and Hoque's supporters sold their watches and pens to give some money to him.
On the other hand, Muslim League ministers and MLAs reached Tangail with money, cars and everything else that they needed to support their candidate Khurram Khan Panni.
A large number of the voters were subjects of Panni, a famous jamindar in the district. He was a very strong candidate as his party was in power and he had financial might.
Hoque and his supporters were not financially sound, but he had dedicated workers who believed in an ideology. At that time, there was no political organisation to back Hoque financially and organisationally. His workers started electioneering on foot and they even did not have enough food.
Hoque defeated Panni in the by-election to the constituency (Nagarpur, Mirzapur and Basail) on April 26, 1949.
The Muslim League's debacle was blamed on misrule, repression, torture and lack of proper planning in the economic sector.
People in the then East Pakistan were frustrated. The ruling party leaders failed to feel the common people's pulse.
After the defeat, the Muslim League announced that Hoque would not be allowed to sit in parliament. It filed a case over the election.
Hoque was accorded a huge reception in Dhaka by students and common people. Later, a meeting was called at Rose Garden, the present day Wari of Old Dhaka, on June 23, 1949 to set out the future strategy of Hoque's supporters.
In that meeting, the Awami Muslim League was formed, with Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and Shamsul Hoque as president and general secretary. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then behind bars, was made the party's joint secretary.
That was the beginning of the country's oldest political party. The rest is history.
At its third council meeting on 21-23 October 1955, the term “Muslim” was deleted from the party's name.
The report is based on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's autobiography “Unfinished Memoirs” and Banglapedia.