Constitution-less Pakistan chose Urdu
More than a year and a half into its establishment as an independent state, Pakistan continued to suffer from the absence of a constitution. This was in direct contrast to what was happening in India, the mother country from which it had been prised out as a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. India would by 1950 have its own constitution and hold its first general elections in 1951. Pakistan, on the other hand, was stymied by a lack of progress on the constitutional question. It was not until March 12, 1949 that a Constitutional Basic Principles Committee was formed at a session of the constituent assembly. The committee would submit its interim report to the constituent assembly on September 28, 1950.
The BPC report went into great detail regarding the structure of the executive and legislative branches of government in Pakistan. But it was what it stated about the future state language of Pakistan which immediately raised hackles among the Bangalees of the country's eastern province. The BPC report stated emphatically that the state language of Pakistan would be Urdu. It was thus a going back to square one where Bangalees were concerned. Everyone seemed to agree that Bangla could be the official language of East Bengal but where its placing at the national level was concerned, that was an entirely different matter altogether.
Besides, insidious moves were already underway to have the Bangla language refashioned through writing it in the Arabic script. At a meeting of the Educational Advisory Board of Pakistan on February 7, 1949, Education Minister Fazlur Rahman repeated his earlier suggestion of Arabic being the new vehicle for Bangla! Efforts were made to gain Dr Shahidullah's support for the proposal. In the event, the Bangalee scholar refused to be associated in any way with the move. Thus, in March 1949, students of Dhaka University as well as leading exponents of Bangla began registering their protest at the suggestion of Arabic being foisted on the language spoken by the people of East Bengal. On March 91949, the East Bengal authorities constituted a Language Committee whose basic responsibilities would be a simplification, standardisation and translation of certain technical terms in Bangla language. Sensing public hostility to the matter of Arabic, though, the committee stayed away from dealing with the issue of Arabic being a new mode of writing Bangla.