Azizul Haque Bhuia
I am the eldest son of Azizul Haque Bhuiya who worked as a convener of the Steering Committee during the liberation war of Bangladesh in the UK. Before that, my dad Azizul Haque Bhuiya worked as a general secretary of ‘The East Pakistan Liberation Front,’ which was formed in 1967 in Birmingham. Joglul Haque Pasha was President and Sobur Chowdhury was senior Vice-president. East Pakistan Liberation Front was mainly led by these three people obviously with other people working too. The main aim was to work for the independence of Bangladesh. It was an underground organisation at that time.
I am his eldest son and I am working as an additional secretary of the Bangladesh Government. Chairman of Bangladesh Ispath and Prokoushol Corporation. I have got a nickname called Shopon, named after my dad Azizul Haque Bhuiya.
Question: Please tell us about your father Azizul Hoque Bhuiya, where he was before 1971, and how he came to Birmingham.
Answer: My father went to the UK in 1963. At first, he went as he got Newman Scholarship. He was a naval engineer and he went to Manchester first. He worked over there. He went on a voyage as far as I know, the voyage was towards West Indies. It was a long voyage approximately 8 months. Unfortunately, he became sick. Later we learned that he had tuberculosis disease. He was isolated for a long time. When he came back to Manchester, still he was not well. Eventually, he gave up the course due to his ill health. My dad then moved to East London where there was a small Bengali community. He met students who came from Bangladesh to study. He met Barrister Amirul Islam, Zakaria Khan Chowdhury, Mr. Moudud Ahmed who became Prime Minister of Bangladesh later on and lots of other students at that time, who were and became influential during 1971 and after the liberation war. My dad became very close to this group and stayed there till 1966 before he moved to Birmingham. While he was in East London he was teaching in a School where there were few Pakistani students. My father was racially abused by the Pakistani students at that time. On one occasion he could not control himself. The students were well-built compared to other Asian students and were taller as well. My dad was young but was suffering from ill health. My dad was an egocentric person and when the Pakistani young people were swearing about his Bengali identity, he lost his control for a while. My dad lost his job for professional misconduct. At the end of 1966, he moved to Birmingham. There was a large Bengali community there and a significant number of people were from the Sylhet district. Pakistani Habib Bank was operational in the UK at that time, but in Birmingham, the bank was not doing well. In the newspaper, there was an advert stating they were opening a branch in the Small Heath area in Birmingham, so my dad applied for a post there. He was successful with his application and he started to work there. Ismail Habib Shaheb from West Pakistan was the Chairman of the Habib Bank. Later on, my dad developed a very good Community relationship, especially with the Bengalis living in Birmingham. Maximum of our migrant Bengali were factory workers, catering industry workers, Indian restaurant workers, and owners. A few people from Sylhet, who were a bit solvent created a business hub in Birmingham. I can remember a few names Sobur Uncle, Jamshed Mia and lots of others. The majority of the people were from Sylhet and a big number of people went there by ship, and later on by plane. They used to fly from Dhaka to Islamabad to Heathrow. They used to send remittances back to Sylhet, and a big number of people were not able to read and write English and could not fill out forms at the bank. My dad was a social person and used to support them. He used to know the local community and met a few key people who were thinking about independence. My dad with Pasha Uncle (Jaglul Haque Pasha) and others formed an underground group called ‘East Pakistan Liberation Front’. It was formed at the residence of Pasha uncle in 1967 and was an underground group. The main aim of this group was to liberate Bangladesh. If you look at history, Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started a movement based on these 6 points.
The six-point movement in 1966, which was called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan. The main agenda was to realise the six demands put forward by a coalition of Bengali nationalist political parties, to end the exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani rulers. Before that, it was the India-Pakistan war in 1965. East Pakistan’s student community in the UK supported the six points movement in 1969 and because of their role during the war, the Pakistan High Commission made a report against 19 students in the UK. My dad was one of them including other people like Barrister M. Amirul Islam, ex-Prime Minister Moudud Ahmed, ex-speaker Jamir Uddin Sarker, Jakaria Khan Chowdhury, and other people. Pakistan High Commission rejected the passport of these 19 students. Later on, they allowed passports for a few of them but not for my dad Azizul Haque Bhuiya. My dad could not come before 1971.
Questions: Bongo Bondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited the UK before 1971 and he visited Birmingham. Your dad Azizul Hoque Bhuiya was in Birmingham and he used to bring all the news from both parts of Pakistan. Do you know anything about it?
Answer: I used to have lots of conversations with my dad. When he came back to Dhaka, he used to be into journalism. I was born in 1964. My dad came back to Bangladesh in January 1972. I met him face-to-face for the first time in January 1972. He did not have a passport, so could not to Bangladesh until Bangladesh got independence.
When Bongo Bondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Birmingham just after his release from ‘Agartala conspiracy case’, my dad was in Birmingham. They were running the underground group ‘East Pakistan Liberation Front’, from Birmingham. In 1969, there was a big movement in East Pakistan. People started to make their voices heard for greater autonomy. Lots of people started to make this demand for independence. There was a small group of opportunists who were opposing the mass people’s demand. When Sheikh Mujib was released from the Agartala case imprisonment, British Bangladeshis played a significant role in that. From East Pakistan Liberation Front (EPLF) my dad Azizul Haque Bhuiya, Joglul Pasha and Barrister Amirul Islam planned to send two British lawyers but the Pakistani government did not grant them visas. When Bongo Bondhu visited the UK, he was planning to visit London. Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Awami League was not organised at that time. Gouse Khan was leading a big part of the Awami League but the party was divided into a few small groups in the UK. My dad’s friend Sultan Sharif who is still alive and living in London requested my dad Azizul Haque Bhuiya to arrange a meeting in Birmingham. Within a couple of days my dad and their organisation East Pakistan Liberation Front (EPLF) organised the meeting at the Digbeth Civic Hall in Birmingham. Look at this photo (shown on the wall) where my dad, Gouse Khan, and Pasha are there with Bongo Bondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.