Hamidul Huq Choudhury

Hamidul Huq Chowdhury (1901–1992) was born in Noakhali District, East Bengal (subsequently East Pakistan and now Bangladesh) during the British Raj and was educated in Dhaka and Calcutta. Although first and foremost a lawyer, whose legal career spanned almost 60 years in pre-partition Bengal, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hamidul Huq Choudhury was a man of diverse interests and talents and his contributions extended beyond the legal profession to politics and government and, after 1949, to journalism and the press.

Hamidul Huq Choudhury was educated at the Dacca Collegiate School (Dhaka), Presidency College (Calcutta) and the Law College, Calcutta University (Calcutta). He was admitted as an advocate before the Calcutta High Court in 1930 and served for a time as a Crown Prosecutor early in his career. Hamidul Huq Choudhury also served as a Legal Remembrancer for the Calcutta High Court, traditionally a stepping stone to an appointment as a justice, but he declined to pursue a career on the bench. He was always primarily a civil litigation practitioner and knew personally and worked with many of the leading legal personalities of the era in Calcutta and in India more generally. Both hard working and talented, Hamidul Huq Choudhury established a successful practice at the Calcutta Bar which he continued in the Pakistan and Bangladesh appellate courts.

However, like many young and ambitious lawyers of his generation, he was inexorably drawn to the political changes transforming Bengal and more broadly India, at that time. Two events, the passage of the Government of India Act 1935 (which dramatically extended representative government in the British Indian provinces) and, following the end of the Second World War, the partition and independence of India, dominated political events during these years. Hamidul Huq Choudhury was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1937 and re-elected in 1946 and served as a member of the council for 10 years (including for a period as Deputy President). During his tenure on the Council, Hamidul Huq was a member of the Bengal Imperial Agriculture Council, Central Sugarcane Committee, Handloom Board, Textile Control Board and Industrial Development Enquiry Committee, and also a Fellow of Calcutta University. In this capacity Hamidul Huq Choudhury both witnessed firsthand and participated in many of the historical events of that era. Notably, he represented the Muslim League and the interests of the Muslims of East Bengal before the Radcliffe Boundary Commission during its deliberations on the partition of British India and the borders of the successor states.

Following partition in 1947, Hamidul Huq Choudhury established himself in Dhaka, East Pakistan and was elected to the East Bengal Legislative Assembly where he served as Minister of Finance, Commerce, Labour and Industry in Khwaja Nazimuddin's provincial cabinet. At the same time he was elected to and served as a member of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly and was actively involved with the task of drafting Pakistan's first democratic constitution and appeared for the petitioners in Tamizuddin Khan's Writ Petition to the Pakistan Supreme Court (the seminal constitutional case of its era which changed the course of Pakistan's history).

Along with other notable politicians of the era such as AK Fazlul Haque and Maulana Bhasani, Hamidul Huq Choudhury was involved in the formation of the United Front, the cross-regional political alliance which broke the hold of the Muslim League on Pakistani politics in the 1954 parliamentary elections. Following the United Front's victory he served as Pakistan's third Foreign Minister (1955-1956) and, for a brief period, as Finance Minister (1958) in the central government of Pakistan, his tenure as finance minister being cut short by Ayub Khan's 1958 coup d'etat. In the years following Ayub Khan's intervention, Hamidul Huq Choudhury declined to work with the military rulers, although he continued to participate in politics as the Treasurer of the National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of the major political parties opposed to military rule. Hamidul Huq Choudhury participated in the Round Table Conference held in Rawalpindi in 1969.

For much of his adult life Hamidul Huq Choudhury was also involved with the press and media. In 1949 he founded and was the publisher of the English language daily "The Pakistan Observer" (later, "The Bangladesh Observer"), a position he held for the rest of his life (other than for the period after 1971 during which the newspaper was in the possession of the Bangladesh Government). An early advocate for greater provincial rights and a mouthpiece for expressing the grievances of the people of East Pakistan, The Pakistan Observer played an important role in raising awareness of inherent unfairness of the relationship between East and West Pakistan in the period prior to 1971.

Hamidul Huq Choudhury celebrated his Golden Jubilee (50 years) as an advocate and member of the legal profession in 1980.

Hamidul Huq Choudhury was married to Halima Banu. He died in Dhaka on 21 January 1992.

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The Bangladesh Observer
... The Bangladesh Observer, founded by Hamidul Huq Choudhury in 1949, was the oldest continuously published English language daily newspaper in Bangladesh, whose tumultuous history mirrors the history of the ... Hamidul Huq Choudhury and Abdus Salam were also arrested at this time by the Pakistan Government to stifle the voice of the press ... restored the newspaper to its original owner Hamidul Huq Choudhury in January 1984 ...