The Legacy of Allah Bux Soomro: A Vision of Unity
Most of us would not have heard of Allah Bux, a name long mistreated on both sides of the border. This is the story of a man who incarnates everything that worldly India values today but remains an unsung hero. During the days of Relinquish India Movement in 1942, Allah Bux was the prime minister of Sindh, now a part of Pakistan and the founder of the Ittehad Party.
Allah Bux Muhammad Umar Soomro was a zamindar born in 1900 in Shikarpur in the Bombay Presidency in a wealthy family. He was assassinated, supposedly by religious extremists, in 1943. His son Rahim Bux Soomro was also a politician in Pakistan, and his nephew Elahi Bux Soomro was the speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan and an expert Politician.
His family remembers when a flood endangered to flood Shikarpur, and Soomro diverted the intense waters to his land to protect the homes of others. He matriculated from the Hopeful Academy in 1918 and was attached to his landlord’s father’s business as a contractor. At the age of 23, he entered politics. He was chosen to the Jacobabad Municipality. His achievement was rapid, and he soon became the district’s local board president. In 1926, he beat a powerful feudal lord and became a successful Bombay Legislative Council (BLC) member. He remained there for the next 10 years. Soomro represented upper Sindh in the BLC.
Allah Bux’s plan and belief in a joint and worldly India kept the Muslim League from spreading its influence in Sindh. He fervently opposed the Muslim League’s position of the two-nation premise based on religion. He was a stem believer in a joint India whose heritage belonged to both Hindus and Muslims. Being a popular leader and extensively respected in his area, he assembled most Muslims to his point of view.
In 1940 Allah Bux prearranged the Azad Muslim Conference in Delhi, which was attended by over 1,400 delegates from all over India. There he powerfully spoke of a united India for both Hindus and Muslims. He was vocally divergent from the Muslim League’s stand on forming Pakistan.
He protested Winston Churchill’s censure of the Indian National Congress and the Quit India Movement in 1942 by persistent the Knighthood and the title of Khan Bahadur conferred on him by the British.
Soomro became the premier of Sindh on 23 March 1938. During his occupancy, he insisted that cabinet ministers are paid low salaries, and he took away arrogant powers from influential landlords. Soomro met Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi, where Jinnah was asset a meeting to launch the Muslim League in Sindh. He was also invited to join the League, as were the premiers of Punjab and Bengal, who were also present at the meeting. Both of them accepted after long debates, but Soomro held back.
After that, another meeting was held on 14 October; at that time, several Sindh Assembly members tied the party. But the equilibrium shifted when some Muslim League members anticipated a new leader in Sindh. Soomro opposed this by asking why Sindh should be the only place where a dissimilar leader was being considered. And for that reason, the coalition between Soomro and Muslim League was not solved before it was even made. On the other side of the Muslim League, communal riots in 1939 led to Soomro being dislodged from his post.
The League managed to form a government in Sindh that lasted for a year. In 1941, Soomro was made premier again. Soomro was awarded the title of Khan Bahadur, and the Order of the British Empire by the British, and the viceroy nominated him to the Defence Council of 30. But he renounced his honors in September 1942, writing to the British that he could not support their subjection of Indian forces for their imperialistic aims.
It might have been his nationalistic stance that led the British governor to remove him from his post on 10 October 1942. The reason given by the British was that they did not have confidence in Soomro anymore. Allah Bux Soomro was assassinated at 9 am on 14 May 1943. He was traveling on a tonga in Shikarpur when four men attacked him. His case was tried in a special tribunal, but 67 years later, it remains unresolved.
Regrettably, he didn’t find support from the Indian National Congress or the Muslim League, which detested him for his opposition to their two-nation theory. He helped initiate the Sukkur Barrage project, which in large part, was responsible for revolutionizing agriculture in Sindh. After introducing provincial autonomy in 1936, Shahnawaz Bhutto, Abdullah Haroon and Allah Bux formed the Itehad (Unity) Party. The party won a resounding victory, capturing 24 of 35 Muslim seats in a house of 60.
He was murdered on 14 May 1943 by expert killers, apparently hired by elements within the Muslim League. After he died, government offices, schools and markets were closed all through Sindh and the Union Jack flew at half-mast in admiration and reminiscence of the man.
His life and involvement in the freedom struggle are hardly highlighted in Pakistan and are mostly ignored in India. Allah Bux Soomro lived and died for a combined India and believed in an India that belonged to all….if only this ‘unsung hero’ had lived on… Today Soomro is sleeping in his grave in the Panjpir graveyard,” said Sindh nationalist leader G M Sayed, “We can’t say whether he would be laughing at our condition or weeping!”
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