The decade of the 1960s was a politically tumultuous period in East Pakistan. Bengalis felt exploited and ignored by West Pakistan's military regime and, consequently, dreamed of independence from the doomed political geography of a nation with two units separated by over 1,000 miles. Aware of the political and economic disparity between the two halves of Pakistan and concerned about his own re-election bid, Ayub Khan's administration came up with a political strategy to mitigate the grievance of the Bengalis.
The idea of a “second capital” for East Pakistan was born in this context. This showcase capital would, it was hoped, “bind East Pakistan more firmly to the nation by conducting the nation's business for half of each year.” Meanwhile, Ayub Khan was more concerned about moving the Federal or “first capital” from Karachi to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad. The Greek architect-planner Doxiadis (designer of TSC) was put in charge of planning Islamabad in 1960.
So to create an illusion of political and economic balance between the two regions, Pakistan's military ruler sanctioned a Parliament complex in East Pakistan. He hoped this would provide the Bengalis with a sense of empowerment and, in turn, they would vote for him in the forthcoming election, ensuring his continued existence as the leader of a unified Pakistan. The fact that Ayub Khan doesn't even mention the Parliament building in Dhaka in his self-congratulatory autobiography, Friends Not Masters (1967), suggests that this building may have been his political stunt prior to his “re-election.”
The political drama that ensued from then on explains how the Parliament building, first conceived as a “bribe” for the Bengalis, gradually took on a whole new identity as a symbol of the people's struggle for self-rule. With rudimentary construction tools and bamboo scaffolding tied with crude jute ropes, approximately 2,000 lungi-saree-clad construction workers erected a monumental government building. Slowly but steadily, they unwittingly portrayed the broader resilience of a nation revolting against economic and social injustice. If the Shahid Minar symbolised the language movement during the 1950s, the Parliament building portrayed the rise of the independence-minded Bengalis during the 1960s.