Main Nawaz Sharif : 6/11/1990-18/4/1993; 17/2/1997-12/10/1999
Chief of Army Staff
General Mirza Aslam Baig 17/8/1988-16/8/1991
General Asif Nawaz Janjua 16/8/1991-8/1/1993
General Abdul Waheed Kakar 12/1/1993-12/1/1996
General Jahangir Karamat 12/1/1996-7/10/1998
General Pervez Musharraf 7/10/1998-28/11/2007
Muhammad Afzal Zullah 1/1/1990-18/4/1993
Nasim Hassan Shah 18/4/1993-14/4/1994
Sajjad Ali Shah 5/6/1994-2/12/1997
Ajmal Mian 23/12/1997-30/6/1999
Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui 1/7/1999-26/1/2000
Main Nawaz Sharif became the prime minister of the country twice within two decades of the death of General Ziaul Haq, his principal benefactor, and his two terms were like a sequel of the general’s regime. His priorities were theocratisation of the polity, promotion of free enterprise, fulfilment of nuclear ambitions, and assertion of civilian authorities’ rights through centralization of power in himself. While doing the last part, he clashed with the establishment and lost power in the first term, and both authority and freedom in the second one.
For obvious reasons the business community’s interest came first with Nawaz Sharif. Several steps were taken under the label of economic reform, including a tax holiday for some, abolition of restrictions on bringing foreign exchange into the country or taking it out and on maintaining foreign currency accounts, and no questions asked. Privatization of not only nationalized units but also other enterprises, such as PIA and WAPDA, was undertaken with extraordinary zeal. Despite allegations of irregularities these steps increased the prime minister’s popularity in the circles that mattered.
Soon after assuming power in both terms Nawaz Sharif displayed his love for special courts. In the first term, Article 212A that Zia had crafted in 1979 for setting up military courts and which was dropped in 1985. These special courts were not subject to high courts and the Supreme Court and were assailed for being a parallel judicial system.
In the second term, the special courts were rejected by the Supreme Court 10 months after their formation and this became one of the issues in the skirmishes between the prime minister and the Chief Justice. However, an already brutalized public was happy.
Nawaz Sharif also gained in popularity with the masses by using force rather indiscriminately to curb lawlessness in Karachi, and more goodwill when he decided to punish the MQM after Hakim Saeed’s murder by dropping it from the coalition and ordering a crackdown in Karachi.
He also persisted in his campaign against Benazir Bhutto in the first term in the form of President’s references, and against her husband Asif Ali Zardari in the second term through the Ehtesab Cell that he had created to the chagrin of the chief ehtesab commissioner by amending the Ehtesab Act.
Soon after becoming the prime minister in 1990, Nawaz Sharif revived Ziaul Haq’s so-called Islamization drive with a Shariat Enforcement Act, but a major effort in this direction was made in his second term in the shape of the 15th Amendment that had two objectives. First, it sought to add Article 2B to the Constitution declaring Quran and Sunnah to be the supreme law, and, secondly, it proposed that the Constitution could be amended by a simple majority of members present in either house or at a joint session of the parliament.
Countrywide protests forced the government to abandon the second part of the bill and the National Assembly only adopted the proposal to add Article 2B to the basic laws. It read: “The federal government shall be under an obligation to take all steps to enforce the Shariah, to enforce Salat, to administer Zakat, to promote amr bil ma’roof and nahi unil munkar (to prescribe what is right and to forbid what is wrong), to eradicate corruption at all levels, and to provide substantial socio economic justice in accordance with the principles of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah.”
The bill resembled the Zia sponsored 9th Amendment that was adopted by the National Assembly in 1986, but it was not sent to the Senate and lapsed. Similarly, the 15th Amendment was withheld from the Senate as the government was not sure of its majority there and it too lapsed. The text of the 9th and 15th Amendments is not found in our statute books. Thus ended Nawaz Sharif’s bid to push Zia’s Islamization further and to change the Constitution through a single enactment.
During the second term, several issues – Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions, policy towards India, and the army chief’s desire to steal a military victory over India – got intertwined and offered Nawaz Sharif a mixed bag of joy and disappointment.
He met Indian Premier Inder Kumar Gujral during the SAARC summit and they agreed to be friends. Shortly thereafter, Attal Bihari Vajpayee became the prime minister of India. Among the first things the BJP government did was to carry out five nuclear tests in May 1998 that brought Nawaz Sharif under intense pressure from the people and the military to achieve parity with India in terms of nuclear capability.
Ignoring the strong advice of the country’s main economic patrons and partners, he allowed five nuclear tests on May 28, 1998, and a sixth two days later. This made the prime minister highly popular with the military and the people, but the steps accompanying the blasts, especially freezing of foreign currency accounts that the judiciary eventually overruled, did not.
Vajpayee met Nawaz Sharif in New York and proposed the start of a friendship bus service between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, with his characteristic impulsiveness, promptly agreed. Vajpayee duly arrived in Lahore by bus in February 1999 and the event did cause a thaw in India Pakistan relations, but it did not yield Nawaz Sharif the political dividend he had expected because the people had not been prepared for the policy shift and the army had not been taken on board.
Then almost from nowhere Kargil happened. The prime minister feigned ignorance of the operation to capture a few Kargil peaks while the army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, maintained that everything had been cleared by his civilian boss. As was expected, India threw its Air Force and heavy guns into the battle and Islamabad got worried. Nawaz Sharif literally forced the US president Bill Clinton to see him on July 4, 1999, the American National Day, and agreed to pull back his troops. The people, fed on stories that Pakistan had always defeated India in armed encounters, were unhappy. Worse, the army top brass put down Nawaz Sharif as a person they could not trust, a perception that was going to cause Nawaz Sharif’s downfall more than once.
Nawaz Sharif’s desire to completely control the government brought him into conflict early in his first term with president Ghulam Ishaq who also considered himself a true inheritor of Ziaul Haq’s mantle.
Among other things he denied the Premier any say in the selection of judges and appointed General Abdul Waheed Kakar as the army chief, following the sudden death of General Asif Nawaz, without informing the prime minister. In April 1993, Nawaz Sharif denounced the president in a TV address and the next day the president dissolved the National Assembly and sent him packing.
The Supreme Court restored Nawaz Sharif in the saddle only 37 days later. His failure to oust the Punjab chief minister, Manzoor Wattoo, who was openly supported by the president, reignited the feud with Ghulam Ishaq. Eventually, the army chief intervened and both vacated their offices in July 1993.
General Kakar, the gentleman general who coveted neither power nor glory for himself, demonstrated that even if the army had to intervene in a political crisis, imposition of military rule was not the only solution, a precedent yet to be emulated.
When Nawaz Sharif regained power in February 1997, the circumstances were wholly in his favour. He had two thirds majority in the National and Punjab assemblies and his party was able to form coalition governments in Sindh and the NWFP (since renamed KP). Armed with heavy mandate, he resumed his drive to eliminate the rival centres of power.
No trouble was expected from president Farooq Leghari with whom Nawaz Sharif was reported to have struck a deal before the PPP government was sacked and who had allegedly facilitated the Sharif brothers’ election in the 1997 elections by amending the ineligibility laws related to loan defaulters. The president was paid off with a Senate ticket for a relative, appointment of a friend as Punjab governor, and obliging Zulfikar Khosa to make up with Leghari.
Having done all that, Nawaz Sharif calmly told a befuddled Leghari of his decision to remove Article 58-2 (B) from the Constitution that was to deprive him of power to sack a government. The formality was completed the next day with the adoption of the 13th Amendment, a step hailed by all democrats.
Meanwhile, the prime minister’s relations with Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah deteriorated. While sparring over the selection of five judges for the Supreme Court, both resorted to bizarre tactics; the PM reduced the Supreme Court strength from 17 judges to 12, hoping to remove the need for new appointments, and the Chief Justice suspended a constitutional amendment. Eventually, the Premier gave in. But the suspension of the 14th Amendment on legislators’ defection, which gave the party bosses the last word, annoyed the prime minister and he declared that while he had ended ‘lotacracy’ the Supreme Court had restored it.
Soon enough, the chief justice hauled up the prime minister for contempt. What followed was incredible. The Supreme Court was stormed by an N-League mob that included several parliamentarians. The chief justice’s appeal for succour was heeded neither by the president nor by the army chief. Eventually, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was dethroned by his brother judges through a process that is still mentioned in whispers, and ironically enough, he fell a victim to his own judgement in the Al-Jihad Trust case. Before the year 1997 ended, president Leghari resigned to hand Nawaz Sharif his second victory in quick time.
In October 1998, army chief General Jahangir Karamat suggested the formation of a National Security Council. This, too, was first proposed by General Zia and he had inserted an article to this effect in the Constitution, but it was deleted at the time of the bargain over the 8th Amendment on the terms and conditions for lifting martial law in 1985.
Nawaz Sharif asked the army chief to resign and the latter complied with the order (though he had the last laugh when after sometime a National Security Council indeed started functioning).
By the end of 1998, Nawaz Sharif had freed himself of all possible threats from the presidency, the judiciary and the GHQ, and has become the most powerful ruler of Pakistan ever. But he had built a castle on sand. On October 12, 1999, he ordered General Musharraf’s replacement as the army chief by the then ISI chief who had failed to warn him of the officer corps’ decision not to tolerate the ‘humiliation’ of another chief. The Musharraf plane affair was bungled and the army took over. His arrest, conviction for plane hijack and exile to Saudi Arabia for nearly eight years is another story in political wilderness.
Living out the legacy of his mentor by I A Rehman.
The writer is a senior political analyst and a human rights activist.
Majid Jahangir Khan is a former cricketer, batsman and captain of the Pakistan cricket team. In his prime, Majid Khan was considered one of the best batsmen in the world, able to decimate any bowling attack, including the mighty West Indian fast bowlers of that era. It is a shame that over an 18-year Test career, he only played in 63 Test matches, primarily because Pakistan played a very limited Test match schedule. Thus, the cricketing world was deprived of the pleasure of watching one of the greatest exponents of batting in the world. Khan’s first-class career spanned 1961 to 1985. Overall, he played 63 Tests for Pakistan, scoring 3,931 runs with 8 centuries, scored over 27,000 first-class runs and made 73 first-class centuries, with 128 fifties. Majid played his last Test for Pakistan in January 1983 against India at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore and his last One Day International (ODI) was in July 1982 against England at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Born on 28 September 1946 in Ludhiana, in the state of Punjab in India, Khan grew up in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in Pakistan. His father, Jahangir Khan, had played Test cricket for British India before the independence of Pakistan in 1947. Majid Khan started his career as a pace bowler, but a back injury and doubts over his technique converted him into an off-spin bowler and batsman. He also played for:
Glamorgan and Cambridge University in Britain
Queensland in Australia
Pakistan International Airlines
Majid’s father, Dr. Jahangir Khan, famously killed a bird in flight while bowling during an MCC vs. Cambridge University match in 1936. This bird is now part of the permanent MCC museum exhibit at Lord’s Cricket ground. Dr. Jahangir Khan was the Chief Selector of then Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) when Majid Khan was close to national selection. Dr. Jahangir Khan resigned from his post to maintain the impartiality of the Cricket Board during selection.
Majid’s Test career started in 1964 against Australia at National Stadium, Karachi. Khan is one of only five batsmen (the other four are Trumper, Macartney, Bradman, and Warner) to have scored a century before lunch in a test match, scoring 108 not-out off 112 balls against New Zealand in Karachi during the 1976–77 test series.
Khan made his ODI debut against New Zealand in 1973 at Lancaster Park, New Zealand. He also holds the unique honour of scoring the first one-day century for Pakistan, in an ODI against England at Trent bridge on 31 August 1974. Khan scored 109 from 93 balls with 16 fours and a six.
Majid had played for Lahore since 1961–62 and had made his Test debut against Australia in 1964–65 and toured England and Wales with the 1967 Pakistanis. During a match with Glamorgan, Majid blasted a rapid 147 in 89 minutes, hitting Roger Davis for five sixes in one over. Wilf Wooller, the club secretary, had been a close friend of Majid’s father when Dr Jahangir Khan had been up at Cambridge, and the influential Glamorgan secretary persuaded Glamorgan county to sign him as the overseas player from 1968.
In 1972 he won the Walter Lawrence Trophy for the season’s fastest century which he scored in 70 minutes for Glamorgan against Warwickshire. He captained the Welsh county between 1973 and 1976, scored over 9000 runs punctuated with 21 first-class centuries for them. Imran Khan, the legendary Pakistani ex-captain and fast bowler, and Javed Burki are his cousins. Bazid Khan, Majid’s son, has also played for Pakistan, making the family the second, after the Headleys, to have three consecutive generations of Test cricketers.
Initially, Majid Khan continued to boost Pakistan’s middle order, until he was promoted to fill the opener’s slot with Sadiq Mohammad in 1974. He was the first century scorer for Pakistan in One Day International Cricket, scoring 108 runs against England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in the same season. Majid Khan was also a specialist slip fielder and made most catches look easy. Khan was also well known as a “walker”, maintaining the standards of the game in an era when professionalism was straining at the game’s traditional etiquette.
The 1976–77 tour of West Indies was the most remarkable period for Majid Khan, where he scored 530 Test runs against one of the most powerful bowling attacks in the history of the game. His best innings was perhaps the 167 in Pakistan’s second innings at Georgetown that saved Pakistan from likely defeat. Pakistan lost that series 2–1.
On 30 October 1976, while playing against New Zealand in Karachi, he became only the fourth cricketer to score a century before lunch on the first day of a Test match, after Victor Trumper, Charlie Macartney and Don Bradman.
After retirement from International Cricket, Khan became an administrator with the Pakistan Cricket Board, becoming the CEO of the board in mid-1990s.
In April 1526, Zahir-ud-din Babur, a dashing Turco-Mongol poet-prince from Ferghana in Central Asia, descended the Khyber Pass with a small army of handpicked followers. He brought with him some of the first cannon and muskets seen in northern India. With this new military technology, he defeated and killed the Delhi sultan Ibrahim Lodi, at the battle of Panipat; a year later, he crushed the Rajputs. He then established his capital at Agra, where he began to build a series of irrigated paradise gardens.
This was not Babur’s first conquest. He had spent much of his youth throneless, living with his companions day by day, rustling sheep and stealing food. Occasionally he would capture a town- he was fourteen years when he first took Samarkand and held it for four months. Generally he lived in a tent, a peripatetic existence that, although sanctioned by Timurid tradition, seemed to have little appeal to him. “It passed through my mind”, he wrote, “ that to wander from mountain to mountain, homeless and helpless, has little to recommend it”
Babur not only established the Mughal dynasty, which ruled northern India for 330 years, he also wrote one of the most fascinating diaries ever written by a great ruler: the Baburnama. In its pages, he opens his soul with a frankness and lack of inhibition similar to Pepys, comparing the fruits and animals of India and Afghanistan with as much inquisitiveness as he records his impressions of the differences between falling in love with men and with women, or the differing pleasures of opium and wine. Here he also makes reference to an extraordinary diamond that was among the wonderful richness of gems he had captured during his conquests.
As he noted in the Baburnama, when his son Humayun captured the family of Bikramjit, the rajah of Gwalior, who were in Agra at the time of Ibrahim Lodhi’s defeat, “they made him a voluntary offering of a mass of jewels and valuables, amongst which was the famous diamond which [Sultan] Ala’ ud-Din [Khilji] must have brought. Its reputation is that every appraiser has estimated its value at two and half days’ food for the whole world. Apparently it weighs 8 missals”.
Another contemporary source, a small treatise on precious stones dedicated to Babur and Humayun also refers to Babur’s diamond:
No private individual has ever seen such a diamond, or heard of it, nor is there any mention of it in any book.”
These two mentions are often assumed to be early references to the Koh-i-Noor. They may well be- or not: the description is too vague to be certain, and there were clearly several very large diamonds circulating in India at this time.
Either way, Babur’s diamond soon left India. Babur died in 1530, only four years after his arrival in India and before he could consolidate his new conquests. His dreamy and somewhat feckless son, Humayun, shared his father’s poetic and cultural interests, but he had none of his military genius. He continued to build gardens and spent his days rapt in the study of astrology and mysticism, but his father’s conquests crumbled and in 1540, after less than ten years on the throne, Humayun was forced into exile in Persia.
Throughout his diaries, Babur had shown a mixture of pride and extreme irritation with regard to his brave and intelligent but unfocused, unambiguous and perennially unpunctual son; even an undertaking as important as the invasion of India was delayed by several weeks by Humayun failing to present himself on time in Kabul. He eventually turned up, three weeks late, which meant the invasion had to take place in the heat of the summer. Both in his rule and during his exile, Humayun demonstrated the same dreamy and unreliable nature.
Having lost his kingdom, and abandoned even his wives and infant son Akbar in his flight from India, the one asset Humayun kept with him was his glittering booty of gems from Agra. Rumours of this spread, and while passing through Rajasthan, the fleeing emperor was approached by an envoy of Raja Malden of Jodhpur, “an officer in the guise of a merchant”, who asked to buy his most valuable diamond. Humayun would have none of it, sending word to “this purchaser that the likes of this valuable jewel cannot be bought. Either it will fall into his hands by means of glittering sword coupled with sovereign mind, or it will come about through the favour of exalted kings.”
Yet even his diamonds were all he had left, Humayun still showed a bewildering absent mindedness, if not outright negligence with regard to them. In July 1544, on his way to seek asylum at the court of the Safavid emperor Shah Tahmasp, Humayun was saved from potentially catastrophic inattention by the quick thinking of a boy named January. Jauhar himself wrote many years later:
It was customary with his Majesty always to carry his valuable diamonds and rubies in a purse in his pocket. But when he was performing his ablutions, he generally laid them on one side. This time he had done so, and promptly forgot them: it so happened that when the king was gone, and the humble servant Jauhar was about to remount his horse, he saw a green flowered purse lying on the ground, and a pen case by the side of it: he immediately took them up, and as soon as he had overtaken the King, presented them. When his Majesty saw these articles he was amazed and astonished, and said, “Oh my boy, you have done me the greatest possible favour; if these had been lost, I should have been subject to the meanness [rezalet] of this Persian monarch: in future please take care of them.”
In due course, the diamonds saved Humayun. Though the staunchly Shi’a Shah Tahmasp initially gave the Sunni Humayun a cool reception, he was thrilled by the diamonds Humayun presented him with at their meeting. Jauhar recounts:
We remained several days encamped on the hunting grounds, during which time his Majesty ordered his rubies and diamonds to be brought to him; and having selected the largest diamond, placed it in a mother of pearl box; then he added several other diamonds and rubies; and having placed them on a tray, he gave them in charge of Byram Beg to present to the Persian monarch with the message, “that they were brought from Hindustan purposely for his Majesty”. When Shah Tahmasp saw these precious stones he was astonished, and sent for his jewellers to value them. The jewellers declared that they were above all price; on which the Persian signified his acceptance.
When Humayun eventually returned to India, he did so at the head of a cohort of Shah Tahmasp’s cavalry which enabled him to recover the throne.
For reasons that remain unclear, however, shortly afterwards, in 1547, Shah Tahmasp sent Babur’s diamond to his Indian Shia ally, the sultan of Ahmadnagar, one of the rulers of the Deccan. According to Khur Shah, the ambassador of the rival Sultanate of Golconda to the Persian court, it is notorious that a connoisseur of jewels valued this diamond at two and half days’ sustenance of the whole world. Its weight is 6 ½ misqals [slightly lower estimate than that given by Babur himself]. But in the eyes of his Majesty the Shah, it was not of such great value. At last he sent that diamond along with his envoy Mihtar Jamal, as a present to Nizam Shah [of Ahmadnagar], the ruler of the Deccan. It seems, however, that while the envoy delivered the shah’s letter, he failed to deliver the diamond, and the shah subsequently tried – and failed – to have his absconding envoy arrested.
Babur’s diamond disappears from the record at this point, presumably locked in the treasury of some unknown merchant, noble or ruler in the Deccan: was it, for example, the exceptionally large diamond, “ the size of a small hen’s egg,” that Garcia da aorta heard had made its way to Vijaynagara? It is impossible to know; indeed it is unclear not only if this much admired and much travelled diamond of Babur is actually the Koh-i-Noor, but also if, when or how it may have re-entered the Mughal treasury.
What is certain is that if it did eventually return to Delhi, it did not do so for at least a generation. Abu’l Fazl, the friend and biographer of the greatest of the Mughal emperors, Akbar, in his 1596 account of the imperial treasury, writes explicitly that the largest diamond in the treasury at that time was a much smaller stone of 180 ratis(1 rati is 0.91 metric carats or 0.004 ounces)- around half the size of Babur’s diamond, which weighed around 320 ratis. It was not until much later that a massive diamond, of very similar weight to Babur’s, returned to Mughal hands.
The Mughals brought with them from Central Asia a very different set of ideas about gemstones to those then held in India. These ideas derived from the philosophy, aesthetics and literature of the Persianate world. Here it was not diamonds but “red stones of light” that were given pre-eminence. In Persian literature such stones were prized as symbols of the divine in metaphysics and of the highest reaches of the sublime in art, evoking the light of dusk – shafaq – that fills the sky immediately after the sun has set.
As Ferdowsi writes in his great Shah-Nama, or Book of Kings:
When the sun gave the world the colour of the spinel, Dark night set foot on the celestial vault.
Garcia da Orta is explicit that diamonds were not regarded as the pre-eminent gemstone by the Mughals -something which came as an enormous surprise to Europeans. In his Colloquies, da aorta has his interlocutor, Dr Roanoke, remark that diamonds “are the king of stones, for [they have] eminence over pearls and emeralds and rubies, if we believe Pliny.” Da Orta , however, corrects him:” In this country . . . they think more of an emerald or of a ruby, which have more value if they are perfect, and size for size, than of a diamond. But as they do find other stones when perfect and of good water so large as diamonds, it happens that they often fetch a higher price. The value of stones is no more than the will of buyers and the need for them.”
Abu’l Fazl also gives pride of place to beautifully coloured and transparent red stones in his description of Akbar’s imperial treasuries T the end of the sixteenth century:”The amount of revenues is so great,” he writes, “and the business so multifarious, that twelve treasuries are necessary for storing the money, nine for the different kinds of cash payments, and three for pre ious stones, gold and inlaid jewellery.” Rubies and spinels, divided into twelve classes, comes first; diamonds – of which there are half the quantity of spinels and rubies – second, and these kept mixed up with emeralds or blue corundum (sapphires), which the Mughals knew as blue yaquts. Pearls are in the third treasury: “If I were to speak of the quantity and quality of precious stones” possessed by the emperor, he writes “it would take me an age.”
The Mughals, perhaps more than any other Islamic dynasty, made their love of the arts and their aesthetic principles a central part of their identity as rulers. They consciously used jewellery and jewelled objects as they used their architecture, art, poetry, historiography and the dazzling brilliance of their court ceremonial – to make visible and manifest their imperial ideal, to give it a properly imperial splendour, and even a sheen of divine legitimacy. As Abu’l Fazl put it, “Kings are fond of external splendour, because they consider it an image of the Divine glory.”
Moreover, the Mughals were not just enthusiasts of the arts; by the time Akbar’s reign was at its height, they also had unrivalled resources with which to patronize them. They ruled over five times the population commanded by their only rivals, the Ottomans – some 100 million subjects, by the early seventeenth century controlling almost all of present day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as eastern Afghanistan. Their capitals were the mega cities of their day.
Jahangir’s passion for gems was one he shared with, and passed on to, his eldest son, Prince Khurram, the future Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666). To his father’s delight, Khurram became one of the greatest connoisseurs of precious stones of his time. Over and again, Jahangir. Moments with pride on his son’s eye for gems calling him “the star in the forehead of accomplished desires, and the brilliancy in the brow of prosperity.” He offers as an example of this an occasion when Jahangir had been given an especially fine pearl and wanted to find a pair for it. Prince Khurram took one look at the pearl and immediately remembered an exact match he had seen several years earlier, which lay “in an old turban jewel and was of a weight and shape equal to this pearl. They produced the old sarpech (turban ornament) containing a royal pearl and indeed it was of exactly the same quality, weight and shape, lustre and brilliance; one might say they had been shed from the same mould. Placing the two pearls alongside the ruby, I bound them on my arm.”
In due course Shah Jahan’s love of beautiful and precious objects outshone even that of his father, as visitors noted. According to Edward Terry, Sir Thomas Roe’s chaplain, Shah Jahan was “the greatest and ri heat master of precious stones that inhabits the whole earth.” The Portuguese Friar Manrique reported that he was so fascinated by gems that even when there appeared before him after a banquet twelve dancing girls decked out in “lascivious and suggestive dress, immodest behaviour and posturing,” the Emperor hardly raised his eyes, but instead continued inspecting some fine jewels that had been brought to him by his brother-in-law, Asad Khan. It has recently emerged that after apparently damaging his eyes through excessive weeping over the death of. Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan even commissioned two pairs of bejewelled spectacles, one with lenses of diamonds, the other with lenses of emeralds.
It was not, however, just about beauty and luxury. Like the Mughals’ miniature-painting ateliers, under Shah Jahan the imperial jewellery workshops were expected to put their work to the service of imperial and dynastic propaganda. A newly discovered sardonyx hilted dagger that appeared recently on the London art market makes this particularly clear, giving a striking reflection of the imperial aspirations of Shah Jahan and his court: the cartouche reads unequivocally, “The dagger of the king of kings, the defender of religion and conqueror of the world. The Second Lord of Happy Conjunction, Shah Jahan, is like the new moon, it out of its shining triumphs, it makes the world shine eternally like the rays of the Sun.” To his subjects, Shah Jahan presented himself not just S the ruler; he wanted to be thought of as a centre of Divine Light, a sun king, in fact almost a sun god.
The largest diamond recorded as entering the Mughal treasury during the reign of Shah Jahan came as a gift from another of the great gem connoisseurs of the period. Mir Jumla was a Persian immigrant to the Deccan, who set himself as a merchant and gem dealer. According to the Venetian traveller Niccolao Manucci, “Mir Jumla initially went through the streets from door to door selling shoes; up fortune resolved to favour him, and little by little he rose to be a great merchant of much fame in the kingdom. Owing t9 his being very rich, with ships at sea, and also a man of much wisdom and very generous, he gained for himself many friends at court . . . [and soon] filled various honourable offices.”
He continued to rise – ultimately to the rank of prime minister of Golconda- by presenting to the king and other key nobles valuable gifts of gems, “jewels and diamonds which he extracted from the mines . . . During his government in the Karnatik, Mir Jumla gathered together the great treasures which then existed in that province, in the ancient temples of the Hindu idols. Besides these, others were discovered by his exertions in the said province, which for precious stones is very famous.”
The French diamond merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-89) gives a wonderfully revealing-if. Billing-portrait of Mir Jumla at the peak of his power. Tavernier went to present his salaams one evening, and found Mir Jumla sitting in his tent at the centre of the camp in the Deccan countryside.
According to the custom of the country, the Nawab [governor] had the intervals between his toes full of letters, and he also held many between the fingers of his left hand. He drew them sometimes from his feet, and sometimes from his hand, and he sent replies through his two secretaries, writing also some himself. Although the secretaries had finished the letters, he made them read them; and then he affixed his seal himself, giving some to foot messengers, some to horsemen.
While all this was going on, four criminals were brought to the door of his tent. Mir Jumla paid no attention to them for half an hour, but then had them marched in, “and after having questioned them, and made them confess with their own mouths, he remained nearly an hour without saying anything, continuing to write and make his secretaries write,” as a succession of officers from the army came to pay their respects. At this point, a meal was brought in, so he turned his attention to the four prisoners, calmly ordering one to have his hands and feet cut off and to be left in a field to bleed to death, another to have “his stomach slit open and thrown in a drain” and the remaining two to be beheaded. “While all this passed, dinner was served.”
Throughout the 1650s, the Mughals increasingly focused on seizing the different kingdoms of the Deccan, at least in part so that they could possess the territory which produced the gems that were so obsessed with. In the words of the Shah Jahan Nama, the official history of the reign, “,” At the same time, Mir Jumla fell out of favour with the sultan of Golconda, as rumours spread of his having had an affair with the queen mother. He therefore took the opportunity presented by Mughal attack to defect to the service of Shah Jahan.
He sealed the pact, on 7 July 1656, presenting Shah Jahan, within the newly inaugurated Red Fort of Shahjahanabad, with what Manucci describes as “a large uncut diamond which weighed 360 carats”, and what the Shah Jahan Nama calls “an offering of exquisite gems, amongst which was a huge diamond weighing 216 ratis.” Tavernier later called this stone “that celebrated diamond which generally has been deemed unparalleled in size and beauty.” He said it was presented uncut at 900 ratis, or 787 metric carats, and added that it had come from the mines of Kollur (today Karnataka).
Centuries later, many Victorians commentators identified this diamond both with Babur’s diamond which had disappeared into the Deccan a hundred years earlier, and with the Koh-i-Noor, which had by then come to be seen as the greatest of all Indian diamonds. Yet there is no suggestion in any of these texts that Mir Jumla was claiming to return to the Mughals their greatest family diamond, which had been to them since the time of Humayun-a claim he certainly would have made if this were true, given how much he wished to ingratiate himself with his new patrons.
Instead, it sounds as if this huge diamond-which Tavernier explicitly says was presented uncut, and for which our three different sources give widely different but very high weights-was a new discovery, and an unprecedented addition to the Mughal treasury.
In 1628, at the height of his power, Shah Jahan brought the Mughal love affair with precious stones to its climax when he commissioned the most spectacular jewelled object ever made: the Peacock Throne.
Initially, it seems that the commission for a massive solid gold throne “covered with diamonds, rubies, pearls and emeralds” was given to a French jeweller at the Mughal court named Augustine Hiriart. Although the Mughals liked their diamonds cut differently from their contemporaries in the West-preferring to keep and celebrate the natural weight and shape of a stone rather than cutting to produce the smaller but more symmetrically cut gems favoured in Europe- at this stage in the seventeenth century European jewellers had established a slight technological edge on their Mughal rivals. There are references to emperors and other Indian rulers sending gems via the Jesuits to be cut in Goa, or even in the European merchant colony at Aleppo. Hiriart was by no means the only Western jeweller to have found work at the Mughal court: an Englishman named Peter Mutton was also taken into the imperial karkhana (atelier).
Shortly afterwards, however, Hiriart left Mughal service and headed off to Goa, so it was Sa’ida-yi-Gilani, an Iranian poet and calligrapher-turned goldsmith and jewel-master, who started work on the commission afresh. The finished Peacock Throne was finally inaugurated at New Year 1635, on the emperor’s return from his holidays in Kashmir.
The Jewelled Throne-as It was initially known-was an object of the greatest magnificence, designed to resemble and evoke the fabled throne of Solomon. The Mughals had long surrounded themselves with the aura of the ancient kings-both historical and mythical-of the Middle East and Iran whom they had read about in the Quran and in epic poems like the Shahnama. Drawing on these examples, the Mughals claimed that their divinely illuminated kingship and their just rule would bring to the world a golden age of prosperity and peace. For Shah Jahan in particular, Solomon, the exemplary Quranic ruler and prophet king, was both a role model and a figure of identification, and he had himself celebrated by his poets as a second Solomon; Murtaza Mahal, meanwhile, was praised as the new Queen of Sheba.
Accordingly, the Jewelled Throne was made so that anyone who knew their Quran would immediately see it as an echo of Solomon’s throne. It had four columns which carried a baldacchino (ceremonial canopy), on which were depicted flowering trees and peacocks in gemstones. The columns had the form of tapering balusters, which the Mughals called cypress shaped, and were covered with green enamel or emeralds, to augment their treelike character. Above this were perched either one or, in most accounts, two freestanding figures of peacocks, a reference to the seat of Solomon which according to both Jewish and Islamic texts was decorated with jewelled trees and birds.
The best contemporary account we have of the throne is by the official court chronicler, Ahmad Shah Lahore, in the Padshahnama:
In the course of years many valuable gems had come into the Imperial jewel-house, each of which might serve as an ear-drop for Venus, or would adorn the girdle of the Sun. Upon the accession of the Emperor, it occurred to his mind that, in the opinion of far-seeing men, the acquisition of such rare jewels and the keeping of such wonderful brilliants can only render one service, that of adorning the throne o& empire. They ought therefore to be put to such a use that beholders might share in and benefit by their splendour, and that Majesty might shine with increased brilliancy.
Lahori recounts how in addition to the jewels already stored in the imperial jewel-house, “rubies, garnets, diamonds, rich pearls and emeralds, to the value of 200 lakhs of rupees, should be brought for the inspection of the Emperor, and that they, with some exquisite jewels of great weight, exceeding 50,000 misskals, having been carefully selected, should be handed over to Bebadal Khan [Sa’ida-yi Gilani’s later title], the superintendent of the goldsmith’s department.”
The outside of the canopy was to be of enamel work studded with gems, the inside was to be thickly set with rubies, garners, and other jewels, and it was to be supported by emerald columns. On the top of each pillar there were to be two peacocks thick set with gems, and between each of the two peacocks a tree set with rubies and diamonds, emeralds and pearls. The A’s ent was to consist of three steps, set with jewels of fine water. This Throne was completed in the course of seven years at a cost of 100 lakhs of rupees.
Given Mughal tastes, it is not surprising that the one stone that Lahore singled out for mention was not a diamond but a ruby:
Among the jewels set in this recess was a ruby worth a lake of rupees, which Shah ‘Abbas, the king of Iran, had presented to the Late Emperor Jahangir, who sent it to his present Majesty, the Sahib Kiran-i-sank, when he accomplished the conquest of the Dakhin. On it were engraved the names of Sahib kiran (Timur), Mir Shah Ruth, and Mirza Ulugh Beg. When in course of time it came into possession of Shah ‘Abbas, his name was added; and when Jahangir obtained it, he added the name of himself and of his father. Now it received the addition of the name of his most gracious Majesty Shah Jahan.
The ruby would under various names-the Timur Ruby, the Ayn al-Hur, Eye of the Houri, and the Fakhraj-shadow of the Koh-I-Noor and share it’s fate for the next two centuries. Only very much later, with changing tastes in the early nineteenth century, did the diamond come to be seen as more beautiful and significant than the ruby.
Shah Jahan’s reign came to a dramatically premature end in 1658. Late in 1657 the Emperor suffered a stroke, and his son Dara Shukoh took over effective governance. Initially believing their father to be dead, the four royal princes began military manoeuvres that led Aurangzeb, eventually, to stage a skilful coup d’état, deposing his father and imprisoning him in the Red Fort of Agra, in a set of apartments looking out over the Taj.
Aurangzeb had headed north from the Deccan with a battle-hardened army, and defeated his rival brother Dara Shukoh at Samugarh, a few miles from Agra. In 1659, he had had his brother murdered a few days after capturing him. According to Manucci, he then sent his father a reconciliation present. When the old man opened it, it was found to contain the head of Dara.
It was shortly after this that we get one last glimpse of the Mughal treasury in all its glory before the empire collapsed and the Koh-i-Noor left India. In 1665 Jean Baptiste Tavernier was given by Aurangzeb (1618-1707) the unprecedented honour of being shown the highlights of the Mughal treasury. Encouraged by Louis XIV, Tavernier had made five previous journeys to India between 1630 and 1668, with a view to understanding more about diamonds, which he calls “the most precious of all stones, and the article of trade to which I am most devoted. In order to acquire a thorough knowledge o& it, I resolved to visit all the mines and one of the two rivers where diamonds are found.”
In his earlier journeys, Tavernier had brought back enough diamonds to win a baronetcy from Louis but it was only on his final trip that Aurangzeb gave his permission for Tavernier to see his private collection. “On the first day of November 1665,” he wrote, “I went to the palace to take leave of the Emperor, but he said that he did not wish me to depart without having seen the jewels and witnessing the splendour of his fete.”
Shortly afterwards, Tavernier was summoned to the palace, where he did obeisance to the emperor, and was then ushered into a small apartment within sight of the Diwan-i-Khas.
I found in this apartment Akil Khan, chief of the jewel treasury, who, when he saw us, commanded four of the imperial eunuchs to bring jewels, which were carried in two large wooden trays lacquered with god leaf, and covered with small cloths made expressly for the purpose- one of red and the other of green brocaded velvet. After these trays were uncovered, and all the pieces had been counted three times over, a list was prepared by the three scribes who were present. For the indians do everything with great composure, and when they see anyone acting in a hurry or irritated, they stare at him in silence and laugh at him for being a fool.
Among the stones Tavernier was shown that day was the enormous gem he calls the Great Mughal Diamond and which he says was the gem given to Shah Jahan by Mir Jumla: “The first piece that Akil Khan (Chief Keeper of the King’s jewels) placed in my hands was the great diamond, which is rose cut, round a very high on one side. On the lower edge there is a slight crack, and a little flaw in it. Its water is fine, and weighs 286[metric]carats.” He also mentions that the stone had been badly cut since Mir Jumla gifted it, and that thanks to the incompetence of the man responsible, Hortensio Borgio, the stone had lost much of its original astonishing size. Tavernier also saw two other great diamonds, one of which was a flat, pink stone in a table cut, which he calls the Great Table Diamond, and which from his drawing is clearly the major portion of the Darya-i-Noor, now in Tehran.
Was the Great Mughal Diamond the Koh-i-Noor? In the nineteenth century it was assumed it must be, but most modern scholars are now convinced that the Great Mughal is actually the Orlov , which with its higher, more rounded dome looks much more like Tavernier’s sketch of the Great Mughal. Moreover, the Orlov and the Great Mughal have the same type of cut, and the same pattern of facets. None of the other stones seen by Tavernier looks at all like the Koh-i-Noor either.
How is it possible that Tavernier failed to see the Koh-i-Noor when the emperor explicitly gave permission for him to see his greatest gems? There are two possibilities. One is the Koh-i-Noor was at this stage still in the collection of Shah Jahan, who in 1665 remained under house arrest in his apartments in the Red Fort of Agra. It is known from several sources, including Manucci and the Shah Jahan Nama, that the deposed emperor had not handed over all his personal diamond collection to his usurping son; indeed Aurangzeb got his hands on Shah Japan’s favourite gems only after his death.
But more probably, if Marvi’s eyewitness account of Nader Shah’s seizure of the Peacock Throne in 1750 is to be believed, the Koh-i-Noor was not in the imperial treasury because it was already lodged beyond Tavernier’s close inspection, glittering on top of the Peacock Throne, attached to the head of one of the peacocks which surmounted it. Tavernier certainly saw the Peacock Throne from a distance, and he describes the diamonds which covered it, but it seems he did not get close enough to see the stupendous size of the gems on its roof.
Was the Koh-i-Noor Babur’s diamond? The weights are approximately right, and it looks on balance the most plausible and certainly the most seductive theory as to the origins of the Koh-i-Noor. However, given the absence of a full description of Babur’s diamond, or an account of the gem’s passage from the Deccan back into the Mughal treasury, until further evidence is uncovered in some forgotten Persian source, the mystery remains unsolved.Frustrating as it is, we simply do not know for sure the origin of the Koh-i-Noor and have no hard information about when, how or where it entered Mughal hands. We only know for sure it left.
COURTESY of : KOH-I-NOOR BY WILLIAM DALRYMPLE AND ANITA ANAND, BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING USA , 2017
Kohinoor is a large, colourless diamond from the era of Wodiyar Kings of Mysore in Karnataka, India, possibly in the 13th century. According to legend, it first weighed 793 carats (158.6 g) uncut, although the earliest well-attested weight is 186 carats (37.2 g). The stone changed hands several times between various factions in Asia until ending up in the possession of Queen Victoria after the British conquest of the Punjab in 1849.
In 1852, Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, was unhappy with its dull and irregular appearance, and he ordered it cut down from 186 carats (37.2 g) by Coster Diamonds. It emerged 42 percent lighter as a dazzling oval-cut brilliant-weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 g) and measuring 3.6 cm x 3.2 cm x 1.3 cm. By modern standards, the cut is far from perfect, in that the culet is unusually broad, giving the impression of a black hole when the stone is viewed head-on; it is nevertheless regarded by gemmologists as being full of life. As the diamond’s history involves a great deal of fighting between men, the Koh-i-Noor acquired a reputation within the British royal family for bringing bad luck to any man who wears it. Since arriving in the country, it has only ever been worn by female members of the family.
Today, the diamond is set in the front of the Queen Mother’s Crown, part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, and is seen by millions of visitors to the Tower of London each year. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all claimed ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded its return at various times in recent decades. The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Treaty of India.
Origin and early history
It is widely believed to have come from the KGF Mine in the Kolar District of present-day Karnataka India, during the reign of the Wodiyars rulers. It is however impossible to know where it was found. In the early 14th century, Alauddin Khalji, second ruler of the Turkic Khalji dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, and his army began looting the kingdoms of southern India. Malik Kafur, Khalji’s general, made a successful raid on Warangal in 1310, when he possibly acquired the diamond.
It remained in the Khalji dynasty and later passed to the succeeding dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, until it came into the possession of Babur, a Turco-Mongol warlord, who invaded India and established the Mughal Empire in 1526. He called the stone the “Diamond of Babur” at the time, although it had been called by other names before itcame into his possession. Both Babur and his son and successor, Humayun, mentioned the origins of this diamond in their memoirs, thought by many historians to be the earliest reliable reference to the Koh-i-Noor.
Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. In 1658, his son and successor, Aurangzeb, confined the ailing emperor at nearby Agra Fort. While in the possession of Aurangzeb, it was allegedly cut by Hortenso Borgia, a Venetian lapidary, so clumsily that he reduced the weight of the stone from 793 carats (158.6 g) to 186 carats (37.2 g). For this carelessness, Borgia was reprimanded andfined 10,000 rupees. According to recent research the story of Borgia cutting the diamond is not correct, and most probably mixed up with the Orlov, part of Catherine the Great’s imperial Russian sceptre in the Kremlin.
Acquisition by Nader Shah
Following the 1739 invasion of Delhi by Nader Shah, the Afsharid Shah of Persia, the treasury of the Mughal Empire was looted by his army in an organised and thorough acquisition of the Mughal nobility’s wealth. Along with a host of valuable items, including the Daria-i-Noor, as well as the Peacock Throne, the Shah also carried away the Koh-i-Noor. He allegedly exclaimed Koh-i-Noor! (meaning “mountain of light”) when he finally managed to obtain the famous stone, and that is how the stone got its name.
The first valuation of the Koh-i-Noor is given in the legend that one of Nader Shah’s consorts apparently said, “If a strong man were to throw four stones, one north, one south, one east, one west, and a fifth stone up into the air, and if the space between them were to be filled with gold, all would not equal the value of the Koh-i-Noor”
It is estimated that the total worth of the treasures plundered came to 700 million rupees. This was roughly equivalent to £87.5 million sterling at the time, or approximately £12.8 billion in 2016’s money. The riches gained by the Afsharid Empire from the Indian campaign were so monumental that Nader Shah made a proclamation alleviating all subjects of the Empire from taxes for a total of three years.
A year later, Shujah formed an alliance with the United Kingdom to help defend against a possible invasion of Afghanistan by Russia. He was quickly overthrown by his predecessor, Mahmud Shah, but managed to flee with the diamond. He went to Lahore, where the founder of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in return for his hospitality, insisted upon the gem being given to him, and he took possession of it in 1813.
The gem called the Koh-i-Noor, which was taken from Shah Sooja-ool-moolk by Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.
The Governor-General in charge of the ratification of this treaty was the Marquess of Dalhousie. The manner of his aiding in the transfer of the diamond was criticized even by some of his contemporaries in Britain. Although some thought it should have been presented as a gift to Queen Victoria by the East India Company, it is clear that Dalhousie strongly believed the stone was a spoil of war, and treated it accordingly, ensuring that it was officially surrendered to her by Maharaja Duleep Singh, the youngest son of Ranjit Singh.
Writing to his friend Sir George Cooper in August 1849, he stated:
The Court [of the East India Company] you say, are ruffled up by my having caused the Maharajah to cede to the Queen the Koh-i-noor; while the Daily News and my Lord Ellenborough (Governor-General of India, 1841–44) are indignant because I did not confiscate everything to Her Majesty. The motive was simply this: that it was more for the honour of the Queen that the Koh-i-noor should be surrendered directly from the hand of the conquered prince into the hands of the sovereign who was his conqueror, than it should be presented to her as a gift—which is always a favour—by any joint-stock company among her subjects.
The presentation of the Koh-i-Noor and the Timur ruby by the East India Company to the queen was the latest in a long history of transfers of the stones as coveted spoils of war. Duleep Singh had been placed in the guardianship of Dr John Login (later Sir John Spencer Login), a surgeon in the British Army serving in the Presidency of Bengal, in India. Dr Login and his wife Lena both would later accompany Duleep Singh on his journey to England in 1854.
In due course, the Governor-General received the Koh-i-Noor from Dr. Login, who had been appointed Governor of the Citadel, with the Royal Treasury, which Dr Login valued at almost £1,000,000 (£95.2 million in 2016’s money), excluding the Koh-i-Noor, on 6 April 1848, under a receipt dated 7 December 1849, in the presence of the members of the Board of Administration for the affairs of the Punjab: Sir Henry Lawrence (President), C. G. Mansel, John Lawrence and Sir Henry Elliot (Secretary to the Government of India).
Legend in the Lawrence family has it that before the voyage, John Lawrence left the jewel in his waistcoat pocket when it was sent to be laundered, and was most grateful when it was returned promptly by the valet who found it.
On 1 February 1850, the jewel was sealed in a small iron safe inside a red dispatch box, both sealed with red tape and a wax seal and kept in a chest at Bombay Treasury awaiting a steamer ship from China. It was then sent to England for presentation to Queen Victoria in the care of Captain J. Ramsay and Brevet Lt. Col F. Mackeson under tight security arrangements, one of which was the placement of the dispatch box in alarger iron safe. They departed from Bombay on 6 April on board HMS Medea, captained by Captain Lockyer.
The ship had a difficult voyage: an outbreak of cholera on board when the ship was in Mauritius had the locals demanding its departure, and they asked their governor to open fire on the vessel and destroy it if there was no response. Shortly afterwards, the vessel was hit by a severe gale that blew for some 12 hours.
On arrival in Britain on 29 June, the passengers and mail were unloaded in Plymouth, but the Koh-i-Noor stayed on board until the ship reached Spithead, near Portsmouth, on 1 July. The next morning, Ramsay and Mackeson, in the company of Mr Onslow, the private secretary to the Chairman of the Court of Directors of the British East IndiaCompany, proceeded by train to East India House in the City of London and passed the diamond into the care of the chairman and deputy chairman of the East India Company. The Koh-i-Noor was formally presented to Queen Victoria on 3 July at Buckingham Palace by the deputy chairman of the East India Company. The date was chosen to coincide with the company’s 250th anniversary.
The Great Exhibition
Members of the public were given a chance to see the Koh-i-Noor when The Great Exhibition was staged at Hyde Park, London, in 1851. It was displayed in the Works in Precious Metals, Jewellery, etc. part of the South Central Gallery, The Times reported:
The Koh-i-Noor is at present decidedly the lion of the Exhibition. A mysterious interest appears to be attached to it, and now that so many precautions have been resorted to, and so much difficulty attends its inspection, the crowd is enormously enhanced, and the policemen at either end of the covered entrance have much trouble in restraining the struggling and impatient multitude. For some hours yesterday, there were never less than a couple of hundred persons waiting their turn of admission, and yet, after all, the diamond does not satisfy. Either from the imperfect cutting or the difficulty of placing the lights advantageously, or the immovability of the stone itself, which should be made to revolve on its axis, few catch any of the brilliant rays it reflects when viewed at a particular angle.
A French writer gave a vivid description of the exhibit:
On Friday and Saturday it puts on its best dress; it is arrayed in a tent of red cloth, and the interior is supplied with a dozen little jets of gas, which throw their light on the god of the temple. Unhappily, the Koh-i-Noor does not sparkle even then. Thus, the most curious thing is not the divinity, but the worshippers. One places oneself in the file to go in at one side of the niche, looks at the golden calf, and goes out the other side. If the organs should chance to play at the same moment, the illusion is complete. The Koh-i-Noor is well secured; it is placed on a machine which causes it, on the slightest touch, to enter an iron box. It is thus put to bed every evening, and does not get up till towards noon. The procession of the faithful then commences, and only finishes at seven o’clock.
After these complaints, the diamond was put in a new shaded case to let the sunlight catch it better.
Disappointment in the appearance of the stone was not uncommon. After consulting various mineralogists, including Sir David Brewster, it was decided by Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, with the consent of the government, to polish the Koh-i-Noor. One of the largest and most famous Dutch diamond merchants, Mozes Coster, was employed for the task. He sent to London one of his most experienced artisans, Levie Benjamin Voorzanger, and his assistants.
The 1852 re-cutting
On 17 July 1852, the cutting began at the factory of Garrard & Co. in Haymarket, using a steam-powered mill built specially for the job by Maudslay, Sons and Field.Under the supervision of Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington, and the technical direction of the queen’s mineralogist, James Tennant, the cutting took 38 days. Albert had spent a total of £8,000 on the operation, which reduced the weight of the diamond by around 42 percent, from 186 carats (37.2 g) to its current 105.6 carats (21.12 g).
The great loss of weight is to some extent accounted for by the fact that Voorzanger discovered several flaws, one especially big, that he found it necessary to cut away. Although Prince Albert was dissatisfied with such a huge reduction, most experts agreed that Voorzanger had made the right decision and carried out his job with impeccable skill. When Queen Victoria showed the re-cut diamond to the young Maharaja Duleep Singh, the Koh-i-Noor’s last non-British owner, he was apparently unable to speak for several minutes afterwards.
The much lighter but more dazzling stone was mounted in a brooch worn by the queen. At this time, it belonged to her personally, and was not yet part of the Crown Jewels. Although Victoria wore it often, she became uneasy about the way in which the diamond had been acquired. In a letter to her eldest daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, she wrote in the 1870s: “No one feels more strongly than I do about India or how much I opposed our taking those countries and I think no more will be taken, for it is very wrong and no advantage to us. You know also how I dislike wearing the Koh-i-Noor”.
All these crowns are on display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London with crystal replicas of the diamond set in the older crowns. The original bracelet given to Queen Victoria can also be seen there. A glass model of the Koh-i-Noor shows visitors how it looked when it was brought to the United Kingdom. Replicas of the diamond in this and its re-cut forms can also be seen in the ‘Vault’ exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London.
During the Second World War, the Crown Jewels were moved from their home at the Tower of London to Windsor Castle. In 1990, The Sunday Telegraph, citing a biography of the French army general, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, by his widow, Simonne, reported that George VI hid the Koh-i-Noor at the bottom of a pond or lake near Windsor Castle, about 32 km (20 miles) outside London, where it remained until after the war. The only people who knew of the hiding place were the king and his librarian, Sir Owen Morshead, who apparently revealed the secret to the general and his wife on their visit to England in 1949.
The Government of India, believing the gem was rightfully theirs, first demanded the return of the Koh-i-Noor as soon as independence was granted in 1947. A second request followed in 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Each time, the British government rejected the claims, saying that ownership was non-negotiable.
In 1976, Pakistan asserted its ownership of the diamond, saying its return would be “a convincing demonstration of the spirit that moved Britain voluntarily to shed its imperial encumbrances and lead the process of decolonisation“. In a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, James Callaghan, wrote, “I need not remind you of the various hands through which the stone has passed over the past two centuries, nor that explicit provision for its transfer to the British crown was made in the peace treaty with the Maharajah of Lahore in 1849. I could not advise Her Majesty that it should be surrendered”.
In 2000, several members of the Indian Parliament signed a letter calling for the diamond to be given back to India, claiming it was taken illegally. British officials said that a variety of claims meant it was impossible to establish the gem’s original owner. Later that year, the Taliban‘s foreign affairs spokesman, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, said the Koh-i-Noor was the legitimate property of Afghanistan, and demanded for it to be handed over to the regime as soon as possible. “The history of the diamond shows it was taken from us (Afghanistan) to India, and from there to Britain. We have a much better claim than the Indians”, he said.
In July 2010, while visiting India, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said of returning the diamond, “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I am afraid to say, it is going to have to stay put“. On a subsequent visit in February 2013, he said, “They’re not having that back”.
In April 2016, the Indian Culture Ministry stated it would make “all possible efforts” to arrange the return of the Koh-i-Noor to India. It was despite the Indian Government earlier conceding that the diamond was a gift. The Solicitor General of India had made the announcement before the Supreme Court of India due to public interest litigation by a campaign group. He said “It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh wars. The Koh-i-Noor is not a stolen object”.
Fourth Mughal Emperor known by his imperial name, Jahangir
31 August 1569 – 28 October 1627,
Ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627.
Much romance has gathered around his name (Jahangir means ‘conqueror of the world’, and the tale of his relationship with the Mughal courtesan, Anarkali, has been widely adapted into the literature, art and cinema of India.
Full Name: Mirza Nur-ud-din Baig Mohammad Khan Salim Jahangir
Reign: 3 November 1605 – 28 October 1627
Coronation: 24 November 1605
Successor: Shahryar Mirza Shah Jahan
Born: Salim; 31 August 1569 at Fatehpur Sikri, Mughal Empire
Died: 28 October 1627 (aged 58) at Rajauri, Rajouri district, Kashmir, Mughal Empire, now Jammu and Kashmir, India Burial Tomb: Lahore Consort
Saliha Banu Begum
Malika Jahan Begum
Khas Mahal Begum
Shah Jahan Shahryar Mirza
Bahar Banu Begum
Begum Sultan Begum
Iffat Banu Begum
Religion: Sunni Islam
Jahangir was the eldest surviving son of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Impatient for power, he revolted in1599 while Akbar was engaged in the Deccan. He was defeated, but ultimately succeeded his father as Emperor in 1605 because of the
immense support and effort of his step-mothers:
Empress Ruqaiya Sultan Begum
Salima Sultan Begum
Hamida Banu Begum, his grandmother.
These women wielded considerable influence over Akbar and favoured Jahangir as his successor. The first year of Jahangir’s reign saw a rebellion organised by his eldest son Khusrau. The rebellion was soon put down; Khusrau was brought before his father in chains. After subduing and executing nearly 2000 members of the rebellion, Jahangir blinded his renegade son.
Jahangir built on his father’s foundations of administration and his reign was characterised by political stability, a strong economy and cultural achievements. The imperial frontiers continued to move forward—in Bengal, Mewar, Ahmadnagar
and the Deccan. Later during his rule, Jahangir was battling his rebellious son Khurram in Hindustan. The rebellion of Khurram absorbed Jahangir’s attention, so in the spring of 1623 he negotiated a diplomatic end to the conflict. Much of
India was politically pacified; Jahangir’s dealings with the Hindu rulers of Rajputana were particularly successful, and he settled the conflicts inherited from his father. The Hindu rulers all accepted Mughal supremacy and in return were given high ranks in the Mughal aristocracy.
Jahangir was fascinated with art, science and architecture. From a young age he showed a leaning towards painting and had an atelier of his own. His interest in portraiture led to much development in this art form. The art of Mughal
painting reached great heights under Jahangir’s reign. His interest in painting also served his scientific interests in nature. The painter Ustad Mansur became one of the best artists to document the animals and plants which Jahangir either encountered on his military exhibitions or received as donations from emissaries of other countries. Jahangir maintained a huge aviary and a large zoo, kept a record of every specimen and organised experiments.
Jahangir patronised the European and Persian arts. He promoted Persian culture throughout his empire. This was especially so during the period when he came under the influence of his Persian Empress, Nur Jahan and her relatives, who from 1611 had dominated Mughal politics. Amongst the most highly regarded Mughal architecture dating from Jahangir’s reign is the famous Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir. The world’s first seamless celestial globe was built by Mughal scientists under the patronage of Jahangir.
Jahangir was not without his vices. He set the precedent for sons rebelling against their emperor fathers and was much criticized for his addiction to alcohol, opium, and women. He was thought to allow his wife Nur Jahan too much power, and her continuous plotting at court is considered to have destabilized the empire in the final years of his rule. The situation developed into open crisis when Jahangir’s son, Khurram, fearing he would be excluded from the throne, rebelled in 1622. Jahangir’s forces chased Khurram and his troops from Fatehpur Sikri to the Deccan, to Bengal and back to the Deccan, until Khurram surrendered unconditionally in 1626. The rebellion and court intrigues that followed took a heavy toll on Jahangir’s health.
He died in 1627 and was succeeded by Khurram, who took the imperial throne of Hindustan as the Emperor Shah Jahan.
An aesthete, Jahangir decided to start his reign with a grand display of “justice”, as he saw it. To this end, he enacted Twelve Decrees that are remarkable for their liberalism and foresight. During his reign, there was a significant increase in the size of the Mughal Empire, half a dozen rebellions were crushed, prisoners of war were
released and the work of his father, Akbar, continued to flourish. Much like his father, Jahangir was dedicated to the expansion of Mughal held territory through conquest. During this regime he would target the peoples of Assam near the
eastern frontier and bring a series of territories controlled by independent rajas in the Himalayan foothills from Kashmir to Bengal. Jahangir would challenge the hegemonic claim over what became later Afghanistan by the Safavid rulers with an eye on Kabul, Peshawar and Kandahar, which were important centres of the central Asian trade system that northern India operated within.] In 1622, Jahangir sent his son Prince Khurram against the combined forces of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golconda. After his victory Khurram turned against his father and make a bid for power. As with the insurrection of his eldest son [Khusrau Mirza, Jahangir was able to defeat the challenge from within his family and retain power.
Jahangir promised to protect Islam and granted general amnesty to his opponents. He was also notable for his patronage of the arts, especially of painting. During his reign the distinctive style of Mughal painting expanded and blossomed. Jahangir supported a flourishing culture of court painters.
Jahangir holding a portrait of his father Akbar
Furthermore, Jahangir preserved the Mughal tradition of a highly centralized form of government. Jahangir made the precepts of Sunni Islam the cornerstone of his state policies. A faithful Muslim, as evidenced by his memoirs, he expressed his gratitude to Allah for his many victories. Jahangir, as a devout Muslim, did not let his personal beliefs dictate his state policies. Sovereignty, according to Jahangir, was a “gift of God” not necessarily given to enforce God’s law but rather to “ensure the contentment of the world.” In civil cases, Islamic law applied to Muslims, Hindu law applied to Hindus, while criminal law was the same for both Muslims and Hindus. In matters like marriage and inheritance, both communities had their own laws that Jahangir respected. Thus Jahangir was able to deliver justice to people in accordance of their beliefs and also keep his hold on empire by unified criminal law.
In the Mughal state, therefore, defiance of imperial authority, whether coming from a prince or anyone else aspiring to political power, or a Muslim or a Hindu, was crushed in the name of law and order.
Shah Abbas I receiving Khan Alam, ambassador from Jahangir in 1617
In 1623, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, sent his Tahwildar, Khan Alam, to Safavid Persia, accompanied by 800 Sepoys, scribes and scholars along with ten Howdahs well decorated in gold and silver, in order to negotiate peace with Abbas
I of Persia after a brief conflict in the region around Kandahar. Khan Alam soon returned with valuable gifts and groups of Mir Shikar(Hunt Masters) from both Safavid Persia and even the Khanates of Central Asia.
In 1626, Jahangir began to contemplate an alliance between the Ottomans, Mughals and Uzbeks against the Safavids, who had defeated the Mughals at Kandahar. He even wrote a letter to the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV. Jahangir’s ambition did not
materialise, however, due to his death in 1627.
Salim was made a Mansabdar of ten thousand (Das-Hazari), the highest military rank of the empire, after the emperor. He independently commanded a regiment in the Kabul campaign of 1581, when he was barely twelve. His Mansab was raised
to Twelve Thousand, in 1585, at the time of his betrothal to his cousin Rajkumari Manbhawati Bai, daughter of Bhagwant Das of Amer. Bhagwant Das, was the son of Raja Bihari Mal and the brother of Akbar’s Hindu wife and Salim’s mother
The marriage with Manbhawati Bai took place on February 13, 1585. Jahangir named her Shah Begum, and gave birth to Khusrau Mirza. Thereafter, Salim married, in quick succession, a number of accomplished girls from the aristocratic Mughal and Rajput families. One of his early favourite wives was a Rajput Princess, Jagat Gosain Begum. Jahangir named her Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani and she gave birth to Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, Jahangir’s successor to the throne.
On July 7, 1586 he married a daughter of Raja Rai Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner. In July 1586, he married Malika Shikar Begum, daughter of Sultan Abu Said Khan Jagatai, Sultan of Kashghar. In 1586, he married Sahib-i-Jamal Begum, daughter of Khwaja Hassan, of Herat, a cousin of Zain Khan Koka. In 1587, he married Malika Jahan Begum, daughter of Bhim Singh, Maharaja of Jaisalmer. He also married a daughter of Raja Darya Malbhas. In October 1590, he married Zohra Begum, daughter of Mirza Sanjar Hazara. In 1591, he married Karamnasi Begum, daughter of Raja Kesho Das Rathore, of Mertia. On January 11, 1592, he married Kanwal Rani, daughter of Ali Sher Khan, by his wife, Gul Khatun. In October 1592, he married a daughter of Husain Chak, of Kashmir. In January/March 1593, he married Nur un-nisa Begum, daughter of Ibrahim Husain Mirza, by his wife, Gulrukh Begum, daughter of Kamran Mirza. In September 1593, he married a daughter of Ali Khan Faruqi, Raja of Khandesh. He also married a daughter of Abdullah Khan Baluch. On June 28, 1596, he married Khas Mahal Begum, daughter of Zain Khan Koka, sometime Subadar of Kabul and Lahore. In 1608, he married Saliha Banu Begum, daughter of Qasim Khan, a senior member of the Imperial Household. On June 17, 1608, he married Koka Kumari Begum, eldest daughter of Jagat Singh, Yuvraj of Amber.
Jahangir married the extremely beautiful and intelligent Mehr-un-Nisaa (better known by her subsequent title of Nur Jahan) on May 25, 1611. She was the widow of Sher Afgan. Mehr-un-Nisaa became his indisputable chief consort and favourite wife immediately after their marriage. She was witty, intelligent and beautiful, which was what attracted Jahangir to her. Before being awarded the title of Nur Jahan(‘Light of the World’), she was called Nur Mahal(‘Light of the Palace’). Her abilities are said to range from fashion designing to hunting. There is also a myth that she had once killed four tigers with six bullets.
Mehr-Un-Nisa, or Nur Jahan, occupies an important place in the history of Jahangir. She was the widow of a rebel officer, Sher Afgan, whose actual name was Ali Quli Beg Ist’ajlu. He had earned the title “Sher Afgan” (Tiger tosser) from Emperor Akbar after throwing off a tiger that had leaped to attack Akbar on the top of an elephant in a royal hunt at Bengal and then stabbing the fallen tiger to death. Akbar was greatly affected by the bravery of the young Turkish bodyguard accompanying him and awarded him the captaincy of the Imperial Guard at Bengal. He was killed in rebellion, after learning of Jahangir’s orders to have him slain to possess his beautiful wife, as Jahangir yearned for her much earlier than her wedding. The governor of Bengal was instructed secretly by Jahangir in his quest and was also the emperor’s foster brother and Sheikh Salim’s grandson and was consequently slain by the guards of the Governor. The widowed Mehr-un-Nisa was brought to Agra along with her nine-year-old daughter and placed in—or refused to be placed in—the Royal harem in 1607. Jahangir married her in 1611 and gave her the title of Nur Jahan or “Light of the World“. It was rumoured that Jahangir had a hand in the death of her first husband, albeit there is no recorded evidence to prove that he was guilty of that crime; in fact most travellers’ reports say that he met her after her husband’s death.
The loss of Kandahar was due to Prince Khurram’s refusal to obey her orders. When the Persians besieged Kandahar, Nur Jahan was at the helm of affairs. She ordered Prince Khurram to march for Kandahar, but the latter refused to do so. There is no doubt that the refusal of the prince was due to her behaviour towards him, as she was favouring her son-in-law, Shahryar, at the expense of Khurram. Khurram suspected that in his absence, Shahryar might be given promotion and that he might die on the battlefield. This fear forced Khurram to rebel against his father rather than fight against the Persians, and thereby Kandahar was lost.
Under Jahangir, the empire continued to be a war state attuned to conquest and expansion. Jahangir’s most irksome foe was the Rana of Mewar, Amar Singh, who finally capitulated in 1613 to Khurram’s forces. In the northeast, the Mughals clashed with the Ahoms of Assam, whose guerilla tactics gave the Mughals a hard time. In Northern India, Jahangir’s forces under Khurram defeated their other principal adversary, the Raja of Kangra, in 1615; in the Deccan, his victories further consolidated the empire. But in 1620, Jahangir fell sick, and so ensued the familiar quest for power. Nur Jahan married her daughter to Shahryar, Jahangir’s youngest son from his other queen, in the hope of having a living male heir to the throne when Jahangir died.
In the year 1594, Jahangir was dispatched by his father, the Mughal Emperor Akbar, alongside Abul Hasan Asaf Khan, also known as Mirza Jaafar Beg son of Mirza Ghias Beg Isfahani and brother of Nur Jehan, and Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak, to defeat the renegade Vir Singh Deo of Bundela and capture the city of Orchha, which was considered the centre of the revolt. Jahangir arrived with a force of 12,000 after many ferocious encounters and finally subdued the Bundela and ordered Vir Singh Deo to surrender. After tremendous casualties and the start of negotiations between the two, Vir Singh Deo handed over 5000 Bundela infantry and 1000 cavalry, but he feared Mughal retaliation and remained a fugitive until his death. The victorious Jahangir, only 16 years of age, ordered the completion of the Jahangir Mahal a famous Mughal citadel in Orchha to commemorate and honour his victory.
Jahangir then gathered his forces under the command of Ali Kuli Khan and fought Lakshmi Narayan of Koch Bihar. Lakshmi Narayan then accepted the Mughals as his suzerains he was given the title Nazir and later established a garrison at Atharokotha.
In 1613, the Portuguese seized the Mughal ship Rahimi, which had set out from Surat on its way with a large cargo of 100,000 rupees and Pilgrims, who were on their way to Mecca and Medina in order to attend the annual Hajj. The Rahimi was owned by Mariam-uz-Zamani, Jahangir’s mother. She was referred to as Queen mother of Hindustan during his reign. Rahimi was the largest Indian ship sailing in the Red Sea and was known to the Europeans as the “great pilgrimage ship”.
When the Portuguese officially refused to return the ship and the passengers, the outcry at the Mughal court was unusually severe. The outrage was compounded by the fact that the owner and the patron of the ship was none other than the revered mother of the current emperor. Jahangir himself was outraged and ordered the seizure of the Portuguese town Daman. He ordered the apprehension of all Portuguese within the Mughal Empire; he further confiscated churches that belonged to the Jesuits. This episode is considered to be an example of the struggle for wealth that would later ensue and lead to colonization of the Indian sub-continent.
Jahangir was responsible for ending a century long struggle with the state of Mewar. The campaign against the Rajputs was pushed so extensively that they were made to submit with great loss of life and property.
Jahangir posted Islam Khan I to subdue Musa Khan, an Afghan rebel in Bengal, in 1608. Jahangir also thought of capturing Kangra Fort, which Akbar had failed to do in 1615. Consequently, a siege was laid and the fort was taken in 1620, which ” resulted in the submission of the Raja of Chamba who was the greatest of all the rajas in the region.” The district of Kistwar, in the state of Kashmir, was also conquered.
Jahangir was trying to restore his health by visiting Kashmir and Kabul. He went from Kabul to Kashmir but decided to return to Lahore on account of a severe cold.
Jahangir died on the way back from Kashmir near Sarai Saadabad in 1627. To preserve his body, the entrails were removed and buried in the Baghsar Fort, Kashmir. The body was then transferred to Lahore to be buried in Shahdara Bagh, a suburb of Lahore, Punjab. He was succeeded by his third son, Prince Khurram, who took the title of Shah Jahan. Jahangir’s elegant mausoleum is located in the Shahdara locale of Lahore and is a popular tourist attraction.
Sir Thomas Roe was England’s first ambassador to the Mughal court. Relations with England turned tense in 1617 when Roe warned the Jahangir that if the young and charismatic Prince Shah Jahan, newly instated as the Subedar of Gujarat, had
turned the English out of the province, “then he must expect we would do our justice upon the seas”. Shah Jahan chose to seal an official Firman allowing the English to trade in Gujarat in the year 1618.
Portrait of Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s invocation of a Dua prayer
Many contemporary chroniclers were not sure quite how to describe Jahangir’s personal belief structure. Roe labelled him an atheist, and although most others shied away from that term, they did not feel as though they could call him an orthodox Sunni. Roe believed Jahangir’s religion to be of his own making, “for he envies [the Prophet] Mohammed, and wisely sees no reason why he should not bee as great a prophet as he and therefore professed himself so… he hath found many disciples that flatter or follow him.” At this time, one of those disciples happened to be the current English ambassador, though his initiation into Jahangir’s inner circle was devoid of religious significance for Roe, as he did not understand the
full extent of what he was doing: Jahangir hung “a picture of him self set in gold hanging at a wire gold chain” round Roe’s neck. Roe thought it “an especial favour, for that all the great men that wear the Kings image (which none may do but to whom it is given) receive no other than a medal of gold as big as six pence.”
Had Roe intentionally converted, it would have caused quite a scandal in London. But since there was no intent, there was no resultant problem. Such disciples were an elite group of imperial servants, with one of them being promoted to Chief Justice. However, it is not clear that any of those who became disciples renounced their previous religion, so it is probable to see this as a way in which the emperor strengthened the bond between himself and his nobles. Despite Roe’s somewhat casual use of the term ‘atheist’, he could not quite put his finger on Jahangir’s real beliefs. Roe lamented that the emperor was either “the most impossible man in the world to be converted, or the most easy; for he loves to hear, and hath so little religion yet, that he can well abide to have any derided.”
This should not imply that the multi-confessional state appealed to all, or that all Muslims were happy with the situation in India. In a book written on statecraft for Jahangir, the author advised him to direct “all his energies to understanding the counsel of the sages and to comprehending the intimations of the ‘ulama.”
At the start of his regime many staunch Sunnis were hopeful, because he seemed less tolerant to other faiths than his father had been. At the time of his accession and the elimination of Abu’l Fazl, his father’s chief minister and architect of his eclectic religious stance, a powerful group of orthodox noblemen had gained increased power in the Mughal court. Jahangir did not always benevolently regard some Hindu customs and rituals. On visiting a Hindu temple, he found a statue of a man with a pig’s head (more than likely actually a boar’s head, a representation of Varaha), one of the idols in the Hindu religion, so he “ordered them to break that hideous form and throw it in the tank.” If the Tuzuk is reliable on this subject (and there is no reason to suspect that it is not), then this was an isolated case. J.F. Richards argues that “Jahangir seems to have been persistently hostile to popularly venerated religious figures”, which is debatable. A Muslim saint, Hazrat Mujadid Alif Sani Imam e Rabbani Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi Al-Farooqi, who had gained large number of followers through his spiritual preaching, was imprisoned in Gwalior Fort.
Most notorious was the execution of the Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji, whom Jahangir had got killed in prison. His lands were confiscated and his sons imprisoned as Jahangir suspected him of helping Khusrau’s rebellion. It is unclear whether Jahangir even understood what a Sikh was, referring to Guru Arjan as a Hindu, who had “captured many of the simple-hearted of the Hindus and even of the ignorant and foolish followers of Islam, by his ways and manners… for three or four generations (of spiritual successors) they had kept this shop warm.” The trigger for Guru Arjan’s execution was his support for Jahangir’s rebel son Khusrau Mirza, yet it is clear from Jahangir’s own memoirs that he disliked Guru Arjan before then: “many times it occurred to me to put a stop to this vain affair or bring him into the assembly of the people of Islam.”Muqarrab Khan sent to Jahangir “a European curtain (tapestry) the like of which in beauty no other work of the Frank [European] painters has ever been seen.” One of his audience halls was “adorned with European screens.” Christian themes attracted Jahangir, and even merited a mention in the Tuzuk. One of his slaves gave him a piece of ivory into which had been carved four scenes.
In the last scene “there is a tree, below which the figure of the revered (hazrat) Jesus is shown. One person has placed his head at Jesus’ feet, and an old man is conversing with Jesus and four others are standing by.” Though Jahangir believed it to be the work of the slave who presented it to him, Sayyid Ahmad and Henry Beveridge suggest that it was of European origin and possibly showed the Transfiguration. Wherever it came from, and whatever it represented, it was clear that a European style had come to influence Mughal art, otherwise the slave would not have claimed it as his own design, nor would he have been believed by Jahangir.
Jahangir was fascinated with art and architecture. Jahangir himself is far from modest in his autobiography when he states his prowess at being able to determine the artist of any portrait by simply looking at a painting. He also preserved paintings of Emperor Akbar’s period. An excellent example of this is the painting of Musician Naubat Khan, son in law of legendary Tansen. It was the work of Ustad Mansur. As he said: …my liking for painting and my practice in judging it have arrived at such point when any work is brought before me, either of deceased artists or of those of the present day, without the names being told me, I say on the spur of the moment that is the work of such and such a man. And if there be a picture containing many portraits and each face is the work of a different master, I can discover which face is the work of each of them. If any other person has put in the eye and eyebrow of a face, I can perceive whose work the original face is and who has painted the eye and eyebrow.
Jahangir took his connoisseurship of art very seriously. Paintings created under his reign were closely catalogued, dated and even signed, providing scholars with fairly accurate ideas as to when and in what context many of the pieces were created, in addition to their aesthetic qualities.
The Jesuits had brought with them various books, engravings, and paintings and, when they saw the delight Akbar held for them, sent for more and more of the same to be given to the Mughals, as they felt they were on the “verge of conversion”, a notion which proved to be very false. Instead, both Akbar and Jahangir studied this artwork very closely and replicated and adapted it, adopting much of the early iconographic features and later the pictorial realism for which Renaissance art was known. Jahangir was notable for his pride in the ability of his court painters. A classic example of this is described in Sir Thomas Roe’s diaries, in which the Emperor had his painters copy a European miniature several times creating a total of five miniatures. Jahangir then challenged Roe to pick out the original from the copies, a feat Sir Thomas Roe could not do, to the delight of Jahangir.
Jahangir was also revolutionary in his adaptation of European styles. A collection at the British Museum in London contains seventy-four drawings of Indian portraits dating from the time of Jahangir, including a portrait of the emperor himself.
These portraits are a unique example of art during Jahangir’s reign because before and for sometime after, faces were not drawn full, head-on and including the shoulders as well as the head as these drawings are.
The fact that Zia’s legacy far outlives Bhutto’s also explains how much Pakistan has changed since 1977. The crowds waved when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed them. The crowds waved when he was removed. From ecstasy to angst, Bhutto’s equation with the masses experienced a complete spectrum of emotions that, arguably, remains unparalleled in national political history
Some historians have suggested there are two phases to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s five-and-a-half years in power. In the first phase, one sees a pro-poor, populist Bhutto, supported by many urban leftists in his party, who undertakes many far-reaching structural economic and social reforms – from land reforms to nationalisation and social-sector interventions. He is also given credit for having seen Pakistan’s first democratically agreed to Constitution approved and passed by a parliament based on universal franchise. His stature as a crafty negotiator helped him deal with Pakistani nationalists, as it did with Indira Gandhi in Simla in 1972.
This first phase lasted perhaps three years, somewhere into 1974, but soon after, one begins to see a different Bhutto; one who discards his radical allies and moves towards his landed and feudal base, making him authoritarian and dictatorial, abandoning the social groups that had been responsible for his phenomenal rise.
Bhutto was many things to many people and constituencies, playing different roles as circumstances demanded. He could be a democrat but also mercilessly authoritarian; a benevolent feudal with modernist tendencies; a nationalist with regional aspirations; and a secularist courting Islamists. Perhaps it was for these multiple and often contradictory reasons that no political leader in Pakistan has been as reviled or cherished as is Bhutto even four decades after his death.
A Year of Unintended Consequences
At least four events in 1974 had a major bearing on what was to happen to Bhutto and to Pakistan, with long-term consequences that have had an impact even to this day.
In February 1974, Bhutto was able to organise and host the Second Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore, with as many as 35 heads of state and government present.
From Shah Faisal of Saudi Arabia to the popular Muammar Qadhafi of Libya to the revolutionary Yasser Arafat, Bhutto was able to make a political statement about Pakistan’s position in the Muslim world. He also used this opportunity to recognise Bangladesh by inviting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
With the first OPEC oil price rise in 1973, which led to the westernisation and modernisation of the oil-rich states, Bhutto opened the doors to the Gulf states and to the Middle East for Pakistan’s migrant labour and its remittance economy; still a key pillar of Pakistan’s economy with numerous unintended consequences. Ironically, it was Gen Ziaul Haq who benefitted the most from these ties, and, in many ways, one can make the argument that the close ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states changed the social, religious and political composition of Pakistan in ways which would have made Bhutto most uncomfortable.
Ayesha Jalal makes the assertion, though unfortunately provides no evidence for this, that during the Islamic Summit, “King Faisal indicated to Bhutto that Saudi aid [to Pakistan] would be contingent on Pakistan declaring Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority”. Other scholars have given far more domestically-oriented reasons and arguments for why the community was declared a minority by the National Assembly unanimously in September 1974. The consequences of this move, in which Bhutto participated, continue unabated to this day, again in ways that Bhutto would not have recognised. Today, it indicates why and how the idea of a just and inclusive notion of Pakistani citizenship failed.
The third major development in 1974 was India’s nuclear test in May. While Bhutto had the ambitions to build nuclear weapons some years prior to India going nuclear, Pakistan’s ‘Islamic Bomb’ was to be acquired even if we had “to eat grass”.
One further development in November 1974 was to cost Bhutto his life. The murder of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan Kasuri, the father of dissident PPP leader Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who, many believe, was the intended target, was blamed on Bhutto, and the case was opened against him once he had been deposed by Zia in 1977, leading to Bhutto’s execution on April 4, 1979.
All these events in 1974 were to have far-reaching implications, years and decades from when they took place, beyond Bhutto’s life. In July 1974, one of the old guards of the original PPP, J.A. Rahim, the first secretary-general of the party, was beaten up brutally by Bhutto’s personal henchmen, the Federal Security Force, supposedly on Bhutto’s orders. This was just one indication of the growing authoritarianism of Pakistan’s first elected leader.
Other incidents occurred during the course of Bhutto’s reign, where editors and publishers of newspapers critical of his policies were often roughed up and threatened. Both the editors of Dawn and Jasarat were arrested under Bhutto’s increasingly draconian regime. Also not spared were nationalist leaders like Khan Abdul Wali Khan, as the National Awami Party (NAP) was banned in February 1975 after the murder of Hayat Khan Sherpao, a senior PPP leader who some saw as a contender to Bhutto, in Peshawar. Wali Khan and others were incarcerated in the Hyderabad Conspiracy case, and were later released only when the walls around Bhutto started to close in.
Creating an Opposition
While Bhutto certainly gave the awam, the working people, political consciousness for the very first time through his reforms and rhetoric, he also alienated this very constituency by moving away from many of his earlier promises. Moreover, given his reforms, he was bound to accumulate many enemies along the way. From landlords to business groups, from religious parties to groups that saw Bhutto’s ways as ‘un-Pakistani’ and ‘un-Islamic’, and from the US, which didn’t approve of Bhutto’s independence or his desire to go nuclear, to even the military officers who had been dismissed by him because they had expressed disagreement. Bhutto’s conceit and authoritarianism was central both to his achievements as well as to his downfall
In July 1976, Bhutto made a key error by nationalising flour and rice husking mills, and cotton ginning factories. Not only had he gone back on his word of no more nationalisation, but this decision hit a core constituency of the middle and petit bourgeois classes that could have been allies of the PPP in the Punjab. This one single decision by Bhutto alienated them from his populist and progressive economic policies. These groups may have voted for Bhutto in 1970, but with their key economic interests threatened, they turned their back on him. That many of these individuals and groups belonged to the more socially conservative segments, only made them become a powerful tool in the hands of a strong political and social opposition that was largely Islamist and was looking for revenge.
The opportunity came in January 1977 when Bhutto announced early elections. There was little doubt that Bhutto would be re-elected, for there was little organised political opposition in place. No single party would have been able to oust Bhutto. However, a coalition of nine parties, many of which were Islamic parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan, formed a conservative and right-wing coalition titled the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). The fact that the National Democratic Party led by Sherbaz Mazari and Begum Nasim Wali was also part of the PNA demands far greater analysis than simply labelling PNA as being an Islamist conspiracy. The PNA was a broad spectrum of left-leaning, centrist and rightist parties with their main focus on opposing Bhutto.
The PNA fought a campaign on the basis of an anti-Bhutto agenda, citing his ‘un-Islamic’ ways, and was helped by the newly alienated middle and petit bourgeois classes, especially in the Punjab. The results after the March 7 elections left the PPP with 155 seats and the PNA with 36. The equation surprised not only the opposition parties, but also the PPP, and, indeed, Bhutto himself. While the PPP would probably have retained government in the 200-strong National Assembly, such a massive victory margin suggested foul play. The PNA boycotted elections to the provincial assemblies and organised extensive street protests against the Bhutto government.
The PNA movement, as it is called, was clearly Pakistan’s most successful right-wing political movement, just as Bhutto’s 1968-69 movement was Pakistan’s most successful popular movement. Some scholars have made claims that the PNA was being funded through dollars coming from abroad; a claim which Bhutto indirectly referred to in his address to the National Assembly at the time.
The strong anti-Bhutto movement had acquired an Islamist hue from very early on, and, despite Bhutto making numerous symbolic concessions – such as banning alcohol, declaring Friday, instead of Sunday, as the weekly holiday – the PNA leaders were not going to ease their pressure on Bhutto.
Following sustained street protests, negotiations continued between March and July, and while there is now evidence that an agreement between the PNA and Bhutto had been reached around midnight July 3-4, Gen Zia, Bhutto’s hand-picked Chief of the Army Staff, in a military operation ironically called Fairplay, declared Martial Law on July 5, 1977, and deposed and imprisoned Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
One cannot but emphasise the fact that General Zia’s coup and Martial Law was also encouraged by the practices and whims of some political leaders of the opposition. Retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan had written an open letter to the three services chiefs, including Zia, to rise up against Bhutto. The practice by opposition politicians inviting the military to remove an elected leader was to continue well into the 1990s, with some overtones as recently as 2014 during the famous dharna (sit-in) in Islamabad.
Moreover, as Shuja Nawaz has argued, evidence also emerged that some senior generals had established close links with the opposition parties. There seemed to be a clear common interest of those who financially backed the PNA movement, the generals who wanted a return to order and stability, and Islamist groups who felt that, with Bhutto out of the way, they would be closer to imposing some form of Islamic order in Pakistan.
Not just was Pakistan’s first democratically elected leader later executed in a trial which many believed was fixed from the start, in 1979, but Pakistan changed forever after July 5, 1977. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan and his vision died not so much on December 16, 1971, as they did on July 5, 1977.
Though he imposed curbs on freedom of expression and dealt with newspapers with a rather heavy hand, Bhutto never shied away from media interactions. If anything, he gained some sort of energy dealing with journalists. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad.
The slogan which one hears now only infrequently, Zinda hai Bhutto, zinda hai, is as irrelevant to today’s Pakistan as is the attempt by some liberals to find and secure the Pakistan originally conceived and founded by the Quaid. Both ideals have been brushed aside by history’s changing tides in Pakistan.
Bhutto’s policies of social democracy, nationalisation, asserting working peoples’ consciousness and rights, his brand of ‘third worldism’, were all manifestations of a particular historical age. Now, neoliberalism and social conservatism tainted through a Saudi brush are the dominant cultural, social and economic forms of practice in today’s Pakistan, and, to some extent, globally.
Yet, in many ways, the issues of social justice, equality and sovereignty – themes that formulated Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ideals for Pakistan – still remain relevant to our age where growing inequality, intolerance and militancy define where we have come since July 5, 1977. The fact that no politician today raises these issues is a sad reflection of how Bhutto’s ideals have been forgotten. Moreover, the fact that Zia’s legacy far outlives Bhutto’s also explains how much Pakistan has changed since 1977.
Authoritarianism and the downfall by S. Akbar Zaid. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
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The Triumph of Populism 1971-1973 Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country.
With the surrender of Pakistani troops on December 16, 1971, in Dhaka, Bangladesh came into being, and with that, the end of the Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had originally created. It also resulted in the end of 13 years of military rule in what remained of the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was in New York at the time, flew in to Rawalpindi on December 20, and, with the assistance of a group of the military’s general officers who had been dismayed by Gen Yahya Khan and his core group over the defeat, forcing Yahya out, became the president of Pakistan as well as its only civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Within a matter of days, Bhutto began to put into effect his mandate of the people, based on his electoral manifesto which had won him a majority in the elections in West Pakistan a year earlier. While economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise, what needed pressing attention, among numerous things, was the return of the 93,000, mostly military, prisoners of war (POWs) in India. In 1971, Pakistan had lost not just East Pakistan, but half its navy, one-third of its army, and a quarter of its air force. India occupied 5,000 square miles of West Pakistani territory. The military stood humiliated after the surrender, and this was the first of only two opportunities (the other was in 2008) when elected leaders could have established long-lasting democratic rule in Pakistan. Bhutto even initiated a judicial commission, under chief justice Hamoodur Rahman, “to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the atrocities and 1971 war”, including the “circumstances in which the Commander of the Eastern Military Command surrendered the Eastern contingent forces under his command who laid down their arms”. Bhutto outdid himself when he met Indira Gandhi at Simla in July 1972 and got the better of her through his persuasive negotiating skills, and secured the release of Pakistani POWs (who came home in 1974), with India returning Pakistan’s territory, and both countries accepting the ceasefire line in Kashmir as the Line of Control. Bhutto returned a hero, yet again, to Pakistan, not just for the people, but also for sections of the military. On a parallel track, Bhutto’s leftist economic team was implementing promises that had been made during the election campaign of 1970. With roti, kapra aur makaan the key slogans of Bhutto’s electoral commitment of his notion of Islamic Socialism and social justice, the manifesto of his Pakistan People’s Party had promised the nationalisation of all basic industries and financial institutions. It had stated that “those means of production that are the generators of industrial advance or on which depend other industries must not be allowed to be vested in private hands; secondly, that all enterprises that constitute the infrastructure of the national economy must be in public ownership; thirdly, that institutions dealing with the medium of exchange, that is banking and insurance, must be nationalised”.
The economic policies of the Bhutto government rested on the premise that the control of the leading enterprises was to be in the hands of the state. It ought to be pointed out that while this policy of nationalisation has been much maligned by critics of Bhutto, his policies were a reflection of the times and of the age in which they were implemented. Since Bhutto’s rise to electoral success was based on his populist critique of Ayub Khan’s economic policies of functional inequality resulting in the infamous ‘22 families’, issues of redistribution, nationalisation and social-sector development were fundamental to his economic programme. Literally within days of taking over power, in January 1972, Bhutto had nationalised 30 major firms in 10 key industries in the large-scale manufacturing sector, essentially in the capital and intermediate goods industry. In March 1972, his government had nationalised insurance companies, and banks were to follow in 1974, as were other industrial concerns in 1976. In addition to nationalisation, extensive labour reforms were also initiated by the Bhutto government, giving labour far greater rights than they had had in the past. With the need to break the industrial-financial nexus a pillar of Bhutto’s populist social agenda, in a country which at that time was predominantly rural and agricultural, the ownership of land determined economic, social and political power. Bhutto had promised to break the hold of the feudals (notwithstanding the fact that he himself owned much land) and undertook extensive land reforms in March 1972. In a speech, he said his land reforms would “effectively break up the iniquitous concentrations of landed wealth, reduce income disparities, increase production, reduce unemployment, streamline the administration of land revenue and agricultural taxation, and truly lay down the foundations of a relationship of honour and mutual benefit between the landowner and tenant”. The PPP manifesto laid the premise for this action by stating that “the breakup of the large estates to destroy the feudal landowners is a national necessity that will have to be carried through by practical measures”. The government had decided that the land resumed from landowners would not receive any compensation unlike the Ayub Khan reforms of 1959, and this land was to be distributed free to landless tenants. The ceilings for owning land were also cut from 500 acres of irrigated land to 150 acres in 1972. Although a lot of propaganda was churned out about the success of the 1972 reforms, the resumed land was far less than was the case in 1959, and only one per cent of the landless tenants and small owners benefited from these measures. Nevertheless, like labour reforms, tenancy reforms for agricultural workers and for landless labour did give those cultivating land far greater usufruct and legal rights to the land than they previously had. Along with these structural interventions in the economy which changed ownership patterns and property rights, an ambitious social-sector programme, consisting, among other things, of the nationalisation of schools and initiating a people’s health scheme providing free healthcare to all, was also initiated. However, while economic and social reform was a key plank of the Bhutto promise and his energies were also consumed by the process of getting the POWs released, giving Pakistan its first democratic constitution was also high on his agenda.
Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’sConstitution on April 10, 1973, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is given, and deservedly so, credit for making a large, discordant group of nationalists and Islamists to agree to the draft. To get leaders like Wali Khan, who was the parliamentary leader of the opposition, Mir Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the sardars of Balochistan, Mufti Mahmud, and Mian Tufail, who had replaced Maulana Maudoodi as the Jamaat-e-Islami Amir, to build a consensus on a document that would determine Pakistan’s democratic trajectory was a major feat.
The Constitution came into effect on August 14, 1973, setting out a parliamentary form of government, with Bhutto as Pakistan’s first democratically elected prime minister. Since Bhutto ruled the Punjab and Sindh, he had made concessions to the nationalists in order to make them agree to his terms. Ayesha Jalal quotes Bhutto as saying that while Wali Khan “vehemently opposed” the Constitution, he skilfully manoeuvred the Khan and “smashed him into becoming a Pakistani”.
A key clause in the 1973 Constitution required members of the armed forces to take an oath promising not to take part in political activities and making it illegal for the military to intervene in politics. Clearly, the military did not read or care for the Constitution either in 1977 or in 1999.
Nationalists and Military
While the PPP had its governments in the Punjab and Sindh, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan were ruled by coalition governments formed by the National Awami Party (NAP) and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) which gave a voice to Baloch and Pashtun nationalisms of the 1970s variety. In February 1973, weapons were found in the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad that were supposedly meant for armed insurrection by the nationalists in Balochistan. On February 14, Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal’s government in Balochistan was dismissed, and the next day, the NAP-JUI government in the NWFP resigned, while Bhutto’s governor in Balochistan, Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti, resigned in October 1973 as a political crisis emerged and grew stronger by the day. Many of the sardars and their tribesmen had started a militant movement for a Greater Balochistan, joined in by many Cambridge-educated scions of elite households, largely from the Punjab. Bhutto called in the military, with General Tikka Khan, dubbed by many as the ‘butcher of East Pakistan’, to curb the armed uprising and for Tikka Khan to add another accolade to his titles, that of the ‘butcher of Balochistan’. So soon after having lost political and public support, once again, a constitutional crisis slowly brought in the military into a position of increasing prestige and prominence. The lessons of just a few years ago, of giving nationalists their rights and accepting electoral outcomes, were once again being brushed aside by the same democratically-elected leader, and, indeed, by the military.
Early Signs of Authoritarianism
As his rule progressed, we see clear signs of hubris and authoritarianism emerging in the political practices of Bhutto, but there were early signs which may have suggested what was to come, with Shuja Nawaz and many other authors seeing the rise of an eventual “civilian dictatorship”. One example of this was the decision to set up the Federal Security Force (FSF), a paramilitary organisation, so as not to rely on the military, as early as September 1972. The FSF, whose head later became a state witness in the infamous Bhutto trial, was once seen as ‘Bhutto’s private military arm’. Furthermore, it is ironic that while Bhutto was a social democrat, giving numerous rights and powers to the downtrodden, to the labourers and to the peasants and landless workers, he also used the power of the state to undermine the force of the street, particularly in Karachi. In the summer of 1972, organised trade unions in Karachi took to the streets and initiated industrial action in the form of strikes, but were met by a brutal police force resulting in the death of a number of workers. Organised labour, which had supported Bhutto’s rise, was dealt a harsh blow about the reality of incumbent politics.
Like Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, before him, 24 years later, Bhutto, the Quaid-e-Awam, was building a new country. Both had dismissed provincial governments and showed signs of an incipient authoritarianism and desire for centralisation and control. We do not know what Jinnah would have done had he lived, but Bhutto’s democratic and socialist credentials were soon to come undone. Arrogance and clear signs of intolerance of dissent were emerging in the Pakistan of 1972-73. Many of the promises made in the late 1960s and the early 1970s by Bhutto were to be played out between 1974 and 1977, setting a stage for Bhutto’s regional and global aspirations and ambitions. However, perhaps it was the same ambition and confidence that had led him to an electoral victory in 1970 which was to become a cause for his eventual downfall in 1977, and then death in 1979. He had also made far too many enemies along the way, and many of them were just waiting for their opportunity to settle scores. Between 1974 and 1977, Bhutto was to give them many such opportunities.
The promise of democracy by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
In her book, The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics, Ayesha Jalal writes about Gen Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who imposed martial law after replacing Gen Ayub Khan in March 1969 as president of Pakistan when the latter was forced out by street protests, that Yahya was a “boisterous fellow and determined drunkard [and] had a penchant for cavorting with abandon”. Perhaps many would still remember Yahya for what Jalal calls his “nocturnal activities”, since they “were the talk of the nation”, and ‘General Rani’ became part of what she calls “elite gossip”.
However, it is more probable that today Yahya Khan is remembered for two extraordinary developments that took place under his watch: the elections of 1970, and the subsequent massacre in East Pakistan, leading to the separation of the latter and the creation of Bangladesh. He played a key role in both events. Of course, Yahya, even if indeed he was perpetually inebriated, was not the lone player in what happened in 1970-71. Two other actors, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, played critical roles as well.
It was the numerous contradictions which emerged from the Decade of Development’s capitalist logic under an authoritarian military state which gave rise to the regional, social, economic and political discontent of the late 1960s, forcing Ayub Khan’s resignation in Pakistan’s first popular uprising.
In West Pakistan, while it was Baloch and Pakhtun nationalists who were demanding the end of the One Unit, it was Bhutto who led students, the working classes and sections of the newly emerging middle classes against Ayub. While some scholars have read too much into the Bhutto agitation, stating that Pakistan was on the verge of a socialist revolution, his not being Punjabi and having already publicly parted ways with Ayub after Tashkent in 1966, saw Bhutto emerge as the dominant voice in West Pakistan opposing military authoritarianism of which he was once a part.
In East Pakistan, even though Maulana Bhashani spoke for the peasants of the province, it was Sheikh Mujib, who, after raising his Six-Point Programme in 1966 for democracy and greater provincial autonomy, and who was implicated (but later released) in the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1968, was fast emerging as the main voice of East Pakistani/Bengali nationalism when Ayub was forced out.
It is important to state that while some Bengali voices were challenging the unity of Pakistan, Mujib, at this political juncture, was still in favour of a united, democratic, federal Pakistan, despite the growing realisation in the eastern wing that East Pakistan had by now become a mere colony of West Pakistan.
Under these circumstances, led by charismatic and populist leaders who had sat through 11 years of military rule, Yahya Khan announced elections for October 1970, doing away with the One Unit, giving the majority province on the basis of its population 162 seats in a parliament of 300.
Yahya had imposed martial law when he took over from Ayub, and the military and bureaucracy were busy influencing political parties and elements that were eager to test their popularity. Historians examining Yahya’s decision have argued that it was based on reports by military intelligence which stated that no single party would win a majority in parliament, and, with a hung parliament, real power would still reside with the military-bureaucracy oligarchy.
Due to monsoon rains in East Bengal, the government postponed the elections by two months. The polls were announced for Dec 7. However, a devastating cyclone in November 1970 in East Pakistan, which claimed the lives of close to 200,000 people, sealed the fate of the elections and, in retrospect it seems, of Pakistan. East Pakistanis were appalled at the response of the predominantly Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic administration in dealing with this crisis, and East Pakistani politicians, with just a few weeks to go for Pakistan’s first elections, were eager to point out how irrelevant Pakistani Bengalis had become to the ruling West Pakistan clique.
Academics studying the process of democratisation in Pakistan have argued that one of the many reasons why elections were never held in Pakistan was the fear of the Punjabi-Muhajir elites, and of their military-bureaucratic alliance, that with East Pakistan’s majority population universal franchise would always result in a majority of seats from East Pakistan.
The 1970 election results went further in confirming these fears. Sheikh Mujib’s Awami League won 160 of the 162 seats in East Pakistan, giving it a majority in united Pakistan’s parliament. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party won 81 seats out of 138 in West Pakistan, becoming the majority party in West Pakistan, mainly from Sindh and Punjab. The critical outcome from the 1970 elections was that neither of the two largest parties won a single seat in the other wing. Electorally, Pakistan stood divided.
While the military’s Operation Searchlight in East Pakistan started in March 1971, the short period following the elections until the brutal military operations, clearly showed how the egos of a handful of West Pakistani politicians played out and were matched with the incompetence and unwillingness of the military leadership in understanding and addressing political issues.
United Pakistan just might have been saved in these few weeks had the Punjabi-Muhajir military-bureaucratic leadership allowed the results of the 1970 elections to be honoured. But this would have gone against their very own genius and their core material interests. Moreover, there was one particular popular democrat who refused to acknowledge the democratic mandate which did not entirely suit him.
Soon after the election results, there was talk of having two prime ministers for Pakistan, with Bhutto apparently having agreed. Yahya, on the other hand, on a visit to Dhaka, called Mujib the “future prime minister of Pakistan”. On his return to West Pakistan from Dhaka, Yahya flew to Larkana to meet Bhutto, who advised Yahya not to give control of the National Assembly, and, hence, of Pakistan, to Mujib. Bhutto flew to Dhaka to meet Mujib, but talks had clearly failed between the two.
Shuja Nawaz in his Crossed Swords writes that there were many senior generals who were willing to “back Bhutto”. Clearly, the electoral winner in West Pakistan and the generals were not willing to honour the election results and a major political and constitutional crisis was at hand.
Bhutto famously remarked that “a majority alone does not count” (ironically, words which would haunt his daughter in 1988), and further made one of his many famous statements, threatening to break the legs of any West Pakistani elected representative who proceeded to Dhaka — “tangain tore doon ga” — to participate in the National Assembly session called by Yahya on March 3, 1971. It was Bhutto, again, who later uttered words that led to one journalist coining the famed headline: ‘udhar tum, idhar hum’.
After repeated failed attempts to call the National Assembly meeting and with talks completely having broken down, Operation Searchlight was launched by the military on March 25, 1971, under Gen Tikka Khan, with both Yahya and Bhutto still in Dhaka.
There has been a great deal written by Pakistani military men and historians, as well as by Indian and Bangladeshi academics and scholars, on what happened in East Pakistan between March 25 and Dec 16, 1971. While versions may vary, as do number counts — of casualties, massacres and rapes — there is broad consensus, especially among Pakistani authors, that the scale and nature of atrocities conducted by the military was on a horrific scale.
A Pakistani journalist who worked for the Morning News in Karachi, Anthony Mascarenhas, wrote for the London Sunday Times on June 13, 1971, an article simply entitled ‘Genocide’, which revealed to the world the atrocities committed in East Pakistan.
Yet, while George Harrison of the Beatles organised a concert for Bangladesh, the US and other world powers, turned a blind eye to what was happening in East Pakistan. As the massacre took place in East Pakistan, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon did “nothing, intentionally”, as documented in Gary Bass’ book, The Blood Telegram, based partly on a telegram sent by Archer Blood, the then US consul general in Dhaka, who warned of what was happening.
The Americans at the time were courting Mao’s China and Pakistan mattered to them, for it was the conduit for what later became known as ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy. China, too, kept out of Pakistan’s “internal affairs”.
Military action in East Pakistan continued from March to early December, with a Bangladesh government-in-exile based in Kolkata (Calcutta at the time). A pretty large number of non-Bengalis, mainly Biharis, were also killed by those who were part of the Mukti Bahini fighting their war of independence, and hundreds of thousands of East Pakistanis fled across the border into India.
Eventually, India launched a military attack on East Pakistan in November, with (West) Pakistan attacking Indian territory on Dec 3. Despite the fact that West Pakistanis were told as late as Dec 14 and 15 that they were winning the war, on Dec 16, 1971, Gen A.A.K. ‘Tiger’ Niazi, GOC, East Pakistan, surrendered to the Indian troops led by Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora in Dhaka. East Pakistan had now formally become Bangladesh. Not just had there been yet another partition in the Indian subcontinent, but Jinnah’s ‘two-nation theory’ had also come undone.
Shuja Nawaz writes that it was a corrupt military’s “wishful thinking”, a military which had become used to the “culture of entitlement”, “clouded by blissful ignorance and liberal doses of alcohol” which led to Pakistan’s debacle, but it is evident that there were at least three clear stages of events leading up to the eventuality of Dec 16, 1971.
By not acknowledging the wishes of the electorate, Bhutto and his backers in the military created a crisis which the military then dealt with in the only way it knew how. Elite interests in West Pakistan were unwilling to give democracy and the people their mandate. While West Pakistani politicians are responsible for the constitutional failure, it was only the military leadership which was responsible for the massacres that took place in East Pakistan.
Sadly though, not many West Pakistani intellectuals or political leaders protested and opposed military action in East Pakistan. Their silence makes them complicit in the killings. India helped East Pakistan become Bangladesh in the last few months of 1971, but was not responsible for the conditions between 1947 and 1970 which led to the breakup of Pakistan. External forces can only build on local fissures and take advantage of conditions created domestically, and India did just that.
Since 1971, one has heard of the great saneha of East Pakistan, yet perhaps lessons are still left unlearned. While the separation of East Pakistan brought about democracy in the truncated Pakistan which survived, events in 1972 and 1973, once again, and despite a democratic dispensation, brought to the fold issues of greater centralisation against so-called regionalism and provincialism, with little accountability and retribution of those who were responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.
Elections and massacre by S. Akbar Zaidi. The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.
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HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL