Wavell and His Majesty’s Government: the Conservative Party

This chapter attempts to investigate the relationship between the British government in India and His Majesty’s Government in London during Wavell’s viceroyalty of India. It discusses the difference in ideas, approaches and plans of Wavell with the British political leaders and bureaucrats such as Winston Churchill, Sir Stafford Cripps, Leopold Amery, Lord Pethick-Lawrence and Clement Attlee, and examines their actions, because they shaped the policies of the British government towards British India.

Wavell and the Conservative Party

Wavell’s relationship with Churchill had never been cordial but it worsened soon after he became the Viceroy of India because the British War Cabinet under Churchill realized, owing to their divergent ideas with Wavell that they had chosen the wrong person at the wrong time and for the wrong place.  Firstly, the War Cabinet had appointed Wavell as no suitable replacement to Linlithgow was available. Secondly, Whitehall wanted to preserve law and order in the country and did not want to touch upon the political and constitutional problems of the country. Amery wrote in his diary, Winston would not have been as keen about Wavell as Viceroy if he had realized how thoroughly Wavell backs up Allenby’s policy of sympathy with Egyptian nationalism. Amery opined that he would not be at all surprised if Wavell went a long way in trying to find a solution to the Indian problem.

Wavell, of whom Churchill thought of in cricketing terms as a ‘night watchman’ inserted to stonewall until the end of the war offered fresh options, on the contrary was a politically savvy military officer who started making plans for political changes in India even before he had assumed the top office in India. His first plan is known to history as the Wavell Plan. He was concerned about the tense political relationship then existing between the British government and the Indians and wanted to change that with a proactive approach.

The War Cabinet* issued a draft directive to the Viceroy, originally suggested by Cripps on 29 September 1943 and then approved it so that the new Viceroy should be able to approach the political leaders in India as and when he considers it desirable. But it was amended on 4 October on a more restrictive sense with the addition of the words but should consult the War Cabinet about the time and form of any invitation to be issued.

*The wartime Coalition Government in UK was headed by Winston Churchill of the Conservative Party and its Cabinet was composed of outstanding political personalities. The India Committee of the British Cabinet set up in 1942 was the powerhouse for Indian policy-and decision-making. Its members were chosen for their wide knowledge of India. Besides Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister, who chaired the committee, other well-known ministers included Simon, Anderson, Grigg, Butler, Amery and Cripps, and Wavell was indirectly answerable to this committee via the Secretary of State for India, who acted as a middle-man between the Viceroy and the British government. Besides the above, Wavell was also answerable to the War Cabinet and Whitehall with regards to any political initiatives in India

The British Cabinet’s instructions exhorted Wavell to give top priority first to the defence of India and he was warned to beware above all things of raising political issues that might prejudice India’s war effort. All this meant in other words that he should simply forget about the political situation in India. Thus, not only did the Wavell Plan go into cold storage, the course of action proposed and endorsed by a majority of the India Committee was ruled out. Wavell also gathered from his private discussions with Churchill that the latter feared a split in the Conservative Party and some kind of a parliamentary trouble in case of any fresh step regarding political reforms in India.  Churchill was not ready to take this risk and was determined to block it as long as he was in power. *

*Churchill cancelled the meeting of the Cabinet on India and invited Wavell to see him alone. Winston had a formula for a directive which, in Wavell’s eyes, was mostly meaningless. It entailed instruction to improve the lot of the Indians; to make peace between Muslims and Hindus, and only at the end indicated that political progress during the war was not debarred.

Churchill never wished to see his new Viceroy taking initiatives on the political front in India. *

*Though Wavell always came up to the expectations of Winston and won many laurels on the battlefield, he never received the acknowledgements and recognition from the Prime Minister Winston Churchill for his services. In June 1941, Churchill wrote to Wavell that he had concluded that public interest would best be served by the appointment of General Auchinleck to replace you in command of armies of the Middle East. Although he acknowledged and appreciated Wavell’s services in the region but was very angry with him, as he had become impatient at Wavell’s reluctance to take the offensive against the Germans. He got into serious doubts about the intellect and vision of Wavell whom he always saw as an unimpressive and boring kind of person. He thought he was more like ‘the chairman of the golf club’. Quoted in Ronald Lewin, The Chief, p. 26; Churchill transferred him to the position of Commander-in-Chief of India in June 1941. Despite Wavell’s repeated requests he did not grant him home leave for some days. John Connell, Wavell: Scholar and Soldier, pp 464-507, Wavell was called back to London in April 1943, never to return as commander-in-chief for India.  The confidence of Churchill on the generalship of Wavell began to waver. Churchill decided to remove Wavell. Their relations became strained and when Wavell returned to England from the United States of America, instead of going back to India, he was told to take some of his overdue home leave.

He was annoyed with Wavell’s political views and his insistence on pursuing them that he even refused to attend Wavell’s farewell party when he was leaving for India as the viceroy-designate. On 7 October 1943, Amery recorded in his diary,

Winston who seems to have been rather on the rampage at first and more or less accused Wavell of playing for his hand and trying to do a public stunt to which Wavell seems to have said that he had no desire to go to India and was quite willing to resign if the PM did not trust him.

 Wavell, in spite of all these impediments did introduce some confidence building measures in India like his determined efforts to help the victims of the Bengal famine.

At the beginning of his viceroyalty, Wavell had a high opinion of Gandhi, thinking that he would help in resolution of the political deadlock in India. In spite of Whitehall’s reluctance, Wavell released him from prison in 1944 as he had been seriously ill for some time. Wavell also wrote many letters to Whitehall concerning Gandhi’s demand that he wanted to talk to the Viceroy concerning the formation of a national government. Amery wired back to Wavell on 4 October in which he stated that the entire Cabinet was perturbed over his contacts with Gandhi. They considered Gandhi a political dead horse and believed that Wavell’s re-opening of negotiations with him would revive his political career.

Wavell’s actions on behalf of Gandhi led to severe disagreements with the people in London including an exchange between the Viceroy and the British Cabinet which created a row with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who wanted no part of negotiations with Gandhi. The debate gathered momentum over the next few days. Amery maintained that the Viceroy should have avoided a direct collision with the PM and the Cabinet on an issue, not of substance, but of tone and wording. Amery lent his dissent to the War Cabinet’s decision at its meeting on 14 August, recorded in the minutes that on the ground that in a matter not of broad policy, but of wording and tone, the earnest and repeatedly expressed opinion of the Viceroy should not be overridden. 

 Wavell nearly resigned over his stand concerning Gandhi’s release from prison, but he withdrew from his earlier determination to do so. There was a strong Indian reaction to His Majesty’s Government’s decision of not having parleys with Gandhi. Wavell complained to Amery of an obviously hostile Cabinet who seem to have no confidence in my judgement on any matter and justified his complaint by reference to the previous incidents. Indian reactions to Wavell’s reply had been strong and Wavell rightly suggested that the Cabinet has destroyed at one blow my reputation for fairness and good temper in my correspondence with Gandhi. In his protesting letter to Amery, Wavell wrote, they have now turned down my recommendations for:

  1. Indian Finance Minister
  2. Section 93 in Bengal at the beginning of the year
  3. Bajpai’s status
  4. The form of my reply to Mr. Gandhi; and
  5. My requests for food imports, of which my great persistence has produced an inadequate amount. He warned Amery that His Majesty’s Government must really give up trying to treat the Government of India as a naughty and tiresome child whose bottom they can smack whenever they feel like it.

Future interaction between Wavell and Whitehall suffered immensely due to this episode. It substantially weakened Wavell’s position in the eyes of the Indians and he feared that there might be a Congress-League coalition against the British government. *

*Gandhi-Jinnah talks were expected to be held soon and possibly result in a compromise between the two main parties. Wavell believed that Gandhi had the talent and would manoeuvre successfully as Jinnah would not totally understand his feelings and intentions. He wrote that ‘I am sure that Gandhi’s real object is to get the Working Committee out of detention and that he will go a very long way (with the usual mental reservations) in dealing with Jinnah to secure the cooperation of the Muslim League. Having drafted an agreement of some kind he may tell Jinnah that he is at a disadvantage because the working committee, who alone can commit the Congress, are in detention and may suggest a joint approach to Viceroy to secure their release.’ Wavell, Viceroy’s Journal p.87; Wavell to Amery 15 August 1944, Wavell Collections

In the meantime, a further clash between Churchill and Wavell occurred when Whitehall suddenly announced that the pay and allowances of the British forces serving in the Far East were to be increased. Despite the fact that under the rules of defence expenditure the costs would mainly fall on India and would almost inevitably involve a corresponding increase in the pay of Indian forces and result in increased inflation in India, the Delhi government was not consulted. Wavell did not like such decisions being made in London without even consulting Delhi.

In one of his private telegrams of protest to Amery which was imprudently permitted to come to notice of Churchill, Wavell feared that the Council will take the line that if His Majesty’s Government has to bribe the British forces to fight in the Far East, they should pay the bill. Wavell’s use of such flagrant language against him and Whitehall was more than insubordination and highly treasonable in the eyes of Churchill, who condemned Wavell’s seditious language and accused him of insulting the British soldier. Wavell noted in his diary that this exchange of letters and controversy would neither improve Churchill’s mindset about India nor would it improve personal relations between the two.

He visualized right at the outset that if the British government did not take the initiative to break the political and constitutional deadlock in India, it would result in chaos, civil war and partition of India. By middle of 1944, Wavell once again stressed upon the home government to reconsider his earlier Wavell Plan, which had been turned down in 1943. He was also conscious of the fact that India’s services in the war must be recognized along with other contributions which India had made towards turning the tide of war.

Amery had been keenly observing these developments and formulated a new approach to the Indian problem. In his letter of 3 October 1944 to Wavell, he explained his plan in detail stating that India’s main grievance and source of bitterness was not the existing Government of India but Downing Street and the House of Commons. He further added that Indians constantly felt discriminated in all spheres of life by decisions taken by outsiders.

Based on his own soul-searching, Amery suggested to Wavell that he should announce that India would enjoy dominion status. He also visualized that the Viceroy would be more powerful and would exercise the power to override his council or dismiss it with his own judgement and without any prior approval from the Secretary of State for India or Whitehall.

Amery was not only interested in seeing the Delhi government rid of the remote control from Whitehall but also wanted to sideline the demand for Pakistan. He wanted to ensure:

This continuance of unity of India under the present Government does not preclude an eventual Pakistan, though I believe that in fact it would create an atmosphere in which at any rate the extreme Pakistan demand would no longer make the same appeal, and more practical considerations get the upper hand.

 He chalked out a programme in which the Congress would be empowered to impede the Pakistan demand. Therefore, he thought the essence of the idea in fact would be to release the Congress internees and to send an invitation to them to take part in coalition governments in the provinces and to participate in planning the future constitution at leisure. Amery feared that the division in Indian society was so obvious that the proposed Wavell Plan would result in further division among them. Similarly, after the failure of Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Amery suggested that, since the two main organized parties were incapable of finding a solution, both should be excluded from, or sparsely represented on the contemplated constitution-making body. To him, the best remedy was to avoid establishing a council proposed in the Wavell Plan and set up a council consisting of non-political elements instead. It would form a very suitable nucleus, partly because it would already include representatives of the princes.

On 6 December 1944 India Committee met to discuss the Wavell and Amery plans. The Wavell Plan was bitterly criticized by its members including Amery who put forward his own alternative scheme. He explained that what he had in mind was a body of some 40 to 50 persons, thoroughly representatives of all sections, parties, and interest groups and in particular the martial races of the Punjab. However, his idea was dropped, and Wavell’s proposals were postponed for another six months.

However, neither the British Parliament could be bypassed nor, could the two major political parties of India be ignored as proposed by Amery. Wavell was of the view that Amery has a curious capacity for getting hold of the right stick but practically always the wrong end of it.

 As Wavell did not appreciate the response from the India Committee* he decided to write directly to the prime minister. After complaining of the various grievances of the Delhi government against London, he informed Churchill that the current Government of India could not continue indefinitely, or even for long—the British Civil Service, on which the good government of the country had until then depended, might almost be described as moribund, the senior members being tired and disheartened. He said that with the approaching end of the Japanese war, political prisoners would have to be released and they would find a fertile field for agitation in food shortages and unemployment, following the closure of war factories, unless their energies had previously been diverted in trying to solve the constitutional problem.

*Wavell writing to Amery said that ‘I definitely do not agree with your remedy. If we held general elections in the present state of feeling there would be a great increase in communal bitterness, with unfortunate results on the war effort; and I do not believe that a constituent assembly on the Cripps model could be formed or would produce any useful result at this stage. I have reason to think that the Muslim league would not agree to a constitution-making body of this kind. Jinnah told Mudie a few days ago that he would not hear of such a proposal and gave figures to illustrate his objection; he repeated his opinion in another letter that Jinnah told Mudie during their recent talk that the Muslim League would not accept anything of the kind, as the method of the election of the Constituent Assembly outlined in the Cripps offer would be dis satisfactory to the Muslims. Wavell to Amery, 5 December 1944, Wavell Papers, Political Series 1944-45 p. 134.

Wavell, recommending an approach to Gandhi and Jinnah and their followers, said,

But the Congress and the League are the dominant parties in Hindu and Muslim India and will remain so. They control the Press, the electoral machine, the moneybags, and have prestige of established parties.

 He held that even if Gandhi and Jinnah disappeared tomorrow, he could see no prospect of having more reasonable people to deal with. He insisted on consideration of his plan because the commander-in-chief, governors of all eleven provinces, and the senior members of the services supported his plan.

Churchill’s response on 26 November 1944 clearly showed that he disagreed over the urgency of the matter. He held that these large problems require to to be considered at leisure and best of all in victorious peace. Wavell was anxious to write another letter to convince the prime minister of the urgency of the moment and to inform him of the psychological advantage but was restrained by Amery’s advice.* Amery suggested to him to refrain from a direct communique to the prime minister and promised to influence the members of the War Cabinet to get the matter referred to the Cabinet India Committee.

*Wavell wrote that ‘I have been careful not to commit myself with Jinnah or anyone else. It would be quite impossible for me to shut myself up and refuse to see any of the Indian politicians or to try to find out what they are thinking. I am sure it is right that I should continue to see political personalities as opportunity offers, to have a chance to size them up. I think you can trust me not to give away anything.’ Wavell to Amery 27 December 1944, Wavell Papers, Political Series, 1944-45, pp 134-5

The India Committee in its meeting of 6 December disagreed with the vitals of the Wavell Plan but did invite him to London for a face to face meeting where he could justify the details of his plan.

Wavell thought that it would be a grave mistake to postpone, because of Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru’s non-party conference, as that would produce no proposals of value; and he proposed that he should reach London about 15 January. Now, Churchill directed Amery to place before the Cabinet the question of whether Wavell should come home at all at this juncture. He feared, I expect he is going to make trouble and stage a scene for resignation. But Wavell was quite conscious of the urgency for getting both the parties to work together in the coalition government and this would, he expected, generate team spirit. Their cooperation would also help to sideline the Pakistan issue. He met with Jinnah on 6 December 1944 and got an opinion. Writing to Amery on 12 December 1944, Wavell told him:

Jinnah was prepared to accept the unity of India as an ideal, but an ideal quite unattainable in present conditions. He said that the Muslims had been led by their experience of Congress domination to regard Pakistan as the only possible solution. I put it to him that if in the critical post-war years, on which the whole future of India may depend, we were busy cutting up the country, all parties would suffer, and that it would be very much better to hold India together for the time being at least and to undertake partition only if the Hindus and Muslims found in practice that they could not carry on.

Wavell thought that Jinnah would cooperate if an Executive Council was constituted under the present constitution.

Wavell arrived in England on 23 March and his first meeting with the India Committee took place on 26 March. * Attlee, who chaired the meeting, was horrified at the thought of a rule by the brown oligarchy. ** Attlee declared, he was dismayed that we should hand over the people of India to a few very rich individuals who would control the caucuses without responsibility to anyone. Wavell noted in his diary on 18 April that Attlee started attacking me at once . . .John Anderson complained that I would not admit that I was making radical changes in the constitution. Cripps was absent; Grigg and Simon were hostile.

*Attlee refused to allow Wavell to see a record of discussions on the Indian constitutional problem in the India Committee, as ‘the making of this request is, I fear, only another example of having a Viceroy with no political experience.’ Hugh Tinker remarks that ‘Attlee’s complaint seems particularly peevish when we recall that the man he chose to succeed Wavell, Mountbatten, had even less knowledge of British politics.’ Hugh Tinker, Viceroy Curzon to Mountbatten p. 193.

**Attlee also held that a government responsible neither to parliament nor to a legislature would leave His Majesty’s Government powerless to protect the Indian masses, who would be defenceless. He also said that the new members would owe allegiance to an outside body and not to the viceroy, who would be forced more and more into the position of a Dominion Governor-General. Therefore, effective control would pass to an Executive Council ‘responsible only to the party caucuses.’

India Committee showed a lack of concern about the Indian problem and tried to avoid the Wavell Plan. They did not want to go beyond the Cripps offer of 1942. Churchill, like Attlee, also disapproved of the Wavell Plan. At that moment, Wavell realized,

now I think we have missed the bus in any case. The sudden collapse of the Germans and the approaching reoccupation of the whole of Burma will make Indian politicians less accommodating than a few months ago. If I got my own way now, I feel it would be too late.

Wavell’s repeated requests annoyed Churchill who gave an ungracious reply to him and said, I do not consider that your visit to this country was necessary at the present time.

In the meantime, the War Cabinet had been replaced by a “caretaker” Conservative Cabinet in June 1945. However, this time both the India Committee and the Cabinet accepted the Wavell Plan but not in its entirety. Thus, Wavell called the Simla Conference in June 1945 which, however, failed to produce any results.

One of the main reasons for Churchill’s continued tense relations with Wavell was that the former was vehemently opposed to granting of freedom to India. Wavell rightly wrote to Churchill, I know you have often found me a difficult and troublesome subordinate; I have not always found you an easy master to serve. Wavell got nothing from Churchill which could have made him popular in India. Amery much later conceded that the failure of the Simla Conference in 1945 was due to Churchill’s obstinacy. Churchill never wanted Wavell to succeed in his political plans for India and it can be rightly said that it was he, not Wavell, who was responsible for the failure of the Simla Conference. *

*Wavell went to see Churchill on 31 August 1945 when he had been ousted from power. He had an hour-long meeting with him. Churchill was in a good mood and ‘revealed that the only reason he had agreed to my political move was that India Committee had all told him it was bound to fail.’ Wavell, Viceroy’s Journal p.168.

By Courtesy : Wavell and the Dying Days of the Raj by Muhammad Iqbal Chawla, Oxford University Press, Karachi 2011

 

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How War Was Precipitated

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The last thing that Hitler wanted to produce was another great war. His people, and particularly his generals, were profoundly fearful of any such risk—the experiences of WWI had scarred their minds. To emphasize the basic facts is not to whitewash Hitler’s inherent aggressiveness, nor that of many Germans who eagerly followed his lead. But Hitler, though utterly unscrupulous, was for long cautious in pursuing his aims. The military chiefs were still more cautious and anxious about any step that might provoke a general conflict. A large part of the German archives was captured after the war and have thus been available for examination. They reveal an extraordinary degree of trepidation and deep-seated distrust of Germany’s capacity to wage a great war.

When in 1936, Hitler moved to reoccupy the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland, his generals were alarmed at his decision and the reactions it might provoke from the French. Because of their protests only a few token units were sent in at first, as straws in the wind. When he wished to send troops to help Franco in the Spanish Civil War they made fresh protests about the risks involved, and he agreed to restrict his aid. But he disregarded their apprehensions about the march into Austria, in March 1938.

When, shortly afterwards Hitler disclosed his intentions of putting the screws on Czecho-Slovakia for the return of the Sudetenland, the Chief of the General Staff, General Beck, drafted a memorandum in which he argued that Hitler’s aggressively expansionist programme was bound to produce a world-wide catastrophe and Germany’s ruin. This was read out at a conference of the leading generals, and, with their general approval, sent to Hitler. As Hitler showed no sign of changing his policy, the Chief of the General Staff resigned from office. Hitler assured the other generals that France and Britain would not fight for Czecho-Slovakia, but they were so far from being reassured that they plotted a military revolt to avert the risk of war by arresting Hitler and the other Nazi leaders.

The bottom was knocked out of their counter-plan, however, when Chamberlain acceded to Hitler’s crippling demands upon Czecho-Slovakia, and in concert with the French agreed to stand aside while that unhappy country was stripped of both territory and defences.

For Chamberlain, the Munich Agreement spelt peace for our time. For Hitler, it spelt a further and greater triumph not only over his foreign opponents but also over his generals. After their warnings had been so repeatedly refused by his unchallenged and bloodless successes, they naturally lost confidence and influence. Naturally, too, Hitler himself became overweeningly confident of a continued run of easy success. Even when he came to see that further ventures might entail a war he felt that it would be only a small one, and a short one. His moments of doubt were drowned by the cumulative effect of intoxicating success.

If he had contemplated a general war, involving Britain, he would have put every possible effort into building a Navy capable of challenging Britain’s command of the sea. But, in fact, he did not even build up his Navy to the limited scale visualized in the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935. He constantly assured his admirals that they could discount any risk of war with Britain. After Munich he told them that they need not anticipate a conflict with Britain within the next six years at least. Even in the summer of 1939, and as late as August 22, he repeated such assurances—if with waning conviction.

How, then, did it come about that he became involved in the major war that he had been so anxious to avoid?

The answer is to be found not merely, nor most, in Hitler’s aggressiveness, but in the encouragement,  he had long received from the complaisant attitude of the Western Powers coupled with their sudden turn-about in the spring of 1939. That reversal was so abrupt and unexpected as to make war inevitable.

If you allow anyone to stoke up a boiler until the steam-pressure rises beyond the danger point, the real responsibility for any resultant explosion will lie with you. That truth of physical science applies equally to political science—especially to the conduct of international affairs.

Ever since Hitler’s entry into power, in 1933, the British and French Governments had conceded to this dangerous autocrat immeasurably more than they had been willing to concede to Germany’s previous democratic Governments. At every turn they showed a disposition to avoid trouble and shelve awkward problems—to preserve their present comfort at the expense of the future.

Hitler, on the other hand, was thinking out his problems all too logically. The course of his policy came to be guided by the idea formulated in a testament which he expounded in November 1937—a version of which has been preserved in the so-called Hossbach Memorandum. It was based on the conviction of Germany’s vital need for more lebensraum—living space—for her expanding population if there was to be any chance of maintaining their living standards. In his view Germany could not hope to make herself self-sufficient, especially in food-supply. Nor by buying it abroad could she obtain what was needed since that meant spending more foreign exchange than she could afford. The prospects of her obtaining an increased share in world trade and industry were too limited, because of other nations’ tariff walls and her own financial stringency. Moreover, the method of indirect supply would make her dependent on foreign nations and liable to starvation in case of war.

His conclusion was that Germany must obtain more agriculturally useful space—in the thinly populated areas of Eastern Europe. It would be vain to hope that this would be willingly conceded to her. The history of all times—Roman Empire, British Empire—has proved that every space expansion can be effected only by breaking resistance and taking risks . . . Neither in former times nor today has space been found without an owner. The problem would have to be solved by 1945 at the latest— after this we can only expect a change for the worse. Possible outlets would be blocked while a food crisis would be imminent.

While these ideas went much further than Hitler’s initial desire to recover the territory that had been taken from Germany after WW1, it is not true that Western statesmen were as unaware of them as they later pretended. In 1937-38 many of them were frankly realistic in private discussions, though not on public platforms, and many arguments were set forth in British governing circles for allowing Germany to expand eastwards, and thus divert danger from the West. They showed much sympathy with Hitler’s desire for lebensraum—and let him know it. But they shirked thinking out the problem of how the owners could be induced to yield it except to threat of superior forces.

The German documents reveal that Hitler derived special encouragement from Lord Halifax’s visit in November 1937. Halifax was then Lord President of the Council, ranking second in the Cabinet to the Prime Minister. According to the documentary record of the interview, he gave Hitler to understand that Britain would allow him a free hand in Eastern Europe. Halifax may not have meant as much, but that was the impression he conveyed—and it proved of crucial importance.

Then in February 1938, Mr. Anthony Eden was driven to resign as Foreign Minister after repeated disagreements with Chamberlain—who in response to one of his protests had told him to go home and take an aspirin. Halifax was appointed to succeed him at the Foreign Office. A few days later, the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Neville Henderson, called on Hitler for a confidential talk, in continuation of Halifax’s November conversation, and conveyed that the British Government was much in sympathy with Hitler’s desire for changes in Europe to Germany’s benefit—the present British Government had a keen sense of reality.

As these documents show, these events precipitated Hitler’s action. He thought that the lights had changed to green, allowing him to proceed eastward. It was a very natural conclusion.

Hitler was further encouraged by the accommodating way that the British and French Governments accepted his march into Austria and incorporation of that country in the German Reich. (The only hitch in that easy coup was the way many of his tanks broke down on the road to Vienna). Still more encouragement came when he heard that Chamberlain and Halifax had rejected Russian proposals after the coup, to confer on a collective insurance plan against the German advance. Here it should be added that when the threat to the Czechs came to head in Sept. 1938, the Russian Government again made known, publicly and privately, its willingness to combine with France and Britain in measures to defend Czecho-Slovakia. That offer was ignored. Moreover, Russia was ostentatiously excluded from the Munich conference at which Czecho-Slovakia’s fate was settled. This cold-shouldering had fatal consequences the following year.

After the way the British Government had appeared to acquiesce in his eastward move, Hitler was unpleasantly surprised by their strong reaction, and the partial mobilization, which developed when he put the heat on Czecho-Slovakia in September. But when Chamberlain yielded to his demands and actively helped him to impose terms on Czecho-Slovakia, he felt that the momentary threat of resistance had been a face-saving operation—to meet the objections of the large body of British opinion headed by Mr. Winston Churchill, which opposed the governmental policy of conciliation and concession. He was no less encouraged by the passivity of the French. As they had so readily abandoned their Czech ally, which had possessed the most efficient Army of all the smaller Powers, it seemed unlikely that they would go to war in defence of any remnant of their former chain of allies in East and Central Europe.

Thus, Hitler felt that he could complete the elimination of Czecho-Slovakia at an early moment, and then expand his eastward advance.

At first, he did not think of moving against Poland—even though she possessed the largest stretch of territory carved out of Germany after WW1. Poland, like Hungary, had been helpful to him in threatening Czecho-Slovakia’s rear, and thus inducing her to surrender to his demands—Poland, incidentally, had not exploited the chance to seize a slice of Czech territory. Hitler was inclined to accept Poland as a junior partner for the time being, on condition that she handed back the German port of Danzig and granted Germany a free route to East Prussia through the Polish Corridor. On Hitler’s part, it was a remarkably moderate demand in the circumstances. But in successive discussions that winter, Hitler found that the Poles were obstinately disinclined to make any such concession and had the inflated idea of their own strength. Even so, he continued to hope that they would come around after further negotiations. As late as March 25, he told his Army Commander-in-Chief that he did not wish to solve the Danzig problem by the use of force. But a change of mind was produced by an unexpected British step that followed on a fresh step on his part in a different direction.

In the early months of 1939, the heads of the British Government were feeling happier than they had for a long time. They lulled themselves into the belief that their accelerated rearmament measures, America’s rearmament programme and Germany’s economic difficulties were diminishing the danger of the situation. On March 10 Chamberlain privately expressed the view that the prospects of peace were better than ever and spoke of his hopes that a new disarmament conference would be arranged before the end of the year. Next day, Sir Samuel Hoare—Eden’s predecessor as Foreign Secretary and now Home Secretary—hopefully suggested in a speech that the world was entering a Golden Age. Ministers assured friends and critics that Germany’s economic plight made her incapable of going to war, and that she bound to comply with the British Government’s conditions in return for the help that it was offering her in the form of a commercial treaty. Two ministers, Mr. Oliver Stanley and Robert Hudson, were going to Berlin to arrange it.

The same week Punch came out with a cartoon which showed John Bull awaking with relief from a nightmare, while the recent war scare was flying out of the window. Never was there such a spell of absurdly optimistic illusions as during the week leading up to the Ides of March 1939. Meanwhile the Nazis had been fostering separatist’s movements in Czecho-Slovakia, to produce a breakdown from within. On March 12 the Slovaks declared their independence, after their leader, Father Tiso, had visited Hitler in Berlin. More blindly, Poland’s Foreign Minister, Colonel Beck, publicly expressed his full sympathy with the Slovaks. On the 15th, German troops marched into Prague, after the Czech President had yielded to Hitler’s demand to establish a Protectorate over Bohemia and to occupy the country accordingly.

The previous autumn, when the Munich Agreement was made, the British Government had pledged itself to guarantee Czecho-Slovakia against aggression. But Chamberlain told the House of Commons that he considered the Slovakia’s break-away had annulled the guarantee, and that he did not feel bound by this obligation. While expressing regret at what had happened, he conveyed to the House that he saw no reason why it should deflect British policy. Within a few days, however, Chamberlain made a complete about-turn—so sudden and far-reaching that it amazed the world. He jumped to a decision to block any following move of Hitler’s and on March 29 sent Poland an offer to support her against any action which threatened Polish independence, and which the Polish Government accordingly considered it vital to resist.

It is impossible to gauge what was the predominant influence on his impulse—the pressure of public indignation, or his own indignation, or his anger at having been fooled by Hitler, or his humiliation at having been made to look a fool in the eyes of his own people.

Most of those in Britain who had supported and applauded his previous appeasement policy underwent a similar violent reaction—sharpened by the reproaches of the other half of the nation, which had distrusted the policy. The breach was cemented, and the nation reunited, by a general surge of exasperation. The unqualified terms of the guarantee placed Britain’s destiny in the hands of Poland’s rulers, men of very dubious and unstable judgment. Moreover, the guarantee was impossible to fulfil except with Russia’s help, yet no preliminary steps were taken to find out whether Russia would give, or Poland would accept, such aid.

The Cabinet, when asked to approve the guarantee, was not even shown the actual report of the Chiefs of Staff Committee—which would have made clear how impossible it was, in a practical sense, to give any protection to Poland. It is doubtful, however, whether this would have made any difference in face of the prevailing mood. When the guarantee was discussed in Parliament it was welcomed on all sides. Mr. Lloyd George’s was a solitary voice when he warned the House that it was suicidal folly to undertake such a far-stretched without first making sure of Russia’s backing. The Polish Guarantee was the surest way to produce an early explosion, and a world war. It combined the maximum temptation with manifest provocation. It incited Hitler to demonstrate the futility of such a guarantee to a country out of reach from the West, while making the stiff-necked Poles even less inclined to consider any concession to him, and at the same time making it impossible for him to draw back without losing face.

Why did Poland’s rulers accept such a fatal offer? Partly because they had an absurdly exaggerated idea of the power of their out of date forces –they boastfully talked of a cavalry ride to Berlin. Partly because of personal factors:

  • Colonel Beck, shortly afterwards, said that he made up his mind to accept the British offer two flicks of the ash off the cigarette he was smoking.
  • He went on to explain that at his meeting with Hitler in January he had found it hard to swallow Hitler’s remark that Danzig must be handed back, and that when the British offer was communicated to him he saw it, and seized it, as a chance to give Hitler a slap in the face. This impulse was only too typical of the ways in which the fate of peoples is often decided.

The only chance of avoiding war now lay in securing the support of Russia—the only power that could give Poland direct support and thus provide a deterrent to Hitler. But, despite the urgency of the situation, the British Government’s steps were dilatory and half-hearted. Chamberlain had a strong dislike of Soviet Russia and Halifax an intense religious antipathy, while both underrated her strength as much as they overrated Poland’s. If they now recognized the desirability of a defensive arrangement with Russia they wanted it on their own terms and failed to realize that by their precipitate guarantee to Poland they had placed themselves in a position where they would have to sue for it on her terms—as was obvious to Stalin, if not to them.

But beyond their own hesitations were the objections of the Polish Government, and the other small powers in Eastern Europe, to accepting military support from Russia—since these feared that reinforcements by her armies would be equivalent to invasion. So, the pace of the Anglo-Russian negotiations became as slow as a funeral march.

Very different was Hitler’s response to the situation. Britain’s violent reaction and redoubled armament measures shook him, but the effect was opposite to that intended. Feeling that the British were getting opposed to German expansion eastward, and fearful of being blocked if he tarried, he drew the conclusion that he must accelerate his steps towards lebensraum. But how could he do it without bringing on a general war? His solution was coloured by his historically derived picture of the British. Regarding them as cool-headed and rational, with their emotions controlled by their head, he felt that they would not dream of entering a war on behalf of Poland unless they could obtain Russia’s support. So, swallowing his hatred and fear of Bolshevism, he bent his efforts and energies towards conciliating Russia and securing her abstention. It was a turn-about even more startling than Chamberlain’s—and as fatal in its consequences.

Hitler’s courting approach of Russia was eased because Stalin was already looking on the West from a new slant. The Russians’ natural resentment of the way they had been cold-shouldered by Chamberlain and Halifax in 1938 was increased when, after Hitler’s march into Prague, their fresh proposal for a joint defensive alliance had a tepid reception, while the British Government rushed into an independent arrangement with Poland. Nothing could have been more certain to deepen doubt and heighten suspicion.

On May 3 a warning, unmistakable except to the blind, was conveyed in the news that Litvinov, Russia’s Foreign Commissar had been release’ from office. He had long been the chief advocate of co-operation with the Western Powers in resistance to Nazi Germany. To his post was appointed Molotov, who was reported to prefer dealing with dictators to dealing with liberal democracies.

Tentative moves towards a Soviet-Nazi entente began in April but were conducted on both sides with extreme wariness—for mutual distrust was profound, and each side suspected that the other might be merely trying to hinder it reaching an agreement with the Western Powers. But the slow progress of the Anglo-Russian negotiations encouraged the Germans to exploit the opportunity, quicken their pace, and press their suit. Molotov remained non-committal, however, until the middle of August. Then a decisive change took place. It may have been prompted by the Germans’ willingness, in contrast to British hesitations and reservations, to concede Stalin’s exacting conditions, especially a free hand with the Baltic States. It may also have been connected with the obvious fact that Hitler could not afford to postpone action in Poland beyond early September, lest the weather might bog him down, so that the postponement of the Soviet-German agreement until late in August ensured there would not be time for Hitler and the Western Powers to reach another Munich agreement—which might spell danger for Russia.

On August 23 Ribbentrop flew to Moscow, and the pact was signed. It was accompanied by a secret agreement under which Poland was to be partitioned between Germany and Russia.

This pact made war certain, and more so because of the lateness of the timing. Hitler could not draw back on the Polish issue without serious loss of face in Moscow. Moreover, his belief that the British Government would not venture on an obviously futile struggle to preserve Poland, and did not really wish to bring in Russia, had been freshly fostered by the way that Chamberlain had, in late July, started private negotiations with him through his trusted adviser, Sir Horace Wilson, for an Anglo-German pact.

But the Soviet-German Pact, coming so late, did not have the effect on the British that Hitler had reckoned. On the contrary, it aroused the bulldog spirit—of blind determination, regardless of the consequences. In that state of feeling, Chamberlain could not stand aside without both loss of face and breach of promise.

Stalin had been only too aware that the Western Powers had long been disposed to let Hitler expand eastward—in Russia’s direction. It is probable that he saw the Soviet-German Pact as a convenient device by which he could divert Hitler’s aggressive dynamism in the opposite direction. In other words, by this nimble-side-step he would let his immediate and potential opponents’ crash into one another. At least this should produce a diminution of the threat to Soviet Russia and might well result in such common exhaustion on their part as to ensure Russia’s post war ascendancy.

The Pact meant the removal of Poland as a buffer between Germany and Russia—but the Russians had always felt that the Poles were more likely to serve as a spearhead for a German invasion of Russia than as a barricade against it. By collaborating in Hitler’s conquest of Poland, and dividing it with him, they would not only be taking an easy way of regaining their pre-1914 property but be able to convert eastern Poland into a barrier space which, though narrower, would be held by their own forces. That seemed a more reliable buffer than an independent Poland. The Pact also paved the way for Russia’s occupation of the Baltic states and Bessarabia, as a wider extension of the buffer.

In 1941, after Hitler had swept into Russia, Stalin’s 1939 side-step looked a fatally short-sighted shift. It is likely that Stalin overestimated the Western nations’ capacity for resisting and thus exhausting, Germany’s power. It is likely, too, that he also overestimated the initial resisting power of his own forces. Nevertheless, surveying the European situation in later years, it does not seem so certain as in 1941 that his side-step proved to Soviet Russia’s disadvantages.

For the West, on the other hand, it brought immeasurable harm. The primary blame for that lies with those who were responsible for the successive policies of procrastination and precipitation—in face of a palpably explosive situation.

Dealing with Britain’s entry into the war—after describing how she allowed Germany to re-arm and then to swallow Austria and Czecho-Slovakia, while at the same time spurning Russia’s proposals for joint action—Churchill says:

. . . when every one of these aids and advantages has been squandered and thrown away, Great Britain advances, leading France by the hand, to guarantee the integrity of Poland—of that very Poland which with hyena appetite had only six months before joined in the pillage and destruction of the Czechoslovak State. There was sense in fighting for Czechoslovakia in 1938, when the German Army could scarcely put half a dozen trained divisions on the Western Front, when the French with nearly sixty or seventy divisions could most certainly have rolled forward across the Rhine or into the Ruhr. But this had been judged unreasonable, rash, below the level of modern intellectual thought and morality. Yet now at last the two Western democracies declared themselves ready to stake their lives upon the territorial integrity of Poland. History, which, we are told, is mainly the record of the crimes, follies, and miseries of mankind, may be scoured and ransacked to find a parallel to this sudden and complete reversal of five or six years’ policy of easy-going, placatory appeasement, and its transformation almost overnight into a readiness to accept an obviously imminent war on far worse conditions and on the greater scale. . .

Here was decision at last, taken at the worst possible moment and on the least satisfactory ground, which must surely lead to slaughter of tens of millions of people.

It is a striking verdict on Chamberlain’s folly, written in hindsight. For Churchill himself had, in the heat of the moment, supported Chamberlain’s pressing offer of Britain’s guarantee to Poland. It is only too evident that in 1939 he, like most of Britain’s leaders, acted on a hot-headed impulse—instead of with the cool-headed judgment that was once characteristic of British statesmanship.

Courtesy of: History of the Second World War by B.H. Liddell Hart, G.P. Putnam’s Sons New York 1970

A Historical Background: British Administration and Muslim Politics in India

British Administration in India

Wavell’s initiation as Viceroy coincided with the British administration beginning to lose its previously tight grip in India due to political pressures and the aftermath of the war. When Wavell became Viceroy, the Governor-General’s Council consisted of fourteen members, of whom ten were non-official Indians and four British. The Government of India Act 1935 had granted the provinces of India, parliamentary self-government. The need to introduce Section 93 arose shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Congress ministries holding office in seven of the eleven provinces resigned and no provincial government with a satisfactory majority could be formed other than in Assam and the NWFP where a non Congress coalition government and a government led by Sardar Aurangzeb held offices respectively.

In Orissa, due to change of allegiance by seven Congress members in 1941, a coalition government had been formed. In May 1943, in the absence of a Congress member of the legislative assembly, the Muslim League under Sardar Aurangzeb was able to form a coalition government in the NWFP.

Since 1858 the British government had been governing India directly from London. In spite of promising India dominion status by the end of the Second World War, the British had not designed any special plans for quitting India. The Secretary of State for India, who was also a member of the Cabinet along with his Council, was responsible for Indian affairs. The Second World War had turned India into a strategically sensitive country. Therefore, India Committee, War Cabinet Committee and the Secretary of State took keen interest in the internal and external affairs of India. They would not let any Governor-General of India act independently. Churchill presided over most of the meetings and took decisions regarding India. As they ignored the Indian government while making decisions, Linlithgow had protested against these decisions many times.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the British government promised to grant ‘Dominion Status’ to India after the end of the war, due to internal and external political pressures. The August offer of 1940, the enlargement of the Executive Council of the Viceroy in 1941 and the Cripps Proposals of 1942 were a few of the steps taken in this direction. Nevertheless, they had no clear-cut plan of leaving India in the near future, nor were they clear as to how and to which party they would transfer power in case of a breakdown.

All the leading politicians as well as the majority of the British public opinion were opposed to the demand for Pakistan. However, at the same time, they believed this could best be served in a united India. Hence, the majority of the British policy makers including Churchill, Amery, Attlee and Cripps strongly supported the unity of India and were absolutely opposed to the idea of Pakistan. Likewise the British public and press were also opposed to the demand for Partition.

Though Wavell was no stranger to India, the political problem he had to encounter was complex and deeply complicated by historical forces. The Muslim League was not only the strongest Muslim party in India but also an outspoken proponent of the demand for Pakistan, although a few lesser Muslim groups were opposed to it. These parties and groups had conflicting ideas and divergent programs. Therefore it is essential to discus the nature, programs and the personalities of the main Muslim political parties in order to understand Muslim politics in India better.

Muslim Politics in India: A Historical Background

The Muslims ruled India from 712 to 1857. Their decline brought them face to face with many new problems and ushered in a new era in the history of the Muslims of India. Following the British conquest of India, but especially after the failed attempt to oust them in 1857, the three-way relations between the Muslims, Hindus and the British passed through several stages. In this whole game, Muslims were the largest losers financially, politically, educationally and socially, while carefully nurtured by the British, the Hindus and Sikhs were the biggest beneficiaries. This completely reversed the political situation.

Muslims suffered heavily wherever the British took control. Deprived of property, government jobs, discrimination in language and thereby in education, their position went down from being the leaders and elite in India to an existence at the lowest social level, just a notch above the ‘untouchables’. On the other hand, the Hindus and later the Sikhs as well, rose to the top. The Muslims’ loss was the Hindus’ gain and thereby the political situation of the two communities was totally reversed. This point is critical in understanding the dynamics of politics between the communities right up to 1947 and even afterwards.

The general policy of the East India Company towards the Muslims was of severe discrimination and involved replacing Muslims with Hindus wherever possible. The Hindus, on the whole, remained loyal to the foreign power and benefitted immensely from the situation over a long period of time. No wonder, this generated in them the expectation of succeeding the British and becoming the overlords of South Asia after the departure of the British. Thus, when the Muslims were struggling for their survival, the Hindus were dreaming of political power through the vehicle of democracy.

Following the events of 1857, the British tried to introduce in India the institution of democracy based on the ‘Westminster’ model, aimed at enlisting the support of the loyalists amongst the Indians. As a result the Indian National Congress came into being in 1885. Its aim was to promote the social, economic, political interests of the Indian people regardless of their background. The dreams of its founders, however, began to shatter when it fell prey to Hindu extremist elements that began to turn it into a purely Hindu body.

During the critical years of the second half of the nineteenth century, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) emerged as a champion for the cause of Muslims. He found his community broken by the trials and tribulations of the War of Independence, and the stormy decades that succeeded it. He undertook the responsibility of bringing about a renaissance in Muslim India. Only a full-spectrum political loyalty to the British raj, he thought, could ensure Muslim survival. The British also appreciated his efforts and realized that the Indian Muslims could not be ignored anymore, so they encouraged them to get a modern education and helped Syed Ahmed Khan in establishing a number of institutions in this connection.

Syed Ahmed Khan was also the first of the Muslim leaders to consistently dwell on the “Two-Nation Theory” and held that besides other communities, the two leading ones, Muslims and Hindus, formed two distinct nations. He predicted, after a detailed examination of the drift of the Congress, that it would eventually turn out to be a predominantly Hindu party. He called upon the Muslims to abstain from politics an refrain from joining Congress. The Muslims, heeding his advice, began to pay more attention to their educational needs. As a result of his efforts, the Congress failed to attract a large number of Muslims to its fold.

Select opposition to the British rule in India had begun to mount in India in the late 1870s and early 1880s. However, till the partitioning of Bengal in 1905, there was no national political movement worth the name. Congress agitation against the partition of Bengal had two immediate effects: it turned Congress into a national organization; secondly, it created the deep chasm between the Muslims and the Hindus which kept on widening till it led to the creation of Pakistan. Two other political moves of immense historical importance resulted from the anti-government Congress agitation, seen by a majority of Muslims as strongly affecting the Muslim interests as well: Muslims decided to form their first political party and called it Muslim League, in 1906; and following the repeal of the Bengal partition in 1911 due to Hindu/Congress agitation, Muslims realized for the first time the raw power of concerted, aggressive and sustained political agitation which could even bend the might of the powerful British Empire in India.

Not only the overwhelmingly Hindu agitation against the partition of Bengal but nearly all Hindu and Congress protests seemed to pose a direct threat to Muslim interests. Congress’s opposition to the Land Alienation Act of 1901 in Punjab and to the Muslim demand for separate electorates are good examples of such political approach. Concerning the partition of Bengal and its effects on Muslim interests, Sikandar Hayat wrote that:

even if one were to grant the argument that the partition of Bengal was a deliberate move on the part of the British government to sow the seeds of conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims, the question remains, why did not the Hindus put forward “an alternative scheme” to satisfy legitimate grievances of the Muslims in Bengal. After all, they were fully aware that the partition meant great relief to many Muslims in east Bengal.

The Hindu political groups, press and professionals banded together to only condemn, abuse and politically attack those Muslims who supported the partition of Bengal.

All of the above political activity created amongst the Muslims a sense of deprivation and loss, for the Congress could not endorse the reforms which could further Muslim development. The Muslims felt that as a community they were totally separate from the Hindus. The one-dimensional understanding of the Congress leadership towards the Muslim problems led them to denounce and reject all other political viewpoints. They became prone to the ‘conspiracy theory’. They themselves had been created, nurtured and promoted by the British, and believed that whatever had occurred and was going to occur in India, happened with the backing or prior approval of the British government. As a result Hindus branded Sir Syed as a British loyalist, anti-nationalist and a communalist. Similarly they declared Simla Deputation of 1906 and the creation of the Muslim League in 1906 as a ‘command performance’. This kind of approach had serious implications and needed readjustment and rectification in the light of the Muslim intellectual experience and the emerging problems of the Muslims in the first half of the twentieth century.

However, the new century required openness, large heartedness and political insight from the Indian leadership in order to end the British Raj in India. Unity of purpose among the different communities of India could have facilitated it, but unity was a factor that was sorely lacking among them.

The Hindus, however, had become the most politically conscious community since 1857. They had not only been aspiring for total political ascendancy in India upon the departure of the British but had also declared India ‘a land for the Aryans’, a declaration that denied a homeland to Muslims and Christians in the Hindu holy motherland. Sikhs also had been forming, for a long time their separate associations for promotion and protection of their religious and political rights. On 30 October, 1902, they formed the Chief Khalsa Diwan by merging 29 of the Singh Sabhas.

At this critical juncture, the Muslims at large could not afford to remain aloof from the complexities of Indian national politics. They expected, from the Muslim political elite, some bold political steps to safeguard their future destiny. Unlike the creation of the Sanskrit College, Hindu Benares University and Indian National Congress, the Simla Deputation of October 1906 and the establishment of the Muslim League (December 1906) by the Muslim leaders was neither engineered nor sponsored or commanded by the British authorities. This change in the Muslim political thought was the outcome of the origins of Hindu-Muslim tussles, the introduction of the democratic institution in India and independent growth of separate nationalistic aspirations, of the Muslims of South Asia. Although, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Waqar-ul-Mulk, and Syed Ameer Ali had founded political associations at the national level, these failed to achieve popularity among the rank and file of Muslims mainly because their founders had neither the intention nor the capacity to extend them on a large scale. However, their main thrust remained the securing of safeguards for Muslims in every field, and claimed for itself the status of the only representative of the Muslims. Whether its establishment was justified or not, the response of the Congress leaders to its establishment was unfortunate. They took ten years to recognize the significance of its role in the liberation of India.

The Lucknow Pact of 1916 provided a basis for an eventual reapproachment between the Congress and the Muslim League; however, it was to be of short duration. The outcome of this agreement was that it enabled them to work collectively and vigorously to achieve home rule through the efforts of the Home Rule League (1916-1920), opposing the Rowlatt Act of 1919, protesting against the tragedy of Jallianwala Bagh 1919, and boycotting the elections in 1920 under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919. Moreover, they started the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22) as part of the Khilafat Movement. But this honeymoon period soon cam to an end and the ‘accord’ between the two communities struggled in the stormy politics of the 1920s. The new constitutional reforms and the inception of new Hindu religious extremist movements and organizations like Shuddhi, Sangathan, and Hindu Mahasahba polluted the recently created atmosphere of Hindu-Muslim unity and exposed the mutual trust, respect and the reliance of the two political parties on each other to mutual hostilities.

Jinnah was praised for his efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity. He however, left the Congress in 1920, as his rational approach towards politics did not permit him to accept the emotionalism of Gandhian philosophy, which he thought would lead nowhere. Therefore he did not endorse the philosophy and the methods adopted by the Congress under the instructions and influence of Gandhi for the Non-Cooperation Movement in the Khilafat Movement. He felt that Gandhi was taking India to a destination where everything would end in disaster. His prediction proved correct and not only did the Khilafat Movement end in failure but it also led to communal riots which became routine afterward.

Jinnah always thought in terms of a unified approach by the two leading communities to the political problems then faced by India. It was with this sprit that he endorsed the Congress decision to boycott the Simon Commission in 1927 and presented the Delhi Muslim Proposals in 1927 with a view to carrying on League-Congress concurrence and Hindu-Muslim unity, Muslim League under Jinnah’s direction even showed its willingness to surrender the two principles of separate electorates and weightage in the provinces. These two constitutional provisions formed the bedrock of what they thought was essential for the preservation of their identity and interests.

This stance soon divided not only the Muslim League but also the whole Muslim community between proponents and opponents of separate electorates. No doubt, according to David Page, the Unionists in the Punjab who were against the Delhi Muslim Proposals were more interested in preservation of their class interests than any communal interests. But there were genuine reactions of the Muslims who considered it a political mistake to rely so heavily on the Congress leaders without prior assurances. Though it could have put his political career at stake, Jinnah was ready to make an extremely courageous and risky move for the sake of Hindu-Muslim unity. In fact, the proposals were not a political mistake on the part of Jinnah, rather a calculated move masking Jinnah’s political expediency.

While the Muslims were divided on this point, the Hindus had become united against the demand for separate electorates. In 1928, the All-Parties Convention approved the Nehru report drafted by the Nehru Committee. It not only rejected the Muslim demand for separate electorates but also refused to accept the Muslim claim to one-third of seats in the Central Legislature. Thus the Nehru Report killed the spirit and substance of the Lucknow Pact of 1916. Shoaib Qureshi a member of the Nehru Committee, disagreeing with its proposals did not sign it while the other Muslim member Sir Ali Imam was ill and did not take part in its proceedings. The report was considered by the Muslim League as a charter of slavery for the Muslims, for it aimed at establishing the Hindu Raj in India by Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha. According to Uma Kaura, “The failure of the Convention can only be attributed to the inability of the Congress leaders to stand up firmly against the pressures of the Hindu Mahasahba.

To Jinnah it was the ‘parting of ways’ but according to Abdul Hamid, Jinnah’s brief and pointed comment a this stage was more apparent than real, as he did not lose heart and continued to seek Hindu-Muslim unity even during the Round Table Conferences. In response to The Nehru Report, Jinnah presented his ‘Fourteen Points’ but AllamaI Iqbal had a unique remedy to solve the Hindu-Muslim problem.

Courtesy of : Wavell and the Dying Day’s of the Raj by Muhammad Iqbal Chawla, Oxford University Press Karachi 2011.

The Mountbatten Mission

Lord Mountbatten first became well known during the war years. He had spent some time in India and then transferred his headquarters to Ceylon. When Lord Wavell resigned, he was appointed Viceroy and Governor-General. Fully briefed by the Labour Government before he left, he came with instructions from Mr. Attlee that power must be transferred before 30th June 1948.

He reached Delhi on 22nd march and was sworn in as Viceroy and Governor-General of India on the 24th. Immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, he made a short speech, in which he stressed the need for reaching a solution within the next few months.

Soon after this, I had my first interview with Lord Mountbatten. At the very first meeting, he told me that the British Government was fully determined to transfer power. Before this could happen, a settlement of the communal problem was necessary, and he desired that a final and decisive attempt be made to solve the problem.

He agreed with me that the differences between the Congress and the League had now been greatly narrowed down.

  • The Cabinet Mission had grouped Assam and Bengal together.
  • The Congress held that no province should be compelled to enter a group and each province might vote whether to join the group or not.
  • The League said that it had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan on the basis that the group would vote as a whole and a province could opt out only after the group had framed the constitution. The League further argued that any change in the proposals of the Plan would nullify the agreement and on this basis the League had rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan.

Nobody can understand why the League placed so much emphasis on the question of Assam, when Assam was not a Muslim majority province. If the League’s own criterion was applied, there was no valid reason to force Assam to join Bengal. Whatever be the reason, the League was formally right though morally and politically its case was weak. I discussed the question with Lord Mountbatten on several occasions. I felt that the difference between the Congress and the League had reached a stage where agreement could be attained only through the mediation of a third party. My opinion was that we might leave the matter to Lord Mountbatten. Let the Congress and the League agree to refer the question to him and accept his arbitration. Neither Jawaharlal nor Sardar Patel would however agree to this suggestion. They did not like the idea of arbitration on a national issue and I did not press the point further.

In the meantime, the situation was deteriorating every day. The Calcutta riots had been followed by riots in Noakhali and Bihar. Thereafter there was trouble in Bombay. The Punjab which had been quiet till now also showed signs of strain and conflict. Malik Khizr Hayat had resigned as Premier of Punjab on 2nd March. Anti-Pakistan demonstrations were held in Lahore on 4th March, which led to the death of 13 persons and injury to many. Communal disturbances spread to other parts of the province and there were major disturbances in Amritsar, Taxila and Rawalpindi.

On the one hand communal passions were mounting. On the other, the administration was becoming lax. European in the services no longer had their heart in the work. They were now convinced that within a short time, power would be transferred to Indian hands. As such, they were no longer interested in their work and only marked time. They told people openly that they were no longer responsible for the administration. This led to more unrest and uncertainty among the people and created loss of confidence.

The situation was made worse by the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League within the Executive Council. The Central Government was paralyzed as the Members of the Council pulled against one another. The League oversaw Finance and held the key to the administration. It will be remembered that this was due entirely to Sardar Patel who in his anxiety to retain the Home portfolio, offered Finance to the Muslim League. There were some very able and senior Muslim officers in the Finance Department who gave every possible help to Liaqat Ali. With their advice, Liaqat Ali was able to reject or delay every proposal put up by the Congress members of the Executive Council. Sardar Patel discovered that though he was Home Member, he could not create the post of a chaprasi (peon) without Liaqat Ali’s concurrence. The Congress members of the Council were at a loss and did not know what to do.

A truly pathetic situation had developed because of our own foolish action in giving Finance to the Muslim League. Lord Mountbatten took full advantage of the situation. Because of the dissensions among the members, he slowly and gradually assumed full powers. He kept up the form of a constitutional Governor-General, but in fact he started to mediate between the Congress and the League to get his own way. He also began to give a new turn to the political problem and tried to impress on both the Congress and the Muslim League the inevitability of Pakistan. He pleaded in favour of Pakistan and sowed the seeds of the idea in the minds of the Congress members of the Executive Council.

It must be placed on record that the man in India who first fell for Lord Mountbatten’s idea was Sardar Patel. Till perhaps the very end, Pakistan was for Jinnah a bargaining counter, but in fighting for Pakistan, he had overreached himself. His action had so annoyed and irritated Sardar Patel that the Sardar was now a believer in partition. The Sardar’s was the responsibility for giving Finance to the Muslim League. He therefore resented his helplessness before Liaqat Ali more than anybody else. When Lord Mountbatten suggested that partition might offer a solution to the present difficulty, he found ready acceptance to the idea in Sardar Patel’s mind. In fact, Sardar Patel was fifty percent in favour of partition even before Lord Mountbatten appeared on the scene. He was convinced that he could not work with the Muslim League. He openly said that he was prepared to have a part of India if only he could get rid of the Muslim League. It would not perhaps be unfair to say that Vallabhbhai Patel was the founder of Indian partition.

Lord Mountbatten was extremely intelligent and could read into the minds of all his Indian colleagues. The moment he found Patel amenable to his idea, he put out all the charm and power of his personality to win over the Sardar. In his private talk, he always referred to Patel as a walnut—a very hard crust outside but soft pulp once the crust was cracked. Sometimes in a jocular mood he used to tell me that he had spoken to Walnut, and Walnut had agreed with him on every question.

When Sardar Patel was convinced, Lord Mountbatten turned his attention to Jawaharlal. Jawaharlal was not at first ready for the idea and reacted violently against the idea of partition. Lord Mountbatten persisted till Jawaharlal’s opposition was worn down step by step. Within a month of Lord Mountbatten’s arrival in India, Jawaharlal, the firm opponent of partition had become, if not a supporter, at least acquiescent to the idea.

I have often wondered how Jawaharlal was won over by Lord Mountbatten. He is a man of principle, but he is also impulsive and very amenable to personal influences. I think one factor responsible for the change was the personality of Lady Mountbatten. She is not only extremely intelligent but has a most attractive and friendly temperament. She admired her husband very greatly and in many cases tried to interpret his thoughts to those who would not at first agree with him.

There was one other person responsible for the change in Jawaharlal. An Indian named Krishna Menon who had lived in London since the early twenties. Jawaharlal had met him first in the late twenties and had found in him one who professed great admiration for Jawaharlal’s views. We all like our admirers but perhaps Jawaharlal likes them a little more than others. Sometime later, in the early thirties, the Labour Party sent a delegation to India led by Miss Ellen Wilkinson. Krishna Menon was attached to the delegation and visited India. He had also been taking an interest in the activities of the India League in London. During this period, his contacts were mainly with people who were regarded as communists or fellow-travellers. When Jawaharlal went again to London, Krishna Menon renewed his contact and reiterated his loyalty for Jawaharlal.

When war broke out, Krishna Menon suggested that he should be provided with funds so that he could carry on propaganda in London on behalf of India. When Hitler attacked Russia, he came in touch with the Soviet Embassy in London. He sent us many messages that he was meeting the Soviet Ambassador as Jawaharlal’s personal representative. He sent all kinds of proposals for securing the help of interests friendly to India. He also prepared schemes asking for funds from the Congress. Jawaharlal was impressed by him and requested me to grant some money. I did so and placed the matter before the Working Committee. Gandhiji and Sardar Patel told me frankly that they did not like my action, but they would say nothing since I had paid the money in good faith. They however, asked me not to make any further payment. They pointed out that Indians in London were sharply divided in their judgement about Krishna Menon. He had some supporters but there was a strong body of opponents who brought all kinds of charges against him. The general impression I got was that his conduct was not above reproach. I could not therefore trust him fully. Later events proved that Gandhiji and Sardar were right in their suspicion of Krishna Menon. He was, to take the charitable view, unreliable and had little concern for the way public funds were spent. Most people took an even worse view and regarded him as downright dishonest.

When the interim government was formed, Jawaharlal wanted to appoint Krishna Menon as the High Commissioner in London. Lord Wavell did not agree. The British Government also advised that his appointment would not be appropriate as he was regarded a fellow traveller. Soon after Lord Wavell left, Krishna Menon came to India and stayed with Jawaharlal. Lord Mountbatten immediately perceived that Jawaharlal had a weakness for Krishna Menon and could be influenced by him. Lord Wavell had opposed Krishna Menon’s appointment, but Lord Mountbatten decided to become his patron and invited him to the Viceroy’s House on several occasions. Krishna Menon had communist tendencies but when he saw that Lord Mountbatten was friendly to him and might help him get a position, he became pro-British overnight. He impressed Lord Mountbatten with his friendly feelings for the British. Lord Mountbatten felt that Krishna Menon would be useful in persuading Jawaharlal to accept his scheme of partition of India. It is my belief that Krishna Menon did influence Jawaharlal’s mind on this question. I was not surprised when sometime later I learnt that Lord Mountbatten offered to support Jawaharlal if he wanted to appoint Krishna Menon as the High Commissioner in London.

When I became aware that Lord Mountbatten was thinking in terms of dividing India, and had persuaded Jawaharlal and Patel, I was deeply distressed. I realized that the country was moving towards a great danger. Partition of India would be harmful not only to Muslims but to the whole country. I was and am still convinced that the Cabinet Mission Plan was the best solution from every point of view. It preserved the unity of India and gave every community the opportunity to function with freedom and honour. Even from the communal point of view, Muslims could expect nothing better. They would have complete internal autonomy in provinces in which they were in a majority. Even in the Centre they would have more than adequate representation. So long as there were communal jealousies and doubts, their position would be adequately safeguarded. I was also convinced that if the Constitution for free India was framed on this basis and worked honestly for some time, communal doubts and misgivings would soon disappear. The real problems of the country were economic, not communal. The differences related to classes, not to groups. Once the country became free, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs would all realize the real nature of the problems that faced them, and communal differences would be resolved.

I did my best to persuade my two colleagues not to take the final step. I found that Patel was so much in favour of partition that he was hardly prepared even to listen to any other point of view. For over two hours I argued with him. I pointed out that if we accepted partition, we would create a permanent problem for India. Partition would not solve the communal problem but would make it a permanent feature of the country. Jinnah had raised the slogan of two nations. To accept partition was to accept the slogan. How could Congress ever agree to divide the country based on Hindus and Muslims? Instead of removing communal fears, partition would perpetuate them by creating two States based on communal hatred. Once States based on hatred came into existence, nobody knew where the situation would lead.

I was surprised and pained when Patel in reply said that whether we liked it or not, there were two nations in India. He was now convinced that Muslims and Hindus could not be united into one nation. There was no alternative except to accept the fact. In this alone could we end the quarrel between Hindus and Muslims. He further said that if two brothers cannot stay together, they divide. After separation with their respective shares, they become friends. If on the other they are forced to stay together, they tend to fight every day. It was better to have one clean fight and then separate than have bickering every day. I was surprised that Patel was now an even greater supporter of the two-nation theory than Jinnah. Jinnah may have raised the flag of partition but now the real flag bearer was Patel.

I now turned to Jawaharlal. He did not speak in favour of partition in the way that Patel did. In fact, he admitted that partition by nature was wrong. He had however lost all hopes of joint action after his experience of the conduct of the League members of the Executive Council. They could not see eye to eye on any question. Every day they quarrelled. Jawaharlal asked me in despair what other alternative there was to accepting partition.

Jawaharlal spoke to me in sorrow but left no doubt in my mind as to how his mind was working. It was clear that in spite of his repugnance to the idea of partition, he was day by day coming to the conclusion that there was no alternative. He recognized that partition was certainly not the best solution, in fact it was not a good solution at all. But he held that circumstances were inevitably leading in that direction.

After a few days, Jawaharlal came to see me again. He began with a long preamble in which he emphasized that we should not indulge in wishful thinking but face reality. Ultimately, he came to the point and asked me to give up my opposition to partition. He said that it was inevitable, and it would be wisdom not to oppose what was bound to happen. He also said that it would not be wise for me to oppose Lord Mountbatten on this issue.

I told Jawaharlal that I could not possibly accept his views. I saw quite clearly that we were taking one wrong decision after another. Instead of retracing our steps, we were now going deeper in the morass. The Muslim League had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan and a satisfactory solution of the Indian problem seemed in sight. It was at his stage that Jawaharlal had made his unfortunate declaration at a press conference in Bombay. When as Congress President he declared that the Congress had not accepted anything but to participate in the Constituent Assembly, he had given Mr. Jinnah a chance of withdrawing from the League’s earlier acceptance of the plan.

I argued that our second mistake arose when Lord Wavell suggested that the Home portfolio be given to the Muslim League. This would not have caused any insuperable difficulty but because Patel insisted on retaining Home, we had ourselves offered Finance to the Muslim League. This was the cause of our present difficulties. Now a situation had arisen where we were becoming greater supporters of partition than Jinnah. I warned Jawaharlal that history would never forgive us if we agreed to partition. The verdict would be that India was divided not by the Muslim League but by the Congress.

Now that Sardar Patel and even Jawaharlal had become supporters of partition, Gandhiji remained my only hope. During this period Gandhiji was staying in Patna. He had earlier spent some months in Noakhali where he made a great impression on local Muslims and created a new atmosphere of Hindu Muslim unity. We expected that he would come to Delhi to meet Mountbatten and he arrived on 31st March. I went to see him at once and his very first remark was, ‘Partition has now become a threat. It seems Vallabhbhai and even Jawaharlal have surrendered. What will you do now? Will you stand by me or have you also changed?

I replied, ‘I have been and am against partition. Never had my opposition to partition been so strong as today. I am however distressed to find that even Jawaharlal and Patel have accepted defeat and in your words, surrendered their arms. My only hope now is you. If you stand against partition, we may yet save the situation. If you however acquiesce, I am afraid India is lost.’

Gandhiji said, ‘What a question to ask! If the Congress wishes to accept partition, it will be over my dead body. So long as I am alive, I will never agree to the partition of India. Nor will I, if I can help it, allow Congress to accept it.’

Later that day Gandhiji met Lord Mountbatten. He saw him again the next day and still again on 2 April. Sardar Patel came to him soon after he returned from his first meeting with Lord Mountbatten and was closeted with for over two hours. What happened during this meeting I do not know. But when I met Gandhiji again, I received the greatest shock of my life to find that he had changed. He was still not openly in favour of partition, but he longer spoke so vehemently against it. What surprised and shocked me even more was that he began to repeat the arguments which Sardar Patel had already used. For over two hours I pleaded with him, but I could make no impression on him.

In despondency I at last said, ‘If even you have now adopted these views I see no hope of saving India from catastrophe.’

Gandhiji did not reply to my comment but said that he had already suggested we should ask Jinnah to form the government and choose the members of the cabinet. He said he had mentioned this to Lord Mountbatten and Lord Mountbatten was greatly impressed by the idea.

I knew this was so. When I met Lord Mountbatten the day after Gandhiji talked to him, he told me that if the Congress accepted Gandhiji’s suggestion, partition could still be saved. Lord Mountbatten agreed that such an offer on the part of the Congress would convince the Muslim League and perhaps win the confidence of Jinnah. Unfortunately, this move could make no progress as both Jawaharlal and Sardar Patel opposed it vehemently. In fact, they forced Gandhiji to withdraw the suggestion.

Gandhiji reminded me of this and said the situation now was such that partition appeared inevitable. The only question to decide was what the form of partition should be. This was the question which was now being debated day and night in Gandhiji’s camp.

I thought deeply over the whole matter. How was it that Gandhiji could change his opinion so quickly? My reading is that this was due to the influence of Sardar Patel. Patel openly said that there was no way out except partition. Experience had shown that it was impossible to work with the Muslim League. Another consideration probably weighted with Sardar Patel. Lord Mountbatten had argued that Congress had agreed to a weak Centre only to meet the objections of the League. Provinces were therefore given full provisional autonomy, but in a country so divided by language, community and culture, a weak Centre was bound to encourage fissiparous tendencies. If the Muslim League were not there, we could plan for a strong Central Government and frame a constitution desirable from the point of view of Indian unity. Lord Mountbatten advised that it would be better to give up a few small pieces in the north-west and the north-east and then build up a strong and consolidated India. Sardar Patel was impressed by the argument that cooperation with the Muslim League would jeopardize Indian unity and strength. It seemed to me that these arguments influenced not only Sardar Patel but also Jawaharlal. The same argument repeated by Sardar Patel and Lord Mountbatten had also weakened Gandhiji’s opposition to partition.

My effort throughout had been to persuade Lord Mountbatten to take a firm stand on the Cabinet Mission Plan. So long as Gandhiji was of the same view, I had not lost hope. Now with Gandhiji’s defection, I knew that Lord Mountbatten would not agree to my suggestion. It is also possible that Lord Mountbatten did not feel so strongly about the Cabinet Mission Plan as this was not the child of his brain. He wanted to be remembered in history as the man who had solved the Indian problem. If the solution was in terms of a plan formulated by him, this would bring still greater credit to him. It is therefore not surprising that as soon as he opposition with the Cabinet Mission Plan, he was willing to substitute it by a plan of partition formulated according to his own ideas.

Now that partition seemed generally accepted, the question of Bengal and Punjab assumed a new importance. Lord Mountbatten said that since the partition was based on Muslim majority areas and since both in Bengal and Punjab there were areas where the muslims were in a clear minority, these provinces should also be partitioned. He, however, advised the Congress leaders not to raise the question at this stage and assured them that he would himself raise it at the appropriate time.

Before Gandhiji left for Patna, I made a last appeal to him. I pleaded with him that the present state of affairs be allowed to continue for two years. De facto power was already in Indian hands and if the de jure transfer was delayed for two years, this might enable Congress and the League to come to a settlement. Gandhiji himself had suggested this a few months ago and I reminded him that two years is not a long period in a nation’s history. If we waited for two years, the Muslim League would be forced to come to terms. I realised that if a decision was taken now, partition was inevitable, but a better solution might emerge after a year or two. Gandhiji did not reject my suggestion but neither did he indicate any enthusiasm for it.

By this time Lord Mountbatten had framed his own proposals for the partition of India. He now decided to go to London for discussions with the British Government and to secure its approval to his proposals. He also felt that he would be able to win the Conservative’s support for his plan. The Conservatives had opposed the Cabinet Mission proposal mainly claiming it did not satisfy the Muslim League demand for partition of India. Now that the Mountbatten proposal was based on partition of the country, it would be natural to expect Mr. Churchill’s support.

After the Congress Working Committee concluded its session on 4 May, I went to Simla. After a few days Lord Mountbatten also came up. He wanted to have a brief respite before his departure for London. His plan was to return to Delhi on 15 May and leave for London on the 18th. I thought I would make a last attempt to save he Cabinet Mission P and accordingly, on the night of 14 May, I met him at the Viceregal lodge.

We had discussions lasting for over an hour. I appealed to him not to bury the Cabinet Mission proposal. I told him that we should exercise patience for there was still hope that the plan would succeed. If we acted in haste and accepted partition, we would be doing permanent injury to India. Once the country was divided, no one could foresee the repercussions and there would be no retracing of the step.

I also told Lord Mountbatten that Mr. Attlee and his colleagues were not likely to easily give up a plan which they had themselves formulated after so much labour. If Lord Mountbatten also agreed and emphasized the need for caution, the Cabinet was not likely to raise any objection. Till now it was the Congress which had been insisting that India should be freed immediately. Now it was the Congress which asked that the solution of the political problem may be deferred for a year or two. Surely no one could blame the British if they conceded the Congress request. I also drew Lord Mountbatten’s attention to another aspect of the question. If the British acted hastily now, independent and impartial observers would naturally conclude that the British wanted to give freedom to India in conditions where Indians could not take full advantage of this development. To press on and bring partition against Indian desire would evoke a suspicion that British motives were not pure.

Lord Mountbatten assured me that he would place a full and true picture before the British Cabinet. He would report faithfully all that he had heard and seen during the last two months. He would also tell the British Cabinet that there was an important section of the Congress which wanted postponement of the settlement by a year or two. He assured me that he would tell Mr. Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps what my views in the matter were. The British Government would have all these materials before them when they came to a final decision.

I also asked Lord Mountbatten to take into consideration the likely consequences of the partition of the country. Even without partition, there were riots in Calcutta, Noakhali, Bihar, Bombay and the Punjab. Hindus had attacked Muslims and Muslims had attacked Hindus. If the country was divided in such an atmosphere there would be rivers of blood flowing in different parts of the country and the British would be responsible for such carnage.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Lord Mountbatten replied, ‘At least on this one question, I shall give you complete assurance. I shall see to it that there is no bloodshed and riot. I am a soldier, not a civilian. Once partition is accepted in principle, I shall issue orders to see that there are no communal disturbances anywhere in the country. If there should be the slightest agitation, I shall adopt measures to nip the trouble in the bud. I shall not use even the armed police. I shall order the army and the air force to act and use tanks and aeroplanes to suppress anybody who wants to create trouble.’

Lord Mountbatten gave me the impression that he was not going to London with a clear-cut picture of partition nor had he given up the Cabinet Mission Plan completely. Later events made me change my estimate of the situation. The way he acted afterwards convinced me that he had already made up his mind and was going to London to persuade the British Cabinet to accept his plan of partition. His words were only meant to allay my doubts. He did not himself believe what he was telling me.

The whole world knows what the sequel to Lord Mountbatten’s brave declaration was. When partition took place, rivers of blood flowed in large parts of the country. Innocent men, women and children were massacred. The Indian Army was divided, and nothing could be done to stop the murder of innocent Hindus and Muslims.

Maulana Azad

Courtesy: India Wins Freedom by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Orient Longman Private Ltd., published 1988, the complete version. Translated by Humayun Kabir (1906-1969).

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958) was named Firoz Bakht at birth but was known in his youth as Muhiyuddin Ahmad and later adopted the pseudonym of ‘Abul Kalam Azad’. He was descended from a family which came from Herat to India in Babur’s time and among his ancestors were well-known scholars and administrators. Two years after his birth in 1888 in Mecca where his father Maulana Khairuddin had migrated after the 1857 Revolt, the family moved and settled in Calcutta. Azad was educated at home by his father and private tutors. His political awakening was stimulated by the partition (later annulled) of Bengal in 1905. He travelled extensively in Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and France and had planned to visit London, but his father’s illness obliged him to return home in 1908.

Maulana Azad started the Urdu weekly Al Hilal at Calcutta in July 1912. He opposed the Aligarh line of remaining aloof from the freedom movement. With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914, the journal was banned under the Press Act. He then started another Urdu weekly Al Balagh, also from Calcutta in November 1915 and this continued to be published until March 1916 when Azad was externed under the Defence of India Regulations. The governments of Bombay, Punjab, Delhi and the United Provinces banned his entry, and he went to Bihar. He was interned in Ranchi until 1 January 1920.

After his release Azad was elected President of the All India Khilafat Committee (at the Calcutta session, 1920), and of the Unity Conference at Delhi in 1924. He presided over the Nationalist Muslims Conference in 1928. He was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1923, and again in 1940, and continued to hold this office until 1946. He led the negotiations on behalf of the Congress Party with the British Cabinet Mission in 1946. Later he joined free India’s first government as Minister for Education, a post he held until his death on 22nd February 1958.

Among his other published works are Al-Bayan (1915) and Tarjuman-ul-Quran (1931-1936) which are commentaries, Tazkirah (1916) an autobiographical work and Ghubar-I-Khatir (1943), a collection of letters, all in Urdu.

 

The Legacy of Mr. Jinnah 1876-1948

 

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Exactly 70 years to the day, on December 25, 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah agreed to be photographed reading Dawn – the newspaper he had founded. The headline on the front page of Dawn that day read: ‘71 today’. The trace of a whimsical smile on Mr Jinnah’s lips is unmistakable as he is seen glancing at the newspaper. | Photo: Press Information Department (PID) 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING MR. JINNAH BY AYESHA JALAL

In one of the more unforgettable contemporary recollections of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Beverely Nichols in Verdict on India described the lanky and stylishly dressed barrister as the “most important man in Asia”. Looking every bit like a gentleman of Spain, of the old diplomatic school, the monocle-wearing leader of the All-India Muslim League held a pivotal place in India’s future. “If Gandhi goes, there is Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Patel and a dozen others. But if Jinnah goes, who is there?” Without the Quaid-i-Azam to steer the course, the Muslim League was a divisive and potentially explosive force that “might run completely off the rails, and charge through India with fire and slaughter”; it might even “start another war”. As long as Jinnah was around, nothing disastrous was likely to happen and so, Nichols quipped, “a great deal hangs on the grey silk cord of that monocle”.

 If the British journalist overstated Jinnah’s importance, he had put his finger on an essential piece of the sub-continental political puzzle on the eve of British decolonization in India. Jinnah was a crucial link between the Congress and the Muslim League, which, if broken, could catapult India into disaster.

While regaling journalists at a tea party in his honour at Allahabad in April 1942, two years after the formal orchestration of the demand for Pakistan by the Muslim League, Jinnah had emphatically denied harbouring the “slightest ill-will” against Hindus or any other community. Charged with fomenting hatred and bigotry, he retorted: “I … honestly believe that the day will come when not only Muslims but this great community of Hindus will also bless, if not during my lifetime, after I am dead, [in the] the memory of my name.”

Drawing an analogy between himself and the first man to appear on the street with an umbrella, only to be laughed and scorned at by the crowd that had never seen an umbrella before, he said self-assuredly, “You may laugh at me”, but time will soon come when “you will not only understand what the Umbrella is but … use it to the advantage of every one of you”.

Jinnah’s prediction that posterity would come to look kindly on the umbrella he had unfurled in the form of his demand for Pakistan remains unrealised. Confusing the end result with what he had been after all along, his admirers and detractors alike hold him responsible for dismembering the unity of India.

But, then, the Pakistan that emerged in 1947 was a mere shadow of what he had wanted. Let down by his own followers, outmanoeuvred by the Congress and squeezed by Britain’s last viceroy, Jinnah was made to accept a settlement he had rejected in 1944 and 1946.

His early death in September 1948 deprived Pakistan of a much-needed steadying hand at the helm during an uncertain and perilous time. With no one of Jinnah’s stature and constitutional acumen around to read the riot act, constitutional propriety and strict adherence to the rule of law were early casualties of the withering struggle between the newly-created centre and the provinces as well as the main institutions of the state.

Repeated suspensions of the democratic process by military regimes have ensured that even after seven decades of independence, Pakistanis are bitterly disagreed on the principles and practices of constitutional government as well as the sharing of rights and responsibilities between the state and the citizen. So, while there is no denying the centrality of Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s iconographic location in Pakistani national consciousness, there is a gaping chasm between the nationalist icon and the savvy politician.

Across the 1947 divide, clashing representations of Jinnah and his politics highlight the fissures in the Indian national imaginary. The unanimous rage that exploded as Indian nationalism, whether of the ‘secular’ or the ‘communal’ variety, in the wake of Jaswant Singh’s book on the Muslim League leader is evidence of Jinnah’s negative standing in the Indian psyche.

Left to an adoring following in Pakistan and equally impassioned detractors in India, the clear-headed lawyer who never missed a cue has been reduced to a jumble of contradictions that mostly cancel each other out. Jinnah’s demonization in the Indian nationalist pantheon as the communal monster who divided mother India contrasts with his positive representation in Pakistan as a revered son of Islam, even an esteemed religious leader (maulana), who strove to safeguard Muslim interests in India. Misleading representations of one of modern South Asia’s leading politicians might not have withstood the test of history if they did not serve the nationalist self-projections of both India and Pakistan.

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QUAID-I-AZAM Mohammad Ali Jinnah during his last visit to Dhaka, then East Pakistan. It was during this trip that he declared, at a mammoth public gathering on March 21, 1948, “Having failed to prevent the establishment of Pakistan … the enemies of Pakistan have turned their attention to disrupting the state by creating a split among the Muslims of Pakistan… If you want to build up yourself into a nation, for God’s sake give up this provincialism.” | Photo: PID. 

Nations need heroes and Pakistanis have a right to be proud of their greatest hero. But popular memories too need to be informed by some bare facts and meaningful ideas. Fed on improbable myths and the limitations of the great men’s approach to history, Pakistanis have been constrained from engaging in an informed and open debate on whether their country merits being called Jinnah’s Pakistan. Is Jinnah at all relevant to the current Pakistani predicament?

Even the most approximate answer requires training our sights on matters that most concern Pakistanis – rule of law and a balance between state institutions that is conducive to social justice, economic opportunities and peaceful coexistence. Fed on state-sponsored national yarns about the past, Pakistanis are at a loss how to settle matters of national identity and the nature of the state – democratic or authoritarian, secular or Islamic.

The rise of Hindu majoritarianism in secular India and seemingly unending convulsions of religious bigotry amid state paralysis, if not compliance, in Islamic Pakistan is causing widespread dismay, confusion and disenchantment among a cross-section of citizens on both sides of the international border.

This is why reassessing the legacy of the man, who is universally held responsible for a partition that he had assiduously tried avoiding, is so necessary. But to do so meaningfully, one has to go beyond the simplistic distinction between the secular and the religious on which so many of the national myths of India and Pakistan are based.

There is no doubt that after the Muslim League’s election debacle in 1937, Jinnah made a conscious effort to display his Muslim identity. On key public occasions, he donned the sherwani – the traditional Muslim dress – rather than his well-tailored Western suits, and made more of an effort to appear as a mass politician. This was in some contrast to the days when his oratorical powers were restricted to the quiet of council chambers in the central legislature.

But the aloofness that characterised his earlier life did not give way to a new-found affinity with the teeming multitude. A champion of mass education as the key to the democratisation and freedom of India, Jinnah lacked the populist touch of a Gandhi.

Solitary in disposition, he used the distance between himself and his followers to command esteem and, most importantly, authority. Every bit the politician, Jinnah had a keen sense of timing and spectacle. Making the most of the adulation showered upon him by Muslims, he launched a powerful challenge against the Congress’s claim to speak on behalf of all Indians.

 

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The beautiful Ruttie Jinnah was Mr Jinnah’s second wife. The couple fell in love in Darjeeling in 1916. Two years later, they were married, after Ruttie, who was a Parsi, converted to Islam despite virulent family opposition. | Photo: National Archives, Islamabad 

However, even while banding with segments of the Muslim ulema for political purposes, he remained to the core a constitutionalist with a distaste for rabble rousers who made cynical use of religion. He distanced himself from the humdrum of theological disputes about divinity, prophecy or ritual. “I know of no religion apart from human activity,” he had written to Gandhi on January 1, 1940, since it “provides a moral basis for all other activities”. Religion for him was meaningless if it did not mean identifying with the whole of mankind and “that I could not do unless I took part in politics”.

 Jinnah’s expansive humanism is in stark contrast with the shocking disregard for the freedom of religious conscience in the country he created, a result of the political gamesmanship resorted to by authoritarian rulers and self-styled ideologues of Islam in post-colonial Pakistan.

In terms of his most deep-seated political values and objectives, Jinnah was remarkably consistent throughout his long and chequered political career. He had begun his journey as a Congressman seeking a share of power for Indians at the all-India centre.

Since Muslims were a minority in the limited system of representation in colonial India, he became an ardent champion of minority rights as a necessary step towards a Hindu-Muslim concordat and Congress-League cooperation. The provincial bias in British constitutional reforms after 1919 tested the resilience of a centralist politician with all-India ambitions.

As a constitutionalist of rare skill and vision, Jinnah tried reconciling communitarian and provincial interests while holding out an olive branch to the Congress. While his insistence on national status for Indian Muslims became absolute after 1940, the demand for a separate and sovereign state was open to negotiation until the late summer of 1946.

Jinnah was acutely aware that almost as many members of the Muslim nation would reside in Hindustan as in the specifically-Muslim homeland. The claim to nationhood was not an inevitable overture to completely separate statehood. An analytical distinction between a division of sovereignty within India and a partition of the provinces enables a precise understanding of the demand for a ‘Pakistan’. On achieving Pakistan, Jinnah was categorical that equal citizenship and an assurance of minority rights would form the basis of the new state.

 

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The Quaid-i-Azam in conversation with Altaf Husain, the first editor of Dawn Karachi, who visited Mr Jinnah to wish him a happy birthday on December 25, 1947. | Photo: PID. 

The Quaid-i-Azam was checkmated at the end game of the Raj by the votaries of unitary and monolithic sovereignty. Yet his constitutional insights into the imperative of forging a new Indian union once the British relinquished power at the centre resonated well with a long South Asian political tradition of layered and shared sovereignties.

The four decades since the end of World War II were the heyday of indivisible sovereignty across the globe. Since the late 1980s there has been a perceptible weakening in the hold of that dogma. Jinnah’s legacy is especially pertinent to the enterprise of rethinking sovereignty in South Asia and beyond in the 21st century. If Pakistan and India can shed the deadweight of the colonial inheritance of non-negotiable sovereignty and hard borders which has been at the root of so many of their animosities, a South Asian union may yet come into being under the capacious cover of Jinnah’s metaphorical umbrella.

His expectation that Hindus quite as much as Muslims would one day bless the memory of his name remains unfulfilled. But moves in that direction have been in evidence more recently. In 1999, the Indian prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, made a point of visiting the venue where the Lahore Resolution of 1940 was adopted by the Muslim League. This was followed in 2005 by Hindu nationalist leader Lal Krishna Advani’s homage to the founding father of Pakistan at his mausoleum in Karachi.

On the 141st birthday of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, it is worth recalling Bengali Congress leader Sarat Chandra Bose’s obituary comment, paying “tribute to the memory of one who was great as a lawyer, once great as a Congressman, great as a leader of Muslims, great as a world politician and diplomat and, greatest of all, as a man of action.”

The importance of being Mr Jinnah by Ayesha Jalal. The writer is Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director of the Centre for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University, Massachusetts, United States of America.

 

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THE ENIGMATIC MR. JINNAH

As the nation celebrates Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s 141st birthday, we look back at a rare collection of photographs that attempt to reveal the various facets of his personality.

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After becoming the youngest ‘Indian’ student to be called to the Bar on April 29, 1896, at Lincoln’s Inn (London), Mr Jinnah moved to Bombay and began working as a lawyer. Within a few years, he became one of the leading lawyers in the subcontinent. 
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Mr Jinnah on the grounds of his Hampstead home in the early 1930s. He moved to London with his daughter Dina and sister Miss Fatima Jinnah after the Second Round Table Conference ended in failure. During the four years of this self-imposed exile, Mr Jinnah had a thriving practice as a Privy Council lawyer. In 1934, he returned to India to assume the presidency of the All-India Muslim League. 
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Mr Jinnah smiling broadly by his standards while standing next to his friend and political ally, Mohammad Amir Ahmed Khan, the Raja Sahib of Mehmoodabad. 
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 Mr Jinnah seen relaxing at the famous Cecil’s Hotel in Simla. 
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 Mr Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah arrived in Karachi on August 7, 1947. A week later, Pakistan came into being after years of struggle on August 14, 1947.| Photo: PID.
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 Mr Jinnah seated next to his old-time friend, Pestonjee H. J. Rustomjee, in Bombay in the early 1900s. At the back is Pestonjee’s daughter, Homi. Incidentally, Pestonjee H. J. Rustomjee was the maternal uncle of Ardeshir Cowasjee, the esteemed Dawn columnist. 
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Mr Jinnah relaxing by a stream, donning a solar hat, in Mussoorie, a hill station. 
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 Mr Jinnah wearing, during a picnic, what was soon going to be termed the ‘Jinnah cap’. 
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 Mr Jinnah is about to record his response to Lord Mountbatten’s June 3 Plan about the partition of India into two dominions. 
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Mr Jinnah was welcomed by Khawaja Nazimuddin (left) when he arrived at the Governor-General House in Dhaka. This was Mr Jinnah’s first visit to East Pakistan as Governor-General, which turned out to be his last as well. 

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THE WIT AND HUMOUR OF THE QUAID BY HASSANALLY A. RAHMAN

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Elegantly dressed in a suit and wearing a hat, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is seen relaxing on a bench during a visit to Simla. | Photo: PID 

 The following are excerpts from an article under the same headline that was published in Dawn on December 25, 1976, as part of a supplement marking the Quaid-i-Azam’s birth centenary.

All those who knew Quaid-i-Azam intimately, know very well that he did never crack a joke merely for the sake of raising a laugh. He was too self-controlling and disciplined a man to waste time on little things. One thing he valued most was, Time. Time, he knew, can never return. Shakespeare said: “Oh! Call back yesterday / bid time return”. But Quaid-i-Azam never had the need to do so. He used every minute of his life as carefully as he wanted to. Punctuality, keeping appointments and never wasting a moment was his second nature.

He was [once] arguing an appeal before the full bench of Bombay High Court. He argued the whole day. The working time was up to 5pm. The judges asked: “Mr. Jinnah, how much more time would you need to finish your side?” He replied: “My Lord, hardly 15 minutes.”

Then the senior judge [on the bench] said: “Could you continue for a few minutes longer today and finish your address?” Normally, when a High Court judge says so, no lawyer would decline. But not so with Mohammad Ali Jinnah. “My Lord, I would love to do so, but I have a very important appointment which I can just make in time if I leave the court at once.”

The junior-most judge sitting on the left side of the chief justice whispered to him to insist that the case be finished on the day. “That is all right, Mr. Jinnah. We also have an appointment, but we like to finish this today so that judgment can be delivered on Monday.” Out came the reply from this great lawyer, shooting like a gun: “My Lords, the difference between your Lordships and myself is that (raising his voice) I keep my appointments.”

The three judges, Englishmen, all went more red in their face than they already were. They all rose as if in a huff. Everybody got up and while the advocates bowed fully, the judges seemed only to nod. It was thought that the solicitor, who had instructed Jinnah, felt that this may affect the result of the case. The next morning the judges appeared in a very good mood.

Advocacy

Mr Jinnah was absolutely on the top of the profession. Therefore, naturally many lawyers tried their best to be allowed to work with Mohammad Ali Jinnah but very few could be taken. Mr. Frank Mores, then Editor of Indian Express, once wrote: “Watch him in the court room as he argues his case. Few lawyers can command a more attentive audience. No man is more adroit in presenting his case. If to achieve the maximum result with minimum effort is the hallmark of artistry, Mr. Jinnah is an artist in his craft. He likes to get down to the bare bones of his brief in stating the essentials of his case. His manner is masterly. The drab court rooms acquire an atmosphere as he speaks. Juniors crane their necks forward to follow every movement of his tall well-groomed figure. Senior counsel listen closely, the judge is all attention; such was the great status of this top lawyer.”

Once a very close friend whose request Mr. Jinnah could not decline came with his son who had just returned from England as a full-fledged barrister. He said: “Jinnah, please take my son in your chamber and make him a good lawyer.”

“Of course, yes,” said Jinnah. “He is welcomed to work in my chambers. I will teach him all I can. But I cannot transmit my brilliance to him”. Then slowly he added: “He must make his own brilliance.” This went into the heart of the young barrister and he worked so hard on the briefs and the law that one day he too became a great lawyer, but nowhere near the height of Mr. Jinnah.

People’s enthusiasm

It was around 1936-37 that Quaid-i-Azam came to Karachi and appeared before the Chief Court of Sind, as it then was, and appeared in a very important case and three lawyers of Karachi appeared against him. He had made a name as a lawyer long ago and in politics also he figured as a giant personality.

Consequently, the rush to the court room consisting of lawyers, students and politicians was so great that the court room was full to the brim. The entrance to the court room had to be closed to stop any noise, so that judicial work could be carried on with a decorum and dignity befitting the occasion. But at the end of every hour, the door was ordered to be opened so that those who wanted to go out or come in could do so. When the first opening of the door at 12 O’clock occurred, there was such a noise of rush that it appeared that the judges would lose their temper.

“My Lords,” said Jinnah in very sweet, melodious voice, “these are my admirers. Please do not mind. I hope you are not jealous.”

There was a beam of smile on the faces of judges and they appeared to be magnetically charmed by the words of the great persuasive man. The door remained opened and Quaid-i-Azam looked back on the crowd, raising his left hand indicating that he desired them to keep quiet. The atmosphere became absolute pin-drop silence as if by magic. The case proceeded for two days.

Quaid and students

The Quaid-i-Azam was fond of students. He loved them immensely. He always exhorted them to study hard. “Without education”, he said, “all is darkness. Seek the light of Education”. He was most attached to the Aligarh Muslim students. He used to visit the Aligarh University as often as he could. In fact, in his will, he left the entire residue of his property worth crores of rupees to be shared by the Aligarh University, Sind Madressah and Islamia College, Peshawar.

On one occasion at Aligarh after a hard day’s work of meeting people, addressing the students as he was sitting in a relaxed mood, he was told that one student, Mohammad Noman, was a very fine artist of mimicry. He could impersonate and talk or make a speech with all the mannerism of his subject. Quaid-i-Azam was told that this student could impersonate him to such a degree that if heard with closed eyes, Quaid-i-Azam will think that it was he himself who was speaking, and he will think as if he himself was talking to Quaid-i-Azam.

Quaid-i-Azam sent for the student at once. The student asked for 10 minutes’ time to prepare himself. After 10 minutes the student turned up dressed in dark gray Sherwani, a Jinnah cap and a monocle, like Quaid-i-Azam. Of course, he could not look like Quaid-i-Azam, but the appearance on the whole was somewhat similar.

Then the student put on his monocle and addressed an imaginary audience. The voice, the words, the gestures, the look on his face and everything appeared like Quaid-i-Azam. In fact, if he had spoken behind a screen without being seen, the audience would have taken him to be Quaid-i-Azam speaking himself. Quaid-i-Azam was very much pleased with the performance. But when it was finished, the culmination came unexpectedly. Quaid-i-Azam took off his own cap and monocle and presented to the student, saying: “Now this will make it absolutely authentic.”

Purdah

In November 1947, Quaid-i-Azam was in Lahore and he personally supervised operation of the rehabilitation of refugees. One-day Quaid-i-Azam was invited to a girls college. The girls and ladies of the staff did not observe purdah as he addressed them.

When back at Government House, Quaid-i-Azam was in a humorous mood and wanted to know why the ladies did not observe purdah. His sister, Miss Fatima Jinnah, said: “That was because they regarded you as an old man.”

“That is not a compliment to me,” said Quaid-i-Azam. Liaquat Ali Khan, who was present, said: “That was because they regarded you as a father”.

“Yes, that makes some sense.”

Man of character

Quaid-i-Azam was a man of such a strong character that he could not be easily attracted toward anyone, including women. Excepting his wife, there is no instance whatsoever of anyone at whom he glanced in love.

Once in Bombay, where he had gone to an English club to relax after hard day’s work, he played cards. The game was called Forfeit. It was played among four persons – two gentlemen and two ladies. Tradition required that the lady who lost the game must offer to be kissed by the gentlemen who won. The lady indeed was very attractive, and she offered Quaid-i-Azam to be kissed by him. Quaid-i-Azam said: “My lady, I waived my rights. I cannot kiss a lady unless I fall in love with her.”

Rose between thorns

On the 14th day of August 1947, Lord Mountbatten with his wife came to Karachi for the investiture ceremony of the Governor-General of Pakistan. After Quaid-i-Azam was sworn in, the new State of Pakistan was handed over to him legally, constitutionally and with proper ceremony.

Lord Mountbatten proposed that Quaid-i-Azam be photographed with Lord and Lady Mountbatten. Quaid took it for granted, that, as usual etiquette requires, the lady will stand between the gentlemen. So, he told Lady Mountbatten: “Now you will be photographed as the rose between the two thorns”. But Mountbatten insisted that Jinnah should stand in the middle. He said that being a Governor-General etiquette requires that Quaid-i-Azam should be in the centre. Naturally, Quaid-i-Azam yielded.

And when Quaid-i-Azam stood between the two, Mountbatten said to him: “Now you are the rose between two thorns.” He was right.

Whenever Quaid-i-Azam was cornered in a difficult situation, he proved greater than his opponent. His political enemies always wanted to publicise that Quaid-i-Azam was always with the Congress, but when the opportunity came he switched over to Muslim League.

In December 1940, Quaid-i-Azam visited London along with the Viceroy and Congress leaders. He furnished details about Pakistan issue and quoted facts and figures as to how the Congress had betrayed the trust of the Muslims. One correspondent said to him: “Oh, you were also in the Congress once.” Jinnah retorted: “Oh, my dear friend, at one time I was in a primary school as well!”

Trick countered

In 1946, political agitation both by Congress and Muslim League had reached its zenith. The British government, always master of the art of side-tracking the main issue, suggested to Jawaharlal Nehru that as very soon India will be handed over to them, so as a beginning some Hindus and some Muslims should be taken in the Interim Cabinet. Before that there was no such thing. The body which was functioning was the Viceroy’s Executive Council. But Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that it should be called a Cabinet. Example was shown that the Viceroy himself calls it a Cabinet.

Quaid-i-Azam refused to do so. He said the Cabinet is a constitutional body the members of which are selected from the members of Parliament by the leader of majority. Here, there is no such thing. It is purely an Executive Council and it cannot become a Cabinet merely because you call it a Cabinet. A donkey does not become an elephant because you call it an elephant.

Call for honesty

Gandhi always used to speak about his inner voice. He seemed to create an impression that there is something spiritual within him, which, in time of necessity, gives him guidance and he obeys it and calls it his inner voice. As a matter of fact, Gandhi often changed his opinion and suddenly took the opposite stand. Quaid-i-Azam called it a somersault.

Once having committed himself to a certain point of view, he took a dramatically opposite stance. On the next day, Gandhi maintained that his inner voice dictated him to take the opposite view. Quaid-i-Azam lost his temper and shouted:

“To hell with this Inner Voice. Why can’t he be honest and admit that he had made a mistake.”

In June 1947, partition was announced by Lord Mountbatten. He insisted on an immediate acceptance of the plan. Quaid-i-Azam said he was not competent to convey acceptance of his own accord and that he had to consult his Working Committee. The Viceroy said that if such was his attitude, the Congress would refuse acceptance and Muslim League would lose its Pakistan. Quaid-i-Azam shrugged his shoulders and said: “What must be, must be.”

In July 1948, Mr. M. A. H. Ispahani went to Ziarat where Quaid-i-Azam was seriously ill. He pleaded with Quaid-i-Azam that he should take complete rest as his life was most precious. Quaid-i-Azam smiled and said:

My boy there was a time when soon after partition and until 1948, I was worried whether Pakistan would survive. Many unexpected and terrible shocks were administered by India soon after we parted company with them. But we pulled through and nothing will ever worry us so much again. I have no worries now. Men may come, and men may go. But Pakistan is truly and firmly established and will go on with Allah’s grace forever”

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JINNAH IN THE EYES OF HIS COLLEAGUES

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Mr Jinnah was always aesthetically dressed whether he was wearing a traditional attire, a three-piece suit during his early years as a young lawyer in Bombay, even when caught unawares on camera during a contemplative moment wearing a white suit, or in an overcoat during the Simla Conference.

 Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan

Liaquat

Honesty without humbug – an honesty which even his severest critics have never called in question; an honesty which seeks no shelter in sanctimonious spiritual impedimenta; which abjures alike the halo and the high place, the beard and the bargain, the mystic voice and the money value – an unemotional shrewdness which strips facts down to their naked reality, but makes him pace the floor till the early hours of the morning examining and re-examining, weighing and valuing each detail of the decision upon which the very life or death of his people might depend – perseverance which recognises no obstacle as unsurmountable; intellectual acumen which can see the whole in detail and the detail as part of the whole – such is the man and statesman, the Quaid-i-Azam of ninety million Indian Muslims, the Disraeli of Indian politics – Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Haji Abdullah Haroon

Abdullah Haroon

Jinnah is the uncrowned king of Muslim India. In the Islamic world as a whole, he happens to be the greatest Muslim statesman of this age. In the matter of service to Islam his record is great and glorious. In the future history of Muslim India, he will figure as a great benefactor of Mussalmans. He created awakening among the Muslims of India and brought them under one banner at a most critical time in their history when they were about to meet with the same fate which had met the unfortunate Dravidians some centuries ago. He is the founder of a new India in which all nations can live happily together. May God give him long life.

Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman

Khaliquzzaman

Muslim India will be celebrating the birthday of the Quaid-i-Azam in a manner befitting the occasion; his name has become known to the Muslims of India and even beyond its borders to the Muslims of the world. His lifelong service to the community and devotion to the cause of Islam have rightly won him his unique position. In nationalist quarters he once occupied a respectable place but is now considered to be a separationist and a communalist of the worst order. Time alone will testify whether his politics of today is not in the interest of peace and goodwill of the communities in the future.

Qazi Muhammad Isa

Isa

Our beloved and esteemed Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah is at this most critical time in the history of the world moulding the destinies of ninety million Muslims, who live unitedly, as never before under the banner of the mighty Muslim organisation – the All-India Muslim League.

Our beloved Quaid-i-Azam at the 1940 Annual Session of the All-India Muslim league, held at Lahore, sounded a clarion call, and exhorted us all to gather under the banner of the League, and laid down in a clear and no uncertain manner the line of action which the Muslim Nation must take to ensure its honourable existence in India.

God has come to our rescue, and gifted us with a leader, great in trials, mature in his judgement, infinite in his affections for his fellow Muslims, and who stands like the premonitory, who not only stands four squares to all the waves of intrigues and hatred, but against whom all these waves are repelled.

Raja Sahib of Mehmoodabad

Mahmoodabad

He is our teacher, preceptor and guide – that is how we of the younger generation regard our great Quaid. He received our allegiance and, having received it, taught us what true and honest politics is; and has guided us on the right political path. He has steered our mind clear of pseudo-nationalism to a right perception of the implications of that patriotism for the Indian Muslim which, while not forgetting the true interests of the Motherland, holds fast to Islam; and above all he has, by making it his own by the clarity of his exposition and the irrefutability of his arguments, given an irresistible momentum to that life-giving movement – the movement for the creation of sovereign Muslim States in those parts of India where Islam pervades i.e. Eastern and North Western India. May he live long to see the consummation of this inspiring ideal.

Shah Nawaz Khan

Shah Nawaz Khan

I deem it a great pleasure to express my deep appreciation for the noble services rendered by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the cause of the upliftment of the Muslim masses. He commands the confidence of 90 million Indian Musalmans, who look to him for guidance and are ready to do anything which the Quaid-i-Azam orders them to do. His name is a watchword in every village and town of my province and I take the liberty to assert that no Muslim leader has, so far, commanded that much respect or confidence of the Muslim masses like the Quaid-i-Azam.

Sirdar M. Aurangzeb Khan

Aurangzeb

When Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar was being removed on a stretcher to the boat which was to take him to England for the First Round Table Conference, ardent disciples asked him as to who after him was to lead Muslim politics in India in the stormy times ahead. “Mr Jinnah and none else,” he prayerfully blurted out… “If great God puts it in Mr Jinnah’s head to take up the job.”

I may be permitted to at once connect Dr Iqbal’s last wish with the prayer of Muhammad Ali. In the annual meeting of Bazm-e-Iqbal last March when Mr Jinnah was presiding, Sir Abdul Qadir read a passage from a letter of Dr Iqbal to a friend (that friend during Doctor Saheb’s last illness wrote to him praying for his speedy recovery) and pray listen to the reply of the Poet of the East:

“My message has been duly delivered. My time is up. Instead of praying for me you should pray for the lives of Ataturk and Mr Jinnah who have yet to fulfil their missions.”

Sir Sikandar Hyat Khan

Sikandar Hyat

I associate myself whole-heartedly with the celebrations of the 64th birthday of Mr Jinnah. His unique services to the Mussalmans and to India entitle him to the respect and admiration of all patriotic Indians; and so far as the Muslims are concerned, his contribution, at this psychological moment, has deservedly earned him the title of Quaid-i-Azam. Even his worst critics cannot but recognise his great ability, integrity and sense of public duty. May he live long to complete the organisation of the Mussalmans, so that with the other elements in the country they may contribute their best in the building up of a new India wherein the best in the culture and life of each section may be fully safeguarded and effectively guaranteed, and no class or party tyranny may be permitted.

Khawaja Nazimuddin

Nazimuddin

I wish to begin with a frank confession. Not many years ago, the politics of Mr Jinnah did not quite appeal to me and I was inclined to be sceptical of the ideals which Mr Jinnah was holding up before the Muslims of India. It did not, however, take long for me, like many others, to realise that the lead which Mr Jinnah was giving in 1936 was the only correct lead in the circumstances rapidly developing in the country.

If today, 90 million Muslims now stand shoulder to shoulder in a solid phalanx under the banner of the All-India Muslim League, if machinations to reduce Muslims to the position of a perpetual and powerless minority depending for their very lives on the mercy of others have failed, the credit goes primarily to one man: Mohammad Ali Jinnah. This is no mean achievement.

Sir Cowasjee Jahangir

Cowasjee

If there is one characteristic, more than another, which distinguishes Mr Jinnah in public life, it is his sturdy independence. Nothing will sidetrack him from what he considers is the path of truth, righteousness and equity. No amount of opposition, no threats and no danger will daunt him, in his determination. He is a man full of courage and tenacity. He has never put self or his own interests before those of his country. Such men are rarely found in public life. He stands today not only as the acknowledged leader of the millions of his community but also as one of the foremost men in the public life of India. May Providence continue to give him health and strength to serve India in general and his great community in particular.

Nawab M. Ismail Khan

Ismail Khan

Mr. Jinnah’s sagacity, penetrating intellect, rapid grasp of the most intricate problems and luminous insight coupled with calmness of temper and complete personal disinterestedness have enabled him to rise to that unique and pre-eminent position among the Mussalmans of India, which no other Muslim leader in recent years, however great his services, and however high his personal quality, has held among his fellow Muslims.

For the past few years by organizing the Mussalmans politically under the banner of Muslim League, he has succeeded in infusing into them a spirit of self-reliance and self-respect, and has thus saved them from the doom which threatens every nation split up in small factions of warring political creeds and ideologies.

Sir Hormasji Pherozshah Modi

Pherozeshah

Mr. Jinnah has long been one of the dominant figures of our political life. His has been a chequered career, with many apparent contradictions, but throughout it certain fundamental characteristics have stood out. He is fearless and straightforward, seeks no popularity and is singularly free from political intrigue. He is a lone figure; very few have really known him or have penetrated the armour of his aloofness. An arresting personality – one may dislike or condemn, but cannot ignore him – his contribution to the political life of India has been outstanding. As one who has known Mr Jinnah for many years, I can wish him nothing better than that he may long continue to occupy the place he has created for himself.

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THE SOLE STATESMAN BY ARDESHIR COWASJEE

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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah (extreme left) arrive in Peshawar in 1948. | Photo: PID 

The following are excerpts from five columns by the writer published in Dawn on June 18, 2000, July 2, 2000, July 9, 2000, July 16, 2000 and December 25, 2011.

…Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a proud man, proud for good reason; by the overriding force of his indomitable will, and that alone, he carved out a country for us. Not following the form of his day, Jinnah did not go to jail for a single day, never embarked on a hunger strike, did not encourage rowdy protest marches, he abhorred any form of violence…

“Do your duty and have faith in God. There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan.”’

This conviction was soon to be proved wrong. His buoyant optimism and his firm certitude in the future of this country clouded his perception of the calibre and character of the leaders who would immediately and later follow him. He failed to conceive that through their lack of ability, lack of integrity, their avarice, their unquenchable greed, their hunger for power, pomp, pelf and position, they would be the undoing of Pakistan.

He was the sole statesman this country has had. Those who followed were small men, narrow of thought… Within a quarter of a century, half of Jinnah’s Pakistan was lost… It is now an overpopulated, illiterate, bankrupt country…

When Jinnah addressed the first constituent assembly of the country on August 11th 1947, he embodied in his speech the core of his philosophy… his vision for the state he had founded. It was a fine piece of rhetoric; too fine, too moral, too democratic, too liberal, too full of justice, too idealistic for the Philistines. This speech…has been subject to distortion; it has inspired fear in successive governments which would have been far happier had it never been delivered…

On August 11th, 1947, before the flag of Pakistan had even been unfurled, Jinnah told his people and their future legislators:

“You are free, free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

That same day, he made it clear to the future legislators and administrators that “the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order...” He told them he would not tolerate the evils of bribery, corruption, black marketeering and “this great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery.”

Little did he know that day that these prime evils were to become prerequisites for the survival of the politicians in and out of uniform, and of the administrators of all ranks and grades for the maintenance of their power.

In a way, it was fortunate that Jinnah did not live long enough to see the negation of his principles… A man of high ideals – his disillusion would have been too great to bear…

No set of documents exists which spells out the “ideology of Pakistan”. Thus, every man… is entitled to his own conception of what this ideology is. However, it would be logical to assume that the ideology should rightly spring from what our sole statesman envisaged for the country he created…

There are many who hold that the Objectives Resolution, which came into being a mere six months after [his] death, is the embodiment of the “ideology”.

The Objectives Resolution, the text of which, in English and in Urdu, was embossed on brass plaques and once mounted in the hall of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, has been pronounced by successive democratic and other leaders to be a reminder to us all of the purpose of the creation of Pakistan… But it was not the true English text of the original Objectives Resolution which was sanctified. The plaque gave a modified version of this Resolution. The original stipulated that “adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures.” On the plaque, in the English version, the word “freely” was deliberately omitted…

Those alive today who knew Mohammad Ali Jinnah… were well aware of what he wanted. He achieved his ambition and founded for us what he intended to be a democratic, forward-looking, modern, secular state…

In the last 53 years this country has changed its name and status three times. It started as a dominion, which it remained until 1956, when under the constitution promulgated that year, it became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1962, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who had abrogated the 1956 Constitution, when he took over in 1958, promulgated his constitution and declared it to be simply the Republic of Pakistan. Then he became a politician… and by his First Constitutional Amendment Order of 1963, we again became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Now to a press conference held by Mohammad Ali Jinnah on July 14, 1947, in New Delhi. I quote relevant portions:

“Q. Could you as Governor General make a brief statement on the minorities’ problem?

  1. …I shall not depart from what I said repeatedly… Minorities to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded… There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship… They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt along with this goes the obligations of citizenship…
  2. Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?
  3. You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means…”

Now to what Mohammad Ali Jinnah had to say on the future constitution of Pakistan, in his broadcast to the American people in February 1948:

“The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed… I do not know what the ultimate shape… is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principles of Islam… Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. Islam has taught the equality of men, justice and fair play… In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission…”

For those who wish to interpret it [what Jinnah decreed for Pakistan] their own way, it conforms merely to narrow expedient government vision; and to the bigots and the intolerant who sadly make up the majority of the 180 million, it has been discarded or distorted into wishing what they wish it to mean.

His creed is nationally long gone. ‘Secular’ is almost a treasonous word, tolerance an equally treasonous practice, as bigotry is largely the order of the day. Jinnah’s Pakistan became virtually moribund on his death and received the final fatal blow in 1949 when his trusted lieutenants brought in the Objectives Resolution. From then on, it was a steady downhill dive to where this truncated country now finds itself – isolated and distrusted by much of the world which is concerned about its erratic policies and practices.

This story is the final part of a series of 16 special reports under the banner of ‘70 years of Pakistan and Dawn’. Visit the archive to read all reports.

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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.

The Promise of Democracy

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.

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Wearing a Mao cap, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is seen in this undated file photo on the top sitting at a dhaba, a roadside eatery, giving seemingly complete access to the common man. It was forays like this that earned him the title of the Quaid-i-Awam – the leader of the people which, in many ways, he actually was. 

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.

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Maulana Kausar Niazi (extreme right) leading the prayers at a ceremony to mark the authentication of the Constitution on April 12, 1973. On the left is President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto standing beside Fazal Elahi Chaudhry, who at the time was the Speaker of the National Assembly and later became President of Pakistan on August 14, 1973, when Bhutto took oath of the office of the prime minister. | Photo: National Assembly Archives 

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”.

Economic Agenda

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressing a gathering in this undated file photo in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

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.

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A meeting of the main opposition United Democratic Front at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rawalpindi ahead of the passage of the Constitution in 1973. Seen from left to right are: Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani, Sardar Sherbaz Mazari, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, Syed Shah Mardan Shah Pir Pagaro, Maulana Mufti Mehmood, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, Ahmed Raza Kasuri and Khan Abdul Wali Khan. | Photo: Sherbaz Mazari Archives 

Although 125 of the 135 members of the National Assembly voted for Pakistan’s Constitution 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

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A rare photograph of the Bhutto Family in its prime. Seen from left to right are Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Murtaza Bhutto (looking leftwards), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shahnawaz Bhutto. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives 

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.

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Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was as comfortable, if not more, in the company of foreign dignitaries as he was with the masses at home. He is seen here in Washington DC with United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (left) during a visit in February 1975. Seen in the middle is Begum Nusrat Bhutto. 

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.

Courtesy of :

 

The Misunderstood Premier

 

Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951)

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An influential politician and everything else that he was, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan loved gadgets of all kinds and was an avid photographer. Here he is seen getting ready to take a snap of his beloved wife, Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, during his state visit to the United States of America in May 1950. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Liaquat Ali Khan was as pivotal to the consolidation of Pakistan as the Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was central to the creation of Pakistan. He became the country’s first prime minister not simply because he was a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah, but by his proven leadership skills in having led the Muslim League bloc in the interim government before partition. Liaquat, having left all his property in India, refused to file a claim to which he was entitled as a ‘refugee’. The Nawabzada reduced his standard of life and set about building institutions in the new country. Such was the stuff the man was made of.

 

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Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah (left) arriving in December 1946 at the Gul-e-Rana residence of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan (right) in New Delhi to attend a reception given in honour of Mr Jinnah. | Photo: The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad.
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Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan with Begum Rana Liaquat and their two sons Akbar (left) and Ashraf (right). | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

The course of Pakistan’s journey can be seen meandering its way from a prime minister proverbial for his probity and down to his successors who every now and then faced investigations related to their wealth. It is no wonder, then, that after Pakistan had turned the corner in terms of consolidation, questions began to be raised regarding the constituency of Liaquat in Pakistan.

His tenure as prime minister is seen by certain quarters as having set a controversial path for the nation to follow. There have been two basic contentions. The first one relates to his decision to move away from what used to be the Soviet Union. The decision also had its reverberations in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case.

The first step in this direction was taken on May 3, 1948, when it was announced that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Pakistan were to exchange ambassadors. On the occasion, Liaquat stated: “It has been the desire of Pakistan to have friendly relations with all the nations of the world, and the decision to exchange ambassadors with Russia is in consequence of that policy.”

The invitation for Liaquat to visit Moscow came a year later, on June 2, 1949, through the Soviet ambassador to Iran. Russia thereafter insisted that ambassadors be exchanged prior to Liaquat’s visit. Although on June 9, Sir Zafrullah Khan tried to stall the move, Liaquat proceeded regardless. The Pakistani ambassador was appointed on December 31, 1949, while the Soviet ambassador was appointed on March 22, 1950.

In June 1949, the USSR ‘advanced’ the date of the invitation, from August 20 to August 14. Liaquat could not agree to the date as it happened to be the first Independence Day of Pakistan after the Quaid-i-Azam’s demise. Subsequently came an invitation from the US and Liaquat proceeded there in May 1950.

Liaquat mentioned the Soviet invitation when leaving for the US, while he was on the US soil, and on his return home. A year later, Liaquat, while addressing a press conference in Karachi, explained the position thus:

I cannot go [to Moscow] until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such date … The invitation came. Later, they suggested August 14, 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day. I can come on any day after that; after that they have not replied”.

I am not the first to challenge the ‘myth’ of the Moscow invitation. Others, including Irtiza Husain, Mansur Alam and Shahid Amin, have preceded me. Syed Ashfaque Husain Naqvi, a diplomat based in Tehran at the time, rejected the allegation that Liaquat had cadged an invitation.

And this is what Dr. Samiullah Koreshi, who was posted at Moscow, related in his book ‘Diplomats and Diplomacy’: “Mr. Shuaib Qureshi was the first ambassador to USSR [in 1949] … He called on Andre Gromyko, then deputy foreign minister, to tell him that the prime minister had dispatched him post haste so that he could make all arrangements for his visit to Moscow in response to their invitation.

[Gromyko replied] ‘Our invitation to your prime minister? Oh, you mean your proposal that he come here’.”

Thereafter, the Soviet government did not revert to the subject.

The point is that the change of date having been made by the Soviets and Liaquat having conveyed his reservations clearly, Pakistan cannot be accused of having tried to pit one world power against the other, or of having picked up any of the two. He simply went ahead with the invitation that was valid and cannot be charged with failure to make use of the one that was not there on the table.

The other controversy regarding Liaquat’s tenure relates to the Objectives Resolution which is blamed for having opened the door for the subsequent Islamisation of General Ziaul Haq. Regardless of if Pakistan was to be an Islamic state, the Pakistan movement clearly shows that it was not meant to be a territory with an ideology, but an ideology with a territory. Securing human rights and survival for a community suffering from religious discrimination is of ideological, and not of territorial, import.

 

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The man that Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was. No one ever doubted that the resolve behind the smile was ironclad. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

The Objectives Resolution moved by Liaquat is denounced as a regressive document by which he allegedly sought to nullify the secular vision of the Quaid-i-Azam. To determine the veracity of the charge, we need to see three documents.

The first is the draft by the religious parties’ alliance. It read:

“The Sovereignty of Pakistan belongs to Allah alone, and the Government of Pakistan has no right other than to enforce the will of Allah. The basic law of Pakistan is the Shariah of Islam. All those laws repugnant to Islam are to be revoked, and, in future, no such laws can be passed. The Government of Pakistan shall exercise its authority within the limits prescribed by Islamic Shariah.”

Now compare this draft with the one presented by Liaquat. It read:

“Whereas the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust. This Constituent Assembly representing the people of Pakistan, resolves to frame a constitution of the sovereign independent state of Pakistan wherein the state shall exercise its power and authority through the chosen representatives of the people.”

What is the difference between the two drafts? The one presented by the ulema negates democracy, while Liaquat’s draft asserts it. Without democracy, even a minority sect can rule over a majority sect; a situation that has thrown the whole of the Middle East into confusion today.

The third document is the speech of Liaquat in the Constituent Assembly that he delivered on March 7, 1949, on the subject.

“I assure the minorities that we are fully conscious of the fact that if the minorities are able to contribute to the sum total of human knowledge and thought, it will redound to the credit of Pakistan and will enrich the life of the nation. Therefore, the minorities may look forward, not only to a period of the fullest freedom, but also to an understanding and appreciation on the part of the majority … Sir, there are many interests for which the minorities desire protection. This protection this Resolution seeks to provide. We are fully conscious of the fact that they do not find themselves in their present plight for any fault of their own. It is also true that we are not responsible by any means for their present position. But now that they are our citizens, it will be our special effort to bring them up to the level of other citizens so that they may bear the responsibilities imposed by their being citizens of a free and progressive State …”

It is true that members of the Pakistan National Congress had raised objections to the Resolution, but, among many others, it had the support of Sir Zafrullah Khan and Mian Ifthikharuddin who represented two divergent schools of thought and became part of religious and political minority in later years. And this is a proof of Liaquat’s sincere intentions in moving the Objectives Resolution and of the tinkering that the Resolution suffered afterwards.

Besides, Liaquat had held out the assurance that the Objectives Resolution would not become a substantive part of the Constitution. This, and other linguistic jugglery, was done much later by General Ziaul Haq. Therefore, it is unjustifiable to blame Liaquat for the excesses caused by the dictator that opened the door for even more abuse than he himself probably thought of.

Whatever the critics might say, Liaquat was what he was. It was a real achievement on his part that he could set Pakistan on the course to industrialization. Western countries, seeking to ensure Pakistan’s demise, refused to supply even on payment, machinery and parts. They wanted Pakistan to be subservient to India. Liaquat nevertheless could procure the necessary equipment from East European countries in return for hard cash. Sishir Chandra Chattopadhaya had stated on the floor of the Constituent Assembly that the link between East Bengal and Calcutta could not be broken. Liaquat broke the link.

He refused to devalue currency when Britain and India did so. In the face of the Indian threat not to lift jute at the new price, Liaquat went to the growers, directly pleading with them not to sell at the old rate. If need be, the government of Pakistan would lift the entire stock, he assured the growers. The jute mills of Calcutta could not run without jute from East Bengal and, ultimately, the owners purchased at the new rate. This single decision enabled Liaquat to derive full benefit from the boom created by the Korean War, and the country, which had been written off as nonviable, became more than solvent.

The British, since 1857, had imposed certain standards for the recruitment of soldiers. Liaquat removed them and started the induction of Bengalis in Pakistan Army. Similarly, there was only one ICS officer from East Pakistan, Nurun-Nabi Choudhry. Liaquat immediately fixed a 50 per cent quota for East Bengal civil servants to generate parity.

 

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Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan (extreme right) sitting in mourning as the body of the slain Prime Minister, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, lay in state before the burial. He was assassinated on October 16, 1951, during a public rally at Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh which was later renamed Liaquat Bagh. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

The critics of Liaquat survived, but Liaquat did not. And he died in circumstances that have never allowed anyone to pinpoint the actual killer … or killers. Liaquat’s life and actions generated controversies when there should have been none, and his death remains a controversy that failed to generate much interest where it mattered. Liaquat deserved better.

Featured Image: Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan signing his assent after having been sworn in as Pakistan’s first Prime Minister on August 15, 1947, in the presence of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (right) on the grounds of the Governor General House in Karachi. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Courtesy:

Dawn: The misunderstood Premier, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951) by Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi.” The writer is a historian and biographer of Liaquat Ali Khan.

 

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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