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Wrongs in the first year of Pakistan

Retracing some historical errors that pushed a nascent country with great potential towards disasters that still haunt the society

Wrongs in the first year of Pakistan
‘No other language but Urdu’: Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan.

This August Pakistan is completing 67 years of its existence. While looking at this period one often wonders why this country with so much of potential went astray and ended up as a fragile and almost a failed state. Some blame General Ayub Khan for usurping power by derailing democracy, some accuse Iskander Mirza, the first president of Pakistan, for declaring the first countrywide martial law and abrogating the 1956 constitution. There are still some others who find fault with the shenanigans of Malik Ghulam Muhammad, the third governor general of Pakistan, for dismissing the second prime minister of Pakistan, Khawja Nazimuddin, and then dissolving the first constituent assembly.

Yet if we look carefully, the rot started much earlier. The religion card that was so deftly played by the Muslim League led by Jinnah continued its spiral movement after partition. Forget about the warnings conveyed to the departing Muslims from the stairs of the Jamia Mosque in Delhi, just peep into the folds of initial years after Pakistan’s inception and you get a picture of what was inevitable to come. No surprises await you in the coming years if you untangle the web of postnatal squirms of the country.

Let’s start from the day of independence when Jinnah decided to become governor general rather than prime minister of Pakistan. Everyone knows that in a parliamentary democracy head of the government is usually prime minister and being governor general as head of state is rather a ceremonial job. Being the strongest personality in Muslim League, it was well-nigh impossible for Jinnah to mutate into a ceremonial head of state. This decision perplexed many but ultimately paved the way for an ongoing tussle between the heads of state and the heads of government.

Since 1947, this tug of war has marred the history of Pakistan in numerous ways; be it Liaquat Ali Khan and Khawja Nazimuddin or Muhammad Khan Junejo and Mir Zafarullah Jamali, almost all prime ministers have been expected to toe the line provided by the head of state, failing which they invited the wrath of the more powerful.

By choosing Jogendara Nath Mandal, a Hindu, as a minister, Jinnah was probably trying to send a signal that despite the two Deobandis hoisting the national flag, Pakistan was not going to have a Muslim-only government.

In addition to opting for the governor generalship, Jinnah made another important decision on the Independence Day; for the flag hoisting ceremonies in Karachi and Dacca (now Dhaka) two Deobandi religious leaders — Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani and Maulana Zafar Ahmed Usmani — were given the honour of unfurling the national flag. Despite their common surname i.e Usmani, they were not related but both belonged to the Deobandi school of thought. It is pertinent to mention here that most Deobandi scholars were either with Congress (such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad) or with Jamiat Ulemae Hind (such as Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madni). Contrary to the mainstream Deobandi politics of Indian nationalism, the two Usmanis had supported the Pakistan Movement and by giving them the distinction Jinnah had rewarded them in kind.

Interestingly, when the first cabinet of Pakistan took oath on August 15, 1947, there was an unlikely person to be inducted as the first minister for law. By choosing Jogendara Nath Mandal, a Hindu, Jinnah was probably trying to send a signal that despite the two Deobandis hoisting the national flag, Pakistan was not going to have a Muslim-only government. Though, ultimately the first signal proved to be long-lasting than the second and neither could Mandal survive for long nor his Hindu community had a bright future in Pakistan. In the final analysis, Deobandis seemed to have an upper hand.

The same day i.e. on August 15, M. Ayub Khuro and Iftikhar Ahmed Mamdot took oath as chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab respectively. The provincial governments were taking shape and for a while it appeared that parliamentary democracy would take root in provinces as well as at the centre. A jolt came within a week when in the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) Dr Khan Sahib’s provincial government was dismissed. This was the first provincial government to be dismissed in Pakistan. Dr. Khan Sahib’s full name was Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan and he was elder brother of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan — that indomitable freedom fighter from that region. The two brothers were supporters of the Indian National Congress and they had boycotted the referendum held earlier to gauge the popular support for the creation of Pakistan.

Even if the Muslim League could not tolerate a pro-Congress government in the NWFP, the rightful measure was to bring about a change within the confines of the provincial assembly rather than opting for the dismissal at the behest of the centre. This set an unfortunate precedence for all times to come and the establishment kept dismissing not only the provincial governments but the federal ones too. Examples are too many to repeat here.

Another unpleasant example was set when after dismissal, Dr Khan Sahib was detained and barred from participating in political activities. He remained confined in Hazara for a couple of years. To top it all, in September 1947 the Red Shirt Movement of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was also banned and despite his larger than life stature in the freedom struggle, Ghaffar Khan was also arrested and put behind bars.

In February 1948, Chaudhry Khalique-uz-Zaman was elected as the first president of the Pakistan Muslim League. Prior to this, it was called All India Muslim League and its last president was Jinnah who after becoming the governor general had relinquished the presidency of the Muslim League. In the same month, i.e. in February 1948 the Constituent Assembly met for the second time after a recess of almost six months. The second session was chaired by Jinnah himself (the first was chaired by Mandal, the law minister).

An important decision taken at the second session was regarding the separation of the Muslim League administrative positions from the executive posts of the government of Pakistan. This decision was reversed later by Liaquat Ali Khan when he got himself elected the president of the Muslim League when he was still the prime minister.

The second significant step was declaring Urdu as the sole national language of the country. Some members from East Bengal (the province had not yet been renamed as East Pakistan) demanded that the Constituent Assembly should meet alternatively in Dacca and they should be allowed to speak Bangla on the assembly floor.

Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan vociferously opposed this suggestion and reiterated his resolve to allow the use of only Urdu for the sake of ‘national unity’. This decision was to have long-lasting effects on the ‘national unity’.

Another nail in the coffin of the ‘national unity’ was hammered when in March 1948, Jinnah while addressing the annual convocation of the Dacca University made it absolutely clear that there would be one and only national language in the country i.e. Urdu and no other language could be considered for a national status. We need to remember that the population of East Bengal constituted around 55 per cent of the total population of Pakistan and that Bengali populace was averse to adopting Urdu as the sole national language.

Still, not even one year of independence had completed that in April 1948 the chief minister of Sindh, Ayub Khuro, was dismissed and Pir Ilahi Bukhsh was appointed as the new chief minister. It is pertinent to mention here that immediately after Partition, Pir Sahib had suggested that all the mosques in Pakistan should be advised to mention Jinnah’s name in the Friday sermons as was the practice in medieval times when the caliph’s name was mentioned in Friday sermons — luckily, nobody paid much attention to his idiotic proposal.

Ayub Khuro had become the chief minister of Sindh when he had replaced Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah who was the prime minister of Sindh before Partition. Ayub Khuro was in favour of restricting the settlement of refugees in Sindh and this had created frictions with central ministers such as Malik Ghulam Muhammad and Ghazanfar Ali Khan. At the same time, some provincial ministers in Sindh e.g. Ghulam Ali Talpur and Pir Ilahi Bukhsh were hatching conspiracies against Ayub Khuro. As a first step, Sindh Governor Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah deprived Ayub Khuro of the provincial interior ministry portfolio prompting Khuro to complain to Jinnah. Khuro wanted to remove GA Talpur and PI Bukhsh as provincial ministers.

On April 26, 1948, Ayub Khuro was accused of gross misconduct and corruption and removed from his post. The new CM, PI Bukhsh, was much more loyal to Jinnah and the central government. After the dismissal of Dr Khan Sahib’s government in the NWFP, the Sindh provincial government of Ayub Khuro was the second to go while Jinnah was still alive.

To sum it up, at least six important seeds were sown in the very first year of the nascent country that grew into thorny bushes. First, the early signs of the power play between the head of state and the head of government became visible. Second, an unnecessary limelight was provided to the Deobandis who later on craved for even greater chunk of the pie and kept encroaching upon the social space. Third, the dismissals of the provincial governments in the NWFP and Sindh — without any vote of no-confidence in the assemblies — set the country on the path of similar dismissals. Fourth, the detention of political opponents and imposing bans on their activities could hardly cultivate democratic traditions. Fifth, the use of corruption charges became a hallmark of the establishment against political rivals. And last, the disregard shown to legitimate demands of provinces in terms of not recognising other languages has continued to this day.

Dr Naazir Mahmood

Naazir Mahmood
The writer has been associated with the education sector since 1990 as teacher, teacher educator, project manager, monitor and evaluator.


  • The problem is that we never learn from history and keep committing the same mistake over and over.

  • Muhammad Muzaffar

    1. Greed and Personal vested Interested of the Political Elite- the Upper Upper Class which really meant Mis -rule and dirty governance ruined the country.

    The neutralization of the Middle Class in the Polity of Pakistan also had been major contributor to the vested personal interested of the Elite class and misgovernance.

    2. Economic Management after 1972 -barring the Private Sector and Public Participation in he Economy restricted the economic growth and social development which had built compulsion to borrow abroad and local also played a major role in “defacing” Pakistan.


  • Fazalullah Mohmand

    Please write something new

  • This article is completely fraught with major historical inaccuracies.

    1. Just because someone claims that Jinnah asked Usmanis to hoist the flag does not mean it is true. The picture of the first flag hoisting as well as the video is easily available. This claim that Shabbir Ahmad Usmani was asked to hoist the flag or Zafar Ahmad Usmani is certainly verifiable – and fails the test of verification. On the contrary the available evidence negates it. This is a lie invented by certain quarters in the last decade. The “importance” of this decision did not seem to occur to Jinnah (who in any event did not take any such decision) and there is no primary source evidence of this claim in Jinnah papers.

    2. Jinnah had very clearly said Bangla would be the provincial language of East Pakistan but Urdu would be the “lingua franca”. To paint it some other way is historically inaccurate.

    3. The Khan sb government had lost the majority with only 17 or 18 members in the assembly supporting it by August 15 1947. The dismissal was constitutional thorugh 51(5).

    4. Pir Illahi Bux made absolutely no such suggestion. Illahi Bux was a secular man like Khuhro. Just because he had a Pir behind his name didn’t mean he was a Mullah or a Pir. That said certain mosques did give the Khutba in Jinnah’s name but the practice was discontinued. Also Sindh’s government was not dismissed. The CM was. It was a Muslim League government.

  • I wish the learned writers have a common sense to analyse how we are being led to self-destruction rather than find the seeds for more destruction. Wake up nation. Save yourself. We are already neck deep in water of self-destruct. Do not you see!!

  • Would have trolled through this article apart, however YLH has already done it in a beautiful way.

  • Mustafa Shafi Khan

    A totally baseless article !

  • All historians have a tendency to add spices to the facts (to strengthen their viewpoint) which results is misconstruing the real scenario.

    As we cannot rectify what happened 67 years, so instead we should analyze current situation and find a solution.

    North Waziristan Operation: A totally ridiculously illogical action uncalled for.

    Gaza situation: Inhuman agreed. But nothing to do with Islam. The residents are Jews, Christians and Shias only. Jews are also human beings. They have a right to possess a small piece of land, promised to them in Qur’an and Bible. The culprits of Palestine should be either kicked out of the area or be killed in one go. Peace is more important for the World than these rascals.

  • I totally agaree with your analysis that many grave mistakes were made right at the time of founding the first civil government of Pakistan. Though mistakes are a natural occurance at the very inception of a new country but unfortunately these blunders set a dirty-precedent for all future govrnments in Pakistan.

    But I request you to expand your analysis to the subsequent years of Pakistan foundation as it would be an eye-opener for Generation X and Y of concerned Pakistanis.

    For instance, Liaquat Ali Khan’s cunning move of Keeping both the Premiership and Party-Head positions was resorted to by Mr. Asif Ali Zardari in recent past. Such an analysis would indeed be a source of learning for students of Political Science.

    • I agree with the writer’s subject of tracing our historical wrongs and error heritage. Without diagnosing a problem, recommending medication could be fatal, that is the law of nature. It seems that the comprehension, intelligence, and sincerity of the people of Pakistan has always been in doubt, for we have never ever been taken into confidence about the facts, events and happenings of this soil since its inception. What all do we have to hide?
      Very strangely there has been no Phds on the subject, events and personalities involved in the making of Pakistan in any university of Pakistan.

      I recommend that the same be given as a mandatory subject/topic to all universities of Pakistan to take out at least one Phd at each University for the next 5 to 10 years.

      This I believe, would bring out interesting facts about Pakistan and the hurdles that may be faced by those pursuing the studies in this critical area.

      • They are hiding the actual facts because they have limited minds with little or no vision for the actual realities of the world in general. The actual facts if made public would make a lot of phoney-heroes look very small i.e., like an ordinary person. It would tarnish the utopia-image that has been projected to us by our elders.
        Its also a very sad fact that we (Generation x) have been taught ‘Specific Ideology’ in the name of ‘Pakistan Studies’. You would be surprised to know that nearly all the countries and nations have a specific interpretation of historical facts that took place in the same era.
        I stress the need for making public the unbiased-history of creation of Pakistan and its early years. In the words of Qurat-ul-Aeen Haider “Past (History) is the salvation for Present and a key to projecting the Future”

  • Thanks Faisal and Shahid for your encouraging comments; indeed history needs new interpretations as the time goes by and new implications of past decisions appear.

  • Mr Jinnah dismissed Sindh Chief Minister Ayub Khuhro because he oppossed separation of Karachi from Sindh despitewhereas Sindh Assembly had also passed Resolution against the separation. Jinnah was totally wrong in dismissing CM, Sindh.

    02. The country was obtained in the name of Religion i.e. Islam. Pakistan was first country through out world who made in the name of religion, second was Israel. Latter made Hebrew – religious language their national language but in Pakistan language of Holy Quran was not made as national language deliberately. Instead Urdu was declared only national language of Pakistan. In fact Urdu was second name of Hindi as language experts say: Writing any language in another script does not mean, it became separate language.

    03. Why Jinnah did not recognize majority Language i.e. Bengali as National Language of Pakistan versus Urdu…Later Bengali was made another national language of Pakistan after long struggle that was itself sufficient proof Jinnah was wrong…Urdu was responsible for dismembering Pakistan.

  • Engineer Shahbaz Khan

    I would like to add few more mistakes that done in the very first year of nascent country, when Jinnah was still alive.
    1) After overthrowing the red shirts govt in then NWFP province, the red shirts organise a public peaceful gathering at babara charsada on 12 august 1948 and demands to set free Bacha Khan and other khudai khidmatgars, but the govt ordered to set open fire on all the marchers and killed over 600 peaceful protester .
    2) The first military operation on Fata took place in very first year of Pakistan when Jinnah was still alive .
    3) The first military operation on Balochistan also took place in the very first year of newborn Pakistan and in the life of Jinnah .
    4) The hardcore leader of Muslim League and the only elected CM of Muslim League prior to 1947, Hussain Ahmad Sehwardi was banned to enter into newborn Pakistan and Jinnah was alive .
    5) When Gandhi offered to Jinnah that he will come to Pakistan to receive the coming Muslims from India , and said to Jinnah that

    • Engineer Shahbaz Khan

      And said to Jinnah that he too must come to India to receive the coming Hindus into India from pakistan , so that the coming generations would think of it a good will gesture and will not opt violence against each other but Jinnah turned his offer down without thinking about the future .

      • Thanks Shahbas Khan sb for your enlightening comments; yes I agree that the events you have pointed out did take place when Jinnah was still alive; thanks for pointing them out.

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