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NWFP History: Referendum and the Pakhtunistan demand

Discussion in 'Military History & Tactics' started by AgNoStiC MuSliM, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Referendum and the Pakhtunistan Demand (NWFP II)


    BY YASSER LATIF HAMDANI

    (Continuation from “The beginning of the New Great Game”)

    June 3rd Plan – agreed upon by Congress and Muslim League- envisaged a referendum in the NWFP to determine which constituent assembly the province will join. Prior to this, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress had waged a successful campaign against Sir Olaf Caroe, the governor of NWFP, removed because he was deemed by Nehru and Dr. Khan Sahib to be partial towards the Muslim League. Perceptive historians on both sides of the border have since concluded otherwise. In any event Sir Olaf was replaced by Rob Lockhart. It was under the new governor, who enjoyed the confidence of the Congress Party and its ministry in the Frontier that the referendum was to be held.

    Howard Donovan, the Counselor for US Embassy in Delhi, in his periodic report of 26th June, 1948 addressed to US Secretary of State George Marshall, points out that “observers in New Delhi believe that the Muslim League will win the forthcoming referendum and that it is a foregone conclusion that the NWFP will join Pakistan. This is unpalatable to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his recent talks with Jinnah and Gandhi in Delhi were an effort to forestall… Gandhi has supported Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan… Nehru, Patel, and other Congress members of the Government are understood to be opposed to the idea of Pathanistan. It is of course ridiculous for the Congress to oppose independence of Travancore and at the same time espouse the cause of independence for the North West Frontier Province… Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s action will further complicate the situation in the North West Frontier Province and it will in all probability lead to further strife and bloodshed”

    On 27th June, 1947, Ghaffar Khan announced that “we have decided to establish Pathanistan which will be an independent state of all Pathans”. He also announced that the British were planning on making NWFP the base of operations against Russia and that the “arrival of Gen Montogomery and his meetings with Mr. M A Jinnah are significant”. Taking a leaf out of Jinnah’s own political vocabulary, he told the Pathans “Let us all organize ourselves and work under the discipline”. He also announced the boycott of the upcoming referendum. The editorial of the decidedly Indian nationalist newspaper “Statesman” for 28th June, 1947 stated that this amounted to an admission that the Frontier Congressmen who had been claiming that they had killed the Pakistan idea in the elections were now “afraid to meet its ghost”. It went on to say “Nor can it be regarded simply as a provincial affair; it carries grave all India implications. It is the first breach in the Mountbatten plan… To that plan the Congress was pledged by Pandit Nehru and AICC. Frontier Gandhi’s boycott then suggests one of the two unpleasant things; either the Congress High Command during the recent New Delhi confabulations possessed insufficient authority to get its decision accepted by its Pathan followers or else it abstained from exercising that authority to the extent which its June 3rd commitments morally required. Perhaps, however, Mahatma Gandhi operating to some extent independently has been a complicating factor. This seems a reasonable deduction from recent comings and goings in the capital… his advocacy of Pathanistan with its Balkanizing implications has involved him in some logical difficulty because of his simultaneous strong denunciation of independence for the state of Travoncore. Of the possible consequences of boycotting the referendum, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his colleagues cannot be unaware. Under June 3 plan it was to be the lynchpin of all future constitutional change in the province. Refusal to participate thus looks like an attempt to disintegrate the procedure before it has begun… That the difficult process of the referendum should be followed not long after by general election might cause grave disorder even chaos. Yet if the votes recorded next month result in the province joining Pakistan – as now seems inevitable- it is not easy to see how a ministry which has always opposed and derided Pakistan should remain in office.”

    On 2nd July, 1947, Pakistan Times carried a story by API with Peshawar Dateline of 30th June which said that “The idea of an independent Afghan state between Punjab and Afghanistan is supported by the Kabul newspaper, Islah, the semi-official organ of the Afghan Government which says there is no reason why these Afghans should be forced to live under the domination of Indians of Pakistan or Hindustan as slaves.”

    Henry Grady of the US Embassy in Delhi in his report of 1st July to the Secretary of State wrote: “Jinnah’s charge in June 28 statement that Frontier Congress’ resolution demanding free Pathan state is ‘direct breach’ of Congress acceptance [of] His Majesty’s Government’s June 3rd Plan seems fully justified. Frontier Congress Resolution favored establishment of a ‘Free Pathan State of all Pakhtoons; constitution based on Islamic conceptions of democracy; and refusal by all Pathans to submit to any non Pakhtoon authority’. Jinnah pointed out Gandhi speaking at AICC meeting urged acceptance June 3rd Plan which provided for referendum to decide whether Frontier should join Hindustan or Pakistan; Frontier Congress was bound to honor agreement. Gandhi, however, has encouraged Khan Brothers ‘to sabotage’ plan and sudden volte-face is ‘pure political chicanery’, Jinnah said only constitution which Pakistan CA could frame would provide for ‘autonomous unit’ but Khan brothers have made false charge that Pakistan CA would ‘disregard fundamental principles of Shariat and Quranic laws’… Gandhi’s decision to effect boycott of NWFP referendum appears to be deliberate effort to embarrass League… While the Afghan Government must realize it is not in a position to control the tribes, it might be tempted to annex the tribal territories and NWFP… Therefore while League will obviously win referendum current Congress campaign, based on wholly on party considerations with no regard for international angle, could produce conditions in NWFP more precarious than at present.” Prophetic words for what we have been witnessing till today.

    On 3rd July, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Atlee himself, the India and Burma committee met to discuss inter alia the situation in NWFP. Here the League’s position as expressed to Mountbatten that the League was not ready to give any assurances regarding the continuation of treaty obligations of the British Raj was cited as irresponsible and it must be pointed out to the League that this would weaken its case on the NWFP considerably. On 4th of July, the Indian Cabinet met with Nehru, Patel, Rajagopalachari and Liaquat Ali Khan amongst others where the Government of India refuted Afghan Government’s claims on NWFP declaring that it had no locus standi. Thus both Muslim League and Congress high command were on the face of it aligned with each other on this fundamental question. In private the Frontier Congressmen were already conceding that a fair referendum would yield a favorable result for Pakistan. Yet their insistence on boycott of the referendum continued for public consumption. Rob Lockhart wrote to Mountbatten on 3rd July, 1947 saying “Although the Ministers admitted that there was no question of the North West Frontier Province wishing to join the Hindustan constituent assembly and appeared to agree that there was no way of putting any other alternative before the people except Pakistan or Hindustan without changing the plan of 3rd June, 1947, they would not agree to modify their statement.”

    Defending the indefensible, Nehru wrote, in a telegram addressed to one M K Vellodi on 4th July, ” no breach of pledge involved in abstention from referendum by Frontier Congress” but admitting that “quite clear that there is no demand for separate sovereign state as everyone realizes Frontier province too small and weak for such existence”. Apparently Nehru sahib was not reading the resolutions tabled by the Khan brothers and their followers.

    As had been predicted from every corner, the referendum, to decide between Pakistan CA and Hindustan CA, held under an impartial governor who enjoyed the confidence of the Congress, with a Congress government in the province, still resulted in a landslide victory for the Muslim League on the Pakistan question. Even though, the Congress had itself expected this outcome, its Frontier leaders denounced it as being rigged, though without any real basis. The referendum was held to be largely fair by independent observers and reaffirmed what had been expected by all quarters – quite unlike the referenda that have followed in Pakistan under our military.

    Referendum and the Pakhtunistan Demand (NWFP II) Pak Tea House
     
  2. MarkTheTruth

    MarkTheTruth FULL MEMBER

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    Go american, contact cia, raw and mossad, make good and implementable feasibility and in last show them couple of hundred HIRED supporters and you will be on your way.
     
  3. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    What does that have to do with anything?
     
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  4. EjazR

    EjazR SENIOR MEMBER

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    This is quite inaccurate. The governer was a British and a retired military officer and like all right wing British colonialists was a supporter of Pakistan, not for any love they had for muslims, but because creation of Pakistan would best serve their future geopolitcal interests against the soviets in the future.

    The Congress governtment supported by Khudai Khtimatagar members was summarily dismissed and the British controlled administration was highly anti-congress. This can be seen from the fact that in no other elected assemble in the British provinces was dismissed and it was the "elected" assembly that voted for joining India or Pakistan. Let also not forget that only a few months before the referendum there ahd been elections on the exactly the same platform i.e. do you want Pakistan or Hindustan and still the NWFP electorate had voted for Congress and Khudai Khitmatagars.

    The referendum itself did not have full adutl franchise. The tribals who had strong support base were excluded and eventually it was only 51% of the allowed electorate that voted.

    I might also add that the referendum was not even necessary except to whitewash this act. IMO the Congress leaders like Nehru, Ghandhi e.t.c. had betrayed(willingly or unwillingly) the NWFP by agreeing to the "grouping" of provinces despite their brave rebellion in the face of combined onsalught by the British as well as Muslim League activists. So if it had already been decided that NWFP will go with Pakistan, what sense would it make to vote for India anyways? Both Congress and Muslim League had already signed and agreed that NWFP would be part of Pakistan.

    History is Not a Farce: The NWFP Referendum Pak Tea House
     
  5. Greywolf

    Greywolf FULL MEMBER

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    Dear Ejaz,

    I am afraid you are mistaken. The author is correct when he says that Rob Lockhart was made governor in place of Sir Olaf Caroe entirely on Congress' suggestion.

    Furthermore, the referendum was deemed necessary and the Congress had not agreed to NWFP being part of Pakistan because Bacha Khan and Dr. Khan Sb had raised a stink about it at the CEC leading Gandhi to throw in his lot with Bacha Khan. There was a discussion between Jinnah and Bacha Khan in Delhi but that failed as well.

    The Congress government was not summarily dismissed by the British a you allege, even though after the results of the referendum (which as the article shows that many Congress observers from other provinces accepted as being fair and impartial) this was agreed between all parties. Dr. Khan Sahib had famously said that he would resign even if 30 percent of the electorate voted for Pakistan. 51 percent did ... and to the dismay not just of Jinnah etc, but also of Congress high command Dr. Khan sb refused to do so.

    The Congress ministry was dismissed by Governor of NWFP (Sir George Cunningham who was held to be close to Khan brothers and was chosen by Jinnah specifically to build bridges with Dr. Khan sb) after independence on the advice of the Governor General under Article 51(5) of the Government of India Act 1935.... though the legislature was kept intact... the Governor then asked Abdul Qayyum Khan to form a ministry which constitutionally had to show its majority by the next budget session - which it did.


    Your reference to electorate is also misleading. It was the same electorate that elected the Congress ministry in 1946 in the first place. Therefore you defeat your own point by arguing that the electorate was not based on adult franchise.

    As for Nehru and Gandhi betraying NWFP... on the contrary, Gandhi and Nehru did not agree to grouping which is what led to partition of India. It would be interesting to read which side Ghaffar Khan threw his lot in the whole Cabinet Mission Plan negotiations.. because if he sided with the erroneous interpretation of the grouping clause that Gandhi and Nehru were favoring then he was as culpable as these two gentlemen.

    Furthermore... the article you quoted at the end does not make sense... Yasser Latif Hamdani responded to it in his part 3 I believe.
     
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  6. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Part III of the NWFP history series by Yasser Latif Hamdani

    NWFP History: The dismissal of the Khan Ministry and its aftermath (Part 3) Pak Tea House

    An excerpt:

    Before the referendum actually took place, Dr. Khan Sahib had famously said that he would resign from his post if Pakistan got 30% of the electorate. As shown by the last piece, Pakistan ended up polling more than 50% of the total electorate showing that the Pushtuns were overwhelmingly in favor of Pakistan. It was in the aftermath of the resounding defeat for the Congress that Dr. Khan Sahib declared that he didn’t have to resign because he commanded a legislative majority (a situation analogous in many ways to General Musharraf’s notorious re-election to the office of the president in 2007 by a legislature that was no longer representative).
     
  7. Halaku Khan

    Halaku Khan BANNED

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    Relevant to this topic is the book "Facts are Sacred" by Wali Khan. Book desription:
    An excerpt:
    This books is available online at Facts Are Sacred by Wali Khan
     
  8. EjazR

    EjazR SENIOR MEMBER

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    I don't dispute the fact that he was changed. What I said was he was a British Indian Army general. And he along with Olaf were primarily interested in protecting British interests rather than give the pathans their rights or be fair to them. The colonialists and military personnel in Britain had been advocating for this since the 30s. Wavell had the partition plan down pat including to the detail of which districts will go where, back in 1944 already. Sir Olaf actually wrote a paper titled "Wells of Power" that explained how it is important to have NW India(Pakistan) to protect against the Soviets as well as protect oil wells in the middle east and Iran.

    The point I am making is the Administration was run by the British or pro-British Indians and had conflict of Interest in running a free and fair referendum, particularly when the Khudai Khitmatagar were anti-British and were regularly put in jails and supressed.

    I suggest you read Olaf's contribution to UK-US foreign policy in the subcontinent here to get an understanding of what his thought process was.
    http://political-science.uchicago.edu/faculty/rudolphs/us-asia.pdf

    The Congress-Khudai Khitmatagar ministry had made substantial improvements int he lives of teh common people, opened up girl schools for the first time. Allowed the common people to build hujras which was illegal before unless you were a khan or a malik and many other egalatarian steps.

    Now based on this background, who would the pathans of NWFP who fought against the British have more connection with? The ML or the Khudai Khitmatagars? Also why was the NWFP the ONLY province to have a referendum when the Congress had already agreed to the partition plan? In Sindh, it was the elected assembly. In Bengal and Punjab, it was the same. When there was an elected assembly already in power, why the need of a parallel referendum just a few months after?


    I also agree that the NWFP government was dismissed AFTER the referendum, I apologise for not clearly mentioning that in my previous post. Here I should clarify an important point, that IMO two schools of thoughts emerged on this. Dr. Khan Sahib was adamant in holding on and prove the ML wrong.

    On the hand, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan who led the Khudai Khitmatagar and was strong proponent of non-violence had called for a boycott. He foresaw that this would lead to infighting between the pathans and called on the Khudai Khitmatagar (whose membership numbered more than 100,000) to not vote. Hence only a 51% voter turnout where only a few thousand voted for India. It was because even if a majority did vote for India, consitutionally it would still have to stay with Pakistan. The Indian union would have to cede NWFP to Pakistan as per its agreement.

    I think you are confusing between the cabinet mission plan for "united India" and the "Wavell/Mountbatten partition plan" that came few months later. The cabinet mission plan failed, it was teh partitiona plan that was finally accepted.

    Although the pros and cons of the cabinet mission plan is another topic, the "cumpolsory grouping" was a sticking point. Congress position was that each province should be allowed to vote which group it wanted to join, which the ML rejected. Let also remmeber that the cabinet grouping including united Punjab and Bengal with around 40%+ non-muslims as well as Hindu majority Assam. Moreover, NWFP was anti-Muslim League as well while Punjab was ruled by the Unionist party. The kicker was that after 10years, this grouping could also secede from the union! This was obviously rejected and this is what you are probably referring to here. It was indeed not accepted by the Congress Working Committee (CWC) but only mentioned that they would enter the Constituent Assembly with a rider that upon entering the consittuent assembly may make changes in the plan as they deem fit. This was what Nehru repeated in his famour press conference that led to the breakdown. IMO the cabinet mission plan was a disaster waiting to happen for reasons not related to this topic.

    When the partition plan was put forward, it again asked for cumpolsory grouping of NWFP with Pakistan, but it also allowed for partitioning of Bengal and Punjab, and only one muslim majority district of Assam to be given away to Pakistan. But more importantly it emphasised that all princely states will choose either India or Pakistan. The CWC approved this partition plan. This was the betrayal.

    The ML propaganda and campagin was highly communal and violent even in musim majority NWFP. Although they were a number of parties like Khudai Khitmatagar, Ahrar, Unionists e.t.c. that had muslims in them; the ML would claim to be the only party to represent muslims and would campaign by saying "if you are muslim vote for us". Even getting some pliant mullas to issue fatwas that those who don't vote for ML are kafirs. Blood stained shirts and skulls would be paraded around to prove that Islam was in danger and a highly emotionally rather than rational atmosphere was created. And it was in this atmosphere that the electorate was asked to choose the most fundamental and important decision that would affect them and their generations. In such a hostile atmosphere Gaffar Khan had stayed loyal to the idea of united India and hence IMO felt rightly betrayed for being "sacrificed".

    The adult franchise issue applies to all elections held under the British. Just as a refresher, the Congress and Khudai Khitmatagar parties main platform was land reforms were the feudals would be most impacted. The ML on the other hand was non-commital and naturally this is where the feudals/maliks e.t.c were drawn to. It is natural to assume that if an adult franchise was there, the majority who were landless laboureres would support populist policies of the Congress rather than the pro-feudal policies of the ML barring the communal agenda.

    The franchise under the British was usually 8-10% of the total population and consisted of only land owners or people with jobs in the British govt. e.t.c. Naturally this small electorate would have significant pro-British/feudal loyalties as they benifited from Britihs rule directly. The more widspread the electorate would be with more poor or landless people, the more likley they would be to vote for a party that guaranteed land reforms and end of feudal and malik oversights on them. The larger electorate would consists of the least privileaged who benefited the most from the previous Congress ministry.

    I only quoted that article because the author was writing in response to the same article by Hamdani.

    I usually prefer to go through primary documents like the Cabinet Mission Plan volumes or the Transfer of Power documents as they are more accurate albeit from the British point of view. Declassified documents and letters also are quite helpful. The next best sources are autobiographies or statments from leaders or actors involved in that time.


    I think the point is now after 62 years and a complete blackout of the brave struggle of Abdul Gaffar Khan in Pakistani history, no one expects the pathans to suddenly turn pro-Indian. Espicially where Gaffar Khan is usually related to being a traitor.

    But still one should think that why would people who spent years in britsh prisons and fought the British using non-violent methods and were subjected to torture at their hands be against Pakistan and Muslim League? Even if agree that 51% vote for Pakistan, can we wonder why 49% (the ones who boycotted) did not vote for Pakistan? In 1988 when Gaffar Khan died after spending more years in prison in independant Pakistan than in British India,he was to be buried in Jalalabad as per his will. At this time all afghan factions (guerillas as well as the Soviet supported Afghan govt.) held a ceasefire as a mark of respect in the middle of the bloody soviet-afghan war. This is how much respect he had among the Afghans and pashtoons even then.

    Finally I will quote a passage from Gaffar Khan autobiography (My life and struggle;: Autobiography of Badshah Khan )
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
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  9. Greywolf

    Greywolf FULL MEMBER

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    Dear Ejaz and Halaku,

    I am afraid neither of you have answered the points on which you were entirely wrong and have merely repeated age old Congress-Indian Nationalist propaganda (which mirrors the Islamic nationalist propaganda in vogue officially in Pakistan as well).... one would have hoped that after Jaswant Singh's book, Seervai's book and Azad's book... people would have revisited their respective nationalist mythologies but sadly you've failed to. This is NOT about Bacha Khan, Wali Khan etc etc but how utterly wrong your post above was...

    Instead of using this forum to merely blow your own nationalist horn, how about we return to the essential dispute that you raised:

    1. You claimed that the Referendum was NOT valid because it was not based on adult franchise - ironically Congress did not have a problem accepting power on the same electorate. After alll Bacha Khan himself claimed that the Pathan was awake you quoted him as saying "Unlike the other Muslims in India, however, the Pathans were politically awake, they had perception and nobody could mislead them in the name of Islam. The knew the real meaning of Islam..... But by the grace of God the Muslim League was defeated and we won the elections with a large majority.

    So why were Bacha Khan and Dr. Khan sb not willing to trust the same electorate one year later... when the Pathan was awake blah blah?

    2. That the British government was partisan to the League.

    Both are ill-founded and illogical assertions in which you are hoist your own petard. The rest of what you've written is irrelevant to the discussion and shows that you are not sure what you are talking about.

    Mr. Hamdani's articles are replete with primary source documents. I am afraid Wali Khan's one sided and biased "Facts Are Sacred" or Bacha Khan's "autobiography" cannot be considered impartial. It would help if you were to read Azad's description of Khan brothers in India Wins Freedom.

    And no one has wiped out Bacha Khan from the memory of the Pushtuns. This too is an Indian myth. Bacha Khan's portrait hangs all over NWFP and his party's successor the NAP or ANP has been in coalition governments longer than Pakistan has been under military rule.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
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  10. Greywolf

    Greywolf FULL MEMBER

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    Meanwhile a positive development ....

    Onwards To People’s Republic Of Pakistan Pak Tea House

    Onwards To People’s Republic Of Pakistan


    By Yasser Latif Hamdani

    The Nation has reported in its newspaper today that that a scheme to change Pakistan’s name from Islamic Republic of Pakistan to People’s Republic of Pakistan was discussed in the parliamentary reforms committee and was ultimately withdrawn.

    ISLAMABAD – Awami National Party (ANP) during the deliberations of Parliamentary Reforms Committee had proposed to change the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan as Peoples Republic of Pakistan, while Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supported the move, the sources close to these political parties disclosed to TheNation. The idea was, however, dropped due to strong opposition from the rest of the members of the committee, the sources added. MQM Deputy Convener and Federal Minister Dr. Farooq Sattar confirmed it to the media in an informal chat on Wednesday and said that MQM along with PPP members of the committee supported the idea of renaming Islamic Republic of Pakistan as Peoples Republic of Pakistan. On the other hand, ANP member of the committee Haji Adeel denied having proposed the name of Peoples Republic of Pakistan to replace Islamic Republic of Pakistan. However, some members of the committee on condition of anonymity confirmed it to TheNation that ANP had proposed the said change in the name of the country and MQM and PPP members had supported it. During chat with media, Dr. Farooq Sattar also proposed making Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of the country and its chief minister should also be included in the National Finance Commission (NFC). The government should take appropriate steps in this regard to remove the constitutional and international hurdles, he added. He said if the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms would finish with its deliberation on provincial autonomy by mid of December, they would be in.

    My only regret is that this eminently reasonable suggestion has come from ANP and not any of the politicians and parties who don’t tire taking Jinnah’s name in vain. The historical fact which needs to be repeated again and again and again is that Jinnah did not found an Islamic Republic. The name of the state that Jinnah founded was the Dominion of Pakistan. Jinnah was a committed opponent of theocracy and an Islamic Republic- a misnomer as it is legally, morally and politically- can only be a theocracy.

    Writing in his book “Facts are Sacred” – which was otherwise an extremely partisan and badly researched book- the late ANP leader Wali Khan rightly concluded that Quaid-e-Azam wanted a secular Pakistan and those who now claim to follow Mr. Jinnah are morally bound to follow Jinnah’s vision. If indeed this proposal has come from ANP, then it is morally consistent with Wali Khan’s stance and we salute the ANP for raising this demand at this juncture.

    This author has been demanding this for a while on many grounds, not the least of which is Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. However another question that must be asked is whether the term “Islamic Republic” has any real meaning? A republic by its sheer logic is for the public or the people and therefore cannot be limited to just one group or one community. And while the name Islamic Republic has no significance in Islamic law or Muslim ecclesiastical history, it is used again and again by the Mullahs (who had opposed the very creation of this country) to deny equal opportunity and equal rights to the people of Pakistan.

    Therefore, we hope that ANP, MQM and PPP will not shelve this plan and undo what PPP and ANP’s forerunner NAP had done in 1973. Pakistan – to hark back to Jinnah – belongs to the people of Pakistan and people of Pakistan, regardless of religion, caste or creed, are the only arbiters of this republic. Onwards to the People’s Republic of Pakistan! Qadam barhao PPP, MQM aur ANP hum tumharay saath hai!
     
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  11. Halaku Khan

    Halaku Khan BANNED

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    One has to be aware of the larger geopolitical goals of the British. The best study of this is "The Shadow of the Great Game – The Untold Story of India’s Partition" by Narendra Singh Sarila.

    Here is a review - well worth reading in full:

    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Chowk: History: Book Review: The Shadow of the Great Game - The Untold Story of India's Partition

    This is a well researched, extremely readable book that has largely gone unnoticed, just as its main thesis about the geo-strategic drivers and the

    Anglo-Russian ‘Great Game’ has received scant study in the historical events leading up to India’s Partition in 1947. This book should serve as a cautionary tale to Indians and Pakistanis alike, although for different reasons for each.

    The author, Narendra Singh Sarila, was the aide-de-camp to Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy of India, and had a ring-side view of the events just before and after Partition.

    Partition remains a defining historical moment for the Indian Subcontinent, and has received significant scrutiny by many researchers. As the British government selectively publishes historical documents surrounding Partition, researches have access to new materials to rewrite history and challenge conventional theories. In the 1980s, the British government declassified certain theretofore secret documents 40 years after Partition. The eminent Pakistani author, Ayesha Jalal, used this material and provided a new twist to the conventional wisdom on Partition by putting forth a well-researched and plausible thesis that Jinnah used the notion of a sovereign Pakistani state as a bargaining chip to extract greater concessions for Muslim-majority provinces from the Congress Party of India. Her book, The Sole Spokesman, also made the claim that Jinnah never desired an undivided India (despite his public pronouncements and bluster to the contrary), but rather a federated India with provincial autonomy. The eminent Indian jurist, H.M. Seervai, reached approximately the same conclusion in his magnum opus, “Partition Of India: Legend And Reality”. Seervai challenged the existing view that blamed the partition of India on the Muslim League. He argued instead that it was the latent bias on the part of Indian National Congress leadership which resulted in partition. Both these books have been controversial, but have also been thoroughly researched.

    Sarila decided to write his book, “The Shadow of the Great Game – The Untold Story of India’s Partition” after he came across documents in the Oriental and Indian Collection of the British Library, London, in 1997 which revealed that “the Partition of India may not have been totally unconnected with the British concern that the Great Game between them and the USSR for acquiring influence in the area lying between Turkey and India was likely to recommence with even greater gusto after the Second World War and the start of the Cold War. And to find military bases and partners for the same.” Sarila also researched other historical British and the US State Department’s archives for his book. Incidentally, while many records have been unsealed, some important ones have not. Significantly, most of Mountbatten’s official correspondence during the period after Independence with London is still sealed, and unlikely to be made public anytime soon. This further fuels the controversy that the British Government has something to conceal regarding Partition and the question of Kashmir.

    Sarila’s thesis rests on the fact that for nearly a hundred years prior to Partition, the British had engaged in what came to be known as the ‘Great Game’ with tsarist Russia over influence in Trans Oxania and Central Asia. The British believed that the safety of their Indian empire and access to the oil fields in the Middle East lay in keeping the Russians at a distance beyond the Oxus river on the northern fringes of Afghanistan. British strategic interests demanded that they have access to and partners in the northwest of India even after India’s independence. Indeed, the start of the Cold War even before India’s independence made this even more imperative, and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan nearly 30 years after independence confirmed British fears.

    Sarila faults the Congress Party for not understanding the larger geo-political compulsions of Britain and for pursuing naïve policies that were in many cases counterproductive, but reinforced the feeling with both the Churchill and Attlee governments in Britain that Partition of India was necessary to protect British interests. Sarila does give credit, where it is due, to the Congress nationalists for mobilizing the masses in India that eventually made British rule in India untenable.

    Some of the examples of Congress’ missteps in the late 1930s and the early ‘40s were: (i) resigning from the provincial ministries in 1939 on the entry of India into WWII, and leaving the field open to Jinnah to assume the reins of government even though the Congress was sympathetic to the Allied cause (ii) launching Quit India movement in the middle of WWII when there were millions of Allied troops in India – the movement was quickly quashed with no effect, (iii) not agreeing to joining the British Commonwealth until almost the 11th hour thereby raising British insecurity, and (iv) not giving any assurance to the British that they would cooperate on diplomatic and military matters after Independence.

    These led the British to believe that their strategic interests could not be safeguarded in an India led by the Congress party. The British had other compulsions too: a prudent approach would require not putting ‘all eggs in one basket’. They also believed (incorrectly as it turned out later) that India would not survive as a single state given its heterogeneity, whereas Muslim-Pakistan stood a better chance of being a united, strategic partner. Lastly, by 1947, most British politicians and bureaucrats had come to loathe the Congress Party and had become distrustful of Hindu politicians.

    A mistake that the Congress Party made was to accept the Muslim League as part of the Interim Government without extracting a concession that the League also join the Constituent Assembly and stop any future ‘Direct Actions’. This enabled the League to play an obstructionist role in the Interim Government without facing any consequences.

    According to Sarila, “Protected by British power for so long and then focused on a non-violent struggle, the Indian leaders were ill prepared, as independence dawned, to confront the power play in our predatory world…They had failed to see through the real British motivation for their support to the Pakistan scheme and take remedial measures. Nor did they understand that, at the end of the Raj, America wanted a free and united India to emerge and to find ways to work this powerful lever”.

    Jinnah, by contrast, had a better understanding of British motivations and the growing American influence on British policy, and used this to greater effect. He cooperated better with the Allied war effort, did not embarrass the British government, and was rewarded by a British policy that nudged events towards Partition. An example is cited of Nehru’s sister, Vijayalaxmi Pandit, leading the charge in 1946 at the UN to pass a resolution critical of apartheid (South Africa was a close British ally at the time) with the support of the developing countries. This was at a time when India’s own fate was to be decided. This ‘diplomatic success’ won India little laurels, except confirmed the fears in the minds of the British about what might come to pass under a Congress-led India. By contrast, when the Communist Chinese finally gained recognition in the UN in 1972, their diplomats were ordered by Peking to stay quiet for several years, and they made no moves at the UN. Even today, Beijing rarely sponsors or vetoes UN resolutions, preferring to reach consensus in back-door deals in advance. There are numerous other examples to cite of Nehru’s naïveté in dealing with foreign affairs (too many to summarize in this review).

    Jinnah, it is revealed, also had secret correspondence with Churchill during the war and thereafter. The details of this correspondence are not known, except that Jinnah sought his help in reigning in the Viceroys in Delhi and promised support to Britain after independence to make the case for Pakistan. Jinnah’s cooperation with the British dovetailed with their efforts to carve out a friendly sphere of influence in the North West. It is also possible that he received advice to be intransigent during negotiations with the Congress, because the reward would be his Pakistan. This he proceeded to do with great flourish, with tacit British support behind the scenes.

    Field Marshall Wavell, Viceroy of India, 1943-47, and predecessor of Mountbatten concluded that India had to be partitioned to preserve British interests, and even drew maps (eerily similar to the Sir Cyrill Radcliff division of India) as early as 1946 that showed the desired boundary demarcation. Sarila writes, “While in London, Wavell, on 31 August 1945, called on Churchill. According to Wavell's account: 'He warned me that the anchor [himself] was now gone and I was on a lee shore with rash pilots...His final remark, as I closed the door of the lift was: "keep a bit of India."'. Churchill, no longer Prime Minister, believed that the Attlee government, then in power, having decided to grant India independence, was not in favor of Partition and would sacrifice British interests in their haste to grant freedom to India. Attlee, who served as Churchill’s deputy in the War Cabinet and the Defence Committee during the Second World War, was fully alive to British interests.
    Indeed, under Attlee, Britain's position at this stage (August, 1945) could be summarized as follows:

    1. The British military was emphatic on the value of retaining its base for defensive and offensive action against the USSR
    2. Wavell was quite clear that this objective could not be achieved through partition - keeping a bit of India-because the Congress Party after independence would not cooperate with Britain on military and strategic matters;
    3. While Labour leaders did not agree with Wavell that all was lost with the Congress Party, Attlee was, nonetheless, ready to support the division of India as long as the responsibility could not be attributed to Britain

    Britain, then proceeded to assiduously implement this policy, through both the Churchill and Attlee governments. Mountbatten inherited this policy that Wavell had helped formulate. This policy necessitated that the corridor running from Baluchistan, Sind (for the port of Karachi), NWFP, northern Kashmir to Sinkiang be placed under a friendly regime. At the same time, Britain did not want to place any more territory than minimally necessary to serve their strategic interests.


    The British had a few hurdles to overcome:

    1. Jinnah had to be installed as the ‘sole spokesman’ of India’s Muslims, even though the Muslim League could muster only two governments in the five provinces of India that the League demanded to be part of Pakistan in the 1946 elections (Bengal and Sind – the latter being possible only through a tie-breaker vote cast by the British governor of Sind). Significantly, Muslim League could not form governments in Punjab (Unionists), NWFP (Congress), and Assam (Congress).
    2. Jinnah had to be made to accept a truncated Pakistan with partitioned Punjab and Bengal
    3. NWFP, which had a Congress ministry in 1946 and a 95% Muslim population, had to be made part of Pakistan
    4. Congress Party had to be persuaded to join the British Commonwealth
    5. The Americans, who favored a united India, had to be persuaded that the Partition was the only inevitable outcome given ‘Hindu-Muslim’ question
    6. The blame for Partition had to rest with Indians, not the British


    On each of the above issues, the British succeeded brilliantly. They continuously raised the smokescreen of protection of Muslim rights and gave Jinnah an effective veto on all proposals not acceptable to the League. The Cabinet Mission Plan was used successfully to persuade Indians (and world opinion) that the Partition was the only reasonable outcome. These helped Jinnah position himself as the ‘sole spokesman’. Jinnah was persuaded to accept a truncated Pakistan by Mountbatten who basically told Jinnah that if didn’t accept Partition, there would be no Pakistan. The Cabinet Mission Plan, by providing an alternative to Partition, also persuaded Jinnah to accept a smaller Pakistan. Nehru/Patel were tempted to swallow the bitter pill of losing NWFP by being promised a quick transfer of power. The Congress stabbed the Khudai Khidmatgars and Dr. Khan Sahib, Chief Minister, NWFP by agreeing to a unique referendum that was not implemented in any other British province, even though Congress already had the peoples’ mandate in 1946. Congress then boycotted the referendum, and the fate of NWFP was decided by a narrow margin of 50.28% of the electorate. Thus, NWFP was handed to Pakistan without a contest by the thinnest of margins. Had the Congress and the Khudai Khidtmgars (they boycotted for fear of violence by the Muslim League) contested the elections, NWFP may well have voted for India and Pakistan would have been stillborn. Congress agreed to join the Commonwealth after Mountbatten promised all his help in integrating the princely states in India. The British, to their credit, even as they assisted in the birth of Pakistan, ensured that what remained of India was consolidated by the accession of the princely states to it.

    Mountbatten did India a huge service by taking independence as an option off the table from the princely states. They had only two choices: accede to India or to Pakistan. The Americans, even though did not want to see India balkanized and favored the emergence of a united India, were made to believe that Partition was the only option by the British. Once the Indian politicians had accepted Partition, the American voice for Indian unity was muted, and the blame for it passed on to Indians.

    On Kashmir, the record is also quite clear: once the Pakistani raiders entered Kashmir, Mountbatten goaded Nehru to take the matter to the UN, where the British succeeded in closing military options for India and legitimizing the locus standi of Pakistan. In the open forum of the UN, the British could no longer conceal their bias for Gilgit and Baltistan to be joined with Pakistan as part of an essential corridor to Central Asia.

    Sarila writes that the British ‘Pakistan Strategy’ succeeded brilliantly. Pakistan joined the Baghdad Pact and later, CENTO to form the defensive barrier again Soviet intentions in the Middle East, and went on to provide bases to the US for U-2 overflights. Later Pakistan provided the US access to China to pressurize the Soviets and provided a base against the Soviets in the Afghan war.

    Sarila asks, “would the 1962 Sino-India clash have occurred had India remained united? Would the Indian subcontinent have been nuclearized in the 20th century but for Partition? Would the communal virus have spread throughout Pakistan and India in recent years, but for Partition? The genie of Islamist terrorism centered around Pakistan has made British policies come full circle. Some of the roots for its emergence lay in Partition. Would undivided India have been able to absorb 500 millions Muslims today in its midst?

    Sarila concludes by saying that, ‘the awareness that it was global politics, Britain’s insecurity and the errors of judgment of Indian leaders that resulted in Partition of India might help India and Pakistan in search for reconciliation.’
     
  12. Halaku Khan

    Halaku Khan BANNED

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    ^^^ Thus we see how the referendum in NWFP was only a very small part of overall British plans.

    I pretty much agree with Sarila - only caveat being that Pakistan was created by the Brits to put a check not only on the USSR - but also on (and primarily on) independent India.

    Pakistan can fulfill this dual role only as a highly Islamicized and fanatical entity. That is why western powers have generally been happy with increasing fundamentalism in Pakistan.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  13. EjazR

    EjazR SENIOR MEMBER

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    NWFP is mentioned in Indian school history books mainly about Gaffar Khan as Frontier Ghandhi and nothing more. Although the intention in giving him this title is good. Gaffar Khan was following a non-violent struggle long before Gandhi came to India and drew his inspiration from his interpretation of Islam and Pakhtunwali. Something that I am disappointed not many people know.

    (1)Its not that they did not "trust" the electorate. The referendum was a not needed and imposed. Moreover, after the Congress agreement to handover NWFP in the partition plan, whats the use of the referendum?
    Badhah khan aka abdul gaffar khan asked for a boycott, precisely because he saw no use in voting. He had already resigned to the fact that NWFP will most likely be a part of Pakistan and want to focus on social upliftment of his people. Ofcourse there were other sections who preferred an independant Pathanistan.

    I only disagree with statements like NWFP "overwhelmingly" voted for Pakistan. It wasn't, it was a hairline victory. And when the the district officials like Sikander Mirza and other eye witness accounts mentions stories of vote rigging, the "overwhelming" claim becomes even more teneous.

    Also once Pakistan was created Gaffar Khan took the vote of allegiance to Pakistan after being elected again in the constituent assembly so that he can work for the social upliftment of his people, but still he was repeated arrested without charge over 4 decades and never really had a chance to bring about much needed upliftment of the tribals. If he was so unpopular because of his anti-Pakistan scheme stance, was there anything to fear from him?

    Ofcourse there were some more militant pathans like the Fakir of Ipi who would not follow Gaffar Khan and resorted to violent oppostion to the new Pakistani state encourage by the then Afgan government. But this was always opposed by Gaffar Khan.

    (2) This claim is made by many, but I would like to clarify that the British didn't support the ML because of some "love" they had for the muslims or some altruistic purpose as some right wing "historians" in India may claim.

    It was mainly to safegaurd their startegic interests as can be seen from declassified documents of the British govt. at that time. "In the shadow of the Great Game" is an excellent book that depends mainly on this source providing a UK and US perspective to the events in south Asia based on these documents.

    It is a historical fact that it was mainly Congress activists along with other muslim organisations like Jamiat-ulema-i-Hind, Khudai Khitmatagar, Ahrar e.t.c. that protested against the British in the 1942 quit India movement were jailed. ML and Hindu Mahasabha had a free hand for promoting their agenda until the release of politcal prisoners in 1945, a few months before the elections, and still the results were in favor for the Congress. This can't be dismissed when the entire 1946 election platform was about Pakistan.

    ======

    Where facts are quoted then they are ofcourse no arguments, most of Hamdani's article was accurate, but his own inferred staements of "overwhelming" support are not facts. Even if the 50.1% electorate is taken as accurate representation.

    I don't agree with this habit in the sub-continent where we either idolise or demonise personalities. They were humans and had their failings and their actions have to be looked at in the extraordinary circumstances they faced. Sure there maybe supporters of Gaffar Khan or Badsha Khan in NWFP but most Pakistanis I have met have regularly referred to him as a traitor and unless I have been misinformed, school history textbooks mention the same. I will be happy to be proved wrong.

    By referring to "India Wins Freedom", I assume you are referring where he mentions that the Khan brothers were not as powerful as before. But It basically meant that whereas before they commanded overwhelming support in the 1937 elections, now their support was reduced to a simple majority in the 1945 due to the worsening communal situation in the 1940s.

    Besides, all these leaders were unaware of concerted British startegic aims as can be seen in the declassified documents released only in 2006 although most leaders including jinnah had this gut feeling. IMO, this resource (i.e. the declassified documents) can go a long way in dealing with the our history is known.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  14. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    Conspiracy theories galore I see.

    Halaku, as the reviewer repeatedly stresses, Sarilla's argument is a 'thesis' not fact. Sarilla's argument is based on a selective interpretation of events and quotes (I read excerpts on BR where the book played like a snake to a snake charmer, not surprisingly), to somehow explain away the existence of Pakistan not as the culmination of a movement of the people inhabiting the lands comprising Pakistan and the leadership chosen to represent them, but as some sort of 'grand British conspiracy to split mother India'.
     
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  15. AgNoStiC MuSliM

    AgNoStiC MuSliM PDF Veteran

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    The only thing is that the NWFP DID overwhelmingly vote for Pakistan - 98% or something of the electorate that showed up.

    You may argue that it as only 50%, but as YLH pointed out, the turnout was identical to the previous elections that were won by KAGK. So you have two votes in a row with an almost identical turnout - that is pretty consistent.

    Elections do not always result in a turnout of 100%, there are various factors that play a part in peoples decision to put in the effort to go to a polling booth. Given the consistent turnout in the two votes, I believe one can safely extrapolate that the opinion was reflective of the vast majority of the population of the NWFP.
     
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