A History of Modern Pakistan #4 1947 – 1953

This series will cover the history of Modern Pakistan, from the earliest notions of a separatist Muslim governance to the creation of Pakistan and all the way to 2023.

You can read post covering 1857 – 1927 here: A History of Modern Pakistan #1 1857 – 1927

You can read post covering 1927- 1939 here: A History of Modern Pakistan #2 1927 – 1939

You can read post covering 1939 – 1947 here: A History of Modern Pakistan #3 1939 – 1947

1947 – 1953

August 1947

In August 1947, India and Pakistan became free and independent dominions within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The British Monarch (King George VI) remained head of state but all powers and duties were delegated to the Governor-General. Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan.

Remember Pakistan was the land of the Muslims. It covered both the western region of India and the Bengal region.

Jinnah as Governor-General

The role of a Governor General was akin to a President of a republic, but Jinnah did more than that. As the first GG, he was on a mission to build Pakistan. Liaqat Ali Khan was chosen (non-elected) as the first Prime Minister.

The majority of Pakistan was never part of the core of the British Indian or Mughal empire, as a result the infrastructure of the country was poor, along with:

  • No administrative structure
  • No one to run a government/the country or a civil service
  • No building to conduct meetings
  • No banking system
  • No economic model or plan
  • No established industries
  • Very few existing industrial sites
  • No international relations
  • No medical facilities and other institutions

The constitution was loosely based on the 1935 agreement and needed to be rewritten to reflect Pakistan values. So, Jinnah was tasked to establish the foundations of Pakistan. Jinnah envisioned for Pakistan an Islamic state with an Islamic finance model. This was no way an easy task, especially with the immediate problems of immigration and new refugees. This was Jinnah’s first priority alongside uniting and guiding the new state (provinces) based on ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’. During this period, Jinnah famously was paid 1 rupee as a salary.

Accession of States

In British India, there were 562 princely states, they were given the option to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent. Most had a straightforward admission into their chosen country.

In Punjab and Bengal, the Muslims and Hindus were split 50:50 so a commission was set up to determine the borders. Once they were established, then mass migration took place.

Kashmir initially wished to remain independent, but then the Hindu leader decided to join India. This was not taken well by majority Muslim subjects. They wanted to join Pakistan, so called on Pakistan to take over, before Pakistan could succeed India also entered. This was the first Pakistan-India war. Pakistan managed to secure one third of Kashmir and India took the rest. There was an eventual ceasefire on 1st Jan 1949 and establishment of a Line of Control. This was the beginning of the Kashmir conflict. You can read a detailed article here: Coming soon

Junargh was the mirror opposite of Kashmir, a Muslim leader with a majority Hindu subjects. The Muslim leader decided to join Pakistan, but only one month later, the new Indian state captured it and made it part of India.

Hyderabad in India was majority Muslim and led by a Muslim, but because the state was land locked, they could not join Pakistan so easily. Eventually it was lost to India in August 1948.

Liaqat Ali Khan as PM

Liaqat Ali Khan was Jinnah’s right-hand man and a statesman. So when Pakistan was created, he took the role of PM. Although the Jinnah and the rest of the government envisioned great changes for Pakistan, it is Khan who was to oversee implementation and run a tight ship. Immediately he faced tensions being at the beginning of the cold war between the USA and USSR, with both vying for alliance. Internally, the country was politically varied, with socialists in West-Pakistan and communists in East Pakistan.

Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad as Finance Minister

Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad, an economist, was selected as the finance minister. His task was to draft a five-year plan to make the country productive, gain an income and trade with the world. It proved difficult to devise a straight forward plan as there were too many dependencies. Every avenue was underdeveloped, from production, transportation and education. The vast majority of living was primeval and indigenous, untouched by literacy or scientific and technological advancement.

As part of this programme, the State Bank of Pakistan was established to give a kick start to banking services in the country and major economic infrastructure was expanded. India formally accepted to give recognition of Pakistan’s currency after entering in new trade agreement. 

Water Canal problem

The East Punjab province of India shut off water running to the West Punjab province of Pakistan in April 1948. The Punjab’s agriculture depended on the water as rainfall was rare in the summer. It would mean no crops would be harvested later in the year. The issues were resolved but it left a hostile attitude between the two countries. Only after 8 months of independence, India was throwing its weight around.

Jinnah Dies

In September 1948, Jinnah died of lung cancer. He had only been GG for over a year and was not able to implement his foundational vision for Pakistan. This is an important fact of Pakistan’s history, as Jinnah equivalent in India, Nehru, went on to be India’s prime minster for 17 years. He was able to lead India on a united front. Jinnah till this day is revered in Pakistan as the Quaid-e-Azam (“Great Leader”) and Baba-e-Qaum (“Father of the Nation”).

Constitutional Crisis

The right wing wanted establishment of an Islamic Pakistan governed by shariah whereas the left wing opted for a liberal constitution. PM Liaqat Ali Khan in the Objective Resolution 1949 established a constitution based on a hybrid Islamic constitution. Some of the main features were:

  • Sovereignty belongs to Allah
  • Laws based on Quran and Sunnah
  • Federal system
  • Democratic state
  • Freedoms and rights established
  • Minority rights
  • Independent judiciary

Although the constitution was in motion, there was no real leadership effort to implement it.

Meanwhile Sir Malik invited leaders of the Muslim world to the International Islamic Economics Organization in Pakistan, where he emphasised the idea of a Muslim economic bloc.

Nazimuddin as Governor General

Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin became the Governor General when Jinnah died. He was Bengali by background and played a foundational role with Jinnah to gain independence. He was the first Chief Minister of East Bengal in independent Pakistan.

During his time in office, work began on a constitution that would allow Pakistan to become a republic, and end its British Dominion status under the Crown.

Liaqat Ali Khan Assassinated

Whilst PM Liaqat Ali Khan was addressing the nation in Rawalpindi in Oct 1951, he was assassinated. Later the culprit was identified as a professional assassin but no information could be found on his motives and who put him up to it. Khan was given the honorific title of Shaheed-e-Millat (“Martyr of the Nation”) and known as the first and one of the greatest Prime Ministers.

Nazimuddin as Prime Minister and Malik Ghulam Muhammad as Governor-General

GG Nazimuddin was encouraged to become Prime Minster as there was no other suitable person. He accepted and appointed the Finance Minister, Sir Malik Ghulam Muhammad to the Governor-General’s post.

Civil Unrest in 1953

In 1953, the 5-year economic plan collapsed when the shortages of clothes, medicines and other essential consumer goods arose; there was also a serious food shortage as a result of a sharp fall in the production of foodgrains due to monsoon floods.

A violent religious movement led by far-right Jamaat-e-Islami began to agitate for the removal of the Ahmadi religious minority from power positions, and demanded a declaration of this minority as non-Muslims. These were known as the Lahore riots.

At the same time tensions rose in East Pakistan as PM Nazimuddin following on from Jinnah stated Urdu will be the language of the whole of Pakistan, but the Bengalis wanted recognition of their language too as one of the official languages of Pakistan. They were afraid West Pakistan will fail to recognise their heritage. As law and order deteriorated in Pakistan, Malik Ghulam Muhammad dismissed PM Nazimuddin. New elections were to be held and Muhammad Ali Bogra became the temp prime minster.

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