Monday 22 December 2008

Three Mistakes By Mr Jinnah

(EXCERPT: Quaid-i-Azam And 9/11 - DAWN - Books and Authors; December 21, 2008)

I revered Mr M.A. Jinnah when I was a student at Muslim University Aligarh. I exalted him in my days in the Air Force and I venerate him now when he is no more with us. I hold that as a politician and a statesman he seldom faulted in his political decision-making. Having said that and with all my unshakable faith and trust in Mr Jinnah’s judgments, I now with hindsight feel that there are a few decisions or lack of actions on his part as Governor General where perhaps he faltered. One may term these as ‘mistakes’ but reference to any such ‘mistake’ is hypothetical as these are conditioned by so many ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

Based on my limited knowledge of affairs of the state but taking cognizance of the ground realities then prevailing, I am being candid in airing my views, I could as well be wrong in my assessment! I felt at odds with at least three of Mr Jinnah’s decisions as Governor General.

FIRST: The first mistake committed by Mr Jinnah in public life was on August 15, 1947 when as Governor General he appointed an unelected bureaucrat Malik Ghulam Mohammad as Federal Minister for Finance. Later he nominated Ch Sir Mohammad Zafarullah, another unelected person as Foreign Minister.

These two nominations were against parliamentary practice and even contrary to the democratic principles of Mr Jinnah himself. It is possible that he may have planned to use the talent available outside the legislature for the good of the country, as he effectively used ‘counterfeit coins in his pocket’ during the days of the struggle of the 40s. These two cases when viewed on the touchstone of success gave two different results; whereas the first experiment badly flopped and with disastrous consequences, the second was a resounding success. However, the fact remains that it was wrong of the Governor General to appoint unelected persons to the legislature.

In case of the Finance Minister, there were two other options open to the Governor General. One, was to retain Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan as Finance Minister in addition to his responsibilities as Prime Minister. Two, to appoint another politician with a flare for finance, as Finance Minister, to be groomed under the tutelage of Sir Archibald Rowlands, the last Finance Member of Viceroy’s Council in India, who Mr Jinnah had especially asked to be loaned as his Finance Advisor. Instead he picked up Malik Ghulam Mohammad, who had finance background all-right, but he was not such an outstanding financial wizard to be put at the head of the finances of a nascent state. Ghulam Mohammad was short tempered, intolerant, headstrong, over ambitious and an arrogant bureaucrat, who spent World War II years in the supply and purchase organisation of the Government of India.

When appointed as Finance Minister he lost his head and started to think no end of himself. After the vacation of Governor General’s chair by Nazimuddin he intrigued and occupied the Governor General’s House. He was overbearing and presumptuous and because of his attitude was not liked by his colleagues. Ghulam Mohammad tried strong-arm tactics to curb his opponents but did not succeed. Intrigues started and a revolt erupted in parliament against the Governor General.

The Governor General’s nomination of Ch Sir Mohammad Zafarullah as Foreign Minister, on the other hand, matched up to Quaid’s expectations and was a great asset to the country. Sir Mohammad Zafarullah was internationally known, had been Chief Justice of the International Court at the Hague, distinguished as a member of many international forums under the UN and was held in high esteem the world over. He very successfully projected our case at the UN and other international forums and used his worldwide contacts to the advantage of Pakistan. His judicial acumen, debating and negotiating skills could not be challenged. A man of character with a clean record and with no extra-constitutional ambitions, he kept himself aloof from political intrigues and continued to serve Pakistan with dedication in various capacities till the late sixties.

These indirect and lateral inductions by the Governor General gave birth to the ambitions of the bureaucratic mafia that polluted the politics of the country and have continued to dominate weak-kneed politicians all along, influencing the electoral process and destabilising successive democratically elected governments. Bureaucratic oligarchy is one of the major factors in creating the chaotic logjam of persistent lack of morality in politics in Pakistan. Yet another undesirable and perhaps the most damaging of their acts was influencing of the higher judiciary in their favour that derailed the democratic process which was yet to take firm roots in the nascent state.

SECOND: Late in October 1947 when the tribals were on the outskirts of Srinagar airfield, ransacking the areas around and busy collecting ransom, the Governor General ordered Lt General Douglas Gracey then in temporary command of Pakistan Army to dispatch one brigade to Kashmir to coordinate and direct the thrust of the lacquers to capture the airfield that lay at their feet. Lt. General Gracey ignored the legitimate orders of the Governor General and instead contacted Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck in New Delhi to inform him of the Governor General’s intentions.

Disobedience of orders is a very serious offence in the military, requiring stern disciplinary action. I felt that at this point in time the Governor General slipped and agreed to meet Field Marshal Auchinleck for a dialogue. Time and situation demanded immediate removal of Lt General Gracey from command and replacing him with a Pakistani officer with instructions to proceed forthwith with his orders as already issued for the dispatch of troops to ‘guide’ the lacquers hovering on the fringes of Srinagar airfield.

Brig M. Akbar Khan, on furlough had already penetrated into Uri where he had established his headquarters and with his men in control of the Pandu heights was all poised to advance and wrap up Kashmir operations, once the airfield was captured. The airfield in the hands of the ‘lashkars’ would deny any Indian reinforcements from Delhi and the trapped Indian garrison in the valley would have had no option but to surrender and the situation in Kashmir would have been the reverse of what it is today.

This was the most crucial moment in Pakistan military history. Prompt implementation of the Governor General’s orders would have given a different dimension to the relations of the newly emerged states of India and Pakistan. The three futile wars and a number of battles like Siachin and Kargil that the two countries fought between themselves could have been avoided and the region spared of the tension that is constantly prevailing for the last 60 years.

History is silent on the constraints and compulsions that restrained a strict disciplinarian and firm person like Mr Jinnah from taking action against the defaulting Lt. General Gracey and later surprisingly promoting him to the rank of General and confirming his appointment as Commander of Pakistan Army. This is a mystery and will remain a mystery because the Governor General in his wisdom on this score confided in no one.

THIRD: The question of selecting a national language of Pakistan was amongst the many ticklish problems confronting the new state. Urdu being the language of the majority of the Muslims of the subcontinent before independence, was generally considered as the likely choice but the partition of India changed the composition of population in the new country and created a perplexing situation. Now, there were two wings of the country, located 1200 miles apart with the balance of population 54:46 in favour of one wing and with two distinct languages being spoken in each wing of the country. Accordingly the ground situation was that one language was spoken and understood in one wing with the unfamiliarity of it in the other.

Governor General on his visit to East Pakistan in March 1948, without taking the East Wing leaders into confidence, declared Urdu the language of just two per cent of the population, as the national language of Pakistan at a public meeting in Paltan Maidan, Dacca. This was done in the hope of national integration but it was taken amiss and misunderstood.

Other considerations aside, imposition of Urdu as the national language on the majority of the population of the country which they could not read, write or speak, alienated the people of the Eastern wing that comprised 54 per cent of the total population of Pakistan. Bengalis perceived this move as suppression of their language and culture and considered it and rightly so, as a denial of their rights, whereas being in majority they claimed quite logically that Bengali should have been declared as the linga franca of Pakistan. They revolted in the meeting and later there were clashes where three students were killed. Incidentally it was the first time that they publicly raised voices against the decision of the Quaid.


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The book describes the political quagmire in Pakistan and Pakistan’s relations with the United States.

Ata Rabbani joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 and was selected as the first air aid-de-camp for the Quaid-i-Azam.


ISBN 978-969-002-163-2

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