Subjects to citizens

Yaqoob Bangash breaks new ground in 'A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-1955'

Subjects to citizens
Dr Yaqoob Bangash breaks hitherto virgin ground as he delves deep into the processes which resulted in the accession of a number of princely states to Pakistan, and later their integration into the Pakistani political mainstream. The princely states which were integrated with Pakistan included Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Kalat and a number of Frontier States: Chitral, Dir, Amb, Swat, Hunza and Nagar. All these states had a different historical trajectory from the conventional princely states patronized by Great Britain, the paramount power in the subcontinent. These were Muslim-majority states ruled by Muslim princes and located within or contiguously to Pakistan.

Although the focus remains on these states, some big and other petty fiefdoms, the author briefly reviews the unsuccessful attempts to accede to Pakistan by Junagarh and Manavadar, located in the Gujarat Kathiwar region of mainland India. Both were ruled Muslim nawabs, but their populations were predominantly Hindu. The even more contentious case of the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir is not part of his investigation. Bangash concentrates only on the successful cases of accession. Nevertheless, he adopts a broad comparative overview and the accession and integration of princely states with Pakistan is compared and contrasted to the Indian approach on these matters. The major difference, he points out, between the two processes was that while the Indian National Congress had towards the final stages of the freedom struggle decided resolutely to abolish the princely states the All-India Muslim League had no clear policy on this matter even when British rule ended. He aptly describes such an attitude aslaissez faire: encouraging the princes to assert their independence upon the termination of British paramountcy.

Another interesting difference was that while India decided not seek the accession of princely states located outside Indian territory, Mohammad Ali Jinnah who had close relations with Indian princes strongly emphasized the right of the princely states to remain independent, and even tried to court some Hindu rulers of Hindu-majority states well within Indian territory such as Jodhpur to accede to Pakistan. Additionally, by accepting the decision of the Nawab of Junagarh to accede to Pakistan (15 September 1947). A dangerous precedent was established because later the Maharaja of Kashmir exercised the same prerogative and acceded to India in October 1947.
Pakistan's state formation and consolidation lacked a clear vision

On the other hand, Louis Mountbatten exceeded his brief when he took a consistent stand that the princely states must either join India or Pakistan and that the principle applicable in such cases was that they must accede to the successor states in which they were located. Such an approach contravened the policy of the British Government which had declared that paramountcy would not pass on to the successor states. In practice it would have meant that the princely states could have declared themselves independent and sovereign, but Mountbatten overruled such a possibility and consequently cajoled the princes to accede to the two successor states on the basis of their location. In the regard, the author informs us that Mountbatten used the political department as the bureaucratic means to compel the rulers to submit to the policies of the central government. The Crown Representative political adviser Sir Conrad Corfield objected to such an approach. We learn that some princes were thinking of establishing direct and independent diplomatic relations with foreign powers. Apparently, the USA was opposed to such overtures of the princes and the British Government had to fall in line as well.

Bangash does not pursue in depth Mountbatten’s motivation for compelling the princely states to integrate with India or Pakistan, but a hint is given: it was the carrot needed to convince India to remain in the British Commonwealth. This I believe is a very important point because in my own recent works I noted that Mountbatten’s manoeuvring of Nehru and Jinnah to remain in the British Commonwealth was an important strategic consideration because while his main brief to transfer power to Indians is well-known and the subject of much controversy the second brief he carried has not been properly investigated: to keep India within the British Commonwealth whether as a united country or divided into India and Pakistan. In any event, notwithstanding the different approaches of India and Pakistan towards the princely states, the princely states were abolished and integrated with India or Pakistan. More research is needed on this theme for a fuller and all-round understanding of the processes that culminated finally in the partition of India.

At any rate, none of the princely states had acceded to Pakistan when it became independent on 15 August 1947. Senior civil servants belonging to the Political Department were especially assigned the task of obtaining the accessions. In this regard the name of Col. A. S. B. Shah is particularly mentioned as he was instrumental in bringing about the accession in several cases from unwilling princely rulers.

Bahawalpur was part of the Punjab Province. It had an area of 16,434 sq. miles, with a population of just fewer than one million in 1931. It had a number of British officers employed in the state services and as a result had achieved impressive development in the field of education. In April 1947 Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani had become the chief minister of Bahawalpur. A rumour circulated that Bahawalpur wanted to accede to India but the latter rebuffed such a move. Moreover, the nawab declared himself as Amir and Jalal-ul-Mulk ala Hazrat, i.e. the full independent ruler of the state on 15 August 1947. This alarmed the Pakistan Government. Col Shah advised the government not to recognize the assumption of the new title by the nawab. Despite some confusion about the intentions of Gurmani we learn that he himself brought the Instrument of Accession signed by the nawab to Jinnah on 5 October 1947. Khairpur was a medium-sized Sindhi princely state. It had an area of 6,050 sq. miles. In 1947, it was in an uncertain situation as its ruler Mir Faiz Muhammad had been declared mentally unfit. He was deposed and his minor son Mir George Ali Murad Khan was recognized as the ruler. A board of regency comprising his close relatives was appointed on 24 July 1947. Mountbatten actively participated in that transition of power. Col Shah once again ensured that the accession to Pakistan was signed by the Chairman of the Board of Regency, Mir Ghulam Hussain Khan Talpur. Jinnah formally accepted the accession on 9 October 1947.

With regard to the Frontier States, Bangash makes a very interesting observation. Chitral, Dir, Swat and Amb were eager to accede to Pakistan but ‘it seems the Government of Pakistan did not want to accept the offers of accession by these states in haste, especially since Kashmir claimed Chitral, and Dir’s accession brought to the fore brewing tensions with Afghanistan’. Eventually all four did accede to Pakistan as Pakistan was eager not to let territorial ambiguity affect it negatively. Also, the minor principalities of Hunza and Nagar were integrated into Pakistan even when China had once claimed tribute from them.

The case of Kalat State understandably receives in-depth attention as its accession continues to be debated even now and fact and fiction have been freely mixed by partisan researchers. It was the largest princely state to become a part of Pakistan, but only through a highly chequered process. It had been briefly a part of the Mughal Empire and in 1839 been recognized as a vassal of the Amir of Kabul. Unlike most other princely states Kalat had few direct links with the British Government at Delhi but the British presence in Kalat affairs had been secured by the time the future of India after a British withdrawal began to be considered. Historically Kalat was not an absolute monarchy; rather, it was a confederation of tribal leaders and smaller feudatory units such as Makran, Las Bela and Kharan states with the Khan of Kalat at the centre of such a power structure. Ahmed Yar Khan assumed the title of Khan of Kalat in 1933. He tried tried to assert and enhance his power within the confederacy as well as in relation to the British. Education and other developments had seriously lagged behind. However, political awareness had been growing among some sections of society and a few Baloch students had studied in educational institutions in India. Among them, Baloch nationalism had been evolving gradually and they preferred independence rather than joining Pakistan.

In April 1947 Ahmed Yar Khan tried to assert the complete independence of Kalat but simultaneously expressed his support for the Pakistan demand. He wanted areas leased out to the British to be returned to Kalat –something which neither Mountbatten approved nor the Muslim League. These included Quetta and the Bolan Pass. In any case, Pakistan had recognized Kalat’s independence in a communique dated 11 August 1947 as it felt that neither India nor Britain would exploit such a situation. However, this was only a paper exercise because from the beginning Pakistan was determined to annex it. Negotiations between the Government of Pakistan and Kalat started in September 1947; the Khan was reluctant to sign the Accession Bill so Jinnah met him in October and persuaded him to join Pakistan. The Khan was disappointed but his hands were further weakened when the khans of Kharan and Las Bela offered to accede to Pakistan. After some hesitation both were recognized as separate states on 17 March 1948. It was followed by increasing pressure when Col. Shah was despatched to expedite the accession. Rumours that the Khan had been seeking help from Afghanistan and a false report on All India Radio on 27 March that the Khan had approached India to accept its accession placed him in a very vulnerable position and in panic he signed the Accession Bill to join Pakistan. His brother Prince Karim tried to put up resistance but that proved futile and Pakistan troops took hold of Kalat by early April 1948.

In the chapters which follow, Bangash sheds light on the integration processes which culminated in the princely states being amalgamated into the Province of West Pakistan through the One Unit scheme. Unlike India where the democratization process was given priority and pursued with vigour, Pakistan gave attention mainly to securing firm control over the princely states while democratic change was placed on the back burner. Nevertheless some democratic changes did take place as all the princely states were originally autocracies. However, there was considerable variation amongst the states themselves. Whereas Kalat and the Frontier States were backward and medieval in character Bahawalpur and Khairpur had made progress along modern lines. The chief minister of Khairpur, Mumtaz Hasan Kizilbash (1947-1955), whom Jinnah had selected, proved to be an enlightened modernizer. Educational reforms were undertaken and several industrial units were established. Even adult franchise had been introduced and an elected assembly also existed, though the author notes that ‘law and order, and revenue and finance remained the preserve of the chief minister and outside the ambit of the assembly’s authority’. On the whole, the transition from subjects to citizens was slower than India’s pace. This followed inevitably from the fact that Pakistan’s state formation and consolidation lacked a clear vision and purpose and that problem compounded the process of integration of the princely states. The author notes that the former rulers continue to enjoy official prerogatives and protocol while India has done away with such formal trappings.

The author has doubtlessly made a very significant contribution to the growing literature on the peculiarities of the Pakistani state formation and consolidation. The decision to adopt a comparative perspective to look at parallel developments in India while focusing on in-depth study of the accession and integration of princely states with Pakistan Bangash has demonstrated his ability to conduct sophisticated and innovative research.

The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at: