Unpublished Letters of Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar to Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1937-1947
Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, a committed freedom fighter, a wise statesman and an inspiring political leader, was one of those few Muslim Leaguers who made All – India Muslim League a party of the masses, foiled the designs of the Congress and successfully handled the historic referendum of N.W.F.P. in 1947, through which the Muslims of N.W.F.P. gave their verdict in favour of Muslim League, and so N.W.F.P. became a part of Pakistan.
The period from 1937 to 1947 proved a crucial and decisive decade in the history of British India. It was during this period when Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar exchanged a lot of correspondence with Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, then president of All – India Muslim League. These letters, mostly hand-written and unpublished are of great importance and value which contain rare informations and eloquently speak for the role N.W.F.P. played in the creation of Pakistan.
After contesting the general elections of 1937 and returning to the first Provincial Assembly of N.W.F.P. as an independent member, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar wrote the following letter1 to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on June 16, 1937. The contents of the letter not only explain Sardar Nishtar’s affiliation with Muslim League, but his political views and his efforts to help Maulana Zafar Ali Khan in his elections campaign in Lahore could also be known. It reads as follows:-
Dear Mr. Jinnah
I hope this letter finds you in perfect health.
Since was met last time the Muslims politics had once again taken a bad turn but thank God the position in clarifying and the shadow of confusion is disappearing everyday. If any thing extraordinary does not happen I am sure the situation will become still clear.
I hope you remember that in the last meeting of the Council of Muslim League I had stated that the current reading of the mind of the Muslim masses and particularly of the Muslim youth is that the ideal of their national organization should be complete independence; that they want to take active part in the movement for the emancipation of their motherland and that they at the same time wish to keep in tact their separate identity. The course of events of the last few months is duly in support of what I submitted and I hope that steps will be taken by prominent leaders like you to so frame the policy of the Muslim League that it may in fact become the national platform of the Muslims. The election of Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and the attitude which the short-sighted Congress leaders of the Punjab adopted in that connection has been very helpful and there is a general feeling which is growing stronger and stronger everyday that the Muslims should organize themselves on national lines. There is no denying the fact that there are some Muslim gentlemen who raise the cry of “Islam in danger” chiefly with a view to strengthen the hands of the foreign government. But such black sheep are found in every fold. When I say that the Muslims should be organized on national lines it means to meet the machinations of such persons. I yield to none in the demand for the liberation of India from the foreign yoke. I have suffered2 for it and am prepared to suffer for it again, but at the same time I feel that considering the present unfortunate mentality of the majority of our sister community it is not only desirable but absolutely necessary that there should be a strong representative Muslim organization to advocate and safeguard the interests of the Muslims of India. With the exception of a small number of gentlemen practically the whole of Muslim India is in support of this view. The situation in the Punjab and Frontier Province is also becoming encouraging.
When is the annual session of the League coming up and where? It would be better to arrive at a definite decision on this behalf and announce it in time so that people may have due notice to make arrangements to attend the session. The forthcoming session will be very important and therefore efforts should be made to make it as much representative as possible. The gentlemen whom I had sent to Lahore to help Maulana Zafar Ali Khan and counteract the effect of our misguided Red Shirt friends, who were sent there to oppose him, have informed me that the Punjabees have become more inclined towards the idea of strengthening the Muslim League. A strong contingent will attend the session this time. Similar are the feelings here.
Any service at Peshawar?
In 1938, when the Congress ministries were in power and the communal settlement and overshadowed all other differences between All India National Congress and All India – Muslim League, Sardar Nishtar sent the following letter3 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali JInnah on 18th may 1938. In this letter he has recorded his impression which he got from his meetings with M.K. Gandhi during the letter’s visit to N.W.F.P. in 1938. It reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Jinnah,
I intended to write to you earlier but did not do so because you were occupied with momentous question of Communal Settlement and I avoided disturbing you.
It appears that there have arisen difficulties in the way of success. Anyhow this news that the negotiations have not broken down still provides a ray of hope to those who are anxious for honourable settlement.
When Mr. Gandhi came here I interviewed him twice. We discussed many matters of provincial concern but his interview with you also came in. I told him that the present was the opportunity for the Congress to get this matter settled once and for all because unlike the past, today every Mussalman of India had admitted the authority of Mr. Jinnah to negotiate with the Congress on behalf of the Mussalmans. Not a single dissenting voice has been heard although there have been published declaration by Hindu – Sabha people challenging the authority of the Congress. In this part it used to be said that there were so many organization and leaders among the Indian Muslims that nobody knew with whom to settle this dispute. He had to admit this position. I placed before him and said that he was hopeful about the settlement. I am sure that his visit to this province must have disillusioned him of many things. Personally, you know that Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan has definitely refused the demand of the provincial Congress Committee to either merge the Khudai Khidmatgars into the Congress or make them subordinate to the Provincial Congress. The complications of this are not realized by people. Such affairs I hope will make the Congress high command to learn more towards the communal settlement. What is needed is a breadth of vision which unfortunately is lacking. It requires a Zaghlol to successfully handle such issues. The eyes of the whole of India are focused upon you. May God, you succeed in this everlasting good of Islam, and the present attempt may not prove again a horizon which runs away from you the more you run towards it.
It is rumored that you intend to summon the meeting of the Council of All – India Muslim League. If it is correct then Delhi, being a central place, will be a good forum for it so that a large number may attend. If I could attend the meeting which I shall do my best to attend, I will put you in possession of all what is happening here.
With best regards,
In his letter4 of January 27, 1938 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Sardar Nishter has regretted to attend the meeting of the Council of All – India Muslim League. The Text of the letter is as under:-
Dear Mr. Jinnah,
I am extremely sorry to write that I won’t be able to attend the meeting of the Council of All – India Muslim League called for the 30th instant. One member of the Council me today. He will explain to you orally the state of affairs in N.W.F.P.
May God help you in your deliberations!
On June 22, 1938, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar wrote a lengthy and detailed letter5 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in which he has traced his affiliations with Muslim league and his efforts to revive it in early thirties. He also explained the reason of his opposition to Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qaiyum’s party and his ministry which was constituted in N.W.F.P. after the elections of 1937.
Text of the letter is as under:
Dear Mr. Jinnah,
Thanks for your letter. I was about to start of Abbotabad in connection with a case when I received it; hence a few days delay in reply.
I was somewhat amused to read your remark to the effect that it was time that every Muslim should have openly worked for the League. If the hint was meant for me I would tell you that I have always openly declared that situated as we the Muslims of India are, it is essential for us to have an organization of ours to safeguard our interests. This has been my belief even when I was in the Congress. In 1924, when I was at Aligarh I frankly put this view before the late Maulana Muhammad Ali who had come there after attending a meeting of the League held at Delhi. At that time he was opposed to the revival of Muslim League. A few years later, probably in 1932, Mr. Asaf Ali issued an appeal to the Mussalmans to revive the League: you will find my name amongst the signatories. Not only this but I actually went to Delhi to discuss the matter with him. There I also discussed the question with the late Doctor Ansari in the presence of Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman who happened to be there. I did not know Chaudhry Sahib at that time. On my return to Peshawar I managed to hold a meeting here in the house of a local lawyer which was attended by leading Muslims of all shades of opinion. All agreed to form a branch of the League here. I and congressmen of my party also consented to join it. Some correspondence was carried on by me and two other gentlemen appointed for that purpose with the central office of League and with chaudhry Sahib but with no result, because the affairs of the League were in a hopeless condition. In 1936, I was taken on the Council of the League and since then I am formally connected with it. In spite of some differences I have always supported it; so much so, that though I do not see eye to eye with the dominant party in our Provincial League I have become a primary member of the League in token of my faith in the principle enunciated above.
When you came over here I informed you that Sir Abdul Qaiyum’s party was opposed to the League; and time proved that I was correct. A short while after their defeat I gave you a hint about that in my letter addressed to you on the eve of the Lucknow Session. At that time they had not yet joined the League.
When I attended the meeting of the Council held at Delhi in March 1937, I had explained to you the reasons why I intended to oppose Sir Abdul’s ministry which was in the process of formation at that time. You know that he had entered into a pact with R.B. Mehr Chand Khanna, President of the Frontier Hindu Mahasabha, whereby the rights of the Muslims were bartered away. The Muslims of this province waited to put an end to it. Besides, it was the ministry of a most reactionary composition. There were other reasons also which I explained to you in detail at that time which made me oppose that ministry in the interest of the Muslims of this province. Believe me that I could get any office in that party but I could not leave the path I had chosen in the best interests of the Muslims of my province. When the Congress party formed the government even then I could get every thing on signing the Congress pledge but I refused just as I had refused at the time of my election when I could be returned unopposed.
The above will make it clear to you that I have always believe in the solidarity of the Muslims, and though I am a very humble man, no temptation could make me do any thing against my conscience. I know the gentlemen who dominate the Frontier Muslim League today. Most of them are my friends but in spite of being a primary member of the League it is very difficult for me to cooperate with them. Their activities are neither in the interests of Muslims nor the Muslim League. You will be surprised to know that they are opposing even the Debtor’s Relief Bill which helps the Muslims at the cost of non-Muslims. One can understand the opposition of Hindus and Sikhs to such a measure but it is really strange for Muslim League members to oppose a measure solely intended to help Muslims. This is not the solitary instance. Whenever they oppose the Congress party on a matter which is in the interest of Muslims I have supported them and voted with them. But generally their attitude is against the interest of the masses. It pains me to write to you these words but I want to explain to you the reasons which dissuade me to actively associate myself with the activities of these gentlemen. There are men of independent views also in the Provincial league though they are in a minority. Some of them would have resigned longs before if I had not prevented them from doing so. One may say why do I stop others from resigning when I do not take active part in Provincial League. The reason in this that I have many times opposed those gentlemen in the Assembly when I feel they are acting against the interest of the Muslims and therefore it seems inconsistent to actively associate with them outside the Assembly. Though some time I do attend their public meetings, I am against the politics of this dominant party of the Provincial Muslim League, but not against the Muslim organization.
I have been trying to persuade nationalist Muslims who have either joined the Congress or are outside the Congress to join a block of Muslim League and if I succeed in that there will be nothing in my way to actively work with the Provincial Muslim League because then my voice will not be a voice in the wilderness. I want that Muslims should neither become the slaves of the Hindus nor of Englishmen. This is my lifelong principle and the fact that I fought single-handed the Congress and the late sir Abdul Qaiyum is an ample proof of it.
Excuse me for this long letter.
With best regard,
Acknowledging his appointment as a member of the Working Committee, All-India Muslim League, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar wrote the following letter5 to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on 26 February 1944.
Many thanks for you kind letter dated 22nd February, 1944, informing me about my appointment as a member of Working Committee of the All – India Muslim League for the current year. May God I succeed in performing my duties.
With best regards.
At the outset of the elections of 1946, when Pakistan Movement was at its climax and India was on the verge of entering into a new phase of history, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar while seeking financial support for the Frontier Muslim League sent a letter8 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Action Committee of the Frontier Provincial Muslim League on 9 January 1946. The text of the letter is as under.
We feel urgent need of financial help from the Centre We have almost exhausted our funds. Please send at least Rs. 50,000/- (fifty thousand rupees) immediately. The Committee of Action feels that for the present we may be able to pull on with this amount though we shall have to approach you for more funds later on.
P.S. The money should be sent telegraphically to the joint account of Qazi Mohammad Isa and Mian Ziauddin with Imperial Bank of India Peshawar Cantt.
During the elections of 1946, Sir Francis Mudie, Governor of the Punjab, while ignoring the verdict and self-determination of the Muslims who were in a majority in the Punjab, appointed Khizr Hayat Khan as the puppet premier of that province. It deeply shocked the leaders of All – India Muslim League. Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar promptly addressed a letter on 7 March 1946 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, explaining his concern over the immense magnitude of this step and its expected impact on the future goal of All – India Muslim League. He was of the view that the Governor’s act was contrary to the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. The text of the letter is as under:
In accordance with your telegram I wrote to Nawabzada Sahib that I would meet him at Delhi in the afternoon of 8th and meet you on the 9th, if possible. I did not receive any reply from him because he was at Lahore. Then I telephoned him at Lahore and the arrangement proposed by me was agreed to. Later on I came to know that you were returning to Delhi on the 10th and not on the 8th as intimated to me. Therefore, I wrote to Nawabzada Sahib that I would not be coming to Delhi on the 8th, but would come later on when you reached Delhi and you further programme was known, or when you or he liked me to come.
Yesterday it was announced that the Punjab Governor has called upon Khizr to form government. People may consider it a mere unjust act on the part of Governor whose enmity with the League is well known, but let me respectfully say that the step has far more serious implications. At Simla even in connection with the reorganization of a nominated body, the government did not dare bypass the League. In the Punjab where the Muslims are in majority, their verdict is ignored and the government in practically handed over to non-Muslims, and in order to throw dust in the eyes of the Muslims, Khizr has been made a puppet premier. This seems to be a clear challenge to test our mettle. If we do not meet it successfully then I am sure that the Muslims will be ignored and the Government in conspiracy with Hindu Congress and a few Quislings amongst the Muslims will enforce upon us its scheme of a “Federation Akhand Hindustan”. The Punjab incident it the thin end of the wedge. In these circumstances I would suggest calling of the meeting of the Working Committee, so that the matter may be fully discussed. I think Lahore will be best suited for the meeting because the three members from Lahore cannot absent themselves from the meeting of their Assembly where the Muslims League will have to measure its strength with an unholy combination. I do not know if K.B. Khuro will be able to attend the meeting if it is held in March. Sir Nazimuddin is away but I think other members may be able to attend although in some provinces elections are still going on. It is for you to decide the date and venue of the meeting. May be for that you would like to wait till you have discussed the matter with the Viceroy and the British Delegation that is reported to reach India in the 3rd week of March; but permit me to say that any undue delay in taking a suitable action may prove as much or even more dangerous than a rash step. I personally feel that the wrong will never be redressed by the Viceroy because the Punjab Governor must have consulted him before taking this step.
Under section 51 (5) of the Government of India act, the function of choosing and summoning of the Ministers is exercised by the Governor in his discretion, but according to S. 54 of the Act in such matters the Governor General exercises a general control over him and can from time to time give direction to him which he is bound to comply with. The Punjab question is so important that I cannot believe that the step was taken without consultation with and consent of the higher quarters. In fact all indications are to the contrary.
On the Quaid’s proposal to nominate Sardar Nishtar as one of the members of the Muslims League in the Executive Council, the latter while conveying his consent, wrote the following letter8 to the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on October 14, 1946 from Delhi.
You were good enough to inform me today that you propose to nominate me to Executive Council as one of the five members of the Muslim league. I thank you for this confidence you so kindly repose in me. Could I convey to you my consent?
It is needles for me to assure you that as a member and nominee of the League it would be my duty to work in accordance with the policy and programme of the League as a loyal member of the Muslim League in the Executive Council and shall abide by the decisions of our Party. I further assure you that I shall wholeheartedly obey the directions or instructions that are issued to me by you or the Muslim League from time to time and shall at once resign from the Executive Council when called upon by you to do so.
In the end I again thank you.
On the historic occasion of the Referendum in N.W.F.P. in 1947, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar sent the following letter9 to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 12th June, 1947, from New Delhi.
My dear Quaid-i-Azam,
I would request you to kindly urge upon the Viceroy the following two matters also when you meet him today.
A large number of our good workers and leaders are still in jail in connection with a case arising out of the demonstrations made in front of the house of the Chief Minister in February last. They have not been released so far. Some of them have been let off on bail but the dates of hearing in their case are fixed at such short interval that it is not possible for them to go out for referendum work. Others have refused to go out on bail because they feel that consequent upon the calling off of the Civil Disobedience Movement, they ought to be unconditionally released. The matter was represented to you by the Frontier deputation yesterday and you were good enough to promise that you would take it up with the Viceroy.
There are certain facilities which only the Government can give in connection with referendum, for instance, the availability of sufficient petrol for propaganda work. Unless the provincial Governor receives special instructions from the Viceroy that full facilities should be given, the Ministry may create trouble and by the time representations are made to the Central Government and a redress sought, valuable time will be lost.
With best regards,
- F. 39 National Archives, Islamabad. (Hereinafter to be mentioned as National Archives)
- In Qisskhawani Bazar firing case, which occurred on 23rd June, 1930 Sardar Nishtar was arrested and put behind the bar in Qila-e-Balahisar, Peshawar for six months.
- National Archives, op. cit.
- Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar Collection, 1923 – 1945, v-I, pp. 31-33. Freedom Movement Research Cell, Archives of Sind, University of Karachi.
- Ibid. (f.588) p. 140.
- Ibid. (f.394)
- Ibid. (f.394),p.22.