Quaid-i-Azam on the Kashmir Issue as Governor-General

by Prof. Lawrence Ziring

This form that the Kashmir conflict took was totally unanticipated by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Lord Mountbatten’s personal decision to ignore the Wavell Plan as well as his rejection of the Atlee government’s intention to leave India in the summer of 1948, created the tragic circumstances that impacted the mountain state and much of north-western quadrant of the subcontinent.  Personally piqued by Jinnah’s decision to reject the Viceroy’s wish to become Governor-General for both India and Pakistan, Mountbatten’s haste in winding up British administration in the subcontinent left Jinnah and his party with hardly more than a few weeks to form the new nation and government. It has been often repeated that few among the Viceroy’s inner circle seriously contemplated Pakistan’s survival past the fist six months of independence.  More so, few ranking members of the Congress Party believed the Muslim League, the recipient of the transfer of power, and essentially an unbanized refugee organisation, would be capable of managing of diverse, provincialized and the largely tribal society. The people and regions that fell within the Pakistan design had been and were still mainly represented by landed, feudal aristocrats. For the latter the Jinnah-conceived intrusion was most unwelcome. It was mainly because the British had denied the Muslim League adequate time to communicate the details of partition to the people who were most affected by the break-up of British India. The Kashmir problem was only one of several interconnected dilemmas that challenged Quaid-i-Azam soon after taking up the reins of government.

Jinnah was a very sick man at the time of the partition and the long struggle to achieve Pakistan had taken its toll. Resolute in character and a firm believer in the cause of Pakistan, Jinnah could not ignore his illness, but at the same time he was determined to see his vision realized. When he insisted on taking the Governor-General’s office it was with the thought that he could leave the day-to-day matters of governance to the Liaquat Ali Khan Cabinet. He envisaged himself in a symbolic and ceremonial role, lending legitimacy to the government on the one side, while rallying a disparate, disassociated population on the other. But if Jinnah believe the Muslim League government could act without him direct involvement, he was quickly forced to think otherwise. In spite of Liaquat’s expressed desire to lead the government, it was Jinnah that assumed the functions of the prime minister, even though in doing so it taxed his diminished physical capacity.

But it was the more serious issues that truly sapped his energy. Jinnah expected resistance and opposition to his policies, but he was utterly unprepared for the ferocity of the communal warfare unleashed by the partition. When the demonstrations went unchecked and the arbitrary ‘killing spread, he was even more dismayed by Britain’s failure to limit the carnage (notably in the Punjab). The breakup of the British Indian Army was a key element in the negotiations leading up to partition, and the parties had agreed to a reasonable division of the arms while independence found the Nehru government reluctant to make the necessary distribution of weapons, and the promise was forgotten a tensions mounted between the two countries. Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinlek, the Commander of the British Indian Army, also was stymied by a Congress policy that eliminated his headquarter in New Delhi soon after partition. Although he remained on in India for period after independence, and separate British commanders took charge of the two new armies, Britain refrained from any significant involvement in subcontinent affairs.  Thus, Jinnah’s request to Auchinleck to quell communal also declared a hands-off policy when Jinnah called upon him to block the Indian Army’s entry into Kashmir.

The British in both the subcontinent and in London had decided to quite Indian with all haste, and with Mountbatten the ceremonial head of state in the new Indian dominion. It was painfully clear that Britain would do nothing that might complicate or delay its withdrawal. India and the Congress were permitted to inherit all the military ordnance factories, and the Indian army retained virtually all the weapons stores, and the vast majority of military instructional schools (of the fourty-six army training institutions only seven were in Pakistan, and only one of these, the Staff College at Quetta, was of particular importance). But contrast with Indian, Pakistan had to raise an army and an air force virtually from scratch.  Moreover, the British colonial policy that created “class” units composed entirely of Hindus, e.g., Mahrattas, Dogras, etc., did not do the same for Muslims whose military formations were intermingled with non-Muslims. The organization of the Indian armed forces therefore was significantly less stressful as until were drawn into the new Indian army whole and intact. In October 1947, two months after partition, Pakistan was still creating is initial army units, while several of the older mixed echelons remained under Hindu and Sikh commanders. Indeed the Pakistan G.H.Q. was staffed with a number of Hindu officers. And given the army’s immediate responsibility after partition of convoying Muslim refugees streaming into Pakistan from India, the Pakistan military establishment was hardly prepared for the Indian army’s invasion of Kashmir in the Spring of 1948.

Jinnah’s disappointment at London’s apparent indifference to conditions in the subcontinent, as well as Mountbatten’s decision to throw in his lot with India, left the Quaid-i-Azam with few options. The first priority was the establishment of a coherent, disciplined Pakistan army and the Kashmir situation pointed up the urgency of that decision. As a lawyer and constitutionalist Jinnah believed the Commonwealth provided the proper framework for the reconciliation of intra-commonwealth matters, and be agonized over Mountbatten’s and Whitehall’s refusal to mediate the growing hostility between India and Pakistan.  Clearly, Pakistanis had reason to conclude that their former colonial mentor, the country the Muslim League had supported during World War II, would acknowledge Muslim sacrifices.

Only a few years earlier it had been the Congress that opposed the British war effort. Moreover, the formation of the Indian National Army, with help from the Japanese, had been judged a treasonous act. But the end of the war and the events leading up to the British withdrawal from India had altered British thinking. No less important it had dramatically changed Britain’s role in the world, as well as the empire’s perception of itself. Pakistan was left to manage as best it could. Some British military and administrative personnel opted to remain at their stations in the new Muslims state, but the Quaid’s belief that Britain would assist the fledgling nation in its first hours was not realized.

The reality that Pakistan stood alone, that no other Muslim nation had the means to assist it, that another immediate neighbour, Afghanistan, also was unhappy with Pakistan’s new found independence, convinced Jinnah that he had to pre-empt Liauquat’s authority and manage the country’s problems on a largely personal basis. Jinnah contemplated changing his prime minister but the time was not opportune, and the knowledge that he considered such an action was not lost on Liaquat.  Jinnah’s concern however, was with the future of Pakistan, but in not replacing his prime minister with a figure boasting a solid constituency in the country, he forced himself to take up the political chores involved in consolidating the nation. On the one side Jinnah sought to neutralize the landed aristocracy that dominated the political life of Pakistan’s several western provinces, hence his retention of Liaquat, on the other he wanted to give full vent to the liberal urban desire to mould Pakistan into a modern, forward-looking constitutional state, guided by the rule of law and protective of its polyglot and disparate population.

Jinnah’s vision, however, could not be realized in the conditions prevailing in the inchoate country, with its land and people separated by a thousand miles of Indian territory, with millions of refugees flooding across its border with neighbours assuming aggressive postures. All of these dilemmas were intertwined with one another, and as such the Kashmir dispute was not a single event but rather the consequences of a series of developments and actions that fifty years later have still to be resolved. 


In the weeks and months that followed the grant of independence, Jinnah was consumed by the need to pacify and win over his diverse opposition. His specific work focused on domestic not foreign affairs, and his generally abstract speeches that were directed to the outside world addressed the need to bind up the nations after searing world war, and especially for Pakistan to find peace and contentment with all nations and peoples, Muslim and non-Muslims. Jinnah, however acknowledged the one neighbour who displayed immediate friendship to the young country, and he dispatched perhaps his closest confidant, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan as his ambassador to Iran. And as a test of its goodwill, Tehran agreed that aircraft due from Britain would be rerouted to Pakistan.

As Governor-General under the modified Government of India Act of 1935, Jinnah possessed extraordinary powers that permitted him to proclaim emergencies, make laws enumerated in the provincial legislative list, and provided him with the power to control the selection and dismissal of ministries, or place the administration of a province under the rule of a governor who was directly responsible to him. Meant to be exercised only in extreme emergency, Jinnah determined that the conditions prevailing the country following independence warranted their immediate use. In fact these emergency powers were utilized hardly a week following Pakistan’s independence.

Before partition a referendum had been conducted to determine the sentiments of the population in the North West Frontier Province, and particularly, whether the population there wished to opt for Pakistan. The NWFP had long been the home of the Khudai Khidmatgar or Red Shirts led by Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi. Ghaffar Khan had called for the creation of an independent Pakhtunistan even before the Muslim League call for Pakistan.  But the Muslim League referendum won the favour of the voters and thus the NWFP was deemed an integral unit of Pakistan. Thwarted in his efforts by the British in the years leading up to the independence of the subcontinent, and now by the Muslim League, Ghaffar Khan sought other opportunities to press his Pakhtunistan objective. But in an effort aimed at denying him that opportunity, and only a week after independence had been achieved, Jinnah dismissed the NWFP’s Congress government led by Dr. Khan Sahib, a brother of the Red Shirt leader. In fact, Mountbatten as Viceroy should have dissolved the Khan Sahib government in keeping with the terms of the NWFP referendum. His failure to do so left the onerous task to Jinnah who would have preferred replacing the government through more constitutional process. But given Khan Sahib’s refusal to vacate his office, or to take the oath swearing loyalty to Pakistan, Jinnah had no option other than to use his emergency powers.

The turmoil in the NWFP intertwined with the turbulence in Kashmir. The tribal invasion of Kashmir from the frontier areas had overwhelmed the Maharajah’s forces, and hardput to resist the incursion, the Kashmiri leader pleaded with India for assistance in saving his Kingdom. The Indian response called upon the Maharajah to opt for the Indian union in return for a privy purse from New Delhi. Not yet convinced that he would accept the Indian offer, Jinnah sent Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan to the NWFP to investigate the situation, to guage the options, and to recommend action. Ghazanfar, however was hardly in position to sort out the many rivalries in the area, let alone to find a course of action that would divert India and Pakistan from a collision course.

Jinnah wanted no part in war with India. His political life had centred on the creation of amicable relations between the major communities residing within the subcontinents. His labours to bridge Hindu-Muslims differences stretched from the Lucknow Pact of 1916 to acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposal of 1946. it was only after exhausting all other possibilities that Jinnah called for direct action in the formation of Pakistan, but even then he wanted to believe that a legal framework could be constructed in which both countries would not only live in peace, but combine and blend their efforts at building modern societies. The conflict in Kashmir on the eve of independence threatened that goad, and Ghazanfar Ali reported to Jinnah that the issue was most than one pitting Hindus against Muslims, and more than a simple struggle for Muslim Kashmiri rights.

The unresolved aspects of the Pakistan design at partition had fired the ambitions of Ghaffar Khan and Dr. Khan Sahib, but it also presented still other tribal leaders in the frontier region with opportunities to pursue individual agendas. Haji Mirza Ali Khan, commonly known as the Fikr or Ipi a dominant figure in the Tirah borderland between Pakistan and Afghanistan, blatantly opposed Pakistani sovereignty, and aided and abetted by the Afgahn government he declared his intention to create Pakhunistan stage.  Only stern action by Pakistani forces ended his campaign. Afghanistan’s first Ambassador to Pakistan, Shah Wali Khan, sought to placate Pakistani authorities and public opinion by declaring that his government had no intention of claiming frontier territory located in Pakistan. His unceremonial dismissal by Kabul, however, proved to be prelude to a declaration by the Afghan parliament describing the Durand Line, that is, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as “imaginary”.

Jinnah did not live long enough to witness the expansion of the Afghan claim to Pakhtunistan, but the nonetheless realized that Muslim Afghanistan, had cast its lot with India. Indeed, the Afghan King’s personal emissary, Najibullah Khan, had met with Jinnah early in 1948 and had pressed the Quaid-i-Azam to accept the tribal border areas as a sovereign province. He also demanded that Afghanistan be given an outlet to the sea, and noted that in case of war between India and Pakistan, Kabul intended to remain neutral. Jinnah could not ignore the unfriendly character of these “demands”, nor did the envisage a settlement that would be satisfactory to the parties any time in the near or distant future.

Nevertheless, Jinnah had become very aware of the intricacies of the frontier problem, how it spilled over into Kashmir, and how the complexities of the issue throughout the region added to his government’s difficulties in consolidating and unifying Pakistan. Moreover, Dr. Khan Sahib’s dismissal had not relieved the situation. Khan Sahib’s dismissal had not relieved the situation. Khan Sahib’s successor, Abdul Qayyum Khan, led a Muslim League party that only a few year earlier he had denounced as opportunistic and unsuited to led the Pathan nation Shifting his loyalties to the League with Jinnah’s successful mastery of the Pakistan Movement, Qayyum Khan was called to organize the first League government in the frontier province. When he took over, however, the Muslim League only had 15 members in the provincial legislature compared with the 21 controlled by the Congress By January 1948, however, Qayyum gained the confidence of Jinnah by pressuring seven Congress members to leave the organization of the Muslim League. The Chief Minister’s heavy-handed tactics were not what Jinnah would have preferred but the Governor-General was too stepped in difficulties to ignore the need for strong action.

In April 1948, Jinnah made his own visit to the NWFP and there met with the Provincial leaders including Ghaffar Khan and Dr. Khan Sahib. Jinnah thought his presence of the Frontier and his willingness to meet with his sworn opposition would ameliorate some of the bitterness existing between them. Jinnah indicated he was prepared to put political differences behind him but he also pressed his detractors to accept the governance of the Muslim League and yield their secessionist activities. Ghaffar Khan, however, refused to accept Jinnah’s entreaty, and he certainly was unprepared to sanction League rule. In fact he was only prepared to augment his program in one way; he said he was ready to recast his party to fit the role of a loyal opposition Jinnah did not believe the Red Shirt leader who he judged incapable of acting within a constitutional framework, and he let the meeting convinced that Ghaffar Khan was determined to destroy Pakistan.   Therefore, Qayyum was encouraged to sustain his pressure against the area’s dissidents, and whatever opportunity may have existed for forming a loyal opposition in NWFP failed to materialize.

The NWFP and Kashmir

No one with an interest in subcontinent affairs need reminding that the natural gateway to Kashmir was by way of the NWFP and that the divisions within the Frontier province spilled over into the Kashmir Valley. It cannot be ignored that in addition to the tribal Pathans who infiltrated Kashmir on the eve of independence the Kashmir problem was aggravated by forces and elements determined to cause Pakistan grievous harm. Provoking a war between India and Pakistan, especially when Pakistan was ill-prepared for such an encounter, in the machination of Pakistan’s detractors, might well bring a quick end to the Pakistan design. Certainly, Afghanistan had much to gain and little to lose by instigating a conflict in Kashmir. Never comfortable with a sovereign, independent Pakistan, and with geographical agenda that projected an expanded Afghanistan with direct access to the sea, a war that Pakistan could not win in Kashmir appeared the answer to Afghan aspirations.

The Red Shirt also saw advantage in an Indo-Paksitan war. Ghaffar Khan enjoyed an intimate relationship with New Delhi and Kabul, and a protracted conflict over Kashmir could only weaken Pakistan.  Pakistan, it was assumed, did not have the staying power of India, and in relatively short time its manpower would be depleted and its ammunition consumed. Pakistan’s surrender to Indian arms would usher in a different geopolitical design for the region than that fashion by Quaid-i-Azam, who may have diplomatically out-manoeuvred Gandhi and Nehru at the conference table, but who could not expect to win on the battlefield. It is important to note that the Kashmir problem was never slated for resolution around a negotiating table.

These who were determined to undo Pakistan, or in other instances, to alter its design to better suit their purposes, counted on Jinnah’s failing health. His visit to the Punjab in late 1947 was punctuated by periods of debilitation when he was confined to bed and unable to manage his full program. His trop to the Frontier allowed his adversaries to see first-hand how weak he was, and indeed, hwo they might plot their actions. For those with a different vision of Pakistan’s future it was only a matter of waiting for the Quaid-i-Azam’s death. Moreover, trouble in Sindh and in East Bengal also forced Jinnah to make public appearances in those provinces. The East Bengal journey was an especially arduous one, but the Governor-General believed he needed to boost Bengali morale in the distant province, even if it caused him to waste precious energy. Jinnah’s health declined swiftly to waste precious energy. Jinnah’s health declined swiftly following the Dhaka visit. Time therefore seemed to be on the side of those with different agendas than the represented by the Quaid-i-Azam.

The situation in the Punjab was only by degree different than that in the NWFP. It needs to be recalled that the Punjab experienced the most vicious communal conflict at the time of independence. The Radcliff Award had apportioned the eastern Punjab to India and the western sector to Pakistan. The Sikh demand for Self-determination was ignored by Mountbatten and their dream Khalistan was transformed into a nightmare of indiscriminate killing that primarily pitted Sikhs against Muslims, the latter of whom the Sikhs blamed for their predicament. And while the partition scheme had elevated bitterness between these two minority communities, the Radcliff Award also was aimed at opening Kashmir to Indian occupation. The Gurdaspur district of the Punjab, a Muslim-dominant area, had been demarcated for India not Pakistan in order to provide New Delhi with direct land access to Kashmir. Jinnah’s effort to prevent this geopolitical strategizing provide futile, and indeed the granting of Gurdaspur to India by Britain signaled India’s intention to occupy the mountain kingdom with British acquiescence.

Overall, the situation in Pakistan’s Punjab was very unstable following the Muslim League ouster of a pro-Congress Unionist government. The Punjab Muslim League was dominated by zamindars and rural powerbrokers, and rivalries between them made shambles of Jinnah’s vision. Mian Mumtaz Mohammad Khan Daultana had been given the provincial finance portfolio and Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan was made responsible for revenue. But both men coveted higher positions  and they were particularly at odds with the Nawab of Mamdot who had become the province’s Chief Minister. Jinnah decided that Mamdot should be brought into the central cabinet and that Daultana, however, was hardly satisfied with these decisions and he insisted on sustaining his feud with Mamdot and other members of the party.  Jinnah appealed to their sense of patriotism but found their concerns for Pakistan somewhat different than his own. Failing all efforts at mediating the dispute between abrasive personalities, Jinnah left the matter to the English governor of the province, Sir Francis Mudie, who forced Daultana and Shaukat Hayat to resign and allowed Mamdot to form a new cabinet.

Jinnah’s apparent weakness in addressing the issue of aggressive competitive politics in the Punjab, exaggerated his diplomatic deficiencies. His deferring to Mudie, and the course the governor followed, did not augur well for the Muslim League in the Punjab. It also did not elevate the role of Pakistani diplomacy. Although Jinnah did not live to experience the tragedy of Liauqat’s assassination of 1951 or the Punjab riots of 1953, their roots lay in their early middle. Moreover, the failure to get the Punjabi house in order also impacted the Kashmir problem by indirectly reinforcing Indian resolve not to proceed with either a plebiscite in the mountain state or the hoped for negotiated settlement. This too then was a matter related to Kashmir, and the Indian army’s offensive in Kashmir, which began in the Spring of 1948 forced Jinnah to give up any hope of finding a reasoned solution. His order to the Pakistani army to engage the Indian force formalized the struggle for Kashmir, and a central issue in the relations between India and Pakistan, which should have been resolved diplomatically prior to partition, was allowed to fester, spread and deepen.

Looking Back Toward the Future

Jinnah was a man for extraordinary times. His legacy is the attainment of statehood for Pakistan. But he was not a man for all seasons and his conclusion was made more obvious in the days and years that followed the transfer of power. Given the benefit of fifty years of hindsight, knowing now what could not have been forescast in the Quaid-i-Azam’s time, it is possible to say that Jinnah, the only person who could have realized the establishment of an independent Muslim state in South Asia, who alone spiritually nurtured Pakistan in the initial months after independence, simple did not have the time nor the physical energy to resolve the complex and multidimensional dilemmas caused by the partition of the British Indian Empire. No less important, he did not have the opportunity to impart his vision of a democratic polity and a civil society to his countrymen. Challenged by forces from within and without, Jinnah was compelled to use the instruments of rule so long in vogue in the colonial period.

Observing that the Kashmir remains in place after fifty long years that it spawned two wars between Pakistan and India, and threatens still another even more violent than those earlier encounter, is to cite the failure and inability of today’s leaders to transcend their individual and personal short comings. Quaid-i-Azam was too physically impaired to carry the burdens of the post-independence period.

Indeed, the leader of India and Pakistan might well have acknowledged the flawed nature of the British transfer plan, and together they could have remedied its inherently divisive features. Pakistan did not have to be wripped from the womb of Mother India. Its birth should have been heralded as part of an evolutionary process, an integral part of a dual experience that enjoyed more harmony than dissonance.

It is important to note that Kashmir, more than nay other issue, sustains and fuels the suspicions and the animosity between the two countries. Kashmir has long held both Pakistan and India hostage and neither country seems prepared or able to find a workable solution to their mutual dilemma. In fact there has not been an new idea or approach to the Kashmir problem in the fifty years that have passed Islamabad countries to emphasize its support for the UN resolution calling for a plebiscite, while India insists the matter is dormant, and the region is an integral part of the Indian union. Although the world has moved on, the Kashmir problem appears frozen in time and configuration. Each country has somehow tied Kashmir to its ethos as a nation, and each believes a shift in position will somehow strike at their very raison d’etre.

Jinnah had Zafrullah Khan and M.A.H Ispahani monitor the Kashmir debate in the United Nation but there is little in the record to suggest that the UN was every a suitable forum for the problem. The United States sought to mediate the dispute in its early stages but both Chester Nimitz and Frank Graham despaired of reaching a solution acceptable to both sides. The Soviets interfered in Kashmir controversy early in Cold War, but even their tilt in favour of India did little more than harden the position on both sides. The post-Cold War period does not suggest a change for the better. Jinnah would be appalled by the nuclear sable rattling the seeps out of both Islamabad and New Delhi today.

Jinnah left Karachi for Quetta and ultimately Ziarat in May 1948. Abdul Ghaffar Khan was arrested without Jinnah’s knowledge in June under the Frontier Crimes Regulations and began the first of many incarcerations in Pakistani prison. Before his arrest he described Pakistan as a “house of sand”, and Jinnah as a British agent. The government of Pakistan, he argued was managed by outsiders who had converted “the native population into refugees in their homeland.”  It was clear that he blamed Jinnah for the country’s predicament. Jinnah’s earlier trip to the Frontier, and Ghaffar Khan’s meeting with the Quaid-i-Azam gave neither man reason to rethink the role they might have played so early in Pakistan’s independent life.  Jinnah of course was denied the time to make the necessary adjustments. Ghaffar Khan, however, lived decades after Jinnah’s death, and although he continued to find satisfaction in India after Gandhi’s passing, he never tried to reconcile his vision with that of the Quaid-i-Azam’s.

In a radio broadcast to the nation shortly before his death in September 1948, Jinnah declared that although the storms that have raged over Pakistan had not yet passed, “the most furious phase has past.”  History and the contemporary leaders of Pakistan and India will tell that the Quaid had correctly read the future.

Reference:     Pakistan Journal of History & Culture (Quaid-i-Azam Number) Vol. XXII, No. 2,July - Dec, 2001
Publisher:      National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research (Centre of Excellence) Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad-Pakistan