The first governor of Pakistan’s Punjab was a man whom Jawaharlal Nehru called the “English Mullah”. His friends affectionately called ‘FM’. He often referred to himself as ‘Fateh Muhammad.’ His real name was Sir Robert Francis Mudie, a man Mr Jinnah requested to stay on in Pakistan to serve the new republic and get it “on track”.
My attention was drawn to the man while researching the reasons for Partition in 1947. As one scours official archives, we see that the very first official letter sent to Mr. Jinnah from Lahore’s Governor’s House on the 15th of August, 1947, was from Sir Francis Mudie, the First Governor of West Punjab (ref.: No. 1, IOR, MSS. Eur. F 164/15). He was informing Mr. Jinnah that: “I was sworn in this morning at 11 a.m., and later swore in four Ministers – Mamdot, Shaukat, Daultana and Karamat Ali. I did not, as suggested in a previous letter, ask your advice as Mamdot had just come from Karachi.”
After dwelling on the tragic killings he discussed the situation outside Lahore, and then wrote: “I propose, unless you wish it otherwise, to continue to write to you a fortnightly letter giving my views on official reports. It is a useful method to keep in touch with the Governor General”. The most important task given by Jinnah to Sir Francis was to keep a constant eye on the 93 refugee camps in the Pakistani Punjab for displaced Muslims coming from India.
While, it seems, food distribution was tackled reasonably well at almost all centres, he noted that the refugees to Pakistan seemed to have made it a “habit” of attacking any shop or house where they could find anything of value. Sir Francis informed Jinnah: “This is not the spirit of Pakistan even though they are desperate. But all said this could be a terrible habit in times to come”.
But as the various Joint Defence Council meetings of Indian and Pakistani defence officials started to iron out refugee problems of the Partition, it was clear that in the meetings the Indians blamed the Muslims and the Pakistanis blamed Sikh and Hindus for virtually all incidents of fighting. The Indian delegation official told the West Punjab governor in one meeting: “You were always an agent of Jinnah and encouraged Partition”. To this Sir Francis Mudie replied: “Sir, your response honours me”.
As the situation in Indian East Punjab took a turn for the worse, it was Sir Francis who wrote to Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan: “The situation of the Muslims now left behind in East Punjab is dire, for they are being deliberately starved. If they are left behind and not evacuated, the catastrophic results that accompanied Partition will be forgotten by this greater tragedy”. He was to prove true to his word and the evacuation that followed was an amazing administrative feat for which Pakistan should always remember Sir Francis Mudie.
After the death of the Quaid-i-Azam in September 1948, he continued to serve the second Governor General of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, who replied on his administrative skills to keep the political situation on an even keel. The bureaucracy in Lahore, mired as they were in ‘Claim Scandals’ by then had formed strong pressure groups. But once the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, abandoned a ‘non-aligned foreign policy’ by siding with the USA and by not first visiting the Soviet Union, Sir Francis Mudie decided to leave office and return to England. His parting comment to a friend was: “The Americans will assist the Indians in the unfolding of the two-nation concept. It will take time, but it will happen”.
The British Library archives contain a letter to Liaquat Ali Khan in which he stated: “Pakistan is based on the two-nation concept, and as such Pakistan will be best served by remaining free of any strong foreign influences, otherwise within the country strife will keeping growing”.
So it was that on the 2nd of August 1949 Sir Robert Francis Mudie handed over the governorship of the Punjab to Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar. He returned to England and continued to work for the British government. Sir Francis was very vocal when India attacked and annexed Hyderabad. His remarks as published in the British media are worth recalling: “India is a vicious neighbour and the attack on Hyderabad is like Hitler attacking Poland”. But it was on the Kashmir issue that he was more clear-headed than any Pakistani of his age. He was to say: “India will try to crush the people of Kashmir. What they will really be doing is attacking the two-nation theory. That must never be allowed”. It was on this that Jawaharlal Nehru was to comment in his biography (p149) that “Sir Francis Mudie thinks like a military strategist, he is a pure English ‘mullah’ and is trying to predict the future likely unfolding of Indian geo-strategic thinking”.
After returning to Britain he was to head the British Economic Mission to Yugoslavia in 1951, and his last important assignment was to head the UN Desert Locust Control Commission in 1955. This brought to an end the long and glorious career of this proud Scottish soldier-administrator from near Dundee on the Firth of Tay. Born in Broughty Ferry in Scotland, he died in the town of his birth at the age of 86 in 1976. Amazingly this great supporter of the Pakistan Movement was a mathematical genius and was a Wrangler of Kings’ College Cambridge.
The life and times of Sir Robert Francis Mudie makes interesting study for all those who claim to have an unbiased interest in what Pakistan really stands for, or stood for. When in 1946 the British Cabinet Mission came to India, most Islamic religious leaders were happy that the British government had decided against creating Pakistan. It was Sir Francis Mudie who predicted to the mission: ‘Pakistan will be created, no matter what you think”. Nehru was to protest against this remark as that of “a prejudiced English mullah”. Nehru was to repeat this term again and again in an attempt to poison the mind of the Viceroy. The tough Scot had spoken his mind, and did so again and again.
On Monday it will be 70 years since the Partition of 1947 took place. It was, without doubt, the greatest exodus in human history, tragic in every aspect. Luckily there is, finally, an attempt to discuss those events. This might lower the communal temperature and peace might yet break through. It is in such times that we must study the man that was Sir Francis Mudie … or Fateh Muhammad as he jokingly called himself.
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017