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Special report: Parliament in Chaos 1951-1958

Within a couple of years after independence, it was evident who would call the shots.
Updated Aug 30, 2017 02:39pm

Enter the invisible oligarchy

By Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed


Khawaja Nazimuddin, the country’s second Governor General who also was the second Prime Minister, seated here in an impressive room of Ahsan Manzil, the ancestral home of his cousin, the Nawab of Dhaka, Khawaja Habibullah Bahadur, who stands on the left with wife Ayesha Begum. Behind the Nawab is Allene Talmey Plaut, associate editor and columnist for Vogue. On the extreme right is Begum Najma Nooruddin, the sister-in-law of Khawaja Nazimuddin. This photograph was taken by Irving Penn in 1947 and was first published in Vogue. At the time, Khawaja Nazimuddin, who had been the Premier of Bengal in British India, was the Chief Minister of East Bengal. — The Nawab of Dhaka Archives, Karachi
Khawaja Nazimuddin, the country’s second Governor General who also was the second Prime Minister, seated here in an impressive room of Ahsan Manzil, the ancestral home of his cousin, the Nawab of Dhaka, Khawaja Habibullah Bahadur, who stands on the left with wife Ayesha Begum. Behind the Nawab is Allene Talmey Plaut, associate editor and columnist for Vogue. On the extreme right is Begum Najma Nooruddin, the sister-in-law of Khawaja Nazimuddin. This photograph was taken by Irving Penn in 1947 and was first published in Vogue. At the time, Khawaja Nazimuddin, who had been the Premier of Bengal in British India, was the Chief Minister of East Bengal. — The Nawab of Dhaka Archives, Karachi

FACILITATED by the circumstances of partition and the laying down of the structures of governance under the Government of India Act 1935, which was adopted as the interim constitution, civil servants acquired a strong foothold in the new country. Here they positioned themselves to become the centre of the power structure. The development was further strengthened due to the Muslim League’s inherent weaknesses, and its failure to engage the vernacular sociopolitical elite, who had not joined the Pakistan movement yet had significant backing in their respective regions. So within a couple of years after independence, it was evident who would call the shots.

In 1951, with the appointment of the first native Pakistani as the commander-in-chief of the Army, the military top brass joined the power structure and a civil-military oligarchy positioned itself to decide the direction of the state and lay down the parameters of the political institutions. Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination paved the way for the type of political engineering that was now in the offing. In complete disregard of parliamentary practices, the cabinet was made to elevate the finance minister, Ghulam Mohammad, to the post of governor general. The incumbent, Khawaja Nazimuddin, was persuaded to step down and become the prime minister. Another bureaucrat, Chaudhri Mohammad Ali, became the new finance minister.

In the following years, several rounds of differences and tussles between the governors general and the prime ministers gradually unfurled the relative strength of the former office vis-à-vis the latter.

Governors General and Prime Ministers of Pakistan 1951-1958 — Illustration by Osamah Mahmood
Governors General and Prime Ministers of Pakistan 1951-1958 — Illustration by Osamah Mahmood

That the federal legislature, which till 1956 also served as the constituent assembly, remained a docile body only confirms the fact that the political dispensation was more of a parliamentary façade or pseudo-parliamentary arrangement that existed alongside a powerful extra-political decision-making state apparatus. Renowned social scientist Hamza Alavi aptly said that Pakistan in the first decade had two governments; one, the visible one that comprised the political class and the parliament with unstable political regimes, and the other the invisible government of the civil-military bureaucracy that had amassed all important powers in its hands.

The objectives of a national security state and a political economy of martial rule propelled Pakistan into the Western military alliances. Economically, it was made to become a part of peripheral capitalism, with the advanced capitalist countries, particularly the United States, as its centre.

The 15 months of Ghulam Mohammad-Nazimuddin uneasy cohabitation ended with the removal of the latter in April 1953. The pliable and unassertive prime minister was charged with the failure of law and order and an economic crisis caused due to food scarcity. The law and order situation had erupted in the wake of the anti-Ahmadi movement which became violent to the extent that martial law had to be imposed in Lahore. However, the prime minister had nothing to do with that as it was a provincial matter.

More astonishing was the later revelation by the court of inquiry that looked into the causes of a situation that had led to the imposition of martial law in the capital of the Punjab province. The court revealed that the anti-Ahmadi movement was masterminded and financed by none but the Punjab government itself, whose head Mumtaz Daultana thought that the resulting law and order crisis in the country would destabilise Nazimuddin’s government and pave the way for his own political ambitions to be realised. To his disappointment, the movement did not take off in other provinces, and his own province became its focus.

Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra as he donned a Native American head dress (top) and possibly a cowboy hat (bottom), during a lighter mood in Karachi. — The Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi Archives, USA
Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra as he donned a Native American head dress (top) and possibly a cowboy hat (bottom), during a lighter mood in Karachi. — The Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi Archives, USA

The power-holders attained a number of objectives by removing Nazimuddin. He was replaced as the premier by Mohammad Ali Bogra, hitherto Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington. His Bengali ethnicity suggested that Nazimuddin was not removed because of being a Bengali. Bogra could also be useful in cajoling the US to befriend Pakistan, whose rulers were desperate to get Western approbation for themselves and their country. Bogra’s appointment followed the end of the US embargo on food aid to Pakistan, and he later succeeded in seeking a place for his country in the Western military pacts.

All the while, Bogra was also under pressure to take the process of constitution-making ahead. Six precious years had been lost while no breakthrough was in sight for resolving the East-West representation issue that had almost stalled the constitution-making exercise.

Eventually by the end of 1953, prime minister Bogra succeeded in finally devising a formula. Popularly known as the ‘Bogra Formula’, it suggested representation on the basis of population in the lower house and equal representation for five provinces in the upper house. Seats allocated to each province in the lower house were such that when it joined the upper house with equal seats for all provinces, the joint session of parliament could have equal representation for both the wings of the country. The difficult Gordian knot had been disentangled and the making of the constitution was now a matter of days.

Meanwhile, the Bengali legislators along with some of those coming from the smaller provinces in the western part of the country compelled Bogra to assert his and the Assembly’s position. The prime minister thus had a series of legislation passed reducing the powers of the governor general. The latter was now prohibited from appointing and dismissing a prime minister at will. Also, to form the government, he was to call upon a person who was a member of the assembly, and who could be removed only by a vote of no-confidence. This and other restrictions on the power of the Ghulam Mohammad apparently took the wind out of the governor general’s sails. Having done this, the prime minister left for the US. The governor general returned to Karachi and decided to outsmart the prime minister as well as the recalcitrant assembly.

A special plane was sent to London and when prime minister Bogra reached there after completing his visit to the US, he was forced to return to Pakistan rather than spending some time in the UK as planned. Commander-in-chief Ayub Khan and Iskander Mirza, former defence secretary and at that point of time the governor of East Bengal, accompanied the prime minister from London to Karachi. It was an escort of sorts — or perhaps a kidnap.

Upon reaching the governor general’s house, the PM was literally abused by Ghulam Mohammad, who forced Bogra’s removal and dissolved the federal assembly. Rubbing salt on the PM’s wounds, he was now asked to lead a new cabinet that was decided and made then and there in the room where the governor general lay in bed recuperating from an illness. The combination designated as ‘the Cabinet of all Talents’ comprised, among others, the sitting commander-in-chief who was also made the defence minister, Iskander Mirza, and Chaudhri Mohammad Ali.

The cabinet lost no time in devising the merger of all the provinces and states in the western wing of the country, thus creating the province of West Pakistan. This was done to neutralise the numerical majority of East Bengal. The engineering of the situation in this manner could enable the argument that since the country had now only two provinces, East and West Pakistan, they should therefore have equal representation. The term ‘parity’ thus entered Pakistan’s political lexicon.

Ghulam Mohammad’s decision of Oct 24, 1954, to dissolve the assembly was declared illegal by the Sindh High Court, which held that the governor general had the right to dissolve the legislative assembly under the interim constitution, but the assembly dissolved by him also served as the constituent assembly, whose dissolution was not within his competence. However, the historic decision was overruled by the federal court which observed that the constituent assembly, by not being able to furnish the constitution in seven years, had lost its legitimacy. Pakistan’s judiciary, therefore, derailed the country’s constitutional and democratic journey with this decision. Subsequently, the Federal Court and, later the Supreme Court, followed the tradition of un-seating the civilian regimes. But it all started in 1954.

In June 1955, a new assembly was elected through the electoral college of the provincial assemblies. By then, the provincial assembly in East Bengal had been re-elected, and in the provincial elections, held in early 1954, the United Front had defeated, rather routed, the Muslim League. This change was reflected in the elections to the new National Assembly in which the Muslim League lost its majority though it was still the single largest party. It formed the next government in coalition with the United Front. With the Bengali component of the Muslim League parliamentary party having shrunk, the Bengali prime minister, Mr Bogra, was replaced with Chaudhri Mohammad Ali.

Pakistan became a Republic on March 23, 1956 under Prime Minister Chaudhri Mohammad Ali (extreme left). Seen from right to left are Yusuf Haroon (secretary, Muslim League), I.I. Chundrigar (the law minister and future prime minister), Sher-e-Bengal A.K. Fazlul Huq (former interior minister and United Front leader who was instrumental in helping Prime Minister Chaudhri Mohammad Ali in steering the bill through the assembly) and the Speaker Abdul Wahab Khan. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad
Pakistan became a Republic on March 23, 1956 under Prime Minister Chaudhri Mohammad Ali (extreme left). Seen from right to left are Yusuf Haroon (secretary, Muslim League), I.I. Chundrigar (the law minister and future prime minister), Sher-e-Bengal A.K. Fazlul Huq (former interior minister and United Front leader who was instrumental in helping Prime Minister Chaudhri Mohammad Ali in steering the bill through the assembly) and the Speaker Abdul Wahab Khan. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad

The main achievement of Mohammad Ali’s government was the approval of the 1956 constitution which brought to an end the dominion status of Pakistan and made it a republic. Notwithstanding this achievement, the constitution was infested with numerous weaknesses. It was not drafted by any constitutional body; rather it was drafted by the staff of the law ministry and was later put before the constituent assembly. It was a compromise among different factions represented in the assembly but it was an unnatural compromise for it was made under unusual compulsions and duress. The most prominent was the adoption of parity between East and West Pakistan, on which the Bengali leadership’s compromise could not last long as the subsequent months proved.

Similarly, the constitution remained silent on the question of the form of representation — separate electorate or joint electorate. The parliamentary system itself was subdued by giving extraordinary powers to the president. This was done only because the last governor general, Iskander Mirza, had to become the first president after the adoption of the constitution.

Chaudhri Mohammad Ali lost his premiership when he was compelled to support president Mirza in creating the Republican Party, which had to be given the responsibility of governing the newly-formed province of West Pakistan. It was a pretty unusual situation where the prime minister who belonged to the Muslim League was supporting the Republican Party in the West Pakistan assembly where the League itself was serving as the opposition. This annoyed the newly-elected League president, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, who asked the League ministers to resign from the federal cabinet thus pulling the carpet from under the prime minister’s feet.

A manipulator of the highest order, Mirza lost no time in asking Mohammad Ali to resign. Now Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy was invited to form the government. The Awami League leader managed to form a coalition, but within 13 months he was shown the door once he failed in keeping the coalition together. Mirza then looked towards Muslim League leader I.I. Chundrigar, who could survive less than two months, losing his office on the electorate issue. Then came Feroz Khan Noon of the Republican Party who managed a coalition with the Awami League that lasted 10 months until Mirza imposed martial law in collaboration with Gen Ayub Khan.

Mirza also abrogated the constitution. His motive behind this, as recorded in history, was to introduce a new constitution through which the existing system could have been removed and the presidential form of government introduced. But his collaborator had his own designs. Within 20 days, Ayub turned the tables on Mirza. Four of Ayub’s generals went to President House and forcibly acquired his resignation. Mirza was sent to Quetta and deported a week later to London where he lived the rest of his life in oblivion. Pakistan, at this point, entered the first phase of its long night of military rule.

The writer is Adjunct Professor at Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi.


This story is part of a series of 16 special reports under the banner of ‘70 years of Pakistan and Dawn’. Read the complete first report, or visit the archive for more.


HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL.


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GHULAM MOHAMMAD TAKES CHARGE

DAWN October 21, 1951 (Editorial)

The new governor-general

MR Ghulam Mohammad assumes charge of his duties, as the third Governor-General of Pakistan, at a time when the nation’s grief and distress at the dastardly assassination of Quaid-i-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan is exceeded only by its determination to defend Pakistan’s integrity and solidarity and to secure the just settlement of the Kashmir problem at all hazards. His elevation to the office held by the Quaid-i-Azam himself is a befitting tribute to his great qualities as one of the builders of this State. In accepting the honour Mr Ghulam Mohammad has bravely put duty before convenience.

Before Quaid-i-Azam, with his unerring eye for talent, appointed him Finance Minister of this State, Mr Ghulam Mohammad had earned his great reputation as a sound financier and skilled administrator during a long period of service in undivided India and some of the Indian States. The opponents of Pakistan had almost convinced the whole world that the projected State was not viable; it had neither finance, nor industry, nor administrative talent. This reasoning, backed by formidable “facts and figures” noised at home and abroad, had made the ill-wishers of Pakistan jubilant and its votaries nervous. It fell to men like Mr Ghulam Mohammad to refute this propaganda with positive achievements. His very first Budget revealed to the amazement of the world that Pakistan could shoulder the burden of Statehood.

Left to himself Mr Ghulam Mohammad might have preferred a well-earned life of retirement. But like a disciplined soldier he has accepted all the cares inseparable from the headship of the State in this time of emergency. It is indeed fortunate that his versatile talent, mature judgment, and undoubted courage will continue to be actively exercised in the service of the State.

***


UNIVERSITY CLOSED AFTER LANGUAGE TROUBLES

DAWN February 23, 1952 (Editorial)

Dacca tragedy

ALL Pakistan will grieve and our enemies will derive comfort and cheer from the tragic happenings at Dacca. First and foremost we offer homage to those who have paid the forfeit of their lives in the conflict between their convictions on the one hand, and the principle that law and order shall be maintained, on the other hand. There is no doubt that they have sacrifised their young lives for a cause they passionately believed in, whatever course of action that belief might have led them to. Their memory deserves respect and will endure. We also grieve that so many others should have received physical hurt, and extend our sympathy to them.

This tragedy becomes doubly so because while there is no doubt that the vast majority of the students and others who staged the demonstrations were actuated by sincere convictions and acted in their own light as true Pakistanis, there must have been elements mingled with them and no doubt adding fuel to their honest fervour, who were agents of our enemies.

Such elements have infiltrated into many walks of Pakistani life and chosen East Pakistan as the first target because they believe that if they can disrupt that part of Pakistan first, then half their nefarious battle will be won.

In their understandable zeal for a language they cherish and in their larger love for Pakistan as a whole, many an honest East Pakistan enthusiast repeatedly misses this fact and is unable to guard against this danger. This is the deeper tragedy that underlies the tragedy of the present Dacca incidents.

But every dark cloud has a silver lining and out of these grievous happenings has emerged the final knowledge of how deeply our people and our kith and kin in East Pakistan feel on the language issue. This knowledge had been growing for quite some time and now the Chief Minister of East Pakistan himself got the Provincial Legislature to pass a resolution that Bengali share with Urdu the honour of being adopted as one of our common motherland‘s state languages. The issue is thus settled and the Constituent Assembly, we are confident, will accept this position and act accordingly when the appropriate time comes. We can assure the people of East Pakistan that the people of West Pakistan will not grudge them the equality with Urdu which Bengali has at last won.

Let by common consent the curtain be rung down on this sad and tragic episode — except that the promised enquiry should be held to determine whether firing was necessary.

No Government can permit lawlessness accompanied by violence to subvert the tranquillity of the State, specially when enemy agents are ever on the alert to turn such disorders to their own nefarious purposes. In Bharat, too, ugly incidents necessitating recourse to use of force against citizens and students have happened many times. But the question of questions is – would damage to life and property have been caused had not the police opened fire? This question must be answered by competent and reliable authorities.

***


PUNJAB EXPLAINS POSITION ON LIAQUAT ASSASSINATION

DAWN August 26, 1952 (Editorial)

Lahore’s apologia

THE Punjab Government’s Press Note is provocative and undignified. It accuses what it calls “the Karachi Press” of “causing misunderstanding” and also of “malice”. For our part we refuse to be dragged into a controversy of that sort. Almost all the newspapers of Karachi, despite other differences with them, have expressed more or less identical views on the inadequacy of the action taken by the Punjab Government and on the desirability of the Centre taking the matter in its own hands. By suggesting that this was a deliberate attempt on the part of “the Karachi Press” to “cause misunderstanding regarding the action of the Punjab Government,” the draftsman of the Press Note has only exposed his own superiors to ridicule.

The Press Note says nothing new that was not already known to the public. It is a lame apologia which harps on the same arguments that have been already dealt with by public commentators. A few questions may be asked. First, is it not true that when the Central Government consulted the two Provincial Governments concerned as to what should be done with the Report of the Commission, the NWFP Government expressed itself in favour of publishing the Report, while the Punjab Government was in favour of suppressing passages which contained strictures on the Punjab Police? Second, is it not true that it was the Centre which eventually impressed upon the Punjab Government the undesirability of suppressing any portions of the Report? Add to this the Punjab’s attempt to justify the shooting of Said Akbar by Sub-Inspector Mohammad Shah, and further attempt to persuade the Commission to accept the theory that the assassin was motivated by religious fanaticism, and you have the reasons for public scepticism in a nutshell.

We indeed feel sorry for the Chief Minister, Mr Mumtaz Daultana, who, it seems to us, is being singularly ill-served by his sub-ordinates and ill-advised by his advisers.

***


RELIGIOUS LEADERS WANT VETO POWER

DAWN January 24, 1953 (Editorial)

Ulemacracy!

THIRTYTHREE Ulema “of various shades and opinions” have disapproved of the proposal of the Basic Principles Committee to set up Boards of Ulema in the Centre and the Provinces in order to advise whether a particular Bill passed by any House of legislature is “repugnant to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah”. So has this newspaper disapproved of that proposal along with many other sections of the public and the Press. But the alternative which the Ulema have suggested is far more dangerous and unacceptable. They want the final right to veto any legislation to vest in themselves. In other words, they are aiming at nothing short of theocracy.

The Ulema have suggested that five of them attached to the Supreme Court should decide whether a law is Islamic or un-Islamic. The Supreme Court has been mentioned in this connection in a most misleading manner, because the Ulema are not prepared to leave such a decision to a normal Supreme Court composed of the usual judges; they want that five Ulema should comprise a sort of special supreme court for this purpose. We wonder whether the esteemed Ulema who formulated such a proposal after such prolonged deliberations, took the trouble to read the Objectives Resolution from which all the constitutional proposals must necessarily flow. Had they done so they would have read in that Resolution the following:

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful;

Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to God Almighty alone, and the authority which He has delegated to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred Trust; This Constituent Assembly, representing the people of Pakistan, resolves to frame a Constitution for the sovereign independent State of Pakistan; Wherein the State shall exercise its powers and authority through the chosen representatives of the people; Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.” The Objectives Resolution has clearly laid down that the Constitution-makers of Pakistan should proceed on the basis that as far as the State of Pakistan is concerned, God has delegated His sovereignty to the people of Pakistan, that the powers and the authority of the State (which includes the power of legislation) shall be exercised by the chosen representatives of the people, and that it shall be such a Constitution that in it the principle of democracy shall be fully observed.

***


INDUS WATER DISPUTE FLARES UP

DAWN February 15, 1953 (Editorial)

No less than war

WHAT is war? It is a means of reducing the enemy to a position of helplessness by inflicting losses and causing destruction. In a declared war this is sought to be done with weapons and armaments. But modern aggressors have created a new tradition – that of undeclared wars, in some of which the reduction of their victims may be sought through the direct method of using arms and armaments, or through indirect methods no less devastating in effect.

Pakistan can no longer ignore the stark fact that Bharat is already at war with her – an undeclared war, but no less cunningly planned or relentlessly pursued. The grim story of the stoppage of Pakistan’s share of the canal waters which has just been narrated by our Government in an official publication leaves no one in any doubt about it. It is not a story altogether unknown to the world, but the world will know from it for the first time how deliberately planned is this warfare of Bharat against Pakistan, what losses it has already caused to our country and how tremendous will be the devastation if it is not checked. In short, the world will know now from the irrefutable fact and figures marshalled in the pages of this publication that Bharat is well on the way to reducing the 76 million people of Pakistan to utter starvation and economic ruin. If her rulers do not desist, or are not prevented from pursuing this ruthless course, then they may well achieve their designs against Pakistan without firing a single shell or dropping a single bomb.

Bharat’s war of water denial has increased in its ruthlessness from one crop season to another. It is to this particular problem that the World Bank Mission must immediately apply itself. We would conclude with the words of Mr David Lilienthal, whom the Government’s publications quote: “It is pure dynamite, a Punjab powder keg. Peace in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent is not in sight with these inflammables lying around”.

And we would point out that although Pakistan is indebted to this American authority for drawing the attention of his countrymen as well as the world to the grave problem that threatens the peace of the Bharat-Pakistan sub-continent, it is also the lavish American aid which Bharat has received, and is still receiving that enables her rulers to divert their resources for the intensification of the war of devastation against our country and our people.

***


LAHORE UNDER MARTIAL LAW AFTER ANTI-AHMADI RIOTS

DAWN March 8, 1953 (Editorial)

No more chances

THE local authorities in the Punjab having failed to maintain law and order and protect the life and property of the people of Lahore, the Central Government have been compelled to promulgate martial law and place the city under a Military Administrator. In doing so they have discharged a responsibility that ultimately belongs to them. The earlier hope that the Provincial Government would act firmly and prove equal to the task was subsequently belied. It is inconceivable that the situation could have deteriorated in the manner it did if full advantage had been taken of the available resources for suppressing lawlessness. None who loves Pakistan will dispute for a moment the imperative need for swift and rigorous action to prevent mobs from systematically running amok. Nor do sensible people any longer doubt the existence of an enemy-inspired conspiracy behind the present determined attack on the security of our State. The people will, therefore, heave a sigh of relief at the promulgation of martial law and give to the Government their fullest support and cooperation in the restoration of law and order.

However regrettable the fact may be, it is now clear enough that the present grave troubles in Lahore and in some other places of the Punjab are the direct results of a prolonged policy of weakness. While the Centre seemed to look on and hope for the best, in the Province itself propaganda of the most inflammatory type was allowed to be carried on for months on end through every conceivable media, including the Press, the pulpit and the public platform.

Recent developments have brought to the forefront the basic fact that if Pakistan’s internal security is to be properly safeguarded the Centre’s writ must run at all times throughout the length and breadth of the country in both its wings. More serious consideration must now be given to this aspect of our Constitution than it has received so far. Meanwhile, we hope that the firmness of the Military Administration will not only bring the situation quickly under control but also reduce the loss of life and property. From what has been already done it can be expected that should the need arise, the jurisdiction of the Military Administration will be extended. Quite obviously, no more chances can be taken.

***


PRIME MINISTER DISMISSED BY GOVERNOR-GENERAL

DAWN April 19, 1953 (Editorial)

A healthy change

Khawaja Nazimuddin, the second Governor General of Pakistan, addressing a public meeting in the late 1940s. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad
Khawaja Nazimuddin, the second Governor General of Pakistan, addressing a public meeting in the late 1940s. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad

ON Friday [April 17] the Central Cabinet under the leadership of Khwaja Nazimuddin was dismissed by the Governor-General and replaced by a new Cabinet under the leadership of Mr Mohammad Ali, till then Pakistan’s Ambassador in the USA. This is the first time in Pakistan’s brief history that a Central Cabinet has been removed on the initiative and action by the Governor-General. A healthy change in the Ministerial set-up at the Centre was, no doubt, long over due and was widely longed for.

The serious problem facing the country from all the sides, particularly the grave economic situation, had called for effective, unified and courageous action and highest qualities of dynamic leadership. The disharmonious forces pulling in contrary directions within the Government unfortunately served only to increase the vacillation and sap the vitality of the central leadership when quick decision and firm action were the paramount need.

The imperative need for a change was universally felt. Nevertheless, the changes dramatically announced on Friday evening were so sudden and breath-taking that even those who have been advocating a Central shake-up are likely to pause a while to consider their full implications and to judge how far they are likely to resolve the problems, ministerial or national, which have necessitated them.

Khwaja Nazimuddin from whom the mantle of Prime Ministership has been taken off has not lost it for want of personal virtues or patriotism. In a dignified and straightforward statement on the circumstances that led to the dismissal of his Cabinet, Khwaja Nazimuddin says that the Governor-General who under the constitution has no discretionary powers or right of individual judgement could not, as a constitutional Head of the State, demand his resignation. He sincerely believes that in dismissing his Cabinet the Governor-General had “adopted an illegal and unconstitutional course and acted against the basic principles of democracy”.

***


ANTI-AHMADI RIOTS IN PUNJAB

DAWN, May 12, 1953 (News Report)

Maududi to die

MAULANA Abul Ala Maududi, who was tried by a military court, was found guilty today [May 11] and sentenced to death, says a Press communiqué issued here tonight by the Inter-Services Public Relations Directorate. Maulana Maududi, who hails from Aurangabad (Hyderabad, Deccan) founded Jamaat-i-Islami in 1941. He was elected chief of the Pakistan branch of the Jamaat at the time of partition.

***


CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY DISMISSED

DAWN October 27, 1954 (Editorial)

After the fourth night of crisis

Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, arrived at the Governor General House in Karachi on July 27, 1953. He is seen here alongside Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra and Dr Mohan Sinha Mehta, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan. Standing at the extreme left is Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Prime Minister Nehru’s sister and a one-time friend of Mr Jinnah. — The Malik Ghulam Muhammad Archives
Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, arrived at the Governor General House in Karachi on July 27, 1953. He is seen here alongside Governor General Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra and Dr Mohan Sinha Mehta, the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan. Standing at the extreme left is Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Prime Minister Nehru’s sister and a one-time friend of Mr Jinnah. — The Malik Ghulam Muhammad Archives

SINCE its birth Pakistan has had four major nights of crises. On the night of September 11, 1948, the Father of the National died. On the night of October 16, 1951, the nation held its breath, dazed by the murder of its Builder, Liaquat. On the night of April 17, 1953, a Government, headed by the President of the Muslim League was flicked off like ash from a cigar-tip. On the night of October 23, 1954, (because it was then, we think, that the decision was taken) the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan which was believed to be a sovereign body, was wiped off the country’s political map like one wipes spilt milk from a table; and next day a new Government came into being.

Why have all these happened? Has it been good or bad for the country? And where do we all go from here? We were unable to discover within a few minutes of the sensational and dramatic announcements made last Sunday [October 24] that the “whole country” had “acclaimed” the latest developments, nor are we able today to indulge in nothing but pleasant superlatives. What we write now is our considered honest option and the truth, and if this passes censorship, our readers will see it in print.

Pakistan and the Muslim League were almost the one and the same thing when Pakistan was achieved. But power, long exercised without effective democratic checks, gradually corrupted most Muslim Leaguers in office everywhere. About the time of the Quaid-i-Millat’s assassination, the military had entered the Central Cabinet also. In the course of time, for various reasons and through various ways, many of the older Muslim League leaders found their way into the wilderness, and many non-Leaguers or opportunists found their way into positions thus vacated. The Muslim League parties in the legislatures and the Constituent Assembly itself felt the impact of the changes, and themselves changed for the worse. Generally speaking, the Leaguers ceased to work either among the people or for the people.

There is no doubt that the intelligentsia and even the masses felt dismayed at what was happening, but nobody seemed to know the real answer. We, on our part, felt and still feel that the answer should have been to go ahead and complete the Constitution, whether it was good, bad or indifferent, making provisions for its easy amendment by the Parliament of the future, so that the people could soon return their real representatives to the Central Parliament, and the evils that the abuse of democracy had created might be corrected by democracy’s proper use.

***


SPEAKER TAMIZUDDIN KHAN’S WRIT THROWN OUT

DAWN March 22, 1955 (Editorial)

Chaos averted

THE verdict of the Federal Court — though not the complete one that was expected — clears the air and ensures stability in the conduct of the country’s affairs. It ends the state of suspense, silences doleful prognostications, and averts chaos. It also judicially establishes the fact that for seven years or more a wrong notion had been entertained about the status and powers of what used to be regarded as the sovereign Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.

It has now been held that that body was nothing more than the legislature of a Dominion, and therefore, the Governor-General’s assent to all legislation passed by it — whether as Constitution-making body or as the legislature — was necessary. The mistaken notion that such assent was not required in the case of the Constituent Assembly’s enactments in its capacity of what used to be called the Constitution-making body, seems surprisingly to have been held by the first, second and the present Governor-General himself, until the Constitutional crisis of last autumn brought about the dissolution of the Assembly and the whole question came up for legal and judicial scrutiny. All controversy should now be cast aside and the fullest co-operation afforded so that the country may march onward towards progress. That way alone can the straying feet of Democracy be persuaded to return to our beloved land.

***


ONE UNIT BILL PASSED

DAWN October 2, 1955 (Editorial)

Unity: the first step

WITH the passing of the “One Unit” Bill a landmark is reached in Constitution-making. To the ideal of West Pakistan’s integration into one administrative whole, not even the bitterest critic in the Constituent Assembly was opposed, because the ideal was beyond reproach.

Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali presenting the Constitution Bill in the central legislature. The Bill was passed on February 29, 1956, and marked Pakistan’s transition from a British Dominion to a Republic. —  The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad
Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali presenting the Constitution Bill in the central legislature. The Bill was passed on February 29, 1956, and marked Pakistan’s transition from a British Dominion to a Republic. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad

This country’s future historians will undoubtedly count among its greatest architects and patriots all those who have worked sincerely for the ideal without being influenced by any extraneous considerations. Those upon whom the burden now falls of implementing the great decision in accordance with its declared objectives, have a great responsibility and difficult task. It is now for them to convince and reassure every inhabitant of West Pakistan that there are no privileged and unprivileged, no “top dog” no “under dog”, no class or section who have licence while to others even less than liberty is conceded.

Of justice it has been said that it should not only be done but the people must also feel that it is being done. More than anything else this salutary maxim must be constantly borne in mind by all who will put into effect the provisions of the Bill. The miracle of unification will not be wrought in a day, nor even in a few weeks or months. It will take time for many Punjabis, Sindhis, Pathans, Baluchis and “refugees” to achieve the psychological metamorphosis into the “oneness” that is aimed at. The process can be speeded – or retarded – according as the politicians in power, and also the officials who will have more power now than before, display wisdom and unselfishness in their actual policies and actions – or ride roughshod and play the jingo. Indeed, first of all they themselves should cease to think any more in these parochial terms.

Some of them no doubt have always been free from it, some of them – we hope – have already trained themselves into the appropriate attitude, but there must still be many who need to be reminded that unification must come from the heart and cannot be lastingly achieved by pressure and regimentation. The overwhelming majority with which the Bill has been passed by the Constituent Assembly stamps it with the sanctions of a democratic decision.

But at the same time, wisdom dictates that the doubts and fears which have been expressed by the Opposition should not altogether be ignored. The Prime Minister has passionately rebutted these doubts and fears in his final and remarkable speech just before the passing of the Bill, but the best answer to the Opposition will be to prove the Opposition wrong through deeds rather than words. Only thus can the shadow of that mysterious “Document X” be lifted from many a wandering mind.

Now that West Pakistan is united, one is impelled to ask: “What of uniting the whole of Pakistan?” To the true patriot Pakistan as a whole cannot but appear to be a country one and indivisible. In other words, the true conception of Pakistan would be not only that it is one country but that it is also an indivisible country. There is risk now that the theory that although Pakistan is one country, it is yet divisible, may begin to gain ground. Such a trend would be fatal. We have never concealed our belief that the truest service that our political leaders can render to Pakistan is to treat it as one single whole, with one Government, one people and oneness of interest in every sphere.

That is acknowledged by everyone as “the best”, but for the time being it has been decided to be content with achieving the “second best”. We do not share that contentment, nor do we feel that, given the urge and the determination, the geographical distance between the two Wings cannot be overcome. Indeed, the unification of West Pakistan should make it even easier than before to achieve in the not distant future the unity of the two Wings on the basis of a unitary Government. That is the greater – and the nobler—objective, and we are confident that the patriots of the future will be content with nothing less.

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NEW GOVERNOR GENERAL TAKES CHARGE

DAWN October 7, 1955 (Editorial)

Major-General Iskander Mirza

Governor General Iskander Mirza signing his assent on the 1956 Constitution Bill at a ceremony held on March 2, 1956, in Karachi. The Constitution takes effect from March 23, 1956, and marks the country’s transition from a British Dominion to a full-fledged Republic. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad
Governor General Iskander Mirza signing his assent on the 1956 Constitution Bill at a ceremony held on March 2, 1956, in Karachi. The Constitution takes effect from March 23, 1956, and marks the country’s transition from a British Dominion to a full-fledged Republic. — The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad

THE assumption of office by Major-General Iskander Mirza as Pakistan’s fourth permanent Head of State brings vigour and dignity afresh to that high position. But the real truth about democracy is what Major-General Iskander Mirza himself once said — though in a manner which at that time sounded somewhat brusque—that democracy must also provide itself with checks and balances. Such checks are prevalent even in the most democratic of Western countries, but the important point is that the control comes through constitutional means, provided for in the Constitution, and is exercised by an authority enjoying the sanction of the will of the people. The new Governor-General will no doubt play an important guiding role in the acceleration of the Constitutional progress, and we have no doubt that in the fullness of time he will come to be ranked among those who had contributed to the achievement of lasting stability for our land through unfaltering respect for the Constitution.

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PAKISTAN HAS ITS FIRST CONSTITUTION

DAWN March 1, 1956 (Editorial)

This great day

TODAY [February 29] is a great day. At last this country has a Constitution. It may not be an ideal one, but it is something we never had before, and in the attempt to get it “armies whole have sunk at the great Serbonian bog” — including the great sinker of the sunk! Today, above all, the Prime Minister is the man to praise. His task bristled with difficulties and often he must have felt depressed and frustrated. But he never gave up. Added to his determination to give the country a Constitution at any cost, were his persuasive powers which eventually enabled him to major agreements.

The place which he now earns for himself in history is well deserved. To mention other names might be invidious but some must be mentioned. The role of the United Front leader, Mr A. K. Fazlul Huq, can by no means be underrated. His task was more complicated. On the one hand he had committed himself to his party’s “21 points”, and on the other hand he had undertaken to co-operate to the utmost in getting the Constitution adopted. Only a veteran of the calibre and experience of this old campaigner could have mastered such a situation and emerged out of it unscathed. What future repercussions may be is not germane to our present point which is that, next to the Prime Minister, the credit for the Constitution goes to Mr Huq. The Law Minister, Mr Chundrigar, also deserves to be congratulated on producing a Bill in which so many conflicting angles had to be straightened out or adjusted.

He has worked hard despite a not too good state of health, but now his labours are rewarded. Sardar Amir Azam Khan as Chief Whip, and Mr Yusuf A. Haroon as the Party Secretary have had to do most of the piloting of the Bill and both have made their own solid contributions. The co-operation of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr H. S. Suhrawardy, and his team of alert and vocal front benchers should also be acknowledged. We do not agree with those who say that the Opposition has been “obstructive”. If it had so chosen, the passage of the Constitution could have been much more delayed. There is a Miltonian saying that they also serve who stand and wait; similarly in a democracy they also serve who oppose and criticise.

Our final tribute we reserve for the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to which our cherished heritage of a sovereign homeland was entrusted by the departing British, which laboured for long seven years to produce a Constitution and nearly did it, but was unable to reap the reward because of reasons that are now matters of history.

The present Constituent Assembly has, however, largely benefited from what its predecessor had done. Today, therefore, should also be remembered Mr Tamizuddin Khan, Khwaja Nazmuddin, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and their colleagues of those other days. And now that a Constitution has been achieved and the democratic pattern legally and firmly set, let there be an all round change of heart.

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RUCKUS LEAVES ASSEMBLY DEPUTY SPEAKER DEAD

DAWN September 27, 1958 (Editorial)

What is the answer?

IN the death of Deputy Speaker Shahed Ali there is a deeper cause for mourning than the tragic end of merely a man, a politician, and a functionary of the legislature. They have also killed and buried at Dacca the prospect of this nation ever making good politically and emerging as a stable bastion of freedom and democracy.

The truth is that the Awami League as well as the K.S.P [Krishak Sramik Party] have both been guilty of an equal degree of shameful violence inside the Legislature. They are both unfit to be entrusted with power. The Constitution must be immediately suspended until the general elections. There cannot be free and fair elections in East Pakistan if people remain in power who can abuse their authority and official instruments like the police in such wanton fashion to win political victory over their opponents.

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TROUBLE IN BALOCHISTAN

DAWN October 7, 1958 (News Report)

Khan of Kalat arrested for sedition

The rebellious Khan of Kalat, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, was taken into preventive detention, and divested of all the distinctions, privileges and annuities conferred upon him by the Pakistan Government.

Mir Ahmad Yar Khan added a new chapter to his long record of anti-Pakistan activities last week when he pulled down the National Flag from his Miri fort, and hoisted his own ancestral flag. Mir Ahmad Yar Khan’s exit from the scene climaxes a turbulent period beginning with the advent in 1952 of Kalat into the Balochistan States Union. As Chairman of the Council of Rulers of the union, comprising Lasbela, Mekran, Kharan and Kalat, the Khan saw the impending realisation of his dream of an empire with himself as its head. The Khan is also understood to have financed the publication of two booklets “Tarikh-i-Balochistan” and “Baloch Qaum Ki Tarikh”. The first booklet sought to create the impression that the Quaid-i-Azam took recourse to unfair tactics and exerted illegal pressure on him for the merger of Kalat with Pakistan. The last chapter of the book contained a “fatwa” branding the Quaid-i-Azam and the Quaid-i-Millat as “Kafirs.”

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CONSTITUTION ABROGATED

DAWN October 10, 1958 (Editorial)

The new order

THERE is such a thing as hoping against hope, and although corruption and misrule were playing havoc with the country and unbelievable outrages were being perpetrated in the name of democracy and the parliamentary system, many people were still clinging to the faith that Pakistan would yet disprove the evidence of past and contemporary history that the Western forms of democracy were not suited to the genius of a Muslim nation. The Presidential Proclamation of the night of October 7 has abruptly ended such idle dreaming. It has brought the nation face to face with the inescapable reality.

It cannot in fairness, be denied that deeply anguished though he was by “the ruthless struggle for power, corruption, the shameful exploitation of our simple, honest, patriotic and industrious masses, the lack of decorum and the prostitution of Islam for political ends” – President Iskander Mirza as the Head of the State showed considerable patience. The Chief Martial Law Administrator and the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, General Mohammad Ayub Khan, has also disclosed that he could have “taken over the country” long ago, if he had so wished, at the instance of late Mr. Ghulam Muhammad. He did not do so because he had “a faint hope that some politician would rise to the occasion and lead the country to a better future”. Neither President Mirza’s patience nor General Ayub Khan’s hope was rewarded. Instead of things getting better they rapidly grew worse.

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the country’s fourth prime minister, with a copy of Dawn under his arm, departs from Karachi on an official visit to Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. General Ayub Khan, Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army, is seen on the extreme right gazing at the prime minister. —The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the country’s fourth prime minister, with a copy of Dawn under his arm, departs from Karachi on an official visit to Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. General Ayub Khan, Commander in Chief of Pakistan Army, is seen on the extreme right gazing at the prime minister. —The Press Information Department, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, Islamabad

Inside the legislature politicians fought like hooligans and killed even the occupant of the Chair. Outside the legislature most of them coveted power not to do good to the people but to be able to pile up as much ill-gotten wealth as they could while they had the chance. The mad scramble for portfolios which offered the prospect of money making through the abuse of official patronage exposed their greed in all its nakedness. Who can deny President Mirza’s accusation that democracy as practised in Pakistan in the past two or three years was so debased that “adventurers and exploiters have flourished to the detriment of the masses”? In his broadcast General Mohammad Ayub Khan summed up the situation succinctly in a single sentence when he said: “A perfectly sound country has been turned into a laughing stock”. Therefore, the responsibility for what has happened must be placed squarely on the shoulders of politicians of all shades whose “mad rush for power and acquisition” brought the country to the verge of economic ruin and social and political chaos. They have got what they had been asking for.

The President has given the assurance that after the country has been “taken to sanity by a peaceful revolution” a Constitution will have to be devised, different from the one that has been abrogated, which may be “more suitable to the genius of the Muslim people”.

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MARTIAL LAW ALL OVER THE COUNTRY

DAWN October 12, 1958 (Editorial)

A sane revolution

PERHAPS the most remarkable thing about Pakistan’s Revolution, now four days old – apart from its entirely peaceful character – is the spirit of restraint and tolerance which its authors have shown. There have been many revolutions in the world before. The memories of some recent ones not far from our shores are still fresh, and in certain Latin American countries revolutions are almost as regular as the coming of summer or winter. But seldom has such a forcible seizure of power been unaccompanied by bloodshed or failed to bring in its wake much persecution and suffering involving even the innocent. But this revolution of ours has been of a different sort. A complete change of both system and regime has been brought about without any strife or bitterness and without disorganising any aspect of the normal lives of the country’s citizens even for a single hour. This unique fact will perhaps stand out in history as a shining testimony to the wisdom, humanity and large hearted patriotism of the architects of the new order. In his first Press conference on Friday [October 10] evening, General Mohammad Ayub Khan disclosed that the regime was showing this forbearance as a matter of calculated policy. Its aim is to set the mess right – a task that calls for a great deal of hard and constructive work and is in itself time-consuming. The concern of the Martial Law Administration, therefore, is with the present and the future, not with the past – to which the misdeeds of the ousted politicians belong. There is to be no “witch-hunting” and no attempt to settle old scores – unless someone had committed an actual crime under the prevailing law for which he may now be caught out. Accordingly, the Martial Law Regulations are not to have retrospective effect. All these are eminently sane and sensible decisions and they indicate a benign approach on the part of the Revolutionary regime.

On Friday also was promulgated the first Presidential Order which fills the legal, constitutional, judicial and executive vacuum that the President and the Supreme Commander’s action on the night of October 7 had created. According to what the Supreme Commander said in his Press conference, the legal validity of the President’s own position has been re-established by a reference to the Chief Justice of Pakistan who has expressed the opinion that, despite the abrogation of the Constitution, Major-General Iskander Mirza remains the country’s lawful President. The country is to be governed as nearly as may be in accordance with the Constitution of March 23, 1956, although it has been abrogated. The jurisdiction of all the courts of law is restored. The Supreme Court and the High Courts will continue to exercise the power of issuing writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari. By giving back to the country’s Judiciary such wide powers only three days after the revolution, the regime has given yet another proof of its sagacity and good faith. For all practical purposes, therefore, the executive and the judicial machinery of the State will continue to function as if there had been no change at all.


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Dawn Delhi I: Genesis of a Newspaper

By Roger D. Long


Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, owner of Dawn Delhi, and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Managing Director, with the newspaper’s staff in the early 1940s. Seated second from right is Pothan Joseph, the Editor. — The Altaf Husain Collection
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, owner of Dawn Delhi, and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Managing Director, with the newspaper’s staff in the early 1940s. Seated second from right is Pothan Joseph, the Editor. — The Altaf Husain Collection

Dawn, begun as a weekly newspaper in 1941 and transformed into a daily in 1942, was the main avenue through which Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the Quaid-i-Azam and the All-India Muslim League, advocated the creation of Pakistan when the partition of India became the party’s demand after the Lahore Resolution of March 23, 1940. The newspaper became such a symbol of identification with the League that carrying it was a statement in itself and it was used, especially by students and young people, to announce to others that they supported the demand for Pakistan. Its news pages, its editorials and its invited articles were used to publicise, to advocate and to defend the demand for Pakistan from criticism from the British, the Indian National Congress and other Muslims. It was also used to establish the figure of Jinnah as the charismatic leader of the Muslims of South Asia.

The Indian press, either the British-run press or broadsheets started by Indians, has since its inauguration been a vigorous one and continues to be one of the most thriving and dynamic presses in the world today. India has long had a vital intelligence network which preceded the rise of the press in India, but the creation of the Indian press aided in the creation of a civic society in India amongst the elites.

THE SENTIMENTS OF MUSLIM INDIA

Since the late 19th century the press has been the most important medium in the creation of national and regional identity and the most important vehicle with which the political classes, mostly affiliated with the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, mobilised support for the party, helped establish the renown and charisma of its leaders, waged a war of words against the British raj which the British monitored very carefully, and not slow to ban publications it considered seditious or detrimental to good order, and mobilised its supporters for its campaigns and its elections. Muslim opinion was less well served even after the creation of the All-India Muslim League (AIML) in 1906. It was not until the creation of Dawn that the League had a means by which it could directly express the views of the party, elevate the image of its officials, most especially the Quaid-i-Azam, its ‘Great Leader’, Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), and mobilise Muslims for political action, especially in the crucial general elections of 1945-46. This article chronicles the major events of the six-year pre-partition history of Dawn and argues for its important role in the creation of Pakistan.

Dawn was first created by Jinnah as a weekly newspaper on Sunday October 26, 1941, as he stated in the cover story, due to the constant appeals made to him to have a properly controlled and supervised English newspaper which would, “authoritatively expound the views and express the opinion and sentiments of Muslim India”. This was the ‘Muslim India’ that Jinnah, President of the League since 1936, claimed to lead.

It did not include Muslims who supported the ostensibly non-communal Indian National Congress. Nor did it include Muslims whose base of support was in the provinces and in regional political parties and not in the League, which was a national party first and foremost attempting to establish its authority in the provinces. Finally, it did not include Muslim religious figures who neither supported the League nor approved of its secular-minded leaders, Jinnah above all, although they benefited from the heightened sense of communal feeling generated by the League due to its political activities.

Dawn was created as a weekly as the first step in the creation of a daily newspaper. It had been founded at the direction of Jinnah under the supervision of the General Secretary of the AIML, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951), and as a result of the expertise and financial support of the wealthy Bengali industrialist and politician, M.A.H. Ispahani (1902-81) whose Star of India, a Calcutta evening newspaper, was edited by the south Indian Christian, Pothan Joseph, and whose column, ‘Over a Cup of Tea’, was well established. The Raja of Mahmudabad (1914-73) from the United Provinces also lent his financial support.

This recent photograph captures the renovated building which once housed the offices of Dawn Delhi in Daryaganj, New Delhi.  The offices were burnt down by Jan Sangh militants on September 14, 1947, and the newspaper ceased publication shortly afterwards. —​  Krishna Pal Rathore
This recent photograph captures the renovated building which once housed the offices of Dawn Delhi in Daryaganj, New Delhi. The offices were burnt down by Jan Sangh militants on September 14, 1947, and the newspaper ceased publication shortly afterwards. —​ Krishna Pal Rathore

Dawn became an exceptionally useful vehicle for spreading the League message and for publicising the activities of its leaders. Most importantly, it accurately reflected the League’s reactions to statements and events of the Congress and the British. It faithfully recorded League meetings and activities and in its pages it carried on a debate with its political opponents.

Its articles reveal its tactics and its priorities of the moment as they shifted from verbally duelling with the British to waging its most important campaign of marshalling its support in the provinces, most notably in the Punjab, Bengal, Sindh and the United Provinces, and undermining the authority of regional leaders if they opposed the League and making the names and reputations of those who joined the League.

LIAQUAT’S CENTRAL ROLE

Liaquat Ali Khan played the central role in the creation of Dawn and in its success in its early years although the editor was an unknown Hasan Ahmed who in January, 1942, was paid Rs250 a month. He was assisted by six others paid between Rs80 and Rs14 a month. Liaquat was the Managing Director and his name appeared on the title pages under Jinnah’s as Dawn was produced, ‘Under the Supervision of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Hony. Secy. All-India Muslim League’ and this was accurate and correct.

He was the pivotal figure around which all the activities of running Dawn, and the League, revolved. He found rooms to rent, hired staff, arranged for the rental or purchase of equipment and newsprint, and negotiated with the British for government advertisements to be placed in the newspaper. He did so in the darkest days of the Second World War when material and equipment was in short supply. He even took copies of the newspaper down to the railway station late at night in his own car so they could be put on the mail train to such provinces as Bengal, the Punjab and the United Provinces.

Dawn claimed in a promotional brochure when it was founded that it was shipped to 201 “stations” including London and Manchester in England and New York, Philadelphia and Washington in the USA, and Aden.

Liaquat was not only exceedingly successful in making Dawn a thriving concern but it also helped elevate him to a position of leadership of the AIML behind only Jinnah. In 1943 Jinnah, not known for paying anyone compliments, was, in fact, to call him his “right hand”.

For its part, Dawn became to be seen as the mouthpiece of the League and intimately associated with it, so much so that ‘just holding of Dawn in one’s hands was enough to disclose one’s identity’.

A MEAGRE SALARY

This success was noted by its editor Hasan Ahmed on June 24, 1942, when he wrote to Liaquat asking for a “very substantial” increase in salary as he could not make ends meet on the “meagre” salary paid to him. “I expect you, Sir, to double my salary for the present, as the first increment to begin with. Anything less than that will bitterly disappoint me and will naturally serve as a damper to future efforts.” He justified this demand on the ‘meagre’ salary paid to him but also on the fact that the “ever-increasing circulation” had passed the 4,000 mark and an “assured plentiful supply of Government of India advertisements yielding an estimated revenue of at least Rs400 a month”.

Due to illness he also asked for a two-month leave of absence to repair the damage to his health caused by his work on Dawn. Liaquat replied on June 29 granting him one month’s leave with full pay even though he was not entitled to a month’s leave with full pay until he had served for one year, still about three months away, but it did reveal how successful Ahmed believed the newspaper had been.

Dawn was created as a weekly newspaper in 1941 and turned into a daily newspaper a year later. It was started as a daily, therefore, after the seminal events of the early part of the War such as the resignation of the Congress ministries in the eight provinces where it governed in 1939 had taken place. This was a political blunder by the Congress and was compounded by the Quit India Movement beginning in August, 1942, after the arrest of Gandhi on Sunday, August 9. He and all the major leaders of the Congress were arrested and incarcerated for most of the War years, leaving a vacuum of power that the League occupied to its enormous advantage.

Dawn echoed the League view that it had not non-cooperated, and the British supported the League by making sure it received lucrative government advertising and sufficient supplies of paper at a time of shortages.

SUPPORTING ALIGARH

Aligarh Muslim University and its faculty and students played a major role in the Pakistan Movement. Jinnah and many of the leaders of the Muslim League had no large constituency of their own or a national constituency. They did not have the support of Muslim clerics or of many Muslim scholars. Their intellectual credentials derived from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his modernist Muslim ideology. Aligarh, therefore, could provide the League with intellectual support in its claim for a separate nation for the Muslims of South Asia and this was a role played by a number of Aligarh’s faculty.

Aligarh could also provide a venue for League speeches and League leaders from Jinnah on down made major addresses at the University. Finally, Aligarh could provide the League with energetic campaign workers at the time of general elections expected to be held at the conclusion of the War.

The League campaign to bring Aligarh behind the League was not an easy one as the University was divided between Nationalist Muslims and those who supported the League and its demand for Pakistan. It was a major achievement that by 1945 the League was able to capture Aligarh.

One of the first uses of Aligarh was when a committee was formed by the All-India Muslim Educational Conference at its December 1939 session to oppose the Wardha Scheme of Education and to devise a comprehensive scheme of education to meet the special needs of Muslims.

Abdul Majid Saheb Qureshi of Aligarh Muslim University was its secretary and Liaquat Ali Khan sent a letter on May 14, 1940, to, among others, the presidents and secretaries of the provincial Leagues to urge them to support this effort. The League connection with Aligarh would only get more important as each month passed and Dawn would be used to cultivate the relationship and publicise its activities.


This is the first of a four-part series on Dawn Delhi.

Excerpted from ‘Dawn & the Creation of Pakistan’, Media History 2009, SOAS, London.

The writer is Professor of History, Eastern Michigan University, USA


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Voice of Khwaja Nazimuddin

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Excerpt from 'A History of Pakistan' by Roger Long (Published by Oxford University Press)

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Voice of Mohammad Ali Bogra

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Voice of Ghulam Mohammad

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Voice of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

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Voice of Iskander Mirza

From the archives of Iskander Mirza in the possession of Begum Syeda Fakhr-e-Jehan Asad Ali, Karachi.

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Voice of A.R. Siddiqi


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