Winning Over The Princely States

Miangul Abdul Wadud signs the Instrument of Accession enabling Swat to join Pakistan in 1947. On the right are his son Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb, his grandson Miangul Aurangzeb and the Chief Secretary of Swat, Mr Attaullah. — Courtesy Miangul Aurangzeb Archives, Swat
Miangul Abdul Wadud signs the Instrument of Accession enabling Swat to join Pakistan in 1947. On the right are his son Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb, his grandson Miangul Aurangzeb and the Chief Secretary of Swat, Mr Attaullah. — Courtesy Miangul Aurangzeb Archives, Swat

MOST Pakistanis have never seen the map of Pakistan at independence: can you imagine a Pakistan without most of Balochistan, Bahawalpur division, Malakand division, Khairpur Mirs and Gilgit? But this was the reality on the day of independence, as none of these places happened to be a part of Pakistan.

When Pakistan and India were created in 1947, it was the split of British India. Only those territories directly ruled by the British were divided to form part of either country. But the Indian subcontinent contained another category of jurisdiction: the vast expanse of ‘Princely India’, which formed over one-third of the British Indian Empire and accounted for a fourth of its population. A collection of over 600 principalities, it ranged from states like Hyderabad and Kashmir, which were larger than most European states, to smaller ones like Vejanones, which barely boasted one square mile. As the British paramountcy lapsed, all of them also achieved their own independence.

Just as the British Indian politicians had a mere 73 days — from the Mountbatten plan to actual independence — the rulers of these princely states also had a very short time in which to decide a future for themselves. A large number of them had been under British suzerainty for centuries and had no experience of being on their own, while some, like Kashmir, had existed only under British rule.

While almost all enjoyed internal autonomy, none had experience in international affairs, defence and several other fields, as they were controlled by the British. Thus, British withdrawal and independence of states posed a serious dilemma for the rulers as well as the people of these states.

Yaqoob Khan Bhangash narrates the stories behind the accession, in the months following Independence, of the major Princely States to Pakistan – Kalat, Khairpur and Bahawalpur among others, without which a contiguous map of West Pakistan would not have been possible.

Always yearning for a more unitary country, the Indian National Congress was never keen on any of the princes retaining independence. Being a republican party, the Congress was against monarchical rule in any case, while allowing any principality to remain independent risked the ‘Balkanisation’ of India, in their opinion. The All-India Muslim League, on the other hand, led by the constitutionalist Mohammad Ali Jinnah, appreciated the legal position of the states as independent entities after the British withdrawal.

As the D-Day approached, Congress devised a means by which to lure the princes to link up with the future Indian dominion. V.P. Menon, the clever Secretary of the States Department, formulated an ‘Instrument of Accession’ by which a ruler of a state would join only on the basis of defence, foreign affairs and communications; in all other cases, the ruler preserved his/her autonomy. Since these were fields administered by the outgoing British, many smaller princes saw this as a good deal and signed on the dotted line. The larger states demurred, but Congress had local affiliates, and pressure and violence were often used to bring about accession; the Dewan of Travancore was even stabbed.

Clock wise, The Amir of Bahawalpur, Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan Abbasi V in full state regalia announces the accession of Bahawalpur State to Pakistan on October 5, 1947. (Courtesy: Princess Yasmien Abbasi Archive, London). Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, the Khan of Kalat, are locked in friendly negotiations in Karachi prior to the announcement of Kalat’s accession to Pakistan. (Courtesy: Khan of Kalat Family Archives). Miangul Abdul Wadud signs the Instrument of Accession enabling Swat to join Pakistan on November 3, 1947. On the right are his son Miangul Jahanzeb, his grandson Miangul Aurangzeb and the Chief Secretary of Swat Attaullah. (Courtesy: Adnan Aurangzeb Collection, Swat). Mir George Ali Murad Khan Talpur II — “the boy prince of Khairpur” — at Faiz Mahal, Khairpur, two months after the October 3, 1947 accession of Khairpur to Pakistan. The Regent of Khairpur Mir Ghulam Hussain Khan Talpur looks on. (Courtesy: Mir of Khairpur Family Collection) -Photo: Margaret Bourke-White
Clock wise, The Amir of Bahawalpur, Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan Abbasi V in full state regalia announces the accession of Bahawalpur State to Pakistan on October 5, 1947. (Courtesy: Princess Yasmien Abbasi Archive, London). Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, the Khan of Kalat, are locked in friendly negotiations in Karachi prior to the announcement of Kalat’s accession to Pakistan. (Courtesy: Khan of Kalat Family Archives). Miangul Abdul Wadud signs the Instrument of Accession enabling Swat to join Pakistan on November 3, 1947. On the right are his son Miangul Jahanzeb, his grandson Miangul Aurangzeb and the Chief Secretary of Swat Attaullah. (Courtesy: Adnan Aurangzeb Collection, Swat). Mir George Ali Murad Khan Talpur II — “the boy prince of Khairpur” — at Faiz Mahal, Khairpur, two months after the October 3, 1947 accession of Khairpur to Pakistan. The Regent of Khairpur Mir Ghulam Hussain Khan Talpur looks on. (Courtesy: Mir of Khairpur Family Collection) -Photo: Margaret Bourke-White

In the case of Pakistan, since the Quaid-i-Azam was busy with setting up the new country, no efforts were made before independence to woo any of the princes. Very soon, however, Pakistan became cognizant of the importance of the princely states. For example, if Khairpur and Bahawalpur had not joined Pakistan, the rail link between Lahore and Karachi would have been broken; if Kalat had not joined, we would not have most of Balochistan; and if the Frontier States and Gilgit had kept aloof, there would be no land connection with China.

The first state to join Pakistan was, however, Junagadh. Sadly, it is no longer governed by Pakistan. Situated about 300 miles away from Karachi in the Kathiawar region, this coastal principality was the first to exercise its right to join Pakistan. The distance, combined with the fact that the population was over 80 per cent Hindu, led to a revolt. The Nawab, Mahabat Khanji, tried to keep control, but conditions were such that he fled to Karachi towards the end of October 1947. The Indian government subsequently sent in troops and occupied the territory. To date, Pakistan claims Junagadh as its legal part, with India in occupation of this Pakistani territory.

Next came the accession of Khairpur and Bahawalpur in early October 1947. Both were Muslim-majority and Muslim-ruled, and both had rulers who were friendly towards Pakistan, so accession was easily obtained. Interestingly, Khairpur’s ruler was the minor Mir George Ali Murad Talpur II, who had acceded to the title just days before the transfer of power. Today, His Highness of Khairpur is the last surviving ruling prince in South Asia!

Four small states, with all except Amb under the Malakand Agency, formed the cluster of Frontier states. Where the Nawab of Amb had little choice but to join Pakistan as his state was almost surrounded by Pakistani territory in Hazara, the other three states had options. Chitral shared a border with Afghanistan and, being at that time largely inaccessible, could remain independent. But its ruler was very supportive of the Quaid-i-Azam and quickly signed over to Pakistan.

Swat was the youngest state in the British Indian Empire, having been recognised only in 1926. Its ruler in 1947 was its founder, the dynamic Miangul Abdul Wadud. Sensing that the new dispensation might be good for his new state, he quickly acceded to Pakistan, but not before quietly annexing the tribal area of Kalam, which greatly increased the area of his state.

Perched on the border with Afghanistan, Dir proved to be the most difficult. Its ruler, Sir Shah Jahan Khan, did not trust anyone and did not want any new agreements. It was only through the clever diplomacy of the Governor of the then North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sir George Cunningham, that Dir decided to join Pakistan and did not move towards Afghanistan. However, the nawab did not sign the usual Instrument of Accession, but simply signed a statement that his relations with Pakistan would be the same as those with the British.

While not technically a princely state, the accession of the Gilgit Agency was very interesting. Composed of four parts — Gilgit Wazarat, which was part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the tribal areas of Chilas, Koh Ghizr, Iskomen, and Yasin, the petty state of Punial, and the states of Hunza and Nagar — Gilgit Agency had long been administered by the British. As the date for transfer of power approached, the British gave the Agency to the Kashmir Durbar, which then promptly appointed a governor.

However, the British presence was maintained through the Gilgit Scouts, the main paramilitary organisation in the Agency, which was commanded by Major William Brown, and assisted by Captain Mathieson. Barely 25, the young and energetic Maj Brown was in favour of Gilgit joining Pakistan in case Kashmir decided to join India. With Capt Mathieson and the help of some local leaders, Maj Brown devised Operation ‘Data Khel’, which was realised after Kashmir allegedly acceded to India. Thereafter, between the night of October 31 and November 1, 1947, Maj Brown launched a coup in Gilgit, arrested the governor of Kashmir, contained the Kashmir army detachment nearby, and then confidently telegraphed the premier of the NWFP that he had got Gilgit for Pakistan, and also secured the accession of Hunza and Nagar. Thus, without any knowledge or involvement of the Pakistan government, the whole of the Gilgit Agency came over to Pakistan!

The most contentious accession to Pakistan was that of Kalat State, which today forms about 80pc of Balochistan. Kalat was governed by its Khan, Ahmed Yar Khan, who was a close friend of the Quaid. It was Ahmed Yar Khan’s dream to keep Kalat independent while keeping a close connection with Pakistan. And it was not just the Khan. Most of the political forces in the state favoured independence, with the leader of the Kalat State Darul Awam, Ghous Baksh Bizenjo, famously remarking on the question of accession: “We have a distinct civilisation. We have a separate culture like that of Iran and Afghanistan. We are Muslims, but it is not necessary that by virtue of our being Muslims, we should lose our freedom and merge with others. If the mere fact that we are Muslims requires us to join Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Iran, both Muslim countries, should also amalgamate with Pakistan …We are ready to have friendship with that country on the basis of sovereign equality, but by no means [are we] ready to merge with Pakistan … We can survive without Pakistan.”

With such staunch opposition, the Khan further dithered, and in two meetings with Jinnah, could not agree to accession. When the bureaucrats took over the negotiations from Jinnah in February 1948, they realised that they could directly appeal to the sardars in the state, as the Khan blamed their lack of consensus as the main reason for the delay. Thus, in classic bureaucratic form, the government recognised the vassal states of Las Bela and Kharan as independent of Kalat and accepted their accession while also elevating the Gichki Sardar of Makran — the brother-in-law of the Khan — to ruler status and also accepting his accession.

As a result, within a few days in mid-March 1948, the Khan was left with a quarter of his territory, which was now also landlocked. While he was still smarting from these accessions, a news item on All-India Radio on March 27, 1948, claimed that the Khan had approached India for accession. Sensing that this would inevitably bring a military response from Pakistan, the Khan immediately signed the Instrument of Accession to Pakistan. Thus ended a few months of independence for Kalat. However, not everyone accepted the accession and the Khan’s younger brother, Prince Abdul Karim, raised the banner of revolt in June 1948; the first of many future revolts of the Baloch, all emanating from this accession.

Therefore, it took almost a year for the map of Pakistan to take shape in the manner we are used to seeing now. These princely states then remained as distinct parts of Pakistan for some time. Khairpur, Bahawalpur and the Baloch states remained so till 1955; the Frontier states till 1969; and Hunza and Nagar till 1973.

Today, 75 years since Independence, the history and legacy of these states remain relevant to us not only in understanding how actually Pakistan was created, but also for assessing the different levels of state formation and consolidation in later years. Many issues in Balochistan still have their roots in Kalat, while the move for a separate province in southern Punjab was born during the Bahawalpur province restoration movement in 1970.

Similarly, the higher literacy and development rate in Swat is directly related to the progressive policies of its rulers. Thus, as we celebrate Pakistan’s 75 years of independence, let us also remember and appreciate how its different parts came together and how their diversity gives us rigour and strength.

The writer is presently a Fulbright Fellow at the LM South Asia Institute, Harvard University, USA. He is the author of, A Princely Affair: Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.

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