Pakistan Problems at Independence
Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam
Liaquat Ali Khan, the Quaid-i-Millet
Problems at Independence
In August 1947, Pakistan was faced with a number of problems, some immediate but others long term. The most important of these concerns was the role played by Islam. Was Pakistan to be a secular state serving as a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, or was it to be an Islamic state governed by the sharia, in which non-Muslims would be second-class citizens? The second question concerned the distribution of power between the center and the provincial governments, a question that eventually led to the dissolution of the country with the painful loss of the East Wing (East Bengal, later East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, an issue that remained unresolved in the mid-1990s.
The territory of Pakistan was divided into two parts at independence, separated by about 1,600 kilometers of Indian territory. The 1940 Lahore Resolution had called for independent "states" in the northwest and the northeast. This objective was changed, by a 1946 meeting of Muslim League legislators to a call for a single state (the acronym Pakistan had no letter for Bengal). Pakistan lacked the machinery, personnel, and equipment for a new government. Even its capital, Karachi, was a second choice--Lahore was rejected because it was too close to the Indian border. Pakistan's economy seemed enviable after severing ties with India, the major market for its commodities. And much of Punjab's electricity was imported from Indian power stations.
Above all other concerns were the violence and the refugee problem: Muslims were fleeing India; Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing Pakistan. Jinnah's plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was ignored. No one was prepared for the communal rioting and the mass movements of population that followed the June 3, 1947, London announcement of imminent independence and partition. The most conservative estimates of the casualties were 250,000 dead and 12 million to 24 million refugees. The actual boundaries of the two new states were not even known until August 17, when they were announced by a commission headed by a British judge. The boundaries-- unacceptable to both India and Pakistan--have remained.
West Pakistan lost Hindus and Sikhs. These communities had managed much of the commercial activity of West Pakistan. The Sikhs were especially prominent in agricultural colonies. They were replaced largely by Muslims from India, mostly Urdu speakers from the United Provinces. Although some people, especially Muslims from eastern Punjab (in India), settled in western Punjab (in Pakistan), many headed for Karachi and other cities in Sindh, where they took the jobs vacated by departing Hindus. In 1951 close to half of the population of Pakistan's major cities were immigrants (muhajirs--refugees from India and their descendants).
The aspirations for Pakistan that had been so important to Muslims in Muslim-minority provinces and the goals for the new state these urban refugees had fled to were not always compatible with those of the traditional rural people already inhabiting Pakistan, whose support for the concept of Pakistan came much later. Pakistani society was polarized from its inception.
The land and people west of the Indus River continued to pose problems. The most immediate problem was the continued presence of a Congress government in the North-West Frontier Province, a government effective at the grassroots level and popular despite the loss of the plebiscite. Led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-i-Khitmagar (Servants of God, a Congress faction), this group was often referred to as the Red Shirts after its members' attire. Ghaffar Khan asked his followers not to participate in the July 1947 plebiscite.
Pakistan also had to establish its legitimacy against a possible challenge from Afghanistan. Irredentist claims from Kabul were based on the ethnic unity of tribes straddling the border; the emotional appeal of "Pakhtunistan," homeland of the Pakhtuns, was undeniable. However, Pakistan upheld the treaties Britain had signed with Afghanistan and refused to discuss the validity of the Durand Line as the international border (see The Forward Policy , this ch.). Relations with Afghanistan were hostile, resulting in the rupture of diplomatic and commercial relations and leading Afghanistan to cast the only vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.
The India Independence Act left the princes theoretically free to accede to either dominion. The frontier princely states of Dir, Chitral, Amb, and Hunza acceded quickly to Pakistan while retaining substantial autonomy in internal administration and customary law. The khan of Kalat in Balochistan declared independence on August 15, 1947, but offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan. Other Baloch sardar (tribal chiefs) also expressed their preference for a separate identity. Pakistan took military action against them and the khan and brought about their accession in 1948. The state of Bahawalpur, with a Muslim ruler and a Muslim population, acceded to Pakistan, as did Khairpur.
The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, unpopular among his subjects, was reluctant to decide on accession to either dominion. He first signed agreements with both Pakistan and India that would provide for the continued flow of people and goods to Kashmir--as it is usually called--from both dominions. Alarmed by reports of oppression of fellow Muslims in Kashmir, armed groups from the North-West Frontier Province entered the maharaja's territory. The ruler requested military assistance from India but had to sign documents acceding to India before that country would provide aid in October 1947.
The government of Pakistan refused to recognize the accession and denounced it as a fraud even though the Indian government announced that it would require an expression of the people's will through a plebiscite after the invaders were driven back. Pakistan launched an active military and diplomatic campaign to undo the accession. The UN Security Council eventually brought about a cease-fire between Pakistani and Indian troops, which took place on January 1, 1949, thus ending the first Indo- Pakistani War, and directed that a plebiscite be held. The cease- fire agreement formalized the military status quo, leaving about 30 percent of Kashmir under Pakistani control (see India , ch. 4; The Formation of Pakistan , ch. 5).
Partition and its accompanying confusion also brought severe economic challenges to the two newly created and antagonistic countries. The partition plan ignored the principles of complementarity. West Pakistan, for example, traditionally produced more wheat than it consumed and had supplied the deficit areas in India. Cotton grown in West Pakistan was used in mills in Bombay and other west Indian cities. Commodities such as coal and sugar were in short supply in Pakistan--they had traditionally come from areas now part of India. Furthermore, Pakistan faced logistic problems for its commercial transportation because of the four major ports in British India, it was awarded only Karachi. But the problem that proved most intractable was defining relations between the two wings of Pakistan, which had had little economic exchange before partition.
The two dominions decided to allow free movement of goods, persons, and capital for one year after independence, but this agreement broke down. In November 1947, Pakistan levied export duties on jute; India retaliated with export duties of its own. The trade war reached a crisis in September 1949 when Britain devalued the pound, to which both the Pakistani rupee and the Indian rupee were pegged. India followed Britain's lead, but Pakistan did not, so India severed trade relations with Pakistan. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53) and the consequent price rises in jute, leather, cotton, and wool as a result of wartime needs, saved the economy of Pakistan. New trading relationships were formed, and the construction of cotton and jute mills in Pakistan was quickly undertaken. Although India and Pakistan resumed trade in 1951, both the volume and the value of trade steadily declined; the two countries ignored bilateral trade for the most part and developed the new international trade links they had made.
The assets of British India were divided in the ratio of seventeen for India to five for Pakistan by decision of the Viceroy's Council in June 1947. Division was difficult to implement, however, and Pakistan complained of nondeliveries. A financial agreement was reached in December 1948, but the actual settlement of financial and other disputes continued until 1960 (see Structure of the Economy , ch. 3).
Division of the all-India services of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police Service was also difficult. Only 101 out of a total of 1,157 Indian officers were Muslim. Among these Muslim officers, ninety-five officers opted for Pakistan; they were joined by one Christian, eleven Muslim military officers transferring to civilian service, and fifty Britons, for a total of 157. But only twenty of them had had more than fifteen years of service, and more than half had had fewer than ten years. These men formed the core of the Civil Service of Pakistan, which became one of the most elite and privileged bureaucracies in the world. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan were the architects of the administrative, judicial, and diplomatic services. They proved indispensable in running the government machinery during Pakistan's first two decades, and their contributions to government policy and economics were profound during the era of Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government in the 1970s precipitated a major reorganization and reorientation of the bureaucracy, however, which resulted in a noticeable decline in both the morale and the standards of the bureaucracy (see Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and a New Constitutional System; Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, 1971-77 , ch. 4).
Data as of April 1994
NOTE: The information regarding Pakistan on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Pakistan Problems at Independence information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Pakistan Problems at Independence should be addressed to the Library of Congress.