The Punjabi-Muhajir Bureaucracy & Case of Urdu As National Language


Immediately after the death of Jinnah, all the executive powers that the government had were assumed by Liaquat Ali Khan. Liaquat Ali Khan cultivated his relationship with the bureaucracy and strengthened it during the four years of his rule. Interestingly, the better the Pakistani government was in the outset with regards to democracy and little or no influence of army over the government and the non-existence of the military-bureaucracy nexus, the bureaucracy and government accommodated abundant Urdu-speaking/Muhajirs apart from Punjabis.

The appointment of CSP Aziz Ahmed as the Chief Secretary of East Pakistan proved a turning point between the relation of East and West Pakistan. Aziz Ahmed, interestingly, was the same bureaucrat who is said to have influenced Ayub Khan to purge the Muhajirs from the bureaucracy during the late 1950’s so he could maintain a control of power over the entire bureaucratic setup. Aminullah Chaudhry in his book “Political Administrators: The Story of the Civil Service of Pakistan” writes that Aziz Ahmed may have been a competent bureaucrat but he was no where near worthy of becoming a Chief Secretary of sensitive region like East Pakistan where the general feeling was already in the air that Bengalis have been deprived of the representation in government jobs, including the civil services. A.J. Dash, a civil servant and chairman of East Pakistan Public Service Commission, delineated Aziz Ahmed as “sour, taciturn and dyspeptic; and that he seemed to suffer from some inferiority complex, perhaps he came from plebeian stock in the Punjab ….”

On the other hand, the primary polemical issue between East and West Pakistan was that of the “language”. The towering issue remained on the horizon, always and ever active and conspicuous, throughout the time leading to the independence of East Pakistan. When the central government of Pakistan opted for Urdu as a national language, the turmoil broke out in the East Pakistan which then had representation of 50% of the total population of Pakistan whereas Urdu was believed to be a language spoken by even less than the 10% of the total population of Pakistan. Inversely, the central government’s decision to set Urdu as a national language came out of the notion to promote national integrity  and truncate the gaps that existed between people belonging to different ethnicity and religion.

In March of 1948 when Jinnah visited East Pakistan in an effort to resolve the cry over the pugnacious issue of language, he addressed fervently in favor of Urdu at a massive rally at Dacca’s Paltan Maidan. He advised the youth, the students, who were in a bridgehead against the imposition of Urdu as a national language, to not get flim-flammed by the hidden forces antithetic to the ideology of Pakistan. For the time being, in a deference to Jinnah, the language movement assumed a low profile, but it never died. However, as soon as the news of the death of Jinnah came down to East Pakistan, the language movement rose its head again and not just naturally alone but on provocation of the civil bureaucracy. As Aminullah argues “the language problem was mishandled from the word go and the issues could have been assuaged by taking prudent administrative measures” where bureaucracy was part and parcel of the administrative setup. Some bureaucrats even turned up with the stand fast idea of  changing the script of Bengali from Devanagri to Persian or Arabic to grapple with the language issue in an evolutionary way. Another absolute piece of virtu that sprouted from a non-Bengali Education Secretary of East Pakistan, a CSP, F.A.Karim, was to make Arabic or Persian the national language of Pakistan instead of Urdu. Howeverm, during the 1950’s, the Basic Principles Committee Report plainly advocated the admission of Urdu as a state language. Thus the language riots became more conspicuous and bloody.

The major problem with the initial setup of Pakistan after its independence was the unbridled influence of bureaucracy over the central government in Karachi that had often led to grievous maladministration at the later stage. Both the Muhajir and Punjabi dominated bureaucracy pioneered the  most controversial decisions in nascent Pakistan at the expense of East Pakistan. The imposition of Urdu as a state language, as recommended in the Basic Principles Committee Report, was open-and-shut of the fact that the bureaucracy was sturdy enough in public policy-making and administration to predominate the entire politics of East and West Pakistan with or without the support of central government.

Partition & Muhajirs — I


According to the colonial census of 1941, Muslims in Delhi constituted a minority population of 33.22%. On the other side Karachi had a Hindu population of 47.6%. Hindus in Sindh were relatively in peace than in Punjab before partition. After the partition in September 1947, genocidal violence transpiring in Punjab finally reached Karachi. Vazira Fazilla-Yacoobali Zamindar notes in her book “The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories”  that most of the Delhi’s population was forced to leave their homes and take refuge in camps and wherever they could.

In the 1951 census, it was noted that 3.3 lakh Muslims of Delhi had left to Pakistan, and almost twice the number of Hindus and Sikh refugees had arrived to India from the Western (Pakistani) Punjab. Most of the Muslim refugees who arrived in Karachi belonged to Delhi and North India. Due to such a mass settlement of Muhajirs in Karachi, the city went through a drastic change: the city’s almost entire Hindu population had left the city by the census of 1951. The emigration of Hindus from Sindh ]read Karachi] to India after the partition of 1947 was primarily due to the mass flow of Muhajirs in the city after which the city’s population had almost tripled. Religious violence in the Karachi city was comparatively less, although still rampant, than it was in different parts of Punjab; out of 20 million people displaced in the sub-continent due to partition, 12 million alone were from Punjab. From this perspective, Punjab characteristically witnessed greater violence than Sindh or Karachi did.

Both India and Pakistan had agreed to a complete “transfer of population” of Punjab on the basis of religious community. Interestingly, there was no such agreement between India and Pakistan for the rest of the parts of both the states. As a result of this, the mass exodus of Muhajirs to the Sindh [read Karachi] was viewed by the Sindh Government with great alarm.

According to Dr Sarah Ansari in her journal “Partition, Migration, and Refugees“, the mass exodus of Muhajirs in Sindh gave rise to the sharp dissension between the Sindh and federal government of Pakistan as to how the migrants will be accommodated in the city. The leaders of Sindh showed their concern that the Sindh’s economic and cultural life may be impaired by the exodus of Sindhi Hindus. The Federal and Sindh government sat down to discuss about how many Muhajirs could the province accommodate as part of rehabilitation efforts.

With reference to this accommodation, Vazira Fazilla-Yacoobali Zamindar records that on the basis of the figures provided by the Military Evacuation Organisation (MEO), which was created to organise secure refugee movements to both the countries, the Ministry of Refugees and Rehabilitation argued that the West Punjab had received a “surplus” of 12 lakh refugees. Therefore, the distribution of 12 lakh refugees was essential to keep the population in provinces balanced. In order to grapple with the refugees tension, a conference of district officers was held on 22nd and 23rd November 1947 at Lahore to discuss how much population each district of Punjab could hold. The bureaucrats in the conference agreed that a quota needs to be devised to divide the population of refugees for each province that will then absorb the described amount of refugees. The bureaucrats agreed that Sindh should accept 5 lakh of the refugees in Punjab. The statistics and charts on population and refugees were prepared by Professor M. Hasan at the Secretary of the Board of Economic Inquiry of West Punjab.

During the conference, the division of refugees was deemed necessary so to make them manageable in a national economy. Professor Hasan’s analysis of Sindh’s position to hold refugees was based on the notion that the surplus Muslim refugees in Punjab could be accommodated in Sindh in place of those Hindus migrating to India. According to Professor Hasan, Sindh had population of 7.81 lakh non-Muslim agriculturists or rural non-agriculturists; and, as per his belief, as most of these must have left Sindh, 5 lakh of the refugees could very well be accommodated in Sindh. However, it merits mentioning that Professor Hasan himself accepted that his calculations faced the limitation that all non-Muslims would not be leaving the Sindh and there was no “actual” data on the exodus of Hindus until the 1951 census.

The political leadership in Sindh refused to accept the 5 lakh refugees, but agreed that 1.5 lakhs refugees could be accommodated. Ayub Khuhro in his letter to Jinnah argued that Professor Hasan’s calculations were not all correct. Khuhro argued that Sindh had a population of 14 lakh Hindus, most of whom were living in urban areas, while 2.5 lakh were living in Karachi alone. He further argued that 4 lakh Muslims had already arrived in Sindh, replacing the outgoing Hindu population.

Ayub Khuhro further presented his argument to Jinnah that the lands abandoned by the Sikhs were able to accommodate only 50,000 people, and further 10,000 could be accommodated by persuading the feudal of Sindh, making a total of 60,000. In any case, he agreed to accommodate not more than 1 lakh, instead of actual 5 lakh, of Muslim migrants in Sindh.

Khuhro’s resistance against the bureaucratic and federal policy on dividing the “surplus” refugees in Punjab and accommodating them in Sindh was based on the notion that while many Hindus were gone from Sindh, this had rendered Sindhis an opportunity to revive its economy and claim whatever was left by the Hindus, as surely Sindhis had the first right over the leftovers of Hindus.

More on “Muhajirs” in the next write up.

Offers Made By Jinnah to Sikhs


An excerpt from the book “Punjab — Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed” by Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed.

This essay highlights the efforts of Jinnah to persuade the Sikhs to not call for the partition of the Punjab.

Dr. Ahmed writes:

In several interviews with informed Pakistanis, I was told that Jinnah offered very generous terms to the Sikhs to dissuade them not to demand the partition of the Punjab if India was partitioned. This claim is amply corroborated by the article “I remember Jinnah’s offer of Sikh state” by the late Maharaja of Patiala published in The Tribune of 19 July 1959. Apparently Lord Mountbatten was also present as were Liaquat Ali Khan and his wife. Some of the extracts are given below:

“We had a drink and went in to dine. The talks started, and offers were made by Mr Jinnah for practically everything under the sun if I would agree to his plan. There were two aspects. One was based on the idea of a Rajasthan and the other one for separate Sikh state — Punjab minus one or two districts in the south. I had prolonged talks with Master Tara Singh, Giani Kartar Singh and other Sikh leaders, and all the negotiations on behalf of the Sikhs were within my knowledge. Indeed, in some ways I had quite a deal to do with them. I told Mr. Jinnah that I could not accept either of his two proposals, and told him a lot of what was on my mind. Liaquat Ali Khan and Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, and told him a lot of what was on my mind. Liaquat Ali and Begum Liaquat Ali were most charming to me, and went out of their way to offer, on behalf of the Muslim League, everything conceivable. I was to be Head of this new Sikh State, the same as in Patiala. The Sikhs were to have their own army and so on.

All these things sounded most attractive, but I could not accept them as being practical, and neither could I in the mood I was in, change my conviction. The talk lasted till past midnight. Lord Mountbatten was a patient listener, occasionally taking part. He eventually said that perhaps Mr Jinnah and I could meet again at some convenient date.”

There was another meeting of Jinnah with some notable Sikh leaders like Maharaja of Patiala, Hardit Singh, Master Tara Singh and Giani Kartar Singh. Hardit Sing recalls:

“Jinnah started by saying that he was very anxious to have the Sikhs agree to Pakistan and he was prepared to give them everything that they wanted, if they could accept Pakistan. I said to him, “Mr Jinnah you are being very generous, but we would like to know exactly what our position will be.” Jinnah retorted, saying “you will have a Government, you will have a Parliament and you will have Defence forces, what part will the Sikhs have in all these.” He further said, “are you familiar with what happened in Egypt? I will deal with the Sikhs as Zaghlul Pasha dealt with the Copts (the Christian minority) when Egypt became independent.” He then went on to tell us the story. According to Jinnah, the Copts when they first met Zaghlul Pasha put forward some demands. After listening to them he advised them to go back, think the whole thing over and come to see him again with a paper incorporating all their demands. They did this. Zaghlul Pasha took the paper from them and without reading it wrote on it “I agree.” Mr Jinnah added, “That is what I will do with the Sikhs.”

Hardit Singh further recalls, “this put us in an awkward position. We were determined not to accept Pakistan under any circumstances and here was the Muslim Leader offering us everything. What to do?”

Then I had an inspiration and I said, “Mr Jinnah, you are being very generous. But supposing, God forbid, you are no longer there when the time comes to implement your promise?”

“His reply was astounding”. He said, “My friend, my word in Pakistan will be like the word of God. No one will go back on it.”

Hardit recalls, “there was nothing to be said after this and the meeting ended.”

Jinnah’s Pakistan: Where Has it Lost?


Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Students: Let me give you this word of warning: you will be making the greatest mistake if you allow yourself to be exploited by one political party or another

Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Students: Let me give you this word of warning: you will be making the greatest mistake if you allow yourself to be exploited by one political party or another

Had Jinnah been alive today, would he have been steering Pakistan to really a progression that he intensely yearned for? I often think about Pakistan from this perspective. Then mostly I am persuaded by my own sense of judgment and justice that had Jinnah been alive today, yes, Pakistan would have been, at least, a country of people espousing the unity, faith and discipline in its true spirit. It does not necessarily mean that Pakistan would have been like as happy and jolly as a sandboy, and that there would have been no obstacle on the road to progression. Problems are naturally constitutional for individuals and for a nation. But Jinnah, really-truly, would have shown her second, and perhaps most dearest daughter, Pakistan, a direction had he been alive today.

From the common people to students and politicians, yet army, the unity, faith and discipline of Jinnah is scarcely seen. Who, in literal sense, talks about bringing back Jinnah’s Pakistan in the midst of national turmoil? Among the lot of the mainstream politicians, I can see not a single one who is a stern advocator of Jinnah’s principled political system. Instead, the de facto “national interest” and “doctrine of necessity” is inundating in the political culture and social system of Pakistan. The version of “Quaid” has taken a new shape which highlights the personality cult factor sweeping over the people’s conscience. From the students and youth, by and large, what I see is the obsession with the party politicking. While reminding myself the message of Jinnah to the students, I found him cautioning the students to not exploit themselves by one party or another. The actual message of Jinnah to the students was delivered on March 21st, in Dhaka. He said:

“My young friends, students who are present here, let me tell you as one who has always had love and affection for you, who has served you for ten years faithfully and loyally, let me give you this word of warning: you will be making the greatest mistake if you allow yourself to be exploited by one political party or another…. Your main occupation should be – in fairness to yourself, in fairness to your parents, in fairness to the state – to devote your attention to your studies.”

For the politicians, Jinnah was emphatic of the idea that elected leaders must realize their obligations and liabilities in a prudent way. During the Presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th August, 1947, he said:

“The first and the foremost thing that I would like to emphasize is this – remember that you are now a Sovereign Legislative body and you have got all the powers. It, therefore, places on you the gravest responsibility as to how you should take your decisions.”

To the armed forces, Jinnah’s message was quite clear and well-defined briefly. On August 14th 1947, he addressed the armed forces of nascent Pakistan, saying:

“Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.”

Today, Muhammad Ali Jinnah only lives in the books and portraits. How sad it is that his depiction is used – on notes – to gratify our appetite as well.

To bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan, we must come out of our shells of idleness. On this decisive phase today, happen as well to be the 14th August – the 64th Birthday of Pakistan, we be forbidden to wait for a wake-up call from our affiliated political parties or groups or other mentors. Jinnah’s amount of supporters were little than Congress activists but his supporters were sincere. The advocators of Jinnah’s principled politics are maybe little, but they should be sincere likewise – followed by the unity, faith and discipline – in order to bring back the Jinnah’s Pakistan which was meant to be sovereign and not protectorate, which was meant to be progressive and not regressive, which was meant to be united and not divided.

They Need Your Support Today


Missing Persons Protest

Missing Persons Protest


A friend asked me: Hum itney na-shukrey kyun hain?


Why are we so unthankful?


At first, I thought it was a usual comment by him we often use in daily life. But soon I analyzed he was talking about “Pakistan” particularly. I retorted that we really are unthankful — an unthakful nation. Perhaps he daresaid, while making this comment, that I’m always cynical with my thoughts; that I’m critical and pessimistic. I wonder where have I ever been pessimistic. Being critical doesn’t necessarily imply that a person is pessimistic too.


Most of the time I’m vocal about the role of our army and politicians. While I criticize our Pakistan army — mind it that I don’t criticize the whole institution with more than 600,000 servicemen, but only the wrong policy makers — people usually think that I’m committing a blasphemy as I’m speaking against the sacred Pakistani institution which is meant to guard our nation. I always think and ask is the army above criticism? How many times this institution has erred and repeat it still; hence, speaking against it is wrong?


It pulls me back to the time of Jinnah. Jinnah was selected for the Central Legislative Council from Calcutta as a Muslim representative in 1910. Lord Minto supported Jinnah. Viceroy Minto’s pious hopes were soon shattered. Jinnah clashed with the viceroy the very first time when he rose to speak in the council, addressing him to a resolution that called for an immediate end to the export of indentured India labors to South Africa. Jinnah spoke out saying: “It is a most painful question — a question which has roused the feelings of all classes in the country to the highest pitch of indignation and horror at the harsh and cruel treatment that is meted out to the Indians in South Africa”. Minto reprimanded him for using the words “cruel treatment”. Jinnah spoke out saying: “It is a most painful question — a question which has roused the feelings of all classes in the country to the highest pitch of indignation and horror at the harsh and cruel treatment that is meted out to the Indians in South Africa”. Minto reprimanded him for using the words “cruel treatment”. Minto deemed Jinnah’s statement “too harsh to be used for a friendly part of the British Empire” within his council chambers. My Lord, Jinnah responded, “I should feel much inclined to use much stronger language. But I am fully aware of the constitution in the Council, and I do not wish to trespass for one single moment. But I do say that the treatment meted out to Indians is the harshest and the feeling in this country is unanimous.”


Jinnah was the only men who stood for such an act of unjust against the people of his country. By then, not even Gandhi raised this objection or anyone else from the Congress. Because Jinnah always stood for the human rights too, and he would never care if he’s speaking against the friendly British Empire or his Congressmen. Is speaking against the cruel policies of army/intelligence on the missing persons — and as I recall the death of one of my personal friend’s mother in Bajaur air strike and 100’s of innocent people like her — an amoral thing, I ask? Is speaking against the role of US in many things — for example the drone attacks that kill innocents daily — a wrong thing, I ask? Any missing person has a right to be prosecuted in the Pakistani courts — morally and constitutionally. But they just remain ‘missing’, let alone their prosecution. Simultaneously, I’m accused of being a traitor as I stand firm besides the families of those who suffer from the hands of some amoral uniformed and non-uniformed people.


Now with the latest update on the efforts of the families of missing persons: aggrieved families of missing persons few days back launched a long march from Faisalabad for the safe recovery of their dear ones with solemn pledge to enter Islamabad with five million registered followers for staging a sit-in.


According to the sources, only the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) is supporting this long march. Why just PTI, why not the MQM, PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, ANP, JUI etc. etc.? I stress on the significance of the cause of “Missing Persons” and urge every political party’s activist to support this cause and participate in the long march. Raise your voice. Please, this doesn’t have anything to do with your political party’s affiliation. Anyone with a flesh heart is morally obliged to support this cause — before it gets too late. Support the 100’s of families of missing persons (788 cases registered with “Defence Human Rights Pakistan” alone, whereas the estimate according to International Human Rights group is not less than 10,000) by standing against the unjust and amoral acts of those who are accountable for adding miseries to the 100’s of families, simultaneously adding the miseries to already troubled and miserable Pakistan. It reminds me of the words of Martin Niemoller — a leader of one of the German group opposing Hitler and Nazis.


First they (Nazi) came for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then… they came for me… And by that time there was no one left to speak up.