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The military and the birth of Pakistan

Pakistan celebrates its 50th birthday on Thursday. The political impetus that created Pakistan is wellknown. What is not as wellknown is the military motive for the genesis of an independent Muslim state.

In determining the British attitude towards the demand for Pakistan, the Muslim element in the British army and the strategic location of the Muslim majority provinces were of considerable importance.

Brigadier Noor ul Haq appraises the military factor in the making of Pakistan.

Pak Army The political fabric of the British supremacy in India, in the last resort, rested on the loyalty of the Indian army. All through their stay in India, especially after 1857, the British had been haunted by the fear of another revolt by the Indian army. To prevent this from happening, the British sought to do two things; first, root out community feelings and politics from the armed forces; and secondly, prevent discontentment and alienation in the service.

As such, the recruitment, organisation, and training of the forces were designed primarily with these objectives in view. Additionally, loyalty was ensured through limiting the strength of the Indian army, supplying them with inferior weaponry and by keeping the officer class an exclusive preserve of the Europeans.

The Muslims, who were slightly less than 25 per cent of the population of India, were about 40 per cent in the army and thus were given parity with the Hindus, probably for the reason that they had to guard the northwestern frontier of India. But all this was to change with the passage of time.

The emergence of Indian nationalism led on the one hand to the birth of Hindu revivalism and on the other motivated the Muslims to safeguard their political, economic and cultural interests. The outbreak of World War I, in September 1914, gave a jolt to the British rule in India. The inevitable participation of Indians in the war shattered substantially, though temporarily, some of the British policies laid down for the armed forces.

Under the stress of the war the British were compelled to agree to the increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration which led to the development of self-governing institutions and the progressive realisation of responsible government in India. This gave the sanction for the Indianisation of the officer cadre in the armed forces. The Indian leadership knew the relative importance of the army in the realisation of self-rule. They, therefore, tried to secure its control partly through the legislative procedure and partly through the process of Indianisation.

From 1939 onwards, the events in India took a dramatic turn as they were closely linked up with the fortunes of World War II. Early that year, the British decided to modernise the armed forces so as to meet the challenge from the first-rate powers of Europe. Besides, the Indians were called upon to look at the problem of external defence squarely in the face and bear the expenses of the Imperial war through the concept of 'shared responsibility.'

The Indians were generally satisfied with the prospects of modernisation of the armed forces, though some Hindus were apprehensive of the military training being concentrated in northern India where the Muslim community happened to be strongly represented.

With the outbreak of the war in September 1939, when the possibility for Indian independence increased somewhat, the British, the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim League were forced to reorientate their policies and priorities. The immediate objective of the British was to get the maximum possible Indian support for their war effort. Therefore, they were obliged to look towards the princely states and the Muslims for help. In the process, they suspended the scheme of an Indian federation and promised to modify the Government of India Act 1935 once the war was over.

On its part, the Congress supported the idea of an all-India federation in order to obtain control of the armed forces through their dominance in the legislature. Therefore, it demanded that defence should not be kept as a reserve subject but instead be handed over to a federal ministry. Precisely for this reason, it wanted that the representatives of the princely states in the Indian legislative assembly should be chosen through election and not by nomination.

At the same time, it tried to prevent the Muslim League from assuming the role of being the 'sole effective representative of Muslims' and when it failed, the Congress ministries in the provinces resigned as a tactical move to put pressure on the government. But this had no effect on the government because it did not seriously mar the Indian war effort which was colossal. Apart from the monetary contribution, the recruits to the army were coming forth in large numbers.

Jinnah The Muslim League, conscious of the Muslims's majority in he strategic areas of the Northwest and the Northeast and their relative strength in the armed forces, began to assert its long cherished desire of an independent and sovereign Muslim state or states in India. The proposed state(s), as demanded in its resolution of March 24, 1940, were to be established in the Muslim majority areas in the Northwest and the Northeast of India.

The demand for Pakistan, as the new state was to be called, was bitterly opposed by almost all sections of Hindus, Sikhs, the nationalist Muslims as well as by the British, each for different reasons. But this had no effect on the struggle for Pakistan. In August 1940, the British, under the pressure of reverses in the war in Europe, were forced to promise a new constitution after the cessation of hostilities. They also agreed that they would not contemplate any system of government whose authority was directly denied by 'large and powerful elements in India's national life.'

The later clause was obviously included to satisfy the Muslim community whose contribution to the war effort had been substantial. The offer was rejected by the Congress, but the Muslim League considered it as a 'considerable progressive advance' as it had implied that the new constitution would not be imposed on the Muslims against their will.

Excerpted from Making of Pakistan: The Military Perspective, by Dr Noor-ul Haq, Reliance Publishing House, 1997, Rs 395, with the publisher's permission. Readers who wish to buy a copy of this book may write to Reliance Publishing House, 3026/7H, Ranjit Nagar, New Delhi 11 00 08.


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