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Relations between the Muslim league and the Panjab
national unionist party 1935–47
Imran Ali
a
a
Ph.D. student in the institute of Advanced Studies , Australian National University
Published online: 24 Feb 2011.
To cite this article: Imran Ali (1976) Relations between the Muslim league and the Panjab national unionist party 1935–47,
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies: Series 1, 6:1, 51-65
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RELATIONS BETWEEN THE MUSLIM LEAGUE AND
THE PANJAB NATIONAL UNIONIST
PARTY 1935-47
IMRAN ALI
It is difficult to conceive of the establishment of a separate Muslim nation in South
Asia in 1947 without taking into account the profound contribution of the All-India
Muslim League (AIML) to the Pakistan demand. The story of the League in its
negotiations with the British and the Indian National Congress is better known than
its fortunes in the various Indian provinces. It was .a regional impetus —that of the
threatened Muslim minority of the United Provinces —that helped to form an all-
India Muslim political structure, but such an- impetus was not forthcoming from the
Muslim majority provinces, at least not those of north-west India. Yet, until the
League attained power in these provinces it could not effectively promote its demand
for Pakistan. This process was determined by the methods it adopted in its relations
with existing regional parties. This study deals with this process in one such province,
the Panjab, where the League's methods were largely designed to enlist the support
and cooperation of the Panjab National Unionist Party (PNUP), composed of the
representatives of the landed interest that dominated the Panjab Legislative Assembly.
The Issues
The results of the 1937 elections, for which it had made widespread preparations,
showed that the Congress had emerged as a nation-wide organization. It captured 716
out of 1,585 seats and qualified to form ministries in at least six provinces.
1
But the
Congress secured only 5.4 per cent of seats reserved for Indian Muslims, proving that it
had been repudiated by them as their representative.
2
Neither, however, could the
Muslim League claim to represent Muslim "interests", having won only 109 seats in the
provincial legislatures. For the Muslims, therefore, there was an evident lack of an all-
India organization comparable to the Congress. Apprehensive of losing all initiative to
the Hindus, with their greater numbers and more advanced political organization, the
Muslim élite tried to build an all-India structure in the next decade. The emergence of
the AIML under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as the "third party in India"
after the British and the Congress, was the culmination of this process. The 1937 elec-
tions had revealed dramatically that the League's position was weakest in the Muslim
1
"Returns Showing the Results of Elections in
India 1937", Parliamentary Papers [hereafter PP]
1937-38, XXI, Cmd 5589.
2
A. H. Batalwi, Hamari Qaumi Jadd-o-Jihd
(Lahore, Albiyan, 1966), p. 14; Congress secured
26 of the 482 seats reserved for Muslims, and of
these 15 were from the North-west Frontier Pro-
vince (NWFP) and only 11 from the rest of India.
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52 SOUTH ASIA
majority provinces.
3
But within a decade the League had become a formidable power
in these provinces, and its political demands had assumed the inexorable stature that
led to the formation of Pakistan.
For the League the significance of its involvement in provincial politics was equal to,
if not greater than, the negotiations at the central, all-India level with the British and
the Congress. In the wider sense, the League's popularity was related to the growth of
communalism. However, social and political conditions in the Muslim majority pro-
vinces not only influenced, but virtually dictated, the process by which the League
established its power. At the regional level, the manipulation of non-communal
factors, such as class, the existing power structure and its relationship to British rule,
and internecine rivalries, can by no means be discounted; and in the Panjab the
League had to contend with these before it made the Pakistan demand into a mass
movement. The League's own contribution lay in bringing about a communal con-
frontation, but in the process entrenched interests had learnt to manipulate the power
of communal symbols.
These interests were represented by the Unionist Party, which from the 1920s had
been carefully nurtured by the British administration to uphold the power of the
landed élite. The Unionist Party comprised a group within the Panjab legislature
rather than a political organization. Though predominantly Muslim in composition, it
endeavoured to retain a non-communal stance, justified chiefly by the inclusion of
Hindu Jat members from eastern Panjab. As such, it remained the only non-com-
munal rural based party in the Panjab, all other parties, with the exception of the
communalistic Sikh Akalis, being urban based. The Unionists also readily entered into
inter-communal coalitions, as with moderate Sikh and Hindu MLAs after the 1937
elections. The Unionists had emerged as the strongest party in the Panjab legislature
in 1937, securing about 100 out of 186 seats.
4
It was to them that Jinnah's appeal for
an all-India Muslim consensus was directed. Jinnah visualized the League as a party
led by élite and influential Muslims, and thus he placed great importance on some
agreement with the Unionists. League-Unionist relations were, therefore, an integral
element in the growth of Muslim political nationalism in the Panjab.
The transition in Muslim politics in the Panjab between 1935 and 1947 falls into
certain identifiable stages. The Unionists at first refused to cooperate with the League,
resulting in the latter's poor showing in the 1937 elections. This was followed by a
period of formal linkage between the two parties inaugurated by the Sikander-Jinnah
Pact of 1937. Though this Pact helped to give the League an all-India stature, its
repercussions in the Panjab were to place the League in a situation of adversity and the
Unionists in a position of control. It was not until 1944 that the League challenged the
Unionist hold over the Panjab Ministry. This abortive bid, and Unionist resistance to
it, resulted in a complete break that prevented any further reconciliation. The 1946
elections saw a complete reversal of roles, with the League emerging as the undisputed
representative of Panjab Muslims. However, it continued to be deprived of office when
Hindus and Sikhs formed a coalition with the Unionist rump. Bristling with strength,
the League resorted to a non-cooperation movement in early 1947 and succeeded in
bringing down the Coalition Ministry. But at this point Panjab politics were super-
3
Z. H. Zaidi, "Aspects of the Development of
Muslim League Policy 1937-47", The Partition of
India, ed. C. H. Phillips and M. D. Wainwright
(London, Allen & Unwin, 1970), p. 253; in the
NWFP and Sind no League candidates were put
up, in the Panjab only 2 of the 7 League candidates
were successful, and in Bengal the League won 39
of the 117 Muslim seats.
4
The number of Unionist (PNUP) MLAs was
given as 99 in Keesings Contemporary Archives, 21
March 1937; and 101 in Indian Annual Register
(Calcutta) [hereafter IAR] 938, I, 223.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 53
seded by the wider momentum of Partition. These developments will now be examined
more closely.
The 1937 Elections: the League Excluded
In May 1936 Jinnah tried and failed to obtain the support of FazI-i-Husain, the
Unionist leader, for League participation in the forthcoming elections.
5
Earlier over-
tures had not been promising—in January 1936 Husain had refused Jinnah's invitation
to preside over the ensuing AIML session.
6
Jinnah wished to get Muslims all over India
to contest the elections on a common League platform. But Husain refused to agree to
Muslim Unionists standing on League tickets, although Jinnah was willing to allow
them to cooperate with non-Muslim parties in the Assembly.
7
There were several
reasons for Husain's attitude and they were to bedevil the League's efforts to gain a
foothold in the Panjab over the next decade. Husain believed that strong provincial
parties could best tackle the peculiar conditions and problems in each province, and
thus did not want League participation in provincial elections.
8
He was himself re-
organizing the Unionist Party for the elections, and wanted similar parties to emerge
in Sind, the North-West Frontier Province and the United Provinces.
9
Husain was
loyal to the desire of the British—who had a special military and economic stake in the
rural Panjab —to keep the province free from communal dissensions.
10
The distribu-
tion of constituencies was heavily weighted in favour of the rural areas, and the
franchise dominated by the land-owning castes.
n
In the Assembly the landed interests
were brought together in the Unionist Party, which in the 1930s was still unfettered by
the communalist and nationalist notions that had beset the Indian urban bourgeoisie.
Husain's decision not to support a communal party was also guided by the realities
of the Communal Award in the Panjab. Muslims did not have an overall majority in
the Assembly, though they constituted 55 per cent of the population. Even with losses
of 5 to 10 per cent a Muslim party would find itself in a minority. This would make a
coalition necessary, but for a communal party this would be difficult to attain. Husain
contended that the ensuing political instability would give the Governor unwarranted
powers of interference.
12
Moreover, Hindus and Sikhs would also adopt the communal
issue in electioneering, which could undermine support for the non-Muslim Unionists,
such as the "Chhotu Ram Group".
13
A coalition with such elements had been evolved
since the early 1920s, and this Husain wished to retain for the 1937 elections. The
rationale of this doctrine of inter-communal linkages was to confront the League
throughout the next decade, and its negation resulted in the partition of the Panjab.
Another reason for Husain's refusal to cooperate with Jinnah was the internal dis-
sension and factionalism within Muslim Unionists. There were two influential Muslim
5
A. H. Batalwi, Iqbal ke akhiri do sal (Karachi,
Ferozesons, 1961), p. 305.
6 A. Husain, Fazl-i-Husain (Bombay, Longmans
Green, 1946), pp. 306-7.
7 M, Rafique Afzal, Malik Barkat Ali, His Life
and Writings (Lahore, Research Society of Paki-
stan, 1969), p. 35.
8 A. Husain, op. cit., p. 310.
9 Ibid., p. 304.
10 K. B. Sayeed, "The Personality of Jinnah and
his Political Strategy", in Phillips and Wainwright
(eds), op. cit., p. 284.
11 Of 149 territorial seats in the Panjab Legis-
lative Assembly, 130 were rural and 19 urban. This
rural-urban disparity was greater than in the old
Panjab Legislative Council, where of 64 territorial
seats 13 were urban and 51 rural; "Report of the
Committee appointed in Connection with the De-
limitation of Constituencies", PP 1933-36, IX, 55.
12
Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Martial Law sae Martial
Law tak (Lahore, Syed Nur Ahmed, 1966), pp.
174-5.
13 Sir Chhotu Ram (1881-1945), with Fazl-i-
Husain, founded the PNUP in 1923, was leader of
the Party from 1926-36, and Panjab Minister of
Revenue 1937-45. He headed the powerful group
of Hindu Jats from eastern Panjab whose inclusion
in the PNUP was its chief justification for calling
itself a non-communal party: S. P. Sen (ed.), Dic-
tionary of National Biography (Calcutta, Institute
of Historical Studies, 1972), I, 309-11; Pioneer
(Lucknow), 10 Jan. 1945.
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54 SOUTH ASIA
groups in the old Panjab Council: the Noon-Tiwana and the Daultana factions.
14
Their rivalry centred on the possession of Ministerial positions. Intrigues were inces-
sant and periodically an open confrontation was threatened.
15
It was usually left to
Husain to find a compromise and thus retain the two groups under his leadership.
16
By
1936 Husain's position itself was threatened by the efforts of the Daultana group to
replace him by Sikander Hyat Khan. Sikander was only conciliated after being assured
of succession to Unionist leadership at Husain's impending death, and by the con-
venient removal of his rival, Feroze Khan Noon, to Britain as High Commissioner.
17
Understandably, because the League would inevitably involve itself in Muslim fac-
tionalism, and institutionalize it along communal and non-communal lines, the
Unionist leadership wished to keep it out of Panjab politics. In fact, even within the
Unionist Party there was a threatened combination of Muslim factionalism and
comrnunalism in the advocacy, by Noon amongst others, of a purely Muslim rather
than a non-communal party.
18
It will be seen that it was a cleavage along these very
lines in the 1940s that vitally determined the fortunes of the League in the Panjab.
Frustrated in his efforts to gain influence over the Muslim landed élite, Jinnah
sought electoral alliances with the Majlis-i-Ahrar
19
and the Majlis-i-Ittehad-i-Millat,
80
representing the urban middle classes. Had such links been consolidated, the League
would perhaps have been committed to an urban orientation, but developments were
to prove otherwise. For one, the Ahrars and Millat decided to contest the elections on
their own.
21
This left Jinnah no choice but to confer League tickets on the small group
of urbanités which had constituted itself into the Panjab Muslim League (PML), with
the poet Muhammed Iqbal as President, Malik Barkat AM and Khalifa Shuja-ud-Din
as Vice-Presidents, and Ghulam Rasul Khan as Secretary. The PML had little
political stature and virtually no following, nor any opportunity to build an organiza-
tion before the elections. As a result only seven candidates contested and two were
14
The Noon and Tiwana Maliks were large
landholders in the north-west Panjab and were
based in Shahpur District: for the history of their
principal families see L. H. Griffin and C. F.
Massy, Chiefs and Families of Note in the Punjab
(Lahore Govt. Printing Press, 1940), II 191-20,
223-35. The Daultana group was led by Chaudhry
Shahab-ud-Din, Mian Ahmed Yar Khan Daultana
(these two were related and belong to the Joiya tribe
of Multan District), Nawab Muzaffar Khan and
Sikander Hyat Khan (1892 -1942) (the last two were
related and belonged to the Khattar tribe of Attock
District) for their family history see ibid., pp.
332-6).
15 G. A. Khan, op. cit., pp. 60-71, 161; A.
Husain, op. cit., pp. 269-71, 324.
16 Fazl-i-Husain (1887-1936) was a lawyer and a
self-made man. Starting as an urban politician, he
came to champion the cause of the rural élite
through the PNUP. For assessments of his political
career see Afzal, op. cit., pp. 34-5; Batalwi, Iqbal
ke . . ., pp. 270-1; S. A. Vahid, Studies in Iqbal
(Lahore, Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, 1967), p.
275. His only biography is written by his son: A.
Husain, op. cit.
17 G. A. Khan, op. cit., pp. 158-60; A. Husain,
op. cit., pp. 322-37; Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., pp.
288-93. For Feroze Khan Noon's family history see
Griffin and Massy, op. cit., II, 232-5. Noon is rare
amongst Panjabi politicians for having attempted
an autobiography, but its informality, lack of
detail and unmethodical treatment of issues mar its
value: see F. K. Noon, From Memory (Lahore,
Ferozesons, 1969). The Noon family was leased
extensive areas of land by the British in Shahpur
District in the nineteenth century, and these were
later purchased at concessionary terms. They also
owned an inundation canal and obtained a
stud-farm and other grants in the Panjab Canal
Colonies.
18
A. Husain, op. cit., p. 306.
19
The Majlis-i-Ahrar was formed in 1930 and
cooperated closely with the Congress in the Civil
Disobedience Movements. It was intitially not a
communal party, but tended increasingly towards
communalisrn in the 1930s. By the early 1940s the
Ahrars were in a state of decay, with the more con-
servative elements joining the Muslim League: see
W. C. Smith, Modern Islam, in India (Lahore,
Minerva Books, 1943), pp. 260-4.
2 0
The Majlis-i-Ittehad-i-Millat was formed in
February 1936 under the leadership of Maulana
Zafar Ali Khan. It grew out of the Shahidganj agi-
tation, a dispute between Muslims and Sikhs over a
religious site: see Batalwi, Iqhalke . . ., pp. 317-18.
21 Ibid., pp. 320-1, 335-7; the Millat withdrew in
June 1936 on the grounds that the League was not
demanding complete independence, and decided
to contest the elections on the Shahidganj issue;
and the Ahrars withdrew by Sept. 1936 as their
hopes that the League had been promised vast
sums of money for the elections by Bombay traders
and Oudh talukdars turned out to be without
foundation.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 55
elected, Malik Barkat Ali and Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, of whom, the latter immedi-
ately joined the Unionist Party and obtained a Parliamentary Secretaryship.
82
Such
was the consequence of the Unionist refusal to cooperate with the League. However,
the urban group, enthusiastic about this opportunity of championing the League
cause, had decided to embark on a programme of opening League branches and
spreading its organization over the province.
23
Had such activity continued, it is con-
ceivable that the PML would have politicized the Muslim masses along communal
lines. It might thereby have created a political front not dependent on party strength
in the legislature, which was controlled by the landed interests. But it was not destined
that the role of the League in the Panjab should proceed on this basis.
The Sikander-Jinnah Pact, 1937
In 1937 Jinnah made fresh overtures to the entrenched Unionists in an effort to
awaken them to the cause of Indian Muslims. As a consequence, Sikander Hyat Khan,
the Panjab Premier, attended the AIML session at Lucknow in October 1937, and
concluded an agreement with Jinnah commonly called the Sikander-Jinnah Pact,
which promised to bring Muslim Unionists into the League. By most interpreters,
Sikander's presence at Lucknow together with that of Fazlul Haq of Bengal is regarded
as a great advance for the League, giving it the support of the two largest Muslim
provinces and hence an all-India stature.
24
Certainly, there appeared to have been, a
significant transformation in the AIML's position since early 1937, when Jinnah was
virtually in the political wilderness. But in emphasizing these gains, proper recognition
has not been given to the effects on the League at the provincial level, for in the
Panjab regional politics imposed their own weight in curtailing the spread of League
influence. This contradiction can be explained by examining Sikander's motives in
reaching this agreement with the AIML.
It has commonly been asserted that the fervour of the Lucknow session was mainly
stimulated by the Muslim reaction to Congress politics. However, it is doubtful that
fear of Congress power motivated Muslim Unionists to seek political links with the
AIML. The organizational and financial resources of the Congress could be a threat to
the inter-communal Unionist coalition. But there was no real prospect of the loss of
minority support for the Ministry in the Assembly.
25
Sikander in 1937 was publically
critical of Congress, especially of its policy towards the minorities.
26
However, the real
reason for this criticism was not concern for Muslims, but an effort to support the
British position against Congress on the office acceptance issue. " Also the prospect of
urban Muslims forming a common front with Congress did not materialize. They were
in fact becoming more comrnunalistic, as indicated bv the Shahideani agitation.
28
2 2
Afzal, op. cit., pp. 36-7; G. A. Khan, op. cit.,
p. 189.
23 Afzal, op. cit., pp. 29-43; Vahid, op. cit., p.
29; Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah (Lahore, S. M. Ash-
raf, 1956), pp. 29-30; Chief Secretary's Report
[hereafter CSR] for second half of November 1937,
incorporated in Panjab Governor's Reports (here-
after PGR), India Office Library and Records L/P
&J/5. Since holdings at the India Office of depart-
mental proceedings of the Panjab Government do
not continue after 1936, the PGRs are the most im-
portant source of official information on Panjab
politics reaching the India Office for the 1935-47
period. It is largely from the PGRs that material on
political conditions in the Panjab is obtained in N.
Mansergh (ed.), Constitutional Relations between
Britain and India: The Transfer of Power 1942-7
(London, HMSO, 1970- ), I- . Their value is
further enhanced by the restriction on research on
post-1940 material in Pakistan.
2 4
See Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman, Pathway to
Pakistan (Lahore, Longmans Green, 1961), p. 171;
Zaidi, op. cit., p. 259; P. Moon, Divide and Quit
(London, Chatto & Windus, 1964), p. 17.
25 IAR 1938, II, 224; in 1937-38 about 120
MLAs were consistently voting with the Ministry,
including two-fifths of the Hindus and about half
the Sikh MLAs.
26 See Sikander's speech to a deputation of the
All-India Kshatri Conference: PGR, 22 May 1937.
2 7
See Sikander's speech in the Panjab Assembly
on the office acceptance issue: PGR, 8 May 1937.
28 IAR 1937, I, 288-9; for the participation of
the Ahrars and Millat in the Shahidganj agitation,
see PGR, Jan.-Dec. 1937; Jan.-June 1938.
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56 SOUTH ASIA
Sikander, in keeping with the Unionist tradition, was a non-communal politician,
and in associating with Muslim nationalism he risked the weakening of his coalition
with non-Muslims and his campaign against communalism. In attending the AIML
session it seems that, rather than providing leadership to Muslim communal con-
sciousness, Sikander wished to immobilize it at its origin. He rightly perceived the
League as potentially the most virulent exploiter of the communal issue, and the
Panjab Muslim League from its urban base was already thus orientated.
29
He shared
Fazl-i-Husain's fear of the League as a Muslim party which might erode Unionist ranks
or attract a rival faction. Sikander cleverly pre-empted such a development and main-
tained the status quo by cooperating with the League himself,
30
holding that there
were no differences of policy with it on all-India issues, providing Jinnah respected the
non-communal composition of the Unionist Party.
31
Muslim Unionists, therefore,
attended the Lucknow session to try and reduce the spread of communalism in the
Panjab, and as such their intentions were negative in nature and hostile to the role of
the League.
This became clear from statements by Unionist leaders on their return from Luck-
now. The Panjab was astir with rumours that Sikander had' made a complete obeis-
ance to Jinnah and would allow the Unionists to be absorbed by the League, or that he
would bring the PML under his control.
32
Especially critical were the Congress and the
Akali Sikhs who wished to discredit the Unionist Party's non-communal stance. The
Unionists, however, emphatically stated that the Pact would have no effect on the
existing composition of parties in the Assembly, though Muslim Unionists would be
advised to obtain League membership. But in future elections League candidates
would have to join the Unionists in the Assembly.
33
This could be regarded as contrary
to the wording and spirit of the Sikander-Jinnah Pact as it did not encompass the
establishment of a League Party in the Assembly.
34
Thus the Unionists were quick to
dispel any notions of an accommodation with Muslim communalism.
These views were not shared by the urban PML group. The Unionists had opposed
the PML tooth and nail in the 1937 elections and the antagonism had continued, with
the Ministry being frequently attacked at League meetings. The PML President,
Iqbal, had twice asked Jinnah to remove the 28 Unionists from the AIML Council
because of their anti-League stand; but on both occasions Jinnah had refused.
35
Therefore, the initiative for the Sikander-Jinnah Pact certainly did not come from the
PML; rather the Pact added a new source of friction to the Panjab League's already
strained relations with the Unionist Party. The PML office-bearers interpreted the
Pact as virtually merging the Muslim Unionists into the League, which would now be
their party in the Assembly.
36
These ambitious claims by the PML were perhaps made
because it was afraid of being side-tracked by the new PNUP-AIML linkage. They
29 Batalwi, Iqbal he . . ., pp. 478-9.
30 Sikander had made clear to the Panjab
Governor that no change in the political balance
was intended; "His Hindu and Sikh colleagues are,
I think, a little uneasy but not seriously perturbed .
. . . On the other hand, his action is undoubtedly
thoroughly approved by his Muslim supporters,
and the danger of any split in the Muslim ranks has
been removed for some time": PGR, 21 Oct. 1937.
31 Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 476-7.
32 PGR, 21 Oct. 19S7; Afzal, op. cit., p. 43.
33 Statement by Sikander Hyat in Batalwi, Iq bal
ke . . ., p. 492.
34 The text of the Sikander-Jinnah Pact is repro-
duced in Afzal, op. cit., p. 40 n.
35 Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah, pp. 26-7; Batalwi,
Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 483-4.
36 See statements of PML Office Bearers;
Batalwi, Iq bal ke. . ., pp. 504-9. Batalwi was Joint
Secretary of the PML, and his book on Iqbal pro-
vides an intimate though partisan account of
politics in these years. It also has a useful collection
of statements of political leaders and parties, and
correspondence between various leaders. The valu-
able Muslim League and Quaid-i-Azam papers are
lying largely unsifted in Islamabad, and access to
all but a highly selective portion is still not possible.
A definitive history of modern Muslim politics must
await the opening of these papers for research.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 57
could rely neither on Jinnah's support nor on any factional splits within the Unionists.
Iqbal and other PML leaders warned Jinnah that Sikander wished to minimize the
League's influence in the Panjab, and it was they rather than the Unionists who were
genuine League workers and were busy establishing its branches.
37
But Jinnah refused
to embroil himself in the controversy, displaying cold indifference towards the men
whose help he had solicited for the 1937 elections.
38
Jinnah's attitude demonstrated
that the price of obtaining Unionist cooperation at the all-India level was to concede to
them all initiative in Panjab politics.
The League Beleaguered: 1937-42
As it transpired the PML had good cause for anxiety. Under the Sikander-Jinnah
Pact, Muslim Unionists were to join the League, but even by mid-1938 there was not a
single instance of this.
39
Perhaps this was due to the alarm caused by the PML's claim
of the virtual negation of the PNUP, but it nevertheless indicated the real motives of
the Unionists. Sikander wished first to gain control of the PML, and he now endeav-
oured to remove its office-bearers. He complained to Iqbal that he found it difficult to
work with the PML Secretary, Ghulam Rasul, and suggested his replacement by his
own nominee, Nawabzada Khurshid Ali Khan, but Iqbal refused.
40
However, by
March 1938 Sikander achieved a bigger coup. Iqbal, who was fatally ill, was himself
replaced as President of the PML by Nawab Shahnawaz Khan of Mamdot, a pillar of
the Unionist Party and the largest landowner in the Panjab. The PML was by this time
in a state of financial collapse through lack of patronage, and Mamdot succeeded in
convincing some of its leaders that his appointment would assure financial viability.
41
Thus Iqbal, the man who is reputed to be the greatest philosopher-poet amongst
modern Indian Muslims, was in the end ignored and discarded by Jinnah, spurned by
the Unionists, and even betrayed by his own close associates.
With a Unionist as the PML President, Sikander acquired a vital source of manipu-
lation. He could now start turning the key that he hoped would lock the League out of
the Panjab. A first step was the cancellation of Lahore as the venue for the 1938 AIML
session. Iqbal had been very eager for this as a means of spreading League popularity,
and Jinnah had been sympathetic to it.
42
However, Mamdot strongly protested that it
would increase communal friction, and Jinnah had no choice but to shift the venue to
Calcutta.
43
League policy on Shahidganj shows that in 1938 Sikander had also begun
to influence AIML decisions. At Lucknow the AIML had strongly condemned the
Panjab Government's policy on Shahidganj,
44
indicating a readiness to use the issue
for an incursion into communal politics in the Panjab. However, at Calcutta the
AIML decided against a non-cooperation movement, assured the Panjab Government
of its assistance in bringing about a settlement, and expressed confidence in Sikander's
37 Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah, pp. 41-2; Batalwi,
Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 511-28.
38 Jinnah to Barkat Ali, 20 Nov. 1987, in G.
Allana (ed.), Pakistan Movement: Historic Docu-
ments (Karachi, Paradise Agency, 1968), pp.
167-8.
39 Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., p. 623; PGR, 12 Feb.
1938: many Unionists had signed League forms,
but these were not accepted since they all attached
the proviso that membership was subject to the
Sikander-Jinnah Pact.
40 Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 523-4. For
Khurshid Ali Khan's family history see Griffin and
Massy, op. cit., II, 529-36.
41 Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . . , pp. 604-5, 613. For the
family history of Mamdot (1883-1942) see Griffin
and Massy, op. cit., I, 229-33. Mamdot's estate and
jagir extended to over 300 villages and the owner-
ship of six inundation canals in Firozpur District;
and Canal Colony land purchased at auctions in
Lyallpur and Montgomery Districts.
42 Letters of Iqbal to Jinnah, pp. 26-7; Vahid,
op. cit., p. 298; Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., p. 593.
43 Batalwi, Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 613-7.
4 4
S. S. Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan,
All-India Muslim League Documents: 1906-1947
(Karachi, National Publ. House, 1970), p. 278;
PGR, 21 Oct. 1937: the AIML resolution on
Shahidganj was passed after Sikander had left
Lucknow.
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58 SOUTH ASIA
policy.
45
With the gifted hand of a master, Sikander now applied the finishing touches
to the PML.
His first major move was to obtain the disaffiliation of the Panjab League from its
parent body.
45
By 15 March 1938 provincial Leagues had to submit a full account of
their branches and office-bearers for affiliation to the AIML. At this time also, they
had to submit names of members to the AIML Council, for which the PML sent a list
of 90 names. No Unionists were included as none had accepted League membership.
Thus Sikander was suddenly threatened with a complete loss of representation in the
League Council. The AIML had no legal right to refuse election of these 90 nominees.
The only way out was to reject the applications for affiliation by the PML, and this was
resorted to on grounds of discrepancies between the PML and the AIML constitutions.
It was alleged that Liaquat Ali Khan was throughout sympathetic to Sikander, and
was instrumental in obtaining disaffiliation. Liaquat perhaps could not afford to
antagonize the Sikander Ministry, as he held much land in eastern Panjab and his
brother was a Unionist MLA. The final denouement for the old PML came at the
Calcutta session in April 1938. Jinnah resolved that the Panjab League should be con-
stituted anew, and a 35-member organizing committee was established representing
both factions. But Sikander's group got a strong majority with 25 supporters on the
committee, with the old PML getting only 10.
47
The Unionists had now gained full control over the PML in what was yet another
expression in Panjab politics of the dominance of the landed over the bourgeois
element. Sikander could now brand the old PML as traitors in the League camp, and
made it clear that he would not tolerate constant interference in Panjab affairs, on
pain of withdrawing his support for the League.
48
Jinnah was not prepared for a
breach with the Unionists, and gave Sikander complete freedom of action in the
Panjab. This situation did not change substantially till Sikander's death in late 1942.
Efforts by the old PML leaders to discuss in the AIML Council the vitiated state of the
League in the Panjab made little headway.
49
Nor were their efforts to open new
League branches successful, for Sikander would not countenance their recognition by
the AIML, and had them rejected.
50
Significantly, Sikander was using AIML bodies,
such as the Council and special committees t o suppress such initiatives. Meanwhile,
the new PML leadership under Mamdot continued to impress upon Jinnah their soli-
darity with Sikander.
51
Jinnah had certainly allowed himself to be outmanoeuvred by Sikander, a conse-
quence perhaps of his desperate need for influential support in 1937. Jinnah himself
lacked an intimate knowledge of Panjab politics, and it is unlikely that any of his close
associates counselled him against Sikander. Also, in a province where the rural élites
had overwhelming power, it was not unnatural that the League should play a sub-
ordinate role to the Unionists in the initial years. The League's communal message
appealed to urban Muslims, as shown by their enthusiasm and large attendance at its
Lahore session in March 1940. But the Unionists prevented the spread of this con-
sciousness into the countryside by suppressing League organization — up to 1942 not
even an annual session of the PML was held. Men like Barkat Ali, excluded from the
PML, helped to organize the Panjab Muslim Students'Federation, and in 1941 the
Lvallour Pakistan Conference.
52
However, without the PML's aid these could not serve
45 Pirzada, op. cit., pp. 296-8; PGR, 10 May
1938.
46 Information on this subject is from Batalwi,
Iqbal ke . . ., pp. 606-7, 618, 623-9.
47 Batalwi, Hamari Qaumi Jadd-o-Jihd, pp.
16-18.
4 8 IAR 1938, II, 346-7.
49 Ibid., 1939, I, 374-5; II, 348.
50 Khaliquzzaman, op. cit., pp. 228-9, 235.
5 1 IAR 1941, II, 12-13.
52 Ibid., pp. 112-35.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 59
as an organizational base for Muslim communalism. In this context Sikander's resig-
nation from the National Defence Council cannot be regarded as a concession to
Jinnah, but rather as a defensive measure calculated to preserve the situation and
avoid an open break. His response differed from Fazlul Haq's, who had far less
influence over the Bengal League and therefore had less to lose.
53
However, Sikander's
credibility was being increasingly questioned. His whole-hearted support for the war
effort appeared quite incongruent with the values of nationalism. Sikander's Federal
Scheme of 1939, based firmly on the principle of provincial autonomy, was in direct
conflict with the League's demand for a separate Muslim nation. Jinnah publically
criticized the Scheme in 1942, whilst Sikander openly opposed the "Pakistan"
demand.
54
Jinnah had finally realized his mistake in entrusting the PML to Sikander,
and in July 1942 he was removed from the AIML Working Committee. But none of
these developments caused a radical departure from the established League-Unionist
The League-Unionist Clash of 1944
However, two new factors emerged after 1940 which were to contribute to a funda-
mental change in the balance of Panjab politics: the new life breathed into the League
by the "Pakistan" demand, and mortality amongst political leaders of the 1930s. The
right of self-determination for the Muslim "nation" was directed particularly at the
Muslim-majority provinces, which could now be made to hope for complete separation
from Hindu India. The League's demand armed it after 1940 with a positive doctrine
that was effectively to regenerate and exploit the religious fervour of Indian Muslims.
This implied that provincial politics were to be radically affected by the Pakistan
movement, and this could not fail to alter the pattern of relations between the League
and Unionists, and tip the balance in favour of the former. After Sikander's death it
was on the strength of this resurgent Muslim nationalism that the League came into
conflict with the Unionist Ministry. But this clash was to be only outwardly one of
ideologies. That the League was composed of the most reactionary elements was clear
in the Panjab, for Jinnah had preferred linkages with the landed gentry to links with
the rural and urban masses or even the urban bourgeoisie. By manipulating national
and communal symbols, this landed élite began to legitimize its control over the Paki-
stan movement. With the growth of the League's influence in the Panjab in the 1940s,
the class basis of its leadership did not change. In fact, during these years the Unionist
Party ceased—and the League began — to be the caucus of the Muslim élite, for a large
section broke its Unionist links and assumed leadership of the PML.
This development was facilitated by the second vital change in Panjab politics after
1940: the passing of the old generation. Between 1940 and 1943 virtually all the more
prominent Unionist leaders died — Ahmed Daultana, Sunder Singh Majithia, Shahna-
waz Khan Mamdot and Sikander Hyat. Only Chhotu Ram was alive during the
League-Unionist clash in 1944, and he died in early 1945. These deaths were serious
blows to the inter-communal linkage and to unity amongst Muslim Unionists. The
former proved to be the lesser evil. After Majithia's death, Akali criticism of the
Unionists grew very severe,
55
but an agreement was reached and Baldev Singh entered
53 Fazlul Haq resigned from the National
Defence Council, and also from the AIML Council
and Working Committee as a protest against Jin-
nah's arbitrary use of power: ibid., p. 18.
54 PGR, 28 Nov. 1942; Keesings Contemporary
Archives, 22 Feb.-1 Mar. 1941, 4480A; A. H. Ispa-
hani, Quaid-i-Azam as I Knew H m (Karachi,
Rota Printing Agency, 1968), pp. 56-8; G. A.
Khan, op. cit., pp. 202-3.
55 PGR, 21 Oct. 1941; 22 Nov. 1941; for the
family history of Majithia (1872-1941) see Griffin
and Massy, op. cit., I, 413-20.
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60 SOUTH ASIA
the Cabinet.
56
After Chhotu Ram's death there was a threatened split amongst Hindu
Jats, but this was resolved by their unanimous choice of Tika Ram for the Cabinet.
57
Dissensions within the Muslim Unionists proved more serious and irreparable than the
inter-communal tensions; and bore striking similarities to the factionalism before
1937. Sikander had conciliated the Noon-Tiwana group in 1937 by taking Khizr Hyat
Khan Tiwana into the Cabinet.
58
When Khizr himself became Premier in 1943 the
new generation of Unionists had no experience of the years of cooperation that,
despite all the intrigues, had kept their predecessors together. Shaukat Hyat Khan,
Mumtaz Daultana and Iftikhar Husain Khan of Mamdot,
59
who had assumed leader-
ship of the Panjab Muslim League, were unable to reach a compromise with Khizr.
One reason for this was the growing confidence in the League, which had recently
formed Ministries in Bengal, Sind and NWFP.
60
A Unionist faction could now afford
to opt for the League and break with the Unionist Party. However, one ubiquitous
tendency remained — the thirst for office amongst Panjab politicians — and this caused
the League, after seven years of passivity, to challenge Khizr's Ministry.
After Sikander Hyat's death, Jinnah, at the PML's urging, attempted to assume
greater control over Panjab affairs. He expressed anger at not being consulted on the
appointment of a League member, Khizr Hyat, as Premier.
61
Expressing dissatisfac-
tion with the existing situation, the AIML Council told Khizr to resuscitate the League
in the Panjab Assembly and bring the Unionists under its control.
62
Khizr attempted
to preserve the status quo by upholding the Sikander-Jinnah Pact, which he inter-
preted as excluding the League from interference in Panjab's internal politics.
63
He
wished to maintain his inter-communal Ministry, and the British wanted a stable
government in the Panjab for the war effort, on which the League's policy was
regarded as indeterminate and unreliable.
64
But there were various indications of the
League's bid for greater intervention. During 1943 there was a noticeable increase in
League organization and political activity,
65
accompanied by rumours of a split in
Unionist ranks.
66
There was renewed friction between Khizr and the PML leadership,
which constantly protested to Jinnah about the lack of vitality in the League Assembly
Party, and asked for his intercession.
67
56
This was a consequence of the Sikander -
Baldev Agreement: PGR, 26 May 1942; IAR 1940,
I, 93. For a discussion of Sikh politics in this period
see Stephen Oren, "The Sikhs, Congress, and the
Unionists in British Punjab, 1937-1945", Modern
Asian Studies, VIII no. 3 (July 1974), 397-419; and
B. R. Nayar, Minority Politics in the Punjab
(Princeton, PUP, 1966), pp. 75-97.
57 Pioneer, 1945: 15, 28 Jan.
58 From amongst his own supporters, Sikander
had made Ahmed Daultana Chief Parliamentary
Secretary, and Chaudhry Shahab-ud-Din Speaker
of the Assembly. The Daultana family obtained
land from the British, first as leasehold and then
under proprietary rights at concessionary terms, in
the Multan District in the nineteenth century.
They also owned an inundation canal, and
obtained compensation in Colony land and cash
when it was incorporated into the Sutlej Valley
Project after 1925.
For Khizr Tiwana's family history see Griffin and
Massy, op. cit., II, 191-210. The Tiwana family
also obtained leasehold and then proprietary rights
in land granted by the British in Shahpur District,
where they also owned several inundation canals.
They penetrated extensively into the Canal
Colonies through auction purchases, and landed
gentry and stud-farm grants.
Significantly, Noon, Mamdot, Daultana and
Tiwana were all not merely landlords but also
water-lords, and this no doubt enhanced their
political influence and economic power. The
largest water-lords in the Panjan, by far, were its
British rulers, and the political control they thus
obtained is indicated by the absence of any serious
nationalist challenge virtually till 1947.
5 9
These three men were the sons respectively of
Sikander Hyat, Ahmed Daultana and Shahnawaz
Mamdot.
60 IAR 1944, 1, 223; PGR, 12 May 1943; 22 Aug.
1943.
61 PGR, 15 March 1943.
62 Ibid.; IAR, 1943, I, 277-8.
63 G. A. Khan, op. at., p. 221.
64 IAR 1944, I, 218-21, 225-6.
65 PGR: CSR for 2nd 1/2 of March 1943; CSR for
2nd 1/2 July 1943.
66 PGR: CSR for 1st 1/2 May 1943; CSR for 2nd
1/2 June 1943; CSR for 1st 1/2 Aug. 1943; CSR for
1st 1/2 Sept. 1943; PGR, 6 July 1943.
67 G. A. Khan, op. cit., pp. 222-3.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 61
Jinnah's response to these developments was to assess the political situation in the
Panjab. He sent three committees to Lahore in late 1943 and early 1944 to probe the
chances of forming a League Ministry, but they failed to elicit Khizr's cooperation.
68
Finally, in March 1944, Jinnafa himself arrived in Lahore to conduct negotiations with
Khizr. On the grounds that Unionist MLAs had previously signed League membership
forms, Jfinnah held that the League rather than the Unionist Party formed the
coalition Ministry with non-Muslims, and that even its name be changed to "Muslim
League Coalition Party".
69
Khizr rejected these demands, stressing the non-communal
nature of the Unionist Party whose relations with the League were strictly subject to
the Sikander-Jinnah Pact.
70
Jinnah publically ridiculed Khizr's interpretation of the
Pact, and declared that he wanted to kill the very name "Unionist".
71
With this the
Khizr-Jinnah negotiations broke down completely. During May Khizr refused to relent
to further League pressure, and with no other option left he was finally expelled from
its membership. Thus the League's efforts to gain control of the Ministry were unsuc-
cessful, and resulted in a complete breach with the Unionists. There was now no
longer the pretence of dual membership of the League and the Unionist Party; and a
distinct League Party, which sat in opposition to the Ministry, was constituted in the
Assembly.
In its efforts to browbeat the Ministry, the League had claimed that Unionists
ceased to belong to the PNUP when they obtained formal membership of the
League.
72
In reality, under Sikander Muslim MLAs had throughout remained loyal to
the Ministry, and under Khizr it is doubtful if the majority would have risked opposing
the Ministry.
73
Even throughout 1944 the League could count on the support of no
more than a third of the Muslim members.
74
Mamdot and his followers undoubtedly
gave Jinnah a misleading impression of the extent of their support, and by using the
League as their vehicle in what was essentially a factional struggle within the Unionist
Party, involved Jinnah in an unsuccessful and embarrassing encounter with Khizr.
The PML in 1944 did not have the organizational capacity to challenge the Ministry
with a non-cooperation movement. It was further weakened by internal dissensions
caused by resistance from older PML groups to the yet fledgling leadership of con-
verted Unionists like Mamdot and Daultana.
75
Also, the British, the non-Muslim
Ministers and the non-Muslim press stood solidly by Khizr.
76
The breach between the
Unionist Party and the League was permanent, and was to have adverse consequences
for the latter's all-India image. At the Simla Conference in 1945, Unionist insistence
on a non-League member from the Panjab for the Viceroy's Executive Council was the
chief failing in the League's claim to be the sole representative of Indian Muslims.
77
The events of 1944 crystallized past trends and showed the way to future ones. Well
before it made a serious challenge for Ministerial power, PML leadership had already
68 PGR, 8 Dec. 1943: CSR for 1st 1/2 Feb. 1944;
the three committees were the League Election
Enquiry Committee, the Committee of Action and
a Committee to examine the PML Constitution.
69 IAR 1944, I, 217-21) Jamil-ud-Din Ahmed
(ed.), Historic Documents of the Muslim Freedom
Movement (Lahore, Publishers United, 1970), pp.
479-82.
70 IAR 1944, I, 220-1.
71 Ibid., p. 222.
72 Ibid., p. 231.
7 3 PGR, CSR for 1st 1/2 Sept. 1943.
74 PGR, 24 June 1944; Pioneer, 5 Dec. 1944;
both sources gives the strength of the Muslim
League Assembly Party at 26 MLA's. Ex-Unionist
politicians in Pakistan are normally not forth-
coming with their private papers, perhaps owing to
their fear of being marked as "collaborators". This
has restricted insight into aspects of Panjab
politics, such as intra-party factionalism and indi-
vidual considerations in the conversion of Unionists
to Muslim nationalists.
7 5
E.g., Mamdot had much difficulty in con-
trolling the Lahore City Muslim League: see Afzal,
op. cit., p. 60; PGR, CSR for 2nd 1/2 June 1943;
CSR for 1st 1/2 Aug. 1943.
76 IAR 1944, I 225-8.
7 7
See Khizr Hyat's Statement on the Simla Con-
ference: Pioneer, 17 July 1945.
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62 SOUTH ASIA
passed to the landed élite. Shahnawaz Marndot's personal allegiance to Sikander had
ensured that this would not split the Unionists. In fact, the League in the Panjab
Assembly had no separate decision- and policy-making structure, but subscribed to
that of the Unionist coalition, arrived at in common with non-Muslim MLAs. This
meant that the League Assembly Party had a paper rather than a real existence. From
1937 to 1940 this did not create tension, as League policy was too indeterminate to
require a separate parliamentary identity. But after the Pakistan resolution this
position was fundamentally changed. The League's role was now no longer to placate
Ministerial power but to attain Pakistan; and for this, determined support from
League parties in provincial legislatures was essential. But Khizr, the new Premier,
refused to allow Muslim MLAs to be controlled by the League Parliamentary Board,
thus frustrating League efforts to formulate policies in the Assembly independent of
the inter-communal linkage. This was one reason for the 1944 clash: the other was the
choice of Khizr as Premier. Owing to factionalism and rivalry amongst the largest
landlords, the British had from the earliest found it convenient to bestow Unionist
leadership on men whose personal power did not come from land —Fazl-i-Husain and
Sikander Hyat (who came from an eminent landed family but was not himself a large
proprietor). In choosing Khizr they made a strategic mistake by departing from this
tradition and upsetting the factional balance, thus inducing men like Iftikhar Mam-
dot and Mumtaz Daultana to seek power through the League and the Pakistan
demand. This breakaway could have proved abortive, for in the Assembly up to
mid-1945 the League had only about twenty-five adherents, and even suffered some
desertions to the Ministry. However, the announcement of elections for 1946 caused a
dramatic reversal, for it brought into further prominence the prospect of national
independence and with it the vital need to resolve the communal problem. The
League alone appeared to Muslims to be able to tackle these issues, and Muslim
politicians realized that the future lay with it rather than the Unionist Party. The
desertion of Muslim Unionists to the League became a common feature in the latter
half of 1945, and for the elections there was complete identification of the League with
the landed élite. Thus the situation before independence was the product of a complex
interaction of communalization, factionalism and nationalism, leading to the consoli-
dation of power by the dominant classes.
The Complete Break: 1945-47
In the long run the clash of 1944 proved a blessing in disguise for the PML. It was
now independent of the Unionist Party's control, and could concentrate on populariz-
ing the Pakistan demand and expanding its organization, to which the prospect of
elections in the winter of 1945-6 added a further stimulus.
78
The Muslim League
National Guard, the Muslim Students' Federation and the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam
also served as platforms for the League, whilst as a counterpoise the Unionists revived
the Zamindara League. During 1945 efforts were made at League-Unionist reconcili-
ation, but none of these came to anything, for the League demanded a complete
surrender and the Unionists wanted a reversal to the pre-1943 situation.
79
The
League's failure to reconcile the Unionists was only one aspect of its isolation in 1945.
78 JAR 1944, I, 232-3; PGR: CSR for 2nd 1/2 May
1944; CSR for 1st 1/2 Nov. 1945; CSR for 1st 1/2
Dec. 1945; Pioneer, 20 Oct. 1944; 29 Dec. 1944; 30
Jan. 1945.
79 Pioneer, 1945: 16 Jan.; 2 July; 19, 24, 28, 30
Sept.; 1 Oct.; Panjab politicians like Abdul Haye,
the Minister of Education, and F. K. Noon, tried to
initiate a rapprochement and further efforts were
made at the Simla Conference.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANjAB
63
Equally unsuccessful were its efforts to reach a settlement with the Congress and the
Akali Sikhs.
80
The League had fundamental differences with the other parties, due to
its campaign for Pakistan. On the other hand, the traditional Unionist suspicion of
Congress was disappearing,
81
whilst the Sikander-Baldev Pact already provided for co-
operation with the Akalis. These trends not only strengthened the non-communal
spirit of the Panjab Ministry, but also anticipated political allegiances after the 1946
elections.
The League and Unionists contested virtually all the Muslim constituencies in the
elections. The rivalry of the 1937 elections was revived on a much larger scale, and the
concord of the intervening years firmly set aside. Because the vital issue of the Pakistan
demand was at stake, there was a profusion of religious symbolism, in the League's
election campaign. The power of mosques and ulema and the influence of the Muslim
bureaucracy were employed to the full.
82
The Unionists harnessed administrative
resources, land grants and War-Front Funds for their campaign. The election results
showed which of the two factors, the religious or the governmental, was the more
potent. The League emerged with seventy-five Muslim seats and the Unionists with
only thirteen.
83
This transition, overtly caused by the Pakistan issue, had a strong
underlying continuity: the Muslim landed élite had not been displaced but had joined
the League.
84
Though it was the largest party in the new legislature, the League's ambition to
form a Ministry was to be defeated by the exigencies of the Communal Award. It did
not have an absolute majority, and a coalition was necessary, for which negotiations
took place at a hectic pace between 25 February and 6 March 1946. Having aban-
doned the politics of compromise prior to the elections, the League now found itself
the victim of its own extremism. There does not appear to have been a serious
initiative for a League-Unionist settlement, so wide was the breach between them. The
League tried for a coalition with the Akalis and the Congress, but these efforts were
unsuccessful. The Akalis, already being enticed away by Congress,
85
were unable to
obtain from the PML the promise of autonomy or independence as a condition for
accepting Pakistan.
86
A League-Congress compromise came unstuck because the
League insisted that no Congressite Muslim be nominated to the Cabinet.
87
By
contrast, the small Unionist group suffered from no such impediments, and on 6
March Sir Bertrand Glancy, the Panjab Governor, invited Khizr to head a Congress-
Akali-Unionist Coalition. League leaders censured Glancy for preventing the forma-
tion of a League Ministry.
38
Mamdot even claimed to have an absolute majority,
which the Governor had not credited.
89
Certainly, the Party that could now claim to
80 Ibid., 25 Aug.; 5, 7 Sept.; 1 Oct.: at this time
many Muslims left Congress and joined the
League, the most prominent being Mian Iftikhar-
ud-Din, President of the Panjab Provincial Con-
gress Committee.
81
See speech of Tika Ram, Minister of Revenue,
identifying Unionists and Congress interests: ibid.,
25, 29 July.
82 Ibid., 1946: 7 April; 10 Oct.; PGR, 1 Dec.
1945; K. B. Sayeed, Pakistan, The Formative
Phase (London, OUP, 1968), p. 20S.
83 The Unionist Party won 20 seats, of which 13
were Muslim. However, Khizr was elected from
three seats and had to resign from two. The other
results were: Congress 51, Panthic Akali Sikhs 22,
Independents 7: Pioneer, 24 Jan. 1946.
84 Over 40% of Muslim MLAs were re-elected.
The newly elected Muslim MLAs can readily be
identified as belonging to major land-owning
families, or had name prefixes such as "Chaudhry"
which indicate land-holding status. An illustration
of the absence of change in the class composition of
Muslim leadership was the election of Malik Feroze
Khan Noon and Shaukat Hyat Khan from urban
constituencies. See list of members, Panjab Legis-
lative Assembly Debates, 1937 and 1946.
85
An agreement was reached about the distri-
bution of offices between Akalis and Congress
Sikhs; Pioneer, 3-5 March 1946.
86 Ibid., 26 Feb., 1, 2, 9, 10 March.
87 Ibid., 7 March.
88 Ibid., 7, 9, 13 March.
89 Mamdot claimed that he was supported by 88
MLAs, but Glancy had only credited him with 78
and insisted that the others were neutral: ibid., 6,
10 March.
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64 SOUTH ASIA
represent Panjab Muslims was kept out of the Ministry against its will. The decision to
extend the life of the Unionist Party was an unfortunate one, for it only impeded the
League's entry into the Ministry. It could no longer play an independent role, and
power was placed in the hands of the Hindu and Sikh parties. This could not have
been done without the partisanship of the British, who perhaps decided to retain some
semblance of an inter-communal government in the Panjab, rather than commit
themselves to a Muslim communal Ministry.
Finding itself in opposition at the height of its power, the Panjab Muslim League
during 1946 abstained from active non-cooperation for two main reasons. Firstly, it
expected the Coalition itself to break up, for the Akali-Congress compact was uneasy
at best. But the Sikhs in fact remained in the Coalition mainly to prevent the League
from joining it. Secondly, the League regarded the constitutional process as the means
of testing its strength againt the Coalition. However, this too was closed to it when the
Government prematurely ended the 1946 Assembly Session by a motion adjourning it
sine die.
90
It was clear that the Muslims could only be kept out of power by suspending
the democratic process. Also, by passing the Panjab Public Safety Ordinance the
Government obtained special powers for the enforcement of law and order, and two
further orders prohibited the holding of demonstrations and public meetings.
91
This tense situation erupted when the Government banned the Muslim League
National Guard and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on 24 January 1947 and
raided their offices, arresting seven top PML leaders.
92
This gave the PML, till now in
frustrated opposition, the opportunity to challenge the Ministry openly. The League
undertook a virulent non-cooperation movement lasting till 26 February 1947, for the
removal of the repressive measures.
93
The movement found mass support with Mus-
lims, the Safety Ordinance was openly defied in every large town, and it culminated
triumphantly by bringing down the Khizr Ministry. With events moving swiftly
towards Partition the Unionist Party, even as a rump, now ceased to have any role in
Panjab politics. As a political force it had been effaced by the 1946 elections. The
League, on the other hand, ruled the hearts of Panjabi Muslims, and tore to the
ground the inter-communal bonds that the Unionists held so dear and that had so far
kept the Panjab as one Province.
Conclusion
This article has attempted to show the elements of continuity in provincial politics
during the period that witnessed South Asia's transition to national independence. In
the Panjab League-Unionist relations demonstrated the method and tactics by which
an entrenched power élite adapted itself to changing political circumstances. The
expediency that had led the landed interest to identify with the British and with non-
communal politics also enabled it to join and control a communal party working
towards independence. Power within the oligarchy was regulated through factional-
ism, and it was factionalism that came to mould League-Unionist relations. Within
the broader ideological struggle for a separate Muslim nation was the tussle by the
landed interest to retain its dominance in this transitional period. For this the League
served as an ideal vehicle, allowing itself first to be subordinated to the existing power
group, and then facilitating its assumption of the leadership of mass politics. This has
had various consequences. The League in the Panjab was never in office nor did it ever
have the opportunity to build a grass-roots organization in any way comparable to the
90 Ibid., 2 0 July.
91 Ibid., 21, 25 Nov.
92 Ibid., 25 Jan. 1947.
93 Ibid., 27 Feb. 1947.
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MUSLIM LEAGUE AND PANJAB 65
Congress. This explains the differing fortunes of the League and the Congress after
independence, the one unable to sustain any cohesion in the face of factionalism and
self-interest,
94
and the other remaining in office unchallenged and retaining its
organizational structure to this day. Because the political domination of big landlords
had not been superseded before 1947 as it was in the Hindu-majority provinces, Paki-
stan did not in the 1950s, and still does not, have an effective land reform.
95
The
political confusion of the 1950s did, however, reveal the ineptitude of the landed
interest either to provide satisfactory national leadership or operate a sound political
system. This would indicate that its function is more that of an intermediary promis-
ing control and pacification of the countryside to the ruling authority. Such an
authority was the British up to 1947, and such another the military in the 1960s —
whilst in the 1970s the large landed element has successfully infiltrated a ruling party
that was initially elected on a progressive programme.
94 For a review of the Muslim League in
Pakistani politics see K. Callard, Pakistan: a
Political Study (London, Allen & Unwin, 1957),
pp. 34-76.
9 5
This issue is surveyed in N. Sandaratne,
"Landowners and Land Reform in Pakistan",
South Asian Review, VII no.2, 123-36.
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