Yasser Latif Hamdani*
*The author is a practicing lawyer based in Lahore. He is also the author of the book, “Jinnah; Myth or Reality.” His email address is Yasser.hamdani@gmail. com
(Most accounts of partition of India revolve around either the all India dimension of the politics during British Raj or to the politics of Punjab and Bengal as the two largest Muslim majority provinces, which were ultimately partitioned themselves. Much less attention is paid to either NWFP or Sindh, which were relatively new provinces given that they had been separated from Punjab and Bombay Presidency respectively much later. This article focuses on the politics in Sindh leading up to independence and creation of Pakistan and shows how Jinnah’s role constantly was that of a firefighter between different factions. In particular this article concentrates on how G M Syed, the great advocate for Pakistan turned against the Muslim League and was progressively alienated so much so that today he is remembered in Pakistan as a Sindhi separatist and a “traitor” to Pakistan despite his stellar record in the Pakistan Movement. – Author)
Sindh was, in that sense, the newest province being only created as a separate province in earnest on 1 April 1936 after the Government of India Act 1935 went into force. The separation of Sindh from the Bombay Presidency was a long-standing Muslim demand as is reflected in Jinnah’s 14 points.
Sindh’s legislative assembly had 60 seats out of which 35 seats were Muslim seats.1 The Muslim politicians of the province were divided into a number of parties including Sindh Azad Party, Sindh United Party, Sindh Muslim Party as well as Congress and a number of independents. Before the 1937 elections Jinnah as the leader of the All India Muslim League attempted to create unity in the ranks by organizing a provincial parliamentary board but the effort was largely unsuccessful. As a result the Muslim seats were divided along the following lines: Sindh Azad Party 3, Sindh United Party 21, Sindh Muslim Party 3, Congress 1 and Independents 7. The 25 Non Muslim seats were shared by Sindh Congress and Hindu Independent Party. Sindh United Party that emerged as the largest party was led by Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and Sir Abdullah Haroon, both of whom lost their own seats, however, thus creating an opening for a coalition ministry.
Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayetullah of the Sindh Muslim Party became the first premier of Sindh in 1937 by cobbling up the Democratic Coalition Party, with the support of the Hindu Independent Party, Sindh Congress and some members of the Sindh United Party. 2 The Sindh Muslim League meanwhile was cobbled together in February 1938 under the leadership of Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi of the Sindh Azad Party. Hidayetullah’s ministry meanwhile fell because Congress, Hindu Independent Party and Sindh United Party members withdrew their support. This brought the young Allah Bux Mohammad Omar Soomro to power as the second premier of Sindh. Soon afterwards this coalition was also in doldrums following a vote of no confidence. Owing to this situation of unstable government in Sindh, a fresh opportunity to make a Muslim League led government presented itself forcing Jinnah to take a trip to Karachi and hold a conference there with major leaders. Jinnah’s objective was to unite all Muslim legislators under one umbrella. At the eve of the conference Jinnah pledged that he would “not chalk out a programme which would in any way, in words or deeds, go against the legitimate rights of the Hindus” appealing at the end for all Sindhis, Hindus and Muslims, to help “raise the head of Sindh before other provinces of India”. 3
During the marathon meetings that took place the Sindhi Muslim leaders agreed with Jinnah that there should be a united Muslim party. In his statement of October 13 1938, Jinnah stated the following:
“On my arrival it was made clear to me that there was a universal desire for solidarity among the Muslims of Sindh. Whoever came to see me expressed most fervently the desire to bring about unity… That was the prevalent sentiment not only among Muslims but also among the thinking men of other communities: Hindus, Parsis and Europeans. They all desired that there should be a stable government in Sind. I may at the outset deprecate the false and discreditable propaganda carried on by a section of the Press and Congress men that we were aiming at constituting a purely Muslim Ministry in Sindh. In the first instance we thought of bringing unity among the various Muslim groups in the Assembly, as there were at least four such groups and once we were able to put our house in order we could approach the other groups in the assembly.
“In response to the universal desire I carried on conversation with Khan Bahadur Allah Bux, who had come to see me and his colleague Pir Illahi Bux. He also endorsed the view that there should be one solid united Muslim party and most cordially assured me that he desired nothing else if that could be achieved, that he did not wish to continue as Chief Minister and that he did not care for any office… I gathered that there were about seven or eight members with the Chief Minister and his colleague. Thereafter I saw Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayetullah and he also expressed the same views and assured me his full support. His group consisted of thirteen members. I next saw Mir Bundeh Ali Khan, leader of the Baluch group, which consists of about seven members. Lastly I saw Mr. G M Syed who has a following, it is understood, of six members.” 4
On October 9, all four groups met Jinnah along with Sikandar Hayat, the Premier of Punjab and Fazlul Haq, Premier of Bengal, and signed an agreement which was as under:
“(1) One solid party of Muslim members of the Sind Assembly should be formed as the Muslim League Party within the legislature and all members who join the Party will become members of the Muslim League and sign the creed and accept policy and programme of the Muslim League and sign the usual pledge.
(2) In order to facilitate the formation of a new Ministry, the present Muslim ministers agree to tender their resignations and the resignations will be tendered to the Governor simultaneously with the proposal of the Leader of the Muslim League Party to constitute the new Ministry.
(3) A meeting of those members, who have already joined the League or who may agree to join the League Party should take place on October 12 and those members who are not in Karachi at present are to be requested to Karachi- there are already 27 members present in Karachi.
(4) Khan Bahadur Allah Bux and Sir Ghulam Hussain are to intimate those Muslim members who are in Karachi already and ask them to attend the meeting fixed for October 12.
(5) The Leader of the Party should be elected by the unanimous vote of the party: in default, he should be nominated by Mr. Jinnah and the party will abide by his choice.
(6) The personnel of the Ministry to be formed shall be determined according to the same principle; namely, the party should accept it unanimously; in default the party should abide by the decision of Mr. Jinnah as to the Muslim personnel of the Ministry that the leader should submit to the Governor.
(7) With regard to differences of opinion relating to the question of assessment and the revision settlement within the Barrage area, the matter is to be referred to Sikander Hayat Khan to examine the question and advise on the course and attitude which the party should adopt that the proposal be placed before the meeting of the party on October 12 and the party should accept the findings and recommendations that may be made by Sir Sikander Hayat Khan.”
With the prospect of the Muslim League ministry now looming large, the Sindh Congress party leadership wired Congress high Command asking for permission to vote individually and not as a party. This was done to show that Congress was now ready to play ball with the Premier Allah Bux Soomro. Upon finding this change in attitude, Allah Bux Soomro went back to the League leader on October 12 and told the assembled members that the only way he would join the League ministry was if they would agree to elect him as the leader, thereby going back on the agreement he had signed. This was considered an unjust demand by the members but after a day of deliberation 27 members agreed to the condition. Nevertheless, Soomro refused to play ball thereafter because by then the Congress had already assured him of their support.
Jinnah’s objective had been clear. He wanted to bring together a solid group of Muslim legislators and then cooperate with other parties. The result would have been a stable government in Sindh, but so obsessed was the Congress High Command with destroying Muslim solidarity that they essentially took back their own vote of no confidence. The impact of this must have been great on the All India situation where, in UP and Bombay, Congress majorities had disdainfully kept the Muslim League out of power despite having allied with them in the elections of 1937. To Jinnah’s mind this meant that Congress would effectively call the shots, not just in provinces where Muslims were in a minority, but where they were in a majority.
Khan Bahadur Allah Bux Soomro was facing another crisis, which threatened to alienate his Hindu supporters, which was the Om Mandli incident. Lekhraj Khubchand Kriplani, a Hindu reformer, had established a spiritual organization called Om Mandli in 1932. This body promoted women’s empowerment and asked Hindu women to be less submissive to their male family members. The Hindus in Sindh were up in arms. Indian National Congress denounced the movement as a “disturber of peace” and so did other Hindus. G M Syed writes:
“Another noteworthy event that occurred about the time of the budget session of 1939 was the ‘Om Mandli’ affair, which drew the attention of the whole province and even threatened the life of the Allah Bux ministry. The Om Mandli was a novel type of institution sponsored and conducted by Dada Lekhraj, a retired Sindhi work merchant of Hyderabad. The Mandli professed to serve as a religious and educational centre and a benevolent asylum of ill-treated women, young and old. It seemed to attract such large numbers of widowed, married and unmarried women of the Bhaiband community of Hyderabad that an organized opposition sprang up, which soon made its weight felt upon the government in order to have the Mandli banned and closed down.” 5
Even though Soomro was personally opposed to taking sides in the matter, he ultimately made a deal with the Hindu opposition to save his ministry. Then came the Manzilgah Mosque issue. Masjid Manzilgah was allegedly an old mosque established during the time of Emperor Akbar in Sukkur, near a Hindu Temple Island of Sadhbelo. The mosque had not been used for a long time and the British were using it as a godown. The British position was that this building was actually a rest house and not a mosque. This had become a bone of contention for the two communities ever since because the Hindus feared that a large number of Muslims coming to pray in the mosque would affect their worship in Sadhbelo.
Now it was time for Muslim League to use the issue to bring down Allah Bux Soomro’s ministry. The Manzilgah agitation was blatantly used to mobilize public opinion against the Soomro ministry, which ultimately fell after the Indian National Congress voted with the Muslim League in the vote of no confidence. Soomro was hoist with his own petard.
Soomro ultimately did come back to power but with an interregnum of Mir Bandeh Ali Khan. About Mir Bandeh Ali Khan, Governor Graham wrote the following letter:
“Dear Lord Linlithgow
The present ministry was sworn in at a critical time in parliamentary procedure shortly before the end of March and you will remember that we had some anxious correspondence on the subject of getting financial provision for the year. That all passed quite smoothly, mainly because I had taken the speaker and leader of the opposition, my late C.M. into confidence. Both of them had made a series of mistakes in procedure and they were not sorry to have their faces saved by the method proposed by me. My new ministry consists of four Muslims, three of whom are Muslim Leaguers and fourth is a traitor to the old Muslim party, headed by Allah Bakhsh; in addition there are two Hindus. I do not need to go into the change of ministry except to say that the present premier assumed office deeply stained with treachery to the late premier. I have never been able to understand how so incompetent a person as Mir Bandeh Ali Khan was recommended to me by the combination of Independent Hindus and Muslim Leaguers. I presume that the Muslim Leaguers had to accept Mir Bandeh Ali because the Hindus refused to accept a Muslim Leaguer as premier.
L. Graham” 6
Mir Bandeh Ali Khan joined the Muslim League and there was speculation that it had been done to ensure his continuity as the premier. In any event Allah Bux Soomro made it back to the post of the premier in 1941 after Soomro was assured support of the Congress and the Hindu members again.
This ministry, tragically Allah Bux’s last, was itself momentous as before. One of the issues that came up was of the Hurs, led by Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi, the sixth Pir of Pagara. The Pir of Pagara had started an armed struggle against British rule and this had led to several legal troubles. The Pir had, before turning 30, already spent years in a British prison. In 1941 he was arrested again on charges of sedition and armed insurgency, which only provided a stronger impetus for the Hurs to mount violent attacks on the Raj.
Khadim Hussain Soomro writes in his book “Path not taken”:
“The British established concentration camps for the Hurs and their families. Arrests of respectable persons under martial law orders were a daily routine. The Hurs showed great tenacity in facing the actions of the administration. They counterattacked in a ferocious way. Several persons whom they suspected of having links to the administration were executed. Trains were derailed and the son of the Home Minister, Munawar Hussain, was slain. The Sindh Premier, Allah Bux Soomro, narrowly escaped a targeted train attack after Jam Jan Mohammed, a member of the Sindh Legislative Assembly, informed him at Hyderabad Railway Station about the plot. Soomro promptly left the train.” 7
The Sindh Premier chose to leave the train but somehow did not make any effort to stop its derailment. Nevertheless the Hurs now considered him an enemy and he, in turn, made several speeches against the Hurs after the murder of a member of the Sindh Assembly, Seth Sitaldas. The Hur Act was introduced in April 1942 by Allah Bux Soomro’s government to control the Hur disturbances. In October 1942 Soomro gave up his British titles and honours in support of the Quit India movement, leading to his dismissal by the Sindh Governor, Hugh Dow, which brought Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayetullah back into power. The Sindh Muslim League, against strongly worded advice to the contrary from Jinnah at the center, joined the Hidayetullah Ministry. G M Sayed also managed to maneuver a resolution in the Sindh Assembly endorsing the Lahore Resolution – 24 to 3. This was the first time a legislature in British India had endorsed the Pakistan demand.
The Hurs meanwhile did not give up their hatred for Soomro and learning of the Pir’s execution on 23 March 1943, murdered Allah Bux Soomro on 14 May 1943. Ayub Khuhro, the Muslim League leader, was also accused of having plotted with the Hurs to murder Soomro, laying the foundations for long standing rivalry between the Soomros and Khuhros in Sindh. The alleged Khuhro connection came through the testimony of Mohammad Khan, a Hur turned Police Informant and approver who said that Hur Party in Khairpur State in Sindh were visited by one Wali Mohammad and Daresh, Ayub Khuhro’s Kamdar, who told them that Khan Bahadur Ayub Khuhro wanted Allah Bux Soomro dead. 8
Judge Paymaster, the presiding Sessions Judge, did not find the testimony of either Mohammad Khan or Daresh reliable, having been arrived at through an approver. It also could not find sufficient motive on part of Khuhro, but did find the alternative theory, that in fact the Hurs were acting on their own in vengeance for the death of Pir Sibghatullah Rashdi.
That Khuhro was embroiled in the murder conspiracy was apparently itself a conspiracy hatched by Hashim Gazdar and G M Syed. G M Syed had gone to Khuhro in jail and had confessed as much. The idea was to remove Khuhro from his pre-eminent position in the Muslim League. The factional politics within the Muslim League had started before Soomro’s murder and continued through 1943 and 1944. Khuhro was a minister in the Hidayetullah Ministry but also had taken up the position of the Muslim League.
In June of 1943, when Jinnah visited Sindh to help patch up the differences, he made it a point to declare that a minister could not at the same time hold office in the Sindh Muslim League. We get a glimpse of Mr. Jinnah’s own antipathy towards Khuhro in the following letter:
“18th June 1943
Dear Lord Linlithgow
Mr. Jinnah appears to have no public engagements here but is making himself thoroughly familiar with local political feeling, and is making his influence felt in Muslim League circles. I have myself had a long and friendly discussion with him, almost entirely devoted to matters of local interest. I think he is doing a good deal to defalcate Khan Bahadur Khuhro, of whom he clearly has no very high opinion. The decision which he has enforced that no member of the ministry should be an office-bearer of the provincial Muslim League is recognised as being aimed at Khuhro, who since the death of Sir Abdullah Haroon has been acting president, and has not scrupled to use his position to put pressure on his more moderate colleagues in the ministry, Jinnah appears to recognise that Khuhro’s restlessness and unscrupulousness is the principal danger to the solidarity of the ministry which Jinnah certainly does not want to see go out.
In the divide, therefore, Jinnah came out on the side of G M Syed who was then, at Jinnah’s insistence, made President of the Sindh Muslim League. This apparently emboldened Syed and Hashim Gazdar to hatch a conspiracy to sideline Khuhro from power and the Muslim League. Again we find a hint of this in correspondence between Hugh Dow and the Viceroy in a letter after Khuhro’s acquittal:
“..Mohbat Behan is one of the absconders wanted in connection with the murder of Allah Baksh, the late Premier. I do not pay great regard to the report … that he has made a statement implicating the late Home Minister, Gazdar. If the report is anything more than election propaganda, it would seem that Mohbat Behan has taken the Khuhro case to heart, and hopes to gain free pardon by implicating someone more important. It is true however that my Premier [Hidayetullah] was greatly excited by these rumours, and asked for a special interview with me. But by the time he arrived, he would do no more than make vague insinuations about his fear that high police officers were concerned in spoiling the case against Mohbat Behan. He gave me the impression that he knew more about the truth than, on second thoughts, he was willing to confide in me, and that he feared that Gazdar, with his back to the wall, might reveal things which both he and Sir Ghulam are in present conditions agreed to be better covered up.” 9
G M Syed’s meeting with Ayub Khuhro, as mentioned above, in jail also indicates the same. Hamida Khuhro writes:
“One of the earliest visitors Khuhro had in jail was one of his bitter opponents at this time, G. M. Syed. Writing to Jinnah on 4 October Yusuf Haroon mentions the fact:
‘When I was away to Bombay, Mr. G. M. Syed was at Karachi and then left for Sukkur to meet Khan Bahadur Khuhro in Jail. I have heard that Mr. Syed has made up his mind to help Khan Bahadur in his trial.’
“Syed had come to Khuhro to say mea culpa and ask forgiveness. He admitted to Khuhro that he had conspired with Gazdar to remove him from the cabinet and had promised Gazdar Premiership, but he said that his intention had only been to remove Khuhro from power and not to put his life at risk. Syed said that he would now do everything in his power to help Khuhro. Knowing well the mercurial and emotional nature of Syed and also his basic honesty, Khuhro could not hold any grudge and readily forgave him.
“In the trial Syed gave good supportive evidence showing that there could not possibly be any political rivalry between Soomro and Khuhro and that personal relations between them were good. He said that after Soomro’s dismissal the chances of his returning as Premier were almost non existent and that therefore there was no question of his being a potential rival to Khuhro. Also Khuhro had the support of Muslim League members and Soomro the support of Hindu and Congress members, so they were not vying for the same support. Also that it was Hidayetullah who had been called to form the Government after Soomro’s dismissal and not Khuhro who had Jinnah’s as well as Syed’s own support. The question of any personal or political motive for Khuhro to get rid of Soomro did not arise. He also admitted in his evidence that he was politically close to Gazdar and against Khuhro and that the Inspector in charge of the case (Ghulam Akbar) was a close friend of Gazdar.” 10
During Ayub Khuhro’s absence, tensions between the party organization and the ministers came out even more openly. G M Syed meanwhile was in open rebellion against the ministry at this time. G M Syed’s immediate differences with Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayetullah were based on the latter’s choice for candidates for elections as well as his choice for ministers. Jinnah was, once again, called to be a mediator between them, who seemed to be siding with G M Syed as usual.
We get a hint of the brewing differences between Syed and Hidayetullah in a letter from Lord Wavell to Amery:
“Provincial politics are quiet except in Sindh. Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah sticks to his plan for increasing the number of ministers to nine. His main object seems to be to get his son elected to the Sindh Assembly in a vacancy in the Shikarpur constituency. In order to capture the Provincial Parliamentary Board of the Muslim League, and consolidate himself against the enemies within the League, he has to make use of patronage. Dow says that with so much waiting to be done for the benefit of the province, the constant political intrigue, usually with small personal objects in view, is most troublesome, and makes efficient administration impossible. There are signs that Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah is not getting on too well with Jinnah. The appointment of Thomas as a minister, though welcome locally, has been criticised both by Muslim and by Hindu newspapers outside Sindh.” 11
Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayetullah wanted his son Anwar Hussain to be the candidate of the Muslim League in Shikarpur. G M Syed, as the president of the parliamentary board, favoured Ghulam Nabi Pathan who was ultimately given the ticket. So severe were the differences, that both Hidayetullah and Syed were summoned to Delhi to meet Jinnah and settle their differences. All the central leader could do was paper over the differences. But the differences persisted. G M Syed was maneuvered by Hidayetullah into withdrawing the ticket from Ghulam Nabi Pathan and instead awarding it to Khan Bahadur Nizamuddin, a relative of the premier. Then on the insistence of the premier, Nizamuddin withdrew in favour of Khan Bahadur Maula Bux Soomro, the brother of late Allah Bux Soomro. G M Syed and his group then launched an election campaign in support of Rahim Shah, the brother of the late Pir of Pagara but it was unfruitful. Nevertheless, the Sindh Muslim League had been torn asunder by the rival politics of Syed and Hidayetullah. The same thing was repeated in Tando Mohammad Khan, where Syed supported a young Muslim Leaguer candidate against the premier’s candidate Hussain Bux Talpur. The latter won through the help of premier and his supporters.
Sir Hidayetullah, now smelling blood, went for the jugular and asked Hashim Gazdar to resign who, in turn, appealed to Jinnah. Jinnah refused to intervene and one by one all of G M Syed’s supporters and allies were progressively sidelined from the Sindh government. Even Jinnah, who had been sympathetic to Syed earlier, failed to intervene causing Syed to ultimately chart a course away from the Muslim League.
Hugh Dow, the Sindh Governor, now reported to the Viceroy as under:
“Government House Karachi
9th February 1945
Dear Lord Wavell
S.B. Hussain Bux, father of deceased member and uncle of my home minister, has been declared successful in the Tando Mohammed Khan election. This must be viewed as another defeat for the Muslim League, for though he will no doubt support the present ministry. S.B. Hussain Bux had refused to accept the League ticket and his opponent was strongly backed by G.M. Sayed and Gazdar with the party machinery of the provincial Muslim League and all the Pirs and Maulvis that they could boat up. The election was fought with great bitterness. It is probable that the home minister took full advantage of his official position. On the other hand, if he had not done so, the election would hardly passed without grave disorder and bloodshed. A good deal of credit is due to the local officials who preserved order in very trying circumstances.
Jinnah doesn’t come of these proceedings too well, when G.M. Sayed and Gazdar came out in open revolt against the premier’s authority, Jinnah should have realised at once that it was necessary for him to come down one side or the other, and since neither Gazdar nor G.M. Sayed can have any political future apart from the Muslim League, where Sir Ghulam is capable, at any moment, of resigning from the Muslim League and taking half of the Muslim MLAs with him, it should have been clear which side he must take if he wished the League government in Sindh to continue. For the moment, it appears that with Mr. Isa’s assistance, peace has been patched up and the G.M. Sayed group has been ordered to support Sir Ghulam Hussain’s government. But in the process, the Muslim League has unnecessarily lost two elections, the hollowness of the League facade in Sindh has been well advertised, and both factions are shouldering with resentment not only against each other but also against Jinnah himself.
There is still trouble to come over Jinnah’s determination not to allow a coalition of any Muslim group, other than the Muslim League. Jinnah’s bungling has strengthened the non-League Muslims, particularly by the addition of the late premier’s brother, K.B. Maula Bux who has ambitions to be a minister, and will be formidable in opposition. K.B. Maula Bux is not vindictive, and if admitted into the ministry would, I think, after a decent interval, be prepared to join the Muslim League. But out of respect for his brother’s memory, he can hardly be expected to join the League as a condition of taking office. Jinnah will probably be obstinate on this point, and so forces Maula Bux and his supporters to remain in opposition, and if this happens, Sir Ghulam may have difficulty in getting safely through the budget session, even with an expanded cabinet.
Pir Rahim Shah, brother of the late Pir Pagaro whose activities I mentioned last week had been served with an order confining him to Sukkur for a period of two years. At the same time, my ministers, against my advice, issued an order confining G.M. Sayed to his village for three months. Although the ostensible reason for this order was an attempt by G.M. Sayed to stir up agrarian trouble in another district. It would have been quite clear to the public that the real object was to prevent him from taking part in the Tando Mohammed Khan election and in the budget meeting of the Assembly. However between issue and the execution of the order, the ministers got cold feet, and recalled the order. The fact that an order had been issued (but not that it had been recalled) became known to the local press, probably because ministers cannot hold their tongues and the newspapers are carrying the usual controversy of assertions and denials without daring to reveal the sources of their authentic information.
H. Dow” 12
From this it can be seen that the British were also actively supporting the premier and were hoping to breach the Muslim League ranks by turning ministry’s ire against GM Syed, who in fact they wanted detained in his village because he was considered such a threat. Jinnah, they calculated, wanted desperately to have a Muslim League ministry in Sindh to bolster his claim to speak for all Muslims in the subcontinent. That the Perfidious Albion had his own role to play in the whole matter becomes quite clear when we consider the letter above.
The first public break between G M Syed and Jinnah came a few weeks later. G M Syed, along with Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi attempted to bring a cut motion against the Premier. This motion was defeated. In response to these latest developments, Jinnah cabled to G M Syed:
“You have precipitated crisis broken party discipline, caused split, and shaken solidarity Sindh Muslims notwithstanding your assurance to me at conclusion our Bombay talks and against my advice. You have ignored Committee of Action, Central Parliamentary Board, League Machinery, Constitution, Rules and Regulations, though by means of which you could have secured full redress of just any grievance but instead you have wrongly resorted to methods which are calculated to undermine basic structure League organisation, its aims and objects. This course of action on your part is highly improper, detrimental Muslim interests, Muslim League. Futile give advice instructions more.” 13
In response to this G M Syed stated his position in a long passionate letter in which he argued the following points:
- Hidayetullah was doing all he could to undermine the Muslim League in Sindh.
- Hidayetullah had overruled and worked against the Muslim League parliamentary board and brought on board non-League ministers.
- Hidayetullah’s ministry was absolute evil which would mean nothing but disintegration of Muslim League’s authority.
- There was a conspiracy brewing against the Muslim League and the man responsible for it was none other than Hidayetullah who had colluded with enemies of the League in ensuring that the League lost successive elections.
By June 1945, G M Syed was in open revolt. He had won the presidency of the provincial council of the League and almost immediately set about raising the banner of his revolt by passing a resolution against the All India Muslim League. This resolution is produced here in full:
“The Council of the Sindh Provincial Muslim League does not fully agree with the convention established by the All India Muslim League, which aims at divesting the provincial Leagues of all their inherent powers of control and supervision over Provincial Assembly Parties and ministries. This policy, in the opinion of the Council, is unworkable, prejudicial to the interest of the provinces and one, which must be revised in view of the following grounds and circumstances:
- Elections to the provincial legislatures are fought through the agency of the Provincial Leagues. It is mainly through the latter’s efforts that the League Assembly members gain their entry into the legislature. It is unfair and detrimental to the interests of the Provincial League, that as soon as the elections are over, the elected members should cease to owe any direct responsibility to it.
- In the course of electioneering campaigns, the Provincial League naturally give certain undertakings to, and incurs certain responsibilities towards, the electors, on behalf of the organisation, and also on behalf of the candidate concerned. Implementation of such undertakings, and honouring of such responsibilities become impossible unless the Provincial League wield full powers of control over, and regulating of the conduct of the elected members even inside the legislatures.
- The conduct of the League MLAs inside the Assembly directly reacts on the reputation and popularity of the Provincial League, and the latter falls into an unenviable situation and position if it enjoys no direct powers to correct the course of events in the legislatures through direct control upon the League Assembly Parties.
- It encourages centralisation to an excessive degree, which is not conducive to the promotion of the spirit of democracy; on the contrary, it definitely militates against the principle of provincial autonomy.
- The Provincial League is a body present on the spot and consequently in a better position to guide, regulate and control the working of the local Assembly Parties, and to maintain a state of coordination and balance between the provincial electorate and the provincial party.
- The Central Parliamentary body exercises original powers of control in this matter. It is practically impossible for the Board to look after properly, effectively and efficiently the working of the Parliamentary Parties, throughout the subcontinent of India.
In view of these and other grounds, the Council urges upon the All-India Muslim League to revise the policy, and procedure, so as to avoid the provincial Leagues being reduced to a position of absolute impotency in the matter.” While this was happening Hugh Dow, our erstwhile perfidious Albion, was hatching another conspiracy to limit and sideline Jinnah’s influence in Sindh. On 2nd July, he sent the following telegram to Wavell:
“2 July 1945 No.111-S.C. Your telegram No. 155-S.C. of 30th June. In my opinion if Jinnah is intransigent, attempts should be made to form an Executive Council without the Muslim League. Difficulties of this are recognised, but alternative appears to be carrying on as to present, in which case bitter resentment and hostility both of Congress and Muslim League has to be faced and intensification of communal feeling which would probably manifest itself in sporadic outbreaks of violence. Much of Jinnah’s influence depends on feeling that he is going to be successful, and will disappear if you make it clear that he is not going to get away with it. Incidentally, his hold on Sindh is very tenuous and I believe my Premier would require little persuasion to break away from the League, in which case certainly one and probably two of my other Ministers would join him, and I should have no difficulty in running a non-League coalition ministry in Sindh. Jinnah’s reference to successes in by-elections does not apply to Sindh, where in one recent election a Muslim League candidate withdrew to avoid certain defeat and in another election could put up no candidate, while in both elections the candidate who had unofficial support of Muslim Leaguers was defeated.
H. Dow” 14
Jinnah came twice to Karachi during the year to mediate the differences and yet again failed. He attempted to re-constitute the parliamentary board and as a result further alienated G M Syed who till this point had been his loyal ally in Sindh. G M Syed bitterly complained of the attitude of other Sindhi Muslim League leaders who had through out tried to sideline him. His version of events is as under:
“Here I was face to face with the Quaid-i-Azam of the Muslim India, storming and raging; just because I had tried in my own humble way to live up to those ideals for which he praised me once; just because I was vigilant in protecting the honour and prestige of the provincial organisation, he had once asked me to guide; just because I was vain enough to strive and express the inarticulate voice of the Muslim masses whose interests the Congress had already failed to represent; and just because I was earnest enough to rise and defend the glory of Quaid-i-Azam in whose name lacs of Sindhi Muslims had been taught to love and honour and identify with their own salvation. But in reality the Quaid-i-Azam was angry and furious, because his will had been thwarted. He was unequivocal in his censure of me. He dismissed the whole band of League workers represented in the Provincial Council, as a mere mob. He denied the provincial organisation’s all rights and privileges concerning its very existence and its prestige in the eyes of the people of this province. He was angry because he was the leader and his commands possessed the sanctity of inviolable law. No, this was not a conflict between two highly assertive personalities who were determined to have their own way, this was rather the inevitable conflict between two essentially different attitudes and ideologies, that had gathered its momentum as years had rolled by. He was the mighty angel from the top that viewed the surface with an indifferent sweep, and whose unchallengeable authority could not be dictated; mine was the humble view from the bottom, working its way from the concrete realities of my province. I felt confident that my feet were planted on solid earth and this conflict had arisen out of the very real problems that had cropped up within my range of experience. These problems had to be solved first before there could be any bigger problems demanding solution” 15
On 2 January 1946, the Muslim League finally expelled G M Syed from its party organization, a move that G M Syed denounced as unconstitutional and a violation of provincial autonomy. Ultimately during the elections Jinnah’s candidate withdrew in favour of G M Syed and allowed the latter to secure a foothold through his Syed League, which he had fashioned as a progressive forward bloc of the Muslim League.
G M Syed meanwhile gave his views to the Cabinet Mission in April of 1946. These were reported as under:
“Mr. Sayed said that he believed in the independence of areas with Muslim majorities. In Western India such areas should be joined in a Federation, of which each constituent state should be represented in the Federal Government on an equal basis and not in proportion to population. There should be similar Federation of Muslim areas in Eastern India. Apart from these two Muslim Federations, the remaining Provinces of what is now British India should form a Hindu Federation and there should be a fifth Federation consisting of such of the larger States as might be able to retain a measure of autonomy. The smaller States should be merged either in the Muslim or Hindu Federation or in the larger State. A separate Sikh State was impracticable unless there was extensive transfers of population, since the Sikhs were not in a majority in any district. Each of five Federations in the future India would have its own constitution-making body; or there might even be a separate Constituent Assembly for each of the existing Provinces. Once the five Federations were established they should agree to delegate their powers in respect of foreign affairs and defence to a common central agency for a period of ten or fifteen years. At the end of this period the constituent Federations would have the right to secede from the common centre, though it was to be hoped that they would remain together. It depended upon the wishes of each of the Constituent Federations how far they delegated further powers (e.g. in respect of communications or customs) to the common centres and in theory it was certainly desirable that they should do so. But for the time being the feeling among the Muslims against any sort of Federation with Hindu India was so strong that it would be a great concession on their part for them to be brought to agree to a common centre of foreign affairs and defence only. Speaking as one who stood outside the two main parties, he deplored the intransigent attitude of both Congress and the Muslim League. Each was taking up a very strong stand on its own principles and would not listen to those who, like himself, urged more moderate views. At the Simla Conference each side had refused to compromise on points of secondary importance, for example, the right of the Muslim League to speak for all Muslims. So long as this attitude persisted there was no possibility of a settlement. The arbitrary dictates of the party High Commission were destructive not only of Provincial Autonomy but also of the freedom and welfare of the Indian people. Nevertheless, Congress and the Muslim League had the Indian masses behind them, and it was essential that they should come to terms. There was no possibility of the Indian problem being solved without a settlement between them. If the Muslim League were bypassed, the Muslims would stand solidly with Mr. Jinnah and disturbances would result. His own group agreed with Mr. Jinnah’s aim, though they differed from him on question of method and of economic organization. On the latter issue they were in favour of a Socialist India and held that both the Congress and the Muslim League were dominated by capitalists.” 16
Ultimately the historic Cabinet Mission Plan embodied many of these proposals and Jinnah accepted them. The centralizing tendency on part of the Congress ultimately led to its rejection. An excellent opportunity of saving some semblance of Hindu-Muslim Unity and a United India was thus lost.
Meanwhile the problems that were brought to fore by Jinnah and G M Syed continued to plague the Muslim League even after G M Syed’s departure. After partition Ayub Khuhro became the first Chief Minister of Sindh. As the chief executive of Sindh and the leader of the Muslim League he soon came into a confrontation with central authority. The Constituent Assembly of Pakistan wanted to separate Karachi and make an independent capital territory – a position that was unacceptable to Ayub Khuhro. Jinnah overruled his objections. In the power struggle that ensued, Ayub Khuhro was ejected from his position as the Chief Minister less than a year after assuming that office and was replaced by a more pliable Pir Ilahi Bux, setting a negative tone for center and unit relations in Pakistan.
1- Afzal, M.R., 2013. A History of the All-India Muslim League, 1906-1947. Oxford University Press. Page 393.
2- Ibid Page 394
3- Jinnah, M.A. and Ahmad, W., 1992. The Nation’s Voice, Towards Consolidation: United we win: annotated speeches and statements March 1935- March 1940. Quaid-i-Azam Academy. Pages 279-281
4- Ibid Page 297
8- Case record. Crown v. Ayub Khuhro, recounted here: http://the-reporter.info/ feb07/bookreview/index.htm which is an excerpt from “Mohammad Ayub Khuhro” by Hamida Khuhro.
9- http://the-reporter.info/apr07/bookreview/index.htm an excerpt from Mohammad Ayub Khuhro, the Iron Man of Sindh.
12- Hugh Dow to Wavell 9 February 1945
13- Jinnah to G M Syed Telegram 28 February 1945
14- Hugh Dow to Wavell 2 July 1945