On August 14, 1947, British India was divided into the two self-governing dominions of India and Pakistan, both of which became independent. Pakistan was born as a bifurcated state divided by 1,600 kilometers of Indian soil and by economic and social divisions between a largely Bengali East Wing and a heavily Punjabi and Sindhi West Wing. Even so there was optimism when Pakistan was created. One of Pakistan’s founders, Quid-e Aazam, said on April 12, 1948: “We develop a sense of patriotism which should galzanize and weld us into one united and strong nation.” “Sakoon” is a Pakistani word used to describe the gift of a Muslim homeland after independence in 1947.

The 1940 Lahore Resolution had called for independent "states" in the northwest and the northeast. This objective was changed, by a 1946 meeting of Muslim League legislators to a call for a single state (the acronym Pakistan had no letter for Bengal). In 1947, Britain, in conjunction with India's leading indigenous political organizations, partitioned the Indian colony into India and Pakistan. The province of East Bengal was made part of Pakistan and was referred to as East Pakistan. West Pakistan was carved from the northwest provinces of the British Indian empire. This division of territory represented an attempt to create a Muslim nation on Hindu India's peripheries.

Post Independence Pakistan was comprising the provinces of Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province, West Punjab and Sindh in West Pakistan and East Bengal in East Pakistan (West Bengal was part of India). The ethnic groups of Pakistan and the Indian Muslims who left India after partition were greatly different in language and way of life from the former East Bengalis: West Pakistan was more oriented toward the Middle East and Arab Islamic influence than was East Pakistan, which contained Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and British cultural influences.

According to “”Cities of the World””: “The serious political, linguistic, historical, cultural, and economic differences dividing East and West Pakistan were temporarily masked by enthusiasm for independence from the British. Although East Pakistan (Bangladesh) had a larger population and was the chief foreign exchange earner, government power was centered in West Pakistan. As Islamic brotherhood as a rallying cry lost its appeal, Bangladeshi identity in East Pakistan began to take precedence over Muslim identity.” [Source: “Cities of the World” , The Gale Group Inc. 2002]


The division of India into India and Pakistan — known as partition — that occurred on August 17, 1947 when India and Pakistan became independent cut across long-established lines of trade and communication, divided families and resulted in a mass movement of Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs who found themselves on the “wrong” side of new international boundaries. Between 12 and 16 million people moved, and up to one million of these were killed.

As many as 12 million people — Muslims leaving India for Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs opting to move to India from the new state of Pakistan — were involved in the mass transfer of population between the two countries. The partition resulted in communal riots across India and Pakistan. As many as a million refugees died in the communal bloodbath that had accompanied the migrations. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) became the Prime Minister of India and Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1875-1948) Jinnah was named the first Governor General and Qaid-e-Azamm ("the Great Leader") of Pakistan, the world's largest Muslim nation in 1947. Neither India nor Pakistan celebrated the 50th anniversary in 1997 with much fanfare. The Pakistani government placed a large "50" on the nose of its planes and held a few parades.

When British India was partitioned and the independent dominions of India and Pakistan were created in 1947, the region of Bengal was divided along religious lines. The predominantly Muslim eastern half was designated East Pakistan — and made part of the newly independent Pakistan — while the predominantly Hindu western part became the Indian state of West Bengal. East and West Pakistan to some degree were regarded as the fringes and frontiers of India. At the time of partition even Karachi was only an isolated settlement on the Arabian Sea.

East and West Pakistan

In 1947 at the time of partition Pakistan consisted of two "wings," one to the west of India, and the other to the east. In the east, when India and Pakistan were partitioned, West Bengal became part of India and East Bengal became the eastern wing of Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh). The only thing that East Pakistan and West Pakistan really had in common was religion. Although both were Muslims, the people of West and east Pakistan were very different. The West Pakistanis were taller, more fair-skinned, more British and harsher. They were a diverse group of people made up of different ethnic groups that spoke different languages and had different traditions. The Bengalis of East Pakistan were considered more emotional, gentle and poetic and proud of their identity. .

The eastern section of Pakistan was constituted from the eastern portion of Bengal and the former Sylhet district of Assam and was known until 1955 as East Bengal and then as East Pakistan. West Pakistan, with a population of 34 million, consisted mainly of the western Indian former provinces of Baluchistan, Sindh, the Northwest Frontier, and (partially) Punjab (which, like Bengal, was also partitioned). East Pakistan, its 42 million people including nearly 9 million Hindus, encompassed the eastern half of Bengal province as shaped in 1912, plus the Sylhet District of Assam. West Pakistan was more than seven times larger in area but East Pakistan had 55 percent of the population and was more economically important than the west wing.

According to the English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Pakistan two “most populous provinces of Punjab and Bengal — both divided — sustained the largest share of these losses. Not only were regional solidarities violently rent, but Punjab was divested of its rich eastern districts and eastern Bengal of its industrial heart of Calcutta. For the remaining provinces of Pakistan — Baluchistan, the North Western Frontier Province, and Sind — the new territorial dispensation meant the corset-strings of a Punjabi-dominated center constraining their provincial autonomy. The Muslims from provinces in undivided India where they formed minorities might be supposed to have been its greatest beneficiaries. However, of the ninety-five million Muslims of pre-1947 India, almost a third remained in the Hindu-majority state either by choice or force of circumstance. Of those who moved to Pakistan, many have remained unassimilated, dubbed Muhajirs (migrants), within the homeland ostensibly created for them.” [Source: English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Distance and Differences Between East and West Pakistan

Pakistan's two provinces were separated from each other by more than 1,600 kilometers of secular but predominantly Hindu India. The bulk of the economy and the people were in the east but the capital, the supreme court and the headquarters for all the military services were in the West. Although straight line distance between Karachi and Dakka, were about a 2,000 kilometers apart the the plane journey there was almost 6,000 kilometers because India will not allow Pakistani planes to fly over Indian airspace.

At the time of independence East Pakistan was home to 42 million people crowded mainly into what had been the eastern half of India’s Bengal province. West Pakistan contained 34 million in a much larger territory that included the former Indian provinces of Baluchistan, Sind, the Northwest Frontier, and western Punjab. From the capital in Karachi, in West Pakistan, the leaders of the new state worked hard to establish a workable parliamentary government with broad acceptance in both East and West. Political stability proved hard to achieve, with frequent declarations of martial law and states of emergency in the years following 1954. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale. 2007]

In language, culture, ethnic background, population density, political experience, and economic potential, East and West Pakistan were very different. Their main bonds were Islam and a fear of potential Indian (Hindu) expansion. Pakistan’s early years as a nation were dominated by unsuccessful attempts to create a nation that would somehow bridge these differences. The differences persisted, and demands for a separate state in the east began to mount.

Though the Bengali east wing was economically more important, political power rested in the Sindhi and Punjabi factions of the west wing. The eastern areas chafed under national policies initiated in the west, and sought greater autonomy. Easterners voted the West-dominated Muslim League (ML) out of office in 1954, resulting in a period of direct rule from Karachi. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Unprepared to be a Nation

Pakistan's boundaries were established hastily without adequate regard for the new nation's economic viability. Even the minimal requirements of a working central government — skilled personnel, equipment, and a capital city with government buildings — were missing. Until 1947 the East Wing of Pakistan, had been heavily dependent on Hindu management. Many Hindu Bengalis left for Calcutta after partition, and their place, particularly in commerce, was taken mostly by Muslims who had migrated from the Indian state of Bihar or by West Pakistanis from Punjab. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

At the time of independence West Pakistan for the most part was an arid, mountainous country ruled by feudal lords and populated by a fragmented mosaic of tribes and ethnic groups. Unlike India, Pakistan inherited little of the infrastructure or industry and few of the educated and skilled workers produced by the British Raj. It had to start from scratch,.

Before partition Pakistan has mainly been a backwater region that provided raw materials to India. Within four months after independence, Pakistan's economy was in shambles. The new nation had no money to feed the millions of refugees and its international credit was zero. It took nine years to write Pakistan's first constitution, which turned out to be the first of three. The most divisive issues were the division of power between East Pakistan and West Pakistan and the question of whether Pakistan should be a secular sate or a Muslim state.

Pakistan's founders had invested their energy creating a Muslim refuge from Hindu dominance and arguing whether it should a secular democracy or Islamic state that were ill prepared to create a nation from scratch that consisted of two halves over 1,600 kilometers apart. Kudsia Rasul, the author of Pakistan's constitution told the Washington Post, "How will Pakistan be viable financially and otherwise?" she asked Jinnah. "He said that could be worked out later on. He himself was not very sure."

Military During the Formation of Pakistan

The Indian military had no role in the relinquishment of control by the British and the division of India into two parts — India and Pakistan. Under their British commanders, the Indian military had resisted the nationalist tide, and then, when London changed its course, Indian military personnel obediently shifted their allegiance to new masters. After partition and independence, the relationship between the military and the new nationalist government in India was at first problematic. India's first prime minister, Jawalharlal Nehru, deliberately limited the expansion and modernization of his country's armed forces, fearing that an excessive emphasis on the military would lead to the militarization of society and undermine the nation's fledgling democratic institutions. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The Pakistani military, however, immediately became a central part of the national consciousness. Unlike their Indian counterparts, Pakistani soldiers did not bear the stigma of being antinational. The main base of army recruitment, Punjab, was at the heart of Pakistan, and the army was immediately called upon to defend the interests of the nation against a perceived security threat from "Hindu India."

The Pakistani army was fortunate in its political position, but less so in regard to the experience and technical expertise required to field an effective military force. Muslims had been significantly underrepresented in the Indian officer corps, and when partition occurred, there was a severe shortage of personnel. To lead the planned army of 150,000 men, 4,000 officers were needed, but there were only 2,500, and many of those, especially in the technical services, were underqualified. Only one major general, two brigadiers, and six colonels were available, and in the middle officer ranks the situation was equally bad. The first two commanders in chief of the army were British. The first Pakistani commander in chief — General Mohammad Ayub Khan — did not become commander in chief of the army until 1951. In the small Pakistani navy and air force, the situation was even worse: there were only nine regular officers in the navy and sixty-five pilots in the air force. Both forces had to be commanded by British officers: the navy until 1953 and the air force until 1957. Overall, some 500 British officers were retained on contract to ease the transition of the armed forces until Pakistanis could be qualified and promoted. In the interim, training underqualified officers for rapid promotion was a matter of top priority.*

The lack of equipment presented further problems. Most of the depots and virtually all of the military production facilities were located in areas that became India, which was less than forthcoming in handing over the share of military matériel that was due Pakistan under the partition agreement. Pakistan received little or nothing in the way of ships and only two of the ten squadrons of the former Royal Indian Air Force. Pakistani military historian Fazl Muqeem Khan records: "It is no exaggeration to say that for its first few months the infant state of Pakistan was without an organized army."

Units with a majority of Muslims (as well as individual Muslims in other units who opted for Pakistan) that were located in India had to find their way to Pakistan. These men formed into new units based on common traditions and class affiliation; the remaining service gaps were gradually filled by recruitment. Intercommunal violence at partition took a huge toll of lives, and the role played by the army in protecting the citizens of the new Pakistan created an important initial bond between army and people.*

The crucial challenge to the new Pakistani military was the outbreak of hostilities with India over the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir immediately after partition. Unlike most of the rulers of the other princely states of India, the Hindu ruler of Kashmir (as it is usually called) hesitated in declaring the allegiance of his largely Muslim realm to one or the other of the new nations. Bands of Muslim tribesmen from Pakistan — together with "volunteers" from the Pakistani army — entered the state in early October 1947 to force the issue and, after joining up with insurgents within Kashmir, were soon threatening to overwhelm the Kashmiri forces. As the price for protection, the ruler acceded to India, and elements of the Indian army arrived on October 27. They soon routed the Pakistani irregulars and moved westward to consolidate control over all of the state. Pakistan committed regular military formations to combat in May 1948 to ensure its borders and stabilize the situation. Fighting continued until January 1, 1949, when a United Nations-sponsored cease-fire took effect. The cease-fire did not, however, settle the underlying conflict. The dispute flared up several times again, most notably in 1965, and remained unresolved as of early 1994. The Indian and Pakistani armies remained deployed along much the same line as they had in 1949. The Pakistani army, however, performed credibly in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947-48 and won immense admiration and support among Pakistanis, on which it drew heavily as Pakistan began to pay the price of developing a military capability to offset that of India.*

Problems Faced by the New State of Pakistan

In August 1947, Pakistan was faced with a number of problems, some immediate but others long term. The most important of these concerns was the role played by Islam. Was Pakistan to be a secular state serving as a homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent, or was it to be an Islamic state governed by the sharia, in which non-Muslims would be second-class citizens? The second question concerned the distribution of power between the center and the provincial governments, a question that eventually led to the dissolution of the country with the painful loss of the East Wing (East Bengal, later East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, an issue that remained unresolved in the mid-1990s. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Pakistan's history from 1947 to 1971 was marked by political instability and economic difficulties. Immediately after independence the country faced problems with absorbing millions of Muslim refugees from India, dealing with substantial and deep-rooted poverty, and establishing both a functioning government and a sense of national unity over a geographically and ethnically divided state. Making matters worse was the lack of skilled administrative personnel and limited material assets needed to address such serious problems.

Pakistan lacked the machinery, personnel, and equipment for a new government. Even its capital, Karachi, was a second choice. Lahore was rejected because it was too close to the Indian border. Pakistan's economy seemed enviable after severing ties with India, the major market for its commodities. And much of Punjab's electricity was imported from Indian power stations. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Pakistan’s Early Refugee Problem

Above all other concerns in Pakistan’s early months were the violence and the refugee problem: Muslims were fleeing India; Hindus and Sikhs were fleeing Pakistan. Jinnah's plea to regard religion as a personal matter, not a state matter, was ignored. No one was prepared for the communal rioting and the mass movements of population that followed the June 3, 1947, London announcement of imminent independence and partition. The most conservative estimates of the casualties were 250,000 dead and 12 million to 24 million refugees. The actual boundaries of the two new states were not even known until August 17, when they were announced by a commission headed by a British judge. The boundaries — unacceptable to both India and Pakistan — have remained. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

West Pakistan lost Hindus and Sikhs. These communities had managed much of the commercial activity of West Pakistan. The Sikhs were especially prominent in agricultural colonies. They were replaced largely by Muslims from India, mostly Urdu speakers from the United Provinces. Although some people, especially Muslims from eastern Punjab (in India), settled in western Punjab (in Pakistan), many headed for Karachi and other cities in Sindh, where they took the jobs vacated by departing Hindus. In 1951 close to half of the population of Pakistan's major cities were immigrants (muhajirs — refugees from India and their descendants).

The aspirations for Pakistan that had been so important to Muslims in Muslim-minority provinces and the goals for the new state these urban refugees had fled to were not always compatible with those of the traditional rural people already inhabiting Pakistan, whose support for the concept of Pakistan came much later. Pakistani society was polarized from its inception.

Challenges in Northwest Pakistan

The land and people west of the Indus River posed problems. The most immediate problem was the continued presence of a Congress government in the North-West Frontier Province, a government effective at the grassroots level and popular despite the loss of the plebiscite. Led by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai-i-Khitmagar (Servants of God, a Congress faction), this group was often referred to as the Red Shirts after its members' attire. Ghaffar Khan asked his followers not to participate in the July 1947 plebiscite. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Pakistan also had to establish its legitimacy against a possible challenge from Afghanistan. Irredentist claims from Kabul were based on the ethnic unity of tribes straddling the border; the emotional appeal of "Pakhtunistan," homeland of the Pakhtuns, was undeniable. However, Pakistan upheld the treaties Britain had signed with Afghanistan and refused to discuss the validity of the Durand Line as the international border. Relations with Afghanistan were hostile, resulting in the rupture of diplomatic and commercial relations and leading Afghanistan to cast the only vote against Pakistan's admission to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.

The India Independence Act left the princes theoretically free to accede to either dominion. The frontier princely states of Dir, Chitral, Amb, and Hunza acceded quickly to Pakistan while retaining substantial autonomy in internal administration and customary law. The khan of Kalat in Balochistan declared independence on August 15, 1947, but offered to negotiate a special relationship with Pakistan. Other Baloch sardar (tribal chiefs) also expressed their preference for a separate identity. Pakistan took military action against them and the khan and brought about their accession in 1948. The state of Bahawalpur, with a Muslim ruler and a Muslim population, acceded to Pakistan, as did Khairpur.


Disputes arose over several princely states including Jammu and Kashmir whose King had acceeded to India and finally led to the First Kashmir War (1948) ending with Pakistan and India each occupying large parts of the state.

The maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, unpopular among his subjects, was reluctant to decide on accession to either dominion. He first signed agreements with both Pakistan and India that would provide for the continued flow of people and goods to Kashmir — as it is usually called — from both dominions. Alarmed by reports of oppression of fellow Muslims in Kashmir, armed groups from the North-West Frontier Province entered the maharaja's territory. The ruler requested military assistance from India but had to sign documents acceding to India before that country would provide aid in October 1947. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The government of Pakistan refused to recognize the accession and denounced it as a fraud even though the Indian government announced that it would require an expression of the people's will through a plebiscite after the invaders were driven back. Pakistan launched an active military and diplomatic campaign to undo the accession. The UN Security Council eventually brought about a cease-fire between Pakistani and Indian troops, which took place on January 1, 1949, thus ending the first Indo- Pakistani War, and directed that a plebiscite be held. The cease- fire agreement formalized the military status quo, leaving about 30 percent of Kashmir under Pakistani control.

India-Pakistan Issues and Foreign Policy

Partition and its accompanying confusion also brought severe economic challenges to the two newly created and antagonistic countries of India and Pakistan. The partition plan ignored the principles of complementarity. West Pakistan, for example, traditionally produced more wheat than it consumed and had supplied the deficit areas in India. Cotton grown in West Pakistan was used in mills in Bombay and other west Indian cities. Commodities such as coal and sugar were in short supply in Pakistan — they had traditionally come from areas now part of India. Furthermore, Pakistan faced logistic problems for its commercial transportation because of the four major ports in British India, it was awarded only Karachi. But the problem that proved most intractable was defining relations between the two wings of Pakistan, which had had little economic exchange before partition. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

The two dominions decided to allow free movement of goods, persons, and capital for one year after independence, but this agreement broke down. In November 1947, Pakistan levied export duties on jute; India retaliated with export duties of its own. The trade war reached a crisis in September 1949 when Britain devalued the pound, to which both the Pakistani rupee and the Indian rupee were pegged. India followed Britain's lead, but Pakistan did not, so India severed trade relations with Pakistan. The outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53) and the consequent price rises in jute, leather, cotton, and wool as a result of wartime needs, saved the economy of Pakistan. New trading relationships were formed, and the construction of cotton and jute mills in Pakistan was quickly undertaken. Although India and Pakistan resumed trade in 1951, both the volume and the value of trade steadily declined; the two countries ignored bilateral trade for the most part and developed the new international trade links they had made.

The assets of British India were divided in the ratio of seventeen for India to five for Pakistan by decision of the Viceroy's Council in June 1947. Division was difficult to implement, however, and Pakistan complained of nondeliveries. A financial agreement was reached in December 1948, but the actual settlement of financial and other disputes continued until 1960.

Division of the all-India services of the Indian Civil Service and the Indian Police Service was also difficult. Only 101 out of a total of 1,157 Indian officers were Muslim. Among these Muslim officers, ninety-five officers opted for Pakistan; they were joined by one Christian, eleven Muslim military officers transferring to civilian service, and fifty Britons, for a total of 157. But only twenty of them had had more than fifteen years of service, and more than half had had fewer than ten years. These men formed the core of the Civil Service of Pakistan, which became one of the most elite and privileged bureaucracies in the world. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan were the architects of the administrative, judicial, and diplomatic services. They proved indispensable in running the government machinery during Pakistan's first two decades, and their contributions to government policy and economics were profound during the era of Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto government in the 1970s precipitated a major reorganization and reorientation of the bureaucracy, however, which resulted in a noticeable decline in both the morale and the standards of the bureaucracy.

Pakistan's early foreign policy espoused nonalignment. Despite disputes with India, the policies of the two countries were similar: membership in the Commonwealth of Nations; no commitment to either the United States or the Soviet Union; and a role in the UN. Pakistan's foreign policy stance shifted significantly in 1953 when it accepted the United States offer of military and economic assistance in return for membership in an alliance system designed to contain international communism. When the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower sought a series of alliances in the "Northern Tier" — Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey — and in East Asia, Pakistan became a candidate for membership in each. In 1954 Pakistan signed a Mutual Defense Agreement with the United States and became a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). The following year, Pakistan joined Iran, Iraq, and Turkey in the Baghdad Pact, later converted into the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) after Iraq's withdrawal in 1959. Pakistan also leased bases to the United States for intelligence-gathering and communications facilities. Pakistan saw these agreements not as bulwarks against Soviet or Chinese aggression, but as a means to bolster itself against India.

Early Government of Pakistan

From 1947 to 1956, Pakistan was a Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. Dominion status was rejected in 1956 in favor of an “Islamic republic within the Commonwealth.” Attempts at civilian political rule failed, and the government imposed martial law between 1958 and 1962, and again between 1969 and 1971.

Pakistan, in its comparatively short history, has tried various forms of parliamentary, military, and presidential governments in its efforts to achieve political stability. At independence Pakistan was governed by the Government of India Act of 1935 as amended by the authority of the India Independence Act of 1947. The amended act provided at the center for a governor general (as successor to the British viceroy) as head of state and for a Constituent Assembly with two separate functions — to prepare a constitution and to be a federal legislature until the constitution came into effect. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

At the outset, however, this structure of governor general and parliamentary legislature took on singular characteristics tailored to the personality, prestige, and unique position occupied by Jinnah, Pakistan's first governor general. At independence, he was the supreme authority, the founder of the state, and the chief political leader. As head of the All-India Muslim League, in 1940 he mobilized the political effort that in just seven years won Pakistan's independence. His ultimate authority came not from military power, not from the support of the bureaucracy, and not from constitutional prerogatives but from the political support of the people. In these circumstances, Jinnah chose to unite in himself the functions of head of state and the power of chief executive and party boss. In addition to his position as governor general, he was elected president of the Constituent Assembly.

For the office of governor general to be held by an active party politician who continued as political leader was an innovation. Initially, the arrangement may have seemed necessary to preserve national unity after independence and to facilitate the work of the new government. When Jinnah died, the prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, and the cabinet assumed increased power, in more traditional roles, and Khwaja Nazimuddin, as the new governor general, became a more traditional, nonpolitical head of state. Liaquat, however, found it difficult to establish his political authority. Whether the transfer of effective power to Liaquat while Jinnah was still alive might have created a precedent for future political stability in Pakistan is a moot point. Liaquat's assassination, three years later in October 1951, was the catalyst for a series of constitutional and political crises that over the years seemed almost endemic.

East Pakistan

From the beginning of Pakistan's creation, the Bengali population in the east was more numerous than the Pakistani population in the western wing, yet West Pakistan became the seat of government and controlled nearly all national resources. West Pakistanis generally viewed Bengalis as inferior, weak, and less Islamic. From 1947 to 1970, West Pakistan reluctantly gave in to Bengali calls for power within the government, armed forces, and civil service, but increasing social unrest in the east led to a perception among government officials that the people of Bengal were unruly and untrust worthy "Hinduized" citizens. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Successive Pakistani regimes, increasingly concerned with consolidating their power over the entire country, often criticized the Hindu minority in Bengal. This was evident in Prime Minister Nazimuddin's attempt in 1952 to make Urdu, the predominant language of West Pakistan, the state language. The effect in the east was to energize opposition movements, radicalize students at Dhaka University, and give new meaning to a Bengali identity that stressed the cultural unity of the east instead of a pan-Islamic brotherhood. *

“Through the 1960s, the Bengali public welcomed a message that stressed the uniqueness of Bengali culture, and this formed the basis for calls for self-determination or autonomy. In the late 1960s, the Pakistani government attempted to fore-stall scheduled elections. The elections were held on 7 December 1970, and Pakistanis voted directly for members of the National Assembly.

Economic Activity in New Pakistan

After partition, Muslim banking shifted from Bombay to Karachi, Pakistan's first capital. Much of the investment in East Pakistan came from West Pakistani banks. Investment was concentrated in jute production at a time when international demand was decreasing. The largest jute processing factory in the world, at Narayanganj, an industrial suburb of Dhaka, was owned by the Adamjee family from West Pakistan. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Because banking and financing were generally controlled by West Pakistanis, discriminatory practices often resulted. Bengalis found themselves excluded from the managerial level and from skilled labor. West Pakistanis tended to favor Urdu-speaking Biharis (refugees from the northern Indian state of Bihar living in East Pakistan), considering them to be less prone to labor agitation than the Bengalis. This preference became more pronounced after explosive labor clashes between the Biharis and Bengalis at the Narayaganj jute mill in 1954.

Pakistan had a severe shortage of trained administrative personnel, as most members of the preindependence Indian Civil Service were Hindus or Sikhs who opted to belong to India at partition. Rarer still were Muslim Bengalis who had any past administrative experience. As a result, high-level posts in Dhaka, including that of governor general, were usually filled by West Pakistanis or by refugees from India who had adopted Pakistani citizenship.

Jinnah as Leader of the New Pakistan

What kept the new country together was the vision and forceful personality of the founders of Pakistan: Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1875-1948), the governor general popularly known as the Quaid i Azam (Supreme Leader); and Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951), the first prime minister, popularly known as the Quaid i Millet (Leader of the Community). The government machinery established at independence was similar to the viceregal system that had prevailed in the preindependence period and placed no formal limitations on Jinnah's constitutional powers. In the 1970s in Bangladesh, another autocrat, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, would enjoy much of the same prestige and exemption from the normal rule of law. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

At independence Jinnah was the supreme authority. An accomplished politician, he won independence for Pakistan within seven years of the Lahore Resolution and was hailed by his followers as the Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader). As governor general, he assumed the ceremonial functions of head of state while taking on effective power as head of government, dominating his prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan (the Quaid-i-Millet, or Leader of the Nation). To these roles, he added the leadership of the Muslim League and the office of president of the Constituent Assembly. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Although Jinnah had led the movement for Pakistan as a separate Muslim nation, he was appalled by the communal riots and urged equal rights for all citizens irrespective of religion. Jinnah died in September 1948 — only thirteen months after independence — leaving his successors to tackle the problems of Pakistan's identity.

Jinnah visited East Pakistan on only one occasion after independence, shortly before his death in 1948. He announced in Dhaka that "without one state language, no nation can remain solidly together and function." Jinnah's views were not accepted by most East Pakistanis, but perhaps in tribute to the founder of Pakistan, serious resistance on this issue did not break out until after his death. On February 22, 1952, a demonstration was carried out in Dhaka in which students demanded equal status for Bangla. The police reacted by firing on the crowd and killing two students. (A memorial, the Shaheed Minar, was built later to commemorate the martyrs of the language movement.) Two years after the incident, Bengali agitation effectively forced the National Assembly to designate "Urdu and Bengali and such other languages as may be declared" to be the official languages of Pakistan. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

After Jinnah: Liaquat

Jinnah was succeeded as governor general by Khwaja Nazimuddin, a respected Bengali, and Liaquat Ali Khan, a close friend of Jinnah., as prime minister. Liaquat was a moderate who supported making Pakistan a secular state.

When Jinnah died in September 1948, the seat of power shifted from the governor general to Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan (1895-1951), popularly known as the Quaid i Millet (Leader of the Community). Jinnah's acknowledged lieutenant, Liaquat assumed leadership and continued in the position of prime minister. Born to a Punjabi landed family, he had extensive experience in politics and enjoyed as a refugee from India the additional benefit of not being too closely identified with any one province of Pakistan. A moderate, Liaquat subscribed to the ideals of a parliamentary, democratic, and secular state. Out of necessity he considered the wishes of the country's religious spokesmen who championed the cause of Pakistan as an Islamic state.

Liaquat used his experience in law to attempt to frame a constitution along the lines of the British Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. He failed in large part because neither the Muslim League nor the Constituent Assembly was equipped to resolve in a parliamentary manner the problems and conflicts of the role of Islam and the degree of autonomy for the provinces. The armed forces posed a threat to Liaquat's government, which was less hostile toward India than some officers wished. In March 1951, Major General Mohammad Akbar Khan, chief of the general staff, was arrested along with fourteen other officers on charges of plotting a coup d'état. The authors of what became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy were tried in secret, convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment. All were subsequently released.

Liaquat was assassinated in Rawalpindi in October 1951 after three years in office. He was seeking a balance of Islam against secularism for a new constitution when he was shot by a tribal Afghan gunman who opposed to Liaquat's refusal to wage war against India. The killer or his motive was never determined. The assassination was followed by riots between rival Muslim groups in the Pakistan and calls by Muslim extremists for “Islamic purification of national life.” Over the next decade the Punjabi soldier caste increased their hold on power and moved the power base of the country out of Karachi.

Pakistan’s Instability in the 1950s

With both Jinnah and Liaquat gone, Pakistan faced an unstable period that would be resolved by military and civil service intervention in political affairs. The first few turbulent years after independence thus defined the enduring politico- military culture of Pakistan. After the assassination of Liaquat the Punjabi soldier caste increased their hold on power and moved the power base of the country out of Karachi. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The inability of the politicians to provide a stable government was largely a result of their mutual suspicions. Loyalties tended to be personal, ethnic, and provincial rather than national and issue oriented. Provincialism was openly expressed in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly. In the Constituent Assembly frequent arguments voiced the fear that the West Pakistani province of Punjab would dominate the nation. An ineffective body, the Constituent Assembly took almost nine years to draft a constitution, which for all practical purposes was never put into effect.

The Muslim League, unlike Congress, had not prepared itself for a postindependence role. Congress had constitutional, economic, social, and even foreign policy plans in place before independence and was ready to put them into effect when the time came. The Muslim League was so preoccupied with the struggle for Pakistan that it was poorly prepared for effective government. Its leaders were largely urban professionals whose political base was mainly in areas that were in India. In the areas that had become Pakistan, its base was weak. Landlords with ascriptive and inherited privileges were uncomfortable with procedures of decision making through debate, discussion, compromise, and majority vote. The Muslim League was a party with little grassroots support, a weak organizational structure, powerful factional leaders, and decisions made at the top. Although Ghulam Mohammad tried to exercise the "viceregal" power that Jinnah had used so powerfully as governor general, concern for office and the fruits of power were more important to most of the politicians than the evolution of ideology or the implementation of mass programs. The effect of this lack of direction was shown most clearly when the Muslim League was routed in the 1954 election in East Pakistan by the United Front — mainly a coalition of the Awami League and the Krishak Sramik Party, led by two one-time Muslim League members,Hussain Shahid Suhrawardy and Fazlul Haq, who ran on an autonomist platform. Other parties established during this period included the leftist National Awami Party (a breakaway from the Awami League), which also supported provincial autonomy. Islamic parties also made their appearance on the electoral scene, most notably the Jamaat-i-Islami.

The Muslim League was held responsible for the deterioration of politics and society after independence and had to answer for its failure to fulfill people's high expectations. There was a rising level of opposition and frustration and an increasing use of repressive laws inherited from the British or enacted by Pakistan that included preventive detention and rules prohibiting the gathering of more than five persons. In 1949 the Public and Representative Office Disqualification Act (PRODA) allowed the government to disqualify persons found guilty of "misconduct," a term that acquired a broad definition. In 1952 the Security of Pakistan Act expanded the powers of the government in the interests of public order.

According to the English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: “That, despite the upheavals of partition, the state did not collapse in either Pakistan or India is a testimony to the robustness of the colonial structures that survived in both countries after independence. Unlike India, however, which had inherited the mantle of the British Raj, Pakistan was defined as a seceding state and had to fashion its international identity anew, asking cap in hand for admission into the comity of nations. More importantly, it had to carve out a new political center and have its authority acknowledged by provincial politicians fiercely protective of their regional power. This task was rendered both more urgent by the outbreak of hostilities with India over Kashmir and harder by the fact that the only national party, the Muslim League, had little or no organizational structure in the areas that came to form Pakistan. Its main constituency had always been drawn from among Muslims in Hindu majority provinces now in India. The result was the early reliance by weak central politicians on the two main non-elected institutions, the civil bureaucracy and the army, put in place by the colonial state. This explains in large measure why, beginning with the same colonial legacy in 1947, whereas India was able to sustain more or less stable traditions of formal democracy, Pakistan's fifty-seven-year-old history has been dominated by military rule in collusion with the mighty civil service. Although federal in form, the Pakistani state emerged, like its colonial predecessor, as highly centralized in practice and reliant on the administrative fiat of the bureaucracy and a disciplined army. [Source: English Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, Thomson Gale, 2006]

First Constituent Assembly and Its Aftermath

Pakistan's first Constituent Assembly was made up of members of the prepartition Indian Constituent Assembly who represented areas that had gone to Pakistan. The body's eighty members functioned as the legislature of Pakistan. As a constitution-making body, the assembly's only achievement was the Objectives Resolution of March 1949, which specified that Pakistan would be Islamic, democratic, and federal. But the assembly could not reach agreement on how these objectives would take form, raising fears among minorities and concern among East Bengalis. Other important matters remained equally problematic — the division of executive power between the governor general and the prime minister; the distribution of power between the center and the provinces; the balance of power, especially electoral, between the two wings; and the role of Islam in the government. With the 1951 assassination of Liaquat, resolution of these issues became unlikely. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

During the years after Liaquat's assassination, none of these problems were resolved, and a major confrontation occurred between the governor general, Ghulam Mohammad, a Punjabi from the civil service, and the prime minister, Nazimuddin, a former chief minister of united Bengal and now chief minister of East Bengal. Ghulam Mohammad, who relished the trappings of dominance earlier held by Jinnah, asserted his power by declaring martial law in 1953 in Punjab during disturbances involving the Ahmadiyyas, a small but influential sect considered heterodox by orthodox Muslims, and a year later by imposing governor's rule after the Muslim League defeat in East Bengal, not permitting the United Front to take office. When Nazimuddin attempted to limit the power of the governor general through amendments to the Government of India Act of 1935 — then still the basic law for Pakistan, as altered by the India Independence Act of 1947 — Ghulam Mohammad unceremoniously dismissed him in April 1953, and then the following year appointed his own "cabinet of talents," dismissing the Constituent Assembly.

The so-called cabinet of talents was headed by Mohammad Ali Bogra, a minor political figure from East Bengal who had previously been Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. Significantly, the cabinet also included both military and civil officials. Chaudhuri Mohammad Ali, who had been head of the Civil Service of Pakistan, became minister of finance. General Mohammad Ayub Khan became minister of defense while retaining his post as commander in chief of the army.Major General Iskander Mirza, a military officer who was seconded to civilian posts, including becoming governor of East Bengal when Ghulam Mohammad imposed governor's rule on that province, became minister of home affairs. The cabinet thus provided an opportunity for the military to take a direct role in politics. Ghulam Mohammad was successful in subordinating the prime minister because of the support of military and civil officers as well as the backing of the strong landed interests in Punjab. The facade of parliamentary government crumbled, exposing the military's role in Pakistan's political system to public view.

Leaders After Jinnah and Liaquat

Liaquat was replaced by Khwaja Nazimuddin, who stepped down as governor general; Nazimuddin was replaced as governor general by Ghulam Mohammad, the former minister of finance. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Khwaja Nazimuddin, from East Pakistan, succeeded Liaquat as prime minister. Nazimuddin was a conservative Bengali and former governor general. Former finance minister Ghulam Mohammad, a Punjabi career civil servant, became governor general. Ghulam Mohammad was dissatisfied with Nazimuddin's inability to deal with Bengali agitation for provincial autonomy and worked to expand his own power base. East Pakistan favored a high degree of autonomy, with the central government controlling little more than foreign affairs, defense, communications, and currency.

In 1953 Ghulam Mohammad dismissed Prime Minister Nazimuddin, established martial law in Punjab, and imposed governor's rule (direct rule by the central government) in East Pakistan. In 1954 he appointed his own "cabinet of talents." Mohammad Ali Bogra, another conservative Bengali and previously Pakistan's ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, was named prime minister.

Survival of the Pakistani Military in a Harsh Environment

Pakistan is located in a critical and historically contentious part of the world. At the time of independence, it was the world's fifth largest nation. Yet three of its close neighbors (China, India, and the Soviet Union) were larger, more populous, and not necessarily well-intentioned. Pakistan was divided into two wings, East Pakistan (renamed Bangladesh when it became independent in 1971) and West Pakistan. It would soon become apparent that the country, divided by 1,600 kilometers of a hostile India, was also divided by competing ethnic groups with only Islam serving as a tenuous link. Furthermore, West Pakistan was geographically a fairly narrow country, lacking in strategic depth — its main cities and communications arteries lay close to the border with India and thus were vulnerable to attack. Additionally, the headwaters of Pakistan's rivers and vital irrigation systems were largely controlled by India. East Pakistan, except for its Bay of Bengal coast, was also virtually surrounded by India. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

There were other security complications. Pakistan's borders with India were new and hence were totally unfortified and, in most places, were drawn in ways that made them almost indefensible. Because the borders were also undemarcated, there was ample opportunity for conflict. Although the military gave border control over to paramilitary forces, the armed forces remained ready for deployment in case of emergency.*

Almost all of Pakistan's ethnic groups extended into neighboring countries. This situation caused particular problems with the Afghans, who did not recognize the border as valid and hoped that their new neighbor would be unable to assert its interests.*

Security concerns were not limited to the outside world. Despite the euphoria of nationhood, Pakistan was increasingly subject to the same kinds of internal stresses that had characterized British India — fractious tribesmen, dacoits (armed gangs of thieves), and restive cities — and required the army to render aid-to-the-civil power. Even the need to repress nationalist movements recurred as regional groups within Pakistan sought greater autonomy from central control.*

Although Pakistan perceived in India a threat to its security, initially it was not able to defend itself against that perceived threat because of limited personnel and matériel. Pakistan therefore had to develop a comprehensive military strategy that would offset at least some of its weaknesses. High hopes were placed on support from other Muslim nations, some of which could help financially and others of which would provide through alliances some of the geostrategic territorial depth that Pakistan lacked. But the emergence of the first state created on the basis of Islam was of relatively little interest to the nations of the Arab world. Britain helped significantly in supplying officers and equipment, but it was itself in an economic crisis and would not alienate India.*

The year 1951 marked an important turning point. During a period of political tension, India moved troops toward the frontier in a manner Pakistan interpreted as threatening. The year 1951 also saw the appointment of the first Pakistani commander in chief of the army, Mohammad Ayub Khan, who concentrated on reshaping the Pakistani military. Ayub Khan put special emphasis on training and operational planning, two critical areas in which Pakistan did not depend completely on foreign resources. These tasks, plus reorganization, occupied the attention of the army well into the 1950s. Critical shortages of equipment, however, remained, requiring that Pakistan look abroad for its provisioning.*

Pakistan’s Early Alliance with the United States

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, it was natural for Pakistan to covet the wealth and surplus military equipment of the United States. United States-Pakistan relations were cordial, and throughout the late 1940s, Pakistan sought to nurture those close relations and gain access to United States military support; initially, these attempts were rebuffed. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

As the new decade opened, however, a series of events put new hope into the possibility of United States-Pakistan cooperation. First was the reassessment of Pakistan's military position undertaken by Ayub Khan. The second event was the outbreak of the Korean War (1950-53), which drew United States attention toward Asia and marked the point of no return of the globalization of United States security policy. The third factor was the advent of the Eisenhower-Dulles team, which set to work building a ring of containment around the Sino-Soviet bloc. India, committed itself to nonalignment, had come into sharp disagreement with the United States in the United Nations when it refused to censure China as an aggressor in the Korean War and thus was viewed by the United States as a voice for communist appeasement. India's refusal to join the United States-sponsored 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan — a pact among nations designed among other purposes to recruit Japan as an ally against communist inroads in Asia — further divided the two countries. India was not available as an ally; Pakistan was the inevitable alternative.*

Pakistan and the United States drew closer together, highlevel visits were exchanged, and the groundwork was laid for a security relationship that seemed to meet Pakistan's political needs and equipment deficit. At United States prompting, Pakistan and Turkey concluded a security treaty in 1954 — the TurkoPakistan Pact — which immediately enabled United States military assistance to Pakistan under the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement signed the same year. Pakistan also became a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and joined the Baghdad Pact, later renamed the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) in 1959. Pakistan had little interest in SEATO and discerned no danger to its interests from China, joining mainly to oblige Washington. Even CENTO, which offered the advantage of a new approach to the Muslim world, was problematic because it drove a wedge between Pakistan and the Arab countries that remained outside it and was seen by Pakistanis as institutionally weak because the United States was never willing to become a full member. None of these arrangements addressed Pakistan's main concern, however — India.*

At Pakistan's insistence, an additional agreement (the Agreement of Cooperation) on security was concluded with the United States in March 1959, by which the United States committed itself to the "preservation of the independence and integrity of Pakistan" and agreed to take "appropriate action, including the use of armed forces, as may be mutually agreed upon . . . in order to assist the Government of Pakistan at its request." The Agreement of Cooperation also said nothing about India and was cast in the context of the Eisenhower Doctrine, which dealt with communist threats to the Middle East. Pakistan saw the agreement as representing a high level of United States commitment, however, and some United States officials apparently encouraged an interpretation that saw more in the agreement than was actually there. There was considerable self-deception on both sides — Pakistan believed that it had secured an ally in its rivalry with India, and the United States focused on Pakistan as an adherent to the anticommunist cause.*

Tangible gains to Pakistan from the relationship were substantial. Between 1954 and 1965, the United States provided Pakistan with US$630 million in direct-grant assistance and more than US$670 million in concessional sales and defense-support assistance. Pakistan received equipment for one additional armored division, four infantry divisions, and one armored brigade and received support elements for two corps. The Pakistan Air Force received six squadrons of modern jet aircraft. The Pakistan Navy received twelve ships. The ports of Karachi (in West Pakistan) and Chittagong (in East Pakistan) were modernized. The program did not, however, provide for the wholesale modernization of the military, much less its expansion. Forces in Kashmir and East Pakistan were excluded, and there was a continuing tug-of-war between the United States and Pakistan as Pakistan sought to extend the scope of the program and wring more benefits out of it.*

The impact on the military of this new relationship was intense. Pakistanis embraced the latest concepts in military organization and thinking with enthusiasm and adopted United States training and operational doctrine. The army and the air force were transformed into fairly modern, well-equipped fighting forces. In the course of the rearmament program, the military was substantially reorganized along United States lines, and hundreds of Pakistani officers were trained by United States officers, either in Pakistan or in schools in the United States. Although many British traditions remained, much of the tone of the army, especially the officer corps, was Americanized.*

Pakistan's hopes for an equitable settlement of its disputes with India, especially over Kashmir, were probably small in any event, but by bringing the United States directly into the South Asian security equation, rapprochement with India became virtually impossible. More important, India responded to Pakistan's new alignment by turning to the Soviet Union for military and political support — and the Soviet leader at the time, Nikita S. Khrushchev, was only too happy to oblige. As a result, Pakistan not only incurred Soviet hostility but also ultimately triggered a Soviet military supply program in India that more than offset the United States assistance to Pakistan. Soviet displeasure was further heightened by Pakistan's decision to grant facilities at Peshawar for the United States to conduct U-2 aerial reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union.*

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh National Portal (www.bangladesh.gov.bd), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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