Uzair Ali describes the causes for a crucial decision
The exceptional circumstances under which Pakistan was created required exceptional steps to manage the new country. Quaid-e-Azam’s initiative to assume the office the Reasons for Quaid-e-Azam to become governor general of Pakistan is required to be viewed in this backdrop. To begin with it is required to evaluate the compulsions that made the Quaid to decide taking the heavy mantle of responsibility though he had consistently eschewed taking any governmental position as much as possible. He was extremely reluctant to give in to temptations that glorified his long and arduous public service and went to the extent of regretting to accept the title offered to him by the British colonial government and insisted that he preferred to remain ‘plain Mr. Jinnah.’ It was not vanity that made him to spurn attempts to glorify his personality but it had a lot to do with his strongly held belief that in democratic conduct of public affairs it is the institutional behaviour that was of primary importance instead of eulogising personal contribution. He displayed this strongly-held belief in his very long political career and there were large quarters that felt no doubt about his convictions in this respect that many held to be unwavering.
In this context it is imperative to evaluate the constraints that led to the Quaid to take over the office of governor general despite being aware that this step would bring in plenty of criticism and it accordingly did obliging the Pakistani circles to mount a spirited defence of this development. It is now very clear that the Quaid was privy to the shenanigans of the last viceroy Lord Mountbatten who was, without doubt under the influence of the leadership of Congress particularly Pandit Nehru that probably spurred Mountbatten to suggest that he becomes governor general of both India and Pakistan on the pretext that such action would reduce the communal tensions between both Hindu and Muslim communities. The Quaid could clearly see that making Mountbatten would certainly not be able to bridge the communal divide that could not abate just because an Englishman was placed at the head of both new countries.
The most crucial issue pertained to the sovereignty of the new country as viewing it from the perspective of the relative strength of different forces functioning at Delhi there is no doubt that Pakistan’s sovereignty would have been greatly diluted if it had started with Mountbatten as its governor general as it is widely recognised that sovereignty in all its essence is required to remain absolute and undiluted. Keeping in view the intense complications it was quite obvious that the joint governor general would not be able to safeguard’s Pakistan’s interests in any important matter against the standpoint of the Indian leaders. It was glaringly manifest that the joint governor generalship of Mountbatten would create more complications rather than mitigating them as his pronounced tilt towards the Congress would have compelled him to create ways and means to circumvent the logical aspirations of the Muslim League leadership.
There was a cardinal reason for Muslim League to feel apprehensive about the common governor general proposal as it was mooted by V.P. Menon that was accepted by Nehru with alacrity. The Muslim League leadership was made aware of the fact that this proposal emanated when Mountbatten was in London in May 1947 and was reported to have been discussed during this visit with British authorities. To counter the proposal the Quaid did point out in May 1947 that India and Pakistan should have their own governors general but there should be a common figure, a sort of super governor general, for the brief transitional period. He was convinced that this was the only way in which the advantages of a common constitutional head could have been secured without imperiling or diluting Pakistan’s sovereignty. There was certainly a merit in this proposal as the Quaid was aware that many matters after partition would require honest arbitration that he expected Mountbatten would be able to bring about though by this time he had forfeited the confidence of the Muslim leadership. In any case this wise proposal of the Quaid did not meet approval of the British establishment and it gave it up as too late a proposal to put into practice.
It was also a matter of common knowledge that Congress leaders particularly the Congress strongman Sardar Patel who was widely known to go to any length to secure any object he had decided was in the interests of India, and subsequent events proved that he did precisely that. Patel had already placed influential and well-connected civil servants including Viceroy’s Constitutional Adviser, V.P. Menon, very close to the centres of power who were secretly advising the outgoing British administration and such advise could have been nothing but detrimental to the cause of the about-to-emerge Pakistan. It was widely known that Sardar Patel was inviting Hindu secretaries of the various departments to tea or dinner almost every week, listening to what they reported and advising them in light of the policies Congress was planning to pursue. On the other hand, Muslim civil servants were known not to liaise with leadership of Muslim League and kept their distance as was required by their professional conduct.
It also was brought to the notice of the leadership of Muslim League that the close relationship garnered by Mountbatten with Hindu civil servants was instrumental in getting the plan that the viceroy intended to follow in future with tacit approval from London amended when Menon informed Nehru about it who heatedly opposed it with the result that the plan was accordingly emended. This was one of such acts that were recorded and later confirmed by the British side though there were many that were not reported or deliberately hedged. It was also mentioned that in July when Indian Independence Act had not yet been passed and the Government of India was still working under the Act of 1935, Nehru and Patel asked Mountbatten to throw out the League ministers. They had no legal basis for their demand but Mountbatten met their point of view by so reorganising his government as to let Muslim League ministers deal only with the areas which would constitute Pakistan after 15 August 1947.
The lack of confidence felt by the Muslims in respect of Mountbatten was confirmed by his closest associate Lord Ismay who mentioned that there existed a danger that appointment of Mountbatten was considered pro-Congress and anti-Muslim League and this fear was confirmed by subsequent events when Mountbatten showed his leanings towards the Congress. This fact was also noted by Second World War hero Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery who after visiting India in June 1947 when he wrote in his memoirs that the Muslim League leaders felt that Mountbatten was in Nehru’s pocket and with this impression it is difficult to see how a different course could have been followed. Montgomery was not the only outside observer as there were many others particularly the independent American media representatives who reported the unfolding events in great detail. The belief was in the air that the British authorities led by Mountbatten were well-disposed towards the Congress and it was common knowledge that the viceroy intensely detested the Quaid and mentioned it in many private circles. TW