Viceroys of Pakistan: A Legacy British Left Behind

British rules over sub-continent for over 100 years and left the region in ruins yet people still cling on to the power dynamics Britsh Raj left behind. Lord Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of the British era but Pakistan produced several of its own.

Viceroys

Op-ed |

Lord Louis Mountbatten was the last Viceroy of India (February-August 1947). After the passage of the Indian Independence Act in July 1947, the post of viceroy ceased to exist after the partition on August 14, 1947. Mountbatten then became the governor-general for India while Muhammad Ali Jinnah assumed this mantle in Pakistan. Until 1858, the board of the East India Company appointed governors-general; it was called the Company Raj.

It was then converted to the British Raj when monarchy took control of India. The post was then named viceroy and governor-general. A viceroy was classified as a ruler exercising authority on behalf of a sovereign, and the governor-general was considered a representative of the British monarchy.

Finally, another babu, the honorary major general, Iskander Mirza, appeared on the scene as the second viceroy to replace Ghulam Mohammad in 1955

Prime Minister Clement Attlee appointed Lord Mountbatten as the fourth viceroy of India. In that capacity, he reported to the elected parliament and received policy directions from the public representatives of the United Kingdom. After partition on August 14, 1947, when Jinnah took oath as the governor-general, he appointed Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan as the first elected PM of the new land, who then appointed a six-member cabinet to run the country.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was consumed by the freedom struggle; he passed away a year later to be succeeded by another political stalwart from the eastern wing, Khawaja Nazimuddin. In 1950, India became a republic, and the post of governor-general was replaced with an elected president.

Pakistan was not that lucky. Khan was assassinated in 1951, and ‘babu’ Ghulam Mohammad became the governor-general and Nazimuddin replaced the PM. Under Ghulam Mohammad, Pakistan started to move in the wrong direction. Constitution-making became an uphill task. Ghulam Mohammad started to act as ‘Rustam-e-Pakistan’.

He assumed the mantle of the first ‘viceroy’ of Pakistan who was accountable to no one. Even when he was incapacitated with a stroke he refused to step down. Finally, another babu, the honorary major general, Iskander Mirza, appeared on the scene as the second viceroy to replace Ghulam Mohammad in 1955. In 1956, when the first constitution was passed he was elected as the first president.

Read more: An overview of Pakistani politics from 1947 to Gen. Zia

When the country was gearing up for elections in 1958, Viceroy II dismissed his own party’s government and imposed martial law on October 8, 1958. Then came Viceroy III who as commander-in-chief dismissed Viceroy II and clamped another martial law on October 27, 1958.

‘Viceroys’ of Pakistan were omnipotent monarchs accountable to no one, unlike the viceroys of India who reported to an elected parliament. Ayub Khan as viceroy decided to send home all the founding fathers of Pakistan through the Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance.

Viceroy III ruled over the land of the pure for ten years and five months (October 1958-March 1969). When he tried to push his heir apparent, Captain (Retd) Gohar Ayub Khan, cracks started to appear in his dynasty. Earlier, Ayub Khan had abrogated the unanimously approved constitution of 1956 to be replaced by his own presidential version in 1962.

When the movement against Ayub gained steam he was replaced by Viceroy IV, who again abrogated the constitution and decided to hold free and fair elections in 1970. The people of both wings, east, and west, overwhelmingly voted against the rule of the viceroys. When power was not transferred to the elected representatives, civil war broke out in the eastern wing, and Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered.

Bhutto’s 1973 constitution has survived despite being disfigured several times. Future salvation lies in adhering to this consensual document in letter and spirit

As an elected PM, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto promulgated the 1973 constitution that to date stands out as a beacon of hope and democracy. Whenever he tried to tread the path of the earlier viceroys he was checkmated by a parliament whose leader of the opposition was Abdul Wali Khan, a smart political mind.

The ‘vicegerent alliance’ was unhappy with the democratic gains of the seventies. Bhutto was replaced by Viceroy V who then started to rule over us. Perhaps he was the most obnoxious of them all; he had the audacity to say that he could tear up the constitution and throw it as waste paper. He left behind another Viceroy VI, Babu Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and another in waiting: Nawaz Sharif.

Viceroy VI dismissed two elected governments using Viceroy V’s eighth amendment. The second time he got into trouble, viceroy-in-waiting got him. After removing Viceroy VI, Sharif started working on his dream of becoming an ameer-ul-momineen or caliph of the Islamic state. When the senate thwarted his ambition, he tried to settle on becoming viceroy-in-waiting. He tried it three times but has so far remained unsuccessful.

Read more: An overview of political landscape of Pakistan – Asif Haroon Raja

Then viceroy-in-waiting was pushed out by Viceroy VII-Pervez Musharraf who wanted to create a modern and progressive state. He termed it ‘enlightened moderation’. Only he understood this term. One telephone call from Washington brought him to his knees. After his ouster, viceroy-in waiting struck him with article six of the constitution. He ran away never to return.

But once again it was selective pursuit; only the president was accused while his PM and law minister were spared. Now, viceroy-in-waiting has also left in an air ambulance or a royal Qatar airplane, no one knows. With seven vagabond viceroys and one in waiting, democracy and freedom remain a pipe dream. Bhutto’s 1973 constitution has survived despite being disfigured several times.

Future salvation lies in adhering to this consensual document in letter and spirit. All political forces must sit together to agree on electoral reforms for a free and fair non-controversial electoral exercise to put an end to the rule of the vicegerent alliance that has denied the republic of its democratic rights. No more viceroys, only genuine ‘khadims’ who don’t have to be ‘aala’ as claimed.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. This article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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