In Lahore we stayed with my father’s younger brother, Mr. Zafarul Ahsan, I.C.S., at 88 Jail Road. According to the Private Secretary of the last two Viceroys, Sir G.E.B. Abell, the British Government had given two gifts to Punjab, one being my father-in-law and uncle, Mr. Zafarul Ahsan, who was Deputy Commissioner of Jhelum. From there he was brought to Lahore on 11th August 1947 as Additional Deputy Commissionor, and was made Deputy Commissioner of Lahore on Independence Day 14 August 1947, with additional charge of refugee camps and refugee rehabilitation at a time when Lahore was according to some, ‘the city of the dead and a picture of hell’. According to one estimate 4,000 houses in Lahore were gutted in partition violence and most of the 6,000 houses in the walled city were badly damaged. And huge caravans of refugees were traversing Lahore as part of the mass exodus of 10 million people in Punjab, i.e. Muslims from East Punjab and reverse migrations of West Punjab Hindus and Sikhs to India. By the end of 1947 the ethnic cleansing was complete as there were virtually no Hindus or Sikhs living in Pakistani west Punjab and no Muslims in the Indian east Punjab. The cause of this holocaust was the Muslim League’s civil disobedience campaign early in 1947 against the Unionist-Akali-Congress government led by Khizr Hayat Tiwana; and the resignation of this coalition ministry on March 2, 1947. The Muslim League had hoped to include all of the Punjab in Pakistan, but the destruction in Lahore on March 4, 1947 and Amritsar on March 5, 1947, “made it impossible for the Muslim League to achieve Pakistan without the Punjab’s partition”. The Indian National Congress wanted to keep India united but realizing that the Muslim League was insistent on the partition of India, it threw its weight behind the Sikh demand for the partition of the Punjab on March 8, 1947. The estimated loss of life during the partition of India is one million. Besides, 14-18 million people were forced to cross the international border in search of safe havens
Therefore, Zafarul Ahsan received further additional charge as Chairman of the Lahore Improvement Trust on 1st September 1947, to rebuild Lahore. He rebuilt the burnt out Shah Almi in the old town by widening the road and developed new areas like Gulberg and Samanabad, to cater for the influx of population. He was the builder of post-independence Lahore.
A meeting of the Joint Defence Council of India and Pakistan took place on 29 August 1947, attended by the Prime Ministers of both countries under the chairmanship of Lord Mountbattan. The meeting had declared that illegal seizure of property would not be recognised, and that each government would appoint a custodian of refugee property to stop such illegal seizure of the evacuee property, while the evacuee property was to be distributed among the refugees of the two countries, after exchange of information between the two governments.
Mr. Zafarul Ahsan had to face a tremendous amount of resentment from locals, who believed that the property left by Sikhs and Hindus belonged to them. And therefore they had looted and occupied it. He had to show great tact to get them out of the illegally occupied properties and settle refugees in them. It split the ruling party and led to agitation against Urdu speaking officers, and the British governor, Sir Francis Mudie, was accused of replacing Punjabi speaking officers with Urdu speakers.
‘Way nakami mutay karavan jata raha
karavan kay dil say ihsas ziyan jata raha’
Apart from the Lahore Improvement Trust, Mr. Zafarul Ahsan was also given the charge of the Thal Development Authority on 26 May 1949, comprising the districts of Mianwali, Bhakkar, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Khushab, to create new settlements. He created new cities in the Thal desert called Jauharabad, Quaidabad and Liaquatabad by granting land to anyone who was prepared to settle and work there, thus drawing them away from old towns which were being choked by the influx of refugees. He was very strict about it. Anyone who tried to be an absentee landlord and did not pay his dues had his allotment cancelled, which made him many enemies, including General Ayub Khan, whose allotment was cancelled when he failed to pay his dues despite notices. According to H. N. Akhtar my uncle was the first to build highways in Pakistan in a straight line from one point to another. My uncle spent most of his time driving between Lahore and the desert of Thal. I sometimes accompanied him as I had some friends of Pakistani origin from Kenya who had been settled there. I also got hold of his Punjab Public Library card and went through its great collection of Urdu literature.
My uncle was the only Muslim to be declared successful, along with three Hindus, in the 1934 ICS examination held in Delhi. The British government was not happy at the proportion of Muslims among the ICS officers; therefore they decided to nominate Muslims from among those who had appeared in the examination. This resulted in an immense amount of lobbying.
The Imam of London Mosque pressed the claim of Mr. Nyazee on Mr. R. A. Butler, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for India, as the only Ahmadi candidate for the Indian Civil Service. Mr. Butler passed on the Imam’s letter with the note that he could not support Mr. Nyazee, and was simply passing on his letter for what it was worth. The Imam wrote, ‘Mr. Nyazee stood 8th in order of merit at Delhi Centre in January 1933 and first in Punjab, and then hastened to England to try his last chance. He stood 85th in order of merit after barely two months of preparation … Nyazee Afghans of Mianwali have always distinguished themselves for loyalty and particularly in military service during and since the Mutiny.’
Mr. Zafarullah Khan wished to see Mr. Arshad Hussain, who was a nephew of Sir Fazl-i-Husain, nominated to the Indian Civil Service. He had competed in the Delhi examination in January 1933, and was placed 9th out of 210 candidates, while in the London examination in August 1933 he was 58th out of 277 candidates. Mr. Zafarullah Khan wrote from ‘Dil Afroze’, Model Town, Lahore on 26 April 1934 to Sir Findlater Steward, ‘You will recall that last year I mentioned two names to you in connection with these nominations, those of Mian Arshad Husain (nephew of the Honble Mian Sir Fazl-i-Husain) and of Mr. A.K. Nyazee.’
Sir Mirza M. Ismail wrote on 19 May 1934 from Carlton House, Banglore, to ‘My dear Sir Findlater Stewart’, recommending his cousin and ward Aga Hilaly for nomination to the ICS. Mr. Hilaly was rejected on medical grounds, as he did not come up to the I.C.S standard on weight and measurements. Sir Mirza M. Ismail wrote to Sir Findlater Stewart that ‘the medical board had been too strict. It had not found any organic defect, and weight and measurement can be changed with exercise and tonic.’ The secretary of S&G asked, ‘I would be grateful if you would say what reply can be given to Sir Mirza M. Ismail. I attach some correspondence which Sir Findlater Stewart recently had with Mr. Zafarullah Khan on the same subject of nomination for the Indian Civil Service.’ ‘One of the rules under which nominations are made prescribes that if any candidate seeks to enlist political influence in support of his claims, it will count against him. Nevertheless the practice of Indian politicians supporting their protegees for nomination seems to me to be growing. I suggest a reply to Sir Mirza M. Ismail which is as cold in its terms as is politically wise.’
Mr. Shafiq Jalil Asghar pleaded for nomination to the Indian Civil Service. He wrote on 18 October 1934 that he had appeared in the Delhi examination in January 1933, and in the London examination in July/August 1933. He added that he had no further chance to appear, and that his father, Shaikh Asghar Ali, had served in Punjab for 35 years and had been granted the title of CBE.
The Home Department of the Government of India telegraphed from Simla on 2 June 1934 to the Secretary of State, saying that the Public Service Commission recommended two Muslims for nomination out of the 50 Muslims who had appeared in Delhi examination, one being Musarat Husain Zubairi from the U.P., who had been placed 6th in the examination, and the other being Aga Hilaly from Mysore, who had been placed 9th in the examination. A grateful Sir Mirza M Ismail sent a few silk handkerchiefs to Sir Findlater Stewart on 28 August 1934. Sir Findlater Stewart acknowledged the gift vide his letter dated 6 October 1934, saying, ‘They are very pleasant gift and it was very good of you to think of sending them.’
A further three Muslims were appointed from among those who had appeared in the open competitive examination held in London for appointment to the Indian Civil Service. One was Shujat Osman Ali who gained 14th position, the second was S Shafiq Jalil Asghar who had obtained 86th position and the third was M. S. Sait who had obtained 92nd position in the London examination.
Mr. Zafarul Ahsan, who was at that time an ICS probationer, wrote on 22 October 1934 from St John’s College, Oxford, to the Secretary, CSC, in response to his letter dated 15 October 1934 assigning him to Punjab, ‘I was selected by the Government of the U.P. for the U.P. Civil Service in 1932, and served from 7 February 1933 to 16 July 1934 in Aligarh, therefore I should be assigned to the U.P.’ But his request was turned down.
In Lahore, my uncle had a large number of interesting friends who stayed with him in his annexe, especially rebels like M. Masud, I.C.S. (1916-1985), to whom no one was willing to give a posting because of his radical views and conduct. Unlike other I.C.S. officers Masud Sahib was always dressed in a Kurta Shalwar made of coarse khaddar, so he was known as Masud Khadar Posh. He was known in Bombay Presidency as Masud Maharaj, a name given to him by tribal people who loved him for his work among them. He was posted to Sindh just before partition as Collector of Nawabshah and made a member of the Hari Committee. This made him very unpopular among Sindhi politicians as he ‘advocated the liquidation of the zamindar and the creation of peasant proprietorship, in order not only to solve the problem of the hari, but also to help refugee resettlement’. His contention was that the wealth of a nation is its manpower and that Sindh should, therefore, consider itself fortunate to have received a large inflow of refugees. Therefore his note of dissent was not published by the Hari Committee, whose Report on Agricultural Reforms in Sindh published in December 1948 stated that ‘Feudal lords are the best friends of the peasants, who only repay their saviours with ingratitude’. The religious leaders backed the feudals and a pamphlet entitled, Ishtrakiyat Aur Zraati Masawaat, signed by 16 religious leaders, supported absentee landlordism and the findings of the Hari Committee. And Masood Khaddar Posh, the dissident member, was attacked as a socialist and an atheist. Therefore he was first moved to Karachi and then to Punjab, where he again created a problem for the administration by reciting the Azan and then Eid prayers in Punjabi. He was an ardent believer of education in the mother tongue, and wrote a book entitled ‘Mian Mithu’, attacking education in foreign tongues. When Field Martial Ayub Khan contested the election against Miss Fatima Jinnah, he came to me with his English notes against the Indus Basin Water Treaty with India, and asked me to render his ideas in Urdu and distribute them among the Electoral College, which consisted of Basic Democracy members. He himself could not do this as a government servant. I had it printed secretly by a friend, Fazlur Rehman of Fazlisons. It had a thick black border, and the title, ‘Maut ka Muhaida’ (Pact of Death) with a Persian subtitle ‘Quame farokhtand wa che arzan farokhtand’ (How cheaply have they sold the country), and sent thousands of copies to BD members of Punjab and Sindh from different post offices in Karachi and Hyderabad, so that it could not be traced either to me or to Masud Saheb.
Another ICS officer, whom I met at my uncle’s house and became friendly with, was M.H. Zuberi, who lived in Islamabad near the Marriot Hotel where I stayed. Therefore in the evenings I used to walk over to his house. And when he retired he lived in Karachi in the street next to mine. Zuberi Saheb was in the habit in the evenings of walking over to my house to discuss his latest work. Later in the evening I would walk him back to his house. He wrote books on Abraham, Moses, Aristotle, Al-Ghazali and did a two-volume autobiography. Further as Secretary-General of RCD living in Tehran he had collected some rare Mughal coins.
- Zafarul Ahsan as a young ICS
- Zafarul Ahsan with daughter Yasmeen Lari and Mukhtar Masood CSP