National and International Issues

Jinnah’s Concern and Efforts to Create Pakistani Armed Forces under Independent Command by 15 August 1947

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who successfully led the Pakistan Movement to its conclusion under the June 3, 1947 Partition Plan, well knew the importance of cause of the defence of a country in the modern world. When there was case of establishment of a new state like Pakistan, to be born out of the South Asian Subcontinent, Jinnah was more concerned for the defence of the new state. His fear was all the more confounded when a state was being born out of the fear of the Hindu dominance in the region and that threat was looming large with the passage of time. The Indian National Congress, the other party responsible for the creation of Hindustan, was against this. The reasons behind this thinking of the Congress was that they wanted to undo Pakistan through Lord Mountbatten, who was being floated as the common Governor-General of both Hindustan and Pakistan. This was the reason that despite declaration under the 3rd June Plan to establish Pakistan Army before 15 August 1947, there were fears and signs of not doing so. Though certain units of Pakistan Army were created but the command was not separated. It was kept jointly under one command of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck, who was sitting at Delhi. Because of this, Pakistan suffered heavily even in Kashmir and other areas of Pakistan. Detail of all this is discussed in this article.

The Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, in his statement of June 3, 1947, announced the Partition Plan in which the procedure by which British India would be divided in order to create Pakistan.1 In Mountbatten’s meeting with the Indian leaders on the morning of June 3, 1947, in which Jinnah also participated, it was decided that the division of the personnel of the Armed Forces shall be made “on the basis of citizenship, which in its turn would be based on geographical considerations”.2 However, option was allowed to the members of any community “to transfer their homes and citizenship to the other part”.3 Mountbatten reported to the meeting that Field Marshal Sir Claude Auckinleck conveyed the great concern of the army officers in case of the division of the armed forces. Despite this, Mountbatten entrusted the job to Auckinleck to prepare proposal for the division of the army for both the dominions.

In a special meeting of the Partition Committee headed by Mountbatten, it was reported that the Armed Forces Committee headed by Auckinleck would prepare a plan to solve the problems involved in the division of the Army which would be discussed in the next meeting of the Partition Council proposed to be held on 16 June.4 Auckinleck submitted his proposed plan for the division of the armed forces to the Viceroy on June 11, 1947 to divide the Indian Army on the basis of

the following terms of reference:

“In close consultation with the Steering Committee, acting under the orders of the Partition Council, to prepare plan for the creation from the existing Armed Forces in India, namely the Royal Indian Navy, the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Air Force, (including the various installations, establishments and stores owned by the present Defence Department of the Government of India) of two separate, self-contained and self-sufficient parts, one for each of the two dominions into which British India is to be divided. Due regard will be paid to the strategic and internal needs of these new states and the necessity for ensuring the highest possible standard of efficiency in their armed forces. In preparing its plan, the committee will be guided throughout by the over-riding importance of maintaining the highest possible standard of discipline, reliability and solidarity in the present armed forces during the process of division. The committee will also ensure to the best of its ability that the plan recommended by it safeguards to the utmost extent possible, the welfare, prospects and interests of rather officers and other ranks now serving in the armed forces of India. Implementation of the plan, when approved by the Partition Council, shall be the responsibility of the C-in-C in India.”5

In order to give effect to these terms of reference Auckinleck proposed eleven other points by which the armed forces were to be divided. This plan was discussed at the Viceroy’s 43rd Staff Meeting on 16 June in which Mountbatten reported that he was happy to learn that “Auckinleck was now satisfied that the division of the Indian Armed Forces could be carried out without vitally impairing their efficiency,”6 and Mountbatten allowed Auckinleck to go ahead with his plan. This was followed in the afternoon of the same day by meeting of the Special Committee of the Indian Cabinent in which Liaquat Ali Khan, Abdur Rab Nishtar and Muhammed Ali also participated. It was suggested that the Armed Forces Committee should complete its work as early as possible so that by August 20, 1947 all work of division of various units of the armed forces is completed.7 On June 20, 1947, in an official note, Lord Ismay informed the Viceroy about a meeting with Liaquat Ali Khan in which he expressed great concern about the slow speed with which the question of the partititon of armed forces was being tackled. He also informed that Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan desired that the armed forces should be divided by August 15, 1947. It was also reported in this note that Liaquat and “Mr. Jinnah were resolved that they would not takeover the reins of Government of Pakistan unless they had an Army on the spot, and under their control, of the kind that he had mentioned”.8

In his meeting with Mountbatten in the presence of Sir Eric Mieville on 23 June, Jinnah forcefully demanded that “a Pakistan Army” should be “ready by August 15th and that there must be an operational Commander-in-Chief in Pakistan by that date who would take his orders from the Pakistan Government”. Mountbatten apparently “agreed with this, but added that for administrarive matters both armies should continue to be under Field Marshal Auckinleck”. Noting the purpose of the Viceroy, Jinnah clearly expressed that “the Muslims no longer had faith in Field Marshal Auckinleck and they would much prefer to see someone else in his place.” The Viceroy did not agree with Jinnah and said “there was no more reliable or respected officer in India than Field Marshal Auckinleck”.9

In the Special Committee of the Indian Cabinet held on June 26, 1947 presided over by Mountbatten and attended by, amongst others, 
Liaquat Ali Khan, Abdur Rab Nishtar, Muhammad Ali, and Field Marshal Auckinleck, a number of decisions were taken; most important were : 1) process of nationalization of the armed forces of the two dominions should be pended and process of division of the armed forces between two dominions should be given “preference”; 2) the British officers could be asked to volunteer to stay on by the two respective dominions and not compelled to do so; 3) In order to avoid the possibility of chaos in the units, every effort will be made to retain the British officers as far as possible in the units in which they were now serving during the process of reconstitution; 4) Auckinleck would suggest the names of two operational Commanders-in-Chief – one for Hindustan and the other for Pakistan; 5) Until the division was completed, the administrative control for the whole of the army would be with a Joint Headquarters at New Delhi under Field Marshal Auckinleck; 6) Joint Headquarters would function under the control of the Defence Council consisting of Governor-General or Governors General, the two Defence Ministers and the Commander-in-Chief or alternatively the Partition Council with which might be associated, the Defence Members of the two Dominions.10

It was also expressed in the meeting that at the time of drawing boundries between Pakistan and Hindustan, great tension was to be expected and even a clash between the two armies could take place. As for the cause of completion of the work by 15 August, Auckinleck reported that it was not possible. The work of division of armed forces was to be completed after 15 August so that the clash between the two states is averted. The joint command would help avoid such a clash. Mountabtten agreed to this.11 On the question of withdrawal of British Army, the Viceroy reported to the meeting that Field Marshal Montgomery discussed the issue both with Nehru and Jinnah and they all agreed that the withdrawal of British units would commence on 15 August and be completed by the end of Feb. 1948.12

In the light of the above discussion, a plan was prepared by the staff of Viceroy for the partitioning of the armed forces. This proposal was circulated on 27 June by H.M. Patel to Jinnah, Liaquat, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Abdur Rab Nishtar for discussion in the next meeting of the Partition Council.13 Main aspects of this proposal were:

1) Two “distinct” forces for the two countries to be created;

2) Each of these forces would be “under their own operational control” from 15 August;

3) Partition would be in two stages – first communal basis and after 15 August on territorial basis. Therefore, “plans should be made forthwith for the immmediate movement to the Pakistan area of all Muslim majority units and that may be outside that, and similarly for the movement to India of all exclusively non-Muslim or non-Muslim majority units at present in the Pakistan area”;

4) Each dominion was to have its own administrative and maintenance services for its own Armed Forced by 1st April 1948”;

5) Heads of each of the three services – army, navy and airforce – should be decided before 15 August;

6) Headquarters of each of them should start functioning by 15 August;

7) For supervision over the armed forces of the two dominions, Supreme Commander shall start functioning after 15 August and Field Marshal Auckinleck would be the Commander-in-Chief and Supreme Commander. He will function under the Joint Defence Council;

8) While for Indian Army, HQ would continue to be Delhi, for Pakistan Army, HQ would be formed from existing Northern Command HQ and to remain at Rawalpindi until accommodation and communications are available at Karachi. Similarly other proposals were made. All these proposals were to be discussed in the next meeting of the Partition Council.14

This note was discussed on 30 June in meeting of the Partition Council attended by, amongst others, Jinnah, Liaquat, Sardar Patel, Sardar Baldev Singh, Auckinleck, Muhammad Ali and a final proposal was approved.15 All the proposals of the Viceroy were approved and the following decisions were taken:

1) The Army Sub-Committee of the Partition Council was to continue to examine pros and cons of setting up the Army HQ for the Union of India at Meerut rather than at Delhi;

2) Control of Ordnance Depots, arsenals, factories and other such installations would remain with Supreme Commander until such time when other issues had been solved; and 3) The responsibility of the Army HQs in each dominion would include the posting and promotion of officers, both Indian and British, with the provision that in case of British officers, the promotion and posting would be done in consultation with the Supreme Commander as a single list would be maintained.16

The Viceroy was very happy that his proposals were approved by the Partition Committee. After its approval by the Partition Council, Mountbatten conveyed the decision of the Partition Council to Lord Listowel, Secretary of State for India, in his telegram on 2 July. He also informed the Home Government that withdrawal of British officials would start on 16 August and would be completed by the end of February 1948. The authority of the Viceroy in this connection was given legal cover under the Independence of India Act passed in July 1947 by the British Parliament under clause 11.17 In a meeting of the Partition Council held on July 11, 1947, it was finally decided that the reconstitution of the armed forces will proceed in two stages in accordance with the terms decided by the Council which were also released to the press on the same day.18 The first stage was to be that “a rough and ready division on communal basis” which had to be done at the earliest. It was also declared that this decision would in no way prejudice the second stage, namely “coming out of the units on a basis of voluntary transfer of individuals”. These decisions were based on the recommendations of the Armed Forces Reconstitution Sub-Committees and of the Armed Forces Reconstruction Committee.19

Before the appointment of a British Officer as Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army and several of the senior officers, Mountbatten got consent of Jinnah to which he agreed on 8 July.20 Such a consent from Nehru in case of India had already been obtained.21 To further discuss the issue of division of armed forces, a meeting of Chiefs of Staff Committee was held in Delhi on 9 July which was chaired by Admiral Sir John H.D. Cuningham.22 With regard to the issues of separating the armed forces of the two countries before 15 August and of certain matters of units or squadrons afterwards, a number of recommendations were finalized for the advice of the Viceroy and the British Government. Jinnah’s concern for early carving out the Pakistan Armed Forces was also noted at this meeting. The concern for the safety of the British officers and residents in both the countries was also discussed. The gravity of threat from the North Western Frontier and the measures to tackle such a situation were discussed.23

On 10 July, Lt Gen Arthur Smith, Chief of the General Staff, General Headquarters, New Delhi, wrote to the Chiefs of the General Staff of the Headquarters of Northern Command, Sourthern Command, Eastern Command and Delhi District, in which the following decisions were conveyed:

1) With effect from Aug 15, 1947, the governments of the dominions of India and Pakistan will take over responsibility for the government of their respective territories. In case of Pakistan, Northern Command Headquarters at Rawalpindi will become General Headquarters of the Pakistani Armed Forces;

2) The General Headquarters at New Delhi will be turned into Supreme Headquarters and Field Marshal Auckinleck will be the Supreme Commander w.e.f. 15 August who will supervise both the Commanders-in-Chief of Pakistan and India. The British units will also be under him in both the countries; and 3) The boundaries of Northern Command will be adjusted in due course to coincide with the frontiers of Pakistan.24 These matters were conveyed by the Viceroy to the Secretary of State for India in his Personal Report No. 12, on 11 July.25 Press release on the above decisions was issued on 12 July by the Federal Ministry of Information from New Delhi with the consent of the Viceroy.26 As per this notification, the division of Royal Indian Navy and the Royal Indian Army was to be as follows:

Royal Indian Navy:

1) India – All existing landing craft and 32 ships, of which there will be four sloops, two frigates, 12 minesweepers, one survey vessel, four trawlers, four motor minesweepers and four harbour defence motor launches.

2) Pakistan – 16 ships including two sloops, two frigates, four minesweepers, two trawlers, two motor minesweepers and four harbour defence motor launches.

Royal Indian Army:

1) India – India is allotted 15 infantry regiments, 12 armoured corps units, 18 ½ artillery regiments and 61 engineer units.

2) Pakistan – Eight infantry regiments, six armoured corps units, 8 ½ artillery regiments and 14 engineer units. Towards the end of this press release, it was also declared on behalf of the government of New Delhi: “In allotting ships, infantry, armoured corps, artillery, etc., the requirements of each dominion have been kept in view and care taken to see that the actual allotment results in each dominion getting its fair share.”27

Majority of the senior British officers opted for their posting with the Pakistan Army. Jawaharlal Nehru disliked this behaviour of the senior Army officers for which he complained to the Viceroy in his letter of 11 July. This issue was discussed on 13 July by Sir A. Smith with Nehru in which the former, on behalf of the Viceroy, contradicted Nehru’s charge.28 Sardar Baldev Singh, the Defence Minister, also issued a number of irresponsible statements in this regard. Auckinleck noted with concern of such expressions on the part of the Defence Minister for which he met Lord Mountbatten on 15 July and expressed that “the Defence Member’s behaviour had become quite intolerable recently” which he noted “was dictated by his insane desire to do down Pakistan at all costs during the partition of the armed forces; whereas the British officers were anxious to see ordinary fair play.”29 Mountbatten assured him that he “would take this up with the Prime Minister and H.M.G. and would probably write up the idea” in his next Viceroy’s Personal Report.30

On 26 July Nehru wrote to Mountbatten and complained about the attitude of Auckinleck for taking decisions against the wishes of the Defence Minister and some other matters.31 On this the Viceroy suggested Auckinleck to personally meet Nehru and to explain the actual position.32 On 29 July, Nehru had an interview with Mountbatten in which the latter explained the correct position and made it clear that Auckinleck’s integrity and fairness is beyond any doubt.33

Despite all these handicaps on the part of the Congress leaders, the Indian Independence Act 1947 was passed by which the British Parliament gave legal cover to the establishment of two dominions – Pakistan and Hindustan – w.e.f. August 15, 1947. Clause 11 of this Act empowered Lord Mountbatten to take decisions regarding division of armed forces for both the dominions and to decide about the command of these two forces by 15 August.34 Lord Listowel, the Secretary of State for India, in his private letter of 18 July, conveyed the satisfaction of the British Government for successfully carrying out the details of the partition of the armed forces.35 In his letter of 25 July, Mountbatten conveyed to Lord Listowel that it was with great difficulty that agreement between the Indian and Pakistani leaders for the division of armed forces was evolved.36 The Viceroy, in his personal report to the Secretary of State for India on 8 August, stated that the difficulties regarding the division of the armed forces have been won over, and with reference to the division of R.I.A.F have also been taken-over. Regarding the safety of the British in Pakistan, 9th Fighter Squadron Unit of the reserves and the allocation thereof to Pakistan was found workable which was also approved by the Joint Defence Council.37 A number of problems were faced by Pakistan Army. Some of them are mentioned here. Gen. Messervy was nominated to be Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. He informed Mountbatten that after 15 August it would be very difficult for Pakistan to handle the tribal areas because of the fact that now there were only 35 battalions available for this. This number was very less than the total of 67 which were previously responsible for the security of tribal areas before the division of the armed forces. Messervy was very much worried about the frontier situation, therefore, he suggested to the

Viceroy the following options in order to tackle the situation:

1) The Pakistan Government makes a statement, appealing to the tribes to remain peaceful and orderly until new agreements can be made and assuring them of no reduction in their allowances;

2) The Pakistan Government should make it clear to Afghanistan that there is no question of any readjustment of the boundary now or in the future.

3) The Civil Armed Forces of the Frontier should be increased in strength; and,

4) Upto 10,000 demobilized Punjabi Musalmaan and Pathan infantrymen should be re-enlisted for the regular army as soon as possible.38 The Viceroy informed Jinnah about these matters in “bowdlerized version of Messervy’s paper”. Jinnah issued statement pacifying the tribesmen and there was no danger from the tribesmen for the Pakistan Army. Jinnah was already very popular amongst the tribesmen. On the conclusion of June 3, 1947 Plan for the creation of Pakistan, hundreds of tribesmen sent telegrams and letters to him to congratulate him on the creation of Pakistan. On June 17, 1947, Jinnah issued a press statement in which he thanked all of them for their kind telegrams and letters.39 This popularity was very much beneficial for the Pakistan Government which needed not to worry. That is why when the Viceroy was very much worried on Messervy’s grave concern expressions for the tribal areas, Jinnah pacified the Viceroy that nothing will happen. When in April 1948 Jinnah visited now KPK (then NWFP), he was given warm welcome by the tribesmen for which Jinnah was highly obliged.

Thus on August 15, 1947, Pakistan Armed Forces were established with their separate command. All this was done on the pressure of Jinnah. However, both the armies were put under the joint command of Gen Auckinleck, Supreme Commander. This was against the wishes of Quaid-i-Azam. When in October 1947, the Indians landed their forces in Srinagar, the Quaid ordered the Pakistani Commander-in-Chief to send forces in Kashmir, his orders were not obeyed because of the reason that Auckinleck, Supreme Commander, did not allow. This was done by the British so that both the armies may not fight with each other. If Auckinleck would have been fair, he also would have not allowed sending the Indian Army into Kashmir. Despite this drawback Pakistan Armed Forces were established by 15 August which was a great success on the part of the Father of our Nation.


The writer is Ex-Director, National Instiutute of Historical and Curtural Research, and Professor at Quaid-i-Azam Chair (NIPS) Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. [email protected]

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