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NWFP as an Independent Province (1901)

NWFP as an Independent Province (1901)

 

NWFP 1857

North-West Frontier Province is a province of present day Pakistan. It has recently been renamed as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This part of the Sub-continent since the earliest times has been subject to invading activities. The people of the place, however, have since proved themselves to be very aggressive especially to the people whom they thought had come to dominate them. It is said that the Aryans were the first ones who invaded this place around 4000 years ago. Later on, the Persians whp came around in 500 BC. After that many arrived here including Greeks, Mauryans, Huns and the Guptas etc. and then came the Muslims. Subuktigin was the first Muslim ruler who attacked Kabul and drove the natives in the present NWFP. With the collaboration of Muslim invaders and the local Muslim Pushtoons, Islam started to dominate the region. The same Pushtoons then helped the famous invader of Indian history, Mahmud of Ghazna in his attacks on India. The region was under Muslim control until Ranjeet Singh, the then ruler of the Punjab took advantage of inter-regional clashes of the Pushtoon tribes and attacked and captured the area in 1818.

 

In 1849 after the defeat and capture of Punjab by the English troops the frontier region came under control of the British Empire. A point to be noted here, that it was the last region in the Sub-continent that was annexed by the East India Company. Since the aggressive tribes of the frontier were hard to control the Company divided it into two parts, the plains were under direct rule of the Company with sound administration While, the hard mountainous parts were termed as independent tribal belt. The Company interfered in the affairs of the belt, with various tactics until on 9th November 1901 during the times of Lord Curzon in India it was declared to be a separate province. The new province included districts like Hazara, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, and Dera Ismail Khan that were previously part of the province of Punjab, and they were attacked to agencies like Malakand, Khyber, Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan. About 93% of the population of the province was Muslim who lived mostly in the countryside, the non-Muslims’ mostly resided in towns generally of D.I.Khan and Bannu.

 

The formal inauguration was held on Apr 26, 1902 and the new province was placed under charge of the Chief Commissioner who was directly responsible to the government of India. Lord Curzon had hoped that this creation under the direct rule of the government would be beneficial both for the government and for the people of the new province. The government, however, did its best to keep the public of NWFP away from politics. Because of its aggressive attitude the place was termed as “powder magazine”. That’s why the political activities were discouraged there from the very start. Initially there was a branch of All Indian National Congress in Peshawar but within three to four days of its establishment it was banned by the government. The government reforms of 1909 and 1919 also for the same reason could not be shared with the NWFP because of the uncertain and unsettled conditions of the province.

 

NWFP after its annexation to the British Empire was held under control with the help of special ordinances because the native Pushtoons kept on resisting. But when political awareness spread the people of the province started demanding for the same constitutional reforms enjoyed by the other citizens of India.  This unjust treatment affected the political minded people of the province and they started demanding equal citizenship rights like the people of all other provinces of India. Hindus and other non-Muslims of NWFP were also a cause of a lack of reforms for the province. They believed that if these reforms will be introduced they will be over shadowed by the 93% of Muslim majority. That’s why they preferred for the strong authority of the executive. In this context they tried to reattach the previously attached districts of NWFP with the province of Punjab but that wish of theirs could not be fulfilled.

 

However, in order to resolve these issues in 1922 the government made a committee formed to look for the reforms controversy issue and of re-amalgamation of the districts with the Punjab province. The committee suggested the establishment of a legislative council for the province and the government in 1925 officially rejected the demand for the re-amalgamation of NWFP districts with the province of Punjab, but did not introduce the reforms either. So, the demand for the reforms continued in which All India Muslim League had its due share. In 1926, Muslim League council and Swarajya party presented a resolution in the assembly demanding equal reform rights for the citizens of NWFP. Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan, a renowned Pushtoon politician also demanded the same and said if the whole of India was experiencing modern constitutional reforms why not NWFP which was also a part of India. All India National Congress also supported this cause. But the majority of the Hindus of NWFP came out in the streets and openly criticized the resolution. Still with all the opposition the resolution was passed. On Nov 17, 1928 the Simon Commission Committee for the examination and working of the constitutional reforms of 1919, came to Peshawar where on 19th November a group of loyalist khans headed by K.B. Ghafoor Khan met the commission and put forward their demand of reforms in their province as well. The Simon Commission in its report suggested a council with equal number of nominated and elected members for NWFP. In this council a special arrangement was made for the opposing non-Muslims minority. These recommendations were criticized by the Muslims.

 

In December 1929 at a session of Congress, held at Lahore, the Khudai Khidmatgar or Red Shirts representatives attended it. The aim was to get attention of the ruling elite towards NWFP. Congress promised them to send a commission to the government demanding rights of reforms for the province of North-West. The Congress in 1930 started its Civil Disobedience Movement and demanded full independence of India in which Khudai Khidmatgars supported the cause in return. On Apr 23, 1930 there was this famous firing on Khudai Khidmatgars protesting peacefully against the government in the Qissa Khawani Bazar of Peshawar in which more than 200 were killed. A ban as a result was put on the Khidmatgars and marital law was implemented in the province. The Khudai Khidmatgar which was initially a social welfare organization tried to connect itself with a political party in order to put pressure in its demands to the government. Its first choice was the Muslim League but to their disappointment the League flatly refused. So they affiliated themselves with the Congress that welcomed it whole heartedly in 1931.

 

The first Round Table Conference held in London was boycotted by Congress but Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan went to visit it to put the demand of his people before the government face to face. During the Conference session a sub-committee was given the duty to look into the reform matter for the province of North-West. The committee recommended that the province should be given the status of the governor’s province and suggested the formation of a legislative council for running the province. After the end of the second Round Table Conference on 1st December 1931 NWFP was given the status of governor’s province and its chief commissioner, Mr. Ralph Griffith was made its first governor. A legislative council was also set up with 40 members among which 22 were to be Muslims. And in this way after a long period of struggle the province of North-West became an independent province.

About Khyzar Kapoor

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