Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nawab Ismail Khan (1884-1958)

Nawab Ismail Khan (1884-1958), one of the most prominent leaders of Muslim League and a close companion of Quaid-i-Azam, chose to stay behind in India after independence. He was soon asked to become the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh University, the institution founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the birthplace of Pakistan Movement.

The following passage of his inaugural speech delivered in October 1947 is worth-reading as it tackles the complex issue of explaining how Muslims of India could reconcile with the new regime without breaking away from their recent past:

With the partition of the country, the Musalmans who regarded themselves as one have also become divided. Each dominion naturally demands from its nationals unswerving loyalty and this, it must be averred, is the unquestionable inherent right of the Governments of these dominions.

When this institution was founded some seventy years ago, the illustrious founder of the blessed memory laid down in unmistakable terms that loyalty to the Government was to be the key note of its policy. And this policy has been faithfully and scrupulously followed by his distinguished colleagues and successors.

There is, however, one fundamental difference in the conditions that obtained then and the present day conditions. At that time a foreign Government held sway on this land but today happily we have a national Government democratic and secular, headed by that fine patriot Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru who possesses breadth of vision and integrity of purpose in a remarkable degree.

I, therefore, on the assumption of this office re-affirm that policy and declare that we shall be loyal to the State and its constitution with all the implications and consequences which the word allegiance to a State involves, but let me say at the same time that it shall be the loyalty of self-respecting and free citizens.


  1. The NAwwab can't be blamed. He was a patriotic Pakistani, but he also could not make the huge change in his life and surroundings by abandoning his land holdings and interests and moving to a new place where he would have been just another emigre.

    This does not demean the great Nawab in any way. Having decided to stay put, the right thing to do was to pledge allegiance to the state, which was also the logical thing to do.

  2. Nobody can, or does, blame the Nawab. He is held in high esteem in Pakistan, and let's hope that his recognition in India will also come in due time.

  3. The NAwwab can't be blamed. He was a patriotic Pakistani, but he also could not make the huge change in his life and surroundings by abandoning his land holdings and interests and moving to a new place where he would have been just another emigre.

    First of all I cant understand how can he be a Pakistani and a patriotic one when he decided to stay in India?
    Secondly, Why couldn't he afford this huge change in his life when most of the Muslims from different circles of life afforded it and adopted the change happily?

    My third question is from sir,
    Sir, was he the one of the member of freedom movement?If yes, then Why dint he Choose Pakistan for himself if he prefers it for his country-men?I'm a bit amazed that he was the close companion of Jinnah but having so different preferences.

  4. ReeBz, thanks. Nawab Ismail Khan was one of the closest companions of Quaid-i-Azam and among the leading members of Pakistan Movement.

    He stayed back in India to be with the people who had voted for him. With consensus of the "All-India Muslim League," he became the leader of its Indian part when the party divided itself soon after independence.

    It was a brave act on his part. We need to understand that the original concept of Pakistan did not include transfer of population on large scale. That became necessary only after majority of influential Hindus migrated from the provinces which were going to become Pakistan and because the Boundary Commission also divided Punjab and Bengal in a manner which was questionable.

    Hence, Nawab Ismail had not chosen Pakistan for the followers in his constituency: when he asked them to vote for Pakistan in the election of 1945-46, they had understood it as an act of selfless service to those brothers and sisters who were living in other provinces.

    Of course, they were more than welcome in Pakistan when the unfortunate consequences forced them to move, but if Nawab Ismail did not migrate then that can be seen as an act of courage and of commitment to his followers, most of whom were destined to remain in India.

  5. maybe this was the shortcoming in Alighar's funding model. dependancy on the state.

    The more community based Deoband never had such problems no? neighter did its grads have the same aloofness that i feel Alighar's present day representatives have.

  6. Nawab Ismail Khan was a relative. He was very active in the Muslim League and close to the Qaid until the time of Partition. He fell out with Jinnah as he was not in favour of the two-nation theory. He thought dividing the country would be disastrous for Muslims and he was right. He gave Pakistan 30 years. He was proved right. Bangladesh came into being in 1971.

  7. Greetings good Sir,

    Albeit the article remained short, I found it succinct -- your remarks in the comment section added greatly. However, I have to quench the thirst to hear more from a historian, such as yourself. I have been inspired to quite an extent and would be pleased to know as to how I may establish a channel of communication with you regarding material pertaining to Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan. A prompt reply, amidst your bustling schedule, shall be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards,

    Mohammad Musa Khan.