Major problems which face Pakistan as a new nation after its independence

On 14 August 1947, Pakistan became an independent country. But it faced many problems. Not only did it have to find a way to set up a new government in a country with limited resources, but it had to do so in the face of some of the most serious communal violence ever seen. Let’s know some major problems which face Pakistan as a new nation after its independence.

Even more significant was that Pakistan was not really one country, but two-West Pakistan and East Bengal (later renamed East Pakistan).

  • 1947, 14 August: partition of British India, sovereign states of Pakistan and India established.
  • 1947, 27 October: undeclared war with India
  • 1948, 21 March: the birth of a regional movement
  • 1948, April: canal water dispute
  • 1948, 11 September: the death of Jinnah, Nazimuddin becomes Governor-General

Timeline showing the problems facing the new nation of Pakistan

On 14 August 1947, Muhammed Ali Jinnah was sworn in as Governor-general of Pakistan. He declared that Pakistan has come to exist forever, but it faced many problems before it could feel permanent. As one historian has since stated:

‘Most of the leaders of the Indian National Congress thought that Pakistan was not a viable state politically, economically, geographically or militarily and that sooner or later India would re-unite.

The euphoria of independence was short-lived as partition brought disastrous consequences in the wake of communal conflict. Partition unleashed untold misery and loss of lives and property as millions of Hindu and Muslim refugees fled either Pakistan or India.

Both nations were also caught up in a number of conflicts involving the allocation of assets, demarcation of boundaries, equitable sharing of water resources, and control over Kashmir.

Major problems which face Pakistan as a new nation after its independent
Major problems which face Pakistan as a new nation after its independent

1. Geographical problems

In 1947, Pakistan finally gained its long for independence, but it immediately faced very serious problems. Although Pakistan was created to unite the Muslim population of the old British India, it did not have natural borders, such as rivers, mountains, or the sea.

The two separate parts of Pakistan (East Bengal and West Pakistan) were separated by about a thousand miles of land that belonged to India.

The vast distance between them also meant that there were significant differences and outlook between the people of the two different regions.

East Bengal and Punjab, for example, were both largely Muslim areas, but they had little else in common.

2. Refugees and inter-communal violence

In the years immediately before partition, there was widespread violence between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities across India.

Although Congress and the Muslim League called for calm, the summer of 1947 saw rioting which led to numerous deaths.

When the boundary of the two nations was demarcated and announced in August 1947, things became even worse. Millions of people found themselves living in the ‘wrong’ country and became victims of communal attacks.

The only answer was for Muslims to move into Pakistan and non-Muslims to move into India. So began one of the largest migrations ever witnessed in the history of making and also some of eh worst scenes of communal violence.

Immediately after independence, Pakistan has to deal with a massive refugee problem: while 5.3 million Hindus fled from Punjab and Sindh into India, 5.9 million Muslims fled from India into West Pakistan. Also, 3.3 million Hindus fled East Bengal, and 1.3 million Muslims fled from India into East Bengal.

Some moved willingly, taking as many of their possessions with them as they could. Others fled from violence and often arrived in their new country with nothing at all.

The violence was sometimes orchestrated by the local authorities, and many Muslim historians believe that Hindus and Sikhs had an organized program for the massacre of Muslim refugees. In the non-Muslim princely states, there were examples of state troops being used to support attacks on Muslims.

It is also true, however, that atrocities were carried out by Muslims as a tide of communal hatred swept across the subcontinent in late 1947.

Estimates of the death toll vary considerably, but it is likely that as many as a million men, women, and children died as a result of the violence or the rigors of the long journey.

As many as 20 million people were made homeless, and both India and Pakistan faced enormous problems as huge numbers of refugees fled to them for safety. Karachi received nearly tow million refugees in 1947alone.

Not surprisingly, it was extremely difficult for these people to be accommodated. Pakistan, in particular, as a new and not wealthy country, did not have the necessary facilities to house millions of new citizens.

By the end of 1947, India and Pakistan were so concerned about the communal violence that they began to co-operate in trying to control it. This led to the more orderly evacuation of refugees from one country to the other, but it did not completely end the violence.

3. Political problems

In 1947, it had been decided that old British India should be divided into two new countries, Pakistan and India. But Pakistan was to face many more problems than India.

  • India inherited government buildings, furnishings, even officials from the British. Pakistan most handsome of these.
  • India had officials, members of the Indian National Congress, with the political experience to take over the government. These people had the worker to gain political influence under the British and had experience both of the election process and of holding political office. In Pakistan, the assembly members were mostly wealthy landowners with little political experience. The Muslim League drew most of its support from rural areas and lacked support from urban areas.
  • The geographical separateness of east and West Pakistan made it hard to govern as one country. This was made worse by the fact that while over half the population of Pakistan lived in East Bengal, the majority of government and army leaders came from West Pakistan.
  • Pakistan lacked both the administrative and the governmental machinery to run the affairs of a new country. Even the minimal requirement of working central governmental machinery to run the affairs of a new country. Even the minimal requirements of a working central government-skilled personnel, equipment, and capital city with government buildings were missing.

The first task before the newly born state was to form a government, and a cabinet of experienced people, with Muhammed Ali Jinnah as Governor-General and Liquate Ali Khan as Prime Minister, was formed.

Arrangements were made to bring in former Indian officials who had opted for Pakistan. All governments were headed to bring in former Indian officials who had opted for Pakistan.

All government papers, files, and documents that Pakistan got as her share was brought from Delhi, the capital of undivided India, to Karachi, and also from Calcutta, the capital of Bangla, to Dhaka. The capital of East Bengal.

It was no doubt a heavy burden on the part of a new state. Three was not even proper office accommodation at the start.

Some central and provincial departments were lodged in army barracks and others in private buildings. Under these conditions. The government of Pakistan began to function.

4. Economic problems

Pakistan was made up of states that were mostly underdeveloped, with very little industry. Although Karachi was a modern port with substantial trading and business activity, much of Pakistan (e.g. the Northwest Frontier Province) was on the borders of the sub-continent and has not been linked to the industrialization that had taken place in central India.

Around 90 % of the people lived in the countryside, and there were only 8 towns with a population of more than 100,000 (Karachi, Lahore, Dhaka, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sialkot, and Peshawar).

Pakistan was not a wealthy country and its major activity, agriculture, did not produce a sufficient surplus to create the wealth needed for industrialization. The exception to this was in the production of jute, where, in 1947, East Bengal produced nearly 70% of the world’s crop.

Jute export produced the major source of foreign exchange earnings for Pakistan for many years. But the problems created by a partition are exemplified by the fact that, in 1947, Pakistan did not have a single jute mill.

All the jute mills were in the new India in spite of the fact that East Pakistan produced more than 90 percent of jute.

As the table below shows, in divisions of the subcontinent’s assets. Pakistan died not doing well.

The percentage of economic assets in Pakistan after partition

  1. Registered factories             10%
  2. Electrical capacity                5%
  3. Industrial workers                 6.5%
  4. Mineral deposits                   10%

5. The division of financial and military assets

One of the major issues involved in partitioning the old British India was how to divide up the assets of the country. They now belonged to two countries, not one, and there had to be an agreement on how they should be shared.

It was agreed that the assets were to be divided in the ratio of 17 to India and 5 to Pakistan. This reflected the relative size and populations of the two countries.

In June 1947, it was agreed that Pakistan would be paid 750 million rupees of the 4 billion rupees in the Reserve Bank.

The first 200 million rupees were paid. Then war broke out over Kashmir. India refused to pay the rest, saying Pakistan would only use it to buy arms to fight against India.

If Pakistan stopped fighting and agreed that Kashmir should be an Indian possession, then the rest would be paid. What the Indian government hoped was that by withholding the money, Pakistan would become bankrupt.

It was only after Gandhi went on a hunger strike that a further 500 million rupees were paid. 50 million rupees still remain unpaid.

Pakistan also needed armed forces and military equipment to ensure its security. The British were, at first, reluctant to divide the armed forces but eventually, it was agreed that they should be split 36%: 44% between Pakistan and India.

The armed forces personnel were given the freedom to opt for whichever country they wanted. Muslim regiments went to  Pakistan and non-Muslim to India. It was agreed to split the army along religious lines as in the table below.

                                     Pakistan               India

  • Armored divisions         6                      14
  • Artillery divisions          8                      40
  • Infantry                        8                      21

A big problem for the Pakistan army was that their army of 150,000 men needed 4,000 officers. There were only 2,500 trained Muslim officers, as the British Indian army had favored Hindu officers. While it was possible to train some men up from ordinary soldiers, Jinnah was forced to take 500 British officers temporarily.

These were mostly of the highest rank, for this was where there were no Muslim officers at all. But as Pakistan faced almost immediate war with India over Kashmir, it needed the best army it could raise, no matter who was leading it.

In other military matters, the Indians once again failed to keep to the agreement. They did not want to see Pakistan become strong militarily, especially as they were fighting in Kashmir. All 16 ordnance factories were in India, which refused to hand any over.

Consequently, Pakistan had no factories capable of making military goods. India eventually agreed to pay 60 million rupees in lieu of handing over ordnance factories and this was used by the Pakistani government to build an ordnance factory at Wah.

The military supplies which India agreed to hand over sometimes did not arrive, or when they did, they were often old, worn, damaged and obsolete. The result of the division of military assets in 1947 was that Pakistan started its life with a seriously under-resourced military force.

6. The canal water dispute

The canal water had its origins in the portion of Punjab in 1947. West Pakistan is a fertile country but has a hot and dry climate. Rainfall is not plentiful and so it relies upon litigation from a series of canals that draw water from the three main rivers in the area. the Indus, the Jhelum, and the Chenab.

The partition of the subcontinent cut across many rivers and canals. The problem for Pakistan was that the flow of water through the canals and rivers was controlled at a series of headworks all of which lay in the part of Punjab the canals and rivers were controllers at a series of headworks all of which lay in the part of Punjab that was now in India.

The Indian government promised not to interfere with the supply of water to Pakistan. However, India and Pakistan were soon in a dispute over the canals, especially the waters from the Bari-Doab canal.

India claimed that as the headworks were in its country it had complete rights to do what it wanted with the water.

Pakistan argued that it had a right to the water as its economy depended upon it. The Pakistan government In May 1948, a temporary agreement was reached. India agreed to allow water from east Punjab to flow into West Punjab, but only if Pakistan agreed to try to find alternative wate4r supplies.

The Water problem was one that the new country had to address urgently.

7. Social problems

Pakistan was mainly made up of five different groups:

  • The Pakhtuns in the north
  • the Balochs in the west
  • the Sindhis in the south
  • the Punjabis in the north-east
  • the Bengalis in the east

These people had different traditions, cultures, languages, and lifestyles. The British system of government had given these diverse people a very little opportunity to participate in government.

In 1947, some of them, particularly the Balochs and the Bengalis, were sure they now wanted to transfer allegiance to a new Pakistan.

Issue of the national language

One of the issues which highlighted this national diversity was the status of the Bangla language. Bangla was the mother tongue of about 56 percent of the people of Pakistan. On the other hand, Urdu was the mother tongue of only 6 percent people of the whole of Pakistan.

Bangla was naturally entitled to be the state language of East Pakistan, if not entire Pakistan. But the Pakistani ruling clique ignored this reality and planned to Introduce Urdu as the state language of entire Pakistan.

In March 1948 Jinnah came on a tour to Dhaka. He addressed the people of East Bengal at a public meeting and in the course of his speech declared “Urdu and only Urdu shall be the State Language of Pakistan.” It was bitterly opposed by the Bengali Muslims, especially the student community.

They demanded that both Urdu and Bangla should be the State Languages of Pakistan on the ground that the Majority of the People of Pakistan lived in East Bengal and spoke Bangla. Despite being the majority in Pakistan, they did not demand that Bangla alone be the state language of Pakistan.

The undemocratic comments of Jinnah offended them greatly and it gave birth to a strong regional movement for greater autonomy. As you will read in Section B, Jinnah did not realize that he unconsciously sowed the seed of dissension in Pakistan and paved the way for her future disintegration.

Other social issues

East Bengal inherited a number of social issues from the colonial period. One of the issues affecting the general well-being of the people was poverty. In the course of the colonial period, many peasants became landless.

Most of the three million people who died during the great famine of Bengal of 1943 were from the landless population. The new state of Pakistan has to tackle the question of landlessness and agrarian poverty in general.

Another problem was that of public health. In the last few decades of the colonial period, cholera, malaria and a number of other water-borne diseases affected a large section of the people of the region.

Though immediate pressing issues of communalism and refugees were high on the agenda, the problem of public health lurked behind and became evident soon after the emergence of East Pakistan.

In 1948, there were only 211 doctors and 2,825 hospital beds in east Bengal. During the colonial period, most educational institutions were established in Kolkata at the expense of East Bengal. When the new nation of Pakistan emerged, There wer4e only a few district-level secondary schools.

In higher education, there was only one University, the University of Dhaka, and a few colleges and madrasahs. In terms of producing skilled manpower, the lack of opportunities for mass educations appeared to be another important social issue before the new state.

8. The Kashmir Issue

The most serious disagreement between India and Pakistan concerned the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This was the largest state in the subcontinent and the fact that it had boundaries with Tibet, China, Afghanistan, and Russia gave it great strategic importance.

In 1947, most of the 4 million inhabitants of Kashmir were Muslim, but the maharaja was Hindu. It was believed that he was trying to win independence for his state and so he delayed joining eithe4r Pakistan or India.

The maharaja, Hari Singh, did not treat the Muslim population well. In September 1947, he started a campaign to drive many Muslims out of Kashmir.

Over 200,000 fled to Pakistan and finally, the Muslims rose in rebellion. The Maharaja was forced to turn to India for help to crush the Muslims. Indian help came only after the maharaja agreed to accede to India.

Pakistan could not accept this, so sent troops to help the Muslims in Kashmir. The Pakistan government was convinced that the Indians had always planned to seize Kashmir. Neither side was strong enough for a long war and in January 1948 the matter was referred to the UNO.

A ceasefire was arranged and Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan. However, Pakistan was angered that India retained the largest area of Kashmir, including the capital, Srinagar.

After pressure from Lord in Kashmir to determine the wishes of the people, once the situation has normalized.

This referendum has not been held and the ‘Kashmir’ issue remains a major source of discontent between the two countries today.

Pakistan has made numerous demands that the UNO resolves the dispute, but, so far, it has been impossible to reach the agreement.

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11 thoughts on “Major problems which face Pakistan as a new nation after its independence”

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