The Civil Marshal Law Administrator of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was inspired by the populist move of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to abolish the Privy Purses to the former Rulers of the Princely States. Out of 571 Indian Princely States (the figure varies up to 601!) only nine joined Pakistan but so-called progressive ruler Bhutto brought in the Rulers of Acceding States (Abolition of Privy and Privileges) Order 1972 and amending subsequently to give pension for the rest of their life. Even today the system of payment of Privy Purses in the form of the maintenance allowance not only exists in Pakistan, the Federal Government takes decision to increase the maintenance allowance and a separate ministry to deal with the former Princely States, Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron), handles the affairs! At present, more than Pak Rs. 3.64 million is being disbursed each year from the federal budget for the annual maintenance allowance to ex-rulers and their dependents as per the official estimates of Safron.
In 2017 Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet took the decisions to increase the maintenance allowance. The minimum maintenance allowance for former Rulers of States that acceded to Pakistan was to be raised in 2017 from less than Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 500,000 annually. It was to cost additional amount of Pak Rs. 7.7 million. Finally in December 2017 the “The Rulers of Acceding States (Abolition of Privy Purpose and Privileges) (Amendment) Bill 2017” was passed by the National Assembly. But it benefited only one living ex-Ruler, Ali Murad Khan Talpur, the Mir of Khairpur, as the law would only apply to living Rulers. The increased allowance and privileges have not even been extended to “Junagadh and Manavadar”. The reasoning they gave was that the bill did not include the word “successor” and only used the phrase “Ex-Rulers and their dependents.”
Some members of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance noted that an allowance of Rs. 25,000 a year was insufficient to even clothe anyone, and berated former governments for not responding to the families of former Nawabs in a positive manner. The beneficiaries of the list presented to the committee by the ministry in 2017 include three dependents of Nawab of Dir, nine of former ruler of Makran, eight of Nawab of Kalat and two dependents of the Nawab of Junagadh State. Other beneficiaries include the former rulers of Chitral, Khairpur, Bahawalpur, share holders of the Bantva state, the talukdar of Sultanabad, Sheikh Sahib of Mangrol and the Khan of Manawadar. The Ministry of Safron told the committee that former rulers of Princely States had been apportioned maintenance allowance in accordance with the average annual income generated by the state at the time of accession. It be noted that though Junagadh, Bantva, Sultanabad, Mangrol and Manawadar are integral part of India, the ex-Rulers and their family members who migrated to Pakistan continue to take benefit of the maintenance allowance. This facilitates Pakistan government in her mischievous designs in claiming these areas in the illegal map of Pakistan as well as the pending complaints before the UN Security Council since decades.
Fateh-ul-Mulk Ali Nasir, the ceremonial Mehtar (Ruler) of Chitral State, writes on the impact and chronology of Bhutto’s Abolition of Privy and Privileges Order: “Within years, however, all of these clauses were broken by a combination of political manipulation, forced agreements and presidential ordinances. In the winter of 1972 Bhutto called all of the now de-recognized Rulers to a meeting in Islamabad to discuss the ordinance. My father Saif-ul-Mulk Nasir, the Mehtar of Chitral, was the youngest ruler in attendance, then only twenty one, and he was a silent observer to the proceedings. The Wali of Swat, Miangul Jahanzeb, refused to attend as did my maternal grandfather Nawab Saeed Khan of Amb. Subsequently both of them were personally received from their lodgings in Rawalpindi by Bhutto and thus arrived late. The tone of discussion was quite heated, with Bhutto saying he had done what he did to appease the people of Pakistan who needed signs of progress following the secession of East Pakistan.”
“In response to his socialist rhetoric, the Khan of Kalat replied, ‘Sahib, Pakistan hum ne banaya hai, sab se bari qurbani humne di hai.’ (Sir, it is we who made Pakistan and gave the biggest sacrifice for it). Then he gestured to the Nawab of Bahawalpur saying, ‘Mulk chalaney ke liye paisa bhi isne diya tha!’ (He gave the money to run this country!) In conclusion, Bhutto agreed to give the Rulers pensions for the rest of their lives and approved an amendment to the ordinance. Most of the rulers would pass away within a decade or two. And thus ended the official patronage of the ruling houses. The only Ruler from the pre-1972 era – and in fact from before the 1947 Partition – who lives to this day is Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur, the Mir of Khairpur.”
Many ex-rulers took the route that was perhaps best suited to their legacy and entered into electoral politics. Others joined the government service and yet others wasted their days away as depression and living in the past took hold of their lives. A key factor that remained part of the princely heritage was the ancient connection to the land and its people. Most of the rulers also happened to be the heads of prominent tribes/castes and this has enabled them to remain relevant. In Ayub Khan’s era the personal properties of the rulers had already been gazetted and declared, so despite later usurpation of private property at the hands of the government – of which Fateh-ul-Mulk Ali Nasir, too, was a victim – the princes at least avoided poverty. Unlike India, where many of the former Maharajas, Maharanis and Nawabs became leading businessmen, this trend never really caught on among their counterparts in Pakistan. Due to their strong regional status and continued respect for the Instruments of Accession, the princes in Pakistan have continued to receive assistance and a degree of recognition from the various provincial governments, including being issued police and levies for personal security and being included in official guest lists.
Next Column: The Royal Conspiracy to merge Tripura with Pak
M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan with Nawab Sadiq Mohammad Khan Abbasi, the Nawab of Bahawalpur