The formation of Swat state is a unique event in the history of Indian Sub-continent in general and the North West of India in particular. Interestingly, the former Swat state was formed through a social contract in April 1915. The elders of Swat, on the right bank of Swat River, gathered and decided to have a ruler who may provide them with worldly leadership as well as protect them against all those elements who were threatening them from outside. Hence Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah of Sithana was invited to become their ruler. It is worth mentioning that Sayyid Abdul Jabbar Shah was the descendent of the famous religious and sufi saint Sayyid Ali Tirmizi commonly known as Pir Baba. However he didn’t stay for long and had to leave Swat after a couple of years. The reason of his departure from Swat is a separate episode which is discussed by researchers in their writings. Despite his brief stay in Swat he provided the rudimentary foundation to the State. After him, Miangul Abdul Wadud, alias Bacha Sahib, was elected the ruler of Swat in September 1917. His reign over Swat State extended over a period of more than three decades, i.e. 1917 to 1949. He proved his mettle against all odds and took such steps for the consolidation of the state that speaks of his endurance and mental strength.
Swat State reached its zenith when it was recognized by the British Government in 1926. While outside the boundaries of the State, there was also a movement for the creation of a separate country for the Muslims of the Subcontinent under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This was a testing period for the ruler of Swat as to whether stand with the British or to support the stance of All India Muslim League and its leadership. Miangul Abdul Wadud, the then ruler of Swat State had to be very careful in keeping balance between his friendship with the British as well as his loyalty towards the struggle for the formation of a separate country for Muslims. In the larger interest of the Muslims, he didn’t keep himself aloof from the struggle and provided moral, political and financial support to the leadership of All India Muslim League. His support became more evident when the partition of Subcontinent was reaching to its ultimate goal. The ruler of Swat, being a part of the larger principality of Indian Subcontinent, observed closely the tide of events for the struggle of separate country in the late 1940s.
The financial support extended by the ruler of Swat state, prior to the independence of Pakistan and afterwards, is an absorbing episode in the history of Swat state and needs a thorough academic study. In this write up, the writer has restricted himself to citing one such incident that fully shows the inclination and sympathies of the ruler of Swat towards the federation of Pakistan and its consolidation.
It is to be noted that the aircrafts given to Pakistan Air Force after the partition were either not in flyable condition or were very old. These inherited aircrafts were not in operational mode which could not meet with the demand of modern air force. In such a critical and budding stage, Swat state purchased the first fighter Hawker Fury Aircraft for Pakistan Air Force. The Aircraft donated by Swat State provided a much-needed boost to the morale of the Royal Pakistan Air Force.
Before the purchase of this Fury Aircraft, a lengthy official correspondence was carried out between Miangul Abdul Wadud ( Bacha Sahib) and the Ministry of Defense , Government of Pakistan. This correspondence was carried out to finalize the modalities for the purchase of the proposed Fury Aircraft. An important letter in this regard was dispatched by Iskandar Mirza on 13th May 1949 to the Wali of Swat. Iskandar Mirza wrote in the letter as given bellow:
- I am directed by the Hon’ble Prime Minister to express the gratitude of the Government of Pakistan for your magnificent offer of Rs. Two lacs for the purchase of an aeroplane.
- Your offer has been considered by the Air Commander of the Royal Pakistan Air Force who recommends the purchase of a Furry Aircraft estimated to cost 12000 pounds. The Ministry of Defence approved the recommendation of the Air Commander.
- When the aircraft is actually received into service, we intend to name it after the donor. Will you kindly let us know precisely what name should be painted on this aircraft.
- I am to enquire whether you intend to deposit the amount in Government Treasury on account of Defense Service or pay direct to the present owners.
- I am to add that the Hon’ble Prime Minister very gratefully appreciated the Islamic spirit and the love of Pakistan which has prompted you to make this offer.
After the above deliberation, the Fury Aircraft was purchased. Interestingly a formal induction ceremony of handing over this Fury Aircraft to Government of Pakistan was held at Karachi. Air Vice Marshal R.L.R. Atcherly, C.B.E.A.F.C was the Air Commander of The Royal Pakistan Air Force at that time.
In his brief speech Air Commander , Royal Pakistan Air Force said:
“Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: May I say at once how pleased and proud we are to welcome here this morning Begam Liaqat Ali Khan – who has graciously consented to perform the naming ceremony of this Fury. May I take this opportunity to say how much we welcome also your kindly presence here this morning. The Fighter , which the Begam is shortly to christen, is the first of a series of Hawker Furys, which to replace this year the present Hawker Tempests, for obvious reasons I cannot disclose their exact performance. But I can say they are a great improvement of their predecessors and this first one flew from London to Karachi in 15 Hours, breaking the existing record. The first Fury has been most generously presented to Pakistan by the Ruler of Swat who was asked by Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan to perform this ceremony and to elect the name. Distance has prevented the Ruler coming to Karachi but he has chosen the Name ‘Jahanzeb’ after his son and asked the Begam if she would kindly perform the naming Ceremony. I now have great pleasure in asking the Begam to carry out the ceremony”
After the speech of Air Commander, Begam Rana Liaqat Ali Khan delivered her speech thanking the ruler of Swat state. She said:
“Air Vice-Marshal Atcherley , Officers of the Royal Pakistan Air Force , ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for me to come here this morning and participate in the first formal naming ceremony of the Hawker Fury Aircraft which has come to Pakistan. The Aircraft has been given to Pakistan by the Ruler of Swat and I am sure that everyone in Pakistan will be most grateful to him for this generous gift of his. The aircraft has already made history by flying from London to Karachi in a record time of 15 hours. The tribute goes to the firmness of Plane and skill of the Pilot. The Ruler of Swat has requested that this Plane should be named Jahanzeb after his son and Heir-Apparent and I think the name is most appropriate. I am sure that this aircraft , alongwith all the other machines that are in the service of R.P.A.F will never be used as an instrument of aggression against anyone but will always be ready to participate in the protection and defense of Pakistan. I wish the Aircraft many happy landings and bright useful career. I am very happy to name it Jahanzeb which means the ‘world decorator’.”
Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb in his autobiography also referred to the Fury Aircraft and other contributions of Swat State towards Pakistan in these words:
“With the creation of Pakistan in 1947 we immediately joined the new state. We were very patriotic, both my father and 1. We had also contributed before partition, supporting the Muslim League and the struggle for independence. Though one will notice that Pakistanis generally refer to it as “partition” rather than “independence” – the separation from the Hindus was much more important to us than the eviction of the British. We had supported the Muslim League with money, and by influencing our ‘murids’, the followers of Saidu Baba, all along the Frontier, from here to Bannu. So we wished to join as quickly as possible. And after partition we sent our Army to Kashmir – one thousand men at a time, relieved by a fresh contingent of one thousand every second month. We contributed to the refugee fund and to all Pakistani funds for defense. My father bought a “Fury” fighter aircraft for Pakistan – it was named after me.”
The then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan had formally thanked the ruler of Swat state by sending him a letter on 19th July, 1951. The letter states:
“I thank you for your telegram, conveying assurance of Swat State’s whole-hearted support for the defense of Pakistan. With unity in our ranks and grim determination to defend our freedom we shall InshaAllah successfully meet any emergency that may arise.”
The worth of the Fury Aircraft was Rs125,000 in Pakistani currency. Interestingly, when the gold rate (per tola) in the year 1948 was less than Rs60. According to some sources the rate of gold was then Rs. 56 while others claim that it was Rs57. Now, its upto the readers to calculate the value of Rs125,000 and compare it with today. It was a handsome contribution from a small princely state of Swat. The financial contribution of Swat state on other occasions is also of prime importance which will be highlighted in future writings.