An overriding majority of the top administrators in the British Raj and, subsequently, in (undivided) Pakistan and India had their origins in the Indian Civil Service (ICS). They were the elitist of the elite, especially the European component. Over the years, the Service has, as a whole, received detailed, indeed exclusive, attention from modern historians and students of public affairs alike.
On the Indian side of the Radcliffe Line, the ICS (once described by Pandit Motilal Nehru as “the greatest of the services in the world…”) stood formally consigned to the archives with the retirement of N.K. Mukarji as Cabinet Secretary in March 1980.
Mukarji topped the last intake of the ICS in 1943; his fellow-recruits included three Muslims: Aftab Ghulam Nabi (A.G.N.) Kazi, Agha Shahi and Mian Riazuddin Ahmed, who, like most of the Muslim ICS, opted for Pakistan in 1947. Kazi was born in Sindh and commenced his innings in the ICS in Bihar and Orissa; his career of over half a century made him the longest serving civil servant in Pakistan.
Hailing from Mysore, Agha Shahi was connected with the family of the illustrious diwan, Sir Mirza Ismail. He had an exceedingly impressive academic record, having enrolled at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Alongside his older brother, Agha Hilaly (ICS, 1936) who was High Commissioner to India in the early 1960s, he was a pillar of Pakistan’s foreign service establishment, serving as the Foreign Secretary (1973-77) and Foreign Minister (1978-82). The brothers were diplomats and public servants of high calibre and acumen.
In the colonial state, the administration, from the all-powerful Governor down to the secretariat officials, as well as the administrators in the districts, each ruling over a million people or more, was largely British. Even the higher courts, including the High Courts, were manned by ICS men. In later years, four Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan were from the ICS, namely, Muhammad Shahabuddin (1960), A.R. Cornelius (1960-68), S.A. Rahman (1968) and Sheikh Anwarul Haq (1977-81), while Kailas Nath Wanchoo (ICS, United Provinces, 1926) was the Chief Justice of India in 1967-68.
The absolute rule of the mandarins was untrammelled by responsibility to any elective Indian Assembly and the ICS men could not be removed even by the Viceroy and Governor General, but only by the Secretary of State for India in distant Whitehall, with whom they were under contract. Entry to the “heaven-born” service by competitive examination remained a herculean task till the end. Nonetheless, members of the same family, often brothers, are known to have won their way into the ICS.
Of the three Kripalani brothers hailing from Hyderabad, Sindh, namely, H.K., S.K. and M.K., the eldest became the first Indian Chief Secretary of the erstwhile Bombay province, the second served in the Punjab, among other capacities, as Deputy Commissioner, Jhelum and Financial Commissioner, Colonies; and the third (in the Bengal cadre) was India’s Deputy High Commissioner at Karachi in the aftermath of the Partition. Among those who opted for Pakistan in 1947 were the sons of Nawab Mohammad Ismail Khan of Meerut in the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), an architect and founding member of the All India Muslim League and a leading personality in the Khilafat and Pakistan movements, who, in turn, was a grandson of the noted Urdu and Persian poet, Nawab Mustafa Khan Shefta, one of Mirza Ghalib’s closest friends. After the Lucknow session of the Muslim League in 1937, the Nawab’s cap (which was presented by him to the Quaid) came to be known as the “Jinnah cap”.
Nawab Ismail Khan’s elder son, G.A. Madani, joined the ICS in 1937 and went on to establish a formidable reputation in the eastern wing, where an avenue in the Gulshan area of Dhaka was named after him. A younger son, Ikram Ahmed (I.A.) Khan followed suit in the ICS in 1939, was District Magistrate, Murshidabad in 1947 and is well remembered for his involvement in hockey and cricket in Pakistan.
On the other hand, the brothers Hifazat Hussain, a personal friend of E.M. Forster, and Wajahat Hussain elected to work in India. Sahibzada Khurshid Ahmed Khan, Chief Commissioner, Delhi in 1947 and son of a co-founder of the AMU, Syed Hasan Zaheer (son of Sir Wazir Hasan who was president of the Muslim League in 1936), B.F.H.B. Tyabji (of the family of the first Muslim president of the Congress, a Sulaimani Bohra), M. Azim Hussain (son of Sir Fazle Hussain) and Manzoor Alam Quraishi also chose to serve in India, while Cornelius and Samuel Martin Burke (1906-2010), both Indian Christians, opted for Pakistan. The last-named belonged to the 1930 batch and had quit the ICS but was recalled by Jinnah to join the foreign service. Then there was Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan (1914-1999), a son-in-law of Allama Mashriqi, whose particular contribution was the establishment of a comprehensive project for rural development, the Comilla model (1959), which earned him the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Rajeshwar Dayal (ICS, 1932) who was appointed High Commissioner of India to Pakistan in November 1958, and his brother, Harishwar Dayal (ICS, 1936) deserve mention. The former, who was seconded to the Foreign Service, had, in an earlier spell, as the District Magistrate at Mathura (UP) developed a good rapport with Lt Col Muhammed Ayub Khan (later President of Pakistan), who was at the same station. The head of state did not pull rank when he received his old friend’s credentials as high commissioner, “all protocol forgotten and smiling profusely”. Harishwar Dayal was allotted to what was known in British days as the Foreign and Political Service; when he died suddenly in May 1964, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru praised him as a “jewel” of a man who was “an ornament of the service which he adorned”. A few days later, Jawaharlal Nehru himself passed away. Prof P. Samuels Lall, a widely respected teacher of mathematics and astronomy at the Forman Christian College, Lahore in the pre-1947 era, had two sons in the ICS: Arthur Lall (Punjab, 1936), who ably represented India at the United Nations and wrote The House at Adampur, on the family history; and John Lall (UP, 1937), who authored an extremely well researched account of the life and times of Begum Samru. They claimed descent from a distinguished ancestor, Chandu Lal, who migrated from Delhi to Lahore, post-1857. It may be recalled that the movement of the Muslim ICS towards alignment with the Muslim League and the demand for Pakistan developed gradually. While, on the whole, the Muslim ICS had never been pro-Congress, neither were they predominantly pro-Muslim League until 1945-46, when politics in the sub-continent polarised sharply. By the end of 1946, most ICS Indians in the Central government were either pro-Congress or pro-Muslim League.
At Partition, three of the four provincial governors in Pakistan were ICS Europeans: Sir Francis Mudie (West Punjab), Sir Frederick Bourne (East Bengal) and Sir George Cunningham (NWFP). In 1950, seven of the top civilians in Pakistan were still European.
The 90-odd ICS officers (including several Europeans) who went on to serve in independent Pakistan are credited with providing an administrative structure which contributed to stability and kept things going in the early years; they have equally attracted considerable criticism for opportunistically forging alliances with the military establishment and, in the process, undermining the emergence of a durable democratic set up. Among their ranks were outstanding civil servants like Akhter Husain (born in Burhanpur, Central Provinces, he was Chief Secretary in the undivided Punjab in 1946-47 and later Governor of West Pakistan) and M.M. Ahmed, who entered the ICS in 1939 and was, at one stage of his career, arguably the most influential bureaucrat in Pakistan.
Many of the Muslim ICS were from northern India or from the Bengal cadre and they formed the core of a new Central service, which, in due course, became the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP).
In a recent issue of the New Yorker, the acclaimed Pakistani-American author, Daniyal Mueenuddin, the son of Ghulam Mueenuddin (ICS, Punjab, 1930) writes about his father: “If I am nostalgic for my father’s youth in the districts…it is as much for his light-hearted pastimes as for his administrative labors. In Pakistan today, rich and poor live under threat of violence… As a district officer, he roamed uninhabited wastes alone, indulging a passion for riding cross-country…”
It is interesting to note that, many years later, a former ICS man, Jalaluddin Abdur (J.A.) Rahim, the son of Justice Sir Abdur Rahim, became the first Secretary-General of the Pakistan People’s Party.
Arun Bhatnagar entered the Indian Administrative Service in 1966 and retired as Secretary, Govt. of India firstname.lastname@example.org