In the first half of the 20th century Punjab politics was dominated by the cross-communal Unionist Party with Malik Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana being the last leader of the Unionists, which played a dominant role in limiting the influence of Muslim League in Punjab from 1942 to 1947. Khizr Tiwana had his own vision within a decentralized Federal India but Muslim League did not allow him to realize his dreams of United Punjab.
Tiwanas entered the Thal area of Shahpur nearly seven centuries earlier and became leading landlords throughout the West Punjab. Khizr was born on August 07, 1900 in Chak Muzarafabad his maternal Tiwana hometown. His father Umar was a Government servant in the British army as a major and later got a reward of Knighthood for his services in the British Raj. Khizr got education from the Aitchison College, Lahore, which was the favorite institution of the landlords of Punjab. His mother Fateh Khatoon was unlettered but as she had only one brother got a huge share from her father’s inheritance. This inherited land later turned out to be the main cause for Khizr’s access to the apex of Punjab politics.
Khizr volunteered for services during the Punjab disturbances in 1919 attached to 17th Lancers, which guarded the Government houses and other public buildings in Lahore. He remained busy most of the time in supervision of his lands and for the first time he decided to take part in the provincial elections, which were promised after the promulgation of 1935 India Act. Khizr won the seat of Punjab Provincial Assembly and joined the Unionist Party, which emerged as a formal grouping in the Punjab Legislative Council back in 1923. In 1936 provincial elections the Unionist stood as the leading political party and formed a ministry under Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan. Khizr was given the portfolio of Ministry of public works and Local Self Government. Khizr played a vital role in the security arrangements for the historic Muslim League session in 1940 at Lahore.
After the sudden death of Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan on December 26, 1942, Khizr was nominated to lead the Unionist Party as a premier. His government was, however a coalition of Congress, Sikhs and about half a dozen Muslim Unionists that did not command the confidence of the Muslims who formed more than 57 % of the provincial population and 90 % of the Muslim members belonged to the Muslim League. Besides, differences arose within the ranks of Unionists with the result that Khizr had to go through an extremely tough period of Punjab politics. Problems of law and order prevailed when in his absence A.M. Macdonald, the Home Secretary, and the Inspector General of Police banned the Muslim National Guards who were volunteers of the Muslim League. As the Muslim League asserted great pressure on the Unionist Government to restore civil liberties, which were denied to the public under his government, Khizr had to resign on 2 March 1947. In a public statement he communicated that with regard to the future constitutional arrangements for India, it was desirable that the government should have the support of the Muslims in the Punjab who were after all in majority, and promised to give his support to the next government. After independence he went to Europe from Bombay. He entered Pakistan in October 1949 but in the post partition period he remained out of politics and lived abroad most of the time.
Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana died on January 20, 1975 and was buried at Karla.
This article was last updated on Monday, Jan 01, 2007