When Elizabeth II Was Queen of Pakistan

 
 

Surprising as it may seem today, Elizabeth II, the reigning queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth nations, was the queen of Pakistan for four years. Yes, the world’s first “Islamic Republic” was ruled by English heads of state for nine years: Elizabeth and her father, George VI. Elizabeth’s reign over Pakistan ended 60 years ago, when, on March 23, 1956, Pakistan became a republic.

George VI was the last emperor of India, reigning until 1947, when he gave up that title in favor of two new titles for his new dominions, becoming king of India and king of Pakistan. He was king of India until that country became a republic in 1950. Upon his death in 1952, his daughter Elizabeth inherited the crown of Pakistan. Her, role, however, was minor and uneventful in her four years as queen of Pakistan. She deliberately kept from interfering in the country and her governors-general were presidents of Pakistan in all but name. For example, in 1953, Governor General Sir Ghulam Muhammad fired Prime Minister Sir Khawaja Nazimuddin for attempting to equalize the power of West and East Pakistan. The prime minister attempted to reverse this by appealing to the queen, but she refused to meddle.

Independent Pakistan emerged with the pre-partition Government of India Act (1935) serving as its constitution, with some modifications. Pakistan had planned from the beginning to ditch the monarchy and become an Islamic Republic, in accordance with the wishes of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. On March 12, 1949, Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly formed a Basic Principles Committee comprising 24 members to prepare a draft constitution. Eventually, after several years of debate, elections, and a second Constituent Assembly, Pakistan acquired its constitution in 1956 and the reign of Elizabeth II over Pakistan ended, as Pakistan instead became an Islamic Republic.

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Unlike neighboring India, whose constitution has remained in place since 1950, Pakistan’s 1956 constitution lasted only two years, until 1958, when Ayub Khan came to power in a military coup. The constitutions of 1962 and 1973 then followed, and were suspended and amended numerous times. The original constitution failed for a variety of reasons, but the foremost reason was the inability of West Pakistanis to share power proportionately with East Pakistanis (Bengalis). Finally, the inability of the state to accommodate alternating desires by political leaders to either run a presidential-style style or a Westminster-type system also stressed the original founding document.

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