Bahawalpur (princely state)

State of Bahawalpur
ریاستِ بہاولپور
Semi-autonomous domain of Mughal Empire, Durrani Empire and the British Empire

Flag Coat of arms
Bahawalpur State in the Imperial Gazetteer of India
Capital Bahawalpur
Government Principality (1690–1955)
Nawab Amir of BahawalpurHis Highness Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi (first)
  1907 to 1966 His Highness General Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V (last)
Prime Minister of Bahawalpur
  1942–1947 Sir Richard Marsh Crofton(first)
  1952 - 14 October 1955 A.R. Khan (last)
Historical era Mughal Empire (1802–1858) Indian British Empire (22 February 1858-1947) Princely state of Pakistan (1947-1955) Part of West Pakistan (1955-1970) Punjab, Pakistan (1970-present) Dividing between the Bahawalpur District, Bahawalnagar District and the Rahim Yar Khan District.
  Established 1802
  Merged into West Pakistan 14 October 1955
Today part of Pakistan, India
Subdivision of Pakistan
1947–14 October 1955


Map of Pakistan with Bahawalpur highlighted
Capital Bahawalpur
  Established 1947
  Disestablished 14 October 1955
Area 45,911 km2 (17,726 sq mi)
This article is part of the series
Former administrative units of Pakistan

Bahawalpur was a princely state of British India and later, Pakistan, that existed from 1802 to 1955. It was a part of Punjab States Agency. The state covered an area of 45,911 km² (17,494 sq mi) and had a population of 1,341,209 in 1941. The capital of the state was the town of Bahawalpur.

Bahawalpur state was founded in 1802 by Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi after the breakup of the Durrani Empire. His successor was Nawab Mohammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi III. On 22 February 1833, Abbasi III entered into subsidiary alliance with the British by which Bahawalpur was admitted as a princely state of British India. When India became independent of British rule in 1947 and partitioned into two states, India and Pakistan, Bahawalpur joined the Dominion of Pakistan. Bahawalpur remained an autonomous entity till 14 October 1955 when it was merged with the province of West Pakistan.


Derawar Fort was a major fort for the Nawabs in the Cholistan Desert
The Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi V Bahadur of Bahawalpur (1883–1907).
General Nawab Sadeq Mohammad Khan V, the last ruling and perhaps the most popular Nawab of Bahawalpur State

The Abbasi tribe from whom the ruling family of Bahawalpur belong, claim descent from the Abbasid Caliphs. The tribe came from Sindh to Bahawalpur and assumed independence during the decline of the Durrani Empire. Bahawalpur along with other Cis-Sutlej states were a group of states, lying between the Sutlej River on the north, the Himalayas on the east, the Yamuna River and Delhi District on the south, and Sirsa District on the west. These states were ruled by the Scindhia dynasty of the Maratha Empire, various Sikh sardars and other Rajas of the Cis-Sutlej states paid tributes to the Marathas, until the Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803-1805, after which the Marathas lost this territory to the British.[1][2][3]

As part of the 1809 Treaty of Lahore, Ranjit Singh was confined to the right bank of the Sutlej. The first treaty with Bahawalpur was negotiated in 1833, the year after the treaty with Ranjit Singh for regulating traffic on the Indus. It secured the independence of the Nawab within his own territories, and opened up the traffic on the Indus and Sutlej. The political relations of Bahawalpur with the paramount power, as at present existing, are regulated by a treaty made in October, 1838, when arrangements were in progress for the restoration of Shah Shuja to the Kabul throne.

During the First Anglo-Afghan War, the Nawab assisted the British with supplies and allowing passage and in 1847-8 he co-operated actively with Sir Herbert Edwardes in the expedition against Multan. For these services he was rewarded by the grant of the districts of Sabzalkot and Bhung, together with a life-pension of a lakh. On his death a dispute arose regarding succession. He was succeeded by his third son, whom he had nominated in place of his eldest son. The new ruler was, however, deposed by his elder brother, and obtained asylum in British territory, with a pension from the Bahawalpur revenues; he broke his promise to abandon his claims, and was confined in the Lahore fort, where he died in 1862.

In 1863 and 1866 insurrections broke out against the Nawab who successfully crushed the rebellions; but in March 1866, the Nawab died suddenly, not without suspicion of having been poisoned, and was succeeded by his son, Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan IV, a boy of four. After several endeavours to arrange for the administration of the country without active interference on the part of the Government, it was found necessary, on account of disorganization and disaffection, to place the principality in British hands. In 1879, the Nawab was invested with full powers, with the advice and assistance of a council of six members. During the Afghan campaigns (1878–80) the Nawab placed the entire resources of his State at the disposal of the British Indian Government, and a contingent of his troops was employed in keeping open communications, and in guarding the Dera Ghazi Khan frontier. On his death in 1899 he was succeeded by Muhammad Bahawal Khan V, who attained his majority in 1900, and was invested with full powers in 1903. The Nawab of Bahawalpur was entitled to a salute of 17 guns.[4]

Bahawalpur House in Delhi is now home to the National School of Drama.

Independence of Pakistan

The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in the Bahawalpur state. After independence of Pakistan, Nawab of Bahawalpur Sadeq Mohammad Khan V proved to be very helpful and generous to the government of Pakistan. He gave seventy million rupees to the government and the salaries of all the government departments for one month were also drawn from the treasury of Bahawalpur state. He donated his private property to the University of the Punjab, King Edward Medical College and the Mosque of Aitchison College, Lahore. At the time of independence all the princely states of the South Asia were given a choice to join either Pakistan or India. On 5 October 1947 he signed an agreement with the government of Pakistan according to which Bahawalpur State joined Pakistan. Thus the State of Bahawalpur was the first state that joined Pakistan. The main factor was of course the Islamic sentiments of the Muslims who were in majority in the Bahawalpur State. Moreover, Nawab and Quaid-i-Azam were close friends and they had great respect for each other even before the creation of Pakistan. The Ameer of Bahawalpur Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Fund was instituted in 1947 for providing a central organization for the relief of the refugees. The Quaid-e-Azam acknowledged the valuable contribution of the Bahawalpur State for the rehabilitation of the refugees.

In 1953, the Nawab represented Pakistan at the installation of Faisal II of Iraq and at the coronation of Elizabeth II. In 1955 an accord was signed between Nawab Sadiq Muhammad and General Ghulam Muhammad Malik according to which Bahawalpur State became the part of the province of West Pakistan and de facto Nawab began to receive yearly stipend of 32 lakh rupees, maintained the title of Nawab and protocol inside and outside Pakistan. In May 1966 Nawab Sadiq, the last ruling Nawab of Bahawalpur died in London which ended his 59 year long reign; his dead body was brought to Bahawalpur and was buried in his ancestral graveyard of Derawer Fort. His eldest son Haji Muhammad Abbas Khan Abbasi Bahadur did succeeded his title of Nawab of Bahawalpur, but with no administrative or political power. His Nephew Salah ud-Din Muhammad Khan currently holds the title of the Nawab.


Even though with no power, the Nawabs of Bahawalpur and the noble family is still highly respected in the region. Nawab Salahud-Din Ahmed Abbasi the grand son of the last Nawab is one of the most important political figure in the region. Although the Nawabs were autocratic rulers, who did not allow or give political freedom, they did a lot for the development of the State, which benefited the people. The first Nawab laid the foundation of the State in 1727, with only a small locality, very soon the latter Movement for Bahawalpur Province. Nawabs started expanding the domain of the State. Not only did they gain a lot of land, they also made it one of the richest states of the sub-continent. A lot of development work was done in the State in all fields. Schools, colleges and later a university were opened. A number of scholarships were given to students even outside the State. Railway track was laid by the Nawabs in the State. Hospitals and dispensaries were established. Canals were dug and the Sultej Valley Project was completed to provide water to the lands of Bahawalpur region. The State had its own administrative and judicial system.

Royal House of Bahawalpur

The Royal House of Bahawalpur is said to be of Arabic origin and claims descent from Abbas, progenitor of the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad and Cairo. Sultan Ahmad II, son of Shah Muzammil of Egypt left that country and arrived in Sind with a large following of Arabs ca. 1370. He married a daughter of Raja Rai Dhorang Sahta, receiving a third of the country I dowry. Amir Fathu'llah Khan Abbasi, is the recognized ancestor of the dynasty. He conquered the bhangar territory from Raja Dallu, of Alor and Bhamanabad, renaming it Qahir Bela.

Amir Muhammad Chani Khan Abbasi entered the imperial service and gained appointment as a Panchhazari in 1583. At his death, the leadership of the tribe was contested between two branches of the family, the Daudputras and the Kalhoras. Amir Bahadur Khan Abbasi abandoned Tarai and settled near Bhakkar, founding the town of Shikarpur in 1690. Daud Khan, the first of his family to rule Bahawalpur, originated from Scind where he had opposed the Afghan Governor of that province and was forced to flee.[5]


Historical population
1881 573,494    
1891 650,042+13.3%
1901 720,877+10.9%

In 1941, Bahawalpur had a population of 1,341,209 of whom 737,474 (54.98 percent) were men and 603,735 (45.02%) were women. Bahawalpur had a literacy rate of 2.8 percent (5.1 pcercent for males and 0.1 percent for females) in 1901. The bulk of the population (two-thirds) lived on the fertile Indus River banks with the eastern desert tract being sparsely populated.

The state was predominantly Muslim. According to the 1941 census, Muslims made up 91% of the state's population while Hindus numbered 190,000 (5.9 percent) and Sikhs numbered 50,000 (1.9 percent). While a majority of Muslims and Hindus had their origins in Bahawalpur, a considerable proportion of settlers were migrants from other parts of the Punjab. The Sikhs, on the other hand, were predominantly colonists who had migrated after the opening of canal colonies.

Between 1916 and 1941, the population had almost doubled due to the Sutlej Valley Project when vast amounts of Bahawalpur territory were opened to irrigation. There was a migration of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs to Bahawalpur from other parts of Punjab. These colonists were labelled non-Riyasatis as opposed to locals or "Riyasatis" and were systematically discriminated against in government appointments.


Darbar Mahal, a former palace of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur

The rulers of Bahawalpur were Abbasids who came from Shikarpur and Sukkur and captured the areas that became Bahawalpur State. They took the title of Amir until 1740, when the title changed to Nawab Amir. Although the title was abolished in 1955 by the Government of Pakistan, the current head of the House of Bahawalpur (Salah ud-Din Muhammad Khan) is referred to as the Amir.

From 1942, the Nawabs were assisted by Prime Ministers.

TenureNawab Amir of Bahawalpur[6]
1723 - 11 April 1746Sadiq I (founder)
11 April 1746 – 12 June 1750Bahawal I
12 June 1750 – 4 June 1772Mubarak II
4 June 1772 – 13 August 1809Bahawal II
13 August 1809 – 17 April 1826Sadiq II
17 April 1826 – 19 October 1852Bahawal III
19 October 1852 – 20 February 1853Sadiq III
20 February 1853 – 3 October 1858Fath Mohammad Khan
3 October 1858 – 25 March 1866Bahawal IV
25 March 1866 – 14 February 1899Sadiq IV
14 February 1899 – 15 February 1907Bahawal V
15 February 1907 – 14 October 1955Sadiq V
14 October 1955State of Bahawalpur abolished
TenurePrime Minister of Bahawalpur[6]
1942–1947Sir Richard Crofton
1948–1952Sir John Dring
1952 - 14 October 1955A.R. Khan
14 October 1955State of Bahawalpur abolished

See also


Further reading

External links

Coordinates: 28°50′N 71°43′E / 28.833°N 71.717°E / 28.833; 71.717

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