I finished reading Ian Talbot's Khizr Tiwana (Oxford University Press (Pakistan), 2002) recently; it's not a great book by any means (and might even be considered a slight book), but it's quite useful inasmuch as it remains the only English-language biography of Khizr Hayat Khan Tiwana, Prime Minister of Punjab 1942-1947, and head of the Punjabi Unionist Party bulwark against (first) Indian nationalism in its Congress avatar, and (second) the Muslim League. The Unionist Party's politics and position ensured that the Muslim League did not form a government in Punjab in the last years of the Raj, and Talbot gives much credit to the Unionists-- and Khizr Tiwana in particular-- for the relatively bloodbath-free Punjab of the 1940s (the standard is a highly relative one, but there can be little doubt that as compared to Bengal and Bihar, for instance, Punjab saw little communal violence as long as the Unionists were in power). Once Khizr Tiwana resigned, however, Punjab rushed to catch up, and perhaps even surpass, all its rivals on this dismal front.
It isn't hard to see why history has been unkind to Tiwana, who managed to find himself on the wrong side of virtually all the principal currents of late-Raj era Indian politics: his staunchly loyalist stance to the Raj did not win him any friends in the Congress, while his deep skepticism of the two-nation theory and his horror of the logic of partition won him pride of place in the Muslim League's pantheon of traitors. Talbot's book is useful in highlighting the sheer scale of the hysteria whipped up by the Muslim League against Tiwana personally after the breakdown of the Tiwana-Jinnah talks in 1944, and unlike much recent writing on Jinnah -- from Stanley Wolpert to Ayesha Jalal -- Talbot stresses Jinnah's own complicity in and encouragement of political hysteria, manifested in the context of Punjab in the attacks on Tiwana (including a shameful speech replete with Quranic quotations, to the effect that when God would destroy a people he has them led by a "boy-leader"). Jinnah, of course, won-- the Unionists were rendered irrelevant by the rising tide of Pakistan, and many in the party crossed over to the League to save their political futures-- though one is left with a bad taste in one's mouth. Here too (as elsewhere in India), Talbot seems to suggest, a "winner takes all" approach, or better yet the absolutist approach championed by the Muslim League under Jinnah, was precisely the wrong kind of approach in the context of a fractious society already subject to communalist pressures. From the time Khizr Tiwana resigned the premiership in March 1947, communal blood baths became the order of the day in Punjab, and Tiwana was unable to save the Hindu and Sikh peasants even on his own estates in Shahpur.
One wishes Talbot had delved deeper into the inherent weakness of the Unionist approach to politics: its landlord-centrism with its focus on common economic/agricultural issues facing landowners of all Punjab's religious communities was certainly conducive to an inter-communal approach, but its lack of a mass base left it increasingly vulnerable to mass movements of the sort that the Congress or (more relevantly for the Unionists) the Muslim League could ride. The lack of a mass base was not accidental, but entirely to be expected given the Unionist zamindars' suspicion of democracy and their attachment to the Raj that had transformed their fortunes in Punjab. All the same, Tiwana cuts a forlorn figure by the end of the book, and it is hard not to admire one of the few Unionists who never did make an opportunistic peace with the League-- not even after partition. And his instinctual skepticism of the two-nation theory shows more than just the zamindar's instinct for self-preservation at work: as he is alleged to have told Jinnah, there were Hindu and Sikh Tiwanas who were relatives, and how could he consider them as belonging to a separate nation?
Talbot (and, in the book's afterword, Arend Lijphart) presents the Unionist government in Punjab as an example of "consociational" democracy, which both authors feel is the most stable way to structure politics in "highly segmented" societies. Lijphart cites other examples of consociational systems, such as pre-civil war Lebanon, Belgium, and nineteenth century Holland, and attributes Pakistan's problems with democracy to its neglect of consociationalism. Talbot and Lijphart acknowledge the fragility of consociational systems (one might feel that the fact that many a consociational system has given way to civil war undermines their argument), but stress that the tipping point for such fragility often occurs because of external pressures that destabilize the system. In the context of Lebanon, for instance, the authors cite to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian national movement; as far as the Unionists are concerned, the external force was the Muslim League.
Whatever one makes of this thesis (I for one am somewhat skeptical that parallels may usefully be drawn in the way that Lijphart does), the theory of consociationalism that is presented in Khizr Tiwana is suggestive for another reason. Implicit in Talbot's book is a view that Pakistan's democratic deficit is not attributable to Jinnah's early demise (as is popularly held in Pakistan, where it is a truism that Nehru's helmsanship of the Indian state for seventeen years after partition was the decisive factor), but might be considered in part a legacy of the sort of politics he practiced, and the sort of politics that successfully culminated in the establishment of Pakistan (to a certain extent Talbot might be read as accusing the Indian National Congress of an absolutist approach to politics as well; the latter point is not the main thrust of his book given its focus on Punjab). The stamping out of dissenting voices, the unchallenged leadership of one man towering over all others-- however useful these might have been to marshalling support and ramming home the message of one Muslim mass, united, Talbot and Lijphart ruefully see these tactics as deleterious to the sort of climate that can sustain democracy of the sort that Jinnah always said he wanted. The Unionist lessons-- of unglamorous compromoise, narrow issue-based politics, and coalitions founded on geographic circumstance and economic community-- might yet be worth drawing upon.