The Talpur’s have ruled Sindh for generations — almost three centuries (1783 to 1955) — according to Prince Mir Mehdi Raza Talpur, the last heir of the royal family of Khairpur.
In an exclusive interview, the young royal sat down with The Express Tribune at the family’s estate and palace, Faiz Mahal, in Khairpur to discuss history, family and what it means to be loyal.
“When my ancestors were in power they worked tirelessly and made sincere efforts with their people,” said the prince. “Under their rule, the people of Sindh led a prosperous life compared to those in the rest of the sub-continent.” He added that it was the ruler’s prime responsibility to provide their people with even the basic necessities.
Prince Mir said that Khairpur was the first state with its own industrial zone, which had around 52 industrial units. “The industrial zone played a vital role in not just providing people with employment opportunities within the state but also provided resources for structural development,” he said. “They [Prince Mir’s ancestors] had planned to set up eight more industrial zones in the state but time didn’t allow them to do so.”
Educating the state
Education, according to the prince, was something the Talpur family was very strict about. They wanted to make sure that every boy and girl in the state had basic education. “They established a large network of schools from primary to higher secondary,” he said. “Parents who refused to send their children to school were kept behind bars till they agreed to send their children to school.”
Right after Partition, the prince claimed that the government was allocating only one per cent of the budget on education. The Talpurs were, however, spending more than 22 per cent of their budget on education and health unlike the Pakistani government.
He gave the example of how tuberculosis (TB) was dealt with in the state. “The disease was thought to be fatal at the time,” he said. “So the state of Khairpur not only provided free medical care to people suffering from TB but also granted them a stipend of Rs30 per month.”
He added that every resident of Khairpur was eligible for free medical care, even the animals were treated free of charge at veterinary hospitals.
Life in the state
The per capita income of the people of Khairpur, according to Mir, was Rs67 as compared to Rs20 in the rest of the country.
Khairpur was the first state in pre-Partition India that had established air-conditioned textile mills and had imported air-conditioned buses for its people from the United Kingdom. “The Talpurs were the first to get a resolution approved to establish a university for Muslims in India,” he said. “We [the Talpurs] also constructed the Sindh Madrassatul Islam and took care of the staff’s salary and other expenses.” He added that his forefathers had taken on a mission to provide basic rights and services to all their subjects.
The agreement with Jinnah
According to Prince Mir Mehdi, his ancestors and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had made an agreement on October 3, 1947.
He said that it was agreed that the state of Khairpur would cooperate with the Government of Pakistan in three sectors – defence, communication and foreign affairs. It was also agreed that changes in the country’s constitution would not affect the status or state of Khairpur. With both parties in agreement, the state of 16,000 square-km was annexed to Pakistan.
“At Jinnah’s death, however, things started to change,” said the prince. “The state’s status changed and it was snatched by the government in 1955.” He added that this was how the state lost its independence.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2015.