Monday July 04, 2022

Remembering Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan

October 16, 2018

It was sordid beginning for the new State. Its founding father Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah having won the battle for Pakistan, lost his own battle for life. His successor -his most trusted lieutenant- Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, appointed by him as first prime minister who having served him for more than twelve years as general secretary of his party, had become an apple of Jinnah Sahib’s eyes -an aristocrat with enormous land holdings- Quaid called him a converted proletariat.

Liaquat’s budget as the finance member of the interim government of India before partition had sought greatest good of the largest number especially the poor in India who saw in him as their messiah in a socio-economic order that was dominated by caste-ridden Hindu Banya hierarchy. Jinnah Sahib found in him an able successor who had the honesty, determination and commitment to be rightly called as builder of Pakistan.

Liaquat Ali Khan was martyred on October 16, 1951, in Liaquat Bagh (former Company Bagh) in the Pindi district that was to later see tragic ends to two other popular prime ministers—Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and martyred Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

It is a strange coincidence that the murder of all three was election centric. Liaquat was to announce the date for first ever general elections in Pakistan. SZAB became a victim of polls related conspiracy hatched by General Ziaul Haq to remove him. Third prime minister from Sindh, Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto too was martyred outside Liaquat Bagh where she addressed her last election rally on returning home after having fought successfully for the return of electoral democracy. She was eliminated by design by the last military dictator who feared her most.

Liaquat’s assassination just four years after Independence and death of the Quaid was the most severe blow at that time when Pakistan had yet to come out of its teething troubles. The bullet that killed him not only eliminated a statesman but it subverted the democratic and secular vision of the Quaid that remains an elusive dream to this day. Rather, today it is more so under fatal threat.

The forces that had opposed creation of Pakistan now have the audacity to threaten the superior courts not to do justice in a case that has gained international fame. The case has been cause of death of two prominent politicians at the hands of extremists.

According to famous American journalist Stephen Kinzer in his best seller “All the Shah’s men”—a book on contemporary history that covers the period of the American coup against Iran’s most popular Prime Minister Dr Mossadegh. I quote: “Following Jinnah’s death Liaquat was called ‘the unchallenged leader of the country’. Like Mossadegh, he was a visionary statesman, highly educated and erudite. He was committed to secular Islam and sympathetic to Western values but at the same time frustrated by what he saw crippling vestiges of imperialism that prevented poor countries from achieving true independence. Pakistan never again had a leader of his calibre, just as Iran never had another like Dr Mossadegh.”

According to my father late Syed Shamsul Hasan (All India Muslim League’s Assistant Secretary from 1913 to 1947 and who had worked with Liaquat as General Secretary of All India Muslim since 1936 until 1947), the Prime Minister was to make historic announcement pertaining to giving a date for holding first ever general elections as well to serve a warning to United States to keep out of the region and not to play dirty with Iran.

In this disclosure lie the secret behind his assassination. West Pakistani political vested interest represented by feudal class was averse to elections. Externally Americans had become wary of his warning and his threat to end the facilities enjoyed by their military. Liaquat’s murder most foul has had several fruitless investigations.

Head of one of the probe teams -a senior Police Officer carrying full dossier of his findings got perished when his plane mysteriously crashed when he was coming to present his report to Liaquat’s successor Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin in Karachi which was then capital of Pakistan. Probe into the plane crash declared it due to mechanical failure. In the debris no probe papers were recovered. No traces of the report were found.

Said Akbar—the assassin-an Afghan stripped of his nationality by Afghan government- was on British dole in KPK much before partition. Mysteriously he was given a seat in the front row in an area opposite to the dais reserved for the Crime Branch of Peshawar Police in Company Bagh—the venue of Liaquat’s public meeting. He shot direct at Liaquat’s heart to kill him; police around Said Akbar shot him dead. Nobody to this day knows who ordered Said Akbar’s killing.

Looking at the regional scenario as well domestic then, one could easily reach the conclusion that it could have been on account of external conspiracy aided by internal vested interests to execute the plot that would make them beneficiaries of his death. As a student of history I cannot rule out the possibility of the involvement of the same power that had warned Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of making him a horrible example if he ventured to make a nuclear bomb.

Like Bhutto’s overthrow by General Zia and his judicial murder to please the foreign masters, Liaquat’s too was a similar operation. His removal was sought by external forces; his elimination was executed by players in Liaquat’s own government. Obviously when everyone in his government had gloves on, traces of his blood could not be found.

Liaquat was born with a proverbial silver spoon. Nawabzada by birth, he had huge land holdings, what endeared him to Jinnah Sahib was him being a workaholic, honest to the core, dedicated with extra ordinary executive/ administrative qualities. He was not only longest serving Secretary of All India Muslim League but Quaid trusted him with the running of Dawn along with my father who remained its printer publisher from day one of its publication to its end in 1947 in Delhi when it was burnt down.

Liaquat had survived Rawalpindi conspiracy led by Major General Akbar Khan to overthrow him months before his assassination. It had become obvious to him that those West Pakistani politicians, who had jumped on the freedom bandwagon when Pakistan had become inevitable, did not want to see him continue as prime minister. If he could hold elections in 1952 he would have turned tables on the Lahore-based power troika in league with the help of Jamaatis and Ahraries who had opposed Pakistan.

Liaquat was larger than life personality. He died a pauper—with bank balance of Rs600, no property in Pakistan. He left everything in India and did not claim anything here. Like all great leaders we have had he too was a target of vilification by his religious opponents and vested political interests backed by invisible hands averse to Pakistan’s becoming a welfare democratic state as opposed to their idea of a security state.

*Author is former high commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and a veteran journalist.