A. G. Noorani*
President Barack Hussein Obama returned to Britain a bust of Winston Churchill which George W. Bush had placed on his desk when he was President, for reasons not hard to guess. As easy as it is, indeed, to guess why his successor had it sent back. His Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured, on Prime Minister Churchill’s watch for resisting the British Empire. Richard Toye, a young historian, British incidentally, has written a book entitled Churchill’s Empire (Macmillan) which documents mercilessly the brutal deeds and foul utterances of the war hero right from his early days.
He realized in the Swat Valley that the people resented the presence of British troops, but attributed their resistance to a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill.” He joyfully described how “we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells” and the rest.
He was a racist. “The Aryan stock is bound to triumph.” Of the Kurds he said “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gases against uncivilized tribes.” Well before the partition he said “I hate Indians.” As it happens, around this time appeared another book also based on excellent research entitled Churchill’s Secret War by Madhusree Mukerjee, physicist and former editor of Scientific American (Tranquebar, India). She establishes convincingly that Churchill was responsible for “deliberately deciding to let Indians starve” and was partly to blame for the famine in Bengal during the War.
Great men shape history and there can be no doubt that Churchill provided the indomitable leadership which saved Britain in the dark days when it stood alone against Hitler, for nearly two long years. Richard Toye is well aware of that and balances the two sides which were equally true.
In South Asia, however, this tradition does not exist; perhaps because of its feudal past and ingrained addiction to hero worship. We see them as saints; conceding grudgingly, if ever, some minor faults.
Since independence thriving industries grew up in India and Pakistan with hero worship as their credo. Court historians prospered. The Cold War between these cantankerous countries provided a strong impetus. Acolytes received advancement in their careers; recently though a few critiques have appeared.
A split developed between worshippers of Jawaharlal Nehru and those of Vallabhbhai Patel. Even publishing houses were different. There was a strong ideological element. Nehru fought single-handedly for secular values. If Patel had had his way, India would be secular in name but Hindu Rashtra in reality. The BJP and the RSS worship him today.
In Pakistan, the split had nothing to do with ideology; everything with idol worship and the partisans’ contest in fealty to Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In this they considered the denigration of his “right hand man,” Liaquat Ali Khan, very essential to the sport. It continues with reduced frenzy to this day.
Liaquat Ali Khan, however, was not a nobody when Jinnah picked him up. He would have risen in the politics of UP and later nationally even without Jinnah. He had formidable skills in parliamentary debate and organization. In the Central Assembly he could more than hold his own against the best. He won the respect and admiration of Congress leadership and of British representatives who dealt with him. He joined the Muslim League as far back as 1923 just after his call to the Bar in 1922 after a distinguished record at Oxford.
In India practitioners of the infantile craft pick on one or the other episode of the “rival” to their hero and proceed systematically to “expose” his lack of worth. In Pakistan the practitioners latched on to the Liaquat- Desai Pact of 1945; the agreement between Liaquat as Deputy Leader of the League Party in the Central Assembly and Bhulabhai Desai, Leader of the Congress Party and of the Opposition in the Assembly. Biographies of Liaquat range from the inadequate to the pathetic. Writers on the pact confuse initialling with signing.
Involved in the discourse is an aspect of far greater significance than the episode. It is the equation between the two leaders, especially, after the birth of Pakistan, and its impact on the growth, or stifling, of the parliamentary system. Discussion of the episode illustrates a mindset which neglects a crucial problem of abiding relevance.
The first in the line was the respected academic Khalid B. Sayeed in his classic work Pakistan: The Formative Phase 1857 – 1948. (Oxford University Press; Karachi, 1968). His assertion that “there is no accepted authoritative text of the Pact” is totally wrong. The text published by Liaquat on 1 September 1945 is identical to that published by Bhulabhai’s biographer, M. C. Setalvad in 1968 (Vide M. Rafique Afzal (Ed.) Speeches and Statements of Quaid-i-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan (1941-51; Research Society of Pakistan, University of Punjab, Lahore, 1967; pp. 28-29 and M. C. Setalvad, Bhulabhai Desai, Publications Division, New Delhi, pp. 256-28 (the printed text) and p. 367 for the Photostat, whose import and implications elude most).
V. P. Menon does not even profess to reproduce the pact. He writes “Bhulabhai Desai’s plan was as follows.” More than one writer has ignored the vital difference (The Transfer of Power in India; Orient Longman, 1957; p. 176).
Sayeed quotes Jinnah’s denial of the Pact and adds “This meant that Liaquat Ali Khan had come to a clandestine understanding with Desai, without informing Jinnah. If this were true he had committed breach of trust and also flouted the clear directives of the Muslim League Party.” He proceeds on the basis of “the verbal evidence made available to the author by several members of the then Muslim League Working Committee as well as by persons who were very close to Jinnah, Quaid- i-Azam expressed his strong disapproval to Liaquat …” who, however, felt that “younger men should make an attempt” at reconciliation (p.128). Ignored was the implausibility of Jinnah confiding in the members on a matter of such delicacy.
Sharif Al-Mujahid repeated the charge in 1981 (Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah Studies in Interpretation; Quaid-i-Azam Academy, Karachi; pp. 404 and renewed it in 2010 in The Jinnah Anthology compiled and edited by Liaquat H. Merchant and himself; (Oxford University Press, Karachi, p. 21). The Pact “was contracted behind his (Jinnah’s) back as he lay seriously ill at Matheran” (p. 21).
The Pact read thus: “Proposals for the formation of Interim Government at the Centre.
The Congress and League agree that they will join in forming an interim government in the Centre. The composition of such government shall be on the following lines:
(a) Equal number of persons nominated by the Congress and the League in the Central Legislature (persons nominated need not be members of the Central Legislature).
(b) Representatives of minorities (in particular scheduled castes and the Sikhs).
(c) The Commander-in-Chief.
The Government will be formed and function within the framework of the existing Government of India Act. It is, however, understood that, if the Cabinet cannot get a particular measure passed by the legislative assembly they will not enforce or seek to enforce the same by resort to any of the reserve powers of the Governor-General or the Viceroy (this will make them sufficiently independent of the Governor-General).
It is agreed between the Congress and the League that, if such interim government is formed, their first step would be to release the Working Committee members of the Congress.
The steps by which efforts would be made to achieve this end are at present indicated to take the following course:
On the basis of the above understanding, some way should be found to get the Governor-General to make a proposal or a suggestion that he desires an interim government to be formed in the Centre on the agreement between the Congress and the League and when the Governor- General invites Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Desai either jointly or separately, the above proposals would be made, desiring that they are prepared to join in forming the Government.
The next step would be go get the withdrawal of section 93 in the provinces and form, as soon as possible, provincial governments on the lines of a coalition.
B.J.D. 11/1/45. L.A.K. 11/1/45.”
This is a faithful reproduction of the Photostat which shows all too clearly in the margin to the left of the text initials of both. Signatures are for concluded texts. Accords ad referendum are initialled as Liaquat and Bhulabhai, lawyers both, knew.
One has only to read the text, whether Liaquat’s or Setalvad’s to realize that it was contingent on Jinnah’s consent. It fell into two parts. One recorded the future setup of the interim government, the other the steps by which effort would be made to achieve this; namely “get” the Viceroy Lord Wavell “to make” a proposal for the government on the basis of this pact. Next, he “invites Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Desai” whereupon “the above proposals would be made” to him. This implies that Wavell would be sounded, once the parties agreed, and he would agree to invite them.
The “clandestine” theory implies that; (a) Liaquat and Bhulabhai had so completely taken leave of their senses as to believe that confronted with the fait accompli of their pact Jinnah would acquiesce in their plot and (b) Wavell would go along with them without assurance of Jinnah’s consent.
If in 1946 Jinnah’s “intelligence” was competent enough to alert him to the Congress leaders’ secret meetings with members of the Cabinet Mission, it is unthinkable that he was ignorant of the Liaquat-Bhulabhai parleys. On 15 January 1945 Liaquat told the press that his meeting with Bhulabhai was not of “any political significance” (Eastern Times, 16 January 1945 quoted in Ziauddin Ahmad; Liaquat Ali Khan; Royal Book Co., Karachi; 1990; p. 40).
Jinnah knew what was afoot. On 22 January he referred to reports in the press “that an agreement has been arrived at” between the two “with the consent of Mr. Gandhi and myself. I know nothing about this. There is absolutely no foundation for connecting my name with the talks which may have taken place,” and cited Liaquat’s denial “of his having come to an agreement” with Bhulabhai as a “lie and nonsense.” The false reports were “doing the greatest possible harm” (Waheed Ahmad (Ed.). The Nation’s Voice; Quaid-i-Azam Academy, 2000; Vol. IV; pp.55-57).
What “harm” could those reports possibly cause except failure of secret parleys on a sensitive matter? In 1940, for much less, Jinnah rebuked Sikandar Hayat Khan for meeting Maulana Azad. (S. Qaim Hussain Jafir, (Ed.) Quaid-i-Azam’s Correspondence with Punjab Muslim leaders; Aziz Publishers, Lahore, 1977; pp. 366-367). In June 1940 the Muslim League’s Working Committee resolved that “in future no member of the Working Committee should enter into any negotiations or discussions with the Congress leaders regarding the question of Hindu-Muslim settlement or any other matter which requires adjustment between the Muslim League and the Congress without the permission of the President.” (Syed Sharifuddin Prizada (Ed.); Foundations of Pakistan, All India Muslim League Documents; 1906-1947, Vol. III, Royal Book Company, Karachi; 1990; p. 329).
It is hard to resist the inference that certainly in this instance, the President accorded his permission to the General Secretary to hold the talks with Bhulabhai Desai. They were fairly long drawn and the pact held tantalizing gains for both. It is unthinkable that Jinnah and Liaquat did not speak to each other on the subject when they met, as they did, frequently during that phase from late 1944 to mid 1945.
The gains which the Pact offered to the Congress were obvious – release of its leaders who chafed at the prolonged confinement consequent to Gandhi’s failed gamble of the Quit India movement. Opinion on it was divided; while leaders like C. Rajagopalachari and Bhulabhai kept out others like Nehru, Azad, Asaf Ali and a couple of others suppressed their dissent and obediently followed the Mahatma. All, regardless of these differences, sought early capture of power at the Centre and its restoration in the Provinces. The Pact ensured that. The gains to the League were equally obvious. It would indicate that it had arrived. Parity in power with the Congress was coupled with coalitions with it in the Provinces which it had sought, in 1937, only to be rebuffed.
Cool headed as they were Jinnah and Liaquat could not have overlooked the risks and obstacles. Did Bhulabhai have Gandhi’s backing? If so, could Gandhi bind Nehru and Patel. In 1946 both repudiated him on the Nawab of Bhopal’s formula conceding the League’s representative status. Lastly, given the trust deficit would the Pact be concluded at all and even if it was, would it work?
But there was no harm in sounding out. Both sides were at it for some time. Gandhi had failed to achieve a breakthrough, first, in his correspondence with the Viceroy and, next, in the talks with Jinnah in September 1944.
Later Gandhi said “After my talks with Jinnah, Jinnah told many people that Gandhi had not even mentioned Interim Government. Bhulabhai’s effort is a reply to this. But if the intentions of the League are not genuine, nothing will come out of it.” This was said apparently after Gandhi had given the green signal to Bhulabhai. (Pyarelal: Mahatma Gandhi; The last Phase; Navajivan Publishing House Ahmedabad; 1956; p. 124).
There is no record whatsoever of any such reproach by Jinnah. The account is inherently implausible for the talks entered on the C R formula vs. Pakistan. In 1944 the Congress and the League collaborated to throw out the Government Finance Bill. Censors intercepted Bhulabhai Desai’s letter to Liaquat on cooperation between the two. “Temporary alliance” as Wavell put it in a letter to L.S. Avery, Secretary of State for India on 13 August 1944. (The Transfer of Power 1942-7; HMSO, London; Vol. IV; p. 1191; cited as TOP hereafter). This was before the Gandhi-Jinnah talks. Two days later in another letter Wavell described it as “suggesting not a constitutional settlement but an alliance … for the duration of the war.” (ibid.; p. 1200).
Wavell had no reason to disapprove of the proceedings. The new entrants would be but members of his Executive Council, functioning under the Government of India Act, 1919, and pledged to the war effort. He was besides, in favour of reconciliation with Indians as was Amery. Churchill flatly opposed the process.
Bhulabhai met Wavell on 15 November 1944 and presented an outline of his scheme for “a National Government” (ToP; Vol. V, p.230).
Setalvad’s is by far the most authoritative account of what followed. He devilled as Bhulabhai’s junior in his chambers, was devoted to him and worked hard on his biography only to clear his senior’s name, tarnished by some Congress leaders incidentally on the ground floor of the Bombay High Court Building Jinnah and Setalvad shared chambers. Setalvad demolishes the myth that Bhulabhai had acted on his own and proves to the hilt Gandhi’s approval of his efforts.
The two met at Wardha from 3 – 5 January 1945 when Gandhi heard his report of the talks with Liaquat and gave the go-ahead. Two documents are relevant. One is a note by Gandhi’s Secretary Pyarelal: “This note is printed below – the additions made by Gandhi being printed in italics.
I understand that the steps would be somewhat as follows:
The League agrees with us as to the composition of the interim government at the Centre. The agreed nominees will be responsible to the elected legislature.
The League agrees that if the proposal is accepted by the G.G., the first step to be taken by the new Government will be to release the Working Committee.
On this being done, the G.G. will be requested to accept the composition agreed upon (with the addition of members representing other elected parties or elements).
On the G.G. agreeing, an interim Government would be formed & when the Working Committee is thereafter released, you will be good enough to tell them that this step was taken with your approval.
Q. Is the agreement of the League to release the Working Committee as the first step of the new provisional Government (sufficient) preliminary proof of their bona fides?
If the new provisional Government is formed while the Working Committee is still in detention, and the new Government releases them, why do you see the danger in the way of permanent solution of the Hindu-Muslim Question?
The danger lies with the L.A. being equivocal and two-faced.
The utmost I urge is this that if an interim Government is formed with the agreement of the League, & the team works fairly smoothly, the League may (without openly admitting it) cease to be keen on Pakistan (division of some such sort).
The provisional Government which can be formed now with the consent of the League and G.G. is within the frame-work of the present Act and it will consist of all Indian Representatives except the
Commander-in-Chief [and conceivably a representative of the elected European group in the Assembly (which consists of eleven members).] nominated by the Congress and the League and responsible to the elected members.
Have you anything to say about this ?
It will be clearly understood between the Congress and the League that any measure not passed by the House shall not be enforced or sought to be enforced by any of the powers of the G.G. under the Constitution. (This is the import of “responsible to the House”).
The European member (if one has to be accepted) should be the choice of the Congress and the League.” (Setalvad; pp. 254-256).
The Pact was initialed by both Bhulabhai and Liaquat on 11 January. On 8 February Liaquat said: “without Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah being consulted, which I have not done so far, no settlement can be effected with Mr. Bhulabhai Desai.” A reference was made to this agreement in the Legislative Assembly on March 26, 1945 by N. B. Khare, a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Liaquat vehemently denied its existence and remarked that Dr. Khare had related “a cock-and-bull story.” “Mr. President, I should like to say most emphatically that it is an absolute fabrication. It is absurd on the face of it. There cannot be any agreement between two individuals who are not political orphans like the Honourable Indian members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council but who are members of the two most powerful All-India organizations in this country. If there is to be any agreement with regard to the Hindu- Muslim question, it can only be between the Congress and the Muslim League.” (Ziauddin Ahmad; Liaquat Ali Khan; Royal Book Co., Karachi, p. 41, citing newspaper reports). Jinnah adopted the same stance.
On 20 January, Wavell met Bhulabhai despite London’s warnings “I asked him about attitude of Gandhi and Jinnah. He said that Gandhi would approve and tell Working Committee he had done so. He also seemed quite sure of Jinnah, though he had not seen him, and relied on reports from Liaquat (sic.) Ali Khan” (ToP; Vol. V; p. 424). Earlier on 12 January Bhulabhai had discussed his moves with the Viceroy’s Principal Secretary Evan Jenkins.
To Amery, Wavell confided his thoughts candidly, on 23 January “If, as I suppose, he has authority from Gandhi to take soundings, and Liaqat (sic.) Ali Khan has similar authority from Jinnah, premature publicity may lead Gandhi or Jinnah or both to say that they knew nothing about the business.” This is precisely what Jinnah and Liaquat did for reasons not hard to understand given the distrust and Bhulabhai’s proneness to talk out of school. Such denials are by no means uncommon in diplomacy nor for that matter, are the Finance Ministers’ denials of devaluation of the currency right till the eve of the devaluation. In the Bombay Bar, to which Jinnah gave his best, the junior talked with the senior’s tacit authority but seemingly on his own; the agreed deal was adopted or repudiated by the senior as the circumstances warranted. Realities such as these escape innocent hagiographers of Jinnah and malevolent detractors of Liaquat. They live in a world of their own. Jinnah’s statements were, as might be expected carefully phrased. He said on 22 January, for instance, “There is absolutely no foundation for connecting my name with talks which may have taken place between Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Mr. Bhulabhai Desai.” (ToP; Vol. V, p. 473). Whatever happened to his ban of 1940 on such meetings, one should ask.
All this while Wavell wanted to meet Jinnah but London insisted that the parties must first agree between themselves and send their proposal to him. (ibid. pp. 489-90).
The Governor of Bombay was always primus interferes whether it was Sir Roger Lumley, who had excellent relations with Jinnah, or his successor Sir John Colville. Wavell wrote to Colville on 22 February to inform him of what was happening: “Desai claimed that these proposals would have the support of Gandhi with whom he had discussed them; that they were based on informal talks with Liaqat (sic.) (he always spelt the name wrongly) Ali Khan, Jinnah’s Deputy in the (Central) Assembly, and that if we really wanted a Central Government with political backing we could get it now. He was positive that Jinnah knew of what passed between him and Liaqat Ali Khan, and approved.” Bhulabhai was no fool, Jinnah and he were rivals at the Bombay Bar who admired each other. Jinnah paid a warm tribute to him on his death.
“I told the Secretary of State that I thought these proposals worth considering, but could not be more definite unless I was authorized to see Jinnah … Jinnah is aware of Desai’s approach to me. “Wavell asked Colville “to see Jinnah for me and speak to him” on the lines directed. (ToP; Vol. V; pp. 593-5).
Colville met Jinnah on 24 February and received the predictable reply “Liaquat had no authority to negotiate and has rightly issued a denial.” Jinnah had nothing to do with all this. “My communicating the points in your (Wavell’s) letter to him was the first approach to him in the matter,” Colville reported his meaningful remark “He said this conversation is the starting point.” Clearly Jinnah wanted to be sure of Wavell”s endorsement. “This afternoon he asked to be given a note embodying Desai’s 8 points;” evidently to check whether they tallied with those in the pact. “My general impression after this long interview is that Jinnah is not (repeat not) altogether averse to suggestions put forward though he did not commit himself and described them as not new” (ibid.; pp. 607-8).
Liaquat’s ridicule of the “cock and bull story” followed on 26 March. As acting Governor-General Colville wrote to Amery the next day “Jinnah’s believed to be annoyed with Liaquat for having discussions with Desai” (ibid.; p. 749). This flies in the face of the record.
On 14 June Wavell announced his decision to release the Congress leaders from prison and to convene a conference at Simla on 25 June to consider the formation of an interim government to prosecute the war against Japan. (ibid. p. 1122). In a statement the next day, Gandhi mentioned the “Bhulabhai-Liaquat Ali understanding” which he thought “laid the foundation” for the conference and acknowledged his encouragement to Bhulabhai (ibid. p. 1126). That the Conference failed was bad enough. The treatment which the Congress leaders meted out to Bhulabhai and Gandhi’s ready acquiescence in it must have confirmed to Jinnah the reservations which inspired his cautious policy.
Wavell’s broadcast explicitly invited Bhulabhai Desai to Simla. But the Congress list of its representatives in the proposed Executive Council studiously omitted his name. More, he was denied the Congress ticket for the elections to the Central Assembly where he had performed brilliantly. Gandhi even suggested unctuously in a letter that he withdraw his name. (Setalvad p.p. 288-290). Setalvad remarks “The saint politician exhibits himself in this letter as possessed of all the arts of politics and of sweet reasonableness.” In a formal statement, he defended Bhulabhai.
The pact retained its privacy even amidst the rancour of the failed Simla Conference, but not its relevance. It was obsolete. On 1 September Liquat published it along with a long explanatory statement. The talks “were purely of a personal nature.” Bhulabhai rejoined on 10 September. “I must say that the publication agreeably surprised me. When I saw a press interview given by Gandhiji on June 28, in which he had suggested that the pact should be made public, I immediately got into touch with Nawabzada and suggested to him that the text be issued to the Press, because the document speaks for itself and reveals all the materials facts, about which, I fear, the Nawabzada’s statement contains inaccurate statements. Unfortunately, the Nawabzada had not found it possible to approve of the publication of the pact. I note now that he has thought fit to publish it himself without any further reference to me.
… I had asked him to mention the matter to Mr. Jinnah, and, later on, I gathered from him that he had done so. After these conversations, I met Mahatma Gandhi on January 3 and 4.
“I prepared two copies of the documents and met the Nawabzada on January 11, and both the documents were initialed by both of us. He kept one and I have the other. At that time also, I had informed him that the substance of the proposals had been put by me before Gandhiji and he had approved of them.” Quoting the last para of the pact he said “This quotation from the pact clearly bears out that the Nawabzada must have had conversations with Mr. Jinnah; otherwise, the assurance therein contained could not have found place in the document initialed by him.” (Setalvad; pp. 276-8).
Liaquat issued a rebuttal on 10 September. He had never claimed Jinnah’s endorsement. Here comes the crucial part. “In his anxiety to show that these proposals were in fact a ‘pact’, he states that he had prepared two copies of the document and both the documents were initialed by both of us. This is not so. Mr. Desai initialled one copy and handed it to me and took my initial on the other. The copy that I have with me bears only Mr. Desai’s initial and is not initialed by both of us as stated by him. …
“The reason that Mr. Desai has now given for his remaining silent is that he still clung to the hope of finding a satisfactory solution of our immediate problems in other words, he depended on the existence of the so-called pact for finding a satisfactory solution. But how could it be of any help when one of the parties was openly and publicly denying, it is difficult to understand. (Vide Rafique Afzal for the texts of Liaquat’s statements pp. 28-33).
Bhulabhai had, in his zeal to succeed, placed himself in an awkward position. In the face of persistent denials he did not wish to controvert. But one can only wonder at his silence in the face of Liaquat’s flat and untrue – assertion that they had initialed separately not jointly. Setalvad published Photostats of both Gandhi’s notes of endorsement and of the pact, the agreed “Proposals.” Liaquat’s initials come immediately below Bhulabhai’s. They are discernable even in a copy reproduced by a government press from a 20-year old manuscript. There are those though who find it difficult to read them.
Jinnah stood by his man; Gandhi let down Bhulabhai who died a broken man. Even on his death bed he received little solace from the Mahatma (Setalvad; pp. 340-341). As for Liaquat nothing in his conduct called for the Quaid-i-Azam’s exercise of magnanimity or pardon. Wavell never quite accepted Jinnah’s denials. He could not have failed to receive reports from the Intelligence Bureau which, as the Transfer of Power volumes reveal, had penetrated both parties.
Like Jinnah, Liaquat began as staunch Indian nationalist who was also a member of the Muslim League; in his case since 1923 the year after he was called to the Bar. In April 1936 Jinnah nominated him as General Secretary of the Muslim League. Both were clubbable gentleman of a school that is near extinction. Liaquat’s mother revealed that he loved to entertain and discuss politics. (Roger D. Long; Dear Mr. Jinnah: Selected Correspondence and Speeches of Liaquat Ali Khan, 1937-1947; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2004; p. xvi). Unlike the Philistines that most of the leaders and are, he loved music and appreciated the arts. He was a widely read cultivated and cultured man.
In May 1937 he served on the Indo-British Trade Commission which worked to draw up an agreement that would replace the Ottawa Agreement of 1932 (ibid.; p. 2).
Unfortunately, there is no record of his speeches before 1941. The few which long published reflect the same tragic transition which Jinnah was obliged to make around the same time by the Congress’ pursuit of one-party rule.
In a speech to the U.P. Legislative Assembly on 28 March 1938 he said: “Whereas in this country, though my friends talk of nationalism yet most of them would not even touch a glass of water if it was touched by somebody else. Is it not disgraceful to hear of ‘Hindu Pani and Muslim Pani’ at railway stations? So what is the use of talking about things which do not exist. We are living at a time when our culture is different, our social life is different, our religions are different. It is wrong to think that this demand of the Musalmans for representation in the services is a religious matter. It is nothing of the kind. Every minority feels that it must have adequate representation in the administration not for the few jobs, not for loaves and fishes so that it may feel secure and have confidence in the Government of the country. … Sir, I assure you that he must indeed be a wretched Musalman who thinks in these terms of a Muslim rule or a Hindu rule. What every Indian wants is an Indian rule where everyone belonging to every community will have fair play, where everyone will have confidence in the Government of the particular province in which he happens to live. What we have to see is to create conditions under which the minorities will have confidence in the administration….
What does it matter, what percentage you give to one community or the other in the services? What matters is that you get independence, and have the administration of your country in your own hands. These things are a passing phase. This distrust will not last long and I can assure you that as long as you think in the terms of percentage and things like that there will never be any real freedom for this country.”
He concluded by paying a tribute to the Premier Gobind Ballabh Pant. Such civilities are all too rare in the legislatures of today. But Liaquat did not hesitate to use the rapier when needed. “Sir, after these unnecessary interruptions I feel that I made a mistake by having only confined myself to the speech of the Hon’ble the Premier. I thought I would act like a good Shikari who when he is out big game hunting, does not waste his time shooting rabbits.” (ibid.; pp. 13-16).
There was yet time to mend fences but the Congress would have none of it. By the time Liaquat spoke in the Assembly on 24 February 1939, the League had begun consideration of various alternatives to federation. “Sir, the speech of the Hon’ble Premier is a cry of helplessness and despair. May I suggest to the Hon’ble Premier to look nearer home for the causes of the communal bitterness which exists in the Province today. The speech that was made by Mr. Vijaypal Singh was that the minority community thinks to be the mentality of the Congress. Why do you not realize that everyone of you is not like the Hon’ble Premier or like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru? Why don’t you realize that there are amongst you people who pose as nationalists but they are the worst type of communalists? My honourable friend, Mr. Vijaypal Singh, said that he had got the solution for the settlement to this problem. He said that if the two communities wanted to fight, he would leave them to settle their account among themselves. Would he say the same thing about the people in the North-West Frontier Province? Would he say the same about the people in the Sindh province? He suggests that solution for the province where he knows his community is 86 per cent of the population. Is that the solution? I say, and I say this with a full sense of responsibility that it is this mentality among Congressmen which is responsible for the present bitterness between the two communities…. there is not much difference between the mentality of a large number of Congressmen and the mentality of (Hindu) Mahasabahites.”
In his Presidential address at the U.P. Divisional Muslim League Conference at Meerut on 25 March 1939, Liaquat recalled the Congress’ refusal to share power in 1937 and the permanence of the communal majority. “Muslims are a nation and not a community,” he asserted, “The only way out of this impossible situation is to allow each community to develop itself unhindered. The first attempt to achieve this was the one proposed before the Nehru committee. That Sindh, Punjab and N.W.F.P. should be amalgamated under one political system so that the Muslims would be in a united majority in one area. The idea was further examined by the late Dr. Sir Mohammad Iqbal when the word Pakistan emerged and found favour with a section of the Muslims. Many more schemes are being evolved, but whatever scheme is finally adopted, it is obvious that if the Hindus and the Muslims cannot live amicably in any other way they might be allowed to do so by dividing the country in a suitable manner on a religious and cultural basis. … Musalmans must concern themselves with a scheme that intends to mould their descendants. The scheme is under examination at present by a committee of the All-India Muslim League. “ (ibid.; pp. 36 – 37).
Jinnah, in poor health, drove himself mercilessly to make the League a force. He was not only its icon, but also its main fund-collector, arbiter in inter-League disputes, which were incessant, with a tremendous flair for organization which surprised many. They had overlooked his prowess in this field in earlier years.
One detracts not one bit from the credit that is his due when one says that, nonetheless, he could not have gone very far if he had not in Delhi a man of Liaquat Ali Khan’s ability and maturity to oversee the running of the party’s machine. He was a typical muranjum muranjaan (gave no offence, and was not touchy). In this he received enormous help from the devoted Office Secretary Shamsul Hasan, to whom all students of Jinnah’s life owe an enormous debt. At the Karachi session of the League, on 26 December 1943, Jinnah proposed the motion for Liaquat’s election as General Secretary and described him as “my right hand;” one who had “worked and served” day and night. “Though a Nawabzada he was a thorough proletarian” (Jamiluddin Ahmed; Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah; Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore; 1960; p. 574).
By 1947, Liaquat was the more realistic and conciliatory of the two; but always loyal to Jinnah. On 19 April 1947 Mountbatten warned him of the consequences of the partition. Liaquat replied “If your staff will work out exactly what partition means and then if you present the full difficulties to Mr. Jinnah, he will, of course, understand them even though he has not worked them out for himself.” (ToP; Vol. X; p.332).
Nineteen years separated the two. Letters of the early years suggest a personal relationship as familiar as could be in the circumstances.
Not for the first time in history, power and differences on its exercise tore them apart. Though Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah continued as President of the Muslim League and of the Constituent Assembly. “Here, indeed, is Pakistan’s King – Emperor, Archbishop of Canterbury, Speaker and Prime Minister rolled into one formidable Quaid-e-Azam,” Alan Campbell Johnson, Mountbatten’s Press Attaché remarked. (Mission with Mountbatten; Robert Hale, 1951; p. 156).
On 3 August, 1947, he recorded “Jinnah has raised difficulties about the degree of precedence to be accorded to Mountbatten on 13th August. It has been politely but nonetheless firmly made clear to him that His Excellency’s visit will be in his capacity as Viceroy, and any proposal that he should sit below Jinnah at the special meeting of the Legislative (sic.) Assembly is therefore out of the question.” (ibid., p. 148).
Forty years later this version was fully confirmed when, in 1999, Volume IV in the First Series of Jinnah Papers was published by the Government of Pakistan at page 272. It bears reproduction in full: “6 August 1947
Dear Mr. Jinnah,
My Military Secretary (Col. Douglas Currie) has been in touch with your Private Secretary (K. H. Khurshid) concerning the form which the celebrations in Karachi on 14th August should take. I understand from my Military Secretary that your private Secretary has proposed that, in the Constituent Assembly, the President should occupy the seat of honour rather than the Governor-General.
I am sure that there must be some misunderstanding since it is the invariable practice throughout the Commonwealth that, whenever a Governor-General visits any part of the territory in which he represents the King, his precedence is supreme. I must therefore go so far as to say that the proposal put forward by your Private Secretary would, if implemented, amount to discourtesy to the King, and establish an unfortunate precedent.
I must make it absolutely clear that I am not writing this letter on a personal basis. My only object is to safeguard the position of the Governor-General as a representative of the King.
I would be grateful if you could confirm that your private secretary has been acting under a misapprehension.”
The delicate phrasing of the last para can not conceal the hurt Jinnah’s demand must have caused. He was right in refusing to let Mountbatten, a notoriously slippery customer, serve as common Governor-General for both countries. But what national interest, as distinct from personal ego, needed satisfaction by the insulting demand which Jinnah had made? It shows a sharp disconnect from the realities by now in one who was once respected for his keen sense of realism. The disconnect appears more sharply in the light of the evident and utterly unreal assumption that his guest would cheerfully submit to the treatment. Till the midnight of 14-15 August, Mountbatten was Viceroy. But Jinnah could be flexible when he wanted to.
On 22 March 1948 the newly-arrived American Ambassador to Pakistan Paul H. Alling sent a “secret” report to the Secretary of State George Marshall on a conversation with the Governor General: “Mr. Jinnah had inquired through his aide de camp whether my wife, my daughter and I would care to accompany him and his sister on the Governor General’s lunch on Wednesday, March 17, to the nearby beach of Sandspit and take tea with them at their beach cottage, and we, of course, accepted. … During the trip to and from Sanspit and during tea there, all of which lasted over three hours, I had an opportunity to discuss various matters with the Governor General, the more important of which I cite below. …
Purchase of Property. My Jinnah inquired whether we were making progress in the acquisition of Government property here. I told him.
.. we had mapped out a tentative program. Both he and his sister then inquired whether we were interested in their house “Flagstaff” which he had told me a few days previously would be available for purchase. I explained that our negotiations for the purchase of an Ambassador’s residence at No. 1 Bonus Road had progressed so far, before we had knowledge that “Flagstaff” was available, that it had proved impossible to withdraw. He then asked if “Flagstaff” would not be suitable for the use of other personnel of the Embassy. In reply I said that we had, of course, explored that possibility but that our building expert felt he could not justify the purchase of such an extensive property for any of the subordinate personnel. I added that actually we were interested only in purchasing a few small houses or flats whereupon he said he would send us details of one or two such properties. I could sense, however, that Mr. Jinnah and his sister were disappointed that we had been unable to purchase “Flagstaff”….” (845 F.00/3-2248).
Pakistan was the weaker state. Pending were the boundary award, division of the armed forces, the stores, the cash balances and much else; not to forget the States’ question i.e., Kashmir. Did it make any sense to alienate one who was in a position to help – what kind of an outlook had come to possess Jinnah in the first flush of victory?
We get a fair glimpse of it from recent disclosures. They bear inevitably on his equation with his Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. In a note he jotted down “on or about 16 July 1947” before Pakistan was established, Jinnah wrote “Future Constitution of Pakistan: Dangers of Parliamentary form of Government (1) Parliamentary form of Govt. It has worked satisfactorily so far in England and nowhere else.” Canada, Australia and New Zealand were studiously overlooked. He added “2. Presidential form of Govt. (more suitable to Pakistan). The State exists (as has been said by Aristotle) not for life only but for good life” (italics here in the original.). (S. Sharifuddin Pirzada; Constitutional Set-up of Pakistan as Visualised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah; Liaquat H. Merchant and Sharif Al-Mujahid; The Jinnah Anthology; Oxford University Press, 2010; p. 8l). Pirzada records: “The note below is in the hand-writing of Quaid-i-Azam and is in File 42 of 1947. It was unsealed by President Ziaul Haq, who made copies thereof and gave one copy to the Author. The original is in Jinnah Papers, Islamabad.” One can only wonder to what use Zia would have put the note had he survived the air crash in 1988, shortly after he assumed total power.
Pirzada also quotes an extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet on 30 December 1947. It read: “The Hon’ble the Prime Minister said that he had discussed with the Quaid-i-Azam the latter’s position as head of the State. He had also had talks on this subject with some of his colleagues. The Quaid-i-Azam had told him that he was a constitutional Governor-General and was quite willing to remain as such if the Cabinet so wished. When the Quaid-i-Azam became Governor- General, however, none of the Members of the Cabinet desired that he should act only as a constitutional Governor-General because Pakistan stood in need of his guidance. His colleagues and he felt that the Quaid- i-Azam should act not only as Governor-General of Pakistan, but as the head of the State in the real sense of the term. They were all agreed that the Quaid-i-Azam’s presence was the greatest factor making for stability and progress of the State. It was proposed, therefore, that by convention no question of policy or principle should be determined and decided except at a meeting of the Cabinet to be presided over by the Quaid- i-Azam. He used the designation the Quaid-i-Azam advisedly in this context because it was in that capacity and not in his role as Governor- General that the Cabinet accepted his lead. It was further proposed that in the event of any difference of opinion between the Cabinet and the Quaid-i-Azam latter’s decision should be final. He should be entitled to ask for information on any subject from the Secretary-General or from the Secretary of any Minister. No decision would, of course, be taken on such information, except in consultation with the Minister concerned and, if necessary, the Cabinet. He suggested that this convention should remain in force during the Quaid-i-Azam’s life-time or until the new constitution of Pakistan was framed and put into effect, whichever was earlier.” (ibid; pp. 82-83).
Allan McGrath’s excellently researched work The Destruction of Pakistan’s Democracy (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1996) documents how Jinnah confidently overrode the fundamentals of the parliamentary system. Presiding over Cabinet meetings was bad enough, but keeping Cabinet portfolios was another – Evacuation and Refugee Rehabilitation, the States and Frontier Regions. He also “accepted an appointment from the Constituent Assembly for writing a new Constitution.” (p. 41).
Add to the constitutional scheme his political vision and Jinnah’s actions become understandable. He said in Peshawar on 20 April 1948 that under the grave circumstances, internal and external, “they should have only one political party.” (Jinnah: Speeches and Statements 1947– 1948; Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2000, p. 204).
More to the point, officers of the Staff College at Quetta were meaningfully told with great emphasis on 14 June 1948 that “the executive authority flows from the Head of the Government of Pakistan, who is the Governor-General and, therefore, any command or orders that may come to you cannot come without the sanction of the Executive Head. That is the legal position” (ibid., p. 225). As a statement of law this is sheer nonsense and is subversive of democratic governance. Churchill ordered the troops around during the War as his predecessors did and all other PMs in parliamentary democracies did; Nehru, Shastri and Indira Gandhi included. Who, then, had Jinnah in mind to exclude from the chain of command when he spoke to the officers as he did?
By then, of course, his differences with Liaquat had become known to the knowledgeable. (Hasan Zaheer: The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy 1951; Oxford University press, Karachi; 1998; p. 21).
On 27 November 1947, V. P. Menon and Mohammed Ali, Secretary- General of Pakistan’s Cabinet, hammered out a draft agreement on Kashmir. It provided for a plebiscite in Hyderabad also. It was shot down by Nehru. Menon would not have concluded it without Patel’s approval nor Mohammed Ali without Liaquat’s. Mountbatten also approved of it. Liaquat worked for a compromise but was obstructed by Jinnah. This accounts for their strained relationship for which Pakistanis blame Liaquat most unjustly. A cryptic entry dated 30 November made by Jinnah in his Notebook read: “Kashmir – no commitment should be made – without my approval of terms of settlement. Mr. Liaquat has agreed and promised to abide by this understanding.”
The next entry on the same page of the Notebook, dated 16 December, read: “Nehru’s proposals fundamentally different. There is no common basis or ground. There can be no solution of satisfactory nature unless the India D. (Dominion) agree to withdraw their troops and agree to replace the present administration by an independent and impartial regime and administration. With international police and military forces to restore peace and maintain law and order. It is only then that the question of plebiscite will have to be considered.”
When Liaquat met Nehru in Lahore on 9 December 1947, it was to carry out the Jinnah line – total withdrawal of Indian troops, not merely the bulk of them, and replacement of the Abdullah administration. Nehru needed no excuse for ensuring a deadlock, anyway.
By November 1948, Pakistan was in such dire straits that Liaquat asked Clemment Attlee to get the U.N. Security Council “to order and enforce an unconditional ceasefire immediately.” (ibid., pp. 120-121 for Jinnah’s notes and the Cabinet decision). The impact of all this on Liaquat’s ambitious Cabinet colleagues can easily be imagined.
Begum Liaquat Ali Khan and her husband adored Jinnah. But they were far too mature, sophisticated and cultivated to be uncritical.
Her impressions, which the well-born Liaquat doubtless shared were nuanced. (Long; p. 314).
Matters came to a head in December 1947 in circumstances which do Jinnah no credit. Liaquat’s letter of resignation recorded it all. “Personal & Confidential Karachi 27.12.47
My dear Quaid-i-Azam,
My wife has related to me what you told her last night at your dinner. I am sorry to learn that she has incurred your displeasure for some unknown reason. She could not possibly have done anything to merit such strong criticism and condemnation as for you to say that she was impossible and that she was digging her own grave.
For the last twelve years since I have had the privilege of working with you in close cooperation both of us have always had the highest regard for you and my wife has always tried her best not to do or say anything which would in any way injure the cause which is so dear to all of us. On the contrary she had made every endeavour to conform to the best of our Islamic principles and when the emergency arose she willingly did what was in her power to help.
A Prime Minister’s wife cannot live in a vacuum. She has to take her due place in the life of the nation and on account of the opinion which you seem to have of her it becomes very embarrassing and difficult for both of us to do our duty in the position which she, as the Prime Minister’s wife, and I, as the Prime Minister occupy.
You are the architect of Pakistan and as such I feel that it is but fair that you should have only such persons round you in building it up who can command your complete confidence and goodwill.
I would never dream of doing anything which would in any way injure Pakistan in the slightest degree, but as everyone knows that my health has not been too good for the last two months, my slipping out quietly will not create any misunderstanding or difficulties.
I wish to assure you that I am not writing this letter with any bitterness but out of the deep regard that I have for you.
Liaquat Ali Khan
A memorandum was written which recorded the event. it was penned by Liaquat’s wife’s close English friend, Kay Miles: “This draft letter of Liaquat’s requires a little background note: The actual incident which gave rise to Mr. J’s remarks to Begum Sahiba was her non-acceptance of a glass of sherry (which she dislikes) when she sat near him at his birthday dinner party. Then he quoted an incident which had taken place just previously at a dinner party in the then Sind Governor’s House where Mr. & Miss J were the guests of honour, and which had been brought to his notice by Miss J, with her own rendering of the facts. What had actually happened was that when an A.D.C. had requested begum Sahiba to sit near Miss J, she suggested that some other ladies, who did not often get it, be given the opportunity to do so on this occasion.
“Begum Sahiba naturally resented such remarks, especially as there was so much personal friendship and respect for Mr. J, by both herself and her husband. Liaquat sent in the resignation contained in this draft the following afternoon. Immediately upon receipt of it Mr. J phoned Liaquat, expressed his great shock and requested him to come over to G.G.’s House that same night.
“Mr. J. was most upset at the threat to a personal friendship and political partnership which had weathered so many storms, and had been built up on a solid foundation of mutual respect and affection. Mr. J. flatly refused to even consider his resignation, but Liaquat was adamant that the matter must be considered in view of the fact that he was not prepared to continue in office under such unjust aspersions on his wife, and with the lack of stable confidence which this incident revealed. They talked the whole thing out that night, Mr. J maintaining that he had merely spoken as a father out of his affection for Begum Sahiba, and requesting Liaquat to promise him that neither Begum Sahiba nor Miss J be allowed to come between them in their friendship.
“In her jealousy against Liaquat, Miss J, by insinuation and statement, tried to make believe that her brother was prepared to get rid of Liaquat it was not a fact.” (M. R. Kazimi; M. A. Jinnah ; Views & Reviews; Oxford University Press, Karachi; 2005; pp. 137-139).
Jinnah’s defence was disingenuous; if not, indeed, worse. No “father” would speak as he did, to his daughter. “Affection” was not very evident in his conduct. It was a row between two women. It was bad enough for Jinnah to descend into the arena; unforgiveable to use the ungentlemanly language he did to a guest; a lady at that.
Liaquat’s position was systematically undermined by Jinnah. He however did not acquit himself too creditably after Jinnah was no more. He was as intolerant of opposition. He treated H. S. Subrawardy shabbily. “Liaquat seemed not to understand or was unwilling to admit that parliamentary government required the existence of viable opposition. Pakistan, to Liaquat, depended on the existence of a strong Muslim League and the exclusion of other parties from government power. His idea of the League’s role in Pakistan is exemplified by his definition of the office he occupied. ‘… I have always considered myself as the Prime Minister of the League. I never regarded myself as the Prime Minister chosen by the Members of the Constituent Assembly.’ In 1950, Liaquat became the League’s President, departing from the policy of keeping League and government office-holding separate. This move weakened the League by reducing it to a handmaiden of the government. The Chief Ministers of the provinces were encouraged by Liaquat’s move to assume the leadership of the provincial branches of the League.
“Liaquat’s approach to party politics was direct and forceful. Those who would form other parties were traitors, liars, and hypocrites. Words like ‘dogs of India’ were part of his vocabulary when discussing opposition. He equated opposition to the Muslim League with opposition to Pakistan itself, and made it clear publicly that he would not tolerate the existence of an opposition party as long as he lived. When the East Bengal members in the Constituent Assembly planned a protest day in opposition to Liaquat’s proposals for a new constitution, he declared that the government ‘shall not tolerate these activities any longer and shall put an end to them in the interest of the existence and stability of Pakistan.’ On one occasion his voice reached an emotional pitch while addressing a crowd and declaring the Pakistan was ‘the child of the Muslim League.’ Those who joined ‘mushroom organizations’ were ‘enemies of Pakistan who aim to destroy the unity of the people.’ It was important, according to Liaquat, in the interest of true democracy’ to have one strong, unified party, and that party must be the Muslim League, ‘the mother of Pakistan.’ He believed that only ‘the real mother could have affection for its offspring.’ Opposition parties were foster mothers or stepmothers and ‘could never have affection for the child.’ He looked to a single party, which he controlled, as the means of continuing his power. If the aborting of parliamentary government was the price, so be it. Liaquat justified his position by picturing Pakistan surrounded by enemies, making parliamentary government a luxury which the new nation could perhaps ill-afford. His desire to consolidate power at the centre through the instrument of the Muslim League made him willing to delay the writing of a new constitution.” (McGrath; pp. 67-68).
He showed considerable skill in foreign policy. The Nehru-Liaquat Agreement on 8 April 1950, after a week’s negotiations in New Delhi, averted war. He conducted the talks on Kashmir in December 1947 in New Delhi with conspicuous ability. But his hands were tied. Mountbatten, recorded Frank Messervy C-in-C, Pakistan Army on 5 February 1948. “General Messervy told me that Mr. Jinnah at a recent interview had stated that he was more than ever convinced that the right course would have been to have marched into Kashmir with the Pakistan army, and drew as a parallel case the Russian advance into Poland as soon as the Germans advanced. When General Messervy had said that this would have meant war between the two Dominions, Mr. Jinnah hotly denied this, stating that India would never have been prepared to go to war, and General Messervy had been unable to convince him to the contrary. General Messervy said that Mr. Jinnah had become more and more impossible and was afraid he was in an advanced stage of megalomania. It was generally felt in Pakistan (and had even been expressed by Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan) that Mr. Jinnah’s usefulness had more than expired and that he was now an obstacle and positively a menace, but nobody could see any way of getting rid of him.” (Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre; Mountbatten and Independent India 16 August 1947 – 18 June 1948; Vikas, New Delhi; 1984; p. 164).
The situation was too tragic for words. Two men who had for over a decade (1936 – 47) together performed so brilliantly, against overwhelming odds, fell apart no sooner they won the coveted prize, Pakistan. Its democracy suffered from its founder’s excesses. The foundations of a Viceregal system were laid. Far lesser men who came after the two, inflicted enormous damage on Pakistan’s democracy. That is the true measure of the great tragedy of the Jinnah-Liaquat divide; as unnecessary as it was harmful to the country.
Ayesha Jalal’s judgment is sound. “The murder of Liaquat Ali Khan removed the one politician with the will and the ability to lend an ear to popular opinion and turn it to positive advantage. If Liaquat’s decision to strike a note of caution on foreign and defence policies stymied the ambitions of domestic claimants to power, it was an equally inconvenient piece of timing for those whose stocks in the international arena were falling. Allusions to a connection between domestic and international actors in the engineering of the disaster are not new. But with the passage of time an increasing amount of evidence, even if circumstantial, points to the need for a serious reconsideration of such a possibility. That, however, is a job for a team of detectives. “Insofar as the task of the historian is to tap the collective memory, and perhaps also the collective conscience, a few points are clearly in order. It was as early as February 1950 that Pakistani intelligence first filed a report on a planned attempt on Liaquat’s life. Orders were issued stipulating that no ‘suspicious characters’ be allowed within thirty to forty yards of the prime minister. Yet the fatal bullets were fired a mere eighteen feet from the dais. The assassin, Said Akbar, was an Afghan national, who had been a British intelligence agent in the pre- independence period. Akbar at the time was on the payroll of Pakistani intelligence and under the strictest of surveillance. When he fired the shots, Akbar was sitting in a row of policemen with over two thousand rupees in his pocket. He was killed instantly by the police. These are clues of the highest value in understanding why neither the police nor the intelligence investigations came up with convincing enough explanations for the assassination. …
“Whatever the final verdict on Liaquat’s assassination, the full extent of the tragedy is writ large on the subsequent course of Pakistan’s history. By the time Pakistan’s first prime minister became the target of an evidently hired assassin, the institutional balance had begun gravitating away from the political centre in Karachi to military headquarters in Rawalpindi. It was to take a few years and the unfolding of yet more painful domestic political and economic crises before the central government itself was forced to make the shift.” (The State of Martial Rule; Cambridge University Press, 1990; pp. 133-135).
The man was absolutely free from pomposity. When Ata Rabbani, Jinnah’s ADC to be, called on him in New Delhi, Liaquat said “You could not have had your lunch as yet. Sit down my son and join us (at the dining table). You seem to have forgotten your Aligarhian manners.” (Ata Rabbani, I was the Quaid’s ADC, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1996; p. 41).
He had a naughty wit as this speech shows: “My Honourable friend Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, for whom I have real regard and affection, was very much annoyed over these (Budget) proposals. He felt that the effect of these proposals would be that instead of living on interest all the time he will have to touch his capital. And that, Sir, reminds me of a story. A big industrialist was walking down the Bombay Chowpatty with a friend and as he was going along some lady passed by – a very ugly old woman and this industrialist took off his hat. The friend asked, ‘Who is this old hag that you took of your hat to?’ The reply was, ‘That is my wife.’ The friend was very much upset about it and offered his apologies. They proceeded further when a smart young girl came along, – lip-stick and so on, – and this industrialist raised his hat again. The friend asked, ‘Who was that’? ‘That is my sweet-heart’, was the reply. So this friend said,
‘Look here, in the name of’ – I will not use that unparliamentary word, “how did you come to marry a woman like that?” The industrialists replied, ‘Well, you see, being an industrialist I live on interest and do not touch the capital.” So what I feel is that these rich friends of mine – the industrialists – will have to touch their capital now, they cannot go on living on interest all their lives.” (Rafiq Afzal; p. 102).
Liaquat was a warm person, richly endowed with a sense of humour. On 28 November 1947, at a meeting with Mountbatten, Nehru and Patel, he begged them “to spend the night there (Lahore) when we came, since … it was in the social atmosphere of the evening that friendly and profitable business could be done.” Sample this in a letter from London to Dr. M.A. Ansari, on 2 August 1925: “I am a man who, in spite of his apparent sociability, has always preferred solitude to uncongenial company. But my God, there have been – moments during the last few days when my solitude seemed to be driving me mad, and I wanted somebody to lighten my heavy burden. But there was nobody to whom I could confide a momentous secret, and I think my heart and brain must both have suffered from this severe strain.
“London is a paradise for those who like woman, wine and chilly weather. Unfortunately I cannot indulge in any of these enjoyments, and a lonely man cannot really enjoy anything at all. My chamber-maid – please don’t misunderstand me – often sympathises with me, when she sees me moping alone in my room, and I return this sympathy with an occasional tip. But she does not know that I am a married man, and that feminine charms, of which she has a decent modicum, are not a panacea for all human ills” (Mushirul Hasan ed.; Muslims and the Congress; Manohar 1979; page 17).
This was a man born to wealth who died almost in poverty. He gifted this beautiful House Gul-e-Ra’ana at 8B, Hardinge Avenue in New Delhi to his country. Pakistan House at Tilak Marg is now the official residence of its High Commissioner to India. Jinnah sold off his palatial bunglow at 10, Aurangzeb Road to Ramkrishna Dalmia for Rs.3 lakhs before leaving for Pakistan and left a fabulous estate. The Rs. 3 lakhs would have meant a lot to his country then.
Jinnah was undoubtedly one of the greatest leaders of his times. But Liaquat was a finer human being.