- The Quaid was so ill that he would not have lived to see Pakistan’s first Independence Day, but he was able to do so by a brave and daring feat by Pakistan Air Force
11th September is the death anniversary of the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Here is one important but lesser known fact. The Quaid was so ill that he would not have lived to see Pakistan’s first Independence Day, but he was able to do so by a brave and daring feat by Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
The following was narrated to me by Brigadier Noor A. Husain (retd), the last Army ADC of the Quaid, in a TV programme I hosted titled, 'The Quaid’s last 100 Days'.
The brigadier, with his inimitable style and distinct memory, informed that the Quaid’s last public appearance was on 1st July 1948 to inaugurate the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Despite instructions from his doctors not to leave Ziarat, where the Quaid was recuperating, he made the fateful trip to Karachi and back. The Quaid was especially keen to inaugurate the State Bank, since he considered it a great achievement.
The Hindus believed that since monetary policies and fiscal understanding was not the forte of Muslims, Pakistan, despite its creation, would collapse and the Muslims of Pakistan would beg the Hindus to take them back into the Indian fold. The Quaid was so proud that Pakistan had not only been created but had also established its own State Bank.
Initially, it was considered that the State Bank of India should regulate the currency and banking systems of Pakistan, but the Quaid wanted to break Indian shackles.
In his speech, delivered despite his frail condition, the Quaid, addressing Zahid Hussain, the first Governor of the SBP, emphasised: “As you have observed, Mr. Governor, in undivided India banking was kept a close preserve of non-Muslims and their migration from Pakistan has caused a good deal of dislocation in the economic life of our young State. In order that the wheels of commerce and industry should run smoothly, it is imperative that the vacuum caused by the exodus of non-Muslims should be filled without delay.”
Quaid-i-Azam was in bad health, his voice scarcely audible, pausing, coughing, as he proceeded with the text of his speech.
Notwithstanding his frailty, with prescience, the Quaid invoked: “I shall watch with keenness the work of your Research Organisation in evolving banking practices compatible with Islamic ideas of social and economic life. The economic system of the West has created almost insoluble problems for humanity and to many of us it appears that only a miracle can save it from disaster that is not facing the world. It has failed to do justice between man and man and to eradicate friction from the international field. On the contrary, it was largely responsible for the two world wars in the last half century. The Western world, in spite of its advantages, of mechanization and industrial efficiency is today in a worse mess than ever before in history.
"The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on the true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind.”
The trip to Karachi and back took its toll and the Quaid became so ill that there was little chance of his survival to witness the first birthday of his creation 'Pakistan'.
Brigadier Noor informed that in the first week of August 1948, the doctors prescribed a certain injection, which would prolong his life by two weeks or so. Noor traveled from Ziarat to Quetta to look for the injection but failed to find it. He was advised that it may be available at Karachi. Brigadier Noor informed Colonel Geoffrey Knowles, the Military Secretary to the Governor-General, who made arrangements for the injection to be purchased from Karachi.
Now there was the question of transporting the injection to Quetta. Colonel Knowles spoke to Air Vice Marshal Perry Keene, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Air Force. He in turn asked the PAF’s air transport command to do the honours. The officer in-charge of air transport was Squadron Leader Abdullah Baig, who readily agreed.
Unfortunately, Quetta’s Samungli airfield state was declared 'Red' by the Meteorological Department because of poor visibility, making it unsafe for landing or take off. Declaring the mission to be dangerous and suicidal, Abdullah Baig decided to dare it alone and set off in a PAF Dakota for Quetta.
Continuing his narration, Brigadier Noor stated that he took a thermos of coffee and went and stood at the tarmac to wait for the arrival of the PAF Dakota. He says that the visibility was zero; even the ground staff had packed up. After a while, he heard the Dakota make a landing. The aircraft came to a halt and Squadron Leader Abdullah Baig jumped out, approached Brigadier Noor, handing him the packet of injections, stating: “Here you are old chap; got to hurry, I have left the engines running since I could not risk bringing any technicians with me.”
Brigadier Noor offered him a cup of coffee, which he gratefully accepted and whistling loudly departed, without a care in the world, as if he had done nothing extraordinary.
The injection not only prolonged the Quaid’s life to see the first Independence Day but also Eid-ul-Fitr, which fell on 27 August 1948, enabling the Quaid to address the nation for the last time through a recorded speech via radio.
He breathed his last on 11 September 1948, leaving the fledgling nation orphaned but the resolute PAF had helped prolong his life by a few weeks.
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