October 16 is the 71st death anniversary of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. Pakistan was deprived of both its founding fathers in the first few years of its inception.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah sacrificed his life, because he was suffering from a terminal disease, which he ignored at the peril of his life because it was a race against time.

If the detractors of Pakistan had wind of his fragile health, all they had to do was delay the process and there would have been no Pakistan. Resultantly, the Quaid barely survived the first year since Pakistan’s independence and most of it he was incapacitated. It befell upon his closest companion and staunch follower Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan to pull Pakistan through those first years of the post-natal pains.

Throughout the struggle for Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan had followed the advice and guidance of the Quaid likewise Mr. Jinnah had been dependent on the steadfast companionship of his most trusted lieutenant Liaquat Ali Khan.

However, after the demise of the Quaid, Liaquat Ali Khan was on his own to shape the destiny of the fledgling nation, devoid of the steady hand of Mr. Jinnah on his shoulder.

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Pakistan’s enemies within and without were numerous. Liaquat Ali Khan was a stumbling block to their heinous machinations. Scrupulously honest, incorruptible, humble, astute statesman and firm disciplinarian, Liaquat had numerous friends and admirers but also many detractors who had either personal scores to settle or became pawns of the enemies of Pakistan, who wanted to stifle Pakistan’s growth.

On 16 October 1951, the Quaid-e-Millat Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan was gunned down by a hired assassin, while he was about to commence his address to a public gathering in Rawalpindi. As he fell, reciting the Kalima, his final words were “Allah Pakistan ko apni amaan main rakhay” (God save Pakistan).

This was the first political murder in the nascent history of Pakistan and by no means the last, but it definitely changed the course of history.

Unfortunately, the selfless Liaquat Ali Khan’s Herculean achievements to put Pakistan on the rails of progress have been clouded in senseless character assassination by the pygmies who plotted his removal. Resultantly, even the death anniversary of this founding father passes unheralded and unobserved.

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the second son of Nawab Rustam Ali Khan (Ruken-ud-Daulah, Shamsher Jang, Nawab Bahadur), was one of the few landlords whose landed property was spread in the two provinces of India: Punjab and UP. Yet in his quest for serving Pakistan, he donated his entire property and wealth for the cause of Pakistan.

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Pakistan’s successive political leaders need to learn lessons from this great man. His contributions are numerous.

After the failure of the series of Round Table Conferences, disgruntled by the infighting and squabbles of the Muslim leaders, Quaid-i-Azam chose to go back to England in self-exile. Realizing that the only leader who could unite the Muslims and lead them to their destiny was Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan took it upon himself to persuade him to return to India.

The rest is history.

After winning in the Central Legislature election in 1945-46 from the Meerut Constituency in UP, Liaquat Ali Khan was given the portfolio of finance, which he handled brilliantly, presenting a poor man's budget, based on national foundations.

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With sharp prescience and forethought, Liaquat Ali Khan, having become convinced that Pakistan was inevitable and after independence, the fledgling nation would require funds so as Finance Member (Minister), he tasked the Central Bank of India to have currency notes printed and deposited in banks in Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, Lahore and Dhaka. After 14 August 1947, especially when India withheld Pakistan’s share of the finances, these deposits came in handy for the cash strapped nation in meeting some of its expenses and disbursing the salaries of government servants.

It was Liaquat Ali Khan, who had the prudence and foresight to convince the Quaid to establish party publications to project the views of Muslim League. Hindus already had a number of dailies and weeklies, while Muslims were lagging behind in this important aspect.

He first started an Urdu weekly Manshoor and later he felt more than others the need for a publicity organ and it was Liaquat’s proposal to Jinnah which had led to the launching of Dawn.

Few people are aware that despite his extremely busy schedule, Liaquat devoted a fair share of his time to the party publications. After the inception of Dawn, its printing machinery, quotations from suppliers, the procurement of scarce newsprint and allied matters began to figure extensively in Liaquat’s letters to Jinnah. He even served as its first Editor.

His popularity with the Bengalis prevails even today and he is revered by ordinary Bengalis. Liaquat’s grandson, Nawabzada Musharraf Ali Khan, narrates that in 1998, he visited Bangladesh, which got liberated in 1971 and from East Pakistan, has become an independent country.

During his visit, while traveling in a taxi in Dhaka, the driver asked him if he was a Pakistani, when he replied in the affirmative, the driver stated that he had heard that the grandson of Liaquat Ali Khan was visiting Bangladesh with the Pakistani delegation.

When Nawabzada Musharraf Ali Khan admitted that he was the grandson, the driver stopped the vehicle, came around and kissed his hands and invited him to come to his home as his old father would be very pleased.

The Nawabzada accepted the offer. When he reached the driver’s home, he was taken to his father, an old invalid. When the driver explained to him in Bengali language, regarding the identity of his guest, the old man struggled to his feet and held the Nawabzada’s hands with trembling hands and tears in his eyes. Overwhelmed by emotions while narrating the incident, the Nawabzada stated that he looked around the sparsely decorated hovel; there were only two pictures that adorned the walls, one of Nawab Liaquat Ali Khan Shaheed and the other of Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy (Pakistan’s fifth Prime Minister).

In my TV programme, 'Defence and Diplomacy', Brigadier Noor Hussain, the last ADC of the Quaid, states that on Eid Day in 1950, Khawaja Nazimuddin, the second Governor General, invited Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, his wife and Fatima Jinnah for lunch.

During the course of the meal, Liaquat Ali Khan’s wife, Ra’ana, addressing the Governor General, stated, “Khawaja Sahib, if something happened to my husband, my two sons and I would be out on the street, since we don’t even have a roof over our head.”

Before the host could respond, Liaquat spoke up: “First, the five million refugees to Pakistan have to be settled. Once each and every one has been settled, only then my turn will come.”

It is a fact that within a year, Liaquat was martyred, leaving behind vast estates in India, but never claimed even an inch of land in Pakistan.

He also donated his palatial house in New Delhi to the Government of Pakistan, to be used as the Chancery and later the official residence of the High Commissioner.

When he died, his bank account comprised only a few hundred rupees. When his mortal remains were taken to the hospital, it was discovered that his socks and vest had holes in them; both the sleeves of his sherwani were darned at the elbows. After his death, his widow had to take up a government job to support herself and her two sons.

It is time that we recognise the sacrifices and contributions of this unheralded founding father with the respect due to him.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst


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Maqbool Oct 16, 2022 06:06pm
Well said , our founders were great people, sad where we are now
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