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The forgotten leader

August 14, 2013

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KHWAJA Nazimuddin, who succeeded Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as Governor-General graciously accepted the decision of the Pakistan Cabinet to step down to take over the mantle of Prime Minister after the assassination of Nawabzada Khan Liaquat Ali Khan. He was one of our greatest leaders, a fact that is hardly known to the present generation. It is our misfortune that a leader of his stature, especially in terms of honesty and integrity, has not been given his rightful place in the annals of our country.

Khwaja Nazimuddin was chosen unanimously for the two highest offices of the land on the demise of the founder of Pakistan, and the first prime minister these positions were given due to the respect he commanded among his colleagues in the government. He stepped down from the office of the Governor-General only in deference to the wishes of his colleagues, although he had suggested the name of Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, which was not accepted by the cabinet. Most of the people and even all the members of the first cabinet did not know that the Quaid himself wanted Khwaja Nazimuddin as his successor.

Therefore, after the Quaid’s death, no time was lost in sending the Governor-General’s Viking to Dhaka to bring Khwaja Saheb, who was at the time chief minister of East Pakistan, to Karachi. It is our misfortune that he was not given the position he richly deserved in the annals of our country. He was, first and foremost, a good human being whose honesty and integrity in public and private life was exemplary, especially because he had no love for money. It was at his suggestion that the government in East Pakistan abolished zamindari, although as the biggest land-owning family in East Pakistan his family was the main victim of this decision. For him the only consideration in all decisions was the good of the country and its people. He enjoyed what can be called an unqualified trust and confidence of the nation and it was because of this that no one was found fit to take over the position of the Father of the Nation and again the position of the Quaid’s most trusted lieutenant, Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, except Khwaja Saheb.

This was a tribute to his loyalty to Pakistan, his honesty and integrity. He took over as the prime minister, giving up the position of Governor-General at a difficult time when the new nation was in its formative stage. He acted  in response to the call of the nation. Only for his love and loyalty to Pakistan. Little do we know that although he had termed the dismissal of his government by the Governor-General a “rape of democracy”, he did not challenge the decision in a court of law lest it might destabilise the young country.

Personal interest was sacrificed for the larger interest of the country which is something unbelievable in the present context. At a time when corruption, dishonesty and self interest reigned supreme in every sphere of life, such great leaders are remembered the most. Having forgotten the very meaning of honesty and integrity, a study of the life and work of Khwaja Nazimuddin will be a fruitful exercise for introspection and self-reform.

Khwaja Nazimuddin was a man of integrity beyond doubt or debate. Integrity is one of the most important characteristics that a man can possess. A man with integrity will stay true to his word and true to himself. If he tells you that he is going to do something, he will follow through and do what he has said. You can count on him to always be there for you and defend you as a friend. He does not pretend to be something that he is not and he knows who he is and who he wants to be. A man with integrity will have strong values and he will stick to those values regardless of the cost. Khwaja Saheb more than fulfilled the criteria. Do we have any such political leader now?  The answer is a big NO.

Khwaja Nazimuddin was an honest man. Honesty is a great quality that everyone looks for in a person but it is often hard to find. A good man will tell you the truth and not just what he thinks you want to hear. A man with honesty will not make up stories or make promises that he never intends to keep just to look good, but will tell you honestly what he will do and how he feels.

Sometimes honesty can be hard to deal with because it is not what we want to hear, but it is better to have a good man who is truthful than one who will fill you with lies. Khwaja Saheb more than fulfilled this tough criteria as well. Do we have any such political leader now? The answer, again, is a big NO. Those who had the privilege of interacting with him know that it was his honesty, integrity and truthfulness which were always seen in a negative light and made him look like a weak man which he surely was not.

Today what we lack most in our day-to-day life are the elements of integrity and honesty. Unless we make a serious effort to cultivate such virtues, we will not be able to solve our political, economic and social problems. One way to do it is through education. The right kind of education at primary and secondary level with focus on the life and work of good human beings can help build a nation..

The other day I came across a letter in the correspondence columns of Dawn (Dec 29, 2012) along with a photograph of a former British minister leaving his home in a bicycle in which the writer expressed the hope that it would serve as a model for our leaders. He is, understandably, unaware of the fact that he could find such a model in his own country instead of going to the United Kingdom. At the time of the dismissal of his cabinet by Mr. Ghulam Mohammad, Khwaja Nazimuddin had  no house of his own, and hardly any  bank balance. He could not find a house to rent when he had to leave the Prime Minister’s house.

At that time the Adamjee family, led by Mr. Abdul Wahed Adamjee, put one of their houses at 102 Clifton, at his disposal, which he shared with two other families. Later, as soon as he could find a house to rent in PECHS he moved in along with the other two families. Since there was no telephone in the house, one day he managed to get in touch on telephone with the then general manager at the Telephone House on I.I. Chundrigar Road and requested for a new connection. The PECHS then was a difficult area and new connection at the time was somewhat impossible. 

The late Mr Abdus Sattar, if I correctly remember his name, at an informal meeting told me that he was first stunned to find the ex-prime minister, Khwaja Saheb, on the line and simply asked for his home address and the next day the telephone was installed. The demand note and other formalities were completed later. This was the kind of respect Khwaja Saheb enjoyed with his people. I wonder if such an example of love and loyalty to the country can be found even among British leaders. The point is that a little effort is needed to look into the life and work of our leaders of yore who could be taken as models. And there are a number of them.

Do we remember that when Nawabzada Khan Liaquat Ali Khan died, he had a bank balance worth Rs. 4,000 only. An unbelievable expression of honesty and integrity indeed. At a time when morality in Pakistan is often regarded as lack of opportunity, what our leaders need most is the excellence of character. We do not need a Churchill or a Roosevelt to take the county out of the morass it is in. What we need is someone like Khwaja Nazimuddin, Liaquat Ali Khan, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and such other noble souls. Only unimpeachable honesty and integrity can weed out corruption, deception and fraud from society. This is our major problem and unless this is addressed with full vigour, no progress – political, economic or social – will be possible.

Khwaja Nazimuddin, no doubt, as the governor-general, was an ideal head of the Muslim state of Pakistan in terms of excellence of character, which is the first requisite of the head of a Muslim state, and it was because of this that Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani had allowed the Khateeb of mosques to mention his name in their Friday sermons. I know of one mosque, Masjid-i-Khizra of Bhimpura, a locality of old Karachi, where this was followed religiously till such time as he was the governor-general. Institutions like the Pakistan Study Centre, under the learned stewardship of Dr Jaffar Ahmad, could take effective measures by writing articles and books on the life and work of our leaders who were known for their honesty, integrity and loyalty to Pakistan.

This will educate the present generation and future leaders on the importance of what is now a rarity; excellence of character.

The writer is a former Dawn staffer