KARACHI, July 31: Mr Liaquat Merchant, grandnephew of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, has urged that controversial issues regarding Miss Jinnah’s death should be buried and she should be remembered as she was— “a noble, gracious and courageous lady who did not hesitate to take on a military dictator”.

In an interview with PPI marking the nation-wide celebration of Miss Jinnah’s birth anniversary on Thursday, Mr Merchant said it was “a matter of regret” that along with tributes, supplements, seminars and workshops to observe 2003 as the year of Ms Fatima Jinnah, “a controversy has arisen regarding her death.

“The fact is that when Ms Fatima Jinnah did not wake up one morning in July 1967, the family was alerted and its four members and Lady Hidayatullah went to Mohatta Palace in Karachi where with the help of authorities entry was secured and Miss Fatima Jinnah was found lying on her bed covered by a sheet”, Mr Liaquat Merchant said.

“There was no evidence of any physical violence or bleeding or blood stains of any kind, but there was some suspicion of foul play which remained a suspicion. Enquiries conducted by the then commissioner of Karachi and later by the West Pakistan home minister did not reveal anything new and it was presumed that she died a natural death, though suspicion of foul play continued in the minds of her admirers and emerged once again this year when the year of Ms Fatima Jinnah is being celebrated by the government.”

Mr Merchant said several persons had claimed that by virtue of their very close association, they visited and saw Ms Fatima Jinnah on the day of her death, but the fact is that apart from the four close family members and Lady Hidayatullah there was no other person present when Ms Fatima Jinnah was found dead in her bedroom in Mohatta Palace in July 1967. Other friends and admirers arrived later.

“It would perhaps be best to bury these controversial issues and not to raise them again 36 years after her demise and to remember her as she was, a noble, gracious and courageous lady who did not hesitate to take on a military dictator at the height of his power and championed the cause of democracy, representative rule, sovereignty of parliament, human rights, women’s rights, freedom of speech and expression.”

Mr Merchant, who is also administrator of the estate of the Quaid-i-Azam and trustee of all Jinnah-related education and health trusts, including the Khatoon-i-Pakistan girls school, said efforts made by the government to observe 2003 as the year of Ms Fatima Jinnah were “indeed laudable.

We have seen supplements on Ms Fatima Jinnah sponsored by the government-owned institutions, seminars and workshops, but not at Flag Staff House in the city of Karachi where she lived and died”.

A befitting tribute to honour and keep alive Miss Jinnah’s memory, Mr Merchant said, would be to keep alive her mission of providing quality education to girls in Karachi. Unfortunately, the Khatoon-i-Pakistan school, founded and built by Ms Jinnah was nationalized in 1972, and continued to remain under the government control in spite of efforts made to have the institution denationalized and handed back to the Khatoon-i-Pakistan Education & Welfare Board, which she founded in 1961, Mr Merchant said.

He said another lasting tribute to Ms Jinnah’s would be utilization of the Flag Staff House (her former residence from 1948 to 1964) for purposes specified in a high court order and sale deed executed by the administrators of the Quaid’s estate in favour of the government of Pakistan —- namely, a public library, an audio visual centre and museum to house relics and personal belongings of the Quaid-i-Azam and Ms Jinnah.

Mr Merchant said that unfortunately the government had failed to respond to numerous representations made in relation to the above and the property merely contained furniture, fixtures and fittings which did not throw any light or educate any visitor on these “two outstanding personalities and their great achievements”.—PPI

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