Dawn Delhi III: The emergence of Quaid-i-Azam

Greatest contribution of Dawn to creation of Pakistan is helping to create Jinnah as charismatic figure of Quaid-i-Azam.
Published September 12, 2017
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah always encouraged teamwork. He is seen here shaking hands with members of the Mohammadan Sporting Club in Calcutta, possibly in the late 1930s. Due to paucity of funds, the players could not afford shoes, and, therefore, played without them. Yet they managed to win several matches against British and Hindu teams. Khawaja Nazimuddin, Premier of Bengal in British India and Chief Minister of East Bengal post-partition, served as the Club’s president from 1936 to 1940. | Photo: The Private Collection of Shahnaz Babar Khairuddin
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah always encouraged teamwork. He is seen here shaking hands with members of the Mohammadan Sporting Club in Calcutta, possibly in the late 1930s. Due to paucity of funds, the players could not afford shoes, and, therefore, played without them. Yet they managed to win several matches against British and Hindu teams. Khawaja Nazimuddin, Premier of Bengal in British India and Chief Minister of East Bengal post-partition, served as the Club’s president from 1936 to 1940. | Photo: The Private Collection of Shahnaz Babar Khairuddin

The greatest contribution of Dawn to the creation of Pakistan was in helping to create [Mohammad Ali] Jinnah as the charismatic figure of the Quaid-i-Azam, constantly publicising the League’s activities and the demand for Pakistan. However, if the new nation were to be created, everything hinged on the League’s performance in the general elections in the cool weather of the winter of 1945-46.

If the League failed to win the Muslim seats in the elections, which were fought by the League on the basis that every vote cast for the League would be a vindication that the party spoke for the Muslims of South Asia, and those Muslims demanded Pakistan, Jinnah, the demand for Pakistan and the party would have been dismissed as of no consequence by the Congress and, more importantly, the British, both in India and in London in the British parliament, where there was little sympathy or even very much serious consideration given to the idea of dividing India upon independence.

The British certainly divided and ruled but they had no intention of dividing and quitting. Without victory in the general elections Pakistan would never have been created. All of the elements of the [all-India Muslim League] AIML that had been assiduously cultivated over the previous eight years were called into play for the general election. Dawn would play a central role and shift into overdrive in reporting on the elections and all those who were involved.


The elections were clearly perceived to be a life-and-death struggle and preparations began early. On September 22, 1945, Liaquat Ali Khan took one of his many trips to Aligarh Muslim University to mobilise the students of the University for the coming campaign by asking them to give up their studies for a period of time and to campaign for the League. Dawn reported the speech in full as the lead story in its issue of three days later under the headlines, ‘Avoid Dark And Gloomy Future’ and ‘Time May Come For Supreme Sacrifice’.

Inter alia Liaquat told the students: “Come out of your schools and colleges, whether you lose one year or not – that does not matter. Come out and support the Muslim League. I want every student to show that he is really fighting for the freedom of Muslim nation … This is only the beginning of the struggle. Time may come when the supreme sacrifice might be necessary to obtain the freedom of the nation. What good will the degrees be to you if the future is dark and gloomy. No sacrifice is too great at this moment.”

This was the message that was taken to Muslims everywhere there was a copy of Dawn to read, to share with others, or for the message to be spread by word of mouth or reiterated after Friday prayers at the mosque. It was a message that Dawn took loud and clear to many parts of India and students responded to in droves. So many students showed up for Liaquat’s election fight in the United Provinces that he had to write asking that no more students be sent to his campaign. In the Punjab, too, students appeared in large numbers. This was one measure of the effectiveness of Dawn in spreading the League’s message.

Dawn was, above all, the means by which Jinnah became firmly established as the Quaid-i-Azam, the ‘Great Leader’, the charismatic leader of the Muslims of South Asia. The newspaper faithfully recounted his activities, his travels, his law cases, and especially all his speeches and pronouncements.

One part of this campaign to elevate Jinnah to the same stature as Gandhi was to surround him with Muslim dignitaries whenever he made a public appearance, however mundane the event, where his pronouncements would be faithfully recorded by Dawn. One such occasion was the unfurling of the flag of the ‘Jinnah Football Tournament’ held in Delhi on November 12, 1944.

In his remarks, reported under ‘Muslims To Emerge A World Nation’ and ‘Quaid-e-Azam Appeals For Discipline’, on November 14, 1944, Jinnah claimed that the Muslims of India were “in the process of moulding and are being hammered out to emerge as a strong nation” and not only in India but also abroad. Team work on the football field would teach discipline which was something Muslim youth needed. After his short speech he went to the centre of the pitch and kicked the ball off to start the game! The first time, he revealed afterwards, he had ever kicked a football in his life. He lent his dignity to the spectacle, of which two of the 10 teams were called ‘Jinnah Young Friends’ and ‘Jinnah Sports Union’, until half-time.

For this event the League had not only rounded up a number of Leaguers but also the Consul General for Iran. The Leaguers consisted of Liaquat Ali Khan, who was the organiser of these events and never far from Jinnah’s side at these meetings, and almost all the League members of the Central Legislative Assembly and the Council of State and a number of Muslim government employees. A photograph of Jinnah giving his talk and another of members of the delegation were printed on November 26.


Dressed in Muslim attire, Jinnah’s photograph appeared in Dawn on November 20 along with a report of his address at an Id-uz-Zuha reception sponsored by the Muslim Association gathering where he said that every nation once in its life had to fail but then pick itself up. Muslims in India the past 200 years had been a fallen nation but now they were emerging as a powerful nation and he asked the audience to contribute to this emerging world: “Let us do our task in such a way that our coming generations may not be ashamed of our actions.” This meeting was followed by a tea party hosted by Dawn itself at the Imperial Hotel, an event and the names of its participants, including the Consuls General of Iran and Afghanistan, all faithfully recorded by Dawn.

Hundreds of such stories in Dawn in the years leading up to the all-important general elections were published, all helping to mobilise Muslims behind the League. As Reuters fed Dawn with stories of the Second World War, it was evident the War was winding down, the elections were not far off and the campaign to establish Jinnah as its Quaid-i-Azam continued without flagging, reporting his every move and every utterance.

In the same way that Congressites paid pilgrimage to Gandhi in his ashram so too Dawn recorded all of the visits made to Jinnah by figures great and small, but special attention was paid to visits paid by politicians in the areas claimed for Pakistan: Bengal, Punjab, the NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh. It was front-page news on December 2 when the ‘Sind Premier Calls On Mr. Jinnah’ for a ‘Two-Hour Talk’ on November 30.

Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah flew into Delhi after being summoned by Jinnah as he wanted to know the reason for Hidayatullah’s appointment of a non-League member to his Cabinet without consulting his League colleagues. The local League party requested Jinnah to intercede in the matter and he did so. They talked that day and G.M. Syed, President of the Sindh Provincial Muslim League, was expected to join the talks the following day as he too had been summoned by Jinnah. By reporting these visits Dawn played an important role in enhancing the importance of Jinnah in the nation’s politics. In a quite remarkable manner Jinnah, whose small political base was in Bombay, had made himself, and been made, into the most important Muslim political leader in India.


The greatest battle to assert Jinnah’s authority was in the Punjab, the province considered the ‘cornerstone of Pakistan’. The year 1944 was pivotal in that regard. The Muslim leader of the Punjab Unionist Party since 1937 had been Sikandar Hayat Khan, but he died suddenly of a heart attack in December, 1942. His successor was Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana, who was a lesser figure but determined, as were the British, that Jinnah would not control the politics of the province and be the bulwark behind the demand for Pakistan as Jinnah demanded, and that the Punjab would continue to be governed by the coalition, cross-communal, Unionist Party forged originally by the Muslim Mian Fazl-i-Husain (1877-1936) and the Hindu Jat Chhotu Ram (1881-1945) in 1923. With the early death of Fazl-i-Husain at the young age of 59 in 1936, with the death of the poet Muhammad Iqbal in 1938 and the passing of Sikander in 1942, there was no-one in the Punjab with the same stature as Jinnah. It was time to move in for the kill in the Punjab and Dawn spared no column inches in waging a ceaseless campaign of criticism and invective against the Unionist Party and its leaders.

On February 3, the campaign began when the AIML Committee of Action travelled to Lahore to discuss the condition of the Punjab Muslim League and to suggest ways [in which] the party could be strengthened but it was the following month on March 18 that Jinnah inaugurated the Annual Conference of the Punjab Muslim Students’ Federation and claimed that 90 per cent of the Muslims of India, whether they were members of the League or not, were behind the party.

The following day he entered into negotiations with Khizar Hayat Khan, the leader of the Unionist Party, to have the name of the ministry changed from that of the Unionist Coalition Party to the Muslim League Coalition Party and for the Muslim members of the Unionist Party to accept League party discipline. Over the next month he met with him numerous times with discussions lasting up to two to three hours on each occasion but on April 27, negotiations between the two finally broke down with Dawn faithfully recording every meeting and every take that Jinnah had on the meetings.

A breakthrough for the League occurred on April 26 when Sikander Hayat Khan’s son Shaukat Hayat Khan was dismissed by Khizar because he had become close to the League and he was to become a staunch member of the League and a member of the AIML Council. This was a startling turn of events and the opportunity for the League to force a final showdown with Khizar. The press, including Dawn, covered the episode ad nauseum.

On May 2, the AIML Committee of Action met in Lahore to press Khizar as hard as they could to force the issue. The following day the Convener, Liaquat Ali Khan, wrote to Khizar, asking him to explain his position with regard to the League in the province. Khizar replied six days later, arguing that the Sikandar-Jinnah Pact of 1937 was still in effect and, therefore, he recognised Jinnah as the national leader of the Muslims of India but in the province the local party was independent. This interpretation of the Pact had been widely accepted in practice but the League was now waging a campaign to destroy this understanding and to force Khizar into the League.


On May 14 in Delhi the Committee met to consider Khizar’s response and asked him to respond. He did, on May 20, merely repeating his statement of May 8 that in refusing to transform his coalition into a Muslim League coalition he was operating within the parameters of the Pact. A week later the Committee was back in Lahore to announce that Khizar had been expelled from the AIML and barred from membership in the party. The lines had finally been drawn, and while the League had not imposed its will on Khizar, it had put the party in a position to wage a ceaseless campaign against Khizar, raising the question of his loyalty to his fellow Muslims, and especially with regard to the next general elections. Dawn would lead the charge.

On July 8, Dawn reported the Montgomery District Muslim League’s resolution passed two days earlier which showed the tack the League was adopting toward Khizra. First, they depicted Khizar’s expulsion from the League as a defection from the “only representative political party of the Muslims namely the Muslim League [and it] is clearly against the best interests of the Millat”. In short, not to support the League was not to be a good Muslim. This was a powerful charge to level against any Muslim and partly accounts for the success of the League in mobilising support. The following day Dawn published a two-column story by its ‘Special Representative’ in which it began, “Do the Unionists want to use the Congress against the Muslim League?” Again, this raised the spectre of un-Islamic behaviour as the League depicted the Congress as a Hindu organisation. Hundreds of these kinds of articles appeared over the next three years.

It would be the elections scheduled after the War that would determine whether the British would take the Pakistan demand seriously and Dawn reported on and followed the campaign closely.

This is the third of a four-part series on Dawn Delhi. Also read the first part and the second part.

Excerpted from ‘Dawn & the Creation of Pakistan’, Media History 2009, SOAS, London.

The writer is Professor of History, Eastern Michigan University, USA

This story is part of a series of 16 special reports under the banner of ‘70 years of Pakistan and Dawn’. Read the first report, second report, third report, and fourth report or visit the archive for more.