EXCERPT: Quaid-i-Azam And 9/11

Published December 20, 2008

Pakistan and USA, by coincidence, have something in common. It is the date of the century, 9/11. On this date in 1948 Pakistan lost its founding father and then 53 years later in 2001, USA, the Twin Towers in New York were blown up. The similarity ends here.
Pakistan since 1948 mourns its loss with dignity, in a noble and sober manner, whereas the USA has gone berserk in pursuit of Bin-Laden, Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
 
September 11, 1948 was a 'bleak' day for Pakistan, when only after 13 months of its coming into being as an independent state, the advice, wisdom and guidance of its creator was lost to it. It was a pity that the Quaid-i-Azam did not live long enough to put Pakistan on a sound path towards democracy and to give the country its constitution.
Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah did not keep good health but without showing any semblance of his health handicaps he led the struggle for the emancipation of his community with dauntless courage and determination. He led the battle almost singlehanded and transformed All India Muslim League, hitherto a party of armchair politicians into a mass movement that brought about the miracle of the 20th century; the establishment of Pakistan, the largest Muslim and fifth largest state in the world. Had Lord Louis Mountbatten known of Mr Jinnah's state of health at that time, he for sure would have deferred the decision on partition of the subcontinent and the political map of South Asia would have been different today.
 
1947 was the year of Jinnah's triumph, the year successfully culminating his life long struggle for finding a safe haven for his people, in the emergence of Pakistan. He took his success in a stride without exhibiting any semblance of pride or arrogance.
 
 
He was the same Mr Jinnah, the Quaid-i-Azam. However, mental strains and physical demands of this long struggle took their toll and his thin physical frame started to show the pressure. During independence ceremonies he looked tired and exhausted but he refused to submit to his health handicaps. He was always prompt and punctual and whenever the ADC on duty presented himself to accompany him to a ceremony/function, he always found the Governor General ready and dressed for the occasion. Handsome, that he no doubt was, he looked like a Greek God, attired in his three-piece suit or cream colour sherwani and the audience admiringly looked at him and adored his looks.
 
Determination and 'never say die' were two of the many sterling qualities of his character. It is a fact of his life that he always disregarded the advice of his doctors and continued to work hard and meet his official and social obligations. But one cannot fight mother nature! Inspite of all of his fighting qualities he could not ward off the effects of 'old age' and his illness took its toll.
 
 
My Last Breakfast with the Quaid-i-Azam
 
It was April 13, 1948 when for the last time I had the honour to share the breakfast table with the Quaid-i-Azam, in the exotic setting of the lush green lawn of the Officers Mess of the Pakistan Air Force Flying School Risalpur.
The Governor General was scheduled to review the parade and rename Flying School as Pakistan Air Force College.
 
Parade over I was rushed to the mess to receive the Governor General at the entrance of the mess. After breakfast when he left I was the last to say good-bye to him. He stood in front of me and for the first and the last time, put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Well young man it is now your turn to come to Karachi. Good luck.' 'Certainly Sir' I said in a voice choked with emotions. It was an extraordinary moment for me. I was overwhelmed with this rare gesture of kindness and honour.
 
For me it was like the symbolic tap on the shoulder with the ceremonial sword, made by the British sovereign while conferring knighthood on a subject. The joy that Quaid-i-Azam's touch gave me was unbounded. His words and the touch of his hand are still with me. I feel guilty that I could not visit as promised. I went to Karachi alright, not to the Governor General House to meet him, but to his mausoleum to pay him my last respects.
 
During his visit to Risalpur he looked fine. He was erect, smart and elegant as usual and walked with poise. He was firm on his feet and had all the vigour and energy to meet and exchange pleasantries with all those present. But then within couple of months his health took a sudden twist for the worse and he rapidly lost strength and became weak. He was advised complete rest in bed and was soon taken to Ziarat for a change of climate and detachment from day-to-day affairs of the state, which was not possible while in Karachi. But the situation did not improve and he continued to sink physically deeper with every passing day .
 
A real fighter that Quaid was, he gallantly defied his illness and flew down to Karachi for the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan. He travelled lying on a stretcher but walked unaided in his indomitable style to the stage to perform the ceremony. It was indeed very brave of him to defy all, including his doctors, to make this trip to highlight the significance of the State Bank in the country's economy.
 
Strains of this recent visit to Karachi completely broke him down and it became evident that he could fight the inevitable, no more. It was September 11, 1948. Gasping the last breaths of his eventful and a very successful life, the man of destiny, set out from Quetta on his last journey to his final resting place in Karachi, the city of his birth, the city that he liked and the capital of the fifth largest state in the world, that he founded.
 
A real fighter that the Quaid was, he gallantly defied his illness and flew down to Karachi for the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan. He travelled lying on a stretcher but walked unaided in his indomitable style to the stage to perform the ceremony. It was indeed very brave of him to defy all, including his doctors, to make this trip to highlight the significance of the State Bank in the country's economy.
 
Reception at Mauripur Airfield left much to be desired and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan arrived uncared, unsung and neglected. It is not known, even if the pilot escort was there to lead him in, on his last arrival. Only an ambulance carried the stretcher of the ailing Governor General, almost on his deathbed. There was no breakdown ambulance and no second car. According to Miss Jinnah's book My Brother the ambulance carrying the Father of the Nation ran short of fuel and the dying 'Man of Destiny' lay helplessly on the roadside for over an hour with flies buzzing over him and a desperate sister struggling to wave them away and waiting in anguish for help.
 
This was callous, criminal negligence and height of incompetence that cannot be pardoned. It was a blatant and deliberate disregard of all norms of protocol and the Governor General House arrangements with regard to Governor General's movements. The Military Secretary should have been impeached for not providing for a breakdown ambulance. It was a pity that no heads were rolled and the matter drowned in the sorrows of the nation's loss. Now we have the audacity of making it just a ritual of paying hypocritical lip service on his death anniversaries and birthdays.
 
Three Mistakes by Mr Jinnah
 
I revered Mr M.A. Jinnah when I was a student at Muslim University Aligarh. I exalted him in my days in the Air Force and I venerate him now when he is no more with us. I hold that as a politician and a statesman he seldom faulted in his political decision-making. Having said that and with all my unshakable faith and trust in Mr Jinnah's judgments, I now with hindsight feel that there are a few decisions or lack of actions on his part as Governor General where perhaps he faltered. One may term these as 'mistakes' but reference to any such 'mistake' is hypothetical as these are conditioned by so many 'ifs' and 'buts'.
 
Based on my limited knowledge of affairs of the state but taking cognizance of the ground realities then prevailing, I am being candid in airing my views, I could as well be wrong in my assessment! I felt at odds with at least three of Mr Jinnah's decisions as Governor General.
 
FIRST The first mistake committed by Mr Jinnah in public life was on August 15, 1947 when as Governor General he appointed an unelected bureaucrat Malik Ghulam Mohammad as Federal Minister for Finance. Later he nominated Ch Sir Mohammad Zafarullah, another  unelected person as Foreign Minister.
 
These two nominations were against parliamentary practice and even contrary to the democratic principles of Mr Jinnah himself. It is possible that he may have planned to use the talent available outside the legislature for the good of the country, as he effectively used 'counterfeit coins in his pocket' during the days of the struggle of the 40s. These two cases when viewed on the touchstone of success gave two different results; whereas the first experiment badly flopped and with disastrous consequences, the second was a resounding success. However, the fact remains that it was wrong of the Governor General to appoint unelected persons to the legislature.
 
In case of the Finance Minister, there were two other options open to the Governor General. One, was to retain Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan as Finance Minister in addition to his responsibilities as Prime Minister. Two, to appoint another politician with a flare for finance, as Finance Minister, to be groomed under the tutelage of Sir Archibald Rowlands, the last Finance Member of Viceroy's Council in India, who Mr Jinnah had especially asked to be loaned as his Finance Advisor. Instead he picked up Malik Ghulam Mohammad, who had finance background all-right, but he was not such an outstanding financial wizard to be put at the head of the finances of a nascent state. Ghulam Mohammad was short tempered, intolerant, headstrong, over ambitious and an arrogant bureaucrat, who spent World War II years in the supply and purchase organisation of the Government of India.
 
When appointed as Finance Minister he lost his head and started to think no end of himself. After the vacation of Governor General's chair by Nazimuddin he intrigued and occupied the Governor General's House. He was overbearing and presumptuous and because of his attitude was not liked by his colleagues. Ghulam Mohammad tried strong-arm tactics to curb his opponents but did not succeed. Intrigues started and a revolt erupted in parliament against the Governor General.
 
The Governor General's nomination of Ch Sir Mohammad Zafarullah as Foreign Minister, on the other hand, matched up to Quaid's expectations and was a great asset to the country. Sir Mohammad Zafarullah was internationally known, had been Chief Justice of the International Court at the Hague, distinguished as a member of many international forums under the UN and was held in high esteem the world over. He very successfully projected our case at the UN and other international forums and used his worldwide contacts to the advantage of Pakistan. His judicial acumen, debating and negotiating skills could not be challenged. A man of character with a clean record and with no extra-constitutional ambitions, he kept himself aloof from political intrigues and continued to serve Pakistan with dedication in various capacities till the late sixties.
 
These indirect and lateral inductions by the Governor General gave birth to the ambitions of the bureaucratic mafia that polluted the politics of the country and have continued to dominate weak-kneed politicians all along, influencing the electoral process and destabilising successive democratically elected governments. Bureaucratic oligarchy is one of the major factors in creating the chaotic logjam of persistent lack of morality in politics in Pakistan. Yet another undesirable and perhaps the most damaging of their acts was influencing of the higher judiciary in their favour that derailed the democratic process which was yet to take firm roots in the nascent state.
 
SECOND Late in October 1947 when the tribals were on the outskirts of Srinagar airfield, ransacking the areas around and busy collecting ransom, the Governor General ordered Lt General Douglas Gracey then in temporary command of Pakistan Army to dispatch one brigade to Kashmir to coordinate and direct the thrust of the lacquers to capture the airfield that lay at their feet. Lt. General Gracey ignored the legitimate orders of the Governor General and instead contacted Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck in New Delhi to inform him of the Governor General's intentions.
 
Disobedience of orders is a very serious offence in the military, requiring stern disciplinary action. I felt that at this point in time the Governor General slipped and agreed to meet Field Marshal Auchinleck for a dialogue. Time and situation demanded immediate removal of Lt General Gracey from command and replacing him with a Pakistani officer with instructions to proceed forthwith with his orders as already issued for the dispatch of troops to 'guide' the lacquers hovering on the fringes of Srinagar  airfield.
 
Brig M. Akbar Khan, on furlough had already penetrated into Uri where he had established his headquarters and with his men in control of the Pandu heights was all poised to advance and wrap up Kashmir operations, once the airfield was captured. The airfield in the hands of the 'lashkars' would deny any Indian reinforcements from Delhi and the trapped Indian garrison in the valley would have had no option but to surrender and the situation in Kashmir would have been the reverse of what it is today.
 
This was the most crucial moment in Pakistan military history. Prompt implementation of the Governor General's orders would have given a different dimension to the relations of the newly emerged states of India and Pakistan. The three futile wars and a number of battles like Siachin and Kargil that the two countries fought between themselves could have been avoided and the region spared of the tension that is constantly prevailing for the last 60 years.
 
History is silent on the constraints and compulsions that restrained a strict disciplinarian and firm person like Mr Jinnah from taking action against the defaulting Lt. General Gracey and later surprisingly promoting him to the rank of General and confirming his appointment as Commanderof Pakistan Army. This is a mystery and will remain a mystery because the Governor General in his wisdom on this score confided in no one.
 
THIRD The question of selecting a national language of Pakistan was amongst the many ticklish problems confronting the new state. Urdu being the language of the majority of the Muslims of the subcontinent before independence, was generally considered as the likely choice but the partition of India changed the composition of population in the new country and created a perplexing situation. Now, there were two wings of the country, located 1200 miles apart with the balance of population 5446 in favour of one wing and with two distinct languages being spoken in each wing of the country. Accordingly the ground situation was that one language was spoken and understood in one wing with the unfamiliarity of it in the other.
 
Governor General on his visit to East Pakistan in March 1948, without taking the East Wing leaders into confidence, declared Urdu the language of just two per cent of the population, as the national language of Pakistan at a public meeting in Paltan Maidan, Dacca. This was done in the hope of national integration but it was taken amiss and misunderstood.
 
Other considerations aside, imposition of Urdu as the national language on the majority of the population of the country which they could not read, write or speak, alienated the people of the Eastern wing that comprised 54 per cent of the total population of Pakistan. Bengalis perceived this move as suppression of their language and culture and considered it and rightly so, as a denial of their rights, whereas being in majority they claimed quite logically that Bengali should have been declared as  the linga franca of Pakistan. They revolted in the meeting and later there were clashes where three  students were killed. Incidentally it was the first time that they publicly raised voices against the decision of the Quaid.
 
Books & Authors reserves the right to edit excerpts from books for reasons of clarity and space.
 
 
The book describes the  political quagmire in Pakistan and Pakistan's relations with the United States.
 
 
Ata Rabbani joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 and was selected as the first air aid-de-camp for the Quaid-i-Azam.
 
 
Excerpted with permission from
The Sun Shall Rise
By Ata Rabbani
Ferozsons, Lahore
ISBN 978-969-002-163-2
313pp. Rs595

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