Friday, 20 June 2014

Splitting India V

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed in The Friday Times questions the role of Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister Dr. Zafrulla in the Pakistan story.

After facing a tirade from Indian readers I must now confront an even more powerful onslaught from within Pakistan. The point which has generated most commotion is that I did not mention that the Pakistan demand goes far beyond 1940. For an informed public, as I believe The Friday Times readers are, to be reminded of the long pedigree of the idea of Pakistan is an insult. Some imaginative writers date the origins of the Pakistan idea to the arrival of Muhammad bin Qasim; on the way Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi, Aurangzeb Alamgir, Shah Waliullah and then in the 20th century the Kheiri brothers and so on. Many other protagonists of such an idea figure in histories of the Pakistan idea. In the chapter entitled ‘Genesis of the Punjab Partition 1900-1914’ (ibid, pages 52-53) of my Punjab book, Iqbal and Rahmat Ali are quoted verbatim because they were the most important before the March 1940 resolution. By saying that the idea of Pakistan originated in the office of the viceroy, I was dramatizing an important transformation: from merely an idea of aspirants to a political project sanctioned by the main power in India: the British. I should have made that point clear.
Zafrulla presented the Muslim League case with great competence and conviction
However, the main body of criticisms and attacks on the Internet – emails, Facebook and Twitter – has been launched by the hero-worshippers and admirers of Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Pakistan’s first foreign minister. To informed Pakistani readers it should not be surprising that Sir Zafrulla is demonized by some and lionized by others. In my book, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed (Oxford 2012, pages, 271-2), Zafrulla emerges as an outstanding counsel who pleaded the Muslim League’s case before the Punjab Boundary Commission pertaining to claims to territory in a partitioned Punjab. I have also presented the views of two leading Muslim Leaguers, Syed Ahmed Saeed Kirmani (Sunni) and Syed Afzal Haider (Shia) who attended the proceedings of the Boundary Commission. They give full marks to Zafrulla for presenting the Muslim League case with great competence and conviction. I even quote the counsel for the Congress Party, Mr Setelvad, who paid glowing tributes to Zafrulla for his excellent brief. I did this not as a favour to Zafrulla, but as a scholar I have to be faithful to the findings of my research.
Sir Zafrulla Khan speaks with Saudi Arabia's Shah Faisal
Sir Zafrulla Khan speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Shah Faisal
The problem of Zafrulla’s followers is that they are fostering a myth about him that does not stand the scrutiny of objective research. Let me begin with the most superlative eulogy to Zafrulla by Mr Hussain Nadim who wrote under the title, ‘Do we really need Jinnah’s Pakistan’ in the Daily Times dated 22 December 2012:
“[T]here needs to be a realisation that Jinnah was the ‘lawyer’ for the case of Pakistan. He argued for it, and won. However, Jinnah was never the visionary or a revolutionary strategic thinker to guide the course of the nation. If anybody at all in Muslim League was a strategic thinker, it was Sir Zafarullah Khan, who was also the author of the Lahore Resolution, which for the first time chalked out the idea of Pakistan. Khan, however, belonged to the then Islamic sect of Ahmadis and thus his role over the years was kept secret, until recently when documents and letters written by Lord Linlithgow revealed the centrality of his role. Hence, there should be a little less stress on ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’, because honestly, there is none; and scratching out Jinnah’s vision forcefully has only served to confuse the people and obfuscate the roadway to progress”.
Pakistan originated in the office of the Viceroy
In an overall homage to Sir Zafrulla on his death anniversary by Moahmmad Ahmad: ‘A forgotten hero: Mohammad Zafrullah Khan’ in the Daily Times of 1 September 2013, he describes Mr Khan as ‘one of the greatest heroes of Pakistan’. He goes on to list his services to Islamic countries and takes up his historic speeches on Kashmir and Palestine. With regard to the Lahore Resolution he writes: ‘Mr Khan’s greatest contribution to the cause of Indian Muslims is his drafting of the Lahore Resolution, which is the rallying point of our nationalism as our founding document’.
Sir Zafrulla With President Kennedy
Sir Zafrulla With President Kennedy
However, one commentator wrote the following in the comments on my last article:
(The comment has been edited for clarity –TFT)
“Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed needs to read the correspondence between the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, and Secretary of State for India, Lord Zetland, that took place in the year 1940. I read that correspondence, preserved in the Viceroy’s Journal about 8 years ago at the British Library in London (which now houses the All India Office Library). The first letter on the Lahore Resolution was written by the Viceroy to Lord Zetland on the 26th of March. He mentions very clearly that he did not want an All India Muslim League meeting in Lahore to go ahead in the wake of the Khaksar tragedy which had taken place just a few days before. Sir Sikander Hayat, Premier of Punjab at that time, tried to persuade the Viceroy to convince Jinnah to postpone the session but made it explicit that it should not be disclosed to Jinnah that the suggestion had come from Sikander, because if Jinnah learnt of the source of the suggestion he would not accept it. The Viceroy sent Sir Zafrullah Khan to persuade Jinnah to postpone the Lahore session in the wake of the law and order situation prevailing in the city. The viceroy in his letter of 26th May clearly states that ZK went and tried to persuade Jinnah who listened to him patiently but refused to postpone the meeting. So much for the influence of Viceroy or ZK on Jinnah that Dr.Ishtiaq mentions in his article”.
Sir Zafrulla in New York
Sir Zafrulla in New York
It is to be noted that Mr Mohammad Ahmad has not mentioned the source on which he is basing his claim that Zafrulla drafted the Lahore Resolution. However, while Mr Nadim depicts Zafrulla as the “strategic thinker” who masterminded the Pakistan demand while Jinnah was merely the lawyer who pleaded the case of Pakistan, the commentator’s intervention effectively negates any role of Zafrulla and Linlithgow in the framing of the Lahore resolution. If at all these two played any role, according to the commentator, it was an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade Mr Jinnah from going ahead with the Lahore session of the Muslim League. The commentator gives the credit exclusively to Jinnah for the drafting and passing of the Lahore Resolution. Both claim to have read the same recent primary source material. So, who should we believe? Either Nadim or the commentator is dead wrong, or, both are. One can even wonder if this new information which the two gentlemen claim to have read is credible in its own right.
With regard to the source material I have used, it is Wali Khan’s, Facts are Facts (New Delhi: Vikas, 1987, pages 29-30)Wali Khan too has claimed that he sat in the British Library and researched the material on partition and found out that Linlithgow sent Zafrulla to tell the Muslim League to demand separate Muslim states.
Sir M. Zafrulla Khan talks with Sir Carl A. Berendsen, New Zealand, before the 46th plenary meeting of the Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Sir M. Zafrulla Khan talks with Sir Carl A. Berendsen, New Zealand, before the 46th plenary meeting of the Second Session of the United Nations General Assembly
If now, as many of his followers and admirers claim that Zafrulla did play the key role in the formulation of the Lahore resolution the question is, did he do so as a free agent? He was a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council and such a position should effectively preclude him saying something that would jeopardize British interests. If not Linlithgow then some other British agency must have given him a nod to go ahead.
Another possibility is that the spiritual leadership of his Ahmadiyya community approved of such an idea and not the British directly? Such a possibility poses serious problems if one relies on available primary source material on it. Consider the following report of the Punjab Governor Sir Henry Craik, which he sent to the Viceroy Linlithgow two days after the Lahore Resolution, was moved:
I had an interesting talk this morning with Pir Akbar Ali, a Unionist member of our assembly, who belongs to the Ahmadiyya community…Pir Akbar Ali gave me two items of information, which may interest you. The Ahmadis, he said, have always considered the Khaksar Movement a dangerous one and not a single Ahmadi has joined it. The second item was that the Ahmadis as a body have not been allowed by the religious head of their movement to join the Muslim League. Akbar Ali himself has been allowed to join as a member of the Unionist Party for a term of six months only. The question whether his followers should be allowed to join the League is, I understand, shortly to be considered by the head of the community” (Carter, Punjab Politics, Strains of War, New Delhi 2005, page 101).
We can step back some years and consider another claim. It is that it was the efforts of the Ahmedis that Jinnah was brought back from Britain where he had settled and established a flourishing practice. There are counter claims that assert that Liaquat Ali Khan convinced Jinnah to return. Then we have those who say that it was Allama Iqbal who persuaded Jinnah to come back and lead the Muslims. Whose supplications actually convinced Mr Jinnah to return can be nothing more than mere speculation. With regard to the Ahmadi claim that they were in the forefront of the Pakistan movement the Munir Report does not uphold it. It states that the Ahmadis were wary and reluctant of the movement (presumably out of fear that they could be persecuted, which I think was a perfectly justified reason to hesitate) and after much prevarication it was only just before partition that the Ahmadi community reached the decision to support it (Munir Report, Lahore: Government Printing Press, 1954, page196).
I now present some additional criticisms of Zafrulla. Jinnah appointed him as the foreign minister of Pakistan. I am sure such a choice was based on his competence and brilliance, but the fact that he had powerful connections to Western leaders must also have played an important role. He was known as the Pet Indian. However, when Jinnah died on 11 September 1948, Zafrulla did not participate in his funeral prayers. The Munir Report testifies to that (page 199). Revisionist apologies have explained away Zafrulla’s decision by saying that since Shabbir Ahmed Usmani did not consider Ahmadis Muslims Zafrulla could not have offered prayers led by Usmani (Sunni-Deobandi).
From what I have heard, all sorts of Muslims took part in the public prayers arranged by the government and among them were Barelvis, Deobandis, Ahl-e-Hadith, Ahl-e-Quran and Shias, who ordinarily would prefer an alim of their own denomination to lead funeral prayers. They had no problem in standing behind Usmani because it was a very, very special occasion. Yet Zafrulla remained steadfast to the Ahmadiyya community’s practice of not taking part in such ceremonies because non-Ahmadis are not considered “Muslims” by the Ahmadis (Munir Report, page 199).
On the other hand, in the famous debate in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on the Objectives resolution in March 1949, Zafrulla supported its Islamic features. I have read the whole text of the debate. Allama Shabbir Ahmed Usmani spoke after Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Zafrulla’s speech followed in which he deferred to the authority of Usmani. This happened at least half a year after the death of Jinnah. So Zafrulla has no problems speaking in support of a man behind whom he did not stand during the funeral rites of Jinnah! This was all politics. At that time the Cold War was raging and the Pakistani elite, which included Zafrulla, wanted Pakistan to take a categorical anti-secular stand and thus make credible its co-option in the anti-Soviet alignment in international politics.
If it is true that Zafrulla had no meaningful role in the drafting of the Lahore Resolution then the myth of Zafrulla as the great hero of Pakistan effectively bursts. A proper study of the role of Sir Zafrulla is needed in which all sides who have an opinion should be given a fair chance to present their views and the relevant official documents are examined and analysed.
A scathing criticism of Sir Zafrulla’s role exists among Pakistani Leftists
A scathing criticism of Sir Zafrulla’s role as Pakistan’s foreign minister exists among Pakistani Leftists. He is accused of having served imperialist interests rather than that of progressive Muslims during the Cold War. This is what Mian Iftikhar-ud-din said in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly:
”I am pleased to announce that Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan is leaving us. The House will join me in congratulating Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan on a rumoured Eisenhower Prize and Churchill Medal to him for having successfully and finally committed his country, in private at least if not in public, to the permanent slavery not only of British Imperialism but also of the rising powerful imperialism of the U.S.A. He has no need now to control our foreign affairs as in future we shall have no foreign affairs. Our foreign affairs will be dictated and controlled by Britain and even so by America. Sir Zafrullah will now, I understand, be entrusted to these great powers with the task of enslaving other Islamic countries…
It is hoped that as a practised hand and one who has acquired great prestige by having represented the biggest Muslim State of the world in international affairs, he will perform this task to the satisfaction of his employers and no doubt to the full detriment of the future of the Islamic and Asiatic States and will succeed in enslaving as certainly and permanently as he has enslaved his own unhappy land” (Abdullah Malik (ed), Selected Speeches and Statements of Mian Iftikhar-ud-din, Lahore: Nigarishat, 1970, pages 103-104).

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