The day of 16th October reminds us of Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, a great personality whose selfless contributions for our beloved country were ever-lasting. He was a close companion of the founder of Pakistan. He was a true patriot who was assassinated by anti-state elements, exactly 69 years ago on October 16, 1951.
It is said that Quaid-e-Azam moved to London due to the failure of the Round Table Conference in 1930 and decided to retire from all political activities. Liaquat Ali Khan made sincere efforts to convince Quaid-e-Azam to return and re-organize the Muslim League.
Although Liaquat Ali Khan belonged to a wealthy landlord family of Karnal, he adopted a simple lifestyle. Being the first prime minister of a newly-established state, his goal was to transform Pakistan into a prosperous country. After Quaid-e-Azam, he tried his best to safeguard the national interests. Even today, Liaquat Ali Khan’s historic sign of a fisted punch has a symbolic significance to counter Indian aggressive intentions against Pakistan.
Liaquat Ali Khan also proved himself a visionary leader with a strong grip on international relations. He preferred to visit the US in order to promote cordial relations with west. His historic visit resulted in Pakistan becoming an active part of the US-led Western bloc.
The main objective of the establishment of Pakistan, according to Quaid-e-Azam, was to create a role model independent state where all citizens, regardless of majority or minority affiliations, have the freedom to play their due role for the development and prosperity of the country. The historical speech of Quaid-e-Azam to the assembly was the practical evidence of his intentions. Following the vision of Quaid-e-Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan also remained active till his last breath to protect the rights of minorities. He believed that all citizens should have religious freedom and equal civic rights.
Regrettably, vulnerable minorities on both sides of the border became targets of oppressive elements after the partition of the sub-continent. Being prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan stepped forward to play his role to control atrocities against innocent people. He reached Delhi on April 4, 1950 and signed a landmark agreement with his counterpart Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to protect the minority communities living in the two countries.
On the occasion, the leadership of both countries agreed to protect the fundamental rights of minorities, including freedom of speech and worship. Under the Liaquat-Nehru Pact, any conversion occurred during a period of communal disturbance was considered an act of forced conversion. The agreement further declared that: “Those [oppressive elements] found guilty of converting people forcibly shall be punished.” Most importantly, it was decided to empower local minorities by establishing minority commissions in each country.
In my view, the assassination of the first prime minister of Pakistan during a public possession is still a mystery but his unconditional love for Pakistan is an open secret. Even during his last moments, he was praying to God for the protection of Pakistan. He was rightly honoured with the public title of Shaheed-e-Millat (Martyr of the Nation) and was buried in the premises of Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum in Karachi.
For the last 70 years, October 16 demands that we must find a reliable solution to the problems of the minorities in our country. In India, the local Muslim minister is responsible, from day one, for looking after the evacuee trust properties belonging to minority Muslims. Unfortunately, no Pakistani Hindu citizen has been considered eligible to supervise the Evacuee Trust Property Board since the last seven decades.
Today, in Naya Pakistan, we must keep struggling to fulfil the pledges of the Shaheed-e-Millat and to rectify the mistakes of past governments.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.