“THEY put into the books they write what they find in the books they read,” the doyen of the Indian press, Frank Moraes, remarked of a certain breed of “scholars”. They abound in plenty in India as well as in Pakistan. Cover Point is not a work of scholarship; but it is far more enlightening than all such works, bar an exception or two. It contains the distilled essence of wisdom stored in the mind of a man of exemplary dedication to his country, Pakistan. Deeply involved in its diplomacy since he became its Ambassador to Ghana in 1965. Jamsheed Marker served as Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1971)and the United States, and as Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Successive Secretaries-General of U.N. valued his counsel. Cover point is a very sensitive place for any cricketer to be placed at. Marker was assigned to just such places after his fine innings at Accra. Born in Hyderabad (Deccan), he studied at Doon School in Dehradun. He won note for his cricket commentaries before he left the family business to serve his country.
This book contains his pen portraits of Pakistan’s leaders, from Liaquat Ali Khan to Pervez Musharraf; written in an engaging, literate style; with a choice uncommon quotation to end each chapter.
The author writes: “With the exemplary notable exception of M.A. Jinnah, and that of his successor Liaquat Ali Khan, power has been acquired through usurpation in one form or another, whether by outright military intervention, palace intrigues and coups, or manipulated electoral processes. Of further concern is the fact that, at the moment of usurpation of power, there has been a general public acceptance of the action, particularly in its immediate aftermath. The fact that this acceptance has been short-lived, and has evaporated soon after the event, is also a part of the political tragedy of Pakistan. In this connection, I recall the cynical observation of a friend, who is as patriotic as he is intelligent, that we are a nation of sheep led by wolves.” What splendid diplomats did Pakistan produce? But the best of them can prove of little help if they happen to be ambitious “wolves”. Historians tend to overlook the legacy of Pakistan’s “Super Wolf”.
Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. They were far smaller men who followed him. Every military coup (1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999) was welcomed by the people. Before long, disenchantment set in and the people prayed for their speedy and peaceful departure. All the usurpers left the country in a state much worse than it was when they forcibly grasped the reins of power. In each case, it was the squabbling unscrupulous politicians who all but invited the Generals.
Jamsheed Marker’s portrait of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan is in refreshing contrast to most writings on the man. A kind of cottage industry flourished to denigrate this noble man in hagiographic writings on Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Nor should one neglect Liaquat Ali Khan’s devoted wife, Begum Ra’ana Liaquat, a woman of great charm and dignity. Their residence in New Delhi, Gul-e-Ra’ana, on Hardinge Road (now Tilak Marg) is now the residence of Pakistan’s High Commissioner.
Marker writes: “In his profound and absolute love for Pakistan, he had abandoned vast agricultural lands in Karnal and many urban properties elsewhere in India. Above all, he gifted to the Government of Pakistan his splendid New Delhi residence, Gul-e-Ra’ana, on Hardinge Road, for use as Pakistan’s High Commission in India. It may be mentioned here that, before leaving for Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah sold his equally splendid bungalow on 10, Aurangzeb Road to Ramkrishna Dalmia, the Marwari multimillionaire. Born and bred in the luxury of ancestral nobility, Liaquat died a virtual pauper.” Jinnah sold it for a mere Rs.3 lakh. In the days as Governor General of Pakistan, much of his time was expended on buying and selling real estate. He had little time for Kashmir’s leaders in his last weeks in New Delhi, but lots for his share broker in Bombay (sadly, Mumbai, now). Jinnah befriended Ramkrishna Dalmia and sold him the Delhi house for a lesser amount than the market price.
Marker records: “I vividly recall that Pakistan’s press and radio were filled with news about Hyderabad, whereas comparatively less was being said about Kashmir; even though the Maharaja of Kashmir was displaying his obduracy, unrest in the State was already rampant. Moreover, disquiet on its border had already provoked military skirmishes. In the event, the Hyderabad issue was efficiently settled by Indian ‘police action’, and the State was duly dissolved and merged into Andhra Pradesh. But the issue of Kashmir still continues to burn. My recollection of the time was that Hyderabad occupied so much more of the newspaper headlines than Kashmir that it has left me with the haunting thought that we were, somehow, blindsided by Hyderabad over Kashmir.”
He is being polite. It was the Quaid-e-Azam who was besotted with Hyderabad and neglected Kashmir. In March 1947, when Partition was imminent, this man who counted his pennies invested nearly Rs.2 lakh in two mills in Hyderabad. On November 1, 1947, Mountbatten presented Jinnah with a proposal in writing for a plebiscite in Junagadh, Kashmir and Hyderabad. Jinnah insisted that Hyderabad be excluded. By then, Indian troops were in Kashmir and the raiders were in retreat. Had he accepted it, Kashmir would have opted for Pakistan in a plebiscite and Hyderabad spared the “police action”. Jinnah would have negotiated the details as a state guest in the Governor General’s House in New Delhi and visited the refugee camps too. The subcontinent would have averted the cold war which seizes it still. Indeed, in his talks with the Hyderabad delegation, Jinnah urged them to fight; if need be without petrol or arms. This deeply religious man cited to them the example of Imam Hussein’s martyrdom at Karbala.
On his frequent visits to Bombay in the early years [after Partition], on business or to meet family, the author notes “an increasing number of automobiles with Karachi licence plates—an indication of the freedom of movement and absence of restriction that prevailed at the time”. That would have continued but for the cold war.
Jinnah went further still. At New Delhi in November 1947, Lord Ismay helped Mohammed Ali and V.P. Menon draw up a set of proposals. Hasan Zaheer records the aftermath in his excellent work The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy,1951: The First Coup Attempt in Pakistan (Oxford University Press, Karachi, page 120).
“The Quaid-i-Azam also seems to have taken strong exception to the proposal as is evident from a cryptic entry dated 30 November made by him in his Notebook which reads: ‘Kashmir—no commitment—should be made —without my approval of terms of settlement. Mr. Liaquat has agreed and promised to abide by this understanding [emphasis original]. The date of the entry is significant and can only be related to the 27 November Delhi negotiations. The Quaid’s annoyance might have been at the plan worked out in this session or the package deal of Hyderabad and Kashmir that was offered by Patel or both. The next entry on the same page of the Notebook, dated 16 December, lays down the absolute position of the Government of Pakistan; it reads ‘Nehru’s proposal fundamentally different. There is no common basis or ground. There can be no solution of satisfactory nature unless the India D. [Dominion] agree to withdraw their troops and agree to replace the present administration by an Independent and impartial Regime and administration. With International Police and military forces to restore peace and maintain Law and Order. It is only then that the question of Plebiscite will have to be considered.’
“Apparently, the British and the Americans had an inkling of these differences in approach between the Prime Minister and the Governor General. In a conversation with an American diplomat on 11 December, when asked ‘whether he thought Jinnah was likely to accept all commitments made by Liaquat Ali Khan in Lahore talks’, Erskine Crum pointed out that the ‘important consideration was that as long as a series of talks could be held in Lahore and Delhi and Jinnah remained in Karachi (where Mountbatten and Nehru refuse to go for conferences), Jinnah could not interfere directly with the progress of talks.’ On 12 December in another conversation, Erskine Crum said, ‘Liaquat Ali Khan had indicated he would be willing to ask tribesmen to pull out of Kashmir if this were recommended by UN commission’ because he feared ‘that if he made such a request without the backing of some international group, consequences to his Government might be serious.’ Erskine Crum was quite wrong if he thought that the mere physical distance of the Quaid-i-Azam from the venue of negotiations would make any difference to the stand of the Government of Pakistan. The Cabinet had decided on 30 December 1947 that no question of policy or principle would be decided except at a Cabinet meeting presided over by the Quaid-i-Azam and that in the event of any difference of opinion between him and the Cabinet, the decision of the Quaid would be final and binding.”
Flouting the settled rules of the parliamentary system, Jinnah presided over the Cabinet and also held some portfolios as if he was a Minister. He presided over the Constituent Assembly and over Pakistan’s Muslim League, which was grossly improper in a head of state. As Alan Campbell Johnson remarked, “Here indeed is Pakistan’s King—Emperor, Archbishop of Canterbury, Speaker and Prime Minister concentrated into one formidable Quaid-e-Azam.” This was a fair comment. At a meeting in Peshawar on April 20, 1948, Jinnah “stressed that under the circumstances they would have only one political party” ( Jinnah: Speeches and Statements, 1947-1948 , Oxford University Press, Karachi, page 204).
Three other speeches bear recalling: “Let me make it clear to you that the State Language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language.” This was said at Dacca (Dhaka) famously on March 21, 1948 (ibid., page 150). This sowed the first seeds of the separation of East Pakistan. Nehru wisely promised south India that Hindi would not be imposed on it.
The first seeds of army rule were sowed in his speech to the officers of the Staff College at Quetta on June 14, 1948. “I want you to remember and if you have time enough you should study the Government of India Act, as adapted for use in Pakistan, which is our present Constitution, that the executive authority flows from the Head of the Government of Pakistan, who is the Governor General and, therefore, any command or orders that may come to you cannot come without the sanction of the Executive head. This is the legal position” (ibid., page 225). This was dangerous rubbish. The Governor General is the head of state. The Prime Minister is the head of government. The speech was aimed at undermining the authority of the Prime Minister.
Addressing a deputation from the Quetta Parsi Anjuman at Quetta on June 13, 1948, Jinnah said: “Minority communities must not by mere words but by actions show this (sic) that they are truly loyal and they must make majority community feel that they are true citizens of Pakistan” (ibid., page 223). This, to a community which was then and still is second to none in its loyalty to Pakistan; the same holds good for it in India. Its life is a saga of service to the country, which it enriched by its contributions. Jinnah’s remarks were no different from Vallabhbhai Patel’s warning to India’s Muslims on January 6, 1948, at Lucknow.
Inconsistent stand Jinnah is rightly praised for his espousal of secular values in his speech at the inaugural session of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. But he never repeated those words. On the contrary, he said in a speech to the Bar Association, Karachi, on January 25, 1948, on the occasion of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. “Why this feeling of nervousness that, the future Constitution of Pakistan is going to be in conflict with Shariat Laws? The Quaid-i-Azam said ‘Islamic principles today are as applicable to life as they were 1,300 years ago’” (ibid., page 97).
No appraisal of Jinnah’s heirs can be complete unless the damnosa hereditas which he bequeathed is properly assessed—the cold war launched by the acceptance of Junagadh’s accession; rejection of a settlement of Kashmir; responsibility for the destruction of Hyderabad; perversion of the parliamentary system; the army as a tool of the head of state and overtures to Islamists; feeble but significant.
The arrogance was of a piece with a total lack of realism. Liaquat Ali Khan was caught in this maelstrom with Jinnah’s sycophants like A.R. Nishtar eyeing his job; not without his encouragement. Matters came to a head when, on December 27, 1947, Liaquat Ali Khan resigned. Jinnah was shaken. Liaquat Ali Khan was persuaded to remain in his post. The letter was written in longhand and its genesis was recorded by Begum Liaquat’s close English friend Kay Miles. It was over the Begum’s polite non-acceptance of a glass of sherry which Jinnah offered her. Megalomania alone can account for his behaviour ( Mr. Jinnah: Views and Reviews , M.R. Kazmi (Ed.), Oxford University press, Karachi, pages 13-19; the source is “Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan Papers”, page 142).
The tragic fall has been well documented in Allen McGrath’s excellent work The Destruction of Democracy in Pakistan (Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1996). Beyond a doubt, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one of the greatest men of his times; unequalled in integrity, courage and character and, up until 1937, in wisdom. The arrogance of Gandhi and Nehru drove him to extremes.
There is not a single biography that does him justice. Stanley Wolpert was absolutely unfit for the job. He could not distinguish between John Mathai and M.O. Mathai. Jinnah was a “Managing Director” of the Tatas; Bhutto was a “Sufi”. His comments on Mrs. Ruttie Jinnah are as despicable as they are baseless. They reveal Wolpert in his true colours. He is unable to explain Jinnah’s great speech of August 11, 1947, and comes close to insinuating senility. Though rebuffed at the conference which debated the Nehru Report, Jinnah, principled as ever, refused to attend the one over which the Aga Khan presided. Wolpert asserts that he did and cites in his bibliography a compilation of correspondence in which Jinnah almost rudely refused the invitation. Obviously, the bibliography was more for “ostentation” than “use”. And that gracious lady Begum Liaquat was an “Iranian beauty”. Sir Abdullah Haroon becomes “a princely ruler of neighbouring Kharipur State”; Jamnadas and Kanji Dwarkadas become Jinnah’s “loyal Bombay Parsi lieutenants” and Dr. John Mathai, a Tata Director who rose to be Finance Minister, is demoted to Nehru’s “private Secretary”. Connect the dots and the picture emerges of an egregious humbug.
Nor is Liaquat Ali Khan more fortunate. A biography published in Karachi is beneath mention. Like Stanley Wolpert, his associate Roger D. Long was supposed to write one. In his collection of Liaquat Ali Khan’s correspondence, Dear Mr. Jinnah (OUP, Karachi), he goes out of his way to dilate on Lady Mountbatten’s morals. Wolpert and his associate are not scholars. They are managers of “Walmart Academia”.
Jamsheed Marker is perfectly right in his criticism of the “Objectives Resolution” of March 7, 1949, on an Islamic State. But the bugle for a retreat was sounded by Jinnah on January 25, 1948. “Perhaps one of Liaquat’s most significant decisions, and one that has been the subject of fierce debate over the years, was his acceptance of Washington’s invitation for an official visit to the United States. There is a widely held belief that Liaquat had received invitations from both the United States and the Soviet Union, and that he chose to accept the former. Many years later, when I was Ambassador in Moscow, I checked the records both in Islamabad and at my post, but could find neither an invitation nor any notes or reference to this assertion. Be that as it may, Liaquat, accompanied by Begum Ra’ana, who created a sensation in her own right, and a small delegation (four or five persons, how times have changed!), had a most successful visit to the United States.” Nehru bitterly wept on the shoulders of his sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit over it; in a letter, that is.
On the Russian “invitation”, Hasan Zaheer mentions that “preparations of the Prime Minister’s party for the visit, the repeated refusal of the Soviet government to accept the various dates for the visit proposed by Pakistan on one pretext or another, or even without any excuse, is based entirely on official documents that I have studied carefully. On 2 June 1949, Ali Aliev, the Russian charge d’affaires in Tehran, in a state of great excitement, sought an immediate interview with the Pakistan Ambassador, and conveyed to him an official invitation of the Soviet government to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to visit Moscow. The invitation included Begum Liaquat Ali Khan or any other persons whom the Prime Minister might like to bring with him. The charge d’affaires verbally told the Ambassador that, after the dinner given by Liaquat Ali Khan during his stay in Iran, the Prime Minister had a conversation with him about a visit to the Soviet Union, and that he had followed up on the matter with his government and the present invitation was a result of that . The Ambassador, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, transmitted the invitation and the gist of his talk with Ali Aliev the same day to the Foreign Office in Karachi, with his comment that the invitation was timely, especially after President Truman’s invitation to Nehru. On 7 June, the Foreign Office asked the Pakistan Ambassador to convey the appreciation of the Prime Minister to the Soviet Government for the invitation extended to him and Begum Liaquat Ali Khan and inform them that he would avail of the invitation at the earliest suitable opportunity. The invitation was also released to the press. On 29 June, the Pakistan embassy in Tehran was asked to intimate to the Soviet Government that the Prime Minister, accompanied by Begum Liaquat Ali Khan and a party of fifteen to twenty persons, proposed to leave Karachi on 20 August for a stay of ten to fifteen days in the USSR. Apart from meeting the Soviet leadership, the Prime Minister expressed an interest in studying economic planning, industrial and agricultural developments, educational and cultural schemes, and wished to visit one or two Muslim republics. The Ambassador was asked to ascertain whether the programme suited the Soviet Government and also the route by which the party should fly to Moscow. From this point, the Russians started backtracking. The proposed programme was conveyed to the Russian charge d’affaires on 6 July, and on 14 July he called on the Pakistan Ambassador, and transmitted the request of the Soviet Government that the Prime Minister arrive in Moscow on 15 August instead of 20 August. To a specific query, the charge d’affaires refused to give any reason for this advance in the date of the visit, and when the Pakistan Ambassador said he thought it would be impossible for the Prime Minister to leave the country on this date, because 14 August was Pakistan’s Independence day, the charge d’affaires requested the views of the Soviet Government should nevertheless be communicated to the Government of Pakistan; for his part, the charge d’affaires promised to convey Pakistan’s reservations to Moscow. On 15 July, the Foreign Office wrote back that for the reasons already given by the Ambassador, the Russian charge d’affaires should be informed that it would be quite impossible for the Prime Minister to reach Moscow on 15 August,” and so it went (pages 228-229; emphasis added). Thus, it was Liaquat Ali Khan who took the initiative and Moscow which reneged.
At a press conference on August 23, 1950, Liaquat Ali Khan’s remarks were: “Question: Is the Moscow invitation also under your active consideration? Liaquat Ali Khan: I cannot go until those people who invited me fix a date and ask me to go on such and such date. Question: They look to your convenience? Liaquat Ali Khan: Evidently not. They look to their own convenience. The invitation came. Later on they suggested 14 August, 1949. I replied that this is our Independence Day; I can come on any date after that. After that they have not replied .”
Uniquely among the politicians of the Muslim League and the Congress, Liaquat Ali Khan was interested in the arts, especially music. He had a nimble, at times naughty, wit. Two examples deserve mention. In a letter written to Dr. M.A. Ansari from London on August 2, 1925, where he was working in the cause of the Khilafat, he wrote: “I am a man who, in spite of his apparent sociability, has always preferred solitude to uncongenial company. But my God, there have been moments during the last few days when my solitude seemed to be driving me mad, and I wanted somebody to lighten my heavy burden. But there was nobody to whom I could confide a momentous secret, and I think my heart and brain must both have suffered from this severe strain.
“London is a paradise for those who like women, wine and chilly weather. Unfortunately I cannot indulge in any of these enjoyments, and a lonely man cannot really enjoy anything at all. My chambermaid—please don’t misunderstand me—often sympathises with me, when she sees me moping alone in my room, and I return this sympathy with an occasional tip. But she does not know that I am a married man, and that feminine charms, of which she has a decent modicum, are not a panacea for all human ills.”
In a speech on his famous Budget in the Central Legislative Assembly on March 27, 1947, he said: “My Honourable friend Sir Cowasjee Jehangir, for whom I have real regard and affection, was very much annoyed over these proposals. He felt that the effect of these proposals would be that instead of living on interest all the time he will have to touch his capital. And that, Sir, reminds me of a story. A big industrialist was walking down the Bombay Chowpatty with a friend and as he was going along some lady passed by—a very ugly old woman—and this industrialist took off his hat. The friend asked, ‘Who is this old hag that you took off your hat to?’ The reply was, ‘That is my wife.’ The friend was very much upset about it and offered his apologies. They proceeded further when a smart young girl came along—lip-stick and so on—and this industrialist raised his hat again. The friend asked, ‘Who was that’? ‘That is my sweet-heart,’ was the reply. So this friend said, ‘Look here, in the name of’—I will not use the unparliamentary word—‘how did you come to marry a woman like that?’ The industrialist replied, ‘Well, you see, being an industrialist I live on interest and do not touch the capital.’ So what I feel is that these rich friends of mine—the industrialists —will have to touch their capital now, they cannot go on living on interest all their lives.”
Jinnah was a great leader; Liaquat Ali Khan was a better human being. As K.B. Sayeed, a pioneer in Pakistan’s studies on Constitutional history, points out, the foundations of the Viceregal system were laid in the early years.
The reader will find its evolution from Ayub Khan to Pervez Musharraf. Ayub Khan was a true statesman whose overtures Nehru arrogantly rebuffed. Were it not for the war of 1965, which Z.A. Bhutto prodded him to launch, Pakistan’s history would have been different. To call Zulfikar Ali Bhutto a wicked man is to describe him accurately. He was responsible for the collapse of negotiations with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in March 1971 and the failure of the Polish resolution in the Security Council in December 1971 for purely personal reasons. He preferred the break-up of his country to the passage of that resolution because that would not have ensured his rise to power.
The author is perfectly just to him. “In fact, as I cast my mind back over time, I am compelled to conclude that the origins of most acts of political, civil chicanery, and moral turpitude that currently exist in Pakistan can be irrefutably linked to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The man soiled whatever he touched.”
He adds: “He possessed an extensive library, of which he was very proud (particularly, his collection focussed on Napoleon Bonaparte), and although it was touted as evidence of his wide literary talent, I always felt, when entering its premises, that its possessor had devoted more thought and attention to furnishings than content. Nevertheless, as far as politics and history are concerned, at the risk of setting the bar a bit low, it could be said that Bhutto was perhaps one of the best-read of our leaders. …
“Bhutto has often been called an ‘evil genius’, a description that, whilst generally true, is rendered more accurate if the emphasis is on the adjective rather than the noun. The malign element that pervaded his character motivated many of his policies, and the consequences of these can be found in the destruction and bitterness felt in the Pakistan of today .”
A propos his literacy, one is reminded of Gibbon’s remarks on a potentate: “Twenty-two acknowledged concubines and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes attested the variety of his inclinations; and from the productions which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than ostentation.” Bhutto could not have made such a claim. His daughter Benazir Bhutto had all his failings, none of his few qualities.
As for the rest, trust Jamsheed Marker to make a fair assessment of their record and personality. It only remains to be said that Pervez Musharraf brought the Kashmir dispute to the very gates of a settlement for which he has received little credit. Small men bay for his blood in Pakistan today. This thought-provoking book explains how those small men acquired the influence and power.