The forgotten hero: Mohammad Zafrullah Khan


By Mohammad Ahmad
Mr Khan is the only person ever to become both president of the UN General Assembly and president of the International Court of Justice Today is the death anniversary of one of Pakistan’s greatest heroes. One can safely assume that there will be no mention of his services to Pakistan. It would be rare to find any expression of appreciation from a nation for whom he did so much. His memory has been wiped out from the minds of most Pakistanis because of his faith. His doctrinal difference as an Ahmadi makes him an outcast to the timid leaders of today despite his glorious contributions to Pakistan and its cause. The treatment of this hero by the leaders of today makes a mockery of the leadership and wisdom of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah who held him in the highest regard. Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan’s contribution for the betterment of the Muslims of India and Pakistan as a jurist, a diplomat and a patriot are exceeded by only that of our revered leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah. By all counts Zafrullah Khan stands much above men who have made a mockery of our nation. Born in Sialkot in 1893, Mr Khan rose to be one of the most astute legal minds of British India. His early education was in his town of birth from where he proceeded to Lahore for his graduation. He received his law degree from King’s College London in 1914, where he excelled and topped his class. He was the first from the Indian subcontinent to do so. He was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, the same place where Mr Jinnah went earlier. As a practising lawyer, Mr Khan proved his abilities quickly and had many reported cases to his credit. Starting his career in his early 30s as a member of the Punjab legislative Council, he rose to prominence as an untiring campaigner for the Muslims of Punjab. Later, he represented the Muslims at the Round Table Conference. In 1931, he became the president of the All India Muslim League. At the Round Table Conference, he forced a committee to accept his point of view over someone no less than Churchill. Later, Mr Khan was offered a seat on the Viceroy’s permanent Council. He also served at varying times as the minister of railways, labour, law and public works under the Viceroy. For a brief period, he became British India’s representative to the League of Nations, just before it was dissolved. From 1942 onwards, he served as a federal judge of India. He took leave from this position to serve Pakistan’s cause before the Radcliffe Commission on Quaid-e-Azam’s personal request. 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. The Lahore Resolution was a broad-based solution leaving room for several solutions, all of which were meant to safeguard the interests of the Muslims of India. The 1946 elections failed to dislodge the Unionists from a position of dominance in the Punjab Legislative Assembly. This made Mr Khan come to Muslim League’s assistance. He induced Sardar Khizar Hayat Khan to dissolve his powerful Unionist Ministry and hand over the reins of government in Punjab to the League leaders. For this he came to Lahore and within 48 hours, the League was restored to its rightful place in the Punjab. History would bear testimony that this was the final act that made Pakistan possible and also avoided a dangerous division among Muslims on the eve of Independence. On December 25, 1947, Mr Jinnah appointed Zafrullah Khan the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. At the UN, Sir Zafrullah emerged as the most eloquent advocate of the Arabs, Africans, the Third World and Islamic issues. His efforts materialised into the UN Resolutions on Kashmir, which are the basis of the Pakistani stance on the issue. Mr Khan’s speech to the UN on the issue of Palestine is perhaps one of the immortal speeches delivered at the UN. The passion with which he advocated the Palestinian cause and the arguments that he laid against the partition of Palestine made him a hero in the eyes of the Arabs. In the context of the repatriation of the Jews to Palestine and the creation of Israel he says: “...Shall they be repatriated to their own countries? Australia says no; Canada says no; the United States says no. This was very encouraging from one point of view. Let these people, after their terrible experiences, even if they are willing to go back, not be asked to go back to their own countries. In this way, one would be sure that the second proposal would be adopted and that we should all give shelter to these people. Shall they be distributed among the Member States according to the capacity of the latter to receive them? Australia, an over-populated small country with congested areas, says no, no, no; Canada, equally congested and over-populated, says no; the United States, a great humanitarian country, a small area, with small resources, says no. That is their contribution to the humanitarian principle. But they state: let them go into Palestine, where there are vast areas, a large economy and no trouble; they can easily be taken in there. That is the contribution made by this august body to the settlement of the humanitarian principle involved...In the hearts of the populations of all the countries from the North African Atlantic Coast to the steppes of Central Asia, you sow doubt and mistrust of the designs and motives of the Western Powers. You take the gravest risk of impairing, beyond the possibility of repair, any chance of real cooperation between East and West, by thus forcibly driving what in effect amounts to a Western wedge into the heart of the Middle East.” Mr Khan’s selfless efforts to win freedom for Palestine, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were unmatched. King Hussein of Jordan awarded him the Star of Jordan, the highest civil award of the country. The rulers of Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria followed suit and honoured Sir Zafrullah Khan with the highest civil awards of their countries. The communist victory on mainland China produced a distinct division among the member countries of the UN on the representation of China in the Security Council. In the debate on the issue, the US-led western countries openly opposed the People’s Republic of China’s seat. Representing Pakistan, Mr Khan opposed this western stance and demanded the seating of the Communists in place of the Nationalists. This laid the foundation of Sino-Pak friendship. Serving briefly as the president of the UN General Assembly, Zafrullah Khan later became the first Asian to be appointed the president of the International Court of Justice. This was a unique honour for anyone, as Mr Khan is the only person ever to become both president of the UN General Assembly and president of the International Court of Justice. Mr Khan was a great writer and he authored books and tracts on the history of Pakistan and religion. His famous book that is about the sad betrayal that took away the country from the hands of the patriots into the hands of those who were its ideological enemies and who had worked to the hilt to hinder its creation is aptly titled Agony of Pakistan. Although his adherence to the Ahmadi faith was known to all, in March 1958, Zafrullah Khan performed Umrah and visited the Prophet’s (PBUH) mausoleum. During the visit he met the King of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud, and stayed at the Royal Palace as a personal guest of the king. In 1967, he returned to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. Having served his motherland to the best of his abilities this able son of the country and comrade of the Quaid passed away in September 1983 in Lahore. His death was condoled by eminent personalities from within the country and abroad. The text of the condolence telegram sent by the King of Jordan at his death sums up the deep gratitude and respect the Arabs had for the champion of their cause: “I was deeply grieved to learn of the passing away of my dear friend the late Sir Zafrullah Khan. He shall always be remembered for his great contributions to humanity and to just causes everywhere, especially the Palestinian cause. He was indeed a champion of the Arab cause and his ceaseless efforts whether among the Muslim and aligned countries or at the international court of justice will remain for ever a shining example of a great man truly dedicated to the noble principles of our faith and civilisation. Please accept my sincere condolences. May Almighty God bless his soul and may he rest in peace. Hussain — His Majesty King Hussain of Jordan.” The idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan lives as long as the memory of people like Zafrullah Khan is alive. The people of Pakistan yearn to reclaim their country as the progressive state envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam. Being gracious, they are thankful to those who worked for the creation of their homeland and served it well. That Zafrullah Khan is not paid due homage is only because most of them are unaware of his services to the Arab cause and Pakistan The reason being that successive governments have deliberately fed them an incomplete history of Pakistan, telling them the story with Zafrullah Khan’s name wiped out. The day this distortion of history is corrected he would claim his rightful place in their memories as one of Pakistan’s founding heroes.
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