June 21, 2024

Liaquat Ali Khan: A man who failed to become Pakistan’s Nehru

Saad Iftekhar Mir

On October 16, 1951 Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated. That started a string of incidents which led to unnatural deaths of many other heads of state and government in Pakistan. As another death anniversary of Liaquat passes away without a concrete investigation into his murder, we try to analyse how he is remembered by both his fans and adversaries. Some call him a loyal associate of Jinnah while others call him someone who hijacked Jinnah’s Pakistan. He is labeled as liberal by some people but a few also openly accuse him of giving in to the clergy. According to some thinkers, he laid the foundations of a better Pakistan but some accuse him of doing nothing to make Pakistan stand strong on its feet. As more and more conflicting stories continue to pour in about Liaquat, Country Today, would like to draw some conclusions about his contributions, both positive and negative, as the first leader of Pakistan.

While Liaquat took over the reins in Pakistan, Jawahar Lal Nehru became PM of India. While Nehru ruled for 17 long years, Liaquat had a short run of 4 years. However, if we compare the first four years of Nehru’s rule with the total tenure of Liaquat, we can surely ascertain that Liaquat couldn’t do anything which Nehru achieved in the first four years. The biggest achievement which Nehru achieved in the first four years was to draft and pass a consensus constitution which came into enforcement from January 26, 1950. Liaquat could never draft or pass a constitution during his tenure, which shows a failure on his part. While Nehru took concrete steps to abolish feudalism in India, which is a vast country compared to Pakistan, Liaquat was never interested in any such step. Liaquat’s failure in this regard cast a dark shadow over the country’s future as Pakistan continues to be gripped by feudalism and being mercilessly looted and plundered by the feudal class.

Nehru was a strong-willed man but Liaquat was weak in all major aspects of decision making. Nehru followed a hands-off policy during the Cold War between the US and the former Soviet Union, which helped the foreign policy of India to remain relevant in the changing times. On other hand, Liaquat openly took sides by visiting the US despite an early invitation by the Soviets. This made Pakistan enter the American bloc, which started the bumpy relationship between Washington and Islamabad. Had Liaquat shown statesmanship at that moment, Pakistan’s foreign policy would have been important in today’s new world order.

For all those who think that Liaquat was Jinnah’s “right hand” and most trusted aide, they shouldn’t forget the fact that Liaquat did nothing, which was according to Jinnah’s vision. He toed a totally different line from that of Jinnah’s and even made Jinnah extremely annoyed by what he was doing. According to reports, Jinnah and Liaquat were not on good terms soon after Pakistan’s establishment. Jinnah considered Liaquat as a weak prime minister and was unhappy over his lack of decision making. According to reports, Liaquat sought favours from the Quaid even during the latter’s illness, which led to his death. According to some unconfirmed reports, there was an exchange of hot words between the two during the last days of the Quaid with Jinnah even saying that Pakistan was not established for all the wrong doings which Liaquat was doing. As soon as Jinnah died in September 1948, Liaquat started making all those moves which were completely against Jinnah’s vision. The most notorious of which was the passage of the Objectives Resolution in March 1949, which literally handed over Pakistan to the clergy. The religious elite only increased their hold on Pakistan after the passage of this resolution which was touted as the basis for all future constitution making in Pakistan.

While many independents, minorities and close aides of Jinnah totally opposed the resolution, Liaquat notoriously called it the “Magna Carta of Pakistan”. This resolution was completely contrary to Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, which was supposed to be a state where religion and the affairs of the state were supposed to be completely separate of each other. How Pakistan was completely given into the hands of the clergy by Liaquat is what all Pakistanis couldn’t understand as the country never recovered from this great setback. Maybe Jinnah was right in rumouredly pointing out that if he knew about Liaquat’s real intentions, he would have never asked for Pakistan.

Liaquat was a weak administrator as well. It was during Liaquat’s rule that the Muslim League, which was the founding party of Pakistan, got completely punctured and went into permanent political oblivion. Although, the same Muslim League could never be revived, but many other Muslim Leagues were seen on the political scene names of which ranged from A to Z. Liaquat faced many internal rifts as well in both West and East Pakistan, which exposed his weak administration. His tussle with army chief Sir Douglas Dracey led to Ayub Khan’s appointment as the new chief. What Ayub did to Pakistan afterwards can be attributed to Liaquat’s decision to appoint him as army chief. According to unconfirmed reports, Liaquat used to inform his relatives before the announcement of the federal budget asking them to stock those commodities, prices of which were to increase after the budget. Such financial irregularities can never be ignored.

What is very important now is that we really draw a line between those people who were loyal to the Quaid’s vision and those people who completely drifted from it. As we analyse the contributions of various characters of the Pakistan Movement, we come to know that only Jinnah and Iqbal stand out amongst them as those who always remained true to Pakistan while something or the other can be said about all the rest. It’s high time that the Pakistani nation now awakens to all these realities before it’s too late.

The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at [email protected]