Mr Jinnah, as I knew him

By Sameen Khan

I saw Mr Jinnah for the first time when he came to speak on the invitation of the Muslim University Union in the famous Strachey Hall. My class fellow and close friend Fasihuddin Ahmed, who was also a nephew of Dr Ziauddln Ahmed, the Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University, asked me if I was going or wanted to go to hear Mr Jinnah speak. I said: “The hall will be full with students, how shall we get in?” But Fasih took me there and we entered the hall from the backside. We sat near the dice where students were piling up their autograph books to be signed by Jinnah. I think the Vice President of the University Union (the President was always a professor) was perhaps Shamsul Hoda/Haq from Bengal, who delivered an eloquent speech and prepared the audience for Jinnah’s speech. When his name was announced, there was complete silence in the hall. He delivered an eloquent speech and, perhaps, in this speech said: “Aligarh is the arsenal of Muslim India.” But the only sentence that I remember till now is “build your character”, and since then I have tried to do just that. That was my first encounter with Mr Jinnah.

The next year in April 1944, when I was in the 10th class, Jinnah came again to Aligarh, which had become the centre of the Pakistan Movement. One day, Ahsan sahib, our warden in English House, called and asked me to collect all the boarders, have them properly dressed in the Aligarh uniform to be taken to Habib Manzil - where Mr Jinnah was staying - for a photograph with him. So, I collected all the boarders of English House and took them to Habib Manzil. The cameraman was ready and the chairs were already placed there with a high chair for Mr Jinnah. Ahsan sahib asked me to go to Jinnah and bring him for the photograph. So, I went upstairs - Jinnah was signing the autograph books of the students - and said: “Mr Jinnah, the English House is ready for the photograph with you.” He replied: “I will be with you in a minute.” I led him downstairs to the place where the photograph was to be taken. However, the chair that I had reserved for myself, besides Mr Jinnah, was occupied by a friend and I rushed to the corner chair. So this was my first meeting and ‘conversation’ with Mr Jinnah.

All of us in English House passed the Matriculation Examination. I was informed about it by Ahsan sahib by a cable in Naini Tal, where we had gone for summer holidays. Obviously, my mother was very happy and my uncle of Rampur told me that he is going to have a function and also invite Nawab Raza Ali Khan of Rampur. But when I told him that I shall only salute him in a normal manner and not as his subject, the dinner for the nawab had to be cancelled.

A few days after passing the exam, I received a letter from the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Indian Air Force offering me a commission in the air force primarily due to Dr Ziauddin Ahmed, who had developed a high-level PR with the upper echelons of the British ruling class from which the students of Aligarh benefited. However, my mother was adamant and she said: “My son is not going into the Royal Indian Air Force at all.”

Soon my mother, who was fed up with the Rampur’s conservative society, where she had to play the second fiddle to the Begum of Rampur, decided to shift to New Delhi. So after a brief stay in Darya Ganj in old Delhi, we shifted to New Delhi. Meanwhile, I had been admitted to St Stephen’s College, Delhi.1 went there for admission - with a second division - with my two uncles. l went inside to meet the principal and he asked me a question in English. I replied in the same language with confidence .He wrote on my application form “admitted” and said “go and pay the fees.” My uncles were surprised and also so happy as if they had been admitted to the college. From the very next day, I started going to college and my friends in college were Ainuddin and Sabharwal - two hefty students from Rajputana (Rajashtan) - who came to be known as my ‘body guards’. l played hockey in college in the second eleven in which Sabharwal was the Centre-Forward, Ainuddin was the Left-in and I was the Right- in. Soon enough, as going to college from New Delhi twice was too much and because of my growing interest in politics, I had to stop playing hockey. But my friends used to miss me in the hockey field.

Meanwhile, I wrote my first letter to Mr Jinnah, which has been published in the book by Syed Shamsul Hasan, the permanent Secretary of the All India Muslim League, named Plain Mr Jinnah. My letter is dated November 16, 1944, and contrary to Pakistan’s present ruling hierarchy Mr Jinnah replied to me on December 13, 1944, which are also published in the same book. It was the result of that letter and prompt Mr Jinnah’s reply that I and my mother met him the same day and we entered the Pakistan Movement together.

Since our two cars were sold in Rampur because of the petrol, my mother on the advice of Begum Husain MaIik, the President of the Delhi Provincial Women’s Muslim League, bought the car. I started going to college in a car and it placed me in the super-elite of the college and the Delhi University. I joined the History (Hons) classes because of my good marks in the preparatory class in all the subjects, which were held in the university for all the honours and MA students of all the colleges, including Hindu College, Anglo-Arabic College, Ramjas College and most important of all the lndra-Prasth College for women. The honours and MA classes for History were held in the university in a room, beside the office of the Dean of Arts and Chairman of the History Department, Dr I. Qureshi.

My class fellows there were Ziauddin Temuri of the Moghul Royal Family, Manzur Ahmed belonging to the family of Dr Nazir Ahmed – the great scholar of Urdu, Karni Singh - the heir apparent of Bikaner, a scion of the Sikkim Princely family and Zebra Hilali - sister of Agha Hilali and Agha Shahi, and a leftwing firebrand of the All India Students Federation (pro-communist) Hem Lata, who took notes for me whenever I was late. Hem came close to me not merely because she was attractive, but because both our ideological leanings were towards the ‘left’. It was because of whom I went in the students procession of all the three groups of students organisations - All India Students’ Congress (pro-Congress), All India Students Federation (pro-Communist), and All India Muslim Students Federation (pro-Muslim League) - protesting against the trial of the Indian National Army stalwarts in LaI Qila, Delhi. However, I came close to not merely Jinnah, but also Liaquat Ali Khan, Nawab Ismail Khan and Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman, who were the most prominent leaders of the Muslim League.

Moreover, my former class fellow and close friend in Aligarh Fasihuddin Ahmed had started publishing a fortnightly called the Pakistan Times of which I was appointed as the Special Correspondent in Delhi, as it was possible for me to meet the leaders of the Muslim League and the Congress Party. Subsequently, I became active also in the All India Muslim Students’ Federation and in the Delhi Muslim Students Federation, in which in the elections for the ‘presidentship’ Ale Hasan Bilgrami defeated Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, but Liaquat Ali Khan took it in his stride and did not react against Bilgrami. Meanwhile, Nasim Ahmed, who had come from Lahore, was elected the Secretary of the Delhi Muslim Students’ Federation and was primarily responsible in urging me to take part in politics and also in the federation. Meanwhile the Secretary General, who was from Assam, won the Provincial Assembly elections and became a minister there, so Syed Imdad Altaf Hussain became the Acting Secretary General of the federation.

As the Muslim League had no paid workers like the Congress Party, its wing in Delhi was completely dependent on the Delhi Muslim Students Federation. Obviously, Aligarh Muslim University students played a primary role in the success of the Muslim League, both in the Provincial and Central Assembly elections and in the creation of Pakistan. But we being in Delhi had easy access to meet Mr Jinnah, Liaquat Ali, Nawab lsmail and Chaudhry Khaliquz Zaman and other top leadership of the Muslim League. So all four of us - Imdad, Ale, Nasim and me - who held no office in the federation, played an active role in the Pakistan Movement in Delhi. And since I had at my disposal two cars one for me and one for my mother, Noorus Sabah Begum, who became active in the All India Women’s Muslim League, we both became active in the Pakistan Movement. So we either went ourselves, if there was a problem to be discussed with Mr Jinnah, or were summoned by the great man.

Nehru, who in the interim government was the Minister for External Affairs in the Viceroy’s Executive Council (Cabinet) to project himself in Asia, had organised an Asian Relations Conference. As far as, I remember it was held in February 1947 at the Purana Qila. Most of the delegates were staying at the Constitution House. I and Nasim gate-crashed in the conference and also reached the podium where Mrs Sarojni Naidu was presiding.

Jinnah called all four of us to his house. He told us: “The Muslim League is boycotting the conference called by Nehru, but we want to meet these delegations.” I asked him: “Mr Jinnah - whom do you want to meet specially.” He replied:-”I want to meet Sultan Shahriyar, the Deputy PM of Indonesia, who is staying in Nehru’s house.” I said: “But we need a letter of invitation from you for him.” Immediately, he gave the letter to me and said: “Sameen, you can gate-crash in Nehru’s House.” I put the letter securely in my pocket. So we rang up Yunus Khan, then Nehru’s Secretary, who was a nephew of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi. He gave us the time for 4 pm the next day - then the time for taking tea.

So all four of us, as requested by Khan, we went upstairs .While we were going upstairs Nehru was coming downstairs and he told me: “Please go and sit in the drawing room in front of you.” We all sat there, the bearer brought us tea and some biscuits, as was the custom then. Then came a good looking young lady, Indra Gandhi, who poured tea, and finally Shahriyar entered. When the young lady left, I first gave Jinnah’s letter to Shahriyar and then explained that he wanted to meet him, but he could not come to Nehru’s house. Shahriyar said: “Young man, I also wanted to meet Mr Jinnah - you fix the time and let me know.” So, this was my first diplomatic coup.
Due to my frequent visits to Jinnah’s house, he asked me to do some of his personal chores.

Once Jinnah said that he wanted a driver, so I called Arbab Khan, who was a Pathan. I took him to his house, and as Mr Jinnah was busy in some important meeting, Ms Jinnah came out. I told her that Mr Jinnah wanted me to bring a driver, so I have brought him, but she said: “Mr Jinnah does not like bearded drivers.” So with some difficulty, I explained that to Arbab, but did not exactly tell him what Ms Jinnah told me about her brother. Some time later Jinnah was strolling on his lawn. He saw me and asked about the driver. I said: “I brought the driver, but Ms Jinnah said that you do not like bearded drivers.” He got and said: “Who said I did not like bearded drivers.”
During one of my visits, Mr Jinnah asked me: “Where will you go for the Eid prayers - the Jami Masjid.” I replied: “No, I shall go to the Khooni Darwaza mosque, which is midway between Old and New Delhi at Feroz Shah Kotla.” He said: “l am going to Bombay and I shall pray there.” I must, here, mention and emphasise that “Mr Jinnah was not an irreligious person at all.” In 1911, with the advice of Maulana Shibli, Jinnah presented the Wakf Bill before and as a member of the Imperial Council with a view to validate the Wakfs, which because of an earlier decision of the court had been invalidated leading to the sale of the properties by the Muslims, - especially the landlord class.

During the Pakistan Movement, and later in the 1937 session of the Muslim League in Lucknow, passed a few resolutions. After the passing of the Lahore Resolution in 1940, the Muslim of India were convinced of Jinnah’s political acumen. The public used to say: “Mr Jinnah cannot be fooled by the British and cannot be bought by the Congress Party.” So they followed him blindly to achieve Pakistan .They came to listen to his speeches in English and although they did not understand a word, they believed in him.

The people who had nothing to do with the Pakistan Movement, and who had never met or seen him, in trying to make him a ‘secular’ minded person, always cite the speech that he made to the Constituent Assembly in Pakistan - had he made that speech on March 23, 1940, he would have been hooted down by the public. They also forget all the speeches Jinnah had made earlier and during the Pakistan Movement. Imagine a person, who is seriously ill, going all the way to Khyber Pass and making an announcement of the withdrawal of the Pakistan army lock, stock and barrel from the tribal areas of Pakistan. And it was because of this announcement that the tribals reached Srinagar in five days.

Finally, a person terminally ill comes all the way from Quetta to open the State Bank of Pakistan and to state about an Islamic Economic System for Pakistan. Can this be done by a ‘secular’ person for a new country which he created for the entire Muslims of the subcontinent?

The movement for the independence of India and the creation of Pakistan were the greatest freedom movements after the American War of Independence of 1776. So the entire world press was covering it - but they were only after two persons Jinnah and Gandhi - as all the others including Nehru and Liaquat were subservient to them.
As regards the secularist point of view, I must emphasise as to what could have been the ostensible reason for the partition of India if Pakistan was to be a secular State? When the Raja of Mahmudabad following the precepts of the two professors of Aligarh Muslim University, who had raised the question of an Islamic State - due to tactical reasons Mr Jinnah did not accept his point of view then as it may create divisions in the All India Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement. When the Pakistan Movement was about to achieve its objective, Jinnah knew that he was about to create a separate Muslim State and that state shall ultimately become an Islamic State.
Finally, when he said that Pakistan shall not be ruled by a theocracy - the basic reason was that unlike Christianity there has not been a theocracy in Islam and the Muslim World throughout its history. That is why the question of separation of Church and State, as in the West, especially in the US - there has never been a movement for the separation between the Church and State in Islamic history as the Khilafat existed till 1924.

I would finish this article on the Quaid-i-Azam Mohamed All Jinnah with a verse of Allama Iqbal, who is popular not merely in Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan:

Hazaron saal nargis apni be noon pe rooti hal,
Barn mushkil se hota hal chaman meIn didawar paida.

The writer is barrister-at-law,

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