Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Liaquat Ali Khan: Myths and Reality

It may be counted as one of the special blessings of God on Pakistan that the life, work and even the death of its first prime minister was reminiscent of the early caliphs of Islam. Should we say that the present state of disorder is partially because we failed to cherish even the memory of this role model, let alone make any effort to emulate him?

In the span of a mere four years, Liaquat transformed a penniless state into "the most stable country in Asia". Pakistan started with practically an empty exchequer but within the tenure of its first prime minister, it was offering loans to other newborn states like Burma. It had resisted the international pressure against devaluing its currency at a time when even India gladly succumbed to that pressure. All this without taking any loans from foreign powers. 

From being an unknown country obscured by a hostile neighbour, Pakistan became the undisputed champion of the freedom of other colonized nations, fighting their cases successfully in the United Nations, in a span of mere four years. It had started taking practical steps for forming a block of Muslim nations for maintaining world peace. 

In any other country, a leader like Liaquat Ali Khan would have been hailed as a man of the millennium. One must wonder why in Pakistan his legacy is surrounded by malicious lies which have absolutely no basis in fact. The only plausible reason can be that he embodied the true ideology of Pakistan, which happens to be a rival to socialism, capitalism and conservatism at the same time.

Article continues after video
The last speech of Liaquat on October 16, 1951.
The gunshot that killed him is audible.

On the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the martyrdom of Liaquat, here are a few notes on the myths that surround him and a list of accessible readings that can be found online.

Myth No. 1: Liaquat did not accept the invitation for visiting USSR.
It is usually said that Liaquat Ali Khan did not accept an invitation for visiting USSR, and visited the USA instead. The truth is that he accepted the Russian invitation although it had been communicated to him just verbally. Consequently, the Russian government invited him to visit USSR but the suggested date coincided with the anniversary of Pakistan's independence. An alternative date was requested, which was never given by the Russians. See ‘Echoes of the Past’, a very detailed and well-researched article on this topic by Tariq Fatemi, former ambassador of Pakistan to EU, in Express Tribune. 
Myth No. 2: Liaquat accepted American aid.
I may not have looked hard enough but I am yet to see any document or even a specific reference for this widespread rumor. On the contrary, Liaquat is on record for denying this accusation many times in front of the press as well as on the floor of the constituent assembly. For instance, on the eve of his departure to USA, he was asked by a journalist whether he intended to borrow loan on the basis of Truman’s Point IV formula. Liaquat’s reply, published in newspapers, was, “I’m not going there with a hat in my hand.” Objectivity demands that his statements be upheld until some evidence is produced to the contrary.
Myth No. 3: Liaquat placed Pakistan under American influence.
This myth is circulated only among the least informed. In most books, even where Liaquat is mentioned only in passing, he is remembered as one of the most influential but tactful opponents of imperialism who not only managed to keep Pakistan non-aligned but also started taking some practical steps for creating an independent block of Muslim countries as the third alternative to the two super powers of those times. See 'The Foreign Policy of Liaquat Ali Khan' by Shahid Amin published in Dawn).
Myth No. 4: Liaquat Ali Khan turned Pakistan into a theocratic state / a secular state.
The fact that the same person is "accused" of both these "offences" should give us a clue about the depth and seriousness of this allegation. Secularists denounce him for having proposed the 'Objectives Resolution', in which it was admitted that Sovereignty belonged to God (and the fact that the resolution was passed by the majority of a democratically elected assembly is not of much relevance to these detractors). Supporters of theocracy denounce him for being a secular ruler. Neither of these contestants seem to be interested in mentioning that Liaquat Ali Khan categorically stated that he was committed to the ideal of an Islamic state, but that he believed that an Islamic state was not a theocratic state and it offered equal rights to non-Muslim citizens. His claims were corroborated by the constituent assembly when the draft constitution presented by the basic principles committee made non-Muslim citizens eligible for contesting the office of the prime minister. This principle was never revoked during Liaquat's lifetime.
List of further readings below video
The story of Pakistan in the voice of Liaquat Ali Khan:
Radio broadcast on the first anniversary
of independence, 1948 
Further reading:


  1. Greetings,

    Thank you very much for this post. I learn more and more daily because of your posts here and elsewhere.

    I have briefly gone elsewhere - after reading this post - to read further on Liaquat Ali Khan. From my limited knowledge and understanding, I nonetheless notice immediately that he seems to have embodied a deep sense of service toward Pakistan. Reading of his service ethos and general character, it makes me sad that I can't sit in his presence.

    It seems that there will always be those who will shoot and kill those who strive to serve others, to lift others. May the message embodied by Liaquat Ali Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, and others be what (and I know it is) triumphs over this violence.

    All good wishes,


  2. Thank you very much for this article and the further links you provided here, sir. I don't understand why we as a nation have always most readily believed any sort of lies or disinformation against our leaders, without any research or verification on our part. Liaquat Ali Khan, esp. has never received the honour or respect that was due to him - despite the fact that his life as the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was "reminiscent of the early Caliphs of Islam."

  3. The ingratitude to Liaquat Ali Khan is great.....but the insult to Mohammed Ali Jinnah has been even greater. The founder of Pakistan spelt out his vision of Pakistan's future in his speech of 11 August (or was it 13th August)1947. The people who usurped power in later times have totally distorted that vision, even destryed what the Qaid-e-Azam fought for......and won.

  4. Muhammad Ali Jinnah's 11th August Speech was one of the most notable speeches made by the founding father of Pakistan to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Today there is hardly a more contentious issue in Pakistan than the issue of Jinnah's vision. While Pakistan was created as a result of what could be described as Indian Muslim nationalism, Jinnah was once an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity. When the Partition of India finally occurred, Jinnah, soon-to-be Governor General of the Dominion of Pakistan, gave expression to his vision of Pakistan in an address to the Constituent Assembly, delivered on August 11, 1947. He spoke of an inclusive and impartial government, religious freedom, rule of law and equality for all.

  5. thank you sir for such a valuable article...many of the misconceptions are cleared here but I would like to ask why are we taught such a twisted history where are heroes are turned into villains. his work was impeccable for such a thankless nation and what triggered and entrenched selfishness in the people who were being guided by such a dedicated and hardworking leaders

  6. Excellent! Article, Khurram Shafique sb, For general public/ akistanis info, Why don't you have it published in major DAILY newspapers: The News, Dawn, Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Jasarat etc and major WEEKLies: Takbeer, Akhbar-e-Jahan etc; Monthlies: Urdu Digest, Tarjumanul Quran, Ghazi etc; R Syed;

  7. Thank you for bringing us back to the day when Liaquat Ali Khan the first prime minister was assassinated.It is not hard to know who was behind this horrific crime.The four myths about him was simply to discredit him and it seems,the conspirators succeeded.He didn't do any of these things he was blamed for.The motive was to completely forget about him.All the propaganda worked.This I would say is the reason why we failed to cherish the memory of a great person like him.the ground was laid by the conspirators so that the common people did not consider him a role model.He definitely was a role model and we should not have forgotten about him.The four years that he lived,he made the country from a have-not to a country that was recognized by the world.We still have time to emulate him and we should for the sake of Pakistan.A man who in his dying hour prayed to God to save Pakistan,in my opinion was a true patriot.This is reason enough to keep his memory alive.