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 new-born 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.
On the occasion of the 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.]
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 rumour. 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].
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 seems 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.