Non Muslims leaders of Pakistan Movement
As Independence Day draws closer, temporarily-evoked patriotism displays itself in the way Pakistani’s decorate their homes with flags and traditional jhandiyaan; the same biker boys who are otherwise seen hurling lubricious remarks at female passer-by’s now passionately scream “Pakistan Zindabad” as they flash past your cars; street vendors prepare their Independence Day stalls with a renewed collection of flag badges, small Jhandiyaan etc; the media too, for once, takes a break from the heavy news broadcasting about the proceedings of the infamous Panama case or the more-pressing Ayesha Gulalai case to walk us through the sacrifices and Jid-o-jehd our ancestors made for us in the name of a separate homeland; mothers huddle around their children, dictating to them how to present their love for Pakistan to relatives by repeating our age-old tales about Iqbal’s dream and Quaid-e-Azam’s determination.
However, whether it’s the television praising our founders and national heroes or older siblings and teachers walking us through the history of partition and the names of people who played pivotal roles in attaining a separate homeland for us, what we are never taught is that the Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah hoped to create was not just meant to be a shelter and identity for the Muslim minorities of India but all disadvantaged minority communities. As such, apart from Muslims, there were other communities who, too walked through ashes and bloodshed and sacrificed their comfort, wealth, family relations and security in this struggle to voice an identity. We also forget that while green represents Islam, the white in our flag is the voice of all Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and other minorities who call Pakistan their homeland.
One such person was Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, the Ameer of Lahore’s Ahmadiyyah community between 1919 and 1935. A judge for the Federal Court of India at the time of partition, his past credentials included not only the privilege of having sat in the Viceroy’s Executive Council (1935) but also received the honour of having represented India at the League of Nations in Geneva (1939). As far as this well-known Ahmadi’s contributions to the Pakistan Movement are concerned, he had presided over the Muslim League between 1931 to 1932 and also attended each of the three Round Table Conferences at a time when Hindu leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru were imprisoned and the political atmosphere due to the lack of participation of Indian Muslims had forced even Jinnah to retire back to London and neglect the third conference. But most importantly, this King’s college-educated barrister penned down the document which upon changing history, became known as the Pakistan Resolution – the same Pakistan Resolution which was read out at Iqbal park 70 years ago as Muslim League’s official mandate and is today eternalized by the Minaar-e-Pakistan structure.
Following partition, Zafarullah Khan became Pakistan’s first foreign minister and represented the newly-born state at the United Nations General Assembly in October 1947, during which time he also advocated for Palestine. In 1954, he started working for the International Court of Justice and rose to become the first South Asian (and the only Pakistani) to preside over it (1970-1973).
Another Non-Muslim who deserves to be remembered both in the hearts of people and in our history books is Jogendra Nath Mandal who was the leader of the Scheduled Castes (Dalits). While Zafarullah Khan belonged to a faith that was debarred from mainstream Islam, Mandal belonged to a caste that was considered too lowly to be offered inclusion into the Hindu caste system. The Dalits’ experience of everyday prejudice and hatred at the hands of the Hindu majority pushed them closer to the Muslim League which under Jinnah, not only swore to protect Muslims but all communities with a minority status. Mandal rose to become Pakistan’s first minister of law and labor and took residence in Karachi. However, he soon resigned and migrated to India in 1950, having realized, due to the anti-Hindu bias in the administration, that this was not the Pakistan Iqbal and Jinnah had envisioned together.
While the British are generally blamed for aggravating and exploiting the Hindu-Muslim rivalry, there were those too who genuinely wanted to help the Indians. One such person was Victor Turner, a Christian Englishman who also joins hands with Jinnah and Iqbal, as one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Born as Alfred Charles Turner to a Butler’s family in Kensington, England, a Mathematics scholarship landed him in Cambridge College (1911) before he left to fight in France as lieutenant under the First World War. After being awarded post-war medals, he left for India where he joined the Indian Civil service and was appointed as the assistant commissioner in Lucknow in 1919.
Gradually, Sir Turner rose up the ranks bagging titles such as Revenue Secretary to the Provincial Government of Uttar Pradesh (1935), Financial Secretary (1936), Financial Commissioner for Railways (1945) and finally, Principal Secretary of the Finance Department in 1947 when he was knighted too. Having been one of the main Christian leaders of the Pakistan Movement, following the establishment of Pakistan, Sir Turner became the first Christian to be appointed to the administration – as head of the Federal Bureau of Statistics (where he also re-organized government departments upon instructions by Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan).
Sir Turner made several reforms in the Pakistan Civil service and under him, the first paper currency mill was established in Pakistan, due to which, the first ever rupee to be printed bears his own signature. However, after PM Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated, Sir Turner saw himself being resettled in the UK as financial adviser to the High Commissioner of Pakistan in London. Due to his extensive contributions to Pakistan even after settling in London, he was awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz.
In view of the role these three individuals among many others played for the establishment and betterment of Pakistan, let us all promise to respect the white in our flag starting this 14th August. Let us all acknowledge the sacrifices that Christians, Hindus and other minority groups made alike while standing shoulder to shoulder with notable Muslims. So now, each time there are riots to reappoint a Muslim in the position of an Ahmadi in the government, let us remember Mohammad Zafarullah Khan. Each time a Christian family is burned down by angry mobs or convicted of blasphemy, let us all stand up in solitude in remembrance of Sir Victor Turner who founded our Civil Service and all English soldiers who trained our army. Each time we see Hindus being mistreated around us, learn to honor how Jogendra Nath Mandal found acceptance with our Muslim ancestors instead of mainstream Hindus and how Dalits chose Pakistan over India. Remember your ancestors who included Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis alike.
By Laiba Mubashar