An Unknown Hero’s Legacy – Sir Zafarullah Khan
By Mohsin Jilani
February 6th, 2016 marks the 126th birthday of one of founding fathers of Pakistan and the first Foreign minister of Pakistan who in due course became the only Pakistani President for the UN General Assembly but also a judge to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. His legacy was incomparable not only in Pakistan but around the world. Yet the country which was his beloved home and people within this country has demeaned his legacy for many years and still continue to do so but Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan despite all the severe criticism and backlashes loved his country a lot. He went on self-exile from Pakistan and eventually came back only to reminiscent the years of struggle he did for Pakistan during Pakistan movement before he took a final breath in September 1st, 1985.
Sir Zafarullah Khan was born in British India in a small town of Daska, Punjab. His Alma matter includes Government College University, Lahore and King’s College, London from which he earned his L.LB. He practiced law in Sialkot and Lahore, became a member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1926. He participated at the Round Table Conferences held from 1930 to 1932, became the Minister of Railways in May 1935, he represented India at the League of Nations in 1939, he was appointed the Agent General of India in China in 1942 and represented India as the Indian Government’s nominee at the Commonwealth Relations Conference in 1945, where he spoke on India’s cause for freedom. Finally before the partition of India, he served as a judge of the Federal Court of India from 1941-1947.
But the question is what did he do for creation of Pakistan and for the state of Pakistan? In 1931–1932 he was president of the Muslim League and supported their manifesto till the end. He sat on the British Viceroy’s Executive Council as its Muslim member from 1935 to 1941 and spoke for Muslim League and their ambition for an independent state for Muslim. His prominent contribution to Pakistani movement and creation of Pakistan is that he authored “Lahore Resolution” or popularly called “Pakistan Resolution”, which gave the foundation for creation of Pakistan and is, commemorated every year on March 23rd and still continuing.
Sir Zafarullah Khan’s Legacy does not end with creation of Pakistan but it continues after the creation of Pakistan. Before being appointed Foreign Minister, Zafarullah Khan represented Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly as head of the Pakistani delegation in October, 1947. He was most remembered for advocating for Palestinian issue. However, he also represented Pakistan at the United Nations Security Council where he advocated the liberation of Muslim states such as Kashmir, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, and Indonesia but also for Non-Muslim state that also sought liberation – Eritrea and Northern Ireland.
Tragedy soon ensued upon Zafarullah Khan when in 1954, during the severe food shortages in Punjab, the orthodox religious groups rose against a particular sect leading to riots in Lahore, and number of people were killed. The group made three demands: Removal of Zafarullah Khan from the foreign ministry; Removal of Ahmadis from top government offices; Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Although, the crises was resolved when the martial law was imposed in Lahore but Zafarullah Khan resigned from office, fearing that Ahmedi sect would face reprisal because of him.
Zafarullah Khan went to self-exile and during his self-exile in 1954, because of his impartial judgment and impressive career as a lawyer and judge in pre-partition India, he was appointed President of International Court of Justice in The Hague, a position he held until 1961. Between 1961 and 1964, he still represented Pakistan and was Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations. From 1962 to 1964, he was also the President of the UN General Assembly. He was prized by many Muslim nations around the world for that in March 1958, Zafarullah Khan performed Umrah and, at the same time, visited the shrine of Muhammad in Medina, Saudi Arabia. During his visit, he met with the King of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud who praised his work for Palestinian issue and other Arab nation, and stayed at the Royal Palace as a personal guest of the king. In 1967, he returned to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj and he was again personal guest of another Saudi King – Faisal Ibn Saud, who performed Hajj alongside him till the end of the pilgrimage.
Zafarullah Khan’s home country may let the younger generation forget his legacy and may even let them forget his existence as well. The world still regards him as the man who faced all odds and loved his country despite the backlashes by people, and be buried in his country’s soil.