Our forgotten founding fathers

Liaquat Ali Khan was not only one of the founding fathers of Pakistan but a statesman, lawyer, and political theorist who served as the first prime minister of the country

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The 70th death anniversary of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was observed on Saturday, October 16, with not even an iota of reverence that birth and death anniversaries of national heroes like him deserve. Covid and Dengue pandemics notwithstanding, hardly any events were held in his memory. No speakers were observed from either the ruling or the opposition parties paying rich tributes to the Quaid-e-Millat for his services to the nation and the Pakistan movement.

Governor Sindh Imran Ismail made a historically inaccurate statement while referring to Liaquat Ali Khan’s place of martyrdom as Karachi instead of Rawalpindi, and his birthplace by touting him as a son of Karachi whilst paying respects to the former PM. The fact being that Quaid-e-Millat was assassinated in Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh in 1951 by an Afghan militant Said Akbar during a public meeting, and he was born in the Indian state of Karnal in 1895. If this is the level of information and knowledge of our founding fathers our elected leaders have, what to speak of the common man. Suffice to say we as a nation bow down our heads in shame.

The nation celebrates August 14 as Independence Day, but it does not remember the sacrifices that our national icons had rendered during the struggle for an independent country. Liaquat Ali Khan was not only one of the founding fathers of Pakistan but a statesman, lawyer, and political theorist who served as the first prime minister of the country. However, neither any editorial on his prolific life was published in any newspaper, nor the news of his death anniversary was aired on television channels. No analyst or anyone else commented on Liaquat Ali Khan’s death anniversary on social media, and instead a spicy debate on a Bollywood superstar’s son’s arrest trended on Twitter.

What we need is to educate our youth about the life and the accomplishments of Liaquat Ali Khan’s services for the motherland and his tragic assassination while serving as the first prime minister of Pakistan. This trend of creating awareness among the youth and keeping the memory of our national icons is alarmingly declining and was sadly almost absent this entire year.

Liaquat Ali Khan is known as Quaid-e-Millat (leader of the nation) and Shaheed-e-Millat (martyr of the nation). After his mysterious murder, the Company Bagh was renamed as Liaquat Garden. He was a close aide to the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and struggled alongside him to get a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. He became the country’s first prime minister not simply because he was a trusted lieutenant of Jinnah but by virtue of his proven leadership skills in having led the Muslim League bloc in the interim government before the partition in 1947. He had asserted that Pakistan was the name of an ideology, and it was not merely a piece of land.

Liaquat Ali Khan having left all his property in India refused to file a claim to which he was entitled as a nawab, and instead opted to be termed as a refugee. Nawabzada reduced his standard of life and set about building institutions in the new country. Such was the stuff the man was made of. Liaquat Ali Khan received his education from Aligarh Muslim University, and later at Oxford University, United Kingdom.

Khan’s death is shrouded in mystery and controversy, and no government has ever tried to probe into the circumstances leading to the murder plot. Certainly, Liaquat Ali Khan deserved better as his last words to fellow countrymen when he got shot in the chest are said to have been: “May God protect Pakistan.” Khan’s assassination was a tragic incident in the country’s history. After Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s death in 1948, the nation stood orphaned once more, and the country came in the grip of ‘feudal democrats’.

The most significant work of Liaquat Khan was the Objectives Resolution, which was passed by the first constituent assembly of Pakistan in 1949. It laid down principles for the future constitution. Later, it was made the preamble to the country’s Constitution of 1973. The Objectives Resolution is, arguably, the most important legislative document in the legal history of Pakistan.

Some action steps are suggested for our authorities to pay a befitting tribute to mark the birth and death anniversaries of our national heroes, especially the founding fathers:

1-Post and share pictures, sayings and description of the work done that relate to our national heroes on social networking sites, electronic media, and print publications

2-Visit their tombs and graves to pay our respect

3-Organise talks and events in the spirit of the day

4-Organise events in schools or local communities to pay tribute to our heroes and highlight the true significance of the day

5-Teach your siblings and friends about the great role of Pakistan’s heroes

6-Share articles and stories related to the day and the work of the great leaders specially to inspire our youth

7-  Organise exhibitions of books about national heroes and their struggle for independence

8- Organise declaration contests with a relevant topic such as “our resolve to serve the  nation or country in any way possible”

9- Promote Pakistan’s ideology and the role of our great national heroes in the speeches by the country’s leadership

We must remember that only those nations thrive that remember their national heroes, their services, and what they stood for. Those that choose to forget them lose their identity and perish. Men of Liaquat Ali Khan’s intellect, calibre, and integrity are seldom born in the history of nations and are the greatest asset of any country. Let me leave the readers with a question: how many of us know about the first prime minister of the country?

Liaquat Ali Khan’s words resonate in today’s political environment more than ever: “The prime minister of a poor country cannot afford to have new clothes, lavish food and (a) personal home for his self.” May Allah bless his soul.