Liaquat Ali Khan

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Liaqat Ali Khan

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan (accurate transliteration: Liāqat Alī Khān) (October 1, 1895 – October 16, 1951) was a Pakistani Muhajir (Urdu speaking) politician who became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan and Defense Minister.

Liaquat rose to political prominence as a member of the All India Muslim League. He played a vital role in the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. In 1947, he became the prime minister of Pakistan, a position that he held until his assassination in October 1951. This was Pakistan's first political murder. In Pakistan, he is regarded as the right-hand man of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League and first governor-general of Pakistan. Liaquat was given the titles of Quaid-e-Millat (Leader of the Nation), and posthumously Shaheed-e-Millat (Martyr of the Nation).

Significantly, he is credited with persuading Jinnah to return to India, an event which marked the beginning of the Muslim League's ascendancy and paved the way for the Pakistan movement. Following the passage of the Pakistan Resolution in 1940, Liaquat assisted Jinnah in campaigning for the creation of a separate state for Indian Muslims. In 1947, British Raj was partitioned into the modern-day states of India and Pakistan. As Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat was responsible for guiding the new nation through its early years. Following partition, India and Pakistan came into conflict over the fate of Kashmir. Liaquat negotiated extensively with India's then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and pushed for the referral of the problem to the United Nations.

The aftermath of Pakistan's independence also saw internal political unrest and even a foiled military coup against his government. After Jinnah's death, Liaquat assumed a more influential role in the government and passed the Objectives Resolution, a precursor to the Constitution of Pakistan. Liaquat Ali Khan tried to establish a solid, democratic foundation for the new state. In less than a decade after his assassination, Ayub Khan seized power as military dictator, accusing the elected government, which he dismissed, of corruption and inability to preserve national unity. After that, while some have tried to build on the democratic foundation which Jinnah and his protégé, Liaquat Ali Khan, laid, these efforts have been hindered by subsequent military coups which have a precedent in Ayub Khan's decade in power. Unlike the military dictator, who accumulated a large fortune, Liaquat Ali Khan left a very modest sum to his family.[1]

Early life

Liaquat Ali Khan, the second son of Nawab Rustam Ali Khan, was born on October 2, 1896, in Karnal, India, into an aristocratic Punjabi family. His father enjoyed the title of Ruken-ud-Daulah, Shamsher Jang and Nawab Bahadur, bestowed by the British government. Nawab Rustam Ali Khan was one of the few landlords whose property was spread across both the Punjab and the United Provinces.[1] Liaquat's mother, Mahmoodah Begum, arranged for his lessons in the Qur'an and Ahadith at home before his formal schooling started.

He graduated in 1918 from Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental College (later: Aligarh Muslim University), Aligarh, and married his cousin, Jehangira Begum, in 1918. After the death of his father, Liaquat went to England and was awarded a Master's degree from Exeter College, Oxford in 1921. While a student at Oxford University, he was elected Honorary Treasurer of the Indian Majlis. Thereafter he joined the Inner Temple, one of the Inns of Court in London. He was called to the Bar in 1922.[1]

Early Political career

File:Liaqat ak.jpg
Liaquat Ali Khan with his family.

On his return from Britain in 1923, Liaquat entered politics, determined to eradicate what he saw as the injustices and ill treatment meted out to the Indian Muslims under the British. In his early life, Liaquat believed in Indian Nationalism. His views gradually changed. The Congress leaders asked him to join their party, but he refused and joined the Muslim League in 1923. Under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslim League held its annual session in May 1924 in Lahore. The aim of this session was to revive the League. Liaquat was among those who attended this conference.

Liaquat began his parliamentary career as an elected member of the United Provinces Legislative Council from the rural Muslim constituency of Muzzafarnagar in 1926. In 1932, he was unanimously elected Deputy President of UP Legislative Council.[1] He remained a member of the UP Legislative Council until 1940, when he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly.

Liaquat took an active part in legislative affairs. He was one of the members of the Muslim League delegation that attended the National Convention held at Calcutta to discuss the Nehru Report in December 1928.

Liaquat's second marriage took place in December 1932. His wife Begum Ra'ana was a prominent economist and an educator. She, too, was an influential figure in the Pakistan movement.[2]

Following the failure of the Round Table Conferences, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had settled in London and was practicing law before the Privy Council.[1] Liaquat and his wife had a number of meetings with Jinnah and convinced him to come back to India to take up the leadership of the Muslims of the region.

Pakistan movement

When Muhammad Ali Jinnah returned to India, he started to reorganize the Muslim League. In 1936, the annual session of the All India Muslim League met in Bombay. In the open session on April 12, 1936, Jinnah moved a resolution proposing Liaquat Ali Khan as the Honorary General Secretary. The resolution was unanimously adopted and he held the office till the establishment of Pakistan in 1947. In 1940, Liaquat was made the deputy leader of the Muslim League Parliamentary party. Jinnah was not able to take active part in the proceedings of the Assembly on account of his heavy political work. It was Liaquat Ali Khan who stood in his place. During this period, Liaquat was also the Honorary General Secretary of the Muslim League, the deputy leader of their party, Convener of the Action Committee of the Muslim League, Chairman of the Central Parliamentary Board and the managing director of the newspaper Dawn.

The Pakistan Resolution was adopted in 1940 at the Lahore session of the Muslim League. The same year elections were held for the central legislative assembly which was contested by Liaquat from the Barielly constituency. He was elected without contest. When the twenty-eighth session of the League met in Madras on April 12, 1941, Jinnah told party members that the ultimate aim was to obtain Pakistan. In this session, Liaquat moved a resolution incorporating the objectives of the Pakistan Resolution in the 'aims and objectives of the Muslim League'. The resolution was seconded and passed unanimously.

In 1945-46, mass elections were held in India and Liaquat won the Central Legislature election from the Meerut Constituency in the United Provinces. He was also elected Chairman of the League's Central Parliamentary Board. The Muslim League won 87 percent of seats reserved for Muslims of the sub-continent.[3] He assisted Jinnah in his negotiations with the members of the Cabinet Mission and the leaders of the Congress during the final phases of the Freedom Movement and it was decided that an interim government would be formed consisting of members of the Congress, the Muslim League and minority leaders. When the Government asked the Muslim League to send their nominees for representation in the interim government, Liaquat Ali was asked to lead the League group in the cabinet. He was given the portfolio of finance.[4] By this point, the outgoing British government of India and the Indian National Congress had both accepted the idea of Pakistan and therefore on August 14, 1947, Pakistan came into existence.[5]

Career as Prime Minister

File:Liaqat pm.jpg
Liaquat Ali Khan signs the register as the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.

After independence, Liaquat Ali Khan was appointed the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. Pakistan faced a number of difficulties in its early days. Liaquat and Jinnah were determined to stop the riots and refugee problems and to set up an effective administrative system for the country. Liaquat established the groundwork for Pakistan's foreign policy. He also took steps towards the formulation of the constitution. He presented The Objectives Resolution, a prelude to future constitutions, in the Legislative Assembly. The house passed it on March 12, 1949. It has been described as the "Magna Carta" of Pakistan's constitutional history.[6] Liaquat called it "the most important occasion in the life of this country, next in importance, only to the achievement of independence." Under his leadership a team also drafted the first report of the Basic Principle Committee and work began on the second report.

During his tenure, India and Pakistan agreed to resolve the dispute of Kashmir in a peaceful manner through the efforts of the United Nations. According to this agreement a ceasefire was effected in Kashmir on January 1, 1949. It was decided that a free and impartial plebiscite would be held under the supervision of the UN.[7]

After the death of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the problem of religious minorities flared during late 1949 and early 1950, and observers feared that India and Pakistan were about to fight their second war in the first three years of their independence. At this time, Liaquat met Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to sign the Liaquat-Nehru Pact in 1950. The pact was an effort to improve relations and reduce tension between India and Pakistan, and to protect the religious minorities on both sides of the border. In May 1951, Liaquat visited the United States and set the course of Pakistan's foreign policy towards closer ties with the West. An important event during his premiership was the establishment of the National Bank of Pakistan in November 1949, and the installation of a paper currency mill in Karachi.

In January 1951, Liaquat appointed Ayub Khan as the first Pakistani commander-in-chief of the army with the retirement of the British commander, Douglas Gracey. In the same year, an attempted coup was launched against the government by senior military leaders and prominent socialist. Akbar Khan, chief of general staff, was arrested along with 14 other army officers for plotting the coup. This Rawalpindi Conspiracy, as it became known, was the first attempted military coup in Pakistan's history. The arrested conspirators were tried in secret and given lengthy jail sentences.[8]


File:Liaqat death.jpg
Liaquat Ali Khan, hours before he was assassinated.

On October 16, 1951, Liaquat had been scheduled to make an important announcement in a public meeting of the Muslim City League at Municipal Park, Rawalpindi. Liaquat was shot twice in the chest during that meeting by a man sitting in the audience only 15 yards away. It was reported that the police immediately killed the assassin, who was later identified as Saad Akbar Babrak, an Afghan from the same Zadran tribe as Pacha Khan Zadran. Liaquat was rushed to a hospital where he was given a blood transfusion, but he succumbed to his injuries. The exact motive behind the assassination has never been fully revealed. However, Liaquat was an ardent supporter of partition, which involved absorbing Pushtun land into Pakistan. He did not believe Pushtun land east of the Durand Line deserved to be reunited with Afghanistan after its illegal annexation into British India in 1893. Afghans, as well as the Pushtuns living in the disputed territory, including those of the Zadran tribe, held political animosity toward Liaquat Ali Khan because of this, and Saad Akbar Zadran is believed to have killed the Prime Minister after he made inflammatory statements about Afghanistan during his speech.

Upon his death, Liaquat Ali Khan was given the honorific title of "Shaheed-e-Millat," or "Martyr of the Nation."[9]

His last words are said to have been, "May God keep Pakistan safe."

Municipal Park, where he was assassinated, was renamed Liaquat Bagh Park in his honor.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated just outside the same park on December 27, 2007, and was attended to without success by Dr Mussadiq Khan whose father Dr Sadiq Khan had tried, in like manner, to save the life of Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951.

Criticism and Legacy

Although Liaqat Ali Khan had many flaws, in Pakistan, he is nonethless regarded as Jinnah's “right hand man” and heir apparent. His role in filling in the vacuum created by Jinnah’s death is seen as decisive in tackling critical problems during Pakistan’s fledgling years and in devising measures for the consolidation of Pakistan.

He was criticized for not visiting the Soviet Union, while he did visit the United States. This was perceived by some as a rebuff to Moscow, and thought to have caused adverse consequences, including Soviet assistance to India, most prominently in the 1971 war which ultimately led to the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. Others argue that Liaquat Ali Khan had wanted Pakistan to remain neutral in the Cold War, as declared three days after Pakistan's independence when he announced Pakistan would take no sides in the conflict of ideologies between the nations.[10]

Liaquat was portrayed by Pakistani actor Shakeel in the 1998 film "Jinnah".[11]

Political offices
Preceded by:
Office created
Finance Minister of India
17 August, 1946 - 14 August, 1947
Succeeded by:
John Mathai
Preceded by:
Office created
Prime Minister of Pakistan
14 August, 1947 - 16 October, 1951
Succeeded by:
Khwaja Nazimuddin
Preceded by:
Office created
Foreign Minister of Pakistan
15 August, 1947 - 27 December, 1947
Succeeded by:
Muhammad Zafrulla Khan
Preceded by:
New creation
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by:
Khawaja Nazimuddin
Preceded by:
Post created
Finance Minister of India
Succeeded by:
John Mathai


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 M. Yakub Mughal (2006), Liaquat Ali Khan: A worthy successor to the Quaid The News International Special Edition. Retrieved July 19, 2008. Yakub writes that "The bank balance of Rs 1200, which he left for his family, is a positive proof of his honest living, and his noble character."
  2. Faisal Abdullah, "Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan" Women of Pakistan. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  3. Bajwa (2002), 130.
  4. Liaquat Ali Khan (1896-1951) Pak Avenue, Pakistan Information Networks. History of Freedom Fighters. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  5. "Liaquat Ali Khan (1896-1951): Political career" Retrieved October 16, 2006.
  6. Plamen Tonchev (2007), "Pakistan at fifty-five: From Jinnah to Musharraf" European Institute for Asian Studies. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  7. "RESOLUTION 47 (1948) ON THE INDIA-PAKISTAN QUESTION" UN Security Council. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  8. Farooq Naseem Bajwa, Pakistan: A historical and contemporary look (Karachi, PK: Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 9780195798432), 154-55.
  9. The Assassination of the prime minister of Pakistan ICDC. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  10. Burke, New York Times (1947), 147.
  11. Jamil Dehlavi (1998), Jinnah Internet Movie Database. Director, Jamil Dehlavi. Writers, Akbar Ahmed and Jamil Dehlavi. Dehlavi Films. Retrieved July 19, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Aḥmad, Z̤iyāʼuddīn. 1990. Shaheed-e-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan, builder of Pakistan. Karachi, PK: Royal Book Co. ISBN 9789694071121
  • Bajwa, Farooq Naseem. 2002. Pakistan: a historical and contemporary look. Karachi, PK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195798432
  • Burki, Shahid Javed. 1999. Pakistan: fifty years of nationhood. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 9780813336213
  • Kāẓmī, Muhammad Raz̤ā. 2003. Liaquat Ali Khan: his life and work. Karachi, PK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195797886


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