A friend emailed me the other day: “Hardly any body ever talks about [Fatima Jinnah] these days – I wonder how many even know her today?” He is right. We as a people have not treated our history well – for that matter, history too has treated us rather shabbily.
My friend also alerted me to a very interesting review of a new book on Fatima Jinnah (Memories of Fatima Jinnah by Sorayya Khurshid, translated into English by the much-talended Khalid Hasan, 2008) which includes her candid memories of many of the key personalities from Pakistan’s history – from Liaquat Ali Khan to Ayub Khan.
Having read all the snippets mentioned in the review, I am dying to get my hand on the book itself (and may write about this again once I do), but meanwhile the review – written by the inimitable Khaled Ahmed (whose intellectual contributions, especially through his book reviews is itself immense) is worth reproducing in the full. It is very well worth a read as a candid commentary on history.
Here is the full book review, from The Daily Times:
Sorayya Khurshid had the opportunity of living next to Fatima Jinnah in 1956. She took care to write a diary of her sittings with her and we are lucky that she did that because it explains the personality of Ms Jinnah and lets us have a glimpse of her views. Sorayya’s brother Khalid Hasan has rendered the book into Urdu and we are face to face with some of the facts in history we didn’t know before.
Sorayya married KH Khurshid who was a 20-year-old college-going boy in Srinagar when Jinnah chose him as his private secretary. We don’t know how Jinnah chose him but he picked up no ordinary man and Khurshid married no ordinary woman who ended up writing the diary in 1956. Khurshid served with Jinnah from 1944 to 1947 but was arrested by India when he visited his home in 1947 just after Partition. He was released in December 1948 but by then Jinnah was no more.
Jinnah had asked Ms Jinnah to ‘look after’ Khurshid after his return from the Indian jail. Khurshid went to London and did his law — Ms Jinnah used to send him food packets there — and on his return began his legal practice in Karachi. Ms Jinnah got him to live with her at the Flagstaff House. And when Khurshid married, Sorayya was added to the manage as Ms Jinnah’s companion. The stage was set. The young girl worshipped the sister of Jinnah and constantly quizzed her on life and politics. The result is this book.
Sorayya’s innocence and love for the new country comes through too. She wanted Khurshid to write about his four years spent close to Jinnah. He could have done it but he met with an accident in 1983 and died, leaving Sorayya as the only eyewitness to Ms Jinnah’s life during the year 1956. Ms Jinnah died in 1967.
People who visited Ms Jinnah frequently included Mumtaz Daultana and his wife Almas, Lady Hidayatullah, Qazi Isa and his wife, and the Haroon family. Out of them Lady Hidayatullah was the closest to her. Most letters she received were for handouts which she disliked in the extreme. She loved guava. (Mrs Rana Liaquat Ali Khan has also left behind a note about Jinnah’s unchanging love for guava.)
Mr Jinnah’s library didn’t have many books. Sorayya once borrowed Shakespeare and his Heroines from there for reading. Ms Jinnah believed Jinnah stood for Islamic socialism and wanted the Constitution framed on those lines and didn’t like feudalism (p.63). The wheeling-dealing that ensued after 1947 was begun by Liaquat Ali Khan who strangely changed after becoming prime minister — “maybe he was always like that”(p.65).
Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar was impressive and loyal. He visited and told Ms Jinnah that Iskander Mirza wanted to become president and was being supported by Muslim League’s Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, II Chundrigar, Gurmani, Daultana, Frontier’s Dr Khan Sahib, Feroz Khan Noon and East Pakistan’s AK Fazlul Haq. Nishtar complained of disunity in the party. She said Mirza had no principles. His wife was influential but appeared “to be an agent of a foreign power” (p.67).
Ghalib-reciting Raja Sahib of Mehmoodabad was a favourite of Ms Jinnah. She had the cause of Kashmir close to her heart but thought that some people could be supportive of the cause so that they could grab it and build their big houses near Nishat Bagh and occupy the Maharaja’s Palace (p.70). She did not like the decision to make Fazlul Haq governor of East Pakistan to enjoy governor’s rule there. She did not go to occasions where Iskander Mirza was invited too. She refused to go to Naheed Mirza’s receptions and called the couple “time-serving, conscience-less sycophants” (p.73). She didn’t like the Shah of Iran either for his moral laxness.
Ms Jinnah saw through the patriotism of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and thought he was a “power-hungry man who would stop at nothing” (p.77). Kashmiri leader Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas was also in the same category pretending to be what he was not. She said, “At times I see only a dark future for Pakistan”. But Suhrawardi she thought was a courageous and brilliant leader and was pleased when he called on her, although she admitted he had a colourful side to him unlike Jinnah who loved only Ruttie (p.84).
Major General Akbar Khan of Raiders in Kashmir called and wanted to confirm that Jinnah had ordered army chief Gracey to attack India but he did not. Ms Jinnah said she could not confirm because Jinnah did not know much about what was happening towards the end of 1947. She said: “In fact, he did not know anything about it (Kashmir attack by tribals) at all and was very sorry that a thoughtless step had been taken in such a crude and unorganised manner” (p.87).
Ms Jinnah thought General Ayub was not a clean man and during his posting in East Pakistan was involved in smuggling (p.88). She did not like Dr Khan Sahib becoming chief minister of West Pakistan as she thought the family of Ghaffar Khan was with the Congress and were not loyal to Pakistan. She said, “Liaquat Ali Khan never consulted me; in fact, he seldom came to see me. That might be because of his wife whom I never liked and Liaquat and Rana knew it. She dominated Liaquat (p.94). Jinnah had realised he had the wrong man as his deputy but it was too late to change him.”
Ms Jinnah did not like Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman but disliked his wife Zahida even more. She did not like Feroz Khan Noon marrying his pretty secretary in Delhi at an advanced age when he had grown up children. She liked Ayub Khuhro and his wife because of their style and regard for courtesy. About artists she said, “I feel they will not be treated well here. Some people want to colour Pakistan with Mullahism by hook or by crook although the Pakistan Movement mentioned only Islamic socialism” (p125).
Her Speech of December 25, 1957:
She made this very inspiring speech on 25th Dec 1957. It looks like deja vu. Please be aware that the 1957 was the era of Iskander Mirza and Ghulam Mohammad when the number of PMs were nominated and sacked. What she said seems true today.
Click Here to listen to her speech.