Fatima Jinnah: Candid Memories and Her Speech of December 25, 1957

Posted on December 25, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, History, People
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Adil Najam

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 ménage 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.

12 Comments on “Fatima Jinnah: Candid Memories and Her Speech of December 25, 1957”

  1. falcon says:
    December 25th, 2008 1:39 pm

    Amazing, she could have made this speech yesterday, and it would have been just as relevant.

    A little pet peeve: a book about her is written in English, but has this speech been translated into Urdu?

  2. Harris Siddiqui says:
    December 25th, 2008 1:59 pm

    Very good speech.
    ” The people can not and must not be mute spectators of what is done on their behalf.”

  3. Ehed Muhammad says:
    December 25th, 2008 9:24 pm


    Yeh baat nahin buhat purani
    Hai waqeya nisf hi sadi ka
    Beeta isi seena e zamin par
    Aur chashm e falak nay us ko dekha

    Jab arsa e yaas mein bhataktay
    Amboh ko aik aadmi nay
    Sirf apni wafa kay mujazay say
    Bas aik sada kay mujazay say
    Manzil ka suragh day diya tha
    Hathon mein charagh day diya tha

    Lekin meray meer e karwan ko
    Is ka to guman tak na ho ga
    Mund jaein gi junhi us ki aankhein
    Beena na rahay gi aik bhi chashm
    Manzil ka nishan tak na ho ga

    Woh daikh sakay agar to daikhay
    Pechan ham apni kho chukay hain
    Us nay hamein qafila banaya
    Ham phir say hujoom ho chukay hain

    [A poem by Samina Raja]

  4. Eidee Man says:
    December 25th, 2008 10:23 pm

    Wow, very interesting. I’m definitely going to try to get access to the book. I’m somewhat surprised at the description of Liaquat Ali Khan and his wife. If I recall correctly, the book by Wolpert mentions that the Quaid did not think highly of Liaquat at first, apparently because Jinnah thought he lacked intellectual depth, but that his opinion of Liquat changed over time and he soon became his most trusted lieutenant.

  5. Khalid R Hasan says:
    December 26th, 2008 1:39 am

    “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”

    See the book “Memories of Jinnah” by KH Khurshid edited and translated by Khalid Hasan, Oxford University Press, 1990. There is the original Urdu version as well.

  6. Tazeen says:
    December 26th, 2008 12:58 pm

    This books sounds fascination. Amazing and candid. Although I must say that some of Fatima Jinnah’s remark seem a little harsh. Maybe its the author embelishing with her own views?

  7. ASAD says:
    December 26th, 2008 1:45 pm

    Great post. But even more than that, I like the photograph selection of the Quaid and Fatima Jinnah. Great picture.

  8. ShahidnUSA says:
    December 26th, 2008 2:00 pm

    I have lot of respect for Ms. Fatima Jinnah. She carried herself well with dignity, side by side with her brother. She came out to help people when most of the women were hiding themselves inside their homes.
    She was no subservient of men and had her own personality.
    A real genuine lady of her times.

  9. Classof71 says:
    December 26th, 2008 3:32 pm

    As a Karachiite, I want to express my gratitude to the citizens of Lahore who voted for Ms Jinnah and declared her the victor over all the odds of Ayub Khan’s basic democracy.

    The memory of this day when Lahoris overcame ethnicity ( and loyalty to the Punjabi Army) has survived and remains etched in Pakistan’s memory despite the ethnic hatred and NawazSharifism which has officially existed towards Karachi since 1992.

    Before I move on please let me add that Miss Jinnah won against Ayub Khan from former East Pakistan too in elections that were completely engineered by the General’s toadies.

    The”Field Marshal” and his talented son always hated Karachi so much that they moved the capital to Islamabad. It is obvious the Field Marshal’s megalomania caused him to confuse himself with Emperor Daulat Khan Lodhi who himself had made a failed attempt to move from Delhi.

    Otherwise who has ever heard of a feudal military dictator using his authority to move a federal capital simply because he feared living in a city where MQM was only founded 20 years later?

    The move of the capital from Karachi had implications in the truncation of East Pakistan. Miss Jinnah’s mysterious death in Mohatta Palace too had similar implications

    I think it is very thoughtful of you to mention Miss Jinnah when everyone else is mourning another woman politician who served to divide Pakistan than unite it…

  10. zzali says:
    December 26th, 2008 11:29 pm

    From these excerpts, I can understand why Ms. Jinnah did not like any of the so “called leaders of Pakistan”. Look at where we are today, divided into groups that are working for their own political agenda. Karachiites against Lahoris, Punjabis against Sindhis, south of Pakistan (modern and somewhat industrialized) against north of Pakistan(backward and rural). If I remember correctly, my elders in my family used to tell me exactly the same stories that Ms. Jinnah expressed everyday in her converstions; that these so called ” Pakistani loyalists” were all “Ibn-el-waqt”; Liaquat Ali Khan was not to be trusted, General Ayub was a self-serving general and so on. The stories are not made up fables. What I have read from these excerpts, I have heard them again and again whenever I was in Pakistan.

    Now, I am afraid that we are so bitter and so divided that we refuse to see the truth. As a nation, we have been ruled by self-centered leaders who have taken us again and again in so many wrong directions that I sometimes get scared for our future as a nation. As Pakistanis, we should be concerned about our national security and integrity, as we all can see that we have huge problems on our west and on our North-east and another brewing near the Punjab border. We have never been this “infamous”. When I was a child, I had to show my friends and teachers on a map or globe where exactly Pakistan was located. Now, I don’t need to tell them. Everybody knows where it is and what is going on in our country.

    I am not a Sindhi. I am not a Punjabi. I am not a Baluchi nor am I a Pakhtoon. I am a Pakistani and I want my integrity and security back. I want social and economic justice for myself and for all Pakistanis. I want equality of opportunity and the basic rights to education and health. I want prosperity for myself and my Pakistani brothers and sisters. “May Pakistan live long” ! and “May we be rid of self-serving political parties, leaders and army generals”!

  11. ylh says:
    December 28th, 2008 10:29 pm

    Mian class of 71,

    Lahoris have always been patriots and admirers of Quaid and his sister …so no need to thank us. But do get over this regionalism.

    On Benazir- she was a true daughter of the madar e millat.


    What FJ thought LAK and his wife should be put under the category of “personal opinion”. I am watching HBO’s “John Adams” and it strikes me that many of those brilliant founding father and mothers of the US did not like each other very much but they came together on common cause. This is what is missing in Pakistan.

  12. Humayun Mirza says:
    November 21st, 2009 8:06 am

    Iskander Mirza had no intention of becoming President or keep the Martial-Law for a long time. In fact he had said in his speeches. The loss of Enver Mirza, caused emotional break down in my great grand father, and therefore he married Nahid, as my maternal great grand mother blamed him for the loss of their son. People started talking and stabbed the family. Therefore lots of rumors still today exist, Ayub Khan did betray Pakistan and his closest ally/friend as he was supported by the CIA, external forces which are now causing problems in Pakistan.
    Regarding the post against my great grand father I agree to an extent.
    Humayun Mirza.
    Great grand son of Iskander Mirza

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)