Fatima Jinnah and Sharifuddin Pirzada

Published: December 25, 2010
The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore

The writer is a director at the South Asia Free Media Association, Lahore [email protected]

Not many today are interested in what Pakistan’s first dictator General Ayub thought, but Diaries of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan 1966-1972; edited and annotated by Craig Baxter; (OUP 2007) remain worth glancing through. The man was more intellectually gifted than we think. His only limitation was his mental ratchet on India. Was Bhutto more gifted? It is moot today who damaged Pakistan more.

On April 30, 1967, Ayub thought Dr Fazlur Rehman’s book “on the ideology of Pakistan” was “fascinating”. He also liked I H Qureshi’s book on Pakistan. Rehman, he had to help flee; Qureshi came to dominate thinking in Pakistan, till he was debunked by his junior fellow historian, K K Aziz. In July 1967, he notes the death of Fatima Jinnah ‘by heart attack’ (sic!) and opposes the demand that she be buried next to Jinnah: “It will ruin the symmetry”.

But the details are interesting. There was an initial Namaz-i-Janaza at her residence in Mohatta Palace in accordance with Shia rites. A Sunni official funeral was to be held in the Polo Ground: “There an argument developed whether this should be led by a Shia or a Sunni, eventually Badayuni was put forward to lead the prayer. As soon as he uttered the first sentence the crowd broke in the rear. Thereupon, he and the rest ran, leaving the coffin high and dry”.

The coffin was taken to the compound of the Jinnah mausoleum where she was to be buried. But ‘students and the goonda element’ started pelting stones on the police. They had to resort to lathi-charge and tear-gas attack.

On August 31, 1967, Ayub delivered himself of the following gem on Sharifuddin Pirzada, his foreign minister: “He is on the run in foreign countries most of the time and often purposelessly, is very suspicious by nature, has hardly any communication with the staff, chases small things most of the time and is frightened of taking a definite stand on any issue. There is also some suspicion that he is not above telling a lie. So I am in a fix as to what to do with him”.

On June 14 1968, he takes note of ‘an American senior official’ Mr McNamara who said: “US Congress is very angry with Pakistan because of the 1965 war with India because it was the volume of American aid that enabled the two countries to divert their own resources to building up their armed forces”. He noted Bhutto telling a gathering of lawyers “that amongst his services to the country was the expression of willingness to fight India for a thousand years and that if he was in power Jerusalem would never have been lost”.

In October 1969, he noted that a road had been named after Suhrawardi but no road after him: “Who can deny that I am responsible for the concept, naming and development of Islamabad; it is my creation”. He notes Iskander Mirza was buried in Tehran because President Yahya Khan had refused to let Mirza visit Pakistan on Shah’s request. Iranian Foreign Minister Ardeshir Zahedi was related to Mirza’s wife.

In January 1970, he thought “Mujibur Rehman is a pure and simple agitator. He has no brains, no administrative acumen, is unreliable, impulsive and emotional. He is a wrecker not a builder. Besides, his loyalty to Pakistan is extremely doubtful”. Like other strongmen in history he also thought “the Americans had a hand in my downfall”. His remark on his defender, Z A Suleri: “Though an opportunist of the first order and a thoroughly unreliable and ungrateful man, he writes well”.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Footnotes
    Dec 27, 2010 - 12:56AM

    President Ayub Khan was not a dictator – a journalist should be objective and NOT subjective or bias or under the pressure to pussy foot around the current government.
    GET A LIFE !Recommend

  • Dec 27, 2010 - 1:10AM

    “His only limitation was his mental ratchet on India.”

    Writers in Pakistan are smart enough to practice “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” when it comes to the largest political party in Pakistan, which is armed to the teeth and possess nuclear arms to boot.

    The “ratchet on India” ensures golf communities constructed through Pakistani and American tax payers’ monies.

    That said, it is better for the people to let this political party rule the country than experimenting with the lesser armed varieties.Recommend

  • Ajay
    Dec 27, 2010 - 9:32AM

    I am glad Zia had one good task to his credit—–sending this big dramabaaz and self seeking liar to his grave in a fitting manner. I do not understand why India was sympathetic
    to him and tried to save him. This guy started all the east Pakistan problem. Recommend

  • S. Imam
    Dec 27, 2010 - 6:39PM

    If we go by such diaries and judge between Bhutto and Ayub who damaged Pakistan more, then it would have been far better that Khali Saheb had also quoted something from Bhutto’s writings, which one wonders if he has ever read with such an open mind with which he reads Ayub’s diaries! Recommend

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