60th Death Anniversary Did Liaquat have an American tilt? By Dr. Tauqir Alam. The 60th death anniversary of a man was observed on October 16 this year who was the architect of Pak – US relations and who is blamed to this day for landing the new sate of Pakistan in the American camp in the second half of the twentieth century. This great man’s murder may be called as the first politically motivated assassination after the creation of Pakistan on October 16, 1951. Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan (1896-1951), the first prime minister of Pakistan (in office: August 1947 – Oct. 951) took the reign of power at a time when Pakistan was in infancy. The most punching problems the new state had to face were a non-existent economic base and country’s vulnerability to a contemporary but sworn enemy in the east. The 1948 war in Kashmir with India had brought to light the fact that if immediate measures were not taken to build a viable economic and defence infrastructure, the country would soon vanish from the map of the world. These two inherent weaknesses had already compelled the Quaid-e-Azam to look towards economically prosperous nations who could help Pakistan steering out of this critical situation.
Nawabzada Liaquat knew this reality since the day one and was as much desperate and restless as the Quaid was. For both the key men of their time the United States had attained the status of a superpower after the victory of allied forces in the World War II, which the Soviet Union was striving to catch up with. The United States figured out as the most likely state for them, which could fulfill the defence and economic needs of Pakistan to such an extent that it could withstand different sort of pressures and that the presumed military and economic aid would also likely to push Pakistan on track to development and sustainability.
Pakistan saw the fulfillment of this desire of its founder to some extent when Nawabzada Liaquat, in September 1948, following untimely demise of Quaid, shouldered the responsibility of piloting the ship of the state. Liaquat followed the thinking paradigm of Quaid thus giving full weight to establishing close ties with the United States. These were different times, however. Pakistan had no pleaders and no antagonists in the United States. Incidentally, it was also that crucial period when the Middle East and South Asia were taken as the regions of prime responsibility for Great Britain by the US policy makers.
Unfortunately, Pakistan then a state that was absolutely unknown in the US academic and policy-making circles and its strategic importance was overshadowed by the historical and mighty name of India. The 20th Century leadership that made Pakistan was mostly educated in the West. Most of the leaders of the Pakistan movement who played later any potential role in the country’s politics after its creation like Quaid-e-Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan, Malik Feroz Khan Noon, I. I.
Chundrigar, and the top military leadership of that time, were all educated in the United Kingdom or any other European country. The Russian atrocities on the Muslims of Central Asia during the Communization process from 1917-1925 were in not so distant area of their memories. This leadership had viewed Russians with acute antagonism and suspicion because of this reason. Hence, when the time came for this leadership to choose a potential ally for the prosperity and security of the country, it naturally turned to the United States.
Position was that in the first decade of Pakistan’s creation that it was not the need of United States but the latter was need of the former. And incidentally, the question before Pakistani leadership was that how Pakistan could incline United States towards the fulfillment of its defence and economic needs? Interesting is to note that from Quaid-e-Azam to Liaquat Ali Khan down to General Ziaul Haq including Z. A. Bhutto, all the leaders had made their best to convince the US policymakers that Pakistan could become a bulwark against the possible march of Soviet Communism in the region.
Showing the glitter of the geostrategic importance of Pakistan, they did their best to convince the US policymakers that Pakistan could play a vital role as the ‘eastern bastion’ against communism if its requirements were properly supplemented by the United States. The Pakistani leadership had in fact lured the US policymakers into Pakistan’s matters by showing them the card of ‘red-march’ of Soviets in this region, which the US policymakers wanted to contain in any part of the world at any cost in the post-1945 world order.
Despite best efforts of Nawabzada Liaquat, Pakistan could not get any substantial aid from the United States until the beginning of 1950. Rather, the Truman administration showed visible tilt towards India in early 1949 by inviting Indian Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru in October that year. This annoyed Liaquat. He started finding out ways and means to fully attract Americans towards Pakistan and in the meantime on June 2, 1949, the Soviet Charge d’affaires in Tehran had formally invited the dignified couple Nawabzada Liaquat and Mrs.
Rana Liaquat to visit Moscow. Senior officials clique with Prime Minister Liaquat in the government like Sir Zafarullah Khan, foreign minister, Ikramullah, foreign secretary, Malik Ghulam Muhammad, finance minister, Malik Feroz Khan Noon and Chaudhary Muhammad Ali took it as a golden opportunity. They did full propaganda of Liaquat’s intending Moscow visit in the face of Nehru’s visit to United States. They also fully highlighted the geostrategic importance of Pakistan for Moscow. This propaganda was aimed at drawing immediate US attention towards Pakistan.
Liaquat Ali received some success in this campaign as the US administration found Nehru a total ‘disappointment’ who could not go in hand with the US interest in the region because of his socialist mindset. President Truman also officially invited Liaquat to United States in November 1949. The visit was, however, materialized in May 1950. On the internal front, Nawabzada Liaquat had already found the wind of some intrigues by leftist element in the armed forces, which wanted to overthrow the existing civilian setup with the help of Communist Party of Pakistan. Liaquat had mentioned it to an American diplomat, H.
Gordon Minnigarode in early 1949. In the meantime, in March 1951, the Punjab CID police detected a plot against his government and it subsequently arrested 11 officers of the armed forces and four civilians. Prominent among those were Major-General Akbar Khan, the alleged chief conspirator, Mrs. Nasim Akbar Khan, eminent poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz and prolific and known poet Syed Hassan Zaheer, secretary-general of the Communist Party of Pakistan. Whether this quo d’etat plot against his government was right or wrong, suspicions and doubts still persist in the academic and political circles about Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case, 1951.
A little before its news becoming public, as current sources divulged, Nawabzada Liaquat’s visit to Moscow was also thwarted by Russian government itself. The visit was scheduled in November 1949. Perhaps, the Russians had the information about some kind of pro-Soviet changes in Pakistan’s ruling hierarchy, that was why they postponed Liaquat’s visit from time to time and ultimately the matte was fizzled out. The leftist element in Pakistan had never forgiven and relieved Liaquat of Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case burden and their plausible involvement in it.
This camp had opened up a volley of allegations against him for being an American agent who put Pakistan on the US slide that landed Pakistan into American lap forever. However, the fact remains that Nawabzada Liaquat was a great statesman who foresaw Pakistan’s prosperity and security in the US camp. Whatever he did during his times, he did that out of his love, faithfulness and devotion to his country. Those who maligned Nawabzada Liaquat for over half-a-century after his death for landing Pakistan into US camp, are today sitting in the same camp because of their vested interest.
What Liaquat did was the need of time. And what his opponents or their left-out, out-dated political structures are doing by sitting in the US camp today, they must explain it for what reasons they are doing this, so that they could avoid repetition of history in near future, they could deflect the ricochet of bullets. Note: The writer is a former journalist and presently a Political Science teacher at the Islamia College University (ICUP), Peshawar. He can be reached at [email protected] com