EDITORIAL: Out with the truth about Miss Jinnah,   2003,07,23

Former attorney general of Pakistan and “honorary” secretary of the Quaid-e-Azam from 1941 to 1944, Mr Sharifuddin Pirzada, has revealed outside a conference-room in Islamabad that Miss Fatima Jinnah did not die a natural death in 1967 but was probably murdered by a servant of hers. Mr Pirzada, who did not speak about the incident in the conference “for fear of spoiling the atmosphere”, added that he would reveal more about the case on August 14 and tell all about who hushed up the murder and then asked the Karachi police to bury the case.

The revelation has not failed to shock the entire nation which is busy observing a year dedicated to the memory of Fatima Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam’s most revered sister. She led the opposition to General Ayub Khan’s military regime and figured as his most powerful electoral opponent in elections that were widely believed to have been rigged.

The story revealed by Mr Pirzada goes like this. Ms Jinnah returned late at night from a wedding. She locked up the house and threw the keys into a kitchen drawer as was her habit and went to sleep. In the morning when Ms Jinnah could not be awakened, her neighbour Begum Hidayatullah was called, who got the door opened in the presence of the Commissioner of Karachi and the Inspector General of Police, but found that Ms Jinnah had been murdered. Her bed was covered with blood and her neck was scarred. The police later declared that the death had been caused by cardiac arrest. Ms Jinnah’s lawyer nephew Akbar Pirbhai flew over from Bombay to investigate the real cause of her death but was confronted with an official smokescreen he could not penetrate. Mr Pirzada thinks that she was killed by a servant of the house, but that the cover-up was later managed by the Ayub government.

Pakistan is most unfortunate that the circumstances also surrounding the death of Quaid-e-Azam have never been allowed to be explained. He died on a railway level-crossing inside an army truck which had broken down. When Miss Fatima Jinnah addressed the nation on the radio after his demise her speech was “switched off” at the point where she was to reveal the true state of affairs. Many years later, it fell to Mr Sharifuddin Pirzada to reveal that differences had existed between the Quaid and his most trusted lieutenant, prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, a claim about which once again no credible corroborating evidence has been put forward. An account of Mr Jinnah and his family left behind by Miss Fatima Jinnah was supposed to have contained a reference to it, but the book was purged of the “objectionable” material. Now it develops that after her death the officialdom of Pakistan was keen to also close the chapter on her. A strange kind of “revisionism” seems to have dogged the life of Miss Fatima Jinnah, as if the men who ran Pakistan after the Quaid wanted to dissociate themselves from everything that he stood for and was close to.

The election that Miss Fatima Jinnah fought against General Ayub Khan in 1965 strengthened the bureaucratic trend of suppressing facts. She won in Karachi but not before Ayub Khan’s son Gohar Ayub led a violent procession against her supporters that ended with violence and death. Explaining the rivalry between Miss Jinnah and his father, Gohar Ayub Khan recently said that Fatima Jinnah had turned against his father, General Ayub Khan, after he “made the mistake” of sending Begum Raana Liaquat Ali Khan abroad as Pakistan’s ambassador, thus leaning on the unrecorded fact of a falling-out between the Quaid and Liaquat Ali Khan.

The fact, however, is that the state system had been controlled and turned against Ms Jinnah by General Ayub Khan who feared her as the most effective representative of the Quaid’s legacy against the first military assault on the civilian institutions in Pakistan. Of course, it is ironical, isn’t it, that Mr Sharifuddin Pirzada too had supported General Ayub Khan. In fact, when Mr Pirzada declared his connection with the Quaid, Miss Fatima Jinnah issued a statement contradicting that he was ever his secretary. Mr Pirzada rebutted by submitting a press clipping at the Court which said that “Mr Pirzada, the husband of a Bohra lady, had become secretary to the Quaid”.

There is no doubt that the nation will go into another trauma when Mr Pirzada reveals the details of the case on August 14, which means another Independence Day gone sour for us poor Pakistanis. One might ask the honourable ex-foreign minister, ex-secretary general of the OIC, ex-and current legal advisor to all military regimes and the lawyer who lost our last case at the International Court of Justice, why he waited so many years before deciding to make a clean breast of the secret of Miss Jinnah’s murder. The country is observing a special year in her memory. If truth is to be finally known about what happened to the founder of the nation and his sister, then let it all hang out once and for all. The expurgated memoir of Miss Jinnah should be restored and republished; and if there is anything dark in the early history of Pakistan let the people of Pakistan know it, trauma or no trauma. We tried to suppress the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report to conceal the ugly facts of military rule in Pakistan. But the Report was leaked out piecemeal and its agony was spread across many years. Let the truth about the death of Miss Jinnah be known after proper investigation of the claim made by Mr Pirzada and let us put the case to rest once and for all. *