The Last of the Mohicans
By Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed
Colonel (retd) Amjad Hussain Syed is perhaps one of the last persons alive who bear witness to the earliest musings on the Pakistan idea. He was the first military attaché of Pakistan to Indonesia. He was conferred with the highest Indonesian Award of Bintang Dharma (star of merit) by then President Seokarno of Indonesia for his meritorious services in promoting and establishing the friendly relationship between the armed forces of Pakistan and Indonesia. I met him on February 2, 2014 at his residence in New Muslim Town. This is what he told me:
“I was born in Gujranwala on December 21, 1921 but grew up in Muslim Town, a Muslim locality my uncle, Dr Syed Mohammad Hussain, had helped establish. In neighboring Model Town, mostly wealthy Hindus and Sikhs lived. My uncle and Allama Iqbal were class-fellows. He and many other Muslim leaders used to visit my uncle.
I did matriculation in 1934 from Muslim High School and, in the same year, started my studies at Islamia College on Railway Road. One day in December, I was returning home on my bicycle when I met a youth of my age and offered him a lift as he was going towards Mozang Chungi. He told me that he wanted to see the noted writer Imtiaz Ali Taj. I took him to Taj sahib’s residence. He was not at home but his wife, who was from Madras, was present. She was feeding some birds.
We both introduced ourselves to each other. I learnt that the young man’s name was Hameed Nizami. He had come from Sangla Hill in the hope of getting admission to Islamia College. He told me that he had done matric in first division and had been admitted to the Lyallpur Agriculture College with a scholarship and free accommodation in the hostel, but his heart was not in learning the skills of ploughing and growing crops. He wanted to do something interesting. I invited him to stay at my place and we came to Muslim Town.
The next day we went to Islamia College. I requested my teacher, Professor Ghulam Hussain (father of legendary pace bowler Fazal Mahmood) to help get Nizami admitted but he said it was out of the question. It was December, while the admissions were completed in September. He told us that even Imtiaz Ali Taj could not be of any help in this regard. Then I talked to the head clerk of the college, Qazi Said Ahmed, about it.
Now, some time earlier he had been implicated in a murder allegedly committed through poisoning, but he had pleaded that he was innocent. I had requested uncle Dr Mohammad Hussain to check if indeed the death had taken place because of poisoning or not. My uncle carried out the tests and found no case of poisoning, and so Qazi sahib was acquitted. On that occasion he said, ‘One day I will return this great favor. Do not hesitate if you ever need my help.’ So, I went to him and reminded him of his promise. He told me he would do whatever he could. Then he informed us to come the next day with Rs 60 as fees and other charges and that Nizami would be admitted. Now the problem was that we did not have the money. Rs 60 was a big amount in those days. I went to the owner of Arab Hotel and told him about the problem. He happily donated Rs 60 and Hameed Nizami was enrolled in the college.
Unlike other boys who enjoyed life in different ways playing games or cards, we both were greatly concerned about the political alienation of the Muslims. The Hindus had Gandhi and Nehru as their leaders but the Muslims lacked a leader of their stature. Our only source of inspiration was Allama Iqbal who had expressed that sentiment in the following verses:
“Allah rakhe tere jawanon ko salamat! De in ko sabaq khud shikani, khud nigari ka” (May God preserve the youth you guide and may they all by faith abide! Restraint and order you must teach, to shun conceit you ought to preach).
“Dil torh gayi in ka do sadiyon ki ghulami daru koi soch in ki preshan nazari ka” (The foreign yoke that ran for periods long, has drained the blood of heart, so strong; think of some cure, panacea or ought to bring to end their sight distraught).
So, one summer day we went to see him and said, “You are Hakimul Ummat (therapist of the Muslim nation). What have you done to help the Muslims get out of their depressed state?" He said to his servant, “Ali Baksha aye munde bare phhakey hoye ney, enna nu surayee wichon pani pya” (Ali Baksh, these boys are greatly excited. Give them some water to drink and cool down). He used to speak in the Sialkoti Punjabi dialect. Then he said to us, “Odekho mundeo. Mein te baar akhare de beth key gurr dusna waan, larran walla pahalwaan koi hore hai. Mein unnu bulaa rehaan waan. O aa reha hai” (look boys, I teach the skills of wrestling from outside the wrestling ring. The wrestler who will fight this fight is someone else. I have urged him to come and he is coming).
We were overjoyed to hear that and asked him who that person was. Iqbal told us that his name was Barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah. We had read his name in some newspaper but did not know much about him. Iqbal told us to go and see him whenever he comes to Lahore and ‘follow him and follow him blindly’.”
In 1936, Jinnah came to Lahore in connection with a case at the Lahore High Court (LHC). We learnt that he was staying at the Faletti’s Hotel. We went there and were told that we should talk to his personal assistant, Mr Lobo. We found Mr Lobo in the lobby and said, “Assalam-u-laikum” but he replied, “Good morning, what can I do for you?” Now, I found that to be very peculiar — a Muslim leader having a Christian personal assistant! In our broken English we conveyed to him that we were students of Islamia College and that Allama Iqbal had sent us to see Barrister Jinnah. Mr Lobo smiled and said, “Mr Jinnah is no ordinary person. He is a very busy and important man. There are many people lining up to see him. One needs an appointment to see him and the earliest appointment you two could be given would be tomorrow.” We were too excited to wait till the next day so we implored him to just let us catch a glimpse of Barrister Jinnah. He told us to wait while he checked with his boss. To our very great surprise he came back and said that Mr Jinnah had agreed to meet us but strictly for five minutes.
When we entered the room we saw Barrister Jinnah sitting on a sofa. It felt as if floodlights were on, he exuded that much radiance. He was immaculately dressed and looked supreme. He looked at us and said, “Yes, boys, what can I do for you?” We replied in whatever English we could manage, “Sir, we are humble students. We are devotees of Allama Iqbal. He has instructed us to see you and do whatever you tell us to do without asking any questions.” He seemed both pleased and amused and then enquired, “Have you taken permission from your college to see me?” We said, “No, sir.” He then asked if we were office bearers of the students’ union and enjoyed some protocol and authority. We replied in the negative once again. He then said to us, “Go to your principal and get a formal invitation for me. If I have time I will visit Islamia College.” We wanted to shake hands with him, but Jinnah refused to shake hands with us. When we came out I said to Hameed Nizami, “He is a narr mard (real man). He is a man of few words. What he says, he means. He is a man of destiny.”
Then we went to our principal, Mr B A Qureshi, and told him that we had met Jinnah and wanted to invite him to the college. He became angry and said that we were mischief-mongers. Jinnah was a politician; why should he be coming to our college? In those days, Punjab was under the rule of the Punjab Unionist Party. We replied that Allama Iqbal had ordered us to go and see him. We urged him to find out from the head of the Anjuman-e-Himayat-e-Islam (the patron body of Islamia College) if we could invite Mr Jinnah to the college. To our great shock, we were told that the president of the Anjuman had ordered us to be rusticated from the college.
That created a stir as we were not allowed to enter the college. We gained the sympathy of many students. Among them was Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi. He was a man of fiery temperament. The students went on strike, which lasted for three days. After about two weeks the principal summoned us and told us that we had been reinstated. In those days the Muslim League was not a major player in Punjab politics. Iqbal was the president and the secretary was Khan Ghulam Rasul Khan who lived on Temple Road. One day, we were informed that Khan sahib wanted us to see him. When we met him he asked us if we had some relatives in the Muslim League. We told him that we did not and that we were just poor students who were devotees of Allama Iqbal. Upon hearing that he said, “You have been invited by Barrister Jinnah personally to attend the Lucknow session of the Muslim League (held in 1937 after the provincial elections in which the Muslim League had fared very badly). Here are two third-class railway tickets for you.”
In Lucknow we met Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan who said to us, “So, you are the two naughty boys from Lahore. You have been nominated as members of the executive committee, which shall prepare the future line of action of Muslim politics in India.” All this was beyond our wildest expectations. Besides Jinnah and Liaquat, other members of the committee who I remember included Prime Minister of Punjab Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, Abdullah Haroon from Sindh, Haji Sattar Seth from Madras, Chowdhury Fazlul Haq from Bengal, Nawab Ismail Khan, Begum Mohammad Ali, and Maulana Hasrat Mohani from UP and CP, and from Punjab Maulana Zafar Ali Khan as well. Barrister Jinnah said to Hasrat Mohani, “Maulana, you once introduced a resolution in the Congress working committee demanding the freedom of India from British rule. Now, you must introduce a resolution for the freedom of Mussalmans.”
Now, while the deliberations were going on, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan interrupted us and said a pause was needed so that he and others could offer the Isha prayers. Jinnah reacted with visible irritation and said, “Look Maulana, we are discussing the freedom of the Mussalmans and you are concerned only with prayers. You can go out and perform them but we shall continue our meeting.” During that historic session on one public occasion Mian Ferozdin Kaada from Lahore’s walled city raised the slogan, ‘Shehanshah-e-Hindustan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’. Jinnah responded, “I am not shehanshah of Hindustan; I am only a servant of the Mussalmans of India.” The title Quaid-i-Azam, however, came to be associated with him thereafter. Its inventor was Mian Ferozdin Kaada of Lahore.”
The next time I saw Quaid-i-Azam was when he came to attend the historic March 1940 session of the Muslim League. Just before his arrival, the Khaksars had clashed with the police (on March 19). One of them struck an Anglo-Indian police officer, Mr Beatty, with his spade and killed him. In retaliation, the police opened fire and many Khaksars were killed and injured. Jinnah arrived in Lahore on March 21. A large crowd had gathered at the Lahore railway station to welcome him. When his train arrived from Bombay it was decided to escort him out of the station through a side exit and thus avoid the crowd and save time. He was escorted by Pathan bodyguards. He said, ‘I must go and see the misguided Khaksars who are in hospital.’ We took him to Islamia College, Railway Road, where he changed his clothes. Then he went to Mayo Hospital where the injured Khaksars were being nursed. He went to each one of them, expressed his sympathy and gave them an envelope with money in it. The Pathans were carrying bags full of such envelopes from which Jinnah would take out the envelopes and hand them to the injured Khaksars. He then left for Mamdot Villa where he was staying.
Now it so happened that after the clash with the Khaksars, the situation in Lahore became volatile and Punjab Premier Sir Sikander imposed Section 144, which restricted the assembly of people. He wanted to postpone the meeting. When Jinnah heard that, he said, ‘The word postponement does not exist in my dictionary.’ The next day, Quaid-i-Azam was driven in regal style in an open buggy to Minto Park. My cousin, Syed Khalid Hussain, filmed the journey with his movie camera. Had it not been for him, this historic event would not have been preserved in live images. We donated the film to the Pakistan government. Every year, on March 23, it is shown on television. The public meeting was attended by thousands of people. I remember Mian Bashir Ahmed reciting a poem welcoming Jinnah sahib to Lahore. Thereafter, other speakers spoke. On March 23, Sher-e-Bengal Chowdury Afzal Haq moved the Lahore Resolution in which the demand for the creation of Pakistan was made. It was truly a manifestation of Muslim power and Jinnah was at his very best when he spoke. I asked our servant, Sharifa, who was also there if he understood what Jinnah had said. He replied, ‘Jo keh rahe ney such keh rehe nai’ (Whatever he is saying is the truth).
In 1940, I passed the MA examination in Economics while Hameed Nizami did so in English from FC College. I took the ICS examination, which I passed. However, at that time, World War II was raging. People from my batch were sent to the army instead of the civil service. Hameed Nizami launched Nawa-e-Waqt, which became the main Urdu-language newspaper of Lahore, representing the Muslim League’s point of view. I left India for the Middle East where I served in different places — Baghdad, Jordan and Cairo — and came back only after the war in 1946. I do not remember the exact date of my return but it was after Jinnah had given his call for ‘Direct Action’ in August 1946.
Upon my return, I was posted in Bareilly. I was a captain at that time. One day, while riding my bicycle, I saw a class-fellow of mine from Lahore, Kapil Dev, coming in a jeep from the other direction. When he saw me he called out my name and we met with great warmth. He told me that, in the evening, some officers were going to meet and that I should come along with him.
So, I went to the party that evening. It was a gathering of mostly English officers but some locals were present as well. Lieutenant Colonel Azam Khan (later General Azam Khan) was the chief guest. He made a remark, which greatly agitated me. He said, ‘Mr Jinnah is a mad man. He wants to divide India and divide this beautiful Indian army. How is that possible?’ I retorted, ‘Sir, you have no right to speak like this about Mr Jinnah who is a great leader of the Muslims. We have great respect for him. I have great respect for Mahatma Gandhi too but Jinnah is our leader. He will get Pakistan and you too would benefit from it.’ When I said this, the officers present started clapping.”
I then asked him what Iqbal and Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan were. He replied, “Both Iqbal and Jinnah wanted to create a welfare state in which there would be no place for religious extremism. Their vision of Pakistan did not exclude non-Muslims. That vision of Pakistan died with the death of Quaid-e-Azam. Corruption took over and now we are in a very sorry state of affairs.” I went on to ask how relations between Muslims and Hindus were in pre-partition days, to which he answered, “There was no ta’assub (prejudice). Of course, at the railway stations, two different stalls offering ‘Muslim pani’ (Muslim water) and ‘Hindu pani’ (Hindu water) underscored the wall between the two communities, but among educated people such prejudices had almost vanished. As I told you, when my Hindu class-fellow from Lahore, Kapil Dev, and I met in Bareilly we were overjoyed by that chance meeting and embraced each other. As my final question, I asked him what his opinion was about Gandhi. “Gandhiji was a great man, a great leader, a dervaish-khaslat human being (a man with the qualities of a sage).”