LIAQAT ALI KHAN (1896-1951)

LIAQAT ALI KHAN (1896-1951) Liaqat Ali Khan was born in Karmal, Punjab, and was educated at Aligarth, Allahabad, and Oxford Universities He took the bar examinations in 1922 and joined the All-India Muslim League soon after returning to India He was a member of the United Provinces’ Legislative council from 1926 to 1940, secretary of the All-India Muslim League from 1936 to 1947, and chairman of the Muslim League Central Parliamentary Board in 1945 He joined Muhammad Ali Jinnah in all of the important discussions that were held by the British to resolve India’s constitutional dilemma These included the Simla Tripartite Conferences held in 1945 and 1946In October 1946, Liaqat led the Muslim League group into the “interim government” formed by the British under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of the Indian National Congress and was given the portfolio of finance On 14 August 1947, Pakistan became a reality, and Liaqat Ali Khan was sworn in as the country’s first prime minister But even then, he remained in Jinnah’s shadow As governor-general, Jinnah wielded more power than had been given to him under the Government of India Act of 1935 and the India Independence Act of 1947-two documents that together served as the new country’s constitution It was only after Jinnah’s death on 11 September 1948 that Liaqat emerged as the principal leader of Pakistan and the de facto head of the Pakistan government

He invited Khawaja Nazimuddin to succeed Jinnah as governor-general and Maulvi Tamizuddin, another politician from Bengal, to become president of the first Constituent Assembly, a job also held by Jinnah Liaqat devoted considerable energy to foreign affairs He concluded the first war in Kashmir by signing a cease-fire agreement with Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, in January 1949 but failed to get India to follow up on its terms His effort to maintain neutrality in the US-Soviet conflict, while claiming to be India’s equal in the international arena, resulted in both superpowers giving Pakistan the cold shoulder Liaqat moved out of this difficult situation by tilting toward the United States In 1950, he visited Washington and met with President Harry S TrumanBy the time of his death on 16 October 1951, Liaqat had begun to lose ground in domestic politics Punjab and Bengal were restive under the control of the Muslim League, and several factions in Sindh were engaged in endless infighting within the Muslim League

It was only in the Northwest Frontier Province that Abdul Qayyum Khan, the Muslim League chief minister, had succeeded in cultivating support for himself and his party Liaqat’s approach to these developments was to bypass the provincial political bosses and go directly to the people In 1950 and 1951, he began to build a constituency for himself by traveling all over the country, and using his great oratorical skills to address large audiences It was while he was addressing a mammoth public meeting in Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh that he was assassinated His assailant, Said Akbar, was killed by the police soon after he had fired the fatal shot In spite of an official inquiry into the assassination, the motives for Liaqat’s murder remain unclear Several historians suspect that the prime minister was killed on the orders of a group of politicians from Punjab who deeply resented the fact that they had been effectively sidelined since the founding of the state of Pakistan

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