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How Fatima Jinnah died — an unsolved criminal case

Fatima Jinnah was not only Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s sister, but his guardian and political companion too. After Jinnah died, she was looked upon by people as a natural successor to her brother. But, there were forces against that idea, and they ensured that her voice was suppressed through various means, even literally, as explained below.

The government in those days grew obsessed with keeping Fatima Jinnah from expressing her views with freedom. Radio Pakistan once ceased broadcasting while Ms Jinnah made her speech on Quaid-e-Azam’s death anniversary. Qudratullah Shahab writes on page 432 of his book Shahabnama (1986):

After Quaid-e-Azam’s demise, rulers of the time did not give the deserved respect and status to Miss Fatima Jinnah. Two death anniversaries of the Quaid had passed, but Fatima Jinnah would not address the nation only because the administration would ask for her speech to be reviewed before broadcasting. This she never accepted. The rulers were afraid she would criticise the government or say things which shouldn’t be said.

Finally, in 1951, when the administration agreed to her demand, she went on air. It was Mr. Jinnah’s third death anniversary. During the speech, at one point, the transmission was stopped for some time. It then resumed after a while. It was later known that the parts of her speech in which she was criticising the government were censored and she did not get to know this during her speech.

There was a huge hue and cry over the matter. Newspapers the next day were full of condemnations and criticism. Although the Radio Pakistan administration kept insisting that the pauses in the transmission were due to technical reasons – specifically power outages – no one believed them. Everyone thought Miss Jinnah was deliberately censored from saying the things she intended to bring up.

The speech would not have damaged the government’s image as much as this act of cowardice did.

On October 7, 1958, martial law was imposed in Pakistan. Commander-in-Chief and self-proclaimed Field Marshal Ayub Khan was appointed the Chief Martial Law Administrator. The premier Mr Iskandar Mirza had done all this in order to maintain his hegemony on power. However, on the 24th of the same month, Ayub Khan robbed Iskandar Mirza of all his powers and set up a military government in the country.

Some of Ayub’s political advisors suggested to him that he should become the President of the country. And so, the ruling Convention Muslim League nominated him as a candidate. Opposition parties nominated Miss Fatima Jinnah to contest presidential elections against Ayub Khan. At first, she was reluctant, but she soon gave in to the idea.

The elections were held in January 1965. The opposition lobby believed that Miss Jinnah would sweep the elections. The results, according to the Election Commission, were on the contrary. Ayub had won. Pakistan was defeated.

It was perhaps as a result of the acrimony developed during the election times, that the establishment made serious efforts to oppose Ms Jinnah’s will – in which she asked to be buried next to her brother. There were serious efforts to bury her instead in the Mewashah Graveyard of Karachi.

I am producing here a rough translation of an excerpt from the book Maadar-e-Millat Fatima Jinnah (2000), by Agha Ashraf (page 184):

Miss Fatima Jinnah had expressed it while she was alive that after her death she be buried next to her brother. Now the problem was where to bury her, since according to Mr Abul Hassan Isfahani sahib, the government did not want bury her next to Mr Jinnah (M. A. H Isfahani’s interview, January 14, 1976). The government had to face tough opposition over the idea. Commissioner, Karachi was intimated that if Fatima Jinnah was not laid to rest next to the Quaid-e-Azam there will be unrest.

Because of the risk of unrest, it was decided that the authorities would bury her at Jinnah’s mausoleum. However, the unrest could not be avoided. Ashraf further writes:

Hence, Commissioner, Karachi had discussions about the matter with the family members and other people close to the founder of Pakistan and his sister Late Miss Fatima Jinnah. Afterwards, he informed the central authorities. Later in the night, the government made the decision. The Commissioner then informed Isfahani about it.

The Maadar-e-Millat was to be buried 120 feet on the left to the Quaid-e-Azam’s grave. It was to be a 6 foot deep, 3 feet wide grave. The surface was rocky, and so the gravediggers had to work for 12 hours straight to get the job done. Led by 60-year-old Abdul Ghani, a team of 20 gravediggers was working on Fatima Jinnah’s grave. Ghani had previously dug graves for Quaid-e-Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar.

The first funeral prayers for Late Miss Jinnah were offered at her residence at 08:30am. It was led by Maulana Ibn-e-Hassan Charjooi. Later, the funeral procession began from the residence. Throngs of people could be seen outside Maadar-e-Millat’s house at that time. The procession carried on with everyone chanting, ‘long live the mother of the nation’.

President’s representative Mr Shams-ul-Zuha, Minister for Food and Agriculture, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Navy, Admiral M. Hassan, military secretaries of both the provinces (East and West Pakistan), Commissioner Karachi, DIG Karachi, members of the national and provincial assemblies, and leaders from all political parties were in the procession.

Miss Jinnah’s body was placed in an open microvan. It was surrounded by four men of the National Guards from the Muslim League. There was a religious scholar, too, who kept reciting verses of the Quran. A little while later, the National Guard spread a national flag over Ms Jinnah’s dead body, to which, the crowd started chanting ‘long live Pakistan’ and ‘long live the mother of the nation’.

The number of people kept increasing. On the way, women were showering rose petals from rooftops. At 10am, the procession reached Polo Ground. The Municipal Corporation had arranged for funeral prayers to be held here. There were already people in the thousands there. The funeral prayers were led by Muhammad Shafi. Miss Jinnah’s dead body, previously removed from the vehicle, was then placed back, and the procession carried on. The number of people was now in hundreds of thousands.

There were at least 400,000 people in the crowd by the time the procession crossed the Elphinstone Street [now Zebunnisa Street]. Now the police were having trouble managing the procession.

It was a sea of heads moving towards the Jinnah mausoleum. The crowd included women and children, too.

It was noon. The number of people now had increased to more than 600,000. The government had announced a public holiday, so more and more people were joining the procession in Karachi. Unrest in such a huge crowd seemed inevitable.

Suddenly, some people tried to come closer to the dead body. The police tried its best to handle the situation peacefully. However, there was a little ruckus. Soon after, baton charge began, followed by tear gas shelling and with people hurling stones at the police. A man died, while hundreds were injured in the episode. By 12:55pm, the burial had ended.

This was the tale of how Ms Jinnah was buried. The story of her death, however, was also a strange one for the country. Many believe she was actually murdered.

In January 1972, a man named Ghulam Sarwar petitioned a court regarding the matter. A news story on the the application said that Additional City Magistrate Mumtaz Muhammad Baig had set January 17 as hearing date of an application by Ghulam Sarwar under section 176 of the Criminal Procedures.

According to the news report, Ghulam Sarwar Malik had written in his application that he was a respectable citizen of Pakistan and had utmost respect for Ms Fatima Jinnah. She was a great leader and an asset for the nation. She dedicated her life to democracy and upholding the law. In 1964, when she contested elections against Ayub Khan, she became a beacon of hope for the people of the country. She was a hurdle in the way of the group that wanted to remain in power. This particular group wanted to get rid of her by all means.

On July 7, 1967, Miss Fatima Jinnah had attended a wedding ceremony and everyone witnessed that she was in sound health.

On July 9, 1967, it was suddenly announced that she had passed away. During her funeral, no common man was allowed to go near her dead body. No one was allowed to see her face for the last time before she was buried. Those who tried to do so, were baton-charged and dealt with tear gas.

There were rumors that the mother of the nation had visible marks of wounds on her body.

Malik Ghulam Sarwar said further that he had concerns that Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was murdered. Later, Hassan A. Shaikh and other respected individuals, too, expressed similar concerns. The matter has also been highlighted in newspapers. Some even wrote editorials on it.

On August 2, 1971, a local Urdu newspaper published a news report which claimed that Miss Fatima Jinnah had been murdered. The report included interviews of the people who had given her the ghusl – ritualistic bath given to the dead before burial, as per Islamic tradition. In case of state personalities, people are hired to do the job.

The news item quotes one of these hired men – Hidayat Ali aka Kallu Ghusl – as saying that the corpse of Miss Fatima Jinnah had visible wounds on it, and there was an opening in her stomach which oozed blood and other fluids. Her bloodstained clothes were also with him as evidence. However, he said, no one from the administration paid any attention to his requests of inquiry, nor was the matter ever made public. Other companions of Kallu Ghussaal, too, confirmed the reports.

Ghulam Sarwar Malik had attached copies of the news reports with his application. He requested the court to initiate an inquiry into the matter. The court appointed Akhtar Ali Mehmood as the prosecution in the case.

Fatima Jinnah was one of the most respected women in history. For Pakistan, she was the mother of the nation. The unrest during her funeral is a question to which answers are yet to be found. Since this is a sensitive subject, I have tried my best to provide only the information which I can reference through research.

I am not blaming anyone through this blog. Nor do I claim that she was murdered or that an individual or a group tried to cash in on the opportunity of unrest during her funeral. I have merely stated what has been recorded by various sources of history.

The objective of stating these facts is educating the youth of our nation. They need to know everything that this country has gone through in the past. It must be mentioned here that to this day, there has never been an inquiry into the matter.

Disclaimer: The news story of Fatima Jinnah’s death cites July 9 as her death date, whereas the date given underneath the logo is July 11. The discrepancy might be due to the fact that publishers at that time had to adjust for the delay in transporting newspaper issues to readers in different cities. Therefore, the date on the individual story should be considered the correct one.


Correction: An earlier version of this blog incorrectly implied that Ms Fatima Jinnah passed away in 1964. The error is regretted.

Translated by Ayaz Laghari from the original in Urdu here.

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