Saturday, 8 December 2012

QOTD: President Mirza & the unbendable man

taken from the DAWN september 28 2005 


 One evening, keeping to schedule, when I went to his residence, I found him sitting in a garden chair in the lawn without his walking shoes, which he always wore during walks. He said: “I was waiting for you, but no walk this evening.” Then he asked me: “Have you met Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan?” I said I hadn’t. Sardar Rashid said: “I have invited him to have a meal with me tonight. It would be a small get-together. Mian Sahib (Mian Jaffar Shah) is also coming to join us”. After a few minutes Mian Jaffar Shah joined us. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan arrived at about 8pm and presently all moved to the dining room. The Khan started a conversation about Dr Khan Sahib’s murder trial. He was not satisfied with the conduct of the trial and spoke bitterly against the trial magistrate who, he said, was biased in favour of the defence. Mian Jafar Shah agreed with the Khan. The Khan said the central government should transfer the trial to Peshawar. After dinner, all of us moved to the sitting room. While tea was being served, Sardar Rashid’s servant rushed into the room and announced the arrival of the president. 

Sardar Sahib and Mian Jaffar Shah went out to receive Iskander Mirza. They talked for a few minutes in the lawn. Then Iskander Mirza, followed by Sardar Rashid and Mian Jaffar Shah, entered the room. The president went straight to the Khan. They embraced each other and exchanged greetings in Pushto. Then he sat next to the Khan and started a conversation in Pushto in which Dr Khan Sahib’s murder, One Unit and the Village Aid programme cropped up intermittently. After a few minutes, the president stood up to leave, again embraced the Khan and said: “Kindly consider my request dispassionately”. The Khan left in Sardar Rashid’s car. Mian Jaffar Shah dropped me in his car at my residence in Intelligence School. On the way, he gave me the gist of the president’s conversation with the Khan. The president had requested the Khan to join the cabinet and accept the portfolio of village aid. The Khan replied that the president should break up One Unit first and then “I shall be at your service”. The president replied it was not within his powers to dismantle One Unit. He asked the Khan to convert a two-thirds majority in the assembly to his point-of-view and bring a resolution to amend the Constitution. The Khan blamed the president for the establishment of One Unit and for having brought Dr Khan Sahib along against his advice. The Khan had warned Iskander Mirza that the leaders in Punjab would never accept Dr Khan Sahib and they would intrigue against him and against the president. The president assured the Khan that the One Unit plan was made by governor-general Ghulam Mohammad and Chaudhri Mohammed Ali. Ayub Khan and Suhrawardy had joined them. The president told the Khan that “we should face reality and work accordingly. You have made great sacrifices and undergone sufferings for the cause of your people. You can serve not only them but the poor people of other provinces who want employment, medical facilities, education, justice and good government. Village Aid offers great opportunities to serve the people.” 

 I asked Mian Jaffar Shah for his assessment. He replied that he had worked with Ghaffar Khan for a number of years. He was unbendable and would not compromise on his principles, right or wrong.

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