Liaquat Ali Khan, (born Oct. 1, 1895, Karnal, India—died Oct. 16, 1951, Rawalpindi, Pak.), first prime minister of Pakistan (1947–51). Born the son of a landowner, Liaquat was educated at Aligarh, Allahabad, and Exeter College, Oxford. A barrister by profession, like his leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, he entered politics in 1923, being elected first to the provincial legislature of the United Provinces and then to the central legislative assembly. He joined the Muslim League and soon became closely associated with Jinnah. By degrees he won first the respect and then the admiration of the Muslim community for his share in the struggle for Pakistan; when independence was won in 1947 and Jinnah became the first governor-general, Liaquat was the obvious choice as prime minister. In this post his achievements were outstanding. If Jinnah founded Pakistan, Liaquat established it, laying down the main lines of policy, domestic and foreign, that afterward guided the country. After Jinnah’s death, Liaquat was acclaimed as qaid-i-millet (“leader of the country”). Liaquat was assassinated in Rawalpindi in 1951 by a Muslim fanatic who resented his steady refusal to contemplate war with India.
Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, the second son of Nawab Rustam Ali Khan, was born on October 1, 1896, in a Madal Pathan (Nausherwan) family. He graduated in 1918 from M. A. O. College, Aligarh. After his graduation, he was offered a job in the Indian Civil Services, but he rejected the offer on the plea that he wanted to serve his nation. He married his cousin, Jehangira Begum in 1918. After his marriage, he went to London for higher education. In 1921, he obtained a degree in Law from Oxford and was called to Bar at Inner Temple in 1922.
On his return from England in 1923, Liaquat Ali Khan decided to enter politics with the objective of liberating his homeland from the foreign yoke. Right from the very beginning, he was determined to eradicate the injustices and ill treatment meted out to the Indian Muslims by the British. In his early life, Liaquat Ali, like most of the Muslim leaders of his time, believed in Indian Nationalism. But his views gradually changed. The Congress leaders invited him to join their party, but he refused and joined the Muslim League in 1923. Under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam, the Muslim League held its annual session in May 1924 in Lahore. The aim of this session was to revive the League. Liaquat Ali Khan attended this conference along many other young Muslims.
Liaquat Ali started his parliamentary career from the U. P. Legislative Assembly in 1926 as an independent candidate. Later he formed his own party, The Democratic Party, within the Legislative Assembly and was elected as its leader. He remained the member of the U. P. Legislative Council till 1940 when he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly.
In his parliamentary career, Liaquat Ali Khan established his reputation as an eloquent, principled and honest spokesman who never compromised on his principles even in the face of severe odds. He used his influence and good offices for the liquidation of communal tension and bitterness. He took active part in legislative affairs. He was one of the members of the Muslim League delegation that attended the National Convention held at Calcutta to discuss the Nehru Report in December 1928.
Liaquat Ali’s second marriage took place in 1933. His wife Begum Ra’ana was a distinguished economist and an educationist who stood by her husband during the ups and downs of his political career. She proved to be a valuable asset to his political career as well as his private life. Quaid-i-Azam in those days was in England in self-exile. The newly wed couple had a number of meetings with the Quaid and convinced him to come back to India to take up the leadership of the Muslims of the region.
When Quaid-i-Azam returned to India, he started reorganizing the Muslim League. Liaquat was elected as the Honorary Sectary of the party on April 26, 1936. He held the office till the establishment of Pakistan in 1947. In 1940, he was made the deputy leader of the Muslim League Parliamentary party. Quaid-i-Azam was not able to take active part in the proceedings of the Assembly on account of his heavy political work; thus the whole burden of protecting Muslim interests in the Assembly fell on Liaquat Ali’s shoulders. Liaquat Ali was also the member of Muslim Masses Civil Defense Committee, which was formed to keep the Muslims safe from Congress activities and to strengthen the League’s mission.
Liaquat Ali Khan won the Central Legislature election in 1945-46 from the Meerut Constituency in U. P. He was also elected Chairman of the League’s Central Parliamentary Board. He assisted Quaid-i-Azam in his negotiations with the members of the Cabinet Mission and the leaders of the Congress during the final phases of the Freedom Movement. When the Government asked the Muslim League to send their nominees for representation in the interim government, Liaquat was asked to lead the League group in the cabinet. He was given the portfolio of finance, which he handled brilliantly. He influenced the working of all the departments of the Government and presented a poor man’s budget. His policies as Finance Minister helped in convincing the Congress to accept the Muslim demand of a separate homeland.
After independence, Quaid-i-Azam and Muslim League appointed Liaquat to be the head of the Pakistan Government. Being the first Prime Minister of the country, He had to deal with a number of difficulties facing Pakistan in its early days. Liaquat Ali Khan helped Quaid-i-Azam in solving the riot and refugee problem and setting up an effective administrative system for the country. After the death of Quaid-i-Azam, Liaquat tried to fill the vacuum created by the departure of the Father of the Nation. Under his premiership, Pakistan took its first steps in the field of constitution making, as well as foreign policy. He presented the Objectives Resolution in the Legislative Assembly. The house passed this on March 12, 1949. Under his leadership a team also drafted the first report of the Basic Principle Committee. His efforts in signing the Liaquat-Nehru pact pertaining to the minority issue in 1950 reduced tensions between India and Pakistan. In May 1951, he visited the United States and set the course of Pakistan’s foreign policy towards closer ties with the West.
On October 16, 1951, Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated. He had been scheduled to make an important announcement in a public meeting at Municipal Park, Rawalpindi. The security forces immediately shot the assassin, who was later identified as Saad Akbar. Killing the assassin erased all clues to the identity of the real culprit behind the murder. Liaquat Ali Khan was officially given the title of Shaheed-i-Millat, but the question of who was behind his murder is yet to be answered.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003