Mian Iftikharuddin: The stranger in the house

Published: May 15, 2016
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Despite having long standing affiliations with Congress, he voted for the idea of Pakistan in Congress Committee meeting. PHOTO: THE FRIDAY TIMES

On March 29, 1953, Mian Iftikharuddin said that it was regretful that the Army had stepped in to control the anti-Ahmadi riots, that the government had “shown a way to coup d’ etat” and hoped that “the Army will (sic) be relieved of its extramarital functions”

statement made by a person with clear vision of a democratic future for his country, which appeared on the map of this world with name of Pakistan.

One man who stood out more than the others in his quest to transform the newly formed state into a modern, democratic and secular society was Mian Iftikharuddin. He was a left-wing Oxford graduate, the blue-eyed boy of Jawaharlal Nehru, also a deeply trusted confidant of the founder of this nation. Furthermore, he was an advocate of an independent foreign policy and civil liberties, for which he struggled throughout his life. He was born in the famous Arian Mian family of Baghbanpura Lahore, who despite having long standing affiliations with Congress, voted for the idea of Pakistan in the Congress Committee meeting. He left Congress in 1945 and joined the Muslim League on the request of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He was one of the seven managing directors to set up Progressive Papers Limited in 1946 and published a newspaper called The Pakistan Times. It was established in contrast to the newspapers like Dawn, which published frequently right-wing views. Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Iftikharuddin had an intimate relationship at the time, solely due to their secular and liberal views.

Faiz became the editor of The Pakistan Times. Founded under Jinnah’s patronage, The Pakistan Times was received enthusiastically and played a great role in motivating League workers in urban Punjab during the Civil Disobedience MovementThe Pakistan Times also faced great hardships after the coup d’état launched by President Ayub Khan, that led to military rule in 1958 and was constantly criticised by ulemas and right-wing extremists.

Iftikharuddin joined the Punjab cabinet in September 1947, as Minister for Rehabilitations of Refugees. After taking charge of the office, he quoted on the quorum several times that the successful rehabilitation of refugees is possible through the land reforms. He proposed many projects on the rehabilitation of refugees through land reforms, but dominance of large landowners could not result in any considerable law making. He was a staunch opponent of feudalismarmy intervention in the democratic process and curbing of minorities rights. Moreover, he was denounced as the communist by Pirzada Abdus Sattar Abdur Rahman on the floor of the constituent assembly.

Moreover, he was the only Muslim member in the house who opposed the objectives resolution as he felt that the resolution was vague. He further suggested that such a resolution should be the decision of the 70 million people of Pakistan. This resolution was also disapproved by minorities’ leaders Prem Hari, Chandra Mandal and Kumar Dutta. However, he chose to vote in favour of the resolution, because he was assured that minorities will have all the rights and privileges in an Islamic state.

Unfortunately, the way minorities have been treated in the past and how they continue to be treated is no secret. Having said that, Mian Iftikharuddin was expelled from the Muslim League in 1951 for openly criticising their policies on every forum. Therefore, for whatever its worth, Pakistan should take considerable pride in his legacy. But that would be a very different Pakistan.

Not the one that conspires with religious fanatics for her illicit aspirations apparently for the greater good, notably in the context of India and Afghanistan.

Certainly not the one where the prime minister’s statements about making Pakistan a “liberal, democratic” nation are unwelcomed by self-appointed religious custodians of Islam.

Also not where minorities are suffering for not being Muslim.

Since he was an advocate of an independent foreign policy, free from demented generals and extrication from The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), the Baghdad pact and other defense treaties, it was expected from his opponents to label him as a stranger in the house.

He died in June, 1962 and after his demise, the progeny of the Mian family never entered politics again. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Iftikharuddin’s friend and ally, paid a tribute to him through his poetry:

“Jo rukey tu koh-e-garan thay hum, jo chalay tu jaan say guzar gaye,
Raah-e-yaar hum ne qadam qadam, tujhay yaadgaar banaa diya.’’

(I was mountain when I stopped and when I moved I crossed my being,
O beloved path, I have, step by step turned you into a memorial)

Irfan Haider

Irfan Haider

The author has graduated as an engineer from UET Lahore. He is fond of reading and writing. He tweets as @IrFanHa115 (twitter.com/IrFanHa115)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Feroz

    This gentleman from his very dress and Topi reveals he was a Freedom fighter and Congress party man. An absolute misfit in the Muslim League for sure.Recommend

  • Aam Aadmi

    @Feroz,so you identify people from their dress not from their character,action,words and deeds!Next you should try to find to find your political leader from some model showing his attire on the cat walk.
    An important fact,after Miam Iftikhar uddin’s passing away his mantle in politics was carried on by his son Mian Arif Iftikhar from the platform of NAP and then PPP,him having close friend ship with Bhutto.Also,Mian Iftikhar besides Pakistan Times also owned and published Urdu newspaper Imroz and Urdu magazine Laila ul Nihar besides few others.All these publications were big names of their own during 50s and early 60s before being forcefully closed down by the then Military Authrities. Recommend

  • Arooj naveed

    Excellence has always been achieved by those who dare to believe that something in them is superior than the circumstances, for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others..
    great work thumbs up :) i hope you will be writing more in future..Recommend

  • Arooj naveed

    Excellence has always been achieved by those who dare to believe that something in them is superior than the circumstances, for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances freedom of others, great piece of writing thumbs up :)Recommend

  • Tariq Rafique

    How interesting to find something about Arif on the web. I knew him as a student at Cambridge University when he was pre-eminently the best speaker and would have become President of the Union except that by a shabby manoevre he lost to Norman-Butler (nephew of Rab Butler Minister). What a marvellous talent lost to the nation.Recommend