The Srinagar boy, picked up by Jinnah as his private secretary and who was then to see history in the making. He was then to become the President of Azad Kashmir. He died while travelling in a local bus.
This Srinagar boy made the creation of Pakistan possible. The Quaid is once believed to have said that Pakistan was made by him, his private secretary and his typewriter. Today he is conveniently forgotten.
I have not been able to obtain much information about K H Khurshid’s personal life, as and when I am able to do so, I shall publish it on this blog.
All about K.H. Khurshid, Jinnah’s private secretary.
Greater Kashmir, 10th and 11th March, 2006
A man of mettle – I & II
DR. MISFAR HASSAN
“The least important word in any language is I”. Thus spoke K. H. Khurshid, for years private secretary and confidant to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Khurshid went on to become the first elected president of Azad Kashmir, led a turbulent political life but zealously guarded many of its secrets. His active role in Azad Kashmir’s politics carried the unmistakable imprint of the Quaid’s teachings. He fought his adversaries with dignity – and with logic. He saw the insides of prisons too for his uncompromising stance on Kashmir. With his sudden accidental death on the morning of 1988, a chapter of the Pakistan movement ended – and with it the possibility of his writing his memoirs of “Jinnah Sahib”, as Khurshid called him.
His relationship with the Quaid-e-Azam dated back to his adolescence in 1944 and endured beyond the latter’s death, with Fatima Jinnah taking the responsibility of educating him in the manner her brother would have approved of. Some people believe that the reason we did not witness Khurshid in the media, narrating accounts of Jinnah’s life and that of Fatima Jinnah, whom he knew personally, had to do with the fact that the military and civil bureaucracy did not want the people of Pakistan know the true facts about the creation of the country.
K. H. Khurshid was born in l924 in Srinagar, in an environment where culture and education were valued above all else. His father was as a teacher at boys school and the significance of knowledge was the stuff of everyday life. He entered the college at a time of great political ferment and was immediately attracted to the All India Muslim League. With the help of friends, Khurshid launched a campaign to increase political awareness amongst his peers. Soon he was able to establish the Kashmir Muslim Student’s Federation, which attracted a large number of young people. In 1942, he and Ghulam Rasool were chosen to go and see the Quaid in Jalandhar. “‘Here you are’, said the Quaid and handed me the flag of the party”, Khurshid records in his diary.
When the Quaid and Fatima Jinnah came to Kashmir on their third visit, Khurshid saw them as the representative of Orient Press of India. At 19, he took his Bachelors examination from Amar Singh College, Srinagar, in Mathametics and Economics. Sensing that Mr Lobo, Mr Jinah’s private secretary, was having trouble with the translations of Mr Jinnah’s habitually English speeches into Urdu, Khurshid offered to help. The Quaid appreciated the young man’s dedication and gave him his first assignment.
During Mr Jinnah’s stay in Srinagar, Khurshid interacted regularly with the Quaid with the result that the latter made a great and deep impression upon him. Khurshid learnt to be brutally frank from his mentor. He never minced his words. “When I gave him news of the death of Bahadar Yar Jang, he said that he would not believe it until he had verified it himself. I insisted ‘Mr Jinnah, I heard it on All India Radio’. And he said, ‘Yes, they once aired such news about me too’”, Khurshid records in his diary.
Next, the Quaid asked Khurshid to accompany him on a visit to Bombay. Khurshid’s father was reluctant to let his son go. The young man was showed evidence of a promising career in academics. His father preferred that he take the safe and well-trodden path of academia with all its certainties. He really did not relish a life in politics for his son. “Don’t worry. I will take care of his future”, the Quaid is reported to have told Khurshid’s anxious father. This was a commitment, which was honoured by Mr Jinnah and after him by his sister who sent Khurshid to Lincoln’s Inn to study for the Bar.
Bombay was a hectic and demanding life for Jinnah’s young private secretary. Khurshid proved to be dependable. He had the rare opportunity of meeting some of India’s leading lights at the time. Despite his inexperience and youth, he was extremely discreet and never said a word out of place. He learned from Jinnah not to comment on other people’s lives.
The Quaid knew that Khurshid had a good understanding of the political situation in Kashmir. That is why he sent him to meet Sheikh Abdullah. But fate had something else in store for him. He was taken prisoner by the then Kashmir government. This upset Mr Jinnah tremendously. The Quaid’s biographer N. A. Hussain talks about Mr Jinnah and Miss Fatima Jinnah worrying about a certain Khurshid one evening. “It was only later that I learnt which Khurshid they were talking of”, he recalls in his book My Leader. “My work is suffering greatly and I want Khurshid back.” Thus wrote Jinnah in a letter to Pandit Nehru, asking for Khurshid’s release from prison.
Jinnah’s wish remained unfulfilled and, after his death, his sister, Fatima, campaigned for Khurshid’s release. The l948 Kashmir war prolonged his period in what was solitary confinement. He was released after thirteen months imprisonment in exchange for an Indian general, Ghansara Singh. Grieved by the death of his leader, Khurshid quit politics straight away. Thereafter we see him in a different but equally important role: he founded a daily newspaper The Guardian with the help of his friend Aziz Baig. This newspaper couldn’t survive for long and had to be closed down. Following Jinnah’s death, Fatima Jinnah took on the role of mentor for Khurshid. She made him stay with her at the Flagstaff House in Karachi, a practice that continued after his marriage. She financed his education in England. Later, Khurshid was the mastermind behind her election strategy against Ayub Khan.
Khurshid’s political career in Azad Kashmir, first as its president and later as an opposition leader, was an important chapter in his life and is highly regarded. Amongst others, at a time when the Kashmiri people were floundering, having had their will flouted by the Indian State, Khurshid gave voice to Kashmir’s plight and charted a course for the future. He was preaching to the converted for the alienation of ordinary Kashmiris with the Indian state was firm. “I was surprised to find that even ordinary womenfolk were well versed on issues confronting occupied Kashmir” Khurshid wrote in his diaries.
Khurshid was made president of Azad Kashmir in the early sixties by President Ayub Khan. He accepted the post at Miss Jinnah’s urging. A year later he became the first elected president of Azad Kashmir. He spent his time in office working just as the Quaid would have done: start at 8 a.m. and work till the last file had been seen. It was he who provided Pakistan’s part of the Kashmir with rich networks of roads. He brought an end to the Jagirdari system in Azad Kashmir and most importantly gave the right of vote to the people and brought the politicians to the doorsteps of the people. No wonder the Kashmiris called him Khurshid-e-Millat.
His life was devoted for securing the rights of the people, be it Kashmir or Pakistan. He always challenged the military rulers of Pakistan who have made blunders during their unlawful rule over the country. He would never accept any unlawful act by the political rulers in AJK. His life was fully devoted to the cause of freedom of the people of Jammu Kashmir.
The Kashmir issue went into background during the seventies owing to the Simla accord. It he who kept on raising his concerns about the issue and he would always say that one day the youth from the Indian Held Kashmir would rise for the liberation of the state and it would be then that the AJK government would play its role. It was really unfortunate that when his predicted time arrived he was not there to provide the visionary guideline to the people.
He was invited to attend the conference of non-aligned movement in Harare in 1986. He had fears if the government of Pakistan would know that he attending the conference he would not be allowed to travel out of Pakistan. He left Pakistan secretly for the United Kingdom from where he went to Harare. He met all the head of the states attending the conference including Rajiv Gandhi the then Prime Minister of India (As he narrated it himself to me and one of my uncles from Srinagar in 1987). He said as he handed over the memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister he was infuriated and threw the memorandum. The All India radio kept on broadcasting his presence attributing it to Pakistan government but the then Pakistani president Zia-ul Haq was also astonished to see him in the moot.
Throughout the 64 years of his life, Khurshid remained unwavering in his commitment. He has learnt the lesson from Mr Jinnah only too well. It is ironic that he was thrown into the Dalai prison camp by President Ayub Khan to stop him from speaking out against the latter’s “Operation Gibralter”.
K. H. Khurshid’s accidental death while travelling on a transport coach marked an end of a chapter of the making of Pakistan. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. These were the lines from the New Testament that were found scribbled in Khurshid’s diary.
May Allah bless his soul. Aameen.
The Dawn, 8th October, 2001
Memories of Jinnah: PRIVATE VIEW
K.H. KHURSHID died travelling in a public bus to Lahore on a rainy night in 1988. What surprised everyone was not the accident that had killed him at a crucial point in Kashmir struggle for dignity and recognition but that the man who had been the Quaid-i-Azam’s hand-picked private secretary through the history-making years 1944 to 1947 was travelling, not in a black chauffeured limousine but in an ordinary bus with the same ordinary people who had made Pakistan possible.
In a way, it was a befitting place for him to die because he was the most modest of men and never spoke about his years with the Quaid and the intimacy he had enjoyed or the trust the Father of the Nation had reposed in him. Nor did he ever mention the great affection which the normally harsh Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah bore him. It was she who insisted, for instance, that he go to London to do law and she paid for it. Khurshid had no money then, and he had no money later. The fact was that he was not interested in such things. Lack of money or the absence of a home of his own did not matter to him.
Khurshid sailed through life keeping a low profile and never bragging about the historic events to which he had not only been a witness but in which he had also played a small part perhaps. The Quaid is once believed to have said that Pakistan was made by him, his private secretary and his typewriter. That private secretary was Khurshid whom the Quaid had picked up in Srinagar when he was barely twenty and who had never travelled outside Kashmir except once for a debate in Lahore and to attend the annual session of the Punjab Muslim Students Federation in Jullandhar as a representative of Kashmiri students.
The Quaid had inaugurated the session and that was the first time Khurshid had set eyes on the man who was to change his life and the life of the Muslims of India. As for the typewriter, when Khurshid joined the Quaid in Bombay, he did not know how to type. But he managed to deal with the Quaid’s personal and official correspondence with his two-finger method. It need not be stressed that the perfectionist that Mr Jinnah was, everything had to be letter perfect. One can go on wondering how the Quaid was able to achieve so much with so little.
Khurshid not only did not speak about his time with the Quaid but he did not even write about him. Once, when pressed, he said, he would write the truth about the Quaid when others stopped printing lies about him. He obviously had in mind Gen. Zia-ul-Haq’s strange claim that a hitherto unknown diary of the Quaid had been discovered which proved that he did not believe in parliamentary democracy.
All Khurshid said in a statement was: the Quaid did not keep a diary. The man who ruled Jinnah’s Pakistan for 11 years did not repeat the claim again. Once when in order to prove that he was the Quaid’s secretary, Sharifuddin Pirzada had a picture printed that showed his popped up head behind the Quaid and Gandhi, Khurshid remarked, “He can also use this evidence to prove that he was Gandhi’s secretary.”
After Khurshid died, the family came upon a couple of notebooks and papers in which he had recorded some of his memories of the Quaid and conversations about the Quaid with those who had known him well. Though the material was in the nature of a fragment, rather than a sustained account, it was valuable enough to make a book, though a slim one.
The book ‘Memories of Jinnah’ was published by Oxford University Press with help from I.H. Burney, one of Khurshid’s great friends. The first edition ran out and was not reprinted, because according to the publishers there was “not sufficient demand to justify the reprint”. It is only now that a second edition has been produced by Sang-e-Meel, Lahore.
When the Quaid came to Srinagar in the summer of 1944, Khurshid who was in college and also stringing for the Orient Press, the only Muslim news agency in India which ran a limited, almost primitive service. It became Khurshid’s norm to visit the Quaid every day and bring him what the Quaid called “the gup”. Off and on, he would ask Khurshid, “What is Gandhi doing?” Khurshid, of course, had no idea because the Orient Press did not have live wires abuzz with news.
One day the Quaid asked Khurshid if he would become his secretary, adding that he should not decide in a hurry. Khurshid could not believe his ears. A few days later when he said yes, the Quaid told him, “I will show you the world and look after you.” In Bombay, Khurshid stayed at the Quaid’s Malabar Hill residence and in Delhi at his 10 Aurangzeb Road residence.
Writes Khurshid, “Mr Jinnah was a stickler for routine and extremely punctual. Almost everything happened with clockwork precision. He was up at seven when his personal valet, the boy Phillip Mescarenhas, entered his bedroom with tea on a tray and the day’s newspapers. These Mr Jinnah scanned for an hour or so and then went to the bathroom. Phillip would lay out his clothes, having prepared his bath earlier. Promptly at quarter past nine, Mr and Miss Jinnah would come down by the lift and head for the dining room for breakfast, which was over by 10 o’clock. He would then start his day’s work.” According to Khurshid, “He (the Quaid) personally opened all the letters addressed to him. He personally received all the money orders and cheques, signing or countersigning them. He also received all the registered letters and signed for them. My first reaction was that perhaps he did not trust anyone. But as time passed, I changed my opinion. The explanation lay in his immense sense of responsibility. There were occasions during those years when the flood of correspondence became almost unmanageable. Miss Jinnah would then come to help and the two of us would open his letters and telegrams.”
Khurshid recalls that when Dawn’s first editor Pothan Joseph left, the Quaid was bitter. He said it was a pity that in the world of today, one could not trust anyone. Of Joseph he said, “He was in Madras wasting his time and drinking like a fish. I picked him up and made him editor of Star of India. Then we started Dawn and I brought him here and now, for only an extra two hundred rupees, he has gone over to the government.” Khurshid also recalls when he first met Altaf Husain, this newspaper’s legendary editor. The Quaid interviewed him personally and ordered his appointment.
Khurshid writes, “I felt that if Mr Jinnah appeared cold and cautious, it was because he had been let down often. He had trusted and been deceived. He had shown sincerity but had received scorn and now he treaded the ground with extreme caution, measuring every step as he took it, not once, not twice, not three times, but ninety-nine times perhaps. Mr Jinnah had no baseness in his character. He had chosen the middle course in dealing with people. He was trusting, but not too trusting; suspicious, but not very. This was his compromise.”
Khurshid explains what made the Quaid give up on Indian nationalism. “Young and enthusiastic, when he returned from Britain, he believed that India was a nation as Great Britain was a nation and, as such, worked for the abolition of separate electorates and for the establishment of Hindu-Muslim unity. But he soon discovered that it was not so.
“The closer he came to the Hindu nationalist leaders, the more familiar he grew with their ‘Hindutva’, that curious mixture of religion and politics … Nationalism was Mr Jinnah’s first love and continued to give him occasional pangs until late in life, as first love does. Mr Gandhi was right. People were more Hindu or Muslim than they were Indian … Since he was a Muslim, he argued, why should he not speak to his people as a Muslim? As an idealist, Mr Jinnah was a nationalist, but his nationalism died in its infancy.”