Brig. Noor Ahmed Husain passed away on 9th August 2011 after a protracted illness. He was the last military ADC (Aide-de-Camp) of the Quaid. As such he was a treasure trove of the history of the Pakistan movement and in particular of the last six months of the father of the nation. As a grand nephew of Brigadier sahib, I had the privilege of hearing him both in private and in public while he would recount many incidents and anecdotes about the Quaid-e-Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan. Most of these events may already be known to many and a few might be new. I consider it a national duty to share these events with all those who are interested in an eyewitness account of our history. I am penning down some of the memories I have of Brigadier sahib’s own memories of these two great leaders of Pakistan.

 

Quaid e Azam

During his association with the Quaid as his ADC, Brigadier sahib was obviously able to observe the father of the nation very closely and became privy to many of his habits. He once told us that the Quaid was a very reserved person and remained very pensive in his last days at Ziarat. He was soft spoken and kind hearted unless someone tried to hide his mistake. He was also very quick in correcting grammar or wrong diction. At times he would be stern, probably because of office pressures. He would always have soup at both meals. Lunch was with both ADCs. It would strictly be one dish. It would be a very quiet affair and the Quaid would often remain lost in his thoughts. Brig sahib recalls that the Quaid was very fastidious in dressing especially in his selection of cuff links and ties. His conversation would mostly be in English with hardly a word of Urdu being spoken. Brigadier sahib clearly remembers not seeing the Quaid short tempered or cynical despite the fact that his country was facing crippling financial problems. According to Brigadier sahib, the Quaid was truly what was once said of him by someone: hard as a diamond who had with the brilliance of a diamond.

An incident that Brigadier sahib once related to us showed how much a man of principles the Quaid was. The Quaid instructed him as his ADC to buy a pair of socks from a vendor in Quetta. He vividly remembers that the Quaid gave him 10 rupees to purchase a top English brand. He returned with the socks. Much to his surprise, he found that the Quaid was not satisfied with the deal and asked him to return these socks. He was told by the Quaid that the socks were substandard for there was a small hole in one of them. The Quaid sternly remarked: “Did he charge the full price for these; if he did, he had done a wrong thing?” Brig sahib’s conclusion was that the Quaid wanted to impress upon the shopkeeper the ethical principles of doing business.

A similar incident about the Quaid’s strong regard for principles was narrated to Brigadier sahib by Captain Gul Hasan (later General Gul Hassan) who was Brigadier sahib’s predecessor as ADC: once a person approached him (Gul Hassan) with his visiting card to see the Quaid at the Governor General’s residence in Karachi. Gul Hasan took the card to the Quaid. After looking at the card, the Quaid scratched it with a red pencil and told Gul: “Tell him that I will not see him.” Gul was taken aback and as he was walking back he looked up and saw that the card read: Ahmad Ali Jinnah, brother of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan. The part “brother of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan” had been scratched. By this, he wanted to put an end to narcissism, surmised Brigadier sahib.

While recalling the most prized possession he had received from the Quaid – again a reflection of the Quaid’s regard for principles – Brigadier sahib writes:

 

There are many memories one cherishes as one nears the end of one’s journey. But the most cherished possession I have of the Quaid is neither a sterling silver cigarette case nor a gold-plated souvenir usually presented by Heads of State to their personal staff. It is the autograph of Quaid-i-Azam not done on a photograph but on a chit of simple white paper for a tin of 50 Craven ‘A’ cigarettes, he had purchased from his – the Governor-General’s Household, signed for the sake of absolute accountability of the tax payers money, entrusted to him as Head of the State – the State he himself had founded.

(http://nazariapak.info/quaid/resdocs/reminiscences.asp)

 

Here is another interesting incident recorded by him in a published essay while reminiscing about the Quaid’s intense regard for the rule of law:

 

To escape from the heat and humidity of Karachi and on the advice of his personal physician, the Quaid decided to fly to Quetta, accompanied by a skeleton staff. There are many incidents one can recollect, but one comes to mind again and again. The Quaid was staying in the Residency, vacated by the AGG (Mr Savidge), for the Quaid. The relations of the AGG and Pakistani Judicial Commissioner were strained. The Pakistani Judicial Commissioner, No. 2 in Baluchistan’s administration, had taken exception to some remark of the AGG and had served notice on him that unless he apologized, the former would haul him up for contempt of court. The AGG was in a predicament. As head of the administration and host to the Quaid how could he do so without losing face? Could we, the ADCs, request the Quaid to intervene? We know which ground we could tread and which we dared not. As the day of tendering apology drew near, Mr Savidge, grew more and more restive and apprehensive. Finally he met the Quaid and requested intervention. The Quaid listened quietly, paused for a moment, looked out of the window into the picturesque garden below; and said, “Mr. Savidge the law must take its course and must be upheld, you must not hesitate in doing the right thing by apologizing,” Mr. Savidge tendered his apology at the due time and place. The Quaid lived by principles and not by personalities or expediency.

(http://nazariapak.info/quaid/resdocs/reminiscences.asp)

 

It was this unflinching attitude and a great regard for principles that made the Quaid very dear to all. Brigadier sahib once related to us a mind boggling incident which showed how people valued and cared for the Quaid and were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the gravely sick Quaid when he was spending his last days in Ziarat in 1948. Squadron leader Abdullah Baig volunteered to deliver an injection to Brigadier sahib which the doctors had advised was necessary for the Quaid’s life. Sqn Ldr. Abdullah Baig had to fly from Karachi to Quetta to deliver it in a PAF Dakota. The meteorological office at Quetta air base warned that there was almost no visibility at the airstrip and landing in such conditions was virtually like plunging into the jaws of death. Undaunted by this, Sqn Ldr. Abdullah jumped on the plane and informed Brigadier sahib that he had decided for the sake of the Quaid’s life to undertake this suicidal mission. To his immense relief, when hours later the plane miraculously landed safely at the Quetta air strip, Brigadier sahib jumped with joy. As he finished narrating this incident to us, his eyes lit up and his face became radiant with pride. What a stock of officers the Air Force had produced!

Brig sahib would become particularly sad when he would narrate the last few months of the Quaid’s life. In his personal opinion, the decision to go to Ziarat, a high altitude region of Balochistan was not correct. It is a place which is more than 7000 ft above sea level and the oxygen level there is not that high and breathing is not that difficult. While recounting one of the reasons which in his view induced the Quaid to go to Ziarat, Brigadier sahib told us that while the Quaid was in Quetta he was living in the residence of the AGG of Quetta who had vacated his house for him. The Quaid did not like to inconvenience anyone for his sake. Ms. Jinnah and some others tried to dissuade the Quaid from going there but he had taken the decision. Conditions at Ziarat were not very rosy. There was no electricity there and they had to use a generator from 6 to 10 pm after which kerosene lamps were used. About the Quaid’s illness, Brigadier sahib once informed us that British reports said that it was lung cancer while the Pakistani doctors insisted that it was Tuberculosis.

According to Brigadier sahib, during their stay in Ziarat, the Quaid never consulted Ms. Fatima Jinnah on state matters. He treated her more like a daughter because she was sixteen years younger than him. In Brigadier sahib’s assessment, she was quite hopeful that the Quaid would nominate her to take over from him. She would often ask Brigadier sahib about the person who was being selected for the job. Brigadier sahib also disclosed to us that in April 1948 Begum Khawaja Nazimuddin told him that her husband was told to get ready to move to Karachi at short notice. From this, Brigadier sahib had gathered that the Quaid already had Khawaja Nazimuddin in mind. Brigadier sahib informed us that in April 1948, the Quaid had fallen very ill and the doctors had virtually given up. It was also at this time that the decision to move to Ziarat was taken.

While once recounting the last hundred days of the Quaid in a televised interview, Brigadier sahib related that they had to gone to Quetta from Ziarat on the 12th of Aug to record the Quaid’s speech for 14th August – the first birthday of Pakistan. Mr Z.A. Bukhari had come there with all the paraphernalia. When the speech recording began, Quaid’s voice was so feeble and frail that he could not have it recorded. Ultimately it was decided that this speech would be broadcast by someone else.

On 10th Sep while they were still in Quetta and had not gone back to Ziarat, Dr Col. Elahi Baksh asked Brigadier sahib to move the Quaid to Karachi and asked him to call over his Viking plane. Sister Dunham, a qualified English nurse was with them to look after the Quaid. The Quaid was taken on the stretcher in the ambulance to the aircraft in the afternoon of 11th Sep. Brigadier sahib told us that he held the stretcher from the head side and Lt. Mazhar the (Naval ADC) from the other. As they were taking the stretcher to the plane a gust of wind blew the sheet onto the Quaid’s face. With his right hand, the Quaid put it back which meant that he was fully in his senses. The Quaid even returned the salute of the RAF staff when he entered the plane. Brig sahib recounted that during the air journey, there came a moment when weather became very bumpy. A British officer attending to the Quaid related later that the Quaid gave him a big smile and told him not to worry.

Much has been said and written about the ambulance which broke down after the Quaid was put into it. According to Brigadier sahib, there is a lot of exaggeration in the story. The sequence of events according to him was that he was told that this was to be a private arrival with no protocol. The plane landed at the Mauripur airfield where an ambulance came and he was put in it. Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Abdur Rabb Nishtar were there in their private capacities to welcome him. Sister Dunham and Ms. Jinnah were in the ambulance. Later in the journey the ambulance broke down. The Military Secretary dashed off to get another ambulance and returned with it in 30-40 minutes. The Quaid was very much alive and comfortable and was transferred into it and the caravan consisting of four cars reached the Governor General’s house. It is not true that he was kept in the heat and bore its brunt. The Quaid was then taken to a small room on the ground floor because the stretcher could not be taken up the stairs. The Quaid had refused a lift to be installed at the Governor General’s residence because he thought that the government of Pakistan could not afford this big expense. Dr Col Elahi Bakhsh and other doctors gave an injection to sedate the Quaid as he was restless. At 7 pm, the Military secretary told Brigadier sahib to arrange to get his daughter who was in Bombay. At around 10 30 pm, Col Elahi Bakhsh walked out, threw down his stethoscope and slumped on a sofa. Knowing that the fateful moment had arrived, Brigadier sahib recalls that he charged into the room where he found the Quaid’s face covered. Ms Jinnah was quietly sobbing and sister Dunham looked a picture of grief. The Quaid was no more.

 

Liaquat Ali Khan

Besides the Quaid, Brigadier sahib would also often express praise for Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. In many ways, he is an unsung hero of the Pakistan movement. His integrity and honesty have been regarded as exemplary. Once Brigadier sahib narrated to us an incident that clearly showed how Liaquat Ali Khan (a Nawabzada of India) in spite of being reduced to poverty wanted to settle the five million refugees before claiming any property for himself. Brigadier sahib told us that while he was the ADC to Governor-General Khwaja Nazimuddin, he was witness to an Eid day luncheon conversation in 1949 between the Governor General and the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. On this occasion Ms Fatima Jinnah and Begum Rana Liaquat were also present. During the course of the conversation, Begum Rana suddenly turned to the Governor-General and addressed him: “If something happens to my husband, I and my two sons would be shelterless since we have no roof of our own.” At this moment, Brigadier sahib paused and was visibly overcome with emotions. His voice became solemn and grim and then he continued with his narration. He said that before the governor general could respond, the Prime Minister exclaimed: “Until my people are settled, I will not accept any roof of my own.”

One may keep in mind the fact that Liaquat Ali Khan had gifted his Delhi residence to the government of Pakistan where the offices of the Pakistan High Commission were later set up. It may also be noted that he never filed a claim for any property in Pakistan. It is known that when he died his vest was torn in several places and his socks had holes in them. What a man!

While describing the far sightedness of Liaquat Ali Khan, Brigadier sahib once related that as the Finance member Liaquat Ali Khan thought that the most important thing for the newly founded state was to be able to pay the salaries of its employees. He knew that money would be short when the time came. So he wrote to the Bank of England and the State Bank of India that currency notes be printed and stored in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Dacca. This was done and later it was this money which was used to pay salaries to government officers after partition when the public exchequer was short of money.

Brigadier sahib would often quote these words of the Quaid about Liaquat Ali Khan: “I found Pakistan and Liaquat founded Pakistan.” A glowing tribute richly deserved by him.

Brigadier sahib was of the opinion that there was absolutely no basis for the alleged rift between the Quaid and Liaquat Ali Khan. According to him, the actual issue was that there was a clash of personalities between Begum Rana Liaquat and Ms. Fatimah Jinnah. Once when Liaquat Ali Khan offered the Quaid to tender his resignation if this would improve affairs, the Quaid responded by telling him: “Let not the relations between these two spoil our long standing relationship.”

(Dr Shehzad Saleem)

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