by Jahangir Ahmed
Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan Chaudhry was born in Sialkot in the early spring of 1893 to a well-known landowning Jat family. His father was a lawyer in his native city of Duska, district of Sialkot.
The young Zafarullah studied at Goverment College Lahore, obtained his degree in law from Kings College, London in 1924 and was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn.
He later returned home and practised law in Sialkot and Lahore and in 1926 was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council. He continued to practise law until in 1931 he presided over a meeting of the All-India Muslim League in Delhi and spoke about the cause of Indian Muslims in his address. He also participated in the Round Table Conferences of 1930-1932.
Zafarullah Khan was at that time a member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India. In 1947 he represented the Muslim League before the Radcliffe Boundary Commission where he was fearless in putting forward the Muslim case.
He also represented Pakistan at the United Nations General Assembly and his presentation of the Pakistani side of the Kashmir dispute in 1948 was responsible for the declaration of self-determination. He also represented the Islamic world’s view during debates on the Palestinian issue. His eloquent speeches in the UN Security Council in support of the independence of Libya, Somalia, Eritrea, Tunis, Morocco and Indonesia ensure his reputation as a great world statesman.
He served as Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister from 1948-1954 and represented the nation in the UN Security Council’s deliberations on the position of occupied Kashmir as well as in similar discussions on Northern Ireland, Eritrea, Sudan, Morocco and Indonesia.
In 1954 he was appointed a judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and remained at the same post until 1961. He then became Pakistan’s permanent representative at the United Nations, a position which he held from 1961-1964, while continuing to preside over the United Nations General Assembly.
In a personal tribute to him, King Hussain of Jordon said “He was indeed a champion of the Arab cause and his ceaseless efforts whether among the Muslim and non-aligned countries or at the International Court of Justice will remain forever a shining example of a great man truly dedicated to our faith and civilisation.” (Review of Religions Sep/Oct 1986)
Others, including the Nawab of Mamdot and the fourth Prime Minister of Pakistan, Chaudhry Mohammed Ali, wrote of their admiration for his tireless work in presenting the Muslim case on the Kashmir dispute before the UN Security Council and in persuading representatives from around the world, and particularly from India, that the only solution to the Kashmir dispute would be to decide in accordance with the will of the people.
After living in England from 1973-1983, Zafarullah Khan returned to Pakistan where he died in Lahore on 1st September 1985. He was a great speaker, a true intellectual who served Pakistan very well and who will be remembered with affection by the people of Pakistan as well as by the international community.
Those of us who are Pakistani and love our homeland, should follow his example. We should not build up false differences between our nation and our communities overseas who are also Pakistani. We should not judge any of the people of Pakistan on the basis of colour, race or religion. There are those, who perhaps have their own agenda, who are at present causing great damage to our nation and to the worldwide reputation of Pakistan. We are all fellow citizens of this great country and every one of us should be given equal rights, opportunities and access to the path that leads to personal success because out of personal success we achieve national success, something that should be the birthright of every one of us.
Image: Muhammad Zafarullah Khan at the United Nations, Pakistan’s admission to membership in the United Nations. 30 September 1947, Flushing Meadows, New York.