Liaquat Ali Khan

(1896–1951) Pakistani leader

Born on October 1, 1896, in the United Provinces of pre-partition India, Liaquat became the first prime minister of Pakistan and a founding father when it became independent on August 14, 1947. He graduated from Aligarh College, and he became interested in the Indian nationalist movement. Afterward, he traveled to Britain to continue his education, obtaining a degree in law from Oxford University in 1921, and was called to the bar in 1922. Liaquat returned to India in 1923.

He began to identify with the Muslim cause. He joined the Muslim League, which sought to represent Muslims across the subcontinent. In 1926 Liaquat won his first election as a member in the United Provinces Legislative Assembly, although as an independent. In 1940 he was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly, where he established a reputation as a successful politician of principle, integrity, and eloquence. Although he sought to promote the interests of Muslim Indians, he also worked to quell communal discord. In 1936 he was elected honorary secretary of the Muslim League, and he held the office until independence in 1947. He became increasingly influential within the Muslim League, as illustrated by his appointment as deputy leader of the Muslim League Parliamentary Party in 1940, where he forged a close working relationship as the lieutenant of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League and later the father of Pakistan.

After partition, Liaquat accepted the prime ministership and also served as minister of defense under Jinnah, governor-general of Pakistan. The nation was not only divided into East (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan, it was also plagued by a refugee crisis as migrating Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs fled across the subcontinent before and immediately after the partition. With Jinnah’s death in 1948, Liaquat became the dominant leader in Pakistan.

Although Pakistan’s political establishments were strongly pro-Western, Islam began to broaden its influence. Pakistan’s disputes with India over trade and the division of Kashmir dominated foreign policy, and relations between the two nations remained tense.

Liaquat was assassinated in October 1951. His death ushered in a chaotic period, and democracy soon floundered, culminating in the military seizure power in a coup in 1958.

See also Indo-Pakistani Wars (Kashmir).

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