On 10th March 1988, a passenger bus on the way to Mirpur in Azad Kashmir suffered an accident resulting in deaths of most of its passengers. The roads in Azad Kashmir have always resulted in many accidents and caused many deaths even until now. Among the deceased was a man from Srinagar who incidentally was the President of Azad Kashmir.
With less than fifty rupees in his pockets and no house of his own, he died like his hero in selflessness and obscurity.
Khurshid Hasan Khurshid was born in the locality of Abi Guzar, Srinagar in 1924 to a middle class family. His father Maulvi Mohammad Hasan was a head master posted in Gilgit.
KH Khurshid as he’s famously known became interested in the political activities in Srinagar during his teenage years. Post 1931 uprising, many educated Kashmiris had started a rights movement in the tyrannical Dogra rule. KH Khurshid following the tradition of many educated Kashmiris started a students movement called Muslim Students’ Federation which supported the Muslim League’s idea of Pakistan.
In 1942, KH Khurshid went to Jalandar where Muhammad Ali Jinnah was presiding over an annual conference of Punjab Muslim Students’ Federation. He was asked by Dr. Mohammad Din Taseer (father of Salmaan Taseer) the principal of Amar Singh College in Srinagar to also take part in a contest in Lahore.
It was here where Khurshid was bowled over by the enigma of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Although he didn’t have a proper meeting with his future boss, Jinnah had made a great impression on this teenager who firmly believed in the cause of Pakistan.
In 1944, Muhammad Ali made his final and what would be a historic trip to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. During this time Khurshid had joined Orient Press as well, a Muslim news agency in British India.
During his first meeting Khurshid was to deliver a message on behalf of the Muslim Conference. After a short conversation Jinnah grew fond of him and Khurshid frequented his houseboat ‘the Queen Elizabeth’. On June 26th Jinnah offered Khurshid the job of his private secretary which the latter readily accepted on 4 July 1944.
Therefrom began the twenty year old’s journey with the founder of Pakistan who later famously remarked, “I’ll tell you who made Pakistan; myself, my secretary and his typewriter.”
In 1947-8 during the first Kashmir war, Jinnah was shocked at the tribal raids in Kashmir which he was not informed about. Despite the Azad Kashmiri forces leading the battle from Bagh and Poonch. Jinnah sent Khurshid to Srinagar to try to handle the crisis. But Sheikh Abdullah’s administration jailed him until his hero Jinnah passed away in obscurity.
After Khurshid was exiled by Sheikh Abdullah’s government to Azad Kashmir. Despite his status as Jinnah’s man who had told him when he took him from Srinagar, “I will take care of you.” He was sidelined into shadows by the governments of Pakistan despite his appointment as Private Secretary being the first acts of Jinnah after the creation of Pakistan.
Fatima Jinnah persuaded Khurshid to continue his education at Lincoln’s Inn to become a lawyer. Short of funds, Fatima Jinnah sent him to England and financed his education. After his return he practiced law in Karachi in 1954 where he stayed in the flagstaff house with Fatima Jinnah.
In 1959, General Ayub Khan asked Khurshid to become the President of Azad Kashmir. He constantly fought with the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs which until then had treated the Azad Kashmiris as puppets, and the unfortunate land which Khalid Hasan describes, “an unfortunate land which is neither Pakistan nor Kashmir.”
Later accused by the intelligence bureau and military intelligence of working for a ‘independent Kashmir’ despite his credentials of fighting for Pakistan. He resigned from the Presidency by 15 August 1964. One of the great legacies of him was the passage of land reforms bill in Azad Kashmir which ended the scourge of feudalism.
In 1965, when the disastrous campaign of Operation Gibraltar was to be launched, Khurshid was the only man in Pakistan who lobbied hard to have it called it off. It would have disastrous consequences on the Kashmir dispute and Pakistan’s case.
Instead of listening to his view. He was picked up from the house of respected statesman Mirwaiz Maulvi Yusuf. He was dragged in a car like an ordinary criminal and imprisoned by Pakistani authorities in the notorious Dalai Camp where later his campaign manager and founder of the Kashmir revolution Maqbool Butt was jailed as well.
This is believed to have been a result of reports that he alongwith Sheikh Abdullah were conspiring on an Indira Gandhi’s plan. This has been rubbished by Khurshid and many other authors who say that Khurshid would have been the last Kashmiri to collaborate with a man like Sheikh Abdullah.
After a year in prison, he was freed without a reason like the way he was detained in the first place. He formed his own party the Jammu Kashmir Liberation League. His activities were put under surveillance by Pakistani government and Azad Kashmir administration. For twenty-two years, there was no mention of him on Pakistan Television. The day he passed away, PTV had no picture in their library of Khurshid Hasan Khurshid to put in their bulletin.
In 1971, during the Ganga Hijacking, Khurshid met the two young hijackers Ashraf and Hashim Qureshi at the Lahore airport. His statement in the court exonerated the Qureshi brothers from the alleged burning of the old fokker plane along with Maqbool Butt.
During Zia-ul Haq’s regime, the dictator came out with a revelation that a diary of Jinnah was found where he rejected parliamentary democracy, to justify his dictatorship. Khurshid was asked for a comment, he vehemently denied any existence of such a diary. Zia ul Haq never mentioned the diary again.
He also attended the Non Aligned conference in Harare Zimbabwe, much to the dismay of Rajiv Gandhi and surprise of General Zia ul Haq who asked him, “If you were coming we would have made arrangements made.” To which Khurshid has said, “If i told you, I wouldn’t have been here.”
In one his speeches at Arlington in UK, he mentioned that dictatorship had greatly damaged the Pakistan and its vision. He was a known critic of Zia ul Haq’s regime.
On Jinnah, Khurshid records in his diary, “Nationalism was Mr. Jinnah’s first love and continued to give him occasional pangs until late in life, as first love does…Mr Jinnah was a nationalist, but his nationalism died in its infancy…”
This was the last recorded entry in Khurshid’s diary before his shock demise. He aspired to write a biography on Jinnah’s last years and there’s nobody better than him who could have done so. But his first love Kashmir kept him busy until his last breathe.
His sudden demise at the age of 63 that too during twilight of revolution in Kashmir in late 1980s left a deep void. His leadership would have been of immense importance to the new generation of Kashmiris who had taken up the struggle in their own hands. But sometimes life is not what we want it to be.
KH Khurshid is rightly given the title of ‘Khurshid-e-Millat’ the light of the people. A light that extinguished too quickly but his legacy lives on.
(Editor’s Note: This article was first published here. For the purpose of clarity and fluency in reading, academic references have been removed.)