Zafarullah Khan & the Tragedy of Palestine and Pakistan


*First published in Pakistan Today.

“This is a solemn moment, solemn in the history of the world, in the history of this great —let us hope, at least—great Organization. The United Nations is today on trial. The world is watching and will see how it acquits itself— again, perhaps, not so much from the point of view of whether partition is approved or not approved, but from the point of view of whether any room is to be left for the exercise of honest judgment and conscience in decisions taken upon important questions.”

-Sir Zafarullah Khan’s Address to UN Security Council on the issue of Palestine. (October 7, 1947)

The Gaza death toll is nearing a bloody 1000 as Israeli barbarities continue.

Since the atrocious bombing began, torrents of sympathy and solidarity with Gaza have been released from all quarters all over Pakistan.

And with them, there has been a caustic expression lamenting and bemoaning Pakistan and the Muslim world’s sickly response to the barbarities in Palestine.

However, what has been rendered unknown today is that Pakistan once played a significant role on the international stage.

Born on 6th February 1893 in Sialkot, Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan rose to become a leading politician, diplomat, an international jurist and one of the founding fathers of Pakistan.

The man behind the famous Lahore Resolution, Zafarullah Khan went on to be appointed as Pakistan’s first foreign minister by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947.

Hardly two months after its creation in 1947, he represented Pakistan in the United Nations General Assembly as the head of its delegation and soon emerged as the most excellent spokesperson for the Muslim and the third world.

Through his unwavering championship of such causes, he became a prominent proponent of the values of peace, freedom, liberty, human rights, democracy and justice. From 1948 to 1954 he represented Pakistan at the Security Council (UN) and outstandingly spoke for the liberation of Algeria, Libya, Northern Ireland, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Malay, Morocco, Nigeria, Indonesia and occupied Kashmir.

His unsurpassed and principled diplomacy practically put Pakistan on the map of the world, beyond mere name.

Perhaps, the greatest of the countless incomparable services he rendered was his exemplary advocacy of the cause of Palestine and Kashmir. With brilliant advocacy, including a speech which went on for 7 hours, it was largely Zafarullah Khan’s efforts which materialized into the UN Resolutions on Kashmir.

His promotion of the Palestinian cause garnered enormous appreciation, acknowledgement and reverence from almost all Muslim countries and leaders at that time.

His speech in October, 1947 on Palestine is considered one of the most powerful cases presented for it.

Realizing the lack of national recognition for him, several blogs and publications by his community have sprung up and sought to compensate for it by detailing his life, services and legacy themselves. One such blog post quotes from what it has identified as the editorial of The Statesman, Delhi, dated October 8, 1947:

“For the first time the voice of Pakistan was heard in the counsels of the United Nations on a burning topic of world-wide significance when leader of this country’s delegation, Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, addressed the United Nations Palestine Committee at Lake Success on Tuesday. It was a telling speech which tore into shreds the specious pleas put forward by the advocates of the partition of Palestine. Chaudhry Zafarullah did not merely indulge in rhetoric when he described the partition plan as `physically and geographically a monstrosity’, he proceeded to prove this by unassailable arguments. Answering the contention that the migration of more Jews into Palestine should be permitted because the Jewish displaced persons desired to go to that country, Pakistan’s spokesman asked whether the Americans would consent to relax or abrogate their own immigration laws if displaced persons of various other nationalities desired to enter the United States and settle there? Would America, he further asked, agree to take in the five million displaced persons of the Punjab if they desired to leave the scene of their suffering and cross over to the United States. We have little doubt that the Arabs will rejoice to find the voice of Pakistan so powerfully raised in the United Nations in defence of their cause. The addition of the independent sovereign state of Pakistan to the comity of free Muslim peoples of the World is already beginning to have its effect on international affairs”.

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King Faisal’s expression of gratitude to Zafarullah Khan for his representation of the Palestinian case at the UN.

Mr. Fadhel Jamali, a late former Foreign Minister of Iraq is also said to have penned in a tribute in Al-Sabah of 10th October, 1985:

 “In fact, it was not possible for any Arab, however capable and competent he may be, to serve the cause of Palestine in a manner in which this distinguished and great man dedicated himself. Mohammad Zafarullah Khan occupies a pre-eminent position in defending the Palestinians in this dispute. We expect from all Arabs and followers of Islam that they will never forget this great Muslim fighter. After Palestine, the services of this man for the independence of Libya also deserves admiration.”

Distinguished British journalist Alan Hart mentions Zafarullah Khan thoughts after the vote on the partition of Palestine, as he reveals in his book ‘Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the False Messiah (Volume I)’ to have been a result of bribery and pressure, deeming them to have been the best expression of the feeling of the majority of states.

To date, none have come into sight who could rival the towering statesman; who was honoured and held in the highest esteem by numerous countries, leaders and nations, especially Muslim, honoured by all but his own.

Because of his faith. He was an Ahmadi, and like all, he has been disowned by the state and people.

In a post for All Things Pakistan in 2007, Yasser Latif Hamdani poignantly wrote:

Ironically, today Jinnah’s most trusted lieutenant is not even remembered by the state which owes him so much, including its own founding document.

Today, Sir Zafarullah’s speech on Palestine reads as a tragedy for both Palestine and Pakistan. It resonates as a striking reminder of the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians, and the injustice Pakistan has inflicted upon itself; the injustice of ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and myopia.

As the saying goes:

“Poor are nations that do not have heroes, but beggared are those who forget them

19 comments on “Zafarullah Khan & the Tragedy of Palestine and Pakistan

  1. academiapk says:

    Hafsa, you put the entire Pakistani media, both print and electronic, (with a few minor exceptions for some English papers) to absolute shame. The self-proclaimed free media may be so but it has no courage to speak the truth. Shame.

    • Thank you for visiting and reading my blog.
      I find it highly disappointing that our media, which claims to be free, is really not free in this regard: not free from social and national prejudices, or the cowardice that obstructs their courage to attempt breaking these self-imposed barriers of ignorance and bigotry in Pakistan.
      However, I find hope in the fact that newspapers like Pakistan Today are willing to be exceptions in this case.

  2. msai1 says:

    AApi yeah aik bouhut acha blog hay juzak Allah for this

  3. I had the honour of knowing him quite well, and he was indeed a great man. For the record, when Wali Khan first wrote in his book “Facts are Facts”, (early 70’s)about Choudry Sahib being the author of the Lahore Resolution, he denied it, although I note it has become fashionable of late to claim that it was true. He loved Jinnah, and was immensely loyal to him, and regarded him to be the true genius behind Pakistan.It is tragic that he is portrayed in Pakistan,as a toady of the west. This was the man who said to me that General Gracey (1st CinC Pak), should have been court martialled and hung for treason for not carrying out Jinnah’s orders in re-inforcing Kashmir in 1948.Every year he would return to Pakistan from UK to spend a few months with his daughter in Lahore, but before he did so, he had to stop off in Amman as an official guest of King Hussein who looked upon him as a mentor. Thank you for remembering him in your excellent blog!

    • What a great honor to have known such a great man, one who served his country so well and who is still unmatched in his brilliance and devotion to righteous causes.
      I admire him from the very core of my heart, and you could say, I am fascinated by him. His service and work represents and encapsulates the Pakistan that was envisioned by Jinnah; a Pakistan that faded with the deliberate discrediting and demise of such individuals.

      Thank you very much for reading it, and sharing such wonderful memories and recollections of this incomparable Pakistani. They are immensely valued!

  4. Mahmood A. Malik says:

    A very well-penned, documented write-up. It has beauty both of appearance and of content. Thanks for an effort to put records straight.

  5. Another Pakistani says:

    Hafsa I am not an Emotional person at all but believe me while reading this article tears fell from my eyes. The reason is that since my childhood we are told to hate Zafar Ullah Khan for his religious belief but we forgot his contributions totally. It is not about Zafar Ullah but infact in the Pakistani society your religious belief is first analyzed and if someone dont agree with the masses then they are instantly tagged as heretics and then isolated. People like Abdus Salam , Zafar Ullah and even pre-partition heroes of this region like Bhagat Singh, Lala Rajpat lai and Scientists like Har Gobind Khorana will never be recognized.

    For how long Pakistanis will remain like that?. For how long we will make up histories ?. We have a selective history syndrome. We have to create the demons to honor us the accolades of the true Angels and then we drag our shortcomings under the rug. We love to live in a Stockholm Syndrome. The picture of Utopia that we have painted around us is infact a mirage of hypothetical optimism and this will not last much longer.

    • I can’t agree more with you!
      In our society, the norm is to judge a person’s beliefs and the judge the extent of that belief; and on the basis of that, determine his fate in the Hereafter. And this is what I believe to be appropriating the role of God, which is, in itself a blasphemy.
      Our myopia, ignorance, bigotry exacerbated by years of propaganda and disinformation in our textbooks and discourse does feed the lack of recognition of men who were genuinely heroes of this land; some of which you have already mentioned.

      Very, very well-said! You summed up Pakistan’s problems in just four lines: selective memory, Stockholm Syndrome, false demons and angels and mirages.
      May we all be able to play some role in ridding this country of these plagues.

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting, it is much appreciated!

  6. soldier says:

    litrally i never knew this gentlemen before,it really speaks of our failure as a nation ; a person who had stood up for something pertinanat to evry pakisatani is just part of few books why evry young & old is not aware of his verstile genius qualities.

    • Definitely a failure on part of the state and nation.
      But I think if even one person gets to know about great men like him, and spreads the knowledge to others; maybe, just maybe, we can overcome this ignorance.
      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  7. Rehan says:

    So how come this gentleman got such miserable treatment from the nation ? Woe to us if it was based on some religious belief or sectarianism !

  8. rehanud1975 says:

    Thanks a lot for letting us know about this unique individual . It gave me a sense of hope . If we had people like this in the past then it’s not unreasonable to hope that we can have them in the future as well ! They are around even now , working in the shadows while their less glamorous and much less competent compatriots steal the lime light !

  9. rehanud1975 says:

    Reblogged this on Introvert Pakistani and commented:
    A time when we had a voice …….

  10. Mahmood Malik says:

    Reading some of the comments on this marvellous blog shows how ill-informed common Pakistani is. He has been fed on misinformation, wrong facts and biased reporting. The comments also show that when our common people know of reality and the truth, they are completely flabbergasted and feel sorry how misinformed they had been all along. Hafsa sahiba’s efforts in finding the truth and publicising the same are commendable. May Allah bless her and give her best of rewards.

  11. Excellent write-up, a fresh breeze in the suffocating and bigot society…. I liked it so much that I shared it on my facebook without your prior permission, sorry. I hope you’ll not mind.

  12. Shafiq says:

    Thank you for writing the honest facts about Great muslim leader Sir Zafarullah Khan.
    I am thankful to you for your great artical.

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