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 an outburst of lament relating to 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 (he led the International Court of Justice) 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 advocate of peace, freedom, liberty, human rights, democracy and justice. From 1948 to 1954 he represented Pakistan at the Security Council (UN) and actively 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 and brought it into the notice of other nations.

Zafarullah Khan also presented the cause of Palestine and Kashmir at the UN. 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 of 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.”

In his book ‘Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the False Messiah’ (Volume I), distinguished British journalist Alan Hart mentions Zafarullah Khan’s thoughts after the vote on the partition of Palestine. Zafarullah Khan viewed the partition as a result of bribery and pressure, and Hart deemed Khan’s thoughts to have been the best expression of what majority of states felt that day regarding the injustice.

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

Humanity as Morsels


I am, as always, deeply infuriated by the typical comments people in Pakistan make when an international crisis of human loss emerges; that mourning or outraging about the deaths of Palestinians is mutually exclusive with outraging when Shias, Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis in Pakistan are targeted and persecuted. Some of the views within this line seem to advocate displaying complete disregard for whatever is being perpetrated around the world, and ‘focus on Pakistan’ and ‘your own home’.


As I once wrote: true, that condemnation and outrage in Pakistan rests on whatever perpetuates one’s narrative or beliefs. Even within Pakistan, there is no uniformity, but selectivity in outrage. And it boils my blood too.
But usually, some attempts to rouse attention or sympathy towards an ignored happening seem to degenerate into diminishing the value of and disregard for the lives lost in the first one, because the entire concept of comparing and contrasting deaths reeks of obscenity. 

I wrote, that surely when deaths are made to compete to be mourned, fouled and disregarded heartlessly to be given ascendancy over another; exploited to strengthen personal political arguments; ignored due to indifference and the solemnity they command consigned to oblivion; it signals nothing, but the death of a nation itself.

persecution-jani-freimannI understand that you’re trying to challenge people’s indifference, that may be deliberate or simply a product of their ignorance, but ironically, the course you take tumbles into the same cast that it seeks to break. It appears to advocate selective outrage too; one that is contained by Pakistani borders. To challenge Pakistani indifference, you need not mock sympathy for the other people, Gazans in this case.  The social rot of selective outrage can be battled with awareness, tolerant arguments, taking action, protesting – and demonstrated without mocking, insensitive sarcasm and jeering.

Humanity doesn’t come as morsels for which mouths of different crisis and atrocities must be selected for it to be fed to. I grieve, vociferate for my brethren persecuted and oppressed in Pakistan, be they the Shia or the Ahmadi, and I will grieve for every other human – be he Muslim or not, Pakistani or not – tyrannized in any other land.

If you want to counter selective compassion, empathy, sympathy and outrage; loudly advocate compassion and humanity for all, everywhere and anywhere with no thought for borders, races, ethnicity, religions and sects, both in Pakistan, and outside Pakistan.

Standing in solidarity with the Palestinians, Kashmiris and the persecuted in Pakistan and around the world. Always.

~ Hafsa Khawaja