K H Khurshid was born into a literate family of Srinagar in l924. His father, Moulvi Muhammad Hassan, was a teacher posted in Gilgit as headmaster of a school. After completing his school education, Khurshid started to comprehend the freedom movement. In college, he was attracted
to the All India Muslim League. He was fortunate to find like-minded friends who later became instrumental in launching the Kashmir Muslim Student’s Federation. A large number of youth joined it. In 1942, he and his friend Ghulam Rasool were chosen to go and see the Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, at Jalandhar.
“Here you are, said the Quaid and handed me the flag of the party,” Khurshid records in his diary.
He impressed the great leader so much during his visit to the Valley in May 1944, the Quaid made him his private secretary.
Ameera Javeria recalls this in her article “KH Khurshid, 1924 – 1988” for the Dawn newspaper:
“When the Quaid and Fatima Jinnah came to Kashmir on their third visit, Khurshid saw them as the representative of Orient Press of India. At 19, he took his Bachelor’s examination from Amar Singh College, Srinagar, in Mathematics and Economics. Sensing that Mr Lobo, Mr Jinnah’s private secretary, was having trouble with the translations of Mr Jinnah’s habitually English speeches into Urdu, Khurshid offered to help. The Quaid appreciated the young man’s dedication and gave him his first assignment.
During Mr Jinnah’s stay in Srinagar, Khurshid interacted regularly with the Quaid, with the result that the latter made a great and deep impression upon him.”
From his mentor, Khurshid learnt to be brutally frank. He never minced words. His diary reads: “When I gave him news of the death of Bahadar Yar Jang, he said that he would not believe it until he had verified it himself. I insisted: ‘Mr Jinnah, I heard it on All India Radio.’
And he said: ‘Yes, they once aired such news about me too.”
The Quaid asked Khurshid to accompany him on his visit to Bombay (now Mumbai). Khurshid’s father was reluctant to let his son go.
The young man had shown evidence of a promising career in academics. His father preferred that he take the safe and well-trodden path of academia with all its certainties. He really did not relish a life in politics for his son.
“Don’t worry, I will take care of his future,” the Quaid is reported to have told Khurshid’s anxious father. “This was a commitment which was honoured by Mr Jinnah and after him by his sister who sent Khurshid to Lincoln’s Inn to study for the Bar.”
Khurshid did not disappoint the great leader. He made, as the Quaid himself admitted, the creation of Pakistan possible. The Quaid went to the extent of saying: “I created Pakistan with the help of my secretary and his typewriter.”
The Quaid had full faith in him, and sent him to Kashmir to meet Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in the post-partition era. But Khurshid was arrested. The news of the arrest upset the Quaid severely, whose biographer, N A Hussain, writes about Jinnah and his sister voicing their concern one evening.
“It was only later that I learnt which Khurshid they were talking of,” Hussain
recalls in his book My Leader.
Asking for Khurshid’s release, Jinnah wrote to Jawaharlal Nehru: “My work is suffering greatly and I want Khurshid back.”
But Khurshid was not released during Jinnah’s lifetime. After his death, Ms Fatima Jinnah campaigned for Khurshid’s release. The l948 Kashmir war prolonged his detention. After languishing in jail for thirteen long months, Khurshid was released in exchange for a top Indian military officer, General Ghansara Singh.
Grieved by the death of his leader, Khurshid bid adieu to politics straight away. He founded a newspaper, The Guardian, with the help of his friend Aziz Baig. The newspaper, however, couldn’t survive for long and had to be closed down.
General Ayub Khan made Khurshid the president of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK) in the early1960s. He first refused, but Ms Jinnah urged him to accept the post. After a year, he became PaK’s first elected president.
Khurshid worked day and night for the uplift of his people. He brought the jagirdari (feudal) system to an end, and most importantly, gave his people the right to vote. Kashmiris called him Khurshid-e-Millat. His independent ways of doing the things did not fit well with President Ayub Khan and he had to resign as president of PaK in 1964.
Khurshid was imprisoned by Ayub Khan for criticising Operation Gibraltar. After the failure of the operation, the rulers shifted the blame on the innocent and gullible people of Kashmir. They accused Kashmiris of reporting the activities of the Mujahideen to the police.
Khurshid commented on the operation in the following words:
“I firmly believe that Ayub Khan was not fully aware of the reasons for the war of 1965. Foreign Office, Home Ministry and some senior officers from the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs which included A B Awan, Nazir Ahmed, Aziz Ahmed and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, prevailed on him and assured him that it is only a small programme which would not lead to a war with India.
Ayub Khan who offered India ‘joint defence’ would not have agreed to a full-scale war with India. …These men wanted to weaken Ayub’s hold on the government, and this is the real reason why he was so angry with them after the war.”
The Kashmir issue was consigned to cold storage after the Simla
Agreement. But this did not deter Khurshid from raising it time and again. He would say that the youth from Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) would rise for the liberation of the state one day and it would be then that the AJK government would play its role. It was really unfortunate that when the time finally came, he was not there to provide his visionary guidance.
When invited to a conference of the non-aligned movement
in Harare in 1986, Khurhsid knew that the Pakistan government would not allow him to attend. He gave authorities the slip and reached the African city. He met all heads of state attending the conference, including Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India (A Man of Mettle – I & II by Dr. Musafir Hassan, the Greater Kashmir, March 10 and 11, 2006).
“He said that as he handed over the memorandum to the Indian Prime Minister, he was infuriated and threw the memorandum. The All India Radio
kept on broadcasting his presence attributing it to Pakistan government
but the then Pakistani president Zia-ul Haq was also astonished to see
him in the moot,” Dr. Hassan writes.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept
the faith,” Khurshid’s diary quotes from the New Testament.
He was a humble person. “The least important word in my language is ‘I’,” Khurshid once said.
When he died in a road accident in 1988, he had no more than Rs 30 in his pocket. He fought his adversaries with dignity – and with logic. He learned from Jinnah not to comment on other people’s lives.
Remembering him in an article in the Dawn (Oct 8, 2001), Khalid Hassan wrote:
“Khurshid died travelling in a public bus to Lahore on a rainy night in 1988. What surprised everyone was not the accident that had killed him at a crucial point in the Kashmir struggle for dignity and recognition but that the man who had been the Quaid-e-Azam’s handpicked private secretary through the history-making years of 1944 to 1947 was travelling, not in a black, chauffeured limousine but in an ordinary bus with the same ordinary people who had made Pakistan possible.”