The late K H Khurshid was private secretary to Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He later went on to become the President of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK). As I turn the pages of the book titled “Tareekhi Mushahidat o Waqiat”, I see him as a beacon of light. This book is a compilation of various pieces of writings of K H Khurshid along with contributory articles from his wife-cum-editor of this book, Begum Surraya Khurshid. She herself is an extraordinary woman, not because of her status as the wife of a former president but due to personal character, integrity, and commitment to high moral values in life.
For many, K H Khurshid was one of those super zealous Kashmiris who wished to live in the past. But, for many others, he was a true lover of democracy. For me, he was a towering figure in a land of pygmies. The Lilliputians of his time possessed all the pretence of representation of the masses but they hypocritically and deceitfully ditched them simply to further their own agenda. Khurshid’s differences with President Ayub were genuine and grounded in his ideology for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He did not pretend to be a champion of the rights of ‘his’ people, as his successors in the government would do. He had all the characteristics of the leader of a nation, not of a tribe. He stood steadfastly to protect the rights of those displaced by the Mangla dam and he questioned the legitimacy of the interference of the central government in the affairs of Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK).
Khurshid was a Pakistani to the core of his heart. Otherwise, he would not have bothered to visit Dhaka to see Mujib ur Rehman to express his concern at the boiling situation regarding the power-sharing quagmire with the West Pakistan leaders. Surraya quotes in this book that the Quaid-e-Azam once said, “Pakistan was achieved by my sister, my secretary, and my typewriter”. She refers to an editorial note by chief editor Nawa-e-Waqt Hameed Nizami written in 1959 which states, “I am sure this secretary was K.H. Khurshid”. He worked hard day and night along with his leadership during the most tumultuous years of the partition of India. By showing his commitment, loyalty, and determination to the cause of the Muslim League and personal service to the founder of the nation, Khurshid proved that he was the right choice of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and perhaps, one of the most suitable candidates for the future leadership in the post-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir.
He was disciplined, talented, and visionary, just like his mentor. As a well-educated and highly qualified lawyer, he would have lived a happy, prosperous, and successful life in Pakistan or abroad but he spent all his life in a struggle for the betterment of his people. He lived life as a challenger of the status quo. Whenever challenged on his morals and values, he would not hesitate to speak the truth while looking into the eyes of the challenger and leave the corridors of power. In 1958, he spent four months in detention during the stormy years of the Kashmir Liberation Movement (KLM) but did not compromise on his principled stand on the Kashmir cause. His view of the right of self-determination of Kashmiris was wrongly interpreted as a deliberate effort to steer the liberation movement away to an independent Kashmir.
During detention, he wrote in his diary that this was the time when his closest and most trusted people started parting ways from him as they thought he was no more in the ‘good books’ of Pakistani authorities. A true democrat can never be in the good books of dictators. As a challenger, Khurshid introduced the democratic process in affairs of government by deviating from ‘selection’ to ‘election’ of the president of PAK. Earlier, the presidency of PAK was considered a nomination of a tribal chieftain. Khurshid is rightly named as Khurshid-e-Millat by his ideological followers as he was the first and the only voice from the liberated land who wanted the PAK government to be recognised as the representative government of the people of all parts of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Basically, the purpose of this ideological and highly significant stance was to ensure a concerted and targeted struggle towards the liberation of the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. As a human being he was a humble, self-restrained, and loyal person. But, as a Kashmiri, he was an idealist and optimist, opposed to the idea of controlling or even subverting the will of the people.
The editor of the book has repeatedly referred to the political philosophy of K H Khurshid. Unfortunately, his political approach has always been misconstrued. He was not against the idea of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan but was greatly opposed to putting pressure on Kashmiris to accept a particular course of action with regards to the future of the state. His committed position was to make efforts to liberate the occupied territory and let the people of Jammu and Kashmir decide their future. He was motivated to showcase PAK as an integral part of the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, not an annexed or subordinate territory of Pakistan. Surraya has rightly documented Khurshid’s unwavering support to the cause of Kashmiriyat. As the major part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is yet not liberated, politicians and rulers in Azad (liberated) Kashmir should not live the luxurious life of the representatives of a free people. The liberated territory was genuinely a base camp for Khurshid and not a place to enjoy the freedom. He abhorred the idea of a luxurious living in the base camp.
He lived in the President’s House as a layman and true believer in simple living. This is the same base camp of the liberation movement where flag-bearing government vehicles are a norm. During the presidency of PAK, Khurshid’s 4-year-old daughter insisted to go to school in the flag-bearing car, and in a moment of emotional outpouring, her mother allowed her daughter to avail that facility. In the evening, Khurshid showed his anger and asked Surraya not to repeat that incident again. How many of state officials and present leaders of PAK would observe such a strict discipline in handling the state resources?
Surraya’s candid and honest analysis of the democratic journey of the people of PAK under the title of “Mr Khurshid ka astifa (Mr Khurshid’s resignation”) is documented evidence of one of the most significant aspects of Khurshid’s successful career as an influential and elevated politician. This shows the depth and reach of his visionary approach in bringing a political, social, and democratic change in PAK. Surraya writes, “Had Kashmir Liberation League not been founded in 1962, the people of PAK would be still miles away from political acumen that they enjoy today and they would still be governed by a clerk in the ministry of Kashmir affairs”. However, according to Surraya’s opinion, this was a mistaken approach of the then rulers of Pakistan as they thought Khurshid was an active preacher and supporter of the idea of an independent Kashmir. He, in fact, was a sincere believer in the ideology of Pakistan; perhaps an idealist, but a hard-core centralist.
—The writer is a London-based Kashmiri writer and researcher. He is a member of Press for Peace, an independent and non-partisan organisation. [email protected]