Translator’s note: Today marks the 70th anniversary of the untimely assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan, the first Prime Minister of Pakistan. In this connection, I have translated a brilliant but still little-known essay on the tragedy by Saadat Hasan Manto, which was published just a week after the event in the 23 October 1951 edition of the Daily Afaq, Lahore. It is the very first essay by any writer on the subject. Away from the general newspaper news and rumours of that time, Manto has brought the murder of Liaquat Ali Khan under discussion in a very investigative manner in this essay, which illustrates his deep political, social and critical consciousness. In this essay, Manto’s pen has become that eye which is watching and making us watch the governmental activities before the murder, at the time of the murder and a few days after the murder very clearly. It has become that tongue which is questioning everyone about the murder, especially the government officials. So Manto’s prescient and timely essay is being presented here in its entirety in an original English translation for the very first time. (RN)
Man – enemy of Man!
Party – foe of party!
Nation – fighting with nation!
Government – warring with government!
This is the story of the 20th century – and the same was the story of the first century as well. Like other goods the shops for the flesh and skin of Man very much used to be fitted out before too, they are still fitted out. The gallows for wringing necks very much used to be set up before too, they are still set up. The blood of Man very much used to be sprinkled before too, it is still the case today. The passion for killing and looting, tyranny and violence, brutality and barbarism is present within Man in the same way like it was before. So many prophets, so many avatars, so many sages, so many saints came and went but could not reform Man. Laws made by him too kept accounting for his crimes and tribulations, but could not remove their promoters; but humanity is so obstinate that it too is still not disappointed and is absorbed in the rhythm of life, pain and mind, search and desire in the same way that it was thousands of years before today as well. This same is the greatest tragedy of Man and this same is the greatest comedy but if some wrong movement, some ugly act is seen to be happening, one feels very vexed. In this drama, if a drop falls due to the mistake of the organizer, one feels very shocked.
When I came to know of the death of Liaquat Ali Khan on the evening of 16 October, I became irritated. Everyone knows the end of human life. To be killed by an assassin’s bullet in the dangerous life of Liaquat Ali Khan was certainly no surprising matter for it, but the way this drop fell and the crowd ran amok, this was not part of the expected outcome of this drama. This is the reason that I felt vexed and I declared it as well.
The tragedy did not merely belong to Rawalpindi, only those persons were not related to this bloody accident, who were sitting around the dais. Every single person of Pakistan was related to this tragedy. An Englishman is the first who comes to know about this grave incident. He telephones the office of APP for the sake of confirmation. Nothing is known from there so he asks the folks of Radio Pakistan. He does not know anything from there too so he becomes silent.
The APP teleprinter comes into motion probably around 5:45 pm and it types briefly that someone fired on the Prime Minister of Pakistan Khan Liaquat Ali Khan two times in the public rally of Rawalpindi…but gives immediate instructions that this news be considered cancelled.
Until 7 pm the people who had received the news of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan being injured through this cancelled announcement of APP, keep agonizing for its confirmation or refutation from the reliable personalities of Lahore, but they come to know nothing. Suddenly at 7 past some minutes Radio Pakistan announces this abominable news that in the public rally of Rawalpindi as soon as Khan Liaquat Ali Khan rose to speak, a person from the crowd Said Akbar fired twice on him. The bullets hit near the heart. The operation was conducted in the hospital which proved unsuccessful and he could not survive the injuries. Along with it was told that the enraged crowd killed the murderer then and there.
The shock which Pakistan has received from the death of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, is obvious. The damage it has caused, an ordinary person can too guess it. The damage his assassination has caused, nobody was very much reflecting upon it and neither was anyone thinking that how did the assassin enter the first rows that he could mark such a successful target…the various news which reached us from various sources, pay close attention to their summary.
1. The assassin shot 2 bullets, from very near.
2. Immediately after the firing from the attacker, the police soldiers standing nearby fired bullets in the air and within the grand crowd which was still unaware of the accident, great commotion spread. Though the crowd was quickly controlled. The Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi imposed Section 144 in the city and cantonment.
3. Khan Liaquat Ali was immediately carried to the military hospital where blood was injected in his body.
4. Khan Liaquat Ali Khan had fainted as soon as he was hit by bullets.
These were the first news of this accident which the Pakistanis got…people kept drawing various results from it…I did not understand that why the police fired bullets in the air. Just so the Punjab Police is known for putting restrictions on even the entry of air at such an occasion but at that time when the murderer was before its sight, whose arrest was certain, why did it scatter a crowd of 15 to 20,000 by firing bullets in the air, and that too in such a bad manner that it had to expend its strength separately to control it.
It was said that the soldiers of the police were standing nearby and they should certainly have been present very near at such an occasion. They could fire bullets in the air but they could not save the murderer who should have been very much near them somewhere.
Confusion had spread in the crowd, so much that the police could not save the murderer from being murdered, this meant that the arrangement for delivering immediate first aid to the injured Khan Liaquat Ali Khan must have become difficult. This is the reason that when he was conveyed to the hospital, a need was felt to inject blood in his body.
For how long he kept lying there in an injured state, as far as I know about it, no light has been shone so far. In how much time was he successfully carried to the hospital, critical information about this too has not been provided.
If Khan Liaquat Ali Khan was the Prime Minister of Pakistan, at whose every gesture every Pakistani was ready to give his life, then the latter has the right definitely that how and why the former’s life was taken away. What steps had been taken for his security, if so, then why they proved a failure.
By the evening of 17 October, the various news which reached us, this was their crux:
1. The murderer of the Prime Minister Pakistan is a citizen of Afghanistan and belongs to the Jadran tribe. 2000 rupees notes are found from his pocket (Associated Press)
2. The murderer of the Prime Minister Pakistan has been identified. His name is Said Akbar son of Babrak. Inhabitant of Afghanistan, belongs to the Saparkhel caste. He had adopted residence of Hazara district recently. 2040 rupees have been found from his possession and 10,000 rupees from his house in Abbottabad. The finding of such a huge sum reveals that the murderer was bought for this same objective probably. The papers that have been found from his possession consist of a map too in which important places of north-western Pakistan are shown. In addition, other papers are in Farsi, which are being investigated.
3. The Afghan Consul resident Peshawar Sardar Muhammad Qayyum Khan who belongs to the royal family, had disappeared from Peshawar 5 hours before this incident in a mysterious manner. Afterwards the matter was investigated that he entered the Afghan border through the Khyber Pass at 2 pm and stayed at the Afghan Passport Office till afternoon, then left for Kabul in the evening.
4. In connection with the murder of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, the police are looking for a 10-year old child who was the murderer’s servant and stayed with him for 2-3 days in Room 3 of the Grand Hotel Rawalpindi.
5. The NWFP government had informed the Punjab government about its doubts regarding Said Akbar.
What solace could those who knew the reality of this event of murder have from this. They remained thirsty as before and their mental dilemmas kept increasing; this was a somewhat strange type of deduction that because 2,040 rupees were found from the murderer and 10,000 rupees from his house, so the dominant idea is that he was bought for this purpose. I did not want to go into the details of the psychology of the murder and the murderer, but a question arises that if he was bought for this very objective, then why did he arrive with a part of his reward in the pocket at the place where he wanted to perform his task, and from where he had no hope of his escape.
Two further little questions arise from the womb of this question:
1. It is possible that the murderer had hope of his escape.
2. If this was the case, then were other people present for saving him.
If they are kept in view for a little while, then the map of the murder assumes a totally different shape. One thinks that whatever might happen, there were many people
around the murderer. As soon as he fired the bullet, these men finished him. But then this thing emerges in the mind that whichever individual or whichever party had provoked the murderer for this bloody task, why did it include more men in this secret. Was it not his folly?
On what basis was the disappearance of the Afghan Consul from Peshawar made mysterious and how was it attributed to the accident of murder? Any consul can leave for his country anytime he wants. No strict restriction can be imposed on his movement. If Afghanistan had a hand in this accident, then what was the haste for Sardar Mohammad Qayyum Khan to leave Peshawar. The government of Pakistan was responsible for the protection of his life – these questions as is obvious arise only in that case when a person is not aware of the full detail of anything.
Then this news that the NWFP government had informed the Punjab government about its suspicions regarding the murderer probably a day before, is very important. If the Punjab government had received this information then what it did in this connection. The Punjab Police which arrests mosquitoes and flies too on a trivial doubt; why did it remain silent even upon receiving such an important report? Why did it not guard the whole movement of the murderer Said Akbar?
The police are in search of the 10-year old servant of the murderer – this news was very funny. What was the meaning of the search? The police should have arrested anybody having even a trivial acquaintance with the murderer very easily.
In the Afaq of 20 October, a long article from the pen of eyewitness Mr Irfani was published which had these 2 things worthy of consideration:
1. The attacker was sitting inclined at a distance of 6 yards side by side with Mr Irfani. The police began firing in the air. All this happened in such an unexpected and sudden way that nobody could come to themselves.
2. After the falling of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, the person who was the first to reach him swiftly was the Deputy Commissioner of Pindi, Hardy.
The Deputy Commissioner of Rawalpindi, Mr Hardy, who ran to reach towards Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, was it not his duty that he also run towards the murderer, who was at a distance of just 6 yards from him. There were other gentlemen present to look after Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, but Mr Hardy should definitely have cared for the protection of the murderer.
The police fired in the air. Why? By whose order?
We have still not received the answer to these questions and don’t know until when we will not get it.
In the Afaq of 21 October Mr Irfani detailed further details of this accident in which the following things were important:
1. The pistol was not of common and ordinary make.
2. Nobody caught the murderer while extending his hand, firing the pistol.
3. Many bullets were shot into the body of the murderer.
4. A person was caught beneath the dais alongwith a revolver.
5. Somebody had directed Deputy Commissioner Mr Hardy on the telephone that nobody else be on the stage except Liaquat.
6. The murderer had sent a chit to police while moving from Hazara written with ‘I am going to Pindi. I will stay in Grand Hotel. The police should be told not to pester me there like they did during my stay in Murree.’
7. The pistol with which the murderer killed Khan Liaquat Ali Khan could not be found by the police or the C.I.D.
These things do not need comment by me or anyone else; because there is no skin over them which can be removed. In Hazara, the police knew that where their ‘man’ is going and where he will stay. Even if they did not have proper knowledge of it, then they definitely knew this much that he is departing from Hazara, and when he was going, then why did the secret police of Hazara not remain behind him like a shadow; by guessing and measuring the movement of even an unimportant political worker, it makes life difficult for him. But this is a strange thing that the potential murderer of such a great personality who was suspected for a long time, leaves Hazara with great ease, tells the police about his destination and his place of stay totally accurately, and sitting at a distance of 6 yards marks such a target that the first bullet very much does its work.
He comes to Rawalpindi on 13 October and stayed in Grand Hotel until the morning of the 16th. Meanwhile his personality remains very much mysterious. Everything about him was odd.
2-3 people used to come meet him at the hotel, about them the murderer had said, were from the C.I.D. He had written ‘C.I.D. pensioner’ with his name in the hotel register – one does not understand that despite these suspicion-increasing things, nobody even kept him under watch and if so, with carelessness. The murderer was murdered. But it is surprising that where did that pistol go, which martyred Khan Liaquat Ali Khan.
On 19 October, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, Chief Minister Punjab said during a speech, ‘I am very ashamed with the feeling that this very painful accident took place in my province. But I want to reassure you that there was no negligence in the security arrangements of the government or police.’
May God make it happen so, but the news that have reached us so far, we are not completely consoled and satisfied from it about this. Many bullets have been found from the body of the murderer. What has the government and police investigated about these.
Said Akbar was the murderer of the beloved Prime Minister and leader of our Pakistan. He was deserving to be beheaded, he had been the perpetrator of such a disgusting act for which he should have been punished but he should have been protected from the rage and fury of the crowd. Whatever we may say in view of the damage which has occurred to our country, however thousands of arguments we may present emotionally, but the truth is that on the afternoon of 16 October, two persons were murdered. One Khan Liaquat Ali Khan, the Prime Minister Pakistan and one an inhabitant of Hazara named Said Akbar.
The murderer of the late Khan Liaquat Ali Khan was Said Akbar. About him, the police has very much given its decision but who was the murderer of Said Akbar? That feeling which was created within the heart of the crowd against him! His friends who wanted to draw a curtain on the conspiracy of murder…or the police? Because recently it has been known that 3 bullets came out from the body of the murderer. Now it has been reported that those came out from the pistols of the police. In this connection the name of a responsible officer is also being taken but right now I do not want to say anything about it. Mian Daultana should immediately make the people aware of all the events. There is no doubt that he has expressed his total satisfaction with the security arrangements of our police in his speech but if the events are contrary to it, then he should not neglect his duty.
Like accurately getting a clue to the murder of Khan Liaquat Ali Khan is the duty of our police and our government, in the same manner accurately getting a clue to the murder of the murderer Said Akbar is part of the duties of both of these. Irrespective of the total dilemmas of politics, if only in the eyes of law, in that field which is called the scale of justice, upon that criterion which is called humanity, we judge the accident of the afternoon of 16 October, then we reach the conclusion that there was not much of a difference between the act of Said Akbar and his murderers. Both are murderers and deserving of the punishment which is written in the penal codes of Pakistan for such people. Their bloody paths were separate but they very much met by one crossroads, where there is a pool full of human blood.
Said Akbar struck a heavy blow upon Pakistan by murdering Khan Liaquat Ali Khan and by murdering Said Akbar, one or more people too cut him and his branch supported by which he had struck this blow.
All translations from the Urdu are by the author.
Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently based in Lahore, where he is also the President of the Progressive Writers Association. He is currently working on a book Sahir Ludhianvi’s Lahore, Lahore’s Sahir Ludhianvi, forthcoming in 2021. He is a past recipient of a prestigious 2013-14 British Council and Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship at the University of Bradford in the UK, awarded for his translations and interpretation of Manto’s nonfiction. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org