Today there are few who have witnessed Partition. Fewer still who have been part of the Pakistan Movement and who met Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. And even fewer who can still harbor so much hope for Pakistan despite living in the complete opposite of what the country was meant to be. Colonel (r) Amjad Hussain Sayed can claim all three and so much more. A distinguished personality whose personal life intertwines with the country that he lives in, he epitomises what Pakistan should have been like and what Pakistanis should aspire to be.
Early life and childhood
Born in Gujranwala, Amjad Hussain lost his parents in his infancy. His uncle, a leading physician, Dr Mohammad Hussain who founded Samli Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Murree – and also founded Muslim Town, Lahore as a counter to the Hindu elite colony of Model Town, Lahore – took him into his home. Colonel Amjad’s family today still resides in Muslim Town in a house he built in 1962 that exudes modesty and elegance and also defined him.
At a time when the country is marked by political bickering, personal vendettas, and crippling power games, Colonel Amjad’s words –conveying the essence of Pakistan – ought to be heeded.
The Lahore that Amjad Hussain grew up in was starkly different to what the city is today. “Lahore was clean and disciplined. I recall only one Muslim building, Shah Din, on the Mall. In Anarkali, almost all the shops were owned by Hindus,” he recollected.
“Growing up in Lahore, I attended the Muslim High School in Lahore on Railway Road. It was only for Muslims. I then went on to attend Islamia College on Railway Road, which was also for Muslims. Other institutions like Punjab University had more non-Muslims in higher education, mostly Hindus. Despite Muslims studying in institutions only for Muslims, there was lack of unity and identity.”
It was in the Brahmin interest that Muslims – who in the past had dominated the majority Hindu populace – remain fragmented without anyone to unify them. Despite slogans of ‘Hindu Muslim Bhai Bhai’, there were differences that could be felt at a railway station where Hindus and Muslims had different stalls for drinking water and the two communities never shared utensils.”
In Lahore in those days, young students like Amjad Hussain searched for leadership. “Even though there were two Muslim meenar for Muslims in the form of Allama Iqbal and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, when we looked at the Hindus they had two strong political leaders in the form of Mahatma ‘Bapu’ Gandhi and Pandit Nehru. We had no-one.”
Interestingly, back in the 1930s, there was scarce mention of Mohammed Ali Jinnah except that he was a Muslim and a potential leader, but that he had left the country. Allama Iqbal, who was a family friend of Amjad Hussain’s family, became a mentor of sorts to the young boy. It was around this time that Amjad Hussain, along with his friend Abdus Salaam Khurshid, decided to start a youth-based club called ‘Servants of Islam League’.
“This was started as a means of inculcating Islamic élan amongst young Muslims. We wanted to discuss Islamic culture and history, achievements of Muslims… what Muslims had achieved and lost. We held weekly meetings and all the boys who attended were Muslims.”
College life, Allama Iqbal and Jinnah
After Amjad Hussain joined Islamia College in the mid-1930s, he became friends with another young bright lad, Hameed Nizami (who later founded the newspaper Nawa-i-Waqt), who also keenly shared his concerns over the lack of a strong Muslim leader.
It was around that time that Amjad Hussain, Hameed Nizami and Abdus Salaam Khurshid visited Allama Iqbal and told him about their League. Much to their happiness, Allama Iqbal approved the activity and told them that it was a good initiative, encouraging them to “make it a Muslim Student Federation. Iqbal encouraged us not to be fearful and to speak up and stand up.”
One hot summer day during their first year at college, Amjad Hussain and Hameed Nizami, frustrated over Muslim inertia, turned to Allama Iqbal for guidance. Iqbal turned to his servant Ali Baksh and in Punjabi said, “Ali Baksha, aye munde bare phhakey hoye ney, enna nu surayee wichon pani pya” (Ali Baksh, these boys are fired up. Give them some water to drink and cool down).
“He was more than just a guide. He was a philosopher and a friend. And upon hearing our grievances, he spoke to us tenderly as if we were angry children. He lay upon his charpoy and said ‘Allah rakhe tere jawanon ko salamat! De in ko sabaq khud shikani, khud nigari ka’ (May God preserve the youth and may they all abide by faith! Teach them restraint and order and to shun conceit),” said Colonel Amjad.
Both boys insisted that Allama Iqbal was their leader; after all, who else could they turn to? Iqbal, however, replied,“Mundiyon! The Asli Pehlwan is someone else and he has left. He will return; he is the doctor who can give medicine for your ailments.”
Iqbal insisted that the Muslims’ leader who had left India out of frustration would return and that his name was Mohammed Ali Jinnah: “I have written a letter to Jinnah requesting him to return and guide us. He will come to Lahore and whenever he comes, you boys must meet him and ask him what his orders are. You will need to tell him that you are his humble servants and that you are at his beck and call. Follow him blindly,” he told the boys.
Jinnah returned to Lahore in 1936. “He was staying at Faletti’s hotel on the Mall. Hameed Nizami and I decided to see him at the hotel. Upon arriving at Jinnah’s suite, we were greeted by a man dressed in white pant suit and we greeted him saying salaam. He replied ‘Good morning.’ Realizing that this man was not a Muslim, we were astonished to discover that this Christian man, Mr. Lobo, was Jinnah’s PA. Iqbal had told us that Jinnah was a guide for us and already we were surprised by Jinnah and his Christian assistant. Anyway, we told Mr. Lobo that we were humble students ordered by Iqbal to meet Barrister Jinnah. He looked at us and smiled and told us that Barrister Jinnah is very busy with a long list of visitors and that we should come tomorrow at ten o’ clock.”
Their fervor outdoing disappointment, Amjad Hussain and Hameed Nizami persisted, pleading for just a glimpse of Jinnah as they were keen to fulfill the instructions given by Iqbal and were curious to see who this leader was.
Mr. Lobo checked with Jinnah, who approved the meeting with the boys.
“When we entered Jinnah’s room, the brilliance in his eyes shone like floodlights and he seemed pleased to see us. And the conversation went like this:
‘Jinnah: “Sit down boys, what can I do for you?”
The boys: “Sir, we are humble students of Islamia College and we have been instructed by Allama Iqbal sahib to meet with you. We would like you to deliver a lecture at our college.”
Jinnah: “What is your authority? Are you office bearers of the student union? Have you taken permission from your principal?”
Boys: “No sir, we are just following Allama sahib’s orders.”
Jinnah: “Go back. Speak to your principal. Get a letter of invitation and do not waste your time or mine. You are students, you must know the value of time.”‘
Recalling fondly the memory of meeting Jinnah for the first time, Colonel Amjad continued: “He refused to shake hands with us. When we left the hotel, I said to Hameed ‘Aye banda hai (This is the man)! He is a broadminded man as his PA is Christian, he possesses no duplicity. He understands the value of time, he is disciplined and he is a man of few words. He is truly our guide.’ From that meeting onwards he was already teaching us lessons.”
They had a new task – convincing their principal to issue an invitation letter. However, as history has shown, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
Upon hearing what the boys proposed – that Jinnah be invited to address the college students – their principal was less than supportive. “Our principal furiously told us off: ‘Have you come here to study or to do politics?’ “
The problem was few people had heard of Jinnah and, consequently, rheir action for daring to ask Jinnah to come and give a talk precipitated their expulsion from Islamia College.
Upon hearing this, one of the students, Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi, was incensed, “How can Jinnah not be allowed? We will conduct protests in the college,” he reassured the expelled boys and true to his word, the students protested for three days.
Fifteen days later, Amjad Hussain and Hameed Nizami were readmitted. But they had made their mark. They were summoned by the secretary of the Muslim League, Ghulam Rasul Khan, and asked if they had any relatives in the Muslim League. After clarifying that neither one did, the boys were then asked how they knew Allama Iqbal who was the president.
“We replied to his question saying, ‘Who doesn’t know him? He is our murshid!'” said Amjad Hussain. “He then told us ‘You have been invited by Barrister Jinnah to attend the Lucknow session’ (held in October 1937) and handed us two third class railway tickets.”
Iqbal’s death, Quaid’s entry
When they arrived in Lucknow, they received a chit saying that Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, who was serving as Secretary, wanted to meet them. Upon arrival, he greeted the two by saying, “You are the two naughty boys from Islamia College, Lahore?”
“Yes sir, and we have no regrets,” laughed Amjad Hussain. “Liaquat Ali Khan then turned to us and said, ‘Look here, there is a session here and you two have been nominated as committee members.’ When we asked what was the committee and who the other members were we were shocked! We were just two third year students rubbing shoulders with great Muslim leaders.” Colonel Amjad was the last surviving delegate of the October 1937 Lucknow Session of the Muslim League.
The next day at the Lucknow session when the jalsa started, a man named Mian Ferozuddin Khaada shouted “Shahanshah-e-Hindustan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah zindabad!”
“Upon hearing this, Jinnah responded, ‘Look here, I am no shahanshah (King). I am just a humble servant of the Mussalmaans of India.’ But the title Quaid-i-Azam stayed,” said Colonel Amjad, “It was then in 1937 when the Pakistan movement started and ten years later in 1947, Pakistan was created,” recollected Colonel Amjad.
However, tragedy struck in 1938.
“It was April 21st and we were in the midst of English exams when we heard someone shout loudly outside that Allama Iqbal has passed away. Hameed Nizami was sitting in front of me and I told him ‘Allama Iqbal has passed away and we cannot sit for this paper.'”
There was a Hindu invigilator who referred to the boys as ‘Islamia college kaye ghundon!’ (goondas of Islamia College) thinking they were up to something.
“We told him that we could not sit for the paper since we were upset at what we had just heard. He told us that, look, the paper is for three hours and you have to sit for at least an hour and a half. Whether you do the paper in that time or not is up to you. So we sat for that period and quickly did what we could do. We went to what was then Mayo Road and what a shaandar namaz-e-janaza it was.”
Years in military service
Amjad Hussain completed an M.A. in Economics. World War II had then erupted and he went on to be commissioned as an officer in the British Indian Army, while his old friend Hameed Nizami launched Nawa-i-Waqt in Lahore, which was at the forefront of supporting the Pakistan movement. According to his brother, the late Majid Nizami, succeeding editor of Nawa-i-Waqt for 52 years, a distraught Hameed Nizami did not eat for a week when Amjad Hussain joined the Army.
Amjad Hussain headed out to serve in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, where Field Marshal Rommel’s legendary Afrika Korps was ensconced. A major highlight of Amjad Hussain’s years of military service was serving as military attaché of Pakistan to Indonesia.
“I had done well on a course in England. And when I got back, I was surprised to learn that I was summoned by the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army, General Ayub Khan. The conversation consisted of Ayub Khan telling me to sit down, take my cap off and then he asked me if my wife observed purdah (she did not) and how many children I had (five). He then told me, ‘Well I have selected you as military attaché to Indonesia. I have seen your records and you are very straightforward, I am very proud of you.’ I thanked him and left.”
“My time in Indonesia was wonderful,” Colonel Amjad recalled.
At that time, Indonesia was under the spell of Pandit Nehru of India. But that did not deter the young Military Attaché. His dauntless efforts had a transformative impact in cementing Pak-Indonesian relations, leaving an enduring legacy of goodwill and friendship. General Haris Nasution and General Gatot Soebroto, both icons of Indonesian independence struggle, were highly impressed by Colonel Amjad’s commitment.
President Sukarno of Indonesia decorated Colonel Amjad Hussain Sayed with Indonesia’s highest medal bestowed for most distinguished service in the military, the Bintang Dharma (Star of Merit).
On March 13 1963, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Pakistan, on behalf of President Sukarno, presented the Bintang Dharma to Colonel Sayed, stating:
‘Lt. Col. Sayed is a great son of Pakistan who richly deserves the award. He has had a brilliant career in the army and during his term of service in Indonesia from 1957 to 1959 he made some very important contributions in further promoting the mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the two countries, Indonesia and Pakistan. Colonel Sayed’s devotion to his work and the cause of Pakistan-Indonesian solidarity quite rightfully earned him the sympathy and praise of all who come in contact with him. He has extensively travelled in Indonesia for the purpose of fostering good relations and has succeeded in creating an everlasting impression in the minds of his admirers with the result that Indonesians consider him to be one of them. Lt. Col. Sayed as a diplomat has blazed a trail of light which will long serve as a beacon to those who are given to the task of promoting the cause of peace and friendship.’
Reflections on Pakistan, India and The Quaid
So strong was the trust in Jinnah that Colonel Amjad recalled one incident during the pivotal Pakistan Resolution rally at Minto Park, Lahore, on March 23, 1940, where he asked his servant Sharif if he knew what the Quaid, who was speaking in English, was saying. Sharif replied that whatever he was saying, he was saying sach (truth). “My young nephew, Khalid Hussain, who accompanied me, made the sole moving-picture recording of the historic rally, which is always shown on TV.”
When Partition took place on August 14 1947, nobody could have foretold the horror and bloodshed. Both Quaid and Gandhi were non-violent men.
“I was in charge of Army Transport and Supplies and a friend, Dr Mubashir Hassan (at whose Lahore house the PPP was founded in November 1967), asked me to help rescue his family from Panipat. He told me how railways and roads were shut, ‘please save my sisters whose honor is at stake’ he pleaded. So I sent thirty trucks under a subedar to evacuate them. I told him, ‘Subedar sahib, your task is to rescue the entire family and rescue all Muslims regardless of sect. Secondly, you will bring the family’s furniture, and belongings. Nothing will be left behind.’ On the way, there was a lot of destruction and bloodshed. We never thought so much bloodshed would take place.”
The tragedy of Pakistan is that it lost the Quaid far too early. Would things have been different had he not died so early post-Pakistan’s inception? Would Pakistan have even been created had it not been for the Quaid?
“The Quaid was the only man who could create Pakistan. No other Muslim can sacrifice what he did. There was and will be no other Pakistani leader like him. He was the only one who cared about the people. When he was told about his illness, had it been any other man, he would have given up but the Quaid did not.”
When the doctors told him that his time was limited, it could only have been the Quaid who took the news in his stride and refused to let his dream of a state for Muslims be ruined by illness. “The Quaid told the doctors, ‘Thank you very much for the information. My first request is for God’s sake keep my ailment a top secret, my second request is how much time do I have?’ The doctors told him you have a maximum of four years. And the Quaid replied, ‘So far I have been working ten hours a day, now I will work twelve hours.'”
As Colonel Amjad narrated all this, there were times when he broke down into tears, yet the hope in his eyes never dimmed. He very much retains faith in Pakistan. “You, the youth, you are the hope and you must have faith in Allah.”
In August 1997, to mark the Golden Jubilee of Pakistan’s creation, a grand ceremony was held at Alhamra on the Mall at Lahore, wherein the Prime Minister of Pakistan conferred a Gold Medal on Colonel Amjad to honor his services for the Pakistan Movement.
“The Quaid was no relation of mine. I am who I am because of him. All these prime ministers, ministers, governors are not worth the country the Quaid worked to create. Because of him, they all flourished. We owe it now to the Quaid to preserve his dream.”
Colonel Amjad Hussain Sayed passed away in June 2017.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published here and has been republished with the permission of the editor Ahmed Faruqui.