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Memories of Jinnah

Dawn - October 8, 2001
by Khalid Hasan

K.H. 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 Kashmir struggle for dignity and recognition but that the man who had been the Quaid-i-Azam's hand-picked private secretary through the history-making years 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.

In a way, it was a befitting place for him to die because he was the most modest of men and never spoke about his years with the Quaid and the intimacy he had enjoyed or the trust the Father of the Nation had reposed in him. Nor did he ever mention the great affection which the normally harsh Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah bore him. It was she who insisted, for instance, that he go to London to do law and she paid for it. Khurshid had no money then, and he had no money later. The fact was that he was not interested in such things. Lack of money or the absence of a home of his own did not matter to him.

Khurshid sailed through life keeping a low profile and never bragging about the historic events to which he had not only been a witness but in which he had also played a small part perhaps. The Quaid is once believed to have said that Pakistan was made by him, his private secretary and his typewriter. That private secretary was Khurshid whom the Quaid had picked up in Srinagar when he was barely twenty and who had never travelled outside Kashmir except once for a debate in Lahore and to attend the annual session of the Punjab Muslim Students Federation in Jullandhar as a representative of Kashmiri students.

The Quaid had inaugurated the session and that was the first time Khurshid had set eyes on the man who was to change his life and the life of the Muslims of India. As for the typewriter, when Khurshid joined the Quaid in Bombay, he did not know how to type. But he managed to deal with the Quaid's personal and official correspondence with his two-finger method. It need not be stressed that the perfectionist that Mr Jinnah was, everything had to be letter perfect. One can go on wondering how the Quaid was able to achieve so much with so little.

Khurshid not only did not speak about his time with the Quaid but he did not even write about him. Once, when pressed, he said, he would write the truth about the Quaid when others stopped printing lies about him. He obviously had in mind Gen. Zia-ul-Haq's strange claim that a hitherto unknown diary of the Quaid had been discovered which proved that he did not believe in parliamentary democracy.

All Khurshid said in a statement was: the Quaid did not keep a diary. The man who ruled Jinnah's Pakistan for 11 years did not repeat the claim again. Once when in order to prove that he was the Quaid's secretary, Sharifuddin Pirzada had a picture printed that showed his popped up head behind the Quaid and Gandhi, Khurshid remarked, "He can also use this evidence to prove that he was Gandhi's secretary."

After Khurshid died, the family came upon a couple of notebooks and papers in which he had recorded some of his memories of the Quaid and conversations about the Quaid with those who had known him well. Though the material was in the nature of a fragment, rather than a sustained account, it was valuable enough to make a book, though a slim one.

The book 'Memories of Jinnah' was published by Oxford University Press with help from I.H. Burney, one of Khurshid's great friends. The first edition ran out and was not reprinted, because according to the publishers there was "not sufficient demand to justify the reprint". It is only now that a second edition has been produced by Sang-e-Meel, Lahore.

When the Quaid came to Srinagar in the summer of 1944, Khurshid who was in college and also stringing for the Orient Press, the only Muslim news agency in India which ran a limited, almost primitive service. It became Khurshid's norm to visit the Quaid every day and bring him what the Quaid called "the gup". Off and on, he would ask Khurshid, "What is Gandhi doing?" Khurshid, of course, had no idea because the Orient Press did not have live wires abuzz with news.

One day the Quaid asked Khurshid if he would become his secretary, adding that he should not decide in a hurry. Khurshid could not believe his ears. A few days later when he said yes, the Quaid told him, "I will show you the world and look after you." In Bombay, Khurshid stayed at the Quaid's Malabar Hill residence and in Delhi at his 10 Aurangzeb Road residence.

Writes Khurshid, "Mr Jinnah was a stickler for routine and extremely punctual. Almost everything happened with clockwork precision. He was up at seven when his personal valet, the boy Phillip Mescarenhas, entered his bedroom with tea on a tray and the day's newspapers. These Mr Jinnah scanned for an hour or so and then went to the bathroom. Phillip would lay out his clothes, having prepared his bath earlier. Promptly at quarter past nine, Mr and Miss Jinnah would come down by the lift and head for the dining room for breakfast, which was over by 10 o'clock.

He would then start his day's work."According to Khurshid, "He (the Quaid) personally opened all the letters addressed to him. He personally received all the money orders and cheques, signing or countersigning them. He also received all the registered letters and signed for them. My first reaction was that perhaps he did not trust anyone. But as time passed, I changed my opinion. The explanation lay in his immense sense of responsibility. There were occasions during those years when the flood of correspondence became almost unmanageable. Miss Jinnah would then come to help and the two of us would open his letters and telegrams."

Khurshid recalls that when Dawn's first editor Pothan Joseph left, the Quaid was bitter. He said it was a pity that in the world of today, one could not trust anyone. Of Joseph he said, "He was in Madras wasting his time and drinking like a fish. I picked him up and made him editor of Star of India. Then we started Dawn and I brought him here and now, for only an extra two hundred rupees, he has gone over to the government." Khurshid also recalls when he first met Altaf Husain, this newspaper's legendary editor. The Quaid interviewed him personally and ordered his appointment.

Khurshid writes, "I felt that if Mr Jinnah appeared cold and cautious, it was because he had been let down often. He had trusted and been deceived. He had shown sincerity but had received scorn and now he treaded the ground with extreme caution, measuring every step as he took it, not once, not twice, not three times, but ninety-nine times perhaps. Mr Jinnah had no baseness in his character. He had chosen the middle course in dealing with people. He was trusting, but not too trusting; suspicious, but not very. This was his compromise."

Khurshid explains what made the Quaid give up on Indian nationalism. "Young and enthusiastic, when he returned from Britain, he believed that India was a nation as Great Britain was a nation and, as such, worked for the abolition of separate electorates and for the establishment of Hindu-Muslim unity. But he soon discovered that it was not so.

"The closer he came to the Hindu nationalist leaders, the more familiar he grew with their 'Hindutva', that curious mixture of religion and politics ... Nationalism was Mr Jinnah's first love and continued to give him occasional pangs until late in life, as first love does. Mr Gandhi was right. People were more Hindu or Muslim than they were Indian ... Since he was a Muslim, he argued, why should he not speak to his people as a Muslim? As an idealist, Mr Jinnah was a nationalist, but his nationalism died in its infancy."

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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