On October 16, 1951, Liaquat Ali Khan headed towards the Rawalpindi Chaklala Airbase to make the greatest speech of his life. He was going to address a public meeting organized by Pakistan Muslim League, Rawalpindi.
A huge crowd of 100,000 people gathered at the Company Bagh to welcome the First Prime Minister of Pakistan.
‘Baradran-i-Millat’ was all that Liaquat Ali Khan was able to say of his speech when two shots rang through the crowd, as it watched its Prime Minister stagger and crumble on his back. The crowd was stunned into deep silence. A few seconds later, a third shot was sounded.
The Prime Minister had been shot.
The crowd erupted into an uproar and tumult.
Two hours after the incident, the Government announced that the assailant was Said Akbar, an Afghan national of Khost, Afghanistan. He was never on the C.I.D list of suspects. Akbar, was the son of Babrak, a leader of Zadran Tribe of Khost, Afghanistan. His father was killed in an encounter while fighting for Ammanullah Khan – the first Sovereign over the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Being pro-Ammanullah faction, the family had become persona-non-grata. Said Akbar was a Brigadier in the Afghan Army and sought refuge in India in January 1947. The Government of India agreed to grant him and his members of the family political asylum along with residence and monthly allowances. He was then residing in Abbottabad.
According to the inquiry report, the first person who rushed to the rescue of the Prime Minister was Mr. James Hardy, then serving as Deputy Commissioner of Rawalpindi. Nawab Siddiq Ali Khan, political secretary of the premier, who was sitting at the back of the dais also reached there. As the third shot sounded, Hardy bent on the Premier and asked him whether he had been hit. Liaquat Ali Khan claimed pain on the left side of his back. About twelve seconds later there was another volley of shots. They undid the Achkan of the Premier to discover a patch of blood below his heart.
Apart from what corroborating the account as above, Nawab Siddiq mentioned some important things in his book. He wrote that in order to provide comfort and ease to the Premier he opened the buttons of his Sherwani and folded up his silky shirt. “He observed two marks equivalent to the size of a gram; within a diameter of two inches in a straight line on his left side in the middle of his ribs on the face of the marks some blood was visible. From the first wound, there was no bleeding at all. Some blood did flow from the second one.”
In his statement, Superintendent of Police, Khan Najaf Khan said that he was just behind the Late Prime Minister at the back of the dais when he was fired at. He immediately ordered the shooting of Said Akbar.
The chest of the Prime Minister remained completely intact.
The Holy Quran in the Premier’s left pocket was intact and its green covering was not soaked with any blood. However, Dr. Col. Mian had claimed to have vigorously massaged the heart of the Premier. The medical examination, on the other hand, verified that the first bullet had viciously punctured his heart from inside. Dr. Col. Mian had claimed to Nawab Siddiq Ali Khan that the body of the Premier was brimmed with blood. Nobody had said that Liaquat Ali Khan was profusely bleeding.
The evidence did point at the possibility of the Prime Minister NOT being fired at from the front side of the dais.
Said Akbar was sitting just in front of the dais. There were numerous police officers in uniform around the dais, with most of them being behind it.
The most important prosecution witness was Mohammad Shah, the Sub-inspector of police who confessed to having killed Said Akbar, the alleged assassin. Describing how he was at a distance of 13 yards from the assassin, it is safe to say that he was still at a distance of three to four yards when Said Akbar fired the third shot. The witness brought out his revolver and fired five shots at him to ascertain his death. In his confessional statement, he had conceded that there was a great confusion and the whole crowd was immersed in chaos. So inconsistency remains regarding how Mohammad Shah managed to pave his way within seconds towards the alleged assassin.
The history of prosecution witnesses in Pakistan, with few exceptions, has always been tainted with lies and fabrications.
Dr. Naeem Qureshi writes that in case of Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination, state witnesses had been thoroughly tutored by the prosecuting officials.
The role of the national press in suppressing the truths of the events became much more questionable when the two leading Urdu newspapers, Daily Imroze and Daily Zamidar, absolutely blacked out the news of the assassination of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in their issues of October 17, 1951. Moreover, no picture of any event of October 16, 1951, was published either in The Pakistan Times or in the Daily Civil and Military Gazette on October 17, 1951.
The commission constituted to inquire regarding the circumstances of the Premier’s assassination held thirty-eight sittings and examined eighty-nine witnesses on behalf of the Government and public.
The Commission concluded indications of three conspiracies.
Two of the conspiracies were not revealed due to the Commission’s concern that their disclosure was not in the national interest. The third conspiracy was related to Said Akbar.
In any case, the likelihood of Said Akbar being a beneficiary is murky, who was not a citizen of Pakistan but a foreigner and a fugitive. He neither had any political roots nor did he have any links with any faction or political party.
Another question that still remains unanswered is related to the unexplained absence of Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani and Ghulam Muhammad on the day of the assassination of the Prime Minister.
Their mysterious absence casts further shadows of doubts on the judgment of the Commission. All dignitaries and notable politicians were present to welcome and receive the Prime Minister. But, astonishingly, neither Ghulam Muhammad nor Gurmani had turned up at the Air Base or at the public meeting where the Premier was shot dead. Being members of the Cabinet, it was important for them to have attended both the functions. There was no news of their being ill, either.
President Mohammad Ayub Khan in his popular book, Friends not Masters, writes,
“I wondered at how callous and cold-blooded and selfish people could be. The termination of the Prime Minister’s life had come as the beginning of a new career for them. It seemed that every one of them had got himself promoted in one way or other, I got the distinct impression that they were all feeling relieved. That the only person who might have kept them under control had disappeared from the scene.”
Ayub Khan did not mention any names but in a subtle manner he had pointedly raised his little finger towards the conspirators.
With the death of Liaquat Ali Khan, the birth of a new regime took place on the night of October 16, 1951 and the foundations of a fledgling democratic structure were damaged before they could have even been set. The introduction of the cult of bullet undermined the sanctity of the ballot and opened the doors to bureaucracy.
An attitude of selfishness and indifference developed among the politicians and custodians of the nation. It was a crime bigger than the cold-blooded murder of the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, who was “neither mourned nor forgotten.”
Inquiry report, Pakistan Times (1952)
Muhammad Ayub Khan, Friends Not Masters (1967)
S. Venkataramani, The American Role in Pakistan
Nawab Siddiq Ali Khan, Bay Tegh Sipahi