Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan

The Test of Time - my life and days

Chapter VII

The Last Journey

Speaker Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was suffering form a heart ailment and bronchopneumonia. He left Rawalpindi for Dacca on August 10, 1963. The National Assembly was adjourned and the entire House came to the Rawalpindi Airport to bid him farewell! As soon as his plane landed at Dacca, he was immediately rushed to the Combined Military Hospital. During the nine day treatment, he showed some signs of improvement. But death came slowly and peacefully at 10.40 A.M. Dacca time, on August 19, 1963. His wife and three daughters were by his side.

The news of his death became known to the nation within a few minutes after he expired and spread through word of mouth, while telephone and telecommunication lines carried it to distant lands. Radio Pakistan broadcast the news first and suspending its regular programming, began reciting Tilawat-i-Quran. The tragic news plunged the whole nation, from Chittagong to Khybar, into shock and grief. All evening newspapers announced the news across their front pages with bold headlines. Newspaper offices were flooded with telephone calls form people requesting confirmation of the news. By mid-afternoon condolence messages began pouring in from people in all walks of life, as well as from abroad. The sense of loss was just as intense in Karachi as it was in Dhaka. All Government offices, educational institutions and commercial concerns were closed almost immediately, throwing out on the street crowds of people who were in a state of shock. The National Flag flew half-mast on Government and public institutions. Many educational institutions remained closed in Karachi even the day after. The banquet in honour of the visiting Somali Premier was postponed.

While the death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was not totally unexpected given his medical history, people in general were not mentally prepared for that eventuality.

Crowds of people lined the nine-mile route from the Military Hospital in the Cantonment area to the official Speaker’s residence at Minto Road, where Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan’s body was taken, mourning his death in silence. Hundreds more wee waiting at the Speaker’s residence to have the last glimpse of the late great leader.

Among those who called on the bereaved family to condole the death were former Governor-General Khawaja Nazimuddin, the Speaker of East Pakistan Assembly Mr. Abdul Hamid Chowdhury, former Chief Minister of East Pakistan Mr. Nurul Amin, Maulana Ehteshamul Huq Thanvi, many of his old political associates, Judges of the High Court, Provincial Ministers, members of the Provincial and National Assemblies, the GOC East Pakistan officials of the Central and Provincial Governments and representatives of the foreign missions.

The funeral procession which started from the official residence of the late Speaker grew thicker and thicker as it approached the Outer Stadium at Dhaka. The body was draped in the National Flag and was brought to the stadium in a weapon carrier with four East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) armed guards standing in attention. A motor rider followed by an escort jeep led the procession. With thousands of mourners lined up on either side of the road it took the procession about half an hour to cover the mile and a half road. It was a never ending queue of cars, jeeps, vans and human beings railing along solemnly. The coffin was so thickly covered with flowers and garlands that it was hardly visible.

At the time of Namaz-i-Janaza, people jampacked road sides and roofs of the stadium. Maulana Ehteshamul Huq Thanvi led the Namaz-i-Janaza. About fifty thousand people attended the Namaz-i-Janaza. Gaibanda Namaz-i-Janaza of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was held in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan the following day. The dignitaries who visited the Speaker’s residence also attended the funeral prayers. Governor Monem Khan represented himself and President Ayub at the funeral, at the latter’s request. Even a contingent of the Armed Forces attended the Janaza. The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr. Justice Cheema flew from Rawalpindi to attend his Janaza.

The prayers over, mourners converged into a procession and shouldering the coffin moved silently towards the second capital where the Speaker was to be laid to eternal rest. Maulvi Saheb was given a State Funeral with full military honours. On both sides of the road, half a mile from the burial place troops had lined up. Headed by the GOC and followed by the troops, the funeral procession marched on. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan was laid to rest near the proposed site of the Pakistan National Assembly in the Second Capital area near Tejgaon. When the body was lowered in the grave by three of his relations, a 21-gun salute was fired, and the “Last Post” was sounded by the buglers. The GOC placed a wreath on the grave. Among others, Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan’s widow, and all other family members were present at the time of the burial.

A stream of condolence messages, both from home and abroad, as well as an outpouring of genuine love and affection accompanied Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan’s passing away. In eulogising him various West Pakistani Leaders called him “a jewel” and “a Saint”. President Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, a defendant in the landmark “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan versus Federation of Pakistan” case, mourned his death. In a message to Begum Tamizuddin Khan Sahib passed away this morning. Although he had been ill for sometime the recent improvement in his condition had given us all hope that he would get better. His passing away is a great national loss. Not only was he a determined fighter for national causes all his life but he occupied the Speakership of the Constituent Assembly and later of the National Assembly with great distinction and ability. He was respected and linked by all those who came into contact with him and all of us therefore have a sense of severe personal loss and sorrow. He share your grief and join you in mourning his death. May his soul rest in eternal peace and bliss.” The President asked the Governor of East Pakistan to represent him at the funeral of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan.

Mohtarama Miss Fatema Jinnah, sister of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and at that time Chief Opposition leader of Ayub’s regime said: “I am grieved to hear of the sudden death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. He was, at the same time, a great patriot, parliamentarian and a democrat. He took part in the struggle of Pakistan and after it came into being Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan devoted his life for the cause of the people and his services as speaker both in the National and the late Constituent Assembly of Pakistan will never be forgotten. My deepest sympathies are with the bereaved family”.

Recalling his association with Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan in the Muslim League and Khilafat Movement, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani called him a “true servant of God” and a great “Mujahid”. Added Moulana Akram Khan: “Pakistan lost a real great soul in the death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan.” Khawaja Nazimuddin in his condolence message said: “I have lost a personal friend of 30 years standing. We have been together in the Muslim League and the struggle for Pakistan. His services to the nation and Pakistan would be written in letters of gold. He was always held in great esteem and respect by his political friends and opponents. As Prime Minister of Bengal in pre-partition India I included him in my cabinet. The names over which I had no hesitation in making the selection were that of Mr. H.S. Suhrawardy and Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. He distinguished himself as a fair and impartial Speaker of the Constituent Assembly and after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly Sardar Nishtar, Fazlur Rahman and myself were the main persons behind him when the brought his historic suit against the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly; in spite of the threats of all kinds from the Home Minister, he never wavered and fought to the last. Pakistan will find it very difficult to replace a man like Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan and East Pakistan has suffered an irreparable loss”.

Such accolades were heaped on him by West Pakistani leaders as well. Dr. I.H. Qureshi, Vice Chancellor of Karachi University called him, “not a man, but an institution”. Sardar Bahadur Khan, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly called his “personal friend and life-long coworker” a “Symbol of Freedom”. The Central Finance Minister Mr. Mohammad Shoaib called him a “great patriot, a great statesman and a selfless worker. The national as a whole has become poorer by his death.” Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi of Jammat-i-Islam called the death” a great national tragedy”. He went on, “for the bold and courageous stand taken by him when the Constituent Assembly w as dissolved, it was easy to understand as to why he did enjoy the confidence of the people of Pakistan.” The Central Law Minister Sheikh Khurshid Ahmed said: “The entire nation felt bereaved. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan always associated with Muslim causes throughout his illustrious career. He was a patriot and democrat of the highest order. In the crisis of 1954, he alone stood up to challenge the validity of the dissolution of he Constituent Assembly. He was a man of deep convictions and great courage. As an authority on parliamentary procedure he was not only respected in Pakistan but also abroad. His death at this critical time has snatched away a great national leader and has caused an irreparable loss. The Ambassador of Afghanistan, Mr. Mohammad Hashim Maiwandwal described the death as “a great loss to Pakistan”. Adding, “Maulvi Sahib’s devotion to the cause of the people and the national would be a lasting example of his patriotism. Mr. Walter P. McConaughy, the United States Ambassador in Pakistan, said he was deeply grieved by the death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. He described him as a friend and a leader known worldwide for his ability, integrity, courage and devotion to principle.

The “New York Times” published Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan’s obituary with a photograph on August 20, 1963. Under the heading “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan Dies: Speaker of Pakistan Assembly” it said: “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan, Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly, died yesterday of pneumonia. He was 73 years old. Mr. Tamizuddin Khan was one of Pakistan’s few remaining elder statesman. In 1954 he led a successful campaign to overturn a decision by a former Governor General who had dissolved Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, of which Mr. Tamizuddin Khan was President. He had been unanimously elected to the post in 1948 on the death of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah. On the promulgation of a new constitution last year, he was again unanimously elected President of the National assembly. In May Mr. Tamizuddin Khan toured the United States by invitation of Washington and met President Kennedy and attended a session of Congress. Mr. Tamizuddin Khan was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1926. He was an ardent fighter in India’s independence movement and underwent two year’s imprisonment in pre-independence days for his activities. He had given up a lucrative law practice in response to a call for non-cooperation with the British rulers. In a signed newspaper article published here recently, Maulvi Sahib, as he was affectionately called, poked gentle fun at his British jailor. He wrote several works of faction in Bengali and was twice a Minister of undivided Bengal.”.

In its editorial entitled, “Tamizuddin Khan”, Dhaka’s `Daily Ittefaq’ said: “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan had a long political life. Starting with the Khilafat Movement, his name was associated with many political ups and downs. After the creation of Pakistan, his role in the brittle politics prevailing in the country may not always have been above controversy. The bold role that he played in challenging the undemocratic dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by late Mr. Ghulam Mohammad, was not repeated in later years, probably because of old age. Nevertheless, because of who he was, he was undeniably a significant personality in the politics of this nation. Therefore, his demise in naturally a loss. Mr. Tamizuddin Khan’s personal qualities deserve high praise. After his death we should focus specially on the excellence of his character. Even his political opponents would praise his honesty, mild manners and pleasant demeanour. We are deeply sad at the death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan. Our heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family”.

The `Pakistan Observer’ under the headline “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan” published the following editorial: “Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan had an active and eventful political career beginning from 1920 when he joined the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movements. That as a result of his active association with the freedom movement he was arrested in 1921 showed that his response to the movement sprang from a real love for the country. Elected to the Bengal Legislative Council and Assembly twice in 1926 and in 1929, as a Muslim League candidate, he became a Minister in undivided Bengal in 1938 and again in 1942. Just before independence be became a member of the Indian Constituent assembly and on the death of Quid-e-Azam he was unanimously elected President of the Pakistan Constituent assembly. The legal stand that he took against the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly by the late Ghulam Mohammad not only revealed the strength of his convictions but was also considered as a fight for restoration of democratic rights. Although many did not see eye to eye with him during the later part of his political life, there in none who will not recognise his close and active participation in the country’s freedom movements form the Congress and then from the Muslim League platforms. Despite political differences he was widely acclaimed because of his suavity and enlightenment. Born in 1890, he died at the ripe age of 73 and lived a full life. It is, therefore, not a case of premature death. That does not however lessen the deep shock and grief that has overwhelmed his family and his many friends and admirers. We extend our sincere condolences to the bereaved family and pray to God for the departed soul”.

Under the caption, “Heroism without Heroics”, the `Morning News’ said in an editorial “…… Yesterday in the morning he passed away and with his death another link with the past has snapped. He was a great fighter in the cause of freedom and a champion of democratic values. Nothing could daunt him, nothing could make him deviate from the path he had considered to be right. His steadfastness may not have been of the spectacular type. He was too gentlemanly to be obtrusive. He was genial and easily accessible, but he was firm. AT times it seemed that he shunned undue publicity. In spite of his long political career he developed a retiring disposition. He never bowed before insolent might. When he was a political prisoner he resolutely refused to salute officials, even though he had to suffer for his independence and sense of self-respect. There was always a sense of dignity about him, which commanded respect. A man of convictions, he would not compromise on fundamentals. Threats and cajolery and hardly any effect on him. His was heroism without heroics”.

“He was in the forefront of the freedom struggle and the Pakistan Movement. He gave up his legal practice to join the Khilafat and the non-cooperation movements in 1920. Later he resigned from the Congress. His legislative experience and ability were recognised by all. He was the Deputy President of the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan under Quid-e-Azam. In 1948 he was unanimously elected president of the Constituent Assembly. When the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved, he stood up for parliamentary life without yielding to any form of coercion or intimidation. He was a great defender of the rights and privileges of the House. His unanimous election as the Speaker of the National assembly of the Second Republic of Pakistan in June last year was a measure of the esteem in which he was held by all sections. His integrity and sincerity were beyond question. Even his opponents admired him and paid tributes to the qualities of his head and heart. He was for many a symbol of democracy and integrity. He was a novelist and journalist. He had many Bengali novels to his credit, and the edited two weeklies, “Paigam” and “Madina”. His interest in literature was undiminished till the last. He was said to be writing his memoirs in English. Even if he could not complete them, they should be rewarding for any serious student of the Pakistan movement. He was also interested in football, cricket and angling. The last sport was reflective of his quiet disposition. Great though his achievement as a parliamentarian are, he will be remembered by those who had the good fortune of knowing him closely as a kind, gentle, considerate and courageous man with old-world values. To the bereaved family we offer our heart-felt condolence. Theirs is a grief shared by thousands. May Allah give them strength to bear this terrible loss”.

Perhaps the `Dawn’ of Karachi summarised the life and achievements of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan best. Under the headline “Maulvi Tamizuddin” the editorial said: “There are not many left of the stalwarts who took a leading part in the revival of the Muslim nation in the sub-continent and through whose untiring efforts under the leadership of the Quid-I-Azam this Muslim Republic of Pakistan was brought into being. The death of Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan removes from the scene one of the sincerest and doughtiest of the survivors. For several days he hovered between life and death in the CMH, Dacca, but it was death that triumphed. It is needless here to narrate the details of the late Maulvi Tamizuddin’s career, a brief resume of which appears elsewhere in this issue; but in writing on his demise the first thing that comes to the mind of the present writer¾who had many decades of association with the departed leader¾ is that few even among his contemporaries were as devoted to the principle of plain living and high thinking as he was. Religious and honest in every way, sincere and devoted in his political and personal loyalties, fearless even in the face of ruthless opposition, and high principled to a fault¾such was the late Tamizuddin. He might not have been brilliant in the sense that some of the latter day politicians are, or pretend to be; but there were none to beat him in his steadfastness to the cause that he believed in. He made the greatest impact on public opinion in Pakistan as well as abroad, when he challenged¾through legal and constitutional means¾the infamous act of Pakistan’s first and eccentric dictator¾the late Ghulam Mohammad¾who dissolved the Constituent assembly and started the downward trend in Pakistan’s political life. It is probably not generally known that the late Maulvi Tamizuddin was subjected to all kinds of threats in order to coerce him into withdrawing the legal proceeding, but he remained adamant. In the end he may have lost the case, but he won a victory for self-respect, fearlessness in political struggles and for the principles of democracy. The country is by no means out yet of the morass into which the intrigues and ambitions of the third Governor General¾who was sick both in body and mind¾ had plunged it, but little by little the dark clouds are lifting. In setting that process in motion Maulvi Tamizuddin played a quiet role but nevertheless, a hero’s role. As Speaker of the present National Assembly, the Maulvi Sahib also had the occasion to officiate as the Head of the State during the President’s tour abroad. He thus attained the highest honour that any citizen could covet, and he fulfilled the role with dignity. The nation will mourn this loss for many a day and the gap created in the ranks of what is called the “old guard” of Muslim politics¾through devastating laws of man and acts of God¾will not be easily filled, or filled at all. But such is life and every nation has to take these losses in its stride. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Maulvi Sahib’s bereaved family and join all other Pakistanis in praying that his departed should may rest in peace.”

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