Honour-bound to Pakistan in Duty, Destiny & Death, Iskander Mirza's Memoirs from Exile

Honour-bound to Pakistan in Duty, Destiny & Death, Iskander Mirza's Memoirs from Exile
The launch of Iskander Mirza memoirs at the Pakistan Literature Festival in London at Conway Hall was well attended and fiery as well. Moderated by Mukulika Banerjee the idea was to bring this missing chapter of Pakistan’s history out in the open, supplemented with well researched historical references and validated with declassified information; most importantly to have an open debate not only on the memoirs but also to address the pertinent questions of why now after more than 50 years.

The session took off well until it turned into Iskander Mirza bashing session by one of the panelist. The bias was obvious, either because of the poor understanding or perhaps malicious misrepresentation of facts which was noticed on many counts. For example, when the panelist mentioned Iskander Mirza’s contempt for Bengalis (nothing could be further from truth) or for that matter his disdain for Pathans. These were nothing short of baseless “facile generalisations” from a panelist and coming from a scholar it reeked of intellectual dishonesty.

In Chapter 7 of Memoirs, Mirza writes “Pakistan was created by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But Independence also came with the result of sacrifices by Gandhi, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Khan Sahib and hundreds of the others who are totally unacknowledged in Pakistan today.


As a matter of fact, I have serious doubts if one even fully read the book as in a post session discussion Iskander Mirza was referred to as my great father in law and as if the book was about Mirza as a husband, father and family member. Nothing could be further from reality.

On the contrary and upfront I had made it clear that this is no hagiography or Tareefnama, that book’s sole and core objective is to bring forth his side of the story versus what was spread by Ayub Khan and his cronies and to have an educated discourse, Iskander Mirza’s policies and actions are open to be challenged and questioned.


Most certainly it’s not the criticism that bothered me but the unilateral rant that ensued and frequently borrowed from Ayub Khan’s charge sheet.


The panelist leading the charge not only misquoted Ian Talbot but conveniently forgot Chaudhry Mohammed Ali’s name when naming those responsible for failure of democracy in Pakistan, further elaborated by Ian Talbot – that Iskander Mirza was not alone in the undermining of fragile democracy in Pakistan and quotes from M M Syed’s work: “Pakistan’s democratic failure owed much to the misfortune of having seasoned bureaucrats as Chaudhry Mohammed Ali and Ghulam Mohammed elevated to positions of authority.

Moreover Mirza’s reputation was deliberately blackened by his 1958 co-coup leader Ayub Khan in his autobiography,  Friends not Masters.  Ayub destroyed Mirza’s papers and diaries  which explains the absence of a serious study of his career… the reality of Pakistan’s democratic demise can no more be solely attributed to Iskander Mirza, than to the distorting influence that the State’s alliance with the US exerted.”

I have my reasons to believe that panelist may have hardly read the book as above account is mentioned in the Afterword along with the reference.

It’s rather interesting to note that many of the so called progressive naysayers of Mirza do not hesitate in borrowing every word from Ayub Khan when it comes to placing Mirza in the doghouse of history and gladly parrot the narrative that was concocted by the Field Marshall and his sycophants, never failing to amuse me with their hypocrisy and judgementalism in their eternal yearning to fix Pakistan.

During the entire discussion not once the objective of the book was broached as to why this book was written and about historical distortions in Pakistan or how the State that every now and then alters and edits history at will and how it deleteriously affects nation building.

Also, during the entire session not once did the panelists mentioned Iskander Mirza’s role in acquisition of Gwadar (based on declassified copyrighted information acquired from The National Archives UK) which further supports my impression that there was more to Iskander Mirza bashing than obvious and that it was not spontaneous but that preconceived assumptions certainly played a role in the discussion. Take for example the Republican Party and his supposed role, which he clearly denied in his interview with Ispahani.

Had the panelists read it thoroughly and as one would expect and to be well posted on Ayub Khan’s Friends not Masters they would have also debated point by point the charges or accusations from Ayub Khan and response on the same from Iskander Mirza- alas that was not the case. Suffice to say some on the panel had not read the Preface, Foreword, The Gwadar Papers and Afterword. With reference to Ayub Khan using Islam as fulcrum in Pakistan and Shabbar Zaidi’s (from the floor) comment that Iskander Mirza is responsible for Islamisation in Pakistan. What else can one say but balderdash to such nonsense and utter lack of historical knowledge? Iskander Mirza - the man was secular to core and on many occasions ran into trouble for that very reason.

In the Constitution of 1956, the country was to be known as the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. But in October 1958, President Iskander Mirza changed the official name of the country to just “Pakistan” by a Presidential Order (Feldman, 1967). The change in the official name of the country was retained in the 1962 Constitution. However, later in December 1963, Pakistan again became an “Islamic Republic” after amending the Constitution owing to the pressure by the religious groups. (The Constitution of Pakistan, 1962; Weekes, 1964). Journal of Political Studies, Vol 18, Issue – 1, 45-60 Forced Modernization and Public Policy: A Case Study of Ayub Khan Era (1958-69) Sarfraz Husain Ansari∗

In writing this book I am confronting historical negationism through historical revisionism.  It’s a herculean task to challenge established narratives of fifty plus years and even with credible source material and valid historical references it will take time through debate to restore the missing chapters where Pakistan’s history is pockmarked with negationism.

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell from the sky, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi