Sardar Abdur Rub Nishtar

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Sardar Abdur Rub Nishtar was one of Quaid’s close and reliable associates. He was born at Peshawer on June13, 1899. His father, Maulvi Abdul Hannan, was a prominent figure of the Afghan ‘Kakar’ tribe who valiantly opposed the British raj. Nishtar’s parents who were pious and religious-minded exercised a tremendous influence on his life. After passing Munshi Fazil (Honors in Persian), in 1923, Nishtar obtained his bachelor degree from the University of the Punjab as an external candidate. After completing his LLB from Aligarh University with distinction, he was apprenticed to Khan Bahadur Saadullah Khan who was a lawyer of great repute. In 1926 he started his own legal practice.

Nishtar started his political career while he was still a student and began to take part in the Khilafat Movement during 1919-1920. It was the outbreak of Khilafat Movement that made Nishtar cognizant of the various problems of the Muslims all around the world, and concentrate on politics. His deep attachment with the Syed Brothers further helped him a lot in understanding the situation of the Muslims of the subcontinent. In later years he proved to be a high-ranking politician, a sincere leader, a proficient administrator, and a man of amicable nature, gifted with poetic genius. His poetry was colored with Islamic conceptions and imbued with high aims and supreme ideas of life.

While Nishtar was studying at Aligarh College, he approached the leaders of Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Hind and other leaders in order to convince them to oppose Shudhi Movement. As a result Tableegh-i-Islam was established at Peshawer. He also developed close association with Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar. An episode speaks volumes of Nishtar’s political acumen. When Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar told Nishtar that he opposed Mr. Jinnah for re-organization of the All India Muslim League, Nishtar supported Jinnah’s proposal after knowing all the details of Jinnah-Jauhar discussion. Nishtar pleaded the case of the AIML so well that Jauhar was at length convinced.

As he was highly influenced by Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar who was an active member of All India National Congress (AINC), Nishtar also joined AINC in 1929 and became member of the NWFP Provincial Congress Committee. He, however, left the National Congress for ever by the end of 1931 when he felt that it was an extremist, anti-Muslim organization, and that Ghafar Khan wanted to force all the congressmen of NWFP to work according to his wishes. Nishtar had strong hold on the masses and was very popular and beloved democratic leader as compared to the Khan Brothers. That is why AINC leaders and especially Abu-ul-Kalam Azad repeatedly urged him to re-join the Congress but he declined. However, when the civil disobedience movement started in the NWFP in 1931, Nishtar was associated neither with Khan Brothers nor with the Congress. Later on, he disclosed that “in spite of my differences with Congress I had all the sympathies with them and I also helped and advised red shirt leaders whenever they came to me”. It was political insight and depth of Nishtar which brought him close to Jinnah and later on he came up to the expectation of the Quaid-i-Azam. Initially like Jinnah he was also in favor of the Hindu-Muslim unity but with the passage of time he also realized that it was not possible because Hindus just wanted to enslave the Muslims after seizing power from the British.

He endeavored for constitutional reforms in the NWFP as he wished that people of this province should stand on equal footing like the people of other provinces. In the meeting of all-India Muslim League Council held at Delhi in March 1937, it was strongly proposed also by Nishtar that the ultimate ideal of the Muslim League ought to be thorough independence and achieve separate entity for the Muslims. Unlike Congress, Muslim League had not gained popularity among the masses of NWFP so when Nishtar joined it he had to work a lot and struggle hard for establishing Muslim League on solid and firm platform. Due to his efforts Muslim League started working successfully also in the province of NWFP. After the Lahore Resolution of 1940 Nishtar toured from town to town and spread the message of Muslim League among the masses. He became an all India figure when the British Prime Minister announced that the British would leave India soon and the Viceroy asked him about an agreed solution of Indian problem “the division of India is the only solution” Nishtar replied.

He became the Finance Minister in Sardar Aurangzab’s provincial cabinet in 1943 and was one of the members of the Muslim League delegation at Simla Conference in 1945. He also became a Minister in the interim League Congress cabinet in 1946. In 1947 after the creation of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam included him in his first cabinet and entrusted him with the responsibility of Communication Minister. The communication system of Pakistan was in shambles as it lacked both the equipment and the administration to run it. Everything was going to be done from a scratch but in spite of all these handicaps Nishtar managed to run the communication system successfully. He introduced Urdu in the railways, postal and telegraph department and he also participated in the combined defense council held in Delhi in September 1947 on behalf of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. Nishtar was also the member of Constituent Assembly and held a firm conviction that constitution of Pakistan should be based on Islamic principles and implemented on sound footing to have stability in the country. Moreover he moved a resolution on Sunday 10th August 1947 proposing rules for the election of the president of constituent assembly. These rules were adopted by the assembly after some minor amendments suggested by Dhrindra Nath Dutta.

Nishtar succeeded Francis Maudie as the first Muslim Governor of Punjab on August 2, 1949. At that time Punjab was facing crisis. In the hope of solving the problems he tried to keep contact with the masses and always took them in confidence. He established an anti-corruption department under the control of the home secretary of Punjab government. He discouraged all the anti-state newspapers and warned them that they would be penalized if they would play in the hands of the enemy. Nishtar was not in favor of active participation of the government employees in politics and told them that they should keep themselves aloof from all the party factions. He also declared the registration of Auqaf necessary and a law was passed to this effect. Nishtar was always in favor of separate electorates because in his view separate electorates can safe guard the rights of the minorities in a better way while in joint electorates the majority can easily manipulate the constituencies and hence prevent the minorities from getting their due share. He appealed to the opposition to have more responsible and realistic view of things.

After the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1951, Khawaja Nazimuddin became the Prime Minister and he gave the portfolio of industries to Nishtar. Nishtar tried his best to develop this sector to such an extent that Pakistan could become self sufficient in everything. He believed “nature has given Pakistan vast resources and now it’s up to the people to make best use of them” and that the progress of the industries did not depend on money and machinery only but proper planning was equally important.

When Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the ministry of Khawaja Nazimuddin on April 17, 1953 despite his majority in the assembly, Nishtar condemned his act and strongly supported Nazimuddin. Unlike some of his colleagues he refused to join the new cabinet.

So Nishtar retired after his dynamic participation in the government for six years. He had been suffering from heart disease and blood pressure since 1953. He died of heart attack on 14th of February 1958 in Karachi.

This article was last updated on Friday, Jan 04, 2008