Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, who was born this day in the year 1899 in Pesh-awar, grew up to be a political stalwart serving the cause of Muslim League under the guidance of Quaid-i-Azam Muh-ammad Ali Jinnah. And till he breathed his last on June 14, 1958, he remained a strict adherent to the principles that his leader had set before the nation: hard work and discipline, honesty and integrity, unity and faith. His activities did not, however, remain confined to the province of his birth; a man of higher calibre, he was cut out to be a national leader and that’s what he became and found an eternal place in the hearts of the people.
Sardar Nishtar was never found wanting to respond to the call of the Quaid-i-Azam for the realisation of the dream of a separate state for the Muslims of the subcontinent. He went round the whole of India, addressing gatherings and meeting people to do canvassing for the Muslim point of view. And after the creation of Pakistan, he redoubled his efforts to work for the good of the people and the country, with a sense of commitment and honesty, and lived a life of simplicity, even when holding the high office of Minister or Governor.
It was due to the trust that Sardar Nishtar enjoyed of the Quaid-i-Azam that he represented Muslim League in the pre-partition transition government in the capacity of Communications Minister, and in the Pakistan government that was formed after independence he was given the same assignment reflecting his competence to do the job well. Later, he was to become Governor of Punjab.
He was in the forefront trying to awaken the people of the NWFP, as it was then called, to the false dawn that the Indian National Congress promised to the Muslims. Public leaders in the province and their supporters began joining the Muslim League in droves. The result of their combined endeavours, with Sardar Nishtar figuring prominently, was that the table turned on the Congressite Abdul Ghaffar Khan, nicknamed as Sarhadi Gandhi for his blind and unswerving support for Gandhi, and the province overwhelmingly voted for accession to Pakistan. The once household word, “Bacha Khan”, was replaced by a rounding Pakistan Zindabad.
A lawyer by profession, Sardar Abdur Rab’s political mind had become manifest much earlier in his student days, when he would defend Muslim causes. His father, though, wanted him to keep aloof from politics because of the persecution that the family had suffered in the past. Soon after doing his law, he became member and vice-chairman of the local municipal committee to demonstrate the political in him and the desire to serve the Muslims of the area. This sentiment of service was to find fuller expression when he left Congress early to join Muslim League and accept the challenge of creating an independent state for the Muslims of the subcontinent.
He longed to render help to Muslims living anywhere in the world in assuaging their suffering and promoting their causes. That strong spirit of support and sympathy for them led him to join the Khilafat Movement along with many a prominent leader from India.
All along, since he entered into public life, his dignified personality, rich in political understanding as well as literature – he was a poet in his own right – and full of sympathy for the downtrodden, commanded wide popularity and respect.
It is such leaders of integrity and foresight as Abdur Rab Nishtar, who, unfortunately, have virtually become extinct from our midst, whom the nation should strive to follow. These words carry greater relevance today since Pakistan is facing daunting challenges, ranging from militancy and insecurity to corruption and bad governance, and, to cap them all, the fallout of an inapt leadership that unhesitatingly bows to foreign dictation. As the world is witness, these commands are followed, even if they are contrary to the wishes of the people and are damaging to the national interest.
History would remember Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar as an outstanding exponent of the cause of Muslims of the world in the subcontinent and a prominent leader of the people.
The writer is a freelance columnist.