A forgotten hero


Sir Zafarullah Khan and the tragedy of Palestine and Pakistan



“This is a solemn moment, solemn in the history of the world, in the history of this great — let us hope, at least — great Organisation. The United Nations is today on trial. The world is watching and will see how it acquits itself — again, perhaps, not so much from the point of view of whether partition is approved or not approved, but from the point of view of whether any room is to be left for the exercise of honest judgment and conscience in decisions taken upon important questions.”

-Sir Zafarullah Khan’s Address to UN Security Council on the issue of Palestine. (October 7, 1947)

The Gaza death toll is nearing a bloody 1000 as Israeli barbarities continue.

Since the atrocious bombing began, torrents of sympathy and solidarity with Gaza have been released from all quarters all over Pakistan.

And with them, there has been a caustic expression lamenting and bemoaning Pakistan and the Muslim world’s sickly response to the barbarities in Palestine.

However, what has been rendered unknown today is that Pakistan once played a significant role on the international stage.

Born on 6th February, 1893, in Sialkot, ChaudhryZafarullah Khan rose to become a leading politician, diplomat, an international jurist and one of the founding fathers of Pakistan.

The man behind the famous Lahore Resolution, Zafarullah Khan went on to be appointed as Pakistan’s first foreign minister by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1947.

Hardly two months after its creation in 1947, he represented Pakistan in the United Nations General Assembly meeting as the head of its delegation and soon emerged as the most excellent spokesperson for the Muslim and the third world.

Through his stupendous championship of such causes, he became a prominent proponent of the advance of the universal values of peace, freedom, liberty, human rights, democracy and justice as from 1948 to 1954 he represented Pakistan at the UN Security Council and outstandingly spoke for the liberation of Algeria, Libya, Northern Ireland, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Malay, Morocco, Nigeria, Indonesia and occupied Kashmir.

Through his unsurpassed and principled diplomacy, he practically put Pakistan on the map of the world, beyond mere name.

Perhaps, the greatest of the countless incomparable services he rendered was his exemplary advocacy of the cause of Palestine and Kashmir. With brilliant advocacy, including a speech which went on for seven hours, it was largely Zafarullah Khan’s efforts which materialised into the UN Resolutions on Kashmir.

His promotion of the Palestinian cause garnered enormous appreciation, acknowledgement and reverence from almost all Muslim countries and leaders at that time.

His speech in October 1947 on Palestine is considered to be one of the most powerful cases presented for Palestine.

Realising the lack of national recognition for him, several blogs and publications by his community have sprung up and sought to compensate for it by detailing his life, services and legacy themselves. One such blog post quotes from what it has identified as the editorial of The Statesman, Delhi, dated October 8, 1947:

“For the first time the voice of Pakistan was heard in the counsels of the United Nations on a burning topic of worldwide significance when leader of this country’s delegation, Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, addressed the United Nations Palestine Committee at Lake Success on Tuesday. It was a telling speech which tore into shreds the specious pleas put forward by the advocates of the partition of Palestine. Chaudhry Zafarullah did not merely indulge in rhetoric when he described the partition plan as ‘physically and geographically a monstrosity’, he proceeded to prove this by unassailable arguments. Answering the contention that the migration of more Jews into Palestine should be permitted because the displaced Jewish people desired to go to that country, Pakistan’s spokesman asked whether the Americans would consent to relax or abrogate their own immigration laws if displaced persons of various other nationalities desired to enter the United States and settle there? Would America, he further asked, agree to take in the five million displaced persons of the Punjab if they desired to leave the scene of their suffering and cross over to the United States? We have little doubt that the Arabs will rejoice to find the voice of Pakistan so powerfully raised in the United Nations in defence of their cause. The addition of the independent sovereign state of Pakistan to the comity of free Muslim peoples of the World is already beginning to have its effect on international affairs.”

Mr Fadh el Jamali, a late former foreign minister of Iraq is also said to have penned in a tribute in Al-Sabah of 10th October, 1985:

“In fact, it was not possible for any Arab, however capable and competent he may be, to serve the cause of Palestine in a manner in which this distinguished and great man dedicated himself. Mohammad Zafarullah Khan occupies a pre-eminent position in defending the Palestinians in this dispute. We expect from all Arabs and followers of Islam that they will never forget this great Muslim fighter. After Palestine, the services of this man for the independence of Libya also deserve admiration.”

Distinguished British journalist Alan Hart mentions Zafarullah Khan in his book ‘Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, the False Messiah (Volume I)’ saying that the partition of Palestine was a result of bribery and pressure. He deemed Zafarullah Khan’s thoughts to have been the best expression of the feeling of the majority of states.

To date, none have come into sight who could rival the towering statesman; who was honoured and held in the highest esteem by numerous countries, leaders and nations, especially Muslim, honoured by all but his own. And that was so because of his faith. He was an Ahmadi, and like all others of his community, he has been disowned by the state and its people.

In a post for All Things Pakistan in 2007, Yasser Latif Hamdani poignantly wrote: “Ironically, today Jinnah’s most trusted lieutenant is not even remembered by the state which owes him so much, including its own founding document.”

Today, Sir Zafarullah’s speech on Palestine reads as a tragedy for both Palestine and Pakistan. It resonates as a striking reminder of the injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians, and the injustice Pakistan has inflicted upon itself: the injustice of bigotry, prejudice and myopia.

As the saying goes: “Poor are nations that do not have heroes, but beggared are those who forget them.”


  1. An amazing, well written and well researched article by Hafsa Khawaja! Keep up the good work. I hope and pray that more & more sons and daughters of Pakistan will follow his footsteps. Aameen.

  2. its unfortunate for Pakis who forget & disown their own Heros like Zafarullah Khan … well & timely written

  3. Ah! this is pity that such a person is forgotten and considered non Muslim by majority of Pakistanis. When history is written, these days will be most dark days for this nation. But i am hope full. The article like this is the ray of hope in these dark age.
    Keep the torch burning!

  4. And here’s the catch my dear less-of-Muslims and more-of-Policemen-of-Islam friends. Zafarullah Khan, a great patriot and a greater Pakistani than most of us combined; was an Ahmedi. Mr Khan is the sole reasons why Nehru is still criticised in his own country because the latter took Kashmir issue in 1948 to UN. Nehru did so because he was convinced that whatever portion of Kashmir had not been occupied by his forces, would be handed over in a plate to him at UN. Nehru did so at a time when Pakistani forces were on the retreat and Liaqat Ali Khan was not giving a go-ahead for Operation Venus; and it was only a matter of time before the entire Kashmir could have fallen in Indian hands. Mr Zafarullah single handedly fought the case of Kashmir at UN. We owe AJ&K to Zafarullah Khan’s eloquence alone. Of course, most of you would discard him as our nation hero on the basis of his religion. And that’s the irony of our country and that’s exactly why we’re as hopeless as we are today. Gathering monetary assistance for Palestinians while our own crisis of IDPs at KPK deepens.

  5. Great leader and founder member of pakistan who fought for it but later was totally ignored because he belong to Ahmadiyya community.

  6. when he was dying, the jordanian ambassador wanted to visit him .

    i wonder if he was able to do so?

  7. Excellent true about History of Pakistan. Thank you Hafsa Khawaja for this great article .

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