is my belief that if one is by temperament a storyteller then writing an
autobiography is the best way to tell one's life story. Sultan Muhammad
Khan is undoubtedly a very gifted storyteller. The narratives flow
smoothly and one learns a great deal about Pakistan's diplomatic history
from 1947 till 1980.
begins with a brief presentation of family history during the colonial
period. We learn that the author belongs to a branch of the royal family
of Afghan origin of a small princely state, Jaora, which existed in the
Central Indian State Agency during the British period. He lost his father
when still an infant and his mother when he was in his early teens but was
brought up with great affection by his uncle.
everybody's surprise he joined the British Indian army, something which in
his family was not done as they were expected to serve the state. He was
in the Indian army and was posted in Malaysia. At the time of the
partition of India he opted for Pakistan, although he did not have any
particular political grudge against the Congress Party.
began his diplomatic career in Delhi being assigned a position in the
Pakistan High Commission in that city. He describes a scene one day when
anti-Muslim riots and attacks were still taking place. He writes:
day I was passing the shopping area of Connaught Place in New Delhi and
saw the only Muslim shop there -- Ghani's -- being looted. Some policemen
were pretending to be asleep on their cots nearby. Suddenly a car pulled
up, and Pundit Nehru rushed towards the policemen, picked up one of their
"lathis" (steel-tipped long stick) and started hitting and
yelling at them to stop the looting. They were shocked to see the Indian
Prime Minister of India, and carried out his bidding effectively"
in the book where Sultan Muhammad Khan refers to Nehru it is always in his
role as a patriotic Pakistani and diplomat and given the bad relations
between the two countries I can understand that he has nothing good to say
about the late Indian prime minister.
interesting revelation that is made is that King Faisal of Saudi Arabia
had proposed that India should be invited to join the Organisation of
Islamic Conference (OIC) and at the Rabat Conference of 1969 India had
been invited to participate. The Indian ambassador, a Sikh, was present
when the first meeting was held and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, who was then a
minister (later president of India) was on his way to the meeting.
President Yahya Khan had agreed but then some Pakistani journalists in
Rabat started a campaign against India's participation. That campaign
finally succeeded and India was denied membership.
are very interesting anecdotes from his postings in Egypt, Turkey, Italy,
UK, China, Canada, US and Japan. He also served as foreign secretary. He
is witness to many events during that long period and speaks about them
with utter candour. He praises General Ayub Khan as a good president who
conducted himself gracefully on his foreign trips and was a successful
negotiator when dealing with foreign leaders.
seems that of all the statesmen and political leaders he met he admired
the Chinese Prime Minister Zhou En Lai (Chou En Lai) the most. Zhou En Lai
apparently was the architect of maintaining good relations with Pakistan
whereas he was always suspicious and wary of the Indian ambitions. From
the Pakistani side we know that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the one who
promoted good relations with China.
En Lai offered sincere advice to Pakistan at the time of the East Pakistan
crisis when Sultan Muhammad Khan met him in April 1971. He told the author
that the military should exercise restraint and efforts should be made to
find a political solution to the violent confrontation. Moreover, the
Pakistan army should have mixed units including East Pakistanis. Sultan
Muhammad Khan thinks that had Pakistan followed the advice of the Chinese
Premier the break up of Pakistan could have been avoided.
also learn that Nixon and Kissinger were sympathetic to Pakistan's
survival as a state and the French were also concerned, but India drew
full capital out of the situation. Mrs Gandhi could thus achieve the
dismemberment of Pakistan. The Soviet involvement was dictated by its Cold
author, however, does not hesitate to condemn the disastrous impact of the
Cultural Revolution on China. It was perhaps the most negative feature of
Chinese mob rule in which the perfectly honest and patriotic Chinese, some
of them heroes from the Liberation struggle were humiliated and meted out
degrading punishments including executions.
Muhammad Khan praises Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but says that once he became
president and later prime minister he was surrounded by sycophants. He
started losing touch with reality and that brought him down ultimately.
Bhutto sent him, the author, into retirement in 1976. But he was recalled
by General Zia who appointed him as ambassador to the US again in 1979
where he served for two years. The last chapter on Zia discusses how the
general acquired self-confidence and proved to be a shrewd and crafty
political animal who outmanoeuvred his opponents.
review was first published in the News
International on 4th August 2007. The author is a visiting
senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS),
National University of Singapore on leave from the University of
Stockholm. Email: email@example.com.