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The tragic scene of Quaid-e-Azam’s death

The nation will be commemorating the death anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam on 11 September. Every year this day takes me back to 2004-05 when I was writing a book for University of the Punjab on Quaid’s period of Governor-Generalship. During my research I read and cited the book of Fatima Jinnah, ‘ My Brother’. I still remember her narrative of last tragic moments of Quaid’s life. The later part of today’s piece will be based on Miss Jinnah’s account about Quaid’s death.

Life of Quaid-i-Azam was not a bed of roses. The struggle he had begun in his early days continued till the end. At the age of 70 years, after a long hard and distinguished career in law and politics, when most people at the twilight of their lives look forward to days of retirement and leisure, the Quaid had accepted the challenges and responsibilities of the head of a new State he had founded. Constant toil in the service of his people had had taken a toll on Quaid’s failing health, but he insisted on keeping his finger on the pulse of the nation. His was a soul that thirsted for service in a body that was worn out by overwork and ill-health. Quaid-i-Azam’s health, however, was bad and his doctors were really worried. They decided to move him up to Ziarat.

  1. M. Yusuf, his Private Secretary, who was close to him during those days, could discern the ravages that sickness was making on his health, but “sickness and failing health did not deter Quaid-i-Azam from attending to his duty. He went on working to the very least and continued to deal with important State papers until his death”.

On September 10, 1948 Dr. Bakhsh had to tell Miss Jinnah that there was little hope for her brother living for more than a few days. Next morning, he was carried on a stretcher. As he was being carried on a stretcher into the cabin of the Viking, the pilot and the crew lined up to give him a salute.He raised his feeble and trembling hand with difficulty to return the salute. After about two hours flying, the Viking landed at Mauripur Airport at 4:15 P.M.

There was no one at the airport to receive him. Colonel Geofrey Knowles, the Military Secretary of the Governor-General, was there to receive the party. The Quaid was carried on a stretcher to a military ambulance that had been kept ready to drive him to the Governor-General’s House. Miss Jinnah and Sister Dunham sat with him in the ambulance, while the other members of the party left in cars in advance, only a Cadillac car with the doctors and the Military Secretary were following the slow moving ambulance.

Fatima Jinnah writes, “After we had covered about four miles, the ambulance coughed, as if gasping for breath, and came to a sudden stop. After about five minutes, I came out of the ambulance and was told that it had run short of petrol. The driver started fidgeting with the engine, but it would not start as I entered the ambulance again, the Quaid’s hands moved slightly, and his eyes looked at me in an inquiring manner. I bent low and said to him, there is a breakdown in the engine of the ambulance.” He closed his eyes. Sister Dunham and I fanned his face by turns, waiting for another ambulance to come, every. Minute an eternity of agony. He could not be shifted to the Cadillac, as it was not big enough for the stretcher. And so we waited, hoping…..

Nearby stood hundreds of huts of refugees, who went about their business, not knowing that their Quaid, who had given them a homeland, was in their midst, lying helpless in an ambulance that had run out of petrol. Cars honked on their way, buses and trucks streamed to their destinations, and we stood there immobilized in an ambulance that refused to move an inch, with a precious life ebbing away, drop by drop and breath by breath.Usually there is a strong sea-breeze in Karachi, which keeps the temperature down, but that day there was no breeze, and the heat was unbearable. To add to his discomfort, scores of flies buzzed around his face and his hands had lost their strength to raise themselves to ward them offAfter a long and painful waiting, there came another ambulance. He was carried on the stretcher to the newly arrived ambulance and the last lap of journey began. There was no flag on the ambulance.’’

At ten minutes past six in the evening the ambulance arrived at government House, and the Quaid was carried up to his room, soon to set out on his final journey. The doctors and sister Dunham tried to stimulate him with a heart tonic, but he was so weak that the medicine dribbled from the corners of his mouth. At about 9:30 P.M. the Quaid showed signs of acute discomfort. His doctors were by his beside, examining him. His doctors raised the end of Quaid-i-Azam’s bed, to hasten the flow of blood to his heart. Then they tried to inject a drug into his veins, but the veins had collapsed. At 9:50 Colonel Ilahi Bakhsh leaned over and whispered, “Sir, we have given you an injection to strengthen you, and it will soon have its effect. God willing, you are going to live”.The Quaid-i-Azam moved his head and spoke for the last time: he said faintly, “No, I am not”. Thirty minutes later, while sleeping peacefully, he breathed his last.

Quaid sacrificed all chances of recovery of his health and assumed the responsibility of helping the new state, however its very tragic that executives of the nascent Pakistan could not cater for his comfort during his last moments.

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