The first elected president of Azad Kashmir and the founder of first Constitution of Azad Kashmir, Khurshid Hasan Khurshid was born in the locality of Abi Guzar, Srinagar on 3rd January, 1924 to a middle class family. His father Maulvi
Khurshid Hasan Khurshid
The first elected president of Azad Kashmir and the founder of first Constitution of Azad Kashmir, Khurshid Hasan Khurshid was born in the locality of Abi Guzar, Srinagar on 3rd January, 1924 to a middle class family. His father Maulvi Mohammad Hasan was a head master of boys' school posted in Gilgit. Consequently, his early years of life were spent in Gilgit.
He completed a bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College in Srinagar. During his college years, he established Kashmir Muslim Students Federation and met Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Jalandhar for the first time in 1942. K H Khurshid also wrote for the weekly Javed started by the Muslim Conference leader Allah Rakha Sagar. Later he started working for the news agency Orient Press of India in Srinagar.
When Muhammad Ali Jinnah went to Srinagar for a holiday in May 1944, K H Khurshid interacted with him as an agent of the Orient Press. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was impressed with him and hired him on his staff. K H Khurshid watched the troubled political waters leading to the Partition of India from close quarters. K H Khurshid, subsequently rose to be the Private Secretary of Father of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah sent Khurshid on a mission to Kashmir in the summer of 1947. Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to holiday in Kashmir at this time but, given the pressure on him to accede to one of the incoming dominions, the Maharaja Hari Singh was in no mood to entertain the request. K H Khurshid reportedly told the Maharaja that he was an independent sovereign and need not consult anybody regarding the accession of the state. If he acceded to Pakistan, he would not have to delegate any of his powers to Sheikh Abdullah. Pakistan would not touch a hair of his head or take an iota of his powers. Scholar Das Gupta also states that K H Khurshid stayed there for several months and created an atmosphere of communal frenzy against India.
At the beginning of October 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah sent him to Kashmir again. The Maharaja had appointed Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, with known connections to the Indian National Congress, as his prime minister, replacing the pro-Pakistan Ram Chandra Kak. Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted to find out Maharaja's intentions. K H Khurshid reported back on 12 October stating that the Maharaja was dead set against accession to Pakistan. He also reported that the pro-India National Conference was the only party in the state. The pro-Pakistan Muslim Conference was essentially defunct.
He concluded: In the light of the above, I am personally of the opinion, Sir, that Pakistan must think in terms of fighting as far as Kashmir is concerned. All that Pakistan has to be ready for in such an eventuality is to supply arms and foodstuffs to the tribes within and without the State who are already sharpening their weapons. I may say, Sir, that Major Khurshid Anwar of Muslim League National Guards is already in Rawalpindi and he can very well be trusted with the work of liaison.
In fact, Major Khurshid Anwar had already mobilised the Pashtun tribes from the Frontier for a raid on Kashmir and was poised to launch his attack on 15 October. When the tribal invasion was launched on 22 October 1947, Khurshid was still in the Valley. He was arrested on 2 November 1947 by the State Police, who recovered maps and documents from him. Indian sources say that K H Khurshid had gone underground and was attempting to organise an agitation against the state government from the Jamia Masjid, the hub of activity for the Muslim Conference. K H Khurshid remained in custody until a prisoner exchange in 1949, after the Karachi Agreement was signed by India and Pakistan.
Fatima Jinnah persuaded K H Khurshid to continue his education at Lincoln’s Inn to become a lawyer. Short of funds, Fatima Jinnah sent him to England and financed his education. After his return he practiced law in Karachi in 1954 where he stayed in the flagstaff house with Fatima Jinnah.
K H Khurshid was appointed as President of Azad Kashmir on 1 May 1959 by President Ayub Khan. He was, at first, reluctant to accept this office, but eventually did so at the insistence of Fatima Jinnah who is said to have treated him as her son and had also financially supported him earn the bar-at-law degree from Lincoln's Inn. As President, K H Khurshid conducted the first ever 'Basic Democracy' elections in Azad Kashmir and also won in this election as the President of Azad Kashmir. Following some differences with the powerful Pakistani establishment, K H Khurshid resigned from the office of AJK president on August 5, 1964.
K H Khurshid's differences with President Ayub were genuine and grounded in his ideology for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He did not pretend to be a champion of the rights of 'his' people, as his successors in the government would do. He had all the characteristics of the leader of a nation, not of a tribe. He stood steadfastly to protect the rights of those displaced by the Mangla dam and he questioned the legitimacy of the interference of the central government in the affairs of State of Azad Kashmir.
K H Khurshid was a Pakistani to the core of his heart. Otherwise, he would not have bothered to visit Dhaka to see Mujib ur Rehman to express his concern at the boiling situation regarding the power-sharing quagmire with the West Pakistan leaders. He worked hard day and night along with his leadership during the most tumultuous years of the partition of India.
By showing his commitment, loyalty, and determination to the cause of the Muslim League and personal service to the founder of the nation, K H Khurshid proved that he was the right choice of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and perhaps, one of the most suitable candidates for the future leadership in the post-partition state of Jammu and Kashmir.
He was disciplined, talented, and visionary, just like his mentor. As a well-educated and highly qualified lawyer, he would have lived a happy, prosperous, and successful life in Pakistan or abroad but he spent all his life in a struggle for the betterment of his people. He lived life as a challenger of the status quo. Whenever challenged on his morals and values, he would not hesitate to speak the truth while looking into the eyes of the challenger and leave the corridors of power.
In 1958, he spent four months in detention during the stormy years of the Kashmir Liberation Movement (KLM) but did not compromise on his principled stand on the Kashmir cause. His view of the right of self-determination of Kashmiris was wrongly interpreted as a deliberate effort to steer the liberation movement away to an independent Kashmir.
During detention, he wrote in his diary that this was the time when his closest and most trusted people started parting ways from him as they thought he was no more in the 'good books' of Pakistani authorities. A true democrat can never be in the good books of dictators. As a challenger, Khurshid introduced the democratic process in affairs of government by deviating from 'selection' to 'election' of the president of Pakistan.
In 1971, during the Ganga Hijacking, K H Khurshid met the two young hijackers Ashraf and Hashim Qureshi at the Lahore airport. His statement in the court exonerated the Qureshi brothers from the alleged burning of the old fokker plane along with Maqbool Butt.
During Zia-ul Haq's regime, the dictator came out with a revelation that a diary of Jinnah was found where he rejected parliamentary democracy, to justify his dictatorship. Khurshid was asked for a comment, he vehemently denied any existence of such a diary. Zia ul Haq never mentioned the diary again.
He also attended the Non Aligned conference in Harare Zimbabwe, much to the dismay of Rajiv Gandhi and surprise of General Zia ul Haq who asked him, 'If you were coming we would have made arrangements.' To which Khurshid has said, 'If I told you, I wouldn't have been here.'
In one his speeches at Arlington in UK, he mentioned that dictatorship had greatly damaged the Pakistan and its vision. He was a known critic of Zia ul Haq's regime.
On Jinnah, Khurshid records in his diary, 'Nationalism was Muhammad Ali Jinnah's first love and continued to give him occasional pangs until late in life, as first love does. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a nationalist, but his nationalism died in its infancy.
This was the last recorded entry in Khurshid's diary before his shock demise. He aspired to write a biography on Muhammad Ali Jinnah's last years and there’s nobody better than him who could have done so. But his first love Kashmir kept him busy until his last breath.
On 10th March 1988, a passenger bus on the way to Mirpur in Azad Kashmir suffered an accident resulting in deaths of most of its passengers. Among the deceased was a man from Srinagar who incidentally was the President of Azad Kashmir. With less than fifty rupees in his pockets and no house of his own, he died like his hero in selflessness and obscurity.
His sudden demise at the age of 63 that too during twilight of revolution in Kashmir in late 1980s left a deep void. His leadership would have been of immense importance to the new generation of Kashmiris who had taken up the struggle in their own hands. But sometimes life is not what we want it to be.
He was buried at Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir. Kashmiri masses regarded him as an icon of honesty, integrity and democracy. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was once believed to have said that Pakistan was made by him, his private secretary and his typewriter.
As a human being K H Khurshid was a humble, self-restrained, and loyal person. But, as a Kashmiri, he was an idealist and optimist, opposed to the idea of controlling or even subverting the will of the people. K H Khurshid was married to Begum Sorayya, a stalwart in the struggle for the Pakistan Movement and a confidante of Fatima Jinnah.