Nelson Mandela’s tributes to Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Nelson Mandela's tributes to 1

By Ambassador (R) Syed Hasan Javed

“Pakistan is among the strongest supporters of ANC. Instead of establishing embassy tomorrow, you are welcome to do it today, as our great friend. I have been inspired by Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s constitutional struggle against the British colonial rule. I have read the book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ written by Stanley Wolpert, during my imprisonment days in Robin Island. I took an oath to myself then, that when I become free, I will visit Pakistan before any other country to pay my homage and respects to Muhammad Ali Jinnah.”

Diplomacy is an interesting profession in many respects. Since States are only sovereign in their own territories, in the ancient times they sent out ‘messengers’ subsequently called envoys and ambassadors in diplomatic parlance. States also establish resident missions which are supposed to be an extension of their sovereign territory and enjoy full diplomatic privileges and immunities, under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations as well as Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

A professional diplomat’s life is therefore full of pleasant episodes, shocks, surprises, discoveries and events which in many ways exceed the excitement of even travelers’ tales. Some travelers in history such as Ibn-e-Battuta, Marco Polo and others acted as ambassadors too in the medieval history. Foreign Service of Pakistan has always punched beyond its weight, and even made ‘occasional successful forays’ on thematic issues, as well as on issues of regional and global importance.

But it is another story that the benefits of such ‘breakthrough’ by our brilliant diplomats could not be translated into tangible benefits for the country because of its feudal, tribal and elitist bad governance. The three stark examples are Africa, Central Asia and ASEAN where despite individual examples of excellence by our diplomats, the substantive content in our relations have remained minimal.

I was posted as a First Secretary in High Commission of Pakistan, Harare, Zimbabwe from June 1991 to December 1993. Zimbabwe (meaning a land of stones) ruled by the British, was known as ‘Southern Rhodesia’ along with Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Malawi (Nyasaland). Zimbabwe in many respects was like a ‘Little England’ except for the additional charm of wildlife, which my two little daughters loved.

Zimbabwe also has the world’s second largest waterfall e.g., Victoria Waterfall on Zambezi River, Africa’s largest manmade lake e.g., Kariba Lake and the second largest wildlife park e.g., Hwange Park. The country has four seasons and pleasant weather between +5°C to +30°C. Everyday seemed to be a holiday with bright cool sunshine. The country is rich in minerals, cotton and tourism resources. Pakistan had been a strong supporter of Zimbabwean freedom struggle, against the White minority rule of Prime Minister Ian Smith.

After Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, the White minority officers refused to fly the Zimbabwean Air Force. President Robert Mugabe requested Pakistan’s help. President Zia ul Haq sent a 50 member PAF Contingent led by Air Marshall Daudpota which literally took over the skies of Southern Africa. The racist White minority government in South Africa dared not attack Zimbabwe.

As a First Secretary as well as no. 2 in the High Commission, my work literally included everything and anything i.e., political, commercial, consular, protocol, community etc. In addition to all these duties, I had work relating to concurrent accreditation of three countries to look after, if the Head of Mission was not present. Our Mission in Harare was concurrently accredited to Botswana, Zambia and Malawi. Further, since South Africa and Namibia were undergoing political transformation and Angola through a civil war, our Mission’s work occasionally trespassed into these areas due to our closest geographical proximity.

There were a few hundred Pakistani families of professional doctors, retired military and air force officers and multinational executives settled in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi. The community was divided like everywhere else, wasting their time on mutual bickering and self-negation. I would strive to bring them on a common platform, but not waste my time and rather harness their energy for Pakistan individually, if they so preferred. For a ‘workaholic’ like me, the work even then was not enough.

So I would draw my own list of priorities and plans with targets to achieve within ‘doable time lines’ to promote Pakistan’s interests in bilateral cooperation such as pursuit of economic and trade diplomacy objectives and seeking their support for Pakistan’s candidature at the United Nations and other international organizations. The Africans loved our basmati, mangoes, biryani and kebabs. So, at times, I used to gift my own kitchen basmati bags of 20 kg and 5 kg to senior officials and public personalities. Occasionally, we used to have exchanges of delegations for which I used to hold biryani and BBQ parties.

I will focus on South Africa only in these lines due to limitations of space. In 1991, South Africa still had a ‘White minority’ government of President Pik Botha and Foreign Minister F.W. de Klerk who subsequently took over from him. The global campaign against the apartheid and the racist regime of South Africa, with the demand for the release of Nelson Mandela had reached its climax.

Nelson Mandela was released on February 11, 1990, after 27 years of hard labor, imprisonment and isolation at the Robin Island. The Soviet Union imploded in December 1991. The Americans became ‘Hyper Power’ overnight. The wind of change that blew through the Eastern Europe also came down to South Africa. In the decades of 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Pakistan had worked hard at the United Nations for the liberation and self-determination of all the people under colonial rule in Asia and Africa. Pakistan had thus earned enormous goodwill and diplomatic influence at the international level.

The release of Nelson Mandela generated a global euphoria. That meant more work for me. In fact, I enjoyed it! It so happened that my boss High Commissioner Rafat Mahdi (brother of famous bureaucrat Saeed Mahdi) was transferred to Brussels, Belgium. I became the ‘Charge d’ Affairs’, responsible for all the work in the Mission. As they say, the buck stopped at me. Ambassador Rafat Mahdi had however briefed as well as groomed me to handle in particular, the South African affairs, before his departure.

South Africa had two major liberation movements, known as the ‘African National Congress’ (ANC) and ‘Pan African Congress’ (PAC). The ANC was led by Nelson Mandela. Most countries in the world including Pakistan and China were supporting ANC, while India and the Soviet Union were supporting PAC. India’s Founder Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had lived in South Africa in the initial years of the 20th century. He was a controversial figure. He had supported the racist White regime, as a Trade Union Labor leader.

The British understandably promoted him, as India’s leader, when he returned to the country. During the apartheid White minority regime, the life of all the other communities in South Africa was equally miserable. Hence, it was difficult for South Africa’s South Asian community to understand that the India-Pakistan strategic, political and economic rivalry had deeply impacted the psychology of population of both counties after independence in 1947. South Asia was no more India only.

Soon we were to receive a high powered 12-member delegation in September 1992, headed by Mr. Shahid Aziz Siddiqui, Chairman of Trading Corporation of Pakistan. The team included senior officials and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of major Pakistani companies. I had no problem making arrangements for their ten day visit to South Africa, as I was well acquainted with the first generation of South African leaders belonging to ANC. I had already established a comprehensive database of my important contacts in the White minority government, ANC and Muslim community, prior to the arrival of Pakistan delegation there.

The result was smooth arrangements for the delegates’ ten day program in South Africa. The delegation visited Durban, Alexandra and Cape Town. When we arrived at the Johannesburg Airport, the South African immigration officers who were half white female, where awestruck by Pakistan’s smartly dressed, well-mannered delegation in black/blue lounge suits, speaking fluent English. There were three reasons for their shock and admiration. Firstly, the South African White racist regime was not recognized by Pakistan. Pakistan’s passports then carried the stamp of ‘All countries except South Africa and Israel’.

The only Pakistanis who had dared to go there earlier were the tablighi jamaat in their unique tunics, footwear and, of course, desi English. The second reason was that the South African White population was excited at the implosion of the Soviet Union which was regarded as the no. 1 enemy of South Africa. South Africa’s White population deep down in their hearts also knew Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan in opposing the Soviet occupation of that country. Thirdly, the South African Whites were great fans of cricket and knew the names of Pakistani bowlers particularly, by heart.

Nelson Mandela was delighted. He and his delegation travelled to Pakistan (October 2-5, 1992) by economy class air tickets. I conveyed to him that his desire to land in Karachi first and proceed directly to Quaid-i-Azam’s Mausoleum will be accommodated, before state level protocol in Islamabad with Acting President Waseem Sajjad. In the Visitors’ Book at Quaid’s Mausoleum, he  recorded: “Attended a very moving ceremony which has given us much strength and hope.” By this he meant Pakistan’s support was a source of tremendous inspiration to all those who struggled against all forms of racial oppression. He was awarded Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest Civilian Award for his struggle against ‘apartheid’ in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela raised the Kashmir cause at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at Durban in September 1998, as the President of South Africa. The meeting was attended by the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other world leaders. President Nelson Mandela declared that “the Kashmir dispute was a cause for concern for all of us and assured that NAM would extend all the strength that it has in settling the Kashmir issue”.

The Indian delegation was shocked and accused President Nelson Mandela for violating the tradition of not raising any bilateral issue at the forum. But Mandela did what he thought was right as per his conscience. He did not care for the consequences. His words and actions only reflected his commitment to freedom and justice. This was typical of Mandela. In fact, thereafter it became widely known as ‘Mandela effect’, a contemporary African metaphor, to describe anyone whoever speaks as per his conscience and does not care for the consequences.

I however had to rush back to Harare from Durban for reasons I will describe in the following lines. As already pointed out, through my contacts, I had arranged a comprehensive program for the delegation’s visit, in order to enable the trade delegation to prepare a ‘South Africa strategy in Post-Apartheid era’ for Pakistan, Among the several events, included a meeting with Nelson Mandela, President of ANC, who had agreed to receive the delegation despite his hectic schedule. Mr. Nelson Mandela spoke his heart out in his meeting with the delegation.

I recall Nelson Mandela saying, “Pakistan is among the strongest supporters of ANC. Instead of establishing embassy tomorrow, you are welcome to do it today, as our great friend. I have been inspired by Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s constitutional struggle against the British colonial rule. I have read the book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ written by Stanley Wolpert, during my imprisonment days in Robin Island. I took an oath to myself then, that when I become free, I will visit Pakistan before any other country to pay my homage and respects to Muhammad Ali Jinnah”.

Nelson Mandela’s observations stunned the delegation and left them speechless. The leader of delegation Mr. Shahid Aziz Siddiqui who was a thorough professional civil servant was looking at me. For me as a young diplomat, these words were ‘as sweet as honey’. I could not believe myself as to what I was hearing. I thought to myself that this was a ‘God sent opportunity’ to elevate Pakistan and elevate me, too. But, I needed to prove myself if I could make this visit possible.

After the meeting I double checked with Ms. Duarte (Nelson Mandela’s Personal Secretary) and with Mr. Nelson Mandela himself. Mr. Mandela added that he had received several invitations and he was due to travel to Cairo in a fortnight’s time in order to attend the African Union (AU) Conference. He asked me to explore if it would be possible for him to visit Pakistan before he could proceed to any other country, and I could see his love for Pakistan’s Founder and the country itself. I had a dozen contacts in ANC such as Thabo Mbeki, Max Mlonyi, Sarwar Molla (who became High Commissioner in Pakistan), General Siphiwe Nyanda (who become Chief of Defence Forces) etc.

For me, time was of critical essence if the visit was to materialize. I moved fast, before the world in general and the Indians got to know of it. This was like ‘battlefield intelligence’. South Africa had an active Indian community. I was always concerned about any big mouth delegation member blurting it out, as that would be the end of it. South Africa also has 2 percent prominent Muslim community who are engaged in textile, food, and medicine, wholesale and retail businesses. I sent an urgent communication to Foreign Ministry.

The reaction of the Foreign Ministry was equally of ‘disbelief and surprise’. A senior colleague joked with me that ‘I had gone mad or perhaps, drank too much or did not have sleep or was suffering from local depression’. My explanation that I was perfectly normal and also never touched wine did not impress. The fact that I had double checked with both Mr. Mandela and his Secretary Ms. Duarte, did not help either.

My senior colleagues questioned that among all the great places from where Mr. Mandela was being showered with invitations, why would he like to visit Pakistan? I felt that their observation was fully justified. I told them what Mandela had told us. I also conveyed that the delegation will be back after a fortnight, by which time the visit may not take place. However, their question I felt that Nelson Mandela himself could answer better.

Feeling frustrated, I approached my former boss Ambassador Rafat Mahdi in Brussels. I conveyed him the joke which had been ‘seriously narrated’ to me. He knew me and also agreed that I was indeed telling the truth. He spoke with the higher ups in the Foreign Office in Islamabad. I received the invitation and rushed to South Africa to deliver it along with a Draft Program for the visit from October 2-5, 1992. Nelson Mandela was delighted. He and his delegation travelled to Pakistan (October 2-5, 1992) by economy class air tickets.

I conveyed to him that his desire to land in Karachi first and proceed directly to Quaid-i-Azam’s Mausoleum will be accommodated, before state level protocol in Islamabad with Acting President Waseem Sajjad. In the Visitors’ Book at Quaid’s Mausoleum, he  recorded: “Attended a very moving ceremony which has given us much strength and hope.” By this he meant Pakistan’s support was a source of tremendous inspiration to all those who struggled against all forms of racial oppression.

He was awarded Nishan-i-Pakistan, the country’s highest Civilian Award for his struggle against ‘apartheid’ in South Africa. The visit took place at a time when both South Africa and Pakistan did not have diplomatic relations, as the White minority government was still in power. After his visit to Pakistan, Mr. Mandela’s 12- member delegation proceeded to China.

Nelson Mandela and Kashmir Cause

Nelson Mandela raised the Kashmir cause at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit at Durban in September 1998, as the President of South Africa. The meeting was attended by the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other world leaders. President Nelson Mandela declared that “the Kashmir dispute was a cause for concern for all of us and assured that NAM would extend all the strength that it has in settling the Kashmir issue”.

The Indian delegation was shocked and accused President Nelson Mandela for violating the tradition of not raising any bilateral issue at the forum. But Mandela did what he thought was right as per his conscience. He did not care for the consequences. His words and actions only reflected his commitment to freedom and justice. This was typical of Mandela. In fact, thereafter it became widely known as ‘Mandela effect’, a contemporary African metaphor, to describe anyone whoever speaks as per his conscience and does not care for the consequences.

Ambassador Rafat Mahdi who had met Nelson Mandela after his release in 1990, recalls his conversation with Nelson Mandela as saying: “My hero is Jinnah… I drew my inspiration for my freedom struggle from him. I have read Stanley Wolpert’s Book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ during my days of imprisonment in Robin Island.” I personally recall that when I shook hands with Nelson Mandela, I felt his warm hand as hard as rock. I was very intrigued and so decided to know as to why it was so hard.

I approached Ms. Duarte, his Personal Secretary, who understood my inquisitiveness. She said that the years of hard labor in the Robin Island prison where Nelson Mandela had to break stones as well as grind the corn, wheat and other lentils etc. had made the palm of his hands so hard. The 27 years of hard labor and imprisonment had affected badly the health of Nelson Mandela.

He was however a strong-willed person who had decided not to give up hope. He was an amazing leader, who forgave all those who inflicted all kinds of injuries and miseries on him. He promoted instead policies for truth and reconciliation as ‘healing touches’ for the tormented South African society. He opposed hypocrisy, violence, vanity, vindictiveness, vice and victimhood, as the well-known political means to discriminate, divide, disenfranchise, decimate and destroy societies.

No wonder, Nelson Mandela had so much in common with Jinnah and found himself inspired by him. Stanley Wolpert writes in his book: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three”.

I was born seven years after the passing away of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on September 11, 1948 and did not see him. My father who was a ‘Freedom Fighter’ told me that he was the kind of a leader produced only in centuries. Muhammad Ali Jinnah could not be tempted, bought or impressed. He was honest, disciplined, tolerant, lawful, hardworking, passionate, determined and a visionary. His every word was credible. He was inspired by our great Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

Destiny has however bestowed on me the honor of meeting and listening to three ‘legends’ of contemporary times. These include President Nelson Mandela, founder of modern China Deng Xiaoping and father of modern Singapore Lee Kuan Yew. Lee Kuan Yew like Nelson Mandela expressed his fondness for Pakistan’s Founder and Pakistan itself, in comparison to India and its mercurial leaders, several times in his memoir From Third World to First: The Singapore Story. Deng Xiaoping, the Founder of Modern China whom I met half a dozen times, used to praise ‘Pakistan and China as one family’s members’.

An interesting footnote of Nelson Mandela’s love for Jinnah and Pakistan is that his grandson Mandla Mandela born in 1974, chief of his Mvezo, Aba Thembu Clan of Xhosa Tribe converted to Islam and married a Muslim lady Ms. Rabia Clarke in 2016. This has given the fast growing Muslim community a high visibility in South Africa, as more and more African tribal chiefs embrace Islam with every passing day.

Nonetheless, this has earned the ire of the European colonial era racist Christian missionaries’ campaign against Islam and Muslim community. Mr. Mandla Mandela has brushed them aside. He feels that Islam has given him strength and it is perfectly compatible with the African traditional values. After all, he is the heir of Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Mandla Mandela is a Member of the South African Parliament, representing the African National Congress. South Africa, confronted by diverse challenges during contemporary era, needs as much another ‘Mandela’, as indeed Pakistan needs another ‘Jinnah’. At a time of great global leadership crisis, the current leadership in all developing countries has a lot to learn from these great leaders, to chart out a global future based on personal integrity, character, discipline, delivery, justice, tolerance, inclusiveness, reconciliation, coexistence etc. Only Allah is the best judge. We all become history!

The writer has served as Pakistan’s Ambassador in Germany, Singapore and Mauritius. He worked in China for two diplomatic assignments for nearly a decade. He is the author of several books on China. Currently, he is Director Chinese Studies Centre, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.