Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: illness and death (Episode 15)

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah: illness and death (Episode 15)

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Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah spent many of the last days of his life at Quaid-e-Azam Residency, Ziarat, Pakistan.From the 1930s, Jinnah suffered from tuberculosis; only his sister and a few others close to him were aware of his condition. Jinnah believed public knowledge of his lung ailments would hurt him politically. Jinnah worked with a tin of Craven “A” cigarettes at his desk, of which he had smoked 50 or more a day for the previous 30 years, as well as a box of Cuban cigars. As his health got worse, he took longer and longer rest breaks in the private wing of Government House in Karachi, where only he, Fatima and the servants were allowed.

In June 1948, he and Fatima flew to Quetta, in the mountains of Baluchistan, where the weather was cooler than in Karachi. He could not completely rest there, addressing the officers at the Command and Staff College saying, “you, along with the other Forces of Pakistan, are the custodians of the life, property, and honor of the people of Pakistan.” He returned to Karachi for the 1 July opening ceremony for the State Bank of Pakistan, at which he spoke. A reception by the Canadian trade commissioner that evening in honor of Dominion Day was the last public event he attended.

On 6 July 1948, Jinnah returned to Quetta, but at the advice of doctors, soon journeyed to an even higher retreat at Ziarat. Jinnah had always been reluctant to undergo medical treatment┬ábut realizing his condition was getting worse, the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. Tests confirmed tuberculosis, and also showed evidence of advanced lung cancer. Jinnah was informed and asked for full information on his disease and for care in how his sister was told. He was treated with the new “miracle drug” of streptomycin, but it did not help. Jinnah’s condition continued to deteriorate despite the Eid prayers of his people. He was moved to the lower altitude of Quetta on 13 August, the eve of Independence Day, for which a statement ghost-written for him was released. Despite an increase in appetite (he then weighed just over 36 kilograms [79 lb]), it was clear to his doctors that if he was to return to Karachi in life, he would have to do so very soon. Jinnah, however, was reluctant to go, not wishing his aides to see him as an invalid on a stretcher.

By 9 September, Jinnah had also developed pneumonia. Doctors urged him to return to Karachi, where he could receive better care, and with his agreement, he was flown there on the morning of 11 September. Dr. Ilahi Bux, his personal physician, believed that Jinnah’s change of mind was caused by foreknowledge of death. The plane landed at Karachi that afternoon, to be met by Jinnah’s limousine, and an ambulance into which Jinnah’s stretcher was placed. The ambulance broke down on the road into town, and the Governor-General and those with him waited for another to arrive; he could not be placed in the car as he could not sit up. They waited by the roadside in oppressive heat as trucks and buses passed by, unsuitable for transporting the dying man and with their occupants not knowing of Jinnah’s presence. After an hour, the replacement ambulance came, and transported Jinnah to Government House, arriving there over two hours after the landing. Jinnah died later that night at 10:20 pm at his home in Karachi on 11 September 1948 at the age of 71, just over a year after Pakistan’s creation.

Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru stated upon Jinnah’s death, “How shall we judge him? I have been very angry with him often during the past years. But now there is no bitterness in my thought of him, only a great sadness for all that has been … he succeeded in his quest and gained his objective, but at what a cost and with what a difference from what he had imagined.” Jinnah was buried on 12 September 1948 amid official mourning in both India and Pakistan; a million people gathered for his funeral. Indian Governor-General Rajagopalachari canceled an official reception that day in honor of the late leader. Today, Jinnah rests in a large marble mausoleum, Mazar-e-Quaid, in Karachi.

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Qaiser Rizwan Abbasi

The author is the student of bachelors in business administration. He has a keen passion for politics and current affairs and he loves to share his ideas, opinion, and understanding.

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