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April 20, 2015

Pakistan's first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan
 was assassinated by America

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first Prime Minister, was assassinated on October 16, 1951 while addressing a public meeting in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. His assassin, later identified as Saad Akbar Babrak was shot dead on the spot. Saad Akbar Babrak was an Afghan national and a professional assassin. For more than 63 years controversy continued about the motives and perpetrators after the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan. Conspiracy theories abounded with little to substantiate. However, the controversy is now coming to end as declassified documents of the US State Department disclosed that Americans murdered the first elected prime minister of Pakistan through the Afghan government.

The US documents, released several years ago but highlighted recently by the Pakistani media and social media.In July 2006, a Saudi newspaper, Arab News, had reported that declassified papers shed light on us role in Liaquat’s murder.

Now almost 9 years later on April 17, a leading English newspaper of Pakistan, the Nation and also the Express News and  Pakistan Today reported: The United States wanted to get contracts of oil resources in Iran. Pakistan and Iran enjoyed cordial ties and Afghanistan used to be the enemy of Pakistan during 1950-51. The neighboring Afghanistan was the only country that didn’t accept Pakistan at that time.

The US demanded Pakistan use its influence in Tehran and persuade it to transfer control of its oil fields to the US. Liaquat Ali Khan declined to accede to the request, saying that he would not use his friendship for dishonest purposes. On which, then US President Harry Truman had threatened Liaquat Ali Khan. Not only that, Liaquat Ali Khan also asked US to vacate air bases in Pakistan within next 24 hours, dropping a bombshell on Americans.

Americans didn’t find a suitable person in Pakistan and then turned to Afghanistan for this purpose, according to the documents. Washington contacted the US Embassy in Kabul, offering Zahir Shah to search a murderer. Afghan government had found a man Syed Akbar to take the job and also made arrangements for him to be killed on the spot. All three stayed at a local hotel in Rawalpindi. Akbar fired and Liaquat Ali Khan fell, saying Allah help Pakistan.

Two persons killed the murderer of Liaquat Ali Khan at the spot while crowd also massacred the two persons in order to leave no sign of the conspiracy. The bullets used to kill the Pakistani prime minister were not easily available in the market.

Muazzam Ali Khan, the grandson of Liaquat Ali Khan, was quoted as saying that they are aware about the report and it is true. He also told Pakistan Today that they also have supporting documents in this regard.

Tellingly, the latest stories about the assassination of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister were not denied by Washington.

Coup against Mossadegh

Not surprisingly, August 1953 the CIA staged a coup against the Iranian nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh to safeguard the west's oil interests in the country. In April 1951 Iranians democratically elected the head of the National Front party, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, as prime minister. Mossadegh moved quickly to nationalize the assets in Iran of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the forerunner of today’s BP) a step that brought his government into confrontation with Britain and the US. Britain’s MI6 military intelligence then teamed up with the CIA and carried out a coup that ousted Mossadegh in August 1953 and returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power.

In August 2013, 60 years after the coup, the CIA admitted staging a coup against Mossadegh though at least two US Presidents, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, have publicly acknowledged the US role in the Iranian coup.

"The military coup that overthrew Mossadegh and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government," reads a previously excised section of an internal CIA history titled The Battle for Iran.

The declassified documents, under the US Freedom of Information Act, related to CIA’s TPAJAX operation that sought regime change in Iran through the bribery of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, and massive anti-Mossadegh propaganda that helped to instigate public revolt in 1953.

Mossadegh was replaced with Iranian general Fazlollah Zahedi, who was handpicked by The  CIA and M16. Mossaddegh was later sentenced to death, but the Shah never dared to carry out the sentence. Mossadegh died in his residence near Tehran in 1967.

The Shah’s pro-Western dictatorship continued for 27 years and ended with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which paved the way for today’s Iran, where anti-American sentiments remain strong. The 1953 coup still casts a long shadow over Iranian-US relations. 

Liaquat Ali Khan visits USA

Going back to the assassination of Liaquat Ali Khan which came almost two years after his visit to the United State in May-June 1950. His visit perhaps set the tone of Pakistan's foreign policy because he disregarded an invitation to visit the Soviet Union.

In December 1949, Liaquat Ali Khan received an invitation from President Truman to visit the USA. This was readily accepted and the visit took place in May 1950. While on US soil, Liaquat confirmed that he intended to visit the Soviet Union. Liaquat's visit to USA brought the two countries closer. This was shown by Pakistan's support for the use of force by the UN in June 1950 against North Korea to secure its withdrawal from South Korea, as also support for the peace treaty negotiations with Japan in 1951. The Soviet Union opposed both of these developments.

In October 1949, the Communists came to power in China. The US strongly opposed this development and refused to recognize the Communist regime. It continued to recognize the ousted Kuomintang regime of Gen. Chiang Kai-shek as the legitimate government of China. The US also managed to prevent most countries in the world from recognizing Communist China which was thus kept out of the UN as well. However, Liaquat Ali Khan decided to extend recognition to Communist China in January 1950. The Chinese Ambassador arrived in Karachi in September 1951, a month before Liaquat's death, and the first Pakistani Ambassador presented credentials in Beijing in November 1951.

Pakistan thus became the first Muslim country, and one of the few countries in the world, to establish diplomatic relations with Communist China. This shrewd decision laid the foundation for strong relations with China that have since become a pillar of Pakistan's foreign policy.

When Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan visited the USA, Pakistan was non-aligned between the US-led Western Bloc and the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc and it had recognized the Communist-led People's Republic of China, ignoring Washington's opposition to Peking.

It was Pakistan's membership of US backed military pacts in 1954 that aroused Soviet hostility. The Soviet veto on Kashmir was not applied until 1957. The Soviets themselves have never put the blame for unfriendly relations on the inability of Liaquat Ali Khan to visit the Soviet Union.

As the declassified documents of the US State Department reveal, Liaquat Ali Khan, was victim of politics of oil resources grab by the U.S. and British oil companies.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America.