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Khan Bahadur Muhammad Ayub Khoro (Urdu: خان بهادر محمد ايوب کھوڑو ) was a politician from Sindh, Pakistan, who became its first Chief Minister after independence of Pakistan and subsequently serving two additional terms in the 1950s. He later became the Defence Minister in the government of PM Feroz Khan Noon, before the imposition of martial law by General Ayub Khan.

Political offices
Preceded by
Ghulam Hussain Hidayat Ullah
Chief Minister of Sindh
1947 – 1948
Succeeded by
Pir Ilahi Bux
Preceded by
Qazi Fazlullah Ubaidullah
2nd term
1951
Succeeded by
Governor's rule
Preceded by
Pirzada Abdul Sattar
3rd term
1954 – 1955
Succeeded by
Post abolished
Preceded by
Feroz Khan Noon
Defence Minister of Pakistan
1958
Succeeded by
Ayub Khan

MOHAMMED AYUB KHUHRO

Hameeda Khuhro

The sobriquet ‘Iron Man of Sind’ does not adequately describe Mohammad Ayub Khuhro. He was a man of clear vision and determination which meant that he pursued his goals with logic and resolve and often succeeded in achieving them. The tasks he set himself were the result of his personal experience and his observation of the condition of the Sindhi people both economic and social and he spent his life fighting to improve these conditions. Mohammad Ayub Khuhro was a front ranking leader of the freedom movement of the subcontinent and a key leader of All India Muslim League, the founding Party of Pakistan. Born in 1901 he belonged to a Zamindari family of Larkana in Upper Sindh. He went to the local school, the Larkana Madressah and then to Karachi to Sindh Madressah and to D.J.Sind Arts College. He had to abandon his education on the death of his father and return to his family village and zamindari work. At the age of twenty two he was elected to the local self government body set up after Lord Ripon’s Local Government reforms of 1885. As member of the Larkana Local Board Khuhro started on his political career which he would devote to the cause of the freedom of the Indian subcontinent and particularly to the cause of Muslim emancipation in Sindh and in India as a whole. He was uncompromisingly opposed to British colonial rule but he eschewed.violence and ultra nationalist ‘destructive’ politics and preferred to study the tactics of the colonial rulers and use the institutions set up by them to fight for his cause. He was opposed to colonialism but admired the British for introducing the elective principle, representative Assemblies and provincial autonomy. He considered the introduction of the Indian Penal Code a great step for the progress of the Indian people and admired the maintenance of the rule of law under the British.

The formation in 1906, of All India Muslim League (of which the Pakistan Muslim League is a descendant), was to become a determinant factor in the destiny of the Indian subcontinent. This could not have been suspected even by the founders of the Party. It was to be AIML which would stand for adequate safeguards for the Muslims in what was expected to be a majority rule democratic order in a free subcontinent. AIML entered into dialogue with the Congress and other Parties to reach a reasonable compromise and indeed even achieved the compromise of the Lucknow Pact of 1913 where the Congress agreed to separate electorates. M.A.Jinnah was one of the key players in the Lucknow Pact in which Congress conceded ‘Separate Electorates’ although he was at this time a Congress leader and saw AIML as a somewhat disruptive factor in the common freedom struggle against Imperial rule.

By the end of the 1920s long discussions on a formula for agreed Indian constitutional proposals had ended in failure at the All Parties Conference at Calcutta and Jinnah left Calcutta by train declaring that this was ‘the parting of ways’. Although this was not the end of the quest for a compromise with the Congress and other India parties, it was clear that there was no mood to respond to Muslim requirement for safeguards in an independent India and that AIML would have to struggle alone. The other assorted Muslim parties both religious and non religious were not so focused and had different agendas.

By the time Jinnah had returned form his prolonged sojourn in England and taken charge of AIML a crucial turn in the struggle for freedom was to take place. The United Provinces Muslim League had reached an understanding with the Congress leaders that they would allot some Ministerial posts to the Muslim leaders. However when Congress swept the polls and formed the government they ignored the Muslim League leaders. This was the actual parting of ways as far as the UP leaders were concerned and they then asked Jinnah to defend their interests.

The strategy that Mr. Jinnah adopted was to ask for additional seats for Muslims in the Central Assembly at Delhi. But it was not easy to move a triumphant Congress especially after its victory at elections. Moreover Jinnah had already been seriously snubbed at Calcutta a few years previously over this issue and therefore a change of tactics was needed if he was to succeed.

Jinnah realized that the strongest weapon in his armoury was the Muslim majority provinces in the north west and north east of the subcontinent. If he could get the support of the major provinces of Bengal, the Punjab, Sindh and N.W.F.P. (and Baluchistan which was not as yet a fully fledged autonomous province) he would be playing from a very strong position. Jinnah’s tactics were to prove a masterstroke of politics and would lead eventually to the creation of Pakistan.

So we see from 1938 onwards Jinnah paying far more attention to the Muslim majority provinces than he had done hitherto. The AIML had in fact been almost hostile to these provinces as has been pointed out in some studies, overtures to Muslim League from these provinces had not only been ignored but positively rebuffed. But now the situation was different and the majority provinces had to be wooed.

In 1938 Mr. Jinnah was invited to Sindh by the leadership which had recently gained autonomy from the Bombay Presidency. The leadership had veteran leaders of the Khilafat movement like Sir Abdoola Haroon, Shaikh Abdul Majid and the younger leadership of Mohammad Ayub Khuhro, G.M.Syed, Hatim Alavi and M.H.Gazdar in the forefront. Mr. Jinnah was received most enthusiastically by the people of Sindh. The meeting passed a resolution asking for a separate Muslim state – which was a first in this type of public gathering. From Karachi Jinnah went on organizational tour of Sindh in the face of a hostile government headed by Allahbux Soomro. He was well received only in Khuhro’s home town, Larkana , where a public meeting was held and then in Jacobabad where Mir Jaffer Khan Jamali had a tea meeting.

Khuhro who came from a Zamindari family of Larkana, had developed a sense of public service from an early age. He had joined politics as Member of Larkana District Board and by the age of 22 was elected Member of the Bombay Legislative Council. He was aware of the depressed state of the Muslim community and committed to the cause of its emancipation. His early stint at the Council was spent in pursuing the goal of getting employment for qualified Sindhis in government service and for their education. He gained a reputation for being a sympathetic leader of the people and it is to him the people turned in times of crisis such as the communal riots that took place in Larkana and Sukkur in the late twenties. Khuhro saw to it that Muslims were properly represented if there were any court cases and not victimized by officials. Khuhro took a leading part in the struggle for the separation of Sindh from Bombay. Although this struggle had been going on from 1913 at least when the Sindh leaders put the demand at the Congress session in Karachi in that year, not much progress had been made till the end of the twenties when the Simon Commission came on a mission to ascertain the mind of Indians regarding the proposed constitutional reforms for India.

Khuhro led the case for separation in front of the Simon Commission and was opposed by Sindh Hindus. The Commission decided against separation from Bombay on the grounds that Sindh would not be financially viable. Khuhro was determined to prove otherwise and worked very hard at showing that Sindh would be well able to support itself and pay for the Sukkur Barrage which had burdened it with a heavy debt. Within the next few years a number of Financial and Administrative Committees sat to consider the case and finally at the Third Round Table Conference Khuhro appeared to plead the case for Separation. This time his efforts were crowned with success and Sindh was granted autonomy in Government of India Act of 1935. This was a heady victory for the Muslims of Sindh.

The separation of Sindh from Bombay Presidency was the most significant event in the process that led to the creation of Pakistan. If Sindh with its 75% Muslim majority had continued to remain part of the Bombay Presidency, the case for partition would have been considerably weaker. The Punjab under Unionists and Bengal were ambivalent about Jinnah’s policies and NWFP under the Red Shirt influence of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, therefore from 1938 to 1946 the mainstay of the Pakistan demand was the existence of autonomous Sindh.

As the most active and effective protagonist of separation Khuhro was in the forefront of the political leadership. For the Quaid e Azam who was by now looking to the Muslim majority provinces to bolster his position Khuhro was the perfect field commander. He had known Khuhro for many years ever since he had come to Sindh in the 1929-30 to defend Pir Pagaro in a case. Khuhro had also received Jinnah at Karachi on his way to London and requested him to argue for Sindh’s autonomy at the Round Table Conferences. He had also called on Jinnah in London in 1933 and requested him, among others, to return to India to lead the Muslims. At the time of the Karachi meet of All India Muslim League the aims of Mr. Jinnah were also useful for the advancement of Sindh and Khuhro joined AIML


The task of organization of the party fell to Khuhro and G.M.Syed (who were both members of the AIML Working Committee) particularly after the death of Abdoola Haroon in 1942. At a time when Jinnah had not been able to bring either the Punjab or Bengal into the fold Sindh had acquired a huge importance for the Muslim cause as espoused by Jinnah. He was very keen that Sindh Muslims fall fully behind him.

Khuhro was the most reliable and consistent leader in support of Mr. Jinnah. Unlike most of his contemporaries in politics, he was clear about his political objectives which were to help the Muslims of Sindh to improve their position with regard to three main areas: to get rid of the farmers’ indebtedness to the ‘bania’ which had lost the farmers a great deal of land; secondly to secure jobs for the Muslims in professions and government where they were badly underrepresented; thirdly to help the Muslims to get educated, a field in which they were also seriously disadvantaged. He had spent twenty years ever since he had been elected to the Bombay Council and subsequently to the Sindh Legislative Assembly, working hard on his agenda. He had felt that perhaps an autonomous Sindh would help to ease the situation but realized fairly quickly that mere autonomy was not the answer and that Muslims needed to pull together and be single minded about the achievement of these goals. Unfortunately most of the leadership was ready to compromise for personal gain and even change loyalties for position. Khuhro began to feel that a powerful ideological movement was needed to motivate the Sindh leadership to work for the common good. The available movement was the struggle for a separate Muslim state in the majority Muslim provinces in the north west and north east of the Indian subcontinent.

Muslim League had a presence in Sindh but was slow to gain popularity. This would be provided by the Masjid Manzilgah movement in 1939 in Sukkur. The long standing demand of the Muslims of Sukkur to restore the historic mosque and serai to the community had been resisted by the rich and powerful Hindu community of Sukkur. The Muslim League leadership with Khuhro playing the leading role organized a mass movement along the pattern of Gandhi’s satyagraha movement. The movement spread like wildfire in Sindh and huge volunteer contingents arrived in Sukkur to join the struggle. The Congress backed government of Allah Baksh Soomro had to give in and the buildings were restored to the Muslims. Muslim League became the most popular party in Sindh. A coalition government was formed by Muslim League and Independent Hindus. In March 1940 fresh from this triumph, Khuhro, G.M.Syed and Sir Abdoola Haroon went to participate in that historic AIML session in Lahore.

The ‘Pakistan Resolution’ was passed with the support of the leaders of the majority provinces as Jinnah was able to persuade them that full autonomy (autonomy and sovereignty) would be guaranteed to them. Khuhro set out single mindedly to organize Muslim League in Sindh and after the desertion of G.M.Syed in 1945 he was the bastion of the party. He managed the two elections of 1946 and was able to align Sindh with the Pakistan movement very successfully. In fact Mr. Jinnah felt most at home in Sindh where unlike other majority provinces; there was a Muslim League government throughout the forties. Khuhro was ready to make any sacrifice for the cause and although he had the majority support in the Sindh Assembly for Premiership, he stepped aside when the Quaid e Azam asked him to do so in order to avoid fissures in the Party.

After independence Khuhro would become the first Premier of Sindh and would do sterling work to organize the Sindh capital, Karachi, to receive lakhs of refugees and government officials. When the Pakistan government was in dire need of money and its share of funds was not being released by Delhi, Khuhro responded to the national need and loaned the required sum from Sindh even postponing his development programmes in the province. He firmly put down serious riots that threatened to engulf Karachi in January 1948 and the Quaid –e- Azam Jinnah especially thanked him for doing so. When Jinnah asked him to help the Kashmir campaign he raised funds and arranged and sent material aid including arms to the fighters.

Differences appeared between Khuhro and the Centre when the latter demanded the exclusive control of Karachi. Jinnah had wanted to make Karachi the interim capital of Pakistan. Sindh Government had agreed and welcomed the Government of Pakistan to its own capital. On behalf of the Government of Sindh, Khuhro first as Minister for PWD and then as Premier of Sindh not only built extensive office space for the Central Government but had handed over its Assembly building until the Centre could make its own arrangements. The Sindh government itself shifted to the Napier Barracks and elsewhere. But when the question was raised about the taking Karachi away from Sindh and making it federal territory, there was huge resentment throughout Sindh. The Assembly passed a resolution against any such step and there was student agitation.. Khuhro championed the wishes of the people and refused to hand over Karachi. As a result he was removed from government and a more pliant person was put in his place.

This was to be an oft repeated tale in Pakistan and a complete negation of the promise of 1940 which had been made to the provinces to get their support for Pakistan. Khuhro was the worst sufferer in this cause. Khuhro-specific legislation PRODA (Public Representative Officers Disqualification Act) was introduced to punish him and he was disqualified from participating in elective politics for a number of years. As Khuhro had a big base of public support he was able to bounce back to become Premier twice more and was Defence Minister of Pakistan when the first Martial Law regime was imposed by Ayub Khan. The Centre had begun its programme of crushing any sign of initiative or assertion of autonomy from the provinces. This process culminated in the imposition of Martial Law (1958) or ‘no law’ in the words of the constitutional lawyer Mr.A.K.Brohi.

Khuhro had to face disqualification for many years which consumed the most effective and active years of his life and thus Sindh and Pakistan were deprived of the work of one of the best administrators of the country. Through persecution and disabling legislation Pakistan lost three generations of the most experienced political leaders it had- as a result the administration and politics of the country are in the state of shambles that we see today.

The country has to pull back from the deliberately created divisions, the politics of hate and the maligning of its politicians in order to restore its balance. A half century of wasted lives and opportunities may not be retrieved but space has to be created for genuine leadership to emerge. Khuhro’s life illustrates how Central authorities have misused the trust of the people and the absolute necessity of getting back to basic principles of Pakistan’s foundation.


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