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Houses for Mr Jinnah

In 1947, Pakistan’s founder had more than politics on his mind. A lesser known side to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was that he was a careful and persistent investor in shares and landed estates. Vivek Shukla writes.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2011 16:05 IST
Vivek Shukla

A lesser known side to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was that he was a careful and persistent investor in shares and landed estates. By March 1947, when Congress and the Muslim League had agreed upon India’s Partition, he was still looking for investment options.

There is no other way one can explain why he was writing to share brokers and estate agents that month, buying 500 shares in Air India Ltd and showing keen interest in the purchase of Sandow Castle, “a large property near Bombay with 18 acres of land and with an unrestricted view of the sea”. The latter was priced at Rs 5 lakh.

That Jinnah wanted to buy Air India shares is revealed in Jinnah Papers: Pakistan — Struggling for Survival, 1 January-30 September 1948, from the Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project, Government of Pakistan, distributed by Oxford University Press, Pakistan. That Jinnah was money-minded was also confirmed by late Dinesh Nandini Dalmia, novelist and wife of Seth Ramkrishan Dalmia.

She once told this writer that Jinnah used to discuss only financial matters during his meetings with her husband at their Sikandra Road residence in Delhi. During those days, Jinnah was busy sealing the deal for the sale of his Aurangzeb Road mansion to Dalmia before leaving for Pakistan.

It seems that both Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, the second-in-command in the Muslim League, had no idea that their dream to have a separate homeland for Indian Muslims would become a reality so soon.

The All India Muslim League passed the resolution for a homeland for the Muslims of India on March 23, 1940, at Lahore’s Minto Park. Had they known they would achieve their goal in seven years, neither of them would have purchased palatial properties in Delhi.

Both Jinnah and Liaquat left behind huge properties in India, either unsold or sold for a pittance. His house in Mumbai’s Malabar Hill belongs to the first category. The Indian government rejected the claim of both his estranged daughter Dina as well as Pakistan’s request to start their Mumbai consulate there.

To start with, Jinnah was not very keen on having a house in Delhi.

But he was persuaded by some of his close Muslim League colleagues who convinced him that it was necessary as he would have to frequently visit Delhi to meet and organise Muslims for the cause of Pakistan. Altaf Hussain, the editor of The Dawn, the organ of the Muslim League which was then published from Daryaganj, was also the caretaker of the house.

From the exclusive precincts of Aurangzeb Road, Tilak Lane (Harding Lane) is not far away. In a huge mansion on this lane, Liaquat Ali Khan used to live with his wife, Gul-e-rana, a teacher of English in Delhi University’s Indraprastha College.

Liaquat belonged to a feudal family from Karnal and had huge properties there as well as in Delhi. Unfortunately, he could not sell his Delhi house before leaving. The Indian government took it over and made it the official residence of Pakistan’s Delhi-based high commissioner.

(Vivek Shukla is a Delhi-based journalist. The views expressed by the author are personal)