Malik Mohammad Jafar devoted his life to the noble mission of human well-being.

Inspired by the fond memory and the noble mission of human emancipation to which the late Malik Mohammad Jafar (1914-1999) tirelessly devoted his life, the Trust named after him – the Malik Mohammad Jafar Social Welfare Trust (MMJSWT) – established in June 2010 is, by terms of its Deed, “dedicated to every possible effort to ameliorate human misery, i.e., feeding the poor, providing shelter to the homeless, and sponsoring/imparting education and technical skills’ training to the poor and needy in all age groups.”

Although born in a well-to-do, mainly agrarian household in the small village of Pindori in the underdeveloped district of Campbellpur (since renamed Attock) in northern Punjab, Malik Mohammad Jafar’s early life was rife with the struggle for survival and getting education, having lost both his parents at an early age as he did. Yet, each difficulty he faced further steeled his resolve and seems to have gone a long way in stirring up his deep, life-long passion for improving the lot of the disadvantaged in society.

At another level, however, he only carried forward at the national level the tradition of spreading enlightenment, justice, progress and education that had been established by his predecessors in the family on the regional scale generations ago. He carried on this zealous mission in various capacities – as a leading lawyer of his time standing firm by the poor, the needy, and those discriminated against on religious and gender basis; as a researcher, scholar and prolific writer clearing the cobwebs of ignorance, injustice, inequality and intolerance; and as a politician always on the side of the wronged and the persecuted.

The name of Malik Mohammad Jafar is thus firmly established in the chequered history of Pakistan as a synonym for humanitarianism. His selfless services in providing shelter to the homeless and looking after the needy, particularly women, are legendary.

Having done his BA, LL.B, Malik Mohammad Jafar started his career as a lawyer in Campbellpur in 1941. Soon thereafter, he was appointed Secretary of Pakistan Muslim League for the vast district of Campbellpur. In this capacity, he worked as a trusted and close associate of the Quaid. He campaigned for the creation of Pakistan and mobilized the people. When Pakistan was created in 1947, he organized the gigantic task of settlement of refugees in the entire district.

Later, however, he got disillusioned with the self-serving policies of the Muslim League and pursued his political career independently. Finally, he did join the Pakistan Peoples Party ahead of the 1970 national elections in view of the progressive manifesto of the party and upon a lot of persuasion by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. At the same time, he worked feverishly – albeit unsuccessfully – both within the party and in the public domain, that included penning down a series of newspaper articles, to arrive at a political and constitutional accommodation with the demands of greater provincial autonomy as articulated by the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman in the then East Pakistan (that was in 1971 to emerge as the independent State of Bangladesh).

His bold stance was, however, not heeded to by those in military and political authority in West Pakistan. After the tragic separation of East Pakistan, he took it upon himself to campaign for Pakistan to give official recognition to Bangladesh. For, nothing short of this move could have ensured the safe return home of more than 90,000 West Pakistani military personnel and civilians languishing in Indian prisoners of war camps. Pakistan did in the event recognise Bangladesh and the prisoners of war were repatriated.

It was no surprise, therefore, that when President Bhutto led a large official delegation to Dhaka after Pakistan’s recognition of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Mujib received Malik Jafar with special warmth, describing him as “the only friend of (the formerly) East Pakistanis in West Pakistan”.

Again, given his widespread reputation of being a champion of the rights of the neglected communities and ethnic groups, Malik Jafar was the natural choice for Bhutto as the troubleshooter when the drafting of the (1973) Constitution of Pakistan came to a stalemate in view of the demands for enhanced internal autonomy made by elected representatives of the smaller provinces of Balochistan and the NWFP (now renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa) that were bitterly opposed by Punjab in particular. Malik Jafar did come up to the task as the key drafter of the Constitution in making the unanimous adoption of the historic document a possibility.

Also worthy of note in this context are the matchless services rendered by him to the religious minorities of Pakistan during his tenure as the minister in charge of their affairs in Bhutto’s cabinet. Apart from sparing no effort in trying to get the minorities their due constitutional rights as equal citizens, he was the first to institutionalise a fast, efficient and corruption-free system of extending State financial support to the more disadvantaged among them and for the general welfare of these marginalised communities. Small wonder then, that those among the religious minorities of Pakistan who remember his time in office, still describe him as the biggest benefactor of their communities in the country’s history.

Malik Jafar was one of the closest friends of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and they together established the Pakistan National Council of the Arts; the Institute of Folk Heritage; the Academy of Letters; and, the National Film Development Corporation. The setting up of a separate Ministry for Cultural Affairs was also the brainchild of the two luminaries.

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