We recently republished this classic, from our archives, in the Pakistan Horizon. In his piece, Sir Zafrulla Khan commented on the inadequacy of resources for the fledgling, refugee state of Pakistan but he was full of hope for the future of the country. As stated on his Wikipedia page, he was a Pakistani jurist and diplomat who served as first the foreign minister of Pakistan and the first Muslim, Asian and only Pakistani president for both the UN General Assembly and also the International Court of Justice. Born in Sialkot, British India, Khan was educated as a lawyer at GCU and King’s College and served as a member of Punjab Legislative Council between 1926 till 1931. He was a delegate in 1930, 1931, and 1932 to the Round Table Conferences on Indian reforms in London, England. An excellent paper by Victor Kattan entitled Decolonizing the International Court of Justice: The Experience of Judge Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan in the South West Africa Cases is well worth reading as well.
He became a member of the All-India Muslim League which led the Pakistan movement and served as the league’s president between 1931 and 1932. In 1935 he became the Minister of Railway of British India, and sat on the British Viceroy’s Executive Council as its Muslim member from 1935 to 1941. In 1939 he travelled to Geneva to represent India at the League of Nations and in 1942 became the Agent-General of British India to China. In September 1941, Khan became judge at the Federal Court of India and remained at the court until the partition of India.
Khan became one of the most vocal proponents of Pakistan and led the case for the separate nation in the Radcliffe Commission which drew the countries of modern day South Asia. He moved to Karachi in August 1947 and became a member of Pakistan’s first cabinet serving as the country’s debut foreign minister. He remained Pakistan’s top diplomat until 1954 when he left to serve on the International Court of Justice and remained served the court as judge until 1958 when he became the court’s vice president until 1961. He left the Hague to become the Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, a position he served until 1964 during which he also became the first Asian to preside of the United Nations General Assembly.
During his time at the UN, he also represented the State of Palestine in a de facto capacity. He left the UN in 1964 to return to the ICJ and in 1970 became the first and only Pakistani to serve as the President of the International Court of Justice, a position he maintained until 1973. He returned to Pakistan and retired in Lahore where he died in 1985 at the age of 92.