On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Independence Hero Met Pakistan’s Founder

By Wei Yan Aung 7 January 2021

Yangon — On this day in 1947, Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San, who was en route to London to discuss Burmese independence from Britain, made a stop in Karachi in pre-partition colonial India to meet Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of what would become Pakistan.

At the time, Jinnah was the leader of the All-India Muslim League and later became Pakistan’s first governor-general at independence in August 1947.

As the two shook hands, Gen. Aung San said he had not met Jinnah in person before but he had heard about his outstanding challenge to British rule.

Jinnah replied: “I have often heard about your independence struggle too. As we are both striving for independence, we have to respect each other.”

During an hour of talks, Jinnah elaborated on Pakistan’s separation from India and Gen. Aung San described his country’s political landscape and independence struggle.

The two also discussed the demand of Muslims in Maungdaw in Arakan (now Rakhine) State that bordered East Bengal (now Bangladesh) that Maungdaw be included in what became East Pakistan.

The 71-year-old British-educated barrister assured the Burmese nationalist that “the Muslim League has no intention of raising the question concerning the annexation of Maungdaw in Burma in Pakistan. The Muslim League has never put forward such a claim nor do we intend to do so.”

Gen. Aung San expressed thanks to the Muslim leader, wrote his secretary Lieutenant Tun Hla (writer Tekkatho Ne Win) in his book, The Independence Struggle of Gen. Aung San.

Over one year after they met with promises to maintain amicable ties, the Mujahid insurgency broke out in Mayu Frontier District, which included Buthidaung and Maungdaw, between East Pakistan and Myanmar (then Burma).

Gen. Aung San was assassinated by Galon U Saw before the Mujahid insurgency and Jinnah died months after it started. The insurgency was not quelled by the Burmese military until 1961.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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