ABA Haleem: A Forgotten Muslim Political Scientist

Remember his historic line he said to Jinnah; “Mr. Jinnah, we are teaching history and you are making it.”

Javid Ahmad Ahanger
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jun 13 2018 11:51PM | Updated Date: Jun 13 2018 11:51PM
ABA Haleem: A Forgotten Muslim Political Scientist

Born in 1897 in Bihar, Abu Bakr Ahmed Haleem (aka ABA Haleem) attained his education at Patna University. He went for higher studies to University of Oxford and earned doctorate in political science. He returned to India in 1921, when freedom movement was on its zenith and started his career from the Aligarh Muslim University as an educationist. It was here in Aligarh he met Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah and with the passage of time he became one of the staunch followers of him. In 1923, Haleem was appointed Professor in the Department of History and Political Science at Aligarh University. Later, he became Chairman of the Department and from 1935 to 1944 served as Pro-Vice Chancellor of Aligarh University. During this period, Haleem presided over the Education Section of the All India Muslim Educational Conference Session held at Poona in 1940. In 1942, he was appointed Chairman of the Inter-University Board of undivided India. 

The year 1944 marked Haleem’s entry into politics by joining Muslim League. He worked tirelessly for the Pakistan Movement and was elected as a member of the UP Legislative Assembly on the Muslim League ticket in 1945-1946. In 1945, Haleem became President of the “UP Muslim Students’ Federation”, was a member of the Council of the UP Muslim League from 1944 to 1947 and a member of the Council of the All India Muslim League for a number of years. From 1944 to 1945, Haleem held the position of Secretary of the All India Muslim League Planning Committee. He was also Secretary of the Muslim League’s Educational Committee. Quaid-i-Azam appointed Haleem as his constitutional adviser during the Simla Conference in 1945.

Aba Haleem also became the member of Central Consumer’s Council which was set up by British government during World War II. Besides he also worked as a corresponding member of the Indian Historical Records Commission for some time. It was the time when Ayub Khan was one of students of Aba Haleem in Aligarh University. By 1934, he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University and played a pivotal role in Pakistan’s formation by serving with the All-India Muslim League until Partition. Writer Mukhtar Masood of Pakistan describes Professor Haleem’s welcome to Jinnah, stating, “Mr. Jinnah, we are teaching history and you are making it.” The genius of Professor Haleem was he spoke over five languages; he even spoke Mandarin. In fact because of his mastery over so many languages, Haleem was invited to China to give a speech to Mao-Zedong on Chinese history.

After the birth of Pakistan, Professor Haleem was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of Sindh University from 1947 to 1951 at the behest of Jinnah and later, the first Vice-Chancellor of Karachi University. Thus he has noble distinction of being the first Vice-Chancellor for both reputed institutions of Pakistan. But at the same time Haleem continued his teaching on political science. As Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Haleem allowed all the students the facility to take their examinations in their mother tongue and encouraged the imparting of education in evening sessions. Aba Haleem emerged victorious in every field of life be it education or politics. He was an Oxonian of yore, kind hearted, a scholar of repute and above all, a noble human being, a model of excellence and a model Vice-Chancellor.

It is in the field of education that his contribution has been most acclaimed. He worked as the Chairman of the World University Service National Committee for Pakistan from 1948 to 1957 and was appointed as the Chairman of the Commission for Eradication of Social Evils in 1962. In 1965, Haleem became a member of the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, set up by the Government of Pakistan. He had also this honour of presiding over the general session of the “All Pakistan Educational Conference in 1956.” Haleem was one of the moving spirits of “Motamar-i-Islami” and was its Chairman for a number of years. In his later years he was associated with “The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs” since its inception in Karachi and was elected as its Chairman from 1949 to 1960 and from 1961 to 1974 and taught political science all these years. Under his scholarship, he helped to nurture the Institute into a leading forum for research and dialogue on foreign policy and international affairs and number of students (Scholars) received his guidance and earned doctorates. 

This Noble soul bid goodbye to this mortal world on 20 April 1975. To recognize his role, Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp in his name in the series, “Men of Letters”, on 20 April 2003. Professor Haleem is regarded as having been “the influential political scientist” of Pakistan. It would not be wrong to say that Dr. Haleem was one of those intellectuals of the South Asia region (particularly of Pakistan) will always be proud of. Infact history is witnessed to this fact that, Prof. Haleem was one of those influential persons who, wherever they go and whatever they do, leave an indelible print on the pages of history. 

Author is  Doctoral Fellow at Department of Political Science Aligarh Muslim University.

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