Remembering great historian Dr Zawwar Hussain Zaidi

By: Rehana Naqvi Bukhari      Published: 12:32 AM, 31 Mar, 2020
Remembering great historian Dr Zawwar Hussain Zaidi
Dr Zaidi presents a copy of Jinnah Papers to Dina Wadia, daughter of M.A. Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, on her visit to Pakistan in Lahore on March 23, 2004.

It has been long 11 years since Dr Zawwar Hussain Zaidi left us to go on his eternal journey.

Dr Zaidi was the most revered and respected historian who was more a genius teacher than a boss for the juniors like me who had the honour to work with him.

Dr Zaidi had rendered a great and enviable service by rewriting the history of Pakistan movement into the shape of a series of Jinnah Papers volume collection.

After saying goodbye to his teaching career in School of Oriental and African Studies (SAOS), London, United Kingdom he came to Pakistan and stayed at Lahore where he continued teaching as a History professor in the Government College Lahore.

After he retired from the teaching profession, he joined the Quaid-e-Azam Academy and worked there with full dedication and compiled Jinnah papers into a book shape.

What makes his stay in the academy so interesting was that he had with him all the original documents and first-hand information about the life and achievements of founding father Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He was on the peak of his academic career when he had received news about the death of his brother so he was bogged down as it also added another sad memory to his diligent mind and that was the death of his 25 years old son in the UK. Thus he decided to come to Islamabad along with his family where he started work on a national project known as Quaid e Azam Papers Project in 1992 in coordination with the government of Pakistan.

This was the time when he started work without taking any salary from the government and did an honorary job to serve the nation. Dr Zaidi was accompanied in this strenuous task of producing the original Jinnah Papers with the company of his great partner Mrs Parveen Zaidi who herself was a conservationist and preservationist of the old and torn documents after getting training from abroad.

I still remembered my association in 1993 with this project of Dr Zaidi where I served in the capacity of Research officer. So it would be beyond exaggeration that I know him pretty well as my boss who was a hard taskmaster and preferred discipline in each and everything running around the project. He was a very kind man towards all those girls, boys and old aged people who were working there and imparted the best research training and skills in all of us.

Dr Zaidi also presented a copy of Jinnah Papers in Lahore on March 23, 2004, to Dina Wadia, daughter of M.A. Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, on her visit to Pakistan. Dina Wadia later wrote a letter to Dr Zaidi thanking him for the gigantic task of publishing Jinnah Papers and keeping the memory of his father alive.

Dina, in one of his letters to the Editor- in- Chief, Jinnah Papers, remarked: “To Zaidi, thank you for keeping my father’s memory alive, affectionately, Dina”.

Dr Zawwar Hussain Zaidi was born in Badayun in 1928. He was a prominent figure of the Pakistan Movement. He studied at Aligarh Muslim University and did his M.A and LLB there. He was the author of 20 books. 13 of these are in English, 6 in Urdu, and one in Persian.

Later on, he was appointed head of the history department in FC College, Lahore. He also taught at the Punjab University and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London for about 42 years. Then he worked for the UNESCO’S International Council of Archives for about 10 year

In 1982 he came to Pakistan from London to compile the Muslim League Papers and the Quaid-e-Azam Papers, which were lying in the National Archives department at that time.

In 1991 he took premature retirement from SOAS and started the herculean task of editing the Jinnah Papers.

The work included organizing the papers and editing 113 sacks of records, and 46 tin trunks and some 70,000 copies of Muslim League publications. So with the help of Dr Zaidi’s single-minded perseverance and tenacity, the Jinnah Papers work was completed successfully.

Dr Zaidi along with his wife Mrs Parveen Zaidi, a very kind and compassionate lady, had developed special kind of passion for digging out historical and old documents and then preserving and restoring them after taking special training for it.

In one of his books, he wrote that he broke into tears when Quaid-Azam’s daughter Dina told him: “My father would be very grateful to you”.

He worked tirelessly day and night on the compilation of Jinnah Papers at the Quaid-e-Azam Papers Project, Ministry of Culture and Tourism and completed a series of 25 to 28 volumes on the life and work of M.A. Jinnah.

Dr Zaidi had with him the most committed and dedicated team workers including young as well as retired personnel from the government. He was also Chairman of the Quaid-e-Azam Academy, Karachi. He was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz in 1994 for his valuable services to work on the life and achievements of M. A. Jinnah during 19401947.

Dr Zaidi was aware of his failing health condition. He wanted to see the Jinnah papers formal inauguration. It was in 1998 when he formally launched the first volume of Jinnah Papers in Islamabad. Nearly 15 volumes of Jinnah Papers have so far been launched.

During his lifetime he did not take rest and continued collecting material for the publication of historical papers from various libraries and departments. He even had collected documents from the London Archives and British Library.

He died on the 31 March 2009 in Lahore at the age of 81. His demise was a great loss of a selfless personality.

The great historian Stanley Wolpert acknowledged him as “great authority” on M.A. Jinnah and the subject of history.