A Tribute to Samuel Martin Burke. By Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf


It is impossible for students of foreign policy to carryout research on the formative phases of South Asian Foreign and Kashmir Policies without referring to Samuel Martin Burke. His books ‘Pakistan's Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis (1973)’ and ‘Mainsprings of Indian and Pakistani Foreign Policy (1974)’, provide an analytical insights into the dynamics that led to the partition of 1947, and understanding of the Indian mindset that prevailed in the Radcliff Boundary Award and occupation of Kashmir. These books also provide students with the genesis of Pakistan’s Security Perspectives and how the policy thereon evolved.
It is my experience that research on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy cannot go wrong if it has Burke’s Theory as its Start Point; a reason why my research papers and articles on Pakistan’s security perspectives and Indian assessments have always been accurate. Half a century hence, after having played his role as a formidable diplomat, impact of Burke’s assessments and contribution to a modern Pakistan remains enduring. A historian by qualification, he has stamped his place in Pakistan’s history whether someone acknowledges it or not. True to his name Burke, he was and remains, Pakistan’s Blitzkeiging Diplomat.
Though he was equally proficient in descriptions of the Mogul Empire and the advent and decline of British Raj, his enduring contribution remains the deep insight into the Indian political mindset always dismissive of Pakistan.
As a magistrate who presided over the Election Petition Commissions of 1945, he showed proficiency and insight in passing historic judgments as also enrich his grasp on the Congress and Nehruvian machinations. This experience as a civil servant was to hold him in good stead amongst the foreign policy fraternity of Pakistan and contribute to a nascent Pakistan in some of its worst times.
His assessments of Nehru’s Kashmir Policy, Fabian Socialism, Secularism, Non Alignment and Panchsheel are theories that have withstood all challenges of time and events. It is unfortunate that as Pakistan plummeted from the notion of welfare to security state; Pakistan waned from fully exploiting these fault lines to push itself towards self-reliance and full blown sovereignty.
Had Pakistan not been a nuclear power, the instability and the great game dynamics in play would have dismembered and gobbled it years ago. Thanks again to Burke, who as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, convinced USA and Canada of Pakistan’s need of nuclear reactors, setting up a nucleus of research that was to result in indigenous nuclear capability.
It has remained my quest to know who this gentleman is. Professors at the University told me that he was a British civil servant who chose to become a naturalized Pakistani and had since migrated. It was only recently that Raymond Durrani a friend from Canada having read my article told me that Mr. Samuel Martin Burq was in fact a Punjabi from Martinpur, Faisalabad and a die hard Pakistani on all counts. Cognitively, he was a Jinnah admirer much before 1947 and continued to serve the interests of Pakistan from 1945 to 9 October 2010 till he died in UK at the age of 104.
He was also amongst the close aides of Liaqat Ali Khan and Sir Zafar Ullah who laid the foundations of Pakistan’s foreign policy, a founding member of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, an accomplished diplomat cum historian and one who left an enduring foot print on Pakistan’s Defence and Nuclear Development.
His father Mr. Janab Khairuddin Barq was an educationist, a Persian cum Urdu poet and also the Headmaster of the School in this Christian village.
Samuel was born on 3 July 1906. He was named Samuel Martin after the Christian Missionary who established the village and later BARQ (Burke) as his surname after the nom de plume of his Persian and Urdu writing father. It is unfortunate that this Pakistani despite his services to the country is little known in his motherland. Had the British and Indian newspapers not written his obituaries he would have remained obscure to many Pakistani bloggers who have now started paying tribute to him.
It is my endeavor to take on the noble task of paying tributes and write an obituary to this son of the soil; a man of rare intellect, foresight and perseverance who lived and died for Pakistan. At a time when sectarian and religious bigotry threatens to shake the foundations of Jinnah’s Pakistan, it is also a reminder that Pakistan is to be equally shared with religious minorities who have served it well despite odds.
Hailing from an educated native family of Faisalabad, Samuel shifted to Government College Lahore on a scholarship to study science. Being a sportsman and member of the College Cricket Team, he found the long laboratory hours in the college in conflict with his sporting passion. As destiny would have it, he shifted to Persian, Urdu, English and History to secure honors in BA and a 1st Division in Masters in History. Later his knowledge of history, Persian and Urdu held him in good stead to write historical chronicles on the Mughal Empire and also provide an insight into the Hindu political and military mind. Till his death, he held to the opinion that it was in fact Gandhi and not Jinnah who began use of religion as an instrument of politicking to introduce communalism in politics.
He appeared in the Indian Civil Services Examinations that he qualified with top merit and proceeded to England to do courses in administration and Law. On return, he joined the district administration and later became a magistrate who as head of the Election Petition Commission of Panjab 1945 passed many fair judgments in favour of the Muslim League fighting for an independent Pakistan; to the chagrin of Congress and Sir Khyzer Hayat’s Unionists who wanted a United India. Yet, he was so transparent that never once was he accused of bias.
Before partition, he resigned from the Indian Civil Service to prove that his judgments were never biased. Both Congress and Muslim League offered him lucrative positions. He declined and after partition chose Pakistan as his native country. Rather than act as Liaqat Ali’s minister of Minorities on a narrow canvas, he chose to broaden his role as a Pakistani and joined the Pakistan Foreign Office, where along with Sir Zafar Ullah, he laid the foundations of Pakistan’s foreign policy.
During the food shortages of 1953 he and his British wife Louise traveled all over USA canvassing for a modern and plural Pakistan. He came back with US food aid that in the 50s became the foot print of every poor Pakistani household followed by economic aid that became the marvel of industrialization in the 60s.
Burke was an articulate speaker, a scholarly writer and a pleasing diplomat. As the Pakistani ambassador to Scandinavia, the Commonwealth heads of missions in Stockholm chose him to escort the Queen during her walkabout.
When appointed as High Commissioner to Canada, he negotiated the sale of a research nuclear reactor to Pakistan that was to later transform into a robust nuclear deterrence.
Burke retired from Pakistan’s Foreign Service to take up a new chair in South Asian Studies created for him at the University of Minnesota where he also created a Burke Library. He continued to write and dialogue on Pakistan’s behalf both in his private capacity and on behalf of the Pakistan Government. He secured the sale of military hardware from USA to Pakistan in 1970 despite strong objections from the US ambassador to India.
His books include: Pakistan's Foreign Policy: An Historical Analysis (1973); Mainsprings of Indian and Pakistani Foreign Policy (1974); Akbar, the Greatest Mogul (1989); Bahadur Shah, the Last Mogul Emperor of India (1995); The British Raj in India: An Historical Review (1995); and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah: His Personality and his Politics (1997). He also helped compile a Historical Atlas of South Asia.
Samuel Martin Burke of Martinpur Fasisalabd, born 3 July 1906; died 9 October 2010 leaves behind a legacy of three daughters, nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren.
(Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.
email: nicco1988@hotmail.com)

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