KARACHI: Liaquat Merchant, who is the grandson of Maryam Bai, one of Quaid-e-Azam’s sisters, has said that Aslam Jinnah, who claims to be the great grandson of the founder of Pakistan, is not from the Jinnah family. “He might belong to Nathoo Poonja’s family, who is Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s father’s brother, but he does not directly belong to Quaid’s family and I say this firmly on the basis of my personal knowledge,” said Merchant.

Just a day ago, the federal government announced that Aslam Jinnah would be given a house, car and Rs 50, 000 monthly. “I do not object to the government giving him (Aslam Jinnah) anything, but he must stop introducing himself as Quiad-e-Azam’s family member,” he further said.

In an exclusive interview with this scribe, when he was asked about his reaction to the government’s decision, he reiterated that he has no objection at all. “All I am concerned with is the fact that Aslam Jinnah is not from Quiad-e-Azam’s family and nothing else,” he said, adding that if Aslam Jinnah wants to meet him, he would certainly meet Aslam.

He said that he was recently invited to present Jinnah’s Anthology, which has been published recently. Answering a question, he said that he was not invited for official programmes, especially those held to honour the Father of the Nation while adding that if given a choice he would love to attend the programmes. “It is not important to take flowers to Quaid’s mausoleum, but in fact it is more important to follow the teachings, principles and guidelines that Muhammad Ali Jinnah has left for our guidance,” said Merchant.

Talking about the family tree, Merchant said that Quaid's father was Jina Poonja and his (Quaid's) uncles were Walji Poonja and Nathoo Poonja. “Only Walji Poonja’s son is alive and lives in Khaaradar,” he said. Talking about Quaid's sisters, Merchant said that Jinnah had four sisters, including Rehmat bai, Mariam bai, Ahmed Shirinbai and Fatima Jinnah.

He said that Nasli Wadia, the son of Quaid’s daughter Dina Wadia still lives in Mumbai with his two sons Jay Wadia and Ness Wadia. Merchant, 68, is the grandchild of Quaid's sister Mariam Bai and his last name comes from the fact that his father, Habib Hussain, was a businessman in Mumbai. Merchant was also awarded the Sitara-e-Imtiaz for his outstanding public services for the education and health sectors in the country during Pervez Musharraf’s regime. Merchant is a reputed lawyer in Karachi and his daughter Fouzia and son Akbar, are also lawyers, which is now sort of a family profession. His other daughter, Faiza, is a teacher. As a young lawyer, Merchant first visited Karachi in 1964 and met Fatima Jinnah while she was living in Mohatta Palace. She insisted that he migrate from India. He returned to India but moved to Karachi in December 1967 after getting married in October and since than he is practicing law in Karachi. Today he runs Liaquat Merchant Associates, one of the most respected law firms in the country, in addition to being the administrator of Quaid-e-Azam’s estate established under the Aligarh Education Trust, Jinnah Foundation and tending to several other charities. He said that till date Aligarh Education Trust has provided educational scholarships to 5,000 students in 15 different fields including law, architecture, civil engineering, dairy farming and so on.