The Winner of the Sir Zafrulla Khan Award Reflects on His Legacy

I am Chiara Song, a Singaporean law student who recently graduated from the King’s College London Dickson Poon School of Law in 2017.

Winning the Sir Zafrulla Khan Award has been an incredible honour, and I am in equal parts humbled and delighted. Sir Zafrulla Khan was one of the most distinguished alumni of King’s College London, having received his LLB from King’s College London in 1914. Words could not begin to describe how privileged I felt to be conferred this most illustrious award in his name, by his community in London, and even more so how encouraging and inspirational Sir Zafrulla Khan had been to me in my pursuit of my studies and future career in law.

Sir Zafrulla Khan was a prominent figure leading up to the partition of India, serving later as the first Foreign Secretary of Pakistan. He also served as a Judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
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KiloCharlieLima | Wikimedia Commons

The photo of Sir Zafrulla Khan is displayed on the exterior wall of the Strand Campus, together with some of the most distinguished alumni of King’s College London. The first time I saw his photo was in September 2014, when I first came to King’s. I noticed that he too studied law, and that he graduated in 1914, exactly 100 years ago from when I began my studies. I read about how he used to be a judge and politician in India, before representing the Muslim League in drafting the Pakistan Resolution in 1940, and subsequently, following the independence of Pakistan from India in 1947, became the nation’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was then that I realised that I was looking at the photo of a man who was one of the founding fathers of Pakistan. Not only that, I learnt that he was also a most distinguished jurist and diplomat, being the first Asian President of the International Court of Justice [ICJ], and also serving as the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

Chiara Song at her graduation from King’s College London.
Photo courtesy of Chiara Song

Back then in 2014, I was astounded to think that 100 years ago, he was studying in this institution that I have just entered, learning the same modules and reading the same case law and legislation. I imagined walking down the same streets and hallways as him, and thought about his story, and how from a law student he became such an important character in international politics, as well as such a strong proponent of human rights and international peace. Now, being presented with the Sir Zafrulla Khan award, this feeling that I am following in his footsteps is further amplified. Like Sir Zafrulla Khan, I am also greatly interested in human rights, international law and international affairs. In my second year, I took criminology, a multidisciplinary subject looking at the interaction between criminal law and racial and socio-economic issues. In my final year, I focused heavily on international law, taking both private international law and public international law, which examines the law of warfare, international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as international organisations such as the UN and the ICJ.

During his tenure at the United Nations, his forceful advocacy on behalf of Africa, the Middle East and third-world countries in general, won him widespread appreciation and respect.

Sir Zafrulla Khan led by example. Learning about how he grew from a law student into one of the most prominent members of the international community is truly inspiring. Speaking with representatives from the Ahmadiyya Community, I learnt that he always had a vision for a world at peace, and a burning desire to serve his people. This is something that I genuinely admire, and aspire towards. Indeed, Sir Zafrulla Khan has inspired me to look beyond my horizons, to consider the bigger picture of the world at large, and to challenge myself to think about how I can contribute to further the agenda of human rights and international peace that he so strongly advocated for. My continuing interest in international law drives me to explore how I can take my own stand in the international legal arena, and contribute in my own way to further the interests of not just my own community, but the interests of society and the world as a whole. I believe that my future career in law will be shaped by this reminder of him, and the causes he devoted his life to.

Receiving an award in the name of a specific person draws you into their story: what they accomplished, how they lived, and how they have impacted others. It keeps their memory alive, educating and inspiring new generations. Receiving the Sir Zafrulla Khan award has opened a new window for me. It has allowed me to learn and understand more about this incredible man, and having spoken to members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to which he belonged, Sir Zafrulla Khan is no longer just another alumni whose photo is on the wall of the King’s College London campus. He has become a living, breathing figure, whose contributions to his community, his country, and the world, can still be felt today. 

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