Mian Muhammad Iftikharuddin was born on 8 April 1907 in Baghbanpura, Lahore to the famous Arain Mian family, the custodians of the Shalimar Gardens, Lahore. This is the family that produced great men like Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi and the first Chief Justice of Pakistan, Sir Mian Abdul Rashid. Mian Iftikharuddin who was educated at the Oxford University played a significant role in the Indian Independence movement, as well as in the struggle for Pakistan.
Mian Iftikharuddin joined the Congress Party in 1936. He was elected to the Punjab Provincial Assembly in 1937 and became the President of the Punjab Provincial Congress in 1940, serving in that position until 1945. Iftikharuddin was very close to Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1937, he was instrumental in introducing the Kashmir leader Sheikh Abdullah to Nehru. Mian Iftikaruddin was a member of the All India Congress Committee from the 1930s to the mid 1940s. In 1945, he resigned from the Congress Party after the Congress Working Committee rejected the C. Rajagopalachari's formula for granting the Pakistan demand.
Iftikharuddin joined the All India Muslim League in September 1945. He was elected the first president of the Punjab Provincial Muslim League after the Independence of Pakistan in 1947.
After the June 3 plan was announced Jinnah looked increasingly towards young men like Iftikharuddin to help Pakistan stand on its own feet, and so Iftikharuddin was chosen to be the Pakistan Minister for rehabilitation of refugees after the partition and independence of Pakistan in 1947.
Iftikharuddin was the owner of the Pakistan Times, a newspaper started by the leftists in the Muslim League to create a balance to the centrist Muslim League mouthpiece Dawn newspaper as well as the Hindu press in pre-1947 British India.
In 1947, Iftikharuddin played a key role in the instigation of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. According to General Akbar Khan, Iftikharuddin was asked to go to Srinagar to assess Pakistan's prospects in acquiring Kashmir's accession. Before he left for Kashmir, he asked General Akbar Khan to prepare a plan to help Kashmiri Muslims to take action against possible accession to India. Akbar Khan created a plan titled "Armed Revolt inside Kashmir", which concentrated on strengthening Kashmiris, and gave the plan's copy to Iftikharuddin upon his return. A meeting was called under the leadership of the Prme Minister Liaquat Ali Khan on 12 September 1947, where this plan as well as another plan prepared by Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan for organising a tribal invasion were discussed and approved.
Iftikharuddin briefly served as Minister for Rehabiilitation of Refugees in the provincial government of Punjab in 1947. In 1949, as a minister, he proposed radical land reforms in the Punjab, however this led to a backlash from the land-owning feudal leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League under the leadership of Nawab of Mamdot Iftikhar Hussain Khan Mamdot, a big landowner himself. In frustration, he resigned from his Ministry in 1949 and was formally expelled from the Muslim League in 1951. Moreover, he was the only Muslim member in the parliament house who opposed the 'objectives resolution' as he felt that the resolution was vague. He further suggested that such a resolution should be the decision of the 70 million people of Pakistan. This resolution was also disapproved by minorities’ leaders Prem Hari, Chandra Mandal and Kumar Dutta. However, he chose to vote in favour of the resolution, because he was assured that minorities will have all the rights and privileges in an Islamic state.
Later he jumped off the Muslim League ship, and formed his own ‘Azad Pakistan Party’ committed to liberal secularism in the country. Though big names like Dr. Khan Sahib and the Khudai Khidmatgars were attracted to it, Azad Pakistan Party soon faded away in history. He was also considered a leading light of the National Awami Party as well.
His Pakistan Times newspaper continued to promote social justice and agrarian reforms in Pakistan, it attracted many well known leftists including its first editor Faiz Ahmad Faiz. However, in 1959, following the military take over by Ayub Khan, the newspaper was taken over by the government and despite a legal challenge, he failed to obtain either compensation or the return of ownership of his newspaper. Since he was an advocate of an independent foreign policy, free from demented generals and Pakistan's exit from The Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), the Baghdad Pact also called CENTO and other defense treaties, it was expected from his opponents to label him as 'a stranger in the house'.
He died on 6 June 1962, due to a heart attack, at the age of 54. Among his survivors were his widow and 2 sons. Pakistan's famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Iftikharuddin’s friend and ally, paid a tribute to him through his poetry
"Jo rukey tu koh-e-garan thay hum, jo chalay tu jaan say guzar gaye,
Raah-e-yaar hum ne qadam qadam, tujhay yaadgaar banaa diya."
"I was a mountain when I stopped
And when I moved I sacrificed my being
O path to my beloved, I have, step by step
Turned you into a memorial"