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Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Dawn File photo
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah – Dawn File photo

ISLAMABAD, Aug 16: As Pakistan celebrates its independence, a sort of gloom mires the festivity.

The attack in Kamra yesterday was another reminder for Pakistanis that questions of identity, state and power are as explosive, as they were in 1947.

Speaking at the second anniversary of Jinnah Institute, aptly on Jinnah, prolific writer and historian Ayesha Jalal revisited these questions in Islamabad.

It was a small gathering at Islamabad Club that she addressed. One can only hope that the travails of fasting kept a larger crowd away.

The greatest hero for most Pakistanis, Mohammad Ali Jinnah is somewhat of an elusive figure even for those who inhabit the nation he carved out on the map of sub-continent, she pointed out.

“It is interesting that a country with loopholes in its legal system was founded by a constitutional lawyer,” she said, while attempting to make sense of the politics, past and present, which haunts Pakistan.

The popular narrative, for decades, has been that Pakistan was based on religious division: Muslims and Hindus were distinct communities that could not live together. Jalal shattered this notion when she published her first book, The Sole Spokesman arguing that the division of the sub-continent was not so much about communitarian fault-lines, but the very real and pertinent question of power. This was an issue that she also touched upon in her talk.

She recounted that for Jinnah, the federal structure and provincial autonomy of Hindustan were critical as the British began to transfer political authority. From representation of Indian Muslims at the centre to a separate homeland for Muslims, Jinnah’s politics shifted over the decade leading to partition, but he never advocated an “acrimonious divide” between the layered communities of the sub-continent.

“He tried his best to avoid the partition and articulated a federal solution for India, which unfortunately was not acceptable to the Indian National Congress,” she added. Interestingly, Jalal’s argument has now found supporters among the BJP – as she herself wryly pointed out, BJP’s stalwart Jaswant Singh’s book on Jinnah uses her thesis with little acknowledgment.

For Jalal, modern Pakistan becomes a paradox. Not just because Jinnah would “recoil at the fervent Muslims,” but the state he envisioned was the very essence of federalism, where power would be shared rather than controlled by a dogmatic coterie at the top.

“Jalal’s lecture was about bridging the gap between Jinnah’s vision for the state of Pakistan, and where things are at present,” said Raza Rumi, Director of Programmes at Jinnah Institute. “The matter of federalism and rule of law, that Jalal raised, should be articulated in the mainstream through a wider engagement with policy stakeholders.”

In a divided Pakistan, Jinnah remains a figure of unity. A liberal and secular politician, Jinnah’s idea for a “de-centralised and locally empowered South Asia is still valid and perhaps the region needs to move a regional solution which leverages economic development and brings the countries together,” Jalal affirmed.


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Comments (10) Closed



Masood S.Baig
Aug 17, 2012 05:01pm
Jinnah advocated Hindu Muslim unity, and was called ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity. But he was disappointed and joined Muslim League in 1913 and rushed to Pakistan Resolution in 1940 demanding Pakistan. Pakistan was thus the result of unresolved differences between Muslim League and Congress leaders.
NORI
Aug 19, 2012 08:38am
Jinnah was responsible for the death of thousands of Hindus and Muslims. He wasn't patient enough like Congress leaders such as Gandhi and unleashed violence to fulfill his demands. His call for 'Direct action' resulted in the murder of thousands of Hindus and Muslims in the sub continent. Since then, the wounds were kept afresh by extremists on both sides, who successfully learnt from Jinnah on how to use religion to stoke tensions.
BALA
Aug 20, 2012 12:40pm
JINNAH MUCH SENIOR TO NEHRU AND A COTEMPORARY OF GANDHI, HE WAS THERE WHEN GANDHI ARRIVED ON POLITICS OF INDIA., WAS NOT GIVEN DUE PLACE AND RESPECT IN CONGRESS. IT HAD TACIT APPROVAL OF GANDHI.ONLY EXTRiMISTS LIKE ALI BROTHERS AND NOT GINNAH MILD MANNERED WAS PROMOTED. HENCE THE MELODY
n.qureshi
Aug 20, 2012 12:04pm
it was gandhi and nehro who rejected the cabinet mission report in 1946 which led to partition
Ssyed rizvi
Aug 25, 2012 05:04pm
Forgodsake,and jinnHs sake p,ease do notencourage more divisions within pakistan On se terian lines.live and let live.this is the message if the day
GSNRaju
Aug 25, 2012 06:23am
The article was vivid and factual. For indians Jinnah is mistery. Do't compare Gandhi with Jinnah. Gandhi is just like messiah. He is not for power. His wish is only freedom. His only weakness is affection towards Nehru. For Gandhi, all muslims of subcontinent and hindus are same. Infact, a True Gandhian-Khan Abdul Gaffar Khanji was ill-treated by Jinnah & co. How the Frontier Gandhi's heart blown out only god knows. In all these carnages, no such violence in now volatile NWFP. This is the gift of Gandhi to NWFP and Afganisthan and Pak.
Ixion
Aug 17, 2012 01:35pm
God bless Jinnah and Pakistan!
tajri
Aug 18, 2012 08:53am
the pakistani nation should always remain obliged to Qaide Azam and his sister, it is all pakiustanis responsibilty to remember Qaid's 3 golden principals UNTIY, FAITH, DISCIPLINE and apply in thier daily life
Muhib
Aug 19, 2012 12:18am
Jinnah was used by nawabs and jagirdars of india into supporting a country made for feudalism.....
Starr
Aug 19, 2012 05:41am
Give benefit of the doubt to minority before taking law into your own hands. Pakistan is a one house in global village where everyone knows everyone. Be rational because the difference between a beast and human is that the former lacks logic.