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Flash back: A piece of the puzzle

Published Sep 08, 2013 03:59pm


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The rediscovery of little-known recordings reaffirm what we know about the Quaid's vision for Pakistan.
The rediscovery of little-known recordings reaffirm what we know about the Quaid's vision for Pakistan.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

This excerpt from Quaid-i-Azam’s famous speech to the country’s first constituent assembly on August 11, 1947 is often quoted as a forceful espousal by the Quaid of a secular state and the principle of religious tolerance.

Unfortunately, while it is oft quoted, the recording of the speech is not available in Pakistan as it was aired live and a team had come from Delhi to record it, there having been no such facility in the territory that would, in a few days time, become Pakistan. Decades later Murtaza Solangi, who until recently was the Director General of Radio Pakistan tried to obtain a copy from All India Radio, but met with little success. First he was told that the copy existed, a revelation that created considerable excitement, but then that claim was retracted and a disappointed Solangi was told that, in fact, no copy existed.

But the quest itself led to another discovery; that of two previously little known speeches by Jinnah, dating back to June 3, 1947 and August 14, 1947.

Solangi then tried to get possession of these tapes, approaching anyone who could help, including Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, who in turn asked the Indian High Commissioner to do his part.

By this time the story of the missing Jinnah tape was already doing the rounds in both India and Pakistan. This is how the Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal picked it up and helped Pakistan to acquire the recordings, says Solangi.

For Solangi, who has 3.5 million minutes of recording dating back to the pre-partition years, including recordings of Gandhi and Nehru, it was not just about acquiring something that he thought rightly belonged to Pakistan. As a student of history, as he likes to call himself, he wanted other students and researchers to have access to this piece of our shared history.

But the main motivation behind this labour of love, according to Solangi, was that he believes that Jinnah truly wanted a pluralist democratic state, and that this sentiment is crystal clear from his speeches. For him this piece of history was also a piece of the puzzle of what Jinnah’s vision for this country was.

These speeches are important because here Jinnah clearly expressed his vision of a peace-loving, pluralistic, democratic Muslim majority Pakistan as opposed to the increasing intolerance we see these days.

His idea of Muslim nationalism was secular in the sense that it did not deal with theological and religious questions but rather the issues of a multicultural and democratic society.

Jinnah’s reference to the tolerance and goodwill shown by Emperor Akbar, a tradition he links to that of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), makes it very clear that he wanted the new state to be based on the principles of tolerance and equality.

Yasser Hamdani, author of Jinnah: Myth and Reality put it: “Jinnah the statesman was arguing that Akbar — who suspended jizya and kept religion separate from matters of state — was perfectly in consonance with Islam.”

In his speeches Jinnah repeatedly spoke of the rights of non-Muslims and their equality within the new state of Pakistan. It is for this reason that Jinnah got a Hindu Jogindranath Mandal to be Pakistan’s first law minister and a Hindu poet to write Pakistan’s first national anthem, says Hamdani.

Jinnah’s speeches cannot be brushed aside as a footnote from history, as they are equally, if not more, relevant today. “Had we followed his crystal-clear vision for an inclusive, democratic and egalitarian state, call it secular or Islamic or whatever, perhaps we would have left Jinnah behind and he would be irrelevant, but so long as Pakistan struggles and so long as people who opposed Jinnah in his lifetime claimed to be the uncles of the ideology of Pakistan, Jinnah’s words remain relevant as a mirror,” says Hamdani.

It later transpired that these tapes had in fact been in the possession of radio Pakistan for some time now, but few people had ever studied them. Such was the level of bureaucratic archiving that a vital part of Jinnah’s legacy was effectively lost. Meanwhile, the search for the all-important August 11 speech continues.


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Comments (39) Closed

Maverick Sep 08, 2013 02:23pm

In my opinion there is absolutely no puzzle about Jinnah or any contradictions in his various speeches. There is no doubt that Jinnah wanted a democratic and tolerant Pakistan governed by the principles of Islam. HIs frequent use of term Islam and Islamic in relation to state affairs makes it abundantly clear that he did not want a secular state at all. For example he said, " I could not understand a section of the people who deliberately wanted to create mischief and made propaganda that the constitution of Pakistan would not be made on the basis of Shariat. "Address to Bar Association, Karachi. January 25, 1948.

Ayesha Jalal in his book, The Sate of Martial Rule, page 279, has also commented on this speech, "Jinnah exhorted his audience to eschew narrow-minded provincialism and prepare themselves to " sacrifice and die in order to make Pakistan (a) truly Islamic sate' "

The perceived contradiction between Jinnah's speeches is because of two reasons; lack of clarity on secularism and considering secularism and theocracy as mutually exclusive. Secularism is not simply about equal rights for minorities and non-discrimination between citizens, it primarily envisages an absolute separation between state and religion, relegating religion to a private affair between man and God. Hence, when Jinnah talks about equal rights for minorities and non-discrimination, it is not secularism. Likewise Jinnah's rejection of theocracy is not endorsement of secularism because secularism-theocracy binary does not exist in the Islamic civilization.

As regards most-widely quoted two lines from paragraph 7 of Jinnah's remarkable speech on August 11, 1947 that Rizwana as highlighted in this column, Jinnah only said " you may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State." Does it mean the same as religion has nothing to do with the business of the state? There is a huge difference between the two. Jinnah is talking about belonging of citizens to any religion would not result in any discrimination as subsequent sentences in the same paragraph make it more clear.

Therefore, there is no contradiction whatsoever between these two sentences from August 11 speech and the rest of speeches that Jinnah has made.

truth Sep 08, 2013 04:26pm

We know what "Islamic Republic of Pakistan" so called Theocratic state has made of itself in the name of Islam.Truly Islam means secularism and liberalism.

Ravi Sep 08, 2013 04:29pm

What Islam Pakistan is practising isn't True Islam, True Islam is Secular and Liberal

Muthu Sep 08, 2013 04:43pm

Stop digging Jinnah's speeches and do what commonsense tells you. Don't you people have a sense of your own? Secular states have been the norm in the world for centuries now. It's 66 years since independence and you guys behave as if your thinking process stopped with Jinnah.

Rahul Sep 08, 2013 04:57pm

@Maverick : Well said

Nida.Ilahi Sep 08, 2013 05:42pm

@Maverick : It is really a great interpretation of Jinnah's Speeches. We need to develop our understanding of contemporary political ideas like secularism and theocracy before commenting on Jinnnah. If Jinnah talked about equality between various religious groups, it does not mean secularism because secularism is about radical dichotomy between state and religion. His all speeches are very clear that he wanted a pluralistic, democratic and tolerant Pakistan as enunciated by Islam.

wonderer Sep 08, 2013 05:47pm

What kind of a country Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be has never been in doubt; it was so elaborately described by him in his address to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947. What one finds intriguing is why he did not express his wishes before the call for 'direct action'. Why did he have to wait till August 11, 1947, mere three days before Pakistan were to be born?

Considering the contentions of our respected historian, Ayesha Jalal, acceptance of his demand for Pakistan must have actually surprised him. His declaration of August 11, 1947 was thus an afterthought.

Prakash Sep 08, 2013 06:52pm

@Maverick :Can you define secularism ,other than separation of state and Church(religious institution) which Jinnah's all the three recently unearthed speeches refer to.

Ahmer Sep 08, 2013 07:39pm

While the Qaid did make that speech but I doubt he meant it. His vision of Pakistan was always of an Islamic state

Shahid Pervez Sep 08, 2013 07:48pm

@Muthu: I 100% agree with you. We have become in the habit of looking for some obscure reason for not doing something right simply because we just do not want to do it. It is now our national character. Why do you care. Just be patiently optimistic against all odds that one day we will wake up from this slumber, or meet our fate that is reserved for this kind of national mindset

RRAO Sep 08, 2013 09:06pm

Which Islamic country is secular ? name one. All are theocratic.

Gerry D'Cunha Sep 08, 2013 09:25pm

mr jinnah you own muslims were your enemy who killed you to gain their foot and power in pakistan - see the results today - you soul must be regretting from above

Aman Khan Sep 09, 2013 12:45am

Let me put it this way Jinnah wanted a Separate peice of land from Hindus so that muslims can practice thier religion freely. And as a muslim state Like the one our Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) formed all other religions should be allowed to practice thier religion freely. there should be no doubt in the ideology of Pakistan.

Javeria Sep 09, 2013 01:22am

I agree with the lot of you that Jinnah did not necessarily want a secular state. Considering the various elements that supported the creation of Pakistan, it was not a viable political option for Jinnah. However, Jinnah's understanding of Islam, and what constitutes an Islamic state was fundamentally at odds with what Pakistan has turned out to be. That was one of the basic reasons Jamaat-i-Islami and Maulana Mawdudi were against the idea of Pakistan - not because they did not want a Muslim state, but more so because they did not think that the people vying for one, i.e. the leaders of the Muslim League, had the right idea of what "true" Islam is. This was one of the reasons we did not have a Constitution for the longest time after the creation of Pakistan. The Islamist parties were not ready for a Constitution that did not talk about God and Islam, and the government was did not want their version of Islam to dominate national politics.

mark jat Sep 09, 2013 02:40am

When Pakistan was curved out for muslims out of Hindustan than how Pakistan could be termed as secular state. Its fundamentally wrong. Pakistan is for muslims amd to protect Umma from non-muslim influences. Its tragic Jinnah changed his mind and in speeches contradicts himself later.

Rahmat Sep 09, 2013 03:29am

@Nida.Ilahi: Could you please provide a reference to "Democratic and pluralistic and tolerant society" enunciated in the holy Quran. I have not found it. I desperately am looking for it.

Gautham Sep 09, 2013 07:59am

@Maverick : I think you summed up quite nicely - this is how today's secular India also works. In Indian context, secularism actually means pluralism, rather than complete segregation of religion from the affairs of the State. This thinking was made possible by none other than Gandhiji who mixed spiritualism with patriotism/freedom struggle. This thinking is now ingrained in our psyche - that is why you see politicians going to to temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras to attend ceremonies in their official capacity. Looking back, considering how religious we are, regardless of what religion we belong to (world's 4 significant religions were born here), it would not have been possible to follow secularism as defined in the West and we gave rise to our own brand of Secularism - which includes God in state affairs in a soft, inconspicuous but ubiquitous way.

experience Sep 09, 2013 08:05am

Do we really need to find tapes of Jinnah's speeches? Isn't our own experience of more than six decades enough to convince us that pluralistic and democratic Pakistan is the only way forward. For some reason, the word secular is taken too negatively in Pakistan, thanks to consistent propaganda of Jamaat-Islami and the like. Without getting into terminology, it would be in order if Constitution of Pakistan is strengthened and nation learns to ignore anything contrary to the Constitution.

Muhammad Sep 09, 2013 08:22am

As far as independence of religion is concern there are no 2 opinion, every one as right to practice. As far as state affair concern, it does matter. Because it would doesn't matter then the theory of 2 countries will be no important. Then why do we need another country? was Muslims not allowed to worship at that time? are Muslims today are not practising Islam in India ? Is debate today is baseless and can't flourish

Muhammad Farooq Sep 09, 2013 08:38am

A time has come when we have to decide about the shape of things to come in this country. Mr M.A.Jinnah's vision for Pakistan is crystal clear.

krishnamurthy Sep 09, 2013 09:00am

jinnah was a secular person in his personal life and politics;but he created pakistan due to his own political ambitions;after seeing the death and destruction caused by partition,he seems to have regretted,but then it was too late;the forces unleashed by him were too powerful;

Zobia Khan Sep 09, 2013 09:13am

@Maverick :

Democracy is non-congruent with Islamic values. In a democracy people legislate and make laws, amend them, execute them. Islamic or any other theocracy the laws are prescribed in the scriptures. Priests are directed to interpret them and the judiciary is expected to apply them.

For example in a democracy the laws of inheritance can be debated and even state that the division between brother and sister has to be equal. That would be against the spirit of Islamic values.

In a democracy anyone can run for office and does not need to be nominated or pre-screened, democracies make their own laws for eligibility. In an Islamic state the functionaries of the government have to be nominated and then selected.

Separation of church and state (secularism) allows the state manage the affairs of all its people with a standard law, and therefore each citizen is equal in the eyes of the law.

Pakistani Sep 09, 2013 09:39am

@Maverick : Mashallah! well put!

Asim Iqbal Sep 09, 2013 09:43am

Pakistan Ka Matlab Kiya? LA ILAHA ILLALLAH... This is the most famous slogan through which Jinnah gathered huge crowds around himself.. There is no confusion what so ever. The secular s and liberals in the country are deliberately creating confusion..

BRR Sep 09, 2013 10:28am

@truth: Again - what you see is what you get. This is Islam in action in the world today. How much more truth can you handle?

Syed Nazim Sep 09, 2013 10:30am

No matter what some one's intentions and plans be, never adopt wrong means to achieve them.

Syed Sep 09, 2013 10:39am

Secularism and human rights are two most important engines of progress and prosperity of a state.

SMN Sep 09, 2013 10:40am

No body can under stand Jinnah. An embessador of Hindu Muslim unity divides a country on the bases of religion.

who Sep 09, 2013 11:29am

@Ravi: Actually if you read the Quran you will see God has no patience for non believers. Stop trying to hide the bad parts of Islam.

S L Tickoo Sep 09, 2013 12:28pm

Muslims by and large and Pakistanis in particular are thought to be caught between modernity and Islamic tradition.They use both at their convenience.Their religeous teachers do'nt allow their conscience to fly free.Once it happens ,the world will be a happy place to live.

Zeeshan Shamsi Sep 09, 2013 12:53pm

Jinnah wouldnt want to live in the mess we have made of his Pakistan. I think we can still fix it, and if a recording of his speech will do it, India is hereby requested to deliver the same, for their own benefit of a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan, following Jinnah's vision.

maverick Sep 09, 2013 12:59pm

As regards recovering Jinnah's speeches, I believe there is unnecessary hue and cry on this subject. Jinnah did not belong to Before Christ or Moen Jo Daro times. He was lived in modern times just 60-70 years ago. His speeches including August 11, 1947 is preserved through multiple sources including parliamentary debates and many news paper archives. It should not be difficult to bring his ideas to public.

I would earnestly request you not to encourage peolple to make Jinnah's ideas look erased from the records and hence, unavailable for our guidance. I dont think there is any Darwinnian missing link that Mr. Soolangi will bring to this hapless nation. We should stop highlighting conspiracy thoeries all the time.

What is needed is a dispassionate analysis of Jinnah's speeches beyond traditional secular-islamist binary, which has made our academic and intellectual atmosphere polerized for years.

anil Sep 09, 2013 04:02pm

Those who say Jinnah was a secular person or Jinnah wanted a secular country , they are just trying to manipulate history or trying to save faces . For instance , Jinnah had a rift with her daughter due to her marriage . Wikipedia mentions "Dina's relationship with her father became strained when Dina expressed her desire to marry a Parsi-born Indian Neville Wadia. Jinnah, a Muslim, tried to dissuade her, but failed. Mahommedali Currim Chagla, who was Jinnah's assistant at the time, recalls: "Jinnah, in his usual imperious manner, told her that there were millions of Muslim boys in India, and she could have anyone she chose. Reminding her father that his wife (Dina's mother Rattanbai), had also been a non-Muslim, a Parsi also coincidently, the young lady replied: 'Father, there were millions of Muslim girls in India. Why did you not marry one of them?' And he replied that, 'She became a Muslim'". It is said (by Jinnah's associate M C Chagla in "Roses in December") that when Dina married Neville, Jinnah said to her that she was not his daughter any more. Their relationship is a matter of legal conjecture and hair splitting as Pakistani laws allow for a person to be disinherited for violating Islamic rules (in this case by a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim), hence no claim on the Pakistani properties of Jinnah, and Indian laws recognizing religion's traditional succession rules to operate." How can a highly educated person who ended his relation with his daughter due to mere things , can be secular ? How can such persons create a secular country who believe in religious conversion and didn't even spare his wife (evident from his statement) . He was a communal person & used religion as magic wand to create Pakistan .But truth prevails , Ahmadis are considered non-muslims and Shias are being discriminated. Bangladeshis made their own way . In Stead of judging his secularism from his speeches , try to judge secularism from his actions as He was a opportunistic politician .

Agha Ata Sep 09, 2013 04:53pm

Anil, to be secular doesn't mean to be an atheist. "Secular" is a political term; that is keeping the business of the state and your religion separate. It has nothing to do with your personal faith, you are free to go to your mosque; just don't mix it with politics. You have tried to prove that since Jinnah was secular he had no faith or was an atheist. You are dead wrong, there.

Zafar Sep 09, 2013 06:37pm

@anil: You clearly don't understand Secularism. Can't a Secular person be a Muslim?

observer Sep 09, 2013 10:22pm

@Maverick : The perceived contradiction between Jinnah's speeches is because of two reasons; lack of clarity on secularism and considering secularism and theocracy as mutually exclusive.

IF, in your opinion 'Secularism' and 'Theocracy' are not mutually exclusive, THEN, what are they? Complimentary? One and the same? Please do elaborate how does the State achieve the feat of having a State Religion (Theocracy) and at the same time Disassociating State and Religion (Secularism)?

secularism-theocracy binary does not exist in the Islamic civilization.

One reason for that could be the non-existence of 'secularism' in Islamic societies.However, It would help if you could also clarify in which Islamic Societies do you find 'Secularism and 'Theocracy' co-existing without being Binary opposites. Is it the Saudi Arabia or Iran, or Malaysia, or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Bangladesh or Turkey. WHICH?

Help me see your mumbo-jumbo in clear terms. It would clarify the concepts for you too.

Altaf Hussain, Mumbai Sep 09, 2013 11:39pm

@RRAO: Turkey

Fahad Sep 10, 2013 12:23am


It was only when the new leadership of Congress began using Hindu imagery and metaphors in the independence struggles (Gandhi), and began talking of a unitary state (Nehru), that Jinnah quit the Congress.

Later on, he still hoped for a federation within United India with separate electorates for minorities, but this was not acceptable to Congress who refused to compromise, and killed the Cabinet Mission Plan, and set the stage for Pakistan, which until then was only a bargaining chip.

Fahad Sep 10, 2013 12:25am

@mark jat:

From the outset, Jinnah was against the Ummah being a political cleavage. He rejected the Khilafat movement.