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The way of Jinnah

Published Dec 30, 2001 12:00am

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, at Lahore, October 24, 1947: "I would like to impress upon every Mussalman who has at heart the welfare and the prosperity of Pakistan, to avoid retaliation and to exercise restraint, because retaliation and violation of law and order will ultimately result in weakening the very foundations of the edifice you have cherished all these years to erect. Do your duty and have faith in God. There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan."

Wise words of warning, that went unheeded or unheard. Jinnah's Pakistan died with him, with the death knell of September 11, 1948, and it took his talented countrymen a mere 23 years to undo what remained. By December 1971 the nation lay sundered in half.

Now, after the passage of over half a century, we have a leadership that is attempting to rebuild the country and the nation in the mould as visualized by its maker, Jinnah. Speaking to the people from Jinnah's Mazar on December 25, commemorating the 125th anniversary of his birth, President General Pervez Musharraf told them that the way forward, the way he was attempting to take them, was Jinnah's way, as defined by him. But to move forward "we will have to step very cautiously." Whatever decisions he takes, said Musharraf, are taken with Jinnah's vision of Pakistan in mind. Jinnah's vision encompassed a welfare state drawing inspiration from the tenets of true Islam, built on the foundations of democracy, with respect and protection for the individual, with equal rights for men, women and children irrespective of their religious faith or political views.

He quoted from the speech made long ago, in 1941 by the country's maker to the Punjab Muslim Students Federation :

"There are at least three main pillars which go to make a nation worthy of possessing a territory and running a government. One is education. Next, no nation and no people can ever do anything very much without making themselves economically powerful in commerce, trade and industry. And lastly, you must prepare yourselves for your defence, defence against external aggression and to maintain internal security."

In tune with Jinnah's enunciation of his creed in his never to be forgotten and always to be repeated time and time again speech of August 11 1947, Musharraf asked his countrymen to "sink all religious and sectarian differences and show tolerance of each other's beliefs, views and thoughts, to shun religious differences," as had the nation's father when addressing the members of the Constituent Assembly. Religious intolerance, said Musharraf, has utterly blurred Jinnah's vision. The nation has deviated from that vision to the extent that aside from being unable to tolerate other religions, "we refuse to accommodate the views of the various sects of our own religion. We are killing each other for differences in fiqhs and maslaks. We have undermined Islam to a level that people of the world associate it with illiteracy, backwardness, intolerance, obscurantism and militancy."

And what was it that Jinnah told his assembly members ? "You are free, 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 or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of state. As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India today.

"The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.

The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist, what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal ".

Now, from the very beginning, from the outset, the leaders of Pakistan who have followed Jinnah have distorted his words to suit their immediate expedient self-serving purposes. This particular passage from his most important address has been subject to deliberate distortion and misinterpretation, having inspired the dishonest dogmatists who misappropriated the country after his death. In the official biography of Jinnah commissioned by the Government of Pakistan, written by Hector Bolitho and published in 1954, it was brutally bowdlerized to falsely read: " You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal ...".

We had to wait for an American, Professor Stanley Wolpert, to write what is the definitive biography of the man Jinnah as he really was - and he was commissioned by no one but himself. Yet, when the book was published in 1984 its distribution in Pakistan was proscribed because of one passage he had quoted from M C Chagla's book, 'Roses in December' which referred to Jinnah's eating and drinking preferences.

Wolpert was put under much pressure (as he reminded us when he spoke at the Aga Khan University auditorium this December 26) when the government of General Zia-ul-Haq offered to buy thousands of copies of his book were he to excise that particular passage. Of course, he refused. The amount of research Wolpert has put into his book can be gauged from the 40-odd pages of Notes and Bibliography.

Back to MAJ and February 19, 1948, when he again stressed : "But make no mistake, Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds and we welcome in closest association with us all those who of whatever creed are themselves willing and ready to play their part as true and loyal citizens of Pakistan."

As he was to say a few days later: "In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims - Hindus, Christians and Parsis. They are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

What he tried to make clear on August 11, 1947 to the future legislators and administrators of his country is that "the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state." He told them he would not tolerate the evils of bribery, corruption, blackmarketeering and "this great evil, the evil of nepotism and jobbery," the daily bread of powermongers. Little did he know that day that these prime evils were to become prerequisites for the survival of the politicians in and out of uniform and of the administrators of all ranks and grades for the maintenance of their power.

Musharraf admitted this on December 25 that "corruption and nepotism have eaten the nation like termites from within". He made an appeal to the so-called 'elite', the rich elite (most of them undeserving of the appellation) : "Let society treat the corrupt with contempt so that the fear of God is put into them and they at least hide and feel ashamed instead of showing off their ill-gotten riches." Yes, general, you are right. But then would Mohammad Ali Jinnah approve of your National Accountability Bureau when it makes 'deals' with the corrupt, with the robbers, and rather than extracting what it can from their ill-gotten gains, and then letting them stand trial and be sentenced and hopefully be sent to jail, it frees them, as reportedly is happening with the former chief of our Navy?

However, and whatever may happen, Jinnah's enunciated vision for his country cannot be changed, no matter how invasive the censorship and bowdlerizing of his words. If we do now have a man intent upon focusing upon that vision, and with the strength and support to see that the vision becomes reality, we should be a grateful nation.