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A Jinnah for all

Updated May 25, 2014 04:59pm


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Ever since Jinnah’s death in 1948, we have been gazing intensely at our navels to figure out what the founder of Pakistan said and/or didn’t say. Many of us have our own set of quotes of a man who passed away just one year after the creation of this country.

I have been going through Jinnah’s numerous speeches that he delivered from 1946 till his unfortunate death in 1948.

It seems Jinnah was everything to everyone — a progressive nationalist to the liberals; a faithful religionist to the religious right; a middle-of-the-road Muslim statesman to the moderates.

But the truth (to me) is that first and foremost he was a sharp politician. And like all good politicians, Jinnah was a pragmatist, adjusting his words according to his immediate surroundings.

For example, in multicultural Karachi he would insist that the state of Pakistan was to be progressive and democratic.

In Lahore, the scene of vicious Hindu-Muslim riots, and where many clerics had accused him of being a ‘fake Muslim leader’ in 1946, he would take a moderate view, suggesting that the South Asian Muslims had a rich cultural and political history that Pakistan ought to match.

In Peshawar, where Jinnah’s Muslim League had struggled to remain afloat in the face of the challenge posed by the left-leaning Pakhtun nationalists, Jinnah appealed to the sensibilities of the conservative tribes and clerics opposed to the nationalists.

While talking to the Western press he reminded the world that Pakistan was not to be a theological state, but a democratic Muslim-majority state where all citizens, no matter what their religion or ethnicity, would be given equal rights.

Ever since Pakistan’s inception more than six decades ago, its politicians, military dictators and intellectuals from all sides of the ideological divide have talked about working towards building ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’.

The liberals and even many moderates have continued to present Jinnah as a progressive Muslim and an unbending democrat. The mainstream religious right and the conservative lot have been hailing him as a champion of ‘Muslim democracy’ and a modern interpreter of an Islamic state.

Left-leaning parties like the populist PPP, and the other such groups have been vowing to create a Pakistan based on the progressive vision of Jinnah.

Religious parties like the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), on the other hand, want a Pakistan based on Jinnah’s desire and commitment of creating a country that would become a bastion and fortress of our faith.

Populist conservative parties such as PML-N, and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), interpret Jinnah’s vision as something to do with Pakistan being an ‘Islamic Welfare State’.

We only highlight things about our collective past that are according to what we like and imagine, while shunning, repressing and even decrying those bits that contradict our current stances.

Then there have been military dictators as well, all of whom claimed to be following the course laid down by Jinnah.

The secular Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69) understood Jinnah as a progressive Muslim statesman. The Ziaul Haq dictatorship (1977-88) claimed Jinnah to be a fearless Islamic figurehead. The Musharraf dictatorship (1999-2008) re-figured Jinnah’s image and made him to be a ‘moderate’ again.

But what exactly was Jinnah’s Pakistan? This question usually bags numerous differing answers. No party, military dictator, historian or intellectual trying to address this question has been able to come up with an answer that has enjoyed widespread acceptance. Jinnah died just too soon after the country’s creation for one to convincingly judge exactly what sort of a Pakistan he really wanted. Between Pakistan’s creation in August 1947 till his death one year later, Jinnah usually spoke according to the nature of his audience.

He was still in the process of testing the waters and formulating a cohesive idea about Pakistani nationhood when he died. That’s why all that emerged after his demise are just angled interpretations, claims and counter-claims by politicians, ideologues and historians about who Jinnah was and what he wanted.

There is nothing wrong in studying history and, especially, learning from it. But on most occasions than not, this is not really what we have been doing.

We only highlight things about our collective past that are according to what we like and imagine, while shunning, repressing and even decrying those bits that contradict our current stances.

That’s how Jinnah has been seen as well. Liberals will mark out the progressive views of Jinnah, whereas the conservatives will loudly quote from books that only mention quotes of Jinnah in which he comes across as a faithful conservative.

Today’s existentialist battles in Pakistan are being fought with what the founders of Pakistan said or didn’t say many years ago; A battle of existence that is threatening our future like never before. It is a battle lacking the desire to construct a vision or a discourse of what is to be done today and tomorrow.

Even while discussing possible future courses, we keep slipping backwards, quoting who said what in the past to supplement our view of Pakistan so it can dominate over the views of our ideological opponents.

We seem to be stuck in our own imagined views of history.

With so many Jinnahs floating around, the time has come to create a Jinnah of the future. By this I mean a well thought-out, debated and consensual vision of a Pakistan based on today’s realities.

Jinnah should be accepted as a pragmatist who today would have addressed issues like extremist violence and acts of bigotry not as an ideologue, but as a pragmatic statesman who would know that such issues were retarding the country’s economic, cultural and political evolution.

He would have understood that the rapid proliferation of conflicting ideas in Pakistan in the last three decades or so have made the bulk of the society increasingly reactive.

The pragmatic Jinnah would not sit on the fence like most of today’s ‘moderates’, and call it a middle-ground.

He would assertively create a real middle-ground between religious conservatism and liberalism, for which he would not hesitate to alter, modify and reform a number of things.

Jinnah would not do this out of any ideological compulsion. He would do so for the survival of Pakistan — a country torn and plagued by religious and ethnic strife that is bringing its economics and society to a standstill.

The pragmatic Jinnah would try to find unity in diversity and draw from each ethnic culture, as well as from Muslim sects and sub-sects and minority religious groups in the country, choosing the best that they have to offer to Pakistan in developing its economy, its arts, its sports and its reputation as a modern, thriving and vibrant Muslim nation-state. It’s about time we stop studying and propagating Jinnah as an ideologue. He was an astute and enlightened pragmatist, and pragmatism demands we begin to see him in this light and do today what any enlightened and astute pragmatist would do for the country that he so painstakingly created. n

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 25th, 2014


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Comments (50) Closed

Tariq K Sami May 25, 2014 09:10am

Mohammad Ali Jinnah had sparked the imagination of the masses that stretched from the Bay of Bengal to the Mountains of the Hindu-Kush. He was the most important man in India. He alone decided the fate of undivided India. People who heard him speak were mesmerised by him. It is interesting that he belonged to no princely class but rather came from a very tiny minority. He spoke no Urdu or Hindi no Bengali or Pushto or Sindhi and very little of his own Gujrati. He spoke English and so how was he able to sway the masses. This is the single biggest mystery how do you get past this before you analyse his speeches.

Nauman May 25, 2014 09:27am

Great piece once again.

How do we go about implementing a pragmatic Jinnah today? First of all somebody with a fairly unanimous following and having the credentials of being a progressive nationalist to the liberals; a faithful religionist to the religious right; a middle-of-the-road Muslim statesman to the moderates.will have to lead at the helm. There are plenty of candidates around and even better in Pakistan right now but may not find the unanimity and support that is required. That is the crux of the matter and the situation is likely to end up in apathy and anarchy.

Secondly the archaic and religiously inclined laws in the country would easily trap the budding pragmatic Jinnah cold footed. The transformation from Jinns to Jinnah is much awaited in the democratic republic of Pakistan. God help us.

think_then_speak May 25, 2014 09:41am

Jinnah is a reference point for many to assert their ideas.

Ali Xaidi May 25, 2014 10:39am

Thanks and all the honors for him for getting us this Pakistan. It is time for us, however, to move ahead now and think in terms of ground realities. Enough of this "Jinnah was an Islamist - Jinnah was a Liberal Fascist" arguments. Whatever he said may stand relevant in some ways but overall, times have changed. Develop more and new leaders through your universities and education system instead of sighing about the glorious past.

Fundamentals: 1) He wanted a free Pakistan. 2) He wanted a democratic Pakistan.

Rest is to be decided by the living and walking people, and not by his statements.

Sorry if I hurt anyone but I request all to let Quaid-e-Azam rest in peace now.

Feroz May 25, 2014 11:46am

Jinnah should not be made a crutch or scapegoat for what today is Pakistan. An adult has to walk not crawl, just because there is no one available to teach him to walk. Pakistan is a mature adult of 67 years which should know what is right and wrong, good and bad. It does not need a Jinnah or Gandhi or any other personality tell it how a State should be governed. Life is not about the past but the present, what we do today will shape the future of tomorrow. The deification or vilification of Jinnah will not help, there being enough lodestones to carry already in the form of ideology and dogma. Happiness or misery is in our hands to shape, wasting time in meaningless debates about times long gone, can hardly be called productive activity. Time is a precious resource, those wasting it can get left far behind.

Kublai May 25, 2014 12:10pm

"..seem to be stuck in our own imagined view of history."..No,...maligned view of history. Is more like it. It is all beyond that now. Unless, as somebody wrote in this very newspaper, there is an Attaturk. Or a Gandhi. Or a Jinnah. There is no hope. The current political leadership is non existent. There is a vacuum. Nawaz would rather be somewhere else, preferably abroad, than in this country. His twin brother, by a few years, seems to be running the foundering ship....See,..Shahbaz even consults with the Mustachioed Man now. Deep in their heart everybody knew that the ex portege of Zia. will not work out. He has failed twice,... before.

Ali S May 25, 2014 12:14pm

Hats off to NFP for writing perhaps the most balanced and enlightening piece written in Dawn on the whole 'who is Jinnah' debacle, and more importantly, answering that by coming up with a solution instead of getting hung over who got what wrong about Jinnah. slow clap

hassan May 25, 2014 01:00pm

Great piece, indeed ! People like the writer, newspapers like Dawn, the philanthropy of the citizens in mega cities like Karachi are signs that not all is lost. Organizations like Ehdi, SUIT , Citizens Foundations and Aman Foundation are beacons of hope.

The main problem is governance and justice. Pakistani politicians are compulsive liars and cheats. They say that they are democratic , yet do not have any party elections. They are loathe to hold local bodies elections. They do want want to use modern technology for voting because that would make stealing votes difficult. Judges have connections with political parties and have no qualms in being judge and jury, nor do they have second thoughts on judging cases that involve their very close relatives.

How to dethrone these well entrenched parties is a trillion dollar question.

Religion is - and always has been divisive . Let it remain a private affair.

m h kayani May 25, 2014 01:40pm

@Ali Xaidi How right you are, you said it well, only one more to add, the present lot will only bury the nation with eyes open.

Parvez May 25, 2014 01:40pm

Excellent write up..............Jinnah did what he had to do and died without completing his work..........67 years down the road and we have not been able to produce a single pragmatic leader who could take this country forwards. All we have managed to produce are political pygmies, military incompetents, power hungry religious no-goods all bent on serving themselves first, second and last.

QEX May 25, 2014 02:03pm

Can you post links or attach copies of all these speeches? Would be very useful, thanks!

Mujtaba May 25, 2014 04:25pm

@thinkthenspeak including NFP's

Harmony May 25, 2014 05:01pm

The problem is today

Nadeem May 25, 2014 05:09pm

That's why, I consider him an opportunist than a political leader.

Harmony May 25, 2014 05:30pm

@Guest64 -

Karachi Wala May 25, 2014 06:22pm

Again, a wonderfully thought and beautifully put together blog. The crux of the of the message is, today, like Mr. Jinnah a pragmatist approach is needed. To start afresh and to be pragmatic, we need a collective motto of live and let live. It should be applicable to all and across the board throughout Pakistan. Would anyone care to join?

Zahra May 25, 2014 06:43pm

@Guest64 that never happened. Read KK Aziz to find out what actually happened!!

Harmony May 25, 2014 07:35pm

@Ali Xaidi -

YA May 25, 2014 08:03pm

A realistic take on the politician and lawyer who founded Pakistan..... Asking what Jinnah would do? is where things go back into the murkiness of today. Unfortunately no one knows what Jinnah would do and predicting what he would have done opens a difficult and complicated debate even more complicated than the one which explores what he has already done...... The Question is what are we going to do? and so far it appears there is little we are willing to do..... As the intolerance grow I think of what a great man once said" We the present generation seem to have inherited a house which has no windows and its walls are very high and its very difficult to know whether we have inherited a house or a prison" - AS

Mohammad Akhtar May 25, 2014 08:09pm

Mr. Paracha thank you for the great article about our founding father. I wish that he did not have to leave so soon. I believe Ayub Khan understood him right, "The secular Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69) understood Jinnah as a progressive Muslim statesman."

Nizamuddin Ahmad Aali May 25, 2014 08:43pm

Great write up. Factual and superb. My dream is that somehow we ( or any one ) can re-do the thinking and go back to Mr. Jinnah's doctrine of Pakistan governmental structure. Sadly, the conversion was done right after Jinnah Sahebs death by two people, i.e Liaqat Ali Khan and Shabbir Ahmad Usmani. Liaqat Ali was not a practicing Muslim and Maulvi Usmani was not well versed in politics and democracy. Only one person challenged and he was Altaf Hussain of Dawn, but got no where.

sarah shah May 25, 2014 08:57pm

a pragmetic Jinnah was everything to everyone

Right Hand Man May 25, 2014 09:15pm

Paracha for President!

sja May 25, 2014 09:44pm

@Right Hand Man-------- Nadeem F Pracha for President of People Party of Pakistan

event horizon May 25, 2014 09:50pm

This piece deserves a place in Pakistan Studies curriculum. If this is done, I am sure millions of children will understand what Pakistan is and what Jinnah wanted. But our text books are full of brainwashing stuff. That is exactly the reason that Pakistan is not able to emerge as a single nation. Thank you NFP.

wasay May 26, 2014 12:37am

sir u r rite that Jinah having many shades of personality but the one thing common was that he was true Muslim a man of principle i think.we all need to be a man of principle.

Danish Ali Bhutto May 26, 2014 02:51am

Yet another NFP's genius! Thank you sir.

Sirajuddin Mallick May 26, 2014 03:26am

Jinnah made different speeches on different occasions suiting to the requirements of the situation. This is the nutshell which Mr. Paracha wants to highlight. Are these speeches contradictory are complimentary to each other if we try to analyse in totality? But this is not the issue currently we are facing. Whatever vision we want to implement, is honesty not the common ingredient in every vision? And is it not a fact that this the thing which is very rare in Pakistan? So rather than wasting our time on focusing on different so-called visions, we should stick to only one vision and that is pursuit of a corruption free society. To me, in a society where there is rampant corruption it is useless to discuss vision. This is used as a cover for the corrupt people on either side of the ideological divide -the liberal or religious elites. You can test my statement- make a list of the persons on the front-line of the leadership in every party and test their honesty. Does dynastic hierarchy in the political parties or religious schools(Madrsah) is a liberal or religious vision. We need to change our analysis if we want to bring any positive change

DrTK May 26, 2014 07:13am

"The pragmatic Jinnah would try to find unity in diversity and draw from each ethnic culture" You have said it there NFP. The way forward for Pakistan, indeed its survival, is in accepting this very important principal of the modern world. No longer can we claim superiority for belonging to a certain religion, or race, which is playing havoc with our society. But above all, Jinnah was a highly educated man, and our leaders are not.

Weirdity May 26, 2014 08:25am

Only a genious like NFP can analyze a complex man like Jinnah and come up with a result which makes so much sense. Like most successful politicians, Jinnah appeared as many things to many people. So they all saw the man they wanted to see. The problem with this is that when it comes to governing, no person can be everything to all people. Jinnah did not have to face that situation since he did not live long enough to face the contradictions of how different groups perceived him.

Atif May 26, 2014 08:43am

An excellent piece.

Vap May 26, 2014 09:56am

A great piece of writing . Indeed we need to stop this debate of what he was or what he said. We need a future vision of him. A pragmatic one . Paracha sahib ki jai ho .

Usman Masood May 26, 2014 10:12am


Ali Adovocate May 26, 2014 11:08am

Well said Paracha........But the sons of the father of nation are now competing to enthrone the society quoting what the father hoped and desired...This is not new thing...Who has brought us in such confusion and aroused the need to interpret what the father of the nation meant to create this State of Pakistan...If Ideology irks the liberals so the purpose should be decided to live and work for the destination.

A Rehman May 26, 2014 01:23pm

NFP wears a special pair of spectacles, through which he sees conspiracies in everything on God's Earth related to Pakistan. And we dont face any existential threat as falsely perceived by him.

Faqir Ahmad Paracha May 26, 2014 02:03pm

As an astute and pragmatic statesman, Jinnah would have done what Pakistan needed today. There is need for a serious research and study to determine all the deviations from his perspective that were adopted after his death and clearly suggesting how to undo all such acts to put Pakistan back on th right course.

Zak May 26, 2014 06:55pm

One of The greatest leaders of the world.

Altamash Wazir Khan May 26, 2014 07:54pm

Confusion makes sense to me finally...

Pankaj May 27, 2014 12:08am

@Tariq K Sami : You and NFP are right on spot. First of all, Jinnah was a shrewd and intelligent person. During his stay in Britain, he grasped and understood it extremely well that Britishers and their puppet Kings/Nawabs are looking someone to weaken Nationalist freedom movement being fought under Gandhi's leadership, that was having more socialist/or left leanings. He immediately offered his services by creating wedges in Indian public on religious lines. But, he couldn't understand that he is just a puppet in the hands of these rich/powerful people. He was eliminated soon after the target was achieved. (It is strange how his TB became so severe soon after the creation of Pakistan)

Saqib May 27, 2014 03:19am

A very well written article about one of the greatest individual to have ever lived in all of human history.

Aashiq May 27, 2014 06:34am

@Zak Really? Critical thinking needed please

zak May 27, 2014 06:05pm

@Aashiq Facing the fundamental Truth , more than critical thinking, is whats needed.

Silajit May 28, 2014 09:16am

Bangladesh is Jinnah's Pakistan - with an aim at being secular.

Mohammad Iqbal May 28, 2014 01:42pm

Quaid died before he could see who are around him. Had he lived, he would have met the same fate that of Liaqat Ali, Bhutto, Benazir, Musharraf, Ziaul haq. I mean either disgraced or killed

Ashiq May 28, 2014 01:55pm

@zak Ok. How is India not united?

Feroz May 28, 2014 10:27pm

Jinnah was a leader only matched by Imran Khan in contemporary Pakistan in terms of calibre, honesty and ambition.

lalit bagai May 30, 2014 01:25am

i think that if jinnah was alive today, he would move to britain- realiseing that his vision of a modern pakistan could not be achieved . and whats more many pakistani,s would be after his blood.

Pankaj May 30, 2014 01:33am

@Feroz Hahahahaha ......... you mean Imran is going to demand separate nation KPK in near future ?

Tofiq Pasha Mooraj May 30, 2014 12:35pm

Bring Jinnah Home............

Aamir May 30, 2014 05:55pm

@Sirajuddin Mallick

Excellent Sir. Only the corruption free society can deliver anything.