Jinnah: the man, the myth and the vision

Published December 25, 2019
As a man Jinnah was forthcoming, as a lawyer, he was prudent. — Dawn archives
As a man Jinnah was forthcoming, as a lawyer, he was prudent. — Dawn archives

This article was originally published on Dec 25, 2019.

MOHAMMAD Ali Jinnah was the first political leader to protest against the Salt Tax, calling it “iniquitous, unheard of in any other country”. [B.R. Nanda, Road to Pakistan: The Life and Times of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, New Delhi, Routledge, 2010, p.6] Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the legislator who tabled the resolution calling upon tenders for the Government of India to be opened in India in rupees, rather than in England, in pounds as had been the practice. [Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1989, p.81] Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the Muslim who questioned the representative status of the Simla Deputation in 1906. [Ian Bryant Wells, Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity, New Delhi, Permanent Black, 2005, p. 27] Yet it was the same Mohammad Ali Jinnah who brought about the partition of India.

We need closer acquaintance with the man to understand how his approach changed over the years.

The man: The one personality trait of Jinnah that has been most commented upon, is his pride. H. V. Hodson, Louise Fischer and John Kenneth Galbraith attribute the creation of Pakistan to Jinnah’s pride. Is it true? Jinnah was a Khoja, most of whom were Anglicised, never spoke their mother tongue in public and never wore their religion on their sleeves. What separated Jinnah from his political contemporaries were his class traits, not individual traits.

In 1925, Jinnah openly said that "he had learnt politics at the feet of Sir Surinder Nath Bannerji". [Legislative Assembly Debates, March 1925, Vol. V, Part III, p.2478] Can anyone imagine Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru or Sardar Patel speaking with such humility?

Later, while recalling his years in the wilderness, Jinnah had said: "I was considered a plague and shunned. But I thrust myself, and forced my way through and went from place to place uninvited and unwanted. But now, the position had changed." [S.W. Jinnah of Pakistan, p.239]

A man who was proud would die before risking humiliation, much less admit it. As a man Jinnah was forthcoming, as a lawyer, he was prudent. While fighting for the lives of millions, he could not rely on expressions of goodwill. He wanted everything written, signed, sealed and delivered. That is why Sardar Vallabhai Patel said that Jinnah was an impossible person to work with.

A closer look at the life of Jinnah reveals how and why his approach changed over the years and why he proposed the Two-Nation Theory that was not his original position at all.

The myth: This exasperation was rather curious. Jinnah was a close friend of Vittalbhai Patel, the Sardar’s brother, and also a very close friend of Motilal Nehru, Pandit Nehru’s father. If there was a psychological factor to the partition of India, it was Jawaharlal Nehru’s aversion to his father. [Michael Brecher, Nehru A Political Biography, Oxford University Press, 1959, p. 40 and Judith Brown, Nehru A Political Life, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2003, p.46] Jawaharlal Nehru disliked Jinnah, the friend of his real father, Motilal Nehru, but the rival of his political Bapu.

This was played out at the Nagpur 1920 Congress Session. It was Motilal Nehru who had primed Jinnah to oppose Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Resolution. Since the Non-Cooperation Movement was bound up with the Khilafat Movement, Maulana Shaukat Ali was incensed at Jinnah’s stand. A Muslim majority had been contrived at in Nagpur, and it was a Muslim majority that had shouted down Jinnah there. [Kanji Dwarka Das, India’ Fight for Freedom Bombay, Popular Prakashan, 1966, pp.286-287]

However, when the time came to vote, Jawaharlal Nehru "emotionally blackmailed" his father to side with Gandhi. [Sheela Reddy, Mr and Mrs Jinnah New Delhi, Penguin/Viking, 2017, p.235] Jawaharlal Nehru knew firsthand that it was his father who had set in motion Jinnah’s resignation from Congress, yet he never tired of writing and saying that Jinnah left Congress because he abhorred mass politics! If Jinnah abhorred mass politics, how was it that he led a public demonstration and procession against Lord Willingdon, then Governor of Bombay?

Paradoxically, had there been a Hindu majority at Nagpur, Jinnah would have prevailed. Gandhi prevailed because of a Muslim majority. Earlier that year, Mahatma Gandhi had clearly written: "I have been experimenting with myself and my friends by introducing religion into politics." [Young India, 12 May 1920]

The mission: The die was cast and with the induction of religion, it was no longer possible to keep the Two-Nation Theory out of consideration, especially since Mahatma Gandhi had preceded Jinnah in broadcasting it. After inspecting the Sabarmati camp of the Hindu Mahasabha, Gandhi wrote: “Every community is entitled, even bound to organise itself, if it is to live as a separate entity.” [Young India, 6 January 1929]

When the majority community organises separately, the minority community is automatically rendered separate. When Quaid-i-Azam said at Lahore that the "Hindus and Muslims belong to two different philosophies, social customs, literature...", he was not being original. Even at Lahore, he had buttressed his claim by quoting Lala Lajpat Rai. Was that the end of the matter? No, when Sarat Chandar Bose, Kiran Shankar Roy and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy had drawn up a scheme for a united and sovereign Bengal in early 1947, Quaid-i-Azam and the Muslim League had agreed. However, Pandit Nehru told Sir Eric Mieville that "there was no chance of Hindus there agreeing to put themselves under permanent Muslim domination". [ S.M. Burke & Salim Al-Din Quraishi, The British Raj in India , Karachi, Oxford University Press, 1995, p.513]

Approached from the other end, it is still the Two-Nation Theory. The British Prime Minister Clement Atlee had hoped till June 2, 1947, that Bengal would opt to be a separate country. [Dawn 28 December 2018, p.14] Thus it was the Two-Nation Theory of Nehru, not the Two-Nation Theory of Jinnah that was drowned in 1971.

But regardless of what Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru or anyone else said, the question is, was the Two-Nation Theory intrinsically valid? A theory does not validate experience; it is experience that validates theory. Had India and Pakistan emerged on the map as friendly neighbours, the Two-Nation Theory would have died a natural death. Such a course was preempted because Lord Mountbatten had told the Congress that Pakistan was not viable and would collapse within six months.

To ensure that outcome, As Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck has testified [John Connell, Auchinleck, London, Cassell, 1959, pp. 920, 921], the India’s Cabinet was doing everything in its power to prevent the establishment of Pakistan on a firm basis. Had India not withheld the strategic and financial assets of Pakistan, relations would have been based on cooperation.

Today, it is manifest that this hostility is based on Kashmir. The current plight of Kashmiris in their bitterest winter of discontent bears testimony to it. Here I agree with Pandit Nehru when he said that Kashmir was a symptom, not the disease. During the war of 1971, Kashmir was not the cause; yet this is what Anthony Mascarenhas reported: "Everyone I spoke to in Delhi — editors, businessmen, civil servants — said bluntly that 24 years was too long for India to be burdened with the problem of Pakistan." [The Sunday Times, London, 5 December 1971]

As for Kashmir, M. A. Jinnah said on May 29, 1944: “Whenever Pakistan comes into existence, we shall not force Kashmir to join it. It may like to stay outside and enjoy complete autonomy. We shall not stand in its way to do so.” [Mehrunnisa Ali (ed.) Jinnah on World Affairs, Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, 2007, p.242] On the other hand, Congress was resolved that Pakistan be denied Kashmir. This is what caused the misfortune of this paradise. In the brief prepared for the Cabinet Delegation’s discussion with Jinnah it was proposed to offer him a sovereign Pakistan except perhaps Gurdaspur. [Penderel Moon (ed.) Wavell The Viceroy’s Journal, Karachi. OUP, 1974, p.245]

The Congress and their insiders in the government had calculated the strategic importance of Gurdaspur, a Muslim majority district. On June 14, 1947, Krishna Menon threatened Britain with dire consequences if Kashmir were allowed to go to Pakistan [Nicholas Mansergh et al. The Transfer of Power Papers, London, HMSO, 1982, Vol. XI, No. 201] despite Menon’s plea that Mountbatten destroy this letter, he preserved it. On June 17, 1947, V.P. Menon asked specifi cally for Gurdaspur to be given to India. [The British Raj in India, p.587]

H. Christopher Beaumont, private secretary to Sir Cyril Radcliffe, confessed publicly that Radcliffe had altered the Boundary Award at the behest “of powers in New Delhi”. Since Gurdaspur had, despite a Muslim majority, been awarded to India, Radcliffe made another gift of Muslim majority districts of Ferozpur and Zira. [For details see Muhammad Reza Kazimi, "Clearing the Confusion" Dawn, 28 March 1992] Lord Mountbatten’s Publicity Officer concocted the myth that Jinnah had nominated Radcliffe. [Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten, Second ed. London, Robert Hale, 1972, p.124] This is completely belied by. [The Transfer of Power Papers, 1982, Vol.XI,pp.532,533] Now contrast Jawaharlal Nehru’s stance on Kashmir in 1947 with Jinnah’s stance of 1944. The real reason behind Nehru explained calling Kashmir a symptom rather than the disease: “Kashmir is going to be a drain on our resources, but they are going to be a greater drain on Pakistan.” [Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru Series II, Orient Longmans, 1982-1994, pp.346,347]

True, with utmost devotion, dedication, honesty and sacrifice the earliest batch of civil servants, the regrouped armed forces, even petty clerks as Nehru termed one of the prime ministers of Pakistan, laboured day and night to save Pakistan from imminent collapse. Nevertheless, the two long term destabilising factors had and are still taking their toll. The first being Nehru’s refusal to countenance the independence of Bengal, and the, second, his now revealed to be totally insincere promises of plebiscite in Kashmir. It is these two factors that have not only divided the country, but divided opinion across Pakistan. It is they that have led to the questioning of Jinnah’s vision.

Quaid-i-Azam’s vision for Pakistan: In 1944, in an interview to the APA representative, Jinnah defined Pakistan geographically. Politically, Pakistan would be a democracy. Economically, Jinnah hoped that major industries and services would be socialised. [Jamil-Ud-Din Ahmed(ed.) Speeches and Writings of Mr Jinnah, Lahore, Muhammad Ashraf, 1976, Vol. II, p,231] Now because India withheld the financial assets of Pakistan, and Muslim plutocrats rushed to the rescue this programme could not be given effect to.

Lest readers rush to condemn the Quaid-i-Azam or this writer, let me explain that the term “Islamic Socialism” had been used by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1948 on one side and Syed Qutb Shaheed and Mustafa al-Sibayi on the other, in the same year. It was them who explained the term: ‘In Islamic Socialism, there would be no atheism of Communism and there would be no exploitation of Capitalism’. [John L. Esposito, Unholy War, Oxford University Press, 2002, p.57] The term was suppressed in the Ayub Khan era, which is why Ulama could anathemise it.

The geographical definition could not be obtained because of the Congress and British adamance over the Rajgopalachari Formula, which demanded division of the Punjab, Bengal and Assam. Still between the areas demarcated by Chakrawarti Rajgopalachari and Sir Cyril Radcliffe, there were substantial differences. As to democracy, we all know that it has had a patchy existence. All this does not detract from the fact that the Quaid-i-Azam set out clearly what he meant by Pakistan. There was no deception.

As for democracy, there is the Governor-Generalship issue. That the powers of the Governor-General should have been under the strict scope of the Indian Independence Act 1947 is true. Liaquat Ali Khan was leader of the All-India Muslim League bloc in the interim government and as such his appointment as the first Prime Minister of Pakistan was only natural. That Jinnah had no intention of allowing Lord Mountbatten to become Governor-General of Pakistan, is also clear.

In the June 9, 1947, meeting of the AIML, "The Quaid said: 'I have finished my work. I am like a field marshal who is no longer needed when his army has become victorious. His duties are then transferred to other citizens who are expected to take charge'…. At this point Maulana Hasrat Mohani rose and said in a loud voice: 'This is not possible. We reject your decision… Pakistan’s Governor-General can only be a man who has won Pakistan for the Muslims'." [Inam Aziz, Stop Press, Karachi, Oxford University Press, 2009, p.9]

When we understand that Quaid-i-Azam had not meant to nominate himself, then, other pieces fall in place.

He actually had the Nawab of Bhopal in mind. Thus his pride, which we discussed at the beginning of this paper, did not translate into accepting this office himself.

In keeping with his definition of Pakistan, Jinnah’s speech made one year earlier, (1943) in Calcutta, makes sense. "There are millions of people who hardly get one meal a day. Is this civilisation? Is this the aim of Pakistan? If that is Pakistan I would not have it."

We must understand that religion was the basis of discrimination. India was divided because of the discrimination. How, then, would he allow discrimination on the basis of religion in Pakistan? Pakistan was not an island that had sprung up from the sea. It was a territory that had to be carved out from British India, and before the British left. Once they left, there would have been no Pakistan and we would be living under the same benign rule that the people of Kashmir are living under.

Pakistan was an inadequate solution to the communal problem of India? Who denies that? But at least we have a state. Whether you like it or not, a nuclear state. Look at the Middle East. Look at the boundaries of Israel in 1948, in 1956, in 1967 and in 1973. The people of Israel are a minority in the Middle East, but because of state power, they have been able to receive patronage and support. In British India, the Muslims were a minority. Let us, therefore, be thankful and pay tribute to the leader who achieved this.

The writer has authored and edited books on M .A. Jinnah.



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