Passing the torch

Jan 26 2020

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Lord Mountbatten takes the salute on the steps of the Constituent Assembly Hall. Lady Mountbatten is standing next to him and Miss Jinnah is standing next to Mr. Jinnah.
Lord Mountbatten takes the salute on the steps of the Constituent Assembly Hall. Lady Mountbatten is standing next to him and Miss Jinnah is standing next to Mr. Jinnah.

“…The Mussalmans of India are a Nation…the problem in India is not of an inter-communal character, but manifestly of an international one, and it must be treated as such,” Mohammad Ali Jinnah said during his Presidential address to the Muslim League at Lahore in 1940.

Few English men and virtually no Indian leader believed he was serious. They all thought that Jinnah was simply bargaining for more separate electorates seats for the Muslim or more Cabinet positions and government jobs for Muslims. They soon realised that he meant every word he uttered at that first historic meeting of Pakistan’s ‘Land of the Pure’ which would soon be move out of British India’s shattered imperium over South Asia. Jinnah’s legal acumen and firm resolve allowed him to defeat or deflect every attempt to thwart or diminish his demands by Congress leaders including Nehru and Gandhi who considered Pakistan a totally unacceptable option.

After March 23, 1940, Jinnah stated in Delhi in 1943: “…a hundred million Mussalmans are with us…I see…the phoenix-like rise and regeneration of Muslim India from the very ashes of ruination…a miracle…people who had lost everything and who were placed by providence between the two stones of a mill, not only came into their own in a very short time, but became, after the British, socially the most solid, militarily the most virile, and politically the most decisive factor in modern India.”

The miracle, in fact, was in great measure the product of Jinnah’s own brilliant strategy, supporting Britain and the Allied powers during the Second World War rather than choosing, as Congress did, to spend the War years behind present bars or in terrorist acts, crippling railway lines or blowing up British troops. Only so great a leader as Jinnah could have won Pakistan in so short a time. He did not, of course, win all he hoped for, obliged at the last bitter moment by Mountbatten to abandon hopes of keeping Punjab intact and Calcutta as rightful capital of Eastern Pakistan but he was mortally ill by the eve of his new nation’s birth, and miraculously managed to achieve all that he did, hardly breathing a full day without coughing up blood. On that important date of August 1947, he flew to Karachi to preside over and inaugurate the Constituent Assembly to serve as Pakistan’s first Federal Legislature. His guiding principle was justice and complete impartiality. Though Jinnah was a wealthy man himself, his compassion and wisdom made him focus on the needs of Pakistan’s poorest as well as the freedom of its richest, most powerful people. He cautioned 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 also warned against bribery and corruption, the evil of nepotism and jobbery, and regarded them as a poison. He emphasised that this evil must be crushed relentlessly.

Jinnah’s life was governed by his love of justice, fairness and the law. He lived abiding by the highest of principles strictly, often unyielding, yet always fair and just. Another fond expression of Jinnah’s last years of his life was to achieve friendly and cordial relations between Pakistan and Hindustan. The tragic war over Kashmir soon after the partition turned that hopeful dream into a violent reality. “I think that India and Pakistan can be of use to each other”, said Governor-General Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressing his nation through the press. He emphasised on being good neighbours. “I do not think you will find goodwill wanting, and I hope… to impress this more upon Hind­ustan.” [Stanley Wolpert–The Jinnah Anthology 4th Edition By Professor Sharif Al Mujahid and Liaquat Merchant]

To understand the reasons behind the creation of Pakistan and what Pakistan was intended to achieve, Jinnah is the bridge which must be crossed. He was a political leader and statesman of the highest calibre with a lovely code of private honour and public integrity. We are the inheritors of Jinnah’s ideals, principles and vision which continue to remain vital to Pakistan.

The flame lit by Jinnah burns in the hearts of all Pakistanis. What needs to be done is to pass on his principles to the next generation so it may work as a continuous exercise towards nation-building.

Jinnah’s reference to development of the Muslims was cumulative and included cultural, economic, political, social and spiritual aspects which he sought to safeguard and protect for the Muslim minority in a manner that was fair and just to all concerned and was not limited only to religious worship, belief and practice. He endeavoured to explain that Muslims could not sever their link with their brethren in India. He wanted them to understand that the Muslims were entitled to their proper place in the Indian Sun.

Jinnah had incredible faith in himself and the ‘cause’ he made his own. As he told one of his contemporaries: “You try to find what will please people and then you act accordingly. My way of action is quite different. I first decide what is right and I do it. The people come around me and the opposition vanishes”. No wonder, Jinnah ‘never courted popularity’, and therefore could not be ‘influenced or trapped into any position that he had not himself decided upon’. Thus, having decided on Pakistan, after giving everything he had to Hindu-Muslim unity for more than three decades, nothing could deter him from his mission. He was determined to fight till the bitter end. Indeed, as one prominent historian put it: “one clue to Jinnah’s extraordinary resilience in the fact of grave political setbacks, overwhelming odds, and unremitting squeeze play, was his extraordinary capacity to fight when all would have appeared lost to lesser men”.

Jinnah was a keen organiser in both private and public life. Nothing was to be taken for granted or left to chance. In politics, he was convinced that ‘One has to play one’s game as on the chessboard’. One measure of this emphasis on organisation in politics was the fact that he never operated outside ‘party’ routine and discipline. His entire political life revolved around party activity, whether as a member of the Congress, Muslim League, or, briefly, the Home Rule League. It was only because of his faith in organisation that he himself ‘emerged as a legendary organisation-man keeping communications open between Muslim minority and majority provinces, between feudal lords, commercial interests and urban middle classes, and between constitutional debates and ideological standpoints’. His organisational skills also helped transform the Muslim League into ‘a new kind of party with one foot in the countryside and the other in the town’, making it ‘the sole representative body of Muslim India’.

Jinnah was a ‘brilliant political strategist’ and knew well ‘when to take the tide’ and when to make suitable mends in the furnace of reality and expediency’. His acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946, out of tactical considerations, given the changed political situation of India in the post-war years with the British and the Congress back together, was a master-stroke. Apart from the fact that he was satisfied that ‘the foundation and the basis of Pakistan’ was inherent in the plan, his strategic sense told him that some proposals, such as the ‘grouping’ clause which formed the ‘crux’ of the long-term plan, and which affected the fate of Assam in particular, will not be acceptable to the Congress under any circumstances. The Congress would ‘sabotage’ the plan. Sure enough, Gandhi and Nehru did not disappoint him. In his press conference of July 10, 1946, Nehru claimed that ‘there will be no grouping’ of the provinces, Jinnah hastened to reject the plan, forcing the British to decide eventually between his Pakistan and the communal riots and administrative collapse and the resultant ‘uncertainty’ in India. British Prime Minister Attlee’s statement of June 3, 1947, announcing the Partition Plan, conceded that the partition of India (and the eventual birth of Pakistan) was ‘the inevitable alternative’ to the Cabinet Mission Plan...” Sikandar Hayat–The Jinnah Anthology 4th Edition By Professor Sharif Al Mujahid and Liaquat Merchant

Jinnah earned the title of “Best Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity”. He was born in British India and started his politics as the member of the Congress Party. He welcomed Gandhi into Congress Party when Gandhi returned from South Africa but as time went on Jinnah’s efforts to maintain a cordial purity between Hindus and Muslims started to fail not because of any fault on his part but mainly because Gandhi decided to play the communal card by starting to refer to Jinnah as the leader of the minority Muham­madan Community in India. Gandhi did not like the statement made by Jinnah that the 100 million Mussalmans of India were a nation and although Gandhi and Nehru met at Jinnah’s residence at Malabar Hill in Bombay in 1944 to try and sort out the differences between the Congress and the Muslim League anticipating the departure of the British from India, Gandhi after completing his meeting with Jinnah in 1944 issued a statement to the Press that the very idea of Mussalmans being a nation was ridiculous as according to him how could a body of converts constitute a nation. Thus Gandhi drew a clear demarcation between Hindus of India and the Muslims of India.

Never a person to take anything lying down from a political opponent, Jinnah was quick to retort to Gandhi in a statement.

“We maintain and hold that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation.

We Muslims are a nation of a hundred million people, and, what is more, we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions – in short, we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law we are a nation.”

The recent Pulwama incident which almost brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war led to a frenzy of hatred encouraged mainly by the electronic and print media in India. Looking at this behaviour and the sentiment and attitude of the people of India it became so clear that Jinnah’s Two-nation theory was right and all his critics were silenced one and for all.

If this is not enough, consider India’s Supreme Court verdict on Babri Masjid site. The recent decision of the Supreme Court of India, in favour of Hindus, that allow them to build their temple on the same site brought to an end 800 years of existence of this site as a place of worship for Muslims in India while the Muslim were granted a separate piece of land on which they could build their own Masjid.

One is entitled to criticise a judgment pronounced by a Court of Law just like K. L. Gauba did against the amendments introduced in the Indian Parliament sometime in the ’60s by which the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1960 was substantially amended to the detriment of the Muslims. The matter went to the Supreme Court of India which held that Aligarh University was never as Muslim University as it was established by an Act of the Imperial Legislative Counsel in India. All the efforts made by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan to establish the Anglo-Oriental College and later the Aligarh Muslim University from funds raised exclusively from the Muslim population went down the drain.

One does not know when the new trend in India will lead to take over of the Aligarh University, the Red Fort, Taj Mahal, Babri Basjid and Jinnah House claiming that they were all products of British India and had nothing to do with the Muslims. One can only hope and pray that this does not happen.

Today there are more than 200 million Muslims living in India and they are as a matter of right entitled to a place in the Indian sub-continent under the Indian Sun. No one can take away this right from them.

Jinnah is no more with us. Seventy-two years have passed since Pakistan was created and we have had many ups and downs including constitutional and other crisis with three wars thrown in for good measures but Pakistan has survived all this and grown stronger throughout. We have our constitution, our parliament, our judiciary, our judicial process, federal and provincial governments and an excellent army, navy and air force which protect Pakistan both externally and internally. Our armed forces are highly disciplined and have the spirit and courage to protect their homeland. Democracy is still taking root in Pakistan and will get stronger as time goes on.

We cannot and must not ever forget Jinnah’s words relating to liberty, equality, fraternity, justice and fair play to everybody. The rule of law must prevail. Parliament must always remain sovereign, the Constitution of Pakistan must always remain supreme, the government of the day must act to protect the people of Pakistan and safeguard its citizens, their liberty, property, right of speech and right to the due process of law.

I cannot conclude this article without referring to a small portion of Jinnah’s speech before the Constituent Assembly of India when he opposed the Criminal Law (Emergency Powers) Bill of February 6, 1919, stating, inter alia;

“My first ground is that it is against the fundamental principles of law and justice, namely that no man should lose his liberty or be deprived of his liberty, without a judicial trial in accordance with the accepted rules of evidence and procedure. My other ground is that the powers which are going to be assumed by the executive which means substitution of executive for judicial, such powers are likely to be abused. I wish to state because it is my duty to tell you that if these measures are adopted you will create in this country from one end to the other a discontent and agitation, the like of which you have not witnessed and it will have a most disastrous effect upon the good relations between the Government and the people. You have got already more than ample powers with you. I assure you have got almost the entire community at your back because believe me we do not wish and nobody wishes that there should be anything but progress in this country.” [Jinnah Speech in February, 1919 on the Criminal Law (Emergency Powers) Bill 1919 — The Jinnah Anthology 4th Edition By Professor Sharif Al Mujahid and Liaquat Merchant]

Pakistan was a moral and intellectual achievement which was won with the power of the pen, power of speech and the power of vote. Pakistan was borne out of a democratic process and is here to stay. The idea of Pakistan will never die and the flame lit by Jinnah will burn eternally in the hearts of all Pakistanis but we need to continuously reiterate Jinnah’s message particularly to our younger generations so that Jinnah’s principles, ideals and vision work as a continuous exercise towards nation-building.

The writer is the grandnephew of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, President of The Jinnah Society, Founder and Managing Trustee of The Jinnah Foundation, Chairman/Executive Trustee of Quaid-e-Azam Aligarh Education Trust, Administrator of the Estate of Quaid-i-Azam and former Deputy Attorney General of Pakistan.