The man who ‘shaped events’

The final phase of Partition: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, and Jawaharlal Nehru with Viceroy Mountbatten during a meeting on June 2, 1947.—Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives
The final phase of Partition: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, and Jawaharlal Nehru with Viceroy Mountbatten during a meeting on June 2, 1947.—Photo: Dawn/White Star Archives

A POINT emphasised by scholars about Jinnah was his uncanny ability to create and shape events to advance his goal. Sir Penderel Moon, the celebrated author of Divide and Quit, wrote of Jinnah: “There is, I believe, no historical parallel for a single individual affecting such a political revolution; and his achievement is a striking refutation of the theory that in the making of history the individual is of little or no significance. It was Mr Jinnah who created Pakistan and undoubtedly made history.”

In its write-up on Jinnah’s death, The Times, London, said the founder of Pakistan “shaped events”. In fact Mr Jinnah, it said, “was something more than Quaid-i-Azam, supreme head of the State, to the people who followed him; he was more even than the architect of the Islamic nation he personally called into being. He commanded their imagination as well as their confidence. In the face of difficulties which might have overwhelmed him, it was given to him to fulfil the hope foreshadowed in the inspired vision of the great Iqbal by creating for the Muslims of India a homeland where the old glory of Islam could grow afresh into a modern state, worthy of its place in the community of nations. Few statesmen have shaped events to their policy more surely than Mr Jinnah. He was a legend even in his lifetime.”

Also noteworthy is the comment by the Economist when it challenged the result of a poll in Germany. Using the title Quaid-i-Azam for Jinnah, it said: “In a recent poll the Germans voted Bismarck the greatest of all time. On any standards, they were wrong, for even in the same genre Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah stands higher. It took Bismarck the same seven years, from the Schleswig-Holstein war to the treaty of Frankfurt, to create the German Empire as it took Jinnah, from the Lahore resolution of 1940, to Independence Day, to make Pakistan.

“But Bismarck started with all the advantages: a hundred-year old nationalism, the Prussian Army and Civil Service, the Ruhr, 15 years of experience of high office, and youth enough still to have 20 years as chancellor before him in 1879. Jinnah began with nothing but his own ability and the disgruntlement of a religious minority in which he was only an observant member of the most heretic sect, at an age so great that he only survived his creation by one year and without any experience of public office until he nominated himself as Governor General.” (quoted here from M.A. Jinnah: Views & Reviews; edited by M.R. Kazimi).

In dealing with his political adversaries, Jinnah used one of his major weapons with precision — logic.

The following quotation from a foreword Abdul Hafeez Pirzada wrote for the book Jinnah as a Parliamentarian deserves to be reproduced. Obviously, a Pakistani praising Jinnah perhaps would not be given importance. But what is particular in this quotation is the similarity of the idea foreign scholars have said about the Quaid creating or shaping events to advance his goal. Wrote Pirzada, who besides being a lawyer of repute, was also a politician and was a member of the federal capital in the seventh decade of the last century: “If the greatness of a man be measured by his ability to deflect the stream of events towards the goal marked out by his own vision – there can hardly be a more unerring yardstick – Jinnah must rank among those few in human history whose greatness is beyond cavil. There was no aspect of either of the nationalist struggle or of the life of the nation which escaped the impact of his personality or the imprint of his ideas.”

In dealing with his political adversaries and opponents of the Pakistan idea, Jinnah used one of his major weapons with precision – logic. That he was a lawyer helped him in his political struggle, as for instance in dealing with Lord Wavell, India’s penultimate Viceroy. Of the many remarks he made about the Quaid, one deserves to be reproduced. Jinnah was, he said, “very difficult and argumentative, trying to correct me on some lawyer’s point and refusing to give a straight answer.”

In her biography of Lord Wavell, Victoria Schofield gives us his opinion about Jinnah. It changed from time to time as Wavell dealt with the knotty constitutional problems that often appeared to baffle him. Initially he was not prepared to believe that the Quaid represented all Muslims, but admitted Jinnah could “sway opinion” and “no one seems to have the character to oppose him.”

Later, as he began to grasp the fundamentals of the chasm that separated the Muslim League and the Congress and came in greater contact with Jinnah and developed a better understanding of the explosive situation in the subcontinent while war raged, he found Jinnah sometimes “intransigent”, but admitted he “represented 99 per cent of India’s Muslims.”

The complicated nature of the constitutional negotiations between the three parties – the Muslim League, the Congress and the British government – were beyond the soldier that Wavell was and tired him out. More embarrassing for him, he could make no commitments to Indian leaders about the timetable for a British withdrawal from South Asia, because he was aware of the war cabinet’s lack of trust in him. His performance in the western desert had annoyed [Winston] Churchill, who regarded him, according Schoffield, “a contemptible self-seeking advertiser”.

Nevertheless, he had no choice but to be drawn into the labyrinth of the constitutional formulae that the League and Congress came up with; the failure of talks that once appeared promising, the arrival of the high-powered Cabinet Mission plan that included a giant like Sir Stafford Cripps, and the nerve-racking Simla talks.

Addressing the central legislature’s budget session, Wavell said in a much-awaited speech that “what arrangements you decide to make for the two great communities and certain other important minorities as well as the Indian states, to live within that unit and make the best of its wealth and opportunities is for Indians to decide.”

Jinnah snapped back, saying, according to Schoffield, that if, as Wavell had said, India’s constitutional future was for Indians to decide, then there was no need for the viceroy to offer any opinion about India’s future political disposition.

Later, when freedom came and Jinnah was the head of state, Lord Mountbatten was on the receiving end when he sent a telegram to Jinnah, who was now Pakistan’s governor-general, on the Junagadh issue and made some fundamental mistakes while presenting his case. The case itself was not that weak, but he forgot who he was sending the letter to.

Kashmir and Junagadh were a contrast. Kashmir was a Muslim-majority state with a Hindu maharaja, while the latter had a Hindu majority with a Muslim monarch. India – to be specific, Mountbatten – laid a claim to both and as history shows used force to annex them. Pakistan never used or threatened to use force on Junagadh, but before India invaded the princely state Mountbatten telegraphed a message explaining India’s claim to the state with a logic that outraged Jinnah the logician.

In his telegram of Sept 22, 1947, Mountbatten used words that seemed to question the fundamental principles of partition and the powers that the princely states had to decide which country to throw in their lot with. The telegram made no attempt to conceal his hostility toward Pakistan and the deep grudge he had against the Quaid for denying him the pleasure of being the governor-general of Pakistan and India simultaneously.

In the earlier part of the telegram, Mountbatten accused the government of Pakistan of discourtesy, and later, coming to the question of Junagadh’s accession, alleged that “Pakistan government have UNILATERALLY proceeded to action which, it was made plain, government of India. could never and do not acquiesce in. Each (sic) acceptance of accession by Pakistan cannot but be regarded by government of India as an encroachment of India’s sovereignty and territory and inconsistent with friendly relations that should exist between two dominions. This action of Pakistan is considered by government of India to be clear attempt to cause disruption in integrity of India by extending influence and boundaries of the dominion of Pakistan in utter violation of principles on which partition was agreed upon and effected.”

Jinnah’s reply of Sept 25, 1947, rebutted Mountbatten’s stance on the accession issue by making clear that “the position of Indian states is very clearly defined and it has been repeatedly accepted that after the lapse of paramountcy every Indian state is independent and sovereign and free to join Pakistan or the Indian dominion. You are now trying to import fresh criteria into this matter limiting the free exercise by the States.

“The division of British India agreed upon between the Congress and the Muslim League has nothing whatever to do with this as the question of states was dealt with quite separately and stands on a different footing. In these circumstances you will agree that Junagadh like any other State was entitled and free to join Pakistan and has done so.

“We are really astonished at the view expressed by you which contains a threat to the dominion of Pakistan that ‘such acceptance of accession by Pakistan cannot but be regarded by government of India as an encroachment on India’s sovereignty and territory and inconsistent with friendly relations that should exist between the two dominions’. India dominion has no rights of sovereignty, territorial or otherwise over Junagadh. We entirely fail to understand how accession of Junagadh to Pakistan can be regarded as an encroachment upon India’s sovereignty and as inconsistent with friendly relations between the two Dominions.

“Regarding your suggestion for a plebiscite this was a matter between the ruler, the constitutive authority and the people of Junagadh.”

The correspondence didn’t end here, and the two continued to exchange telegrams on Junagadh with mutual accusations of armed intrusions. Mountbatten, regrettably, didn’t even maintain a semblance of impartiality between Pakistan and India. It is true he had ceased to be the viceroy of the undivided subcontinent and was head of state of India, but the fact that he was the viceroy who had made the League and Congress agree to the partition scheme, as worked out by him, didn’t seem to matter to him, for his telegrams to Jinnah reflected bias and an uninhibited chauvinism to advance Indian interests in violation of the agreement to which he was party.

The writer is Dawn’s External Ombudsman and an author.

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