‘Jinnah’s idea of secularism was in pluralism’

Published September 24, 2022
Barrister Yasser Latif Hamdani speaks at the event.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Barrister Yasser Latif Hamdani speaks at the event.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: “Sadly and tragically, we are nowhere near Jinnah’s idea of a modern nation state,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, who is a well-known human rights lawyer, writer and author of several books, including Jinnah: A Life.

He was giving a talk on ‘Jinnah and the Idea of a Modern Nation State’ at the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum here on Friday.

He said that just this morning he was at the Sindh High Court where he was witness to a negative declaration in the case of a Hindu individual, who was being judged as a second-class citizen. “It goes completely contradictory to the nation state Jinnah wanted,” he said.

“Jinnah’s idea of secularism was in pluralism. He even had his Aug 10, 1947 oath altered by omitting the word ‘swear’ and ‘so help me God’. There was no mention of God in the oath to keep religion and state separate. He felt that any person with merit should lead Pakistan,” he pointed out.

Author Yasser Latif Hamdani says Quaid-i-Azam was greater than Gandhi

“We all know of his speech where he said ‘You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.’ But the most important words in that speech are: ‘Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class … we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination 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.’

“He would have never stood for state religion. So what was the idea of Pakistan? Jinnah’s idea was not dependant on Partition. There could still be Pakistan in United India. The idea that is dividing India and Islam may sound good here, but it is a bad story to tell internationally. India sells Gandhi and his ideals of secularism and pluralism abroad. Jinnah was greater than Gandhi, but he has a negative image,” said Mr Hamdani.

“Jinnah was not completely decided on Partition. The division of the subcontinent was not etched in stone, and this narrative needs to come out in Pakistan Studies,” he said.

Earlier, senior vice chairman of the Board of Management (BoM) of the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum, and Jinnah’s grandnephew Liaquat Merchant said: “In order to understand the reasons of the creation of Pakistan and that Pakistan will never die, you have to cross that bridge that is ‘Jinnah’. Only then will you understand Pakistan, the Pakistan Movement and the creation of Pakistan.”

Mr Merchant also said that there was a large collection of books on Jinnah, which was still not enough. “Any book on Jinnah is a welcome addition,” he said, while also lauding the efforts of the former minister of finance of India, Jaswant Singh, for writing his book Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence.

He said there was also a need for book in quest of Jinnah. “There should be a book about him as a lawyer, as a parliamentarian and statesman, as a Congress leader, a book on Jinnah’s role in the Pakistan Movement, him as the governor general of Pakistan, him as the protector of minorities, as a champion of human rights and Jinnah on education as he willed most of his money to educational institutions both in India and Pakistan,” he said.

BoM secretary general Sadeed A. Malik and member Ameena Saiyid also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2022

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