Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had absolute trust in the advice of his ‘right hand’ man, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan.
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had absolute trust in the advice of his ‘right hand’ man, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan.

MANY believe that the politics of public service practised by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is perhaps impossible and irrelevant in the present times. The irony is that given the prevailing political realities, it does seem like a valid observation.

Few can doubt the fact that Jinnah adopted a constitutional approach to politics as his chosen path to move ahead. It was impossible to lure him into any inappropriate proposition. Offers, options of power and positions and other incentives could not even cause a modicum of change in his struggle to meet his destiny and to arrive at the targeted destination; the acquiring of a legitimate space and framework for the Muslims of the subcontinent in the form of a nation state.

The present-day harbingers of change fall short when assessed on the strict yardstick of honesty and single-minded pursuit of public service. The politics, as practised today, can at best be called an enterprise of extraction where political power and public office are overtly and covertly used to acquire rent-seeking privileges.

Capable folks — and there is dearth of them in the country — usually stay away from practical politics. Fears of persecution and animosity from powerful but clandestine hands keep many a worthwhile soul away from meaningfully contributing to the country’s politics.

Many believe that Jinnah was a tough nut to crack sitting across a negotiation table. Viceroy Mountbatten had long negotiations with Jinnah and later conceded that it was the latter’s skills that eventually led to partition.

It is no wonder that one always observes the same old, tried, tested and discarded faces back into the arena of active politics. It appears that we may not see more Jinnah-like folks entering into the realm of active politics. Despite such a situation, there are many useful lessons one can learn from Jinnah’s political life.

Many believe that Jinnah was a tough nut to crack sitting across a negotiation table. The last viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, had long negotiations with Jinnah during 1947. He attempted to influence or to convince Jinnah to give up the demand for a sovereign Pakistan, arguing in favour of having two self-governing units with a common centre. Jinnah continued to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all the options and modifications that Mountbatten had to offer.

In later conversations and interviews, Mountbatten conceded about the outstanding negotiation skills of Jinnah that eventually led to partition of the sub-continent. According to him, Jinnah was the only stumbling block that stood in the way of keeping a unified India.

At no point did Jinnah step back from his firm demand for a separate and sovereign homeland for the Muslims of the region. He knew too well that anything less than a sovereign state would mean subjugation and eventual subordination to the Hindu-majority rule.

For Jinnah, the near traumatic experience of Congress ministries during the 1930s was very overwhelming. Thus, when he engaged with his political adversaries, Jinnah never accepted any option where future security and fundamental rights for Muslims were potentially in any jeopardy. Whether in tripartite discussions including the Indian National Congress, or in direct parleys with the viceroy, Jinnah displayed no flexibility in this regard.

In his famous presidential address at the 28th annual session of the All-India Muslim League (AIML), on April 15, 1941, in Madras (since renamed Chennai), Jinnah explicitly enunciated the scheme of the proposed Muslim states. “We want the establishment of completely independent states in North West and Eastern Zones of India, with full control finally of defence, foreign affairs, communications, customs, currency, exchange, etc. We do not want in any circumstances a constitution of an All-India character with one government at the centre …”

Lord Mountbatten rightly confessed that the creation of Pakistan can be attributed to the tough negotiating skills that Jinnah displayed during the crucial moments in that vital phase of history.

Jinnah was widely recognised as an honest, upright but shrewd politician. Even his staunchest critics would admit his uprightness. According to Hector Bolitho, one of Jinnah’s biographers, scrupulousness and uprightness were few of the several qualities that were acknowledged even by his adversaries.

Jinnah was often referred to as ‘painfully honest’, meaning that he never deviated from the prescribed rules and procedures under any circumstances. Countless anecdotes are available that inform us that Jinnah spent from his own pocket for all the political activities that he conducted. He was an extremely thrifty administrator during his unfortunately short stint as the governor-general. Besides, he left a sizable portion of his personal wealth in the service of several educational institutions as part of his will.

He proposed the same path for the nation in his maiden speech to the Constituent Assembly in August 1947. Jinnah stated: “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering — I do not say that other countries are free from it, but I think our condition is much worse — is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.”

In the same speech, he mentioned a few forms of corruption including black marketeering, nepotism and jobbery, and cautioned the nation to stay clear of them on all counts. Sadly though, our succeeding regimes and other ‘pillars’ of society seem to have forgotten this most vital precept emphasised by the father of the nation.

Our history is replete with examples where a completely opposite course of action was chosen by the powers that be for self-service, personal gains and clan profits. And our bureaucrats practise the right of entitlement to the full, and beyond. Apart from frequent trips to chosen foreign destinations, luxury vehicles, expensive official accommodation and armies of servants, all at the cost of the exchequer, are not unusual sights in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and other locations.

Jinnah was a keen observer of international politics and changing trends across the globe. In his daily routine, he spent considerable time in acquiring information and analysis about global affairs. It is not surprising that Jinnah had well-articulated views on the labyrinths of international political, social and economic relations that generated globalisation as an outcome.

He was well aware about the construct of imperial policies by several world powers and the consequences on poor and colonised territories. Much of these abominable practices had a direct connection with imperialist tendencies in the 20th century. Jinnah was able to see through the real clandestine designs of existing and emerging imperial powers.

The fabrication of baseless and undesired wars across the world was one instrument. Jinnah abhorred wars and was good enough to call the ongoing World War II as “insane slaughter of mankind and the destruction of centuries old civilisation”.

Despite facing the heaviest of odds during convoluted negotiations with British imperialists and Congress leaders, he denounced conflict at every level of discourse. In Jinnah’s perception, the tenets of foreign policy of Pakistan were all hinged around peace and peace alone.

On the occasion of the inauguration of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service on August 15, 1947, he reiterated his resolve to maintain friendly relations with all neighbours and to abide by the prescriptions of the United Nations Charter in letter and in spirit. Jinnah was clear on the count that peace was the first pre-requisite for economic progress of infant impoverished nations, including Pakistan.

In his mind, he did not perceive India as an enemy state. He wished to keep friendly relations with the neighbouring country, similar to what one observes in the case of United States and Canada. The turn of events somehow eluded this much desired wish of Jinnah.

Jinnah was fully aware about the economic cost of colonisation and its ramifications on Indian society. He understood that the wealth obtained from the subcontinent enhanced the political power of British Empire on many a front. While presiding a special session of AIML in Calcutta during the throes of Khilafat movement, he stated: “India’s blood and India’s gold was sought and unfortunately given — given to break Turkey and buy the fetters of the Rowlatt legislation.” This act aimed at curbing nationalistic political activities and extended many checks on people’s conduct.

The British policies, disguised as steps to promote economic freedom, actually obtained infinite benefits for its own regime. Capitalism and globalisation grow on freedom and move towards enterprise and access to equal economic opportunities. The reverse was true of the Indian subcontinent during the British Raj.

British colonialism prospered through the cruel utilisation of local resources for the benefit of the masters. Professors S.M. Burke and Salim Quraishi in their seminal book The British Raj in India — A Historical Review recorded that the trading exploits from India alone in the year 1740 accounted for more than 10 per cent of the entire revenue of the Great Britain. This figure steadily grew over time.

This trade imbalance and later control of resources could only become possible during the absolute political subordination of the local population. While visualising the future course of action for Indian Muslims and India as a whole, Jinnah was categorical about the need to ensure the rights of free enterprise based on the principles of fair play and equality.

In his speech on the inauguration ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan on July 1, 1948, he objectively identified the shortcomings in the nascent capitalist tendencies that were deeply rooted in and promoted by the West. Instead, he proposed the principles of Islamic practices in transactions that focussed on achieving welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind.

Jinnah could foresee that artificially planted conflicts shall become the raison d’être for arms and ammunition industries — a catalyst for next-generation imperialism. It is not coincidental that he condemned without mincing words the shoddy handling of the Palestinian issue by the United Kingdom, the United Nations and later the United States of America. The various resolutions adopted by the All-India Muslim League in support of a fair and just settlement of Palestinian matters during 1937-47 stand testimony to this fact.

On an earlier instance, the Muslim League, under Jinnah’s leadership, condemned the Balfour Declaration which, according to Lord Balfour, “viewed with favour in Palestine the establishment of national home for Jewish people”. Prolonged correspondence between Jinnah and Lord Linlithgow and other British officials inform us about the rigorous attempt by the former to prevent Palestine from remaining a bleeding global problem.

Jinnah lost no opportunity to present the case of Palestinian people to global powers through his statements and characteristically well-drafted letters to various statesmen. His correspondence with President Harry Truman bears testimony to Jinnah’s stance on the matter. However, Truman considered an independent Israel as a key state for safeguarding American interests in the region. He recognised it after just 11 minutes of the announcement made by the Zionist leadership.

Jinnah knew very well that if seeds of conflict would be allowed to germinate, vested interests under the tutelage of imperialist powers shall be the ultimate beneficiaries. Jinnah even sent his emissaries to aid Palestinians and the Grand Mufti. Jinnah was right. Palestinian people are rendered homeless in their own homeland due to the highhandedness of British colonialism and American imperialism of the time.

Many later rulers in Pakistan stuck to Jinnah’s guideline on the Palestine issue. It will be a test case for future leadership in the country, given the rapidly increasing influence of Israel in the Middle East in recent times.

The writer is an academic and researcher based in Karachi.

Published in the Quaid’s Day supplement, Dawn, December 25, 2022.

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