THIS is with reference to the article “The intellectual ‘boxing match’” (Nov 26), which I found to be nothing but a seriously pathetic attempt to discredit the Founding Father, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Lest it be misunderstood, there is absolutely nothing wrong with criticising and re-examining the life of the Quaid. All that one wants is that is done on the basis of facts, not whim and fancy.

Pakistan does not criminalise speech and slanderous insults against the Quaid, and Jinnah himself would have never endorsed such a move. Anyone familiar with his record as a lawyer and legislator would testify to that.

The Quaid, in fact, was foremost a champion of freedom of the press, speech and academia, and it is on that count that such scurrilous insults should be tolerated, though the record must be set straight. It is a great tragedy that the people of Pakistan have been kept so ignorant of Jinnah’s works that even a public intellectual of the calibre of the writer of the article in question seems to be woefully unaware of it.

Collected works of Jinnah, as edited and published by researchers, span several volumes, and these contain his speeches and legislative contributions that touch every facet of life in pre-partition India. He championed the cause of women, universal education, rights of minorities, and fought against child marriage, being instrumental in the passing of the Child Marriages Restraint Act of 1929.

Jinnah was also the leading advocate of the idea of an indigenous Supreme Court as well as an indigenous military academy.

In many ways Jinnah’s contributions to modern India, let alone Pakistan, dwarf the sum total of the contributions of both Mohandas Gandhi and Jawa- harlal Nehru. Jinnah can rightly be called the father of the Indian Supreme Court and the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun.

This is in addition to his work as a lawyer where he made monumental contributions to Indian jurisprudence and law, often fighting for freedom of the press and against the sedition laws of the country. Fair and impartial Indians recognise these contributions despite the official attempts by the Indian state to erase his visionary input.

In addition to being a lawyer, Jinnah sat on the boards of nationalist newspapers, like the Bombay Chronicle, and was the founder and patron of several newspapers, including Dawn. As a public figure, India’s leading lawyer and the most active legislator in the Indian legislative mechanism, which earned him the moniker of ‘India’s Prince of Denmark’, we can forgive Jinnah for not writing a book or a research paper himself.

He just did not have the luxury of time that his famous opponents, Gandhi and Nehru, had. Unlike Jinnah, Gandhi and Nehru were not practising lawyers trained as they might have been in law. Jinnah’s speeches to the Indian legislature are a treat to read, given that they draw so heavily on the Magna Carta, British parliamentary history and philosophers like Burke and Morley.

Edwin Samuel Montagu, the secretary of state for India at the end of the World War I, paid Jinnah his compliment thus: “… perfect mannered, impressive-looking, armed to the teeth with dialectics ... Jinnah is a very clever man, and it is, of course, an outrage that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country.” You cannot be armed to the teeth with dialectics unless you are an intellectual of the highest order. Jinnah was an intellectual giant and supremely a man of action.

Instead of attempting to cut down this banyan tree of Pakistani identity, Pakistanis would do well to emulate him, and try to make Pakistan an inclusive, democratic polity that Jinnah stood for all his life. I do hope that pseudo-intellectuals among us would one day give up their meaningless quest to discredit Jinnah for petty gains.

Yasser Latif Hamdani
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2023

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