Mr Jinnah in his younger days.
Mr Jinnah in his younger days.

MOHAMMAD Ali Jinnah was no mere politician; he was one of the fi nest statesmen to have ever lived. He displayed no qualities or traits that could be used, amended or altered as a tool to meet the demands of political expediency. He was, in other words, a man of integrity. Integrity, as a virtue, is a most valuable and respected quality. It leaves behind a legacy that remains forever rich, unaltered by the depreciation of time. In exceptional leaders, honesty and integrity are like Siamese twins; they make their bearer non-reproachable. Both are intangible assets, non-measurable and non-malleable.

Translating these traits into action is what has made leaders stand out in history, and doing so requires exceptional bravery and courage. Possessed of these traits, Jinnah was a relentlessly fearless leader. The details of his offi cial and personal actions and interactions have been open to microscopic examination and evaluation, yet few, if any, have found any reasonable cause to question his integrity. He had no skeletons in his closet, only a clean mind and a clear conscience. He was resolute; a man of steely resolve.

Jinnah is sometimes portrayed as a cold-blooded lawyer devoid of human emotion. This image is repudiated by Hector Bolitho, who writes: “Once when a client was referred to him, the solicitor mentioned that the man had limited money with which to fi ght the case. Nevertheless, Jinnah took it up. He lost, but he still had faith in the case, and he said it should be taken to the Appeal Court. The solicitor mentioned again that his client had no money. Jinnah pressed him to defray certain of the appeal expenses out of his own pocket and promised to fi ght the case without any fee for himself. This time, he won, but when the solicitor offered him a fee, Jinnah refused, arguing that he had accepted the case on the condition that there was no fee”. At another time, a Hindu merchant whose case Jinnah won sent him an ‘additional fee’ as a gesture of appreciation. Jinnah immediately returned it with a note: “You have already paid me. This was the fee ... here is the balance”.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was also no communalist, as has been portrayed by many Indian and British historians and writers. Nay, he was a visionary; he could foresee how the minorities would be treated once Gandhi and Nehru were out of the frame. Today, Modi’s India, where intolerance grows each day, is a vindication of the political sagacity of our Quaid.

“This 235-million-odd nation must remind itself of the high value placed by their Quaid-i-Azam on personal integrity in the context of patriotism and service to the country”

Unlike the Congress leadership, Jinnah had few supporters or allies among the British. He alone fought a battle on two fronts, seeking independence from the Imperial Raj as well as from the Hindu-majority Congress party that believed and subscribed to a united India. Lord Irwin’s remarks about Jinnah refl ect positively on his negotiating ability while retaining his arguments as valid and non-compromising to the demand for a Muslim homeland. Irwin said, “I have seen a good deal of Jinnah from time to time, and I’ve seen very few Indians with a more acute intellect, or a more independent outlook — not, of course, that he always sees eye to eye with the government.

But he is not lacking in moral courage, has been very outspoken against civil disobedience and is genuinely anxious to fi nd a way to settlement.” Speaking as early as 1928 to the All-Parties Conference, Mohammad Ali Jinnah said, “Every country struggling for freedom which desires to establish a democratic system of government has had to face the problem of minorities … minorities cannot give anything to the majority, and the majority alone can give.” Once Pakistan was formed, true to these words, at the Constituent Assembly in independent Pakistan where Muslims were now in the majority, he held out a promise to the minorities.

He said, “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of this state. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.” The integrity of the word given in 1928 was delivered in 1948, exactly 20 years later.

No backtracking — which is a sign of unyielding commitment to one’s principles.

It is narrated that the governor-general of the newly independent Pakistan was, one evening, seated in his car, enjoying a ride towards Malir City. Upon arriving at a railway crossing, the driver found the gates shut due to the expected movement of trains. Jinnah’s private secretary, who was perched on the front seat of the car, jumped out and rushed towards the gatekeeper and asked him to open up the gates for the Quaid to pass. The gatekeeper was reluctant and reticent, given the fact of an approaching locomotive.

Jinnah sensed what may have happened and asked his secretary what he had said to the gatekeeper. Perplexed, the secretary said, “I told him that you’re in the car and must be allowed to pass”. Jinnah stared him in the eye, admonished him, and said if the governor general would not respect the law, who would? Indeed, the Quaid genuinely believed that integrity is not something you show to others: it is how you behave behind the back of your people. That’s true integrity — doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Any country or state possessed of a leader with such pristine qualities would have no need for a National Accountability Bureau or independent commissions against crime.

This 235-million-odd nation must remind itself of the high value placed by their Quaid-i-Azam on personal integrity in the context of patriotism and service to the country. Integrity, regardless of the situation, must remain a non-negotiable for every Pakistani.

The writer is a senior banker and columnist.

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