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Smokers’ Corner: Censoring Jinnah

Published Apr 24, 2011 04:42am


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How the Pakistani state used Orwellian tactics to twist and turn historical events to construct a mythical socio-political narrative is now in the open. Using the media and school textbooks, the state went on a rampage, especially after the loss of the former East Pakistan in 1971. Highly paranoid, xenophobic and aggressive narratives about Pakistan’s ideology, history and society were streamlined that eventually mutated into a warped worldview.

Because of this myopic worldview many Pakistanis see themselves at the centre of the known universe, surrounded by enemies and vicious conspiracies. It suggests that these enemies can only be vanquished through wars or blocked out through self-imposed isolation. To justify such war-mongering and isolationism, various mythical and largely distorted theological concepts have been used, as if it is Islam that insists that Pakistanis continue to live in their permanent state of denial and delusion.

One can rightly blame men like Z. A. Bhutto and more specifically, General Zia, for such a state of affairs. Both of these ironically opposite personalities proudly oversaw the methodical construction of a worldview that was more suited to the whims of fringy cranks, but was made a mainstream narrative. It is true that Bhutto and Zia nourished the growth of militaristic and xenophobic fantasies of mythical glories (of both past and present) in our collective psyches, but those who came before these two weren’t all that truthful either.

Religion has always been a handy tool for the ruling elite to continue justifying its undemocratic and exploitative presence. That’s why the said narrative uses gaudy Islamic symbolism and rhetoric to validate what is actually a glorification of institutions associated with the military, the clergy, the bureaucracy and big businesses. This tool was first used to exercise political control, especially over ‘treacherous’ and ‘unpatriotic’ nationalist forces first in Bengal, and later in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Gradually, by the time Zia took over, this became a tool of social control as well. If the ‘One Unit’ and the 1956 Constitution which, without any concrete definition, declared Pakistan an ‘Islamic Republic,’ were political moves to ward off calls for provincial autonomy and democracy, then Zia’s hotchpotch of Islamic laws and the filling of secular social spaces by garish symbols, lingo and related paraphernalia was a social move to remind society of its manufactured theological roots. Zia was only enhancing (with much gusto) an old Pakistani tradition, one of social and political control by using religion.

This tradition’s earliest roots lie in one of the first insistences of Orwellian manipulation of faith and nationalism way back in 1948. The late journalist, Zameer Niazi (in his book Press in Chains), noted that historian Dr Mubarak Ali (in In Search of Pakistan Identity) and Ahmed Ali (in Culture of Pakistan) have discussed this event in detail. Soon after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah gave his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he insisted that in Pakistan minorities were free to follow their religions whichever way they wanted and that the Pakistani state had nothing to do with religion. This speech did not go down very well with that section of the Muslim League elite which had tasted the power of using religion as a political tool during the Pakistan Movement.

Some of these men would go on to fan the anti-Ahmadiyya riots in Lahore (1953) by using parties like the Jamat-i-Islami and Majlis-i-Ahrar, the two Islamist outfits that had actually opposed the creation of Pakistan. Soon after Jinnah’s speech, an attempt was made by a number of Muslim League leaders (some believe, these also included Liaquat Ali Khan), to censor the draft of the speech that was to be published in the newspapers. It was only when the then editor, Dawn, Altaf Hussain, threatened to take the issue directly to Jinnah that the League leaders relented, and the media was allowed to print the uncensored, now historic speech.

No wonder then, soon after Jinnah’s death in 1948, the League’s top leadership at once departed from the secular contents of Jinnah’s speech and, in fact, flipped it on its head by drafting the 1949 Objectives Resolution that in the future became the basis of Bhutto’s populist Islamic experiments and Zia’s Machiavellian Islamist demagoguery. After that resolution was passed in 1949, some journalists questioned just how the secular contents of Jinnah’s speech could fit in the resolution’s theological proclamations.

Various senior League members responded by suggesting that the speech was an anomaly, delivered at a time when Jinnah was very sick. Were they implying that towards the end Jinnah was losing his mind? The famous Justice Muneer is on record as saying that he overheard some League leaders say that the speech was ‘inspired by the devil.’

In 1970s Z.A. Bhutto claimed that attempts were even made to burn that speech, while in the 1980s Zia used the director of the Quaid-i-Azam Academy to refute the contents of the speech by apologetically suggesting that Jinnah had no idea what an Islamic state meant, and/or if he had known he would not have made those comments.


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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (51) Closed

Azeema Apr 24, 2011 10:10am
So what do you suggest to fix these existential anxieties of Pakistanis? How can we do a reverse brain-wash of the people or should the country cease to exist?
Anurag Apr 24, 2011 10:35am
Why hankering of past? Do you really believe that present is immutable and Pakistan has to live the consequences of decisions made in its early year for eternity! Any nation-state is just an abstract concept that is brought to live by its people and surely if enough of people believe they need to change then they can ofcourse it has to be done painstakenly over decades and not in a instant. It is time for elite/thinking class to move away from past and start imagining the future that they wish to have and build a momentum. As a non-pakistani it is really trying to read this 'marsia' styled column where blame is place on figures of past with no responsibility assumed for changing the future (if not present).
Ahmed Apr 24, 2011 10:39am
You are right! It was an historic trend of spiralling downwards. After the British left, we came to inherit the piece of land. However, our mindset is still tribal, and it will take a few centuries to grow some extra layers in our brains to reach the National level. Things were bound to get worse then. Maybe we can speed up our intellectual growth but only time will tell. Many other nations by that time may have grown into Internationalists. We need to push ourselves to achieve.
R.N.Swamy Apr 24, 2011 10:48am
Pakistan's salvation will come when the excessive obsession with religion disappears and people start worrying more about, education, health and progress. Islam will take care of itself and does not need suicide bombers and street rowdies to survive.
S. Sharma Apr 24, 2011 10:49am
Oft quoted speech by Jinnah has negligible value now -- and even had little value then. Pakistan was created by insistence of Jinnah for "muslm majority" - there never was any doubt in the mind of millions who picked up their bags and moved on .. they know what was coming. So one can lament and deride muslim league .. but the deed was done and there was no coming back. The rationale for division was shallow and vane - it has grown from that original thought to it's logical conclusion -- fanaticism!
EJAZ Apr 24, 2011 10:50am
The movement was only to declare Ahmadys a minority and nothing else. Since they were declaring themselves muslims but were not accepting the end of prophethood on Muhammad (PBUH)it was creating a basic misconception over Islam.
Girish Apr 24, 2011 11:18am
Coming out of eternal state of denial and appreciation of actual facts of the history might help..
Conspiracy Tehreek Apr 24, 2011 11:20am
Our identity crisis continues. Denial, unfortunately is our way of life now.
GKrishnan Apr 24, 2011 11:31am
This write-up does not do justice to the memory of ZA Bhutto, and Mr. NFP as a former PPP adherent, should know better. ZAB did at least try to bring in socialist laissez-faire economics in the 70s, an attempt to see that development should be broad-based and reach the masses. That he did not succeed,whatever the reasons may be, is another matter.
Jai Apr 24, 2011 11:36am
When religion got out of the confines of the home into politics, the subcontinent became a violent place. The issues are the same in india albeit of a less virulent kind. The only difference is that the gun culture in Pakistan exacerbates it. I often wonder if unresolved issues like Kashmir are a mere excuse to foster violence. I don't think the resolution of these issues will yet lead to peace in the region. As a people, we are backward, naive and easily misled. The moral fibre is conspicuously missing.
Jai Apr 24, 2011 11:39am
Is there really an existential crisis emanating from across the border? An honest appraisal of this belief might be of great help.
free thinker Apr 24, 2011 12:05pm
Its awesomely amazing to see free advice (muft musharay) being given by Indians as if they are they are the bastions of self-awareness. How Girish preaches us to "come out of eternal state of denial" highlights the magnificently towering arrogance that reeks in every iota of his pathetic existence.
vijay Apr 24, 2011 12:11pm
In any case Jinnah's speech was not exactly an exemplar of liberalism or secularism. It merely expressed an indifference or at best a toleration of minorities holding a different religious belief from the mainstream. There is a fundamental contradiction in forcing a sesession on the basis that muslims formed a nation and could not live under a hindu hegemony and then pretending minorities are welcome (or to be exact, not hounded) under the new muslim regime. What is good for the goose apparently is not good for the gander. The subsequent development of religious intolerance is truly in keeping with the attitude of exceptionalism that drove the Pakistan Movement.
A/A Apr 24, 2011 12:12pm
History is repeating....Jinnah in new form of Imran Khan and Iqbal in form of Zaid Hamid....Dont Worry at all....Combination will sail through the crisis...
Asad Apr 24, 2011 12:13pm
Hats off to Sir Nadeem for presenting the painful historical truth. Our whole syllabus of primary and secondary schools should be changed in order to bring the nation out of that delusional state.
SKI Apr 24, 2011 12:17pm
Mr. Jinnah himself had stressed the separate identity of the 'Muslim community' and had demanded the creation of Pakistan for the 'community'. After that, just by making a couple of speeches with lofty ideals cannot change the Raison d'être for Pakistan. What the Muslim Leage leaders thought, spoke and did was logical - and probably more honest and keeping with their beliefs. They were the ones who rallied people to the cause of Pakistan across the sub-continent during the Pakistan Movement. Again, after losing East Bengal, it is but natural for leaders of Pakistan to try to define the identity of Pakistan that holds the country together. So, looking west (Arab/Persian roots) is a natural option. One cannot fault them for that. So, what is happening is a natural growth of the seeds sown at the time of the Pakistan Movement. Analysing them in small chunks is unlikely to lead to any solutions. The only solution is to have a federal structure for the whole sub-continent with all states (or regions within them) having complete autonomy for all local affairs - with strong governance at the city/village level. All other solutions (and definition of identities) will be apologies to the reality and will never be able to lead to a lasting peace in the region. With the information age upon us, there is possibility that in a couple of generations, the youth, armed with information and the wisdom of experiences of the earlier generations, will be able to dream and take bold decisions for the collective good.
ArifQ Apr 24, 2011 12:19pm
NFP, I agree with your concerns but unfortunately have to differ with the conclusion. Jinnah wanted a democracy, now if the majority wishes to be a xenophobic fascist state then that is what they should get. Now, if people like yourself and many many more can change this view, well Ahlan wa Sahlan, if not then you have two options: (1) Sit back and respect the majority or (2) Be ready to push the eject button i.e. immigrate. Please do keep writing, if anything it keeps the self righteous on their tenter hooks.
sharma Apr 24, 2011 12:34pm
The role of Britishers in what is wrong with the subcontinent now is very much under quoted. The partition of Bengal in 1905 along religious lines on pretext of better administration was the prelude to the 1947 Partition.the problem is that Pakistan still refuses to see through the game of the British-USA Colonialists. The Muslims that have been butchered by the Anglosaxons will far outnumber those that have died in the communal riots across the subcontinent. Also the way Pakistani Muslims are suffering is due to that legacy. Instead of looking at India with jaundiced eyes Pakistan should solve all issues peacefully and grow along with India rather than making itself a fool in the modern form of Imperialism by the West.Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries and evolved so much together that it is not worth throwing away all that cultural growth. The looser in this equation is both India and Pakistan but Pakistan is a bigger looser as it cannot afford the cost.
NAnda Apr 24, 2011 01:57pm
Superb peice. I follow you on twitter too. Very good sense of humor.
rikky Apr 24, 2011 02:47pm
are you serious
Striver Apr 24, 2011 04:22pm
Jinnah, the film, please watch; By Akbar S Ahmed, Directed by Jamil Dehlavi; Answers many questions. Cast includes famous names from UK (Christopher Lee and Edward Fax), India (Shahi Kapoor) and Pakistan (Shakeel an other well known TV drama actors). Pity it was not shown in cinemas around the world. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
FK Apr 24, 2011 06:37pm
totally agree !!!
Amit Apr 24, 2011 06:58pm
Good one
Saad Salman Zia Apr 24, 2011 07:06pm
I'm afraid he's not kidding!
Imran Hussain Apr 24, 2011 08:04pm
Great Commnet!!! There is a lot of truth to it. I wish, it would never happen.
Striver Apr 24, 2011 08:13pm
A great reply Anurag
Aditi Apr 24, 2011 08:26pm
I have been reading up and watching some discussions on pakistani channels on youtube.I find that the older generation by and large continues with the same old rhetoric. Discussions about what Jinnah's vision was for pakistan, are surely passe now. What young Pakistanis need to do is look around themselves, and find out why things are they way they are, and bring about change in attitudes and thinking. In the current scenario, the existential threat to pakistan is internal.Nobody wants Pakistan to disintegrate or disappear or collapse. For the simple reason, that nobody wants to host potential troublemakers. For this reason alone Pakistan can capitalise on and sail trhough these difficult times. Provided of course bigotry, fake ascension theories, and subscription to radical islam is forsaken, this can be pulled off.
Bashir Apr 24, 2011 08:51pm
Past - Alas, Bapu Gandhi and Jinnah Sahib passed away too soon after the partition. Future - Pakistanis need to unite for the socio-economic progress of their country. For that end they need to put aside PAK (Palestine, America, Kashmir).
Aamir Apr 24, 2011 09:02pm
Jinnah's Pakistan was hijacked by traitors who used different slogans time and again to stretch their tenure. Both civillian and military regimes used both moderation and islamization for their cause. We had eliminated all sincere leadership and just living with some parasites who pose as leaders. We were blessed with great leaders who were killed one by one. Lets hope for a miracle.
Rajesh Apr 24, 2011 09:11pm
A bold piece. There are several reasons why people in the west shy away from inviting Pakistanis to their homes. "Centre of the known universe", is being one of them.
Shahid Apr 24, 2011 10:25pm
Another ill-informed effort to re-write history ...
fN Apr 24, 2011 10:44pm
Well said. BTW NFP, why don't you quote other speeches of Jinnah, the ones after Pakistan's creation, that stressed on following Islamic principles. Branding him secular based on just one speech doesn't seem to be doing justice. And for the record, objectives resolution is fully compatible with the aforementioned Jinnah's speech. Freedom of religion is pretty much guaranteed under islamic law. Otherwise, you wouldn't see so many non-muslims living harmoniously for more than a thousand years throughout the middle east with the muslim majority.
Ram Apr 24, 2011 10:49pm
Read M.J. Akbar's recent book "Tinderbox". Highly recommended.
Imran Siddiqui Apr 24, 2011 11:34pm
Well said Arif, majority rules.
Arif Apr 25, 2011 12:22am
'Inherit the piece of land'???? you must be joking! Go back to your history books and look up details of the struggle. In case you find the history books biased, have a chat with people who went through the transition and the struggle. Unfortunately their numbers are dwindling and with that so is the truth.
A.Bajwa Apr 25, 2011 01:10am
If Pakistanis are allowed freedom for some years they would return to the ways of Jinnah who envisioned a secular and democratic Pakistan.At this stage Pakistan just need a civilian government democratically governed.
John Betonte Apr 25, 2011 02:08am
From half-a-world away, I continue to read Dawn and its intelligent, thoughtful commentators because I hope that Pakistan can become a successful, healthy state. But from what I see, you don't have a hundred or even 50 years to change the minds of the majority of Pakistanis. You are trying to change an essentially poverty-stricken, under-educated majority from its current near feudal state to a true democracy - not just elections, but a true rule of law and respect for all institutions of government. That's going to be hard. Islam is not going to help or hinder, although religion will be used as a tool by those who want to stop this change. Your history and focus on India, your possession of nuclear weapons, and you currently dysfunctional political system are certainly against success. I can only offer my best wishes to those Pakistanis who are working for and enlightened society, John Dundee, Oregon, USA
T Khan Apr 25, 2011 02:23am
"Jinnah gave his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he insisted that in Pakistan minorities were free to follow their religions whichever way they wanted and that the Pakistani state had nothing to do with religion." Why so much emphasis on Jinnah's desire for equal & fair rights for minorities? Why not simply follow the instruction of Prophet Mohammad (SWT)in which he not only granted minorities complete freedom to practice other religion but also guaranteed & enforced it. Case closed!
Munawar Abbas Apr 25, 2011 03:45am
Good thing, Pakistan does not have more people like you. Spend sometime outside (not months but years) Pakistan and you will appreciate Pakistan.
Nadeem Iqbal Apr 25, 2011 04:36am
I am big fan of NFP but I beg to differ with this article. I totally agree with you that Jinnah, as father of the nation, wanted a secular state but this does not take away the right of current public to change the ideology and direction of the country based upon majority view. I personally feel that Pakistan's longterm survival and prosperity lies in a secular vision, however if the majority of the public has moved to the right, there is nothing one can do about it and we have to respect their wishes.
Ronnie Dsouza Apr 25, 2011 04:40am
A very good article by NFP, wish the people who are in constant denial about actual facts go through this article, as they need to come out from their eternal state of denial.
Naeem Apr 25, 2011 06:12am
I lived and worked for Pakistan movements.My understanding was that it will be culturally Muslim state and will avoid the tyrrany of the majority.Read Justice Sachars report and Jaswant Singh's book.That was history.Pakistan needs peridic elections and institution of higher learning.
Roshan Apr 25, 2011 08:16am
Very well written article. But I doubt the common man, who undeniably would benefit the most from the wisdom you put forth, will be able to understand it!
Amit Apr 25, 2011 09:26am
Very apt indeed .. one of the best posts here ... gr8
Narinder Dogra Apr 25, 2011 10:21am
Religion and politics don’t mix. The politics is all dishonesty and lies. Jinnah learned from his colossal mistakes.
Murtaza Apr 25, 2011 02:46pm
Spot on NFP!! Sometimes i am glad that Jinnah did not live to see the desecration of his dream. To the person who said Imran is the new Jinnah and Zaid Hamid the new Iqbal.....if you were joking, seriously funny!! If you were not joking.....seriously sad.
Hassan Gilani Apr 25, 2011 06:51pm
I think the point of the article is that all those "leaders" have manipulated the majority in the name of Islam to take us to this point that majority of the public has moved to the right!!! I also agree with your point, but the article stands true in its own right. There is no way that Pakistan can move forward with this state of affairs and with this public mindset.
Mahavir Apr 25, 2011 07:19pm
Can anyone from Pakistan please explain the contradiction in Jinnah's speech before creation of Pakistan and after creation of the Pakistan? 1) Jinnah fought for Pakistan on the basis of relegion. His arguement was that Muslims cannot coexist with non muslims - the famous two nation theory. He fought for an Islamic state and got it. 2)Once the Pakistan was created Mr. Jinnah started talking about minority rights, respect for other relegions. Who is a real Jinnah in these two starkly different Jinnahs? Is really Jinnah, one that speaks of equal rights for the followers of all relegions or a Jinnah that speaks of two nation theory based on a relegion?
Anup Apr 26, 2011 05:17am
Spirituality as a sole needs good functional politaical system to give body to take good shape. If democracy/or whichever political system is not working in the favor of ordinary people than whats the use of having so called system? I don't think following any particular faith is a matter of debate, matter of debate is whether political/spiritual leadership is sincere enough to work for mass.
EJAZ Apr 26, 2011 04:32pm
Very true argument. I like it. The aim should be upliftment of the poor and needy. The deprived people should get equal rights as lords. We are not talking 'utopia' it can be done atleast upto 60%.
sheed May 05, 2011 10:09pm
third class film