A friend of mine, a Shia Muslim, often tells me an intriguing but a very telling little tale.
He is from Jhang in the Punjab province where he, as a school kid, was always a passionate participant of Shia processions.
During one Moharram day (in the late 1980s), a Shia procession he was a part of was attacked by a couple of armed young men belonging to a radical Sunni Muslim outfit.
Nothing surprising, especially in a Pakistan that began to take shape from the early 1980s onwards; and/or when the state under General Ziaul Haq actually encouraged the proliferation of violent Islamist and sectarian organisations as a way to bolster its efforts to whip up a jihadist frenzy against the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan.
But my friend and some of his contemporaries were left surprised by the attack. Not because it was carried out by a sectarian outfit but because of the fact that one of the attackers was a young teenaged lad who was actually a contemporary of my friend at school.
The teen was arrested and thrown in one of the city’s lock-ups. When my friend told an empathetic teacher at the school, the teacher too was shocked and decided to visit the young militant.
Reaching the police station the concerned teacher let lose a volley of questions at the boy (in Punjabi): ‘Sohail, what have you done? Why did you attack your friends?’
The young militant was unmoved: ‘What kind of question is that? We all know they (the Shias) are kafir (infidels)!’
Taken aback by the sudden transformation of the young boy, the teacher remarked that the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, too wasn’t a Sunni.
‘What are you saying, sir?’ The young boy shot back. ‘Jinnah wasn’t the founder of Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam was. And Quaid-e-Azam was Sunni.’
This is a fascinating little tale that is otherwise big on explaining the social and political outcome of the Pakistani state’s long-winded project to construct and impose a rather xenophobic model of faith that could be moulded and easily used to legitimise the hegemony of the religious, political, economic and military elites that make-up the country’s figurative establishment.
The fact that the Pakistani state used Orwellian tactics to twist and turn historical facts 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. A highly suspicious, xenophobic and aggressive narrative about Pakistan’s ideology, history and society was streamlined that eventually mutated into a warped worldview now found across the society.
One can rightly blame men like Z. A. Bhutto and more specifically, General Zia, for such a state of affairs. But those who came before these two weren’t all that truthful either. This tradition’s earliest roots actually lie in one of the first insistences of Orwellian manipulation of faith and nationalism way back in 1948.
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 faiths and that the Pakistani state had nothing to do with religion.
This speech did not go down well with that section of the Muslim League elite that had tasted the power of using religion as a political tool during the Pakistan Movement.
Soon after Jinnah’s speech, an attempt was made by a number of Muslim League leaders to censor the draft of the speech that was to be published in the newspapers.
It was only when the then editor of Dawn, Altaf Hussain, threatened to take the issue directly to Jinnah that the League leaders relented.
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.
Re-imagining Jinnah and propagating him as seen from the eyes of the above-mentioned religious and political elite has been a vital tool for the establishment.
Sometimes this dastardly project has been stretched to absurd lengths just so Jinnah’s credentials of being a secular Muslim nationalist can be undermined.
For example, in July 1977 when Zia toppled the Bhutto regime, he almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a ‘democratic Muslim majority state’ into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.
Zia and his ideological partners, mainly the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), hit a brick wall when they couldn’t endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the speeches of Jinnah.
They came up with nothing, until one fine day in early 1983 when after still failing to get a worthwhile endorsement from Jinnah for Zia’s ‘Islamic’ narrative, his Ministry of Information enthusiastically announced the sudden ‘discovery’ of Jinnah’s personal diary.
Excited, Zia held a press conference in which he claimed that in the newly discovered ‘personal diary of the founder’, Jinnah had spoken about having a ‘powerful Head of State (read: dictator),’ and ‘the dangers of parliamentary democracy.’ Then he conveniently concluding Jinnah’s views being very close to having an ‘Islamic system of government’.
The Urdu press gave lavish coverage to the event, as the state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan broadcasted discussions with ‘scholars’ on this breathtaking discovery.
But, alas, the euphoria around this farce was thankfully short-lived. Two of Jinnah’s close associates, Mumtaz Daultana and K. H. Khurshid, rubbished Zia’s claims saying there was never such a diary.After this, a group of senior intellectuals from the Quaid-e-Azam Academy also denied that such a diary ever existed in the Academy’s archives (from where Zia had claimed the diary had emerged).
Strangely once his claims were trashed, not only did Zia never mention anything about the supposed diary ever again, a number of Urdu newspapers that had splashed the drastic discovery went completely quiet as well.
But for the future generations that have produced confused kids like Sohail, Zia’s claims became a documented utterance, whereas Daultana and Khurshid’s refutations slid down becoming nothing more than mere footnotes.
No wonder the young lad in Jhang thought Jinnah and Quaid-e-Azam were actually two separate men.