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How to view Jinnah

Published Sep 11, 2012 12:20am


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IT is a measure of Jinnah’s stature that he remains the frame of reference for us all, no matter on which side of the divide a Pakistani is.

More or less dormant during the first two decades of Pakistan’s existence, the debate about what kind of polity Jinnah wanted for the country he founded began in earnest when the Ayub regime ended, and Yahya Khan’s Legal Framework Ordinance laid down the ground rules for Pakistan’s first general election on the basis of adult franchise.

The issue that heightened the polarisation and refocused attention on Jinnah was Z.A. Bhutto’s election shibboleth — ‘Islamic socialism’. The debate widened and got lost in the wider debate on socialism itself. But the anti-Bhutto alliance — that had the support of the capitalist class — as well as the Bhutto camp marshalled arguments from Jinnah’s speeches to prove that the Quaid-i-Azam was on their side. Neither was wrong, nor was either wholly correct.

Jinnah can be quoted profusely — and perhaps out of context — to prove that he was on a certain side to the exclusion of the other. His repeated reference to Islam and to the Muslim way of life, his mention of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as a law-giver and his pride in the Islamic system of justice, fair play and equality constituted evidence, if evidence was at all needed, said the rightist camp, that the founder was on their side — as if on the side of fundamentalism.

The other side quoted what indeed was at least one definite reference Jinnah made to Islamic socialism (at a public meeting in Chittagong in 1948) — a reference that was also made by Liaquat Ali Khan. The traces of socialist thought could also be found in Iqbal’s sayings. In the eyes of the so-called leftist camps, these views constituted an effective reply to the religious right’s claims that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be an unadulterated theocracy.

Let’s now leave the 1970 controversy and all that followed the general election, Bhutto’s ouster and the third military dictatorship that was to hound Pakistan for 11 years. From the standpoint of intellectual debate, Ziaul Haq’s era should be ignored, for whatever he uttered and whatever the flunkies and toadies around him repeated ad nauseam were outside the realm of the intellect — it was mostly unabashed brainwashing of the nation by the brute force of the state. As the 1988 election proved, the attempt at brainwashing failed.

The decade between 1988 and 1999 was devoid of this debate, because what the nation witnessed in this period was a naked pursuit of power, in which nothing was out of bounds — including the funding of political alliances by the intelligence agencies, the attack on the Supreme Court building and the dismissal of prime ministers five times, even though they enjoyed the confidence of the National Assembly.

The debate revived in earnest during the Musharraf era — kicked off as much by his post-9/11 policies as by a photo in which the general was seen holding a dog. The great debate now was not between pluralism and fundamentalism, but some would say between secularism and Islam itself.

The debate continues. What does the Quaid stand for? Did he categorically stand for one particular school of thought, or did his speeches and sayings contain that uncanny wisdom which restrained him from saying things that would forever confine him to one prison of thought and let his legacy fall victim to political expediency that could be used in defence of vested interests and distort and disfigure his image of Pakistan?

The truth is, like the founders of all movements, philosophies and even religions, Jinnah too can be interpreted differently, it being left ultimately to the people to decide how they would like to interpret it — not through violence or force of the state or the pulpit but through a national consensus achieved through democratic means.

Pakistanis can learn a lot from Turkey. Nothing has invited the backlash against Mustafa Kemal’s secular creed more than its enforcement by ruthless generals, who violated the constitution, dismissed half a dozen elected prime ministers by undemocratic means and hanged at least one. The change that now one sees in Turkey came about through a democratic process, with the Justice and Development Party winning three general elections in a row. Given the level of emotions on both sides and the charges of high treason bandied about frequently, it is a tribute to the Turks’ political maturity that they have managed to avoid a slaughter and effected the change by peaceful means.

Pakistanis have no choice but to follow Turkey’s example, and take note also of the gradual transformation occurring in the Arab world through democratic means. Jinnah can be interpreted variously, and so it should be left to the people of Pakistan to decide how they fashion their country. In his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Iqbal dwells at length on the question of Muslim statecraft in modern times and the place which ijma has in the process of lawmaking and governance. According to him, it is parliament whose deliberations and laws should be considered ijma in a modern state. Well, then, this is the solution. Let heads not roll, nor let secular demagogues and firebrand clerics — nor the force of arms — decide how Jinnah should be interpreted. Let this interpretation be left to the Pakistani people who should, through a regular exercise of their right to vote, determine how they perceive their founder wished to see Pakistan.

Jinnah’s greatness has been encapsulated by American scholar Stanley Wolpert in the following words: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”

Today is the Quaid’s 64th death anniversary.


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

Comments (52) Closed

Tanvir Sep 11, 2012 03:56pm
I dont say you wrong and make sure I am not against Taseer, but there is no comparison of Quaid-Azam with Taseer. even today Pakistan is the corner stone of the entire Muslim world. World is concerned about Pakistan not about Turkey, or any other Arab or Muslim country. We are only mislead by corrupt politicians, who are the creation of selfish army dictators, who crushed the educated Pakistanis to support their regimes. If Army do not interfere one day we shall get rid of this dumb and corrupt people. And if Pakistan is disintegrated there will be four more Muslim States with intelligent and brave people. Mr. Jinnah's theory of Two nations -- is proven true every day by the world's events. Finally, I request you to respect Mr. Jinnah even if you dont agree with him. He was the founder of the world's only Nuclear Muslim State. May Allah (sot) bring His forgiveness on Mohammad Ali Jinnah sahib and give me Jannat.
Dr Emile Unjom Sep 12, 2012 03:12am
Thanks for speaking the truth. Quaid used Islam to win Pakistan's independence,but soon realised that Pakistan could not run as a Islamic state being a country of different religions,nationalities,sects,cultures,provinces and political interests. Quaid's 11th of August,1947 speech throws much light on that.Our polarization today is a great impediment to any consensus that can ever emerge in the presence of vast proportion of illiteracy and vested interests of all kinds.In the midst of all this there is no moral leadership in sight that we can turn to and hope to have better days ahead. May God bless Pakistan, the land we want to see as a bastion of peace,progress and prosperity for both the majority and minority communities alike.
A.J.Siddiqui Sep 11, 2012 10:42pm
Thank you Mr. S.Subrahmanyam for your kaleidoscopic description of an era that ends with the British Raj in the subcontinent. However, it raised few queries which needed my response. "Jinnah never wrote a book", you are absolutely right. Gandhi, Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Azad etc. all left their view points on paper while they were in jail. And again you are correct that Jinnah never broke the law in his life time. I hope it answers your remark of being an "intellectual". Secondly, you tried to label him(Jinnah) as "secularist". Secularism is so amorphous terminology that one can conveniently mould to his desire. I would like to quote Allama Shabbir Ahmad Usmani of Deoband, what he said about our beloved Quaid-i-Azam. He said : "Muslim India never witness such a great leader and a soldier of Islam since the Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir" (May Allah be pleased with them both)
Phrontiste Sep 11, 2012 11:47am
Go read about Mustafa Kemal first and how he was brought into power ; Pakistan is far better then Turkey - and I am not in a state of denial. I hope turkey and turks get to understand their real identity instead of banning scarfs to please their European counterparts.
sajid Sep 11, 2012 11:16am
s.subrahmanyam Sep 11, 2012 03:22am
I am now 74 and I do remember the era in which Jinnah lived and created the new nation of Pakistan. 1. Jinnah had a razor sharp mind and as a barrister, the law was sacrosanct. He never broke the law and had contempt for other national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru who made non-cooperation and confrontation politics their means to achieve Independence. 2. He was very highly intelligent man, but was not an intellectual; he never wrote any book or read widely as some of the others in India did like Nehru and Gandhi. At the same time, he was probably the most competent constitutional lawyer in the British Empire, and that includes the British barristers. 3. Jinnah took great pride in Islamic culture and his Muslim heritage, but was a non observant Muslim. He did not fast during Ramzan, did not say his daily prayers or follow any of the dietary rules. He did not know either Urdu or Arabic and had very limited knowledge of Koran. 4. He was an out and out secularist and had no antagonism towards other faiths. His fear was that in an undivided India the predominant culture will have a Hindu slant and Muslims could be given a raw deal. The solution for him was either proportional representation in all legislatures, both provincial as well as Federal, or partition of the country. Since none of the Congress leaders agreed to proportional representation, partition to him was inevitable. His great achievement was the founding of Pakistan. His one big failure was to define what kind of a nation it should be and never applied his keen legal intellect to a workable constitution at the time of Pakistan's birth. The trauma of 1971, the collapse of most institutions and the rise of fundamentalism all can trace their origin from that one major failure.
NASAH (USA) Sep 11, 2012 03:22am
If I may be permitted to differ -- Jinnah sowed religion before partition and expected to reap secularism after -- knowing well he would not live long to nurture it - hence the mess.
S. Israr Ali Sep 11, 2012 03:48am
With all due reverence to creating a nation-state, we saw Quaid-e-Azam Pakistan shrinked in 1971 with carving out from it the state of Bangla Desh because of our own wrongdoings relegating Pakistan from its position of largest Muslim country of the world. Further the case for any Socialism in Pakistan was not made out. During 1971, there was no heavy industry worth the name in Pakistan in private sector which could have necessitated socialism or nationalisation . If at all they were like Railways and Shipyard, they were already in public sector. Similarly the largest Bank like NBP, cement units like Zeal Pak, Insurance like Pakistan Insurance Corporation / Postal Life Insurance were already in public sector, There were several public sector PIDC units in textiles, sugar and cement sector etc, Moreover if socialism was at all felt necessary it should have been enforced even handedly and honestly which unfortunately was not the case. The case in point is of big land holdings were not nationalised along with industry etc,m and spared which even today exists in all its forms of fuedalism with even greater strength and are responsible for ills in the country.
Dr.S.F.Haq Sep 11, 2012 03:46am
Debates,interpretations,discussions etc will not solve the Problem of the country . Both rightist and leftists ,religious and secular politicians of Pakistan are not serious about the country they only want to confuse the nation .Turkey and Egypt are the best model for Pakistan .
A.Dyanaranjan Sep 11, 2012 01:19pm
well thoughtout statement.
Kamal Hussain Sep 11, 2012 04:21am
For all the talk of greatness of Jinnah, Jinnah had absolutely no clue about multiculturalism. Jinnah sought to impose Urdu on Bengali-speaking people in then East Pakistan. The rulers of Pakistan, based in then West Pakistan, who looked towards the Middle East for cultural, religious and social inspiration, perceived Bengali to be a Hindu language and, therefore, unacceptable to a Muslim nation. Moreover, Jinnah and his cohorts had a condescending view towards Bengali people. As a compromise, a proposal was floated to write Bengali in Arabic script similar to Urdu, which was turned down by the leaders of the Bengali Language Movement. Urdu, written in Persian script, is fundamentally Hindi with words borrowed heavily from Persian and Arabic. The language issue ultimately led to the secession of the eastern wing. It is widely acknowledged that Bengali is a rich language, far richer than Urdu. The problem with past and present rulers in Pakistan is their inability to treat people with dignity irrespective of ethnicity, religious beliefs, and gender; this shortcoming explains the current sectarian, religious, and ethnic strife that besets Pakistan today.
Neil Sep 11, 2012 01:15pm
"His fear was that in an undivided India the predominant culture will have a Hindu slant and Muslims could be given a raw deal".......the question in todays' context is....was this fear correct or incorrect???
hari Sep 11, 2012 05:51am
NASAH (USA) Sep 11, 2012 01:58pm
I wish Jinnah's partner in negotiations was not Gandhi -- but Nehru. Gandhi was too traditional for non traditional Jinnah. Things may have turned out somewhat different.
ali Sep 11, 2012 12:22pm
What about Kurds who are about 20% of population??????????
Mohammad Ali Khan Sep 12, 2012 03:22am
Jinnah was a great leader and got us freedom.He failed to transform the society so that a true democratic state could exist. May be Jinnah and his contemporaries should have worked on educating Muslims to embrace education,discipline and other qualities of a responsible free society.They should have understood and carried the mission of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan before seeking freedom from Gora Sahib, and handing the Nation over to the corrupt feudal lords and bureaucrats.
PN Sep 11, 2012 09:53pm
Sahid, You may or may not be aware, MAJ was the head of the State, The GOP, head of the ruling party, as well as, the Constitutional Assembly.
Cyrus Howell Sep 12, 2012 08:37am
sharif Sep 11, 2012 05:51pm
Kamal is right
manish Sep 12, 2012 03:16am
had gandhi and nehru never broke law, india would still be called british india.
Muhammad Ali Dairywala Sep 11, 2012 08:23pm
I agree with both S.Subrahmanyam and Shahid Latif. If you read Jaswant Singh's book, the former Foreign Minister of India, you will realize that all Jinnah wanted was more space for the Muslims in India, and he was an out and out secularist and had no antagonism towards other faiths. Had the Congress leaders agreed to his proposals, there would have been no need to divide India. Despite being great leaders for achieving freedom for their respective countries, both Gandhi and Jinnah failed in their own ways while struggling for independence from the British. Gandhi failed to get a united India, and Jinnah failed to get the Pakistani nation defined in his lifetime. Gandhi was failed by his own Congress colleagues for not agreeing to Jinnah's proposals, and Jinnah was failed by his own Muslim League by getting the Objectives Resolution passed soon after he passed away.
Mandar J Sep 11, 2012 08:24pm
Jinnah was good man... in fact until 1920 he was completely against different states on religious basis... he fought hard for unity... (read Aga khan for same)... but he created mess in the end...
Hassan Sep 11, 2012 11:39pm
I agree with you.
Akhter Husain Sep 11, 2012 07:30pm
We all see Jinnah from the eyeglasses we wear.The debate will therefore go on as long as Pakistan exists..One thing,can however, be said without fear of contradiction that he never wanted Pakistan to be a theocratic state,that is,to be ruled by people claiming divine right to rule.and enslave people in the name of God.
Cyrus Howell Sep 12, 2012 08:42am
Jinnah was a good man, but good men and good intentions can fail. Well, the British did not do much better creating Iraq and Yugoslavia.
Ahmer Sep 11, 2012 05:49pm
Exactly! This one line perfectly encapsulates the root cause!
kamaljit Singh Sep 11, 2012 05:48pm
Few words but whole picture ,Nasah .
Cyrus Howell Sep 12, 2012 08:44am
"The best laid plans of mice and men..."
ahmed41 Sep 12, 2012 05:06am
Shahid Latif and Subramanyam are both RIGHT in their views. What beats me is that 65 years of time has passed by~~~~~~~Indians have *almost * forgotten what the Mahatma stood for. Things have changed. Satyagraha and non-violence has been discarded for nuclear arms. Nehru & Gandhi are hardly mentioned in today's political atmosphere. When will Pakistani folk realize that they have to do some brand new thinking~~~ because Mr. Jinnah's grand old days are gone.
Dr Emile Unjom Sep 12, 2012 04:01am
Jinnah was a great constitutionalist.But his 11th of Aug speech which he delivered in the constituent assembly of Pakistan spelled his vision of a different Pakistan,in which there was a concept of harmony based on acceptance of different religions,cultures and nationalities within the framework of one Pakistan belonging equaly to the majority and minority communities. Jinnah in his speech delivered golden nuggets of wisdom and guiding principals that would guide the coming leadership to embrace the future.The leadership after him embraced their own interests and worked for their own hidden agenda's. Hence we are,where we are today.
PN Sep 11, 2012 09:21pm
Mr. Hussain, Very truely said. Jinnah laid the foundation, knowingly or unknowingly, for today's affairs. He, from the very beginning, as you mentioned, did not treat all citizens of Pakistan equally in act, as against his rhetoric, eg. the language issue, constitutional requirement that highest posts for muslims only,etc.
mahavir Sep 12, 2012 02:52am
I see lot of MUSLIMS in support of Jinnah but yet to see a secular in support of Jinnah. Jinnah was a brilliant person in all respect but people fail to see the shrewd POLITICIAN in him. Jinnah or Mohammedali punjabhai jeenabhai Thakkar, inspite of not being a devout muslim, son of a hindu parents, husband of a Parsi girl, smoker, freely using alcohol, eating pork, managed to arouse millions of muslims for a separate nation based on relegion. He defeated his political rivals Nehru and sardar Patel managed to carve out a nation by dividing United India diaplacing millions of people in India/Pakistan. Lakhs of people perished but Jinnah the brilliant strategist won. What Jinnah could not do was convince the same people he instigated for a separate nation based on relegion to be secular and create a secular and just nation. Jinnah succeded in creating pakistan but could not create Pakistanis as the creation of his bation was Islam. he created Islamist but could not create Pakistanis.
Leo Sep 11, 2012 04:21pm
Bang on! Well said. Its fuuny he talked of seularism "after" partitioning our nation on religious lines!
Masood Hussain Sep 11, 2012 04:20pm
I don't know if knowing Jinnah, praising or criticising him is going to solve the various problems we are facing today.Constiution is already there,we should follow it.What is required of us is absolute honesty, hard work,sympathy for people of Pakistan Who have suffered greatly all through since its creation.Let us apply our mind and intellect to idetify the problems and solutions to them.
Nkkashmiri Sep 11, 2012 04:16pm
You cannot sow the seeds of seperatism and expect a different result. Nehru could read future better than Jinnah, seeing that ultimately the world is going to be global village and move towards secularism and equality of man irrespective of caste, color or religion. Unlike what most Pakistanis are led to believe , secularism does not mean "ladeenyat" or " without faith". Itjust means that govt will not take sides are all people are equal. I am a practising muslim who follows his faith fully but I am all for a nation being without religion: people have religion, nation does not. I am all for a thorough discussion on this in my beloved country.
Sunil Sep 11, 2012 03:10pm
While that is a valid point, I wonder what else he could have done to take care of the interests of Muslim elites who had a genuine fear of being overshadowed by Hindu elites who were numerically stronger. Jinnah being a member of Muslim elite did what was natural to him at that time. What if Jinnah had taken note of the momentous changes in the socialist world at the time and kept the interests of the working class Musims in mind? Possibly his decision would have been different and history would have been different.
Malik Shahan Aslam Sep 11, 2012 03:07pm
Mr s.subrahmanyam , i really appreciate your thoughts and your experience. All four point you discussed are valid from one perspective but on the other not like points 3 and 4. coming to the point you talked about the failure of Jinnah's in defining the kind of Nation . i want to tell u infact inform you According to American Scholar "Stanley Wolpert" in his book "Jinnah of Pakistan" Jinnah beside his Secular notions he didn't talk about a Secular state rather he urged to create a state which would follow the Law as Quran and Order as Sunnah . According to well known Journalist and Member of Indian Parliament Kuldip Nayar in his contribution name "Wall at Wagah" he also mentioned about Jinnah well being of establishing a state on Islamic grounds beside his Secular notions .So , Jinnah's Secularism cannot be implemented on the ideology of Pakistan, it is more a myth then reality . It is very unfair to link 1971 catastrophic stance with Jinnah's Secularism as both are so different in their nature like earth and sky . Thanks .
Tiger Baum Sep 11, 2012 09:28pm
and some said that Jinnah was a visionary ! really ?
Addy Sep 11, 2012 02:49pm
They have significant Kurd and Armenian minorities as well, and the majority has not exactly been stellar in their dealings with them.
Malik Shahan Aslam Sep 11, 2012 02:47pm
mr please correct your self Now a days Pakistan is a nation experiencing various states not on basis of ideology or religion but on linguistics and caste basis.
vijay dixit Sep 11, 2012 02:28pm
Jinnaha sought a separate homeland for the Muslims knowing the inability of Muslims to compete with the Hindus for jobs due to their educational backwardness & lack of interest in studies.He fought for Muslims without knowing anything about Muslims or Islam.Hence the mess that you see today due to his conflicting views throughout his life.Therefore both the so called secularist & the fanatics can claim him as their leader.
Shahid Latif Sep 11, 2012 01:00pm
What a concise summary has been written by S. subrahmanyam about Jinnah. Although I do not agree about "Jinnah's failure to define Pakistan". He was requested to give a constitution but being a great democrat, he said that it was the job of the Constitution Assembly which had started the work. Had he done what S. subrahmanyam identifies, Jinnah would have been termed a dictator.
s.subrahmanyam Sep 12, 2012 02:37am
Shahid, Thanks for the compliment. What I meant was that Jinnah was such a towering personality and a legal luminary that he could have steered the panel that was drafting the constitution, something like what Ambedkar did for India. Jinnah would have drafted a secular constitution with enough safeguards for the rights of the minorities and left no loopholes for the rise of fundamentalism. However, I agree that he was terminally ill and probably did not have the energy or the will to take on such a task and conclude it within the time that he had before he passed away.
Akhter Husain Sep 11, 2012 07:15pm
very correct
Razi A. Shah Sep 11, 2012 10:37pm
I have read these kind of statements before about Jinnah. He was attacked during his life, as a leader of Indian Muslims for not being a Good Muslim and so on. And his famous response, to all these questions was always something like this " I am a Barrister, and I am advocating your case to the British and Hindus, for an Independent and Separate country "Pakistan". I am not your religious leader.". There were many who always questioned when he was head of Muslims league that he does not know how to pray "Nemaz". And it is well written that he generally had a "Ham Sandwich and Martini", for lunch.
PN Sep 11, 2012 09:48pm
It is almost impossible to convince the people to abide by secularism after justifying a seperate state based singularly on religion, its called intellectual dishonesty. After telliing the world that Muslims cannot live with the Hindu community, it was quite obvious that both the communities would be suspicious of each other. If MAJ was truly a law-abiding citizen, how can one justify his action about his call for Direct Action! If MAJ was truly a secular leader, why he said at Gandhi's death that he (Gandhi) was a "great Hindu leader", while the whole world eulogised Gandhi as one of the greatest men! Besides, every one knew how derogatory way the word 'Hindu' used by the then Muslim League. Even today, Hindu word is widely used in derogatory context in Pakistan, atleast in this matter the media & majority is following Jinnah's dictates.!
Madhugiri Ramesh Sep 11, 2012 10:42pm
Jinnah was a better man than Gandhi or Nehru. He got a muslim nation for muslims. Secularist Gandhi and Nehru created a religious mess in India. Jinnah opted for a muslim nation. Gandhi and Nehru should have followed suit and created a hindu nation.
mazen Sep 11, 2012 06:11am
History has been and will be interpreted according to the will of powerful because they are the ones who craft history for their own vested interest. Moreover, In Pakistan's case, Quaid-e-azam was very overt and unambiguous of what his vision of Pakistan was. This article, I think, is another attempt to reinterpret Quaid's vision of Pakistan. I'm not leftist nor a rightist, but to elicit something tortuous from Quaid's 11 August speech is akin to mold or harshly its like invading Quiad's overall vision. This debate will go on without any constructive conclusion and this conundrum has been haunting Pakistan since its inception, and consequently we are under-achievers in any cadre of life.
Man Sep 11, 2012 09:22am
Turkey is a nation-state whereas Pakistan is a state consisting of various nations.
K.Mian Sep 11, 2012 09:42am
Jinnah was a straight honest man, who thought that he is doing good for the Muslims of sub continent. Unfortunately like all good men, he did not understand the crooked mind set of majority of people he was liberating in present land of pure he would have been declared a heathen would have met a fate worse than Salman Taseer
NASAH (USA) Sep 11, 2012 01:54pm
I think the best model for Pakistan is still India.
Taaruf Sep 11, 2012 08:01am
True indeed! Jinnah was a subtle, visionary, dauntless leader and man of vigilant eye, by his political vision and farsigjtedness, saw that orthodox muslims aspired to create a theocrate state in Pakistan. He, therfore, gave liberalism democracy where everyone has rights guaranteed. Alas! That vision of Jinnah has totaly metamorphosized and theocracy has erupted lika a monster in constitutional charts.