Sunday, 22 March 2015
Which Jinnah - Which vision? Hassan Naqvi
Which Jinnah - Which vision? Hassan Naqvi
Winston Churchill once quipped, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it”.
Sadly, that approach doesn’t work. Nowhere on this planet is this more glaringly evident than it is in Pakistan. This country, built upon the broken dreams and bloodied bones of those that gave their lives for its creation, is, today, the center of militancy and extremism. Today, we are pointed out, by name, as an engine that creates ignorance and strife in the world.
One has to wonder if the man who is, mostly, singularly credited with the creation of Pakistan actually knew what he was doing. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the poster-child for Westernized Muslims – is painted as a paragon of virtue, competence and dedication; why is it, then, that his creation has gone the way of Frankenstein’s Monster?
Or is something missing from this picture?
I am of the opinion that there is. And it is of vital relevance in terms of explaining what has become of this country in the last six decades.
The Narrative – Then
I mentioned a bit about narratives in the introductory part of this article. These narratives are like creation myths. They explain where we come from; what our purpose is; what we dedicate our efforts and skills towards. One only has to have a casual glance at the events between 1910 and 1947 to realize that the narrative that Pakistan has set for itself as State mandated policy is so twisted and misaligned with history that little in the way of truth has survived.
The power struggle, between major population-based stakeholders, to find a dominant narrative had been going on in the subcontinent since the advent of the British Raj, at the very least (though that is not to say that the Hindu majority that found itself being ruled by a Muslim minority didn’t have such a struggle in place already). In this struggle, the Khilafat movement saw its eventual demise; even other pan-islamicist movements saw little in the way of success. In this flurry entered a young Jinnah and, through the use of his intellect, insight and foresight, he quickly climbed the ladder of merit.
This, to me, proves that even back then the Muslims of the subcontinent – as oppressed as they are portrayed to be – did not really give much credence to the capability of a theologically oriented State apparatus, rather preferred a modern, National State system. In Jinnah, they had found pretty much everything that they wanted to emulate. Brazen, confident, well dressed, well spoken, educated, successful professional – Jinnah was the Brown Muslim’s celebrity. The ‘Pakistan movement’ may have been rooted in the Muslim identity – but it is the evolution of that identity that was selected as the basis of unified action rather than a strict, orthodox and syncretic rendition.
The Narrative – Now
Today, we see a very different picture of Jinnah hanging on our walls. Gone is the suited, cigar smoking Jinnah replaced by a Sherwani clad Quaid-e-Azam. Today, no State channel repeats excerpts from Jinnah’s speech of August 11th, 1947 which can have its spirit summed up thusly:
You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. August 11th, 1947
For the last many decades, such quotes that can enlighten even the contemporary Pakistani, are replaced by either procedural or nationalistic or the outright mundane. For example:
1) “There is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan”.
2) “Think 100 times before taking a decision but once that decision is taken stand by it as one man”.
3) “I have full faith in my people, that they will rise to every occasion worthy of our past Islamic history, glory and traditions”.
4) “United India could have never worked”.
The list is endless. These are some of the examples of what the State wants us to know about Jinnah’s thought processes… and it does very little in the way of explaining anything.
This begs the question: Why are they lying to us?
Fact or Fiction
A greater than cursory study of history reveals that a struggle had been waged for Muslim independence well before Quaid-e-Azam arrived at the scene. But there was another feud, of even greater relevance to Pakistan’s independence that was brewing for some time. Congress had decided to enforce a land ceiling in order to curb greater feudal influence in Hindustani society. But the largest land holdings were situated in West Punjab due to its highly developed agricultural resources (due largely to the canal system). The Punjab Unionist Party – a grouping of the largest and most influential feudal elite – literally drained itself into the Muslim League in the early 1930s – incidentally, very close to the time Jinnah, himself, joined the Muslim League. There are some historians, such as Dr. Mubarik Ali, who claim that the chief motivator for a separate Muslim homeland was not differing identities or traditions, rather the need to escape this anti-feudal measure.
Could it be that an elite that wanted to preserve its financial and agricultural interests, then through subterfuge, is the same elite that, today, holds onto the reins of power?
The Two Jinnahs
While there is reason and evidence to suggest that what is portrayed as the reason for the existence of Pakistan is problematic, it is not to say that Jinnah himself was a simple man with simple motivations. The passage from his speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan is exemplary, by any standard.
But what of his other speeches which were directly in contradiction with that one?
I cannot understand the logic of those who have been deliberately and mischievously propagating that the Constitution of Pakistan will not be based on Islamic Sharia. Islamic principles today are as much applicable to life as they were 1300 years ago.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Speech to Karachi Bar Association, January 25th, 1948.
The tragedy is that were this quotation only from a speech directly after his address to the constituent assembly, it could have been explained in terms of a changed or perhaps even evolved point of view. But, reference to Pakistan as a country firmly rooted in religious doctrine 10 years before the constituent assembly was even formed simply leaves one dumbfounded.
When we say this flag is the flag of Islam they think we are introducing religion into politics – a fact of which we are proud. Islam gives us a complete code. It is not only religion but it contains laws, philosophy and politics. In fact, it contains everything that matters to a man from morning to night. When we talk of Islam we take it as all-embracing word. We do not mean any ill. The foundation of our Islamic code is that we stand for liberty, equality and fraternity.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Speech to Gaya Muslim League, January 1st, 1938
The facility with which Jinnah could play to the gallery; identify his target audience and mold his message accordingly is one of the key reasons, in my opinion, that Pakistan never really formulated a strong enough national narrative at the time of partition because everyone was gaining his or her independence for a different reason. And, sadly, each one of them had the support of Jinnah in that reasoning.
Culmination: The Islamic Republic of Pakistan
It is understandable that at independence-time leader of a fractured and beaten community should and must gather ‘the flock’ under the banner for salvation. I, personally, don’t see a problem with that fact. But the fact that he passed away so soon after the creation of Pakistan without having the time to visibly translate his actual vision for the country into reality compounded this contradiction several fold. While the educated political intelligentsia, that inherited the administration of the country after Jinnah’s death, is labelled as incompetent and unworthy (Khotay Sikkay in Jinnah’s own words), it failed to establish a dominant modern narrative for the people. And in that vacuum religious demagogues and clerics – who had initially shunned the very proposition of Pakistan as preposterous and ‘Kufar’ – gained that opportunity to establish, strengthen and eventually destroy any alternate version of the independence-time history.
By doing so, not only has the new generation lost its essential and real foundation but also become poisoned by layers upon layers of poisoned chronicles. ‘India is the enemy’ is considered an obvious truth. ‘The west is out to destroy Islam and our civilization’ is considered the mantra of the pure.
While it would be purely academic to speculate on which side of the argument Jinnah would have eventually taken a stand on, had he lived long enough, I strongly believe that the speeches and quotations of Jinnah that are shared today, and the way in which they contradict one another, have done little service to the new generation.
Would Pakistan have been different with regards to militancy if Jinnah’s vision had seen fruition? Perhaps.
But my question is: Which Jinnah? And, more importantly, which vision?
Author is a journalist based in Lahore