Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah as a Parliamentarian

By Mukhtar Zaman

Quaid-e-Azam addressing the 1st constituent Assembly of Pakistan

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had many qualities, but he tops the list in three of them; as a lawyer, as a parliamentarian and as a public leader. As a public leader, with odds against him, he performed the political miracle of this century by founding an independent country. In all the three his mental powers, oratory, determination, honesty and straightforwardness help him. But, here, let us confine to discuss only one of his achievements i.e., as a parliamentarian.

Mr. Jinnah was still in London studying law when he was attracted by politics. Politics often leads to Parliament and law helps both of them. He attended the British Parliament regularly and attentively watched from gallery, the ways, manners, gestures and even the dress of prominent honourables members. Men like Gladstone, T.P. Connor, Joseph Chamberlain formed a lasting impression on his mind.

Hector Bolitho has pointed out that his reader’s tickets of the British Museum still exists in the British metropolis. Apparently, besides other books, he read all the significant speeches of important parliamentarians at the British Museum. Naturally this formed the background of his parliamentary career. Bolitho has also quoted Dr. Ashraf as saying that the Quaid-i-Azam used to meet the liberal leaders of Britain very often. It is well known that the Quaid himself leaned towards liberalism. He was not a sectarian narrow-minded and intolerant politician. In his parliamentary career he always stood for liberal policies. He demanded, as in Ireland, a separate homeland for Muslims, when he said that the Congress party has deviated from its liberal policy and had entered narrow grooves of partisanship. He listened in 1893 to the “lively debate” over Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bill. Even at that time he stood firmly for the self-determination of the Irish people. In fact the British Parliament, inspite of his differences with its policies, seems to have played an instructive role in the formation of his character. Somewhat at the back of his mind future membership of Indian Parliament, and the manners and rules that he was likely to use may have been natural. Some think that the use of monocle was also a reminder of his fondness for parliament. After completing his education in England, and being called to bar as the youngest Indian barrister he returned to India in 1896 to start practice.

Dr. Mohammad Umar says that Mr. Jinnah started his Parliamentary career with his election to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1909. He remained its member till March 28, 1919. But he resigned as a protest against what is known as the Rowlatt Act, after the name of Mr. Justice Rowlatt who presided over an official Committee to “detain and try” insurgents and achieve enemies of its policy. Mr. Jinnah speaking on the Bill vehemently opposed it as a “new shackle on the freedom of the people.” He “enumerated his objections on his fingers” in the Legislative Council, and said:

….It is my duty to tell you that if these measures are passed they will create in this country from one end to the other a discontent and agitation the like of which you have not witnessed, and it will have, believe me, a most disastrous effect upon the good relations that have existed between the Government and the people.

But inspite of his protest the Rowlatt Bill was passed because Government members formed a majority. On March 28 Mr. Jinnah wrote to the Viceroy that the Government of India had “ruthlessly trampled upon the principles” for which Great Britain avowedly fought a war. He added that the Imperial Legislative Council was “a legislature but in name a machine propelled by foreign executives”.

As a protest against the Rowaltt Act he tendered his resignation. He hoped in the end that this black Act would be annulled.

It should be noted that while Jinnah resigned, men like Motilal Nehru continued to sit comfortably in their chairs.

When the Central Legislative Assembly came into being he was again elected from a Bombay Urban constituency in November 14, 1923. He remained in England from October 1930 to December 1934. In October 1934 he was re-elected to the Assembly. When Pakistan came into being he was elected as Chairman of the National Assembly – a post that he held till his death.

In 1910 when he was a member of the Viceroy’s Council the British ruled the roost. The British empire spread far and wide. The Viceroy was almost like a Moghal King. But Jinnah was undaunted as ever. He clashed with the Viceroy Lord Minto on the question of South Africa. He called for an immediate end to send the indentured labour to South Africa. On February 25 Jinnah, while speaking in the house, said: “It is most painful question – a question which has aroused the feelings of all classes in the country to the highest pitch of indignation and horror at the harsh and cruel treatment meted out to Indians in South Africa.”

Lord Minto could not tolerate such words. He objected to the phrase cruel treatment which, he said was “too harsh to be used for a friendly part of the empire.”

To this remarks Jinnah replied:

I should feel inclined to use much stronger language. But I am fully aware of the constitution of this Council and I don’t wish to trespass it for one single moment. But I do say that treatment meted out to Indians is the harshest and the feeling in this country is unanimous.


M.A. Jinnah Wolpert writes “that brief exchange reflected Jinnah’s courtroom as well as Council style. He always chose his words carefully and never retraced any, once uttered. His critics, whether Judges, Viceroys or Pandits, usually received humiliating tongue lashings for any barly aimed at him. He was not known to sit silent for the slightest reprimand having his razor sharp mind and words on and generally duller weapons of logic or wit drawn against him. Lord Minto appalled at Jinnah’s response was struck dumb by it. Jinnah, “the Muslims member from Bombay”, sat in the Council chamber, built by Lord Wellesley, in a distinguished company as it consisted men like Gopal Krisna Gokhale, Motilal Nehru, Surendra Nath Banerji and poor Minto vainly hoped for support of this enlarged Council.”

In 1926 the urban constituency selected him to the Indian Legislative Council. He attached himself to the “independent” group and became its leader. At that time the British Parliament sent Sir John Simon to find out the public opinion in India. But it is a sad fact that the Simon Commission did not consist of a single Indian member. Jinnah and other Indian leaders boycotted the Commission with the slogan “Go back Simon”. At Lucknow, and Bombay etc. Simon faced stiff opposition. This also indicates the Jinnah was never prepared to tolerate even parliamentary action which he thought unwarranted and wrong.

When Gopal Krishna Gokhale in 1912 moved the primary education Bill, he found full backing from Jinnah, who always supported the education of boys and girls alike. According to “Quaid-i-Azam and Education” published by the Karachi Board of Intermediate Education while speaking in the Legislature he said,”…..we are convinced that there is no salvation for masses unless the principle of compulsion (compulsory education) is introduced in this country.”

Mr. Jinnah congratulated Mr. Gokhale for the “able and masterly way” in which he dealt with the question. He said, “it will take 175 years in order to get all school-going children to scool and 600 years to get all the girls to school.”

In this situation he wanted more vigorous steps in educating the people. He also replied to critics who said that “if the common population is educated they will become “too big for their boots”, and “will demand more rights”. He asked: “Are you going to keep millions and millions of people trodden under your feet to fear that they may demand more rights, are you going to keep them in ignorance and darkness for ever and in all ages to come because they may stand up against you and say that “we have certain rights and you must give them to us.” He declared that he had no hesitation in supporting the Bill.

Another masterpiece of Mr. Jinnah is Waqf Validating Bill (1911). The text of Bill has been reproduced by Sharif al Mujahid in Jinnah: Studies in interpretation (P. 453). The statement of objects and reasons says that the Bill aimed at removing the “hardship” that had been created by certain decisions of Privy Council. These decisions paralysed “the power of a Mussalman to make a settlement for/in favour of his family, children and descendants or what is known as Waqf Alal Aulad. The Bill intended to reproduce the Muslim law of Waqf Alal Aulad in a codified form with certain safeguards for the authenticity of waqfnama and for prevention of fraud upon creditors or otherwise. Known as Mussalman Wakf Validating Act 1913, it received the assent of the Governor General on 7th March, 1913.

Quaid-e-Azam meeting the Viceroy Lord Wavell in 1946 Dr. Mohammad Umar while analyzing Quaid-i-Azam’s parliamentary career has enumerated several of his qualities. They are his strategy, keen insight, able advocacy, clear representation, reasoning power, balanced judgement and undaunted criticism. He says that Quaid was very often witty and sarcastic which distinguished him as a parliamentarian. Keeping all these qualities in view the author concludes that the Quaid was “a born parliamentarian”. His self-confidence, sincerity, honesty, outspokenness and frankness coupled with his ability and acumen made him ideal in his parliamentary career.”

K. Ali Afzal, an official of the Federal Assembly, says the Quaid had “great respect” for “parliamentary traditions”.

In the collection of essays on Quaid-i-Azam by Professor Ziauddin, he says that the speaker of an Assembly is like an umpire in a game, who must be impartial.

The Quaid-i-Azam as Governor General was the head of the executive and his presidentship would have taken the tradition to pre-1919 days. Therefore the Quaid-i-Azam presided over the meetings of the Assembly when it met as a constitution making body but Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan presided when it met as a Legislature. What a happy and progressive arrangement and a tribute to the political genius of the Quaid-i-Azam.

Jinnah with Gandhi It was the Assembly which on August 12, 1947 formally conferred on him the title of Quaid-i-Azam on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Ali Afzal says as soon as the Quaid took the Chair his first action was to put on his monocle and read the agenda. “After he had read the agenda, the monocle would drop down by the …. of the muscles of the eye-brow. His monocle became a part of his personality and suited the aristocratic features admirably”. When Quaid died according to Ali Afzal, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani had dreamt about the same time that a great rock had rolled down.

It should be recalled that on the issue of Waqfs, he consulted Maulana Shibli Nomani, who was a well known scholar well versed in Islamic jurisprudence. The Act was a blessing for the Muslims.

Mr. Jinnah used his membership of legislature for the benefit of people in general and Muslims in particular. For example he proposed that the competitive examinations should be held in the sub continent. Indians should be appointed as officers in the defence forces, educational efforts must be vigorously pursed. Whenever necessary he cirticised the government but he never used unparliamentary language and fully maintained the dignity and decorum of the Parliament, a lesson that subsequent Parliamentarian would do well to learn.

Round Table Conference Rapid political changes took place after the failure of the Round Table Conference in London. Mr. Jinnah was disappointed with the tactics of the Congress party. When the Indians failed to agree on the future shape of things he was so disappointed that he decided to settle down in England and kept away from politics. But meanwhile the British Government promulgated the Government of Indian Act 1935. Politicians including Liaquat Ali Khan approached him and requested him to come to India because in a constitutional struggle he alone was suited to lead the Indian Muslims. A strong voice was that of Allama Iqbal. The poet was keeping an indifferent health and was to die soon but he fully trusted Jinnah’s talents. It was realised that Mr. Jinnah knew the British and the Congress like the palm of his hand. Since it was a constitutional struggle, the fate of the Mussalmans could be safely entrusted to him. He came back, took up the leadership of the Muslims League and turned into a mass organisation. It was no more a body of few elites, which met annually, passed a few resolutions and dispersed. The Muslim masses had now joined the organisation. They had conferred the title of Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) on Mr. Jinnah, who fully deserved it.

Elections were fought under the 1935 Act. The Quaid-i-Azam fully devoted his time to the organising and strengthening the Muslim League. The Parliamentary politics was a part of the main politics and assemblies had become important. The Quaid-i-Azam was a member of the Central Assembly, but was also guiding the League parties in Provincial assemblies. In the Centre the Quaid-i-Azam was the leader of the party and right hand man was Liaquat Ali Khan, who later became the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

In 1945 crucial elections were held in the sub-continent, in which the youth led by the All India Muslim Students Federation played a key role. Quaid-i-Azam was as usual chosen to represent the Bombay (Urban) constituency. I know personally that the Quaid-i-Azam at the time of his election was touring the far away North West Frontier Province. Raja Amir Ahmad Khan of Mahmudabad, as President of the All India Muslim Students Federation was supervising the elections. The Quaid-i-Azam was opposed by Hussain Bhai Lalji, as Ismaili, who was being backed by the Congress party. The Congress in a false statement had said that the Aga Khan had asked his community to vote for Hussain Bhai Lalji. But another prominent Ismaili leader Ibrahim Rahimtoola was very close to Quaid-i-Azam. Fortunately the Aga Khan happened to be in Delhi at that time. Rahimtoola immediately contacted him on phone. He not only denied having ever instructed the Ismailis to vote for Hussain Bhai but asked Rahimtoola to intimate all Ismaili families to vote for the Quaid-i-Azam. The members of the All India Muslim League at that time played a glorious role. A pamphlet stating the view of the Aga Khan solicting Ismailis to vote for the Quaid-i-Azam was printed and delivered overnight to all Ismaili families. Raja Saheb Mahmudabad told the writer that the pamphlet had the effect of the magic. The community already was pro-Jinnah and at sixes and sevens by Lalji’s dubious activities heaved a sigh of relief and voted for him.

‘League won 100% seats in the Central Assembly and about 70 to 90% in the Provincial Assemblies. Success at the hustings strengthened the Quaid-i-Azam’s hands and paved the way for Pakistan.

The Assembly after partition had the twin capacity of being the Constituent Assembly as well as the National Assembly. The Quaid-i-Azam was elected as its President besides being the Governor General. It was in this Assembly that the Quaid-i-Azam in his address on 11th August 1947 laid down the guidelines for future. In what Bolitho described as the “greatest speech of his life, the Quaid-i-Azam indicates that he wanted to see honesty, liberalism, clean life and noble society in Pakistan. It is sad – and also dangerous – to forget the direction that was prescribed by the Founder of Pakistan. But at the same time it must be admitted that it was in the National Parliament that guidelines for the future were laid by the Founder’.

The Quaid always kept his audience in mind, which enabled him to assess their mental caliber. When he appeared as a lawyer he knew the judges were usually men of experience and knowledge. He could therefore narrate the complex nuances and fine points of law. In Parliament too most of the members were aware of the problems of socio-political life. But in a public meeting of varied intellects and knowledge sat before him. Many points that he narrated were not easily understandable. So he spoke in a manner on things that were easily understood. For example in a meeting at Meerut he said:

“The fire is raging. I ring the bell. Bring the Firebrigade”. The point were went home at once and the people voicedly clapped. He had learnt Urdu and spoke to the masses in their language.

Jamiluddin Ahmad a former Professor of the Aligarh Muslim University who published his speeches, writer that “He did not claim to be saint or divine preaching to ordinary mortals. He did not foist his own views on his followers with dogmatic authority.” Speaking in Parliament with sophisticated audience was different and according to Jamiluddin from parliamentary speaker he rose to the heights of oratory.

On his voice and manners, He says: “His voice though lacking in volume but was rich in timbre. It was characterized by deep musical resonance…. The audience listened to him with bated breath……A motion of a finger, a little waving of the head, or a slight turning of his impressive figure would enthrall his audience. The incisive reasoning, the close analysis, the careful marshalling of facts and arguments, the laying of emphasis of points of vantage –all characteristic qualities of a lawyer –are also marked the Quaid-i-Azam’s way of speaking from the platform as well as the Parliament. He did not try to hoodwink the audience and kept far away from verbal jugglery and mental acrobatics. “Mr. Jinnah”, says the author, “distinguished himself as a brilliant and astute parliamentarian. In many a parliamentary battle he was the hero of the day….. During the first decade of the Legislative Assembly, established under the Government of Inida Act. 1919 he crossed swords with many powerful debaters and invariably came out with flying colours. His parliamentary speeches show masterly grasp of the subject under discussion and incisive reasoning whose appeal is irresistible. In the legislature, he had shone as the epitome of the Parliamentary decorum, the grand manner, the elegant style.”

I fully agree with Mr. Ahmad when he says:

For Parliamentary leadership he seems to be cut out from the beginning and Parliamentarian he always was. Quick perception of legal squabbles and legislative intricacies were ingrained in his blood.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah was not a tub-thumping politician. He did not even care to embellish his prose. Once he told his secretary to hurry up with his writing because his idea was to drive his point home than to waste time on artistic writing. He depended on facts, arguments and reasoning – characteristics that were an asset both in legal practice and Parliamentary debates.

Quaid-i-Azam was a distinguished personality, very neat and clean and head and shoulders above the common run of men. His clothes – Western or Eastern – were always well pressed and well-stitched. I had the honour of seeing him at home, in the Parliament and on public platforms wearing three–piece suits, and black or white sherwanis. Even when old age had left deep marks on his face, his behaviour and deportment distinguished him. These were great qualities when he took the floor in the Parliament. Such characteristics are in history. Men like Quaid-i-Azam are rarer.

Short Bibliography

  1. Jinnah by Hector Bolitho (1954) John Murray, Alberndale Street London.
  2. Millat Ka Pasban Karam Haider (1983) Q.A. Academy, M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi.
  3. Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah by Sharif al Mujahid (1981), Q.A. Academy, M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi.
  4. Quaid-i-Azam and Education (1977) Board of Intermediate, Education, Karachi.
  5. Shahrah-e-Pakistan by Chowdhri Khaliquzzaman (1967) Anjum-e-Islamia Pakistan, Karachi.
  6. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Founder of Pakistan Edited by Prof. Ziauddin, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan.
  7. Q.A. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Analysis of Parliamentary Attributes by Dr. Muhammad Umar, Al-Mahfooz Research Academy, Karachi.
  8. Speeches and Writings by Mr. Jinnah, Collected by Jamiluddin Ahmad (1942) published by Shaikh Mohammad Ashraf, Lahore.
  9. Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert, published by Oxford University Press, Karachi.
  10. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, A Political Study by M.H. Saiyed (1945) Sh. Mohammad Ashraf, Lahore.

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