Jinnah: The Burden of Leadership

Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s capacity to overwhelm his staunchest adversaries is observed in the comments of Ved Mehta, a perceptive contemporary writer on the South Asian scene. Mahatama Gandhi, according to Mehta, was presented with his greatest challenge by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. None of the other personalities that sought to test his resolve, whether British, Boer or Indian, either deflected him from his purpose or threatened his will. Jinnah, however, caused Gandhi to search his innermost thoughts, to make himself “potent – physically, mentally and spiritually” so as to be able ‘to vanquish Muhammad Ali Jinnah” and foil his plans for partition and a free Pakistan state.1 Gandhi, of course, failed to either blunt Jinnah’s popularity or dim his determination. Hundreds of millions of human beings would be drawn to Gandhi, tens of millions would dedicate their lives to him, and thousands would die for him, but Jinnah was singularly unimpressed. And Gandhi knew it. Indeed, he understood that in Jinnah he had faced his ultimate test and had lost. Mehta sums up this decisive confrontation as follows:-

“Gandhi had many previous adversaries in his life, but none of them had ever aroused his passion or made him despair as Jinnah did. Up to them, in everything Gandhi had said, done, or written there had been a current of optimism, which flowed out of his unshakable faith that Providence guided human destiny. That optimism had begun to diminish. He stopped talking about living to be a hundred and twenty-five, and started calling himself such things as a “Spent bullet.” He was losing his will to live.”2

What can be said about the man, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, that explains his power over other men, and gave him the ability to lead a divided people to nationhood? This brief paper attempts to examine this question by reviewing just a few of Jinnah‘s associations with other Indian Muslim Leaders who were prominent in the pre-independence period.

Jinnah has been characterized by his critics as “haughty, punctilious and stubborn.” Even his bearing and dress have been thoroughly scrutinized, and oftentimes he has been invidiously compares with the British whom he is described as emulating. Many an objective observer has found it necessary to read into Jinnah’s use of the monocle an affectation for English ways and customs. Moreover, his religious practices have come in for special evaluation.

The critics have never ceased to point out that Jinnah was unorthodox in his religious performance, and thus, they conclude, distant from the overwhelming majority of Muslims that he came to lead. It is curious attack. In point of fact, Jinnah has been condemned for achieving Pakistan. A consensus of those who consider themselves informed on South Asian subjects long ago concluded that if not for Jinnah’s driving personality, Pakistan would have remained an unstructured hypothesis. And there is also no mistaking their remorse that India had to be divided into Hindu-dominant and Muslim-dominant states, or that Jinnah is the culprit in the piece.

What is clear about Muhammad Ali Jinnah is that he is little understood outside the country that he was chiefly responsible for creating. His individual traits and features are unfairly compared with those of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi is described as an extension of the Indian nation whereas Jinnah is perceived as a product of an alien culture. Gandhi’s appeal, it had been repeated was to the masses; Jinnah, we are informed, was merely the leader of a small, politically-ambitious middle class of Indian Muslims. Gandhi was warm and affectionate, loved by his people. Jinnah, so the comparison reads, was arrogant, remote and intimidating. Gandhi’s ascetic tastes are juxtaposed with Jinnah’s more sophisticated life-style. In the final analysis, the saint-in-politics, clothed simply in a loin cloth or dhoti, is given a place of honour, while the astute, almost debonair statesman whose inner confidence and dogged perseverance frustrated the intentions and purposes of the powerful must continue to “bear the stings and arrows” of the unreconciled mourners of Akhand Bharat.

It is almost thirty years since the establishment of the independent state of Pakistan and one might have expected a different interpretation of Jinnah’s performance and demeanor. Unfortunately, however, serious work on the Father of Pakistan is only now being stimulated. The results of these efforts are still some time in the future but it is possible to raise some interesting points, given the availability of heretofore sealed archives.


Jinnah gave himself the difficult task of leading the Muslims of South Asia into a new era. He artfully represented the cause of a historic community whose pride of accomplishment lay in the past and whose future was questionable and uncertain in the midst of a Hindu renaissance. He successfully articulated the sentiments of his religious brethren, who could feel but not act. It was Jinnah, who harnessed Muslim energies, gave them direction, and transformed cultural nationalism into political organization. But Jinnah could not have succeeded without faithful, energetic assistants, especially those whose responsibility it was to publicize the work of Jinnah and the Muslim League. Jinnah was little known outside India and certain quarters in England. Abroad, he was generally perceived as a rabble rouser, who for selfish interests sought to divide an organically sound Indian polity. This problem is described in a letter to Jinnah by M.A.H. Ispahani, who was his spokesman in the United States. In October 1946, Ispahani was invited to the United States by Mrs. Ogden Reid, wife of the publisher of the New York Herald Tribune. She had organized the Herald Tribune Forum which on this occasion debated the merits of the Indian National Congress and Muslim League positions. Representatives from the Congress Party as well as the British government spoke on behalf of the unity of India, and it was left to Ispahani to explain the plight of the Muslims of India and why they were demanding a separate homeland. Ispahani notes that after the debates he was:-

Surrounded by a quite few visitors who make it a point to express to me their appreciation of our case. Nearly every one of them told me they did not know of these terrible differences that existed, which necessitated the division of India. All along they have read and have been told that India is one united nation, with the exception of a certain Mr. Jinnah and his handful of followers who are the tools of the British imperialism. Therefore, to them my speech was revelation.

It has certainly done one bit of work, and that is, it has told the people that the Muslims and Hindus cannot be one, and if there is to be peace and tranquility, coupled with good relationship, it is necessary to divide India.3

Ispahani was selected by Jinnah to represent the Muslim League in both the United States and Great Britain. The two men had been drawn together a quarter of a century earlier when Jinnah had resigned his position on the Imperial Legislative Council over the oppressive Rowlatt Act, and, in his subsequent speech-making, demanded that the British provide the people of India with the fundamental freedoms that had long been promised them. Ispahani was overwhelmed with both the manner and precision of Jinnah’s delivery and as he has written “….he (Jinnah) made an indelible impression on the screen of my memory.”4 From the moment Ispahani pledged himself to serve Jinnah and the cause of Indian freedom. Events in India, however, caused a redefinition of this quest for freedom and the independence movement split in subsequent years, with the Congress and Gandhi moving in one direction, and the Muslim League and Jinnah in another. Ispahani, like Jinnah, could not identify with Gandhi, his symbols or his tactics. Both men were schooled in constitutional and parliamentary procedure. Each was a modernist, talented and industrious. They were similarly convinced that the future of India was linked to the type of the political system that would maximize the expression of all the communities within the country. Jinnah was especially fearful that a system which focused almost exclusively on mobilizing the masses would degenerate into demagoguery. In such a condition the minorities would be placed at the mercy of the dominant community, with virtually no safeguards against arbitrary behaviour and decision making. Jinnah, therefore, could not bring himself to support Gandhi who, he judged, was little more than a reserved Tilak. Moreover, Jinnah, was a disciple of Gokhale and he saw in his confrontation with Gandhi an up-dated version of the struggle between these two earlier Congress leaders.

Although Ispahani did not share Jinnah’s legal experience, he was conscious of the different position and the importance of promoting Jinnah’s version. As a businessman with worldwide connections he was in an excellent position to establish Muslim League offices in foreign countries, and these had the primary function of disseminating information about the Muslim League’s program and objectives.

Ispahani also contributed to Jinnah’s understanding of Bengali politics. Given his home base of operations in Calcutta, and as a member of the Provincial Muslim League in Bengal, it was Ispahani who kept Jinnah abreast of developments within that province. In the months immediately prior to partition the Bengal Muslim League was wrenched by conflict with Chief Minister H.S. Suhrawardy and Abul Hashim on one side and Fazlul Haq on the other. Fazlul Haq had left the Muslim League in 1942 and did not rejoin it until February 1947. His return plunged the organization into turmoil. Fuzlul Huq sought to use his popularity in East Bengal to reclaim control of the party, an objective which Jinnah had authorized Ispahani to frustrate. Ispahani reported to Jinnah that “Fazlul Haq has met with Mr. Gandhi and…delivered a speech calling upon the Muslims to work for the overthrow of the present (Suhrawardy) Ministry in Bengal if they wanted to achieve what is their due in the province.”5 It was clear that Fazlul Haq was familiar with the tactics of Gandhi, not Jinnah; that Fazlul Haq sought to gain control of the Muslim League by dint of his popular appeal, and, of course, by emphasizing emotional rather than procedural issues. This is made all the more evident in Ispahani’s letter to Fazlul Haq. It reads in part:-

I was pained to read in the press today…your speech…criticizing the Bengal Ministry and declaring unless there was a change, Muslims could not expect justice…You are a member of a political organization and no member is above its laws. The Ministry is a Muslim League Ministry and is in power because it commands almost the unanimous support of the Muslims within and outside the legislature. If you have any grievances against your own Ministry or any individual Minister, it (sic) should be ventilated in a constitutional way and within the party of which you are a member… Today, every Muslim old and young, big and small, must join hands, forget personal ambitions and grievances and get ready to face the onslaught of the enemy.6 (Italics added).

The struggle with Fazlul Huq points up an obvious but nonetheless important fact of life about Jinnah’s Muslim League almost on the eve of Independence. The divisions within the Muslim League, and between the Muslim League and other Muslim Organizations, made Jinnah’s task of achieving Pakistan immeasureably more difficult. The Congress leaders hoped to exploit these differences and they tried to impress upon the British that Jinnah was hardly the leader of a unified Muslim nation. Jinnah could not ignore this argument and he and his close aides worked arduously to bring dissident Muslim leaders into line.

One Muslim leader with whom Jinnah was reported to have had major differences was H.S. Suhrawardy, the last Chief Minister of undivided Bengal. Nevertheless, there is nothing in the personal correspondence between Suhrawardy and Jinnah that suggest any thing other than cooperation. Even Ispahani acknowledges the positive role played by Suhrawardy in promoting Jinnah’s design in Bengal. In one letter to Jinnah, Ispahani mentions how Suhrawardy was busy “digging Fazlul Huq’s political grave”7 and how important the outcome would be for the Muslim League. Others within the Muslim League were seeking to discredit Suhrawardy, however, and they circulated rumors as well as statements, supposedly made by the Chief Minister, to the effect that either partition was unnecessary, or that he wished to establish an independent severeign United Bengal free of Jinnah’s influence.

In defense of Suhrawardy it should be noted that he held Jinnah in the highest esteem. He was proper, courteous and respectful, and always attempted to keep the Quaid-i-Azam informed of developments in his province. In 1946 the Muslim League entered the Interim Government with the Congress Party, and Suhrawardy took the opportunity to request Jinnah to join with Gandhi in calling a joint meeting of the Premiers and Home Ministers of the different provinces to discuss the best means of promoting better relations and avoiding disturbances between Hindus and Muslims. It is clear that Suhrawardy was a constitutionalist wedded to the rule of law, and that his ties to Jinnah were, in major part, fastened by his abiding faith in procedural due process, and individual rights and in his total abhorrence of demagogic appeals. Thus he came down hard on Fazlul Haq and other Bengali Muslim politicians who were conspiring to oust him and who did not hesitate to employ surreptitious means.

There is a gentleman here Mr. Nurul Amin who is the Speaker of the House, who entertains a secret ambition of becoming Chief Minister. He had joined hand with Fazlul Haq and some of the disgruntled elements of Nazimuddin’s party like Hamidul Huq Choudhry, a young man by the name of Mohan Mia and Abdullah Mahmud… Mr. Fazlul Haq conceived the idea of becoming the President of the Bengal Provincal Muslim League and began to mobilize the students…Fazlul Haq induced the students to enter the Assembly compound and waylaid me but I refused to support Mr. Fazlul Haq.8

Another important observation is the fact that, as late as February 1947, Suhrawardy had assume that India would achieve its independence in June 1948 and that some form of confederation was in the offing. He could not have anticipated the British decision to withdraw from India a year earlier. As Chief of Bengal he was responsible for the transition plans from colonial government to self-rule. He did not doubt Pakistan would be realized, but the form it would take had not yet been clarified. Certainly, he could not have then envisaged the partition of Bengal under the later Radcliffe Award, and hence the loss of the productive centre in and around Calcutta. His views on this subject are clearly outlined in a letter to the Governor of Bengal, Sir Frederick Burrows. The letter concludes with the following statement:-

These thoughts are rather puerile, but they are the first reaction of a person who while believing in independence also believes that sometimes too high a price may have to be paid. Also no attention has yet been paid by anyone regarding the problems that will arise if separation is also coupled with independence. Hence I have no knowledge and no experience.

Would it not be advisable to set up some sort of organization or committee or Special Officer that will advise on the basis of an independent constitution for Bengal? May be we shall not need it but nevertheless it will be useful, if not in its constitutional aspects, in its economic and financial aspects.9 (Italics added).

If someone wants to use this letter as evidence that Suhrawardy was conspiring to establish an independent state in Bengal, it need only be noted that a copy of this letter was sent to Jinnah for his examination on February 26th. Moreover, Suhrawardy was concerned with one overriding issue, the need to kept Bengal intact. Later, when the possible partition of the province was being discussed seriously, Suhrawardy sent a secret communication to Lord Ismay with a copy to the Quaid-i-Azam, in which he deplored the “notional scheme” to divide the province. He made it abundantly clear that he thought the British government was yielding to parties like the Hindu Mahasabha in an effort “to capture Hindu sentiment.”10 At no time did Suhrawardy believe he was doing anything to undermine Jinnah’s negotiations with the British or Muslim League efforts at securing an independent Pakistan.

Nevertheless, by trying to block the partition of Bengal, Suhrawardy did collide with a delicate issue, namely, the future of the “two-nation theory.” In a letter to Liaqat Ali Khan on May 21, 1947, Shurawardy cites this concern. The Bengali Chief Minister had come to a tentative agreement with some leftist leaders of the Bengali Hindus, but he feared that these arrangements would be interpreted as “giving up our principles – referring probably to the two-nation theory.” But Suhrawardy was convinced that “Quaid-i-Azam intends to fight against partition (of Bengal) inch by inch…that is to say he will fight in the Legislative Assembly, in the National Assemblies and even at the time of referendum which he hopes will be granted.” For Suhrawardy, partition would be an unmitigated disaster. “West Bengal will be Hindu dominated” and rich in resources. Contrasted with this was Suhrawardy’s perception of East Bengal.

What will be left of East Bengal will be an area absolutely deficit in foodgrains, and by the time other Muslim areas or surplus areas send foodgrains to us, the Muslims of East Bengal will be dead…..So, will you please give some thought to the problem of Bengal and discuss this matter with the Quaid-i-Azam?.... if the Quaid-i-Azam also says that he is prepared to agree on these terms and if the Congress stands out, then it may well be that the Viceroy may not announce the partition of Bengal in view of the unreasonableness of the Congress attitude.11

Although Jinnah was not nearly as familiar with Bengal as Suhrawardy, there is no doubt that he shared the Chief Minister’s apprehensions. Jinnah did not want Bengal partitioned but he was in no position to prevent the British from imposing their plan. The record reveals that he fought with Mountbatten right up to the last moment, indeed had indicated that he could not accept the British proposal for separation until it had cleared the full Muslim League Council. But the Viceroy was in a great hurry. His decision to yield to Hindu pressures had already been taken. In his biography of Jinnah, Hector Bolitho quotes Mountbatten as saying to Quaid-i-Azam:-

Mr. Jinnah! I do not intend to let you wreck all the work that has gone into this settlement. Since you will not accept for the Muslim League, I will speak for them myself.12

Jinnah’s goal, a homeland for the Muslims within the subcontinent, was about to be realized. As a realist, however, he understood the need for compromise and, although he would have preferred a stronger Pakistan, both in the east and west, he had to acknowledge the logic of his opposition’s demand. It must be stated that Both Jinnah and Suhrawardy were primarily concerned with reducing the intensity of communal strife. Jinnah had been apprised of the Hindu-Muslim riots in Calcutta and Noakhali and, while he had been assured by Suhrawardy that every effort would be made to control the violence, Jinnah had to conclude that resistance to partition in Bengal would only increase the volatility of the situation.

With the partition of Bengal and the independence of Pakistan Suhrawardy and Jinnah went their separate ways. Much has been said about Jinnah’s dissatisfaction with Suhrawardy’s performance, and no doubt there were persons close to Quaid-i-Azam who disliked13 Suhrawardy and who sought to influence him against the erstwhile Bengali Chief Minister. But in the last analysis there can be no mistaking Suhrawardy’s virtual submission to his leader. At no time did Suhrawardy forget that he was a Muslim Leaguer and that Jinnah was the only person capable of achieving Pakistan. From that day in 1946 when Jinnah called for “Direct Action” up to independence and the transfer of power, Suhrawardy sought to comply with Jinnah’s every directive. Both men were convinced that their cause was everything and they gave of themselves freely and unselfishly.14


Quaid-i-Azam had significant problems with other Muslim leaders like Abul Kalam Azad and Fazlul Haq. Neither man was convinced of the necessity of the Pakistan Movement and both challenged Jinnah’s right to speak for the Muslims of South Asia. Jinnah had agreed to assume the leadership of the Muslim League with the understanding that he would have the cooperation of the great majority of Muslim leaders, and that those who did not support his position would at least remain silent so as not to undermine the Muslim cause. When he learned that Azad had agreed to assume the presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1940 Jinnah sent him a fiery telegram. He informed Azad that he had forfeited the confidence of Muslim India and that he would be perceived as a “Muslim Showboy Congress President.”15 Jinnah was most fearful about the effect this would have on the thinking of the outside world, especially as he was feverishly working to publicize his two-nation thesis. He severely reprimanded Azad for fronting for the Congress, which Jinnah called a “Hindu Body”, and he argued “if you Azad have any self-respect, resign at once.” Azad’s reply to Jinnah was terse. He asked if there was not an alternative to the two-nation scheme, indeed, if there were no grounds for compromise on the basis of a unified Hindu-Muslim India without Pakistan. Jinnah, of course, informed him that the time for Hindu-Muslim unity had passed, and that the Muslims had recourse but to rally behind the Muslim League. Azad refused to accept the notion that only the Muslim League represented the Indian Muslims and he charged Jinnah with behaving in an “uncompromising” manner. Azad explained:-

In the provinces where Muslims were in a majority, there was no League Ministry. There was a Congress Ministry in the Frontier Province. In Bengal, there was Governor’s rule, while in the Punjab it was a Unionist Ministry. In Sind, Sir Ghulam Hussain depended on Congress support and the same position held in Assam. It could not therefore be claimed that the Muslim League represented all the Muslims. There was in fact a large bloc of Muslims who had nothing to do with the League.16

Azad’s statement cannot be disputed. But it describes in dramatic terms the enormous task that lay before Jinnah. It also explains why the Quaid-i-Azam insisted upon full compliance and obedience. Having concluded that the Muslims of India would be best served in a state that they themselves controlled, and sensing that the Muslim majority supported him in this view, he refused to be deterred by a few notables who clung to older dreams. Moreover, the odds against succeeding in creating Pakistan were great and Jinnah recognized that only a firm, confident hand would sustain the drive for independence. Anything less would have left the Muslims in their traditional fragmented state – their future at best an extension of the dominant Indian community.

Jinnah did not need Suhrawardy to tell him about the difficulties that Fazlul Haq was making for the Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. Fazlul Haq was Chief Minister of Bengal at the outbreak of the World War II and he and Jinnah exchanged a number of letters which highlighted their mutual antagonism. Like Azad, Fazlul Haq was more concerned with promoting Hindu-Muslim unity, and he argued with Jinnah that “the Muslim League should not take the wind out of the sails of their organizations and secure to itself the credit of having done the greatest possible service to India and her people.”17 Fazlul Haq insisted on pursuing his own course, despite the fact that he had presented the Lahore Resolution in March 1940 and had recognized Jinnah as the leader of the Pakisan Movement. In response to Haq’s letter, the Quaid-i-Azam noted how important it was that the Muslims spoke with one voice and therefore that no individual should act “without reference to me.” Jinnah cited from an earlier letter in which the Bengali Chief Minister agreed to obtain his consent before making public statements that involved the League. “But you have already in the public press declared your opinion,” commented Jinnah, “as if the Muslim League was to be goaded by somebody to come to a settlement and decided that we should consider the proposals which you are going to formulate for the purpose.”18 Fazlul Haq argued that he “did not wish to dictate anything” but only that he thought the Muslims and Hindus should endeavour to reconcile their differences and call a truce. He continued:-

….My object was really to put you in the position of the dictator of India…If you still think my move has in any way been unwise, you can tell me accordingly. It is far from intention to bring about a disruption in the Muslim League.19

Jinnah did not succumb to this “flattery,” nor did he envisage himself as the dictator of India. Fazlul Haq was an exasperating experience, and he often wondered how he might communicate with him. Jinnah acknowledged the need for peace between Hindus and Muslims, the Congress and Muslim League, but he remarked:-

When the other party has declared war and is holding a pistol at your head what do you propose that I should do? What do you think is the aim and the object of the Congress in launching Civil Disobedience? It is not obvious that they want to bend the British Government to surrender or yield to their demands? At whose cost?20

With World War II raging, Jinnah felt the Congress tactics might well forces the British to quit India and leave the Indians to organize their own future. On the surface this might have been acceptable, but, given the legacy of Muslim-Hindu hatred and distrust, the communal warfare, and general inability to coalesce, it was his view that an early and hasty British withdrawal would seriously jeopardize the Muslim community. Furthermore, Jinnah had a genuine distaste for mob action. Street demonstration were a poor way to build stable political institutions and at the same time provide for the well-being of the subcontinent’s minorities. Thus in weighing the possibilities, he found himself, if not supporting, at least not weakening the British war effort.

Despite Jinnah’s plea for support and Fazlul Haq’s promise not to undermine Muslim League activities, matters reached a crisis stage between the two leaders. In January 1941, Jinnah accused Fazlul Haq of issuing a report to the press that he was promoting a renewal of Hindu-Muslim unity and that the Pakistan Movement was being suspended. Haq insisted that he had not made any such declaration and that the British census officers in Bengal had come under Hindu influence and had left a million and a half Muslims off the rolls. Haq called upon Jinnah to do something to correct this situation and ended his letter with the comment: “I am afraid Muslims in Bengal will be reduced to a minority and you will lose one of your socalled majority provinces in India.” (Italics added.)21 Jinnah’s reply to this curious request could not conceal his enormous anger. Haq was obviously playing with Jinnah, informing him that if he considered himself a leader of all the Indian Muslims, why not show them that he could remedy this situation. It was obvious that Jinnah had no power to interfere with the administration of Bengal, but Fazlul Haq, as the province’s Chief Minister did have the authority. Wrote Jinnah:-

I shall await further developments as to what you want the League to do. In the meantime I must say that I am astonished to read the account you have given in your letter. You as the Premier of Bengal are in a strong position to fight the matter out with the Government of India firmly and determinately.22

Jinnah and Fazlul Haq never did reconcile their differences. The two men were complete opposites. Moreover, their visions reflected their surroundings; Jinnah had a broad conception of South Asia’s future whereas Fazlul Haq was conditioned by the needs of the Bengali nation.


The Muslims of India were hardly a monolithic entity, all pulling in the same direction for the establishment of Pakistan. It is truly remarkable that Jinnah, with relatively limited forces, a miniscule treasury and only the most abstract plans, could set himself against the combined power of the British colonial government, the Indian National Congress and the whole panoply of powerful subcontinent personalities, both Hindu and Muslim, - and win. When the Governor of the Punjab called upon Sir Khizr Hayat Khan to form a government, it was considered a deliberately conceived act to frustrate the Muslim League. Loyal Jinnah supporters like Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, who had been working tirelessly for the Pakistan Movement and the Quaid-i-Azam, were convinced that the primary forces in the subcontinent were determined to frustrate the Muslim League by preventing it from gaining control of the Punjab. Without it there could be no Pakistan. Nishtar recognized the many divisions within Muslim ranks when he told Jinnah:-

In the Punjab where Muslims are in a majority their verdict is ignored and the government has been practically handed over to non-Muslims. In order to throw dust in the eyes of the Muslims, Khizr has been made a puppet premier. This seems to be a clear challenger to test our mettle. If we do not meet it successfully then I am sure that the…government conspiracy with the Hindu Congress and a few Quislings amongst the Muslims will enforce upon us the scheme of a federation of Akhand Hindustan.23

It had been argued that the British Governor actually had no choice but to ask Khizr to form a government around his Unionist Party – mainly because the Muslim League (although the dominant party in the Punjab after the 1945-46 elections) could not get the other parties to form a coalition with it.24 Nevertheless, the Muslim League was able, through agitation, to hasten the Khizr government’s collapse and leave the Punjab under Governor’s Rule at the time of partition. Jinnah would have preferred another course, insofar as the Muslim League had won the largest number of seats and should have been permitted to form the government in accordance with the 1935 Government of India Act. The fact that there was no smooth transition in the Punjab set the scene for considerable in-fighting after Pakistan became independent. The Sikandar-Daultana factions and the Noon-Tiwana factions could no longer be contained. Jinnah found it necessary to keep Khizr from playing a role in Muslim League politics, but other Unionists remained in important positions within the Punjab and continued to influence the province’s political life. As Craig Baxter has remarked:-

The name Unionist was not to reappear. Instead, new names emerged: the Noon faction of the Muslim League when he became chief minister of the Punjab in 1953, the Republican Party later in 1956, and the Pakistan Muslim League of Ayub Khan in the 1960s. All enjoyed the open or covert support of the Unionist families. And the factions continued to be important.25

A no less chaotic situation prevailed in the North West Frontier Province, where Dr. Khan Sahib’s Congress-dominated government sought to contain popular Muslim League movement. When the provincial government sought to cling to power and ignored the demand for fresh elections, the population was driven to mass civil disobedience and thousands were arrested, imprisoned and detained under the Frontier Crimes Regulation and other repressive laws. The Government also announced that political meetings were banned until normal conditions were once again established in the province. But neither these forceful measures nor the Viceroy’s visit were enough to convince the Muslim League leaders in the Frontier that they should cease their demonstration. Nishtar travelled on the Frontier to survey the situation for Jinnah and reported that he was pained by the excessive use of violence. He called upon Jinnah to attempt to quite the population, and drafted a statement which he hoped the Quaid-i-Azam would issue under his name. It read in part:-

I must earnestly appeal to every Muslim, specially Muslim Leaguers to do all in their power to confine their movement within strictly peaceful and non-violent limits and without any reservation I say that on our side there should be no resort to violence or force. The Muslims must bear up in the spirit of tolerance and despite the gravest provocation should not depart from (a) strictly peaceful path. I must also urge upon the Muslims of N.W.F. Province that in no circumstances should the movement be allowed to take a communal turn. Your fight is not against the Hindus and Sikhs… It is the duty of every Muslim to protect the minorities.26

Nishtar was another bright, dedicated and sensitive Muslim Leaguer who was totally committed to Jinnah and the cause of Pakistan. He played an indispensable role both on the North West Frontier and in the Punjab for Quaid-i-Azam. But he too sensed that the creation of Pakistan was only a beginning. How to come to grips with the divisive forces within the new state would test the strength, stamina and wisdom of all those who followed Jinnah to independence.

In Sind no one gave Jinnah more consistent assistance than Muhammad Hashim Gazder. A consulting engineer by training, he was Mayor of Karachi during the crucial years of World War II. Gazder deplored the way in which the Muslims could be divided and the alacrity with which they turned on each other. In a sorrowful tone he wrote Jinnah:-

It grieves me most to see that even Governors have become parties to unholy parts which have deprived the Muslim majorites of their legitimate rights. Of course our own Muslim brethren are to blame. Without their consent and treachery such surrenders could not be imagined at least in provinces where Muslims were in the majority. Lure of office and salaries have proved too strong for our Muslim friends.27

In that same letter he asked Jinnah to consider an independent Muslim state which would comprise the four provinces of northwest India – this call almost three years before the Lahore Resolution. Gazder was convinced that the Muslims of this region would be secure only when they could no longer be manipulated by the comparatively more educated Hindus. He writes: “I would go so far as to suggest a separate federation of the North West India viz: Sind, Baluchistan, the Punjab and the North Western Frontier Province. Without this I have despaired of any economic, political and educational improvement of Muslim masses of those provinces.” In 1941 Gazder was returned unopposed to his post as mayor of Karachi but still he was dissatisfied with the Muslims who had joined his Assembly party. “Most of these people who had recently joined us do not do so on account of their convictions but it was to get advantage out of the League Ministers…. As I had stated before the Muslim League organization requires to be strengthened in Sind and for this purpose, we require workers and funds. Mr. G.M. Syed is doing his very best in this regard.” But Gazder felt he was getting little additional help and he called upon Jinnah to request Abdoola Haroon and Sheikh Abdul Majid to join in.28 Jinnah answered this latter request with the statement that Haroon and Majid were “doing their bit” and that all the leaders in Sind must learn to “work together and organise our people… You all must put your shoulders to the wheel and I am sure that you will very soon realise the change.”29 It was obvious that Jinnah appreciated the efforts made by people like Gazder, but he also felt that he protested and complained too much about his colleagues. Quaid-i-Azam was always placed in the delicate position of having to balance off competitive and sometimes envious Muslim League Leaders so as to avoid needless ruptures in the movement. Moreover, Jinnah had to contend with much more powerful Sindhis than those represented by Gazder, hence his desire not to take sides. M.A. Khuhro, Yusuf Haroon, Ghulam Husain Hidayatullah and G.M. Syed were constantly bickering among themselves, and yet Jinnah so depended on them for the success of his program, that he could only insist that they settle their own differences and get on with the job of establishing Pakistan.30


The personality of Muhammad Ali Jinnah made Pakistan possible; it also enabled the country to survive those first six incredible months of independence. Although Jinnah could not have created Pakistan alone, it would not have emerged without him. Nevertheless, Quaid-i-Azam knew that the country could not rest its future on a single, mortal human being. Pakistan required an institutional foundation and insofar as its basic structure was still inchoate, much seemed to depend on the vitality and coherence of the Muslim League. Jinnah’s thinking, therefore, aimed at keeping the Muslim League strong, indeed pre-eminent. He did not feel it time to encourage other political parties. When conditions improved there would be sufficient opportunity to establish other political organizations, but what the country needed most urgently was unity and a sense of common experience. Only the Muslim League, thought Jinnah, could sustain Pakistan in its early years. Speaking at a public meeting in Dacca on March 21, 1948, Jinnah said:-

Very often it is said, “why cannot we have this party or that party”? Now let me tell you, and I hope you will agree with me, that we have as a result of unceasing effort and struggle ultimately achieved Pakistan… It is the Muslim League which has done it. There were of course many Mussalmans who were indifferent; some were afraid, because they had vested interests and they though they might lose; some sold themselves to the enemy and worked against us, but we struggled and we fought and by the grace of God and with His help we have established Pakistan which has stunned the world.

Now this is sacred trust in your own hands, i.e. the Muslim League. Is this sacred trust to be guarded by us as the real custodians of the welfare of our country and our people, or not? Are mushroom parties led by men of doubtful past to be started to destroy what we have achieved or capture what we have secured? I ask you one question. Do you believe in Pakistan?...Then I say that the honest course open to every Musalman is to join the Muslim League Party and serve Pakistan to the best of his ability.31

No one believed in Pakistan more than Muhammad Ali Jinnah. No one served Pakistan so selflessly. In his last days Quaid-i-Azam hoped the spirit that motivated his behaviour would permeate the political organization which now assumed the momentous task of leading a new nation into an uncertain future.

(Lawrence Ziring is the Professor of Political Science at the Western Michigan University, U.S.A.)

  1. Ved Mehta, “Mahatma Gandhi and his Apostles-III” The Yorker, May 24, 1976, p. 51.
  2. Ibid., May 17, 1979, PP. 118-119.
  3. Personal correspondence M.A.H. Ispahani to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, October 30, 194
  4. M.A.H. Ispahani, Quaid-i-Azam as I Knew him, Karachi, 1966, p. 2.
  5. Personal Correspondence M.A.H Ispahani to M.A Jinnah, February 28, 1947.
  6. Personal Correspondence M.A.H Ispahani to Fazlul Haq, February 28, 1947.
  7. Personal Correspondence M.A.H Ispahani to M.A Jinnah, March 15, 1946.
  8. Personal Correspondence H.S. Suhrawardy to M.A. Jinnah, February 20, 1947.
  9. Personal Correspondence H.S. Suhrawardy to Sir Frederick Burrows, February 24, 1947.
  10. Personal Correspondence H.S. Suhrawardy to Lord Ismay , April 27, 1947.
  11. Personal Correspondence H.S. Suhrawardy to Liaquat Ali Khan, May 21, 1947.
  12. Hector Bolitho, Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan, London: p. 185.
  13. See H.M. Abbasi, Over A Cup of Tea, Karachi: 1973, pp. I-13.
  14. Jinnah and Suhrawardy shared a similar philosophy of government, as can be seen from Javed Iqbal, “Jinnah in Retrospect,” in Sheila McDonough ed., MuhammadAli Jinnah, Lexington, Mass.: 1970, PP. 87-99.
  15. Telegram from M.A. Jinnah to Abul Kalam Azad, July 9, 1940.
  16. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, London, 1960, PP. 136-137.
  17. Personal Correspondence Fazlul Haq to M.A. Jinnah, December 8, 1940.
  18. Personal Correspondence M.A. Jinnah to Fazlul Haq, December 11, 1940.
  19. Personal Correspondence Fazlul Haq to M.A. Jinnah, December 14, 1940.
  20. Personal Correspondence M.A. Jinnah to Fazlul Haq, January 4, 1941.
  21. Personal Correspondence Fazlul Haq to M.A. Jinnah, March 9, 1941.
  22. Personal Correspondence M.A. Jinnah to Fazlul Haq, March 15, 1941.
  23. Personal Correspondence S.R. Nishtar to M.A. Jinnnah, n.d. (1947?).
  24. See Craig Baxter, “Union or Partition: Some Aspects of Politics in the Punjab 1936-1945,” L. Ziring, R. Braibanti and H. Wriggins, Eds., Pakistan: The Long View, Durham, N.C.: 1977.
  25. Ibid., P. 52.
  26. Draft Statement prepared by S.R. Nishtar for M.A. Jinnah, May 6, 1947.
  27. Personal Correspondence M.H. Gazder to M.A Jinnah, July 10, 1937.
  28. Personal Correspondence M.H. Gazder to M.A Jinnah, May 14, 1941.
  29. Personal Correspondence M.A. Jinnah to M.A. Gazder, June 6, 1941.
  30. S.M.M. Qureshi, “The Consolidation of Leadership in the Last Phase of the Politics of the All India Muslim League,”Asian Profile, October 1973, p. 313.
  31. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Speeches As Governor – General of Pakistan 1947-1948 Karachi: Pakistan Publications, 1963, pp. 86-87.

Source: World Scholars on Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Ahmad Hasan Dani, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. 1979

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