What Mohammad Ali Jinnah was not?

Mowahid Hussain Shah

A Muslim visitor returning from India feels instinctively a sense of gratitude to Jinnah for founding Pakistan, which, with all its warts and imperfections, is a place free from the spectre of Muslims at the receiving end of communal fury.

This is not to denigrate India, a country difficult to match in the range of its cultural diversity. But no honest Indian would contend that India is a safe haven for Muslims. But no lofty claims are made here for a secular order. Yet, some Pakistanis would still like to reassess the utility of the creation of Pakistan and the wisdom behind the founding. The debate would be conclusively answered by asking the single question: Are the Muslims of India better off than the Muslims of Pakistan?

By some accounts, India has more Muslims than Pakistan. But that fact, apart from tokenism, is not reflected at the helm of affairs. Sikhs, for all the agitation, were (and still are) far better represented than Muslims despite their significantly smaller size. Secularism is intellectually attractive but, in effect, fraudulent. The obvious needs to be restated. But for Pakistan, there would not have been too many generals, business moguls, sport superstars and bureaucrats of the Islamic faith. Having said that, it does not necessarily follow that the experiment of a Muslim homeland has been an unqualified success.

Born under an August moon 63 years ago, the question naturally arises: Are we closer to the dream envisioned by M.A. Jinnah? A yes or no answer would be misleading as well as over-simplistic. In 2010, the struggle for the soul of Pakistan continues. Is it meant to be a religious state? An Islamic democratic welfare state? An Islamic social welfare state? Was it supposed to be a socialist republic? A liberal secular parliamentary democracy patterned after the Westminster model? Or is it supposed to be a straightforward dictatorship? While addressing the Karachi Bar Association in January 25, 1948, the Quaid-i-Azam said: “I cannot understand the logic of those who have been deliberately and mischievously propagating that the Constitution of Pakistan will not be based on Shariat. Islamic principles today are as much applicable to life as they were 1300 years ago. The Father of the Nation had made it clear in an address to Islamia College, Peshawar, in January 13, 1948: “We had not demanded for Pakistan only to get just a piece of land, but our goal was to gain a laboratory where we could put into practice the golden principles of Islam.”

The problems in Pakistan run the whole gamut of human experience: wars, autocracy, civil strife, poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child marriages, traffic deaths, lack of commitment to excellence, terrorism and the vivisection of half of the country. But the problems are not unique to Pakistan. They are growth pains associated with a developing society and are present to some degree, even in a technologically developed country like the US where reliable sources estimate at least 43 million functionally illiterate Americans.

The questions about Pakistan’s survival can pertinently expand to include within its ambit the fate of the earth. Sixty-three years may seem a long and trying journey, but it is a mere blink of the eye in the history of mankind. Pakistan can be better off or worse off depending upon the countries juxtaposed alongside for the sake of comparison.
The vision of M.A. Jinnah itself is subject to varying interpretations. It is a tiresome spectacle to see scholars and pseudo-scholars attempting to define and than tailor the alleged vision to fit current expediencies. It is almost always asked what Jinnah was, what he saw, and what he really envisioned. Old speeches are dug up and incomplete statements are taken out of context. The approach in most cases is anecdotal, unaccompanied by supporting facts. Or, if facts are given, they are uncorroborated by independent accounts. The result is a piecemeal view looking more at the individual trees than at the overall forest.

Let us begin to ask what M.A. Jinnah was not: A question of fact, rather than mere opinion. The facts would agree that M.A. Jinnah was not a general. He was certainly not a bureaucrat. And he was most definitely not a man of the cloth. The facts would also agree that he was a constitutionalist to the core. A superb parliamentarian who blended his considerable skills of advocacy with an uncanny sense of politics to plead and later to successfully win his biggest case. The facts further would indicate that he was no demagogue, street-agitator, or mob inciter, but a lawyer who believed in the rule of law over the rule of men.

Be it in America or Russia, the established institutions try to define the future goals of their society keeping in mind the intent of the founding fathers. In India, too, secular noises consistent with Gandhi and Nehru’s publicly stated preferences are periodically made.

The concept of Pakistan - a separate homeland for the Muslims - has been vindicated insofar as the Muslims of Pakistan and of the subsequently partitioned East Pakistan or Bangladesh go.

True, Pakistan is miles away from realising the dream of M.A. Jinnah. But there are enough believers of the frayed dream to give rise to optimism. If the song of the people of Pakistan does not carry the resonance of old, the fault does not lie with the song but with the singer.

The writer is a barrister and a senior political analyst.
Source: The Nation

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