Jinnah would have regretted making Pakistan


Every year on Christmas Day, we in Pakistan remember Quaid-e-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who is said to have been born on that day in 1876. There are remembrances and tributes; a change of guard; TV shows dedicated to the memory of the man who is credited with (and in some circles blamed for) the creation of Pakistan. Was the creation of Pakistan right or wrong is a debate that has raged on for 7 decades now. However what is never debated or discussed is whether or not, given the state that we are today, would Mr. Jinnah even want to be remembered as the founder of Pakistan? That Mr. Jinnah would have been disappointed with many things in Pakistan today is old hat, but let us take this a step forward: would he have regretted making Pakistan if he could see what we have done in this country? As an amateur biographer and admirer of the man that he was, regardless of how one views his most notable achievement, I have pondered over this question several times. Even though the democratic government under Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in my view, is doing all it can to steady the ship, economically, politically, culturally and socially, there were certain events this past year that has convinced me that if Mr. Jinnah of 1947 could travel through time and space and see what has become of his creation, he would most certainly give up the idea of making Pakistan. I will endeavour to explain why through this blog.

First of all the question of whether Pakistan’s creation was right or wrong is an exercise in futility because Pakistan is fait accompli, regardless of what one’s conclusions are about it. What is far more important is to understand the historical process which led to the creation of a country envisaged as a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. This historical process has its roots partly in the consciousness of upper classes as well as the rising Indian Muslim bourgeoisie and salaried classes – i.e. to use Hamza Alavi’s term “Salariat” – which feared exclusion from political power at the hands of three times more numerous Hindus in the inevitable post-British democratic India. This gave rise to Muslim nationalism and can, as an idea, be traced all the way back to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who exhorted his followers not to join Indian National Congress, the main political vehicle of Indian nationalists. The idea of Muslim nationalism was born and brought up in Aligarh Muslim University.It was this idea that led to formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the Muslim demand for separate electorates soon thereafter.

However it is equally important to note that Jinnah’s political upbringing had entirely different roots. Having been called to bar in London and from a family of merchants rather than landed elite, Jinnah escaped entirely the trends that were in vogue amongst Aligarh Muslims. A confident young lawyer, who succeeded in the legal practice at a time when the profession was dominated by British and Hindu lawyers, Jinnah had very little practical use for ideas of Muslim exceptionalism at that time. More importantly he saw himself as an Indian first second and last, with the fact that he was a Muslim being entirely incidental and largely confined to his name, which in any event he abbreviated to M A Jinnah. Amongst his closest friends and associates, there were hardly any Muslims in that early period. The few Muslims who did get entry into his circle were like him, incidental Muslims. It is well known that Jinnah followed none of the dietary prohibitions prescribed by his religion. Nevertheless after a dispute with the Aga Khan, owing possibly to his sister Mariam Bai’s marriage outside the Ismaili community, Jinnah had nominally converted to Khoja IthnaAshari Shia Jamaat in 1901. If however he had any religious convictions he kept them absolutely private.

Daily Times for more

(Thanks to Razi Azmi)

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