From a great writer to a great a leader: How Manto came to terms with Jinnah’s passing


Manto perhaps wrote the piece to show not only his love for Pakistan but also his affection for the founder of Pakistan.

On the 142nd birth anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah today, a little-known piece by the great Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto is being presented for the time in its original English translation.

This piece is part of Manto’s published but uncollected writings that are only recently seeing the light of day. Though there is little or no evidence that the great writer ever met the great leader, this piece – originally published in the Daily ‘Imroz’ just three days after Jinnah’s death in September 1948 – crystallises the raw emotions of a writer in the aftermath of a national tragedy in a uniquely restrained manner. Manto perhaps wrote the piece to show not only his love for Pakistan – a state he reluctantly adopted despite his personal opposition to the Partition – but also his affection for the founder of Pakistan.

The sentiment of the people evoked in the piece just a few hours after Jinnah’s death is perhaps the best translation of how Jinnah would have himself liked his nation to soldier on after and without him: not only his oft-repeated motto of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’, but also ‘Work, work and work’! In fact, the piece is remarkable also because towards the end of the piece, the writer reminds the reader of the real meaning of Islam, social justice, something Jinnah never tired of reminding us in his various speeches and public pronouncements.

The piece will also be of interest to readers as a unique, unvarnished documentation of social history of Pakistan from the perspective of its people immediately after the founder of the nation passed away. As such, it is a timely reminder that great leaders are only great so far as their people make them so, and even after them, the hard work of glorifying the flag must go on unabated!

“This is no time to vanquish flags, but to glorify them.” These are the plain words which I heard from the mouth of a passerby and I began to think.

Not a long time had passed now since the news of the passing away of Quaid-e-Azam spread in the city. The screams of newspaper hawkers were still resounding in the sad space of the afflicted streets. Sorrow and grief was spread on the face of every person. People were walking about as if walking behind an invisible funerary procession; they were whispering slowly. The unexpected demise of Quaid-e-Azam was being mentioned silently. Every person had become this question-incarnate, “Who do we have now?”

I too thought, “Who do we have now?” But these words of that passerby resounded in my ears, “This is no time to vanquish flags, but to glorify them” – I straightened my neck bent with excessive sorrow and began an attempt to see the other side beyond this mist which had overcome my heart and mind, but like the complete strike by the shops, the thoughts in the mind too were on complete strike.

Men were crying. Women were sobbing. Every eye was wet. Who do we have now – who do we have now?

The Express Tribune for more

Comments are closed.