Barrister Muhammad All Jinnah after financially securing himself entered the political field in 1905 at the age of 30 years as a staunch nationalist from the platform of the Indian National Congress. He was soon reckoned as an aggressive, bold and a forthright speaker for the cause of the Indian independence.
In his speech in December 1906 in an annual open session of the Indian National Congress in Calcutta he created a stir by challenging the British government to hasten the grant of ‘home-rule’ to India. He said: “If the British do not give ‘home-rule’ to India and soon, then it will not be Boston tea chests that will be thrown in to the sea, but truck loads of Britishers that will be thrown into the Indian ocean.” The speech not only shook the Vice-regal Lodge, but also created ripples amongst the Congress ranks as well, who were not prepared to go that far and were only hypocritically agitating against the Raj.
In his pursuit for ‘home rule’ for India, Jinnah firmly believed in Hindu-Muslim unity as a prerequisite and therefore came to be known as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. But the Hindu bigots in the Congress put many obstacles in the way of this unity. Jinnah saw through their nefarious designs to perpetually dominate the Muslims. For almost 20 years he tried to convince them of the need of this unity and proper safeguards for the minorities, particularly the Muslims. His views were always sidelined but he remained firm in his convictions. And in spite of separating from the Congress in 1920, he continued to attend various ‘unity’ conferences. He advanced many proposals that were not accepted, and finally came up with his Fourteen Points which later became the combined voice of all the Muslim organisations.
As president of the Muslim League in 1916, and at the same time a front rank leader of the Indian Congress, he was in a unique position and negotiated a unity agreement between the two political parties in a pact known as the Lucknow Pact. It was a personal triumph for Mr Jinnah. This pact conceded the right of the Muslims to a separate electorate. Was Mr Jinnah secular? Some of Mr Jinnah’s detractors call him secular.
Who is a secular? Webster’s Pocket Dictionary defines secular as one who “is not concerned with religion; and not living in a religious community.”
Let us see Mr Jinnah in the light of this definition. In this context, nothing could be more authentic than Jinnah’s own confession about his faith. On August 6, 1939, he said: “I was born Muslim; I am a Muslim and shall die a Muslim.” At another time he said: “I am no Maulana or a Maulvi but I also know a little of my faith.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah was brought up in a Muslim family, adhered to the tenants of Islam, was repeatedly elected to the Indian Council/Legislative Assembly on a seat reserved for a Muslim, succeeded in getting a number of bills concerning the Muslims passed from the Legislative Assembly, advocated Hindu-Muslim unity, always stressed for safeguards for the Muslims including their demand for a federal form of government as envisaged by the Nehru Report. In his negotiations with the government and parlays with the Indian Congress, he always stoutly advocated the Muslim cause.
But when Jinnah finally resigned from the Congress after 20 years, he focused more to organise his community. Within a short time in 1935, he gave Muslims a sense of separate entity, a third party status in 1936/37 when Nehru introduced his “two forces” doctrine in the Indian politics, gave them the status of nationhood in 1940, indicated to them the goal of Pakistan and finally within seven years in 1947 brought about the miracle of the 20th century in the form of an independent dominion of Pakistan.
With this background and Mr Jinnah’s relentless struggle for the rights of his Muslim community none of Webster’s definitions may be applied to him – his actions or sayings. He was as good a Muslim as anyone of us or perhaps better in many respects. He had complete knowledge of the convents of Islam and was well acquainted with the prayer rituals. I am a witness to it as his ADC. To dub Quaid-i-Azam as secular or that he wanted Pakistan to be a secular state is only an attempt to further confuse the quagmire of political thinking already prevalent in the country.
Having said that, I would not like the clerics and those alluding Pakistan to be a theocracy, to get away with the argument that “if Quaid-i-Azam and Pakistan were no secular then they must be theocratic.” It is a fallacy and totally illogical.
In a theocratic state, a priestly class claiming to have divine authority runs the government. This is what the politico-religious class is exploiting in order to gain power. They have also spread the notion that “Pakistan was created in the name of Islam…its ideology is based on adherence to the strict convents of Islam.” In support of their arguments they always quote the well known slogan: Pakistan ka matlab kia, La-e-la-ha Illil- lillalla raised by the masses during their struggle for Pakistan.
It may be pointed out that a few religious parties are very recent converts to being the champions of Pakistan. Their predecessors and forefathers vehemently opposed the creation of Pakistan. They called Quaid-i-Azam as Kafir-i-Azam and Pakistan Dar-ul-Harb (the house of evil). They even preferred to stay back in India after independence and it was only when they saw a bleak future for them there, they reluctantly migrated to Pakistan. Encouraged and abetted by the dictators they established their political foothold and now present themselves as the custodians of Pakistan.
It must be understood that Pakistan was established on the basis of ‘Muslim nationhood’ and to safeguard the social, economic and political existence of the Muslims of the subcontinent. It was not created as a theocratic state. Quaid-i-Azam at no stage used the term ‘ideology’ of Pakistan. He always talked of Pakistan as a ‘democratic’ where ‘faith’ would be the personal matter of each individual. In his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 he said: “Religion, cast or creed has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Again in February 1948 while addressing the Australians and later the Americans he asserted: “Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with divine mission.” After these unambiguous and categorical statements of the Quaid all this controversy of his or the state being secular or theocratic should end.
A few words for the well known slogan: Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia: La-e-la-ha Illil-lillalla. This slogan was an expression of the two centuries of domination by the majority community that the Muslims saw as ending and in their exuberance and frenzy they raised slogans.
Founder of the country before and after independence in his speeches and writings always assured the people and the world at large that Pakistan is not going to be secular or a theocracy to be ruled by priests.
Quaid-i-Azam’s vision of Pakistan is very clear: he wanted Pakistan to be modern, progressive, dynamic, forward looking and a democratic country with equal rights for all its citizens irrespective of their casts, creed or religion.
Let us get out of this secular and theocracy syndrome so ruthlessly exploited so far and unite to chart out a course for making Pakistan the envy of the vision of Quaid-i-Azam, an Islamic democratic welfare state. Nation. The writer is former ADC to Quaid-i-Azam. Ata Rabani
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