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TEXT: We are celebrating the birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at a time when Pakistan faces the leadership crisis. Some of the present-day leaders lack the foresight to think about the interests of the state and its people in a long-term perspective. They are concerned about immediate problems rather than adopting policy measures to give hope to the ordinary folks for a better future both at the individual and societal levels.

Corruption and misuse of state resources by powerful political and bureaucratic officials has undermined governance and increased the problems for the common people. These rulers must learn from Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah who was a highly professional person in dealing with the affairs of the Muslim League and the official responsibilities after Pakistan emerged as the independent state. He made a clear distinction between his personal domain and the official capacity as the first Governor General of Pakistan. He would not spend a single rupee from the state treasury for anything that related to his personal affairs and needs. The official expenses of the Governor-General were kept at the minimum level. He also emphasized professionalism and merit in official business, especially for appointment to various high government positions.

Pakistani societal and political leaders can improve the quality of governance and control corruption if they follow the traditions set up by Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah. He strictly adhered to the principles of transparency, honesty, simplicity and maintained a distinction between official capacity and personal needs.

There are several other aspects of Jinnah’s personality that need to be emulated by the present-day leaders of Pakistan. He was a clear-headed and goal-oriented person with a remarkable quality of presenting his legal and political perspective in an extremely convincing manner with strong arguments that appealed to good sense. His deep understanding of law, constitution and world history, including Islamic history, gave him the skill for analytical and dispassionate review of Indian history and especially the immediate and long-term challenges for the Muslims of the sub-continent. His idealism and vision were punctuated by pragmatism. He changed his strategies in the backdrop of political experience, but he stood firm on his goals.

Major influences on Jinnah

The “history-making” personality of Jinnah was shaped by five major influences. First, he was influenced by the late 19th Century British liberalism, which he learnt during his stay in England (1892-96) for his studies in law at the Lincoln’s Inn. He learnt to emphasize constitutionalism, rule of law and political and civil rights.

Second, on return to India after obtaining the law degree, he developed contacts with Indian liberals like Gokhale, Dadabhai Naroji, Ferozshah Mehta and others.

Third, he was influenced by diversified ethnic and religious societal atmosphere and business and mercantile ethos of Bombay, marked by professionalism, competition and interaction in a diversified and the educated upper and upper middle-class society.

Fourth, his understandings of the impact of British rule on Hindu-Muslim relations that led him to explore political options for protection and advancement of Indian Muslims’ civilizational and cultural identity, rights and interests.

Fifth, the political experience from the interaction with the British Indian government and the Congress Party from the second decade of the 20th century led him to make mid-course updating in his political strategies for promoting Muslim identity, rights and interests in British India.

Jinnah entered active politics in 1906, when he joined the Congress Party. He joined the Muslim League in 1913 and maintained the membership of both parties until 1920, when he left the Congress Party and devoted fully to the Muslim League and the Muslim cause in British India.

Three major phases

His political career can be divided into three major phases. The focus of his politics was how to protect the civilizational and cultural identity of the Muslims in the peculiar political conditions of British India and promote their rights and interests within the existing British Indian constitutional and legal system. This goal remained constant throughout his political career but he did change the strategies to achieve this goal in view of his “experience” of dealing with the Congress Party over the years.

The first phase of his political struggle covered the period of 1906-1920. During these years he advocated the protection of Muslim constitutional and political rights through Hindu-Muslim unity as co-sharer of political power. He thought that constitutional and legal guarantees and safeguards within federal India could ensure a secure political future for the Muslims in British India. He was member of both the Muslim League and the Congress Party from 1913 to 1920, and he managed the signing of what is historically described as the Lucknow Pact, 1916 between the Congress Party and the Muslim League. This “Pact” provided for adequate representation of Muslims in legislative bodies through separate electorate (enforced since 1909), guarantee of Muslim representation in government jobs and a “weightage” to religious minorities in legislative bodies, i.e. slightly more representation than their population to the Muslims in non-Muslim majority provinces, and a similar concession to non-Muslims in Muslim majority provinces. Jinnah believed that in a federal system with provincial autonomy, the Muslims would be able to run the Muslim majority provinces on their own.

The second phase was spread over 1920-34. This was the period of transition in Jinnah’s thought process. He got alienated from the Congress Party and abandoned it in 1920, to devote fully to the Muslim cause. He realized from the Nehru Report (1928) on constitutional reforms that the Congress Party, dominated by the Hindus, would not provide constitutional guarantee and safeguards for protecting the civil and political rights of the Muslims and power-sharing sharing between the Muslims and the Hindus. He was disappointed by the recommendations of the Nehru Report. His attempt failed to get the Nehru Report amended so far as Muslims rights and interests were concerned. He gave a rejoinder to the Nehru Report so far as the Muslims rights and interests were concerned in an address to the Muslim League meeting in 1929, described as Jinnah’s Fourteen Points. His statement suggested categorical constitutional guarantees for the Muslim cultural identity and their representation in the elected provincial and central legislatures, cabinets and government jobs. This was a Charter of the Muslim rights and interests in a federal system with autonomy for the provinces. The Muslim League and Jinnah talked of a federal system for India in the Roundtable Conferences (1930-32). At the same time Jinnah decided to stay in England.

The third phase of his political career in the pre-independence period covers the years from 1934 to 1947. These were action-packed years in Jinnah’s politics. He returned from England in 1934 and assumed the leadership of the Muslim League. He began to reorganize and reactivate the Muslim League, but it made a weak showing in the 1937 provincial elections in Muslim majority provinces.

There was a major shift in Jinnah’s politics during this phase, especially during 1937-47. The Congress Party established its governments in the non-Muslim majority provinces where it had won the 1937 elections. These governments lasted for two years, when in 1939, the Congress Party walked out of these governments to protest the British government’s unilateral decision to declare war on Germany not only on its behalf but also on behalf of India in September 1939 because India was a British colony. This was the beginning of World War II (1939-45). The Muslim experience under the Congress Ministries in 1937-39 was bitter. The educated Muslims were alienated from these ministries primarily because of their educational and cultural policies and a conscious effort by the Congress-led provincial governments to exclude the Muslims from governmental processes. The Muslims complained about these governments’ policies of denying government jobs to the Muslims.

The experience of the Congress Ministries led the Muslim League to realize that the federal system would not protect their cultural identity, rights and interests and that they must explore alternate course of political action. The new course of action was formally announced in the Muslim League annual session at Lahore on March 22, 23 and 24, 1940. The Muslim League resolution in this annual session demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India because they were a nation with their own outlook of life and on life. This demand was fully articulated during the next 7 years.

Jinnah was the most articulate and forceful advocate of the notion of the Muslims of British India being a nation and that as a nation they needed a separate homeland of Pakistan, comprising the Muslim majority provinces in British India.

Jinnah’s Islamic idiom and countering terrorism

Islamic idiom and symbols surfaced prominently in the discourse of the Muslim League and Jinnah in the post-1934 period, especially after 1937, when Jinnah began to work towards reviving the Muslim League as a mass political party. He recognized the relevance of Islamic teachings and principles, Islamic history and Muslim nostalgia for Muslim rule in India and their distinctive socio-cultural identity for articulation political identity formation of the Muslims of British India. This was a new nationalism that challenged the Congress nationalism of one nation and one India.

The greatest achievement of Jinnah was that he transformed the Muslims of British India from community to nation. He also led the political movement for securing a separate homeland for protection and advancement of Muslim historical and cultural identity, rights and interests. His struggle for the establishment of Pakistan was political rather than religious. He did not argue that a separate homeland was needed because Islam was in danger in united India. His case for Pakistan aimed at creating a secure homeland for the Muslims of British India for permanently securing their Identity, rights and interests from being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority.

The Muslim League and Jinnah talked of seeking guidance from Islamic teachings and principles but he never favoured the idea of setting up a religious-Islamic state where religion completely overwhelmed the state and society. Religious orthodoxy and extremism were alien to Jinnah’s mindset.

It was during the military rule of General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88) that the government and a section of religious leaders began to reinterpret Islamic idiom and Islamic references in Jinnah’s discourse in a manner that suited the official policy of promoting religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism at the state and societal levels in Pakistan. It is not advisable to give meanings of one’s choice to Jinnah’s Islamic idiom for serving the current political agenda of the interpreter.

Jinnah was a Modernist Muslim who believed that modern notions of the nation state, constitutionalism and liberal democracy, the rule of law and equal citizenship could be combined with the teachings and principles of Islam.

Jinnah’s emphasis was on the Islamic teachings of equality, social justice and the rule of law.

There is a need to return to Jinnah’s views on Islam and modern democratic political system to create Pakistan’s national narrative for countering the worldview of religious extremists and terrorists. This effort can be useful if Jinnah’s speeches and statements, especially his references to Islamic history, principles and teachings, are interpreted in the political context of the statements and his intellectual background and personality disposition.

Hasan Askari Rizvi holds PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and writes regularly on national and global politics and regional security issues.

This article by him was first published in this newspaper’s December 25, 2017 issue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020