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TEXT: Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a leader of great eminence who changed the direction of history of the South Asian region by transforming the Muslims of South Asia from a minority community to a nation. Most Muslim intellectuals and political and religious leaders viewed the Muslims of South Asia as a socio-cultural and civilizational entity separate from other religious communities residing in British India. Jinnah accepted this argument of a separate community, but he moved this notion to a higher stage by converting them into a nation and spearheading the demand of a separate and independent homeland for them to turn the idea of a nation into a concrete and full political reality.

Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah represented all the qualities of an exceptional leader. These qualities included an exemplary character, a truthful and honest personality, enthusiasm about his mission, a clear and confident articulation of the goal and leading the people in that direction, a clear mind capable of thinking analytically keeping in view the goal, and the ability to inspire others and win their confidence. A leader has a long-term perspective of goals and strategies, and he can convince others of the genuineness of his cause. These qualities could be identified in Jinnah’s personal life, professional career as a brilliant lawyer, his political career, and the first Governor-General of Pakistan.

Jinnah could be described as the creation of the political, socio-economic and historical environment of the beginning of the 20th Century. However, he did not stay trapped in the milieu of his time. He took the initiative to transform the political environment and gave it a new direction for ensuring a secure future for the Muslims in British India; he revived their past glory by establishing an independent homeland for them. His life and career rewrote the history of South Asia. Thomas Carlyle, a British-Scottish historian and philosopher, was right to suggest that the great men shape history when he wrote that “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.”

Jinnah was a charismatic leader who enjoyed the full confidence of the majority of the Muslims of South Asia. They were convinced from the strength of his character and a bold advocacy of their cause that he had the ability to solve their socio-political and economic problems and secure their political future. This view of Jinnah was shared by the Muslims across all societal and regional divides. Charisma arises in a situation acute societal crisis as well as the crisis of legitimacy of the institutions and processes in the last decade of the British rule in India. In such a transitional period, Jinnah was the source of inspiration and guidance for the Muslims of British India. Their devotion to him was so strong that he received enthusiastic welcome wherever he went for political mobilization. Even when he addressed the public meetings in English, all people, including those who did not understand that language, used to listen to him with patience and dedication.

Four major factors contributed to shaping Jinnah’s political disposition. First, he was influenced by British liberalism during his first four years in England in 1892-1896. He obtained the law degree there. On his return to India, he was in contact with the leaders known for liberal views. He imbibed the notions of constitutionalism, the rule of law, participatory governance, freedom and the right of self-determination. His legal background also strengthened his commitment to the modern notions of governance and the rights of the people. His political struggle in British India was within the framework of constitution and law.

Second, the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic atmosphere and commercial context of Bombay helped him to learn the importance of initiative, hard work and professionalism. It was not surprising that he made his mark in the legal profession in a short period of time. He was viewed as a young and brilliant legal mind in Bombay and, later, elsewhere.

Third, he carefully studied the working of the British rule in India and its impact on the Muslims. He felt that the problems of the Muslims had increased in the post-1857 period when they were pushed back in all walks of life, including the state institutions and processes. Therefore, he paid special attention to the situation of the Muslims in the society and the state system under the British rule. He devoted his attention to the protection and advancement of Muslim civilizational and cultural identity, their rights and interests. As a matter of fact, he emerged as the most articulate advocate of Muslim rights and interests by the end of the second decade of the 20th Century.

Fourth, Jinnah was inspired by the teachings and principles of Islam that emphasized the rule of law, human equality, fair play, socio-economic justice, societal harmony, and a fair treatment to all human being. He viewed Islam as a civilization and culture, a social order and a source of guidance and inspiration for the state system and the society. Like Allama Iqbal, Jinnah believed that Islam provided an ethical and moral basis to the state and he firmly believed that the modern notions of governance like the rule by constitution and law, democracy and basic human freedoms and individual rights, obligations of the state to its citizens, equal citizenship and religious and cultural tolerance were incorporated in the teachings and principles of Islam. However, he was not in favor of establishing a religious state system dominated by clergy and theologians. He stood for seeking guidance from the teaching and principles of Islam rather than establishing a particular kind of governmental structure from history.

The study of global political history shows that the structure of government is time bound but the principles can be universal which will have to be interpreted keeping in view the issues and challenges of a particular period of history. A system of government may work efficiently in a particular period of history, but it may require updating as the circumstances and conditions change. That is why Jinnah left the task of constitution-making to the legislature.

If we examine the political career of Jinnah, it is not difficult to discern that he had a definite goal in his mind from the beginning. This goal was the protection of separate historical, civilizational and cultural and political identity of the Muslims inspired by the teaching and principles of Islam in the context of the British colonial rule in India. As a constitutional and legal expert, he also worked for protection and advancement of the political and civil rights and their interests in the modern state system created by the British and especially enhancing their opportunities in education, government jobs and representation in the legislative bodies and cabinets.

He devoted himself to the achievement of these goals from 1906 when he joined active politics. However, his strategies to achieve these goals changed over time in view of the experience of interaction with the majority community and the British government. His “political experience” over the year caused changes in his political strategies. Jinnah, like Allama Iqbal and some other Muslim leaders started as an advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity and cooperation in the political domain and talked of working together in the context of India as one entity. However, all of them were alienated by the negative disposition of the leaders of the majority community and their main political machine, the Congress Party. Later, Jinnah and these Muslim leaders devoted fully to the cause of the Muslims.

Jinnah joined the Congress Party in 1906 and came to the Muslim League fold in 1913 and maintained his membership of both parties until 1920. He was instrumental to the signing of the Lucknow Pact, 1916 on constitutional reforms between the Congress Party and the Muslim League. However, he delinked himself from the Congress Party in 1920 and devoted fully to the Muslim League and the welfare of the Muslims. He continued to enjoy respect in the Congress circles after leaving that party and maintained some interaction with some Congress party leaders for the next ten to fifteen years. However, these personal relations lost relevance when the Congress adopted a non-accommodative attitude towards the Muslim political demands. This drift began with the publication of the Nehru Report (1928) and Jinnah’s failed attempt to secure changes in the Nehru report to accommodate Muslim political demands. His rejoinder to the Nehru Report was his well-known speech outlining the Muslim political and economic demands, popularly known as Jinnah’s Fourteen Points (1929).

Initially, Jinnah was prepared to accept a federal system for India with provincial autonomy and constitutional safeguards for the Muslim cultural and civilizational identity, rights and interests. However, as the Congress Party was unwilling to commit on providing constitutional guarantees to the Muslims in the post-British India, the Muslim League under the leadership of Jinnah opted for a separate homeland for the Muslims of British India.

The resolution passed at the annual session of the Muslim League held in Lahore on March 22-24, 1940, chartered a new course of political action for the Muslims of British India. The idea of a separate homeland floated on March 23, 1940, was fully articulated in the next seven years. Jinnah’s speeches and statements from 1939 onwards fully articulated the concepts of Muslim nationhood and the separate homeland of Pakistan. His correspondence with Mahatma Gandhi in 1944 showed that Jinnah was talking about one independent and sovereign state of Pakistan in the Muslim majority areas.

Islamic idiom and terminology began to appear in Jinnah’s speeches and statements from 1934 onwards when he returned from England and devoted his attention to reorganizing and strengthening the Muslim League for an effective advocacy of the Muslim demands and interests. He invoked the age-old Muslim desire for a separate religio-political existence for the formation of Muslim national identity in British India and their political mobilization. The articulation of nationhood and mobilization of Muslim people was also aimed at convincing the Congress Party and the British of a separate Muslim national identity. The fear of the Muslims being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority were reinforced by the unfair treatment extended to the Muslim and their cultural and religious identity by the Congress provincial ministries in the non-Muslim majority provinces in 1937-39. It was in 1938 that the Sindh Muslim League suggested to the top Muslim League leadership the need of seeking an alternative to the single Indian federal system.

In addition to the Congress Party opposition and the British reluctance to accept the demand for a separate homeland, a section of the Muslim elite also opposed this option. A small section of the Muslim was associated with the Congress Party and shared its one-nation Indian nationalism. The presence of these Muslim leaders in the Congress Party partly contributed to the Congress leadership misperception that they could neutralize the Muslim League with the help of the Muslims in the Congress. Major Islamic parties of 1946-47 either opposed the Muslim League demand for a separate homeland or they stayed away from the Jinnah led political struggle for the making of Pakistan. They shared the view that the Muslims were a distinct socio-cultural identity, but they did not agree with the idea of a separate homeland for them, as advocated by the Muslim League. However, most of the rural clergy and “Sajjadanasheens” and “Gaddinasheens” in the Muslim majority provinces supported the Muslim League demand for Pakistan.

The credit goes to Jinnah whose determined leadership and a persuasive advocacy of a separate homeland neutralized the opposition of a section of Muslim political and religious leaders and left no option for the Congress Party leadership but to accept the division of British India into India and Pakistan. The British were divided on this issue. However, when they realized by early 1947 that it was not rational to hand over all state power to the Congress Party, the British government reluctantly agreed to divide India into two independent states. The Most significant achievement of Jinnah was the mobilization of the majority of the Muslims in favor of a separate homeland for them. This support was confirmed by the resounding success of the Muslims League on the Muslim seats in the 1946 provincial elections. This democratic affirmation of Jinnah’s initiative turned Pakistan into a solid reality that neither the Congress Party nor the British could deny. Several British who were based in India in the last couple of years of British rule aptly described Jinnah as the “critical variable” in Pakistan’s emergence as an independent state.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hasan Askari Rizvi is a Lahore based political analyst. He holds the M.A. and PhD Degrees in International Relations/Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, and M. Phil. in Politics from the University of Leeds, UK.

Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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