View: Jinnah’s family and conflicting claims

Muhammad Ali Jinnah's sisters

I have no personal dispute with Aslam Jinnah if that is what he likes to be called but facts must not be distorted. Only Aslam can explain how he was given (or acquired) the name “Jinnah” and how he is the grandson or great grandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah son of Jina Poonja or Shirin Jinnah for that matter

The question of who is and is not a member of the “Jinnah family” has agitated the minds of several journalists and writers in Pakistan. It may not be an important issue given the troubled times we are passing through but I write this for two reasons.

One, philanthropic and social services in the field of education and health as well as the management and control of Jinnah related institutions have taken a large part of my time in the course of legal practice; two, the government’s decision to sponsor one individual who claims to be Jinnah’s grandson or great grandson or that of his sister Shirin Jinnah’s has been surprising.

Legally, for the purpose of inheritance, a descendant could fall in the category of heir, sharer, residuary or distant kindred. The descendants of Jinnah’s paternal uncle as well as the grand children of Jinnah’s brother and sisters fall in the last category while his daughter and grandson rank higher in degree of relationship.

However, when one speaks of family, we look at the immediate family of father, mother, brother, sister, son and daughter and then the grand children and children of brothers and sisters. The grand children and great grand children of a paternal or maternal uncle are considered too remote to classify as family. In the present case, I have endeavoured to clarify these issues only because the Government by its actions has created a situation which has made this necessary.

Jinnah’s father was “Jina Poonja”. His father’s brothers were Walji Poonja and Nathoo Poonja. Jinnah’s immediate family comprised of the following: Rehmatbai, Mariambai (sisters), Ahmad (brother), Shirin, and Fatima (sisters).

On the basis of this, here are some straight facts.

1. Jinnah has only one daughter, Dina Wadia. She lives in New York and Bombay.

2. Jinnah has only one grandson, “Nusli Wadia”. He lives in Bombay. He has two sons “Jay” and “Ness Wadia”. They are Jinnah’s great grandsons.

3. The other members of the Jinnah family comprise the grandsons and granddaughters of Jinnah’s sisters Rehmatbai and Mariambai. These grandchildren live in Karachi, Bombay and Calcutta.

4. Ahmad Jinnah’s daughter Fatima lived in Switzerland and has left no heir.

5. Shirinbai’s son Akbar Jafferbhoy predeceased her. He never married and left no heirs.

6. Most of the grandchildren of Mariambai are in Pakistan and they include Kulsoom Ibrahim, Zehra Chandoo, Gulshan Chandoo, Hussain Ebrahim, Rohina Peerbhoy, Liaquat Merchant and Moonira Kassam. There are other grandchildren of Rehmatbai and Mariambai in Bombay and Calcutta.

Legal proceedings relating to inheritance from the Estate of Fatima Jinnah were pending in Karachi from 1968 until 1984. These cases also involved the Estate of Fatima Jinnah. The controversy ended with a judgement of the Division Bench of the Sindh High Court which held that Jinnah and Fatima Jinnah had no sectarian faith or beliefs and that they were neither Shias nor Sunnis but plain Muslims like the Prophet (PBUH).

Fatima Jinnah’s estate was to be governed in accordance with Quranic Law. The case is still pending for determination of the share of the trustees of Shirin Jinnah Trust and the Walji family and for disbursement of the share of inheritance.

In these legal proceedings claims were filed by family members including the Walji family comprising descendents of Walji Poonja, the paternal uncle of Jinnah (brother of Jinnah’s father “Jina Poonja”).

A sole claim by a lady Jenabai, daughter-in-law of one of the descendents of Nathoo Poonja, was filed but this claim was rejected by the Sindh High Court and thereafter no member of the Nathoo Poonja family appeared or filed any claim before the High Court in the said proceedings. The distribution of the Estate of Fatima Jinnah has not yet taken place and a sum of approximately 180 million is lying deposited in the High Court and is available for distribution.

Mr Aslam Jinnah’s claim to be the grandson or great grandson of Jinnah is obviously incorrect. He could be a descendent from the Nathoo Poonja family and the correct course of action would be for him to establish his ancestry and make a claim before the Sindh High Court from the Estate of Fatima Jinnah rather than claiming the benefit of charity from provincial Governors, Chief Ministers and Baitulmal. His action reflects adversely on Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the entire Jinnah family in Pakistan and India.

It is a matter of record that the Quaid never sired a male child and therefore there is no son. Dina Wadia is his daughter and Nusli Wadia her son. He is the Quaid’s only grandson. As for Shirin Jinnah, her only son Akbar Jafferbhoy predeceased her. He never married and left no issues. Therefore the question of grandson of Shirinbai existing somewhere does not arise.

According to some writers, if Aslam Jinnah belongs to the family and carries the name Jinnah, he deserves the respect of the Pakistani public. Sadly, there is a big “if” according to the writer and the truth is that he is not the grandson of Jinnah or Shirin Jinnah or Ahmad Jinnah.

How he became a Jinnah, I do not know. I have authored several publications on Jinnah, appeared in Jinnah-related litigation in the High Court and control several Jinnah-related trusts and institutions. I have met all members of the Jinnah family and Walji Poonja family but not the Nathoo Poonja family.

The family of the Quaid (Jina Poonja descendants) include Dina Wadia, Nusli Wadia (only grandson), Jay & Ness Wadia (great grandsons) and the grandsons and granddaughters of the Quaid’s two sisters Rehmatbai and Mariambai and these include Kulsoom Ibrahim, Zehra Chandoo, Gulshan Chandoo, Mohammad Ebrahim, Hussein Ebrahim, Abbas Peerbhoy, Rohina Peerbhoy, Liaquat Merchant, Moonira Kassam and other grandchildren of Rehmatbai and Mariambai living in Bombay and Calcutta.

I hope this will put this controversy to an end. Extending support to a needy cause is laudable but this sort of publicity adversely affects the Jinnah family in Pakistan and India.

Jinnah stopped his nephew Akbar Peerbhoy from disclosing his name in the book “Jinnah faces an Assassin” and also stopped his brother Ahmad from stating on his card that he was the brother of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah because he did not want to create the impression that he was promoting his relatives or patronising them for advantage in his capacity as a leader of the Muslim League.

And yet some public functionaries and people in this country think this is acceptable. I have no personal dispute with Aslam Jinnah if that is what he likes to be called but facts must not be distorted. Only Aslam can explain how he was given (or acquired) the name “Jinnah” and how he is the grandson or great grandson of Mohammad Ali Jinnah son of Jina Poonja or Shirin Jinnah for that matter.

As for the Prime Minister and his cabinet members arranging a reception in the National Assembly and a standing ovation followed by gifts from the public exchequer and Baitul Mal, only the PM and the government can explain. So far there has been no justification for these actions which have no precedent.

Even Jinnah’s own daughter Dina Wadia and grandson Nusli Wadia were not extended any such protocol or felicitation. I met them privately at the Flag Staff House and the State Guest House in Karachi while former General-President Pervez Musharraf met them at the Cricket Stadium in Lahore.

 

By Liaquat Merchant, Daily Times

One Comment

  1. Ra2403 says:

    Cheaters giving standing ovation to another cheater. No surprises.

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