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Jinnah, Pakistani State and society

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a history-making personality because he changed the course of history by creating a new state on the basis of a novel idea at that time.

His basic argument was that the Indian problem was international in character, involving two nations in British India.

He maintained that the Muslims of British India constituted a nation separate from the Hindus and others and, as a nation, the Muslims were entitled to an independent and sovereign state in order to protect and advance their socio-cultural identity, rights and interests.

He recognised Islam’s civilizational and historical impact on the disposition and mindset of the Muslims that made them different from other religious and cultural groups in British India.

Not all socio-cultural groups or civilizational identities are able to claim and get a separate state.

Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah articulated the demands and aspirations of the Muslims of British India in such an effective manner that the predominant majority of the Muslims of British India reposed full confidence in him as their leader.

For them, Jinnah was a charismatic leader who not only saved them from being overwhelmed by an unsympathetic majority but also gave them a national identity.

Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah had to contest his case for Pakistan at three fronts.

First, the British were not initially convinced by his demand for dividing British India into two states of India and Pakistan for securing the future of the Muslims.

The partition of British India was an anathema to the British.

However, they realised by early 1947 that there was no secure and stable alternative to creating the separate state of Pakistan.

Second, the Congress Party was opposed to the partition of India and establishment of Pakistan.

It advocated the notion of one Indian nation, irrespective of religion or region as opposed to the Muslim League notion of Two Nations, ie the Muslims and the Hindus.

The Congress party accepted the establishment of Pakistan in June 1947 with a lot of reluctance and hoped that the Muslims would soon recognise the flaws in their decision to establish a separate state.

The Congress Party resolution of June 15, 1947 accepted the June 3 Plan for the partition of India but maintained that “when present passions have subsided, India’s problems will be viewed in their proper perspective and the false doctrine of two nations in India will be discredited and discarded by all.”

Third, a number of Muslims groups opposed the Muslim League demand for the partition of British India.

The Congress Party had a number of Muslims in its fold who were used by the Congress Party to oppose the demand for Pakistan.

Some Muslims groups did not formally join the Congress party but they supported its opposition to Pakistan.

These included, among others, the Unionist Party in the Punjab and the Khudai Khidmatgar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Islam-based political parties did not support the political struggle for the establishment of Pakistan.

These included Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), Jamaat-i-Islami, Majlis-i-Ahrar and the Khaksars.

Several Islamic clergy broke away from the JUH and supported the establishment of Pakistan.

A good number of rural based Islamic clergy and pirs and sajjadanasheens also supported the Muslim League and the demand for the establishment of Pakistan.

In other words the Islamic groups were divided on the establishment of Pakistan.

The realisation of the goal of Pakistan was a remarkable achievement of Jinnah and the Muslim League.

Jinnah adopted a legalistic approach with strong determination to achieve his goal.

He engaged in popular mobilisation of the Muslims in the post-1937 period in order to create a popular base for his demand.

The Muslim League contested the provincial elections in 1946 with a twin agenda that the Muslim League was the sole representatives of the Muslims of British India and that the establishment of Pakistan was their sole demand.

The electoral triumph of the Muslim League established the democratic credentials of the demand for Pakistan.

Had the Muslim League not won most Muslim seats in the 1946 provincial elections, it could not get Pakistan in August 1947.

The speeches and statements of Jinnah during 1937-48 not only addressed the political needs of that time but also served as a source of inspiration and guidance for Pakistani state and society in the post independence period.

These statements reflect his vision of Pakistan and offer broad outlines of what is important for organising the state system, constitution-making, the relationship between the state and its citizens, national harmony and unity, the role of Islam and foreign policy.

There is a need to revisit his vision of Pakistan by examining his speeches and statements.

This is possible only if we understand his orientations and make-up of his personality, the full text of his statements and the context of the statement.

It is unfortunate that the political parties and leaders often make a selective use of his speeches and statements.

The Islamists refer only to his statements relating to Islamic principles and teaching.

The people with secular orientations only talk of his address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 to show that he wanted a secular system for Pakistan.

The other problem is that the competing political interests in today’s Pakistan give their own interpretation to Jinnah’s references to Islamic principles and teachings and its history to meet their partisan needs in Pakistan’s polarised political context.

It is important to avoid any selective use of Jinnah’s statements and interpret them not on the basis of the political needs of today or partisan interest of a group.

Rather, these statements should be understood with reference to intellectual backdrop and disposition of Jinnah and how he viewed these issues and problems.

Further, the political and historical context of the statements must also be taken into account.

The current religious and cultural intolerance and the use of violence for pursuing religio-political agenda negate Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan.

He envisaged Pakistan as a modern democratic state that viewed the teachings and principles of Islam as the sources of inspiration and ethnical foundation for the state and society.

He considered the Sharia and the writings of Islamic jurists as one of the sources of law rather than a final and strict legal code to be enforced by the state.

Thus the notion of the state using its machinery to enforce Islam was alien to Jinnah.

Jinnah stood for constitutionalism, democracy, the rule of law, civil and political rights and social and cultural tolerance.

He emphasised the need of socio-economic justice and promised equal rights to religious minorities.

He argued for equal citizenship for all irrespective of religion, caste, ethnicity and region.

Four basic principles can be derived from his vision of Pakistan.


1. Pakistan will be a democratic state with an emphasis on constitutionalism and the rule of law.

2. The state will not be ‘fiqh’-based, but laws and the constitution will be made by an elected legislative body that can use Islamic teachings and principles as a source of law.

3. The state will not use its powers and apparatus to enforce Islam on the people. The state cannot be an enforcer of a particular religion.

4. The state will not discriminate citizens on the basis of religion. All citizens, irrespective of religion, will have equal rights and protection of the state.

The notion of equal citizenship irrespective of religion is very strong in Jinnah.

It is not merely his often quoted first address to the constituent assembly on August 11, 1947 but also several other statements attempt to restore the confidence of non-Muslims in the capacity of the Pakistani state to treat them as equal citizens as well as restrict the direct role of religion in state affairs.

In his broadcast to the people of Australia in February 1948, Jinnah said, “Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds and we welcome in closest association with us all those who, of whatever creed, are themselves willing and ready to play their part as true and loyal citizens of Pakistan.” While broadcasting to the people of the United States in February 1948, Jinnah said: “We have many non-Muslims -Hindus, Christians and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis.

They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.

If we examine Jinnah’s advice to civil servants and military personnel, his message is clear and categorical.

The civil servants are to serve the people to the best of their ability and the military has to perform its professional responsibilities within the overall command of the civilian government.

Similarly, he attached great importance to participatory governance and civil and political rights.

Had Jinnah lived longer he would have used his charisma to create constitutional and political institutions and processes reflecting his vision of Pakistan.

Such a political system would have endured internal and external pressures, thereby ensuring viability and continuity of the political processes.

His death on September11, 1948, thirteen months after the establishment of Pakistan, was an irreparable loss.

No other leader was able to fill the vacuum caused by his demise.

Pakistan has drifted far-away from Jinnah’s vision.

These trends can be reversed if Pakistan’s political and societal leaders recognise that Pakistan cannot overcome its current problems without returning to the letter and spirit of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan.

DR. HASAN ASKARI RIZVI, Business Recorder