Open Close

Jinnah’s Political Journey

Year 2011 marks the 135th birth anniversary of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, popularly known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) and Baba-e-Quom (Father of the Nation). Jinnah was born on December 25, 1876 in Wazir Mansion Karachi. His initial school records state that he was born on October 20, 1875. However Jinnah’s first biography authored by Sarojini Naidu and his official passport state that he was born on December 25, 1876.

His father Jinnah bhai was a merchant by profession who belonged to the state of Gondal situated in the Kathiawar region province of Gujarat and had moved to Karachi from Kathiawar, because of his business partnership with Grams Trading Company whose regional office was set up in Karachi.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah studied at several schools: first at the Sindh-Madrasa-tul-Islam in Karachi; then for a short time at the Gokal Das Tej Primary School and finally at the Christian Missionary Society High School in Karachi, where, at the age of sixteen, he passed the matriculation examination of the University of Bombay. Jinnah went to England in 1892. He was offered an apprenticeship at the London office of Graham’s Shipping and Trading Company, a business that had extensive dealings with Jinnahbhai Poonja’s firm in Karachi. He left the apprenticeship and jointed Lincoln’s Inn in order to study law and became lawyer in youngest age.

Political Journey
Jinnah began his political journey when he joined the Indian National Congress in 1906, which was the major Indian political party at that time. It was the time when Jinnah had developed large constitutional views on Indian self-government in him. He condemned both the arrogance of British officials in India and the discrimination practiced by them against Indians. Jinnah became a member on the sixty-member Imperial Legislative Council. The council had no real power or authority, and included a large number of un-elected pro-Raj loyalists and Europeans. Nevertheless, Jinnah was instrumental in the passing of the Child Marriages Restraint Act, the legitimization of the Muslim waqf (religious endowments) and was appointed to the Sandhurst committee, which helped establish the Indian Military Academy. Jinnah served as leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until Pakistan’s independence on August 14, 1947. It is told that he initially avoided joining the All India Muslim League, regarding it as too Muslim oriented. However he decided to provide leadership to the Muslim minority and finally joined the league. Jinnah became the president of Muslim League at the 1916 session in Lucknow. After World War-I he remained India’s best Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity. Jinnah helped in shaping the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress. By 1917 Jinnah came to be recognized among both Hindus and Muslims as one of India’s most outstanding political leaders. Jinnah also played an important role in the founding of the All India Home Rule League in 1916 and became its key leader. In the company of political leaders Annie Besant and Tilak, Jinnah demanded “home rule” for India- the status of a self-governing dominion in the Empire similar to Canada, New Zealand and Australia. In 1924 Jinnah reorganized the Muslim League, of which he had been president since 1916. He attended several unity conferences. Jinnah wrote the Delhi Muslim Proposals in 1927 and pleaded for the incorporation of the basic Muslim demands in the Nehru report. He proposed a fourteen-point constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims in a self-governing India. Jinnah advocated the two-nation theory embracing the goal of creating a separate Muslim state as per the Lahore Resolution. The League headed by him won most reserved Muslim seats in the elections of 1946. After the British and Congress backed out of the Cabinet Mission Plan Jinnah called for a Direct Action Day to achieve the formation of Pakistan.

Pakistan Resolution
The background of Pakistan Resolution is such that in 1937, provincial autonomy was introduced in the sub-continent under the Government of India Act, 1935. The elections of 1937 provided the Congress with a majority in six provinces, where Congress governments were formed.  This led to the political, social, economic and cultural suppression of the Muslims in the Congress ruled provinces. The Congress contemptuously rejected the Muslim League’s offer of forming coalition ministries. The Muslims were subjected not only to physical attacks but injustice and discriminatory treatment as regards civil liberties, economic measures and employment and educational opportunities.
The Muslim demand for Pakistan Resolution- was violently opposed both by the British and the Hindus; and the Congress attitude toward the Muslims led to the hardening of the Muslims belief that only a separate homeland- Pakistan-  can guarantee their freedom. This demand was put in black and white on March 23, 1940. After adoption of the Pakistan Resolution, Jinnah had a clear objective before him and he struggled hard to achieve it. In one of the meetings, he said: “We are a Nation of a hundred million and what is more, we are a Nation with our distinct culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions. In short, as Muslims we have our own distinctive outlook on life.” He further said that by all cannons of international laws, we are a nation. Jinnah in 1945 proclaimed that only Muslim League represented the Muslims, and proved it to the hilt during 1946 polls, winning 100 percent seats at the Centre, and 80 per cent in the provinces.

Pakistan Declaration
The communal disturbance had engulfed almost entire subcontinent by the close of 1946. Realizing the situation, the British government sent down to India a new viceroy, Lord Mountbatten. His negotiations with various political leaders resulted in the June 3, 1947, plan by which the British decided to partition the subcontinent and hand over power to two successor states. The three Indian parties in the dispute duly accepted the plan: the Congress, the League and the Akali Dal, representing the Sikhs.

Jinnah’s Pakistan Building
Jinnah became Governor-General of Pakistan on August 15, 1947 and hold the charge until his death on September 11, 1948. As the first Governor General of Pakistan, Jinnah laid the foundations of the new state of Pakistan, framed national policies and rehabilitated millions of Muslim refugees who had migrated from India.

The new state of Pakistan was born with no central government, no capital, no administrative corps, nor an organized defense force. Its socio-economic resources were poor. Many had thought that Pakistan would not survive but that proved untrue as Jinnah’s untiring leadership generated the spirit of fraternity among Pakistanis in these unexpected circumstances. This period was very significant in Jinnah’s political life. He became a mass leader who never ignored the general will.

Jinnah’s Sayings on Unity
Before leaving for Karachi to take over as the Governor General of the new state, Jinnah advised Muslims in India (nearly half of the Muslim population of the British India including the Muslims of Gujarat and towns like Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura were left in India) to live in amity and friendship with Hindus. Jinnah was the torch bearer of Hindu-Muslim unity. He also assumed the role and title of ‘Protector General of the Hindu Minority’ during Hindu-Muslim riots after 1947.

Gopal Krishna Gokhle, the foremost Hindu leader before Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, said of Jinnah: “He has true stuff in him and that freedom from all sectarian prejudices which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

While discussing Pakistan in an interview given to a representative of the Associated Press of America on November 8, 1946 Jinnah said: “Hindu minorities in Pakistan can be rest assured that their rights will be protected. No civilized government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in government and to this end must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give it.”

In Jinnah`s interview given to a Reuters correspondent on May 21, 1947, he assured the minorities of Pakistan, “That they will be protected and safeguarded. For they will be so many citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed.” He had no doubt in his mind that they “will be treated justly and fairly and the collective conscience of parliament itself will be a guarantee that the minorities need not have any apprehension of any injustice being done to them.”

Jinnah’s interview with a Reuters correspondent on October 25, 1947: “Every citizen is expected to be loyal to the state and to owe allegiance to it. The arm of the law should be strong enough to deal with any person or section or body or people that is disloyal to the state. We do not, however, prescribe any schoolboy tests of their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan: if there is war would you shoot a Hindu?”
Jinnah’s broadcast to the people of Australia on February 19, 1948: “The great majority of us are… members of the Muslim brotherhood of Islam in which we are equal in right, dignity and self respect. Consequently we have a special and a very deep sense of unity. But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. 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.”

Jinnah died aged 71 in September 1948 in Governor-General’s House in Karachi, just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the British Empire. After his death, Jinnah left a deep and respected legacy in Pakistan, and according to Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah remained Pakistan’s greatest leader since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947.

Zahoor Hussain Bhat, Rising Kashmir