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Remembering Jinnah in December

In the month of December some pay lip service to Jinnah based on political expediency while others genuinely remember him for his relentless struggle for the achievement of a separate homeland for Muslims of this subcontinent. The train for Pakistan steamed off with the passing of the Pakistan Resolution in 1940 and arrived at Karachi in August 1947. The journey was long and arduous and it took its toll on Jinnah’s health.

Just like Pakistan meant different things to different people, Jinnah the sole spokesman for Pakistan was looked on by his followers in different ways. To some he was a messiah sent down to liberate the Muslims from domination by the British and majority Indian population. To others he was a British aristocrat immaculately dressed, who spoke with eloquence and dealt with the British and Indians on his own terms. He matched wits with great Indian leaders and the British government and convinced them that the demand for Pakistan was real and there was no alternative to partition though he did attempt in 1946 to opt for the Cabinet Mission Plan which contemplated Muslim rule in majority Muslim provinces under a permanent constitution which would be the Government of India Act 1935 but the Congress headed by Jawaharlal Nehru torpedoed the Cabinet Mission Plan. From this point onwards Pakistan became an inevitable goal for Jinnah.

The world is still assessing Jinnah and this assessment goes on in India as well where Jaswant Singh recently published his book “Jinnah, Pakistan and the Partition of India”. This process will go on and Jinnah will be judged by the totality of his achievements which led to the creation of Pakistan.

The Quaid expressed a total commitment to the supremacy of the constitution, rule of law and independence of the judiciary. He clearly said that the first duty of the government is to maintain law and order so that the life, property, liberty and religious beliefs of the citizens are fully protected.

Equality, justice, fair-play, tolerance and protection of minorities were issues which were dear to him. His famous speech of August 11, 1947 continues to ring out loud and clear. He also said that the only objective of the government should be to devise ways and means for the welfare and betterment of the people.

We have evidently drifted away from Jinnah’s principles, ideals and vision for Pakistan. We have lost the benefit of our immense geo-strategic location on the world map. We have not allowed democracy to flourish and take root. Regionalism, extremism and intolerance have flourished in Pakistan. Our political leaders have failed to provide a credible policy over the years in relation to foreign affairs, finance, education, health, population control, co-ordination between provinces and several other vital aspects that affect our sate.

The three wars with Indian have left deep scars and Pakistan’s relations with India have still not normalised to a level that the people of the two countries can trade, travel and live like peaceful neighbours. Nations which deviate from the vision of their founding fathers invariable end up as “failed states”. This is a danger looming before Pakistan.

The struggle for the creation of Pakistan as a separate homeland was motivated mainly with the object of securing freedom from domination by the British and the majority Hindu population of India, so that Pakistanis may achieve political and economic independence and freely practice and propagate their own personal religious beliefs.

While Pakistan has been involved in regional, ethnic and sectarian differences, religious intolerance has made a mockery of our ability to ensure freedom to practice and propagate our personal faith and beliefs irrespective of caste, creed, culture and religion.

While political independence to a limited extent with uniformed democracy at times may be a fact, we continue to be heavily influenced by the US and our sovereign status is eroded by policy statements by US officials and recently by a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by attacks across our borders. This seems to suggest political inadequacy while economic independence continues to remain a much desired necessity.

Do we have a truly representative government? Do our leaders and political representatives support the concept of collective wisdom and leadership? Are those who seek to control and guide the destiny of 180 million people doing enough to ensure a total independence of the judiciary? Are we the people recognised as the ultimate sovereign to whom the government is answerable? When will our search for a real democratic set-up and dispensation end so that democracy can take root and flourish? Have our political leaders addressed the issues of tolerance, equality, human rights, women’s rights, right of freedom of worship and taken effective steps to introduce political, economic, social, educational and agricultural reforms in Pakistan?

When will we have a foreign policy that ensures goodwill with our neighbours resulting in peace on our borders and progress within for the welfare and well-being of the people of Pakistan? What steps have been taken on the all important issues of poverty alleviation and enhancement of the literacy rate?

These are only a few examples but it is only when we put ourselves above personal aspirations, intrigues, politics of expediency, regionalism, extremism and subordinate ourselves to the larger interest of the state of Pakistan and the political, social and economic well-being of the people that we will become capable of honestly saying that we truly believe in and have implemented the golden principles of “unity, faith and discipline” and that to us Pakistan comes first.

Jinnah firmly believed in supremacy of the constitution, rule of law, justice, equality, fair play, tolerance and an independent judiciary. Endeavours are being made to propagate Jinnah’s principles, ideals and vision as a Nation Building Exercise in Pakistan but to achieve this we must ensure that his message reaches not only the younger generations but also all of Pakistan’s politicians, parliamentarians, legislators, bureaucrats and public functionaries. This would be an exercise which would immensely benefit the state of Pakistan but one can hardly expect any government to fund this major exercise while the civil society, which contributes largely towards philanthropic and charitable causes, is unlikely to become a major supporter to this cause. This conduct is regrettable and will remain so for all times to come.

To understand the factors behind the creation of Pakistan and what Pakistan was intended to achieve, Jinnah is the bridge which must be crossed. Without this bridge being crossed any exercise in this direction will be futile.

There is an abundance of material on Jinnah in the shape of books, DVDs and CDs. The corporate sector in Pakistan can take the lead to ensure that Jinnah’s principles, ideals and vision are spread far and wide throughout the country so that there is development in leadership at all levels in the role model of Jinnah. Let us remember Jinnah for what he was, what he stood for and not what people would like us to believe. It is only by dissemination of correct and factual information that we can educate the younger generation in Pakistan and once this has been achieved, the future must be left to them.

The writer is the grand-nephew of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, president of the Jinnah Society, managing trustee of the Jinnah Foundation, executive trustee of Quaid-e-Azam Aligarh Education Trust and former deputy attorney general of Pakistan

Liaquat H Merchant, The News