Friday, July 11, 2008
Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Vision for Pakistan
With the passage of 60 years since Pakistan's independence, a lot of myths have grown around Pakistan's founding father and his vision and intentions for Pakistan. This blog post is an attempt to explain who the Quaid-e-Azam was and what he wanted Pakistan to become as a nation.
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the father of Pakistani nation, was a brilliant Muslim lawyer and political leader who lived a life that could be described as essentially westernized and secular. He was born in an Ismaili Shia Muslim family, raised in Karachi, receiving his early schooling at Karachi's Sindh Madressah and then received his law education in the U.K. He returned to the Sub-continent in 1896, married a Parsi woman Ruttie Petit, and practiced law in Bombay while waging a struggle for the independence of India from the British. He dressed mostly in the latest English-style suits of his time and spoke mostly in English with occasional Gujarati and Urdu. He did not have religious education and most ulema of his time agreed that his life did not conform to what most ulema considered "Islamic principles". In fact, the ulema on both sides of the partition debate, including Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani, questioned Jinnah's credentials as a "good, practicing Muslim". He fought for India's freedom, first as the President of Indian National Congress, and then as the head of the Muslim League.
Having worked hard but unsuccessfully for Hindu-Muslim cooperation and unity, the Quaid--i-Azam was disillusioned with the Indian National Congress. He decided to join the Muslim League in 1935. After joining the Muslim League, his goal was to create a separate, independent homeland for Muslims of the Indian Sub-continent, where they could flourish freely without interference from or competition with the politically, educationally and economically dominant Hindu majority in South Asia. But he clearly opposed a "theocratic state" ruled by the religious elite (something like Iran's Guardian Council) with the ultimate veto power over the will of the people and the democratic processes and institutions. In fact, he believed in the separation of church and state, just as much as he favored the superiority of political leadership over the military officer corps in running the nation's affairs.
Here are three excepts from Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's most important speeches laying out his vision for Pakistan:
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State." Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah in address to first constituent assembly, Aug 11, 1947
"In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. 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 citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." Quaid-i-Azam, Feb. 1948
“Never forget that you are the servants of the state. You do not make policy. It is we, the people’s representatives, who decide how the country is to be run. Your job is to only obey the decisions of your civilian masters.” Quaid-i-Azam's Address to Military Staff College, June 14, 1948.
In the current circumstances when Pakistan is threatened from the forces of darkness and dictatorships disguised as saviors of the nation, it is important that we understand clearly what the founding father intended for Pakistan. With the above speech quotes from the Quaid-i-Azam, I will let the reader be the judge of his intentions.
As you read and ponder, let me leave you with a relevant quote from popular columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee: "Fortunately for him, Jinnah did not live long enough to see his dream betrayed by men unworthy even to utter his name. He died before total disillusionment could set in (though he had his suspicions that it was on its way) and broke his heart. From what we know of him, he was that rare being, an incorruptible man in all the many varied meanings of the word corruption, purchasable by no other, swayed by no other, perverted by no other; a man of honor, integrity and high ideals. That the majority of his countrymen have been found wanting in these qualities is this country's tragedy."
In conclusion, I take the liberty of paraphrasing Iqbal's admonition to his fellow Indians in his time, as follows:
Na samjho gay to mit jao gay ay Pakistan walo
Thumhari dastan tak bhi no hogi dastanon main
Which loosely translates as:
Listen up, pay attention, and mend your ways, o Pakistanis
Or else thou shall perish and be consigned to the dustbin of history