Jesus and Jinnah – by Harris Khalique

Jesus and Jinnah – by Harris Khalique

Merry Christmas to all! Today is celebrated as the day Jesus was born. It was Jesus Christ, the prophet of God, who was crucified by the powers that be in his times for what he stood for. In terms of Abrahamic religions, he is the founder of Christianity, son of Virgin Mary and the second last prophet of God for Muslims.

For people who simply believe in what he stood for – siding with and speaking up for the poor and the oppressed, the downtrodden and the weak, the sick and the old – Jesus Christ is our lord. For us, December 25 has both a spiritual and a universal significance due to the birth of Jesus and a political and local significance because the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, has the honour of sharing his birthday with the great prophet.

I have my own views about the factors that brought about the Partition of India. The machinations of a particular powerful segment within the Indian National Congress, the British game plan for the region, the vested interests of the Indian Muslim aristocracy – all these played their part in full. The compulsions for Quaid-e-Azam after the Cabinet Mission Plan was rubbished by the Congress in 1946 are neither properly understood by his friends or his foes. However, the way he was betrayed by those he led and freed from the yoke of colonial slavery is unbelievable.

The circumstance of history had brought the Partition of India in a manner that we got a moth-eaten, truncated Pakistan, in the words of the Quaid himself. Not only that – Pakistanis further dismembered the country. We did everything possible to disregard what the founder of the nation had envisioned for the new state he founded.

A few minutes before I started writing these lines, I received an invitation to attend a national teachers’ conference being organised by Alif Ailaan, an education campaign actively promoting access to quality education across Pakistan. That once again reminded me of a message Quaid-e-Azam sent to the first All Pakistan Education Conference that was held in November 1947 in Karachi.

He had said, “You know that the importance of education and the right type of education cannot be overemphasised. Under foreign rule, for over a century, in the very nature of things, I regret sufficient attention was not given to the education of our people, and if we are to make any real, speedy and substantial progress we must earnestly tackle this question and bring our educational policy and programme suited to the genius of our people, consonant with our history and culture, and having regard to the modern conditions and vast developments that have taken place all over the world.”

Since 1948, we have seen commissions formed, task forces set into play, steering committees convened, but the fundamental issues remain unaddressed. If one looks at the aims and objectives set forth in the educational policies of 1960, 1992, 1998 and 2009, the points about social justice, provision of equal opportunities and welfare initiatives, seeing education as public investment in the country’s economy, are all present. There are, nevertheless, contradictory points and a host of procedural issues in the aims and objectives laid out in these documents.

But if you look at the real reasons for the contradictions found in these documents, I would still humbly submit that the larger and more significant issues in policy formulation have to do with the very genesis and growth of the state of Pakistan, the constitutional history including the introduction of the objectives resolution as the preamble of the constitution and the availability of resources for education.

The Sharif Commission (1960), set up by the then Gen Ayub-led government of Pakistan, establishes the creation of a sense of unity and nationhood among the people of Pakistan as one of the primary objectives. Interestingly, this objective follows from reasserting the importance of preserving the ideals that led to the creation of Pakistan and recalls the desire for a homeland for Muslims where they could lead an Islamic way of life.

How contradictory! On the one hand, the Muslims of British India had themselves wanted to create a state of their own – now they had to be coerced into living together, meaning thereby that the Pakistani nation-state would not function as a community that was diverse in languages and cultural practices but must become a unitary entity.

This is reflected in curriculum development throughout our history. The 1992 policy objectives, which were introduced four years after General Zia, begin with “restructuring the existing educational system on modern lines in accordance with the principles of Islam…” Then it mentions the term ‘Islamic Social Sciences’ and wants to enable students to understand the ‘Islamic worldview’ and foster their cultural moorings as members of the ummah.

The 1998 policy objectives relate the desire to educate and train the future generation of Pakistan as true, practising Muslims after making Quranic principles and Islamic practices an integral part of the curricula. Now while Quranic principles can be ascertained in theory, who determines what an Islamic practice is? Who is to qualify as a practising Muslim, one who observes all rituals or one who leads a straightforward and honest professional and public life? These policies talk about transforming the Pakistani nation into an integrated, cohesive entity.

We see that even after so many disasters in the ideological realm, successive policy designers continue to use religion as the only binding force. There is no recognition of the rich diversity found in Pakistan and even if there is some reference, it is merely tolerated and not seen as an opportunity. Even in 2009, the expedient PPP-led policymakers could not touch certain provisions of previous policies.

I see it all as a problem with the ‘legitimising identity’ of the state of Pakistan that we have created out of insecurity for some and economic interest for others. All we need is a different basis for the Pakistani identity – closer to what Quaid-e-Azam envisioned and farthest from what those who came after him propounded. This we can do without dismissing our history, rather taking stock of it and formulating a new social contract among the citizens of the state through democratic means.

While Article 25 has been further embellished and emphasised recently by introducing an amendment clause ‘A’ through the 18th Amendment, Article 37 of the 1973 Constitution refers to the promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils through removing illiteracy, free and compulsory secondary education and merit-based higher education for all. It speaks about the inclusion of backward classes and underdeveloped areas.

This is all fine but when a state obligates itself to create one nation based on faith and devoid of any dissimilarities, ideology will inadvertently reflect in all policies derived out of the constitution. So the challenge we face now is to see how policies are formulated that are enlightened, inclusive and progressive in nature. Scientific thinking is much more important than merely producing technicians.

However, what has been held time and again in all constitutions since 1956 is the responsibility of the state to ensure access to education for all its citizens. If this does not happen, it can be seen as a violation of the constitution. If you look at the details of expenditures made by the governments over the past 67 years in education, I do not see it as ignorance or a dearth of seriousness on the government’s part.

Again, I believe this has to do with the priorities and the nature of the state which is more about securing territorial integrity and less about human security. Issues of efficient management of schooling and education that are child-centred or student-focused, better working conditions and fulfilling the training needs of teachers, provision of quality textbooks, etc all hinge on the availability of resources.

Unless more resources are committed, no real change can ever be seen. There is a difference between achieving universal literacy and imparting progressive education. Even literacy and numeracy targets will remain lost.

The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad. Email:

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3 responses to “Jesus and Jinnah – by Harris Khalique”

  1. Jinnah: The founder of secularism in India

    M.A. Jinnah was the chief architect of the ideals of secularism and communal harmony that modern India strives for. An Indian’s tribute to the Quaid on his 137th birth anniversary

    Samir Gupta
    Wednesday, December 25, 2013
    From Print Edition

    174 158 4 0

    The founder of secularism in India
    Growing up in India, I always considered Muhammad Ali Jinnah to be an arrogant and mean person who partitioned the country to fulfill his ambition of becoming a prime minister before he died. He was apparently responsible for the death and relocation of millions of people and the architect of all the hatred in South Asia today. At least that is what I imbibed over the years

    The first time I questioned that belief was when then Prime Minister L.K. Advani wrote otherwise when he visited Pakistan in June 2005. Although many in India panned him, my curiosity was piqued.

    I started reading up about Jinnah online and was pleasantly surprised to learn that he was actually a huge supporter of Hindu Muslim amity, and provided legal assistance to numerous freedom fighters. However, I did not forgive him at the time for what he did 1937 onwards. The nationalistic conditioning was far too strong.

    I joined the Aman Ki Asha Facebook group towards the end of 2012, which changed my views about Pakistan and Pakistanis quite significantly. I became interested in knowing Pakistan better and read about Jinnah’s life and work in great detail. The story of Jinnah’s life now looked completely different to me from what I knew about it earlier. Once my contempt, fear and hatred of Pakistan had washed away, Jinnah and his creation came across very differently to me. I was more sympathetic to his concerns and the difficulties he faced.

    Here was a man who fought for Hindu Muslim unity for years. He had single-handedly brought the Congress and the Muslim League together (albeit temporarily) through the Lucknow pact. The Congress formally recognised the right of Muslims to have ‘special’ electorates and the League supported the work being done by the Congress.

    The reconciliation he brought about between the Congress and the League prompted Sarojini Naidu, to term him the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity”. The pact also brought together the two factions in the Congress party. Indian history books understate his contribution to Indian independence. For close to two decades he was one of the tallest leaders in the Indian Independence movement. He was the favourite disciple of Gopal Krishna Gokhale who once said that Jinnah “has true stuff in him; freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu–Muslim Unity”

    The reason Indians treat him as a traitor is that we fail to appreciate his concerns about the rights of Muslims in post-imperial India. There had to be a good reason for such an ambassador of peace and unity to fight for the rights of Muslims and create a separate country for them in post-independence India. Unfortunately, we have never really dwelled on that.

    Instead of engaging him, the Congress leadership sidelined him and his arguments, complacent because the Muslim league got only 4.4% of the Muslim votes in the 1937 elections. Jinnah persevered and the League got every single reserved seat in the elections for the constituent assembly in December 1945 and 75% of Muslim votes in the provincial elections of January 1946.

    Partition was a failure of politics and politicians in generating a consensus and addressing the concerns of a significant minority. Partition and the creation of Pakistan was not a black and white event

    With hindsight, we may take a different view of whether Jinnah’s concerns were legitimate or not, but he was certainly not driven by self-interest. He was concerned about the community at large and worked tirelessly for others. In India, we do not read about his sacrifices in the 12 months following independence. He was a one man army who did more for his country in a year than most leaders do in an entire lifetime.

    I wish India and Pakistan would make peace with each other and rationalise the history taught to children in schools. I wish we could celebrate the life and work of the man who laid the foundation of secularism and the ideal of Hindu Muslim unity that we strive for in India today.

    The author is an IT professional and a peace activist based in Ghaziabad, India

  2. Jinnah’s Pakistan
    News Comments (25)
    By:Kunwar Khuldune Shahid Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 7:11 am | Comments (25)
    Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
    The mirror image of the man’s own contradictions

    It is in the ethos of every nation to mull over its ideological raison d’etre as the Independence Day of their state approaches. One of the most common ways for a people to commemorate the day is to ponder over what the founding fathers were thinking when they came up with the idea to create their nation. The Egyptians think about Saad Zaghloul’s desires; The Indians try to figure out what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi wanted out of India; The Israelis deliberate over David Ben-Gurion’s aspirations;the Germans wonder what Otto von Bismarck had in mind for a United Germany; the Chinese debate over how Mao Zedong perceived China; the French try and figure out how Charles de Gaulle saw France’s future; while Americans collectively fight over the underlying principle behind the creation of their nation and what their founding fathers really wanted. Except that none of this ever happens.

    Musing on what kind of a state our founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted, decades after the country’s inception is almost exclusively a Pakistani sport. And the primary reason behind this of course is twofold: a) Jinnah’s massive anthology of contradictory speeches and acts; and b) Pakistan’s paradoxical identity crisis and the ensuing dearth of nationalism.

    There are those who believe that Jinnah wanted an Islamic state and then there are those who claim that he wanted a secular one. The former quote his March 22, 1940 speech, among many others, while the latter quote two lines from his August 11, 1947 speech, which is their holy gospel. The former highlight the illogicality behind creating a state for Muslims where Islam wouldn’t be the ruling authority while the latter use subplots like economic safeguard of the Muslim community as the justification for a separatist movement; the former cite Jinnah’s endeavour to earmark Muslims as a separate nation, while the latter present his personal lifestyle to elaborate what kind of a Pakistan he actually wanted. And while both sides are relentlessly at daggers drawn, neither of the two camps pauses for a moment to think that merely the existence of the opposing camp and the evidence they provide for their case, should suffice in ascertaining Jinnah’s contradictions.

    Therefore, only one man can be blamed for the fact that even after 65 years since he died Pakistanis still can’t reach a consensus over what kind of a Pakistan Jinnah struggled for: Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself.

    115 years after his death, no one has an inkling of doubt about what kind of a Germany Bismarck wanted. 86 years following Zaghloul’s death no one questions his perception of Egypt. 65 years after Gandhi was murdered there’s a general consensus over what he wanted out of India. Similarly there is almost unanimous agreement over what Mao, De Gaulle, Ben-Gurion and pretty much every founding father wanted their states to function like. And this is because either their actions had no contradictions, or their contradictions have been identified and acknowledged by the generations that followed them. None of them is above criticism, and none of them is perceived as an angel moulded out of perfection.

    Again, it’s not really a question of what Jinnah wanted, more a question of what his actions resulted in. Modern-day Pakistan, the crowning achievement of Jinnah’s political career, might not be what he desired, but it sure as hell is the bona fide corollary of his struggles. This is Jinnah’s Pakistan; not because the clergy rules the roost or because we still have flag-bearers of secularism in this country. But because it is the hub of conflicting ideas that are constantly at loggerheads, and forcing them to coexist results in the mess Pakistan finds itself in. The Pakistan of 2013 is the mirror image – albeit prodigiously enlarged and tarnished – of Jinnah’s own contradictions.

    Why would the proponent of Hindu-Muslim unity defend Ilam Din in court, even though he did not support death penalty for blasphemy and had warned against misusing Section 295-A? Why would someone who believed in religious coexistence marry a Parsi woman who had to convert just so she could marry him, and then go onto scream bloody murder when his own daughter married a non-Muslim? Why would the person who had distanced himself from Islamic obligations and didn’t share anything with the historically revered custodians of Islam, launch a movement to safeguard Islam? Why would he expect the minorities in Pakistan to play a positive role in the newly formed state’s unity, when he had failed to do so himself by leading a separatist movement in United India?

    At times he was proud of introducing religion into politics, “When we say ‘This flag is the flag of Islam’ they think we are introducing religion into politics – a fact of which we are proud” (Gaya Muslim League Conference, January 1938); categorically stating that Pakistan would be an Islamic state, “(Pakistan) will be an Islamic state on the pattern of the Medina state…” (Muslim League session Allahabad, 1942); showcasing a state which would be governed by Islamic laws, “The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions, and Islamic Laws” (Frontier Muslim League Conference November 21, 1945) and portraying Pakistan as “the Premier Islamic State” (February 1948).

    And then he would epitomise secularity, “There will be provisions for the protection and safeguard of the minorities, which in my opinion must be embodied in the constitution itself. And this will leave no doubt as to the fundamental rights of the citizens, protection of religion and faith of every section, freedom of thought and protection of their cultural and social life;” (Interview with Doon Campbell of May 21, 1947) and clearly rebuffing the idea of a theocratic state, “In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission” (USA broadcast, February 1948).

    There can only be two possible justifications for Jinnah’s contradictions. The first one is that Jinnah was an oxymoronic “liberal Muslim”, the creed of which can be found among the Pakistani “intelligentsia”, who believe that Islamic ideals and secular ideals do not contradict one another. An example of this can be found in a statement during his July 17, 1947 press conference: “When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy thirteen centuries ago.”

    Even so, despite all the clamour of Jinnah extrovertly vying to make Pakistan a secular state, one can’t find one quote where he used the term “secular” for Pakistan. Even when he was directly posed the question, in the aforementioned press conference, “Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?”, his answer was as wooly as they get: “You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.”

    If Jinnah believed that by stating that Pakistan would be secular he wouldn’t be contradicting almost every single one of his speeches post-1937 elections, why would he hesitate in saying so? And why despite mentioning most of the ideals of secularity in several speeches after Pakistan’s creation, he never categorically used the term “secular Pakistan”? These questions are answered by the second, and quite possibly the more accurate, of the two aforementioned justifications for Jinnah’s contradictions.

    Jinnah was a lawyer. Pakistan was the biggest case of his life. Most of his quotes for religious freedom are from his speeches when he addressed a foreign audience or had a significant proportion of minorities in the crowd. And most of his quotes envisioning the establishment of an Islamic state are from speeches where he was addressing the Indian Muslims and the Islamic clergy. Jinnah said what was needed, when it was needed, to strengthen the prospects of an independent state called Pakistan.

    A lawyer isn’t too concerned if he contradicts himself during a trial as long he wins the case. And Jinnah won his case on August 14, 1947.

    The writer is a financial journalist and a cultural critic. Email:, Twitter: @khuldune