August 11th: Minorities Day

Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s 11th August Speech is one of the most famous speeches made by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founding father of Pakistan and known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader). Today there is hardly a more contentious issue in Pakistan than the issue of Jinnah’s vision. While Pakistan was created as a result of what could be described as Indian Muslim nationalism, Jinnah was widely held as a secular liberal barrister who had once championed the cause of Hindu-Muslim Unity and a United India. When the Partition of India finally occurred, Jinnah, soon-to-be Governor General of the Dominion of Pakistan, gave expression to his vision of Pakistan in an address to the Constituent Assembly, delivered on August 11, 1947. He spoke of an inclusive and impartial government, religious freedom, rule of law and equality for all. He also seemed to advocate the separation of church and state.


Pakistani MP Minocher Bhandara, in February 2007, moved a bill in the National Assembly of Pakistan seeking to make Jinnah’s speech part of the Constitution of Pakistan. National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain has referred the bill to a house standing committee after admitting it. Bhandara said: “The speech has been consistently downplayed by the government of Pakistan since 1949. Parts of the speech have been materially altered, or omitted altogether, in the past.” He added: “On the one hand tremendous respect is shown for the memory of the Quaid-e-Azam (Jinnah), but on the other hand his political thoughts are desecrated to appease religious groups.”


60 years ago, Mr. Jinnah, Pakistan’s undisputed Quaid-e-Azam, Governor General and elected President of the Constituent Assembly elaborated his vision for the future of Pakistan.


Today, the 11th August, has a great significance for Pakistan. This very day, 60 Years ago, Jinnah elaborated his vision for Pakistan:


Jinnah’s vision is unambiguous.


1. The state would be completely impartial to religion of the individual.
2. The state where every citizen would be equal and there would be no distinction between citizen on the basis of faith or caste or creed.


Jinnah’s Speech read:


I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India and the partition of the Punjab and Bengal. Much has been said against it, but now that it has been accepted, it is the duty of every one of us to loyally abide by it and honourably act according to the agreement which is now final and binding on all. But you must remember, as I have said, that this mighty revolution that has taken place is unprecedented. One can quite understand the feeling the exists between the two communities wherever one community is in majority and the other is in minority. But the question is whether it was possible or practicable to act otherwise than has been done. A division had to take place. On both sides, in Hindustan and Pakistan, there are sections of people who may not agree with it, who may not like it, but in my judgment there was no other solution and I am sure future history will record its verdict in favour of it. And what is more it will be proved by actual experience as we go on that that was the only solution of India’s constitutional problem. Any idea of a United India could never have worked and in my judgment it would have led us to terrific disaster. May be that view is correct ; may be it is not; that remains to be seen. All the same, in this division it was impossible to avoid the question of minorities being in one Dominion or the other. Now that was unavoidable. There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.


I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities the Hindu community and the Muslim community-because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabies, Shias, Sunnis and so on and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnvas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis, and so on-will vanish. Indeed if you ask me this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection ; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time but for this. Therefore we must learn a lesson from this. You are free ; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places 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. As you know, history shows that in England conditions some time ago were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some State in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the Government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today you might say with justice that Roman Catholic and Protestants do not exists ; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen, of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.


Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.


Many have alleged that this was the only time he expressed such a vision. Unfortunately, these people are not very well versed with the life and work of Quaid-e-Azam Mahomed Ali Jinnah, who was after all a staunch secular Indian nationalist for most of his life and had turned to the Pakistan idea only after exhausting all the options for a United India.
Here are some of his other statements regarding what kind of Pakistan he wanted:


Jinnah Quaid Pakistan25th October 1947. Interview with Reuters’ Duncan Hooper note: not to be confused with his interview with Reuters’ Doon Campbell which has been quoted in detail else where.


Minorities DO NOT cease to be citizens. Minorities living in Pakistan or Hindustan do not cease to be citizens of their respective states by virtue of their belonging to particular faith, religion or race. I have repeatedly made it clear, especially in my opening speech to the constituent Assembley, that the minorities in Pakistan would be treated as our citizens and will enjoy all the rights as any other community. Pakistan SHALL pursue this policy and do all it can to create a sense of security and confidence in the Non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan. We do not prescribe any school boy tests for their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan ‘if there was war would you shoot a Hindu?’


30th October 1947. To a Mass Rally at University Stadium Lahore.


The tenets of Islam enjoin on every Musalman to give protection to his neighbours and to the Minorities regardless of caste and creed. We must make it a matter of our honor and prestige to create sense of security amongst them.


Same Day. On Radio Pakistan.


Protection of Minorities is a sacred undertaking. (On Partition Massacres) Humanity cries out loud against this shameful conduct and deeds. The civilized world is looking upon these doings and happenings with horror and the fair name of the communities concerned stands blackened. Put an end to this ruthlessly and with an Iron hand.


9th January 1948. Tour of Riot affected areas of Karachi.


Muslims! Protect your Hindu Neighbours. Cooperate with the Government and the officials in protecting your Hindu Neighbours against these lawless elements, fifth columnists and cliques. Pakistan must be governed through the properly constituted Government and not by cliques or fifth columnists or Mobs.


25th January. Address to the Karachi Bar association on the occasion of Eid Milad un Nabi.


I would like to tell those who are misled by propaganda that not only the Muslims but Non Muslims have nothing to fear. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. Islam has taught Equality, Justice and fairplay to everybody. What reason is there for anyone to fear. Democracy, equality, freedom on the highest sense of integrity and on the basis of fairplay and justice for everyone. Let us make the constitution of Pakistan. We will make it and we will show it to the world.


3rd February 1948. Address to the Parsi Community of Sindh.


I assure you Pakistan means to stand by its oft repeated promises of according equal rights to all its nationals irrespective of their caste or creed. Pakistan which symbolizes the aspirations of a nation that found it self to be a minority in the Indian subcontinent cannot be UNMINDFUL of minorities within its own borders. It is a pity that the fairname of Karachi was sullied by the sudden outburst of communal frenzy last month and I can’t find words strong enough to condemn the action of those who are responsible.


21st March 1948. Mass Rally at Dacca.


Let me take this opportunity of repeating what I have already said: We shall treat the minorities in Pakistan fairly and justly. We shall maintain peace, law and order and protect and safeguard every citizen of Pakistan without any distinction of caste, creed or community.


22nd March 1948. Meeting with Hindu Legislators.


We guarantee equal rights to all citizens of Pakistan. Hindus should in spirit and action wholeheartedly co-operate with the Government and its various branches as Pakistanis.


23rd March 1948. Meeting with the ‘Scheduled Caste Federation’.


We stand by our declarations that members of every community will be treated as citizens of Pakistan with equal rights and privileges and obligations and that Minorities will be safeguarded and protected.


13 June 1948. Speaking to Quetta Parsis.


Although you have not struck the note of your needs and requirements as a community but it is the policy of my Government and myself that every member of every community irrespective of caste color, creed or race shall be fully protected with regard to his life, property and honor. I reiterate to you that you like all minorities will be treated as equal citizens with your rights and obligations provided you are loyal to Pakistan.


Jinnah’s address to the people of the US in Feb 1948.


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.


The Pakistan Peoples’ Party has upheld the daunting task of confronting those who have in the name of religion deprived the minorities of Pakistan of their rights. The PPP is the only Party in Pakistan which has the largest number of minority following. Several MNAs, MPAs and other Party Office holders have been from the minority community. Shaheed Benazir Bhutto believed it was imperative that minorities be taken on board for the country to become a progressive and tolerant Nation. She in her fateful last address at Rawalpindi Liaqat Bagh particularly thanked the minorities of Pakistan for having stood with her through her difficult journey all her life. Her speech began with a thanks to the minorities and the Christian Solidarity Fund.


Even during the times of Z A Bhutto, PPP was the sole representative party of minorities in Pakistan. Such was the devotion of people with Bhutto that many from the minority community set themselves on fire in a protest to Zia’s dictatorial regime and Bhutto’s unjust death sentence. Benazir Bhutto in her autobiography ‘Daughter of the East’ particularly highlighted the role of minorities towards the uplift of democracy and civil rights in Pakistan.


Together we shall make Pakistan a strong progressive and tolerant Nation where the rights of minorities are not subverted by anyone. The recent events of Asiah Bibi, Shahbaz Bhatti and the unfortunate attack on Ahmadi Mosques last year have destroyed the face of Pakistan. It is time that we realize our responsibilities and free this country from the clutches of the Military and clergy.




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