By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 01 Nov, 2009 (Dawn)
Had the Mideast and S.Asia heeded Jinnah’s advice on religion and state the world may have been in better shape today. —Photo by AFP
Of late, amidst the murder and mayhem accompanied by an absence of government or any signs of governance, a group of citizens has been circulating an email message exhorting whoever to ‘bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’.
Now, to bring back something that existed for a mere moment in the life of this nation is more than difficult at a time when the national mindset is what it is.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan was denounced six months after his death when the Objectives Resolution was passed, negating the words he had so eloquently spoken to his constituent assembly on Aug 11 1947: ‘… You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’ Thus, willy-nilly, the state was made the custodian of religion.
In the early 1950s, the British writer Hector Bolitho was commissioned by the government to write an official biography of Jinnah. It was published in 1954. Such was the moral dishonesty and hypocrisy that had taken a firm hold and rooted itself in the country’s psyche that the ruling clique of the day perverted Jinnah’s words, and printed in the book was this version of the quoted sentence: ‘You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.’
In April 1962, the days of President Gen Ayub Khan, came a lessening of the prevailing hypocrisy and the government press department published a collection of Jinnah’s speeches as governor general of Pakistan. The Aug 11, 1947 speech was printed in full in its original version. (These speeches were reprinted by the government of Benazir Bhutto and released for sale in 1989.)
In 1984, when wily Ziaul Haq ruled, came the finest biography of Jinnah so far written. Prof Stanley Wolpert’s well-researched book, Jinnah of Pakistan, was published in the US by Oxford University Press and 500 copies were sent to Pakistan to be released for sale.
Prior to its release, two copies were sent by OUP to the information ministry seeking permission to reprint locally. The minions of this pernicious ministry, which should not exist, took exception to certain passages in the book in which our founder-maker’s personal tastes and habits were mentioned.
The 498 copies of the book lying with OUP were removed from their storeroom and reprinting of course denied. To top this crass idiocy, Wolpert was approached and asked to delete the offending passages so that it could be reprinted and sold. Naturally, Wolpert’s response was that as a scholar he was unable to compromise on basic principles and any deletion/amendment was out of the question.
Thus the book effectively remained banned in Pakistan until in 1989, when, to give full credit to Benazir and her government, permission was given to OUP to reprint and the book was released for sale. Zia’s was an exercise in pure futility.
Our large neighbour also has blinkered intolerant elements in its midst. There is a long list of books that are banned in India, amongst them Stanley Wolpert’s ‘factional’ novel on the assassination of Gandhi, Nine Hours to Rama, which was banned by the government in 1962. And now, this August, two days after its release the government of the Indian state of Gujarat saw fit to issue a notification ‘forfeiting’ and ‘prohibiting’ Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence (Mr Singh was also expelled by his party, the BJP).
The book was banned with immediate effect and in the wider public interest because it was alleged that its contents are highly objectionable, against the national interest, misleading, distort historical fact and that it is defamatory in regard to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is largely regarded as the architect of modern India.
Mr Singh swiftly approached the Indian Supreme Court challenging the ban on the grounds of the violation of fundamental rights. The court issued a notice to the Gujrat government. In the meantime, an appeal was submitted to the Gujrat High Court which struck down the ban. With the Gujrat government prevaricating, the matter remains before the supreme court.
Now, to the bringing back in totality of Jinnah’s Pakistan — that we can never do as half of his Pakistan was shorn by the collusion of our politicians and army generals, the deadly mixture of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Gen Yahya Khan who threw away East Pakistan through a lust for power coupled by incompetence and insensitivity. What can be saved, if we had the leadership to do so, is the spirit of Jinnah’s Pakistan as expressed by him on that distant August day.
Had a large part of the Middle Eastern region and parts of South Asia been able to heed Jinnah’s words that religion, caste and creed ‘has nothing to do with the business of the state’ the world may well have been in better shape today. It is possible that the extremism that has galloped away in these areas would not have taken root had various states not been allowed to force upon the world their dangerously distorted version of a religion.
As for Pakistan, the Objectives Resolution forms the preamble to ZAB’s constitution and was additionally inserted as an annex by Ziaul Haq. Then we have ZAB’s second amendment to his constitution which reinforces bigotry and intolerance. No government has been strong enough to take on the mullah fraternity whose grip has strengthened with the years. To bring us back to Jinnah’s Pakistan, we must have a revolution — a revolution of the national mindset and a latter-day Ataturk to ensure that it is successful.
Part II (Cowasjee)
There has to be something seriously wrong with a country in which many of its citizens are still arguing as to whether it should or should not have been made, or debating as to whether it came into being by accident, intent, design or even intrigue. All possible accusations have been levied against the logic of Pakistan’s making.
The fact is that Pakistan exists and has existed for 62 years — in what shape is quite another matter. Arguments on that score will never cease, and they should not as it failed initially to take off in the right direction.
A valid argument has been made by a few of the many who responded to last week’s column against the exhortation ‘bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’ — that we should be looking and moving forwards rather than retreating.
A counter argument to this is that from shortly after its birth the nation retreated 300 years placing itself in mindset and religious-political intent back in the age of the Emperor Aurangzeb. (Had it chosen to retreat 400 years to the age of Akbar the Great it would have been on the correct and proper path.)
With the relatively recent advent of the Taliban we have retreated even further in time, back to the 11th century and the Hashishi who considered murder a religious duty and who dreamed up ecstatic visions of paradise before setting out to face martyrdom.
Having retreated and firmly embedded itself, if the country is put at the take-off point of Jinnah’s Pakistan we will have in fact advanced. There is no latter day Mohammad Ali Jinnah to lead us but we do have his words and his example to look to. The fact is that, for whatever reasons and through whatever circumstances, Mr Jinnah managed to do what few men have done — he created a country and in doing so changed the course of history. Professor Stanley Wolpert’s opens the preface to his book Jinnah of Pakistan with this reminder.
All great men are controversial, so Jinnah, is highly controversial both in his own land and particularly in the country out of which Pakistan was carved (some 940,000 sq.km.). He learnt his politics from Dadabhoy Naoroji, Phirozshaw Mehta, Motilal Nehru, Gopal Gokhale and other men of substance. His alleged motives for having done what he did vary from the simple accusation of a grab for power to the suggestion that he was caught in a vice of his own making and against his inner will the creation of Pakistan was forced upon him. My belief and that shared by many is, knowing what we all know, that the Muslims of undivided India were a subjugated minority, Jinnah’s feeling was that in an independent India they would become even more downtrodden and face even more discrimination and thus have difficulty as a community in making much of themselves.
Jinnah’s intent was to create a homeland turning the minority into a majority, not subject to discrimination and challenges. He expected the Muslims of his country to rise above themselves, to join the modern world, work and prosper, in a land free from bigotry, imbued with tolerance for their fellow human beings of no matter what creed or race. Such was his intent, of this I have no doubt. What he subsequently had to work with after the birth of Pakistan caused him grief. His motive and intent being honourable, no blame can attach to him for where Pakistan find’s itself today.
He may have failed, as all others did, to anticipate the horrors of partition, and the mass migration and slaying that took place, but three days prior to the birth of his country he was still optimistic, he still had hopes that he could sway the hearts and minds of the men who would be the future law makers.
Apart from that most famous of quotations from his Aug 11, 1947 speech to the constituent assembly, when he made it abundantly clear that religion, caste or creed have nothing to do with the business of the state, a passage that most fortuitously is quoted with frequency in our press and media and in all books written about Jinnah, we must also remember the words he spoke back in February 1935 to the Central Legislative Assembly when he told the members that “religion should not be allowed to come into politics … religion is merely a matter between man and God”.
A year later, he announced at a Muslim League session that the question of constitutional safeguards for Muslims “was not a religious question, but purely a political problem”. All this was put paid to in March 1949 by the men who followed him.
What else did he tell these men to whom he was bequeathing a country? He told them that the first duty of a government is to impose and maintain law and order to protect the lives, properties and religious beliefs of the citizens. Not an impossible task, but one which successive governments have failed to achieve. We are today paying heavily for their corruption and incompetence.
Jinnah came down hard on bribery and corruption — he called them “a poison”. Again he was thwarted. In his very lifetime the men who would lead the country were scheming and stealing, falsely declaring properties owned in India so that they could grab what was left abandoned by the Hindus who had fled. Dishonesty, graft and robbery were part of Pakistan’s birth pangs and with the years they have blossomed exponentially.
The rot and ruin can only be retrieved if we have the will and ability to heed the words of the man who made us.