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Pakistan never owned Jinnah

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We grew up reading and listening to arguments and opinions on what kind of Pakistan Jinnah — the father of the nation — envisioned. Scholars, commentators and authors have tried to paint Jinnah’s vision according to their own liking and beliefs. Trained and educated in the British tradition of law and the Parliamentary political system, he was certainly a progressive leader who stood for modernism and democratic values. He was a forward-looking leader, which is why the Muslim masses entrusted him to fight for their political rights. However, whether the Muslim masses shared all — or even most — of his views is entirely another thing.

For instance, throughout Khilafat Movement — a campaign used by the Muslims of India to protest for the sanctity of Ottoman Caliphate — the centre stage was occupied by Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali. Jinnah was hardly active from1919-22. Even MK Gandhi was on the forefront of the Khilafat Movement, which many say was for his populist streak. Jinnah however, had no love for caliph in Turkey as he truly believed in parliamentary democracy. Seen rationally, he was right not to fight for an institution as useless and redundant as the Ottoman Caliphate, no matter how attached the misguided and emotional masses were to it.


The Muslim masses of British India were under complete sway of the religious clergy, across sectarian divides and to a much greater extent than even today.

This was the same clergy which never minced it’s words when calling Jinnah a Fasiq(sinner) and his companions in the Muslim League Kharijiites. Those who accepted Jinnah’s leadership, such as Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Usmani and others seemed to do so because of a lack of choice. They knew Jinnah was the best choice when it came to representing Muslims in complex constitutional negotiations with the British and Congress. A convenient argument was devised for this purpose, which was that despite having sinners and Kharijiites in it’s fold, the Muslim League was fighting the Hindus and the British, hence it was the duty of all Muslims to support the Muslim League.

However, the clergy had its own plan in place. Soon after the 1946 elections, Usmani circumscribed the role of Jinnah and Muslim League to be limited until the constitutional struggle against the Hindus and the British was complete.

To him, as soon as this was achieved the role of Ulema will start in shaping an Islamic society as per sharia. While addressing a rally in Lucknow in 1946, Usmani explained it with a metaphor. He shared that when an Indian Muslim from went to Haj, they usually boarded a ship captained by an English skipper. That ship upon reaching close to Jeddah would usually stop well short of port given its various treacherous shoals and underwater rocks that the English captain was not usually competent to negotiate.

At this stage a local mariner would come to the ship, take charge from the English captain to guide the ship to the dock. Usmani concluded that Jinnah’s role is that of the English captain up to a point in Muslims’ journey, after which an expert in Sharia would be required to steer the ship to its ultimate destination of an Islamic state.

As soon as Pakistan came into being Usmani and his ilk led the constitutional formulation and development by subjecting it to an ‘Objective Resolution’, which was passed by the constituent assembly in 1949. The resolution was opposed by all non-Muslim members of the assembly as it denied them equal rights and whatever amendments they proposed, all were summarily rejected. Islam became the religion of the state, where Muslims were already the majority. The idea ofa modern Muslim republic which was inclusive to all citizens without ethnic and sectarian discrimination that Jinnah had dreamed for so long and he had expressed in unequivocal terms in his famous speech of August 11, 1947 in constituent assembly had suffered an irreparable blow.

Subsequent years and decades only proved that Pakistan and its leaders in politics, bureaucracy, judiciary, and military did not intend to create the Pakistan Jinnah had intended. Religious minorities and ethnic groups such as Bengalis were persecuted when they demanded their constitutional rights. In the name of the doctrine of necessity, our Constitution was repeatedly ignored. As a result, our political fabric isin tatters today. Sadly, we will continue to slip down this slope of intolerance, chaos and instability unless we learn to own and strive for Jinnah’s Pakistan.