Understanding Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan

Pakistan could not have won freedom without the untiring efforts of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Today we are celebrating 141st birth anniversary of father of the nation. People often talk about Jinnah vision of Pakistan. The debate has been raging for seven decades but no one has completely agreed on what was that vision that made him fight for rights of Muslims and other minorities.

If one sneaks a peek into history pre General Ziaul Haq era, one would find Pakistan to be relatively an open society, despite our objective resolution that was based on the lines of Islam. But during Zia’s period the society evolved into an extreme Islamic state and lost the essence of Jinnah’s vision.

Even though Jinnah had clearly said a number of things in his speeches which reflected what Pakistan would be like, but we have not been able to fulfill his vision as yet.

The Nation spoke to a number of people, from different walks of life and schools of thought, who shared their thoughts on Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan.  

Justice Nassera Iqbal, Allama Iqbal’s daughter-in-law and lawyer believes, “Jinnah’s vision was that Muslims should have an independent state where they can practice their religion freely and live peacefully. Hindu and Muslims were not able to live together in the subcontinent. Along with that he also believed that the state has no business of interfering in personal matters of the citizens, everyone should be allowed to practice their beliefs. His concept of Pakistan was widely appreciated by men and women of that time. But unfortunately Jinnah’s vision was lost after his death.”

Kalyan Singh, professor at Government College University, said Jinnah was dreaming of a country where religion would not be the foundation and it is can be seen in his 11th August speech. But since the past 70 years the minorities of Pakistan are suffering. Minorities don’t have their family laws. They are not given high standard jobs nor can they become the president of Pakistan. These discriminations have made the generations of minorities psycho patients. This was not what Jinnah’s Pakistan was like. State is like a mother who treats all its children equally but Pakistan has not done that.”

Kapil Dev, a human rights, activist shared his thoughts regarding Jinnah’s Pakistan by saying, “His 11th august speech is evident that he wanted a secular state. He knew how important rights for minorities were. When Pakistan was created Jinnah created a human rights ministry which was under him. It shows that he took minority affairs very seriously. Pakistan’s first law minister was Jogindranath Mandal. The first entry for the national anthem and it was approved too was from Jagatnath Azaad, such steps show what kind of Pakistan Jinnah wanted. But it’s unfortunate that after his death the vision was lost. We should also not forget that this country was made on the basis of religion so it’s influence would played a major role in bringing Pakistan to this condition.”

Bishop Alexander John Malik said Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned an open liberal democratic welfare Islamic state. “A state where all irrespective of their class or creed were supposed to be equal and where religion would not play a determining factor in the business of the state. Unfortunately we have drifted very far away from Jinnah’s vision and its time we mend our ways otherwise it would be too late.

Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said that Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was based on the teachings of Quran and Sunnah which were set 1400 years ago. “It was to be a state that did not discriminate between individuals and provided justice, health and education to all. But it’s unfortunate that in the past 70 years we did not create the Jinnah’s Pakistan,” he said.  

Ateef ur Rehman Yousafzai, a researcher and faculty member of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad said that Jinnah wanted a modern Islamic state where people will have equality, justice and democracy. “All departments would play their own roles instead of interfering in each other’s domains. But unfortunately it did not happen as Jinnah died early due to which things did not turn out as they were supposed to happen as the team he had around him was not very supportive,” Yousafzai said.

Allama Raza-e-Mustafa, a religious scholar said that Quaid-e-Azam R.A was not a liberal person rather he was a true Muslim and knew how damaging the teachings of the British were. “Allama Iqbal also guided him and helped him pave way for partition. Quaid-e-Azam was not of the mindset that he had to make properties or money like our politicians today,” he said.

Prof Pervez Hoodhbhoy said Mr Jinnah was a pragmatic political leader of great acumen. The absence of substantive writings by him this has resulted in his many speeches – which were tailored for specific audiences – being freely cherry-picked to justify mutually contradictory positions. Some find therein a liberal and secular voice, others an articulation of Islamic values. He definitely did not gift to Pakistan the kind of clear secular vision that Jawaharlal Nehru gave to India.

In front of him were a host of dedicated opponents who did not want to see the division of India. Even Muslims who wanted a separate state often fiercely differed from each other. Would the jagirdari system be eliminated? What would be the relationship of the provinces with the centre? Today Pakistanis have to confront the reality that Pakistan was born with just the Two-Nation Theory, i.e. the premise that Muslims and Hindus should not live together.”

Ejaz Anwar an activist and environmentalist said Jinnah’s Pakistan was totally different from what Pakistan is today. “He wanted a progressive and enlightened country with equal opportunities for everyone even the females. People don’t understand what secular means. It has nothing to do with ‘la deeniyat’. A secular state is what Jinnah wanted where the state had no business in the personal affairs of the citizens,” he said.

Hassan Askari Rizvi, a political and defence analyst, said Jinnah’s Pakistan’s major attributes is constitutionalism, democracy, rule of law, equality of all citizens with ethical and moral basis being derived from the teachings and principles of Islam.”He was not in favour of a religious or plutonic Islamic state where the emphasis would be on regulative and punitive act. He was convinced that the modern notions of nation state, governance, political participation could be combined with the social justice and equality as annunciated in Islam,” he explained.

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and an author of various books, said Jinnah's Pakistan is not an easy idea, concept or vision to present or describe. “What one can say safely is that since Pakistan was claimed in the name of Muslims on the basis of the two-nation theory it was premised firmly on religious nationalism in contrast to territorial nationalism. The idea of Pakistan was diametrically opposed to secularism. “Therefore to say that Jinnah's Pakistan was meant to be a secular state is a contradiction in terms.

Having said that, it is equally true that he by no means had a preference for a theocracy or a state in which the ulema would enjoy veto rights as they do in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. He wanted Pakistan to be a state for Muslims. A modern but Muslim democracy in which the Shariah would be the source and inspiration for law and constitution. He perhaps believed that such a state could treat its minorities generously and fairly. The only time it seems he meant equal rights is the 11th August 1947 speech but it is acknowledged by all serious and responsible people that saying that did not mean a secular state. He never ever used the word secular in any of his pronouncements on Pakistan.

“What one can deduce from his prolific speeches, statements and messages is that he was thinking in terms of some kind of a Muslim democracy. The idea of a Muslim democracy has since then been translated into constitutional formulae thrice at least: in 1956, 1962 and 1973. The whole question of what a Muslim democracy has been complicated by the core question: who is a Muslim? Such an inference is inescapable because as long as Pakistan had not come into being Jinnah had to accept that all those included in the census records as Muslims were Muslims in so far as they could claim the right to vote in separate reserved seats for Muslims. For Jinnah each vote was important to win the election of 1946.

“Once Pakistan came into being the census criteria came into conflict with the legacy of doctrinal disputes which had plagued Muslim society during British colonial rule. “If Pakistan was a state won for Muslims then Muslims were its primary nation while the minorities were its sacred trust. “Whatever way the term Muslim was used it meant the community believing in Islam. Inevitably defining a Muslim meant some sort of confessional criteria, which has to be agreed upon. Jinnah himself did not have anything to say on that, or at least not something which was unequivocal, incontrovertible and categorical. He left it vague. Therein lies the problem in giving concrete form and shape to his idea of Pakistan.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer and author of Jinnah: Myth or reality, says Jinnah’s idea of Pakistan was of an inclusive democratic state, which would be completely be impartial to an individual citizen’s faith and which would promise equality of citizenship to all its citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or sect. “It is not just the 11th August speech, which seems to bother a lot of people in Pakistan, but many pronouncements of the Quaid-e-Azam, which make it absolutely clear what kind of Pakistan he wanted.

“Throughout the Pakistan Movement, which was an attempt to arrive at an equitable settlement between Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent, Jinnah was adamant that he was not fighting for a theocracy. It was a consistent position from which Jinnah never retreated from at any point. Jinnah envisaged a modern state, which would not just be a leader in the Muslim world but the world at large in economy, science, technology and education. Unfortunately in Pakistan we have been too hung up about the terminology: Was Pakistan supposed to be a secular state or an Islamic state? This is a pointless futile debate because the two ideas in my opinion are not binary opposites. Jinnah’s interpretation of Islam was enlightened and progressive, embodying the noblest principles of the great faith which once inspired a great civilization that counted amongst its citizens not just Muslims but people of all faiths who lived side by side enjoying full equality and religious freedom. Long before secularism emerged as an idea in the West, the Muslim World was home to great Jewish philosophers and polymaths like Maimonides. This was at a time when Jews all over Europe were being persecuted and driven out of their homes.  Jinnah’s secularism was therefore as much a product of the pluralistic spirit of Islam embodied by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s covenant with St Catherine’s Monastery as it was British liberalism, which Jinnah imbibed from his education in England as Barrister.  So the answer to the aforesaid question is that Pakistan was envisaged by Jinnah as a secular democratic state because in Jinnah’s modernist and progressive conception of Islam there was no room for theocracy or state sponsored bigotry.

“His idea of Islam was radically different from the one promoted by religious clerics and fundamentalists who saw Islam as a closed system. Jinnah drove home the point that Pakistan would be an inclusive secular state by appointing a Hindu law minister.  “Even in terms of Muslim sects, he maintained a clear policy that anyone who professes to be a Muslim is a Muslim. This is why Sir Zafrullah Khan, who was an Ahmadi, was so instrumental in Pakistan’s creation, pleading Pakistan’s case before the boundary commission and later becoming Pakistan’s first foreign minister. We must remember that Jinnah is the only politician to be called the best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity in the subcontinent. At no point did he abandon his long held belief in religious freedom and equality of citizenship, which were cornerstones of his ideology.

“After 70 years we are still not very clear what Jinnah wanted may be if he had survived a few more years things would have been different, But it’s not hard to understand from all the content that is found in his speeches that he wanted a land where all could live peacefully and with equality,” he said.  

Umaima Ahmed is a member  of staff

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