Jinnah’s Pakistan


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: [email protected], Twitter: @khuldune


  1. its really an in depth study about jinnah but one must not ignore the role of other key stake holders in the formation of pakistan. jinnah was merely a presenter of the case. the judgement made by some one else. never the less we got pakistan now what should be our future and how can we live as a united properous nation is up to us to decide. Jinnah's speeches were not Ahadith or Quran that cant be changed if change needed according to our own circumstances. what kind of pakistan we needed? the 200 million people may be in a better position to decide. (khan Isb)

    • Why change the speech and theories based upon our own circumstances instead of changing the circumstances based upon the theory on which Pakistan was demanded. This is why we are so doomed. I have always been a confused person when i see these contradicting speeches of Secularism or Islamicism. If we needed a secular society, what was wrong in living with United India.

  2. Religion and secularism go together and would always go together even in the far future when humanity would witness amazing 3D holography (as close to real human images etc) and space travel to far planets and a high degree of advancement in stem cell engineering etc. Religion is not against all this and knowledge is always secular……….However religion at a certai juncture in time guides you in how to handle the secular knowledge e.g religion wd guide you to not experiment over humans in the ghastly way that the Nazis doctors did in the concentration camps but perhaps its being done thee days through simulation etc. It would guide you to pray for peace and problem solving when faced with a calamity but the long term permanent solutions would come through secular knowledge of course acquired through hard work…………….Of course one must be aware of the Extremist form of distortion applied on religion…e,g. those who oppose everything from photography to film and art…how can the creator who is the greatest animator who created the animated 3D universe be against animation……Only worship of objects is forbidden. God created the universe and gradually is transferring its control to humans through knowledge…this is whart khalifa or deputy of God in the universe means…..Koran describes the human as the deputy of God…this is what it means…………………of course he transfers knowledge in different ways…when humans are confronted with problems like floods,,,they learn to build dams…when confronted with asteroids thet will learn to build defenses against asteroids……it does not mean religion will go away……………….secularism and religio would always go together…THey complement not oppose

    • You need religion to tell you that experimenting on humans is wrong? I thought it was common sense in this day and age. And, the world was more religious in general when Nazi doctors were experimenting with humans. Also, I am assuming you know that the Nazi movement was centered around cleansing the German society from the Jews (Judaism = Religion)

      Religion will guide you to pray for peace in times of calamity? Common sense will guide to look for constructive solutions. You do not need religion to drive your common sense; the human in you should do that.

      While I agree that religion has a big role to play, and will continue to do so in the future, but your supporting argument makes no sense.

      Sir, you don't make sense.

  3. Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece. I agree with every bit of it. Unfortunately no one sees these contradictions in him. Recently in a private gathering I highlighted Inran Khan’s confusion and equate that to contradictions in Jinnah…. Well needless to say, the whole dinner table was sour, this is how much of a mess we are in.

  4. This guy needs to study some subject from social sciences or liberal arts to understand why those speeches are not contradictory. Maybe sociology, history, hermeneutics and semiotics or religion studies would help. Pakistan has been just another country made to decolonize a part of the world. It was a greener pasture for all those who want to choose Pakistan for whatever reason: religious, economic or social. However, the 'holy' land was and is continuing to be abused by feudals (both political and religious) and some part of self-obsessed elite.

  5. The quotes in the article are without reference to the context. Besides history is the best judge for an event or a person and somebody sitting here after 6 or 7 decades cannot possibly judge words and acts of a leader of Jinnah's stature. The writer forgot to mention (intentionaly or unintentially) that Jinnah did not survive long enough (unlike other countries leaders mentioned) to enforce his ideas of what kind of country he had in mind. And that the country was hijacked by opposers of Pakistan after his unfortunate death. Further, all other countries mentioned (except maybe Israel) were already a country and just had new leader with diffrent ideas. Israel is also different from Pakistan since it has a stooge like USA to protect and help it all the time.

  6. There have been many articles that have tried to establish contradictions in Jinnah's speeches. I personally see none. There is a clear and simple harmonious interpretation of the various ideas Jinnah put across: Jinnah wanted a state where Muslims could freely and fully practice their religion, but this state was not exclusive to Muslims nor was the right of Muslims to freely practice be taken as limitation of the rights of non-Mulims. Rather, minorities were to freely practice their own religion as well. So clear was this intention that the white in Pakistan's flag is an acknowledgement of the minorities. The foregoing is consistent with all of Jinnah's utternaces. Interestingly, the author fails his own argument by stating the incident when Jinnah was asked “Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?”, and Jinnah replied “You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.”

    • If Muslims freely practice their religion, where's any "equality" and "freedom" for non-muslims. There in lies the contradiction. Islam is a child of 7th century Arabian tribalism. It calls for complete dominance.

      • Kris….you gotta clean up the messed up part in your sh*thole first then come and lecture peeps here. And there's lot of messed up mentality on your side. Don't get me going dude!

  7. The writer probably doesnt know what exactly Islamic state is. in an Islamic state the minorities are given equal share in all kind of facilities. they are can practice their religion in their individual lives and do what ever they want. what they cannot do is they cant ask for changes on collective level. the socio-politico-economic systems belongs to Islam, and just Islam. thats what Jinnah wanted out of Pakistan. and secularism is about no religion at government level which means no religion in socio-politico-economic systems. where Islamic state means Islam in socio-politico-economic system. with these facts in mind, none of Jinnah statements contradict

    • Every word you said is correct and as a Muslim i can mention that Muslims should remember the time When Makkah was conquered without the shedding of a single blood drop. The law that was put in place is actually the law of Islam.

  8. No point in reminiscing about Jinnah. One needs to live in the present. Jinnah's Pakistan ended in 1971, when majority Pakistanis, including those who supported Pakistan resolution in Dhaka, opted out of it. Present day Pakistan has been created by Yahya Khan, Pakistan army and Bhutto. So what Jinnah said or his contradictions really do not matter.

  9. It is not about the freedom to practice religion, rather the inclusion of islamic thoughts and beliefs about society, politics economics etc that are obviously imposed on minorities when adopted at the top. Their adoption at the top = a Islamic State (which Jinnah supported in some speeches). The opposite is a secular state, which Jinnah promoted on other occassions. With this in mind, Jinnah's speeches were inherently contradictory.

  10. Oh really…your definition of an Islamic state really baffles me, to say the least. Just look around yourself and tell me how many minorities in Pakistan are given "equal" share and status. Virtually all the so-called Islamic states are the same. So please dont bombard us with this cliche statement of yours.

    • i never said Pakistan is an Islamic state. it never has been since its origin. and right now, a true Islamic state doesnt exists anywhere in the world. by Islamic state i meant Makkah, when it was governed by Prophet (saww) and his companions.

        • Because Islamic Khilafat is effective and such a world turner that the Neo capitalist and zionist realized the danger of there authority being gone away due to this system. Thats why modern world being backed and ran by interest based economy and corrupt politics that they don't let countries have this system anywhere the zionist authority being challenged they destroy that country or kill the leading person. But sooner the khilafat will come out from mere pen and paper…you will see it soon.

  11. If you want to be shown the way in every walk of life then believe you me, no one can teach you that. Teachings like those are only present in Islam. If social problems and other prevailing issues are solved in the light of Islamic Shariah, the only result of that can be a prosperous nation.

  12. Good article, but I would argue that there is still a good bit of doubt over exactly what the founding fathers intended for America's future. Still an insightful glance into Pakistan.

  13. dear you need some studies about making of pakistan and jinnah's character you just study one sided also try to read the other side of that i would like to suggest you to read the book of allama ghulam ahmed parvez "husn e kirdar ka naqshay tabinda(muhammad ali jinnah" there you will find many contradicts between GB and congress and how this many stnding like rock gainst these two monsters.

  14. It's a great exercise to examine the beliefs of Jinnah on his birthday, as many other nations do and have done – something that the author does not seem to be very aware of. Nonetheless, this piece provides a highly naive and simplistic explanation of Jinnah and his vision by quoting selective excerpts from his speeches. Pakistan is a complex state, and it's foundations are complex too. It is unlike any other state and merely categorizing it as a secular state (such as the United States or religious such as Saudi Arabia) would be simplistic, and fails to capture the entire conception of Pakistan. I think Jinnah was clear in his understanding, and it will take more than a few speeches to understand what he was thinking. The author should definitely enlighten himself with more academic work on him and his life. It needs to be understood what Jinnah had in mind and how he was creating it and then try to examine what happened after his death that led to the "outcomes" that the author refers to. The complexity is difficult to fathom. Given a biased curriculum at our school and lack of reading and civil debating cultures, it is not surprising to find flawed understanding of Pakistan & Jinnah prevalent throughout the country, and to find them in print journalism too.

  15. However a lot need to be done and the more reason as to why students need help with their online studies is because of the increased cases of misuse of internet for example most students instead of studying, they will engage in watching movies and increase your English language with essay writing course.

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