Remembering a great democrat


Jinnah, the Father of the Nation

At a time when the country faces the scourge of terrorism and an extremist lobby tries to misrepresent Jinnah’s teachings, it is apt, indeed imperative, to recount the traits that define the mindset of the man who created Pakistan at his birth anniversary. Jinnah was an outstanding advocate with unflinching faith in the rule of law. As opposed to the obscurantist elements in the Muslim leadership, Jinnah supported constitutional fight for the rights of the Indians through the Legislative Councils. He stood for parliamentary struggle for change and opposed recourse to violence for achieving political ends. Jinnah thus stood apart from those who exhausted the energies of the Muslims of the subcontinent in futile, counterproductive movements like Khilafat and Hijrat. He differed strongly with Gandhi for importing religion into politics through the Congress support extended to the Khilafat Movement. Jinnah’s attitude towards separate electorate also indicates that he was keen to keep religion out of politics. Never enthusiastic about separate electorates, he only accepted the idea under duress as a pragmatic politician when he found that Muslim politicians at the time were not willing to abandon it.

Jinnah started his parliamentary career as an advocate for moderation with his election to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1909. He remained its member till March 1919 when he resigned against the enactment of the Rowlatt Act, passed in the wake of the martial law in Punjab. Jinnah had pointed out that if the law was passed it would substitute the executive for the judicial and the measures proposed in the act would create unprecedented discontent and agitation. His dire predictions turned out to be true. When the Central Legislative Assembly came into being he was again elected from a Bombay Urban constituency in 1923 and reelected in 1934. He took up major issues that faced the Indians in his addresses. After the creation of Pakistan, he was elected as president of the constituent assembly, a position that he held till his death.

That Jinnah stood for parliament indicates his firm belief in the sovereignty of the people irrespective of their faith or creed. Pakistan was to be a modern and progressive nation state ruled by its representatives chosen in general elections. The clergy had no place in making or amending the laws. The minorities were part of the Pakistani nation and therefore they had all the rights, privileges and obligations as full citizens without any distinction of religion or sect.