R.I.P Dina Wadia


To her father Pakistan would be unrecognisable today

Dina Wadia who looked remarkably like her father, died on the 2nd of November this year at the age of ninety-eight. She lived in New York, far away from the country founded by Jinnah. She was never able to take possession of her father’s house in Bombay, and visited Pakistan just twice, never making it her home.

You wonder if her father would have made it his home either, if he had seen it as it is now. Definitely he would not recognise himself if he heard himself spoken of today. Even less than the previous generation does the present one know the man they call the Father of the Nation, and very little about what he stood for. For them he is yet another almost saintly two dimensional historical figure presented in text books, a fictitious litany starting from Mohammad bin Qasim, all of them cut from the same mold.

You wonder what would have gone through Jinnah’s mind if he had seen his country today. To start with he would have been startled to see just half, after he had said “there is no power on earth that can undo Pakistan.” Lo and behold, it undid itself.

He would have also have been rather taken aback to hear one of its ‘Presidents’ Pervez Musharraf insist that his dream for Pakistan was the same as Jinnah’s, particularly since that President had just imposed martial law in the country. It is doubtful if Jinnah had ever considered martial law and Pakistan in the same breath.

Instead he spoke of the oath taken by troops, and read it out too at an address to the Staff College in Quetta: ‘“I solemnly affirm, in the presence of Alimighty God, that I owe allegiance to the Constitution and the Dominion of Pakistan…” He also reminded them on another occasion that “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted”. Martial law of course is the suspension of law in a country in which the armed forces have deposed the civilian government to take control.

And yet there have been three martial laws in this country, the same that claims the Quaid-e-Azam Rehmatullah Alaih as its leader, incidentally the man who said that “I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title or honours and I will be more than happy if there was no prefix to my name.”

Three actually imposed martial laws, that is. There were others but they did not succeed. Or, as is rather more chilling, that are not visible. But of those the less said the better.

Maybe though the most startlingly distressing thing for Jinnah would be that he might stand in imminent danger of his life if he ever stepped foot in the country he founded, given that he came from a Gujrati family, and was born a Shia. Along with him, in much greater danger, would be the man who actually wrote the proposal for the partition of India, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan who, being a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, would be even more damned than the Founder.

“I told you,” Jinnah would cry, “The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own rights and culture and where principle of Islamic social justice could find free play!” And then when people still did not understand he would repeat the famous words from his Presidential address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947: “You may belong to any religion, caste or creed –that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

So what should be done about this state of affairs?

In a country with several sects, each of them intolerant of the others’ existence, the rational thing would be to choose a ‘neutral umpire’.

Jinnah, although he belonged to one of those several sects was as neutral is it gets. His views are well placed for being observed and implemented if the will for progress and peace genuinely exists. The death of his daughter is an occasion to remember the ideals of the father, ideals that are the easiest, maybe the only path to wellbeing, particularly since they do not conflict with anything rational we believe in.