- He not only dominated the world that he lived in. He reshaped it
Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.”
It is extremely difficult to write about people one admires deeply as it would be for me to write about the Quaid, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. He was not just another human being, another leader. He was a larger-than-life presence who not only dominated the world that he lived in, but also reshaped it. And looking at what we have made of the country that he left behind, it is also painful to take to the pen.
One needs to begin at the beginning, but where is it that beginning? His childhood days or his early life struggles? Or his joining the Congress only to become disenchanted with its policies and leaving it? Or being persuaded to lead the Muslim League and the ensuing struggle for Pakistan? Or the mammoth opposition that he encountered and the grit and courage with which he demolished that? Or the boundless strength of his character and the indomitable faith that he had in the success of his mission? Or the travails that he suffered in his personal life and the indelible marks of pain that he carried through the rest of his living years? There was all that and, then some more, which one may not be able to encapsulate because limited is the power of the words, and even more limited the capacity of the mind.
Few men have ever devoted themselves to a cause as single-mindedly as the Quaid did to the cause of Pakistan. As a nation, we owe it to him to turn the fate of the country around to what it was envisioned to becoming– a compassionate, caring and tolerant state devoted to serving its people without any distinction or discrimination. Just the way the Quaid dreamt it. The tragedy is that we continue to drift away from that dream
In the context of my piece, I would be more concerned about the country that he left behind with his death in 1948 and what it has been reduced to after 73 years of independence. The crowning of his success was no less than a miracle, but through all the years since then, we have frittered away the glorious opportunities of turning the newly-born country into a formidable powerhouse dedicated to the welfare of its people. Instead, it has been shaped into a monolith, nibbling away at the resources and opportunities that should have been committed exclusively to bringing its marginalised communities out of poverty.
In pursuit of his passion for creating a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent, there were few around him who had any matching resolve for meeting the challenge. As long as he lived, he shouldered it all with an incredible reservoir of devotion and dedication that he was able to generate in spite of an emaciated body. This was no less than a Herculean struggle as the disease was eating him from inside and he knew that he did not have long to live. But he never paused for a moment.
The treasure that he left behind is contained in his address to the first Constituent Assembly in Karachi on 11 August 1947 when he had set forth the principles that Pakistan should espouse in its quest for a vibrant future. He wanted to see the country grow as a liberal, egalitarian, non-discriminating, tolerant and progressive entity as was effectively conveyed in his landmark speech: “You are free. You are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State”. Thus, as the first defining principle of the new-born country, he separated religion from the affairs of the state.
He elaborated this further: “We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State”. As practical demonstration of these enshrining values, the Quaid ensured that his first cabinet had adequate representation from the minority communities: Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, was sworn in as minister of law and labour and Zafrauullah Khan, a member of the Ahmedi community, as minister of foreign affairs. Pakistan’s first holiday calendar included the celebratory days of all its minority communities.
The second fundamental principal that he established was the distinction between the state and the government. He did so in his address to the civil servants in Peshawar in April 1948: “Governments are formed, governments are defeated. Prime Ministers come and go, ministers come and go, but you stay on…You should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician…You must not fall victim to any pressure, but do your duty as servants of the people and the state, fearlessly and honestly”. What we have instead are bureaucrats perpetually beholden to the benefaction of their political masters in preference to upholding the interests of the state, thus plunging in into an irretrievable fall away from the lofty ideals it was to embrace and promote.
The path from a liberal and egalitarian state to a bigoted and intolerant one has been lethal. It has destroyed the foundational ethos of the state, rendering it vulnerable and insecure. The reasons can be directly attributed to the failure of the state in provisioning for its people so that their self-esteem is not compromised and they are not forced to squander the values which the Quaid had endeavoured to instil in them. The fulfilment of the social contract which is the cardinal base giving the state its foremost legitimacy was replaced by the insatiable greed of those who ruled the country, irrespective of which party they belonged to, or which institution they represented. They were driven not by the enthusiasm to serve the people, but the lust to indulge in perpetuating their personal interests and those of their anointed successors.
Much has gone wrong and remedying it would require courage and conviction of the same measure that the Quaid demonstrated throughout his years of struggle for Pakistan and his battle in fighting a mortal disease. But, this must be preceded by cultivating a deep-set faith that we have to revert to a Pakistan that was envisioned at the time of its creation, and not the one it has regressed to becoming now.
Alongside being the unquestioned leader of millions, the Quaid was also a sensitive human being. The personal pain that he suffered through his marriage with Ruttie resonates poignantly through each word of the last letter that she wrote to him barely a few weeks before she died at the age of 29: “I have suffered much, sweetheart, because I have loved much. The measure of my agony has been in accord to the measure of my love… Darling I love you– I love you– and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you– only after one has created a very beautiful blossom, one does not drag it through the mire… I have loved you, my darling, as it is given to few men to be loved”.
Few men have ever devoted themselves to a cause as single-mindedly as the Quaid did to the cause of Pakistan. As a nation, we owe it to him to turn the fate of the country around to what it was envisioned to becoming– a compassionate, caring and tolerant state devoted to serving its people without any distinction or discrimination. Just the way the Quaid dreamt it. The tragedy is that we continue to drift away from that dream.