SECULAR JINNAH BY Bashy Quraishy

Family of the Heart - DIALOGUE & DISCUSSIONS 

 

There are many points in Mr. Ahsan’s article, which not only can easily be refuted but also disclose his own ignorance of the struggle of Pakistan and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s political life and achievements.

I would however confine myself to two comments. First the use of the word Islamic in connection with Pakistan and then Mr.Ahsan’s homemade assertions that; 

  • Quaid-e-Azam’s real aim of creating Pakistan was not a secular democracy because he lacked courage and had another vision, namely an Islamic state.
  • Quaid-e-Azam’s hesitation is a sign of his doubtful sincerity in secularism.
  • Alama Iqbal, was a proclaimed secular philosopher
  • Quaid-e-Azam used the religion to divide India.

 

First, Mr. Ahsan’s claim that Pakistan is an Islamic State, which is becoming more and more Islamic needs correction. There is a huge difference between a State where the majority of the population has Islam as the main religion and which bases its principles and morals on universal justice, welfare of people and rule by consent and a theocratic State which is run by religious leaders, like in Iran.  

Pakistan is not becoming more Islamic because Islam in a religion and not an ethnicity or nationality. Its population may be becoming more religious but the State is not becoming more religious or in the worst case, a theocracy. Pakistani people have never elected religious parties to run the state affairs.

For Mr. Ahsan and the readers benefit, I would like to set the record straight in separating three terms, he used in his article.

Theocracy is a form of government in which GOD is recognized as the state's supreme civil ruler, or in a higher sense, a form of government in which a state is governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided.

Secularism on the other hand asserts the right to be free from governmental imposition of religion upon the people, meaning that State must be neutral on matters of belief.

And then, we have democracy, which is a form of government where governing authority is derived from the people, either by direct referendum or by means of elected representatives of the people.

What does it mean? Pakistan is a democracy, which does not separate people from their religion but is inclusive.

Quaid-e-Azam never claimed to be a secularist, atheist or a religiously inclined person. He was a parliamentarian and a democrat. Quiad never once said that Pakistan was being created on the name of Islam but for the Muslim Milat. There is a huge difference between these two variables. Quaid disliked any form of label. He even admonished a crowd who was chanting slogans;” Amir-ul-Momanin, Zindabad”. He told them;” I am not your religious leader but a political leader”. I very much doubt that he would approve being termed as Islamic.  

Anyone who reads the following words of Quaid-e-Azam would know, what he wanted Pakistanis to be.

“If we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor… you are free- you are free to go to your temples mosques or any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state… in due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to Muslims- not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state”

The demand for Pakistan was a reaction to the foreseeable dictatorship of the majority that would have been imposed on the Muslims by the Indian National Congress. India’s former foreign minister, Jaswant Singh said in his book; “Jinnah- India – Partition – Independence; “ that had Congress accepted a decentralised federal country then, in that event, a united India was ours to attain.

 

The problem, he added, was Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘highly centralised polity.’
He said: ‘Nehru believed in a highly centralised policy. That’s what he wanted India to be. Jinnah wanted a federal polity. That even Gandhi accepted. Nehru didn’t. Consistently he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India.’ Jawahal Lal Nehru in 1945 said that “Pakistan would not survive beyond 30 days” and “they would come crawling back”.

 

 

If one looks at the three dominant strands in the Quaid’s political career, you will see that he had a firm belief in a united Indian nation, with Hindus and Muslims being co-sharers in the future Indian dispensation. Then he worked for Indian freedom through Hindu-Muslim unity and for the unity in Muslim ranks through strengthening the Muslim League. These strands continued until, with the years he changed his priorities, as the Congress’s ultimate objectives underwent a radical change under the influence of Hindu extremists, as exemplified at the All Parties National Convention deliberations on the Nehru Report in December 1928. Here the Muslim demand for federalism, designed to ensure the substance of power to them in their majority provinces, was countered by Hindu insistence on a unitary form of a highly centralised government, with majority, as the basic premise and principle which, for that precise reason, envisaged all power to the Hindu-dominated centre and only marginal powers to the provinces.

As a very visionary politician, Quaid worked very hard for years for national freedom for both Hindus and Muslims. That was his supreme goal, but the means he adopted to achieve it, underwent a dramatic change. He realised that if the goal of freedom could not be achieved through Hindu-Muslim unity, it must be achieved through Hindu-Muslim separation; if not secured through a composite Hindu-Muslim nationalism, it must be done through separate Hindu and Muslim nationalisms; if not through a united India, then through partition.

I and millions of Pakistanis are grateful that Quaid-e- Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah gave up the idea of a united India and insisted that Muslims in Hindustan should have their own homeland.

 

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