The Founder of Pakistan, Father of the Nation, the Great Leader, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) is today the sentinel of Pakistan’s Islamic ideology. His portraits are everywhere, from Parliament to the smallest police station, showing him in sherwani and his trademark cap, his features set in an expression of ideological censure.
Jinnah has been harnessed to a version of Islamic ideology that was not his own. In order to maintain Jinnah in this ideological posture, the Pakistani state has had to modify many known details of the man’s life. Such as his beliefs, his family relationships, his eating habits, his religiosity, his attitude towards Partition and towards India, and his views on minority rights.
In India, Jinnah has been reviled as a malevolent, humour-less, politically ambitious man who wrecked the dream of a united, secular India. Authors like H M Seervai have tried to put the record straight, but Jinnah-bashing continues in India, which has had an impact on how the larger world views the Quaid. Gandhi was Jinnah’s contemporary rival but it was young Nehru who was responsible for demonising him.
Unlike what the average Pakistani has been led to believe, Jinnah never thought that India and Pakistan would be hostile neighbours. The fact that three institutions in India – including the Aligarh Muslim University – were named beneficiaries in Jinnah’s will clearly goes against the state-sponsored version of his life. Jinnah could have changed his will anytime after he made it in 1929, more so after 1947, but he did not. It is a different matter that none of the three institutions in the end received money from the Jinnah Trust which looks after the Quaid’s estate, funds which were instead diverted to Pakistani institutions.
Perhaps the most drastic redrafting of Jinnah’s worldview has been in how he saw the minorities, for Jinnah’s vision of lndo-Pakistani relations itself was based on bilateral regard for the minorities in each country. However, particularly within Pakistan, it was not a vision anyone cared much for. Jinnah’s colleagues in the Muslim League were not willing to treat non-Muslims equally, especially not the Hindus of East Pakistan who formed one-fourth of the population there.
Jinnah has had to be transformed because Pakistan has set its face against his legacy. As author Akbar S Ahmed says, “his behaviour reflected Anglo-Indian sociology,” but he was also a Muslim. The tendency has been to emphasise the Quaid’s Muslim identity by juxtaposing it with the ‘Hindu-ness’ of the Congress as Pakistani historians saw it.
What Jinnah and Allama Iqbal had in mind was a modern Islamic state, the ‘modern’ referring to a secular state where all religions would coexist. Contest with India, and the need at all times to ‘separate’ Pakistan’s identity from India’s, caused the Muslim League politicians to firm up the Islamic attributes of Pakistan till their prescription broke away from Jinnah’s vision. The new identity, which Gen Zia-ul Haq called “tashakhus,” inducted into the task of law-making the very Islamic clergy which had condemned Jinnah for visualising a separate state.
Today, the break from Jinnah has plunged Pakistan into sectarian chaos. Jinnah’s vision of a modern state would have saved Pakistan from international isolation and made it easy for the world to deal with it. This isolation has complicated Pakistan’s relations with India. Getting rid of Jinnah’s legacy has been Pakistan’s greatest tragedy, the consequences of which are being felt as the country hurtles downward in ideological chaos.