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Association for Communal Harmony in Asia (ACHA)
www.asiapeace.org & www.indiapakistanpeace.org
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Pervez Hoodbhoy on Jinnah


As you know, there has been a great deal of controversy in India over the remarks Advani made about Jinnah, during his recent visit to Pakistan.

In this context, you may be interested in reviewing comments about Jinnah Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy made to an Indian newspaper.

Many of you would recall that Dr. Hoodbhoy is a Pakistani physicist. Besides making the two widely acclaimed documentaries ("Pakistan and India under the Nuclear Shadow", and "Crossing the Lines - Kashmir, Pakistan, India"), he has authored a number of publications and lectured widely to promote science education, better environmental policies, women's rights and education. In 2003, some of his contribution was recognized with an award of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize. More info about him and his writings can be found at www.chowk.com


Pritam K. Rohila, Ph. D.
Executive Director
[email protected]


1. Ordinary Pakistanis are told that Jinnah was a true Muslim and wanted to establish an Islamic state in Pakistan? Do you agree with that argument, if not, why?

Fifty eight years after Partition there still does not exist in Pakistan a legal definition of a Muslim, much less a true Muslim (or momin). Hence the above question is fundamentally unanswerable. As for Mohammed Ali Jinnah: he must be accepted as a Muslim because he was born one and maintained that he was one by belief. He did so in the face of aspersions cast upon him by his political opponents, such as Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, who claimed that his westernized lifestyle amounted to un-Islamic behaviour.

2. Did Mr. Jinnah want Pakistan to become a theological state?

Until 1981, when General Zia-ul-Haq decreed that the goal of Pakistan was the creation of a complete Islamised state run according to the Shariah, it would have been laughable to suggest that Mr. Jinnah wanted the rule of the clergy. But subsequently facts were turned upside down. Desperate attempts were made to put the fundamentalist cloak on him. But the truth is that nobody had ever before called him an alim (religious scholar) because he had not studied the fiqh and shariah. His leadership of the Muslim League owed to his superb ability in English, not his barely understandable Urdu (much less Arabic or Farsi). While he did allude to Islamic principles of fairplay and justice, these were in general, vague terms. For example, to the Sibi Darbar in 1948, Jinnah said: "Let us lay
the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles. Our Almighty has taught is that our decisions in the affairs of the state shall be guided by discussion and consultations." Note that he did not try to argue in the style of Islamic scholars by quoting precedents, or verses from the Quran and Hadith.

3. In his personal life Jinnah was very liberal and secular, but his public posture was quiet different? Why did he have that contradiction in his personal life and public life?

Had Jinnah campaigned for a liberal, secular Pakistan there is no doubt that he would have lost the leadership of the Pakistan Movement. He knew this well, but probably thought that: a)people would not notice his lifestyle too much, b)that the contribution he was making to the welfare of Muslims was the crucially important thing, and, c)that a liberal, secular Pakistan would one day follow once the messy business of partition was over with and it was unnecessary to raise that issue now.

4. Was Jinnah in favour of dividing the sub-continent on religious grounds?

His Two-Nation theory was exactly that. He said that Hindus and Muslim could not live together as one nation. I personally think he was wrong. But he was juggling many balls at the same time. In the same 1948 Data Darbar speech that I quoted above, Jinnah was quite emphatic: "Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state, to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims - Hindus, Christians, and Parsis but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens as any other citizens and will play their rightful part
in the affairs of Pakistan." Given that Jinnah's wife and daughter were Parsis, he could scarcely have wanted a constitution that would have made them second-class citizens.

5. For a man who demanded a separate state for Muslims, don't you think that a belief in the notion of an Islamic state must have been at the back of Jinnah's mind?

As my late friend and guru, Eqbal Ahmed, often pointed out, in his earlier years Jinnah was adamantly opposed to the use by Gandhiji of religious symbols in politics. Ironically, it was Jinnah, then a Congress leader, who warned against such spiritualization of Indian politics. He was right. A deeply divisive view of the world naturally emerged once the terms of discourse shifted in this way. As India approached independence, leaders of sectarian outlook and sentiments such as Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad gained commanding positions in the Congress.

6. What was his vision for the infant state?

Here, I will differ with the conventional wisdom in Pakistan - I think that Jinnah was a man of strong will and impeccable integrity who wrenched Pakistan out of the hands of the unwilling British and Congress. But he was no visionary. He did not give to Pakistan what Jawaharlal Nehru gave to India. He left behind no blueprints for creating a modern, progressive state that would emphasize education, science, and modernity. It is heresy to say this in Pakistan, but that is the truth. A track record of nearly six decades stands as proof.