‘Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of state was based on principles of pluralism, democracy, modernity’

September 24, 2022

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisioned a democratic, inclusive and progressive nation-state with equality for women and minorities and a state that would create doctors, engineers and...

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Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisioned a democratic, inclusive and progressive nation-state with equality for women and minorities and a state that would create doctors, engineers and economists.

Yasser Latif Hamdani, author of ‘Jinnah: A life’, said this while speaking at an event at the Quaid-e-Azam House Museum on Friday afternoon. In his talk titled ‘Jinnah and the idea of a modern nation state’, he lamented that unfortunately, the country was currently nowhere near the idea of a modern state that the founder of the nation had. “I try to wake the people up to that idea through my book,” the author maintained.

“I was at the Sindh High Court (SHC) this morning, arguing a case on behalf of a Hindu citizen who said he not only has to declare on his national identity card that he is a Hindu but a non-Muslim as well. By forcing a citizen to make this negative declaration, you are telling him that you are somehow a second-class citizen,” the author, who is also a lawyer, said.

He added that in his view, this was completely contrary to the vision of Jinnah, who had called himself the protector-general of minorities. Hamdani opined that a great deal of energy was spent on discussing whether Jinnah wanted a secular state or an Islamic one. “That is because our vocabulary is limited. There are two kinds of words that are used globally: one is secularity and the other secularism,” he explained. “Secularity is simply impartiality of the state to various faiths, while secularism is the deliberate elimination of a religion from the public sphere,” he said.

Elaborating on his point, he said Jinnah’s idea of a secular state was in perfect consonance, and not in contradiction to, Islam. His idea of the state was based on the principles of pluralism, democracy, and modernism.

The author said what Jinnah stood for was that any person with merit should be able to become the head of the state irrespective of his or her faith or beliefs. “In the famous August 11, 1947, speech, there are certain things that are well-known like ‘you are free to go to your temples, mosques or any other place of worship in Pakistan and you may belong to any caste or creed has nothing to do with the business of the state’ but there are other lines that are swept under the rug. Those are even clearer in spelling out what kind of polity he [Jinnah] wanted.”

The author cited another excerpt from that speech which had the following words, “In the due course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims.” He explained that by this, the Quaid-e-Azam was not saying the people would lost their personal faith as individuals but as citizens of one state, they would be equal.

Hamdani said that in that speech, Jinnah had further said that we were starting in the days where there was no discrimination or distinction between one caste or creed and another. Unfortunately, the author added, today’s Pakistan was not how it started in the days of Jinnah as there were discriminations today and that the fact that the president and prime minister of Pakistan could not be non-Muslims was against what Jinnah had preached.

The speaker opined that it was not the religion that created Pakistan but it was the question of a major community’s legitimate grievance against the rising Hindu majority.It was the question of how the Muslims would actually ensure their survival in post-Independence India, he said. “Jinnah’s idea of Pakistan was not necessarily dependent on the partition of India. There could be Pakistan that could have been part of united India,” Hamdani said, adding that the Partition had to happen when Jawaharlal Nehru decided to torpedo the cabinet mission plan.“I imagine that the sub-continent would have been very different, had Nehru not decided to torpedo the cabinet mission plan unilaterally in July 1946.”

The author said Indians still built their brand through Gandhi but in his opinion, Jinnah was in many ways a greater leader than Gandhi. He stressed the need for building a narrative based on the facts and not a forged one to tell the people that Partition was not the demand etched in stone but there was a lot of bargaining that could go into it and there was a possibility of ‘all India settlement’.

Hamdani said Jinnah had particularly a modernist and progressive vision for women. His famous ‘no nation can rise to the heights of glory unless women are side by side’ statement corroborated the fact, he added.

Liaquat Merchant, senior vice chairman of the Quaid-e-House Museum Board of Management, said that in order to understand the reason behind the creation of Pakistan, and why the idea of Pakistan would never die, one had to cross a bridge that was Jinnah. “Until you cross that bridge called Jinnah, it is not possible for anyone to understand Pakistan,” he stressed.

He said Hamdani had written his third book and a second on Jinnah. He added that it was a wonderful book and welcome addition to a large number books that we already had on the founder of Pakistan.

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