By Ahmad Faruqui, PhD
The heavily trafficked M.A. Jinnah road runs past the Quaid’s mausoleum in Karachi but there are no signs that it lies in Jinnah’s Republic. Like Plato’s Republic, this elegant construct tantalizes the mind.
The Quaid was destined to live for just one year after the nation’s founding and much of that time was consumed by the war in Kashmir. His successors failed to deliver the Republic he had envisaged, even though he had left behind a clear blueprint.
Jinnah articulated his vision on the 11th of August 1947 when he delivered the presidential address to the Constituent Assembly. Calling the Partition of India “a titanic event,” he congratulated everyone who had been involved in Pakistan ’s creation. He reminded the sovereign body that its task, first and foremost, was to frame a Constitution.
He declared that the government was duty-bound to maintain law and order and in order to do that it would have to rid the nation of “bribery and corruption, black-marketing and nepotism and jobbery.”
And then he turned to the main theme of his speech. He called upon the people to bury the hatchet that had divided them in the freedom struggle and to live by three watchwords: “unity, faith and discipline.”
Jinnah said every Pakistani was “First, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations.” He reminded them that even among Muslims there were “Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on,” and among the Hindus there were “Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris and so on.” These distinctions had to vanish in the political sphere if progress was going to be achieved.
Then came the famous lines that resonate through history: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of 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.” A clearer statement that he intended Pakistan to be a secular state could not have been made.
In a passage that is often overlooked, Jinnah recalled a time when England was riven with differences between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, differences much worse than those that prevailed in India at the time of Partition. He exclaimed, “Thank God, we are not starting [our journey toward nationhood] in those days.” In today’s England, he said one could say that “Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.”
He closed by saying that if Pakistanis made such a non-discriminatory state their ideal, they would find that “in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
Framing the Constitution became a Herculean, nine-year endeavor for the Constituent Assembly. Tragically, two years later, the supreme law was dissolved at the stroke of a pen by the army’s first Pakistani chief. The “man on horseback” who seized the reins of power in October 1958 charged the elected government with “bribery and corruption, black marketing, and nepotism.”
With his Sandhurst accent and clipped moustache, General Ayub used Jinnah’s words to undo his legacy. Perhaps the irony was lost on him. Ayub would subsequently elevate himself to the rank of a Field Marshal, rule for a decade, and set an unfortunate example that would be emulated by three other army chiefs. Even the astute Jinnah had failed to anticipate that just a decade after his demise, a Khaki Curtain would descend upon the Republic.
Because of all the troubles that have afflicted Pakistan ever since, Jinnah’s critics have argued that his vision was utopian. To buttress their case, they argue that Partition unleashed bloodshed on an unprecedented scale. It was not the peaceful conclusion of a long protracted court case but a titanic tragedy. More bloodshed would follow in the decades to come from the conflict over Kashmir and even more when a civil war would grip East Pakistan leading in the country’s dismemberment less than a quarter-century after its creation.
Jinnah’s supporters argue that the problem was not in his vision but in how it was implemented. Failure on a scale so grand that it befitted a Shakespeare stage was not predestined. Sincere and competent leaders could have averted the blunders in political integration and developed a sense of national identity that did not derive from a fear of being pulled back into the womb.
They could have pursued Jinnah’s constitutional platform as far as it could be taken, not necessarily all the way to the heights it had attained in the West but at least as far as it was taken by the sibling next door. There was a time when India ’s fault-lines darkened its political horizons even more sharply than they did so in Pakistan.
There was no “law of necessity” that said that civil society in Pakistan would morph into a miasma of internecine warfare between rival religious sects, ethnic groups, provinces, drug lords, common criminals, rich and poor, and ultimately between the military and the civilians.
Nowhere did Jinnah say that the military would need to run the state. He did not think that his fellow citizens were an ill disciplined, tribal and feuding lot who could only be governed by feudal lords. He did not argue that the politicians were corrupt and that the judges of the Supreme Court were politicized, inept, corrupt and nepotistic. Nor did he assert that the media wanted to undermine Pakistan and that the clerics were fanning the extremists. While Pervez Musharraf made all these claims when he last traveled through Europe, it is unlikely that Jinnah would have pushed forward with the creation of Pakistan had he concurred with any of them.
The irony is that all Pakistani rulers, whether in or out of uniform, have stood under Jinnah’s portrait and evoked his name to legitimize their position. If they had been sincere, they would have worked hard on creating the Republic that he had envisioned, one that he had hoped would be “one of the greatest nations of the world.”
But in the country there is now a fresh ray of hope that Jinnah’s vision will not just be a long forgotten dream, an idea entombed with him in that most graceful of mausoleums. The new Parliament has a rare opportunity to rebuild Jinnah’s Republic. They should waste no time in putting the nation back on the road to secular democracy from which, in due course of time, will flow progress, peace and harmony. A time will come when the M. A. Jinnah Road will run through the heart of Jinnah’s Republic.
(Ahmad Faruqui has co-edited “Pakistan: Unresolved Issues of State and Society,” which has just been published by Vanguard Books. Faruqui@pacbell.net)