The Inimitable Mr Jinnah
By Farhan M. Asrar, MD, MSc
An online poll conducted by the BBC in December 2004 asked, “Who is South Asia’s greatest ever leader?” With over 335,000 votes casted, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah received the highest number of votes over 15 other famous leaders that included Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
September 11th 2008 marks the 60th death anniversary of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan who is also known as 'Quaid-i-Azam' (Great Leader) and 'Baba-i-Qaum' (Father of the Nation). He was also the President of the All-India Muslim League, which was a crucial power behind the freedom struggle of Indians from British rule in India and was the primary driving force leading to the creation of Pakistan.Viceroys of India such as Lord Harding and Lord Reading are known to have said that Quaid-i-Azam was the best dressed gentleman they had ever seen in India.
As a student in London, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had found paying guest accommodation with an English family at 35 Russell Road, Kensington. Later on the London Court Council put up a plaque at the residence which states “Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah 1876-1948 Founder of Pakistan, stayed here in 1895”
Jinnah had studied law at the famous Lincoln’s Inn in UK. While addressing the Karachi Bar Association in 1947 he said, “I joined Lincoln’s Inn because there on the main entrance, the name of the Prophet was included in the list of the great law-givers of the world”
Describing Quaid’s fearless encounters and straight forwardness, Sir Chimanlal Setalvad writes, “Jinnah had always, even in his junior days, shown considerable independence and courage. He never allowed himself to be overborne by the judge and opposing counsel”.
Dr. Ajeet Jawed, daughter of the famous freedom fighter Sardar Balwant Singh, writes that Jinnah was arguing for a case before a British judge, who was famous for his bad temper and ill manners. During the hearing, the Judge lost his temper and said, “You must remember, Mr. Jinnah, you are not addressing a third class magistrate of a lower court.” Jinnah retorted, “Allow me, my Lord, to remind you that you are not addressing a third class pleader either.”
Sir Charles Ollivant, incharge of the Judicial Department of Bombay had appointed Jinnah as a temporary Presidency Magistrate. After the assignment was over, Ollviant who was impressed with Jinnah, offered him a permanent job at Rs.1500 per month, which was considerably high salary at that time. Jinnah replied, “No, thank you, Sir. I will soon be able to earn that much in a single day.”
Jinnah entered Indian politics by joining the Indian Congress party and later in 1913 he also joined the All-India Muslim League. He was a member of both parties for close to six years and then quit the Congress in 1919. As a member of the Muslim League, Jinnah worked towards Hindu-Muslim unity. Gokhale even described Jinnah as ‘the best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’
The question that should intrigue us is: why the switchover to the claim of an independent Muslim nation? Justice Qadeerudin Ahmed suggests: “This disillusionary experience of the Hindu leaders and their total disregard of Muslim interests later compelled him (Jinnah) to acknowledge and espouse the need of a separate Muslim homeland”. When Jawaharlal Nehru said that there are only two parties in the country- the Congress and the British -Muhammad Ali Jinnah shot back in protest, “No, there is a third party- the Mussalmans.”
Agha Khan in his memoirs wrote, “Quaid-i-Azam’s brilliant and epoch-making career so untimely ended, reached its summit in these momentous years of 1946 and 1947. Now he belongs to history; and his memory is imperishable. Of all statesmen that I have known in my life – Clemeceau, Lloyd George, Churchill, Curzon, Mussolini, Gandhi – Jinnah is the most remarkable. None of these men in my view outshone him in strength of character and that almost uncanny combination of pre-science and resolution which is statecraft.”
Wolpert writes (in Jinnah of Pakistan): 'Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three.'
In September of 1948, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah passed away. On his death, G. Allana wrote, “As I looked at the plain white sheet of cloth that covered his body, I realized that the nation hardly one year old, had been orphaned on that day. I realized the greatest political leader that the Muslims of this subcontinent had produced had passed away.” Lord Pethick Lawrence, the former Secretary of State for India said, "Gandhi died by the hands of an assassin; Jinnah died by his devotion to Pakistan."