Do we really need Jinnah’s Pakistan?
Unlike the American Founding Fathers who wrote and documented extensively their vision on how they would like to see the United States, Jinnah had never really given serious thought about what Pakistan he would like to see
Do we really need Jinnah’s Pakistan? Should we actually concern ourselves with the idea and struggle for what Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be like? Like almost every other issue in Pakistan, we are fighting over the abstractness of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, something that probably even he was not too sure about due to the abrupt nature of the British partition of India a few months earlier than expected. Should we not spare this debate that is polarising society, and instead just agree on something more general such as: Jinnah only wanted a prosperous Pakistan, and take it forward from there to make our own roadmap towards creating a Pakistan that the majority of us can agree upon?
A few weeks ago, I came across a small group of upper class urban youth carrying placards asking for the ‘revival of Jinnah’s Pakistan’ at main Liberty Roundabout in Lahore. Interestingly, just a few days ago, I had a dialogue with a few members of the Jamaat-e-Islami where I heard the same call for the revival of Jinnah’s Pakistan. What, however, is different is what these two polar opposite groups perceived as Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan. In recent years, ever since Pakistan has taken a downward spiral, the idea that we somehow have detracted from Jinnah’s Pakistan has started making waves in the public and academic discourse. While everyone agrees that Pakistan should be modelled around the Quaid’s view, the contention arises over what exactly is his Pakistan to begin with? Both sides have been blaming the downfall and chaos in Pakistan on each other, liberals arguing and blaming Zia’s Islamisation as the root of all problems while Islamists blame the westernisation and secularisation of Pakistan as the crux of all the problems, and a move away from what Jinnah wanted for Pakistan.
Without taking any sides whether Jinnah was an Islamist or a secular person or wanted an Islamic or secular state, I believe both sides of the aisle can present reasonably authentic evidence to support their claims on what Jinnah viewed Pakistan as. The secular minded and liberals in Pakistan quote the constituent assembly speech where Jinnah clearly talked about the separation of religion from state affairs. The Islamists, on the other hand, like to quote Jinnah’s pre-partition speeches where his entire vision was to create a homeland for the Muslims of India because they were different in blood, culture, ethics, etc, from the Hindus. They argue that if Pakistan is for Muslims then why should it not be an Islamic state where the laws of Islam should prevail.
This debate is not only redundant but has gotten into a dense framework of complexities, largely because both sides fail to understand the ‘political and contextual angle’ of Jinnah’s speeches, that we have actually lost the purpose of what exactly we need to take out from the debate on Jinnah’s vision. Having any further dialogue and debate on such a topic is unlikely to get us anywhere. And if we are not getting anywhere on this topic, better would be to abandon it completely and not carve disunity of ideas and integrity issues.
How Pakistan should be today has nothing and should be nothing to do with what Jinnah wanted and why he wanted it so for two basic reasons. First, it was not ‘only’ Jinnah who made Pakistan; it was the effort of each and every one who suffered during that period to make this country. Hence, the people who are equally responsible for making Pakistan, it is up to them and their generations to decide what and how exactly they want to see this country. If the majority in the country wants to see Pakistan as an Islamic state with the strict enforcement of Sharia, there is no power that should stop the people from achieving this purpose. Similarly, if the majority of people in Pakistan are interested in adopting a minimum interference of religion in political and government operations, it should be so.
Second, there needs to be a realisation that Jinnah was the ‘lawyer’ for the case of Pakistan. He argued for it, and won. However, Jinnah was never the visionary or a revolutionary strategic thinker to guide the course of the nation. If anybody at all in Muslim League was a strategic thinker, it was Sir Zafarullah Khan, who was also the author of the Lahore Resolution, which for the first time chalked out the idea of Pakistan. Khan, however, belonged to the then Islamic sect of Ahmadis and thus his role over the years was kept secret, until recently when documents and letters written by Lord Linlithgow revealed the centrality of his role. Hence, there should be a little less stress on ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’, because honestly, there is none; and scratching out Jinnah’s vision forcefully has only served to confuse the people and obfuscate the roadway to progress.
Unlike the American Founding Fathers who wrote and documented extensively their vision on how they would like to see the United States, Jinnah had never really given serious thought about what Pakistan he would like to see — a fact that we see due to a dearth of his writings and speeches indicating that. It is really about time we stop arguing over what Jinnah wanted, or what perhaps Iqbal wanted, or whether they were secular or not. What is more important is what we want today, and how we want to achieve that. There is a desperate need to change the debate in our curriculum, media, and households. We need to start asking the right questions to reach the right answers. To begin with, let us ask what we want today instead of what Jinnah wanted in 1947.
The writer is a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad. He is also an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), Kings College, London. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org