More than six decades since its creation, Pakistan is still searching for its lost soul, the soul that went missing when Jinnah passed away. How many of the youth of today have had the chance to go through Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947? A reading of this masterpiece is a must for all Pakistanis. The Quaid said: “If we want to make this great state of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor…We should begin to work in that spirit and in the course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish. Even now there are some states in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in the 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.”
Following his words, Jinnah unfolded cabinet appointments and sprang no surprise. In the country’s first cabinet, foreign affairs rested with Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan, law, justice and labour with Jogendra Nath Mandal, finance and statistics with Sir Victor Turner and minorities and women with Ms Sheila Irene Pant. No one dared to say at the time that Zafrullah Khan was an Ahmedi.
To the eyes and ears of the present generation who have been fed propaganda for many decades, Jinnah’s words and deeds may seem alien. Had Jinnah lived to see the constitution of the new state drafted, we would have had the most progressive of states and the most dynamic of people united in equality. Unfortunately, Jinnah’s untimely death let loose the forces of darkness that dared not confront him in his lifetime.
The Quaid had the right that his public funeral prayers be led by a Shia like himself but forces that had designs on Pakistan’s identity succeeded in denying him this right and made Shabbir Ahmad Usmani lead his funeral prayer. Syed Anisul Husnain, a Shia scholar, deposed that he had arranged the ghusl (bathing of the body) of the Quaid on the instructions of Miss Fatimah Jinnah and then led his private funeral prayer in a room of the Governor General’s House. After the Shia ritual, the body was handed over to the state. This was a very clever move that signalled the ascendancy of the hardliners. The vast majority of clerics who were at the forefront of the opposition to Pakistan took full benefit of the leadership crisis after Jinnah’s death. They avenged the shameful defeat of their lot at Jinnah’s hand by selling their ware to the first prime minister of Pakistan and prompted the tabling and subsequent passage of the Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly. This resolution was to mark the future of today’s Pakistan. A number of members of the Constituent Assembly opposed the resolution on the grounds that it would make the state a theocracy. Sris Chandra Chattopadhyaya said: “What I hear in this Resolution is not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam, nor even that of the prime minister of Pakistan, the honourable Mr Liaquat Ali Khan, but of the ulema (clerics) of the land.” Birat Chandra Mandal declared that Jinnah had “unequivocally said that Pakistan will be a secular state”. Bhupendra Kumar Datta went a step further and said, “Were this resolution to come before this house within the lifetime of the great creator of Pakistan, it would not have come in its present shape.”
However, the majority of secular-minded leaders in the Muslim League got carried away by the craftsmanship and guile of the clerics and did not foresee the inherent dangers in this resolution that should have been obvious. They fell into their trap and failed to see that it was a battle for power that the clerics had lost in Jinnah’s life and now wanted to win discreetly. The only way they could retain any political power in a democratic Pakistan was through making religion a bogey, and in this they succeeded. The leadership beyond Jinnah was less visionary and even Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan, an Ahmedi, supported the resolution, which meant that laws in Pakistan were subject to human interpretations of divine law and allowed the state interference in spiritual matters. That such interference would later make him lose his proclaimed religion eluded him. The fact that politically motivated interpretations had divided the human race and had caused immense misery to countless people throughout the centuries was foolishly overlooked. It can be safely said that the majority of the lot forgot that the state had a social contract with all its subjects and not just Muslims.
It should be noted that, till as late as May 1945, Shabbir Ahmad Usmani remained a member of the working committee of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Hind, which vehemently opposed the creation of Pakistan. Nothing is on record to suggest that he ever tried to change its policy. Apparently, he was wise enough to see that the masses were in favour of Pakistan and political expediency made him change course to become the first president of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, formed in Calcutta in October 1945. This brought him to later favour the Muslim League near the 1946 elections. His clever politics served his Deobandi school extremely well as they managed to take religious leadership from the Barelvis although the latter enjoy a majority. This lead has since multiplied as these elements later started receiving finances from Saudi Arabia to which they were ideologically nearer. Their disproportionate influence in politics has provided Saudi Arabia with a foothold here, allowing it to meddle in our politics. In hindsight, Saudi influence in Pakistan can be attributed to this man. Remaining silent in Jinnah’s lifetime, Usmani famously demanded jiziya (tax) from non-Muslims in the Constituent Assembly and told Pakistan’s first minister for law and labour, Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, that non-Muslims should not hold such key posts. Mandal ultimately resigned from the cabinet in disgust in 1950. The extremely dangerous term “key posts” in the dictionary of the politico-religious dictionary of Pakistan is Mr Usmani’s gift.
However, the impact of Jinnah’s legacy was to stay for a while and the constitution of the state remained secular in substance with the Objectives Resolution remaining a part of the preamble and not of its main operative body. Even when the present constitution was drafted in 1973, the resolution remained a part of the preamble and required a push by the extremist General Ziaul Haq to find its way into the main body. There has been no going back since then.
This year, from Minto Park where the Pakistan resolution was passed, the right wing started its ‘ideology of Pakistan march’. Propaganda was chanted and no mention of Jinnah’s vision made. Since the post caliphate period, clerics almost everywhere have divided the people and the faith they claimed to be serving has suffered. Their role in the affairs of Pakistan has done the same. They have succeeded in dividing its people, taking away the rights of the vulnerable, rituals have taken over substance and humanity has been the net loser.
Giving his view on theocracy, Thomas Jefferson once said: “The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and in-grafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.” He stands proved right in our land too. Can the youth see beyond propaganda? In the answer lies the future of the Pakistan Jinnah created and the clerics have made hostage.
By Mohammad Ahmad