Muhammad Ali Jinnah: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Part Two.

Hello Everyone!

I’m very sorry for the long delay; I’ve been working much more than I expected but as promised here’s part two of my bio of Muhammad Ali Jinnah focusing on the Good, Bad, and Ugly things he did for Pakistan. Enjoy!

The Good:

Jinnah strenuously strove to protect minorities: Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as exemplified in the speech I reprinted in part one of this bio was one where minorities of every kind could live and thrive in peace and prosperity playing an active and important role in the story of Pakistan.

He believed in equal rights for women: Jinnah fought all his life for the empowerment and rights of women; correctly pointing out that Islam did not sanction the treating of women as second class citizens or property who had to be kept within the walls of the house at all times. In fact most of the anti-women customs that predominate in the Pakistan have no basis in Islam but are in fact relics of cultural restrictions imposed long before Islam or even Hinduism arrived in the Indian subcontinent.

He fashioned diverse Muslim communities into a unified nation: Jinnah spent decades fashioning the incredibly diverse Muslim communities of India into a unified nation working to achieve the creation of Pakistan; a remarkable achievement by any standard.

He was a staunch secular Muslim: As evidenced by some of the quotes in part one of the bio, Jinnah had no intention of Pakistan becoming any sort of Islamic state. He believed  very strongly that mosque and state had to be separated and that all religions had to be able to preach free of any sort of discrimination.

He encouraged education for all: Jinnah was a lifelong advocate of education for all; particularly women and the poor. Jinnah himself was highly educated as was his sister.

He did his best to prevent violence before, during, and after partition: Jinnah abhorred violence and demanded his followers obey the law and resist from retaliating when they were attacked. When violence spiraled out of control during the partition of the Punjab, Jinnah did his best to organize Pakistani forces to protect Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs alike, and even pleaded with the British government to deploy British troops with shoot to kill orders to the Punjab.

He was very frugal and staunchly deplored corruption: Despite making a very large income from his law practice Jinnah lived quite frugally (apart from his suits perhaps). During cabinet meetings in Pakistan he refused to allow Chai to be served arguing that it was a needless expense. Jinnah constantly railed against corruption which he believed would destroy Pakistan.

He employed an Ahmadi foreign minister: Jinnah did not believe in discrimination and appointed a very talented Ahmadi as his foreign minister. Ahmadi’s are the Muslim equivalents of Mormons and many more orthodox Muslims despise them; a hate which Jinnah condemned.

He was a brilliant lawyer and a great orator: Jinnah was a very hard working very successful lawyer who I think serves as a wonderful role model of how much hard work and perseverance can pay off.  He was also a renowned orator. I happen to have a soft spot for public speaking but I think we can all agree that it is quite a wonderful thing when the words of another person can move us to do great things; as Jinnah’s speeches willed Indian Muslims to push for Pakistan.

He helped end the British Raj: Jinnah helped end a long and violent subjugation of 400 million people and for that he certainly deserves praise.

He demanded that the military was to be under civilian control: Pakistan’s subsequent history of frequent military coups would have never happened if Jinnah as lived as he made clear many times that the army had no role to play except what it was ordered to do by the Government of Pakistan.

He was a very stylish dresser: Jinnah was one of the New York Times best dressed men of 1946; he looked damn good in a suit. Reputedly Jinnah owned over 200 suits and never wore the same silk tie twice.

The Bad:

 He bears some responsibility for the bloodbath that was partition: Partition was a complex event that I will get into in a later post, and certainly no one person can be blamed. But at least a million people were killed, 15 million people forced to flee their homes forever, hundreds of thousands of women raped and often mutilated, and at least 75 000 women abducted with countless homes, places of worships, and business burnt to the ground. India’s leadership at the time must be held accountable for such horrendous numbers and Jinnah was foremost among that leadership. Without Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan there never would have been a Partition of the Punjab and Bengal; therefore some of the blame can be laid at Jinnah’s feet.

Most of his deputies were mediocrities at best: Foreign observers believed that most of Pakistan’s early leadership with the exception of Jinnah, his right hand man Liaquat Ali Khan, and his Ahmadi foreign minister, were mediocrities who would be incapable of leading Pakistan. Which was sadly to prove true after Jinnah’s death and Khan’s assassination.

He smoked 50 cigarettes a day: I’m not criticizing Jinnah just because he was a smoker in an age where many if not most men were but for the high number of cigarettes he smoked a day. 50 cigarettes a day is a very serious addiction and it shows I think that Jinnah had problems coping with all the stress in his life and that the cigarettes were a way to let of some of that stress. I’m not faulting him for a very human weakness but if you single-handedly create and then set out to rule a new country you should be able to better handle stress; especially without the aid of drugs.

He had tuberculosis and insisted on taking a major role in Pakistan’s affairs: Those 50 cigarettes a day manifested themselves in the form of the Tuberculosis that Jinnah contracted sometime in the 1940’s. Despite knowing that his life would not be a long one Jinnah insisted on becoming head of state of Pakistan in 1947. It is hard to fault him for wanting to play a role in the new nation he had created but his early death in 1948 was to have disastrous consequences for Pakistan.

He became Governor General but ran the government: Pakistan’s intern constitution was based off of British traditions and the Governor General, representing the King was the head of state and all legal orders flowed from him; in reality though it was the office of the Prime minister that held real executive power. Jinnah rather than remaining a titular head of state also chaired cabinet meetings and usurped many of the P.M.’s functions. This dangerous trend of Head of State’s acting like Head of Government’s has been a huge problem in Pakistan’s history.

He encouraged Bengali Muslims to agitate for Pakistan but did not truly want them in Pakistan: Jinnah only wanted Bengal if it came into Pakistan as an undivided territory including it’s main city of Calcutta which was a wealthy port. However Calcutta and West Bengal were mainly Hindu and would not accept being in Pakistan so Bengal was partitioned with only the poorer Muslim majority East Bengal going to Pakistan; which set up the dangerous situation of Bengali’s being the majority in a new country that was not supposed to have included them.

He worked with the Feudal class instead of empowering the people: Jinnah was never very in touch with the common man and decided to work with the Feudal class that controlled most of the land in West Pakistan. Jinnah believed that politics was a gentlemen’s game and it was much more gentlemanly to sit down and negotiate with wealthy landowners than it was to travel among the poor and earn their votes. To this day the feudal class controls most of the land and keeps many poor farmers in their thrall as no serious land reform has ever been undertaken in Pakistan.

He had a poor grasp of Urdu: Jinnah declared Urdu the sole official language of Pakistan yet he himself could barely speak it nor any of the other vernacular languages of Pakistan. Instead he had to communicate in English, a language which most of the population could not understand. Since all of his famous speeches were in English most people in Pakistan today have no idea that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be a secular state.

He bears part of the responsibility for the Kashmir dispute: The whole Kashmir dispute is very complex but basically Kashmir was a Muslim majority state and should have gone to Pakistan but it’s Hindu leader supported by Indian PM Nehru went to India instead. It was Nehru who escalated the Kashmir dispute but Jinnah did nothing to stop the Pashtun tribesmen from advancing into Kashmir spreading widespread devastation in their wake. His later order to advance the Pakistan army into Kashmir was a serious escalation of questionable legality. Worse it started a long trend of the Pakistani state using private militias to further the State’s objective’s or to provide a cover before eventual official intervention.

He tried to accept the accession of several Hindu majority states into Pakistan: There were several Hindu majority states within Indian territory that had Muslim leaders and Jinnah aggressively courted them. It was certainly hypocritical for Jinnah to be so opposed to Muslim majority Kashmir’s accession to India whilst trying to gain the accession of Hindu majority states to Pakistan.

He referred to India as Hindustan: The term Hindustan was an archaic one and by not calling India, India, Jinnah was implicitly stating that India’s large Muslim, Sikh, christian, Buddhist and other minorities would have no place in India.

He used force to bring Baluchistan into Pakistan: Jinnah sent in the Pakistan Army to ensure the accession of the various states that comprised Baluchistan; the first in a long line of violent crackdowns by the government of Pakistan on the people of Baluchistan.

He did nothing to repeal the FCR or bring the tribal areas into the mainstream: Jinnah kept in place the Frontier Crimes Regulations a set of brutal British laws designed to deny the Pashtun people’s of the tribal areas of the former NWFP basic legal and political rights. The FCR allows for collective punishment, indefinite detention, no right of appeals, and cases are heard by civil servants of the Federal government. The FCR was implemented to bring the oft rebellious tribes to heel and should have been repealed immediately after Pakistan gained Independence. Instead Jinnah changed nothing, and tragically no other leader since has either. To this day the people of the Tribal Area’s are denied basic rights and are not truly a part of Pakistan but rather ruled by Pakistan.

The Ugly:

He sowed the seeds of East Pakistan’s secession: Jinnah declared Urdu to be the sole official language of Pakistan despite it being spoken only by 7% of the population, most of whom had fled from India to Pakistan during Partition. The Bengali’s of East Pakistan who made up 54% of Pakistan’s total population and produced most of Pakistan’s wealth were enraged that Bengali was not made an official language. Demonstrations and riots broke out and the situation grew so serious that Jinnah himself had to fly to Dhaka (the capital of East Pakistan) in March of 1948 to calm the situation; instead Jinnah made what was in my opinion the stupidest speech of his career.

Addressing a crowded meeting in Dhaka Jinnah reiterated that only Urdu could serve as Pakistan’s official language and help to unite all her Muslims. He also declared that those who were agitating for Bengali as an official language were traitors and enemies of Pakistan. To add insult to injury he then declared that Bengali was a Hindu language not fit to be spoken by Muslims.

Jinnah’s contention that a language spoken by a tiny minority of the population could somehow unite a fractious country was ludicrous; and his disregard for the language of the majority population was insane. Keep in mind that Jinnah himself could barely speak Urdu and he told the Bengali’s that their language had no place in Pakistan while himself speaking English. His assertion that Bengali was a Hindu language was shockingly ignorant for such an intelligent man. Bengali is not very closely related to Hindi (the language of India’s Hindus) whereas Urdu and Hindi are so similar that they form a shared language called Hindustani!

Most accounts of the road to Bangladesh’s Independence have their starting point at some point in the 1950’s when Bengali agitation flared anew but the most logical starting point is March 1948 when Jinnah’s refusal to heed the Bengali’s perfectly legitimate demands sowed the seeds of a bloody harvest that was to destroy Pakistan a mere 23 years later. The Pakistani government would eventually recognize Bengali as an official language in 1956, starting an unfortunate trend of governments only making the right choices after tremendous pressure has been brought to bear and when it is to late to do any good.

Jinnah instead of dismantling the Raj continued it with Desi masters: The British Raj was designed to subjugate the people of India and plunder their wealth through restrictive laws and the regular use of force to crush dissent. Jinnah had a unique opportunity to dismantle the oppressive government structure of the Raj; tragically for Pakistan he kept the Raj in place with brown masters. The transfer of East Bengal’s wealth to West Pakistan was straight out of the Raj’s playbook. Jinnah dealt harshly with the secular nationalists who opposed his policies but he left Pakistan’s small but very vocal Islamist population untouched. Jinnah started the authoritarian streak that all of Pakistan’s later governments whether civilian or military were to have; a trait which has cost Pakistan dearly.

Jinnah divided India on religious lines but was against a Theocracy: Jinnah’s most dangerous choice was to declare India’s Muslims a separate nation and agitate for a separate homeland in which Muslims could control their destiny while at the same time insisting that Pakistan was not to be an Islamist state ie. a Theocracy run by Mullahs (Muslim priests) through Sharia (Islamic) law. Certainly it was a good thing that Jinnah wanted a secular state, but the distinction between a state for Muslims and an Islamist state is a narrow one that was lost on the largely uneducated masses.

The situation of Muslims during Pakistan’s creation and to a very large extent today is similar to the lot of Christians during the Middle ages. The bible was only written in Latin which almost no one in Europe could speak or read. Therefore Christians were wholly reliant on what their priests told them was in the Bible, despite the fact that many priests couldn’t read Latin themselves. Only when the Bible began to be published in the Vernacular languages of Europe could people take charge of their religious lives. In Pakistan and across the Muslim World the Quran (Islamic Bible) is only supposed to be read and spoken in Arabic. Unfortunately in Pakistan only 1% of the population can speak Arabic (the number was likely lower at Independence)  which means that the vast majority of the population has no idea what the Quran actually says. What’s worse is that many Mullahs cannot read or speak Arabic themselves. In many parts of Pakistan a good way to secure social standing is to memorize the Quran word for word in Arabic; unfortunately since they don’t read Arabic they haven’t a clue what they’re reciting.

An irony of Pakistan’s creation is that Islamist’s opposed the creation of Pakistan since it wasn’t going to an Islamist state; but they managed to swiftly hijack the political discourse of Pakistan. Jinnah made a grave error in using a Muslim identity to create Pakistan then refusing to do anything to stop that identity being taken to it’s logical conclusion of a Theocracy.

Final Analysis: Jinnah was a highly intelligent driven man who single-handedly forged a nation. His vision of Pakistan had it been fulfilled would have resulted in a prosperous peaceful country. However some of his most important decisions were to have disastrous consequences. At Jinnah’s feet can be laid the responsibility for East Pakistan’s secession and for the rise of an Islamist fringe that has done great damage to Pakistan.

Jinnah’s last words repudiating his creation of Pakistan shows just how quickly things went wrong in Pakistan. I have refrained from labeling his creation of Pakistan as a blunder simply because the story of Pakistan is still being written; although time is rapidly running out for there to be a Happy ending for Pakistan.

Pakistan’s only real hope of making things right is to rebuild the state on Jinnah’s vision of a free peaceful secular state that was to be a home for all regardless of religion. Whether it can achieve that vision will decide the future of millions.

Cyrus Durant.


About cyrusdurant

I'm just a man (or woman, I'll never tell) with a strange obsession for Pakistan. I also like to pretend that my opinions on things matter. I hope you will stay with me on this journey to whatever the future holds.
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