A. G. Noorani*
(Muhammad Ali Jinnah meant every word of what he said on 11 August 1947. He was opposed to an Islamic State as understood by its protagonists in Pakistan like Abul Ala Maududi relying on Abul Hasan al-Marwardi and others but of which Jinnah was innocent – he did not demand because he wanted to establish an Islamic State. Like others he was concerned at the play of majority rule in a country with communal divisions. The Congress rejected power-sharing in 1937-39 and drove him to ask for partition. It was a political not a religious demand.)
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Presidential address on 11 August 1947, to the inaugural session of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, was one of the most consequential pronouncements in the history of South Asia. Even sixty years later and despite archival disclosures, debate persists on its true import and significance. Very understandably, because it touches the very fundamentals of the state, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In contrast to the Constitution of 1956, the Constitution of 1973 prescribes in its various oaths of office a pledge to “strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan.” (Third Schedule; vide the Second Schedule to the Constitution of 1956).
There was no ambiguity whatever in the formulations Jinnah used: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State … you will 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” (Jamiluddin Ahmad (ed.)., Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah; Vols. I and II; Sh. Muhammad Ashraf; Lahore; Vol. II, pp. 403-4).
This marked the abandonment of the two-nation theory, explicitly. For Jinnah referred in the same speech to “a nation of 400 millions souls in subjection” to the British rule. His much acclaimed biography by Stanley Wolpert, far from providing any cogent explanation for this volte face, expresses bewilderment. “What was he talking about? Had he simply forgotten where he was? Had the cyclone of events so disoriented him that he was arguing the opposition’s brief? Was he pleading for a united India – on the eve of Pakistan – before those hundreds of thousands of terrified innocents were slaughtered ….?” (Jinnah of Pakistan; Oxford University Press; p. 304). This tells us more about Wolpert than Jinnah.
What lends ambiguity to the text is the context. Since 1939, even before he demanded Pakistan, Jinnah had put forth the two nation theory. From 1940 onwards the demand was sought to be justified on the basis of the theory. The “Muslim nation” had fought for and achieved statehood in Pakistan. Inevitably it would be a Muslim state. But he had not hesitated in his programme of mass mobilization, to press Islam into service. References to the Quran were freely made. The followers – at least a good many of them – could hardly be blamed for imagining that Pakistan would indeed be an Islamic state. It is unthinkable that Jinnah also shared this ideal. The speech sowed the seeds of a contest between the modernists and the Islamists, which has continued to rock Pakistan to this day. It did not declare closure. For even after the speech, Jinnah now Governor-General and head of state – continued to invoke Islam and the Quran.
Not surprisingly the speech came as a shock to his followers. The chronicler of Pakistan’s Press, Zamir Niazi, one of the most honest journalists, has recorded the reaction in his book The Press in Chains (Royal Book Company, Karachi; pp. 36-37). His account is based on authentic contemporary sources. Hamid Jalal revealed that the Establishment sent a press advisory to black out the speech. Altaf Husain, editor of Dawn, foiled the move by threatening to “go to the Quaid himself.” Zamir Siddiqui corroborated Hamid Jalal’s account. The prime culprit was Majid Malik the Principal PRO. The fact that he spoke to Chaudhry Mohammed Ali, Secretary-General of the Cabinet, before withdrawing the advisory casts the latter in a dubious role. Zamir Niazi records also attempts in later years to censor the speech (p. 38).
The speech passed muster in the historical records. It did not shape policy. There is an aspect, however, which is commonly overlooked by those who cite Jinnah’s references to Islam and the Quran to imply that he did not quite mean what he had said. Jinnah knew the personal law of Muslims. Very few, in his times, knew of “the Islamic State”. It was some time after the establishment of Pakistan that the concept began to be defined, with varying degrees of vagueness. Jinnah never did, never could have subscribed to the concept as propounded. It is dishonest to extrapolate his strong occasional remarks to the formulation of advocates of an Islamic State. (Vide the writer’s essay The Islamic State; A Mirage; Criterion; July-September 2009; pp. 28-55).
We have two authentic accounts of his rejection of the concept totally. One is by the Raja of Mahmudabad, who was close to him. He wrote “My advocacy of an Islamic State brought me into conflict with Jinnah. He thoroughly disapproved of my ideas and dissuaded me from expressing them publicly from the League’s platform lest the people might be led to believe that Jinnah shared my view and that he was asking me to convey such ideas to the public.” (C.H. Philips and Mary Doreen Wainwright (Eds.) The Partition of India; George Allen and Unwin Ltd.; Some Memories p. 388).
Sir Prakasa, India’s first High Commissioner to Pakistan, took up the issue with Jinnah in September 1947 on the basis of a speech he had never made. Sir Prakasa urged Jinnah that no “stress should be laid on Pakistan being an Islamic State. … he said he had never used the word ‘Islamic.’ He added ‘You are a responsible man, and you should tell me where I have done so.’ ” Sir Prakasa cited “in your broadcast from Lahore on 31 August you had yourself spoken of Pakistan as an Islamic State.” Jinnah was quite sure that he had not done so, and asked me to let him have the original version, if I could. At this he suddenly got up. I could see he was visibly livid with rage. I was summarily dismissed.” (Sir Prakasa; Pakistan: Birth and Early Days; Meenakshi Prakashan; p. 57). Jinnah was perfectly justified. The memoirs cite no detail significantly. None of the compilations of the Governor-General’s speeches contain the broadcast. What is fully established is that Jinnah regarded advocacy of an Islamic State as a reproach since he rejected the idea completely. He did broadcast from Pakistan Radio, Lahore. It was on 30 October 1947. He spoke of Pakistan as a “Muslim State” (ibid; p. 427).
However this fact does not answer a reproach based on the incontrovertible record of his speeches in which he did speak of Islam and the Quran. A noted scholar Farzana Shaikh grapples with this problem in her able work, Making Sense of Pakistan (Foundation Books, New Delhi, Hurst & Company, London; 2009).
Her views deserve to be quoted in extenso. “Uncertainty about national identity and the lack of consensus over Islam greatly affected the country’s constitutional and political development; they also impinged on the construction of a coherent economic and social vision. Jinnah was famously ambivalent about his understanding of the relationship between Islam and politics. While he had done more than most to tighten the bond between religion and nationalism, thus laying the foundations of Pakistan, he was by all accounts a reluctant convert to his own idea. Moreover Jinnah, like the political and military leaders who succeeded him, was unable to resist the temptation of mobilizing the language of Islam to generate power – power that lay for the most part beyond the reach of mass democratic politics, about which Jinnah was also ambivalent.”
She proceeds to add “Jinnah, no romantic, soon realized that while the principles of Islam might represent a panacea for the resolution of the Muslim national question, they were unlikely to help address the real shortcomings of Muslim society. These shortcomings were brutally exposed at Partition, when Muslims (like others) demonstrated that the primeval impulses of their religion remained dangerously in place. By August 1947 Jinnah was forced to recognize that, whatever the national famous inaugural speech to the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, he appeared to acknowledge the damaging effects flowing from the use of religious rhetoric to justify his demand for Pakistan.” ….
“Jinnah’s own prevarication did little to clear the confusion. In a speech to the Sind Bar Association in Karachi on 25 January 1948, he even seemed ready to abandon his earlier stance, which had called for religion to be kept out of politics, and denouncing as ‘mischief’ attempts to ignore ‘Shari’at Law’ as the basis of Pakistan’s constitution. While few would deny that these inconsistencies were to be expected from Jinnah, who by that time was consumed by fatal ill-health, they set an unfortunate precedent for his successors. Many have since used the ambiguity cultivated by Jinnah to negotiate their own positions and, in doing so, have continued the legacy of a movement that under Jinnah himself came to represent all things to all men.
“The Objectives Resolution passed in March 1949, which has served as a preamble for all three of Pakistan’s constitutions (1956, 1962 and 1973), was symptomatic of this ambiguity. Though regarded as the country’s ‘constitutional Grundnorm,’ its endorsement was marred by a discord that demonstrated the fragility of the consensus underpinning the new state.” (pp.82-83).
As will be pointed out later, her reading of Jinnah’s speech is inaccurate. But it speaks volumes for the speech that despite the Objectives Resolution, the Constitutions of 1956, 1962 and 1973 and four military coups, its central theme is still recalled as a beacon light. In January 2001 President Pervez Musharraf announced a ban on all militant groups, including sectarian outfits, signaling thereby a break in relations between the army and its militant protégés in Afghanistan and Kashmir. His decision came in the wake of a daring attack by militants on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, which had brought Pakistan to the brink of a dangerous military confrontation with India. In his speech justifying the ban, Musharraf recalled Jinnah’s vision of ‘the ideology of Pakistan,’ which he claimed stood in contrast to the ‘theocratic state’ advocated by Islamist parties and their militant allies. Their attempts to establish a ‘state within a state,’ he declared, would be defeated by his military regime, which had come to recognize that “today Pakistan is not facing any threat from outside … the real threats are posed from within.’”
Since ambiguity arises from Jinnah’s other speeches, before and after the partition, the best way to unravel the mystery, such as it is, is first, to determine Jinnah’s “Public Philosophy,” to use Walter Lippmann’s expression, trace the slide towards the two-nation theory and the invocation of the faith, and lastly, analyze the terms of the speech in the light of the speaker’s pronouncements before and after he spoke as he did. Speaking in the Central Legislative Assembly on 7 February 1935 on the Communal Award, Jinnah said: “I entirely reciprocate every sentiment which the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition expressed, and I agree with him that religion should not be allowed to come into politics, that race should not be allowed to come into politics. Language does not matter so much. I agree with him, if taken singly one by one. Religion is merely a matter between man and God. I agree with him there entirely, but I ask him to consider this, – Is this a question of religion purely? Is this a question of language purely? No, Sir, this is a question of minorities and it is a political issue.” (Ahmad; Vol. 1; p. 5).
He repeated these views even after the Lahore Resolution on Pakistan (1940) when he addressed students of the Ismaili College in Bombay on 1 February 1943. He said “Which government, claiming to be a civilized government can demolish a mosque, or which government is going to interfere with religion which is strictly a matter between God and man? The question is that the Musalmans are a nation, distinct from the Hindus.” (ibid; p. 469).
His presidential address to the Delhi session of the All India Muslim League on 21 April 1943 was a documented indictment of Gandhi’s injection of religion into politics. (ibid. pp. 481-482).
Jinnah took pride in the fact that “What the League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims …. it has certainly freed you from that undesirable element of Maulvis and Maulanas” (ibid. p.43). The record is consistent and clear and the speech of 11 August 1947 fully accorded with the outlook these remarks expressed.
This brings us to a sorry omission in the entire discussion on that speech. It was delivered on the establishment of Pakistan. Surely in order to ascertain “the ideology of Pakistan” it is far more relevant to consider Jinnah’s speech delivered at the first espousal of Pakistan, at the Lahore Session of the League on 23 March 1940. It had not the faintest hint of an Islamic State. It offered arguments in support of a political solution.
In a broadcast on All India Radio on Eid Day 15 November 1939 he said pointedly “we shall be guided by our rational interpretation of the Quran.”
The address at the Lahore session fell in to two parts. One concerned recent politics, the other, the demand for Pakistan. The two-nation theory cemented both (ibid.; p. 156 and 162). Islam came last in the peroration which exhorted “come forward as servants of Islam.” But neither the Lahore Resolution nor the League President asserted that India’s partition was being demanded in order to establish an Islamic or, for that matter, a Muslim State. “The ideology of Pakistan” is a belated, artificial and an utterly bogus construct.
However, it must be emphasized that it was not a secular state but a majoritarian State that Jinnah began demanding with strident consistency. It was far removed from Jawaharlal Nehru’s concept of secularism. Few of his senior colleagues shared it. (S. Gopal; Nehru; Oxford University Press; Vol. II; p.15).
There was a false construct which Jinnah began tirelessly to propound – the homelands of Muslims lay in the areas in which they formed a majority. This is based on a historical falsehood. Islam came first to Malabar not to the north. To this day the namaz is said in an ancient mosque in Cannonore in the manner it was in the days of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It is absurd to aver that the seats of Muslim culture in U.P., Hyderabad, and Bengal are not the Muslims homelands.
This theory had a pernicious corollary – the rest of India comprised the Hindus’ homelands. Sample this amplification of the Lahore resolution. “The question for the Muslim minorities in Hindu India is whether the entire Muslim India of 90,000,000 should be subjected to a Hindu majority raj or whether at least 60,000,000 of Musalmans residing in the areas where they form a majority should have their own homeland and thereby have an opportunity to develop their spiritual, cultural, economic and political life in accordance with their own genius and shape their own future destiny, at the same time allowing Hindus and others to do likewise. Similar will be the position of the Hindus and other minorities in the Muslim homelands.” (ibid.; p. 166). Specifically “What the Muslim League wanted was that the Muslims should have opportunity to have their own governments in the two zones which they considered as their homelands and develop their own culture. He wished Godspeed to the Hindus to have their own governments in the other parts and develop according to their own genius.” (ibid. p. 220).
The two States would be given over to the two communities. But note this formulation on 2 January 1941. “The question is not merely cultural but of political, economic and social problems which can only be solved according to our genius in our homelands, provided that they are independent states and in no way under the control of any centre for all India. Safeguards, constitutional or otherwise, will be of no use. So long as there is communal Hindu majority at the centre, safeguard will remain on paper. Therefore I think of nothing better or more suitable having regard to the conditions and realities than separation of Muslims in my proposed homelands.”
A statement issued in May 1941 came close to the “faith” but it was obviously rhetorical. “Therefore, the Muslims asked that where they were in a majority they should be allowed to have their own way of life, and that where Hindus were in a majority they should continue to have their way of life, each nation according to its own philosophy, faith and culture.” (ibid., p. 292).
It was bad enough propounding a proposal which did not, could not possibly, resolve the communal problem. It was far worse to embellish it with a theory which legitimized majoritarian States in both parts – a Muslims State and Hindu State. It is most unfair to deny Nehru the credit for rejecting this theory and opting instead for a secular state, however imperfect it may be in actual practice. The minorities have a yardstick by which to hold the State to account.
It was of course, not an Islamic State that Jinnah had in mind. The ideas he floated gave succour to those who did. Jinnah did not realize this. He resented charges that he wanted a religious state in a speech at Aligarh on 2 November 1941. K. M. Munshi was reported to have said, “The State under the Pakistan scheme would not be a civil government responsible to a composite legislature consisting of all communities, but a religious State pledged to rule according to the teachings of that religion thus by implication excluding all others not following that religion from a share in the government. One crore and thirteen lakhs of Sikhs and Hindus would constitute a minority under the protection of the religious State of the Muslims. These Hindus and Sikhs would be on sufferance in the Punjab and would be foreigners in Hindustan.” Jinnah replied “Is it not an incitement to the Sikhs and excluding them from all power, is entirely untrue. He seems to suggest that non-Muslims in Pakistan will be treated as untouchables. Let me tell Mr. Munshi that untouchability is only known to his religion and his philosophy and not ours. Islam stands for justice, equality, fair play, toleration and even generosity to non-Muslims who may be under our protection. They are like brothers to us and would be the citizens of the State.” (ibid.; June 1941; pp 313-314).
Jinnah’s honesty is not questioned. His clarity of thought, consistency and lack of sense of responsibility is. He had not thought through the implications and consequences of his ideas.
He regarded the minorities virtually as citizens of the “other” State. “You will protect and safeguard our minorities in your zones and we will protect and guard your minorities in ours” (ibid., p. 441; 2 November 1942).
It was Muslim exclusivism in excelsis. If a plebiscite on Pakistan was to be taken in the Muslim majority provinces, the Hindus and Sikhs were not to vote. His demand repeated all too often was “give effect to the verdict of a Muslim plebiscite and carry out the Pakistan scheme” (ibid.; p. 448). How could the disfranchised minorities have an equal position in a state formed thus?
A careful student of Jinnah’ policies will notice a significant shift in emphasis every time he spoke in the NWFP. A message to the NWFP Students Federation, on 4 April 1943, read thus: “You have asked me to give you a message. What message can I give you? We have got the greatest message in the Quran for our guidance and enlightenment” (ibid., p. 472).
By then the maulanas at whose political marginalization he had rejoiced were being invited to join and did join the League in droves. The infiltration increased as elections began to loom large. Jinnah was too wide alert not to sense the danger which “ideological confusion” posed in such a situation. He declared emphatically at the League’s Session in Delhi on 24 April 1943: “The Constitution of Pakistan can only be framed by the Millat and the people. Prepare yourselves and see that you frame a constitution which is to your heart’s desire. There is a lot of misunderstanding. A lot of mischief is created. Is it going to be an Islamic government? Is it not begging the question? Is it not a question of passing a vote of censure on yourself? The constitution and the government will be what the people will decide. The only question is that of minorities.
“The minorities are entitled to get a definite assurance and ask: ‘Where do we stand in the Pakistan that you visualize?’ That is an issue of giving a definite and clear assurance to the minorities. We have done it. We have passed a resolution that the minorities must be protected and safeguarded to the fullest extent and as I said before any civilized government will do it and ought to do it. So far as we are concerned our own history, our Prophet have given the clearest proof that non-Muslims have been treated not only justly and fairly but generously.” (ibid., pp 507-8).
At no time did Jinnah utter the words “Islam in danger” which his detractors attribute to him; never citing the source. “It is for you all to put your heads together, your Council of the All-India Muslim League, and undertake proper and systematic planning, I can only repeat once again, for educational uplift, social uplift, economic uplift, political uplift and cultural uplift of the nation.” –protection of Islam was not mentioned. (ibid., p. 513).
But faith kept cropping up. “What was it that kept the Muslims united as one man, and what was the bedrock and sheet-anchor of the community,” asked Mr. Jinnah. “Islam,” he said, and added; “It is the Great Book, Quran, that is the sheet-anchor of Muslim India. I am sure that as we go on and on there will be more and more of oneness – one God, one Book, one Prophet, and one Nation.” (ibid., p. 575).
With the character of the State was bound up its duty to persons of the same religious affiliation in the other part of the split country. “How could Pakistan help the Musalmans of C.P., U.P., Madras, Bombay and elsewhere? What could be the objective of the Musalmans of these provinces? Safeguards could be the only thing. But what would be the use of these safeguards if there was no authoritative sanction to ensure their fulfillment. If they achieved for provinces where Muslims were in a majority the cherished goal of Pakistan, it would mean independence for seven crores of their brothers and enforcement of safeguards in the Muslim minority provinces, and this would guarantee a just and fair treatment to all minorities.” (Ahmad, Vol.; 2; pp. 19-20, on 13 March 1944).
The linkage between the State and its wards outside was clearly stated. “The crux of the issue is, are you prepared to trust your minorities with us and are we prepared to trust our minorities with you and accept the position that where you are dominant it shall be your dominant government and it shall our dominant government where we are in a majority?” (ibid., p. 166).
The nature of the help was not left vague, either. He had no wish to quarrel, Jinnah said but if “our minorities are ill-treated Pakistan cannot remain a passive spectator. If Britain in Gladstone’s time could intervene in Armenia in the name of protection of minorities, why should it not be right for us to do so in the case of our minorities in Hindustan – if they are oppressed?” This was stated as late as on 11 April 1946 at the League Legislators’ convention. Gladstone intervened militarily on behalf of the world’s strongest imperial power. Moreover, was Jinnah not conferring, implicitly, a similar right to the stronger neighbour? (ibid.; p. 286).
The record must be viewed as a whole and objectively. The debate has been reduced to an exchange of polemics on both sides. Which is why Jinnah’s statements are recalled here at some, perhaps tiresome, length in a quest for understanding; not in an effort at proving a pre- conceived thesis. One thing is clear. Even when recalling the Quran and its injunctions he never extended them to the structure of the State.
Sample this. “Everyone, except those who are ignorant, knows that the Quran is the general code of the Muslims. A religious, social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal, penal code; it regulates everything from the ceremonies of religion to those of daily life; from the salvation of the soul to the to the health of the body; from the rights of all to those of each individual; from morality to crime, from punishment here to that in the life to come, and our Prophet has enjoined on us that every Musalman should possess a copy of the Quran and be his own priest. Therefore Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collective and individually.” This comprehensive formulation made on Eid Day 1945 omitted the State. (ibid., p. 209).
The Associated Press of America was told on 1 November 1945 that “This would be a Muslim State. As far as the Musalmans are concerned there would be no social barriers of any kind against the Hindus or anyone else. The Musalmans are a people who believe in and act on the basic principle of equality of manhood and fraternity.
… Hindu minorities in Pakistan can rest assured that their rights will be protected. No civilized Government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in Government and to do this they must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give this.” (ibid.; p. 232). This was a pledge in the most explicit terms that the minorities would have a share in power, “a hand in Government”, as distinct from what he called “paper safeguards.” (ibid., p. 232).
Pakistan would be “a Muslim State in which the minorities would enjoy equal rights. The duality is glaring.
Peshawar always inspired him to go the extra length to keep the flock together. Students of the Islamia College were assured during his tour of the Province in November 1945 that “the League stood for carving out States in India where Muslims are in a numerical majority to rule them under Islamic law.” (ibid., p. 233).
We do history no service in glossing over the flaws in the thinking. Jinnah’s pronouncements on Islam and the minorities were riddled with contradictions. On the occasion of his 70th birthday the Memon Merchants Chamber hosted a tea party in Bombay. It was a good occasion for reassuring Muslims in non-Muslims majority provinces. He seized on a statement by Ravi Shankar Shukla, former Premier of the Central Provinces and one of the more rabid Hindu communalists in the Congress, that Muslims in such provinces would be treated as foreigners. “It was amazing to find that Congress leaders were indulging in such reckless and irresponsible threats” (ibid., p. 269).
A little over three months later, in an interview to the BBC at New Delhi on 3 April 1946 – when partition had emerged as a distinct possibility – Jinnah himself offered three options to the Muslims minorities and did so in terms which the BJP and RSS could playfully quote in support of their credo though it is diametrically opposite to Jinnah’s liberal credo. He said “These areas, like Madras for instance will have a Hindu government and the Muslim minorities will have three courses open to them: they may accept citizenship in the State in which they are. They can remain there as foreigners; or they can come to Pakistan. I will welcome them.” (ibid.; p. 282).
A year later he stressed that all the minorities would be equal and loyal citizens of the State to which they belong. This was not a new formulation. The fundamentals of the 11 August 1947 speech were always present; not least at the Legislator’s Convention on 11 April 1946. “What are we fighting for? What are we aiming at? It is not theocracy, not for a theocratic state. Religion is there and religion is dear to us. All the worldly goods are nothing to us when we talk of religion; but there are other things which are very vital; our social life, our economic life, and without political power, how can you defend your faith and your economic life?” (ibid.; p. 284).
This brings us to the speech. Jinnah’s biographer Hector Bolitho asserts that “he worked, for many hours, on the Presidential Address” which was undoubtedly “the greatest speech of his life.” (Jinnah Creater of Pakistan; Oxford University Press, Karachi; pp. 175-6).
A textual analysis suggests that it was delivered extempore. It was rambling in parts. The man spoke from his heart. Notice the topics he addressed first. They were “law and order;” “bribery and corruption;” “black-marketing;” and “nepotism and jobbery” – in this order. He next turned to the partition of India and of the Punjab and Bengal. “I know there are people who do not quite agree with” it. He understood the feelings of the minorities, but “a division had to take place.” A united India could not have worked, adding “may be that view is correct; may be it is not; that remains to be seen”. It was “impossible to avoid” the situation of minorities in both states. “Now what shall we do?”
The famous, indeed immortal words, are an answer to that question. Their core is reproduced here. “If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.
“I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in 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 Brahmans, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis, and so on – will vanish. Indeed if you ask me this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free peoples long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time but for this. …”
Inter-Muslim differences were put on a par with Hindu-Muslim differences and the fact of “a nation of 400 million souls was accepted.” He added “Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places 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. …”
“Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will 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.” (ibid.; pp. 403-4).
The theme was repeated with increasing emphasis in passage after passage and it is one which is in accord with the theme for which the vintage Jinnah was known. Later on in October 1947 he advised Muslims in India “to give unflinching loyalty to the state in which they happen to be.” (ibid., p. 420).
One is at a loss to understand why the 11 August 1947 speech is regarded almost as a unique pronouncement. Compare the words he uttered then with what he used at his last press conference in New Delhi on 14 July 1947:
Q. Could you as Governor-General make a brief statement on the minorities problem?
A. At present I am only Governor-General-designate. We will assume for a moment that on August 15, I shall be really the Governor- General of Pakistan. On that assumption, let me tell you that I shall not depart from what I said repeatedly with regard to the minorities. Every time I spoke about the minorities I meant what I said and what I said I meant.
‘Minorities to whichever community they may belong, will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed.
“They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also and they will play their part in the affairs of this State. As long as the minorities are loyal to the State and owe true allegiance and as long as I have any power, they need have no apprehension of any kind.
Q. You said that minorities in Pakistan, if they are loyal, will be dealt with generously and justly, may we take it this applies to Muslims in Hindustan as well?
A. It applies to any minority anywhere in the world. You cannot have a minority which is disloyal and plays the role of sabotaging the State. That minority, of course, becomes intolerable in any State. I advise Hindus and Muslims and every citizen to be loyal to his State.
Q. Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?
A. You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.
Q. A correspondent suggested that a theocratic state meant a state where only people of a particular religion, for example, Muslims, could be full citizens and non-Muslims would not be full citizens.
A. Then it seems to me that what I have already said is like throwing water on a duck’s back. When you talk of democracy, I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy thirteen centuries ago. “ (Jinnah: Speeches and Statements 1947 – 1948; Oxford University Press Karachi; pp. 13 and 15).
In his interview to Reuters on 25 October 1947 Jinnah recalled his famous speech. “Minorities belonging to different faiths living in Pakistan or Hindustan do not cease to be citizens of the respective States by virtue of their belonging to a particular faith, religion or race. I have repeatedly made it clear, especially in my opening speech to the Constituent Assembly, that the minorities in Pakistan would be treated as our citizens and will enjoy all the rights and privileges that any other community gets. Pakistan shall pursue that policy and do all it can to create a sense of security and confidence in the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan.
“Every citizen is expected to be loyal to the State and to owe true allegiance to it. The arm of law should be strong enough to deal with any person or section or body of people that is disloyal to the State. We do not, however, prescribe any school boy tests of their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan ‘if there was war, would you shoot a Hindu.’” (ibid., p. 61).
Hindus in East Pakistan were assured on 22 March 1948 that the Central and Provincial Government “were now their own Governments.” (ibid.; p. 153).
In a broadcast to the United States in February 1948, he said “In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State – to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians, and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.” (ibid.; p. 125). He repeatedly characterized Pakistan as a Muslim state; except on one occasion, at Peshawar, predictably. It was at the Edwards College on 18 April 1948 when he described Pakistan as land “under a rule, which is Islamic, Muslim rule, as a sovereign independent State” (ibid., p. 201).
Jinnah could not have failed to learn the reaction the August speech had produced. The speech which Farzana Sheikh considers as a virtual retraction of the August speech must be read in context. He was trying to assuage fears but without committing himself to accepting the demands. He was speaking on the occasion of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday at the Bar Association in Karachi. According to the report published in Dawn on 26 January 1948, “Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Governor-General of Pakistan, speaking at a reception given to him on the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday, by the Bar Association, Karachi, said ‘Why this feeling of nervousness that the future constitution of Pakistan is going to be in conflict with Shariat Laws?’ The Quaid-i- Azam said ‘Islamic principles today are as applicable to life as they were 1,300 years ago.’
“The Governor-General of Pakistan said that he would like to tell those who are ‘[some are] misled by propaganda’ that not only the Muslims but also the non-Muslims have nothing to fear.
‘Islam and its idealism have taught democracy. Islam has taught equality, justice and fair play to everybody. What reason is there for anyone to fear democracy, equality, freedom on the highest standard of integrity and on the basis of fair play and justice for everybody.’ (ibid.; p. 97).
In this the Quaid-i-Azam adopted the very technique which was later deployed by Charles de Gaulle on 4 June 1958. He had just come to power and desperately needed time, de Gaulle assured the rebellious colors in Algeria “Je vous ai compris … “ (I have understood you). A few days later he spoke of “algerie francaise” (French Algeria). De Gaulle alone could have granted independence to Algeria and that too at the risk of his life. In both cases those in the know knew what the leader was aiming it.
But, ambiguity always exacts a toll especially if used in defining the nation’s identity. “If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (I Corinthian xiv, 8). India is still paying the price for defining itself in the very first Article of the Constitution as “India, that is Bharat. ..” and capping this with a “Directive Principle of State Policy” for banning the slaughter of cows. The likes of Abul Ala Maududi were opposed to the demand for Pakistan. They seized on some stray utterances of the Quaid to argue that he too wanted an Islamic State.
The Pir of Manki Sharif urged Jinnah on 19 July 1947, to establish a separate portfolio “for affairs concerned with Shariat.” (Z.H. Zaidi (ed.) Jinnah Papers, First Series Vol. III; p. 512). The Governor of NWFP Rob Lockhart reported to the Governor-General Lord Mountbatten on 9 August 1947, “dissensions amongst the local League leaders.” He added that “some are annoyed because Jinnah said he could not establish Shariat law” (ibid.; Vol. IV, p. 462).
Jinnah’s rhetoric exacted a toll. Significantly not one political party, not even the Muslim League, over which he had presided for over a decade, championed Jinnah’s credo. Nor did Z. A. Bhutto, by no means a religious person. That was left to a band of intellectuals. Sibte Hasan wrote in Dawn of 28 March 1976 “The Struggle for Secularim is an integral part of the struggle against feudalism.” In 1986 appeared his book The Battle of Ideas in Pakistan (Pakistan Publishing House, Karachi).
Hasan Zaheer was no Communist. He lamented “had it not been for its involvement in the (Rawalpindi) Conspiracy, the Communist Party might have become a significant element in the mainstream politics in both wings in Pakistan.” (The Times and Trial of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case 1951; Oxford University Press, Karachi, p. 208). The lament was made in the specific context of “the feudal and tribal social structure of West Pakistan.” In India, likewise, anti-Communists like this writer noted the Communist Parties’ fight against anti-secular forces. This the legacy which Jinnah’s ambiguous rhetoric left.
The record, like any other, must be viewed as a whole without allowing one’s views to emphasize one or the other statement or factor or circumstance unduly. Seven propositions emerge incontestably. First, Muhammad Ali Jinnah meant every word of what he said on 11 August 1947; Secondly, he was opposed to an Islamic State as understood by its protagonists in Pakistan like Abul Ala Maududi relying on Abul Hasan al-Mawardi and others but of which Jinnah was innocent; Thirdly, he did not demand Pakistan because he wanted to establish an Islamic State. Like others he was concerned at the play of majority rule in a country with communal divisions. The Congress rejected power-sharing in 1937-39 and drove him to ask for partition. It was a political not a religious demand; but, fourthly, his espousal of the pernicious two- nation theory – which he threw out of the window on 11 August 1947
– inescapably brought in Islam as part of the identity of Muslims as he defined it; fifthly, some of Jinnah’s statements in his campaign of political mobilization were just that and no more; sixthly, while Jinnah indubitably described Pakistan as a Muslim State, equally indubitably he insisted on equal rights for all citizens, regardless of their religion. The two-nation theory could be discarded. Pakistan’s identity which it had forged was fixed with a Muslim character; and lastly, even this would disappear with the passage of time as he said all too clearly on 11 August 1947. Therein lies the enduring, undying legacy of Quaid-e- Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s famous speech which the Islamists wish had never been delivered. The speech will remain to inspire all who fight for Jinnah’s Pakistan.