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Monday, September 17, 2012

Jinnah and his Religious Vision for Pakistan

At the time of Partition in c. 1947, the minorities in Pakistan accounted for nearly 30%. Today, they are hardly 4% and their numbers are dwindling faster with every passing day. Why is that happening ? It is not happening because the non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan have suddenly found a new route to salvation through Sunni Wahhabi or Deobandi or even Berelvi Islam. It is happening because of unbearable pressure on the minorities to freely practise their religion, because of forcible conversion and because of a sense of helplessness brought upon them by all organs of the State in collusion with the Islamists through legal and illegal means. I would blame the Quaid-e-Azam (or, Great Leader), Muhammadali Jeenahbhai Poonja (he later changed his name Muhammad Ali Jinnah) of Karachi, for this squarely. Every succeeding visionless leader, which all of them were in Pakistan, raised the religiosity bar a little higher than before; some of them like the 'secular socialist' Z.A.Bhutto or a confirmed Islamist like Gen. Zia-ul-Haq not only raised the bar several notches but also ensured that all avenues for lowering the delirious fever of Islamism by any future leader were permanently shut. But, Jeenabhai it is, who must take the blame for creating this bigotry. Let us see why.

Just a few weeks back, a Hindu boy was converted to Islam live on a TV show. There was great rejoice and jubilation all around, no doubt. A couple of months' back, three Hindu girls, Rinkle Kumari, Dr. Lata and Asha, were kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to three men who falsely claimed that the girls were in love with them. One of the girls, Rinkle Kumari, in a heart-rending and desperate plea in a lower court said, "In Pakistan there is justice only for Muslims, justice is denied Hindus. Kill me here, now, in court. But do not send me back to the Darul-Aman [Koranic school] ... kill me". Her statement went unrecorded by the court which said that she had converted out of free will and ordered that she should go with her husband. As the case finally went to the Supreme Court, the judiciary offered not even a legal protection for the hapless woman. It just conducted a fig leaf of a hearing. By this time, the women had been threatened sufficiently that they decided to save the rest of their family at least by sacrificing themselves, under fear and  enormous pressure. Ever since then, the threatened-to-extinction Hindu community of Pakistan is fleeing that country in droves and seeking asylum in India.

Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmedis and Shias live under ever increasing danger to their lives and property in Pakistan. A couple of years back, the Taliban operating in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa area imposed jizya (a special Islamic tax on non-Muslims) on the Sikhs living there, even kidnapping them until they paid a ransom. The burning down of Christian churches is a very common occurrence in Pakistan. Frequently, inescapable cases of blasphemy are foisted on the hapless Christians. The on-going case of Rimsha's, a eleven-year old mentally-challenged poor Christian girl, incarceration is a case in point. All the various players such as the Prime Ministers, Presidents, Military chiefs, and Political parties have however been united in their antagonism towards religious minorities. They have been especially hard-hitting against the Ahmedis through the concept of Khattam-e-Nabbuwat (the finality of the Prophethood). So much so, that every Muslim Pakistani has to declare the following in the application form for a Passport: “I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Quadiani to be an imposter nabi {Prophet} and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group to be Non-Muslim.” The hatred against the Qadianis is so much within Pakistan that the Pakistanis could not bring themselves around to recognize the greatness of the only Pakistani Nobel Laureate Dr. Abdus  Salam because he was unfortunatley a member of the much reviled Qadiani sect. When he died at Oxford and his body was brought to Pakistan for burial according to his last wish, there was no official to receive it at the airport. The word 'Muslim' in his headstone was later forcibly removed by Sunni Islamists after his burial and today it reads, “Abdus Salam the first (blank) Nobel Laureate . . .”

Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, who is unfairly accused for the present day religious situation in Pakistan (unfairly only because Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto must take precedence and distinction for introducing deep, irreversible and widespread official Islamism in the country) introduced, for his part,  two new sections in the Penal Code (298-B and 298-C) restricting certain religious practices of the Ahmedis and punishable by imprisonment otherwise. Ordinance XX of 1984 made it a crime for the Ahmedis to call themselves as Muslims and when challenged, Zaheer-ud-Din Vs. State (1993), the courts not only confirmed the validity of the ordinance but also invoked Copyrights Act and how Coca Cola, for example, would not tolerate anybody selling colas under its brand name.  The Court said, “the Coca Cola Company will not permit anyone to sell, even a few ounces of his own product in his own bottles or other receptacles, marked Coca Cola...The principles involved are: do not deceive and do not violate the property rights of others”. The implication was that the Ahmedis were packaging their product under the brand name of “Islam” which was clearly unacceptable. To the credit of Nawaz Sharif who at one point of time was about to crown himself as the new 'Amir-ul-Momineen', he changed the name of the Ahmedi headquarter town, Rabwah – a name from the Holy Quran – to Chenab Nagar because no association with Islam was permitted for the Ahmedis.

The Army believes that they are the defenders of the “Ideological Frontiers of Islam” and they are the “Army of Islam”. "This (Pakistan Army) is the army of Islam. This is the army of Pakistan. My soldiers recite the Quran everyday and say prayers five times a day. How can they fight for foreign forces? Anti-Islamic forces are out to damage this army as enemies of Islam are real enemy of the Pakistan Army ". So said, Col Mujahid Hussain, the Mahsud Scouts commandant in Khyber Agency in April 2008 after another pasting received from the practitioners of the purer brand of Islam, the AQAM (Al Qaeda & Allied Movements). A few months later, top Army commanders referred to jihadi terrorists like Baitullah Mehsud (chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP) and Maulana Fazlullah (also known as 'Mullah FM Radio') as 'patriots'. A top security official told a group of senior journalists: “We have no big issues with the militants in FATA. We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue.” The ISI Chief, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha called them ‘strategic assets’ in his briefing to national and foreign correspondents. The Army prided itself in being seen in the company of hardcore jihadi Islamist Taliban and also in identifying with their line of thinking. Addressing a gathering on April 29, 2008, the same Colonel Mujahid Hussain cited earlier, said that he was an admirer of Haji Namdar, the chief of AQAM-aligned Amar-Bil-Maroof-Wa-Nahi-Anil-Munker (the dreaded Organization for Promotion of Virtues and Prevention of Vices). The Pakistani Army never fights shy of inviting the much sanctioned terrorist chief of the Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT), the venerable Prof. Hafeez Sayeed saheb,  for Iftaar parties during the Holy month of Ramadaan.

Leaders of various political parties, including Prime Ministers, have echoed such a jihadi Islamist sentiment by referring to the need for the Pakistani Army to not only defend geographical borders but also the 'ideological frontier'. No other Muslim or Islamist country's head of state has ever spoken of such a job objective for their armed forces ! The accommodation between Ms. Bhutto and the Sipah-e-Saheba-Pakistan (SSP) in c.1993 or between Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and SSP in c. 2008 and later in c. 2010 or his continuing association with Jama'at-ud-Dawah (JuD) are cases in point.

So, how did Pakistan fall into such an Islamist routine within a matter of six-and-a-half-decades when countries with a thousand-year long history of Islam or those with higher Islamic credentials (or both) do not confer it upon themselves such titles as 'defenders of Islam' ?

That is where Muhammadali Jeenahbhai Poonja comes into the picture.

There is a tendency, among Pakistani elites and peaceniks in India (who are derisively referred to sometimes as Wagah Kandle Kissers, WKKs) to frequently refer to Jinnah's  August 11, 1947 speech, whenever they need to find a way to blunt criticism of Pakistan's ever galloping Islamist jihadi terrorism, sectarian massacres, and religious intolerance. Even within Pakistan, there has been some debate going on about Jinnah these days. See here for an example. It is therefore interesting to delve into Jinnah's vision of Pakistan, or even debate whether he had one at all, as far as what he wanted for Pakistan religiously (pun intended).  I quote from the archives of The Hindu,
Addressing the minorities in particular, Mr. Jinnah said: "If you work in a spirit of co-operation, forgetting the past and burying the hatchet, I will say that every one of you, no matter to what community you belong, no matter what colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations."

If one reads the above carefully, one can conclude that Jinnah has put the onus for equal citizenship right on the good behaviour of the minorities. Their plight nowadays should therefore be simply due to their bad behaviour. Full stop.

Recently unnecessary doubts have been raised as to whether Jinnah did indeed refer to a state where religion would not play a central role when he addressed the Pakistani Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. This is especially in light of the fact that no recording of that speech exists either with Pakistani broadcasters or the All India Radio (AIR) whose Delhi office was deputed to cover the events of that day. But, The Hindu reports that Jinnah had indeed said those ringing words about Hindus ceasing to be Hindus (which in fact has literally happened incidentally) etc. The fact remains however that neither before that speech nor after that speech he had ever spoken of or done anything about minority rights and protection. So, August 11, 1947 speech was a one-off to hoodwink the powerful friends, probably done even at their prodding.

Who was Jinnah in terms of his religious beliefs and practices ? 

It is common knowledge that Jinnah was a non-practising Westernized Shi’a  Muslim who married  a Parsi. His family was a recent convert to Islam (Sevener Ismailism) from Hinduism and he himself later converted to another Shi’a sect, the Twelvers (Athnaashri Shiism) . Much later, he even rejected his sectarianism, though his funeral was conducted according to Deobandi Sunni rites. He drank whisky, ate pork and loved dogs, all of which are forbidden by Islam. He also opposed the attempts to resurrect the Ottoman Empire, the last of the Islamic Caliphates (after the Umayyad and the Abbasid),  for he feared the effects of its pan-Islamism fervour and hence was against the Khilafat movement. He wore exclusive Saville Row suits, never used a silk tie more than once, wore custom-made shirts, shoes and accessories made in exclusive shops in London, practised law in the UK for the most part,  possessed a private plane and possessed expensive houses in Mumbai, Karachi and London. When he died he had 200 Saville-Row suits in his cupboard. A strikingly complete anti-theis of the ‘half-naked fakir', Mahatma Gandhi. In Jinnah's Pakistan of today, shalwars have to be worn above the ankles and beards have to be flowing and unkempt for one to be accepted as the true Muslim citizen of the Land of Pure. In Jinnah's Pakistan of today, his Shi'a credentials would have earned him a possible candidature for 'wajib-ul-qatl' (death)

Though Jinnah was personally a non-practising Muslim, he, on the other hand, readily agreed with the ulema to impose Shariah in a free Pakistan to win their support. The letter that Jinnah wrote to the Pir of Manki Sharif, in Naushera of NWFP, in which he said that Shariah will be imposed in Pakistan to manage the affairs of the Muslim Community, was produced in the Constituent Assembly in 1949 to support the Objectives Resolution. It was this Pir's support, based on the promise of Shariah in Pakistan, that helped the Muslim League to turn the situation favourable to itself in NWFP which was otherwise under the Congress Rule. It was this Pir who let loose violence when Nehru visited that region. He also helped in procuring manpower for jihad in J&K in October 1947. As a result of Jinnah's promise, the Pir of Manki Sharif declared jihad to achieve Pakistan and ordered the members of his anjuman to support the League in the 1946 elections

While addressing the Karachi Bar Association on 25 January 1948 on the occasion of the Holy Prophet’s birthday, Jinnah said: “Some are misled by propaganda. Islamic principles are as applicable to life as they were 1,300 years ago. The Constitution of Pakistan will be made on the basis of the shariah”. Thus he reassured Pakistan that what he had promised (to the likes of Pir of Manki Sharif or Maulana Abu Ala al Mawdudi or a section of Deobandi clerics who supported the creation of Pakistan) before 1947, he would ensure its implementation. There was no wonder therefore that his most trusted deputy, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, ensured the passage of the Objectives Resolution bill on March 12, 1949 in the Constituent Assembly within six months of Jinnah's death. The minorities opposed it en masse but they were given promises that most had no doubt that a Pakistani government would not be able to keep.

Such a fundamental resolution would have been discussed with Jinnah and could not have come about all of a sudden. As Governor General, Jinnah amassed all powers to himself and it is impossible to imagine that he was unaware of the deliberations. Jinnah must therefore be held complicit in the tabling of the Objectives Resolution. This is the most fundamental legislation that set the groundwork for the jihadi Islamist edifice of today's Pakistan.

Even as early as the 14th of August, 1947, in a speech in which, in answer to Mountbatten’s reference to Akbar the Great, as the model for the new Muslim state, he pointed to the greater example of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, thereby indicating where Pakistan's Constitution was headed to.

One of Pakistan’s renowned political scientists, Prof. (Late) Khalid bin Sayeed narrates in his book, ‘Pakistan: The Formative Phase 1957-1948’ Jinnah’s assurances to a group of visiting Islamists thus: “…Constituent Assembly…will be predominantly Muslim…and would be able to enact laws for the Muslims not inconsistent with Shariah Laws and the Muslims will no longer be obliged by un-Islamic laws…” While portraying himself as a secularist and a Constitutionalist, Jinnah nevertheless asked only an Islamic clergy, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani who had apostatised Shias, to raise the flag of Pakistan on Aug. 14, 1947. Later, Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, who had apostatized Ahmedis too, even calling for them to be stoned to death, (poor Ahmedis, what chance do they have when the Shia's themselves were to be apostatized in the Land of the Pure) was made Sheikh-ul-Islam-i-Pakistan. It was Maulana Shabbir Usmani who later drafted the Objectives Resolution.

In passionate speeches that Jinnah delivered to masses of the new state of Pakistan, he addressed them as ‘Mussalmans’ instead of as ‘Pakistanis’ and used terms like ‘mujahid’, ‘tenets of the Holy Quran’, and referred to Pakistan as a ‘bulwark of Islam’.

Again, on Oct. 30, 1947, with the plan of his Kashmir invasion to grab it floundering badly, Jinnah resorted to appealing to Islamic fervour. He asked Pakistanis to make sacrifices for ‘the honour of Pakistan and Islam’. He exhorted his countrymen to ‘lay the foundations of democracy on the bases of truly Islamic ideals and principles’. His muddled thinking but his unequivocal support for an Islamic governance was amply demonstrated in his Feb. 1948 public address over Radio Pakistan when he said that Pakistan’s to-be-drafted Constitution should be based on Islam but he hoped that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state. Even as far back as c. 1941, Jinnah had assured a representative of the influential founder of Jama'at-e-Islami, Mawdudi that he saw no incompatibility between their two approaches. He said that as the events were unfolding yet, he was constrained from openly asserting the Islamist nature of Pakistan !! His further words to Mawdudi's representative really betrayed what he was up to. "I will continue to strive for the cause of a separate Muslim state, and you do your services in this regard; our efforts need not be mutually exclusive. I seek to secure the land for the mosque; once that land belongs to us, then we can decide on how to build the mosque.” The noted Pakistani analyst, Khaled Ahmed interprets this as follows: What this meant for the Jama‘at was that a continuum existed between the activities of the Muslim League and those of the Jama‘at; where one ended at partition the other began: the Jama‘at-i Islami was to inherit Pakistan. Thus Mawdudi reconciled with the Quaid-e-Azam whom he once referred to as Kafir-e-Azam (the Great Infidel).

It is a different matter though that in circa 2007, clerics belonging to the same Ulema community denounced the Quaid as not a hero of Pakistan because by that time Islam had become more distilled in the mosque for which the Quaid recklessly and thoughtlessly acquired land.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Regarding Jinnah's funeral according to Deobandi Sunni rites, you may also want to mention that a private funeral according to Shia rites was held at his residence by the family members. They did not want to hold a Shia funeral in public.