By Amaar Ahmad:
There is a vociferous debate surrounding Pakistan’s national identity. Let there be no doubt that there will not be a Pakistani today more patriotic than the founder of Pakistan – Muhammad Ali Jinnah. On the 11th August, 1947, Jinnah addressed the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan as the man who had led and inspired the Pakistan Movement. In his historic address, he does not shy away from mentioning “India”, in relation to the “Pakistani Identity”. In fact, his entire speech hovers around the task of building the Pakistani Identity. In his speech, he mentions “India” at least 10 times, very deliberately, very positively and very unapologetically.
We need not try to be more loyal than the king. In view of this unchallenged status of Jinnah, it may be prudent to examine his understanding of the identity of the country he made.There is a feeling that people are looking to construct a new identity for Pakistan. Some may describe Pakistan simply as the Anti-India as if the reason for Pakistan’s existence today needs a hostile India. But Jinnah clearly had a different understanding.
Following are ten quotes from the speech of Jinnah:
1. “…the whole world is wondering at this unprecedented cyclonic revolution which has brought about the clan of creating and establishing two independent sovereign Dominions in this Sub-continent.
2. “This mighty Sub-continent with all kinds of inhabitants has been brought under a plan which is titanic, unknown, unparalleled.”
3. “One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering – I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse – is bribery and corruption.”
4. “I know there are people who do not quite agree with the division of India…”
5. “…it will be proved by actual experience as we go on that was the only solution of India’sconstitutional problem.”
6. “Any idea of a united India could never have worked and in my judgement it would have led us to terrific disaster. Maybe that view is correct; maybe it is not; that remains to be seen.”
7. “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 Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish.”
8. “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 people long long ago.”
9. “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.”
10. “…history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today.”
Let these words guide the objective reader to reflect. If one thing is evident from these quotes from the famous 11th August 1947 speech, it is the fact that “India”, the word, the name, the region, the culture, the history and the nation, are all very much part of the “Pakistani Identity”. Regardless of what name we give it – British India, United India, Undivided India, Pre-Partition India or the Indian Subcontinent – the fact remains that Pakistan was born out of it, as was today’s Republic of India. It appears that Jinnah almost identifies Pakistan with India.
In the ninth quote above “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” Jinnah treats the Indian Subcontinent as one nation about to be politically partitioned into two states. He clearly speaks of “a nation”, defining it by its strength of 400 million – the population of the Subcontinent rather than that of the emerging Pakistani state alone.
We need not search for any new Pakistani identity as the job has clearly been done by the founder of Pakistan. Pakistan is simply a country comprising the Muslim-majority states of the Indian Subcontinent. Pakistan is as much heir to the thousands of years of history and culture of the Indian Subcontinent as our neighbor Republic of India itself. This recognition is perhaps necessary to defang the extremists in both sides of the border.