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Akbar Zaidi and the critical re-evaluation of Jinnah

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

This morning writing in The News, Akbar Zaidi, a respected economist, called for a critical re-evaluation of Jinnah’s role in Pakistan’s history. Just to re-cap this was business as usual – Jinnah’s democratic credentials are questionable because of his streaks of authoritarianism, his claim to secularism is limited to one speech about mandirs, mosques etc, Jinnah’s Pakistan is at best a half truth and there is no critical re-evaluation of Jinnah in Pakistan which needs to be rectified and so on and so forth.  

This has now become a routine matter: If you are an intellectual and scholar you must critically re-evaluate Jinnah’s role. Of course this critical re-evaluation precludes any conclusion which may – after such critically re-evaluate- affirm any positives – few and far between- about the founding father. So say hypothetically if after critical re-evaluation you come to the conclusion that the dismissal of the Khan Ministry (which had lost majority) on Governor General’s advice on 22 August 1947 was constitutional, then it ceases to be critical re-evaluation. If one argues that political blunder as it was, there was nothing undemocratic (imagine if Punjabis want Punjabi to be the national language of Pakistan today by virtue of it being the majority’s language) or illiberal about Jinnah’s pronouncement about Urdu as the state language (he had in the same speech said that Bengali could be the provincial language) per se (especially given that the Urdu-Hindi conflict had a central place in the Hindu-Muslim differences proving yet again that religion was not the primary reason for divergence between the two communities) would be less than critical.  For critical re-evaluation the conclusion must precede the exercise and the exercise must re-affirm the conclusion already drawn – that Jinnah was authoritarian, that his claim to secularism was limited to one speech and all subsequent ills that Pakistan has faced are rooted in Jinnah’s acts and omissions. Any deviation from this conclusion makes your re-evaluation of Jinnah less than critical.

Unfortunately Akbar Zaidi and others like him miss the point. The officially sanctioned narrative is not that Jinnah was a secular liberal democrat. Instead the official narrative- national myth if you will- is Jinnah created Pakistan in the name of Islam and wanted an Islamic state based on Islamic ideology.  This is both a question of fact and interpretation- a question that cannot be answered merely by reading speeches out of context or one speech in August, though that one speech was absolutely crystal clear and there is no room for doubt.  The fact of the matter is that first and foremost a critical re-evaluation is required on the issue of what led to Jinnah demanding a division of India. No one, not even his political rivals, can deny Jinnah’s political career between 1904 to 1939 was aimed at arriving at Hindu-Muslim Unity which he saw as a vehicle for self rule for India. What happened then that led him to demand a separate state? There are of course several answers to this question, including that by Dr Ayesha Jalal, which have sought to crystallize the politics of that period.  Even within the Congress, there were men like C Rajah Gopalachari, who saw reason and sense in what Jinnah was asking for. I don’t want to go into the details of what has been discussed to death.

No matter how you look at it, Islam or an Islamic state was not the rationale or raison d’ etre for Pakistan.  It is also clear that as a parliamentarian with over four decades in the legislature, Jinnah had established his record as a politician who upheld the principle of responsible government (democracy) and equal rights for all citizens, including the right of freedom of speech, expression and movement. On numerous occasions he argued that where religion and common sense / reason were in conflict, common sense and reason must supersede. This was secularism.  He also made it very clear that the communal issue was not a religious issue but a political one which should be resolved for political advance for all of India.  But are they enough to constitute a binding ideology for Pakistanis in the 21st century. Probably not.  However Jinnah’s record is a powerful counter-argument to officially imposed narrative of the nazaria-e-Pakistan. So before we critically re-evaluate Jinnah’s shortcomings – of which I am sure one would be able to list many- let us re-evaluate the reasons as to why an earth shattering partition shook this subcontinent.  There – all critical re-evaluations notwithstanding- it becomes clear that Jinnah’s motivations had nothing to do with Islam.

Now why might this be important? Why must Jinnah still be relevant even after so many years? Perhaps Mr. Zaidi ought to read the newspaper that he writes for. Not long ago, this rag had the audacity to publish a bigoted piece about how Ahmadis were responsible for their own plight in Pakistan and that they should accept that they are non-Muslims. Compare this to Jinnah’s refusal to cave into demands by good Muslims about getting Ahmadis expelled from the Muslim League.  Critical re-evaluation of Jinnah should not come at the expense of a much more needed critical re-evaluation of us as a people. In any event, Jinnah himself did not want to impose his views on generations to come but his assumption was that those who would follow would build on his work and improve it. This assumption turned out to be wrong.  Ideally we should have moved forward every day from 11 August 1947 to realizing a state where “Muslims will cease to be Muslims, but not in a religious sense for that is personal faith of an individual, but in a political sense as citizens of one state”.  Instead some Muslims have become more Muslim and others have become less Muslim.

Coming back to critical re-evaluation of Jinnah and what not!  A critical evaluation of Jinnah requires an unbiased historian. Jinnah has been critically evaluated by several leading unbiased historians, Perry Anderson being the latest one. Historians studying the history of partition from a distance seem to have critically re-evaluated the whole popular narrative on Jinnah, a narrative that our would be critical re-evaluators want to uphold.  In my humble opinion a critical re-evaluation cannot be carried out by Akbar Zaidi or others like him who have already made up their minds about the conclusion they wish to draw (that much is clear from the special pleading that Akbar Zaidi’s article resorts to).

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89 Responses to "Akbar Zaidi and the critical re-evaluation of Jinnah"

  1. NDelhi Singapore Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Calling an old man “OLD” or young man “Young” doesn’t insult anyone but this basic understanding is beyond you. Any how i am very much ineterested in this fair contest which allah conducted , when and where and which all languages participated!!!
    I always seem to connect allah/quran to islam despite your suggestion that it has nothing to do with religion… bigoted Indian brain..

  2. Maggu India Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Urdu, best script?
    .
    Most scripts in the world are written from left to right, symbolically going from the sinister to enlightened as knowledge brings enlightenment.
    .
    A script goes from right to left…. now go figure. What will material written in such a script bring? Not enlightenment surely!

  3. wonderer India Safari Mac OS says:

    There are many Pakistanis I know who wish Jinnah had never been born. YLH of course feels differently and he has every right to his opinions. But what is the use of discussing Jinnah? We should look ahead and see what can be made out of what Jinnah managed to get for us. He will stay on our currency notes whatever we may be able to do.

  4. NDelhi Singapore Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ODelhi,
    Waiting for your update on this faisr contest of languages by allah ?
    please revert!!

  5. Old Delhi United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    New Delhi

    Nastaliq is the natural language of humanity. When a child is born, Allah sends him with the complete knowledge of Nastaliq. Later parents teach that child wrong script.

  6. MilesToGo United States Safari iPhone says:

    Arabic is Allah’s mother tongue.

  7. Maggu India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JRO03C) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19 says:

    MTG, thats not possible. Alla cant have a mothe

  8. Old Delhi United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Allah cannot have a mother. Those three scripts have existed from before the beginning of time to symbolize the universe’s praise of Allah. American scientists have now discovered that Allah’s praise is written in those three scripts on the face of the moon and on all other stars and galaxies which are like the moon.

    For Hindus to not make such a natural script the national script of India was a clear indication to Jinnah of their, and later on, Bengalis’ insincerity about the true secularism which he had in mind.

  9. Maggu India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JRO03C) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19 says:

    For believers in god all of nature is a creation of god or his praise.

  10. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Maggu says:
    November 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm
    For believers in god all of nature is a creation of god or his praise
    very right.maggu

  11. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    Allah knows all languages but Arabic is his favorite.

  12. NDelhi India Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ODelhi,
    you dodged my question , please tell us about the fair contest held by allah for languages as claimed by your kidself?

  13. Maggu India Google Chrome  GT-N7100 Build/JRO03C) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19 says:

    Alla only speaks and hears arabic. Everyone has to speak with him in arabic and his word is in arabic

  14. NDelhi India Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ODelhi says,”Nastaliq is the natural language of humanity. When a child is born, Allah sends him with the complete knowledge of Nastaliq. Later parents teach that child wrong script.”
    Are you educated ?
    what kind of education have you had?
    Pity You !! no wonder muslim & islam are such a mess

  15. Old Delhi United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    NDelhi

    You have forgotten that you were born a Muslim. You have forgotten that your ancestors were Muslims. The truths forgotten by you and your ancestors are preserved in the Quran forever. Revert to your original religion Islam. Don’t let your prejudices close your heart to the truths that Islam teaches.

  16. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ MaGGI

    .

    tell me your gender so I can address you accordingly. From the present state of your posting you look like an Arab eunuch!

  17. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    from obsession continually carried over by milestoho it becomes evident that he or she had a bad experience with the Arabs who did not mete out kinder treatment to him.. O boy! come over to me….I will fix your thing in another language….i hope you understand that universal language. You see maggi got me instantly because she is sooooo cute and can carry heavy burden of as many men as 250 alone!!

  18. AKB Pakistan Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    LET YLH APPLY TO THE COURT FOR EXHUMING JINNAH;S BODY FROM HIS GRAVE AND RE EVALUATE HIM AGAIN!! I KNOW THAT IS PAST LIMITATION BUT MIRZAI’S AND THEIR SYMPATHIZERS ARE GOOD AT WORD PLAY AND PLAGIArism AND WILL EKE OUT SOME LAME EXCUSE FOR APPLYING WITH SUCH DELAY!!
    .

  19. MilesToGo United States Safari Mac OS says:

    Arabic is universal language and Allah did not create any bad words in that language. Actually Arabic is wrong name for Allah’s language. It should be called Islamic, not Arabic.

    Arabic is a kuffar word. Islamic is Islamic word.

  20. NDelhi India Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ODelhi,
    Forget my prejudices, You are proving yourself and muslims as liars if you are not proving your claims of the fair contest allah held for languages.
    Compulsive lying disorder is a recognised mental illness and it is most commonly found in non arabic muslims , its a fake personality disorder and you are one lucky gentleman out of many million muslims suffering from this disease because you stay in USA and have access to state of the art speciality hospitals managed by intelligent doctors.
    Just walk into one and believe me its curable

  21. Khwaja United States Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    ALLAH KHALI ARBEE BOLTA OR SUNTA. TUM SAB JAHIL

  22. Mohan United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    NDelhi,

    You last post to ODelhi brough smile on my face. Will he listen to your advise ? I doubt.

  23. Milestogo United States Safari iPhone says:

    Allah koi arbi thore hai Jo arbi bolega, Allah to islami hai, to islami bolega…

    Arbi Juban arbi nahi hai – islami hai.

  24. Kamath. Canada Safari iPad says:

    Hola Milestogo: “Allah knows all languages but Arabic is his favorite.”
    Aren’t you a blasphemer to suggest that kit is so?

  25. MilesToGo United States Safari Mac OS says:

    Word “Islam” is arabic, suggesting Allah’s likes arbi.

  26. MilesToGo United States Safari Mac OS says:

    btw I am kuffar so I can be blasphemous. Allah made me that way.

  27. Satyamukhi United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    MTG, After Mohammed fell prey to Kaal, Allah has not spoken a single word. Kufaar World have advanced from Donkey riding to Space Shuttle and inter planetary exploration. Allah of Knowledge and Kafar science is deveoping universal mathematic algorithm to communicate with the whole universe while islamic Allah lost its Juban and Kalam the same day Mohammad died. Surely, there is sign in this for wise folks to follow!! Today , we have separated the Light of Knowledge and Darkness of belief. Wise ones stand separated from Foolish ones,running headless like drones without Queeny.

  28. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Satyamukhi says:
    November 22, 2012 at 12:39 am
    MTG, After Mohammed fell prey to Kaal, Allah has not spoken a single word. Kufaar World have advanced from Donkey riding to Space Shuttle and inter planetary exploration. Allah of Knowledge and Kafar science is deveoping universal mathematic algorithm to

    BHABHI SATYAMUKHI AAJ LAGTA HAI SALWAR PAHAN KE AYEE HO.MATHEMATICS AND ALGORITH WAS DEVELOPED AND INVENTED BY FOLLOWERS OF PROPHET MOHAMMED(PBUH).TUM LND PUJARIYON NE INDIA KO IGNORANT RAKHA AUR UNHE
    BEWAKOOF BANA KE 33 CRORE DVTA BENCHE.YAHEE TUMAHARA KARNAMA HAI.HATE IS DUTY AND LIE IS STAPLE FOOD.

  29. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    Kamath. says:
    November 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm
    Hola Milestogo: “Allah knows all languages but Arabic is his favorite.”
    Aren’t you a blasphemer to suggest that kit is so

    ARABIC IS GIFT OF ALLAH TO HUMANITY.EVERY LANGUAGE OF THE WORLD HAS BORROWED WORDS FROM ARABIC.

  30. Kaal Chakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Satyamukhi ji

    I plead innocence. I really had little say in the matter.

    As Rex has argued, Arabic is a critically important language for Muslims. Wherever they have gone, they have naturally enriched local languages with Arabic words.

    Yet More than Muslims, our Ahmadi brothers and sisters from Punjab have played the greatest in spreading awareness of Arabic. These latter have carried out detailed scientific studies – as they do for everything else – proving that all of the world’s languages originated from Arabic.

    To be fair to them, they claim that Allah Himself, personally, taught the Arabic to their Prophet. Their Prophet then devised a system of Arabic Mufradaat (root words) which allow any informed Ahmadi to quickly and clearly show any word in any language to have its roots in Arabic.

    Prodigious amounts of rigorous research supporting the divine nature of Ahmadi claims by investigating the origins of many non-Arabic languages, including Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, and Sanskrit, is now available:

    Go to the website alislam, ending in org

    Then go to topics, and then to arabic

    That link seems to be banned/filtered out on PTH.

  31. Kaal Chakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    That is crazy. Why would anyone ban that link?

  32. Kaal Chakra United States Google Chrome Windows says:

    Darn! It is no more easy to find that link even on Ahmadi website! And PTH has banned not only that link but even parts of that link.

    Let me see if the following trick will work. If you seek wisdom, just use the first column.

    http:// Ignore the rest
    www. Ignore the rest
    alislam. Ignore of the rest
    org/ Ignore the rest
    topics/ Ignore the rest
    arabic/ Ignore the rest.

    That’s my labor of love for the divine, friends, Goodnight :)

  33. Satbir Singh Bedi India Google Chrome Windows says:

    Dear Hamdani, as the later events have proved, the demand for Pakistan as a separate homeland for Indian Muslims raised especially by Shias and Ahmadis proved both foolish and disastrous for all the Muslims and especially for Shias and Ahmadis. I need not go into details to prove this. It is self-evident what with the formation of Bangladesh and rising of extremist elements in Pakistan. Now, why this demand was made is beyond my comprehension? In a United India, Muslims would have constituted more than 33% of the population and would have been able to exercise their rights very effectively. Even in the present day India, Muslims matter a lot and hold the position of the Vice President of India and many Ministerial posts. Would you then explain in detail why the demand for Pakistan was raised at all? Does this not show that Jinnah was not far-sighted? Please reply.

  34. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    ld you then explain in detail why the demand for Pakistan was raised at all

    bedi jee it was part of imperialist plan,which hurt muslims.wherever they go they do same.first demand for partition came from lala lajpat rai then by rss.then because of selfishness of nehru jinnah and raja mahmodabad asked for partition.shias and qadianis were main collaborator of british empire like brhmns.so before leaving they helped their chamchas.

  35. Satbir Singh Bedi India Google Chrome Windows says:

    Dear tajender,

    Could you kindly explain exactly what Lala Lajpat Rai said and what rss said and what was the selfishness of Nehru? I am rather not well aware of the role played by Lala Lajpat Rai.

  36. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    lala lajpat rai was a lahori bania.banias wanted to divide india to economically control the nation.presence of 33%muslims was an obstacle
    in this path.he was the first man to call for division of india.much before jinnah.

  37. tajender United Arab Emirates Internet Explorer Windows says:

    rss was representing brhm power in india.they also asked for partition
    as presence of 33%of muslims was an obstacle inthe way of capturing establishment.lal pal and bal engineered the division of india.brhmn-bania nexus took the control of india.

  38. RajTOO Germany Google Chrome Windows says:

    Rex Minor,
    here is a story for you!
    .
    Archaeologists confirm Indian civilization is 2000 years older than previously believed
    .
    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/121116/indus-civilization-2000-years-old-archaeologists

  39. Satyamukhi United States Internet Explorer Windows says:

    RajTOO
    These are civilizational matters and concerns not with Islamic living. Ever since the dawn of human consciousness , India have been the original home of Human civilization and its all the spiritual , social and scientific branches. Civilizational discoveries are meant for Civilizational society, Desert Dried Dunes ought not to be bothered beyond their brain limits which cant comprehend that taking life is not an act of mercy and Rape, genocide,paedophelia, loot ,forced sexual slavery etc are not spiritual or religious qualities. God does not bargain by extending sexual benefits . Only a brain dead person will attach credibility to such buffonnery and insult to real God.

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