By Yasser Latif Hamdani
“Professor emeritus” Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed is the sort who loves to take liberties with the facts. In his article today “Jinnah and secularism” he has resorted to two outright lies which need to be exposed so that people are not misguided.
The article began well enough: “The vision of Pakistan Jinnah spelled out on August 11, 1947 is the closest any leader in the Indian subcontinent approximated to an ideal secular state: a state that treats its citizens as equals irrespective of their caste, creed or colour.” Agreed.
Then Ishtiaq sb goes on to say: “However, when someone asked him if he was prescribing a secular state, Jinnah retorted dismissively that India was a secular state and he surely did not have in mind any such ideal.”
This is not true. There is no evidence for it but instead we have evidence to the contrary. Kiran Shankar Roy had asked Jinnah in his point of order to clarify whether Pakistan would be a secular state or not to which Jinnah had made the 11th August speech.
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed again lies out of his teeth when he claims the following (a claim that he has made on several occasions):
“He gave assurances to Manki Sharif that the Sharia would apply to the Muslims of Pakistan. He wanted Pir Sahib to believe that Sharia would be the law of the land and that is exactly how Manki Sharif understood him. ”
The portion in italics is hogwash. The line that Mullahs and Ishtiaq Ahmed do not openly quote is that Jinnah said that the affairs of the Muslim community shall be run according to shariat. Nowhere was it said that the law of the land will be Sharia. In fact it is clear from the context of the letter that Jinnah interpreted and understood the word shariat in the same sense as the Shariat Application Act of 1937.
Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937 of India reads:
“2. Application of Personal Law of Muslims.- Notwithstanding any customs or usage to the contrary, in all questions (save questions relating to agricultural land) regarding intestate succession, special property of females, including personal property inherited or obtained under contract or gift or any other provision of Personal law, marriage, dissolution of marriage, including talaq, ila, zihar, lian, khula and mubaraat, maintenance, dower, guardiaship, gifts, trusts and trust properties, and wakfs (other than chartities and charitable institutions and charitable and religious endowments) the rule of decision in case where the parties are Muslims shall be the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).”
If one reads the Manki letter, it becomes clear that Jinnah did not promise sharia as the law of the land. This is what people like Usmani and others wanted to claim and people like Ishtiaq Ahmed have bought this nonsense as the truth.
Finally – a secular state can mean different things. A state which treats all its citizens equally and creates no bars on the basis of faith is a secular state. This is what Jinnah wanted.