Jinnah’s Pakistan : Rebuttal to Yaqoob Khan Bangash

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

I usually try and not respond to Mr. Yaqoob Bangash’s Articles because in my opinion for someone who claims to be a historian, he has never had any truck with historical facts.  However, there are some contentions that he has made in his article “Jinnah’s Pakistan” published 19.03.2013 in Express Tribune that are so completely off base and historically inaccurate that not responding to these contentions would be unfair to the memory of Mr. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. I have also addressed these contentions in my book “Jinnah: Myth and Reality”.

His claim is that Pakistan as it stands today is Jinnah’s Pakistan because of the following:

1. Jinnah’s 11 August speech is a one-off speech and that he spoke mostly for an Islamic state. This is false and I will through this blog post show why. I will quote several other of Jinnah’s statements which say substantially the same thing as 11 August speech.

2. Jinnah claimed that only Muslims in Muslim League were Muslims. This is also completely untrue. What Jinnah said was that Muslim League represented the Muslims alone because a great majority of Muslims in India supported the Muslim League. Ultimately this was a claim that Gandhi had accepted when he signed a statement saying the same thing.

3. Jinnah’s actions as Governor General were undemocratic because he dismissed the Khan Ministry. This is also untrue. The Khan ministry had lost its majority in NWFP legislature and through this blog post I will show why. 

I will address point No. 2 first.

II. Jinnah’s claim that Muslim League represented the Muslims of India

First of all, contrary to Yaqoob Bangash’s claim, Jinnah never claimed that those who did not support the Muslim League were not Muslim. This is just historically untrue.  That Mr. Bangash tries to link this up to Bhutto’s actions in 1974 is tragic for the following reasons:

1. Jinnah always said that anyone who professes to be a Muslim is a Muslim. Most notably he said this in 1944, when Mullahs were pressing him on the Ahmadi issue. Jinnah’s statement on 23 May 1944 in Srinagar was clear.

2. Whatever one may say about the Muslim Leaguers and their lack of ability, one has to admit that Jinnah’s lieutenants like Nazimuddin did not bow to Mullah pressure in 1953 on this point.

3. Those who forwarded the idea of “defining a Muslim” were all allies or part of the Congress Party before partition. Mr. Bangash will do well to read the Munir Report sometimes. Every leading light of the anti-Ahmadi movement in Pakistan was- before partition- part of Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind (of which Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a member and president). This is also a historical fact that I challenge Mr. Bangash to deny.

4. Anyone who has read history will only be mildly amused by Mr. Bangash’s feeble attempt to link up the League’s attempt to represent Muslims as a bloc to the exclusionary tactics of – it bears repeating – its trenchant opponents Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind.  Takfir was the ideology of Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and not the Muslim League which wanted to throw a broad net. The Muslim League was the broadest possible party representing the Muslims. Jinnah’s League had Shias, Sunnis, Ahmadis, Ismailis, Mahdavis and every sect of Muslims. This was because League was a political and not a religious party of Muslims.

5. Jinnah’s claim that the Muslim League represented the Muslims and not the Congress was based on the following:

a. After the Sikandar Jinnah Pact – both Sikandar Hayat and Fazlul Haq, premiers of Punjab and Bengal- supported the Muslim League bringing the two largest Muslim majority provinces behind Jinnah.

b. Muslim League won 90 percent of the Muslim seats and 75% of the vote in 1946 elections.

c. Muslims in Hindu Majority provinces supported the Muslim League completely as was shown by the election results.

It must be remembered that Jinnah wasn’t born politically on 23 March 1940. His politics was for most of his life the politics of reconciliation. He is the only politician to be called the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity.  In 1937 – Muslim League had contested the elections as an ally of the Congress Party, winning only in UP and Bombay.  Congress won an overwhelming majority of General seats but did not win any of the Muslim seats. Instead of getting its erstwhile ally on board, Congress chose to play Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Majlis-e-Ahrar against the League. League’s claim that it represented the Muslims and not Ahrar or Jamiat-e-Ulema was based on numerical facts as aforesaid.  

It does not follow, as Mr. Bangash naively concludes, that this meant that those outside the League were not Muslims according to Jinnah. In fact it wasCongress-backed-Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami who attacked Jinnah  as “Kafir-e-Azam”  – the great Infidel and called Muslim Leaguers kafirs because Muslim Leaguers were considered irreligious and too secular.  Bangash’s claim therefore is historically completely untrue. 

I am frankly disappointed at what is clearly an utter and total distortion of facts on Mr. Bangash’s part.

I.  Is Jinnah’s 11 August speech only speech where he articulated his vision for an inclusive democratic state?

Even if it were, Jinnah’s speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly as the father of the nation and the first governor general trumps any vague Eid message from 1945 when Pakistan was by no means a reality. However Mr. Bangash’s claim is historically untrue. There are over 200 such statements by Jinnah. I quote some of them below to establish the point.

On 21st May, 1947,   Jinnah described clearly what kind of state he envisaged in Pakistan:

The basis of the central administration of Pakistan and that of the units to be set up will be decided no doubt, by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. But the Government of Pakistan can only be a popular representative and democratic form of Government. Its Parliament and Cabinet responsible to the Parliament will both be finally responsible to the electorate and the people in general without any distinction of caste, creed or sect, which will the final deciding factor with regard to the policy and programme of the Government that may be adopted from time to time… The minorities in Pakistan will be the citizens of Pakistan and enjoy all the rights, privileges and obligations of citizenship without any distinction of caste creed or sect.  They will be treated justly and fairly. The Government will run the administration and control the legislative measures by its Parliament, and the collective conscience of the Parliament itself will be a guarantee that the minorities need not have any apprehension of any injustice being done to them. Over and above that there will be provisions for the protection and safeguard of the minorities which in my opinion must be embodied in the constitution itself. And this will leave no doubt as to the fundamental rights of the citizens, protection of religion and faith of every section, freedom of thought and protection of their cultural and social life.  p.845,  Zaidi, Z.H. (ed) (1993) Jinnah Papers: Prelude to Pakistan, Vol. I Part I. Lahore: Quaid-i-Azam Papers Project

In an interview with Duncan Hooper he said:

Minorities DO NOT cease to be citizens. Minorities living in Pakistan or Hindustan do not cease to be citizens of their respective states by virtue of their belonging to particular faith, religion or race. I have repeatedly made it clear, especially in my opening speech to the constituent Assembley, that the minorities in Pakistan would be treated as our citizens and will enjoy all the rights as any other community. Pakistan SHALL pursue this policy and do all it can to create a sense of security and confidence in the Non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan. We do not prescribe any school boy tests for their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan ‘if there was war would you shoot a Hindu?’p. 61,  Jinnah Speeches and Statements 1947-1948,  Oxford 1997

In his address to the people of the United States of America,  Jinnah 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. p. 125 Ibid

Speaking to Parsi gathering in Karachi in February 1948, he said:

I assure you Pakistan means to stand by its oft repeated promises of according equal rights to all its nationals irrespective of their caste or creed. Pakistan which symbolizes the aspirations of a nation that found it self to be a minority in the Indian subcontinent cannot be UNMINDFUL of minorities within its own borders. It is a pity that the fairname of Karachi was sullied by the sudden outburst of communal frenzy last month and I can’t find words strong enough to condemn the action of those who are responsible.

On 22nd March 1948, meeting with Hindu Legislators in an effort to stem their exodus to India,  he said

We guarantee equal rights to all citizens of Pakistan. Hindus should in spirit and action wholeheartedly co-operate with the Government and its various branches as Pakistanis.  p.102-103 Ibid

On 23rd March 1948 meeting  the ‘Scheduled Caste Federation’, he said:

We stand by our declarations that members of every community will be treated as citizens of Pakistan with equal rights and privileges and obligations and that Minorities will be safeguarded and protected.[ p.  153 Ibid

Speaking to Quetta Parsis in June 1948, he said:

Although you have not struck the note of your needs and requirements as a community but it is the policy of my Government and myself that every member of every community irrespective of caste color, creed or race shall be fully protected with regard to his life, property and honor. I reiterate to you that you like all minorities will be treated as equal citizens with your rights and obligations provided you are loyal to Pakistan. p.  154 Ibid

The fact that even those statements where Jinnah appealed to Islamic principles or Islam itself,   he did so to drive home that democracy, equality of citizenship, communal harmony were all compatible with Islam:

Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. Islam has taught Equality, Justice and fairplay to everybody. What reason is there for anyone to fear. Democracy, equality, freedom on the highest sense of integrity and on the basis of fairplay and justice for everyone. Let us make the constitution of Pakistan. We will make it and we will show it to the world p. 223  Ibid

So Jinnah speaking on a religious occasion used that occasion to drive home the point that we should be a democratic and egalitarian state.  How is that non-secular?   Whenever Jinnah spoke of “Islamic principles” he qualified the statement with “democracy”,  “equality”,  “fairplay”,  “brotherhood of man” and “social justice”.

Jinnah was secular despite his references to Islam and Islamic principles -few and far between-, because he believed in a non-religious polity based on popular will and because he was a dogged opponent of any discrimination or religious bars whatsoever.  To him the state and the citizen were bound in a social contract whereby the state was bound to the principle of complete impartiality in dealing with its subjects.  There was to be n0 difference whatsoever between citizens of the state on any distinguishing basis.  This was Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan.  This was a consistently secular vision.

III. Jinnah’s Dismissal of the Khan Ministry 
The dismissal of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP, now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) government has long been cited as an example of an early streak of authoritarianism in Pakistan’s history. It is said much of Pakistan’s later crisis of democracy has its roots in this decision. This sound bite has been used by many critics of Jinnah as being one grave example of lack of statesmanship at a critical juncture. I have a different view and I will endeavour to explain why.

We must examine whether Jinnah’s actions vis-à-vis the NWFP Assembly in that first week of independence were unconstitutional. If these actions were not unconstitutional, were these undemocratic and malicious under a veil of constitutionality? Finally, if we conclude that these actions were either unconstitutional or undemocratic, were these actions responsible for Pakistan’s subsequent crisis of constitutionalism and democracy, which manifested itself in the form of prolonged periods of direct military rule in the country.

To begin with, it is important to note again that Pakistan opted to omit Section 93 powers, which allowed the central government to dismiss provincial legislatures. India, on the other hand, retained these powers and used the same on several occasions to dismiss provincial legislatures. The dismissal of the Khan Ministry in NWFP, however, was not a dismissal of the legislature. The governor of NWFP, Sir George Cunningham, acting on the advice of the Governor-General under Section 51(5), dismissed Dr Khan Sahib as the chief minister and invited Abdul Qayyum Khan of the Muslim League to form the government. Therefore, the issue of constitutionality of the action does not arise per se.

Now the real question is whether this meant a dismissal of a democratically elected government and whether this action taken at the behest of Jinnah was indeed undemocratic or malicious. To address whether the decision was democratic or not, let us consider the facts. Dr Khan Sahib became the premier after the 1946 election on the basis of 30 members in a House of 50. Out of these 30 members, 12 were Hindu MLAs. It may be pointed out that the weightage given to the Hindu community was 24 percent against an actual population of six percent in the province; 11 of these 12 Hindu members moved to India at independence. Of the remaining 19, two belonged to the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind, an ally of the Congress Party. Congress proper had won only 16 seats out of a total of 38 Muslim seats. Therefore, Dr Khan Sahib enjoyed the support of 19 members in a House of 39, already a minority government. Later the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind members also parted company and so did a Congress member Mian Jaffar Shah, leaving Dr Khan Sahib with only 16 members in a House of 39. As for the procedure adopted to effect a ministry and get the requisite support, the newly formed League ministry had to show its numbers by the next budget session, which it did.

Even otherwise Dr Khan Sahib had lost all moral authority to govern after the referendum a couple of months before independence, which had returned 51 percent votes in the Muslim League’s favour. While in recent years some have tried to argue that the referendum was questionable, the truth is that Congress had not only endorsed the referendum but had successfully procured the removal of Sir Olaf Caroe, who it deemed inaccurately as pro-League, as governor, replacing him with Sir Robert Lockhart to preside over the said referendum. Even Dr Khan Sahib had confidently declared that if the League received 30 percent of the votes in the election, he would resign. Dr Khan Sahib himself agreed that the referendum was as proper or improper as the election that had gotten him into power and this was promptly reported to the Viceroy by Rob Lockhart, Congress’ governor of choice. Lockhart went on to advise Dr Khan Sahib that the right and proper thing to do was to resign immediately. The governor also expressed concern that the continuation of a ministry so utterly hostile to the new state would be untenable and that the Viceroy should consider dismissing the NWFP government under section 93, which would be the best course available. In public, of course, both Dr Khan Sahib and Bacha Khan continued to declare that the referendum was improper and fraudulent. To this end, it is important to quote Kanji Dwarkadas, who in his letter of July 26, 1947 said: “An American journalist who has returned to Delhi from the Frontier has told me that…the Frontier referendum was run on fair lines and not as Dr Khan Sahib and Abdul Ghaffar Khan have explained it. He found Dr Khan Sahib to be muddled headed and both Khan brothers are now rather sore with the Congress for having let them down.”

As a liberal democrat with close to four decades of parliamentary experience in the Indian legislature, Jinnah was repulsed by the idea of dismissing any Legislative Assembly. Therefore, in early August, he suggested instead that if given a chance the Muslim League could form a coalition government with non-Muslim representatives, which would give the Muslim League legislative majority and thereby bypass the Section 93 dismissal. As mentioned earlier, this Section 93 was in any event not available after August 14, 1947. Rob Lockhart was of the view that if a change was to be made, in the fitness of things, it had to be made quickly because he recalled that Dr Khan Sahib had warned of a mass movement, which he “would try and keep non-violent”. Lord Mountbatten failed to heed either advice and consequently it fell to the Governor-General of Pakistan to take a decision that he had hoped to avoid.

The Khan brothers were openly hostile to Pakistan. They had boycotted the referendum citing that it did not have the option of NWFP remaining independent or worse joining Afghanistan. Bacha Khan had on June 27, 1947 called for an independent and free Pathan state based on Islamic principles and social justice. Dr Khan Sahib meanwhile continued to distribute arms licences to his party men. Similarly, consider the police intelligence report of August 5, 1947 that said: “It is rumoured in some circles that Congress and Red Shirt supporters might start civil disobedience after the 15th of August if the Congress Ministry is made to vacate the office. It is reported that the Faqir of Ipi will declare jihad against the British and the Hindus after the Id and that the Zalmai Pakhtoon Party would fight the Muslim League for the attainment of Pathanistan” (See No 220, National Documentation Centre, Islamabad, 1996, 263-264, The Referendum in NWFP).

In the circumstances, which government was going to allow an openly hostile government to continue in power, especially when that government had lost its majority in the Legislative Assembly? In the US for example, President Abraham Lincoln had dismissed not one but five state legislatures in the South in the immediate aftermath of the civil war. Jinnah, on the other hand, had not dismissed the legislature but had ensured an in-House change. Therefore, in the view of this writer at least the dismissal of the Khan Ministry was constitutional, democratic and morally responsible.

IV.  Jinnah’s choice of the office of Governor General 

The reason why Jinnah chose to be Governor-General instead of prime minister is plain enough. The Times of London wrote in its editorial of July 11, 1947: “Yet those who will be called to rule Pakistan may hold that relatively undeveloped qualities that make up much of its territory must be guided by a governor general capable of exercising the functions of higher control and co-ordination which formerly vested in a Canning or a Curzon.” The powers Jinnah enjoyed were far less than those enjoyed by either Canning or Curzon, mind you, and when compared to, say, powers vested in and assumed by President Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the civil war, Jinnah’s powers were toothless.

Even Lord Mountbatten, who never made any effort to hide his ambitions, had more power as Governor-General than Jinnah. Mountbatten was handed — allegedly — a blank piece of paper by Nehru for cabinet selection. Mountbatten presided over not just every major decision of the Indian government but he even commanded and directed the Indian troops in Kashmir. This was far beyond the powers Jinnah had.

As a student of law and constitution, I must state here that in the empire’s history, a powerful politician like Jinnah taking over as the first Governor-General of a self-governing dominion is the norm and not the exception. Lord Elgin and Lord Dufferin were two such political Governors-General, both instrumental in the formative phase of Canada. Ireland’s first Governor-General of the Dominion was an active party politician (Jinnah on the other hand had resigned from the presidency of the Muslim League soon after independence stating that he could not as Governor-General remain at the head of an avowedly communal organisation). So if Jinnah is to be called autocratic, then from Bismarck to Lincoln and Roosevelt, every Dominion Governor-General was autocratic, including India’s first Governor-General.

So why did Nehru choose to become prime minister instead of Governor-General? Important as Nehru was, he was just one party leader and at best a stalwart amongst at least three others. There was no question of Congress forwarding Nehru’s name for the Governor-General given that he was not a neutral arbiter for the various party factions. He had a major rival in Patel and his position in the Indian pantheon was by no means as absolute as Jinnah’s. Jinnah was — as Nehru wrote in his book, Discovery of India — the only Muslim League politician of noted ability, and entirely without the lure of office. Nehru’s role in India was to be that of a respected party politician and not that of an impartial arbiter that Jinnah’s followers expected.

There are many myths that are woven around Jinnah’s period as Governor-General of Pakistan, one of which was forwarded by Campbell Johnson who inaccurately claimed in his book Mission With Mountbatten that Jinnah applied for powers under the Ninth Schedule of the Government of India Act 1935 (GOIA 1935). It was the Ninth Schedule of the GOIA 1935 that strengthened the Governor-General and gave him powers to ensure passage of bills in a form that had been recommended by the Governor-General. From July 19, 1947 onwards, the Ninth Schedule was no longer available.

A constitutional point of divergence between the Dominion of Pakistan and the Dominion of India was Section 93, which empowered the Governor-General to dismiss provincial legislatures. It was Pakistan that omitted Section 93 and India that adopted it. Therefore, the Pakistani Governor-General could not, in contrast to the Indian Governor-General, dismiss a legislature. This is very relevant in the context of the Khan Ministry dismissal, for that dismissal was not the dissolution of a legislature but simply constitutional manoeuvring. The governor of NWFP, after concluding that Dr Khan Sahib no longer commanded the confidence of the House, invited Abdul Qayyum Khan to form the government, which he did. After this, the House was prorogued and reconvened when Qayyum had established a majority before the budget session. Technicality? Perhaps. However, the Canadian Governor-General as late as December 2008 used the same constitutional device to save Prime Minister Harper’s government and no one accused her of being undemocratic.

It is for these reasons that i believe that  Mr. Bangash’s article is neither accurate nor historical.



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