By Mohammad Ali Ilahi
A never ending debate that has been raging on between the seculars and conservatives for quite some time is about the nature of the country that the Quaid envisioned Pakistan to be. While the seculars use the 11th August speech of the Quaid as the basis of their argument, their counterparts present the 1st July 1948 speech which Jinnah delievered on the opening ceremony of the State Bank and which called for Pakistan to be run according to the principles of Islam.
In an effort to address this debate, it would be best to study the actions of Jinnah rather than quoting some isolated lines from the many speeches he delivered at different occasions for an audience that ranged from the intellectuals to the illiterate masses.
Let’s start by taking a look at the cabinet which the Quaid chose for the newly born country. The first foreign minister who would effectively serve as the face of the new country in front of the entire world was Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, who belonged to the Ahmadiyya community. The first Law minister was Jogendra Nath Mandal, a hindu and the first commander in chief of Pakistan’s armed forces was General Frank Messervy, a Christian. The first cheque submitted to the state of Pakistan of a hefty amount of Rs. 90 crore and accepted by Jinnah was from the Raja of Mehmoodabad, who was a Shia Muslim. Such was the trust of the minority communities in the Quaid, that the speaker of the undivided Punjab assembly, S P Singha who was a Christian cast the casting vote in the favour of Pakistan and Mirza Bashiruddin Mehmood, the spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya community assured the Quaid that the entire Ahmadi community would vote for Muslim League as a bloc for the sake of Pakistan.
Fast forward to the current times and remember the lengths Imran Khan, who is time and again compared with the Quaid by his supporters, had to go to prove to the nation that he did not enjoy the support of the “Qadianis” in the elections of 2013. One could again refer to the manner Imran Khan had to backtrack from his offer to make Mr. Atif Mian the Finance Minister in his “Naya Pakistan” once it was revealed that he was an Ahmadi. It was probably not entirely his fault, because one can question whether the people of Pakistan would be comfortable having an Ahmadi minister in this time and age. They however had no such issues back when we had the “Jinnah’s Pakistan”.
Let’s also not forget that the Muslim League which was the party that played the largest role in the creation of Pakistan had Sir Agha Khan III as its first president, and Sir Zafarullah Khan too served as the president of Muslim League in 1931. Jinnah himself belonged to an Ismaili Khoja family of Gujarat, though many claim that he converted to Twelver Shia Islam later in his life. The grandfather of Jinnah Poonja Gokuldas Meghji was a Hindu Bhatia Rajput who converted to Ismaili Islam, whereas the wife of the Quaid is also buried in an Ismaili graveyard. The sister of the Quaid, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah requested the property of the Quaid to be distributed according to the Shia laws of inheritance.
The main point worth understanding here is that difference in religious beliefs or belonging to a family which practiced Islam in a way different from the mainstream was never an obstacle for the Pakistan movement or the Pakistan that was achieved on 14th August 1947. Jinnah’s dream of Pakistan might never be completely understood by studying his speeches, but the type of co-existence he envisaged for Pakistan which can be seen from the team he chose to run the new country, and the kind of support he enjoyed from people of different sects and religions shows that Jinnah’s Pakistan was not meant for one particular school of thought, but for people of all kind of beliefs. Let’s celebrate this independence day by rekindling the candle of amalgamation which Quaid-e-Azam ignited. Pakistan Zindabad!