The Pakistani nation is celebrating the 145th birth anniversary of its benefactor and founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah today, befittingly called Quaid-i-Azam (the greatest leader) for converting the dream of separate homeland for Muslims into a political reality against unsurmountable odds and staunch resistance to the idea by both the British government and the Indian Congress. The creation of Pakistan on an ideological basis was arguably an unprecedented event of the twentieth century, made possible by the indomitable personality of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a constitutionalist, a democrat to the core of his heart and a believer and advocate of equal rights for minorities, as also reflected in the Pakistan resolution.
The independence movement for the creation of Pakistan was arguably the shortest ever struggle to throw off the yolk of subservience to a colonial power. What made that miracle happen is the fact that despite a thousand years of coexistence with Hindus in the sub-continent, the Muslims—ever since their arrival in India either as conquerors or traders—maintained their distinct identity culturally and politically and were already a homogenous nationality in India before the movement to end the colonial rule in India started.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was initially a staunch supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity and believed in peaceful coexistence with Hindus under a constitutional arrangement that protected the political rights of the Muslims and gave them their due share in governance—after his disillusionment with the designs of the Hindus who only wanted India for Hindus and did not acknowledge the Muslims as a separate entity—used this factor to rally the Muslims to the cause of an independent state for the Muslims. The process of his transformation into a supporter and leader of the independence movement began with his statement in 1937 that asserted “India is not a national state. India is not a state but a sub-continent composed of nationalities, the two major nations being Hindus and Muslims whose culture, art, architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, laws and jurisprudence, social moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions, outlook on life and of life are fundamentally different. By all cannons of international law, we are a nation” The vision given by Allama Muhammad Iqbal provided a clear direction to this thought process. Pakistan Resolution was finally adopted on March 23, 1940 and within a span of seven years, Pakistan became a reality on August 14, 1947.
With the advent of the British rule in India in 1858, Hindu-Muslim relations entered a new phase. The British brought with them a new political philosophy commonly known as ‘territorial nationalism’. Before the coming of the British, there was no concept of a ‘nation’ in South Asia and the region had never been a single political unit. The British attempt to weld the two communities in to a ‘nation’ also failed. The British concept of a nation did not fit the religious-social system of South Asia.
But unlike Britain, the basis of majority and minority in South Asia was not political but religious and ethnic. The attempt to enforce the British political model in South Asia, instead of solving the political problems, only served to make the situation more complex. The Hindus supported the idea while it was strongly opposed by the Muslims. The Muslims knew that implementation of the new order would mean the end of their separate identity and endless rule of the Hindu majority in the name of nationalism and democracy.
As is evident, the Muslim desire for a separate homeland was dictated by the historic events as well as their inner voice to fashion their lives in accordance with the teachings of their great religion. Muslims stand vindicated in demanding a separate homeland for themselves by the rise into power of BJP, a party inebriated by the RSS ideology of Hindutva which believes in India for Hindus and in following that creed, has made the lives of the minorities miserable, particularly Muslims through the promulgation of National register of Citizenship in Assam and then enactment of Citizenship Amendment Act. The Quaid and the Muslims rightly entertained this fear of Hindu domination. The two-nation theory, contrary to the contention of its detractors, stands reinforced.
Quaid-i-Azam not only created Pakistan but also gave a vision about the course it was destined to follow after independence. He epitomised his vision in a broadcast talk on Pakistan to the people of United States in February 1948 in these words “The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type embodying the essential principles of Islam. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of men, justice and fair play to everybody. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state, to be ruled by priests with 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 citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan”.
The best tribute and homage to that great leader would be to implement his vision in letter and spirit. It was the right time to retract our steps from the detours that we as a nation have taken. It is possible only when political forces in the country abandon their divisive politics and work collectively to make Pakistan an eternal reality enjoying a respectable place in the comity of nations.