For long I have been investigating literature on the life of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah; and also academic works which lengthily quote him to substantiate theories about what Pakistan is or was supposed to be.
This exercise is a pursuit to trace the evolution of the image of the man who passed away just a year after the creation of a country that he had so painstakingly put on the map.
My research in this context has produced multiple Jinnahs; each one echoing the zeitgeist or a particular mood of the period in which he was written into books, essays and speeches. But most interesting is the fact that between the creation of Pakistan in 1947 and the late 1950s, not much was written on him.
The 1950s were a highly mutable period in the history of Pakistan. The country’s founding party, the All-India Muslim League, in its new incarnation as the country’s first ruling party, was constantly ravaged by infighting, and unable to address the many economic, ethnic and religious challenges that had sprung up when a minority of India became a majority in Pakistan.
My research suggests that, on an intellectual level, problems in this context were hardly ever tackled by evoking Jinnah’s sayings or personality. Instead, the government and the state depended more on the works of poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal. For example, in 1953, when anti-Ahmadiyya riots in the Punjab spiraled out of control, the government’s response was late but stern. It imposed Martial Law in the province which eventually crushed the riots.
Then, to undermine the men who had instigated the riots, the government published a pamphlet authored by the respected Islamic scholar, Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim. Titled Iqbal and Mullah it cited Iqbal’s scathing criticism of clerics.
In 1956, when the second indirectly-elected Constituent Assembly of Pakistan passed the country’s first constitution, many of the constitution’s authors explained the supposed balance between the religious and the worldly in the constitution by citing Iqbal’s ideas of ‘spiritual democracy’.
Again, there was little or no mention of Jinnah. What’s more, Jinnah’s sister, who had authored a book on her brother, was dissuaded by the government from publishing it. In 1954, the government authorized British writer Hector Bolitho to write a biography of Jinnah. But Bolitho was provided heavily censored and distorted versions of Jinnah’s 11th August, 1947 speech in which he had explained Pakistan as a modern multicultural country where the state was to have nothing to do with a citizen’s faith.
It was as if the state and government of Pakistan in the 1950s had failed to find any use for Jinnah’s thoughts in an era in which the country found itself reeling from multiple political and economic crevices. Perhaps Jinnah’s memory had seemed to be too copious in tone and tenor for a state trying to enforce a more monolithic idea of Pakistan.
The modernist Jinnah
But this attitude was sufficiently altered by the arrival of the Ayub Khan regime in 1958. He became the first Pakistani ruler to promptly start placing Jinnah’s portrait alongside his own in public rallies. In his quest to modernize Pakistan, he constantly evoked Jinnah as a progressive Muslim. In April 1962, his government published a hefty book containing Jinnah’s speeches. In it were also quotes and sayings that had been censored out from the Pakistani edition of Bolitho’s 1956 biography of Jinnah.
Ayub pulled out Jinnah from the confines he had been relegated to in the 1950s. Ayub’s regime presented the founder as a man who wanted a modern Muslim-majority state with a strong economy (based on industrialization) and a powerful army willing to defend the country’s physical and ideological boundaries.
This image of Jinnah was reinforced in books such as 1965’s Struggle for Pakistan (by I.H. Qureshi); 1966’s Quaid-i-Azam as Seen by his Contemporaries (a compilation of essays); and in 1969’s Jinnah: Founder of Pakistan published by the Information Ministry.
Ayub’s opponents on the right rejected this image. They suggested that since Jinnah could not formulate a cohesive ideology (due to his demise soon after Pakistan’s creation), the ulema should take the lead in framing Pakistan’s ideological direction because the country was made in the name of Islam. Ayub responded by claiming that this was not possible because most ulema were opposed to Jinnah and that the Founder had not wished for a theological state.
It was as if the state and government of Pakistan in the 1950s had failed to find any use for Jinnah’s thoughts
The populist Jinnah
But this image began to change when Z.A. Bhutto’s left-leaning PPP came to power in December 1971. Coming in on the back of a manifesto promising ‘socialist reforms,’ one of the first signs of another change in Jinnah’s image emerged in a 1973 press advertisement of the Board of Industrial Management. In it, Jinnah’s portrait appears with a 1945 quote of his in which he emphasizes the importance of nationalizing important industries.
Since by the mid-1970s Bhutto had begun to place himself somewhere between left-liberalism, nationalism and ‘political Islam’, the brief experiment of depicting a socialist Jinnah quickly gave way to propagating a charismatic and nationalist one.
In 1976, the Bhutto regime formed the Quaid-i-Azam Academy. A plethora of literature on Jinnah appeared. In 1976 alone, 12 books on Jinnah were published, with most of them presenting him as a charismatic and populist nationalist, who wanted to construct a strong democratic Muslim country – an image Bhutto also wanted for himself.
Also in 1976 appeared Sharif Al Mujahid’s Ideological Orientation of Pakistan. Published during a period in which the Bhutto regime had moved considerably to the right, the book portrayed Jinnah as a man who worked to build a separate ‘Islamic polity’ as conceived by Iqbal.
Since by the mid-1970s Bhutto had begun to place himself somewhere between left-liberalism, nationalism and ‘political Islam’, the brief experiment of depicting a socialist Jinnah quickly gave way to propagating a charismatic and nationalist one
The Islamic Jinnah
Jinnah’s image was changing again. After Bhutto was toppled in a reactionary military coup by Gen Zia in July 1977, the new regime announced the ‘discovery’ of a diary kept by Jinnah. In the diary, Zia claimed, Jinnah had scorned at democracy and wanted a state based on Islamic dictates and a strong army.
The claim was debunked by the surviving contemporaries of Jinnah and the regime went quiet on the issue. Unable to justify its intransigent policies with any of Jinnah’s quotes, the Zia regime ‘advised’ state-owned media to only use those quotes of the founder in which he had mentioned Islam.
In the 1980s, some compelling independent scholarship on Jinnah also began to emerge. It severely tested and debunked Zia’s image of Jinnah. Stanley Wolpert’s Jinnah of Pakistan (1982) and Ayesha Jalal’s The Sole Spokesman (1985) completely turned Zia’s image of Jinnah on its head, presenting the founder more like the modern, enlightened Jinnah first put forward by the Ayub regime.
As a response, the Zia government pulled out Iqbal’s writings on religion. This was ironic because, in the 1950s, the state had used Iqbal to undermine the ‘fundamentalists.’ But in the 1980s Iqbal began to be posed (by the state) as an antithesis of the alternate image of Jinnah which began to appear from independent scholarship.
So whereas Iqbal was used in the 1950s to counter religious radicalism, in the 1980s, he began to be used to counter those debunking Zia’s idea of Pakistan and Jinnah. It was all a matter of cherry-picking (out of context) from Iqbal’s vast works in philosophy and poetry.
Not much has changed since. If one reads Riaz Ahmad’s book Iqbal’s letters to Quaid-i-Azam (1976), one finds that both men were on the same page on various subjects. But Iqbal passed away almost a decade before the creation of Pakistan.
Maybe this is why ever since the 1970s, ideologues, politicians, dictators, theologians and intellectuals have (rather convolutedly) placed both men on opposite poles of numerous debates on democracy, faith, state and politics.
They remain as lost as ever on what the two men actually believed.