Today is 9/11. For Pakistanis 9/11 has always been a sad date. On this date in 1948, barely a year after the nation’s birth, its founding leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, died.
Today I want to post three historical artifacts - each worthy of your attention, and each worthy of some thinking through. The first, is a re-post at ATP: a video of a newsreel from Mr. Jinnah’s death. The second is new to ATP: an obituary of Mr. Jinnah published in the Indian newspaper The Hindu. The third is a set of photographs of Mr. Jinnah that have been circulating over email and that are very worth sharing with our readers.
Even more interesting to me as a historical artifact is this obituary of Mr. Jinnah published in the Indian newspaper The Hindu two days after his death in 1948 (it was recently re-published by The Hindu following the controversy over Jaswant Singh’s biography of Mr. Jinnah).
It is worth reading in full, especially as people in both India and Pakistan struggle to unravel our constructed histories. This is clearly an ‘Indian view’ of Mr. Jinnah and Pakistanis - then and now - would justifiably find much to disagree with in some of its implications. But maybe that is exactly why reading it again, today, could be instructive.
The news of the sudden death of Mr. Jinnah will be received with widespread regret in this country. Till barely a twelvemonth ago he was, next to Gandhiji, the most powerful leader in undivided India. And not only among his fellow-Muslims but among members of all communities there was great admiration for his sterling personal qualities even while the goal which he pursued with increasing fanaticism was deplored. For more than half the period of nearly forty years in which he was a towering figure in our public life he identified himself so completely with the struggle that the Indian National Congress carried on for freedom that he came to be as nearly a popular idol as it was possible for a man so aristocratic and aloof by temperament to be. During the last years of his life, as the architect of Pakistan, he achieved a unique authority in his own community by virtue of the blind allegiance which the mass, dazzled by his political triumphs, gave him though the sane and sober elements of the community became more and more doubtful of the wisdom of his policies. In an age which saw centuries-old empires crumble this Bombay lawyer began late in life to dream of founding a new Empire; in an era of rampant secularism this Muslim, who had never been known to be very austere in his religion, began to dally with the notion that that Empire should be an Islamic State. And the dream became a reality overnight, and perhaps no man was more surprised at his success than Mr. Jinnah himself.
Mr. Jinnah was an astute lawyer. And his success was largely due to the fact that he was quick to seize the tactical implications of any development. His strength lay not in any firm body of general principle, any deeply cogitated philosophy of life, but in throwing all his tremendous powers of tenacity, strategy and dialectical skill into a cause which had been nursed by others and shaped in many of its most important phases by external factors. In this he offers a marked contrast to the Mahatma with whom rested the initiative during the thirty years he dominated Indian political life and who, however much he might adapt himself to the thrusts of circumstance, was able to maintain on a long range a remarkable consistency. Pakistan began with Iqbal as a poetic fancy. Rahmat Ali and his English allies at Cambridge provided it with ideology and dogma. Britain’s Divide and Rule diplomacy over a period of half a century was driving blindly towards this goal. What Mr. Jinnah did was to build up a political organisation, out of the moribund Muslim League, which gave coherence to the inchoate longings of the mass by yoking it to the realisation of the doctrinaires’ dream. Two world wars within a generation, bringing in their train a vast proliferation of nation-States as well as the decay of established Imperialisms and the rise of the Totalitarian Idea, were as much responsible for the emergence of Pakistan as the aggressive communalism to which Mr. Jinnah gave point and direction.
We must not forget that Mr. Jinnah began his political life as a child of the Enlightenment the seeds of which were planted in India by the statesmen of Victorian England. He stood for parliamentary democracy after the British pattern and with a conscientious care practised the art of debate in which he attained a formidable proficiency. At the time of the Minto-Morley Reforms, he set his face sternly against the British attempts to entice the Muslims away from their allegiance to the Congress. For long he kept aloof from the Muslim League. And when at last he joined it his aim was to utilise it for promoting amity between the two communities and not for widening the gulf. But Mr. Jinnah was a man of ambition. He had a very high opinion of his own abilities and the success, professional and political, that had come to him early in life, seemed fully to justify it. It irked him to play second fiddle. The Congress in those early days was dominated by mighty personalities, Dadabhai Nowroji, Mehta and Gokhale, not to mention leaders of the Left like Tilak. That no doubt accounts for the fact that Mr. Jinnah gradually withdrew from the Congress organisation and cast about for materials wherewith to build a separate platform for himself. At this time the first World War broke out and the idea of self-determination was in the air. It was not a mere accident that Mr. Jinnah came to formulate the safeguards which he deemed necessary for the Muslim minority in his famous Fourteen Points so reminiscent of the Wilsonian formula.
But in those days he would have pooh-poohed the idea of the Muslim community cutting itself off from the rest of India. He was so little in sympathy with the Ali Brothers’ Khilafat campaign because it seemed to him to play with fire. He was deeply suspicious of the unrestrained passions of the mob and he was too good a student of history not to realise that once the dormant fires of fanaticism were stoked there was no knowing where it might end. He kept aloof from the Congress at the same time. Satyagraha with its jail-going and other hardships could not appeal to a hedonist like him; but the main reason for his avoiding the Gandhian Congress was the same nervousness about the consequences of rousing mass enthusiasm. The result was that he went into political hibernation for some years. But he remained keenly observant; and the dynamic energy generated by a successful policy of mass contact deeply impressed him. He came to see that a backward community like the Muslims could be roused to action only by an appeal, simplified almost to the point of crudeness, to what touched it most deeply, its religious faith. And a close study of the arts by which the European dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and a host of lesser men rose to power led him to perfect a technique of propaganda and mass instigation to which ‘atrocity’-mongering was central. But Mr. Jinnah could not have been entirely happy over the Frankenstein monster that he had invoked, especially when the stark horrors of the Punjab issued with all the inevitability of Attic tragedy from the contention and strife that he had sown. He was a prudent man to whom by nature and training anarchy was repellant. At the first Round Table Conference he took a lone stand in favour of a unitary Government for India because he felt that Federation in a country made up of such diverse elements would strengthen fissiparous tendencies. It was an irony that such a man should have become the instrument of a policy which, by imposing an unnatural division on a country meant by Nature to be one, has started a fatal course the end of which no man may foresee. Mr. Jinnah was too weak to withstand the momentum of the forces that he had helped to unleash. And the megalomania which unfortunately he came to develop would hardly allow him to admit that he was wrong.
Mr. Jinnah has passed away at the peak of his earthly career. He is sure of his place in history. But during the last months of his life he must have been visited by anxious thoughts about the future of the State which he had carved. Pakistan has many able men who may be expected to devote themselves with wholehearted zeal to its service according to their lights. And India will wish them well in a task of extraordinary difficulty. But it is no easy thing to don the mantle of the Quaid-i-Azam. No other Pakistani has anything like the international stature that Mr. Jinnah had achieved; and assuredly none else has that unquestioned authority with the masses. The freedom that Pakistan has won, largely as the result of a century of unremitting effort by India’s noblest sons, is yet to be consolidated. It is a task that calls for the highest qualities of statesmanship. Many are the teething troubles of the infant State. Apart from the refugee problem, which is Britain’s parting gift to both parts of distracted India, the Pakistan Government has by its handling of the Kashmir question and its unfortunate attitude towards the Indian Union’s difficulties with Hyderabad, raised in an acute form the future of the relations between Pakistan and India. Mr. Jinnah at his bitterest never forgot that firm friendship between the two States was not only feasible but indispensable if freedom was to be no Dead-Sea apple. It is earnestly to be hoped that the leaders of Pakistan will strive to be true to that ideal.