Seven decades into independence and the nation still oscillates between the ‘Jinnah Ideologies’. This is a discourse misinterpreted, a debate arcane and a matter that ignites fervour across the socio-political spectrum of Pakistan. The concocted mystery begins with a plain query: What was Jinnah’s ideology? Was he liberal or an Islamist? Quite disturbingly, these queries are barely construed for what they are and receive a bottled-up response from both sides of the argument, without spending a second over classifying the proposition and opposition. The liberals are smeared with those who reject rationale and the Islamists face an inequitable generalisation catering to the uncouth roadside clergy who abhors Jinnah along with the intellectual scholars who wax lyrical about him. Amidst the interpolated chaos that is nurtured by lack of perception of canons of a logical discourse, the solemn purpose of looking into the Founding Father’s ideology is disintegrated. So who was Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and was his vision really esoteric? If yes, then how did a fledgling vision fight against the odds to do the impossible?
As far as documented evidence is concerned, analysts from the left render Jinnah a secular individual primarily on the basis of the resounding address of August 11th, where he established that Pakistan will be a harmonious state that houses all religions without the interjection of the state and a quintessence of peaceful coexistence of faiths will be its hallmark. The ‘right wing’, or more accurately, Islamists, slam this view by projecting the addresses of July 1st 1948 at the inauguration of the State Bank where Jinnah unequivocally voiced his inclination and commitment to an Islamic economic system, guided by the principles of Shariah and vocalised its pragmatic nature that may not have been achieved but exists as a blue print. The Islamist perspective remains feeble without the emphasis over the historical occurrence of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction lost in the abyss of history and buried in the cemetery of conspiracies after the documents of the department were set ablaze rather mysteriously in October 1948. Prior to this, then foreign minister Zafarullah Khan removed Mr Muhammad Asad, the eminent Islamic scholar and former Austro-Hungarian Jewish citizen, from the department. The remains of this valiant measure are present in the government of Punjab archives, an astonishing survival given the crafty eradication of this historical establishment.
The essence of this debate is lost due to the classification of the defenders that is an epitome of sheer generalisation and misinterpretation of evidence. Analysts such as Nadeem F Paracha state that such debates are politically manoeuvred to serve the ideologies of partisans and do not have a virtual existence. While that is agreeable due to the nationally recognised propagandist instinct of the political arena, it cannot undermine the true vision of the Quaid whose efficacy we are fortunate to experience. This implies that inherently, the Quaid’s ideology was characterised by an urge to create a state that follows the genuine guidelines of Islam since such a state would be magnanimous to all minorities and accommodate all perspectives. All the documented evidences that portray his propensity to social and religious flexibility actually solidify his correct interpretation of a true Islamic state that does not exist in Pakistan today due to the misapprehension of the debate at hand. The claimants of an Islamic identity do not seem to comprehend its essence which has the appreciation of minorities, magnanimity of acceptance and unyielding justice at its heart. Amidst the labyrinth of national ideology, where paradigms constantly collide in a hopeless search of recognition, we fail to address the concerns that currently surround us and this very neglect results in ignorance towards contradicting perspectives and obstinacy for own. So to state, it is not Jinnah’s vision that is misconceived but the essence of an Islamic socioeconomic system that yearns for a viable form, the glorious purpose of the Department of Islamic Reconstruction that was obstructed and cries out to be revitalised for the greater good of all citizens holding all sorts of diverse beliefs and ideologies.
The labyrinth of these paradigms constantly colliding in search of recognition reminds me of an apt presentation coined by Elif Shafak in her work of fiction, The bastard of Istanbul, where she refers to the similar ‘Turkish dilemma’ stating, “We are stuck. We are stuck between the East and the West. Between the past and the future. On the one hand, there are the secular modernists, so proud of the regime they constructed, you cannot breathe a critical word. They have got the army and half of the state on their side. On the other hand, there are the conventional traditionalists, so infatuated with the Ottoman past, you cannot breathe a critical word. They have got the general public and the remaining half of the state on their side. What is left for us?”
We retain what we establish. It is about time we broke free of vain absurdities and recognised our mutual destination.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2018.
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