The Jinnah we don’t want to know

We have been trying to clad Jinnah in an identity we wish to assume for ourselves — an overt religious identity.

Aziz Akhmad September 13, 2011

I have a large framed photograph of M A Jinnah, our Quaid-i-Azam, on a wall of my home office here in New York. It is an old photograph in sepia tones, showing the man dressed immaculately, as always, in a dark suit, striped tie, white straight-collared shirt with double cuffs that protrude a little from underneath his coat sleeves, revealing a cufflink and wearing two-tone shoes.

Jinnah is squatting on the lawn of what appears to be an elegant red-brick house lined with shrubs and greenery. He has a cigarette between his lips, while both his hands are occupied holding a small, white, long-haired dog, a West Highland terrier, or Westie, as the breed is called. Sitting next to the Westie is a big, black Doberman, wearing a studded leather collar, his ears pricked warily. All three — the man and the dogs — are looking straight into the camera.

Jinnah has an amused expression on his face, which, it seems, would break into a grin were it not for the cigarette between his lips. He looks about 60 and dashingly handsome with fine features, a full head of hair with generous splashes of gray carefully combed back.

It’s a shame that the official Pakistan does not display pictures of Jinnah like this one more often — and there are numerous such charming pictures of him in the archives: Jinnah in a chair with his young and beautiful daughter, Dina, standing by, both with a big smile; Jinnah laughing with Gandhi; Jinnah sitting on the arm of a park bench, posing with his sister and other friends; and many more. These pictures reveal the human side of Jinnah, almost a flamboyant side.

Ironically, most Pakistanis have grown up seeing their Quaid-i-Azam, in textbooks, on the covers of their notebooks and currency notes, as an unsmiling, humourless and a somber man, clad in a sherwani and a boat-shaped karakul cap that came to be called the Jinnah cap.

True, Jinnah did start wearing a sherwani and chooridar pyjama or shalwar and a karakul cap — in the last 10 or 12 years of his life — in public gatherings. But he never gave up wearing western clothes. Nor did he give up his love for dogs, nor, unfortunately, his addiction to cigarettes.

Jinnah was a modern man, a westernised man. Whatever his personal beliefs, he never wore religion on his sleeves. No photographer has ever been able to capture him clad in an ahram performing umrah or Hajj, or at an iftar party, or visiting and praying at shrines.

Not only have we ‘doctored’ an official image of Jinnah, we even insist on misspelling his name. Jinnah would spell his first name as Mohamed, as evident in his passport, issued in November 1946. The picture in the passport shows Jinnah wearing a western jacket, a tie and a Jinnah cap. I suspect this is the same picture that appears on our currency notes, but with the tie and jacket replaced with a sherwani collar. Obviously, we have been trying to clad Jinnah in an identity we wish to assume for ourselves — an overt religious identity.

We even rearranged the famous phrase “Unity, faith and discipline” from one of his speeches to “Faith, unity and discipline” and translated faith to mean religion, which, in the context of the speech, meant confidence or conviction.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th,  2011.


let there be peace | 9 years ago | Reply

Interesting possibilities. I read somewhere the contribution of technology of Germany was significant to US's development. However no one can predict what course China will take in future. Also we may have bumpy road ahead in case Islamists drag the world in a major war by actually using nuclear weapons (which is not impossible scenario considering they happily blow themselves with suicide vests) in which case India and Israel will be the ones at risk of direct nuclear attack.

Tarun | 9 years ago | Reply

The basic problem with Jinnah was that he looked upon India with the same black and white lens that he got in Europe. Indeed Nehru did too but changed under the influence of gandhi. To box india into 2 neatly divided components of Hindu and Muslim was the height of folly and simplistic thinking. I believe that Jinnah's impact of creating pakistan will be far more significant now than over the last 63 years( although pak did help in dissolution of soviet union). The rise of Taliban and the complete breakdown in pakistan will be followed by a rise in a united talibanized islamic block with nuclear weapons and influence but without any economic strength. This will eventually lead to a destruction of US influence and US order in Middle East that underwrites American power and force America to allign with India giving us all the technology and benefits without the strings attached. For pakistan ironically has opened a vista of opportunity for India that could never have existed in our dreams as it is the cause of the destruction of not one but two superpowers both of which had(USSR) and will (US) give India the prize as they go down- unfettered access to technology. The islamic world and china will now face ruin as they are forced to gravitate towards a jihadized afpak and away fron usa.

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