Jinnah’s Pakistan

Jinnah’s Pakistan is an Islamic state, which defines who a Muslim is and is not very democratic.

Yaqoob Khan Bangash March 18, 2013
The writer is the Chairperson of the History Department at Forman Christian College, Lahore

Over the past few days, I have regularly heard the refrain “This is not Jinnah’s Pakistan”. Even the people protesting the events at Badami Bagh, Lahore, carried banners yearning for  “Jinnah’s Pakistan”. A few months ago, the MQM was also aiming to hold a referendum, asking people if they wanted the “Taliban’s Pakistan”, or “Jinnah’s Pakistan”. Often, people with a liberal bent in Pakistan quote Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech and want Pakistan to be modelled on the vision presented in it. But let me tell you the bitter truth: this is Jinnah’s Pakistan!

Why? First, simply because except for the lone August 11 speech, there is nothing much in Jinnah’s utterances, which points towards a secular or even mildly religious state. The August 11, 1947 speech was a rare, only once presented, vision. No wonder then that the Government of Pakistan, through secretary general Chaudhry Mohammad Ali, initially censored the rather liberal parts of the speech. Certainly, this change of mind on Jinnah’s part was a shock for many in the Muslim League, especially since here was a person who, not so long ago, had promised Islamic rule! In his address to the Muslims of India on Eid in 1945, for example, Jinnah had noted: “Islam is not merely confined to the spiritual tenets and doctrines or rituals and ceremonies. It is a complete code regulating the whole Muslim society, every department of life, collective[ly] and individually”. Many such speeches can be quoted, which clearly indicated that Jinnah had promised a country based on Islamic principles — rather than secular ones — to the people. No surprise then that Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar pointed out in the debate over the Objectives Resolution in March 1949 that while Jinnah had made some promises to the minorities, he had also made some promises to the majority, and the introduction of an Islamic state was one of them. The debate over an Islamic system still continues.

Secondly, Jinnah was quite clear that the Muslims of India were one compact community and that their sole representative was the Muslim League. Therefore, any dissension from the Muslim League mantle meant that non-Muslim League Muslims could not even call themselves Muslims, at least politically. The best example of this closed door policy was when Jinnah insisted that the Congress could not include a Muslim member in its list of ministers (even though Maulana Azad was its president) since only the Muslim League had the right to nominate Muslims to the interim government in 1946. Thus, one of the great Muslim scholars of the 20th century, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, (and others) were prevented from joining the government. With such a control over who is a “real” Muslim (though primarily political at this juncture), it was not inconceivable that such notions would continue after independence and soon permeate the religious realm — and this is exactly what has happened.

Thirdly, Jinnah himself gave the example of undemocratic government. Not only did Jinnah preside over cabinet meetings (remember Pervez Musharraf?), one of his first acts after independence was to dismiss the popularly-elected government of Dr Khan Sahib in the then-NWFP on August 22, 1947. While it was a foregone conclusion that a League ministry would soon take over in the province, the manner in which the dismissal was done created precedence. Jinnah did not wait for the assembly itself to bring a motion of no confidence against the premier and nor did he call for new elections, both of which would have been clearly democratic and would have certainly brought in a Muslim League government. Instead, he simply got the Congress ministry dismissed and a Muslim League ministry installed — this procedural change was very significant at this early stage and set an example. Jinnah was also, extraordinarily, a minister in his own government, setting a clear precedence for future heads of state (followed by Ayub Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf) to be very comfortable being heads of state and ministers at the same time.

Therefore, Jinnah’s Pakistan is an Islamic state, which defines who a Muslim is, excludes those Muslims it does not like and is not very democratic. Imagining it in any other way is living in a dreamland and refusing to accept the reality. However, this does not mean that Pakistan is unworkable. Pakistan might be saddled with issues of the past, but surely we can accept and solve them, if we want.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2013.


Taimur | 10 years ago | Reply

I enjoyed reading the article and especially the timeline of events. It is high time to open up to discuss and accept the mistakes and move forward.

spade | 10 years ago | Reply


Its an impressive commentary on what is historically correct. Whether Mr Bangesh is completely correct or you are, its quite immaterial ( and I would like to believe that its immaterial to Mr Bangash as well).

The question here is whether this is the Pakistan you or Mr Bangesh or any living Pakistani wants. The intolerance, the terrorism, the wars, and endless other problems may have originated because Mr Jinnah said or did not say something but the issue is what a common citizen doing to eradicate it and fight for the country he or she wants.

If you believe that rebutting Mr Bangash point by point is going to make than happen then plz continue to do so and if you believe that Mr Bangash has done a heroic deed by atleast bringing up for discussion such a sensitive issue of the state of Pakistan today through a prism of History, which might make Pakistan a better place by sheer debating then its better to look for solutions on what to do to get the Pakistan you/I/Pakistani citizen/sensible Indian citizen wants.

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