It appears that by pointing out gaping holes and factual inaccuracies in Mr Yaqoob Khan Bangash’s article “Jinnah’s Pakistan”, makes me a “sycophant” to a dead man, as stated by the writer in his recent article, which was a rejoinder to my rebuttal of his original piece on the topic. It may be stated that Mr Bangash’s rejoinder did not address two out of three points that I had raised. It can, therefore, be said that he has conceded that he was wrong on the issue of Jinnah’s claim as the sole spokesman for Muslims being tantamount to being a religious claim and that Jinnah’s actions vis-a-vis the NWFP assembly were undemocratic.
Let us move to Mr Bangash’s new claim, i.e., Jinnah promised secularism to non-Muslims and Islamic rule to Muslims, but that this was not necessarily a theocratic state. He claims that the Gulf states are not theocracies but are not secular either. This is an extraordinary claim. The Gulf states are monarchies with no semblance of representative rule. Pakistan is a country that aspires to be a democracy. What would qualify Pakistan as a secular state? In legal constitutional terms, a state without a state religion is a secular state. If Pakistan did not discriminate between its citizens on the basis of religion and did not have a state religion, it would legally be a secular, democratic state.
Now, we come to the issue of Jinnah supposedly never having spoken of a secular (i.e., an inclusive, non-religious, democratic) state to a mainly Muslim audience. Pray tell, what was the August 11 speech which was delivered to the Constituent Assembly? Was the Constituent Assembly of the largest Muslim majority state of its time not a mainly Muslim audience? The word “Islam” does not appear once in the entire speech. The Muslim League under Jinnah did not pass even a single resolution committing Pakistan to Islamic rule despite there being attempts of doing so. In 1943, a member from Bombay forwarded a resolution to that effect but Jinnah shot it down. On several occasions, Jinnah had addressed mainly Muslim audiences and asked them to ensure that all Pakistani citizens have equal rights. There are countless speeches in this regard but no occasion was more religious than the Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi event at the bar association in Karachi where he declared: “What reason is there for anyone to fear democracy, equality, freedom on the highest sense of integrity and on the basis of fair play and justice for everyone? Let us make the Constitution of Pakistan. We will make it and we will show it to the world.”
Granted that speaking to certain Muslim audiences, Jinnah was at pains to explain that an inclusive democratic state was what Islam also prescribed, but that amounts to speaking to a people in their language. It does not follow that he was promising them “Islamic rule” instead of the inclusive, pluralistic democracy he underlined repeatedly. His argument was that Islam stands for pluralism and democracy. Jinnah was not the only leader to appeal to religion on this count. Ghaffar Khan, who Mr Bangash does not tire of quoting, spoke of Islamic principles all throughout July and August 1947 when making a case for Pathanistan. It was part of the idiom.
Much of what is attributed to Jinnah by way of Islamic rule is fabricated. For example, our textbooks say that on January 13, 1948, Jinnah spoke of Pakistan being a laboratory of Islam when speaking to students of Peshawar’s Islamia College. Not only was Jinnah not there in Peshawar on the said date but he never said any such thing when he did speak to students of Islamia College on April 14, 1948. Finally, it is a moot point that Pakistan needs to be what would serve the interest of Pakistanis best today. All I have argued is that the Pakistan we have now does not conform to the ideas and vision that Jinnah stated repeatedly for the new state.
Yasser Latif Hamdani
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2013.