Our founder Mohamed Ali Jinnah was undoubtedly a great man. Even those who did not like his politics thought he was no ordinary mortal. Our own habit of mythologising him may be forgivable but it hides important facts. My contention is that even if you take out the embellishments, the Quaid emerges as a man of stature.
An effort has been made to present the ‘true Jinnah’ in The Jinnah Anthology, (Third Edition) compiled and edited by Liaquat H Merchant & Shariful M ujahid (OUP 2010). I hold both compilers in great esteem. Liaquat Merchant (Sitara-i-Imtiaz) is the grandson of Jinnah’s sister, Mariambai, and an eminent lawyer of Karachi who looks after the estate of Quaid-i-Azam and runs the Quaid-i-Azam Aligarh Education Trust. Mr Mujahid is a personal friend to whom I owe a lot.
Some facts in the book are revelations. The American biographer of Jinnah, Stanley Wolpert, says: “Another fond aspiration of Jinnah’s last years of life was to achieve “friendly and cordial” relations between Pakistan and “Hindustan”, as he called India, during his brief tenure as Governor-General” (p.3). Merchant tells us that Jinnah once told a Hindu journalist that “now that he had got Pakistan, he had no longer any grudge against the Hindus. In fact, he was anxious to revert to his old and familiar role of ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity. He wanted to constitute himself as the protector-general of the Hindu minority in Pakistan” (p.88). Today’s Pakistan is run by India-centric generals undaunted by past failures of this unrealistic credo.
As for today’s narrow-minded obsession with Islam, Shariful Mujahid tells us that Jinnah turned away from the Khilafat agitation (1920-1922) because of its religious bigotry (p.22). Before Wolpert, Hector Bolitho was Jinnah’s ‘official’ biographer, subject to censorship by then Principal Information Officer Majeed Malik. Mohammad Raza Kazimi thinks that Malik cut out much that should have been left in and that Bolitho was handicapped by Ms Fatima Jinnah’s refusal to show him (Bolitho) her memoir of her brother. (Because Bolitho was commissioned without her consent!)
There is a photo of a note scribbled by Jinnah saying Pakistan should have a presidential form of government, most probably influenced by Charles de Gaulle (p.81). It says: “Dangers of parliamentary form of government. It has worked satisfactorily so far in England and where else? Presidential Form of Government (more suitable to Pakistan)” (p.81).
As recorded earlier by Merchant in his book Quaid-e-Azam: A judicial verdict, this book gives evidence of a Shia ghusl (bathing) given to Jinnah before his burial. It significantly adds that the ghusl was jointly given by Sunni and Shia clerics.
Jinnah was a part of his father’s name: Jeenabhai Poonja, who named him Mohamed Ali, which could also be written in the Ismaili style: Mohamedali. In The Shaping of Gujarat: Plurality, Hindutva and Beyond (Penguin 2005), it is noted that Jina was a common name among Gujaratis and also among Muslims who started settling in Gujarat in the 12th century. Many Muslims (Bohra, Khoja, Memon) included local converts, all claiming to be from the Lohana tribe.
Gujarat being India’s first port, everyone traded. And Jains were among the dominant Hindu community, often naming their sons Jina, meaning victor from the root ‘jai’. Jinnah changed Jeenabhai to Jinnah and dropped Poonja; otherwise he would have been ‘Mohamedali Jeenabhai Poonja’.
The Lohana are the offspring of Ram’s son, Loh. Lahore is named after him, his name meaning ‘small’ because he was the younger son. The Lohana think their ancient territory was northwest of South Asia, stretching up to Afghanistan. Today, Jinnah is most popular in this stretch which is present-day Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2010.
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