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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH

By Zawwar Zaidi


Curriculum Vitae

MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH FEARLESSLY championed nationalist causes from his debut in Indian politics at the turn of the century to his death in 1948. As a member of the Indian National Congress delegation to England in 1906, the barrister pleaded India's case for constitutional advancement with its colonial rulers. His advocacy of such causes won him national acclaim and he came to be called an "apostle of Indian self-government."

In 1913, Jinnah joined the seven-year-old All-India Muslim League. His first contribution was to write the goal of "attainment of self-government" into the League's constitution; this was a Congress goal too. He consistently advocated communal harmony; his enduring commitment to democratic ideals earned him accolades around the country. C.R. Reddy, a Hindu leader, wrote: "He is the pride of India and not the private possession of the Muslims."

But Mohandas Gandhi changed the pattern of Indian politics with his emphasis on Hindu principles. He drove Jinnah, the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity," to become the apostle of Muslim separatism. Jinnah resigned from the Congress party in 1920, and by the end of the 1930s had emerged as the supreme leader of India's Muslims. During the fight for independence from Britain, Congress insistence on concentrating future power in the center caused deep anxiety among Muslims. The League believed that such a system of governance would reduce Muslim-majority provinces in India to "clay in the hands of the potter."

Jinnah's attempts to form some kind of power-sharing arrangement with Jawaharlal Nehru's Congress party were rebuffed. Nehru arrogantly declared that the contest was between imperialism and Congress, and that all others should line up. In such an atmosphere Jinnah galvanized the ramshackle Muslim League into a mass movement. The League needed a national policy as well as a rallying goal. Jinnah supplied both. The League demanded a separate state for Muslims and so it came to be. This was Jinnah's monumental achievement.

Jinnah differed from most contemporary leaders in that he was committed to substance rather than symbol, reason rather than emotion, modernity rather than tradition. His was a pragmatic vision. His concept of Pakistan was predicated on the ideals of egalitarianism and social justice. He slammed the reactionary attitude of the feudal landlords and capitalists who thrived on a "vicious" and "wicked" system. Distressed by the abject poverty of the masses, he was moved to say: "Is this civilization? Is this the aim of Pakistan? If that is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it."

Jinnah led the new country but he was averse to imposing his views on the future constitution. He believed that the Constituent Assembly should frame the basic law. He did, however, visualize a nation that would be democratic and would be ruled by a "people's government." Pakistan was not to be a theocracy. He welcomed political opposition as "a bulwark against tyranny."

Jinnah was extremely sensitive to the rights of the minorities. He assured Hindus and Christians who remained in Pakistan after Partition that they would be "treated with justice, nay, with generosity." He affirmed unequivocally that all people living in Pakistan, no matter their religious persuasion, would be treated as equal citizens of the state.

Jinnah was never careless with money, even when he was an affluent barrister in Bombay. Proper accounts of even ordinary items - such as bread, butter and fruit - were maintained. If the grapefruit from the trees at his home were to be plucked while he was away, he would like to know their exact number. As Pakistan's governor-general, he remained as prudent and discreet in the expenditure of public money as he had been in his own. He decided that Pakistan could not afford a 1.5 million-rupee aircraft to transport its leader. To him public money was a sacred trust to be used for public good, not for private profit or personal gratification.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah led India's Muslims through a time of torment and transformation. He fashioned a nation out of a mob, as it were, brilliantly argued its case in history's court, founded a state and, to his dying day, struggled to ensure its survival with honor. In modern history, perhaps no nation owes so much to one man as Pakistan does to its founder, the Quaid-i-Azam. As Stanley Wolpert, the American scholar, wrote: "Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three."

Dr. Zawwar Zaidi is editor-in-chief of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah Papers in Pakistan's archives.


MOHAMMAD ALI JINNAH

•Born in Karachi, British India, in 1876

•Joined Muslim League in 1913, while still a member of Indian National Congress

•Resigned from Congress in 1920 and began advocating a separate Muslim state •Served as first governor-general of newly created Pakistan in 1947

•Died in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1948

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