|Biographical detail : ||Father of the Nation Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s achievement as the founder of Pakistan, dominates everything else he did in his long and crowded public life spanning some 42 years. Yet, by any standard, his was an eventful life, his personality multi-dimensional and his achievements in other fields were many, if not equally great.
Indeed, several were the roles he had played with distinction: at one time or another, he was one of the greatest legal luminaries India had produced during the first half of the century, an ‘ambassador’ of Hindu-Muslim unity, a great constitutionalist, a distinguished parliamentarian, a top-notch politician, an indefatigable freedom-fighter, a dynamic Muslim leader, a political strategist and, above all one of the great nation-builders of modern times.
What, however, makes him so remarkable is the fact that while similar other leaders assumed the leadership of traditionally well-defined nations and espoused their cause, or led them to freedom, he created a nation out of an inchoate and down-trodden minority and established a cultural and national home for it. He seemed on the way to leading India; he founded Pakistan instead. And all that within a decade. For over three decades before the successful culmination in 1947, of the Muslim struggle for freedom in the South Asian subcontinent, Jinnah had provided political leadership to the Indian Muslims: initially as one of the leaders, but later, since 1947, as the only prominent leader – the Quaid-i-Azam, (great leader), a title he truly deserved. For over thirty years, he had guided their affairs; he had given expression, coherence and direction to their legitimate aspirations and cherished dreams; he had formulated these into concrete demands; and, above all, he had striven all the while to get them conceded by both the ruling British and the numerous Hindus the dominant segment of India’s population. And for over thirty years he had fought, relentlessly and inexorably for the inherent rights of the Muslims for honourable existence in the subcontinent. Indeed, his life story constitutes, as it were, the story of the rebirth of the subcontinent and their spectacular rise to nationhood, phoenix like.
Born Mahomedali Jinnahbhai, in a Shia Khoja family from Gujrat, in Karachi. His father packed him off to England in January 1893 to work as an apprentice bookkeeper in a leading managing agency. He soon abandoned accounts books in favour of study at Lincoln’s Inn and became a barrister. Before long he had adjusted his name to the lifelong M A Jinnah, and forsaken his Sindhi tunic and turban for smart hand-tailored suits, starched collars etc. He came close to staying in England and taking up a career, only being dissuaded by strong pressure from his father. He left London in the summer of 1895.
Jinnah was not close to his family except his younger sister Fatima, who shared his political life in his later years as “his sister-confidante, nursemaid, sounding board, and defender-against-the-outside-world”. Success came quickly in the courtroom partially because people were afraid of his precise, powerful, anglicised and aloof manner. Jinnah attended a meeting of the political campaigning organisation the Indian National Congress in Bombay in 1904, and was immediately marked out as a promising newcomer. He made a visit at Calcutta seminar of Congress in 1906. He gained a reputation of an uncompromising but resolutely non-communal and secular politician. Joined Muslim League in 1913. Worked for the unity of Congress and Muslim League, as evident from Lucknow pact in 1916. Resigned from Congress in 1920. In 1935 and again in 1937 his efforts to bring Congress and Muslim league together came to a naught, because of Congress leadership. Gokhale gave the title of “Ambassador of Hindu Muslims unity” to him.
Later Jinnah’s point was that Muslims could not simply rely on promises of Hindu goodwill in a free India: they needed legal protection written into law, to avoid the dictatorship by the majority. He stressed that it was up to the Hindus to be generous, since a minority ‘cannot give anything to the majority’. Jinnah made a strong speech at Lucknow in October 1937, leading to the passing of a resolution demanding, for the first time, “the establishment in India of full independence in the form of a federation of free democratic state in which the rights and interests of Muslims were paramount”. First demand for Pakistan, as an independent country, came in on 23 March 1940 at the Lahore League session. In 1942, he made a “stylistically forceful statement”:
“The difference between Hindus and the Muslims is deep-rooted and in eradicable. We are a nation of our own distinctive culture and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions.”
On 14 August 1948, Jinnah, in his last message, addressed the nation, with a sense of supreme satisfaction at the fulfilment of his mission: “The foundations of your State have been laid and it is now for you to build as quickly and as well as you can.” In accomplishing the task he had taken upon himself on the morrow of Pakistan’s birth, Jinnah had worked himself to death, but he had, to quote Richard Symons, “contributed more than any other man to Pakistan’s survival.”
On his death on 11 September 1948, Lord Pethick Lawrence, the former Secretary of State for India, said that, “Gandhi died by the hands of an assassin; Jinnah died by his devotion to Pakistan.” The Aga Khan considered him “the greatest man he ever met,” Beverley Nichols, the author of ‘Verdict on India’, called him, “the most important man in Asia, and Dr. Kailashnath Katju, the West Bengal Governor in 1948, thought of him as “an outstanding figure of this century not only in India, but in the whole world.” While Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, called him “one of the greatest leaders in the Muslim world”, the Grand Mufti of Palestine considered his death as a “great loss” to the entire world of Islam. It was, however, given to Sarat Chandra Bose, leader of the Forward Bloc wing of the Indian National Congress, to sum up succinctly his personal and political achievements. “Mr Jinnah”, he said on his death, “was great as lawyer, once great as a Congressman, great as a leader of Muslims, great as a world politician and diplomat, and greatest of all a man of action. By Mr Jinnah’s passing away, the world has lost one of the greatest statesmen and Pakistan its life-giver, philosopher and guide.”
“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. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three ..... Jinnah virtually conjured that country into statehood by the force of his indomitable will”.