This year on August 14th, Pakistan turned 72 years old. This “Land of the Pure” exists due to one man by the name of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Historian Stanley Wolpert once stated, “it is rare for one man to change the course of history, rarer still for an individual to modify the map of the world and hardly anyone can be credited with creating by force of will alone, a nation state”. Taking oath on August 15th, 1947 as the first governor general of the new nation of Pakistan, Jinnah managed to accomplish all three. Growing up as a Pakistani American, my maternal grandparents often spoke of “Qaid -e- Azam”, the father of our nation. Every Pakistani I have ever met, young or old, has always admired and respected him.
I remember listening to my grandparents speak about the Partition. They said that after the British left India, there was a lot of violence and tension between Hindus and Muslims, but it was not very different from the violence and chaos in India when it was under the British rule. According to my grandparents, Jinnah gave Muslims hope and a way to escape by trying to create a separate nation for them.
I remember visiting Pakistan for the very first time in May 2009. Naturally, since I was told that without Jinnah there would have been no Pakistan, it only felt right to visit his marble mausoleum in Karachi. It was then that I began to research further about Jinnah and asked my maternal grandparents more questions about him since they both had seen him and experienced the Partition.
Through research, I came to know that unfortunately, modern Pakistan is not what Jinnah envisioned his nation to be. In fact, Jinnah never had in mind an exclusively autonomous,separate Islamic state. He simply foresaw a much stronger voice and influence for Muslims in a greater India.
Part of what led to the separation was the pre-Victorian and Victorian fascination for classification. This mania was proven to be rational for the post-enlightenment world that imposed “order” in many endeavours, from engineering to natural sciences, and was even exemplified by the codification of rules of sport. For India however, it had wider consequences.
Agents often resorted to the use of religion as a means of classification, over and above alternatives such as caste, geography or region, occupation etc. This may have been a reflection of British values, as the religious Catholic and Protestant divide was very prominent in British politics and society.
The more the religion was used as a means of classification and for imperial bureaucratic ends, the greater significance it took over other forces or ways of understanding India. Through this, political structures began to take religious forms for Indians; this was quickest way of gaining power and influence under the imperial system. Thus, being Hindu or Muslim took on greater import, especially after the British rule was over.
Jinnah attempted to ensure that the influence and significance of Muslims was not drowned under Hindu majority. By this time, religious preachers already controlled and influenced Muslim community. Naturally, they promoted faith and strict fidelity to Islamic values, which thereby shifted the balance between the more secular minded and the more devout.
With the arrival of Mountbatten, his urgency to speed up British withdrawal and his disregard for complexities, all the pieces fell in place for Partition. A permanent crack rushed through all along religious grounds. According to Jinnah’s diaries, he was not a hundred percent comfortable with the decision to create a separate country, and many of his diary entries assume that he had some aspiration for a post-British Greater India.
The Partition solution was perhaps not his most favoured option, but it was the best he felt he could secure within the imposing deadlines set by the overbearing Mountbatten. Jinnah felt that he had to act quickly. With the Congress also in favour of it, Partition took place.
Today, unfortunately, Pakistan is often associated with extremism and military rule. It seems as if when Jinnah passed away on September 11th, 1948, leaving his nation just one year old, his vision of a progressive and secular nation died with him. Seventy-two years later, India is economically powerful and advancing, while Pakistan remains trapped by the contradiction which led to its creation, and in control of its military. Jinnah’s faith in separation as a solution to the issues between Indians and Muslims was perhaps misplaced.
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