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Pervez Hoodbhoy on Jinnah
As you know, there has been a great deal of controversy in India
over the remarks Advani made about Jinnah, during his recent visit
In this context, you may be interested in reviewing comments about
Jinnah Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy made to an Indian newspaper.
Many of you would recall that Dr. Hoodbhoy is a Pakistani physicist.
Besides making the two widely acclaimed documentaries ("Pakistan and
India under the Nuclear Shadow", and "Crossing the Lines - Kashmir,
Pakistan, India"), he has authored a number of publications and
lectured widely to promote science education, better environmental
policies, women's rights and education. In 2003, some of his
contribution was recognized with an award of UNESCO’s Kalinga Prize.
More info about him and his writings can be found at
Pritam K. Rohila, Ph. D.
1. Ordinary Pakistanis are told that Jinnah was a true Muslim and
wanted to establish an Islamic state in Pakistan? Do you agree with
that argument, if not, why?
Fifty eight years after Partition there still does not exist in
Pakistan a legal definition of a Muslim, much less a true Muslim (or
momin). Hence the above question is fundamentally unanswerable. As
for Mohammed Ali Jinnah: he must be accepted as a Muslim because he
was born one and maintained that he was one by belief. He did so in
the face of aspersions cast upon him by his political opponents,
such as Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, who claimed that his westernized
lifestyle amounted to un-Islamic behaviour.
2. Did Mr. Jinnah want Pakistan to become a theological state?
Until 1981, when General Zia-ul-Haq decreed that the goal of
Pakistan was the creation of a complete Islamised state run
according to the Shariah, it would have been laughable to suggest
that Mr. Jinnah wanted the rule of the clergy. But subsequently
facts were turned upside down. Desperate attempts were made to put
the fundamentalist cloak on him. But the truth is that nobody had
ever before called him an alim (religious scholar) because he had
not studied the fiqh and shariah. His leadership of the Muslim
League owed to his superb ability in English, not his barely
understandable Urdu (much less Arabic or Farsi). While he did allude
to Islamic principles of fairplay and justice, these were in
general, vague terms. For example, to the Sibi Darbar in 1948,
Jinnah said: "Let us lay
the foundations of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic
ideals and principles. Our Almighty has taught is that our decisions
in the affairs of the state shall be guided by discussion and
consultations." Note that he did not try to argue in the style of
Islamic scholars by quoting precedents, or verses from the Quran and
3. In his personal life Jinnah was very liberal and secular, but his
public posture was quiet different? Why did he have that
contradiction in his personal life and public life?
Had Jinnah campaigned for a liberal, secular Pakistan there is no
doubt that he would have lost the leadership of the Pakistan
Movement. He knew this well, but probably thought that: a)people
would not notice his lifestyle too much, b)that the contribution he
was making to the welfare of Muslims was the crucially important
thing, and, c)that a liberal, secular Pakistan would one day follow
once the messy business of partition was over with and it was
unnecessary to raise that issue now.
4. Was Jinnah in favour of dividing the sub-continent on religious
His Two-Nation theory was exactly that. He said that Hindus and
Muslim could not live together as one nation. I personally think he
was wrong. But he was juggling many balls at the same time. In the
same 1948 Data Darbar speech that I quoted above, Jinnah was quite
emphatic: "Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state, to be
ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims -
Hindus, Christians, and Parsis but they are all Pakistanis. They
will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens as
any other citizens and will play their rightful part
in the affairs of Pakistan." Given that Jinnah's wife and daughter
were Parsis, he could scarcely have wanted a constitution that would
have made them second-class citizens.
5. For a man who demanded a separate state for Muslims, don't you
think that a belief in the notion of an Islamic state must have been
at the back of Jinnah's mind?
As my late friend and guru, Eqbal Ahmed, often pointed out, in his
earlier years Jinnah was adamantly opposed to the use by Gandhiji of
religious symbols in politics. Ironically, it was Jinnah, then a
Congress leader, who warned against such spiritualization of Indian
politics. He was right. A deeply divisive view of the world
naturally emerged once the terms of discourse shifted in this way.
As India approached independence, leaders of sectarian outlook and
sentiments such as Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad
gained commanding positions in the Congress.
6. What was his vision for the infant state?
Here, I will differ with the conventional wisdom in Pakistan - I
think that Jinnah was a man of strong will and impeccable integrity
who wrenched Pakistan out of the hands of the unwilling British and
Congress. But he was no visionary. He did not give to Pakistan what
Jawaharlal Nehru gave to India. He left behind no blueprints for
creating a modern, progressive state that would emphasize education,
science, and modernity. It is heresy to say this in Pakistan, but
that is the truth. A track record of nearly six decades stands as