By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 01 Nov, 2009
Had the Mideast and S.Asia heeded Jinnah’s advice on religion and state the world may have been in better shape today. —Photo by AFP
Of late, amidst the murder and mayhem accompanied by an absence of government or any signs of governance, a group of citizens has been circulating an email message exhorting whoever to ‘bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’.
Now, to bring back something that existed for a mere moment in the life of this nation is more than difficult at a time when the national mindset is what it is.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan was denounced six months after his death when the Objectives Resolution was passed, negating the words he had so eloquently spoken to his constituent assembly on Aug 11 1947: ‘… You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’ Thus, willy-nilly, the state was made the custodian of religion.
In the early 1950s, the British writer Hector Bolitho was commissioned by the government to write an official biography of Jinnah. It was published in 1954. Such was the moral dishonesty and hypocrisy that had taken a firm hold and rooted itself in the country’s psyche that the ruling clique of the day perverted Jinnah’s words, and printed in the book was this version of the quoted sentence: ‘You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.’
In April 1962, the days of President Gen Ayub Khan, came a lessening of the prevailing hypocrisy and the government press department published a collection of Jinnah’s speeches as governor general of Pakistan. The Aug 11, 1947 speech was printed in full in its original version. (These speeches were reprinted by the government of Benazir Bhutto and released for sale in 1989.)
In 1984, when wily Ziaul Haq ruled, came the finest biography of Jinnah so far written. Prof Stanley Wolpert’s well-researched book, Jinnah of Pakistan, was published in the US by Oxford University Press and 500 copies were sent to Pakistan to be released for sale.
Prior to its release, two copies were sent by OUP to the information ministry seeking permission to reprint locally. The minions of this pernicious ministry, which should not exist, took exception to certain passages in the book in which our founder-maker’s personal tastes and habits were mentioned.
The 498 copies of the book lying with OUP were removed from their storeroom and reprinting of course denied. To top this crass idiocy, Wolpert was approached and asked to delete the offending passages so that it could be reprinted and sold. Naturally, Wolpert’s response was that as a scholar he was unable to compromise on basic principles and any deletion/amendment was out of the question.
Thus the book effectively remained banned in Pakistan until in 1989, when, to give full credit to Benazir and her government, permission was given to OUP to reprint and the book was released for sale. Zia’s was an exercise in pure futility.
Our large neighbour also has blinkered intolerant elements in its midst. There is a long list of books that are banned in India, amongst them Stanley Wolpert’s ‘factional’ novel on the assassination of Gandhi, Nine Hours to Rama, which was banned by the government in 1962. And now, this August, two days after its release the government of the Indian state of Gujarat saw fit to issue a notification ‘forfeiting’ and ‘prohibiting’ Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence (Mr Singh was also expelled by his party, the BJP).
The book was banned with immediate effect and in the wider public interest because it was alleged that its contents are highly objectionable, against the national interest, misleading, distort historical fact and that it is defamatory in regard to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is largely regarded as the architect of modern India.
Mr Singh swiftly approached the Indian Supreme Court challenging the ban on the grounds of the violation of fundamental rights. The court issued a notice to the Gujrat government. In the meantime, an appeal was submitted to the Gujrat High Court which struck down the ban. With the Gujrat government prevaricating, the matter remains before the supreme court.
Now, to the bringing back in totality of Jinnah’s Pakistan — that we can never do as half of his Pakistan was shorn by the collusion of our politicians and army generals, the deadly mixture of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Gen Yahya Khan who threw away East Pakistan through a lust for power coupled by incompetence and insensitivity. What can be saved, if we had the leadership to do so, is the spirit of Jinnah’s Pakistan as expressed by him on that distant August day.
Had a large part of the Middle Eastern region and parts of South Asia been able to heed Jinnah’s words that religion, caste and creed ‘has nothing to do with the business of the state’ the world may well have been in better shape today. It is possible that the extremism that has galloped away in these areas would not have taken root had various states not been allowed to force upon the world their dangerously distorted version of a religion.
As for Pakistan, the Objectives Resolution forms the preamble to ZAB’s constitution and was additionally inserted as an annex by Ziaul Haq. Then we have ZAB’s second amendment to his constitution which reinforces bigotry and intolerance. No government has been strong enough to take on the mullah fraternity whose grip has strengthened with the years. To bring us back to Jinnah’s Pakistan, we must have a revolution — a revolution of the national mindset and a latter-day Ataturk to ensure that it is successful.