INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

August 3, 2014

11 AUGUST 1947: AN INTERPRETIVE ESSAY TO RECLAIM PAKISTAN

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:16 am

jinnah-11August1947

Much has been written on Qaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Inaugural Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. The contents have oft been deliberately obscured and sometimes debated with reference to other speeches. The objectives have either been to reinforce or demonise views of the Father of the Nation. Ultra-rightist considers it a figment of imagination. Others absorb it as a genuine directive by Jinnah at grassroots to make Pakistan truly egalitarian. 67 years hence, Pakistan’s political evolution is a reflection of this debate wherein every school of thought has attempted to envision Jinnah’s Pakistan in the context of its political leanings. Inasmuch as Pakistan’s politic body has been raped, fissured, dissected and divided, Jinnah’s speech and vision of Pakistan has suffered no differently.

To lay the foundations in a Pakistan just born and about which analysts cast serious doubts, Jinnah laid guidelines that are equally important. He said that, “The Constituent Assembly has got two main functions to perform. The first is the very onerous and responsible task of framing the future constitution of Pakistan and the second of functioning as a full and complete sovereign body as the Federal Legislature of Pakistan”. Jinnah clarified that the role of the Assembly was legislation. Successive assemblies could neither frame a constitution nor allay the forces of exploitation in the society. Once in power through adoption of the parliamentary system, political parties preferred executive powers to expand their clout.

Jinnah knew that Pakistan needed to take a start from zero from solid foundations. He elaborated this vision by saying, “You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State”. He continued, “One of the biggest curses from which India is  … is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so”. He said, “Black-marketing is another curse. I think they ought to be very severely punished, because the entire system of control and regulation of foodstuffs and essential commodities, and cause wholesale starvation and want, and even death”. He declared emphatically, “I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism or any any influence directly or indirectly brought to bear upon me”. Unfortunately, rulers of Pakistan did the opposite. The people of the country are not secure, corruption is rampant, consumer cartels proliferate and jobbery and nepotism abhorred by Jinnah, a gateway to success.

The people of the country were Jinnah’s major constituency. He underlined their importance by declaring, “Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor… If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make”. Unfortunately, after his demise, what emerged is a fractured, divided and an insecure Pakistan that successive governments have failed to deliver. The people upon whom Jinnah made the foundations are abandoned.

Commentators ignore the fact that this speech was made in the backdrop of partition of United India on the basis of two religious identities ie Hindu and Muslim. In his later clarifications Jinnah asserted that Muslims living in India were under an obligation to remain loyal citizens of India as were Hindus residing in Pakistan accepted as equal citizens. He initiated a template on respective Hindu-Muslim Majority areas where religious, ethnic, sectarian and other minority groups would be elevated as equal citizens. Rather than religions, he was attacking the class system of the sub-continent based on caste and feudalism that made the region vulnerable to colonialism. He made a final dash to forestall large scale communal migrations. He was adamant that religious minorities elevated to equality, had better socio-economic prospects in Pakistan than in India. Here was a challenge he threw at Congress that Pakistan was prepared to positively compete with India in a classless society. He went on to say: –

“We should begin to work in that spirit, and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community – because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalees, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence, and but for this we would have been free people long long ago…Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this”. Little did Jinnah know that despite his message of co-existence designed to bringing an end to religious identities in the sub-continent, the communal migration would lead to some of the worst human atrocities of the century? No government in India or Pakistan has persevered to obliterate the class system mainly because it is anathema to elitist interests.

For Jinnah, Pakistan existed the day he made his speech. He said, “We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”. Reinforcing the communitarian and egalitarian spirit of Pakistan Jinnah desired, “You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” But these were not just words.

Jinnah manifested this vision by appointing Joghendara Nath Mandal, a Bengali Hindu as his first Federal Law Minister,  Chaudary Chandu Lall a Christian as Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Sir Zaffar Ullah as his foreign Minister and Samuel Martin Burke of Shahkot as his diplomat at large. He engaged the Christian Goan community of Karachi to set up Pakistan Railways, Police and District Admirations. Very few know that after hoisting the national flag on 14 August 1947, he joined Mr. Gibbons a member of the Constituent Assembly to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for thanksgiving. It was the first and last time in Pakistan’s history that such diversity existed at the highest levels of Pakistan’s politic body.

There is an attempt to obscure Jinnah’s historic address as Minorities Day. It is in fact a NATIONAL INTEGRATION DAY. Azadi March is an opportunity to turn back the clock to Jinnah Ka Pakistan.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://www.nation.com.pk/columns/02-Aug-2014/august-s-social-contract

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