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Shamim Ahmed in his article, “A Leaf from Jinnah’s Life” (Dawn, 1948), described Jinnah to be a supremely confident man who, before leaving for England to study Law, told his first cousin Fatima Ganji Vaji, “I will return a great man…”
Though he had first arrived in England to study business, he switched to law, leaving his father fuming.
On his return to India in 1896, the then 20-year-old Jinnah started to practice law in Bombay. He consciously began to cultivate an image of being a highly rational man who valued veracity and integrity.
Shamim Ahmed wrote that these traits that Jinnah proudly exhibited were initially informed by his admiration for late 19th century British Liberalism that he encountered in England; but they not only remained an important part of Jinnah’s make-up for the rest of his life, they actually became stronger with age.
Ahmed was not just blindly eulogising the founder of his country. The idea of a young Jinnah striving to nurture an upright image for himself is reflected in many of his utterings and manoeuvres (as a young lawyer) in the courts of Bombay.
Senior lawyer and author, Shariffuddin Pirzada, in his 1978 essay, Some Aspects of Quaid-i-Azam’s Life, narrates an incident in the court of Chief Justice Davis. Finding the courtroom packed to capacity, Justice Davis ordered that the doors of the room be closed.
Not agreeing with the order, Jinnah, the young lawyer, quickly retorted, ‘My Lord, the doors of justice should be kept open..!’
S Iqbal in an article on Jinnah (in an October 1952 edition of The llustrated Weekly of India) mentions that Jinnah had a firm but steady style of arguing his cases in the court, with a touch of dry wit and theatre. Iqbal suggests that Jinnah’s style in this regard was rooted in a (still) little known fact that when he was a student in London, Jinnah loved sophisticated Shakespearean theatre – so much so that he almost joined a Shakespearean theatrical company (as a budding stage actor).
His dream to become an acclaimed stage actor was cut short when his father came to know about it. Jinnah was ordered to go back to studying law. He grudgingly obliged because he had already annoyed his father when he switched to studying law instead of business.
The ironies of a post-Jinnah Pakistan have mostly to do with how the country that he founded eventually became almost exactly the opposite of what Jinnah as a person, lawyer and politician admired. The image of an honest and upright man steeped in the ways of modern law and constitutional manoeuvres that Jinnah enjoyed failed to rub off on the overall polity of Pakistan; and nor did his more cosmopolitan and rational understanding of his faith and creed.
One ruler after another that followed his demise (in 1948), disregarded constitutional processes and undermined the importance of having a strong and unbiased judiciary.
These, coupled with the demagogic ways faith was used to shape and reach purely cynical political positions, have moulded a society pierced with political and moral dichotomies and, at times, downright hypocrisy.
Most Indian historians believe that one should have expected this in a country whose demand emerged from a communal platform. But the truth is that the demand (for a separate Muslim-majority country in South Asia) was not quite communal as such because Jinnah and his party’s ideologues had treated “Muslimness” not as a theocratic concept, but more as a separate cultural and even quasi-ethnic entity, demanding its own land and state.
This is all too apparent in Jinnah’s first address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. But he did not live long to shape the country the way he saw it. After him, it struggled to evolve into becoming a Muslim-majority state where modern concepts of progress and law would seamlessly merge with the egalitarian notions of Islam; a country driven by a system informed by constitutionalism, pluralism and a rational reading of the Muslim scriptures.
Instead, over the decades, it has become a bastion of political Machiavellian obesity and, as some would rightly lament, numerous forms of moral hypocrisy.
Therefore so little is mentioned about one of Jinnah’s pet dislikes in the terribly rhetorical school textbooks that overtly eulogise only those aspects of Jinnah’s personality that seem to suit the manipulative ways of men who have unabashedly used historical forgery and distortion of faith to meet cynical political and social aims.
Never have I read in such textbooks how much Jinnah hated moral hypocrisy. And yet, if one studies history a lot more honestly, he or she is bound to stumble upon some very telling incidents in this respect.
For example, Aziz Beg in his book Jinnah and his Times (1986) writes how when during the month of Ramazan, Jinnah strolled out of the Constituent Assembly with a cigar in his hand, he was asked by some of his colleagues to extinguish it, but he refused, saying “I am not a hypocrite!”
Sense of integrity
During the height of his party’s movement to win a separate Muslim homeland, the party (The All India Muslim League) was offered a large sum of money (as donation) by a rich Muslim businessman. When Jinnah came to know that the man was rumoured to be a smuggler, he flatly refused the donation, saying, “We do not want even an anna of his money. My party does not accept silver bullets…”
Aziz also relates how once when someone mentioned how urbane, modern and well-dressed Jinnah seemed compared to the modest looks and attire of Mahatma Gandhi, Jinnah retorted with his archetypical dry wit: “It is costing the nation to keep Gandhi in a state of poverty. He is fasting in a marble palace. It is like Jesus Christ going to crucifixion in a Rolls Royce.”
Despite his cosmopolitan outlook and aloof patrician demeanour, Jinnah’s sense of integrity, uprightness and honesty were admired even by his staunchest opponents.
For example, Indian historian SK Datta (an opponent of Jinnah’s “Two Nation Theory”) has a separate sub-chapter in his 2002 book on Pakistan that just eulogises Jinnah’s disposition as a man of integrity and honesty.
Even when Jinnah became the all-powerful Governor General of Pakistan, he would make sure to ask his chauffer to stop the car at a red light every time his motorcade came across a traffic signal on the roads of Karachi.
I believe Jinnah’s Pakistan can be discovered in such small but telling incidents, rather than in the rhetorical flourishes that eulogise him not for what he really was, but how many would have liked him to be.
This article was originally published on Dawn.com.