The Truth About the Founder of Pakistan

The Truth About the Founder of Pakistan |

Many scholars have spilled much ink on Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. A giant has now waded into the fray and penned a masterpiece. 

Ishtiaq Ahmed is a professor emeritus at Stockholm University who first made his name with a pathbreaking book, “The Pakistan Garrison State: Origins, Evolution, Consequences.” He then went on to pen the award-winning “The Punjab Bloodied Partitioned and Cleansed,” a tour de force on the partition of Punjab in 1947. Now, Ahmed has published “Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History,” a magisterial 800-page tome on Pakistan’s founder.

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Ahmed is a meticulous scholar who has conducted exhaustive research on the writings and utterances of Jinnah from the moment he entered public life. Pertinently, Ahmed notes the critical moments when Jinnah “spoke” by choosing to remain quiet, using silence as a powerful form of communication. More importantly, Ahmed has changed our understanding of the history of the Indian subcontinent.

Setting the Record Straight

Until now, scholars like Stanley Wolpert, Hector Bolitho and Ayesha Jalal have painted a pretty picture of Jinnah, putting him on a pedestal and raising him to mythical status. Wolpert wrote, “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three.” Both Wolpert and Bolitho argued that Jinnah created Pakistan. Jalal has argued that “Jinnah did not want Partition.” She claims Jinnah became the sole spokesman of Muslims and the Congress Party forced partition upon him. 

Jalal’s claim has become a powerful myth on both sides of the border. In this myth, the Congress in general and India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in particular opted for partition instead of sharing power with the Muslim League and Jinnah. Jalal makes the case that “Punjab and Bengal would have called the shots” instead of Uttar Pradesh, making the emergence of the Nehru dynasty impossible. Her claim that “the Congress basically cut the Muslim problem down to size through Partition” has cast Jinnah into the role of a tragic hero who had no choice but to forge Indian Muslims into a qaum, a nation, and create Pakistan.

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The trouble with Jalal’s compelling argument is that it is not based on facts. She fails to substantiate her argument with even one of Jinnah’s speeches, statements or messages. Ahmed’s close examination of the historical record demonstrates that Jinnah consistently demanded the partition of British India into India and Pakistan after March 22, 1940. Far from the idea of Nehru forcing partition on a reluctant Jinnah, it was an intransigent Jinnah who pushed partition upon everyone else.

Ahmed goes on to destroy Jalal’s fictitious claim that Nehru engineered the partition of both Punjab and Bengal to establish his dynasty. Punjab’s population was 33.9 million, of which 41% was Hindu and Sikh. Bengal’s population was 70.5 million, of which 48% was Hindu. The population of United Provinces (UP), modern-day Uttar Pradesh, was 102 million, of which Hindus formed an overwhelming 86%. When Bihar, Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency, Central Provinces, Gujarat and other states are taken into account, the percentage of the Hindu population was overwhelming. In 1941, the total Muslim population of British India was only 24.9%. This means that Nehru would have become prime minister even if India had stayed undivided.

Ahmed attests another fact to buttress his argument that Nehru’s so-called dynastic ambitions had nothing to do with the partition. When Nehru died, Gulzarilal Nanda became interim prime minister before Lal Bahadur Shastri took charge. During this time in power, Nehru did not appoint Indira Gandhi as a minister. It was Kumaraswami Kamaraj, a Congress Party veteran, and other powerful regional satraps who engineered the ascent of Indira Gandhi to the throne. These Congress leaders believed that Nehru’s daughter would be weak, allowing them greater say over party affairs than their eccentric colleague Morarji Desai. Once Indira Gandhi took over, she proved to be authoritarian, ruthless and dynastic. By blaming the father for the sins of the daughter, Jalal demonstrates that she neither understands India’s complex demography nor its complicated history.

To get to “the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about India’s partition, we have to read Ahmed. This fastidious scholar analyzes everything Jinnah wrote and said from 1906 onward, the year Pakistan’s founder entered into public life. Ahmed identifies four stages in Jinnah’s career. In the first, Jinnah began as an Indian nationalist. In the second, he turned into a Muslim communitarian. In the third, Jinnah transformed himself into a Muslim nationalist. In the fourth and final stage, he emerged as the founder of Pakistan where he is revered as Quaid-i-Azam, the great leader, and Baba-i-Qaum, the father of the nation.

Ahmed is a political scientist by training. Hence, his analysis of each stage of Jinnah’s life is informed both by historical context and political theory. Jinnah’s rise in Indian politics occurred at a time when leaders like Motilal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Subhas Chandra Bose were also major players in India’s political life and struggle for freedom. Jinnah’s role in the tortured machinations toward dominion status and then full independence makes for fascinating reading. Ahmed also captures the many ideas that impinged on the Indian imagination in those days from Gandhi’s nonviolence, Jinnah’s religious nationalism and Nehru’s Fabian socialism.

Jinnah’s Tortured Journey

As an Indian nationalist, Jinnah argued that religion had no role in politics. His crowning achievement during these days was the 1916 Lucknow Pact. Together with Congress leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Jinnah forged a Hindu-Muslim agreement that “postulated complete self-government as India’s goal.” That year, Jinnah declared that India was “not to be governed by Hindus, and … it [was] not to be governed by the Muslims either, or certainly not by the English. It must be governed by the people and the sons of this country.” Jinnah advocated constitutionalism, not mass mobilization, as a way to achieve this ideal. 

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When the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of World War I, Indian Muslims launched a mass movement to save this empire. Among them was Jinnah who sailed to England as part of the Muslim League delegation in 1919 to plead that the Ottoman Empire not be dismembered and famously described the dismemberment of the empire as an attack on Islam. 

To support the caliph, Indian Muslim leaders launched the Khilafat Movement. Soon, this turned into a mass movement, which Gandhi joined with much enthusiasm. Indian leaders were blissfully unaware that their movement ran contrary to the nationalistic aspirations of Turks and Arabs themselves.

Later, Islam would emerge as the basis of a rallying cry in Indian politics. The nationalist Jinnah started singing a different tune: He argued that Muslims were a distinct community from Hindus and sought constitutional safeguards to prevent Hindu majoritarianism from dominating. In the 1928 All Parties Conference that decided upon India’s future constitution, Jinnah argued that residuary powers should be vested in the provinces, not the center, in order to prevent Hindu domination of the entire country. Ahmed meticulously documents how the British used a strategy of divide and rule, ensuring that the chasm between the Congress and the Muslim League would become unbridgeable.

As India turned to mass politics under Gandhi, Jinnah retreated to England. After a few quiet years there, he returned to India in 1934 and was elected to the Central Legislative Assembly, the precursor to the parliaments of both India and Pakistan. Jinnah argued that there were four parties in India: the British, the Indian princes, the Hindus and the Muslims. He took the view that the Congress represented the Hindus while the Muslim League spoke for the Muslims.

Importantly, Jinnah now claimed that no one except the Muslim League spoke for the Muslims. This severely undercut Muslim leaders in the Congress. Jinnah had a visceral hatred for the erudite Congress leader Azad, who was half Arab and a classically-trained Islamic scholar with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Quran, the hadith and the various schools of Islamic thought. Furthermore, Azad’s mastery of the Urdu language stood unrivaled. He wrote voluminously in this pan-national Muslim lingua franca. In contrast, Jinnah was an anglicized lawyer who wrote in English and spoke poor Urdu.

Jinnah’s argument that the Muslim League was the only party that could represent Muslims was not only conceptually flawed, but also empirically inaccurate. Muslims in Bengal, Punjab, Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) supported and voted for regional political parties, not the Muslim League. In fact, voters gave the Muslim League a drubbing in 1937. This hardened Jinnah’s attitude, as did the mass contact program with Muslims that the Congress launched under Nehru. When the Congress broke its gentleman’s agreement with the Muslim League to form a coalition government in United Provinces (UP) after winning an absolute majority, Jinnah turned incandescent.

In retrospect, the decision of the Congress to go it alone in UP was a major blunder. After taking office, the Congress started hoisting its flag instead of the Union Jack and disallowed governors from attending cabinet meetings. Many leaders of the Muslim League joined the Congress, infuriating Jinnah. He drew up a list of Congress actions that he deemed threatening to Islam. These included the Muslim mass contact campaign, the singing of Vande Mataram, Gandhi’s Wardha Scheme of Basic Education and restrictions on cow slaughter. Jinnah came to the fateful decision that he could no longer truck with the Congress and the die was cast for a dark era in Indian history.

The Two-Nation Champion

In March 1940, Jinnah threw down the gauntlet to the Congress. At a speech in Lahore, he argued that India’s unity was artificial, it dated “back only to the British conquest” and was “maintained by the British bayonet.” He asserted that “Hindus and Muslims brought together under a democratic system forced upon the minorities can only mean Hindu Raj.” 

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In this speech, Jinnah argued that Hindus and Muslims belonged “to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.” He claimed that Muslims were “a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory, and their state.” Ahmed rightly points out that this speech was Jinnah’s open declaration of his politics of polarization. From now on, Jinnah had set the stage for the division of India.

Ahmed also goes into the claims of Chaudhry Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, popularly known as Sir Zafarullah, an Ahmadi leader who was Pakistan’s first foreign minister. Khan and his admirers have claimed credit for the Muslim League’s Lahore resolution for Pakistan, following Jinnah’s historic speech. It turns out that Khan was implicitly supported by British Viceroy Lord Linlithgow who cultivated Khan and extended his tenure as a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. This indicates that Jinnah’s bid for Pakistan had the support of a canny Scot who wanted Indian participation in World War II, something the Congress was opposed to without the promise of postwar independence.

While Jalal might trumpet Jinnah as the sole spokesman of the Muslims, the historical record reveals a very different picture. Within a month of Jinnah’s Lahore speech, the All India Azad Muslim Conference met in Delhi. Its attendance was five times that of the Muslim League’s Lahore session. This conference opposed partition, repudiated Jinnah’s two-nation theory and made a strong case for a united India.

Others argued for a united India too. Ahmed tells us that Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the towering Dalit social reformer who drafted India’s constitution, reversed his position on partition and on Pakistan. After the Lahore resolution, Ambedkar wrote a 400-page piece titled “Thoughts on Pakistan” that advised Hindus to concede Pakistan to the Muslims. By 1945, Ambedkar had come to the view that “there was already a Pakistan” in the Muslim-majority states. As a Dalit, he also turned against the hierarchy in the Muslim community where the high-born Ashrafs lorded it over the low-born Ajlafs and women had very limited rights.

Jinnah took the haughty view that Muslims were not a large minority but a political nation entitled to self-determination. In 1941, he claimed that Muslims “took India and ruled for 700 years.” So, they were not asking the Hindus for anything. He was making the demand to the British, the rulers of India. Jinnah might have been arrogant but he had a genius for propaganda. He constantly fed the press with stories about impending dangers to Muslims once the Congress took over, fueling insecurities, distrust and division.

While Jinnah was ratcheting up the pressure, the Congress made a series of political blunders. It vacated the political space when World War II broke out in 1939. Gandhi idealistically opposed the British while Jinnah collaborated with them, extracting valuable concessions from his colonial masters. When Field Marshal Archibald Wavell took over from Lord Linlithgow as the Viceroy, Jinnah wormed himself into Wavell’s confidence. It helped that Wavell despised the anti-colonial Congress. Ahmed observes that this British general “wanted to ensure that Britain’s military interest in the form of bases and manpower was secured.” Jinnah offered him that option while Gandhi did not. 

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Jinnah was bloody-minded and shrewd but he was also plain lucky. Many of those who could have contested his leadership simply passed away. Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi, an aristocrat from the historic city of Lahore and a founder of the Muslim League, died in 1932. Sir Mian Fazl-i-Husain, a founding member of Punjab’s Unionist Party who served as counselor to the British Viceroy, died in 1936. Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, the towering premier of Punjab, died in December 1942. Allah Baksh Soomro, the premier of Sindh, was assassinated in 1943. Sir Chhotu Ram, the co-founder of the National Unionist Party that dominated Punjab, died in 1945. With such giants of Punjab and Sindh dying, the Gujarati Jinnah gained an opportunity to dominate two Muslim-majority provinces where the Muslim League had struggled to put down roots.

Last-Ditch Efforts to Preserve the Indian Union

It was not all smooth sailing for Jinnah, though. In 1945, the Conservatives led by Winston Churchill lost the general election. Clement Attlee formed a Labour government committed to India’s independence. By this time, Jinnah was in full-fledged confrontation mode. When Wavell convened the 1945 Simla Conference, Jinnah had insisted that the Congress could not appoint any Muslim representatives. As a result, the conference failed and the last chance for a united independent India went up in smoke.

Ironically, Jinnah wanted the partition of India but opposed the partition of Punjab and Bengal. In December 1945, Wavell observed that if Muslims could have their right to self-determination, then non-Muslim minorities in Muslim areas could not be compelled to remain in Pakistan against their will. Therefore, the partition of Punjab and Bengal was inevitable. Jinnah would only get his moth-eaten version of Pakistan.

By now, the British wanted to leave. The 1946 Naval Uprising shook British rule to the core. Weary after World War II, a revolt by naval ratings, soldiers, police personnel and civilians made the British realize that the loyalty of even the armed forces could not be taken for granted. During World War II, large numbers had joined Bose’s Indian National Army and fought against the British. After the 1946 uprising, the writing was on the wall. Soon, the Cabinet Mission arrived to discuss the transfer of power from the British government to Indian political leaders. It proposed provinces, groups of provinces and a federal union. The union was to deal only with foreign affairs, defense and communications, and the power to raise finances for these three areas of government activity. The remaining powers were to be vested in the provinces. 

Everyone rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan. Jinnah did not get his beloved Pakistan. The Congress was unwilling to accept such a weak federal government. The Sikhs bridled at the prospect of being “subjected to a perpetual Muslim domination.” Needless to say, the plan was dead on arrival.

Even as deliberations about the transfer of power were going on, members to the Constituent Assembly were elected during July-August. Of a total of 296 seats for the British provinces, the Congress won 208, the Muslim League 73 and independents 15. British India also had 584 princely states that had a quota of 93 seats in the Constituent Assembly. These states decided to stay away from the assembly until their relationship with independent India became clearer. This turned out to be a historic blunder.

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By now, the British had decided to leave. On August 24, 1946, Wavell made a radio announcement that his government was committed to Indian independence and that an interim government would be formed under the leadership of Nehru and that the Muslim League would be invited to join it. Initially, no member of the Muslim League was in the first interim government formed on September 2, but five members joined this government on October 26 that remained in power until India and Pakistan emerged as two independent states.

The Run-up to Partition

Before the two main parties joined the same coalition government, riots broke out across the country. Jinnah called for Direct Action Day on August 16, 1946. Calcutta, now known as Kolkata, experienced the worst violence. SciencesPo estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 died, and some 15,000 were wounded, between August 16 and 19.

At the time, Bengal was the only province with a Muslim League government, whose chief minister was the controversial and colorful Hussain Suhrawardy. During the “Great Calcutta Killing,” his response was less than even-handed, deepening divisions between Hindus and Muslims. To add fuel to the fire, riots broke out in Noakhali, a part of the Chittagong district now in Bangladesh. In a frenzy of violence, Muslims targeted the minority Hindu community, killing thousands, conducting mass rape, and abducting women to convert them to Islam and forcibly marry them.

As riots spread across the country and British troops failed to control the violence, India stood on the brink of anarchy. On June 3, 1947, the new Viceroy Louis Mountbatten announced India would be independent on August 15, chosen symbolically as the date Imperial Japan surrendered and Japanese troops submitted to his lordship in Southeast Asia two years earlier. 

Importantly, independent India was to be partitioned into India and Pakistan. While the border was yet to be demarcated, the contours fell along expected lines. Yet partition came as a bolt from the blue for the Sikhs. In the dying days of the British Empire, this community had created a short-lived empire that died only in 1849. Yet the Sikhs were a minority in Punjab and widely dispersed around the state. The British had co-opted the Sikhs by recruiting them into the army in large numbers. The colonial authorities had given retired soldiers land in colonies they had settled near irrigation canals. These canal colonies were dotted around Punjab and Mountbatten noted that “any partition of this province [would] inevitably divide them.”

Ahmed is critical of the way the British planned the partition of Punjab. They assumed that the transfer of power would be peaceful. Mountbatten trusted the Congress, the Muslim League and the Akali leadership of the Sikhs who promised to control their followers. Evan Meredith Jenkins, the British governor of Punjab, did not. He predicted that “bloodbath was inevitable in Punjab unless there were enough British troops to supervise the transfer of power.” History has proved Jenkins right.

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Ahmed’s award-winning earlier work, “The Punjab: Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed” records those macabre days in grim detail. By this time, colonial troops were acting on communal sentiment. In Sheikhupura, the Muslim Baluch regiment participated in the massacre of Hindus and Sikhs. In Jullundur and Ludhiana, Hindu and Sikh soldiers killed Muslims. Even princely states were infected by this toxic communal sentiment. Ian Copland details how troops of Punjab’s princely states, including Patiala and Kapurthala, slaughtered Muslims.

In the orgy of violence that infected Punjab, all sorts of characters from criminals and fanatics to partisan officials and demobilized soldiers got involved. The state machinery broke down. The same was true in Bengal. As a result, independence in 1947 came at a terrible cost.

Jinnah Takes Charge

Right from the outset, India and Pakistan embarked on different trajectories. Mountbatten remained as governor-general of India, a position instituted in 1950 to facilitate the transition to full-fledged Indian rule. In contrast, Jinnah took over as governor-general of Pakistan. This move weakened both Parliament and the prime minister. As the all-powerful head of a Muslim state, Jinnah left no oxygen for the new parliamentary democracy of Pakistan.

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, an Oxford-educated aristocrat from UP, took charge as prime minister. Yet it was an open secret that Khan had little authority and Jinnah called all the shots. In India, Rajendra Prasad took charge as the president of the Constituent Assembly of India and the Dalit scholar Ambedkar became the chair of the drafting committee. In contrast, Jinnah was elected unanimously as the president of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan that failed to draft a constitution and was acrimoniously dissolved in 1954.

This assembly might not have amounted to much, but a speech by Jinnah lives on in history books and is a subject of much debate. On August 11, 1947, Jinnah declared: “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.”

Jinnah summoned his 1916 self that championed Hindu-Muslim unity and blamed the colonization of 400 million souls on internal division. His rhetoric took flight and he claimed that “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.” 

Jinnah also made a grand promise to Pakistan’s citizens: “You are free; 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.” Toward the end of his speech, Jinnah’s rhetoric soared. He envisioned 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.”

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No scholar has analyzed this speech better than Ahmed. This professor emeritus at Stockholm University points out that Jinnah neither mentions Islam nor secularism as a foundational principle of the state. Instead, Jinnah refers to the clash between Roman Catholics and Protestants in England. It seems this London-trained barrister is looking at the constitutionalism of Merry England as the way forward for Pakistan.

Ahmed makes another astute observation. Jinnah’s speech might have been addressed less to his audience in a rubber stamp assembly and more to his counterparts in the Indian government. Jinnah did not want another 30 to 40 million Muslims from Delhi and UP immigrating to Pakistan, adding even more pressure on an already financially stretched state. If these Muslims were driven out in retaliation for what was going on to Sikhs and Hindus in West Punjab and East Pakistan (Bangladesh since 1971), then Pakistan could well have collapsed.

Ahmed’s Evaluation of Jinnah

Jinnah excites much emotion in the Indian subcontinent. For some, he is the devil incarnate. For others, he is a wise prophet. Ahmed evaluates Jinnah in the cold light of the day with reason, judgment and, above all, fairness. 

Jinnah was indubitably an impressive character with wit, will and vision. He forged a disparate nation of Balochs, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Punjabis and Muhajirs, the Urdu term for refugees in the name of Islam, including those coming from India in the west and Bengalis in the east. However, Jinnah never attained a status worthy of Thomas Carlyle’s heroes. Unlike Gandhi, Jinnah did not come up with a new way to deal with the existing political situation. Gandhi insisted on ahimsa and satyagraha, non-violence and adherence to truth. He put means before ends. He was a mass leader but was only the first among equals in the Congress Party, which had many towering leaders. Gandhi was outvoted many times and accepted such decisions, strengthening his party’s democratic tradition. On the other hand, Jinnah was determined to be the sole spokesman who put ends before means and did not hesitate to spill blood to achieve his political ambitions.

It is true that Gandhi erred in calling Jinnah a Gujarati Muslim in 1915 when Jinnah would have been preferred to be known as an Indian nationalist. Yet Gandhi genuinely believed that everyone living in India was an Indian and had equal rights as citizens. Jinnah championed the two-nation theory and argued that Muslims in India were a separate nation. For him, religious identity trumped linguistic, ethnic or national identity. Ahmed’s magnum opus might focus on Jinnah but Gandhi emerges as a true hero in his book.

In the short run, Jinnah succeeded. Pakistan was born. Yet Jinnah also left Pakistan with many of its current problems. He centralized all power, reduced states to the level of municipalities and postponed the drafting of a constitution. Even though Jinnah himself neither spoke his native Gujarati or urbane Urdu fluently, he made Urdu the official language of Pakistan. This infuriated East Pakistan, which eventually achieved independence in 1971. As Atul Singh, Vikram Sood and Manu Sharma point out in an article on Fair Observer, the rise of ethnic nationalism threatens the further disintegration of Pakistan for which Jinnah must take some blame.

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Ahmed’s book also brings into the spotlight the role of facts, factlets and factoids. His facts are based on sources that are empirically verifiable. Factlets are interesting asides, which have value in themselves but may or may not have a bearing on the meta narrative. Factoids are just plain lies that are repeated so many times that many people start believing in them. The biggest factoid in the Indian subcontinent about the partition is the assertion that a majority of Muslims in British India wanted Pakistan. Another factoid is the belief that the Congress Party was as keen on Partition as the Muslim League. Ahmed’s book is strong on facts, keeps the readers interested by providing riveting factlets and demolishes several factoids.  

Three Takeaways for Today

Ahmed’s masterpiece offers us three important lessons.

First and foremost, facts matter. For a while, myth may obscure facts, narratives might cloud truth, but eventually a scrupulous scholar will ferret out facts. As the English adage goes, “the truth will out sooner or later.”

Second, religion and politics may make a heady cocktail but leave a terrible hangover. At some point, things spin out of control, riots break out on the streets, fanaticism takes over, jihadists go berserk and a garrison state emerges with a logic of its own. Such a state can be deep, oppressive and even somewhat effective but is largely disconnected from the needs and aspirations of civil society. Such a state is also unable to create a dynamic economy and most people remain trapped in poverty.

Last but not the least, the zeal of new converts becomes doubly dangerous when religion and politics mix. These new converts can turn into fanatics who outdo their co-religionists. As the adage goes, they seek to be more Catholic than the pope. The noted Punjabi Hindu leader Lala Lajpat Rai’s father returned to Hinduism after converting to Islam. Master Tara Singh, the champion of an independent Sikh nation, was born a Hindu but converted to Sikhism in his youth. 

Jinnah’s grandfather, Premjibhai Meghji Thakkar, was a Bhatia Rajput who converted to Islam after orthodox Hindus excommunicated Thakkar for entering the fishing business. Similarly, Pakistan’s national poet Muhammad Iqbal, who studied at Trinity College, Cambridge and the University of Munich, came from a Kashmiri Brahmin family. Iqbal’s father, Rattan Lal, was a Sapru who reportedly embraced Islam to save his life and was consequently disowned by his family. Pakistan was not created by a Pashtun like Abdul Ghaffar Khan or a half-Arab, blue-blooded sayyid like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad but by a Rajput and a Brahmin who were recent converts. Ironically, this nation now names its ballistic missiles after Turkish invaders, makes it compulsory for its children to learn Arabic and pretends its roots lie in the Middle East instead of the Indian subcontinent.

*[Ishtiaq Ahmed’s book, “Jinnah: His Successes, Failures and Role in History” is published by Penguin Random House and available here. The same book is published in Pakistan by Vanguard Books and is available here.]


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