Mr. Jinnah is alive … and well ? | Dawn

25th December 2014
by Javed Jabbar

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah passed away on 11th September 1948. Spiritually and metaphorically he remains alive 66 years later...but is he well ? He survives the Peshawar tragedy with the same heart-wrenching grief felt by parents and families and his nation .Yet he also shares with us all , our resolve not to let the barbarians reign. And he will remain alive , as long as Pakistan exists as a nation-State. Which is, God willing — and our own actions enabling ! — forever , and anon.

One meets Mr. Jinnah every day, sometimes in every waking hour. He even appears in our dreams. Though he himself , at the level where he now resides , may be going through a nightmare because of what we have made of his legacy. He is a pervasive icon, not a cloistered relic confined to a museum.

He is seen round-the-clock, day after day, in every public office and many private offices throughout the land . He is present in all the country's embassies and consulates in all five continents around the world. He is seen — and touched — virtually every minute of every day on every Pakistani currency note. From a 10-rupee note to a 5,000-rupee note. He is glimpsed on the mast-head of Dawn every morning ; in still images reproduced in newspapers, magazines and books. He is also seen in action, in flickering, black-and-white film footage from the 1940s and the 1947-48 period, re-screened on 23rd March, 14thAugust, 11th September, 25th December and on other dates .

Perhaps more importantly, with or without a photograph, the simple mention of his name immediately evokes respect in the multitudes of about 188 million people.

Reverence is the overwhelming norm for his name and image . Even as currency notes bearing his handsome visage are used for illegal, corrupt transactions that represent a debasement of the rock-solid integrity and character which he epitomized. Perhaps there is a dark side to the prevalence of the image .His picture has become a mere fixture , part of the standard decor .

Fortunately, for most of us ,Mr. Jinnah represents a living, breathing, pulsating Pakistan, warts and all. By the sheer fact that tens of millions of people hold him in the highest esteem they can bestow on a national leader endows him with a kind of aliveness. This aliveness is different from the way in which the rest of us who are still above the ground — rather than six feet under — are also alive. The Quaid's aliveness warms our hearts, lights up our eyes, stirs deep feelings, brings back memories, vivid as well as hazy, accurate as well as mythical.

Whenever Pakistanis excel in any field, at any age --- and there are tens of thousands who do so, in villages, in cities and around the world --- yet only a few reported by media, his aliveness becomes a liveliness, radiating vibrant pride and pleasure.

Mr. Jinnah lives in the aspirations every Pakistani has for the future of the country as much as he abides in their re-collection of his past. His vision of a distinct new country drives hope. And yet remains elusive. A country created to seek equity for Muslims denied to them in the political process pre-1947. Yet this is a country meant to afford equity for non-Muslims as well : a conundrum , but a resolvable one, of its own kind.

For some cynics, Mr. Jinnah and his dream of an ideal Pakistan virtually died with him in September 1948. But that is a view unwilling to allow space for hope, one of the most powerful , perpetual stimulants for the human spirit. And because cynicism is so antithetical to the creative, constructive dimension of Nature — and of human nature — it deserves only dismissal.

There are also those who mock Mr. Jinnah for his Two-Nation theory. In their view, when the majority of the people of the original Pakistan seceded in 1971 to become Bangladesh, they allegedly rejected the theory that religion could be the basis for defining a nation separate from Hindus, in the specific context of the 1940s.

Yet the hard fact is deliberately ignored that over 80 per cent of the people of Bangladesh who are Muslim remain zealously so .They show no desire whatsoever to be united with Indian West Bengal, or be merged into India. Non-Muslim citizens of Bangladesh are also patriotically loyal to their State. Article 2A of the Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh proclaims : "The state religion of the Republic is Islam, but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony in the Republic." Neither the term "People's Republic" nor the appropriate qualifier that refers to the validity of other religions negates the basic truth : that for every Muslim citizen of Bangladesh, the Islamic component of identity is as potent as the ethnic and linguistic components.

Most national theories evolve. With experience, with new conditions . The Two-Nation-Two-State theory (Pakistan and India) became the Two-Nation-Three-State theory in 1971 (Pakistan, Bangladesh, and a large Muslim segment of the Indian population which is fervently conscious of Islam shaping a major part of their national identity even as they remain loyal citizens of a pre-dominantly Hindu India). Thus, the Two-Nation theory is as alive, if not more so, in 2014 than it was in 1947. No wonder one senses Mr. Jinnah's live presence today !

He is probably more alive in the minds of children imbued with content from school to supplement content from home. Children's capacity for imagination — and re-imagination — surpasses adult capacity. Past the age of18 years, human beings are pre-occupied by the crass conditions of 2014. Adults are so self-assured about their grasp of reality that they are unwilling to re-gain the innocence and hope they were full of , only some years ago.

As the First Citizen of the State of a pluralist, multi-faith Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah is probably the top target on the list of evil, murderous terrorists who seek to debase Islam in the name of Islam itself. Yet the Quaid is unassailable, beyond the reach of any suicide bomber. Not only because he is a permanently inaccessible physical target. But because the ideas and the ideals he represents are far beyond demolition or destruction. Those ideas and ideals may be transiently, or recurrently dented and damaged by some. However, concepts and values embedded in hearts and minds abide forever. They may not always be able to assert physical ascendancy over hate and violence. But they have a presence as irreducible as DNA, and as unmistakable. An eternal self- belief and confidence which transcends the merely fleeting, physical attempts to destroy the original vision.

Whereas for most, the Quaid's views called for an authentically liberal, moderate, decent, genuinely pluralist Pakistan rather than a monolithic, extremist and intolerant new nation, we presently witness a spectacle that is almost farcical. Virtually all parts of the ideological spectrum claim to be the true inheritors of his goals. At one end are those who single-mindedly (and somewhat unduly) focus only on excerpts from his speech of 11th August 1947 in which he said that, in a political sense, religion would become a matter of private identity rather than of citizen-identity. On the other, as recently as 5thDecember 2014, a Pakistani citizen formally designated as a terrorist by the United Nations (wrongly or rightly is another matter) invokes Mr. Jinnah's name and his own interpretation of the founder's legacy at a large, freely-held public meeting in Lahore , to openly urge violent action against India to liberate Kashmir, if the present Indian Government does not agree to a just settlement. For a personality so distinct and different, how easy it has been to counterfeit Mr. Jinnah, even to clone him. For a man so cool-headed as to seem as cold as ice, how curious that he is the progenitor of a nation-in-the-making that can become rash and hot-tempered in a flash. While also remaining one of the most caring and compassionately generous charity-donors in the world.

There are sceptics who find fault with some of Mr. Jinnah's actions and tendencies. They see them as having been too authoritarian or insensitive. For instance, his well-intentioned but grossly misjudged pronouncement about why, in his view, Urdu deserved to be the sole State language of Pakistan rather than recognize Bengali, the mother tongue of the majority of Pakistanis, to be an equivalent co-State language. And some of his actions were deemed too dictatorial from a purist, democratic perspective. Such unease is associated with his decisions regarding the then- Governments in Sindh and NWFP.

Critical re-appraisal is a vital part of the study of history . The placement of a personality on a pedestal should never prevent freedom of research and expression. But his critics make little allowance for the extra-ordinarily insecure and unstable thirteen months for which he survived after 14th August 1947. Motivated solely by the desire to secure and strengthen the most awkwardly constructed nation-State in the whole world, juxta-posed with not one, but two neighbours instantly hostile to Pakistan's creation (India and Afghanistan), some of Mr. Jinnah's words and actions deserve greater understanding of context than they receive from certain critics.

So plentiful is Mr. Jinnah's name, face, persona and various versions of his vision that he himself has become like a huge haystack. It is daunting for some to find the needle of his exclusive truth.

His handsome face remains a wholesome image even as he suffers the profound pain that surely afflicts his soul at the cruel degradation of his great gift to us.

By remaining alive as a metaphor for the ideal Pakistan, Mr. M. A. Jinnah is the most basic determinant factor in shaping the concept of Pakistaniat. Which is the apt name for the inclusively, regionally diverse and eventually singularist supra-national identity aspired for by those who live and hope for a better future : both on home soil and in the diaspora.

This identity of Pakistaniat comprises 15 elements as stated in this writer's book : "Pakistan – unique origins, unique destiny ?"

Symbolically alive and yet unwell, Mr Jinnah is synonymous with the unique origins and nature of Pakistan. What each Pakistani, in her or his own life now does to actually practice and strengthen the Quaid's values will shape an equally unique and dynamic future for Pakistan. And help make Mr. Jinnah feel fully well again !

As published in the Dawn Special Report, 25th December 2014 on the Quaid's birth anniversary .