By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistanis are celebrating the 145th birth anniversary of the country's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, on Saturday.
Born on Dec. 25, 1876 to a wealthy merchant family in the port city of Karachi, Jinnah, who is commonly known as Quaid-i-Azam, or “The Greatest Leader,” has remained the only symbol of unity as an undisputed leader for a nation of 210 million people during Pakistan’s 74 years of independence.
One can find Jinnah’s name and pictures everywhere in Pakistan -- from currency notes to streets, from universities to military bases.
He led the nation, carved out of the subcontinent as a homeland for Muslims in 1947, at a time when it was facing a number of serious challenges, including tensions with India over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, fears for survival due to economic hardships, an influx of refugees and raging communal riots.
In one of the world's largest displacements so far according to historians, over 6.5 million Muslims from different parts of India migrated to Pakistan following the end of British colonial rule in the subcontinent in 1947.
“From the point of view of social science, no one can be completely undisputed. But in the case of Jinnah, we can say he is undisputed among an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis,” said Farooq Ahmad Dar, an associate professor of history at Quaid-I-Azam International University in Islamabad.
“In a way, we can say he is the only symbol of unity and the undisputed leader in Pakistan. The rest are [all] disputed in one way or the other,” he said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.
Citing key reasons behind Jinnah’s overwhelming acceptance among Pakistanis, Dar said: “He emerged as a leader who led the nation in its hour of need. His determination, devotion and commitment to a cause [independence of Pakistan] raised him to a level where no one could match him [at the time]. “
- Equally acceptable to right and left wing
Jinnah’s concept of a modern Islamic state, according to Dar, has made him acceptable to both Islamists and secularists in Pakistan who otherwise hardly agree on other points.
“His concept of a modern Islamic state based on the principals of equality, justice, the protection of minorities, etcetera, which are basic teachings of Islam, gives space to both Islamists and secularists to quote him in favor of their respective political ideologies,” he said.
Endorsing Dar’s views, Raza Kazimi, a Karachi-based historian, said "Jinnah is the only undisputed leader in the country's history. So much so that he is the symbol of unity for otherwise political rivals like left and right-wing parties who derive and push their political manifestos through his ideology.”
This is because of his “moderate approach” with regard to religion and politics, Kazimi said.
“He is acceptable to even those religious parties that had opposed the creation of the State of Pakistan,” he noted.
- Personal life
Salima Hashmi, a Lahore-based educationist and writer, holds a different view about Jinnah’s personality.
“Jinnah was a complex personality [who is] yet to be entirely understood because of the need to place him on a pedestal where many of his life’s choices are never discussed,” Hashmi said.
Those, she argued, who opposed him “tooth and nail” like the religious lobby use him as a shield and attribute ideas to him which he never expressed.
“Much more debate is required on his ideas of a democratic dispensation, which never saw the light of day,” she added.
Jinnah received his early education from the Sindh Madrassah tul Islam school and the Christian Missionary Society School in Karachi. He was later offered an apprenticeship by a family friend in London in 1892, but before leaving, Jinnah’s mother arranged his marriage with his cousin, Emibai.
Jinnah's mother and Emibai died within a year after his departure to London, where he soon quit the apprenticeship and joined the famous Lincoln's Inn as an aspiring barrister.
Upon earning his degree, Jinnah started practicing law as the first Muslim barrister in Bombay and served as an interim magistrate for a brief six-month period.
In 1918, Jinnah married Rattanbai -- famously known as Ruttie -- from an elite Parsi family. Ruttie embraced Islam before tying the knot with Jinnah. The marriage, however, lasted for only a few years as the couple separated before Ruttie died in 1929. Jinnah only had one daughter, Dina, who was later raised by his younger sister, Fatima Jinnah.
Dina married a wealthy Parsi businessman against her father’s will and did not choose to move to Pakistan after the creation of the then largest Muslim state in 1947.
Jinnah was the second child among seven siblings. But except for Fatima Jinnah, his political aide, little is known about his other three brothers and two sisters.
Fatima Jinnah was later declared Madar-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation) by the Pakistani government. A southern slum locality in Karachi is named after Shireen Jinnah, who is believed to have been one of Jinnah's sisters.
Suffering from tuberculosis, Muhammad Ali died on Sept. 11, 1948 in Karachi and was laid to rest in the same city.
A magnificent mausoleum, Mazar-e-Quaid, was built on his grave in 1970, where thousands throng every day to pay their respects to the great leader who envisioned a separate state for the Muslims of the sub-continent.
- Political Life
According to Stanley Wolpert, a Jinnah biographer, Quaid-i-Azam was influenced by 19th-century British liberalism based on democratic nations and progressive politics during his stay in London.
In 1906, he joined the Indian National Congress -- a party founded in 1885 in the aftermath of the 1857 revolt against the British Raj to demand a greater self-governance for the sub-continent.
Initially, Jinnah was a great advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity and refused to join the All India Muslim League established by some Muslim leaders to protect their community's interests in Hindu-majority United India.
In 1913, he joined the Muslim League but remained associated with the Congress until 1920, when he completely disassociated himself with his first political party.
He was part of the 1916 Lucknow Pact, which set quotas for the representation of Muslims and Hindus in different provinces. However, the pact was never fully implemented.
In 1928, the then British government offered Indians to come up with their sets of constitutional changes to govern the sub-continent. Motilal Nehru, founder of the Nehru political dynasty in India, came up with the Nehru Report that demanded the formation of constituencies based on geography. Jinnah, for his part, presented his famous 14 points demanding a mandatory representation of the Muslim minority in the legislative assemblies.
Jinnah remained in Britain from 1930 to 1934 practicing as a barrister. His biographers quarrel over why he had lived for such a long period away from the political struggle in India.
Following the persistence of several Muslim leaders, including national poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal and Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan, he returned from London. Khan later became premier from 1947 to 51. Jinnah returned to India in 1934 to lead the All India Muslim League amid growing Muslim nationalism in the region.
On March 23, 1940, the famous Lahore Resolution -- later converted into the Pakistan Resolution -- was adopted at a massive gathering at the then Minto Park in Lahore under Jinnah's leadership, demanding a separate Muslim state comprising five Muslim majority provinces.
The adoption of the Pakistan Resolution is considered the most decisive point in Jinnah's political struggle when he came up with a clear-cut idea about his future plans. The next seven years turned out to be turbulent following campaigns and counter-campaigns, one after the other.
In 1942, in the midst of World War II, the Congress launched the “Quit India Movement,” sensing that the weakening British empire could no longer get a hold of the sub-continent. In response, Jinnah launched the “Divide and Quit Movement” sticking to his guns for a separate Muslim state.
“Pakistan is a matter of life and death for us,” he declared.
In December 1945, the Muslim League won all the seats reserved for Muslims in the provincial assemblies, reflecting the ever-increasing confidence of Indian Muslims in Jinnah's leadership.
In 1946, the British government resorted to sending a high-level parliamentary delegation, the Cripps Mission, to break the deadlock between the Congress and the Muslim League over future governance, but to no avail.
Finally, on June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the last British viceroy of India, announced the partition. On Aug. 14, Pakistan became an independent state.
Jinnah was elected as the first governor general of Pakistan, but he could survive only a year after independence.