Independence Day: A day of introspection

Going back to our roots

Pakistan came into being on 14 August 1947, despite incessant opposition by Indian National Congress and her allies. At its birth Pakistan was faced with apparently insurmountable problems. The immediate worry was rehabilitation of millions of refugees and restoration of industrial and agricultural infrastructure. The national exchequer was empty. India refused to transfer Pakistan’s financial share.

Pakistan overcame insurmountable problems of influx of 1947 refugees, skimpy finances and myriad other problems to emerge as a viable entity. Fanatic Hindus in the Indian National Congress thought that Pakistan would, at best, be a still-born baby. But, Pakistan was able to survive all hurdles. It proved its viability despite severe politico-economic jolts.

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While we celebrate our Independence Anniversary, let us refresh what its founder, the Quaid-e-Azam, visualised Pakistan to be.  Doubtless, the Quaid envisioned Pakistan to be a democracy, not a theocracy. In a broadcast addressed to the people of the USA, he said, ‘In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests [mullahs] with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims, Hindus, Christians, and Parsees– but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan’. When an over-ebullient admirer addressed him as `Maulana Jinnah’, he snubbed him. Jinnah retorted, ‘I am not a Maulana, just plain Mr Jinnah’.

About minorities, the Quaid often reminded Muslim zealots ‘Our own history and our and our Prophet (PBUH) have given the clearest proof that non-Muslims have been treated not only justly and fairly but generously. He added, ‘I am going to constitute myself the Protector-general of the Hindu minority in Pakistan’. Till his last breath, the Quaid remained an ardent supporter of rights of minorities as equal citizens of Pakistan. The Quaid participated in Christmas celebrations in December 1947 as a guest of the Christian community.

The Quaid selected his cabinet on the basis of merit. One member was a Hindu. A Jewish scholar, Mohammad Asad, who embraced Islam, held important positions in Pakistan.

We have forgotten Pakistan was created for the welfare of the masses. Pakistan’s constitutional history is marred by egotistic clashes between power claimants. Our judiciary is submerged in a plethora of political cases. We forgot that just before pronouncing the verdict in the Dosso case, then Chief Justice Muneer declared that ‘when politics enters the portals of the palace of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’.

The following extracts from the Quaid’s speeches and statements as Governor General of Pakistan epitomise his vision: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques, or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan…you may belong to any religion, caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of the State…We are starting in the days when there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed or another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of the one State”.

The Quaid visualised 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”. A. K. Brohi, in his The Fundamental Law of Pakistan, explains that Pakistan is an Islamic state, but not a theocracy.

He hoped India and Pakistan would live in peace after Partition. In his Will and Testament

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He bequeathed a part of his fortune to educational institutions in Aligarh, Bombay and Delhi. He never changed his will as he hoped to visit India again.

Lord Ismay, Chief of Staff to the Viceroy, recorded an interview with the Quaid: ‘Mr. Jinnah said with the greatest earnestness that once Partition has been decided upon, everyone would know exactly all troubles would cease, and they would live happily ever after where they were’.

Ayesha Jalal, in her paper Why Jinnah Matters, recalls `Just before his own death, Jinnah proposed a joint defence with India as the Cold War started to shape the world and the two power blocs began to form. Jinnah was still thinking as a South Asian nationalist.

Before his final flight (7 August 1947) from Delhi to Pakistan, the Quaid sent a message to the Indian government: “the past must be buried and let us start as two independent sovereign states of Hindustan and Pakistan, I wish Hindustan prosperity and peace.” But, Vallabhbhai Patel replied from Delhi: “the poison has been removed from the body of India.” Even Nehru, an ostensibly liberal leader, regarded the creation of Pakistan as a blunder. His rancour against Pakistan reaches a crescendo in his remarks: “I shall not have that carbuncle on my back.” (D. H. Bhutani, The Future of Pakistan, page 14).

The Quaid  wanted Pakistan to be a welfare state, not a plutocracy. In his speech at the 30th session of the Muslim League during the freedom struggle, he said, “It will be a people’s government. I should like to give a warning to the landlords and capitalists who have flourished at our expense by a system which is so vicious, which is so wicked and which makes them so selfish that it is difficult to reason with them. The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They’ve forgotten the lesson of Islam. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate to the interests of others in order to fatten themselves…If they’re wise they’ll have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they don’t, God help them; we shall not help them.”

We have forgotten Pakistan was created for the welfare of the masses. Pakistan’s constitutional history is marred by egotistic clashes between power claimants. Our judiciary is submerged in a plethora of political cases. We forgot that just before pronouncing the verdict in the Dosso case, then Chief Justice Muneer declared that ‘when politics enters the portals of the palace of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’.

The kingpins in various institutions tend to forget French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum ‘majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects, [is] unrestrained by law’. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’. It does not reside with the electorate, Parliament, the judiciary or even the Constitution.

In the past, Pakistan’s bureaucrats, judges, politicians, and even praetorian rulers fought tooth and nail to prove ‘I’m the locus in quo of ultimate power..” Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup d’état”.

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Amjed Jaaved
The writer is a freelance journalist, has served in the Pakistan government for 39 years and holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law. He can be reached at [email protected]

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