MOHAMMED ALI JINNAH: FROM A SECULAR LEADER TO A MUSLIM NATIONALIST
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, is revered as Quaid-e-Azam or the “Great Leader” in the country. But in India, he is thought to be responsible for the great divide that led to the creation of India and Pakistan and the turmoil following it.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah was born on 25 December 1876 in Karachi and was brought up in Mumbai. After completing his High School, Jinnah went to London in 1893 to work for Graham’s Shipping and Trading Company. He married twice, his first wife having died early. He had a daughter named Dina with his second wife, Rattanbai Petit.
In 1894, he quit his job and went on to study law at Lincoln’s Inn and became the youngest Indian to graduate. By the end of 1986, he went on to become a member of the Indian National Congress and was practicing as a barrister with the Bombay bar. During the course of his profession, he made it apparent that he had no respect for the British Empire.
In 1905, the All-India Muslim League was formed; however, Jinnah refused to join it even though he was a major Muslim leader at the time. His secular nature became evident when contrary to the interests of the Muslim League; he played an important role in bringing about the Lucknow Pact that pressurized the British Government to give Indians more liberty to rule themselves. He made great efforts in bringing together the Congress and the League and was distressed when the two parties grew distant in their ideologies.
Jinnah joined the Muslim League only in 1913 and later went on to become the President of the Lucknow Muslim League. He served as the president of the league for several intermittent years until in 1934 when he was declared as President for life of the league. Even though he represented the Muslim community he was at first known for his commitment towards Hindu Muslim Unity.
Eventually, Jinnah’s disagreement with Mahatma Gandhi over the non-cooperation movement and the holding of separate elections for Hindus and Muslims embittered his relationship with the Congress. In 1921, he resigned from the National Congress and began negotiations with Britain for a separate Muslim state. The British considered Jinnah favourably hoping to use him as a counter measure against the rising Hindu nationalist movement. This is what many believe gave rise to the so-called ‘divide and rule’ policy of the British.
Many historians are of the opinion that Jinnah’s arguments for Pakistan were nothing more than a tactic to get maximum benefits for the Muslims in the country. The idea of a separate Muslim nation took shape only in the due course of various political meetings held.
In the Lahore Conference held in 1940, Jinnah stated he feared a civil war in India if partition was not achieved. Though, partition was rejected by the British and other Indian leaders, it eventually became a reality. On 24 August 1947 Pakistan was created with Jinnah declared as the nation’s first Governor General and the president of its legislative assembly.
Jinnah hoped to build a secular state in Pakistan as was evident from his opening speech to the Constituent Assembly: You may belong to any religion caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the state. In due course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will 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.
However, with a growing refugee crisis and new conflicts over Kashmir with India, Jinnah’s vision for a great state of Pakistan did not really materialize. His nation building efforts were cut short by his death on 11 September 1948, when he died of tuberculosis. Pakistan honoured him with a mausoleum built in Karachi, but in India he continues to live as the man responsible for the misery of partition.