Thursday, November 02, 2006

Jinnah, the Pakistan Demand, and the Meaning of Pakistan

In order to understand Pakistan I believe that much can be learnt by taking a peek at history - especially the history of the Pakistan movement in the 1940s, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

The basic thinking behind the demand for Pakistan can be traced back to Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan, a descendent of Mughal nobility, and founder of the Aligarh Muslim University. In the aftermath of the revolt of 1857, Sir Sayyed was obsessed with preserving the distinct Perso-Arabic ‘Sharif’ culture of the North Indian Muslim nobility that, after being dominant in the area for centuries, was losing ground to local vernacular and popular culture. Seeking a way around this problem, he was the first to come up with concept that Muslims in the Indian Subcontinent were ‘a nation, not a minority’.

Whatever influence Sir Sayyed and others (like Iqbal, the poet and philosopher) had on the Pakistan movement, from around 1935 onwards, Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the undisputed leader - the sole spokesman – of this movement. Jinnah's own boast that he created Pakistan “with the help of his secretary and typewriter” was not too far from the truth. This being so, it is especially important to understand what Jinnah thought of Pakistan, and what he considered the goals of the Pakistan movement to be.

Early in Jinnah's political career he had been known as the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’. However, his views appeared to have changed considerably by 1940, when in his presidential address to the Muslim League at the crucial Lahore Session - where the famous Pakistan Resolution was passed – he said:

It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religious in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality ... The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literatures. They neither intermarry nor interdine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilizations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.

This seems to indicate that Jinnah held the view that Hindus and Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent were fundamentally incompatible with each other, and had to be separated whatever the cost. In other words, Jinnah viewed partition and the creation of a sovereign Muslim state as absolutely necessary.

However, on August 11th 1947, in his inaugural address to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly - one of his most important and carefully prepared speeches - this is what Jinnah had to say.

Everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs ... is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations. ... In course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, will vanish. ... 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 or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. ... We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. ... 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.

It is difficult to believe that these two diametrically opposed visions of Pakistan could have been articulated by the same person. It appears from the second quote that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be just like India, with religion as a private issue, no business of the state. But if Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be just like India, then what was the purpose of the Pakistan movement, what was the need to create a new state at such great cost?

In recent years revisionist historians - the most prominent being Ayesha Jalal - have come up with a thesis that goes a long way in explaining Jinnah's actions. According to this thesis, Jinnah never really wanted Pakistan, i.e., a separate sovereign state for Muslims. His demand for Pakistan was just that – a demand. For Jinnah this demand was no more than simply a tool to oppose the dominant Congress Party and a ‘bargaining counter’ to be deployed for the sake of achieving his real goal – a larger share of power for himself and for the Muslim League in a united India. Jinnah always thought of ‘Pakistan’ as a demand, never as an independent sovereign state. No wonder then that when the state of Pakistan was actually established in 1947, Jinnah had no idea what this new state was to be all about, and had nothing resembling a long-term vision for it. As Salman Rushdie put it in his novel Shame “Pakistan may be described as a failure of the dreaming mind... Perhaps the place was just insufficiently imagined.”

Ayesha Jalal’s book about Jinnah and the Pakistan movement The Sole Spokesman is fascinating. Here is a what historian Francis Robinson says of the book.

By enabling us to peep at Jinnah's cards and by pointing out to us the tricks he was really trying in order to win, Jalal reveals the inner coherence of a career spanning half a century in politics. ... Jinnah never deserted his early attachment to Hindu-Muslim unity. ... There was no disjunction between a secular ideal. ... Jalal reveals the logic of Jinnah’s twists and turns in the complex negotiations surrounding the transfer of power. We understand more fully the wording of the Lahore Resolution. We see how his plans were far more fundamentally threatened by the Cripps offer than those of Congress. We feel for him when the Cabinet Mission proposals tease out the contradictions between his rhetoric and his purpose.

The Pakistan Resolution

The resolution passed at the Muslim League's Lahore session in 1940 has come to be known as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ and is widely celebrated in Pakistan as a pivotal event in its creation. The site where the resolution was passed is now commemorated by the ‘Minar-e-Pakistan’, and the date (March 23rd) is celebrated every year as ‘Pakistan Day’. Clearly, this resolution is of great importance. It is therefore relevant to ask: how did Jinnah view this resolution; what was his purpose behind it?

Let us first see what the resolution says

.... Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country [i.e., British India] or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, viz. that geographically continuous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial adjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the north-western and eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute Independent States, in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign. ... Adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the Constitution for minorities ... for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights. Arrangements thus should be made for the security of Muslims where they were in a minority.

The ambiguous, vague and self-contradictory nature of the resolution is remarkable. Bowing to the desire for autonomy expressed by powerful provincial leaders in Muslim majority provinces such as Punjab and Bengal, the resolution demanded ‘Independent States’ (plural) rather than a single ‘Independent State’, and did not say a word about any central government, either Muslim or Indian. Later, when Jinnah became politically more powerful and could afford to disregard the opinions of the regional leaders, he would claim that ‘States’ was simply a misprint, and the Lahore Resolution really meant a single ‘State’ for Muslims (link). While demanding safeguards for minorities, it is significant that the resolution talks of this being a constitutional arrangement rather than treaty arrangements between sovereign states, indicating that what was envisaged was an all-India arrangement under a constitution, rather than two (or more) independent states with treaty arrangements amongst themselves. The borders of the ‘Independent States’ were also intentionally left vague and undefined by the resolution.

According to Jalal, the Lahore Resolution is to be seen as a “bargaining counter, which had the merit of being acceptable (on the face of it) to the majority province Muslims, and of being totally unacceptable to the Congress and to the British also”. Also, notes Jalal, “at no point between 1940 and the Cabinet Mission's arrival in 1946 did the League expand, revise, or make more specific this incomplete and contradictory statement, even when its position was ostensibly stronger, and the need for clarification most urgent.”

The Cabinet Mission Plan

What did Jinnah really want? According to revisionist historians like Ayesha Jalal, Jinnah really had three primary goals in mind.
(a) To create a strong Muslim central government in an unpartitioned India, with the Muslim center being represented by Jinnah and the Muslim League, and powerful enough to discipline regional Muslim leaders.
(b) To create parity at the center (in undivided India) between Muslims and non-Muslims. This meant that at the all-India central government level the Muslim community, which comprised about one-fourth of the population, would have as much power as all other communities put together. The fundamental principle of democracy – parity for individuals, i.e., one person one vote – was not acceptable to Jinnah, because, as he put it, in such a democracy “Brother Gandhi has three votes [in the Constituent Assembly], and Brother Jinnah has only one.”
(c) To get himself and the Muslim League recognized as the sole representative of Muslims in undivided India. Jinnah wanted the Congress (and others) to be barred from nominating Muslims for seats in legislatures. He treated Muslim Congress leaders with utter contempt. For example, while meeting with a Congress delegation at the Simla Conference in 1945, Jinnah refused to shake hands with Maulana Azad even though shook hands with the non-Muslim Congress delegates.

The Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 came close to fulfilling these three main goals that Jinnah had in mind. It envisaged a complicated tri-level arrangement for governing India. At one level would be the provincial governments, with the provinces being grouped into Muslim and non-Muslim provinces. At the second level would be two strong central governments - a Muslim center for the Muslim provinces and a non-Muslim one for the non-Muslim provinces. At the third level would be a ‘super-center’ with representation from the Muslim center and the non-Muslim center. The ‘super-center’ would be responsible only for foreign affairs, defense, and communication. After much discussion both the Congress and the Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan. Eventually however the plan would fall apart (for more about the plan see this excellent web-site; the author's reasoning, with which I largely agree, of why the Congress had to do what it did is available here).

What is important to note here is that the Cabinet Mission Plan categorically rejected the concept of partition and the creation of a sovereign Muslim state of Pakistan. Yet Jinnah accepted this plan, indicating that even as late as 1946 he did not see a separate sovereign state of Pakistan as an absolute necessity, at least in the near future (the plan called for a re-evaluation after 10 years).


Unfortunately for Jinnah and for India - especially its Muslims -Jinnah's game of high stakes poker went horribly wrong after the failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan. Congress - enjoying the support of the vast majority of the Indian population - would never agree to complete parity with the Muslim League at an all-India level. The British wanted to leave India as soon as possible. Jinnah's own supporters had been whipped into a religious frenzy and had come to see the creation of a sovereign Pakistan as some sort of religious deliverance - they were not willing to accept any compromise. Eventually Jinnah had no option but to settle for a “mutilated, moth-eaten” Pakistan that, on two earlier occations, he had rejected out of hand.

Ayesha Jalal in her book The Sole Spokesman has this insightful passage in the introduction.

The most striking fact about Pakistan [as it actually came into being] is how it failed to satisfy the interests of the very Muslims who are supposed to have demanded its creation. The main centers of Muslim population, the Punjab and Bengal, ended up being sliced in two. In both these provinces ...Muslims had come to dominate the ministries. Partition ... deprived Muslims of the benefits of undivided provinces. Muslim Punjab lost its fertile eastern districts. Muslim Bengal lost Calcutta, its capital city and economic ‘heart’ . ... As for Muslim minorities in other provinces, they were left high and dry inside a country where their more numerous co-religionists to the east and west had no influence. At a stroke, partition stripped them of ... the shield that Muslim-majority provinces might have raised in their defence inside undivided India. ... Muslims of Sind, NWFP and Baluchistan had one thing in common: fierce attachment to their particularist traditions and deep antipathy to any central control. The creation of Pakistan bundled them willy-nilly into a state dominated by ... western Punjab and placed them under the tight central control that Pakistan had to impose if it had to survive.

Jinnah himself appears to have been unsure of how to deal with partition and the creation of Pakistan. He came up with the bizarre notion that the Pakistan Constituent Assembly should meet in Delhi! He objected to India using the name ‘India’ - he preferred ‘Hindustan’. Perhaps he did not want to view Pakistan as splintering away from India, but rather India dividing into Pakistan and Hindustan. One gets the impression that Jinnah did not want to uproot himself from his beloved Bombay and move to Pakistan. He chose not to sell his house in Bombay, which was worth a fortune. Nor did he donate it to the new state of Pakistan (as Liaquat Ali Khan did with his). When, after independence, his house was in danger of being declared ‘evacuee property’, Jinnah pleaded with the Indian High Commissioner (Ambassador) to Pakistan. “Sri Prakasa, don’t break my heart. Tell Jawaharlal not to break my heart. I have built it brick by brick. Who can live in a house like that? What fine verandahs? It is a small house fit only for a small European family or a refined Indian prince. You do not know how I love Bombay. I still look forward to going back there.” (link). This, after independence. It appears that the Quaid-e-Azam had very little desire of spending the rest of his life in Pakistan.

What is the Relevance Today

I feel that a better understanding of Jinnah and the Pakistan demand can go a long way in understanding the Pakistani state today. Not only was Jinnah the sole spokesman of the Pakistan movement in the 1940s, but since then no leader has emerged in Pakistan with sufficient legitimacy to ask basic questions about the nature and purpose of the state that Jinnah created – perhaps Pakistani society does not feel sufficiently self-confident to allow such questions to be asked. As a result, ideas in Pakistan have not evolved much since Jinnah's time.

Consider the following.

For Jinnah, Pakistan was simply a demand that was a useful political tool in opposing the Congress Party and was a ‘bargaining chip’ to extract concessions. His motivations for Pakistan were thus entirely negative, entirely oppositional. Jinnah's Pakistan was never inspired by any positive or constructive ideas. A similar kind of thinking is prevalent in Pakistan today. The Pakistani state views itself primarily as an instrument to oppose India, and defines Pakistani nationality primarily in terms of hostility towards India.

For Jinnah and the Muslim League, achieving parity with the Congress Party was a key goal of the Pakistan movement. Continuing this line of thinking after independence, Pakistan has strived hard to achieve at least some level of parity with India, sometimes going to absurd lengths. For example, India's land area is obviously much larger than Pakistan’s; but Pakistan must seek parity with India; so was born the dubious doctrine of ‘strategic depth’, whereby Pakistan sought to control Afghanistan’s territory, in order to achieve parity of sorts with Indian territorial ‘depth’. Consider another instance. After India tested a nuclear bomb in 1974, Pakistani Leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said “even if we have to eat grass we will make the bomb” in the eternal Pakistani quest to achieve parity with India.

For Jinnah it was important to be recognized as the sole spokesman for all Muslims in undivided India. After independence, Pakistan, at some level, has sought to do this as well. The intellectual descendents of Jinnah who still are part of the power structure in Pakistan have tried to maintain this rhetoric, seeking to be the ‘Muslim voice’ or the ‘defender of Muslims’ in the subcontinent. There is a school of thought in Pakistan that believes that Muslim Pakistan’s militaristic threats scare Hindus and thereby afford protection to Muslims in India. For example in the book Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity Akbar S. Ahmed – a former Pakistani diplomat, a self-proclaimed admirer of Jinnah, and supposedly a scholar – offers this ‘Pakistan as a guardian of Indian Muslims’ argument in support of the Pakistani state’s policy of sponsoring terrorist activity inside India. “What stopped the widespread orgy of rioting in India after Ayodhya were the bomb-blasts in Bombay in 1993. The shock effect froze the rioting. ... The Hindus blamed the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence, the ISI. In the end, if the ISI were responsible, then they and they alone were the guardians of Muslims in India.” The reality, of course, is very different from this rhetoric. Pakistani sponsored terrorism in India, far from protecting Indian Muslims, may have actually made them more vulnerable to communal violence. And who can deny that in the sixty years since independence, the Pakistani state has been responsible for hundreds of thousands (millions?) more Muslim deaths – such as in the genocide in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) – than all the communal rioting in India put together.

I am a Marathoner Now

On Sunday I ran the Silicon Valley Marathon. It was awesome experience!!

I started training for the marathon with TeamAsha about six months ago, and it has been a wonderful experience. Before May 2006 I had never ever run more than about 4 miles. On Oct. 29th 2006 I ran 26.2 miles. Wow!! I myself find it difficult to believe.

Unfortunately about 6 weeks before the marathon I developed a persistent knee injury (ITB syndrome), as a result of which I had to miss some of the longest training runs. In the last two weeks prior to the marathon I had been free of ITB pain, but my longest run in that period was only 10miles. I had also done a 20-miler three weeks prior to the marhathon, but I did fast walking there, no running.

On the day of the marathon I was a little apprehensive, especially with regards to the injury. I had packed some Tylenol pills. The weather was great. I started off with another TeamAsha runner, Vinay, and we consistently maintained a 12min per mile race and did the 1-mile-run-1-min-walk routine. At about the half-way point the ITB started acting up a little, and I popped in a couple of Tylenol. The Tylenol did the trick, but in any case, my pace also dropped down a little, and I lost Vinay at about the 16-mile mark. It was a huge relief to reach the Asha waterstop at the 25-mile mark, where my wife, Bonnie, ran out to hug me, and a huge cheer went up as I approached. The remaining 1 mile was smooth sailing, and I eventually eneded up fininshing in 5hrs 47mins. Not a great timing, but as far as I was concerned, I might as well have broken the world record!!

Also see this.