Mubarak Ali

Every generation has its own dreams and vision which it wants to accomplish without interference. Not imitation but freedom is required to build a new world. Therefore, an attempt should not be made to repeat but to make new history. People should be liberated from the shadows and allowed to flourish in a free society. Great leaders should be respected but not worshipped.

Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had all the qualities and characteristics in his personality which go into the making of a myth. He was reticent, reserved, kept his personal matters secret, behaved coolly and proudly and was not warm towards anybody. Thus he created a halo of awe and fear around himself.

JinnahSri Prakash, the first Indian High Commissioner to Karachi, in his book Pakistan: birth and early years gives an account of a reception which was given by the Governor-General of Pakistan, just after Independence to the diplomatic corps. It was also attended by the party leaders and bureaucrats. According to his version, Mr Jinnah was sitting at a distance alone on a sofa and called one by one those he wanted to talk to. He exchanged notes with each one of them just for five minutes. To the High Commissioner, he appeared a lonely man, averse to people. His serious and sombre expression made all those who interacted with him uneasy in his company.

This conveyed the impression that he was the final authority in every matter. The Muslim League and its leaders were merely rubber stamps. His image of being the sole spokesman of his party and people created a number of myths. For instance, the myth about his serious illness which is recounted by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre in their book Freedom at midnight fascinates everybody and compels readers to take it seriously. The version of their story is:

“If Louis Mountbatten, Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi had been aware in April 1947 of one extraordinary secret, the division threatening India might have been avoided. The secret was sealed onto the gray surface of a film, a film that could have upset the Indian political equation and would almost certainly have changed the course of Asian history. Yet, so precious was the secret that that film harboured that even the British CID, one of the most effective investigative agencies in the world, was ignorant of its existence.”

These were the X-rays of Jinnah diagnosed as a TB patient. The authors, after creating a suspense, further write that: “The damage was so extensive that the man whose lungs were on the film had barely two or three years to live. Sealed in an unmarked envelope, those X-rays were locked in the office safe of Dr J.A.L. Patel, a Bombay physician.”

On the basis of the story, Jinnah emerged as the one on whom depended the whole movement of Pakistan. The story further becomes interesting when a Hindu doctor kept the secret at the cost of Indian unity. His professional integrity was more important than his political inclinations.

In 1997, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of India-Pakistan Independence, Patrick French published a book, Liberty or death. After his own investigation, French refutes the whole story narrated by Collins and Lapierre. According to him: “The idea that Jinnah’s poor state of health was a closely guarded secret is absurd: it was referred to in the press at that time, and it is obvious from photographs taken in the mid-1940s that Jinnah was unwell.

Moreover, the reduction of the Muslim League’s wide popular backing to the whim of one man’s ‘rigid and inflexible’ attitude is indicative of the way that Pakistan history has been traduced. A second problem with Collins and Lapierre’s story is that it is not correct. Jinnah did not go to Bombay in May or June 1946, since he was busy in negotiating with Cripps in Simla and New Delhi. Nor did he have a doctor by the name of J.A.L. Patel. Although it is possible that Jinnah had tuberculosis in 1946, there is no evidence among his archive papers to support the theory.”

However, Jinnah himself on many occasions expressed the view that he was the sole creator of Pakistan. In one of his famous quotes, he said that he and his typewriter made Pakistan. The statement disregarded the efforts of his colleagues and the other Muslim League leaders in the Pakistan movement. It also downgraded the people’s participation in the struggle for a separate homeland.

There is evidence that he did not think highly of the leaders of the Muslim League. He found them mediocre and not capable of leading the nation. Perhaps, that was the reason that Jinnah, knowing his fatal illness, accepted ‘the moth eaten and truncated Pakistan’. The later history of Pakistan vindicates Jinnah’s assessment of the Muslim League leaders who miserably failed to solve the problems of a nascent nation.

The failure of these leaders has boosted Jinnah’s image as a superman. He overshadowed everybody. The nation also paid respect to him by naming universities, colleges, airports, roads, hospitals, and institutions of different kinds after him with the result that a citizen of Pakistan feels his presence every where in the country, wherever he goes.

Moreover, his image as a “Great Leader” (the Quaid-i-Azam) is presented in the textbooks to mould the mind of the young generation encouraging them to follow in his footstep. Scholars are eulogizing different aspects of his life. A film is screened to counter the film Gandhi in which Attenborough distorts the image of Jinnah. These efforts have made Jinnah sacrosanct. Any criticism of him is regarded a treason. He has become a paragon of super human virtues, beyond all weaknesses normal in human being.

The reverence accorded to him is such that mere association with him catapults a person from a humble position to the rank of freedom fighter. People take pride in their claim to have shaken hands with him (though he avoided shaking hands with people), or having seen him, talked to him, or merely attended his public meeting. The rulers of Pakistan, realizing the impact of his association, create myths of their links with him. Z.A. Bhutto claimed that as a student he wrote a letter to the Quaid – it is not known whether he replied to that letter or not, Zia’s sycophant bureaucrats discovered a diary of Jinnah (that was the time when Hitler’s diaries were discovered and later on proved false) which disappeared along with him.

Nawaz Sharif, assuming to follow in his footsteps, called himself ‘Quaid-i-Sani’ (the second leader). One such similar example is found in the history of France when Napoleon III made an attempt to revive the image of Napoleon I in order to legitimize his authority. Marx jokingly comments in The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that “Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” Nawaz Sharif’s self-given title proves it.

Jinnah has become such a symbol of wisdom in the Pakistani society that people visualize Pakistan with his reference. His vision, his agenda, his dream and his ideals, all remained unaccomplished because he died soon after Independence. It is commonly believed that had he lived some more years, the history of Pakistan would have been different. There are few nations which rely so heavily on one individual.

No doubt, Jinnah was a great leader of his people. He was a man of integrity and honesty, but to idealize him to such an extent as to preempt the emergence of another rank of leaders out of his shadow is strange. Every generation has its own dreams and vision which it wants to accomplish without interference. Not imitation but freedom is required to build a new world. Therefore, an attempt should not be made to repeat but to make new history. People should be liberated from the shadows and allowed to flourish in a free society. Great leaders should be respected but not worshipped.