Mohammad Ali Jinnah

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Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) was the first governor general of Pakistan. His great achievement was the organizing of Indian Moslems to demand a separate state, which culminated in the creation of Pakistan, the world's largest Islamic state.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah was born in Karachi, probably on Dec. 25, 1876, although the day is uncertain. His family were merchants and members of the Khoja sect of Moslems. He went to England in 1892 to study law, and after his return in 1896 he practiced in Bombay. He joined the Indian National Congress, giving his support to the moderate faction led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale, whom he greatly admired. Jinnah was also a member of the Moslem League, and he worked for greater Hindu-Moslem unity. He broke with the Congress in 1920 with the advent to leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, whose methods he deplored as unconstitutional and as based on an appeal to the mob. Jinnah's attempts to work with the Moslem League were so frustrating, however, that he concluded its leaders were either "flunkeys of the British or camp followers of the Congress" and went to England in 1931 to take up a law practice there.

In 1934 Jinnah was persuaded to return to India by the changes brought about in the political situation by the proposals for the new constitution, which resulted in the India Act of 1935. Convinced that Moslems would become second-rate citizens in a political society dominated by the votes of the Hindu majority, he succeeded in revitalizing the Moslem League as an effective political organization after the elections in 1937, in which the Indian National Congress had won large majorities.

Jinnah's success was particularly striking as he had few of the characteristics of a popular politician. A friend described him as "tall and stately, formal and fastidious, aloof and imperious of manner," and he had few personal friends. His first wife, a child bride, had died when he was a student, and his second wife, who was a Parsi and half his age, separated from him in 1928. She died in 1929. His only close personal contacts after this seem to have been his daughter and later his sister, Fatima.

Jinnah's energy, integrity, and relentless logic made him the spokesman of Indian Moslems, earning him the title Quaid-i-Azam, "supreme leader." By 1945, when Indian independence was imminent, neither the British government nor the Indian National Congress could find a political solution for India without Jinnah's agreement. His insistence that Hindus and Moslems constituted two separate nations became the central fact of all discussions, and the partition of India on Aug. 15, 1947, into India and Pakistan was the fruit of his argument that Moslems must have their own homeland.

Jinnah was the first governor general of Pakistan, and while the office in other parts of the British Commonwealth was ceremonial, his enormous popularity and skill made his authority virtually absolute. He tackled the many problems facing the new nation with zeal, but he was already worn out by the long struggles. He died on Sept. 11, 1948, leaving to his successors the task of consolidating the nation he had done so much to create.

Further Reading

Jinnah's views are in Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad, ed., Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah (2 vols., 6th ed. 1960-1964), and S. S. Pirzada, ed., Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah's Correspondence (2d rev. ed. 1966). Hector Bolitho, Jinnah: Creator of Pakistan (1954), provides biographical details. Jinnah's political role is examined in Khalid B. Sayeed, Pakistan: The Formative Phase, 1857-1948 (2d ed. 1968).

Additional Sources

Wolpert, Stanley A., Jinnah of Pakistan, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. □