Jinnah, Mohammad Ali

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JINNAH, MOHAMMAD ALI (1876–1948), first governor-general of Pakistan. Quaid-i-Azam ("Great Leader") Mohammad Ali Jinnah, considered the father of Pakistan, was its first governor-general. Reared in Sind's port of Karachi, the eldest son of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Jinnah was shipped off to London at sixteen to study British management methods. His brilliantly vital young mind was magnetized more by bustling London's exciting politics, theaters, and Inns of Court, however, than the dull routine of business bookkeeping.

Impact of London

Soon after settling down in London, Jinnah met India's "grand old man" of Congress politics, Parsi Dadabhai Naoroji, one of the first Indians elected to Britain's Parliament. Dadabhai's maiden speech in the House of Commons, to which Jinnah listened from the balcony, inspired him to join India's National Congress as President Naoroji's secretary. But it was the Shakespearean performances at the Old Vic that youthful Jinnah found most fascinating, inspiring him to hone innate theatrical skills of rhetoric that would serve him so well for the rest of his life as one of British India's greatest barristers. Jinnah abandoned his business apprenticeship and completed legal studies at Lincoln's Inn in 1896, when he was admitted to London's Bar.

Bombay Barrister

After London, Jinnah found Karachi much too provincial a town in which to start his legal practice. He moved to British India's booming commercial capital, Bombay, where he felt more at home. Bombay's posh residential community atop Malabar Hill would soon become and, for most of the remaining years of Jinnah's life, remain his primary residence. Brilliant barrister that he was, Jinnah earned such high fees for his legal services that he could well afford the luxury of devoting much of his time to public political service. He joined India's National Congress in 1906 as President Dadabhai's secretary, and he worked closely with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, the previous year's Congress president, as well. Gokhale was so impressed with Jinnah's legal brilliance, eloquence, integrity, and singular command of English Common Law that he dubbed him India's "best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity," grooming him, as he also did Mahatma Gandhi, as one of his potential successors to Congress leadership. But moderate Gokhale died in 1915, too soon to permit him to see which of them would become his successor. World War I, and Mahatma Gandhi's return from South Africa soon after it started, radically changed the nature of India's political aspirations and popular nationalist demands. Moderate "Mister" Jinnah was driven out of the Congress in the aftermath of that global conflagration, while Mahatma Gandhi captured the hopes and support of India's Congress majority with his revolutionary satyagraha ("hold fast to the truth") proposals.

Muslim League Leadership

In 1913 Jinnah joined India's Muslim League, premier political organization of British India's Muslims, founded in 1906. At Lucknow in 1916, Jinnah won both Congress and Muslim League support for the nationalist reform platform he drafted, calling upon Great Britain's Cabinet to grant virtual Dominion status to British India after the war's end. That "Lucknow Pact" marked the high point of Hindu-Muslim political agreement and seemed to augur well for the emergence of a united independent Dominion of British India, three decades before partition shattered South Asia's unity with the birth of a bifurcated Pakistan and a diminished India in 1947.

Soon after leaving Congress in 1920, Jinnah had considered moving permanently to London. He bought a grand home on Hampstead Heath, rented chambers in the city, and pleaded princely probate appeals before the Privy Council. He even thought of running for Parliament, following Dadabhai's lead, but he was unable to convince either of Britain's major parties to nominate him as a candidate. So when several ardent young Muslim League leaders—among them Liaquat Ali Khan, who was to become Jinnah's lieutenant and Pakistan's first prime minister—passionately appealed to him to return "home" to revitalize their dispirited Muslim League, Jinnah agreed. Elected Muslim member from Bombay on the Viceroy's Council, Jinnah's eloquent brilliance won the admiration and friendship of British viceroys and secretaries of state for India, as well as of Prime Ministers J. Ramsay MacDonald and Winston Churchill.

The Muslim League was so inspirited by Jinnah's return that they elected him their permanent president, and by 1937 he was hailed as their "great leader," Quaidi-Azam, by thousands of Muslim followers. That was when Jinnah cast off his Saville Row suit, donning instead a black Punjabi sherwani and astrakhan cap (which came to be known as a "Jinnah cap"), symbolizing Jinnah's Islamic faith and his unique powers as the leader of South Asia's Muslim "nation" waiting to be born. Jinnah by now believed that Mahatma Gandhi had alienated not only himself but all Muslims from the Indian National Congress by transforming it from the moderate political movement it once was into a chauvinistic "Hindu" revolutionary organization. Congress leaders all disagreed, of course, but Jinnah claimed that Gandhi had "alienated eighty million Muslims . . . by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu."

The Pakistan Idea

In 1930 Choudhry Rahmat Ali, a Muslim student in Cambridge, first called for the creation of a South Asian Muslim national "homeland" to be carved out of the Muslim-majority provinces of British India. He named it Pakistan (Land of the Pure), which could also be an acrostic of its major provinces: Punjab, Afghania (North-West Frontier), Kashmir, Sind, and the last few letters of Baluchistan. Bengal, the eastern half of which later became East Pakistan, was never even an initial in the new national name. In 1930 Punjab's great Muslim poet-philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal, also called for a consolidated "North-West Indian Muslim state" at the League's annual meeting, but Jinnah did not support either of those early Pakistan suggestions from London's Round Table Conference, which he was attending at that time.

Not until after his Muslim League passed its own "Pakistan" Resolution in Lahore in March of 1940 would Jinnah be committed to Pakistan as his League's primary demand. The year before, after Congress had won provincial elections in which the League did poorly, Jinnah lost all faith in Congress leadership, and any hope of Congress-League coalition-cooperation in jointly governing British India. At the historic Lahore League meeting in his presidential address, Jinnah thundered: "The Musalmans are not a minority..The Musalmans are a nation." After that he never changed his mind, nor would he ever abandon his ultimate goal—Pakistan—though at times he proved wise enough to be willing to work with all parties, Congress as well as the British Raj, seeking the most peaceful path to Muslim national independence from "Hindu dominance."

Jinnah never lost faith in democratic governance based on Britain's parliamentary constitutional model. He always admired and adhered to "justice and fair play" under the "rule of law," as his personal ethical code. "The Muslim League stands more firmly for the freedom and independence of the country than any other party," Jinnah assured Stafford Cripps on his mission to India in 1942. "We have no designs upon our sister communities. We want to live in this land as a free and independent nation."

Last Years and Legacy

Jinnah pressed his political suit for the creation of Pakistan with single-minded determination throughout the last decade of his life. He never wavered, nor did he reveal how pain-filled his life had become because of the fatal lung disease that half a century of heavy cigarette smoking had inflicted on him. Only his sister Fatima, who faithfully nursed him, his loyal Parsi physician in Bombay, who remained scrupulously silent about his greatest patient's pneumonia and lung cancer, and his leading lieutenant, Liaquat Ali Khan, realized during the last years of the British Raj just how near death Jinnah was, for he remained stoical till his final hour. Little more than a year before Pakistan was born, Jinnah informed his Muslim League colleagues in Delhi that the Pakistan they were "fighting for" was "not a theocracy," for he believed in equal rights and legal protection for people of every faith, which was why he so intensely opposed what he called "Hindu domination."

In his first address to Pakistan's Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947 in Karachi, Governor-General Jinnah told his new nation's elected representatives that their "first duty" as Pakistan's supreme governing body was to "maintain law and order, so that the life property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected." Next, he warned them against twin "curses" of "bribery and corruption." Jinnah himself was never tempted by either "poison," those common temptations of power. "Unpurchasable," Liaquat rightly called his great leader. "Black-marketing is another curse," Jinnah warned his young nation, adding that they must also remain vigilant against "the evil of nepotism and jobbery." Perhaps most important of all that Jinnah said in this wise speech to his newborn nation's representatives was his reminder that "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 ..there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another . . . we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State."

Had he lived a decade longer, instead of merely fourteen more months—many so painful he was forced to spend them lying on a sick bed in Baluchistan's hill station, Ziarat—Jinnah might well have led Pakistan to achieve those noble goals. "Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous," Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah told his people, "we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the . . . masses and the poor . . . work together in a spirit that everyone of you is ..first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights." But just two months after Pakistan was born in August 1947, it was bogged down in a costly war with India over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. That was only the first round in more than half a century of conflict, costing South Asia some 50,000 lives and billions of dollars in scarce resources, keeping India and Pakistan constantly mistrustful of one another, if not locked in mortal combat. India's first governor-general, Lord Mountbatten, came to dine with Governor-General Jinnah in Karachi in August 1947. Jinnah "assured" him then that "we shall not be wanting in friendly spirit with our neighbours and with all nations of the world."

The last time Jinnah and Mountbatten met, however, was in early November in Lahore, after the first Indo-Pak War had started. Jinnah angrily accused India of grabbing Kashmir, which with its Muslim majority he believed "justly belonged" to Pakistan, by "fraud and violence." Mountbatten replied that Maharaja Hari Singh's "accession" to India was "perfectly legal and valid." But Jinnah never forgave Mountbatten, and he felt "betrayed" by the British Commonwealth, which Pakistan had freely and hopefully joined.

"That freedom can never be attained by a nation without suffering and sacrifice, has been amply borne out by the recent tragic happenings in this subcontinent," Jinnah told his compatriots. His coughing made it difficult for him to speak, and though doctors hoped that Ziarat's hill-cooled air might ease his pain, nothing could stop the cancer that consumed his lungs. On 11 September 1948, Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah, then weighing only 70 pounds, was flown home to Karachi, the teeming city of his birth, where his body now lies buried inside a marble-domed monument.

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoGokhale, Gopak Krishna ; Iqbal, Muhammad ; Khan, Liaquat Ali ; Naoroji, Dadabhai ; Pakistan


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