Jinnah, Muhammad ?Ali (1876–1948)

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Muhammad ˓Ali Jinnah was born on 25 December 1876 in Karachi and became one of the most celebrated leaders of the independence movement. Later he became the founder of Pakistan. He died one year after independence on 11 September 1948.

People of Pakistan know him better by his title, Quaid-i Azam, meaning "the great leader." After earning his degree in law from London's famous Lincoln's Inn in 1896 and with a certificate to join the bar of any court in British India, he returned to his homeland. He settled in Bombay where he practiced law and soon rose to fame as the most distinguished attorney in the country. He split his time between the legal profession and politics. As a liberal nationalist trained in British constitutional and democratic tradition, he became a passionate advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity against British rule. For almost two decades, he devoted his energies to bringing the two communities together on one political platform by focusing on the idea of common political interests against British imperialism.

By the early 1920s, he began to feel disenchanted by the leaders of the Indian National Congress Party. He did not feel comfortable with their militant, confrontational style with the British. Rather, he advocated the course of moderation and dialogue to win freedom. His real disappointment came on the issue of minority rights, specifically those of the Muslims who comprised nearly 20 percent of the population, with concentration in the eastern and western parts of the British Indian Empire. Given their numbers, they were not a minority in a traditional sense, but a people with a heritage of more than one thousand years of Muslim rule and separate sense of identity. Jinnah favored a tripartite understanding on the constitutional guarantees for the rights of the Muslims once India became independent.

Muslim nationalism developed parallel to secular Indian nationalism in the later part of the nineteenth century. Muslims in the Indian subcontinent regarded themselves as a separate community with distinctive culture and civilization. But their political separatism was confined to the issue of minority rights that Muslim leaders like Jinnah strongly advocated in seeking representation in elected councils through separate electorates for Muslims. That ensured that Muslims would get adequate representation according to the size of their population. The dominant Hindu groups, including the Congress Party, were opposed to continuing any such arrangements once the British left.

By the late 1930s, Jinnah began to argue for a separate country for the Muslims in the eastern and western fringes of British India. With the passage of the Lahore Resolution in 1940 by a great assembly of Muslim leaders from all over India, Jinnah formally demanded the creation of a Muslim homeland. For the next seven years, he mobilized the Muslim masses on the basis of separate nationhood and convinced the British that that was the only option to prevent a communal war between Hindus and Muslims. Although Jinnah invoked Islamic symbols for political mobilization, he was a liberal, constitutionalist politician with a rational and progressive outlook.

See alsoPakistan, Islamic Republic of .

Rasul Bakhsh Rais