Introspection : Jinnah, Constitution and National Anthem controversy

This is loosely related to my earlier blog post Introspection: Secularism_a panacea? and was initially written on June 8 so the topic might seem a bit dated.

The introspection process is still on if I go by what I read in newspapers as well as blogosphere. Every one is picking up speeches of Quaid-e-Azam and using it to justify what they think Jinnah wanted: a secular country or country based on Islamic principles. If I had a penny for every time a columnist, a writer or a blogger gets all worked up and excited about a speech of Jinnah, I would be a rich man by now.

In defence of secular country/constitution, the most oft quoted is his speech of August 11, 1948:

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or 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.”

If this quote alone is not enough to justify a secular constitution, then there are efforts to describe Jinnah as a aristocratically attired person, a pork eating Muslim, belonging to a minority sect (Ismaili khoja), his marriage to a Parsi etc to classify him as a secular person. The argument goes that a secular father of nation would have wanted a secular state.

However, Jinnah had also provided more than enough fodder to ‘Islamists’ in terms of his speeches that one could very well classify him as a closet ‘islamist’ for lack of a better term.

“No doubt, there are many people who do not quite appreciate when we talk of Islam. Islam is not only a set of rituals, traditions and spiritual doctrines. Islam is also a code for every Muslim, which regulates his life and his conduct in even politics and economics and the like.” (Bar Association Karachi on 25th March 1948)

We must work our destiny in our own way and present to the world an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. (Speech at the opening ceremony of State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi.. July 1, 1948)

If thats not enough for initial tete-a-tete between Islamists and Secularists, the debate can be carried forward with his other quotes as Jinnah had stated that he does not want Pakistan to be a “theocracy” and on another occasion he wants Pakistan to be “laboratory of Islam”.

One can google the internet and there are hundreds of articles arguing whether Jinnah was a secularist or ‘islamist’.

Now another issue has been added to the fire: the national anthem controversy. It gained traction by first appearing on the website All Things Pakistan and then suddenly going viral last month with even Hamid Mir conducting a show on it.

There is no doubt that it was one of the earliest national songs but was it a national anthem is mired in controversy. One researcher even went to the extent of digging up Jinnah papers and his visitors book to set the record straight.

Personally, I don’t care whether he was a secularist or a ‘islamist’. The guy is dead and I am sure he would not have liked himself to be classified as into a box. He would have also looked down upon calling the country as Jinnah’s Pakistan because as per democratic principles that he subscribed to Pakistan belongs to its citizens and its not Kingdom to be attributed to a particular person. He would not have objected to being described as “democratic” .

True to his democratic credentials, he did not devise a constitution or bill for Pakistan. He let the responsibility lie with the people of Pakistan through their representatives in the Assembly to devise a constitution. Now whether to give it a secular flavor or islamic flavor is up to the people of Pakistan.

I think people on both sides of debate do a great disservice to Jinnah by using his sayings to achieve their objectives. By not interfering in the constitution making process, Jinnah showed by his actions that he subscribes to the highest level of democratic credentials.

We should let Jinnah rest in peace and not use his words to achieve our twisted objectives. If we want to give a constitution a particular flavor, go to the grassroots, start movements, let the people know what is best for them and encourage them to ask their representative to add/amend/retain the constitution. It is hard work but not impossible.

With the movement for restoration of judiciary, it has been showed that the people can be galvanized into action if the issue touches their heart. Galvanize them again. But don’t take the easier route by attributing something to Jinnah and using it to achieve your objectives.

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