Remembering Jinnah

Identity crisis at 72

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Yesterday was Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s 71 death anniversary and the occasion calls for some introspection on our part. This has been a subject of debate for a long time as to how we have fared as a nation.  And whether we have been able to shape up the country according to the vision of the founding father? And this inevitably leads to the question as to what the Quaid’s vision was? Or who gets to interpret this?

Mr Jinnah, unfortunately for us, did not get much time, after the creation of Pakistan, to set clear direction for the nascent state. He, in fact, already was terminally ill but had stopped his physician from revealing this critical information to the people around or in his view this would have jeopardized the Pakistan project.

After the partition was announced, on August 11, Mr Jinnah delivered his inaugural speech to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in Karachi. Therein he outlined broader contours of how he would like to see the new state should be run. He said the first duty of the state is to maintain law and order so life, property and religious beliefs of all its subjects are fully protected by the state. He called bribery and corruption a poison for any state and that it must be put down with an iron hand. And the most important part of his speech came when he said that caste and creed do not make any one nation or community superior to the other. All shall be equal citizens in the new state.

Some people who are opposed to idea of unifying the nation argued that this was an ill prepared speech as he did not have enough time to prepare it. They also bring out Mr Jinnah’s other statements and speeches which if do not entirely contradict the Aug 11 speech say something which could be interpreted in other ways.

After 70 years of existence, even if we do not agree on what our Quaid said or what he meant by what he said, we should have developed our own narrative by now. We should have decided upon the basic questions as to who has the right to live in this country. Do we want a monolithic entity? Do we want our primary identities to vanish and become part one major national entity? And does being a Punjabi, or a Sindhi or a Baloch make us any less Pakistani?

As has been the case for the last many decades, the minorities in the country are pushed to the margins. Government ministers, no less, are seen openly inciting division among various communities. Hindus in Sindh are forced to shut their worship places. Even a former PTI lawmaker Sikh has sought asylum in India; although there are denials from the government quarters, yet it is a matter of grave concern that a person with considerable influence has been somehow forced to seek asylum in another country for persecution. Diversity in no way threatens homogeneity; let us be on one side of this issue/debate once and for all.