Posted by sepoy on March 01, 2007 · 5 mins read

I admit that I have never been a big fan of Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As a member of the "Generation Islam" of General Zia ul Haq, I have more than a passing familiarity with Jinnah's hagiography. In the fifth grade, we read essays on how he studied after dark [he used the street light!] and were asked to respond [amazing!!]. In the eighth grade, we admired Jinnah's unwavering commitment to Pakistan [he was against it before he was for it!]. On his birthday, we lined the streets with flowers and watched our military junta pass by. Every telecast started with Quaid-e Azam nay Farmiya (Quaid-e Azam said:) and some quotable quote ["Work, work and work"]. My uncle had a well-worn quip every single time: Quaid-e Azam nay farmiya, tu chal tey main aiya (the Punjabi speakers will get it). And so it went.

Despite the mounted portraits in every room, the newspaper articles, the speeches, the textbooks, Jinnah remained an aloof, cold patriarch for the nation of Pakistan. His fossilized and ubiquitous memory [honest, dedicated, principled etc.] harbored very few counter narratives. Sometimes, I would hear faint complaints about Jinnah's love for the single-malt. Or questions were raised about his love for western attire. Sometimes, even, some one would raise that highest level of critique - Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah contradicted himself - though, only in a whisper.

Things have changed since the '80s, though. The nationalist hagiography has been countered by historians such as Ayesha Jalal (The Sole Spokesman) and Faisal Devji (forthcoming) who present a much more conflicted and uncertain leader. The State's attempt at a popular revival even floundered. A movie was commissioned by the Govt. under the script guidance of academics and funding by well-wishers. Naturally, the result was a truly bizarre hodge-podge of glorification and self-righteous indignation. It received a tepid response and the State was roundly criticized for it. You can watch a music video from the movie and marvel.

Since The General's ascension, the "Heroes of Pakistan" focus has shifted towards the more brazenly militant ones and the earlier generation's focus on Jinnah and Iqbal has softened considerably. Just recently, the religious party Jamaat Ulama-i Islam [JUI] decided that Jinnah was no freedom fighter, because "he did nothing for Islam and Pakistan, made no sacrifice and never went to jail”. Such a public stance would have been un-heard of, at any previous time. This statement did receive public condemnationn and the sentiment is in no way universal - another religious party Jamaat-e Islami [JI] maintains a healthy respect for the Quaid - but one can begin to see another shift in the self-definition of the State of Pakistan. While Jinnah remains a restless specter in the house of Pakistan, how long before talk of exorcisms begin?

Examining the final collection of speakers for our recently held colloquium on the All India Muslim League, I realized that no one was going to speak on the Greatest Leader of the Nation. It was almost unthinkable that we would have a full day of discussions and presentations without any attention paid to him (at that moment, I was not privy to the content of Naim Sahib's keynote - which does address Jinnah's 1946 speech). And then, true inspiration struck - CM friend, and artist-in-residence, lapata divulged that she had done a series on Jinnah. With the extraordinary help of our dear friend Ms. Neilson, the art was framed and exhibited in the room for the colloquium. You can see my horrid pictures of the installation in situ and the way better detail views put up by the artist.

The installation was a huge success. It garnered amazing responses from everyone in the room - especially, Jinnah with Monocole and Jinnah and his sister Fatima. I overheard delightful conversations about the choice of colors and whether they reflected the perceived character of Jinnah: Was Jinnah really Blue?. One distinguished guest was concerned that the artwork appeared to present a 'demonic' side of Jinnah. "Is it painted by a Pakistani artist," he asked, "because, if it is by a Pakistani, then it is ok. If an Indian did that, it is highly inappropriate." I assured him that the art reflected the highest respect towards the nation of Pakistan. "Well, you are a Pakistani. So, I will let you be the judge," he demurred.



Jonathan Dresner | March 01, 2007

Nice catch, and save!

AG | March 02, 2007

One whisper that I overheard was along the lines: it was Jinnah that decided against Shari'a and settled for the mortals folly called the "constitution." If it weren't for him, Pakistan would have been heaven on earth.

Qalandar | March 02, 2007

Interesting write-up sepoy. One other Jinnah that appears to have some currency in Pakistan (obviously based on this "outsider's" anecdotal experience, so extra-large doses of salt might be in order) is "Musharraf's Jinnah", i.e. the Jinnah who mysteriously appears to have wanted a Pakistan no different than the one Musharraf routinely speaks of wanting to birth. This of course taps into the Ataturk-fetish of all-too-many in Pakistan, and it seems to me that more than a few of Pakistan's well-heeled urban elites appear to be buying what Musharraf is selling, a creeping intellectual authoritarianism and a fantasy that if the country were "de-mullahized" and relevant hordes appropriately "disciplined" -- the way Ataturk/Jinnah/whoever would have wanted -- then all would be well.

e | March 02, 2007

request a translation of your uncle's joke

sepoy | March 02, 2007

"Quaid-e Azam nay farmiya, tu chal tey main aiya" literally translated: "Quaid-e Azam decreed: you go, and I will come" colloquially: "he says, go on and start without me and I will be right behind you" [though he won't show up because Jinnah is a lazy bastard] Missing in the translation is the rhyme - farmiya/aiya - and the pun - jaa'na/aa'na - of the Punjabi

Global Voices Online Blog Archive Pakistan: On Jinnah | March 03, 2007

[...] chapati mystery on the perception of Jinnah in the academic and state circles through the years. “Since The General's ascension, the “Heroes of Pakistan” focus has shifted towards the more brazenly militant ones and the earlier generation's focus on Jinnah and Iqbal has softened considerably. Just recently, the religious party Jamaat Ulama-i Islam [JUI] decided that Jinnah was no freedom fighter, because “he did nothing for Islam and Pakistan, made no sacrifice and never went to jail”. Such a public stance would have been un-heard of, at any previous time.” Neha Viswanathan [...]

hoopoe | March 08, 2007

I don't know much about QAMAJ, except for the fact that he came up with a lot of canted sayings. He always struck me as a very strange leader, especially in the context of anti-colonial leaders. He seemed like a bona fide "brown sahib".

Early Modern Notes History Carnival 50 | March 14, 2007

[...] traces the shifting historiography of Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. KM Lawson considers the run-up to the 1948 election in southern Korea in Getting out the Vote. [...]

Frog in a Well - The China History Group Blog | March 17, 2007

[...] in some cases the place (or nation) can be re-written to fit you. Chapati Mystery has problems with Jinnah According to Asia Cable, Thailand has been more fortunate with its national heroes. Of course the [...]

yasser | May 04, 2007

Interesting article ... Qalandar, Jinnah's admiration for Kemal Ataturk is no secret. in his press interview in 1938 Jinnah described Kemal Ataturk as the greatest Musalman of the modern age and Turkey an example for all Muslims.

al-Maturidi | May 06, 2007

Yasser, even Allama Iqbal admired "Ataturk", however, he later rejected his ideas. This is what Iqbal wrote about him: "What is this Secular and Latin stratagem, that entangled you? The remedy for the weak is one: None is Supreme, but Him (the Almighty)"

YLH | January 05, 2009

Well Jinnah did not... till the very end. Neither did Iqbal. In his last letter to Muslims of East Africa (which came after the said couplet you quote) Iqbal asked them to pray for "Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Mustapha Kemal Ataturk for these two men had still a lot to accomplish for Muslims".

Sania | November 24, 2009

Interestingly all of u have baseless comments, nothing substantial. Now, when u want to talk about history u should read and do a research...BASTARD Sepoy, son of filthy bitch.

turtlehead | October 21, 2014

great read, Jinnah was confused in his idea of creating Pakistan.. First he rejected the idea then when he thought that he will loose importance in a joint India, he then proposed the idea as it were his. At the end when his "dream" was realised his health was so frail that he was not even able to manage the country as per his wishes, left to the hands of Liaquat Ali Khan the country went to the dogs, even the national anthem chosen by Jinnah was not allowed to remain ! such was his "greatness" In the end I want say that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was right in his prediction of Pakistan.