When I was invited to contribute a piece for Dawn commemorating Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birthday, I readily agreed, principally because the Quaid, amongst others, moulded the history and geography of our subcontinent.
What then was Jinnah’s dream of ‘after Partition’? What also therefore, of the present state of affairs in Pakistan; or of Indo-Pak relations?
Space does not permit a detailed examination of the full canvas, just a fragment must suffice.
In a press meet on 14 November, 1946, in New Delhi, Jinnah when asked about the future of the ‘communal situation’ in a yet to be born Pakistan, said: “This tension which exists – that one nation is going to rule the other – will cease.
These minorities will then settle down as minorities. They will realise minorities can live only as minorities and not as a dominant body’. …then I think you will have really a stable and secure government in Pakistan… Why should there then be a national quarrel?”
He further added: “Unless you say we are reduced to bestiality I do not see any reason why the Muslim(s) in Pakistan should not deal with the minorities in a most generous way”.
Jinnah then also dismissed ‘Pan-Islamism’ as an “exploded bogey” and declared, “whatever others might say, I think that these two states of Pakistan and Hindustan, by virtue of contiguity and mutual interests will be friends in this subcontinent… They will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Monroe Doctrine more solid than in America…”. Adding thereafter: “Pakistan and Hindustan alone will mean freedom to both Hindus and Muslims”.
Sounds sadly ironic today, does it not? For this unquestionably was the dream, the hope; reality, alas, has turned out to be so starkly different. The central need, however, has remained constant, in 1947 as now: for a little more understanding, some grater accommodation of the other’s viewpoint; accepting the limitations of imported concepts, notions and transient ‘isms’; for all these have in reality been ground to dust by time; indeed by the very experience of living as neighbours; by failing to respect the dictates of geography, at our own cost.
And here I do wish to share with readers in Pakistan only some portions of a memorable speech that late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad delivered in Jama Masjid, Delhi, on 23 October 1947: He said: “There is no use recounting the events of the past seven years, nor will it serve any good… (This) gloom cast upon (our) lives is momentary; I assure you we can be beaten by none save our own selves. I repeat… again today; eschew… your mistrust… “Where are you going and why? Raise your eyes. The minarets of Jama Masjid… ask you a question. Where have you lost the glorious pages from your chronicles? Was it not only yesterday that on the banks of the Jamuna, your caravans performed wuzu? …Remember, Delhi has been nurtured with your blood. Brothers! Create a basic change in yourselves. Today, your fear is as misplaced as your jubilation was yesterday…”
That is why I add that we are, India and Pakistan are both integral to South Asia, irremediably; as parts of it, though, now not as conjoined twins; and to paraphrase Churchill, “We are linked but not compromised, we are interested and associated” but as separates.
The nature, the structure and the economic context of Pakistan is and will always remain in South Asia; that too is an unalterable dictate of our common history and a united yet separate geography. Neither Pakistan nor India can be a mere spectator to events in this subcontinent, they partner them.
Isn’t that what Jinnah meant when he spoke of the ‘virtue of contiguity’?
*(The writer a member of Indian Parliament, former Finance, Defence & External Affairs Minister, and the author of Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence (2009)