Censoring Jinnah- Secular Pakistan?
By Nadeem F Piracha
How the Pakistani state used Orwellian tactics to twist and turn historical events to construct a mythical socio-political narrative is now in the open. Using the media and school textbooks, the state went on a rampage, especially after the loss of the former East Pakistan in 1971. Highly paranoid, xenophobic and aggressive narratives about Pakistan’s ideology, history and society were streamlined that eventually mutated into a warped world view.
Because of this myopic worldview many Pakistanis see themselves at the centre of the known universe, surrounded by enemies and vicious conspiracies. It suggests that these enemies can only be vanquished through wars or blocked out through self-imposed isolation. To justify such war-mongering and isolationism, various mythical and largely distorted theological concepts have been used, as if it is Islam that insists that Pakistanis continue to live in their permanent state of denial and delusion.
One can rightly blame men like Z. A. Bhutto and more specifically, General Zia, for such a state of affairs. Both of these ironically opposite personalities proudly oversaw the methodical construction of a worldview that was more suited to the whims of fringy cranks, but was made a mainstream narrative. It is true that Bhutto and Zia nourished the growth of militaristic and xenophobic fantasies of mythical glories (of both past and present) in our collective psyches, but those who came before these two weren’t all that truthful either.
Religion has always been a handy tool for the ruling elite to continue justifying its undemocratic and exploitative presence. That’s why the said narrative uses gaudy Islamic symbolism and rhetoric to validate what is actually a glorification of institutions associated with the military, the clergy, the bureaucracy and big businesses. This tool was first used to exercise political control, especially over ‘treacherous’ and ‘unpatriotic’ nationalist forces first in Bengal, and later in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Gradually, by the time Zia took over, this became a tool of social control as well. If the ‘One Unit’ and the 1956 Constitution which, without any concrete definition, declared Pakistan an ‘Islamic Republic,’ were political moves to ward off calls for provincial autonomy and democracy, then Zia’s hotchpotch of Islamic laws and the filling of secular social spaces by garish symbols, lingo and related paraphernalia was a social move to remind society of its manufactured theological roots. Zia was only enhancing (with much gusto) an old Pakistani tradition, one of social and political control by using religion.
This tradition’s earliest roots lie in one of the first insistences of Orwellian manipulation of faith and nationalism way back in 1948. The late journalist, Zameer Niazi (in his book Press in Chains), noted that historian Dr Mubarak Ali (in In Search of Pakistan Identity) and Ahmed Ali (in Culture of Pakistan) have discussed this event in detail. Soon after the creation of Pakistan, Jinnah gave his famous speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he insisted that in Pakistan minorities were free to follow their religions whichever way they wanted and that the Pakistani state had nothing to do with religion. This speech did not go down very well with that section of the Muslim League elite which had tasted the power of using religion as a political tool during the Pakistan Movement.
Some of these men would go on to fan the anti-Ahmadiyya riots in Lahore (1953) by using parties like the Jamat-i-Islami and Majlis-i-Ahrar, the two Islamist outfits that had actually opposed the creation of Pakistan. Soon after Jinnah’s speech, an attempt was made by a number of Muslim League leaders (some believe, these also included Liaquat Ali Khan), to censor the draft of the speech that was to be published in the newspapers. It was only when the then editor, Dawn, Altaf Hussain, threatened to take the issue directly to Jinnah that the League leaders relented, and the media was allowed to print the uncensored, now historic speech.
No wonder then, soon after Jinnah’s death in 1948, the League’s top leadership at once departed from the secular contents of Jinnah’s speech and, in fact, flipped it on its head by drafting the 1949 Objectives Resolution that in the future became the basis of Bhutto’s populist Islamic experiments and Zia’s Machiavellian Islamist demagoguery. After that resolution was passed in 1949, some journalists questioned just how the secular contents of Jinnah’s speech could fit in the resolution’s theological proclamations.
Various senior League members responded by suggesting that the speech was an anomaly, delivered at a time when Jinnah was very sick. Were they implying that towards the end Jinnah was losing his mind? The famous Justice Muneer is on record as saying that he overheard some League leaders say that the speech was ‘inspired by the devil.’
In 1970s Z.A. Bhutto claimed that attempts were even made to burn that speech, while in the 1980s Zia used the director of the Quaid-i-Azam Academy to refute the contents of the speech by apologetically suggesting that Jinnah had no idea what an Islamic state meant, and/or if he had known he would not have made those comments.
Smokers’ Corner: Censoring JinnahNadeem F. Paracha
Responses to " Smokers’ Corner: Censoring Jinnah "
Today at 1:57 pm
Superb peice. I follow you on twitter too. Very good sense of humor.
Today at 12:34 pm
The role of Britishers in what is wrong with the subcontinent now is very much under quoted. The partition of Bengal in 1905 along religious lines on pretext of better administration was the prelude to the 1947 Partition.the problem is that Pakistan still refuses to see through the game of the British-USA Colonialists. The Muslims that have been butchered by the Anglosaxons will far outnumber those that have died in the communal riots across the subcontinent. Also the way Pakistani Muslims are suffering is due to that legacy. Instead of looking at India with jaundiced eyes Pakistan should solve all issues peacefully and grow along with India rather than making itself a fool in the modern form of Imperialism by the West.Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries and evolved so much together that it is not worth throwing away all that cultural growth. The looser in this equation is both India and Pakistan but Pakistan is a bigger looser as it cannot afford the cost.
Today at 12:19 pm (4 hours ago)
NFP, I agree with your concerns but unfortunately have to differ with the conclusion. Jinnah wanted a democracy, now if the majority wishes to be a xenophobic fascist state then that is what they should get. Now, if people like yourself and many many more can change this view, well Ahlan wa Sahlan, if not then you have two options: (1) Sit back and respect the majority or (2) Be ready to push the eject button i.e. immigrate. Please do keep writing, if anything it keeps the self righteous on their tenter hooks.
Today at 12:17 pm (4 hours ago)
Mr. Jinnah himself had stressed the separate identity of the ‘Muslim community’ and had demanded the creation of Pakistan for the ‘community’. After that, just by making a couple of speeches with lofty ideals cannot change the Raison d’être for Pakistan.
What the Muslim Leage leaders thought, spoke and did was logical – and probably more honest and keeping with their beliefs. They were the ones who rallied people to the cause of Pakistan across the sub-continent during the Pakistan Movement.
Again, after losing East Bengal, it is but natural for leaders of Pakistan to try to define the identity of Pakistan that holds the country together. So, looking west (Arab/Persian roots) is a natural option. One cannot fault them for that.
So, what is happening is a natural growth of the seeds sown at the time of the Pakistan Movement. Analysing them in small chunks is unlikely to lead to any solutions.
The only solution is to have a federal structure for the whole sub-continent with all states (or regions within them) having complete autonomy for all local affairs – with strong governance at the city/village level. All other solutions (and definition of identities) will be apologies to the reality and will never be able to lead to a lasting peace in the region. With the information age upon us, there is possibility that in a couple of generations, the youth, armed with information and the wisdom of experiences of the earlier generations, will be able to dream and take bold decisions for the collective good.
Today at 12:13 pm (4 hours ago)
Hats off to Sir Nadeem for presenting the painful historical truth. Our whole syllabus of primary and secondary schools should be changed in order to bring the nation out of that delusional state.
Today at 12:12 pm (4 hours ago)
History is repeating….Jinnah in new form of Imran Khan and Iqbal in form of Zaid Hamid….Dont Worry at all….Combination will sail through the crisis…
Today at 2:47 pm (2 hours ago)
are you serious
Today at 12:11 pm (4 hours ago)
In any case Jinnah’s speech was not exactly an exemplar of liberalism or secularism. It merely expressed an indifference or at best a toleration of minorities holding a different religious belief from the mainstream.
There is a fundamental contradiction in forcing a sesession on the basis that muslims formed a nation and could not live under a hindu hegemony and then pretending minorities are welcome (or to be exact, not hounded) under the new muslim regime. What is good for the goose apparently is not good for the gander.
The subsequent development of religious intolerance is truly in keeping with the attitude of exceptionalism that drove the Pakistan Movement.
free thinker says:
Today at 12:05 pm (5 hours ago)
Its awesomely amazing to see free advice (muft musharay) being given by Indians as if they are they are the bastions of self-awareness. How Girish preaches us to “come out of eternal state of denial” highlights the magnificently towering arrogance that reeks in every iota of his pathetic existence.
Today at 11:36 am (5 hours ago)
When religion got out of the confines of the home into politics, the subcontinent became a violent place. The issues are the same in india albeit of a less virulent kind. The only difference is that the gun culture in Pakistan exacerbates it. I often wonder if unresolved issues like Kashmir are a mere excuse to foster violence. I don’t think the resolution of these issues will yet lead to peace in the region. As a people, we are backward, naive and easily misled. The moral fibre is conspicuously missing.
Today at 11:31 am (5 hours ago)
This write-up does not do justice to the memory of ZA Bhutto, and Mr. NFP as a former PPP adherent, should know better. ZAB did at least try to bring in socialist laissez-faire economics in the 70s, an attempt to see that development should be broad-based and reach the masses. That he did not succeed,whatever the reasons may be, is another matter.
Conspiracy Tehreek says:
Today at 11:20 am (5 hours ago)
Our identity crisis continues. Denial, unfortunately is our way of life now.
Today at 10:50 am (6 hours ago)
The movement was only to declare Ahmadys a minority and nothing else. Since they were declaring themselves muslims but were not accepting the end of prophethood on Muhammad (PBUH)it was creating a basic misconception over Islam.
S. Sharma says:
Today at 10:49 am (6 hours ago)
Oft quoted speech by Jinnah has negligible value now — and even had little value then.
Pakistan was created by insistence of Jinnah for “muslm majority” – there never was any doubt in the mind of millions who picked up their bags and moved on .. they know what was coming.
So one can lament and deride muslim league .. but the deed was done and there was no coming back.
The rationale for division was shallow and vane – it has grown from that original thought to it’s logical conclusion — fanaticism!
Today at 10:48 am (6 hours ago)
Pakistan’s salvation will come when the excessive obsession with religion disappears and people start worrying more about, education, health and progress. Islam will take care of itself and does not need suicide bombers and street rowdies to survive.
Today at 10:39 am (6 hours ago)
You are right! It was an historic trend of spiralling downwards. After the British left, we came to inherit the piece of land. However, our mindset is still tribal, and it will take a few centuries to grow some extra layers in our brains to reach the National level. Things were bound to get worse then. Maybe we can speed up our intellectual growth but only time will tell. Many other nations by that time may have grown into Internationalists. We need to push ourselves to achieve.
Today at 10:35 am (6 hours ago)
Why hankering of past? Do you really believe that present is immutable and Pakistan has to live the consequences of decisions made in its early year for eternity!
Any nation-state is just an abstract concept that is brought to live by its people and surely if enough of people believe they need to change then they can ofcourse it has to be done painstakenly over decades and not in a instant.
It is time for elite/thinking class to move away from past and start imagining the future that they wish to have and build a momentum.
As a non-pakistani it is really trying to read this ‘marsia’ styled column where blame is place on figures of past with no responsibility assumed for changing the future (if not present).
Today at 10:10 am (6 hours ago)
So what do you suggest to fix these existential anxieties of Pakistanis? How can we do a reverse brain-wash of the people or should the country cease to exist?
Today at 11:18 am (5 hours ago)
Coming out of eternal state of denial and appreciation of actual facts of the history might help..
Today at 11:39 am (5 hours ago)
Is there really an existential crisis emanating from across the border? An honest appraisal of this belief might be of great help.