Quaid-i-Azam – A leader par excellence
Zafar Khan Safdar
When frustration and despondency envelop a period of history like blinding fog, there arises at times a genius among his people, whose confidence in himself and the cause he advocates become the solid foundation on which is built the magnificent mansion of immortal achievement. The first half of the 20th century was one such period confronting the Muslims of Indo-Pak sub-continent and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was their stand bearer on the political battle-field, where they were fighting for their very existence as a nation. The Quaid did not have greatness thrust on him, he achieved greatness through the cultivation of his talents and capacities and building up of a character that emerged unscathed from all vicissitudes like burnished gold out of fire.
“Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the recipient of devotion and loyalty seldom accorded to a man”. This was the glowing tribute that President Truman of the United States paid the Quaid-i-Azam. Acc-ording to Allama Iqbal, Jinnah was the “only Muslim in India to whom a community had a right to look up for safe guidance”.
In the history of Indian Muslim life and thought, he is one of the most striking and distinctive figure. At one time or other, he was the greatest legal luminaries India had ever produced during the first half of the 20th century. An ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, a great constitutionalist, a distinguished parliamentarian, a brilliant and strategist politician, a tireless freedom fighter, a gifted debater and orator, consummate master of logic, a profound lawyer, a sound statesman, a dynamic mass leader and above all, one of the great nation builder in modern times. He stood for justice, for freedom, for equal rights, for the rule of people, for an open society and for a noble Pakistan. Through ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ he converted Muslim nation into a dynamic force which swept the sub-continent and altered the destinies of a human race by lying the foundation of the second biggest Muslim State, an achievement without parallel in the annals of civilization.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah lived through remarkable times – a tremendous period of upheaval and struggle in modern history. He saw two world wars and freedom’s triumph over the forces of fascism. He was part of the epic battle to end colonial domination and liberate Asia and Africa from the stifling hold of imperialism. He watched the rise of socialism with its promise of peace, justice and equality. It was inevitable that his political beliefs should have been shaped by these momentous events and to have led him unerringly to his commitment to democracy and liberal humanism. The Quaid tried, in the short time he was given to run the affairs of Pakistan, to pass on this commitment as his legacy to the leadership and citizens of the new nation. Unfortunately, we have betrayed that legacy time and again. Mr. Jinnah was something more than Quaid-i-Azam, supreme head of the state, to the people who followed him; he was more than even the architect of the Islamic nation he personally called into being. He commanded their imagination as well as their confidence. In the face of difficulties which might have overwhelmed him, it was given to him to fulfill the hope foreshadowed in the inspired vision of the great Iqbal by creating for the Muslims of India a homeland where the old glory of Islam could grow afresh into a modern state, worthy of its place in community of natio-ns. Few statesmen have sha-ped events to their policy mo-re surely than Mr. Jinnah. He was a legend even in his lifetime.
With his unusual powers of persuasion, luminous exposition, searching arguments, and sound judgment, the Quaid was able to win the battle for Pakistan. His ability for counter-argument was on display even at the formal ceremony on August 14, 1947. When Lord Mountbatten made a speech to the Constituent Assembly in which he offered the example of Akbar the Great as the model of a tolerant Muslim ruler to Pakistan. The Quaid, however, was equal to the task. In his reply to the speech, he immediately presented an alternative model; that of the Holy Prophet (SAW). “The tolerance and goodwill that the great Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back thirteen centuries ago…” Quaid thundered back.
Since 1937, Quaid-i-Azam steered the ship of the Muslim League through stormy and rough seas. He had to create and unite a nation and remove the wave of pessimism that was overwhelming the Muslim minds. He had to remake men and furnish them with fresh emotional equipment. Renan – the French philosopher rightly says “Man is enslaved neither by his race nor by his religion, nor by the course of rivers, nor by the directions of mountain ranges. An aggregation of man, sane of mind and warm of heart, creates a moral consciousness and infuses in the masses the idea of reasserting their hegemony, and prepares them for achieving their lost empire”. How beautifully our poet of East, Iqbal, defines the conception of true leader “By leader, I mean men who by divine gift or experience possess a keen, a perception of the spirit and destiny of Islam along with an equal keen perception of the trend of modern history. Such men are really the divine forces of people, but they are God’s gifts and cannot be forced to order”.
H.V. Hudson in his ‘The Great Divide’ eulogizes Quaid’s character in these words “Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price. Nor was he in the least degree weathercock, swinging in the wind of popularity or changing the times. He was a steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honour”. Even Lord Mountbatten for all his hostility towards Pakistan and Quaid-i-Azam made the admission that “If it could be said that any single man held the future of India in his palm, that man is Mohammad Ali Jinnah. To all interests and purposes, Jinnah was the Muslim League and if the dream of Pakistan ever did come true, it could be Jinnah who brought it to life and fashioned it”. Once Sir Staf-ford Cripps described Quaid-i-Azam as “A man of the h-ighest probability and honour, difficult to negotiate wi-th; for the very reason that he was so determined in his purpose”. He further added “It was the honesty of his conviction and the clarity of his purpose that marked him as a great leader of his people”.
As a true Muslim and sincere individual, Quaid-i-Azam paid great stress on dignity and strength of character. It was the aspect of his personality that marked him out as the leader of undisputed influence and power. To him character was not a thing to talk about; it was the basis of all human conduct. Addressing the Muslim Youth’s League at Aligarh in 1942, he said “Build your character that is more important of all degrees and no character is mere waste of time. You should also develop keen sense of honour, integrity and duty”.
Quaid-i-Azam fought his entire battles single handed with courage, fortitude and determination. Often his firm adherence to what he considered to be right and tenacity of purpose was misunderstood by lesser people as obstinacy. He never wanted to share his sorrow with others. The great leader did not live long to witness the progress of the state that he founded. His excessive work soon confined him to bed. Disregarding medical advice, he devoted much of his time to official work that impaired his health and died. According to Richard Symonds (The making of Pakistan) “Mr. Jinnah had worked himself to death, but contributed more than any other person for survival of Pakistan”. To quote Lord Pathick Lawrence “Ghandi died by the hands of an assassin, Mr. Jinnah died by his devotion to Pakistan”.
It is easy to forget the unsettled and confused circumstances in which Pakistan was born, and to cavil at some of the decisions made when the Quaid was governor-general. But his personal incorruptibility and his belief in the supremacy of the will of the people were never in doubt. Throughout his career as a politician and as a legislator, his dedication to the rule of law and constitutionalism was unswerving. During the past seven decades, we have made a mockery of these values. It is not as if there has been no progress and development. No country ever wholly stagnates, we have progressed in many fields. We have become a nuclear power. Our economy has expanded. The cities of the Quaid’s days have grown beyond belief, and glittering new palaces have come up everywhere. It would have been impossible to stand still for seven decades but the benefits of development have been unevenly spread, and mostly have accrued to the privileged classes. Most of all, there is a sense of general disorientation: we do not know where we are heading and what we want to make of our country. For years together we have functioned without the benefit of constitutional governance, and our destiny has been decided by a string of military rulers. Periods of representative rule have been perverted by the venality of a few politicians. In this protracted struggle between politicians and the military, both have suffered a loss of popular trust. The people have seen the two wrangled as economic and social problems have piled up. There has to be a future for Pakistan beyond all the skullduggery of the past and the present.
This can be possible only if the basic right of the people to govern themselves is unreservedly and unequivocally recognized. Democracy is often confusing business, but it appears even more so in our circumstances because the structures that support it – the constitution, parliament, the judiciary – have been systematically weakened. The generals have been guilty of repeatedly blocking the political process; the politicians have been guilty of treating their own electorates with contempt and of flagrant abuse of office. There is no doubt that the Quaid wanted to see the country move ahead and prosper in all fields of life. “The first duty of the government is to maintain law and order… The second thing that occurs to me is… bribery and corruption. That really is a poison” he said in his speech on 11 Aug 1947. Seven decades later, the poison Quaid has referred to has spread like cancer. That is the greatest dis-service one can do to the Father of the nation, and we, as a nation, do it every single day. Indeed, we have so emasculated the Quaid’s ideals that some people question whether they are any longer relevant as a frame of reference. But it would be a grievous mistake if we fell into the error of seeking to compromise further on his faith in democracy and moderate Pakistan as the only course to follow.
(The writer is Ph.D in Political Scientist, civil servant posted in Islamabad. He can be reached at email@example.com and twitter@zafarkhansafdar).