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Muhammad Ali Jinnah: Founder of Pakistan

24 March 2016

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi

The 139th birth anniversary of Pakistan's founder Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was recently celebrated and I was invited to attend a function organized by the Pakistan National Solidarity Forum, a common platform of various political, academic, literary, cultural and other organizations in the Pakistani community in the western region of Saudi Arabia. The speakers dealt at length with the charismatic leadership qualities that catapulted Jinnah to the helm of the Muslim League Party and enabled him to lead the party successfully to establish a separate nation for Muslims.

Jinnah was born on 25 December 1876 in Karachi where he received his elementary education. He then moved to Mumbai where he studied at Bombay University and then traveled to London to study law at one of the most prestigious law institutes in the world – Lincoln's Inn.

After returning to India, he practiced as a barrister in Mumbai. Jinnah, with his advocacy and legal logic, shot to fame as a well-known barrister in the city, thanks to his elegance, eloquence and absolute self-confidence. One of Jinnah's fellow barristers from the Bombay High Court remembered that ''Jinnah's faith in himself was incredible.'' He recalled that on being admonished by a judge with: ''Mr. Jinnah, remember that you are not addressing a third-class magistrate''; Jinnah shot back: ''My Lord, allow me to warn you that you are not addressing a third-class pleader.''

Another of his fellow barristers described him saying: ''He was what God made him, a great pleader. He had a sixth sense: he could see around corners. That is where his talents lay… he was a very clear thinker… But he drove his points home—points chosen with exquisite selection—slow delivery, word by word.''

Jinnah entered politics by joining the Indian National Congress and rose to prominence as one of its prominent young leaders. He played a great role in India's freedom struggle. In the early years of his political career, Jinnah was one of the proponents of Hindu-Muslim unity, and also a staunch advocate of the rights of minorities, especially the political rights of Muslims. He proposed a 14-point constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims. He was instrumental in shaping the Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the All India Muslim League under which the two parties agreed on the composition of the legislatures and the quantum of representation to be allowed to the two communities. Jinnah, the chief architect of the Lucknow Pact, was given the title of ''Ambassador of Hindu – Muslim Unity.''

Later, Jinnah resigned from Congress when the party agreed to follow a campaign of ''satyagraha'' or non-violent resistance, advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, and became leader of the All India Muslim League party. He became a staunch advocate of the two-nation theory, which was a founding principle of the Pakistan Movement and the partition of India. He told Gandhi that Hindus and Muslims were two distinct nations, regardless of ethnic or other commonalities. He also demanded that the British quit India after dividing the country.

Edwin Montagu, the then British secretary of state for India, expressed his opinion and found Jinnah: ''Perfectly mannered, impressive looking, armed to the teeth with the dialects… Jinnah is a very clever man and it is of course an outrage that such a man should have no chance of running the affairs of his own country.''

After the adoption of the Lahore Resolution, which is also known as the Pakistan Resolution, by the annual meeting of the All India Muslim League held in Lahore in 1940, it was evident that Jinnah and his party were not ready to accept anything other than partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan on the basis of the two-nation theory. According to the theory, all Muslim-majority provinces would join Pakistan while the minorities would have the choice of migration to either of the two new states where their community was a majority or of remaining in their original native place. After a long and bitter struggle and great sacrifices, the new nation of Pakistan came into being in 1947 and Jinnah became the first governor general of Pakistan. Jinnah worked to aid the millions of Muslim migrants who had emigrated from the new nation of India to Pakistan and he personally supervised the establishment of refugee camps.

Though Pakistan was created on the principle of the two-nation theory, the Muslim majority Kashmir was an exception. The Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir favored accession of his princely state to India, and subsequently India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir. The United Nations Commission for India and the Pakistan Resolution stated that the question of the accession of the princely state should be decided through a free and impartial plebiscite of the Kashmiri people. However, that plebiscite has yet to be held.

Quaid-e-Azam died in September 1948 just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the British Raj. Jinnah left a deep and respected legacy in Pakistan. As his biographer Stanley Wilbert observed, he breathed his last after altering the course of history, modifying the world map and creating a new nation-state for the Muslims of the subcontinent.

I would like to emphasize that the best tribute for this great Muslim leader would be the resolution of the problem of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, whose only fault is their determination to maintain their identity as Pakistanis.

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com

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