If I could have a chat with Jinnah…

December 18, 2012

The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers.

Like many, I often wonder what it would be like to talk to an influential historic figure. One wants to sit with them, ask questions and find out what they think about things around them, but they no longer exist to answer.

I personally wish I had a chance to interview Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – Jinnah now. The apparent dream of Pakistan he saw in 1934, which may have led him to come to India, all the more makes one want some answers. He isn’t here to answer, but one can conjecture, right?

I wonder if Jinnah would have given the following answers if I did, in fact, interview him.

Me: “Sir, what were you thinking when you came to India to lead in 1934?”

Jinnah: “I had been alternatively lectured and cajoled to lead. Generally, I do not change my mind; then perhaps because this was on my mind, I had a powerful dream. I do not want to go into the details of the dream but it almost immediately moved me to return to India and lead the Muslim League. The objective was clear – unite and move with purpose to form a separate homeland for the Muslims. We were not sure in what form or how autonomous it would be, but it would franchise the Muslims as a separate independent authority.”

Me: “What did you think of the Muslim League leaders?”

Jinnah: “Unfortunately it is true that the followers all came from the Sardari class – Raja-this, Nawab-that, Sardar-so-and-so. But that’s all we had. The common Muslim was uneducated and struggling in vocations. They were also not conversant in English or well acquainted with the prevailing 20th century culture. To move forward, we needed the landlord class. I hoped in time our people would arise and progress. Alas! I hear they still maintain their dominance. That was not part of my plan.”

Me: “When did you decide a Muslim homeland can happen?”

Jinnah: “There was never a doubt from 1934 onwards about this in my mind. Having started this struggle and gone on this route, there was no turning back. We knew the struggle would be bitter and long.

From 1937, I was certain; then, of course, the Lahore Resolution in 1940 defined our lands, which had been unclear till then.”

Me: “Do you think we could have compromised with the Congress?”

Jinnah: “You do not realise the backwardness of the Muslims and therefore our weakness in the coalition. I had already spent 20 years working on this unity, however, to no avail. You cannot blame the Hindus alone on this. They did not have an equal partner and in politics the stronger takes the lead and leaves the other to follow.

A separate homeland allowed the Muslims within their own security, to advance and become equals. And it seemed from the passion created, that we would be able to do it. If you have a vision and a value system (and we did back then) then the lacking ingredient is dedication and passion. We seemed to have that to spare.”

Me: “How did you miss out on Kashmir? And what about the loss of Gurdaspur?”

Jinnah: “They are both interconnected. You would say that it was naive to expect that it would work out. India wanted Kashmir, Hyderabad, Junagadh and other protectorates. We should probably have expected it. But then, remember we were totally focused on Pakistan’s creation and had no other thought. Our fear was that Pakistan may be lost. We were frankly ready to take a truncated Pakistan.

I knew my health was bad and it was passion which was keeping one going. So, really, the Gurdaspur factor did not enter our minds. Nawabzada Liaquat was heading the Muslim League delegation to the Radcliffe Border Commission and some games were played with the recommendations. It was extremely unfortunate and led to a huge loss of life. I class that as our biggest miss and I wish we could turn the clock back on that one.”

Me: “Sir, what about not taking Bengali as our language along with Urdu?”

Jinnah: “That, as events have shown, later turned out to be a misjudgment. But the reasoning was straightforward. Bengal made 50% plus of the population, however it was another province. Had we allowed Bengali the same status as a national language, soon all the others Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto and Balochi would have demanded the same. Perhaps had we left English it would be better, but then people would say ‘why achieve freedom’? So you see our problem?”

Me: “Do you still believe that Pakistan was the right thought after 65 years?”

Jinnah: “The concept is still sound. We are two different nations and ensuing 65 years have made it even more of a divide. Culture and society are further apart than ever before. The problem is that it was our fundamental belief, and so we would not have gotten a good deal in undivided India. Nothing has changed that.

Our execution post partition has been bad, but do not despair. This is just 65 years. In North American plains, the US was a wild country throughout the 19th century. It started with fighting the Mexicans and then drove out its Indians and almost exterminated them. Simultaneously it treated its black population as slaves. Then they fought a war to sort that out, and for the last three decades, the white killed the white to gain power in the Wild West.

We are nowhere as bad. We will InshaAllah grow to be a nation yet. Without belief and optimism, nothing can be accomplished. Get your belief right and then all the others will fall into place.”

Me: “Thank you, sir.”

Read more by Sarfaraz here or follow him on Twitter @sarehman

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Best Revenge

The Best Revenge

“Mom was right in asking me to spend Ramadan here, Nani. Easier rozaa’s. Smaller days than Canada.”

“Yes beta. Not much to do here though. Loadshedding; also its hot and thirsty. Not many friends; all the relatives are in Canada, US and UK”.

“Why is that Nan?”

“Beta they thought they would have a better life elsewhere.”

“So why did you not go?”

“This is home. I am not leaving my language, my people and my food. What will I do there? Watch endless TV about unfamiliar things. At this time of life, no one to tell all the art of living I collected for 70 years.”

“But Nani, you are alone and who do you meet here?”

“My neighbours, some old friends and cousins who still come. Then all the young ones from the maids’ household. I teach them.”

“You could be with Mom in Toronto. She will look after you. I know she has a busy job, but she loves you. Even the cold is bearable with heating.”

“Beta, my heart is here. Your grandfather is here in that graveyard. My father and mothers souls are here. This is home and a passport cannot change that”.

“Nani what happened to your parents. I never saw them and Mom was saying vague stuff.”

“(Sigh!) Well she never saw them either. I haven’t these sixty-five years”.

“Nani, what do you mean?”

“Well jaan, I was very young and living in Ludhiana. We had a fair life. Not too rich, but enough to live. We used to live in a Muslim community. Then one day I heard my parents talking. It was sort of worrying. They were saying we should move to Lahore or Multan.  I asked why?

My father said because they were coming to get us and we will be safer in Pakistan. So what is Pakistan and what of my friends? My choti sister started crying. ‘Don’t worry’ said Abba, ‘Pakistan is home and where home is the heart is’.

We went by cart first and then found this crowded truck. Father was lost for a while. Then in Gurdaspur we found him. So there we were in Pakistan and safe in a camp. It was August 16th. Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly the raiders came, there was gunfire, stampede and they were killing everyone. I hid behind some bodies. After they had gone, I went to see. Abba and Amma were dead and Amma was lying on top of choti to protect her. But choti was dead too.”

Silence…

“Somehow I got to Lahore. Some good people helped me. Then after 10 days my uncle in Lahore came and took me home. He had been looking for us for days. I told him about father and he cried. Chacha said to me, ‘We have given the price of blood for this land. Remember that always. This is precious and yours. Don’t give it up easily’.

And so my dear, I do remember it and shall not leave. My land, whatever may go wrong, I am staying here Inshallah. I want the right to stand before Allah one day, to ask him to question all who have cheated this land and to call judgement on the evil visited in the name of the military, religion, democracy, justice, the rich and uncaring. I am going to ask Allah to visit the best revenge on these people who have spoilt the home that is mine and of another hundred and eighty million people. There is a heavy price to be paid yet. Alhamdulillah”.

“Nani you sound angry”.

“No beta, I am extremely determined and very sure”.

*Historically, Gurdaspur originally seemed to be awarded to Pakistan, with a 51% Muslim population, but then was subdivided with majority areas going to India. This became a high killing field, as population moved either way.

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