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The sole statesman - 4

By Ardeshir Cowasjee

THOSE alive today who knew Mohammad Ali Jinnah (and strangely the number is increasing by the day) were well aware of what he wanted. He achieved his ambition and founded for us what he intended to be a democratic, forward-looking, modern, secular state. Those who did not know him, have, for reasons of expediency, conjured up their own version of what he wanted. Jinnah's Pakistan died with him.

In the last fifty-three years this country has changed its name and status three times. It started life as a Dominion, which it remained until 1956, when under the constitution promulgated that year, it became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1962, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who had abrogated the 1956 constitution when he took over the country in 1958, promulgated his constitution and declared it to be simply the Republic of Pakistan. Then he became a politician, expediency came to the fore and by his First Constitutional Amendment Order of 1963 we again became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

In the preamble to the Constitution of 1973, now suspended by General Pervez Musharraf, certain paragraphs of the Objectives Resolution of 1949 are reproduced and one sentence reads: "Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures;"

Under Article 2-A of the 1973 Constitution the Objectives Resolution has been made a substantive part of the Constitution and reproduced in the Annex. In this reproduction the sentence quoted above reads : "Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures;" The word 'freely' has been deliberately omitted. Mischief?

Now to a press conference held by Mohammad Ali Jinnah on July 14, 1947, in New Delhi. The text of this conference is to be found in the book recently published by Oxford University Press "Jinnah - Speeches and Statements 1947-1949" (ISBN 0 19 579021 9) and from it I quote relevant portions :

Q. Could you as governor-general make a brief statement on the minorities problem?

A. At present I am only governor-general designate. We will assume for a moment that on August 15 I shall be really the governor-general of Pakistan. On that assumption, let me tell you that I shall not depart from what I said repeatedly with regard to the minorities. Every time I spoke about the minorities I meant what I said and what I said I meant. Minorities to whichever community they may belong will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. The will have their rights and privileges and no doubt along with this goes the obligations of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also, and they will play their part in the affairs of this state. As long as the minorities are loyal to the state and owe true allegiance, and as long as I have any power, they need have no apprehension of any kind.

Q. Would your interest in the Muslims of Hindustan continue as it is today?

A. My interest will continue in Hindustan in every citizen and particularly the Muslims.

Q. As president of the All India Muslim League what measures do you propose to adopt to assure the safety of Muslims in Hindu provinces?

A. All that I hope for is that the Muslims in the Hindustan states will be treated as justly as I have indicated we propose to treat non-Muslim minorities. I have stated the broad principles of policy, but the actual question of safeguards and protection for minorities in the respective states can only be dealt with by the Constituent Assembly.

Q. What are your comments on recent statements and speeches of certain Congress leaders to the effect that if Hindus in Pakistan are treated badly they will treat Muslims in Hindustan worse?

A. I hope they will get over this madness and follow the line I am suggesting. It is no use picking up the statements of this man here or that man there. You must remember that in every country there are crooks, cranks, and what I call mad people.

Q. Would you like minorities to stay in Pakistan or would you like an exchange of population?

A. As far as I can speak for Pakistan, I say that there is no reason for any apprehension on the part of the minorities in Pakistan. It is for them to decide what they should do. All I can say is that there is no reason for any apprehension so far as I can speak about Pakistan. It is for them to decide. I cannot order them.

Q. Will Pakistan be a secular or theocratic state?A. You are asking me a question that is absurd. I do not know what a theocratic state means.

A correspondent suggested that a theocratic state meant a state where only people of a particular religion, for example Muslims, could be full citizens and non-Muslims would not be full citizens.

A. Then it seems to me that what I have already said is like throwing water on a ducks's back. When you talk of democracy I am afraid you have not studied Islam. We learned democracy thirteen centuries ago.

Just under one month later, on August 11, Jinnah addressed his Constituent Assembly at Karachi. He told the future legislators :

". . . . . . . you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.

"Well, gentlemen, I do not wish to take up any more of your time and thank you again for the honour you have done to me. I shall always be guided by the principles of justice and fair play without any, as is put in political language, prejudice or ill-will, in other words, partiality or favouritism. My guiding principle will be justice and complete impartiality, and I am sure that with your support and cooperation I can look forward to Pakistan becoming one of the greatest nations of the world."

As long as the majority of our people remain uneducated their thinking can only be narrow and bigoted. All we can do is constantly keep on reminding them of what Jinnah, the founder of their country, said and wrote.