By Nadeem F. Paracha
December 25th, 2016
Imagine Jinnah alive in 2016. If you can do this, then it should not be hard to also imagine this: a video statement of a cleric would have appeared on social media sites in which the pious gentleman would have exhibited great concern about the founder of Pakistan being a Twelver-Shia.
A verbose TV anchor would have done a whole show bemoaning the fact that Jinnah drank. His guests would have nodded vigorously and demanded that Jinnah be disqualified from politics under Articles 62 and 63 of our glorious Constitution.
Then, of course, there would also be those who would’ve called him a liberal-fascist and maybe even a Western/Zionist agent.
They would have loved to call him an Indian agent as well, but I’m sure at least this allegation would not have stuck for obvious reasons.
Or maybe it would have.
Because after all, in this day and age, logic is seen as a tool to deceive innocent Pakistanis into believing that Jinnah did not mean Pakistan to become what it gradually became after his death.
One would not be so off the mark in hypothesising Jinnah’s fate today as I have above.
Truth is, even after his death, some men who were seemingly commending and eulogising him, did so by indirectly critiquing his modernist disposition and ‘Westernised’ lifestyle.
In 1973 when the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto issued a special stamp on the 25th death anniversary of the founder, I was in the second grade at a school in Karachi. Though I was just a child, I do remember knowing well who Jinnah was. The stamp had a brilliantly painted side portrait of Jinnah’s face. An old-fashioned monocle lens rested on his right eye.
A teacher of mine wasn’t too happy by this portrait (on the stamp). The school had been given these stamps which were to be distributed among the students. The teacher was a young lady and I think (but am not sure) taught us arithmetic.
But I do clearly remember her saying, “Children, this is the picture of our Quaid-i-Azam. He was a great man.”
Then, pointing at the stamp, she announced: “But this is not him. Such glasses (the monocle) were only worn by British people. Was the Quaid British?”
Us muddled six-year-olds all replied. ‘Nooo, teacher.” Of course, we were too young to realise the irony of this teacher being an employee of a school which was set-up by the British and closely followed the British education system.
The Quaid’s image has been cropped and edited by various governments to suit their respective agendas
In July 1976, the governments of Pakistan, Turkey and Iran issued special stamps to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) — an organisation formed in 1964 by the governments of Pakistan, Iran and Turkey to help each other propel economic growth in their respective countries.
Three stamps were issued. One had the portrait of former Iranian monarch, Raza Shah, the father of the then sitting monarch of Iran; one had the portrait of the founder of the modern Turkish republic, Kamal Ataturk; while the third stamp had the image of Jinnah.
Some columnists writing for an Urdu daily in Karachi and Lahore complained that Jinnah had been clubbed together with ‘secularists’ (Raza Shah and Ataturk).
Jinnah’s portrait on the stamp was of him wearing a slick blue suit and a black tie.
My father who had begun publishing an Urdu weekly (in 1974) wrote an editorial in which he asked the objectors to explain what they thought Jinnah was.
The very next day a columnist (this time in another Urdu daily) replied by writing that it didn’t matter what Jinnah was, but what he should mean to Pakistanis.
“It is imperative”, he wrote, “to show Pakistanis a Jinnah close to their aspirations than a Jinnah before he became the Quaid (!)”
Of course, by Pakistanis he meant mostly those who felt awkward about the founder’s modernist appearance and tastes and wanted to see him altered to meet their skewed understanding of the country.
Well, since this happened during the overtly compromising period of the so-called ‘socialist’ Z.A. Bhutto regime, his government made sure to put Jinnah back into a Sherwani on the special coins that were issued to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the founder in December 1976.
What’s more, the ‘Jinnah cap’ was placed on his head. Jinnah’s famous dictum, “Unity, Faith, Discipline” was inscribed underneath his image on the coins.
A concentrated effort was made to wipe out all those aspects of the founder’s image which were not compatible with the idea of the republic being fostered by the dictatorship. Nevertheless, in the last 15 years or so, many of these aspects have remerged, now more than ever.
I used to have those coins and they were beautiful.
And Jinnah did look rather nice in his Sherwani and cap.
But this image alone did not satisfy those who seemed somewhat angrily embarrassed by the modern Jinnah.
So, one day, in April 1977, the government quietly changed Jinnah’s dictum, Unity, Faith, Discipline, to Faith, Unity, Discipline.
A majority of us still believe that the slight but potent switch happened during the intransigent Gen Zia dictatorship.
The switch took place in April 1977 when the Bhutto regime was facing a violent protest movement led by an alliance of religious parties.
There’s a photo taken by a famous photographer, the late Zaigham Zaidi, and published in an April 1977 issue of the pro-PPP daily, Musawat.
The picture is of Z.A. Bhutto speaking at a gathering in a hall (somewhere in Karachi). Behind him is a huge board with Jinnah’s face on it.
On one side of the board the words ‘Faith, Unity, Discipline’ are inscribed in bold.
Zaidi was a close friend of my father’s.
In 1985 he had told me that the idea to switch around the words of the dictum was given to Bhutto by his military chief Ziaul Haq.
Three months later, Zia toppled him in a coup and from that day onward, the dictum has remained, Faith, Unity, Discipline. No one has bothered to switch it back to its correct sequence.
Throughout the Zia dictatorship (1977-88), Jinnah was never shown in a suit.
He always appeared in a Sherwani, proclaiming ‘Faith, Unity, Discipline.’
Burhanuddin Hasan, a former news director at the state-owned PTV, wrote in his book Uncensored, that the channel (during the Zia regime) was under orders to only run quotes of Jinnah which had the word ‘Islam’ in them.
A concentrated effort was made to wipe out all those aspects of the founder’s image which were not compatible with the idea of the republic being fostered by the dictatorship.
Nevertheless, in the last 15 years or so, many of these aspects have remerged, now more than ever.
Gen Musharraf famously had himself photographed holding his two Pomeranians —for which he also received flak — which was a direct reference to a picture of Jinnah with his dogs that simultaneously came back in the public realm.
I wonder what this means in an environment in which Jinnah (had he been alive today) would have been ferociously maligned.
Maybe the return of the images of the founder as a worldly man who was nothing like what he was turned into from the late 1970s is a sign of a quiet reaction against his disfigurement? Let’s hope so.
Oh, and by the way, my second grade teacher settled in London in 1976 with her husband. Her children are all British citizens. Why, teacher?