By Yasser Latif Hamdani
December 3, 2018
On the Higher Education Commission’s data base, one finds two PhD theses on Jinnah, one discussing his leadership skills and the other his brief time as the Governor General of Pakistan. Both are quite mediocre, badly researched and based on literature review of only a piddling subsection of the biographies on Mr Jinnah. It would seem that PhD on Jinnah is unofficially banned in Pakistan.
There is a very good reason for it and I only discovered it once I started researching my second book on the life of Mr Jinnah, which is a detailed biography of our founding father to be published by an international publisher. Since this was a very serious undertaking, I spent the last several months going through the great man’s speeches and letters right from his days in Lincoln’s Inn to his dying day.
The answer to why the committed secularist, Indian Nationalist and the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity turned into an apostle of Muslim Nationalism is there in that primary record for those who want to actually research it. It also contains conclusive answers to what kind of state Jinnah wanted and what his ideas were with respect to citizenship, constitution and organisation of the state. No the answer cannot be found in snippets and out of context quotes but you have to see the documents in a continuity as a lawyer would in the process of due diligence. The reason why PhDs on Jinnah are actively discouraged is because any honest perusal of the record would bury the fiction of the ideology of Pakistan as it is taught in Pakistani schools, colleges and universities. This ignorance and sheer dishonesty is not limited to Pakistan based professors and PhD scholars. Many a professor emeritus of political science who apparently taught at European Universities also suffer from this delusion that they can comment on history without looking at primary source record.
This legal fiction called the ideology of Pakistan has made it into our constitutional oaths but any attempts to get the courts or the parliament to define what it means inevitably fail. Ideology of Pakistan means essentially what General Ziaul Haq thought it was which is that Pakistan was created as an ideological Islamic state. Misquotes, fabricated quotes and quotes out of context are taken to prove this position and meanings are extracted from them which had nothing to do with the circumstances that led to the partition of India and the resultant twin Dominions that replaced British India as successor states. It has been invented to control constitutional democracy in Pakistan and give unelected institutions a whip to beat up elected ones from time to time.
It certainly has nothing to do with Jinnah, whose one major consistent theme was the unfettered march of humanity — something that he harked back to throughout his life in a multitude of his speeches. He did not believe for example that any one generation could bind the next for all times to come. This was the essence of Jinnah’s political thought — that nothing is static in politics and that the march of humanity will not be thwarted. A militarised Pakistani state at odds with its neighbour and non-identical fraternal twin was not what Jinnah had in mind. The mutual hatred and constant interference in each other’s affairs was not Jinnah’s idea of India post partition. This was not Jinnah’s idea of a Pakistani state.
A modern democratic state does not need an ideology of any kind to exist. Pakistan has to be what the people of Pakistan decide in consonance with Pakistan’s international obligations. It cannot be a shibboleth or an outmoded idea of national identity that can hold a country of 210 million people together. It is service delivery, economics, and constitutional rights. You cannot continue to impose this fiction of ideology of Pakistan on the state indefinitely, just as you cannot go on jailing legislators as was the case with Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, both gentlemen who I have huge disagreements but who are the elected representatives of the people. To treat them as they were treated in Peshawar recently is the defeat of reason, logic and power of persuasion. If you are going to drive people to desperation, you will force them into roles that they have so far abjured. By adopting Constitutional method of elections and democracy, Dawar and Wazir were putting their faith in the state to mature and finally become a democracy. By denying them their liberty you are undermining their freedom.
The powers that be in Pakistan need to rethink their hackneyed narrative and instead think of history, ideology and identity holistically, informed by real history and facts. No one can undo a country that has nuclear weapons, except its own people. Do not alienate our own people for god’s sake. Bury this fiction of the ideology of Pakistan and instead focus on making Pakistan a progressive and liberal state. Nothing will serve our people and indeed our religion better than a Pakistan that is at peace within and without, at home and abroad. This can be the only ideology that Pakistan can truly have because everything else is necessarily a personal choice and the personal faith of an individual. I did not say it, the founding father did. Time to follow to what he actually said instead of concocting a historical fiction that has no roots in reality.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is practicing lawyer and was a visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge MA, USA.