Written By: Ayesha Farooq
As the day of 23rd March approaches, one’s subconscious begins to render a course of events which are to take place in the coming days; patriotic songs resonating while passing by a marketplace, children gearing up to perform tableaus and speeches in their schools, TV channels airing special transmissions and most importantly one recalls the exuberant parade by Armed Forces of Pakistan, all of this and more, to celebrate the spirit of Pakistan Day.
What happened on this day seventy-seven years ago? What was so substantial that a sound and thorough person like Muhammad Ali Jinnah called it ‘a landmark in the history of India’?1 Why the then governor of Punjab, Sir Henry Craik declared it ‘a very effective riposte to Congress as it torpedoed the Congress claim to speak for India’2 as he reported it to the Viceroy? It was the day when Jinnah enunciated for all to hear an aspiration he had seized for long; the demand of territorial readjustments to group Muslim majority areas into autonomous and sovereign states. He asserted in an incisive manner that no constitutional plan will at all be accepted by Muslims unless it is designed on the aforementioned doctrine.
To this day, the nation commemorates what the Muslims of India celebrated while chanting Quaid-i-Azam Zindabad! seven decades ago when the Two Nation Theory finally got its sense of direction. It seemed implausible until March 23, 1940 that the oppressive rule of Hindus could be put an end to, the Muslims themselves possessed the strength to reject being persecuted and that the world map could be modified marking the emergence of a new nation-state, but the vigour in the voice of Jinnah bound every spell and the long lost Muslim spirits rose from ashes like a phoenix. The enthusiasm with which his speech was received made him say, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Lahore because of the result; otherwise I was worked to death”.3 More often than not today when Pakistan Day is mentioned the focus is merely on the first part of his contemplation; the joy, however, the latter deserves thought as well; what was it that worked him to death?
Travelling through time, back to the years 1935 to 1939, Jinnah was working untiringly despite aggravation of the fatal lung disease that claimed his life a decade later. He wanted to keep it concealed from the public eye because he knew that his own well-being was indispensable to political power thus he kept on putting his best efforts into laying the groundwork for the most important milestone Muslim League was to achieve. He took a keen approach towards his goal focusing on matters vital to ensure long-term accomplishment.
His first and foremost priority from the beginning remained summoning unity among Muslims from all over the sub-continent. Time and again he delivered messages to Muslims in a number of addresses that their strength lies only in staying united. He firmly believed that if Muslims were ever defeated, it would only be by betrayal but no other force could stand in their way. In his profound presidential address at the Lucknow Session in October 1937 he said, “I entreat and implore that every man, woman and child should rally round one common platform and flag of the All-India Muslim League… Organize yourselves, establish your solidarity and complete unity… Create the feeling of esprit de corps, and of comradeship amongst yourselves.”
Role of Students
History remains witness what satiated Jinnah most was looking at active, dynamic and enthusiastic students joining hands with him. His aspirations for reviving the wretched state of Muslims were substantial and the contribution of youthful muscle could do wonders, he realized. Jinnah was a man who repeatedly declined invitations for talks and sessions with a number of people of importance including Jawaharlal Nehru after the year 19374; reason being his wish to conceal his sickness and saving his energy as well. However, it took him less than a minute to give his consent for presiding over the first annual session of All-India Muslim Students’ Federation in December 19375. Later on, speaking to the Muslim University Union in February 1938 he said, “They were gathering the precious stones, rubies, sapphires and diamonds, the scattered energies and talents of the Muslim community and it will eventually be a jewel they will be proud of ”.
Role of Women
Some of the most brilliant Muslim women had been working silently for Pakistan movement making their contributions as per the traditional ethos of staying behind the curtains but the influence of their activities brought no significant change until Jinnah decided to rupture the misunderstood touchstone of culture and emancipate them. In Patna Session of 1938 he founded the first All-India Muslim Women’s Sub-committee from where the serious involvement of women in the Muslim League affairs began. Under his guidelines an intensive campaign among Muslim women was carried out to awaken political consciousness in them. The earnest response of women and the degree to which their activities invigorated the political movement convinced him to say in his speech at Islamia College for Women in March 1940, “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women”.
Desire for autonomy was the essence of the entire movement carried out during the struggle for a separate nation-state. Not one of the sessions and addresses during mid 1930s went without him stressing over the importance of ceasing to look up to others and instead focusing on the underlying power of integrity Muslims themselves possessed but kept sacred for so long they forgot about its existence. With his fine-tuned dynamism he rekindled those spirits giving clear cut instructions to rely on none but one’s self and the Almighty. In his presidential address of the first Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference in October 1938 he said, “It is no use relying upon anyone else. We must stand on our own inherent strength and build up our own power and forge sanctions behind our decisions… It is no use our blaming others. It is no use our accusing our opponents only; it is no use our expecting our enemies to behave differently”.
Islam and Qur’an
In the years before passing the Pakistan Resolution, Jinnah’s mind focused on Islam and Qur’an more than ever before. It fascinated him how the ritual of fasting brought discipline among people providing necessary strength for action, how the instructions about congregational prayer brought several opportunities within a day for a person to meet, study and understand one’s fellow beings and how the message of love and tolerance towards others prevails in the teachings of the Qur’an. He expressed these sentiments in his speech on Eid day in November 1939 closing with the statement, “In the pursuit of truth and the cultivation of beliefs we should be guided by our rational interpretation of the Qur’an and if our devotion to truth is single-minded, we shall, in our own measure, achieve our goal. In the translation of this truth into practice, however, we shall be content with so much, and so much only, as we can achieve without encroaching on the rights of others, while at the same time not ceasing our efforts always to achieve more”.
Lastly, it was not just his speeches where he drew attention towards the significance of confronting the enemies with pride and valour but he presented examples himself by forthrightly demanding not only Congress but British government at the time to take heed. In his speech on the Finance Bill in the Legislative Assembly in March 1939 he said, “Why do you expect us, I ask the Government, to draw the chestnuts out of the fire on your behalf? Why do you expect us to continue to be subservient on the specious pleas which you put forward before us?’ and then he curtly took Congress aboard continuing, “let me tell you, and I tell both of you that you alone or this organization alone or both combined will never succeed in destroying our souls. You will never be able to destroy that culture which we have inherited, the Islamic culture, and that spirit will live, is going to live and has lived. You may overpower us; you may oppress us; and you can do your worst. But we have come to the conclusion and we have now made a grim resolve that we shall go down, if we have to go down, fighting”.
What is done before lifting the final curtain always has a solid impact on the performance and Jinnah who was dearly called Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader) by his followers, understood it very well. He deliberately touched matters of utmost importance knowing their impact was going to be long lasting. It is about time that not only on an individual level, but on organizational level the same matters are given due value. The fighting spirit must not stay confined to men in uniform, self-reliance must become a goal for all, role of students and women must not only be acknowledged but encouraged on a greater level. We are still at a stage where it is heroic to be recognized if you are a woman, whereas it should be ordinary for every woman to want to play her part and make a difference, institutions should make an effort to inculcate unity disregarding all kinds of bias on a grassroot level and most importantly Islam and Qur’an must be taught in a manner that is comprehensible for the majority leading the basic principles of love and tolerance towards all mankind to triumph, only then we will be able to pay tribute to the tremendous efforts made by our ancestors in order to pass the Pakistan Resolution ultimately altering the course of history, modifying the world map and creating a nation-state.
1,2,4,5 Stanley Wolpert, Jinnah of Pakistan.
3 Jamal-ud-din Ahmad, Some Recent Speeches and Writings of Mr. Jinnah.