The Quaid’s Charisma and Leadership

In this brief essay, an attempt is made to assess and evaluate the role of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as charismatic leader of British (colonial) India and of Pakistan and to ascertain in particular where and how his personal charisma was ‘routinized’, or institutionalized, so to speak. But, first, briefly, the concept of charisma. 

Max Weber, in his pioneering work on charisma and charismatic leadership, defined Charisma as a personal quality, ‘a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities’. However, he made it absolutely clear that, in order to take on the character of a ‘permanent relationship’ with followers, it was imperative for charisma to be routinized, become ‘either traditionalized or rationalized or evolve in to a combination of both’. In this process, of course, it was helped by the ‘ideal and also material interests’ of the followers who sought charismatic leadership for long and for their own good.
Jinnah was a charismatic leader of the Muslims in the crisis-ridden decade of 1937-47, as India advanced towards freedom and independence. The Muslims were confronted with an increasingly difficult and distressful situation. To begin with, there was the old, perennial Hindu-Muslim problem. Initially, the problem was religio-cultural, the immediate cause being music before the mosque or cow slaughter, offending the Muslims and Hindus, respectively.  However, the problem soon assumed a political character too. The Hindu-Muslim question also involved ‘a division of political power – spoils of office’ between the Hindus and the Muslims. To complicate the Hindu-Muslim communalism, there was the constitutional factor. Muslims were a ‘minority’ in a system of representative government in India, based on numbers, and thus, heavily biased towards the Hindu-majority community. The Muslims were fully aware, indeed apprehensive of it, since the introduction of the system in India. In Syed Ahmad Khan’s estimate, it was like ‘a game of dice in which one man had four dice and the other only one’. The Muslims, however, reconciled with the system, hoping that their particular interests, as a political community, would be secure through special safeguards such as the separate electorates. Eventually, they also hoped that as India advanced constitutionally, they will be able to secure a reasonable share of power through a federation of self-governing provinces, with a weak centre. The 1919 Act indeed shifted the focus of power to the provinces by giving them some kind of provincial autonomy through a system of ‘dyarchy’. But the 1935 Act, with a strong unitary bias (strong center) and the experience of the Congress rule in the provinces in 1937-39, without taking the Muslim League on board (especially in the UP), made a genuine, workable federation out of the question. The Muslims realized that they would be subject to ‘a central government with the Hindu majority and Hindu rule throughout the country’. 
This was the herald of a crisis in which the Muslims, having lost power to the British earlier, were now confronted with losing it permanently to the Hindu community, a community which they knew was ‘inspired by ideals, religious and political, diametrically opposed to its own.’ The devolution of British authority, especially in the wake of the World War II, and the imminent British departure from India made their position all the more precarious and insecure. Indeed, as Jinnah perceptively observed, they were caught ‘between the devil and the deep sea’. But then Jinnah was willing and ready to provide the lead, to lead them out of their distressful situation and into the ‘promised land’, which he promised in March 1940, demanding a separate ‘state’ for the Muslims. This espousal of the Muslim cause brought Jinnah to the fore of Muslim politics as never before, as their charismatic leader, their Quaid-i-Azam (Great Leader), a title that was symptomatic of his status as a charismatic leader, and was to stay with him forever. 
Jinnah was a leader of the Muslims for quite a while, at least since the Lucknow Pact of 1916, when he helped the Muslim League (having joined it in 1913) and the Congress made a deal which conceded to the Muslims its most fundamental demand, that of the separate electorates. He was also the main formulator of the Delhi Muslim Proposals (1927) and his now famous ‘Fourteen Points’ (1929) which remained the Muslim creed till his ultimate demand for a separate state of Pakistan in 1940. Indeed, he was known for his political sense, perseverance, organizational skills, and an extraordinary ability for identifying problems and finding viable solutions to them. Yet, he was not the leader. He was one of the more prominent of the Muslim leaders.  
It was only when the Muslims found themselves trapped in situation of a distressful present and an uncertain future that they flocked to him in their thousands of thousands, urging him to lead them out of their predicament. The difference between the Jinnah of earlier years and the present was not so much in terms of his ‘personal’ qualities of leadership, but in the situation. No wonder, Weber claimed that charismatic leaders were a product of situations, born out of ‘enthusiasm, despair, and hope’. Thus, if a leader was unsuccessful for long, or ‘above all, if his leadership failed to benefit his followers, it was likely that his charismatic authority will disappear’.  This, in fact, according to Weber, was the meaning of ‘gift of grace’. 
Jinnah, of course, was successful in securing the separate state of Pakistan for the Muslims, not only validating but enhancing his charisma to the point that, on August 14, 1947, on the eve of creation of Pakistan, his charisma was truly at its zenith. In fact, it was difficult to separate his charisma from Pakistan. As one writer noted, ‘he was Pakistan’.
Jinnah was able to achieve Pakistan by offering a despaired people at a particularly difficult and distressful hour in their history, a charismatic leadership, with an abiding faith in himself and the cause he made his own and struggled for, since 1940. He mobilized Muslim masses and indeed all social groups and classes, modern and traditional (even some ulama, represented by Allama Shabir Ahmad Usmani, Pir of Manki Sharif and the like) in support of his cause of the separate state of Pakistan. In addition, he made the most of the opportunities offered by the Congress and the British during the World War II years. For instance, the Congress’ resignation of its ministries in protest against the decision of the Indian Government to declare war on behalf of India leaving the ‘field entirely to the Muslims League’ was one great opportunity he availed to the fullest extent possible. He moved to install League ministries in the Muslim majority provinces included in the demand for Pakistan. Of course, the war itself, and the British helplessness in dealing with the uncooperative Congress, indeed launching a massive civil disobedience moment in 1942, provided Jinnah yet another momentous opportunity to advance the cause of the League and Pakistan. In fact, the British were left with no choice but to woo the League, the second largest political party in the country. As Lord Wavell, the Viceroy told Lord Amery, the Secretary of State for India, ‘the more vociferous the Congress demands and more intransigent their claims, the more essential it is that Government should have at its back the support of the Muslim League…’
Indeed, in the end, no move could be made at the centre without the League influencing the final outcome. Cripps Mission (1942), Simla Conference (1945) and the Cabinet Mission (1946) proved the point. By the end of 1946, the League had emerged as the ‘one authoritative and representative organization of the Muslims’ securing an overwhelming majority of Muslim seats in the 1945-46 elections. In all, it was able to secure 460 of the 533 Muslim seats, that is, 86 percent of the seats. This was a remarkable achievement. Compared with the League’s showing in the earlier 1937 elections, with only 4.4 percent Muslim vote, it was nothing short of a ‘revolution in Muslim politics which the party had brought about in a decade’.  
But how did the League bring about this revolution? The answer lies in Jinnah’s routinization of his charisma in the League. Successive constitutions of the League in 1941, 1942 and 1944 ensured a steady increase in the powers of the President, ‘the principal head of the whole organization’. This enhanced authority of the office of the president provided Jinnah the necessary wherewithal to routinize his charisma in the League, indeed make it a well-knit and disciplined organization of the Muslims. But for his charisma, personal charisma, there was no other force capable of keeping the Muslims together. The League now represented and symbolized his charismatic authority over the Muslims.
But then, as Weber argued, charisma resides in the personality of the charismatic leader and is not entirely transferred to an organization no matter how much it is routinized at a particular point in time. Jinnah’s case was no exception. All of Jinnah’s charisma could not be transferred to the League. It transcended the League’s organizational apparatus and indeed its capacity. A large number of Muslims owed their loyalty to Jinnah and Jinnah alone. They were not interested in party politics. They were ready and willing to support the League without being formally associated with it. In this sense, the League was a charismatic movement rather than a political party in the conventional sense of the term. That explained why the League, in spite of the criticism by some that it was a ‘weak’ and ‘disorganized’ party became a dominant force by the mid-1940s and secured an overwhelming Muslim support for Pakistan in the 1945-46 elections. Jinnah’s charisma made all the difference. 
This situation, of course, changed with the creation of Pakistan in 1947, with Jinnah becoming the Governor-General, and indeed relinquishing the presidency of the League soon after, saying that ‘as a constitutional Governor-General he had to maintain fairness among political parties. The idea was to separate the offices of the party from those of the government.
Three questions are pertinent here. First, why did Jinnah choose the office of the Governor-General over that of the Prime Minister? Secondly, how did his personal charisma relate to the office of the Governor-General? Lastly, where had his charisma come to rest by way of routinization now that he was no longer the president of the League, re-named the Pakistan Muslim League?
In my opinion, there was no option but for Jinnah to assume the office of the Governor-General. He was the charismatic leader of Muslims in India and Pakistan and he had to lead Muslims himself through all the challenges and difficulties confronting the new nation-state. He had created a ‘new’ nation out of the Indian Muslims and now had the formidable task of building the new state of Pakistan. There was no one else who could do it, let alone attempt it, with confidence and authority. He was the only man capable of leading them into the ‘unknown’, the new nation-state of Pakistan. Although Liaquat Ali Khan was an able leader, he could not quite assert his position as the head of the state, as Governor-General, ‘given the long shadow cast by the ‘Quaid-i-Azam’.
This is not to deny that the parliamentary form of government in Pakistan could have benefited immensely from Jinnah becoming the Prime Minister himself. His personal charisma may have made a world of difference to the office of the Prime Minister. But then, the given situation, as indicated earlier, demanded that he should take over as the first Governor-General of Pakistan. As Dawn, a leading Muslim newspaper then, in its editorial of July 12, 1947 (after Jinnah was nominated as Governor-General by the League) proclaimed: ‘There was only one way in which the Quaid-i-Azam could have continued effectively to guide by becoming the Head of the State... In the present circumstances, the analogous position is that of the Governor-General’. Indeed, the editorial went to argue further, and prophetically: ‘whatever the constitutional powers of the Governor-General may nominally be, in Quaid-i-Azam’s case, no legal or formal limitations can apply. His people will not be content to have him merely as the titular head of the Government, they would wish him to be their friend, philosopher, guide and ruler, irrespective of what the constitution of a Dominion of the British Commonwealth may contain’. 
And this brings us to the second question, that of personal charisma and institutional office of the Governor-General. There is no doubt that Jinnah’s charisma worked in tandem with the legitimacy of the office of the Governor-General. But this did not limit or define the boundaries of his charisma. Indeed, Jinnah’s appeal and ‘prerogatives were enlarged by popular acclaim far beyond the limits laid down in the constitution’. These prerogatives helped Jinnah deal with the difficulties confronting the new state. He nominated the cabinet and distributed ministries among the cabinet members. He even presided over the cabinet meetings, especially on ‘questions of policy or principles’. Of course, this arrangement was made specifically ‘for him as Quaid-i-Azam and not because he was the Governor-General’. As Chaudhry Muhammad Ali explained: ‘It was not an amendment of the constitution but a voluntary surrender of power on the part of the cabinet in favour of the Father of the Nation. It applied to him and him alone’. However, he further elaborated: ‘If the Quaid-i-Azam had so desired, the Constituent Assembly would have agreed to amend the constitution. The fact that there was not even a hint of such a procedure is sufficient indication that the Quaid-i-Azam did not desire to change the parliamentary form of government in any significant respect’. 
Turning now to the final question, about the routinization of his charisma after having relinquished the presidency of the League. My argument is that his charisma finally came to be routinized in the state itself, the state of Pakistan. Not only because he assumed the office of the Governor-General and became the Head of the State, but because he invested practically whole of his charisma in building the state, securing it from a host of challenges and difficulties, both external and internal, ranging from the hostile attitude of India (over transfer of assets and cash, distribution of waters, accession of the princely states, Kashmir war, etc.) to the problem of refugees in particular. As one writer claimed: ‘The refugee problem alone could have suffocated Pakistan itself’. But, above all, to deal with the whole range of the problems, he had to create an administrative bureaucracy from scratch, to run the affairs of the state. 
In the process, however, the bureaucrats amassed vast powers, both of policy formulation and implementation, and ‘tapped’ Jinnah’s charisma. This, of course, did not mean that Jinnah approved the bureaucratic rule. Indeed, he warned the bureaucrats: “Those days have gone when the country was ruled by the bureaucracy. It is people’s Government, responsible to the people more or less on democratic lines and parliamentary practices”. 
But the problem was that the League leadership was weak and perhaps not geared up to the task of state-building or nation-building for that matter. The initiative inevitably went to the bureaucrats. With Jinnah’s untimely death in 1948, and after Liaquat Ali Khan’s assassination in 1951, the political institutions came to suffer even more. In a short span of seven years, from 1951 to 1958, several ministries followed one another, manipulated by the bureaucracy, leading to the first martial law in the country, but that is a different story.

The writer is a Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Forman Christian College. He has also authored many research papers and publications including The Charismatic Leader: Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Creation of Pakistan (OUP) and Aspects of the Pakistan Movement (NIHCR).
E-mail: [email protected]

Read 1322 times