Jilted Gentleman

Mohammed Ali Jinnah
Mohammed Ali Jinnah

By Stanley Wolpert

1876: Born in Karachi.
1896: Called to the Bar from Lincoln's Inn.
1906: Joins Congress. Opposes communal politics.
1912: Attends a Muslim League session. Helps draft its constitution. 1915-1916:Tries to bring the League and Congress together. His efforts result in the Lucknow Pact.
1934-35: Poet Iqbal and Liaqat Ali Khan persuade Jinnah to join the League and reorganise it as a strong political force.
1940: Jinnah declares Lahore Resolution. Demands an independent state for Muslims.
1946: Declares Direct Action on August 16. Communal riots break out.
1947: Pakistan is created with Jinnah as its governor- general.
1948: Dies of cancer.

Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammed Ali Jinnah did all three.

Born in Karachi in 1876, eldest son of a wealthy Muslim merchant, young Jinnah was shipped off to London alone at age 16 to study business management. During his next three years in the bustling capital of Victoria's booming Empire, Jinnah's eager mind focused on politics and the law rather than commerce. He was inspired by the "Grand Old Man" of India's National Congress, Dadabhai Naoroji, just elected to Britain's House of Commons, whose maiden speech Jinnah heard from the balcony.

Jinnah was called to London's Bar from Lincoln's Inn in 1896, and returned home to launch his singularly successful legal career in Bombay. At 34, he was elected to serve as the Bombay Presidency's Muslim representative on the Viceroy's Central Legislative Council, whose members then included ex-Congress president Gopal Krishna Gokhale, hailed by Mahatma Gandhi as "my political guru". Gokhale's high regard for Jinnah's integrity, intellect and moderation is reflected in the sobriquet he coined for his junior colleague, "best ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity". And in December of 1916 Jinnah managed in Lucknow to bring India's National Congress and the hitherto far more conservative and loyalist Muslim League together in demanding the same set of post-War representative reforms, which Jinnah drafted, the Lucknow Pact.

Before the end of World War I, then, Jinnah was the most prominent young leader of both major political organisations in British India, enjoying the ear of the viceroy and his ICS cabinet on their own council as well. Moreover, his fearless opposition to Bombay's arch-conservative governor, Lord Willingdon, moreover, won him the adulation of Bombay's youth at war's end.

The aftermath of World War I brought only the repressive sword of the Rowlatt "Black" Acts, extending wartime martial "laws" during peacetime. Jinnah was the first member of the Viceroy's Council to resign, protesting against uprooting of "fundamental principles of justice" by government's "overfretful and incompetent bureaucracy".

Jinnah's love of the law was too great, however, to allow him to adopt the revolutionary method of Satyagraha launched by Mahatma Gandhi in protest against those black acts and against Dyer's subsequent brutal massacre of unarmed peasants in Amritsar's Jallianwala Bagh that dark April of 1919. Though Jinnah tried at Nagpur's Congress session in 1920 to argue against Gandhi's revolutionary resolutions, fearing they would lead to more violence, he was outvoted, booed and heckled from the pandal, leaving the Congress to Gandhi's undisputed leadership, soon afterwards leaving India to live in London.

Jinnah initially tried to win British support for a seat in the House of Commons, but failed. He finally accepted fervent appeals from Muslim friends to return home and help them to revitalise the demoralised leaderless Muslim League. He was again reelected to the expanded National Assembly, which met for the first time in Delhi in January of 1924. The Khilafat Movement, embraced by Gandhi when he'd launched his first nationwide Satyagraha in August of 1920, had by then collapsed, as had the planned final phase of Satyagraha in Gujarat in the painful aftermath of Chauri Chaura's arson and mayhem. Most Congress leaders and Pan-Islamic Muslims remained in prison cells, while Jinnah reorganised his Muslim League as its permanent president, and won the respect of most British liberals and future prime minister Ramsay MacDonald. Jinnah advised MacDonald as soon as he became prime minister to convene a Round Table Conference in London to draft a constitution for what Jinnah still hoped would emerge as a single nation-state of independent India, with adequate safeguards and separate electorates for its Muslims and other minorities. Gandhi and the Congress boycotted the first London conference, but after reaching an agreement with Lord Irwin Gandhi did attend the second conference, as sole representative of the Congress.

Elections were held throughout British India under the Government of India Act of 1935 in 1937, and the Congress, thanks in great measure to Jawaharlal Nehru's charismatic campaigning, won a clear victory in most provinces. The League, confronting a number of regional Muslim party competitors, was unable to claim a single province, mustering only 109 seats, compared to Congress' 716. Nehru, therefore, insisted there were only "two forces" left in India, the Congress and the British, urging all others to "line up".

Jinnah refused, however, to accept Nehru's invitation. "There is a third party in this country and that is the Muslims," he said. That December of 1937 the Muslim League met again in Lucknow. President Jinnah addressed his devoted followers, dressed no longer as a British barrister, donning instead the black Persian lamb cap and black sherwani in which he would soon become famous the world over as Quaid-i-Azam of the Muslim nation, soon to be born as Pakistan.

Jinnah hereafter charged Congress' leadership with alienating all Muslims by pursuing an "exclusively Hindu" policy. Mahatma Gandhi's "revolution" and his leadership Jinnah now viewed as anti-Muslim, totally "Hindu". Nor would several prolonged summit meetings with Gandhi in Jinnah's Malabar Hill-top home ever change his mind. Jinnah insisted that unless Gandhi and his Congress admitted their Hindu bias, and recognised his Muslim League as the only political party representative of British India's Muslim population there could be no solution to south Asia's Hindu-Muslim conflict and "civilisational divide", short of Partition.

In 1940 Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah thundered to 1,00,000 cheering Muslim League followers gathered in the Mughal Gardens of Lahore: "The Musalmans are not a minority (but) a nation The problem in India is not of an inter-communal but manifestly of an international character, and it must be treated as such." The next day, March 23, 1940, the League passed its famous "Pakistan" Resolution, insisting that no future British constitutional plan would be "workable" or "acceptable to the Muslims" unless it provided for the demarcation of Muslim majority units in the north-western and eastern zones of India "grouped" to constitute independent "autonomous and sovereign" states.

The word Pakistan was not mentioned, and there is good reason to believe that the committee drafting that resolution, chaired by Bengali Fazlul Haq meant two sovereign Muslim states, Pakistan in the west and what only after 1971 became Bangladesh in the east. But when Jinnah was asked by the press whether his League had one or two states in mind, his firm answer was, "one". Every headline the next day, therefore, called it the "Pakistan Resolution".

Most Congress leaders and many British officials believed that Jinnah was merely bargaining for more power on the Viceroy's Central Council or more separate seats for Muslim League members in every provincial cabinet. He adamantly refused, however, to alter his demands, the first being that any Muslim member chosen to sit on the council be nominated by his League, thereby excluding Congress "National Muslims" like Maulana Azad, and secondly that the Muslim majority regions of the north-west and north-east be turned into a separate dominion of Pakistan as soon as the British agreed to leave.

After World War II ended Attlee's Labour government sent a Cabinet Mission to India, which hammered out a three-tiered confederational plan, whose autonomous groupings of provinces in the north-west and north-east would have granted "Pakistan" in everything but name, without the awful blood-letting of the following year's Partition. Jinnah, whose fatally afflicted lungs were by then fast failing him, reluctantly agreed, as did the Congress.

That July of 1946, Nehru reclaimed the Congress presidency he had abdicated during his wartime years in prison and informed the press at his first interview that India's forthcoming constituent assembly would be a sovereign and completely autonomous body, not committed to any formula or "groupings" of provinces devised by any mission -- Cabinet or otherwise.

In his outraged response to that news, Jinnah bid "good bye to constitutions and constitutional methods". In mid-August, Jinnah called upon his "Muslim Nation" to launch "Direct Action". A full year of murderous "civil war" began in Calcutta, swiftly spreading to East Bengal and Bihar, then on to Punjab and the Frontier, engulfing all of south Asia in its rivers of blood long after the last trickle of troops of the British Raj beat their retreat in mid-August of 1947, with all the media fanfare Lord Mountbatten was so expert at arranging.

When Mountbatten first met with Gandhi in April 1947, asking his advice as to what could be done to help restore order, Gandhi urged him to appoint Jinnah prime minister (the job Nehru then held). The viceroy, unfortunately, never extended that offer, agreeing instead with Nehru, who advised him that poor old Gandhi had been "out of touch" with Delhi much too long to be taken seriously.

Mountbatten decided to opt for Partition, as Krishna Menon and Nehru had advised. Mountbatten, of course, easily convinced Nehru to ask him and Edwina to linger on a bit longer in Delhi as dominion India's first governor-general, though hard as he tried could not persuade Jinnah to agree to offer him that same job in Pakistan. Jinnah opted instead to serve as his own governor-general, equal in rank to Mountbatten. An appropriate honour for Pakistan's founding father, but one he could only enjoy for the last single pain-filled year of his life.

Stanley Wolpert is professor of history, University of California, Los Angeles, and author of Jinnah of Pakistan and Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny.



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