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