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What Jinnah Really Wanted

by Khaled Ahmed

File photo. Saeed Khan—AFP

A new book sheds further light on the intentions of Pakistan’s founder for the future of the country

Naazir Mahmood, writing in Politics, Pictures, Personalities, notes that on Independence Day, 1947, the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, appeared to favor Deobandi scholars by inviting Maulana Zafar Ahmad Usmani and Shabbir Ahmad Usmani to hoist the post-Independence ceremonial national flag at Karachi and Dhaka. The two belonged to the Deobandi movement in India, which was allied to the Congress, and had not supported the formation of Pakistan. By choosing them for the flag-hoisting, Jinnah sought to signal a post-Independence truce to his rivals.

What was Jinnah aiming at? Did he really want a religious state dominated by the clergy? Author Mahmood offers some insight into what Jinnah really wanted. “When the first cabinet of Pakistan took oath on Aug. 15, 1947, there was an unlikely person inducted as the minister for law. By choosing Jogendara Nath Mandal, a Hindu, Jinnah was sending a signal that, despite the two Deobandis hoisting the national flag, Pakistan was not going to have a Muslim-only government.”

Additionally, the prime minister at the time was Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, a man known in Delhi—where his luxurious house still serves as the residence of Pakistan’s ambassador—as the best dancer of the city, especially when dancing with the woman who would later come to be known as Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan. She was born as Irene Ruth Margaret in a Brahmin clan whose founder, her grandfather Taradutt Pant, had turned Christian, dooming his offspring to lifelong ostracism by the Hindu upper caste community. Pushing back against this legacy, Irene grew up as a fiercely independent person unafraid of accepting challenges in life.

Jinnah wanted a truly secular state while leading a nation-to-be brimming with religiosity. He was not realistic but was firm in his worldview, something that Liaquat Ali Khan could not go along with for long. Jinnah was interested in getting non-Muslims involved in the new state as equal citizens and deliberately chose Mandal as his law minister while foreign policy was assigned to an Ahmadi that Muslims, then as now, were spastic about. There is a pattern here that should be kept in mind.

The next thing he did actually proved his intentions, although he could not preach his secular worldview to his conservative Muslim supporters. He asked a Punjabi Hindu poet of Urdu, Jagan Nath Azad (1918-2004), to produce a national anthem for Pakistan. The country has not officially given much credit to this gesture, but Azad—who lived many years after 1947—kept referencing it and showing the anthem that he had actually written and sent to Jinnah. Had Pakistan accepted Azad’s national anthem, it might have contributed to the struggle against the wave of religious extremism threatening South Asia today.

Ironically, after the fall of East Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh, the national anthems of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka are all from the pen of Rabindranath Tagore, who campaigned against all kinds of nationalism.

Writing further, Naazir Mahmood notes the “progressive” movement that began to make itself felt from Karachi and Lahore. He notes that leadership of this movement was mostly in the hands of progressive students “such as Dr. M. Sarwar, whose daughter Beena Sarwar is a renowned journalist and activist.” Interestingly, it was Beena who ended up writing in The Hindu on Sept. 22, 2009 for a return to the original anthem in an article titled “Bring back Jagan Nath Azad’s Pakistan anthem.” The relevant part of her article is reproduced here:

“Flying to Karachi from Lahore, I came upon an article on the history of Pakistan’s flag and national anthem in PIA’s monthly Hamsafar magazine (Pride of Pakistan by Khushboo Aziz, August issue):

“Quaid-e-Azam being the visionary that he was knew an anthem would also be needed, not only to be used in official capacity but inspire patriotism in the nation. Since he was secular-minded, enlightened, and although very patriotic but not in the least petty, Jinnah commissioned a Hindu, Lahore-based writer Jagan Nath Azad, three days before independence to write a national anthem for Pakistan. Jagan Nath submitted these lyrics:

Ae sarzameene paak?

Zarray teray haen aaj sitaaron se taabnaak?

Roshan hai kehkashaan se kaheen aaj teri khaak?

Ae sarzameene paak.”

“Oh land of Pakistan, the stars themselves illuminate each particle of yours/Rainbows brighten your very dust”

Luv Puri had earlier revealed more on June 19, 2009, also in The Hindu. Drawing on his interview of Azad in Jammu city days before his death. Azad recalled how Jinnah asked him to write Pakistan’s national anthem. In the interview, My Last Wish is to Write a Song of Peace for Both India and Pakistan, he said he was in Lahore working at a literary newspaper “when the mayhem (of Partition) had struck” the entire country.

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