Smokers’ Corner: Pinning Jinnah

Published in Daily Dawn, the article brings to us the very clear facts of roots and causes of violence and political instability observed currently in Pakistan.

“Smokers’ Corner: Pinning Jinnah
In my last week’s column I discussed how a revisionist narrative by the rightists (in the late 1960s) tried to replace the fact that Pakistan was conceived as a nation state with a concocted idea suggesting that it was actually envisioned as a theocratic state.

We also discussed how this narrative even after being successfully challenged by the progressive intelligentsia eventually managed to become state policy with the support of General Ziaul Haq’s reactionary dictatorship (1977-88).

A number of political and social policies and stunts were crafted by the Zia regime and its Islamist allies to embed the rightists’ narrative of Pakistan in school text books, the media and finally in public imagination.

Many of them are well known especially those that have gone on to make Pakistan a hotbed of sectarian and Islamist violence and religious intolerance.

It is also true that what Zia and his ideologues invented in the name of ‘Pakistan ideology,’ has now left us awkwardly buzzing with an animated polity of people many of whom fail to even condemn certain acts of savagery undertaken in the name of faith just because they feel that by doing so they would be (1) questioning the dictates of their faith; (2) submitting to the West/US, and (3) undermine Pakistan’s supposed raison d’etre (of being an ‘Islamic state’).

Though a lot has been written on how Zia and his myopic colleagues successfully managed to pull off such a feat of mutated social engineering, little is known, however, about certain rather comical misfires that the wily dictator had to face in this respect.

After toppling the Z. A. Bhutto government in July 1977, Zia almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a ‘democratic Muslim majority state’ (as envisioned by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah), into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.

In 1979, Zia and his ideological partners, mainly the Jamat-i-Islami (JI), hit a brick wall in this respect when they couldn’t endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the sayings and speeches of Jinnah.

As a first step Zia banned the mention (in the media and school text books) of Jinnah’s famous speech that he made to the Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1947, and in which he clearly described of Pakistan as a progressive, non-theocratic Muslim state.

Zia’s information ministry spend days on end studying Jinnah’s speeches and sayings to dig out anything that could be used to endorse Zia and the rightists’ revisionist version of Pakistan’s emergence.

They came up with nothing, until one fine day in early 1980, some of Zia’s advisers suggested that a particular slogan rang during the Pakistan movement. It was ‘Pakistan ka matlab kya, lailahaillalah’ (What does Pakistan mean; it means there is only one God!).

Excited, Zia sanctioned the state owned PTV to construct a national song around this slogan. It did not matter to him when critics pointed out that this was an obviously vague slogan, that its usage was limited to only a few groups during the movement and that it was completely forgotten about after Pakistan’s creation.

Unperturbed Zia continued his ‘Islamisation’ of Jinnah project. Soon, the positioning of Jinnah’s motto, ‘Unity, Faith, Discipline,’ was switched around and the word ‘faith’ placed ahead of unity and discipline. Suddenly it became ‘Faith, Unity, Discipline.’

But the biggest unintentional gag in this context arrived when, after still failing to get a worthwhile endorsement for his ‘Islamic’ narrative of Pakistan, Zia (in 1983) enthusiastically announced the discovery of Jinnah’s personal diary.

While talking to his ministers, Zia claimed that in the newly discovered ‘personal diary of the founder’, Jinnah had spoken about having a ‘powerful Head of State (read: dictator),’ and ‘the dangers of parliamentary democracy,’ conveniently concluding that Jinnah’s views were ‘very close to Islam’ (or of having an ‘Islamic system of government’).

Private Urdu press (largely right-wing in orientation), gave lavish coverage to the event, even publishing a page from the supposed diary, as the state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan organised and broadcasted discussions with ‘scholars’ on this breathtaking discovery.

But, alas, the euphoria around this farce was thankfully short-lived. Two of Jinnah’s close associates and direct participants in the Pakistan Movement, Mumtaz Daultana and K H. Khurshid, rubbished Zia’s claims saying there was never such a diary.

After this, a group of senior intellectuals from the Quaid-e-Azam Academy also denied that such a diary ever existed in the Academy’s archives (from which Zia had claimed the diary had emerged).

What’s even funnier is the fact that once his claims were trashed, not only did Zia never mention anything about the supposed diary ever again, a number of Urdu newspapers that had splashed the drastic discovery went completely quiet — even to the extent of sheepishly avoiding to publish Daultana and Khurshid’s rebuttals. It was as though there was never any talk of a diary.

But even such a debacle could not halt Zia’s Islamic Jinnah project. In desperation, his information ministry simply ended up advising PTV and Radio Pakistan to only use those sayings of Jinnah that had the word Islam in them.

The practice only stopped with Zia’s assassination in August 1988 and Jinnah was finally spared the false beard Zia kept pining on the founder’s otherwise shaven chin.”

The Original Article Appearshere


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