Jinnah, Muslims and Minorities

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed

I was planning to write on the Objectives Resolution of 7 March 1949 in the follow-up article on my previous essay, ‘Jinnah’s prerogatives’. However, as Mr Yasser Latif Hamdani has presented some statements in which Jinnah assured minorities of equal rights it is important to put those statements in perspective. These were made to beleaguered delegations of Hindus and other minorities when the partition fury had unleashed rivers of blood. What else could he say to them? He said similar things in radio messages to foreign audiences. Neither were going to decide the constitution of Pakistan. It was going to be the Muslims for whom the state had been created.

From March 1947 onwards in the Punjab massive attacks on Hindus and Sikhs had been going on in the Muslim-majority districts, and in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa once Qayyum Khan took over after 23 August 1947 Hindus and Sikhs were hounded out from the settled areas, attacked, killed or made to flee. Only in the tribal areas where the Khudai Khidmatgars had their influence could pockets of Hindus and Sikhs remain behind. In January 1948 Hindus and Sikhs were attacked right in Karachi where Jinnah lived. His condemnation of the attacks did not prevent the attacks. They had to flee Pakistan to save their lives. Jinnah and others started blaming Kirplani and other Congress leaders for goading Sindhi Hindus to flee to India! Only a tiny Hindu minority survived in Sindh interior. The rest of West Pakistan was emptied of Hindus and Sikhs notwithstanding what Jinnah said to the minorities and foreign audiences.

Religious minorities in Pakistan are not a conquered minority and therefore the jizya does not apply to them technically. We need to examine how their rights can be guaranteed by an inclusive Muslim state which was enunciated in the Objectives Resolution

In the Indian East Punjab all hell had broken loose on the 6 million Muslims and they were killed in the hundreds of thousands and nearly all others had to move to Pakistan to save their lives. The Sikh leaders were determined to empty East Punjab of all Muslims. Elsewhere the 30 million Muslims dispersed in other parts of India faced similar treatment if the Congress Government had let the Hindu Mahasahba and RSS carry out their terrorist attacks on them, but Gandhi gave up his life fighting for their right to live in India safely and Nehru took all measures necessary to prevent the Hindu extremists carry out their macabre plans. Only three percent of Indian Muslims migrated to Pakistan from outside East Punjab. Jinnah made statements but could not prevent the attacks while Nehru could do that because it was also the Congress ideology that all Indians had equal rights in a free and democratic India.

More importantly, already on 14 August 1947 a distinct shift in Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan from an ostensibly secular to an Islamic was made explicit in his speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. Speaking in response to Lord Mountbatten’s speech praising Emperor Akbar as a great Muslim leader whom the Congress Party always mentioned as a hero of Indian nationalism Jinnah retorted:

‘The tolerance and goodwill that Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back thirteen centuries ago when our Prophet (PBUH) not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians, after he had conquered them, with the utmost tolerance and regard and respect for their faith and beliefs’ (Speeches, Statements and Messages of the Quaid-e-Azam Vol IV, Yusufi, 1996).

Akbar had abolished the jizya which Muslims theologians never accepted. It was therefore restored by Emperor Aurangzeb. Jinnah was presenting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the true role model. The State of Medina under the Prophet and caliphs clearly distinguished between Muslims and non-Muslims and the Quran prescribed the protection tax jizya for Jews and Christians and Sabians to pay to the Islamic state for living among Muslims. Also, please note that the Jinnah refers to the Prophet first conquering Jews and Christians and then extending them protection which was conditional on paying jizya.

The Quran states in verse 9-29: ‘Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued’ (Quran, Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

In the polemic between two rival Deobandi scholars Hussain Ahmed Madani who was pro-Congress and Ashraf Ali Thanvi who was pro-Muslim League, the former had asserted that the Misaq-e-Madina (Charter of Madina) had created a nation of equals comprising Muslims, Jews and Christians. Thanvi countered that by arguing that the treaty placed Muslims in the leading position while the Jews and Christians were protected minorities. Moreover, it is to be noted that Jinnah and his associates had not made any progress on the constitution and some quarters had begun to wonder if they were going to declare Pakistan a secular state. To dispel such rumours Jinnah said on 25 January 1948 in an address to the Karachi Bar Association:

Why this feeling of nervousness that the future constitution of Pakistan is going to be in conflict with Shariat Laws?… Islamic principles today are as applicable to life as they were 1,300 years ago…. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. Islam has taught equality, justice and fair play to everyone’(Ibid).

In the same speech he said: ‘Islam is not only a set of rituals, traditions and spiritual doctrines. Islam is also a code for every Muslim which regulates his life and his conduct in even politics and economic and the like…’ (Ibid). Speaking at the Edwards College, Peshawar on 18 April 1948 he described Pakistan’s distinctiveness as ‘Islamic, Muslim rule, as a sovereign independent state’ (Ibid), On 1 July 1948 at the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan in Karachi he emphasised the importance of, ‘an economic system based on true Islamic concept of equality of manhood and social justice. We will thereby be fulfilling our mission as Muslims and giving to humanity the message of peace which alone can save it and secure the welfare, happiness and prosperity of mankind’ (Ibid).

The religious minorities in Pakistan are not a conquered minority and therefore the jizya does not apply them technically. We need to examine how their rights can be guaranteed by an inclusive Muslim state which was enunciated in the Objectives Resolution.

Published in Daily Times, December 14th 2017.


About the Author:

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University and Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com

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