Jinnah, Secular Pakistan & False Heroes

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

Often September 11 is a day when you could find people having a debate about secularism in Pakistan here and there. It is also the 9/11 anniversary, but let’s keep the conversation to secularism.

The death anniversary of founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah is considered a moment for this debate, primarily due to a speech he delivered on August 11, 1947.

However, the proponents of Islamic Republic who claim he was not secular do have a point. Ah, Islamic Republic, what an oxymoron.

The day every single secular bone in Mr. Jinnah was dead when he decided to join the cause of the Muslim League.

Call it the bigotry of Hindu leaders or the failure of Indian National Congress to suck up to the unreasonable demands of separate electorate, but that act should sum it up for anyone, if not the disastrous partition of 1947.

Needless deaths. Needless riots. Needless stupidity which has now become synonymous to the Indian people.

The supposedly secular Jinnah, who reportedly got furious over someone calling him the King of Pakistan, was perfectly alright with the dangerous slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya, La ilaha il Allah” or “What is the meaning of Pakistan? No god but Allah.”

But a lot of people even claim that such slogan was a later invention, and there is no wonder not many would believe them.

And what of the forsaken millions of oppressed Muslim left to suffer at the hands of “Hindu imperialists”, who certainly would be seeing this as an opportunity for revenge for over five centuries of Muslim rule?

At another instance, you find him saying that the state of Pakistan would be an Islamic State modeled after the City State of Medina established by Prophet Muhammad himself. He has also referred to Islam as democracy. I know a lot of people would defend this statement, but this calls for a serious reality check.

In other words, Jinnah was one of the liberal Muslims who deemed the sort of state as the Medina to be a perfectly safe constitution for the non-Muslim community. The sort of liberal Muslims who are under the delusion that Islam provides safety to the non-Muslim communities through its message of universal peace.

Now Pakistani secularists, most of them with the center-left PPP and ANP have a dilemma. How to pitch secularism to an Islamic fundamentalist crowd, raised on admiring the merits of the Caliphate.

Perhaps in the world of cults and personality worshipers, what is missing in Pakistan for the failure of the secular movement is the lack of real heroes. Secular circles are usually seen hailing Jinnah and Bhutto as their leaders and heroes, while they should be the ones in the forefront to criticize them.

Source: ppp.org.pk

Source: ppp.org.pk

Why not openly endorse Jawaharlal Nehru as a secular leader rather than Jinnah, and why not discard an Islamic Socialist like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who signed the Second Amendment?

I know a lot of folks recognize atheist freedom fighter Bhagat Singh as a hero. I am all for choosing Benazir Bhutto as a relatively better secular and surely a liberal leader and I am glad that we have leaders such as Sherry Rehman and Bushra Gohar among us.

Though what is needed is a consensus on secularism. The left should not and must not have a monopoly over this issue. A secular right is badly needed in the sub continent.

But stick with the August 11, 1947 speech by all means to haunt Islamists. I actually respect the man’s acknowledgement of keeping religion separate from the state. However, his actions are hardly coherent with his words.

In any case, rest assured that Jinnah was no secular hero. Primarily, because of his politics under Muslim League as Muslims are not a nation or an ethnic group. It is a religious group and obtaining a state for it would mean giving up the secular cause and taking up a religious one.

As a matter of fact, the Indian Jamaat-e-Islami of the time would have offered some relative sanity if you were a Jinnah follower.

If only we would have the courage to admit that with such an artificially created religious demographic, Pakistan was wired to be an Islamic state from the very beginning. Little else would be expected from a political party thriving on the politics of discrimination and separate electorates.

While my opinion has changed about Muhammad Ali Jinnah over time, my view pertaining to secularism and logical political choices remains the same.

You don’t have to follow someone’s example to do the right thing. Jinnah was a politician, and therefore, his contradictions only make sense.

Just use your brain as secularism is the most reasonable, uncontroversial, universally acceptable and common sense social contract.

In the words of an acquaintance, former civil servant K. M. Cheema, the case for secularism must stand by itself.

The Destruction of Ziarat Residency and Rational Criticism

Source: AP/Express Tribune

Source: AP/Express Tribune

It takes the simplest of incidents to illustrate the most obnoxious behaviors and opinions. There could not have been a better one than the destruction of the Ziarat Residency at the hands of the Baluchistan Liberation Army.

I have used the words of rational criticism in the title, because this post would mainly address the otherwise rational critics who think that the loss of Ziarat residency is some kind of a heroic act, or perhaps one that must not be condemned because some people are not condemning worse incidents, such as loss of human lives, since people in our country are always so concerned about who is condemning and not condemning something.

A lot of interesting comments about the destruction of Ziarat Residency have been appearing. The likes of, people are worried about that building and not worried about the deaths of the Balochs. People are worried about a colonial building in which Mr. Jinnah was held under “house arrest”. Why the hell are you upset about a destroyed building. There is no mention of the other terrorist attack killing college going girls in Quetta.

First of all, it is unfortunate that political ideology prevents people from seeing things the way they are. This is why I am sickened by jingoistic ideologues on both sides of the fence as far as the matter of the Ziarat Residency attack is concerned, that is, the Pakistani nationalists and anti-Pakistan nationalists.

To me, this is not a matter of patriotism at all, unlike most Pakistanis. But I must observe that the stance of anti-Pakistan nationalists defending the destruction of the Ziarat Residency is ridiculous when compared to that of their counterparts.

The prime logical fallacy in their arguments is that they think that one wrong act should be ignored just because other greater evils are taking place or, in other words, the appeal to worse problems. This deserves a round of applause.

I personally see the Ziarat Residency as a historical colonial building that stood there way before Mr. Jinnah ever set foot in it and before his belongings were ever placed there. And its destruction is an irreparable and irreversible loss.

The point is that Ziarat Residency is just a building, and that too, a historical one. So what if it is colonial? And so what if Mr. Jinnah stayed here during his last days?

The general secretary, that is the mouthpiece, of the Baluchistan based Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, Akram Shah made a statement that the Ziarat Residency is nothing more than a colonial structure and a symbol of slavery.

You know what, I agree with him. But the impression that Mr. Shah is trying to create over here is that the loss of Ziarat Residency does not matter.

Now isn’t that charming? I have a huge list of symbols of slavery all over India and the world to be burned down for that matter. Because such structures are so evil that the world would be a better place without them.

My problem with his statement is not that he rejects the connection of the building with the Pakistani national heritage and Jinnah, unlike most Pakistanis, but that he thinks that the loss of a colonial structure does not matter at all. Instead of apologizing the failure of his coalition government’s failure to save this historical landmark, he is offering excuses for the attack.

So the historical heritage of the building makes it important, whether or not it had anything to do with Mr. Jinnah or anyone else. And even if it was about Jinnah, so what? Have the citizens of Mumbai destroyed Jinnah’s residence, Jinnah House, at Malabar Hill? No. Can’t figure it out? Because they are apparently not stupid.

Historical structures, whether secular or religious, are important because these are not only important landmarks and sources of wonder and inspiration for generations, but also a record of human civilization. Therefore, to me, the destruction of the Bamyan Buddha statues is as painful an incident as the looting of the Baghdad National Museum, or the damage to the heritage structures in Aleppo, Syria, or the rioting inside the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo or even the destruction of the Ziarat Residency.

And destruction of such structures in troubled states where people are dying only adds insult to injury. It would not offer any solace to the mourning.

I detest people justifying these stupid acts in the name of politics, religion and freedom.

Ziarat Residency Before Destruction  Source: Express Tribune

Ziarat Residency Before Destruction
Source: Express Tribune

The Baluchistan Liberation Army destroying this building is certainly a sign of defiance of the state. It’s probably good for them as a statement, but it really proves their stupidity to me, now that they are targeting historic landmarks of Baluchistan instead of focusing attacks on the Pakistani military. So this is what it has come down to? For a neutral observer, this rather unnecessary act of terrorism damages the image of their campaign.

Indeed, I am guilty over here of claiming to have a more superior opinion to my critics in this post, but not a moral or a righteous one please, just objective and common sense. I am prepared to be declared an immoral man for holding this opinion. Because it is the people I am criticizing who bring morality into it, not me.

I am least concerned with the jingoistic political morality surrounding this incident, which is just another case of criminal arson. The loss of a historical structure is the loss of the entire humanity, not a loss of any particular people or state.

The argument over here is not left versus right, Pakistani colonial rule versus liberation fighters and state nationalists versus ethnic nationalists. The argument over here is common sense versus nonsense.

For those considering  the destruction of Ziarat Residency a heroic act, this post is not an apology for ambiguous ideals such as Pakistani nationalism and patriotism. It is just to explain why you are stupid.