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Qazi Faez Isa

May 15th, 2023

The Idea of Pakistan

4 comments | 11 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Qazi Faez Isa

May 15th, 2023

The Idea of Pakistan

4 comments | 11 shares

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

The birth of Pakistan was the realisation of Jinnah’s demand for a separate homeland for Muslims, but has the ‘idea’ of Pakistan been achieved  or has it remained elusive? In this personal post, Qazi Faez Isa reflects on this complex question, and argues that a true celebration of 75 years of independence would be to rediscover the ‘idea’ of Jinnah’s Pakistan.     

 

My grandfather Qazi Jalaluddin was compelled to move to the land that is now Pakistan as a consequence of speaking truth to power. He protested against the persecution of the Hazaras, an ethno-religious minority, which angered King Abdur Rahman of Afghanistan. Being a judge in Kandahar and a descendant of the revered saint Shah Masud Baba would not have saved Jalaluddin. He escaped the wrath of the King, and left his home in Afghanistan; he took refuge in Pishin, a dusty corner of British Imperial India straddling the border with Afghanistan.

Photo 1: Qazi Jalaluddin (centre) with the Khan of Kalat (left) and Chief of Jhalawan (right) © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Here, Qazi Jalaluddin built for himself a double-storied mud house, which was unheard of in Balochistan of 120 years ago. He married a local lady from the Tareen tribe, and had three sons, naming them after Qur’anic prophets: Muhammad Musa, Muhammad Isa and Muhammad Ismail. He had only taken a few personal belongings when he migrated from Afghanistan, but he did bring over a hundred chinar (Platanus orientalis) tree saplings on camelback. The trees were planted in Pishin, and on both sides of Quetta’s Lytton Road (now Zarghoon Road), grew to provide a shaded canopy from the summer sun which, at Quetta’s high altitude of 5,500 feet, can be scorching.

Photo 2: The double-storey mud-house in Pishin © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Jalaluddin’s children were orphaned when the eldest was not even 10 years old. Their determined unlettered mother (Adday) raised them and ensured that they got the best education. The eldest, Musa, attended Exeter College, Oxford; the youngest, Ismail, became a pilot in London and flew for the Orient Airways, when qualified local pilots were a rarity. The middle one, Isa, my father, studied law in London. Getting to the capital of the British Empire, at a distance of 5,877 miles from home, meant a 20-hour train journey by Bolan Mail from Quetta to the port of Karachi, then by steamboat to the port of Southampton and onto London.

Photo 3: Qazi Muhammad Isa arriving in Southampton to study law, 1933 © Author (see information below); used with permission.

My father was the first Barrister from Balochistan. Whilst studying law, he attended a dinner held for the participants of the Round Table Conference in 1932 where he met the prominent barrister-politician Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and the philosopher-poet Dr Muhammad Iqbal, which left a lasting impression on him.  

Photo 4: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Syed Shahid Hamid, Qazi Muhammad Isa and Dr Muhammad Iqbal seated (with others) at a table, London, 1932 © Author (see information below); used with permission.

These were the years when European fascism was in full flourish, and fascists had come to power in Italy and Germany. Hitler was elected as Chancellor in Germany and his Nazi party brandished Christian–Aryan superiority and dominance; a majoritarian strain of democracy was used to abuse and kill minorities. Jinnah understood that democracy alone, without adequate constitutional safeguards for all citizens, would be disastrous in the context of the Indian subcontinent where different races and adherents of different faiths resided, leading him to become an ardent advocate of Hindu-Muslim unity to ensure protection and freedom from exploitation of all communities. However, his efforts were stymied.

The founders of the Indian National Congress included prominent Hindus. In a multi-religious region, the Congress introduced and organised Hindu festivals celebrating Ganesha and Shiva, but did not do so for other faiths. The First Session of the Congress took place in Bombay in 1885 and only two Muslims were invited to it, despite comprising 25 per cent of the population. The Muslims were alienated, and the alienation only intensified with time. In contradiction to professing secularism, the leaders of British India’s largest political party insensitively donned Hindu religious titles: ‘Mahatma’ (Mohandas Gandhi) and ‘Pandit’ (Jawaharlal Nehru). For the Congress, democracy meant that the majority Hindu population alone would determine the future; this at a time when those advocating religious and ethnic superiority had set the world at war.

The Muslim-Delhi Sultanate and the Muslim-Mughal Empire lasted for seven centuries and one of the main reasons for its longevity was the respect shown to different peoples, faiths and races. The British, who overthrew the Mughals, emulated this example of the Muslim rulers. The areas of the subcontinent that were ruled by Buddhists were vanquished by Hindu rulers who set about to wipe clean seven centuries of Buddhism, decimated Buddhists and erased Buddhist culture. There was legitimate apprehension that Muslim lives would be subjected to arbitrariness and dominance, if not worse, when those who too claimed to be Aryans came to govern.

Muslim concerns were not addressed by the Hindu-dominated Congress, which continued to advocate a non-negotiable majoritarian creed. The Congress’s intransigence galvanised the All-India Muslim League (under Jinnah), and the League’s other leaders, and provided hope to the minority Muslim community which envisioned a life without the anxiety and fear of injustices, discrimination and persecution.

Returning from London, my father did not use his privileged legal position and the acquired art of advocacy to gather accolades and wealth that his profession could have given him. Instead he used it to effect social change and ventured into the unknown and uncertain political terrain of advocating for Pakistan. The Muslims of the subcontinent apprehended that when British rule ended, without firm guarantees protecting the rights of the minorities, they would be left forever vulnerable to the whims of the majority population. The Congress did not provide, let alone ensure, safeguarding minority rights,  safeguards that would let minorities live with freedom and dignity, without religious persecution, and being apologetic for being Muslims.

Since the Congress failed to allay legitimate Muslim concerns, they looked to the League to secure for them a separate homeland — a land where all would be treated equally and with respect, where there would be no religious persecution, no discrimination and where all peoples lived in harmony. Jinnah’s vision for a separate homeland for Muslims was infectiously appealing.

Photo 5: Qazi Muhammad Isa endorsing the ‘Pakistan Resolution’ on behalf of the people of Balochistan, with Muhammad Ali Jinnah looking on, 23 March 1940 © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Photo 6: Qazi Muhammad Isa (centre) on the campaign trail for Pakistan © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Photo 7: Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Qazi Muhammad Isa © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Photo 8: Qazi Muhammad Isa (bottom left) with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah in Quetta © Author (see information below); used with permission.

Muslim men and women voted for an independent state, and Pakistan emerged on the world stage as the most populous Muslim country in 1947. The vision was actualised, but the fundamental idea of Pakistan remains elusive.

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The idea of Pakistan was soured by unscrupulous power-grabbers. A bureaucrat from the Railways (civil service) became Governor-General; he dismissed the Constituent Assembly and appointed self-servers and military men as his ministers. He was emulated by other autocrats and despots, which led to the break-up of Pakistan in 1971; its eastern wing became independent Bangladesh. Another dictator anointed himself to be a true adherent of the faith, but acted contrary to Islamic tenets and undermined the rights of citizens, including those of different faiths and sects.  He perpetuated his rule by brute force, and a very dark decade ensued. A brief democratic interlude followed, but it was derailed by yet another dictator, a paid employee of the State who did not have the grace to accept his sacking.

The vote got us Pakistan 75 years ago. Undemocratic forces propagating exclusivity, sowing disunity, engendering intolerance and jettisoning democracy broke the country apart and weakened what was left of it. Celebrating Pakistan best is to rediscover the idea of Pakistan, of inclusivity, tolerance and democracy.

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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent the views of the ‘South Asia @ LSE’ blog, the LSE South Asia Centre or the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Photographs © Personal collection of Qazi Faez Isa; no photograph may be used/reproduced without written permission of the author.

This blogpost may not be reposted by anyone without prior written consent of LSE South Asia Centre; please e-mail southasia@lse.ac.uk for permission.

Banner image © Mohammad Hassan Mukhtar Ahmad, ‘Pakistan Monument, Islamabad’, 2020, Unsplash.

The ‘Pakistan @ 75’ logo is copyrighted by the LSE South Asia Centre, and may not be used by anyone for any purpose. It shows the national flower of Pakistan, Jasmine (Jasminum officinale), framed in a filigree design adapted from Islamic architecture. The logo has been designed by Oroon Das.

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About the author

Qazi Faez Isa

Justice Qazi Faez Isa is Justice in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Posted In: Pakistan at 75

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