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Quaid's charismatic leadership

Dawn - December 26, 1998
by Dr Sikandar Hayat

The application of the concept of charisma in the field of political leadership has led to a single, straightforward approach. Political leaders are either 'charismatic' or 'non-charismatic', based on the given evidence. Very few leaders have been found to elude this typology. One such exception is the case of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Some writers attribute charisma to him. Others deny it. The purpose of this discussion is to argue and suggest how, in fact, Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah is a charismatic leader in the true sense of the term.

By the middle of the 1930s, the Muslims of British India were in a very difficult situation. The Round Table Conference in London had failed to satisfy their demands and interests. Hindu-Muslim relations were at their lowest ebb. There was hardly any leader in the country who could promote and protect their interests. Jinnah, their old and trusted leader, was in self-imposed exile in London. Indeed, the Muslims were completely lost.

But Jinnah decided to return to India and help. As he himself put it; "I found that the Musalmans were in the greatest danger. I made up my mind to come back... I could not do any good from London." He returned imbued with "a sense of mission", and soon undertook the task of organizing the Muslims for the coming elections. But he was still interested in reviving the "entente" of the Lucknow Pact in the cause of the advancement of India towards "responsible self-government." He even fought the elections of 1937 on a conciliatory note.

But, the Congress, winning in all the Hindu-majority provinces, refused to "share power" with the Muslims. The plain meaning of the Wardha Resolution, declared Jawaharlal Nehru, "is that only the Congress parties with a majority in the provincial assemblies are entitled to form ministries from among their own members."

This naturally frightened the Muslims all over the country, including the Muslims of the Muslim-majority provinces. They felt that they could not remain secure either, for they, too, were dependent upon non-Muslim support for the survival of their governments. Though, numerically, they were a majority in these provinces, as voters they were "a minority" because of the electoral qualifications.

The use of "inexorable logic of 'majority rule' by the Congress also convinced Jinnah that the Hindus and the Congress were "in reality, aspiring and working for unadulterated power for themselves." He was now convinced that "the majority community have clearly shown their hand that Hindustan is for the Hindus..." The "one wholesome lesson", he pointed out, was that the Muslims "must realize that the time has come when they should concentrate and devote their energies to self-organization and full development of their power to the exclusion of every other consideration."

And this included, as it became clear soon, the system of parliamentary government in India. This system, Jinnah stressed, had "resulted in a permanent communal majority government" in India, and was thus bound to make Muslims "virtually feudatories of the central government in all respects." Safeguards, he reckoned, "constitutional or otherwise", could be of no use. They could not, he believed, save Muslims from "the kind of subtle, insidious discrimination for which the law itself could provide no remedy."

It had now become clear that Congress nationalism was only "Hindu nationalism", and that there was no place for the Muslim in the Indian sun. The British system of government had brought to the fore the stark reality of "majority rule", with Hindus "always in power and the Muslims never." Not only that the Hindus "could scarcely be expected to surrender the rights their numbers gave them", the Congress leadership in its "total adherence to the western mode of thinking and forms of government" was not even willing to take into consideration the "peculiar and unique political conditions in India", which were indeed different from those of "a unitary country like Britain."

Matters were further complicated by the mentality of the Congress, which was essentially Hindu, and was largely inspired by Gandhi, who was "confessedly devoted to the old traditions of Hinduism." Even Nehru could not deny that "Indian nationalism" was "dominated by the Hindus" and had "a Hinduized look."

If we agree with Ann and Dorothy Willners in considering "the typical colonial order" to be "a fair approximation of the weberian model of legal-rational authority, then, indeed the British system of government introduced in India was not acceptable to the Muslims. The Muslims saw the system to be heavily biased in favour of the Hindu majority community. They did not want it any more. The traditional authority had already been discredited during the colonial rule. The western institutions had prevailed. Indeed, according to Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the most remarkable aspect of Muslim history in India was the enormous rapidity with which the world of Islam had reconciled to the West.

With the failure of "rational legality" and in the absence of political tradition, thus, there was a void. The experience of Congress ministries in the provinces, rejecting the Muslim offer of cooperation, and ignoring Muslim grievances had created "a general feeling of insecurity" all around. The British decision to withdraw from India, after their authority had declined in the course of the "dislocations" caused by the Second World War, added to the "vacuum of authority and very ambiguous expectations" in Muslim India.

It was into this vacuum that Jinnah moved by promising the Muslims "political power." He proposed the Pakistan idea - a Muslim state comprising Muslim-majority areas of India. The idea represented not only "the mainstream of Indo-Muslim history" of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the Aligarh tradition in defining the Muslims of India in political terms, but also a great sense of Islam and Islamic history in treating "an independent political community" as "the very genius of Islam."

That is why the Muslims of India took it upon themselves as their "religious duty" to follow Jinnah who was ready "to unite the community and bring earthly glory to Islam" rather than be guided by learned Maulanas like Abul Kalam Azad and Hussain Ahmad Madani.

Though the masses tend to follow a charismatic leader "voluntarily and without material recompense" as indeed the Muslims did in India, the support of powerful social groups is crucial for the success of the charismatic appeal. Without their appropriation and reconciliation of the new idea to their "group or class interests" it cannot have any significant impact. Indeed, Jinnah was able to win the support of a number of social groups. The educated, urban middle class professionals, students, mercantile classes and merchant-industrialists saw great opportunities in securing a state where the Muslims would be a "great majority", and thus they would not have to suffer at the hands of the advanced Hindu community.

But, then, it is true that, whatever the success of the charismatic appeal, it is "never fully accepted by the entire society." There are always opponents. In the case of Muslim India, too, there were quite a few groups who did not respond favourably to the idea of Pakistan. Though some prominent ulema saw in Pakistan the prospects of establishing the "sharia", a good number of them, associated with the Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Hind chose to work within the framework of a united India. So did the provincial leaders of the Muslim-majority provinces, who were still tied to schemes of 'regional zones' or 'federal India' to help the Muslims. They were not willing to accept "new obligations, ideas and social relationships" given in the Pakistan alternative.

The charismatic leader is not any leader who can simply draw and inspire a following, but the one who can demonstrate the needed qualities in the process of asking people to join in and in leading such a movement. Convinced that he alone represented all the Muslims of India, and demanding "the unity of the Muslim nation", Jinnah, thus, proceeded with the restructuring of the Muslim League organization and putting new life into its activities. He entered into alliances with provincial leaders, particularly in Punjab, and thereby expanded his power base. He followed it up by concentration of power within the League, ensuring that the power of the President was not dependent upon the League as an organization but also "acquired a personal character." He started appealing to the people directly on the Pakistan issue "over the heads of then old political leaders" by using "mass methods" of mobilization.

In addition, he went on exploiting the Congress "mistakes and miscalculations" and, in particular, the one relating to the Congress decision to withdraw from ministries in 1939, by encouraging the formation of League ministries in their place. The result was that the League could soon claim that it controlled the ministries of all provinces demanded for Pakistan.

The support of the British or the Congress could not help provincial leaders as India moved closer to self-government at the end of the War. The numerous offers of independence made by the British also shifted the venue of politics from provincial to the national level, giving Jinnah "a strategic leverage" against these provincial leaders. They could not play any decisive role in the provincial matters, let alone of India as a whole. The demand for Pakistan holding forth "the prospect of undiluted power" to the Muslim-majority areas made their position all the more tenuous. Indeed, by winning overwhelmingly Muslim seats in the elections of 1945-46, Jinnah could fully demonstrate that he had the backing of the whole Muslim community.

It was not enough, however, to be able to speak for the "united Muslims" of India. Jinnah also had to deal with the British and the Congress, and this was not going to be an easy task. For, Jinnah, unlike the Congress, had no allies among the British, and had also to confront scepticism, and even dislike of the British leaders, who refused to take Pakistan as a serious proposition. Their top priority, even when Lord Mountbatten arrived as the last Viceroy of India, was still "the unity of the subcontinent." They wanted to preserve a united India at all costs. The Congress too refused to take the Pakistan demand seriously, and claimed that the Muslim fears were really the result of British 'divide and rule.'

Jinnah, however, proved to be a hard and shrewd negotiator with the viceroy and Congress leaders: "never to give in, never to retreat, always to attack the opponent at his weakest point, and constantly to repeat his own position." Taking advantage of the War in 1939, with Muslims as "the main army elements" on the Allied side, he went on to extract from the British the declaration of August 8, 1940, which admitted that the British could not impose their system of government on unwilling minorities. This was undoubtedly one of the greatest triumphs of his brilliant strategy on the War, whereby without giving full cooperation to the British, he got certain real concessions from them.

In 1942, he got the principle of Pakistan conceded by the Cripps Mission, and in his talks of September 1944 with M.K. Gandhi, he even succeeded in making him admit that a settlement between the Congress and the League involved essentially "discussion of the Pakistan issue." He remained dogged, legalistic and fastidious over details in all negotiations with the British and the Congress. He refused to join the expanded Executive Council of the Viceroy in 1945 unless the Muslim League was given the right to nominate the Muslims on the new Council.

With League's enormous victory in 1946, and convinced that the British "really intended to go", he did not hesitate to deal with the British and the Congress with a strong hand. Thus, when the Congress did not agree to compulsory grouping under the Cabinet Mission Plan, he refused to attend the Constituent Assembly, and thereby destroyed the British-Congress concept of the future constitution of India.

After having negotiated with consummate skill and ready at last to employ the Direct Action, Jinnah finally created "a situation where partition emerged as the only acceptable alternative" to civil war and chaos. The British announced partition on June 3, 1947, with the Congress approval. Jinnah had triumphed over an extremely vocal majority and the mechanizations of "a great imperial power" that Britain was.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah with Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah & Quaid-e-Millat Liaquat Ali KhanHad Jinnah not come to the rescue of the Muslims of India, it is quite possible that they would have been left in the lurch. Besides Jinnah, there was no other Muslim leader who could have done it or even attempted it. And even if one were to assume for the sake of argument that it would have been attempted without Jinnah, it is still not difficult to imagine that a compromise would not have been reached before 1947, and Pakistan would never had come into being. Pakistan came into being because of the personality and leadership of Jinnah. So great was the importance of the leadership of Jinnah in leading the Muslims to a safe destiny.

Jinnah was indeed the only leader of Muslim India who could always respond to the Muslim urges and aspirations, and who knew "how to express the stirrings of their minds in the form of concrete propositions." He could bring them "within the compass of popular comprehension" by putting them in concrete, almost tangible terms. One reason why the opponents of Jinnah failed to match his charisma was that they were hard put to presenting an alternative programme to Pakistan. Provincial leaders were left with no choice but "to swear by the Pakistan goal" in public at least. The Jamiat-i-Ulama, too, failed to come up with a political doctrine that could support a "composite" Indian nationalism.

Though the years following the demand for Pakistan saw a steady consolidation of the Muslim League, the fact remained that it was still the name of Mr Jinnah that could work miracles among the masses. Jinnah was the "living visible symbol of Muslim unity, Muslim aspirations and Muslim pugnacity" in India, and represented Muslim renaissance. He rid himself of Savile Row suits and changed to Muslim traditional dress of Sherwani and Shalwar and Karakuli cap, and even addressed the masses in his "unrehearsed, broken, Anglicized, and accented Urdu..."

Indeed, it was the transformation of a man of Jinnah's "taste, temperament and training" into the supreme leader of Muslim India. The Muslims of India trusted Jinnah, revered him, and loved him, and saw in him and his policies a kind of moral authority working on them. They regarded him as their saviour, their man of the moment, and were sure that his genius will discover some way out of their difficulties.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah & Mohandas Karamchand GandhiThe rapturous response of Muslim India indeed grew out of their feeling that he, by virtue of his special powers as a leader, embodied the salvational promise of deliverance from an oppressive life predicament in India. Hence, they not only followed him enthusiastically, but also surrounded him with that spontaneous cult of personality which certainly is one of the symptomatic marks of the charismatic leadership. They called him their Quaid-i-Azam. Indeed, the title came to be used so extensively and consistently that even his political opponents and adversaries could not help addressing him as the Quaid-i-Azam.

The fact that the title of Quaid-i-Azam was used for Jinnah in 1937, suggested that he was considered, even before the launching of the Pakistan movement, to be the man to lead the Muslims in future. Iqbal had rightly called him "the only Muslim in India" to whom "the community has a right to look up for safe guidance through the storm" facing Muslim India.

Jinnah too believed that it was his destiny to lead the Muslims of India to their "ultimate goal." He had devoted his entire life to finding a solution that would give status to the Muslim community free and equal to the Hindu community. It was this faith which not only encouraged him in his Herculean struggle, but also crowned his efforts with success. He was always sure of himself and his task. He knew what he wanted and was determined to get it. Nothing could detract him from his mission, and he could "neither be bought nor cajoled, neither be influenced or trapped into a position that he had not himself decided upon." That was the reason why in his talks with the British and the Congress, he always managed to retain "the integrity" of the idea of Pakistan "against compromise."

As the unchallenged leader of Muslim India, Jinnah possessed two supreme qualities of "single mindedness" and "unrivalled tactical skill." His aloofness not only helped contribute to the power of his national leadership, but also added to his magnetic presence. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah together with Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in horse carriage His tactical skill helped him to take advantage of every situation, however unpromising in the beginning. He was "a master political strategist" who considered politics in the Bismarckian sense of "the best possible," and knew when "to take 'the tide'" and when to make suitable mends "in the furnace of reality and expediency."

Jinnah's approach to politics was essentially rational, and he never lost "touch with, nor control over the realities of a given situation". One could see clearly a strong streak of hardheaded realism in his political behaviour. The only thing "adventurous" about him was, indeed," leading his people, like Moses into the unknown" world. But even there, he was "grimly deliberate, secretive and cautious." Jinnah had no petty or selfish ambitions of his own. Money and office meant nothing to him. Indeed, he never accepted an official position until he became the first governor-general of Pakistan in 1947.

Jinnah came to lead the Muslims of India, "as if inspired by Divine power," and applied his drive and devotion to the cause he made his own. It was his strong will and complete faith in the righteousness of his cause that eventually helped create "a nation with life and vision" out of an "exhausted, disarrayed and frustrated people" on August 14, 1947.

DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.

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Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price. Nor was he in the least degree a weathercock swinging in the wind of popularity or changing his politics to suit the chances of the times. He was steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honour. The fact to be explained is that in the middle of life he supplanted one ideal by another and having embraced it clung to it with fanatic's grasp to the end of his life.

The Great Divide, pp.38-39
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