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The Quaid: A relentless warrior

The News International Pakistan - December 25, 2005
By Imtiaz Rafi Butt

Akbar S. Ahmad, in his monumental treatise, Pakistan and Islamic Identity - The Search for Saladin, portrays the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah as Saladin (Salah-ud-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub) rather than a Gandhi, another De Gaulle or another Mandela. The Quaid and Salahuddin are to him symbols of Muslim unity, solidarity and strength.

He also raises a very pertinent question: How are we to define a hero in an age when heroes are in short supply and 'celebrities' abound. To Akbar S. Ahmed a hero is a person, endowed with extraordinary qualities of heart and mind, sets out to achieve a near-impossible goal. According to this definition, both Sultan Salahuddin and the Quaid-i-Azam could be regarded as heroes of their own times - late 12th century and mid 20th century. The Sultan's goal: liberation of Jerusalem from the clutches of Christendom. The Quaid's goal: wresting nation state from the clutches of the British and Hindus.

Sultan Salahuddin's sound leadership created a lasting legacy that continues to be admired to this day. He took Jerusalem peacefully, entering the gates on October 2, 1187. The terms of surrender and his grace in victory launched his titanic reputation in the West. Eminent writers, however, state that we should be careful when we assess his accomplishments and stature in the perspective of the modern age. Dr Manzur Ahmed, a distinguished academic, for instance, emphasises the importance of context. "Heroes like Saladin," he says, "are deservedly revered figures, but they are best viewed as heroes of their own time. While we should allow room for fresh interpretations, the inspiration should not be militaristic." Dr Ahmed stressed that modern societies should judge success by intellectual yardsticks. "Saladin's relevance today", he adds, "is that his example can help us to identity heroes who succeed in intellectual wars with the same skill that Saladin used in military campaigns."

Judged by this criterion as well, the Quaid is, no doubt, a hero. He waged a successful intellectual war against the Congress/Hindus and British and emerged victorious. "The Quaid's life was logic," states M M Ahmed of Muslim University, Aligarh. The Quaid led no army, fought no military battles and was not involved in any dramatic adventures. He fought on two fronts simultaneously with legal and political weapons. On the one hand were the Hindus who were numerically three times more than the Muslims and far ahead. In the last days of the Raj, both joined forces to defeat him; but by bold initiatives, unmatched skill and superb sense of timing, the Quaid despite every handicap, triumphed against both.

The Quaid's universe was the law. "He was what God made him", a fellow barrister of Bombay's high court put it, ìa great pleader. He had a sixth sense; he could see around corners. That is where his talents lay... he was a very clear thinker... He drove his points home - points chosen with exquisite selection - slow delivery, word by word." The Quaid's keen intellect would in a moment spot the weakness in his opponent's case and he would put his finger on it. He never lost an opportunity in honing his razor-sharp mind in parliamentary debates and sensitive negotiations with British and the Hindus. The Quaid changed his tactics according to the need of the hour, as any general would do during a battle, but he never changed his strategy or his fundamental belief or his ultimate goal.

He drew intellectual inspiration from other sources as well. John Morley, author of ìOn Compromise and Secretary of State for India (1906-10)î and one of the England's brilliant liberals was one of Quaid's heroes. "The uncompromising idealistic fervour of ìOn Compromise", says Stanley Wolpert, "went through Jinnah's mind like a flame, igniting his imagination with arguments such as that which insisted on placing truth first among any choice of principles." The Quaid's shrewd and skilful leadership combined brilliant advocacy and singular tenacity to win his suit for the creation of Pakistan.

It is, indeed, sad to see that the nation allowed itself to be deflected from the path shown by the Quaid and displayed unpardonable indifference to the many ordeals that he went through for our sake. Had he been a man of weak fibre and succumbed to the multi-pronged pressure of the British and the Hindus, the star of the Muslims would have sunk into a dark abyss never to rise again. Had he not been gifted with exceptional foresight we would today have been squirming under the jackboot of Hindu fanaticism. "One thinks of the Poles," says Nirad Chaudhri, a Bengali Hindu, "as an unhappy people, but even their fate has not been as tragic as that of the Muslims of India, not only in their present state, but even from the time the British ousted them from political power."

While we pay homage this day to the genius of the architect of the State, we should not lose sight of what is happening around us. The United State is facing serious opposition in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is consequently frustrated and furious. Bush recently lashed out at Islamic radicalism. "Our enemy has totalitarian aims. It is Islam fascism. They have been sheltered by authoritarian regimes like Iran and Syria that share the goal of hurting America. Islamic radicalism is the greatest challenge to our new century. We will not relent until the networks are broken..." If the US goes ahead with its agenda of teaching Iran and Syria a lesson, Pakistan will perforce have to examine its diplomatic stance and review its status as a US ally. Pakistan should also take stock of India's increasingly hostile attitude. Every now and then it accuses Pakistan of cross-boarded terrorism. It deliberately held military exercises annoyingly close to Pakistan's borders. It is using its consulates in Afghanistan to foment trouble in Balochistan. It is stockpiling sophisticated weapons and building eight more dams in brazen violence of the Indus Water Treaty. Recently, India also rejected President Musharraf's proposal for the demilitarisation of Kashmir. All these actions smack of Machiavellism.

While we keep a vigilant eye on our foreign interests, we should not be unmindful of our immediate talk, which is to provide succour and relief to the victims to the recent earthquake. With the advent of rain and snow, relief efforts have come to a standstill. The lives of the affectees have become more desperate. Urgency demands that a new modus operandi be evolved to ensure proper protection and medical assistance to these helpless people.

However, this is not the first time that Pakistan has found itself face to face with a crisis. It has in the past stood up to massive challenges: the challenge of the Pakistan Movement, of the establishment of Pakistan, of the merciless massacre of thousands of defenceless people who fled their homes across the border and sought asylum in Pakistan, of the rehabilitation of millions of displaced persons. I reproduce below excerpts from the speeches of the Quaid-i-Azam to show how he inspired his countrymen to face such critical moments:

"Great responsibilities have come on us, and equally great should be our determination... I have no doubt in my mind that the Muslims genius will put its shoulder to the wheel and conquer all obstacles in our way on the road which may appear uphill." (August 18, 1947)

"Let us resolve that we shall bend all our energies and resources to achieve our goal. We shall overcome this grave crisis as we have in our long history surmounted many others... We shall emerge triumphant and strong from the dark night of suffering." (October 24, 1947)

The Quaid is no more but his words are still fresh and apply with striking exactness to our crisis as much as they did to the ones in his own day. What message is he conveying to us across six decades? He is exhorting us to persevere and do our best if we wish to emerge triumphant. He has left behind a set of perfect guidelines for us to follow. It acted upon they could transform a decadent, sluggish, aimless, selfish rabble into a civilised, energetic, goal-driven, patriotic nation.

Such was the man who brought us out of the wilderness, battled against formidable odds, gave us a homeland and served us till the very end of his earthly days.

THE TIMES, London, in its obituary captured the essence of his achievements: "Mr Jinnah was something more than Quaid-i-Azam, supreme head of State. He commanded the imagination of the people as well as their confidence... Few statesmen have shaped events to their policy more surely than Mr Jinnah. He was a legend even in his lifetime."

(The writer is Chairman, Jinnah - Rafi Foundation)

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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