Quaid’s nationality and half-truths
S M Hali
The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s ruling disqualifying dual nationality holders from retaining their status as parliamentarians has prompted some affected politicians to justify their status by drawing parallels between their own nationality and that of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
They claim that the Quaid was a British national, had a British passport and owed allegiance to the British Crown; hence, why the hullabaloo? They have made a serious allegation, which must be put in its correct perspective.
The renowned American historian, Stanley Wolpert, author of the Quaid’s biography “Jinnah of Pakistan”, aptly comments: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.
“Hailed as ‘Great Leader’ (Quaid-i-Azam) of Pakistan and its first Governor General, Jinnah virtually conjured that country into statehood by the force of his indomitable will.
His place of primacy in Pakistan’s history looms like a lofty minaret over the achievements of all his contemporaries in the Muslim League.
“Yet, Jinnah began his political career as a leader of India’s National Congress and until after World War I remained India’s best ‘Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity’. As enigmatic a figure as Mahatma Gandhi, more powerful than Pandit Nehru, Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah was one of recent history’s most charismatic leaders…….”
It is no mean acknowledgment of his astute character and profound personality that out of the three portraits that adorn the stone wall over the entrance of Lincoln’s Inn, one of them is of “M.A. Jinnah, Founder and First Governor General of Pakistan”.
The other two are Sir William Henry Maule, baron of the Exchequer, a judge of the Common Pleas, and a bencher, one of the four officers elected to administer Lincoln’s Inn. The second portrait is of Lord Arthur Hobhouse, who was a legal member of the Executive Council of India’s Viceroy in 1875.
Unlike these two august personalities, who definitely merit being thus honoured, Mr Jinnah is an exception since he held no office at Lincoln’s Inn, or was he ever elected to Parliament or appointed to preside over any British court, nor did he even serve on the cabinet of a single British Viceroy.
This extraordinary tribute has prompted Walport to comment: “The story of Jinnah’s unique achievement was so inextricably the product of his genius as a barrister, perhaps the greatest ‘native’ advocate in British Indian history that his portrait richly deserves the place of high honour it holds.
“During the last decade of his life, in fact, Jinnah may have been the shrewdest barrister in the British Empire. He was certainly the most tenacious. He crossed swords with at least as many great British-born as Indian barristers, defeating them all in his single-minded pleas for Pakistan. He burned out his life pressing a single suit…….”
The Quaid’s forte, besides being an astute lawyer and politician, was strictly adhering to the norms of law. That is why Gandhi, Nehru et al faced incarceration, but Mr Jinnah never broke the law and ran the entire struggle for Pakistan on principles. It is insalubrious to cast aspersions on an august personality with a penchant for adhering to the law.
The fact is that prior to being granted independence in August 1947, India was a British colony with every Indian being a British subject. The use of passports was introduced to India in 1920.
The Quaid-i-Azam did not possess a British passport as has been alleged, but for his travels abroad before the advent of Pakistan, was issued a “British Indian passport” that on Page 1B, under the column “National Status” clearly reads “British Subject by Birth” (not “British national” as alleged), as he was born in Karachi, which was then part of the British Indian Empire. The original passport is on exhibit in the Quaid’s museum.
Pakistan continued to be part of the British dominion till 1956 and even Pakistanis continued to travel on their British Indian passports. The first “Pakistani Passport” was issued in 1951.
The Quaid, however, did not leave Pakistan after its independence and met his Maker on September 11, 1948, let alone seek asylum in foreign climes like many of our current political dispensation.
It is myopic of such leaders to present half-truths and sully the lofty persona of the Quaid, who as pointed out earlier, burnt out his life, hiding his fatal disease from the protagonists lest Pakistan’s freedom be denied to us who now hold our head high as free citizens.