Jinnah, Creator of Pakistan

Jinnah, Creator of Pakistan

Jinnah, Creator of Pakistan

Jinnah, Creator of Pakistan

Excerpt

THE map of the west coast of India shows Kathiawar Peninsula, between the gulfs of Cutch and Cambay, thrust into the Arabian Sea, like a great challenging fist. This was the native land of the parents of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who fought for, and created, the Muslim state of Pakistan.

Long before Jinnah was born, his parents migrated to the fishing port of Karachi, on the edge of the Sind desert. It was then a small town of some 50,000 people. The dust from the desert came down on them in hot clouds: it invaded their food, their clothes and their lungs. On one side was the parched earth, pleading for water: to the west was the sea, from which they made their living.

Today, Karachi is the throbbing capital of the biggest Muslim country in the world: refugees, officials, and business men have swelled the population to a million and a quarter. Thousands of masons toil, from dawn to dark, turning more and more acres of the desert into blocks of offices, and dwellings, so that, from the air, the edge of the city seems to increase, overnight, like grey lava flowing into the sand.

Ancient bunder boats still come into the harbour from coastal ports, their huge sails bowing amiably over the smooth blue water; but there are also the big ships of international commerce, from Liverpool, Tokyo and the Baltic. And there are destroyers, tossing the foam from their bows as they steam in from torpedo practice: busy, proud ships, of the youngest navy in the world.

In the heart of the bustling new city is old Karachi; the town of mellow houses that Jinnah knew, as a boy. Some of the streets are so narrow, and the houses so low, that the camels ambling past can look in the first-floor windows. In one of these narrow streets, Newnham Road, is the house -- since restored and ornamented with balconies -- where Mohammed Ali Jinnah was born. The date is uncertain: in the register of his school, in Karachi, the day is recorded as October 20, 1875; but Jinnah always said that he had been born on Christmas Day -- a Sunday -- in 1876. If the 1876 date is . . .

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