Pinning Jinnah

By Paracha, Nadeem F. | Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, October 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Pinning Jinnah


Paracha, Nadeem F., Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society


In my last week's column I discussed how a revisionist narrative by the rightists (in the late 1960s) tried to replace the fact that Pakistan was conceived as a nation state with a concocted idea suggesting that it was actually envisioned as a theocratic state.

We also discussed how this narrative even after being successfully challenged by the progressive intelligentsia eventually managed to become state policy with the support of General Ziaul Haq's reactionary dictatorship (1977-1988).

A number of political and social policies and stunts were crafted by the Zia regime and its Islamist allies to embed the rightists' narrative of Pakistan in school text books, the media and finally in public imagination. Many of them are well known especially those that have gone on to make Pakistan a hotbed of sectarian and Islamist violence and religious intolerance.

It is also true that what Zia and his ideologues invented in the name of 'Pakistan ideology', has now left us awkwardly buzzing with an animated polity of people many of whom fail to even condemn certain acts of savagery undertaken in the name of faith just because they feel that by doing so they would be (1) questioning the dictates of their faith; (2) submitting to the West/US, and (3) undermine Pakistan's supposed raison d'etre (of being an 'Islamic state').

Though a lot has been written on how Zia and his myopic colleagues successfully managed to pull off such a feat of mutated social engineering, little is known, however, about certain rather comical misfires that the wily dictator had to face in this respect.

After toppling the Z. A. Bhutto government in July 1977, Zia almost immediately got down to the business of radically transforming the ideological complexion of Pakistan, changing it from being a 'democratic Muslim majority state' (as envisioned by its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah), into peddling it as a state that was supposedly conceived as a theocratic entity.

In 1979, Zia and his ideological partners, mainly the Jamat-i-Islami (JI), hit a brick wall in this respect when they couldn't endorse their revisionist narrative with any of the sayings and speeches of Jinnah.

As a first step Zia banned the mention (in the media and school text books) of Jinnah's famous speech that he made to the Constituent Assembly on August 14, 1958, and in which he clearly described of Pakistan as a progressive, non-theocratic Muslim state.

Zia's information ministry spend days on end studying Jinnah's speeches and sayings to dig out anything that could be used to endorse Zia and the rightists* revisionist version of Pakistan's emergence.

They came up with nothing, until one fine day in early 1980, some of Zia's advisers suggested that a particular slogan rang during the Pakistan movement. It was 'Pakistan ka matlab kya, lailahaillalah' (What does Pakistan mean; it means there is only one God! …

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