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Jinnah: The founder of Pakistan

Muhammad Ali Jinnah: Founding Father of Pakistan

To Pakistanis, Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered, known as Quaid-e-Azam, or 'Great Leader.' He is their George Washington, their de Gaulle, their Churchill.

A brilliant lawyer by trade, he rose to the forefront of the struggle for a Muslim nation as India negotiated its independence from Britain.

But his insistence on a separate Muslim state to be carved out of the former British India earned him many enemies.

Indeed, the last viceroy of India under British rule, Lord Mountbatten - thwarted by Jinnah's relentless call for partition plans of the future states of India and Pakistan - referred to him variously as a 'lunatic', an 'evil genius,' and a 'bastard'.

Today, many in the West view Jinnah through the eyes of Richard Attenborough's movie 'Gandhi,' in which the Muslim leader was portrayed as a cold villain who wanted a separate Pakistan only for his own political aggrandizement.

In truth, Jinnah was a complex man who by his eloquence and perseverance inspired both adulation and condemnation.

Born in 1876, the son of a wealthy Karachi merchant, Jinnah was not a man of the people like Indian nationalist Mahatma Gandhi.

Jinnah studied law in England, and after his return to India in 1896 as an advocate for the Bombay High Court, the slender, well-dressed and well-spoken attorney quickly made a name for himself.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah with Mahatma Gandhi

According to one contemporary, quoted in a Time Magazine profile, Jinnah was "the best showman of them all. Quick, exceedingly clever, sarcastic and colorful. His greatest delight was to confound the opposing lawyer by confidential asides and to outwit the presiding judge in repartee."

In 1906, Jinnah joined the All India Congress. In 1913, while still serving in the Congress, he joined the Muslim League, prompting a leading Congress spokesman of the day to call him the "ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity." With time, that would change.

Early in his political career, Jinnah was chiefly concerned with achieving independence for a unified India. Increasingly, however, he worried that British oppression would be replaced by Hindu oppression and continued subjugation of India's Muslim minority.

In 1919, Jinnah resigned from the Congress and turned his focus to Muslim interests. Over the next two decades he would become the architect of a dream first voiced by Muslim poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal that Indian Muslims would someday have their own nation.

By the late 1930s, Jinnah, who had become leader of the Muslim League, was convinced that a partition of India along religious lines was the only way to preserve Muslim political power.

In 1940, the Muslim League adopted the 'Lahore Resolution' calling for separate autonomous states in majority-Muslim areas of northeastern and eastern India.

In 1946, violence between Hindus and Muslims broke out after Jinnah called for demonstrations opposing an interim Indian government in which Muslim power would be compromised.

The riots spread. In the first weeks of the uprising, more than 3,000 people were killed and thousands wounded.

Against the rising tide of ethnic unrest, Jinnah demanded partition of India. Britain, eager to make a clean break with India, finally relented and Pakistan was born.

Jinnah, who by most accounts was not a particularly religious man, called for equal rights for all Pakistani citizens without regard to their religion.

In his inaugural speech as first governor general of Pakistan, Jinnah said:

'You will find that in the course of time, Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state."

But Jinnah would not live to see the development of his fledging country. He died of tuberculosis just 13 months after the formation of Pakistan. His vision of a secular government was never fully realized, either, with disputes between religious groups marring much of Pakistan's brief history. And later, many of his followers disputed the degree to which he was committed to a secular government.

A half-century after his death, controversy stirs over the making of a film about his life. Critics of the film, which stars British actor Christopher Lee, worry that Jinnah will be cast in an unfavorable light. Those involved in the project insist that the film will portray Pakistanis beloved leader accurately.

However history may judge him, his own contribution to history cannot be doubted. As his biographer, Stanley Wolpert, wrote:

'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.'


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