Pakteahouse: Akbar Zaidi and the critical re-evaluation of Jinnah
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
This morning writing in The News, Akbar Zaidi, a respected economist, called for a critical re-evaluation of Jinnah’s role in Pakistan’s history. Just to re-cap this was business as usual – Jinnah’s democratic credentials are questionable because of his streaks of authoritarianism, his claim to secularism is limited to one speech about mandirs, mosques etc, Jinnah’s Pakistan is at best a half truth and there is no critical re-evaluation of Jinnah in Pakistan which needs to be rectified and so on and so forth.
This has now become a routine matter: If you are an intellectual and scholar you must critically re-evaluate Jinnah’s role. Of course this critical re-evaluation precludes any conclusion which may – after such critically re-evaluate- affirm any positives – few and far between- about the founding father. So say hypothetically if after critical re-evaluation you come to the conclusion that the dismissal of the Khan Ministry (which had lost majority) on Governor General’s advice on 22 August 1947 was constitutional, then it ceases to be critical re-evaluation. If one argues that political blunder as it was, there was nothing undemocratic (imagine if Punjabis want Punjabi to be the national language of Pakistan today by virtue of it being the majority’s language) or illiberal about Jinnah’s pronouncement about Urdu as the state language (he had in the same speech said that Bengali could be the provincial language) per se (especially given that the Urdu-Hindi conflict had a central place in the Hindu-Muslim differences proving yet again that religion was not the primary reason for divergence between the two communities) would be less than critical. For critical re-evaluation the conclusion must precede the exercise and the exercise must re-affirm the conclusion already drawn – that Jinnah was authoritarian, that his claim to secularism was limited to one speech and all subsequent ills that Pakistan has faced are rooted in Jinnah’s acts and omissions. Any deviation from this conclusion makes your re-evaluation of Jinnah less than critical.