Dina Wadia, the only child of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is sadly no more. Aged 98, she passed away earlier this week in New York. Dina was born on August 15, 1919 – exactly 28 years before her valiant and astute father led the minority Muslim community of United India to the fulfillment of its dream for a separate homeland. Jinnah felt that this demand for independence was necessary to uphold the economic and political rights of India’s Muslim minority.
Dina visited Pakistan twice during her life. The first time in 1948 to attend Jinnah’s funeral.
The second was in 2004 when she brought her son and grandsons to visit Jinnah’s Mausoleum in Karachi. Towards the end of her visit, she wrote the following in the visitor’s book.
“This has been very sad as well as wonderful for me. May his (Jinnah’s) dream for Pakistan come true.”
But had Jinnah’s dream for Pakistan not come true in 1947? If his dream was merely to obtain a piece of real estate, sure it had. But if it was to carve a State that would serve to implement his values and his vision, and that in time would grow to become one of the greatest nations on earth, then Dina’s yearning makes sense. For the Pakistan of today has sadly drifted far away from its founding values. It is anything but Jinnah’s Pakistan. Let us take a quick look.
1. Equal Citizenship: Jinnah was an outstanding lawyer and a great statesman who had a modern outlook on the world. While laying the foundations of Pakistan, he stated:
“We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”
Jinnah’s dream of a Pakistan where every citizen enjoys equal treatment and rights was dealt a huge blow with the passing of the discriminatory Second Amendment in 1974, before being completely knocked down by President Zia’s anti-Ahmadi ordinance in 1984. Sadly, today’s Pakistan has discrimination enshrined in its Constitution, which forcibly denies Pakistan’s four million Ahmadi Muslims the right to self-identity. To make matters worse, specific anti-Ahmadi laws prescribe a three year sentence for Ahmadi Muslims caught reading the Quran, saying the Kalima (Islamic creed), saying the Adhan (call to prayer), identifying as Muslim, using Islamic epithets etc.
2. Every Pakistani Eligible for Office: Part of the oath under which Jinnah took office read:
“No subject … in Pakistan shall, on grounds only of religion, place of birth, descent, color or any of them be ineligible for office.”
Jinnah was absolutely clear that the new state he was founding would accommodate people of all faiths and descents without any prejudice. To assert this point, he appointed a non-Muslim as his first law minister. The Muslims in his cabinet consisted of Sunni, Shia and Ahmadis alike. However, in today’s Pakistan, non-Muslims are ineligible for the State’s highest offices. Consider this: if Pakistan’s first foreign Minister and one of its founding fathers, Sir Zafarullah Khan, was alive today, he would not even be able to vote, let alone stand for office. This was the man who drafted the Pakistan Resolution (the documentary basis for Pakistan) – unable to vote in today’s Pakistan because of his Islamic sect. Let that sink in.
3. Separation of Mosque and State: Jinnah dreamt of a Pakistan where the Mosque was separate from the State. He famously stated:
“You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
Jinnah’s dream was smashed to pieces when the Pakistani State took on the role of judging the faith (or lack thereof) of its citizens in 1974. In today’s Pakistan, religion is very much the business of the State. The right-wing majority – whom the State appeases – goes bonkers at the slightest suggestion otherwise. Case in point – the recent omission of an anti-Ahmadi clause that could have potentially allowed Pakistan’s Ahmadi Muslims to vote, and the ensuing hysteria across the country. The mistake was quickly corrected, with the government assuring the nation of its position vis-à-vis the infidelity of the Ahmadis.
Pakistani passport applications require all citizens to abuse the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and testify to the infidelity of the Ahmadi Muslims to get the ‘Muslim’ passport.
4. Freedom of worship: Jinnah dreamt of a Pakistan where every citizen would be free to worship in whatever way they desired.
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any otherplace of worship in this State of Pakistan.”
Unfortunately, in today’s Pakistan, freedom of worship remains a dream for millions. Let alone the freedom to worship in their Mosques, Ahmadi Muslims aren’t even allowed to identify their Mosques as Mosques. They face a three-year prison sentence for doing so. Over a hundred Ahmadiyya Mosques have either been sealed by the State or denied permits, or burned down or forcibly taken over by extremist Sunni mobs.
5. No theocracy: In an address in 1948, Jinnah promised:
“The great majority of us are Muslims. Consequently, we have a special and a very deep sense of unity. But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it.”
Pakistan was not meant to be ruled by theocrats and supremacists enforcing their worldview on the rest of Pakistan. Sadly, this is what has come to pass over time. Forget about the treatment of other non-Muslims, even Shiite and Ahmadi Muslims face intense prejudice and hate in society. In the case of the latter, the State strips them of all religious freedom as highlighted above. Pakistan might not be a full-blown theocracy, but it certainly is a Sunni supremacist State that leans towards a particular interpretation of religion at the expense of the religious liberties of other faith communities.
The country’s blasphemy laws are used to punish members of the minority faith groups. And this witchunt is only expected to get worse with the government planning to extend the reach of the anti-blasphemy laws to the internet and social media.
6. No Sectarianism: Jinnah famously described his vision of a pluralistic Pakistan in these words:
“The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other… Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain, and they are all members of the Nation.”
Lamenting how rival Christian sects had persecuted one another in the past, Jinnah dreamt of a Pakistan where this would not happen, and coexistence would be the rule. With sectarianism and Takfir (anathematization) unfortunately rife in today’s Pakistan, Jinnah’s hopes remain a dream. Militant outfits continue to persecute minority faith groups across the country. The Hazara Shias have been particularly targeted over the last decade. Hate speech from Mosques and madrassas against rival sects is commonplace. Not only is sectarianism rampant in society, it has been given special credence by the country’s most scared document. Hint: Pakistan’s Second Amendment. Interestingly in this regard, Jinnah was also asked by some clerics to declare the Ahmadi Muslims heretics. This is what he had to say in response:
“Ahmadis are Muslims, if they say they are Muslims and no one, not even the sovereign legislature, has the right to say otherwise.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, May 5, 1944
He later added:
“What right have I to declare a person non-Muslim, when he claims to be a Muslim” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, May 23, 1944
Needless to say, with deep sectarian divides, coexistence remains a distant dream in today’s Pakistan.
7. Women Rights: Jinnah said regarding women in Pakistan:
“No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you.”
In today’s Pakistan, less than half of the female population is literate. This number is a disappointing 25% in the Balochistan province. Pakistan fares poorer than neighboring India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka in this regard. Violence against women – domestic violence, forced marriages, “honor killings” and rapes – remains an ongoing problem. Pakistan is currently considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. The attitude of the right-wing majority towards these ills is equally disappointing. Highlighting these abuses and looking for solutions is often met with denial and resentment. Women empowerment, while happening, remains a struggle.
In short, today’s Pakistan has failed Jinnah and has drifted far from his original dream for the State. His vision is long lost. In commemoration of Dina Wadia’s memory, therefore, I urge all Pakistanis to work back and embrace Pakistan’s founding values. There is no better way to pay tribute to Dina’s legacy than listening to her prayer: “May Jinnah’s dream for Pakistan come true.” Amen.