Sialkot Lynching: Let Us Blame Jinnah

Sialkot Lynching: Let Us Blame Jinnah
What happened in Sialkot, where a Sri Lankan gentleman was lynched and burnt by the mob, showed once again what religion does in a priest-ridden society. It was a terrible outrage that has underscored the need for an immediate overhaul and reform of not just Pakistani society but Pakistan’s legal structure as well.

Instead of having a reasoned debate on the matter, our supposed intellectuals have one easy target. Let us pin it on Jinnah. So yes let us get together and blame Jinnah. Why not? 

So what are we blaming Jinnah for: “The Foundations”.  Some say that Pakistan’s foundations were based on religious separatism and Islamist exceptionalism. This is such a counterfactual a-historical statement which turns everything on its head. The only Islamist exceptionalism was forwarded by Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind against the Muslim League and Jinnah. Both Majlis-e-Ahrar and Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind were by Gandhi and Nehru. It was Gandhi’s original sin i.e. mixing of religion and politics that made lynching and killings the norm. 

The trend started with Chaura Chauri when Gandhi’s mob burnt down a police station and lynched policemen. It has been the norm in the subcontinent.  There was nothing extraordinary about the foundations of Pakistan. The Two Nation Theory was not a religious theory. It was a consociationalist one. It is axiomatic but if you do not know the word, please look it up on Google. Partition or division of India was caused when the Cabinet Mission Plan was torpedoed by the Congress Party. Maulana Azad called his decision to nominate Jawaharlal Nehru as his successor in the Congress Party the biggest blunder of his political life.

For Nehru and Patel, it was all about the power grab. Nehru was desperate to become the all powerful Prime Minister of India and this was an ambition that would not easily been fulfilled as long as Muslim majority areas were around seeking their pound of flesh. 

However, let us assume that India’s foundations were lily white, secular and made of milk and honey.  In 1999 Graham Staines – an Australian missionary- and his son were burnt alive in Odisha by a Hindu mob because they suspected Staines of “converting” people. I wonder why no one raised the question of India’s foundations then? In September 1948,when the all-powerful Nehru was there, more than 40000 Muslims were massacred in two weeks in Hyderabad on the government’s orders.

 I am sure our enlightened lot can blame that on Jinnah as well through some somersault.. But what gives? As per the said cultural historian, India’s foundations are on strong secular footing. Yet religiously inspired lynchings there are common.  It is the new “enlightened” position to blame everything on Jinnah. Yes because Jinnah, a politician who eschewed mob politics and who died in 1948, is rousing the mob from beyond the grave not just in Sialkot but in parts of India as well. 

Then there is the canard that Jinnah “defended” Ilam Din when he murdered a Hindu publisher in Lahore in the late 1920s. It is true Jinnah appeared as a lawyer in appeal and presented his brief which basically attacked the prosecution case on the eye witness account.  In the end he argued for mitigation. 

Are we saying that an accused does not have the right to be represented in the court of law? A lawyer’s decision to appear for a defendant does not mean that the lawyer agrees with the defendant’s actions. The defendant in this case Ilam Din had pleaded not guilty. Jinnah’s arguments in appeal therefore aimed at getting him acquitted of the charge. 

Jinnah’s famous statement on 295 A should be required reading for all who insert themselves in this debate without any proper research:

“I thoroughly endorse the principle that while this measure should aim at those undesirable persons who indulge in wanton vilification or attack upon the religion of any particular class or upon the founders and prophets of a religion, we must also secure this very important and fundamental principle that those who are engaged in historical works, those who are engaged in bona fide and honest criticism of a religion, shall be protected.”

Jinnah stood against all forms of religious majoritarianism and exceptionalism. This included Muslim religious majoritarianism, against which he warned Pakistanis throughout that last year of his political life. 

The truth is that Pakistan’s descent into this abyss has nothing to do with the one politician who repeatedly said that religion was a matter merely between man and God. Jinnah was the only politician to be called the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity, not Gandhi, not Nehru, not Azad and certainly not Bacha Khan. 

A man who died in 1948 cannot be responsible for what we do in 2021, especially when the Islamisation in Pakistan has always been spearheaded by the same groups which stood with the Congress against him.  Jinnah for example considered Ahmadis Muslims.  It was the Majlis-e-Ahrar which agitated in 1953 and it was Mufti Mahmood, a long time Congress ally, Bacha Khan and supporter of United India, who led the Khatme Nabuwat movement that led to the 2nd Amendment in 1974. 


The truth is that Pakistan’s descent into this abyss has nothing to do with the one politician who repeatedly said that religion was a matter merely between man and God.


 Ataullah Shah Bukhari and Agha Shorish Kahmiri were from the Majlis-e-Ahrar not the Muslim League. Ironically upon Bukhari’s death in 1961, Nehru paid him a great tribute calling him one of the greatest freedom fighters of the subcontinent. It was Bacha Khan’s party and his son Wali Khan who voted en masse for the second amendment. General Zia ul Haq and his father were card carrying members of the Majlis-e-Ahrar before partition. In 1986 it was Apa Nisar Fatima, the daughter of a leading Majlis-e-Ahrar figure, who sponsored the bill which added 295-C to the Pakistan Penal Code. 

So let us blame Jinnah instead. Let us forget that every single group that has contributed to the mess we are in was at odds with Jinnah through the Pakistan Movement. Those who opposed the creation of Pakistan and Jinnah have become uncles (chachay and mamay) of Pakistan and its ideology.  Let us look for easy simplistic answers. Let us just blame Jinnah.

Yasser Latif Hamdani is a barrister at law and the author of the book Jinnah; A Life.